23rd Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/23/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Fred Savage – Just weeks after former The Wonder Years costar Alley Mills revealed that the show ended because ABC was trying to squash a harassment claim against star Fred Savage, now he’s being accused of assault on the set of his cancelled Fox series The Grinder. A former costume designer said that he was abusive to women on set, and that the studio allowed his behavior to continue unchecked. She went on to recount a time he hit her in the arm after she brushed dandruff off his jacket. Yeah…America loves Fred Savage, and she doesn’t seem to have enough to really back this up. I don’t see much happening with this one.

There were a lot of big moves in the wrestling world this week. First up, Daniel Bryan was cleared by WWE doctors for his in-ring return. You see, he retired in 2016 due to health concerns arising from multiple concussions, and he remained with WWE as the “general manager” of SmackDown. Like most athletes, though, he wasn’t really finding life outside the ring to be that fulfilling, so he was going to end up wrestling again somewhere. Most folks believed that when he contract was up he’d bolt for Japan, where they’d probably have him wrestling in a burning ring with barbed wire ropes. They simply don’t give a shit over there. So, it comes as little surprise that WWE doctors would “miraculously” clear him just as that contract was set to expire.

I’ve never liked Daniel Bryan. I’ll admit that a lot of his “heyday” was during a time I wasn’t really watching wrestling. Still, his whole bearded Vegan thing just didn’t work for me. I like my wrestlers on The Gas, and he was built too much like me. I shouldn’t be able to look at a wrestler and say “Oh, I could look like that.” No, we live in a world of the chiseled in-ring physique, so little guys like Bryan and CM Punk just don’t impress me. Get some steroids! Everyone’s on the steroids! Anyway, Bryan’s return seems to have ignited a fire in some long dormant parts of the fandom, so it’s clearly a good business move. I joked on Twitter, though, that he should be subjected to nothing but chair shots to the head until he’s forced to retire again. What? In wrestling, we wish bad things on the stars we don’t like! We all have a part to play in this!

Then, on RAW we were presented with The Ultimate Deletion match between Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt. Where to even begin with this? I actually gave the Final Deletion the West Week Ever last year because it was so groundbreaking. It was the last gasp of a wrestling promotion struggling to remain relevant. While the owners were having their own issues, that pretty much paved the way for the writers to basically say “Fuck it, Hardy. Do whatever you want.” And what he did was SO strange, and SO weird, but it kinda worked. He became this Phantom of the Opera-esque villain with a Shakespearean bent to him. He was now “Broken” Matt Hardy, as it appeared the years of Team Xtreme, the drugs, and everything else had finally caught up to him. He started feuding with his brother, Jeff, who he now referred to as “Brother Nero”. In the Final Deletion, the culmination of the entire TNA gimmick, he defeated Jeff in a crazy pre-taped match at the Hardy Compound. Again, it was like nothing we had ever seen, and for a minute folks were saying “That TNA might just be OK.” And then he left and went to Ring of Honor.

Matt eventually made his way back to WWE last year, but he didn’t legally acquire the rights to the Broken gimmick until January of this year. So, time to do something fresh with it, right? Nope, more of the same. Instead of targeting Brother Nero, Woken/Broken Matt Hardy has spent most of his recent WWE run going after Bray Wyatt in a series of matches. This week, he invited Wyatt to a match at the Hardy Compound for the Ultimate Deletion, which played out pretty much like the Final Deletion. Which is sad. When TNA did it, it was outside-the-box thinking. It was something you weren’t getting from the competition. Now, however, said competition is just repeating the same gimmick, without increased production values or anything. Wyatt ended up losing the match, which means he’s been “deleted”. So, this has really been a months-long process to repackage Wyatt – once considered the heir to The Undertaker’s supernatural corner of wrestling, but lately more of a wrestler that WWE didn’t know how to handle. Wyatt will return after Wrestlemania as Danny Sunshine or something, but what of Hardy? The Broken thing helped the WWE out with the Wyatt problem, but what’s the future for it? It already feels stale, and he’s just gotten the rights to use it. I realize Wyatt wasn’t making waves, but it’s starting to feel like Hardy’s the one who needed repackaging.

The situation for Toys “R” Us got more dire, as liquidations were announced to start yesterday. Then, when folks showed up at stores, they were met with signs telling them that the liquidations wouldn’t be starting yet, due to “unforeseen circumstances”. This prompted folks to joke that TRU couldn’t even successfully go out of business.

Meanwhile, a new challenger entered the arena. Ya see, Kay-Bee Toys announced an upcoming return, with scant details on what that meant. If you remember, Kay-Bee (later just KB) was “The Toy Store In The Mall”, which was basically their claim to fame. They typically had about a 25% markup on their items because the mall rents were too damn high. Near the end of their life, they were pretty much a clearance depot for Toy Biz Marvel figures, repackaged Power Rangers, and obscure wrestling toys.

Anyway, it appears that Strategic Marks, LLC acquired the KB rights when Toys “R” Us (which had bought them years ago) allowed them to lapse. Claiming “We’re Going To Save the Toy Industry”. Strategic Marks founder Ellia Kassoff said they had accelerated their plans to revive the KB brand in light of the TRU liquidation, and they plan to have pop-up stores ready by Christmas. He said, “We’re in discussions with many of the toy manufactures, as we try to find out the best way to support them and the 20% loss of the US toy market due to the Toys R Us liquidation. We believe we will have the infrastructure in-place and [hopefully] save the toy industry.” Uh-huh. Cool story, bro.

Then, @realkbtoys popped up on Twitter, and seemed like it wasn’t connected to the Strategic Marks initiative. In fact, it seems like the work of some fanboy. They’re touting dumb initiatives, like subscription boxes of 90s toys, and talking about focusing mainly on online sales, to which I said:

the subscription box idea prompted this response from me:

I know I’m something of a TRU apologist, with my history with them and all, but this just feels like opportunist claptrap. They’re taking advantage of the TRU situation in the worst way. And that whole “innovative” plan to have pop-ups ready by Christmas? WE ALREADY HAVE THOSE. Go! Toys & Games pretty much came along to fill the vacuum left by KB’s demise. They open around late October, close around late January. No fuss, no muss. So what’s KB going to have that Go! doesn’t, other than playing up nostalgia? Right now, I’m putting this in the “I’ll believe it when I see it” file.

Speaking of the TRU situation, I had a great chat about it with my pal Zac Shipley on The Zac Shipley Show this week. Definitely check it out if you haven’t already!

Over in Power Rangers land, we got something you don’t see every day: a trailer for an upcoming comic book event. This summer, the various Boom! Power Rangers comic series will join together for Shattered Grid.

If you’re not familiar with the comic, it originally was set during the period of time immediately following the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers “Green With Evil” TV storyline, which introduced Tommy, the Green Ranger. The comic dealt with the Rangers learning to trust their mysterious new teammate. Well, somewhere along the way, they kinda got away from that timeline and introduced Lord Drakkon, who’s an amalgam Green & White Ranger Tommy from an alternate dimension if he’d stayed evil. And that’s pretty much all we’ve had to go on. We never really knew his motivations, or why he stayed evil or any of that.

Suddenly stuff started to not make sense with the continuity that had already been set up. For example, Saba, the White Ranger’s saber, appears in the comic, even though he’s not supposed to debut until Tommy becomes the White Ranger, which is a season 2 development. And now, this Shattered Grid event is supposed to affect Ranger team picked from throughout the franchise. So, it’s a nice grand spectacle – something that makes this year’s 25th anniversary of the franchise feel more special – but something still feels off about it to me.

First off, there’s a growing part of the fandom that’s really tired of the Tommy character being the end all, be all of the franchise, partly because they find the actor, Jason David Frank, insufferable. From merchandise on down, the Power Rangers machine simply won’t let us forget about Tommy – sometimes at the expense of other characters. The franchise can have a decent thing going on, and suddenly JDF shows up and sucks all the air out of the room. He just has that effect.

Secondly, I applaud Boom! and Saban Brands for working together on this, but I can’t help but feel that this sort of thing should’ve been happening to promote last year’s film. If that film had gotten this level of promotion, perhaps we’d be getting a sequel. I’m not sure if I should fault Lionsgate for not doing enough to hype up the film OR Boom! for doing too much to hype up a mere comic book.

I’ll say that it definitely feels like an *event* with all corners of the franchise playing a part (well, except the current show, Super Ninja Steel), and I’m curious to see that state of things when it’s over. After all, this was a comic that was supposed to “dance between the raindrops of continuity”, but it’s now clear that it has its own continuity. Still, this trailer falls somewhere between “really good toy commercial/merely decent fan film” territory for me.

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • After weeks of teasers, we finally got the full-length trailer for YouTube Red’s Cobra Kai series. OK, you got me. This started out sounding like one of the dumbest concepts I’d ever heard. The more I saw, though, the more I liked it. Plus, I never really liked Daniel Larusso, so if this paints him as the antagonist, then I’m ALL for it. Bring it, YouTube Red! NO MERCY!

  • We also got a new trailer for Deadpool 2, and I think I’m starting to care about this movie. I didn’t just love the first one like every else did, but now that we’re seeing some semblance of a plot, I’m curious. It feels like the tired “save the chosen kid” trope, but they’ll probably throw us a curveball, seeing as how it’s Deadpool and all.
  • Apparently former Making The Band castmember/Danity Kane member Aubrey O’Day had an affair with Donald Trump Jr back in 2012, after she was a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. If ya ask me, 2007 Aubrey was the GOAT. The milk had gone sour by the time DJT got to her. Oh, and she recorded a song about the whole thing, called “DJT”.
  • Sexual Chocolate/The World’s Strongest Man Mark Henry will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018.
  • Tomb Raider had an opening weekend gross of $23 million, based on a reported budget of $100 million. For some reason, however, nobody is calling it the box office bomb that it clearly is. Did Warner Bros pay off the press?
  • Matt Ryan’s John Constantine will join Legends of Tomorrow as a series regular if the show is renewed for a 4th season.
  • Sex and the City‘s Cynthia Nixon is running for governor of New York. I’m fairly certain that more people hated Miranda Hobbs than hated Hillary Clinton, but good luck with that campaign…
  • Spike Lee may direct a Nightwatch movie, based on a Spider-Man character. I have no clue who that is, but Sony seems determined to mine every corner of those Spider-Man film rights.
  • The X-Files may FINALLY be done, as the revival aired its season finale this week, and Gillian Anderson has stated that she’s ready to move on from the character with which she has been associated for the past 25 years.
  • For my fans across the pond, TV host Ant McPartlin (of the duo, Ant & Dec – they were in Love Actually) was caught “drink driving” as the Brits call it. That’s so cute. It sounds so classy and dainty. “Yes, I’ll have spot of tea, and then go out for some drink driving.” When we call it “drunk driving”, the “drunk” implies you’re already a shitshow, but “drink driving” makes it sound like you could still have your shit together. Anyway, the duo’s losing sponsorships, as Ant heads to rehab.

Nothing really blew me away this week. Did I miss something? If you felt like something had the West Week Ever, chime in below of find me on social media. Otherwise, I’m calling it: nothing had the West Week Ever this week.

