17th Aug2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/17/18

by Will

So, last night I saw The Meg, which isn’t typically my kind of movie, but I really do love Jason Statham. When it was first announced, I couldn’t imagine why Statham was doing this underwater suspense film. After seeing it, though, I realize there’s no other working actor who could’ve done this role. It’s like filmmakers are sitting on a certain type of script, and they take it to Statham’s adult tree house (you know he totally has one of those), and they present it to him. He looks them square in the eye, and says, “Oi! You payin’ me money fo’ this? See you in the mornin’.”

Remember near the end of Britney Spears’s heyday, when you didn’t really call her a “singer”, but rather an “entertainer”? We all knew the singing wasn’t putting butts in seats, but she was known for putting on a good show. That’s kinda the same case with Jason Statham. He’s not an “actor”, but more of an “entertainer”. He has no real range or depth, and he’s constantly overacting in an attempt to gain either. But damn if it isn’t entertaining.

I’m gonna end up spoiling a lot of this movie because you’re probably never gonna see it until it comes on TV.
Anyway, it starts out with Statham and his two colleagues performing a daring deep sea rescue aboard a submarine. To save the bulk of the survivors, he’s forced to blow the hatch and leave his colleagues behind. We’re told these were his “best friends”, though he never really seems to give that much of a shit about them. Fast forward 5 years later, where he’s a drunk, riddled with guilt, living in Thailand trying to drown the memory of what happened to his friends. He’s sought out by Chinese Scientist and that Indian looking dude from Fear The Walking Dead. You see, Chinese Scientist’s experimental sub is stranded on the ocean floor, and Statham is the only man who’s performed a rescue that deep. All the familiar tropes are there: he tells them he’s not diving again, and offers them a beer before getting ready to kick them out – that is until he learns that the pilot of the stranded sub is dun dun DUNNNN…his ex-wife. Next thing you see is Statham getting off the helicopter, and suiting up for the rescue mission. Aw, shit! We’ve got Die Hard Underwater! He’s gonna go save the only woman he ever loved, right? Right? WRONG! Yeah, he saves her, but she spends a good chunk of the movie in a coma, while he and Chinese Scientist’s Daughter begin to fall for each other.

In the middle of all this, there are attacks by a big fucking shark. Seriously, that’s what the movie should’ve been called: Big Fucking Shark. Or The BFS, since you can’t put “Fucking” on a movie poster. I mean, they call it The Meg, and I figure that’s only because Megalodon sounds like something from The Asylum that would air on Syfy. You don’t really learn much about the Megalodon, though. Unlike Jurassic Park, where they’ve got dinosaur facts coming out the ass, this movie is content to just say that a Megalodon is a big fucking shark that we thought was extinct, but clearly isn’t. Anyway, Statham has pretty much gone on record to say that the film in theaters isn’t the film he made. He expected more gore, and I’ll admit the deaths and attacks are pretty tame.

I’m curious to know what was cut, because you can almost tell when and where things are missing. For example, future Batwoman Ruby Rose plays Jax, who designed Chinese Scientist’s ocean base. When the doctor decides to sacrifice himself so that Jax can escape the Meg, he says “You’re going to be OK, Jax. You’re a good person.” That’s a pretty heavy line with no support for it. You’d think maybe there was some backstory about Jax doubting herself, or dwelling on some bad decision she had made in her life, and here was the Voice of Reason, telling her it would be OK, before sacrificing himself to give her a second chance at life. You’d think. But none of that is in the film.

Also, before sacrificing himself, Masi Oka’s character stuffs a note for his wife into the pocket of his colleague before shoving him out the hatch. Said colleague never makes sure the note gets to Oka’s wife, but instead shoves it into the chest of Chinese Scientist once he’s back on the station. What did the note say? Did it ever make its way to Oka’s wife?!