22nd Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/22/17

by Will

 

So, like most people in America, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi. In fact, I saw it last Thursday night, but I wanted to save my thoughts until most folks I had a chance to see it. Little did I realize this would be one of the most polarizing films of my lifetime. I’m the furthest thing from a huge Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed The Force Awakens, so I was cautiously optimistic about this installment. And ya know what? I LOVED IT. I was kinda dreading going to the theater that night, as I was tired but I’d already bought the ticket. What I got, however, was a highly entertaining movie. Was it “Star Wars“? I dunno. I don’t feel like I’m a big enough fan to weigh in on that. Those of you who are don’t seem to believe that it was. That’s the divide I’ve been noticing: The casuals, like myself, had no issue with it, while the hardcore fans seem to be the ones with the most issues – a lot of this due to unfair expectations they took with them into the theater. Here are my random thoughts on the film, in no particular order:

  • So, Luke was banging those fish nuns, right? I mean, we’re all on the same page there, I hope.
  • This film gave us something we’d never seen in a Star Wars film before: I swear, if the N-Word exists in a galaxy far, far away, Phasma totally would’ve used it on Finn when she said “You were ALWAYS scum”, and he replied with REBEL scum.” Replace “scum” with the N-word and you get just how powerful that scene was.
  • Um, is Poe banging Leia? There was some weird subtext there which wasn’t quite mother/son, nor was it leader/subordinate. Was there some May/Life Day relationship going on there?
  • Episode IX should just be called Star Wars: What’s The Fucking Point? I mean, they’re down to about 25 rebels at this point. And, for a middle movie, it sure felt kinda like a finale in a lot of ways.
  • I LOVE that Rey is the child of nobodies. It really bothered me that fans were insistent that she was a Skywalker or a Kenobi, when the galaxy is so much larger than those two families. As I said on Twitter, my favorite part of the movie is how it broke fanboys’ speculation boners like reverse cowgirl gone horribly wrong.
  • Canto Bight was dumb, and the animal cruelty message was hamfisted
  • Speaking of Canto Bight, you’ve got a planet dedicated to gambling, and the galaxy’s most famous, Colt 45-swigging gambler ain’t there? Whatever, dude.
  • Boyega was just…there. He brought very little to this movie except to give Rose some company over the on the B plot. I expect so much more from Finn than we’ve ever actually gotten. Maybe it’s just me, foolishly rooting for the Black guy, but he just feels like wasted potential.
  • I totally never realized Poe had never met Rey (I only watched TFA the one time, when it first came out). Was there something there between them in that interaction? Is there now a Love Rhombus between Finn/Rey – Finn/Rose – Rey/Kylo – Rey/Poe?
  • I love how Rose got “Finned” at the end of the movie, and I hope that’s a running joke from here on out. Every Star Wars movie should end with someone in a coma, only to wake up as window dressing in the next movie.
  • Does the vacuum of space work differently in Star Wars? I mean, they open bomb bay doors, but without some force being applied, those bombs wouldn’t just drop down the surface of the First Order dreadnought. Also, when Rose’s sister opens the bomb bay doors, shouldn’t she have been sucked out instead of just hanging out on that ledge?
  • While it was a visual spectacle, what was the purpose of the red salt? Was it to give the appearance of troop blood while retaining a PG-13 rating?
  • “We don’t fight against what we hate, we fight for what we love” is the hokiest, most 2017 statement they could’ve shoved in the film. It’s almost as hokey as the “You don’t mess with New Yorkers!” scene from Raimi’s Spider-Man.

All that said, I do understand why the hardcore fans are mad. For a movie franchise essentially based on an ancient religion, this movie basically comes in and says “Your god? Yeah, doesn’t matter anymore.” It’s all “Let the past die” this,  and burn up the magical tree that. To come out of this movie as a hardcore Star Wars fan is akin to graduating from college with a fine arts degree. All that time, learning trivia and minutiae, wasted. Plus, there are legitimate questions. Who was Snoke? Where were the Knights of Ren? The fan theories were all over the place, and none of them were validated. But, you know what happens when you assume…

Anyway, the best film I saw in the past week was Coco. It was my daughter’s first movie in a theater, so I was equal parts enthralled by what was onscreen, while also being terrified she was gonna act a fool. I didn’t know much about the film going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised. On the Day of the Dead, aspiring musician Miguel pulls a “Home Alone” and tells his family he doesn’t really care about them because they won’t let him play his music. Well, after a strange sequence of events, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, where he needs to get the blessing of a departed loved one in order to cross back over into the real world. It was a visual spectacle, but also highly emotional. I hate the phrase “the feels” with an unbridled passion, but it would be appropriate to use it here. Did I cry? No, YOU cried! Shut up! Anyway, I’d be really interested to know how the movie performed in the “Build the Wall!” segments of America, ’cause it’s really ethnic. If they’re not seeing it because of that ignorance, however, then it’s their loss because it’s an amazing film.

HarassmentWatch (TM)

TJ Miller: The comedian/actor has been accused of sexual assault during his time at George Washington University. You ask me, nothing bad about that dude surprises me. In fact, I almost wonder if he left Silicon Valley before they got a chance to fire him. Anyway, he denies the allegations and posted that awkward ass pic of him and his wife on Instagram. Meanwhile, Comedy Central will not be moving forward with The Gorburger Show.

Mark Schwahn Update: The One Tree Hill creator has been fired as showrunner of The Royals following investigation of his sexual misconduct.

Chris Matthews: The MSNBC anchor allegedly made inappropriate jokes about a female staff member in front of other staff, and NBC News had to pay a separation settlement back in 1999.

Paul Haggis: The Crash director/The Facts of Life writer was accused of sexual assault by publicist Haleigh Breest in 2013. He says they had a “fun, and sometimes flirtatious, relationship” and that she’s trying to extort $9 million out of him. She says he forced himself on her, while he says a recent back surgery prevented him from even having the range of motion to do such a thing.

Morgan Spurlock Update: Who Rules The World, an unscripted show that tackled women’s issues, suspended production after severing ties with Spurlock following his admission last week. Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! has also been yanked from the Sundance Film Festival

David Eaton: The VP and executive editor of NFL Media resigned following HUNDREDS of sexually explicit tweets he’d sent to prostitutes and adult film actresses over the years were reported by Deadspin.

Gary Goddard Update: He has now been accused by eight former child actors in a Santa Monica theater group. There were hands on thighs, and abuse during overnight stays.

Harvey Wenstein Update: Peter Jackson confirmed that Weinstein blackballed Mira Sorvino and Ashley Judd, as Jackson wanted them to appear in the Lord of the Rings trilogy when it was set up at Miramax, but Weinstein told him the two women were a nightmare to work with. It is believed that Weinstein did this to many other women in regards to their careers.

Glenn Thrush Update: Thrush is back, baby! The New York Times has completed its investigation of its star reporter and said “While we believe that Glenn has acted offensively, we have decided that he does not deserve to be fired”. So, he’ll be given a new assignment. Must be nice.

Johnny Iuzzini: The celebrity pastry chef (that’s a THING? God bless America!) and judge of The Great American Baking Show was accused of sexual harassment and abuse by multiple women. As a result, ABC severed their relationship with them, but in a move that screwed over everyone involved with the show, they decided not to air the remaining episodes. So, the winner was announced via a video posted to Facebook. Womp womp.

Matt Damon: Tone deaf Damon released a statement that was basically “Why aren’t we applauding the guys who aren’t sexual predators?” Oh, you mean the ones who are doing what they’re SUPPOSED TO DO, Matt? Ugh…

Papa John?:  While it’s not clear if it’s due to any accusations (yet), John Schnatter will be stepping down as CEO. Sure, he got a lot of heat for saying that the NFL protests were bad for his business, but I’m not sure that’s the whole story. So, do you think it was the protest hate that got Papa John, or did he get caught blasting his garlic sauce all over some female coworkers and he’s working out settlements?

They’re calling it a “bloodbath” over at Marvel, as the following books are getting cancelled:

  • Generation X
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Hawkeye
  • Iceman
  • Jean Grey
  • Luke Cage
  • Royals
  • Secret Warriors
  • The Unbelievable Gwenpool
  • U.S. Avengers
  • Uncanny Avengers

The Gwenpool cancellation hits me the hardest, as I really love that book. It’s cute and fun, but I guess it wasn’t gritty enough or “matter” in terms of whatever Marvel’s next big event might be. The minority community has latched onto the Luke Cage cancellation with the usual outcry of “Why doesn’t Marvel support books like this?” Have a seat, ’cause I’m about to take you on a Rant Ride.

I hate the hot takes where folks are like “Marvel didn’t do a good job promoting this book!” You’re asking too much. Why go the extra mile to promote Luke Cage when Spider-Man over there does what’s expected of it month in and month out. These books got the same house ads and same lenticular covers as everyone else. I don’t think they deserve more effort to sell just because they appeal to a marginalized audience. At the end of the day, they ain’t fucking with comics like that anyway.

This ain’t 1963. You can take out all the TV ads for comics you want, and folks respond with a “They still make those?” Or a “You mean I gotta buy this shit EVERY month?” Next, you’ll be complaining about the publishing model, and that ain’t gonna change just for America Chavez. The angry fans want them doing shit they don’t even do for the books that sell. “Did you contact any movie theaters to show ads before films? Did you buy any TV spots? Did you go out into the community?” See, I don’t even think the community outreach would work because, at the end of the day, you’re still asking sometimes underserved communities to waste $4 a month on some stale entertainment. And trade-waiting “kills books”, so…

At this point, complaining about comics not selling is like complaining that you can’t find stamp collecting supplies. It’s a dying art, folks. Y’all saw The Last Jedi. Let the past die. Stop acting like there’s some shot in the arm that’s gonna save it.

There’s no conspiracy to kill minority books. You should be glad the books are even out there to begin with. Then it comes down to A) are the books good? B) are people actually gonna buy instead of flap their gums? At some point, it’s just bad business to keep publishing a book that’s losing everyone money. I’ve worked for the distributor. I’ve been a buyer. And when you consider the scale, the desired numbers aren’t outrageous. Sometimes you simply lose and there’s no angle to it.

So, let’s pour one out for The Unbelievable Gwenpool. Long may she reign!

In other Marvel news, there’s an update on the C.B. Cebulski situation. While Marvel hasn’t issued a statement, Cebulski did issue an apology to The Atlantic, saying:

I’m truly sorry for the pain, anger, and disappointment I caused over my poor choice of pseudonym. That was never my intention. Throughout my career in anime, manga, and comics, I’ve made it a point to listen and learn from my mistakes, which is exactly what I’ve been trying to do with this misstep. Building honest relationships with creators has always been important to me, and I’ve continued to do that in my new position. I’ve spoken with talent close to this issue, and have had candid and productive conversations about how we can improve the industry and build better stories, while being mindful of the voices behind them. My passion has always been about bringing the best talent from across the world to work on the best stories in the world, and I’m hopeful that fans and creators alike will join us in that continued mission.

Whatever, C.B. That’s all we’re getting, folks, so I guess it’s time to move on…

So, while channel surfing last Saturday night, I ran across a rap battle show on TBS called Drop the Mic, based on a segment from The Late Late Show with James Corden. What brought me in was a rap battle between funny man Wayne Brady and country artist Jake Owen. Owen held his own, but Brady came out victorious in the end. I’m glad I stayed for the whole thing, however, because the next battle had 10 year old Will written all over it: Kenny G vs Richard Marx. I’m a HUGE Marx fan, and I was really rooting for him. Amazingly, somehow Kenny G beat his ass. I mean, he just wiped the floor with him. I’m going to have to check this show out again in the future, but here’s the full G/Marx battle:

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • BBC America has cancelled the Elijah Wood-starring Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency after two seasons
  • John Legend will star in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live on Easter, facing off against Alice Cooper as King Herod. A Black Jesus and a rocker king. So, no one in the Bible Belt will be watching Jesus Christ Superstar Live
  • Apple admitted that it used software updates to limit the performance of older iPhones. They claim this was done to prevent taxing the aging batteries, which would result in the phones shutting off suddenly. Whatever, dude.
  • Team owner Jerry Richardson will have to sell the Carolina Panthers following workplace misconduct accusations. He didn’t end up in HarassmentWatch because his sin was more along the lines of calling folks the N-word than for dangling his wang. Diddy and Colin Kaepernick are interested in buying the team.
  • Following the ouster of Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion has officially been renamed Live From Here. Man, that’s some lazy shit right there. Or should that be right HERE?
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling pleaded guilty to possession of over 25 THOUSAND images of child pornography. Jesus! Was he running a server?! Anyway, his plea deal will most likely result in a 4-7 years sentence, followed by registering as a sex offender with 20 years of monitoring.
  • Mindy Kaling had a baby, which was the TRUE “Mindy Project” all along!
  • Cash Cab producers are working on Cash Lift, which will basically be the same show, but set in a hotel elevator instead of a taxi. It will stream on the Discovery Go and Facebook Watch platforms.
  • Something called EPIX has cancelled something called Graves. Who knew Nick Nolte was still working somewhere? Anyway, not anymore.
  • Because they haven’t figured out how to greenlight Sharknado: The Series yet, Syfy has renewed Van Helsing for a 3rd season.
  • A Christmas Story Live aired on Fox, and it seems like nobody cared, based on the ratings.
  • A Scooby Doo remake film is scheduled to be released May 15th, 2020.
  • The Netflix Gillian Jacobs/Paul Rust sitcom Love will end after the upcoming 3rd season, which premieres March 9th.
  • Chicago P.D. has been acquired by Fox Television stations for weekday syndication in Fall 2018.  Though not the first Chicago series, it’s the first to syndication because it’s procedural nature lends itself more to the model than the soap operatic nature of Chicago Fire.
  • Analysts say that 5,000-10,000 jobs will be eliminated by the Disney/Fox deal. Maybe they can all get jobs as extras in Avengers vs. X-Men
  • The IT Crowd is being adapted for the US for the THIRD time, but this is the first time original series creator Graham Lineham has taken a swing at it.

  • We got our first look at Hawk & Dove from the upcoming live action Titans series. Just like the Robin we saw a few weeks back, it still looks like a Spirit Halloween ad to me…
  • The Roseanne revival begins its unnecessary 9-episode return to the airwaves March 27th, bumping The Middle to 8:30 – which I think it something of a dick move to do to a show in its last season, in its homestretch of original episodes.
  • Speaking of unnecessary revivals, word on the street is that NBC is working on a revival of The Office for the 18-19 season. While Steve Carell isn’t involved, the show is supposed to include a mixture of returning and new characters. So, I’d wager Oscar, Phyllis, and Angela will be back. I mean, they’re the ones who haven’t gone on to much after the original show.
  • The Revenant‘s screenwriter Mark L. Smith will write the script for Quentin Taratino’s Star Trek film, in which James Kirk finds himself molested by a bear.
  • Everything old is new again, as it’s rumored that Vince McMahon is reviving his ill-fated XFL football venture. In fact, he has filed with the SEC to sell of 3.34 million shares of WWE in order to fund his new startup, Alpha Entertainment, which is believed to be the vehicle through which the XFL will return.
  • Hasbro and Paramount are rekindling their relationship, with a third G.I. Joe film scheduled for March 27th, 2020, and a Micronauts film planned for Ocotber 16th, 2020.
  • A streaming-only prequel series, called Stargate Origins, will premiere after Valentine’s Day, on February 15th. Nothing says “Who the Hell did I just wake up next to?!” like rolling over and watching some good old Stargate on your phone. Focusing on Catherine Langstrom, daughter of the man who discovered the Egyptian Stargate, each of the 10 episodes will be about 10 minutes in length. I’m not sure how exciting it could actually be, seeing as how Catherine doesn’t even figure out how to activate the gate until the movie…

NOTE: If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, then what are you doing with your life?), you’ve already seen most of the following thread, but I felt it needed to be posted here for posterity. 

Let’s talk about gatekeepers. Yes, they can suck for new fans of something, but I’m gonna take a page from political discourse: Have any of y’all tried to understand where they’re coming from? It tends to happen in geek circles a lot, be it comics, Trek, Star Wars, etc. Old fans pull rank on new fans because they “were here first”. Let’s take a closer look at that, shall we?

A lot of these gatekeepers experienced some trauma, inflicted by those who are now banging at the gate. Most of this shit was not “cool”, and a lot of them took a lot of shit for being passionate about it. For some, it was just teasing. For others, it might’ve been worse.

So imagine waking up to find the shit that both got you through/kinda also ruined your adolescence is now THE thing. Quarterback running around, pretending he has a lightsaber. The head cheerleader has Leia Buns. Cool rebel kid has a “My other car is a TIE Fighter” bumper sticker. That shit can be kinda jarring. Plus, I think it’s a bit much to expect those fans to just welcome the “oppressor” because now they share common ground. That’s a lot to get over. So, the old fans become gatekeepers and they’re assholes about it. I get it.

Until we really acknowledge the cause of this divide, nothing’s gonna get any better. I’m not saying former bullies need to apologize for tormenting nerds, but there needs to be some kind of acknowledgement of “I used to think this was stupid, but you were onto something”

I dunno. At the end of the day, gatekeepers can be assholes, but I don’t know if it isn’t, in some cases, justified. The problem is they take this rage out on everyone. Not every new fan was like what I described. Some were just late to the boat. But as we’re seeing, fandoms will just eat themselves, so the gatekeepers aren’t in a sustainable place. They’ll either alienate the new fans and their beloved franchise will die or they’ll be outnumbered by them. In some cases (comics), gatekeepers will just die out.

A big problem with the gatekeepers, though, is the inability to let go. After all, this is the thing that *got them through* tough times and now that bitch from high school is internet famous for wearing a Chewbacca mask. It’s almost a bastardization of something they held dear.

The issue there, however, is they feel like they own this stuff and they don’t. All those years of purchases and memorizing trivia was *not* an actual recognized investment in the property. You don’t own these things. You are not a shareholder. It’s a lot like sports. Monday morning, that coworker of yours will come up and say, “Man, we really played some game yesterday, didn’t we?” No, Ron. You didn’t play shit. I don’t know what this “we” stuff is all about.

Everyone likes to belong to something, but it’s really hard to find your “corner of the sky”, only for it to become this multimedia explosion. I don’t think we process that enough. It’s almost like folks are going “Hey, nerd! I like your shit now. We cool?” And while I don’t think anyone should tell anyone the “right” way to be a fan, I guess I understand that the old school fans come with some knowledge of the property & don’t feel their contributions are welcomed by the new fan. I guess I come from a “Respect your elders” mindset.

Anyway, with the Star Wars kerfuffle this week, it’s clear that the gatekeepers were out in full force for this one. I hate that the pendulum has swung this way, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that the gatekeepers wielded a lot of power this week. So, with that in mind, fandom gatekeepers had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: Next Wednesday, come back as I will be presenting the WBW Top 40. Yes, I’ll be reviewing my 40 favorite songs from 2017, and I know you’ll find something in the batch that you like. I don’t typically cover music because I know my tastes aren’t shared by a lot of you, but I’m confident there’ll be something on this list that’ll make you smile, Plus, in what has been a pretty shitty year overall, I figured we could all send it off with some good music. So, be here Wednesday! In the meantime, have a Merry Christmas and a kicking Kwanzaa! Is Hanukkah over? If not, you show that oil who’s boss!

15th Dec2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/15/17

by Will

I don’t expect a ton of folks to read this week’s installment, as I know a bunch of my audience is on self-imposed exile from the Internet until they get a chance to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. So, this is my chance to just write a bunch of random shit with no challenge or repercussion. And don’t worry, as I’m saving my Last Jedi thoughts for next week.

HarassmentWatch (TM)

I can’t tell you how tired I am of writing this section every week, but dudes just can’t seem to keep their dicks in their pants, so here we are.

Mario Batali: The week started off with celebrity chef Mario Batali being accused of sexual misconduct. Four women came forward that Batali has touched them inappropriately over a span of 20 years. While he didn’t know the identities of the women, his response was basically, “Yup, that sounds like me.” As a result, he has stepped away from the business operations of his restaurants, and has been fired as a co-host of ABC’s talk show The Chew. I just want to point out that, out of all of the celebrity chefs, they got Batalo before they got Guy Fieri. It just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its frosted tips!

Tavis Smiley: The PBS host was accused of having engaged in sexual relationships with multiple subordinates – in many cases where it was implied that the women’s employment was contingent upon them complying. He said anything that might’ve happened was consensual. PBS said “No way, José!” Or maybe something like “Who’s Smiley now?” I don’t know. I bet they said something really clever. In any case, they’ve suspended distribution of his show.

 

Blake Farenthold: The US Representative from Texas announced that he won’t seek re-election following accusations of sexual harassment. Ah, he’s taking the Conyers package. Excellent choice, sir! Anyway, unlike most of these dudes, who turn out to be wang danglers, Farenthold’s offense was that he was unprofessional and liked to make off-color jokes to subordinates. For example, when one of his aides was leaving for his wedding, Farenthold reportedly said, “Better have your fiancée blow you before she walks down the aisle — it will be the last time.” So, in addition to looking like Captain Planet villain Hoggish Greedly wearing a toupee, Farenthold is also clearly a prophet. Oh, and he also had a habit of calling those around him “fucktards”.

Morgan Spurlock: THIS piece of shit. Just look at his smug face. You know, I’ve had issues with Spurlock ever since Super Size Me. Yes, I have an irrational loyalty to the McDonalds Corporation, and I didn’t like the hit job he did on them with that documentary. A lot of folks don’t realize that his wife at the time was a vegan chef, and that was basically his diet. So, yeah, eating McDonalds 3 times a day is gonna make you throw up – not necessarily because of anything having to do with the McDonalds, but more due to the fact that your body just ain’t used to it. Anyway, he thought he was being noble by outing himself on Twitter, saying “I am also part of the problem”. He went into detail that he’d been accused of rape in the past, that he had paid a settlement to a former assistant due to sexual harassment, and that he had cheated on every wife and girlfriend he had ever had. He blamed it on a drinking problem that, according to him, he’s had for 30 years. Anyway, he stepped down from his production company in the wake of his “confession”.

Basically ALL of NFL Network: Former wardrobe stylist Jami Cantor worked for NFL Network for over a decade, and reported that she had been sexually harassed by Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk, as well as analysts Ike Taylor and Heath Evans. She also included former employees Warren Sapp, Donovan McNabb, and Eric Davis in her allegations. Faulk fondled her when greeting her, Taylor sent her pics of himself in the shower, McNabb tried to sext her, Davis told her he wanted to have rough sex with her, and Evans sent her naked pictures of himself and constantly asked her to have sex with him. Oh, and Sapp gave her a sex toy at Christmas THREE YEARS IN A ROW, taking a page from the Matt Lauer handbook. NFL Network has suspended the guys who actually still work for them, but half of them had already been fired for other offenses. In fact, these allegations came out during a wrongful termination suit, in which it is alleged that Cantor herself was fired for stealing clothes from an unspecified on-air talent member.

Harvey Weinstein Update: Salma Hayek added her voice to the 70 women who have accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct. She said that Weinstein was her “monster”, and detailed the aggressive advances he made towards her after they established a business relationship to help her produce Frida. He even insisted that a full frontal love scene be included – a scene so distressing for her that she said she had to take tranquilizers just to get through filming it.

In politics, Omarosa Manigault, or just “Omarosa”, was reportedly fired from the Trump administration earlier this week. In fact, reports seem to imply that she was physically removed from the premises.  They dragged her out like a belligerent Delta passenger, yet the White House insists that she “resigned to pursue other opportunities”. To hear the story, they chucked her out like Uncle Phil used to do to Jazz. Womp womp. She was reportedly making $180,000 a year as the Special Assistant to Who The Fuck Knows. No, seriously, nobody seemed to know what she was doing there, and she didn’t even make it a full year. Well, good riddance to bad rubbish. She’ll probably be on Dancing with the Stars or have her own Fox News show by this time next year.

In movie news, some interesting stuff is going on with the Screen Actors Guild Awards. For starters, only women will present awards at the 2018 ceremony. The executive producer of the awards said that this is a “salute to women”, following a year in which they were “very, very brave.” Yeah, that’s all well and good, but considering things will just go back to “normal” in 2019 kinda kicks the wind out of the sails of this gesture. It feels like an overcompensation, rather than sustainable, meaningful change.

Meanwhile, Jordan Peele’s Get Out has been jerked all over the awards circuit, being nominated for Best Musical of Comedy Motion Picture for the Golden Globes, which resulted in an “It wasn’t a comedy!” outcry. Well, for the SAG Awards, the cast was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. However, breakout star Lil Rel Howery, got excluded this nomination due to a trivial SAG rule. You see, according to the rule, you can’t be considered a main cast member if you don’t have your own solo title card in the main title sequence. A lot of this billing stuff is decided arbitrarily as deals are being ironed out, but Howery appears in the credits on the same card as Erika Alexander, so it gives the appearance of perceived lesser star power, and neither will win an award if the cast wins this category.

In Power Rangers news, we got our first glimpse of the Super Sentai series that will air next season in Japan (with the assumption that the footage will eventually be adapted into a future Power Rangers season). Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patoranger looks stupid. It’s 2 teams of three: one group is a bunch of thief Rangers with safe tumblers on their Zords, while the other group seems to be detectives, with badges on their helmets. The designs are ugly, and it just sounds like a dumb premise. But Ranger fans are eating it up because, well, Ranger fans…Seriously, you could eat rainbow sherbet and shit in a bucket, and they’d still be mesmerized by all the colors. It doesn’t take much with them. Anyway, I hope Saban skips this season just like he did with the train series.

In comics news, it has been SEVENTEEN DAYS and Marvel still hasn’t addressed the Cebulski thing. Kinda have to admire the balls on them at this point. Like, at this point, they control the narrative, and they’re choosing to retcon the whole thing. Most conversations about it have died down, but that doesn’t make it any less worse. It’ll be interesting to see if any big name talent walks away from any projects over there. I doubt it, and it won’t be any of the White dudes. It’d have to be someone like Wilson or Coates. But jobs are hard to come by, and nobody wants to rock the boat…

With Disney’s backing, Marvel’s cock of the walk and probably feel like they don’t need to address it. That said, if the majority of readers don’t care, they have little to lose by briefly addressing it and moving on, with “an eye trained on the future and not the past”. It’s quite the thing to just leave dangling. Plus it may not affect marquee creators, but you’d better believe it will be a new barrier to entry for the next Asian writer. It’s going to be kind of hard to take a Sunfire miniseries seriously written by newcomer “Ryu Kurosawa” when everyone knows there’s a chance it’s really just Cullen Bunn, “taking the piss”. That’s where the real damage has been done.