It’s a good film for minorities, though. The Black guy lives, the lesbian hacker lives, and every other person not on the ocean base is Chinese. You never quite believe that Statham is really into Chinese Scientist’s Daughter, and I wanted him to quip something like, “Oi! I’m inna mood fo’ Chinese!”, and then wink at her. Or maybe show a scene with them relaxing in the afterglow in bed, and he looks at his watch and says, “Oi! It’s true what they say: it’s been thir’y minutes and I’m ready fo’ round two!” Ya know, really crudely play into the cultural differences. She’s a demure Asian woman of science, and he’s the rough around the edges Rescue Bloke. But instead of taking any real chances with their characters, they keep everything steady between the navigational beacons.

I liked this movie. I won’t say it’s “good”, but it’s certainly entertaining. It could’ve done more with what it had, though. Rainn Wilson does a good job as the obnoxious billionaire who funded the whole project, but I didn’t think he got a full character arc either. A lot of this movie was clearly left on the floor of the editing room. It’s downright predictable, but I guess that’s what folks like about these things? Again, it’s not my usual genre, but I certainly didn’t hate it.

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update – Hardwick returned to his hosting duties on The Talking Dead this week, with a tearful thank you to his supporters. So, I guess that’s the end of that, huh?

James Gunn Update – Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy – you’ve gotta put all your cards on the table! This week, pictures surfaced of James Gunn dressed as a Naughty Priest at an alleged pedophile-themed party. I mean, how many chances are we gonna give this guy? Yeah, I know folks will argue that tasteless “fancy dress parties” (just call them “costume parties”, you damn Brits!) occur, and “He worked for Troma” blah blah blah. I still don’t know where the line will be drawn, and he’s an interesting case study in figuring that out. I honestly haven’t made up my mind where I stand on his whole thing. All I know is it’d be nice if Gunn just got everything out in the open. First the tweets. Then the Naughty Priest costume. Next it’ll be a shoebox of Polaroids and y’all are still gonna be like “REHIRE HIM NOW!” I feel like he’s somewhere now, like, “Well, at least they didn’t find the body.” Anyway, Disney is reportedly sticking their guns, and refusing to rehire him, despite the fan backlash.

It was a big week for the Star Trek franchise, in both good and bad ways. Things started off with reports that the fourth movie in the rebooted JJ Abrams Kelvin Universe was falling apart. Actors Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth had walked away from the negotiation table, as they claimed Paramount wasn’t trying to honor deals that were already in place. Essentially, Paramount wanted them to take pay cuts, arguing that Trek films weren’t comparable to the Marvel and DC films the actors went on to star in. Deals with the other cast members were expected to close once the Chrises were in place, but now the movie is in danger of not happening. Paramount is notorious for keeping a tight budget on Trek films, and the last installment, Star Trek Beyond, apparently lost them money. Plus, they’d have to address the whole Chekov thing, seeing as how actor Anton Yelchin died in a freak accident after production wrapped on the last film.

Meanwhile, in another part of the galaxy, Gregory Peck’s grandson, Ethan Peck, has been cast as Young Spock in Star Trek: Discovery. Why they needed to do this, I have no clue. Why not just get Zachary Quinto? He’s around. So, now there’s gonna be three different Spock actors. Whatever. I still haven’t boarded the Disco train, but I’ll get around to it one of these days.

The Trailer Park

Runaways Season 2

Still haven’t seen season 1, but the looks of these kids don’t make me want to check it out. It looks so…Degrassi. Plus, they really added the dinosaur?! Kinda surprised by that. Must be Hell on the CGI budget. Anyway, I was a big fan of the comic for the first few years, but I can’t imagine watching this show, knowing the twist coming. Plus, I thought they would’ve revealed that in season 1, so the fact that it’s season 2 and they’re still, basically, in the first 12 issues means this thing is gonna run FOREVER. Pass. Anyway, it premieres December 21st, which is also the release date for, like, every movie in the world, so I’m not sure it’s gonna be a Day 1 streaming hit.

Kim Possible TV Movie

I was a huge fan of the cartoon, even though I was 21 and way too old to be watching it. Still, this idea feels about 15 years too late. I remember when they used to talk about this thing getting a theatrical release, with the possibility of voice actress Christy Carlson Romano in the lead role. Now, here we are in 2018, and it’s been demoted to the status of a Disney Channel Original Movie. Just seems so…lame. I’d like to think I’ll watch it, but I’ll probably miss it until I accidentally stumble upon it one day in 2021, when my kids’ll be into that shit.

Iron Fist Season 2 

I’ll confess that I haven’t seen a Marvel Netflix show since Jessica Jones, but when did the production values change? This looks like Arrow Season 1. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad. I mean, season 1 was one of Arrow‘s better seasons, but this totally looks like a drama on The CW – something that would air during the summer after The 100 or The Originals. It looks like they may have fixed some of the issues folks had with season 1 of this show, but I’m still not sold. Anyway, I’ve got a few years before I even get to see it, as I’ve got about 6 more Netflix seasons to get through before this.

So, last week there was a news story about South Carolina woman Elizabeth Cutshaw who was pulled over by the cops for a DUI. She tried to get out of her arrest by calling herself a “clean, thoroughbred, White girl”. Well, knowing a great opportunity when I see one, I quickly snatched up ThoroughbredWhiteGirls.com. Now I’ve just gotta figure out what to do with it. A picture gallery of White horses? A porn site of thick White women? Sell it to some White supremacists at a profit? The possibilities are endless!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was a bad week for low-performing basic cable shows, as Shooter was cancelled on USA, while The Royals was cancelled on E!
  • ABC has officially ordered a pilot for a spinoff of The Middle, where Sue Heck embarks on an exciting life in the big city of Chicago.
  • After one not-especially-notable season, Saturday Night Live featured player Luke Null won’t be returning to the show this fall.

  • We got a look at Barry’s new suit on The Flash. Maybe one day I’ll get past season 1 of that show…
  • CBS classic Designing Women is being prepped for a reboot at Sony. I’m sure they’re gonna make at least one of them a Trump supporter this time. Fun fact: In the original series, Dixie Carter played staunch Democrat Julia Sugarbaker. Carter, however, was a card-carrying Republican. So, she struck a deal with producers that whenever her character had to give a blistering, Liberal-minded speech, she’d get to sing a song in a future episode.
  • The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, passed away yesterday, and Fox News put up a tribute picture of Patti LaBelle instead.  I still don’t “get” Patti LaBelle. Same with Anita Baker. To me, Anita is the female Gerald Levert, in that she always sold just enough albums to justify recording another.

Earlier this week, I was explaining the role of the reality show villain to my 80 year old mother. Nah, she probably didn’t care, but it gave us something to fill the silence. In any case, I was explaining how it wasn’t really even a concept until Real World: San Francisco, back in 1994. That’s back when MTV would still cast ugly people for that show. Stupid Vegas season came along and ruined everything, but I digress. Anyway, David “Puck” Rainey was the obnoxious housemate, who took things to extremes. He ate out of the peanut butter jar with his fingers. He wiped boogers on the walls. He became so hard to handle that the other housemates took a vote, and evicted him from the house – a first for the show, as well as setting a precedent for all reality shows to come. After that point, the template was pretty much that A) there had to be a villian and B) somebody had to be voted out. Look at every reality show since then, and that’s pretty much the blueprint. Well, Puck may have started it, but Omarosa Manigault Newman perfected it.

After 3 seasons across the various iterations of The Apprentice, as well as her own reality show and Celebrity Big Brother, Omarosa made a name for her self as the Head Bitch of Reality TV. We thought that’s where she would remain and flounder until her former “boss”, and producing partner, Donald Trump won a certain election. Now she’d be able to use her reality TV skills in an even backstabbier, vicious circle: American politics. Hired as Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, it was never really clear what she actually did. In fact, a reporter shadowed her for a day, and still couldn’t figure it out. It didn’t matter, though, as the stint didn’t last long. She was hired in January and ousted in December. Grand opening, grand closing! She laid low for a bit, but then came roaring back to the headlines this week with the release of her book Unhinged, where she alleges that Trump is a racist who frequently used “The N-Word” (you all know I have no problem typing that word out here, but I feel like you’d be more inclined to share the post if I soften it up. So, yeah – share my shit). Oh, and she also has tapes. She was taping conversations, son! I swear, how is the Trump Administration just so bad at everything? She used the book and the tapes to get herself onto every talk show and interview panel that would have her this week.