I know how corporations work, and I don’t expect Marvel to get down on their knees. In all honesty, the window has passed. It’s just a really messy handling of the entire situation.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • USA renewed Mr. Robot for a 4th season. I bailed back in season 2, so maybe somebody can catch me up. Have they introduced Mrs. Robot yet, or is he swinging bachelorbot?
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm was renewed for a 10th season at HBO. Based on its production pattern, don’t look for it to debut until around 2023.
  • Archie Comics will be rebooting Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy in an ongoing series that launches in April.
  • Dreamworks and Netflix are teaming up for a reboot of She-Ra: Princess of Power. Based on how the reboots of other 80s cartoons have been received, I expect this to be ruined by the unrealistic nostalgia expectations of manchildren.
  • The Walking Dead television series took a major detour from the comics this week, solidifying the upcoming death of an original character. It’s funny – comics fans expect the series to end with Carl Grimes picking up where his father, Rick, left off, while the television series will probably just end with Rick and Michonne raising their halfy kids in the woods somewhere.
  • Sylvester Stallone will no longer be directing Creed 2, which will now be helmed by relative newcomer Steven Caple Jr.
  • Apple acquired music discovery app Shazam in a deal worth $400 million. I’ve got nothing snarky to say here. Next?
  • Hannibal Buress was arrested last weekend for disorderly conduct, which can only mean that Bill Cosby and the Black Illuminati are finally exacting their revenge on him for setting into motion the renewed interest in Cosby’s sexual assault allegations back in 2014.

  • The all-female Ocean’s 8 is actually called Ocean’s 8. I thought that was just a working title. It’d be funny if it’s a prequel, and they turn out to be the moms of everyone in Ocean’s 11. Think about it: they started at 8, meaning they have room for a full trilogy that leads right into the Clooney/Pitt installment.
  • John Wick 2 director Chad Stahelski is attached to an adaptation of Ed Brubaker’s comic, Kill Or Be Killed. I’m a big fan of the book, which follows a regular guy whose botched suicide attempt somehow results in him having to kill people to appease a demon. I know it sounds weird, but it’s really good.
  • Alabama narrowly avoided electing an alleged child molester to the U.S. Senate. Sure, the feel-good story everyone is telling is about how Doug Jones beat Roy Moore, with the help of Black women voters. Let’s not forget, however, Moore got 48.4% of the vote, which is about 48.4% too much for a dude with a penchant for 14 year old girls. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you people?!
  • Disney purchased Fox’s assets for a reported $52 billion. I’ve already gone into detail as to why I think this is a bad deal. Anyway, have fun with your Fantastic Four movies. I hope they were worth it.

  • I LOVE the Miles Morales character, so I’m interested to see how this animated movie, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse is going to turn out. Honestly, this trailer doesn’t do a lot for me, but I’m hoping for the best.

Who had a great week? Hmm…Disney? Yeah, I guess so. That remains to be seen, however. Fox? I mean, they did just make a shit ton of money, but what are they gonna do with it? You know who had a great week? Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC who spearheaded this week’s vote to repeal Net Neutrality. That dude was on videos with alt-righters, mocking Net Neutrality supporters, and he got his wish when the vote passed. Still, this ain’t Time Magazine where we award “influencers”, and that dude’s a piece of shit. Ya know who had the West Week Ever? Black Women. Yeah, I know this is uncharted territory for the site, but let’s look at things here.

First of all, it was the Black female vote that helped to keep Roy Moore out of the Senate in Alabama. If you weren’t aware of that, it’s because you clearly have been in a coma, as everyone is falling over themselves to remind us that Black women did this. Well, thank you, Black women. It’s a shame that you had to come save the day, but you did it, and Alabama (and the country) thanks you. Here’s hoping politicians realize your influence in the future instead of hoping to just call on you like Toodles when shit gets bad.

Next, as a nice little “Thank you present”, Black women got to revel in the fact that “traitor” Omarosa was basically dragged through the White House Rose Garden, her Louboutins carving tracks behind her. While some might have once considered Omarosa to be a “strong, Black woman”, she really hasn’t endeared herself to her peers in recent years. Now she’s trying to act like it was lonely being her in the Trump White House. Well, no shit! Prominent Black women from Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts to journalist April Ryan all got in their parting shots at the former Apprentice contestant. In fact Omarosa was so incensed by Roberts’ “Bye, Felicia” remarks that she has declared a Black Woman Civil War, so I guess y’all have got that to look forward to, as well!

So, as you’re taking off your earrings and your high heels for this fight, rest well, Black Women, knowing that you had the West Week Ever!

21st Jul2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/21/17

by Will

I haven’t been doing such a great job with my movie tally for 2017. We’re more than halfway through the year, and I’ve barely watched anything. Well, I kinda made up for that last weekend, as I caught Keeping Up With The Joneses on HBO. This is one of those movies that came and went, and might find a fan base on TV, but will probably just be forgotten. If it should be remembered for anything, it’s that it features both Gal Gadot and Isla Fisher in lingerie. That’s about all it’s got going for it. What’s it about? Well, Isla Fisher and Zack Galifianakis star as a milquetoast suburbanite couple who become suspicious of their new neighbors, Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot. So, they’re pushed out of their comfort zone when they find out Hamm and Gadot are spies, and they get wrapped up in their latest mission. This is the kind of movie I would’ve killed a chunk of a Saturday afternoon on had it aired on Fox 5, but I can understand why nobody went to see it in theaters. Folks loved Don Draper, but for whatever reason, they have no desire to help along Jon Hamm’s movie career. And this was pre-Wonder Woman Gadot, so there was no heat on her yet. It doesn’t suck, but it’s got no Wow Factor either. Once it hits FX, it might be a good way to waste away a rainy Sunday afternoon.

I finally got around to watching The Nice Guys, too. I’d tried a few months ago, but I only got as far as the Ryan Gosling fully clothed in the bathtub scene, where I went, “What the eff am I watching?” I wasn’t ready for the absurd that night, but I was ready now. Like everyone had told me, it was really good. I still have trouble with heist/mystery films because my brain doesn’t work as fast as the film, so sometimes I have to reflect back on the thing when it’s over just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Ryan Gosling is a private investigator who teams up with local tough guy Russell Crowe to track down a missing girl. Sure, there’s some stuff about porn, and the Detroit auto lobby, but that’s the gist of the movie. It’s got a precocious kid, a cool 70s aesthetic, and titties. Can’t really hate on any of that. Anyway, I could see this as one of those movies I drop everything to watch whenever I see that it’s on. If you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out.

My new favorite reality show debuted this week on Bravo, called A Night With My Ex. It’s just what the title says: a former couple spends the night together to see if the spark is still there and/or to reopen old wounds. In the premiere, 28 year old virgin Rachel is reunited to smarmy douchebag ex-boyfriend Fabian. They dated for four years, but he cheated on her with a sexy Tinkerbell at a Halloween party because he had a major case of blue balls. When the show starts, you don’t think Fabian is really that bad of a guy. He knows he made a mistake, and he even plans to propose to Rachel because he wants her in his life forever. But things go south quickly. He chastises her for scraping her plate with her fork as she eats, and he tries to make her give him a handjob once they’re in bed. All the while, she’s trying to actually apologize for basically pushing him to cheat by withholding sex, but he never lets her get a word out before saying/doing something stupid. Finally she declares that she deserves better than him, and basically laughs in his face when he proposes. That was some damn good television! If anything, I’d say the show is too short at 30 minutes, but they only spend one night together, and not the whole weekend, so I guess that’s all they could edit together. It’s a lot like MTV’s old show, The X Effect, only the couple’s current partners aren’t spying on the date like they were in that show. Anyway, it’s only been one episode, but I count me in for the next nine!

In TV news, it was announced that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have lined up their post-GoT project, Confederate, which is an alternate history series set prior to the United States’ 3rd Civil War. Well, this rang some alarm bells for some folks, as you can’t really get into the Confederacy and Civil War without dealing with slavery. And folks weren’t really happy about these White showrunners making what some considered to be “slavery fanfic”. What hasn’t been covered extensively, though, is that the project is really just coasting on the fact that the GoT showrunners are attached, but they’re not the only ones involved. Husband-wife team of Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman , who are Black, will be partners on the show along with Benioff and Weiss. Plus, the show it’s so deep in its infancy that there aren’t even character names or an outline yet. It was originally developed as a two-hour movie, but they decided it could be fleshed out and taken to television. There’s basically nothing on paper for it yet, though, so there’s not much for folks to be upset about at this stage other than mere speculation. The Spellmans acknowledge the criticism, but say that they’d rather it had followed the premiere of the show instead of starting now, as it’s being announced. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that this criticism will go into shaping the show going forward, so we may never get what they originally intended to put out.

We got a new trailer for Marvel’s Inhumans. Still looks like garbage. I’ve loved Iwan Rheon since Misfits, but I can’t follow him here. This just looks so bad. Look, I’m gonna watch it, but I really don’t see how there’s any damn way I’m paying for an IMAX ticket to see it in theaters.


We also got a new teaser for The Defenders, which teases the Punisher series at the end. People are going nuts online about this thing because it’s narrated by Stan Lee, but I actually think he’s tonally wrong for this clip. When I think of Stan, I think of his marquee, larger than life characters – NOT the street-level vigilantes. I almost feel like it would’ve been better narrated by Bendis or Brubaker, but they don’t have the recognition factor that Stan has. I get that. Still, it just feels like a hollow waste of a cameo.

 Things You Might Have Missed This Week
  • The good Lord answered my prayers, as Chris Hardwick and Comedy Central have “mutually decided” to end @midnight. I won’t miss his smarmy face or those stupid hashtag games.
  • I guess the third time’s the charm, as Paige Davis will start her 3rd hosting stint on Trading Spaces when it returns to TLC later this year
  • Ed Sheeran was on Game of Thrones this week, and I guess some folks didn’t like that. I dunno. I kinda couldn’t care less about Sheeran or GoT, but folks were hatin’!
  • Meanwhile, it was reported that Lena Dunham will join American Horror Story for season 7, and folks lost their shit about that, too. Apparently she’ll only be in one episode, but that was enough for some folks to claim they weren’t gonna watch anymore.
  • Transformers: Titans Return will debut in November as an animated micro series on the Go90 app, featuring the voices of Green Ranger Jason David Frank and the original Rodimus Prime himself, Judd Nelson.
  • MTV is in talks to reboot Teen Wolf before this iteration’s final season has even concluded. Slow it down!
  • Sega broke up with Archie Comics over Twitter, thereby ending the Sonic The Hedgehog comic after 24 years of publication
  • Seacrest IN! Ryan Seacrest has officially signed on to host ABC’s revival of American Idol. I feel like I’ve written this sentence 3 times in the past already, but now it’s for real for real.
  • Coming as no real surprise since The Vampire Diaries ended, The CW announced that its spinoff, The Originals, will end after its upcoming season.
  • In an odd choice, the directors of the original Catfish documentary (the movie, not the show) are in talks talks to helm a Mega Man film that will be produced by Masi Oka of Heroes fame.
  • Words with Friends is being developed into a television game show. Ya know, so it’s basically the Scrabble game show being rebooted.
  • Meanwhile on Black Twitter, R. Kelly is allegedly running a sex cult, Usher paid a woman $1.1 million for her to keep quiet about the fact that he gave her herpes, and Kevin Hart allegedly got caught cheating on his pregnant wife. I’m just waiting for some crazy Steve Harvey news to round out the week.
  • At San Diego Comic Con, MGM announced Stargate Origins, which appears to be a prequel webseries that will run on the Stargate Command website this fall.
  • Shazam! will be the next DC film to go into production, following Justice League and Aquaman, but it’s unclear if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will co-star as Black Adam.
  • There might soon be a new Cutco salesman on the block, as OJ Simpson has been granted parole from the armed robbery that landed him in prison nine years ago. The Juice is almost loose!

I love those weeks when the West Week Ever recipient presents itself early in the week, ’cause it’s pretty much smooth sailing after that. This was one of those weeks, as history was made across the pond. The Doctor Who franchise is over 50 years old, but every time the Doctor regenerates (a clever in-story mechanism for recasting the actor), he just turns into another White dude. That’s pretty much been the unending pattern since 1966, when the first regeneration occurred. Folks have been saying it’s time for a change, and they were hoping we’d either end up with a Doctor of color (with The IT Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade coming up in a lot of the discussions) or a woman Doctor. Well, half of them got their wish, as Attack the Block‘s Jodie Whittaker was announced as the 13th Doctor. And, as you’re probably not surprised, folks lost their shit.