Here’s my thing with Omarosa, though: Omarosa did THREE seasons of The Apprentice AND produced a dating reality show with Trump. They both knew who the other one was, and none of that prevented either from working with the other until shit hit the fan. Ya know what? He probably did say it. Probably with her right beside him, laughing about it. Harriet Tubman, however, she is not. She is going on the talk circuit claiming that she wanted to make sure Black folks were represented at the table, but she also said that Black people aren’t a monolith, so you can’t expect to agree with everyone.

Building your career on the backs of reality shows is akin to being a social media star, like a YouTuber. You constantly have to do something, anything, to stay relevant. The Adult Swim show Mostly 4 Millennials is really good about parodying this fact. Omarosa is accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and a certain amount of attention, so she’s got to do whatever she has to in order to achieve that. I mean, this is a woman who was prepared to marry (and may have possibly murdered) Michael Clarke Duncan. I loved the dude, but ain’t nobody lining up to marry Green Mile! This is simply a pivot. She was a Trumper, but now Omarosa ’18 is a “crusader” – in her mind, at least. The problem with this particular play, however is that it’s a Hail Mary pass. I don’t think she fully understands the repercussions of what she’s trying to unleash. And at the end of the day, even if Trump said those things, his base would just be emboldened even more, and say “Well, they were acting niggery!” Like I said before, it’s amazing how bad they all are at this. But God Bless her, she’s trying.

I really don’t know where this takes Omarosa when the dust settles. I don’t know what’s left. Omarosa in space? Omarosa Goes To Africa? I mean, she’s virtually unhireable in any decent capacity, and she’s also not very loyal if you’ve got to worry about her taping your conversations. She doesn’t seem to realize how this makes her look, even if she thinks she was just covering her ass. It’s kinda like when Comey came out with his book, and looked like more of a fool with each subsequent interview. Eventually, we were all like, “Sit down, asshole!” So, I really hope she knows what she’s doing, but if history has taught me anything about this administration, she doesn’t. Yet, she’ll still be fine. And that’s why Omarosa Manigault Newman had the West Week Ever.

27th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/27/18

by Will

Well, this is a special week here at WilliamBruceWest.com, as it commemorates my FIFTEENTH year of blogging. Yeah, a lot of y’all just came aboard during the West Week Ever era, but the archives are there (personally, I wouldn’t check anything before 2007 or so, but that’s just me). I started blogging a month after I graduated from college, while I was temping in the Cornell registrar’s office. It’s funny because, about six months prior to that, I had no clue what a “blog” was. You’ve got to remember that these were the days before social media, and we got by with AIM. I’d heard folks met strangers through ICQ and chat rooms, but that made no sense to me. Then, while my a cappella group was updating their website, one member suggested we add a blog to the site. I remember I immediately said, “What’s a blog? Stop making up words, Ted!” He explained it was short for “weblog”, and said some more stuff, but we stopped listening at that point. Probably too busy shoving Gold Bond powder down our pants. What? Y’all never did that? Whatever. Don’t judge me!

Anyway, I was really bored at that temp job, and needed something to make the day more interesting. Prior to this point, I had never really spent much time on the internet. I had an AOL trial with dial-up for, like, a month in high school, and I think I had tried NetZero. We had Computers as a class in high school, and I remember I made a really shitty Power Rangers site on AngelFire or something. Still, in college, I had used the Internet to either do homework or illegally download music. I did a LOT of the latter. So, with a college degree in my hand, and boredom in my heart, I struck out and explored the Internet for what it was. I started finding sites that really engaged me – webcomics, like PvP, and nostalgia sites like X-Entertainment.com (the precursor to what’s now Dinosaur Dracula). The latter site really sort of lit a fire under me, as I could relate to so many of the posts. It was like the Robot Chicken of blogs: “Shark Bites, Fruit By The Foot, and Pogs – these are all things that existed!” Plus, and I think Matt (the site creator) would agree, it had a horrible archive/search function, so you kind had to fall down a rabbit hole, jumping from article to article, instead of being able to search the topics. I spent a LOT of time on X-Entertainment, and it started to show me the potential of blogging.

So, in a way to pass the time, I signed up for a Blogger account, and created The World According To A Russian Exchange Student. I’m not quite sure why I settled on that. While I was an exchange student to Russia when I was 13, that would’ve made me an American exchange student. I feel like I briefly wanted to do some kind of performance art thing where I’d imagine how my Russian host, Sergei, might look at the world. That lasted for maybe a day. At the end of the day, I think I just wanted something that sounded “haughty”. I’ve got a bit of a snob streak in me, and here I was, an Ivy League graduate who’d been spoon fed that the world would be mine, yet  didn’t have a clue what I’d be doing when this temp assignment ended. I was scared. So, I rambled. A LOT. I’d say that if you read the first 6-8 years (yes, years), I wrote like no one was reading. Because no one was. The site was basically a Livejournal without the stigma that Livejournal brought with it. Every now and then I’d post something that I thought would be timeless, but most of those posts are either relationship drama or self pity. Yay. Anyway, I rebranded to WilliamBruceWest.com rather quickly, but I don’t feel like the site really found its footing until the West Week Ever days. So, here we are. Anyway, from the bottom of my heart, thank you – all of you – who have taken the time to read my ramblings at some point over those 15 years.

The wife and I got the chance to see Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield in Sorry To Bother You, and we left that theater like “What the fuuuuu…?” How to describe this movie? Is it a comedy? Is it satire? Science fiction? I guess you’ll have to be the judge if you see it. Stanfield stars as a down on his luck guy who lands a job as a telemarketer, and he doesn’t really have much success until he starts using his “White voice” at the suggestion of a coworker. Almost immediately his success increases, and he becomes a Power Caller, where instead of selling Time-Life books and encyclopedias, he’s now selling weapons and slaves to other countries. And that’s where shit gets CRAZY! I can’t say any more at this point without spoiling some twists. The movie reminded me a lot of Bamboozled, which was a 2000 Spike Lee Joint about a Black TV writer who sort of sells out in order to make his network successful, with a dash of Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. If either of those movies is your cup of tea, then check this out. “Equesapiens, let’s be out!”

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update:  Late last week, it was announced that not only would Yvette Nicole Brown be taking over hosting Hardwick’s panels at SDCC, but she would also be hosting Talking Dead for a brief period. On Wednesday, however, AMC announced that Hardwick would be returning to the show, after an internal month-long investigation. Two things are odd about the investigation, however. First of all, his accuser, ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra, did not participate in the investigation, as she said she “didn’t believe in ‘an eye for an eye’.” In a statement she said that she never set out to ruin his career, though she still doesn’t name him.  The other odd thing is that the investigation seemingly wasn’t conducted by an impartial third party. Instead, Loeb & Loeb was hired, who reportedly have a history of working on business for the Hearst family (who happen to be Hardwick’s in-laws). He may have his job back, but is the stink off of him? Remember how folks shunned Seacrest at the Oscars? Will the geek crowd follow suit here?

James Gunn: This isn’t harassment, per se, but it’s still an inappropriate thing that got a celeb in hot water. You see, Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn came up through the ranks of Troma – ya know, the folks behind The Toxic Crusader? He says he was a different guy at that time of his life, but to fit in with that world, you’ve got to be kinda shocking. Everything you do is done for shock value, and that’s exactly what he did when he was tweeting back in 2009. Stuff like rape and pedophilia jokes. He has since apologized for that time in his life, but that didn’t matter when Right Wing muckraker Mike Cernovich dub up the old tweets as something of a retaliation for Gunn’s staunch anti-Trump stance. Well, Disney reacted swiftly by firing Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. The public seems to be on Gunn’s side, saying Disney knew what they were getting, and that he had apologized long before the tweets resurfaced. There’s a petition circulating to get him rehired.

What Disney did was a business decision, as they can’t have something like this in the news just as the Fox deal is about to go through. Shareholders don’t tend to like rape jokes. That said, I’m sort of on the fence for this.