We’re always taught the the Brits are so proper and upstanding, but the comments sections of several sites proved that they can troll with the best of them. At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of folks who are afraid of change. A friend of mine, however, did point out that the victors in these circumstances also tend to trigger the backlash against themselves. For example, it would be one thing if this was seen as a bold move forward for a progressive franchise. The problem, however, is that some people take it too far, and get on the “I’m savoring these fanboy tears” soapbox, making it about something that it really didn’t need to devolve into. Sometimes the winners can suck just as much as the losers in these scenarios. This can be seen as a “win” for some without it being a “loss” for someone else. How about framing it as a win for everyone? Nah, the internet doesn’t really work like that.

I have never gotten into the Doctor Who franchise because it just seems so daunting. Sure, folks claim you really only have to start with the Eccleston season, but when I get into something, I go ALL IN. To me, that’s like telling someone they can start Star Trek with The Next Generation (which I’d probably do, since I hate The Original Series, even though I’d still feel like I was cheating them out of an experience). I feel like I’d have to watch all 54 years of the show, which is impossible because those seasons ain’t streaming anywhere, and a good chunk of them have been lost to time. It’s a franchise that cannot be wholly consumed! I hate mysteries that can’t be solved. Still, I can respect a longstanding institution, and I understand when change is a big deal. It’ll be interesting to see how fans take to the new Doctor, but the one thing to remember is that she’ll probably do it for 2 years, and then regenerate into another old White guy (the Doctor role has the retention rate of a community college). So, everyone gets their wish! I am kinda curious about the next season, though, as rumor has it Kris Marshall (Colin: God of Sex from Love Actually) is going to be the Doctor’s next companion. I loved that dude!

Anyway, I know which side of history I want to be on, and it’ll be interesting to see this all play out. The way the franchise works, we won’t see her until the Christmas special, and then won’t see her again until late 2018 at the earliest. So, folks have got some time to get used to the idea. Still, I think it goes without saying that Jodie Whittaker had the West Week Ever.

13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

23rd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/23/16

by Will

Happy Birthday to me!!! Seriously, I should’ve just taken the week off, since A) it’s my birthday, B) I blew my blogging wad earlier this week, and C) nobody ever reads this thing on holiday weekends. So, brace yourself for the most phoned in West Week Ever you’ve ever seen!

Earlier this week, I posted The Greatest Threat To The Direct Market Comic Retailer IS The Direct Market Comic Retailer. Plainly put, comic retailers are their own worst enemy, but the industry also isn’t helped by the dinosaurs (both retailers and consumers) who refuse to grow with the times. There’s not really much more I can say that I didn’t say in the post, but check it out if you haven’t yet. It’s gotten some great feedback, and I’m pretty proud of it.

Justice League Action finally premiered last Friday as a “special” on Cartoon Network. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my DVR. Look for a review next week. In the meantime, when looking for this image, I found a lot of YouTube clips using the word “FAIL” in regards to the series, so I guess folks aren’t liking it? Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s geared towards younger kids while older folks were probably hoping for a JL show like we had 10 years ago? Like I said, I’ll form an opinion by next week.

In Power Rangers news, Lionsgate continues to fail at properly marketing the film, as the toys keep revealing more than the studio. Earlier this week, a Toys “R” Us commercial online revealed the movie design for Rita’s henchman Goldar, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It’s interesting that he shares similar design aspects to the Megazord, complete with wings and head shape. It just looks like someone poured melting gold on the Megazord. Is that what happened? After all, Rita’s suit is clearly a damaged Green Ranger suit, so is Goldar a damaged zord? Anyway, I’m hoping this is one of those designs that just doesn’t translate well to plastic, but will look better onscreen. Maybe? Hopefully?

I had the pleasure of joining my pal Corey Chapman for the latest episode of The Chap Report, where we discussed a LOT of politics. Like, a lot. If you only like me ranting about toys and comics, you’d probably best skip to halfway into the episode. Otherwise, enjoy as I talk about Russia, Trump, and Rogue One. Check it out here!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The old folks just don’t know when to quit, as we got word that both The Expendables 4 and Sex and the City 3 are happening. I’ve never seen any of The Expendables franchise, while I skipped out on SATC after the first one where we learned Miranda had let her bush become a forest. Poor Steve…
  • Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, Tupac, and some other folks will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yeah, Tupac. I’m just happy about Journey and E.L.O.  Now, let’s just hope former Journey frontman Steve Perry shows up for the ceremony.
  • Seth MacFarlane’s unfortunately unfunny Patrick Stewart vehicle, Blunt Talk, has been canceled by Starz after 2 seasons.
  • Some chick named Camila Cabello left something called Fifth Harmony. I am old, and don’t know what either of those things are. No, I’m kidding. It’s a girl pop group, but I can’t name a single one of their songs. Anyway, the other 4 Harmonies will carry on, but that can only work for so long.
  • Blizzard confirmed that the character Tracer in the video game Overwatch is a lesbian, and a certain corner of fandom lost their shit. No, I’m not gonna say their name because they’re always searching for that kind of thing. Let’s just say it rhymes with Hamerhate.
  • Blac Chyna took her baby and left boyfriend/baby daddy Rob Kardashian. I feel bad for Rob, but that’s what you get for having a baby with a chick whose name makes her sound like a really racist supervillain.
  • The Ghostbusters 101 comic was announced, which will see the original Ghostbusters travel to an alternate dimension to team up with the 2016 “Answer The Call” Girlbusters.

So, I guess it’s pretty obvious that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the belle of the ball this week. I mean, I haven’t seen it, but people I trust saw it and really liked it. I hear there’s so many great characters, like Trixie Bang Bang, Gay Karate Man, and Sass Bot. To be honest, I’m in no real rush to see it. Just like I don’t like my Trek without an Enterprise (with DS9 as the exception), I don’t like my Wars without Skywalkers. I get that this sets up A New Hope and everything, but that just isn’t enough to get my butt in a theater seat right now. Still, it has made $290 million in the US at this point, and that’s nothing to shake a stick at. So, in a week where very little happened, nothing even came close to the status of Rogue One, and that’s why it had the West Week Ever.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kickin’ Kwanzaa, and maybe I’ll see ya again before the new year!

09th Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/9/16

by Will

 

 

In Marvel news, we got a new teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Why are there so many teasers these days? We already got a short teaser that actually TEASED. Sure, this was only about 2 minutes long, but back in my day, that was the trailer! Anyway, enough old man ranting from me. It looks good. I love Baby Groot because he reminds me of my toddler. Other than that, I’ve got no real thoughts on it one way or another. I guess I’m looking forward to it? I mean, it’s not marked on my calendar like Logan, but I’ll get excited once it’s closer.

In movie news, it was announced that Amy Schumer was cast as Barbie in an upcoming live-action movie. Yup, that Barbie. And the universe laughed and laughed! Look, I’m probably being more cruel than I need to be, but there’s a reason for it: I discovered last week that she had blocked me on Twitter. Now, I can’t remember ever saying anything disparaging about her, and I say a lot of shit about a lot of people. I certainly don’t remember saying anything block-worthy. So, I’m a little butthurt about that, even though if I were a Black Twitter star, I’d put “Blocked by @amyschumer” in my Twitter bio like some sort of trifling badge of honor. I just don’t get this casting other than the fact that she’s blonde. It also doesn’t help that the movie is reportedly rated PG, so she can’t bring her typical brand of comedy to the mix. Wrong body type, wrong personality. Couldn’t they just put Amy Adams in a blonde wig? Isla Fisher? Is Heidi Klum too old? Katherine Heigl? This casting just seems uninspired. Schumer looks like Barbie after a lot of bad decisions – kinda like how Chelsea Handler looks like someone rode her hard and put her away wet. It’s more a case of Sony and Mattel trying to capitalize on her rising fame than actually trying to cast someone right for the role.

Also, the teaser trailer for The Rock’s Baywatch adaptation was released yesterday. As a lifelong Baywatch fan, I was already a lock for seeing it, but it seems like they’re using the 21 Jump Street formula, so now I’m definitely all-in. It’s basically “What if Ryan Lochte joined the Baywatch team?” I love everyone involved, from The Rock to Zac Efron to Alexandra Daddario. I can’t wait for Memorial Day weekend!

In the world of toys, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the hot toys of the season are Hatchimals. Basically, it’s a real life Tamagotchi, as you buy an egg that eventually hatches into some electronic Furby-esque toy. They retail for about $70, but they’re being listed on the secondary market from $100-200. Earlier this week, I posted this article about author Sara Gruen who saw the popularity of the toy as an opportunity to raise money for a man serving a life sentence whom she feels has been wrongly accused of a crime. She won’t go into too much detail because there’s a documentary in the works about the whole thing, but she had contributed over $150,000 of her own money to his legal fees, and felt that reselling the popular toy might help put a dent in her debt (She fucking this dude? If I were her husband, I’d be asking a LOT of questions!). Anyway, she didn’t have any clue what she was doing, so she thought it was a good idea to pay 2X retail for 156 Hatchimals, putting her in about $20,000 of additional debt. She had the harebrained scheme to charge FOUR times retail to parents desperately searching for the toy in time for Christmas. OK, let’s look at where she went wrong.

To some, I might be considered a scalper. I, however, think of myself as more of a Collectibles Reallocation Specialist. I try to keep up with what’s hot and, if I come across any, I resell them at a premium. It sounds bad, but I did this to pay for my wedding and never really looked back. If you keep your finger on the pulse, and don’t risk too much money, you can do alright with it. The way I see it, you’re paying a premium for accelerated access. Most of the stuff I sell will become plentiful given time, but the desire to be the first person to post about it online/give your kid something to brag about at Show & Tell drives folks to pay crazy prices for things they could’ve waited on. I’m not a complete dick, though. Kids are my weak spot. You tell me it’s the only thing your kid wants for his birthday, and I cave. So, I’m pretty much just targeting adults because they’ve got the disposable income.

Anyway, I’ve monitored the Hatchimals thing, and considered picking one up if I ran across it. A friend of mine from college is looking for one for his daughter, and so far they’ve struck out. It feels really good to be that last minute Christmas Savior. Not Jesus, but something a few notches below Jesus, like Peter or Moses. Here’s how I would’ve played this whole thing. I would’ve bought 3 Hatchimals. One for my friend, one to definitely sell, and one to sit on. If the selling one went quickly, then the one I was sitting on would go in the chamber. And that’s it. It’s too close to Christmas to really move that many because your avenues are limited. If you were truly enterprising, I’d even say to buy a case. I’m not sure of the case quantity, but it’s probably about 6-8 in a case. With Craigslist, you could move that in time. Here’s where she messed up: she paid $140 for something that cost $70. There’s already no meat on that bone. Had she bought them at retail, she could’ve doubled her money. With what people have been willing to pay, that would’ve been a fine plan. But you NEVER pay more than retail in arbitrage! So, her plan was dead on arrival, mainly because too many people know the market. If the retail price of Hatchimals fluctuated, you’d have some wiggle room, but the MSRP is $69.99, and everyone knows it, so how do you expect someone to fork over a car payment of $280.00?

Remember how I said there were limited avenues? That’s because Amazon bans toy sellers during the holiday season unless they’re having their orders fulfilled by Amazon. Hell, I’ve been selling on Amazon for 4 years, and I still can’t sell during Christmas. So, that wasn’t gonna be an option for her. Then, she went to eBay, but they’re already onto the Hatchimal racket, so they’re now limiting people from listing more than one a week. At this rate, she can sell about 5 before Christmas (based on when she started), and the day after Christmas the other 151 are gonna be worthless because A) the big day is gone and/or B) stock will catch up with demand. She’s NEVER going to make her money back, so she needs to make peace with that now. If she doesn’t want to sit on these things, she needs to start charging MSRP and accept the fact that she’s going to lose half her investment. As we get closer to Christmas, she could even charge about $80-100, but she still has them listed on her site for the recently reduced price of $189. Plainly put, you’re not gonna make the kind of money she needs with TOYS, especially alone and without a distribution network. She would’ve been better off if she’d bought a house from a sheriff’s sale and flipped it. There have since been updates that she received death threats from people who feel like she’s responsible for ruining their kids’ Christmas, which is a bit extreme. Right now, rest in comfort with the fact that she’s in tremendous debt and a horrible businesswoman. She doesn’t need your death threats.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC aired Hairspray Live, or as I affectionately called it Kristin Chenoweth’s Titties Live. Anyway, nobody watched it compared to the other recent live play adaptations.