On the one hand, the stuff I’ve seen was kind of messed up, and I’m not sure I’d call them “funny”. Why not just delete the tweets? I mean, sure, everything is archived somewhere, but at least you tried to scrub things clean. I get it, though. I have an “I don’t delete tweets” policy, but I’ve never tweeted anything that bad. Cover your tracks, man!

On the other hand, he did apologize before they even became a thing. Had Disney done their due diligence, none of this would’ve come as a surprise. And I hate the fact that he won’t get to see his vision through to the finished GOTG trilogy. I really doubt he’ll be rehired, as he was fired and not suspended pending an investigation. Disney will likely stick by their decision, but this will have long-reaching effects. For example, Star Wars director Rian Johnson reportedly deleted 20,000 tweets over the weekend.

The Trailer Park

Last weekend was San Diego Comic-Con, which means we got a LOT of trailers for upcoming geek films. Since we’ve got a slew of them, I figured I’d give them their own section this week.

SHAZAM!

I really didn’t expect to like this. I thought the casting of Zachary Levi was wrong, and I just didn’t know how it would fit into the pre-established DCEU. That said, after seeing this trailer, this has the potential to be my favorite DCEU film. It seems to be more based on the New 52 origin of the character, which is just fine for me because that was one of the first times that I actually cared about the character (which reminds me I need to finish that story Geoff Johns started when they were backups in the Justice League comic). At the end of the day, it’s just “Big with powers”, which is a concept that has a lot of potential. Fans of the dark DCEU are gonna hate this, but I’m a fan of comic stuff that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’m really looking forward to this one now.

Aquaman

Well, it looks pretty. I still don’t know if Momoa can carry a movie yet, and I’m not sure I’m on board with this Aquaman. I know there are Aquaman fans out there (looking at you, Classick), so how do y’all feel about his characterization? I mean, it doesn’t seem faithful to the comics, but Aquaman always seemed boring enough that any adjustment would be a welcome change. I’ll see it. Am I anticipating it? No, but I’ll see it.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

I’m not a dumb guy. Not the smartest in the room, but not dumb. That said, I don’t know what’s going on here. So we want the Titans to rise? Wouldn’t they just come and fuck shit up? And whose side is Godzilla on? And I know folks got tired of the “slowed down pop song” trope in trailers, but I feel like the music here really doesn’t do much to convey the gist of things, and could’ve benefited from recognizable rock song or something.

Glass

I really liked Unbreakable all those years ago. Split was interesting, but I was more interested in it after its final scene. I think I was more excited about more Unbreakable than the idea of the movies being in a shared universe. It seems like a good ol’ villain team-up, but can old ass Bruce Willis really win here? I mean, comic movies are about folks doing the impossible, but I never really felt like Split committed to James McAvoy’s character being truly evil. Hell, even Mr. Glass was pseudo-sympathetic, as he couldn’t have a normal life due to his brittle bones. So who’s the real villain here? Is there a bigger bad? Is Willis somehow the villain? After all, this is Shyamalan, so there’s bound to be a swerve somewhere. I’m on board, but I kinda want more information right now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Reportedly Kelsey Grammer is in talks to reprise his role as Frasier Crane in a revival that would take him away from the Seattle setting of the last show. Sure, why not? I think he’s got crazy alimony payments, and has pretty much proven he’ll take any job (he did an FX sitcom with Martin Lawrence). Everyone else is doing it, so why not go back to that well again?
  • Speaking of revivals, there have been talks of a Buffy The Vampire Slayer reboot/revival(?). At first it seemed like a reboot, but the passionate fan base lost their shit, so showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen sort of backpedaled and insinuated it might be a continuation of the old show, this time following a new Slayer 20 years after the events of the old show. Reports are that they’re looking to cast a Black actress.
  • Demi Lovato was hospitalized for an apparent overdose after she was found unconscious in bed by an assistant.
  • Simpsons Comics is scheduled to end in October with issue #245 after 25 years of publication, leaving the future of its publisher, Bongo Comics, in question.
  • It turns out the third time was the charm, as the live action adaptation of the comic Locke & Key has received a 10-episode order from Netflix. Both Fox and Hulu had previously ordered, and then passed on, pilots for the series.
  • Robert DeNiro is supposedly in talks to join Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker, with the rest of the world left asking “Dafuq?” Seriously, why would he hitch his star to that wagon?
  • R. Kelly released the song “I Admit”, where he denied he was a pedophile, but admitted his affinity for young girls. The song will probably appear on an upcoming album named Daddy’s Day Care or The Pamper Prince or some shit like that.