  • It was announced that Mariah Carey will host YouTube Red’s The Keys of Christmas special. Based on the poster, it should be called Mariah Carey’s Titties Wish You A Merry Christmas, featuring DJ Khaled and Some Dude
  • Reportedly Beyonce’s recording of “Daddy Lessons” with the Dixie Chicks was rejected by the Grammy Country Music Committee. They’ll rue this day when she summons the Phoenix Force to destroy their lives.
  • Candace Cameron Bure is leaving The View, as it has gotten too hectic filming in NYC, while filming Fuller House in LA.
  • Disney released a new teaser for the DuckTales reboot, announcing that it would debut on DisneyXD next summer.
  • The trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming was released last night. It was OK. With the exception of Tony Stark, I didn’t see anything we haven’t seen before. I just hate how every time the franchise reboots, everyone’s like “They finally got it right!” Chill. They got it right in the past, too.

I have officially joined the Bourgeoisie! That’s right, kids – I’ve seen Hamilton. Before you get all excited for me, I didn’t actually go to Broadway and see the show. No, some intrepid soul decided to post a near perfect copy of the show on YouTube, which ended up being snatched down yesterday. Sure, it may lack the “theatre experience”, but if you’ve seen ticket prices AND know of the lack of availability for tickets to the show, then you realize this experience was just as good. In fact, based on the vantage point of the person who filmed it, it’s actually better than what you’d probably be able to afford. I mean, these were GOOD seats. I can imagine someone sneaking their phone in the show like Rerun when he was taping that Doobie Bros concert. Before I get into my thoughts on the show, however, let’s take a trip down memory lane for a minute, shall we?

Back when I was at Cornell, I was really obsessed with secret societies. There was one in particular that every Cornellian wanted to get into, and I made it a side project to get on their radar so I could be tapped. Well, senior year came, and the tap never did. I later found out that I’d been nominated for entry, but I guess I didn’t make the cut. Let me just say this: it was not an honor just to be nominated! Fast forward to some time later, when I was up there for an alumni function, and a friend of mine who had been tapped volunteered to give me a tour of their secret lair (apparently the society was OK with folks using their status to impress friends/troll for impressionable pussy). Tucked away in a Gothic tower, the meeting space he was allowed to show consisted of a stone room with a wooden table in the middle. No, nothing fancy like a Justice League table. This thing looked like it had been picked up off the side of the road. It looked like a Biblical jail or something. Needless to say, I was not impressed. Now, all of this isn’t to say that Hamilton disappointed me like that stone room did, but it is to point out that there’s power in mystery. Hamilton has the reputation that it does because people want to see it but can’t, which only makes them want to see it more. I can’t help but wonder if this YouTube leak was part of an alt-right revenge plot in conjunction with that whole Pence matter a few weeks back. They wanted folks to boycott the show, but seeing as how the vast majority of the population couldn’t get tickets anyway, I guess they decided the best revenge was to kill the mystique around the show, and disseminate it to the masses.

The mystique of not being able to see it certainly helps propel the Hamilton legend forward. I mean, as I was watching it, I spent the first 20 minutes vacillating between “I can’t believe I’m finally watching this!” and “Please, God – Don’t let YouTube snatch this down before I finish watching it!” I didn’t really get into the play until around the point of the song “You’ll Be Back”. I wonder if that’s the same way people feel in the actual audience these days, taken aback by the fact that they’re ACTUALLY seeing Hamilton.

First of all, let’s deal with the pros. It’s really good. I mean, really good. Way better than it has any right to be. On paper, it’s a lame idea from that teacher you used to have who tried to hard to look “cool” to his students. You know the one: “No, ‘Mr. Smith’ was my father. You guys can call me Mark. Anyway, today we’re going to discuss our founding fathers through the medium of rap!” Seriously, it sounds like a trainwreck waiting to happen. But Miranda pulls it off, amazingly so.

Next up is the music. It’s great and it gets in your head and won’t leave. Even before you know the words, you’ll still be humming the melodies. That’s, like, the main goal of any musical composition: for it to make a lasting mark, have an impact. Hamilton certainly succeeds here.

Finally, my favorite character is a foppish King George III played by Jonathan Groff. If you’ve heard the soundtrack, then you already know his songs are funny, but his portrayal is just so great. It has to be seen to get the full effect.

Now for the cons. A friend of mine online pointed out that he didn’t care if he never saw the show, as the whole thing is on the album, and he’s right. A lot of musicals are dialogue-dialogue-BREAK INTO SONG-dialogue, but this entire play is sung or rapped. There’s nothing that isn’t on the soundtrack. That’s good for those who’ll never see the show, but it seems like you’re almost losing out by attending the play, as it has nothing more to offer other than the “Experience!”

I hate to disappoint the lot of you, but this really isn’t a show that needs to be SEEN. It’s not a visually stunning show. I can’t decide if the choreography is understated or just lazy, but I was somewhat unimpressed. By this point, you already know what Lin-Manuel Miranda looks like, so if you just play the soundtrack, close your eyes, and picture him in Colonial Williamsburg, you’ve got the gist of the imagery. The only thing I actually enjoyed seeing was Groff’s King George dancing along in the background of songs.

At the end of the day, it’s an amazing feat of theatre, and I’m glad I saw it. I’m also glad I didn’t have to sell a kidney in order to do so. Considering that the rap approach to Hamilton has made theatre interesting to those who may not typically care for the medium, it’s shame that the show hasn’t been made more accessible. I mean, I understand the idea of wanting to remain the hot girl of the Great White Way, but there are a lot of folks who’d really appreciate it who aren’t going to get to see it. Last time I checked, the YouTube file had already been viewed over 300,000 times. That’s almost better than the ratings for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (I kid, but they’re not much different!). Clearly there is an interested audience out there who simply can’t afford to see the show. Sure, they throw scraps to the proletariat, like the PBS special and The Hamilton Mixtape, but there is a clear class divide between those who can see the show and those who can’t. I think that’s part of the problem I’ve had with the Hamilton phenomenon: it takes the hip hop vehicle and uses it to entertain an audience outside the typical socioeconomic status that actually created hip hop. I don’t quite want to call it “cultural appropriation”, but it’s close. It’s a relatable story about life and legacy, and I think a lot of people would get something out of it. Anyway, if you ever get the chance to see the show, be it online or live, then definitely don’t miss out on the opportunity. Just don’t take out a second mortgage on your house or anything in order to do so. It just ain’t THAT deep.

Meanwhile, all the Hamiltonians were sitting by their iTunes last Thursday night, realizing they’d received volume 1 of The Hamilton Mixtape. Featuring covers and songs inspired by the show, fans are eating it up. I’ve only heard a few of the songs that leaked early, such as Kelly Clarkson’s version of “It’s Quiet Uptown”. I felt she took an emotional ballad and turned it into an overproduced mess that lacks nuance or dynamics. I can only hope the rest of the album is better than that example. Still, like I said, as with all thing Hamilton, fans are loving it. There was no better week to be a Hamilton fan, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

16th Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/16/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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I didn’t really watch anything this week, but I did kick things off by checking out Monday Night Raw, live in Baltimore. Here’s my recap of the event. No, don’t act like you already read it. I track these things! Go ahead – I’ll wait.

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Well, this could be called The Week of Delays, as two pretty big projects just got shuffled down the release schedule. First up, Marvel’s Civil War II is now running so late that the final issue isn’t set to hit stores until December 28th, 2016. Yup, their “summer event” will now be cleaning up after Santa’s reindeer. This shit is getting out of hand. A similar thing happened with Secret Wars, where the final issue shipped after all the All New, All Different Marvel titles that were meant to spin out of the event started hitting shelves. It really took the wind out of that story’s sails. It was like, “Guess Doom doesn’t die since he’s now co-starring in Invincible Iron Man.” In that situation, another issue was added late in the process just like they did here. The writers always spin it as “I came up with a better ending, and Marvel was so gracious to allow me to write the best story that I can.” Well, why couldn’t you plot that shit out better in the beginning? It’s funny books, not rocket science. A lot of folks act like we should just shut up and let them write the best story that they can, but we all know that’s not it. Nothing ever ends with Marvel. It’s all just set up for the Next Big Thing. Marvel is 4-color blue balls. With DC, at least shit is wrapped up til the next Crisis. With Marvel, however, you end up just letting one event feed into the next, with little to no payoff. It’s the print equivalent of watching this gif :

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SPOILER ALERT: HE NEVER BREAKS THE FUCKING GLASS! BREAK THE FUCKING GLASS, MARVEL!

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Elsewhere in the world of failed deadlines, it was announced that Star Trek Discovery is delayed until May 2017 on CBS All Access. It’s not really a surprise, seeing as how it’s September and they haven’t even announced a cast yet. It’s just one more way CBS/Paramount screwed the pooch when it came to Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. I was talking to some friends online this week about Trek‘s 25th anniversary. They actually *cared* back then. I remember that Star Trek was EVERYWHERE, and the movies were being played at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space. In fact, that’s how I first saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There were trading cards, WITH HOLOGRAMS! Sure, that’s all very 90s, but where’s my Star Trek mobile game (no, Star Trek Online doesn’t count)? Where’s my Star Trek cross-promotion with Pokemon Go or Angry Birds or some shit? Instead, we’ve just got some weird Quicken Loans commercials. Anyway, it’s probably a smarter move to wait til May because then the show won’t have to compete with the regular broadcast networks. If it premieres during May sweeps, then the rest of the series will roll out over the summer, competing against less prestigious summer series. So, it might be a smart TV decision, even if it rubs fans the wrong way. In the meantime, as a consolation prize, the streaming spinoff of The Good Wife will now debut in February, which is earlier than its originally planned premiere. Whatever.

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Speaking of TV, this was the kickoff of syndication week in most markets. That’s when your local CW’s evening schedule gets shuffled so you get one less episode of Mike & Molly but one more episode of something, like, Anger Management. I used to LOVE this week, as I grew up watching syndicated TV. Everything I watched came on five days a week, which is how I ended up watching every episode of most of those shows. Something odd happened this week, however: nothing changed. It’s no secret that TV shows aren’t lasting as long these days. It used to be that 5 seasons or 100 episodes would get you to syndication. Then they lowered it to 80 episodes. Then Community went into syndication in its third season. The model got desperate, so it took what it could get. Anyway, on my local CW affiliate, nothing changed. Wait, one thing changed: The Bill Cunningham Show ceased production, and it’s been replaced by The Robert Irvine Show, sandwiched between two episodes of Maury. Other than that, though, no new shows, no new timeslots, same old shit. I actually do the math in my head to figure out when these things should be hitting. By all reasoning, New Girl should’ve hit syndication this fall. Sure, it’s syndicated on basic cable, but I’m talking about free TV here. Meanwhile, as episode orders have decreased, it’s getting harder for shows to hit that magic number. Take The Carmichael Show, for example. It will have to air for TEN YEARS in order to get enough episodes for the “classic” 5 days a week syndication model. Now, it could do into weekend syndication, which would require fewer episodes. Maybe airing late Saturday night opposite SNL or something. Still, as a TV guy, this sort of stuff both intrigues and worries me. There aren’t a lot of evergreen syndicated hits. Sure, Friends and Seinfeld are still airing to this day, but do you really think Modern Family or The Middle have that kind of staying power?

One of my favorite songs at the moment is Blake Shelton’s “She’s Got A Way With Words”. Rumored to be about his ex wife, Miranda Lambert, it features some clever wordplay about how he feels about her. The chorus goes:

She put the “her” in “hurt

She put the “y” in “try”

She put the “S-O-B” in “sober”

She put the “hang” in “hangover”

She put the “ex” in “sex”

She put the “low” in “blow”

She put a big “F-U” in my “future”

Yeah, she’s got a way, she’s got a way with words

Well, I knew that country music was full of a bunch of conservative prudes, so I was surprised that last line about “F-U” made it into the song. So, imagine my surprise as I’m singing along the other day, and discover there’s a new radio edit. They’ve replaced that stanza with “She put the ‘S-O-L’ in ‘solo’.” What the fuck? I Googled the song to see if anyone else was talking about it, but there’s no outrage. I even tweeted at Blake himself, asking why he let his label release that neutered thing. Why aren’t more people mad about this?! Stupid Clear Channel. I mean iHeart Media. Ugh!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • 12 year old Grace VanderWaal won America’s Got Talent by singing with her ukulele. America lost their mind over her, like she’s the next Jewel, but I think she’s a cubic zirconia
  • Timbaland got fired as the musical supervisor for Empire, to be replaced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and Ester Dean. So, they’re basically going from the sound of 2008 to the sound of 2000. Whoever’s at fault here, I wonder if it’s too late to ‘pologize…
  • As a surprise to no one who saw the post credits scene in X-Men: Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister will be the villain of Wolverine 3 (Why isn’t it actually called Wolverin3?) Anyway, there’s absolutely no way they can screw that up. Nope, nada, no way
  • Saturday Night Live hired SEVEN new writers and three new featured players for the upcoming 42nd season, which premieres October 1st. Don’t get too happy. Kyle Mooney’s still there.

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  • Zack Snyder revealed the Tactical Batsuit from Justice League. Is it supposed to look like Nite Owl from Watchmen? This is where I feel like Mattel got involved and said “Help us sell some shit!”

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  • Do you see this shit? This isn’t fan-made! This is something Marvel officially released. Do you see Ghost Rider up there in the corner? Scowling Coulson? And Daisy/Skye as the Not Black Widow? I can’t take anything seriously on this teaser poster for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – which premieres next Tuesday in its new timeslot.

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  • Lady Gaga announced that her next album would be released on October 21st, and would be called Joanne – which is her middle name, as well as the name of her aunt. I dunno, y’all, but I’m expecting to be disappointed by this one

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So, for the past four weeks, I’ve actually been watching a certain reality show with my mom. Since y’all are cool and hip, I’m sure you’ve never heard of it, but I’m ’bout to give ya some schoolin’! The show is called Better Late Than Never, and it’s an NBC show that follows four senior citizens as they travel through Asia. It’s an American remake of the South Korean show Grandpas Over Flowers. These are no ordinary senior citizens, however. Nope, they’re Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, Bill Shatner, boxing great and grill mogul George Foreman, and NFL legend Terry Bradshaw. To round out the group is 30 year old comedian Jeff Dye, who kind of acts like a chaperone for the guys. Sure, they’re all rich, but the point of the trip was for them to basically backpack so they could get the true cultural experience.

Throughout the trip, you really get to know the guys, and in a lot of ways, you feel for them. For example, Shatner’s 84 years old, but he said that the older he gets, the more he feels death approaching, and the more he is afraid of dying. Here’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk who’s afraid of the grim reaper. After all he’s done and seen, wouldn’t necessarily expect that. I mean, at least I wouldn’t. I really saw a vulnerability in Shatner here, and while everyone who’s worked with him seem to have horror stories, he really seemed to gel well with the rest of the guys.

The show is basically a travelogue as seen through the eyes of some grumpy old men. But they also know how to have some fun. Bradshaw will jump at anything that involves singing and/or karaoke, as he’s actually released several albums. Winkler approached everything wide-eyed, with a positive attitude. Foreman was shy, but had an inner child he was dying to let out. They ate exotic foods, like chicken vagina and live octopus. They participated in a water festival in Thailand, and robot fights in Japan. They stayed in a luxurious hotel in Hong Kong (so, they kinda broke the rules on this one, but Shatner said he didn’t know if he would ever see Hong Kong again, so he’d like to know that he did it the “right” way). Now that I think of it, I keep coming back to Shatner. I hope he’s OK. While he seemed to truly enjoy the experience, there was a sort of pall hanging over him. He’s a man searching for something, and I hope he finds it.

Anyway, it’s a great binge, as it’s only 4 one-hour episodes, and they’re all On Demand now. The season (series?) finale aired this week, and I really hope it gets a second season. Sure, they could switch up the cast, but these guys have great chemistry. And I think a Europe is the prime location for a second season. Anyway, it was fun watching The Fonz ride an elephant, and George Foreman knocking out Captain Kirk, and Terry Bradshaw get a tattoo for his birthday. Oh, and then the whole gang starred in a music video with K-Pop sensation Girls’ Generation. Despite their age, they all discovered that they’re still kids at heart, and that you’re never too old to experience new things. It’s a really fun show, and it’s fun for the whole family! Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed all four weeks of the show, so that’s why Better Late Than Never had the West Week Ever.

22nd Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/22/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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On the movie front this week, all I watched was The Night Before. In case you forgot about it, it’s the film where Det. Robin John Blake, Falcon, and Green Hornet have a crazy adventure on Christmas Eve because of some weed they got from General Zod. Yeah, I’m a comic book kid, so that’s the lens through which I saw this movie, at least at the beginning. Once that wore off, I took it for what it was, which was a laugh riot. I know Seth Rogen is polarizing, kinda like Will Ferrell, but I thought this movie was hilarious.

I’d never seen Anthony Mackie in anything not a Marvel movie, so it was nice to see he’s got comedic chops. Rogen delivered what you’d expect from him (including the obligatory cameo from his bromantic partner, James Franco), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good as the straight man. When they were in college, Gordon-Levitt’s parents were killed by a drunk driver at Christmas, so his friends, Mackie and Rogen, start a tradition where they hang out every Christmas as his new family. Well, fourteen years have passed, and things have changed. Rogen is married with a baby on the way, Mackie is a successful NFL player, while Gordon-Levitt is just sort of coasting through life, with a dead end job and a recently failed relationship. With everything changing, Mackie & Rogen decide that this is going to be the last Christmas they uphold their tradition, but aren’t quite sure if Gordon-Levitt can handle it. Meanwhile, they score invitations to The Nutcracker Ball, which is this insane Christmas party they heard about years ago and always wanted to check out. Throw in some drugs, Ilana Glazer, some dick pics, and subtle Home Alone references, and you’ve got yourself The Night Before. Again, I really enjoyed this movie, even though The Nutcracker Ball was something of a disappointment. I mean, it had been built up as this sort of tribute to Bacchus, but all it ended up being was a bar party with a Miley Cyrus cameo. Anyway, I can totally see making this a part of my Christmas movie rotation.

Daddy Kirk

In movie news, they’re already talking about Star Trek 4 set in the Kelvin Timeline. Now, the fact that they want to continue the franchise isn’t much of a surprise, but it is interesting considering there is basically no hype for Star Trek Beyond, which officially opens today. I mean, this is the movie opening during the Star Trek franchise’s 50th anniversary, and nobody seems to care about this thing unless they’re already a Trekkie/Trekker. The movie doesn’t seem to be tracking that well for the average theatergoer. Anyway, they’re saying that Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role of Captain Kirk’s father from the 2009 film, albeit with more screen time this go ’round. On the one hand, I get it, but on the other I don’t. Sure, he’s Thor and he just had a turn in Ghostbusters, but Hemsworth is far from a “bankable star”. Blackhat bombed, The Huntsman: Winter’s War bombed. He’s one more bomb away from being the next Jai Courtney. It’s not unusual for a studio to get a jump on planning a sequel, but I really think they’re going to be disappointed by this weekend’s Beyond box office, making them rethink plans for the next one.

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In other movie news, it’s being reported that the finale of the Divergent film series will skip theaters entirely, and be reformatted into a TV series. The Divergent Series: Ascendant was supposed to open in theaters next summer, but the box office reaction to the last film, Allegiant, wasn’t so positive. At this point, it’s not even clear if the film’s cast would be included in this TV adaptation, or if there would be a new cast entirely. Franchise star Shailene Woodley said that she doesn’t know what’s going on. I have no clue what this franchise is about, as I’m not a 14 year old girl. Since it’s based on a young adult novel, I take it to be about a strong, courageous young girl who will lead them all. Only they’re not hungry in this one, right? I dunno, man. Anyway, this is the second time in recent months that a film sequel was reported to be retooled for television, as Kevin Smith said the same thing was happening with the sequel to Mallrats. I know the television landscape is changing, but this still feels like something of a vote of no confidence.

ranger movie suits

In Power Rangers news, we got our first look at the Rangers in their suits, with retractable visors. I’m just really not feeling the look of these things. I get that they’re going more “alien” with the designs, but that doesn’t work for me. The thing with Sentai is that you can really only deviate so much from certain tropes before things start looking like Chinese knockoffs that you find in an airport gift shop. I think there’s a certain level of camp inherent to the brand that this movie isn’t really embracing. Instead of Power Rangers, it’s starting to just look like Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills with a bigger budget. Some folks still can’t get over the molded breasts on the female Rangers’ suits, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet. While somewhat distracting, I feel like there are bigger potential issues with this film right now.

Power Coins

We also got our first look at the movie power coins, which some folks are jokingly calling “cookie morphers”. I HATE these things. They’re so nondescript. It’s been pointed out that the green coin is in Rita’s staff, furthering the rumors of her connection to the Rangers, but I think they could’ve done something more here. Maybe they weren’t going to be standard “coins”, like we’re used to seeing, but they could’ve been something that looks better than flattened rock with some color dashed on it. They’re clearly not making this movie for fans, but for the general public. After all, most PR fans I know are saying they’re “cautiously optimistic”, but nobody is just jumping at what they’ve seen so far. That’s the smart play – make it for the man on the street. But just don’t expect the fans to automatically glom onto something that doesn’t feel right.

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

  • It was a big week for Hollywood breakups, as Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson broke up after 10 years together, while Lady Gaga and Taylor Kinney called off their engagement after 5 years together.

Ducktales

    • We got our first look at the character designs for the DuckTales reboot heading to DisneyXD next year. I don’t hate them, but they’ll take some getting used to. LOVE the new Webby, though.
    • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, I’m sure someone will be saddened by the announcement that MTV’s Teen Wolf will be ending after season 6.
    • Apparently Mattel has snatched the Jurassic Park toy license away from Hasbro. I’m sure all that Jurassic World shit that went to clearance didn’t help Hasbro’s cause.
    • Speaking of Mattel, what should come as a surprise to no one, Matty Collector is gone. The Masters of the Universe Classics line will be fulfilled by Super7 going forward, while Matty Collector has opened up “The Vault” to clear out all MOTUC product.

PokeGym

  • In Pokémon GO, I took over my first gym! I promptly lost it about an hour later…

  • Chris Piers (@chrispiers) is at it again with the Comic Tropes, this time examining the tropes of Frank Miller.
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Ya know what? I think Ghostbusters had the West Week Ever. Sure, nobody really talked about it after Monday, as the attention turned to the online harassment of film costar Leslie Jones (poor thing!), and then to the Republican National Convention. We ain’t got time for politics on here, so the RNC certainly didn’t have the West Week Ever. No, Ghostbusters opened to a respectable $46 million, making it a record for both Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy (it beat the $39 million debut of their collaboration The Heat). It did not, however, beat The Secret Life of Pets, nor does it seem like it’ll be released in China, where movies go to make back their budgets and then some. Still, it did well enough for Sony that they’re already discussing a sequel and, while it wasn’t a $100 million blockbuster, the “haters” didn’t win, as the film did find an audience. So, with all of that in mind, and the sheer fact that nothing else great has happened so far this week, Ghostbusters had the West Week Ever.

15th Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/15/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

First off, I just want to thank everyone for the support last week. Between your comments, your emails, you sharing the post, etc, it really meant a lot to me. These are scary times, and I just had to get it out there that I’m scared, too. Plus, blogging’s cheaper than therapy! Anyway, I was amazed that it resounded with so many folks, and if you’re out there scared, too, at least you know you’re not alone. We’ll all get through this together. So, this week we’re back to business as usual.

southpaw_tw

On the movie front, the only thing I saw this week was Southpaw. I try not to spoil things on here, in case you wanna see it for yourself, but I’m going to have to go all out on this one. Originally developed as a starring vehicle for Eminem, Jake Gyllenhaal stepped in when Em decided he wanted to focus on his music. Anyway, Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope (the great White hope, get it?), a former kid from the system, who’s now the world boxing champion. His record is 43 & 0, but he’s challenged by up and comer Miguel Escobar, who’s pretty convinced he can beat Hope. He keeps taunting him in public situations, and Hope wants the fight, but his manager, 50 Cent, won’t let him fight Escobar because he secretly believes Escobar would win, and that’s just not good for business. Meanwhile, Hope’s rock is his wife, Maureen, played by Rachel McAdams. They met in the orphanage when they were 12 and have been together ever since. So, one night, they go to a charity dinner, and as they’re leaving, there’s Escobar with his taunting again. Hope’s got a short fuse, so a fight breaks out, and in the ensuing chaos, one of Escobar’s entourage member’s gun goes off, killing Maureen. And that’s when Hope just goes to shit. Remember Rocky V, when Rocky came home to find out he’d lost everything? This is basically that, but times 10.

Hope loses all his money, his crew, his title, and then they take his daughter away and put her in the very system he and Maureen had escaped from. Before she died Maureen told him that it would all dry up, and all he’d have left is her and their daughter. That his entourage wouldn’t stick around, and she was basically right. So, Hope has to get his life right so he can get his daughter back, and he seeks out Forest Whitaker to train him. Remember how Adonis Creed basically ran down Rocky until he agreed to train him? This was like that, but sadder. Forest doesn’t want to do it, and has his own shit going on, trying to keep kids off the street. Anyway, Hope gets a job in the gym, cleaning bathrooms or whatever, and then trains when he’s not working. He gets to a point where he’s invited to fight in a local charity fight, which he ends up winning. All of a sudden, here’s 50 Cent (who’s now repping Escobar), who says he can get Hope’s suspension lifted if he’d be willing to face Escobar in a “Revenge Match”. He’s got 6 weeks to get his shit together, and then they fight. And it’s a close one. But of course Hope wins, and gets his daughter back. And everyone lives happily ever after. But wait!

First off, I have to believe there’s a director’s cut out there somewhere that fills in a lot of the holes in this movie. For instance, they completely DROP the whole thing about Maureen getting murdered. Like, there’s no investigation or anything. Escobar helps his boys smuggle the gun out of the benefit, but nothing ever becomes of that. It’s just gone. Meanwhile, the only Black dude in Hope’s entourage also had a gun, which he had drawn at the moment of the shooting. The cops end up taking him down, assuming he was the shooter. Nothing ever happens with that. The last we see of him, the cops are holding him down. Did he get released? Is he doing time for a murder he didn’t commit? Did Hope even try to help his boy out?

Next, Hope knew his boys weren’t shit. They disappeared the minute things went south. Maureen told him that was going to happen. Yet, when he makes his comeback in the Revenge Match, they’re right back in his corner. Like, he totally took them back, even though they weren’t there when he needed them most. You’d think he would’ve replaced that entourage with Forest and the guys at that gym, but the old gang is right back there, cheering in his corner. That’s not how that’s supposed to work. That’s like if the other reindeer went right back to treating Rudolph like shit on December 26th.

Also, I don’t feel like Hope should’ve won. I think it should’ve been close, but if you’re gonna steal that much from the Rocky franchise motif, then you’ve gotta let the dude lose, but still learn something from the experience. It’s wrapped up in too nice of a bow that he wins, especially since he was gonna get a payout either way – which would’ve been enough to start a new life with his daughter.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a great movie either. Gyllenhaal does a Hell of a job with what he’s got to work with, but there’s not a whole lot there. Hope isn’t terribly likable, but you’re to root for him because he made it out of the system and he really loves his wife. But he’s not the lovable, semi-retarded pugilist that Rocky was. Do I recommend it? Yeah, sure. But since I just told you the whole thing, I doubt you’ll want to spend the 2 hours on it.

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On TV, Mr Robot came back for season 2 this week. About 5 minutes into the episode, I was quickly reminded of the anxiety that the last season put me through. I really don’t know if I’ve got it in me to stick with this show. I’m already tired of the whole Christian Slater is actually Elliot, but he’s really his dad who lives in his head, and is probably also that Tyrell Wellick dude. The premiere picks up where last season left off, right after the big fsociety hack sent the world into a financial crisis. For one thing, I kinda expected more chaos. Sure, some folks’ mortgage payments have disappeared, but it seems like life is pretty much carrying on as usual. I kinda expected a dystopia like we saw in Dark Angel after the EMP went off. No cars, everyone riding bicycles, people dressed in rags. Nope, pretty much business as usual. Maybe future episodes will delve deeper into how the world has been affected, but I just didn’t feel it – even when they had cleverly edited President Obama into the whole thing. I already bailed on Wayward Pines because I didn’t feel like it needed a second season. I don’t want to have to do that here.

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In comic news, Marvel released Civil War II #3 this week, which featured the death of a HUGE character. I dunno, man. I haven’t even bought it yet. Yeah, I know who died, but I haven’t been this uninterested in a comic death in a long time. There was a local midnight opening for the book, and usually I’m all about that, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I’m about 3 months behind on Marvel books, so it wouldn’t have made much sense to me anyway. Wanna know what happened? Highlight this text: Hawkeye kills Bruce Banner before he can Hulk out and kill a bunch of people.

Now, this leads me to ask several questions, but I’m sure they’ll all be answered OR ignored in upcoming issues. I’m just sick of death having NO meaning in comics. I know it has basically become a trope at this point, but if they’re going to do this, I wish they’d at least acknowledge it in story. For example, in X-Factor, there was a long-running background story where Siryn was waiting for her father, Banshee, to return from the dead. After all, every other fallen comrade she’d had had returned, so why not him? And characters kept trying to convince her he was really gone, but she wasn’t buying it. And then he came back. Sure, it wasn’t a straight road, but he came back in some not-dead form. I’d kinda like more of that. You know, I’m not stupid. I’d actually be fine with a storyline that says “Wolverine is in a coma, and we don’t know if he’ll wake up.” We know he will, because that’s like printing money, but at least we know that he’ll be back in action when they need him most. I don’t need *DEATH* to be this storytelling device to get your point across. Shit, tell me that Superman went to Europe to find himself, and these 4 guys are gonna take his place. You don’t have to keep playing the Death Card, comic publishers. This stunt is really on its last legs. Sure, it gives the mainstream media something to talk about for a day, but actual comic fans are tired. There is next to no goodwill left when it comes to this.

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Speaking of Marvel, they released a catalog of their Marvel NOW! 2016 books, and there were some surprises. First of all, a few books that basically JUST launched are being relaunched. These include The Ultimates, Hawkeye, Nova, Invincible Iron Man and Captain Marvel. I swear, for a character they claim to want to push into the limelight, Marvel makes it really hard to follow Captain Marvel’s series. They launch, end, relaunch, then get collected in random formats. I seriously hope they get this straightened out before her movie comes out. Anyway, there are some interesting moves, as there’s no more flagship Amazing Spider-Man. Instead, we get Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, seemingly picking up where the Secret Wars miniseries left off, and The Clone Conspiracy, which it turns out is its own series and not just the name of a storyline. So, it looks like ASM is going on hiatus for a bit – a series that has already been relaunched twice in the past 2 years. Also, Marvel really seems to love stoking the fires of the “Marvel hates the X-Men because they don’t own the film rights” conspiracy, as all the X-Books are missing except for the newly launching Death of X series. No more All-New Wolverine, Old Man Logan, Extraordinary X-Men, All-New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Yo Mama’s X-Men. All gone. These are probably just another case of a temporary hiatus, as they don’t want Death of X to be overshadowed as the “event” they’re purporting it to be. I really don’t know what Marvel is doing here. They tend to only think of the short term instead of playing the long game. Sure, these things get them some attention but, just like the death thing, fans are getting tired of these practices. And to look at some of these upcoming books – SlapstickSolo? I feel like the 90s are upon us again, and that doesn’t bode well for the business side of things.

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In toy news, Mattel made an interesting decision. According to Action Figure Insider, they’ve decided to offer up their San Diego Comic-Con exclusives online via the Matty Collector site instead of selling them at the show. Now, of course some fans are excited about this, but it just leads me to wonder what exactly is going on over at Mattel. A couple of years ago, I mentioned how Scott “ToyGuru” Neitlich had left the company to go work for Jakks Pacific, making those 31″ figures that nobody buys from Walmart (apparently, he just got hired by Jada Toys, working on those metal Funko Pop wannabes that nobody buys from Target). Anyway, since he left, Matty Collector, and the Mattel output as a whole, has just been a disappointment. There have been rumors that nobody’s steering the ship over there. Now comes this SDCC news. There’s usually a big to-do, with a booth and a lottery to get the chance to buy the exclusives. Instead, folks who have preordered the toys can still pick them up at the show, but they’ve got to go to the Marriott next door to the con to get them, like a seedy drug deal. Anyway, the sale begins July 18th, and you can buy the following items:

Barbie® Amazon Princess Wonder Woman™ Doll ($80)

DC Comics™ Multiverse Wonder Woman™ Figure + Invisible Jet ($15)

Ever After High® Cedar Wood® SDCC 2016 Exclusive Marionette Doll ($30)

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe® She-Ra® ($75)

Hot Wheels® Star Trek™: ’64 Buick Riviera & Spock 1:64 Figure ($20)

Monster High® Ghostbusters Frankie Stein® Doll ($25)

Thomas & Friends™/DC Super Friends™ MINIS ($19.99)

ThunderCats™ WilyKit & WilyKat™ 2-Pack ($60)

Rangers

In Power Rangers movie news, Lionsgate released these character posters yesterday. I swear, this movie is shaping up to be something I’d have no interest in seeing if it weren’t named Power Rangers. Some folks have said that they like the David Bowie vibe to these, but it’s just not Power Rangers to me. This is gonna be your typical Lionsgate young adult novel adaptation, without the necessary camp that’s inherent to the franchise. I know things have to evolve, but I just don’t know if this is the direction I’d have taken things.

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Nintendo announced the upcoming release of the NES Classic Mini. Scheduled to hit stores in November (just before Christmas. Smart!), the tiny console will come loaded with 30 original NES games, including Super Mario Bros 1-3, Pac-Man, The Legend of Zelda and more. The system will retail for $60, but doesn’t contain physical media, so there aren’t going to be any more games than the 30 that come with it. Some fans are disappointed by this, as they’d like to be able to play their old games on modern televisions (the NES Mini will have HDMI outputs). It’s a cute idea and all, but it seems just like the Atari and Sega versions that hit stores years ago. It’s hardly a new concept, but Nintendo has brand loyalty, so I know some nostalgia gamers will be all over this. If I find it on sale or something, I might bite, too.

My buddy Chris is at it again – this time he’s got a friend with him, and they’re checking out the tropes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. And then they actually have to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time. Check it out!

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Last week, I had the pleasure of joining the Nerd Lunch guys to talk about Star Trek. We discussed where it’s been, where it is now, and where we think it’s going. Enterprise, TNG, Kelvin Timeline – it’s all there! I even say some controversial stuff about The Beatles. You know you want to check it out!

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Pokémon GO. Pokémon Mother Effing GO. Where do I even begin? This game has taken the country by storm. It just hit North America on July 6th, and has already surpassed Twitter in amount of daily users. You’re either playing the game or complaining about others playing the game. Either way, it has somehow entered your world in the past week. There are no divisions when it comes to this thing, as it’s crossing all social and color lines. It’s like that episode of The Next Generation, “The Game”, where Wesley Crusher and Ashley Judd have to break the crew’s addiction to virtual reality. To paraphrase Usher, “We’ve got it bad”.

What is Pokémon GO? I had a friend ask me that on Facebook, and I tried to explain it the best that I could. I won’t go over that here, as I’m sure you all know how it works by now. There are little things about the game I find interesting, however. It’s funny to me that most of the gyms are churches, so we’re basically battling tiny demons for the right to possess churches. And then we force evolution on them to make them more powerful so they can take over even more churches. If you’re an Evangelical preacher, I just wrote Sunday’s sermon for you. You’re welcome. They say that the game is actually causing an increase in folks visiting houses of worship, but I’m sure they’re just grabbing Pokéballs and then it’s “Seacrest out!” The Episcopal Diocese of Washington actually sent an email yesterday, instructing parishes as to how they could encourage “Poké Pilgrims” and welcome them to their congregations. Look for more stuff like this, as corporations and the like decide they want to get in on the action. These are the glory days of GO, y’all. We’ll look back on these days when we’re drinking Pokémon GO Slurpees at the local 7-11.

I never thought I’d play the game. I was prepared to be a hater like I tend to be, but then I downloaded it on a whim. I was hooked instantly. I haven’t been this into a computer game since Farmville, and I lost a lot of Facebook friends over that (Sorry for all the requests! The game made it look like you were actually playing). Since Monday, I’ve caught 144 Pokémon and I got spoiled because I won my very first gym battle. Conservatives LOVE to say “Pokémon GO has achieved what Michelle Obama spent years trying to do.” No, not really. I drive to Pokéstops. Is that cheating? Maybe, but when there’s a dearth of Pokéstops nearby, you do what you gotta do. Anyway, I’m still a fat ass, so nice try, conservatives. There’s something unsettling, though, about slowly cruising by a park after dark so you can get more Pokéballs – especially in today’s political climate. Please, Lord, don’t let me get killed over some tiny computer demons! I mean, folks are getting robbed, they’re walking off cliffs. It’s chaos out there, but it’s also really fun.

I’ve noticed a glitch in the game. I mean, it’s new and really popular, so it’s bound to be buggy. My issue is that I try to play on the sly when I’m in public. I’m still kinda ashamed to be playing it, when all the folks around me are 13 year old boys. There was a group of teens hanging outside the Korean church (the local gym), and I was scared to go down there because they were just that right age to be unmercifully vicious. Anyway, the game seems to hate sunlight. I can’t tell you how many Pokémon I’ve tried to catch while on the move outside, only for the Pokémon to pop out of the ball and I have to recatch it.  Multiple times. It has something to do with the game not properly syncing with the servers (which are regularly down for the count), but I have the most trouble with this on sunny days. Anyone else experience this?

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. You’d have to be a fool not to realize that Pokémon GO had the West Week Ever.

 

 

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