My most anticipated movie of the year wasn’t Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, or even Avengers: Infinity War (OK, maybe I was kinda looking forward to that last one). No, since the day I found out it was happening, I have been waiting for the release of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. I’ve made no secret of the fact that, aside from The Amazing World of Gumball (which may just be the smartest show on TV right now, I kid you not), Teen Titans Go! is my favorite show. It took me a while to get used to the modern day 11-minute cartoon format, but I feel it works perfectly for a show like this. So, I had a bit of trepidation that the show wouldn’t translate well to a full-length film. After all, Aqua Teen Hunger Force had tried it and failed. Well, after seeing it last night, I can say that not only did they pull it off, but they did an amazing job.

If you were wondering what it’s about, let me clue ya in: When Batman and Superman receive their umpteenth movie deal, Robin agonizes over the fact that he doesn’t have his own movie because nobody takes the Teen Titans seriously. It’s sort of meta in that way, as it addresses the fact that the shows haters feel the characters are just immature and not very heroic. So, determined to prove they deserve a DC film, too, the team heads to Hollywood, where they learn they’d be more appealing if they had their own archnemesis. Enter: Slade Wilson, otherwise known as Deathstroke: The Terminator. So, the team not only has to defeat Slade, but also convince the studio to make their movie.

It’s not a complicated plot, but they do so much with it. First of all, I didn’t expect it to be a musical. While songs have been pretty integral to the Teen Titans Go! experience, I didn’t stop to think they might pop up in the film. The music is GREAT, including a surprise appearance by Michael Bolton. Speaking of surprise appearances, there are cameos from a lot of DC characters who will NEVER appear on film ever again. I mean, The Challengers of the Unknown?! And did I mention the time travel? Like, I loved the time travel portion so much that I hope they dedicate a sequel solely to it.

Now, let me say that this movie isn’t going to convert you if you already hate the franchise. I know there are a lot of butthurt folks out there who go “They cancelled Young Justice for THAT?”, even though those decisions were made independently of each other. If you don’t go into it with too many preconceived notions, and you like comic-based properties that don’t take themselves too seriously, then Teen Titans Go! is perfect. And it’s not really even made for kids. I mean, sure, they’ll get enjoyment out of it, but there are jokes they’d never get. For example, a recent episode, “TV Knight 3”, featured a Knight Rider parody. That joke right there was for my generation. So it saddens me that so many folks refuse to give it a chance. Anyway, this film may not change many minds, but it’s a true love letter to fans of the show. It’s the show, but cranked up to 11, with crisper animation and longer runtime. It actually has a good story arc to it, it has some great Easter eggs, and the music!

Anyway, I enjoyed this film way more than I did Ant-Man and the Wasp last week, and it far surpassed my expectations. For that reason, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies had the West Week Ever.

20th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/20/18

by Will

I’m slowly catching up on the year’s big movies. I still haven’t gotten to Deadpool 2, but I finally caught Ant-Man and the Wasp last night. Unlike most MCU films, I don’t really have a lot to say about it. All in all, I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t great. I’ve always said that Ant-Man felt like a really good Fox Marvel film, but just a par Marvel Studios film. It’s a masterpiece compared to the X-Men/Fantastic Four films, but it really almost doesn’t even earn its place alongside movies like The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy. You’re almost left wondering “How are these movies in the same universe?”, but I guess that’s a testament to how tonally different the corners of the Marvel Universe are. Anyway, I enjoyed the palette cleanser that was Ant-Man and the Wasp, as I’m almost “Marveled Out” after Infinity War.

The film explores the almost throwaway line from Infinity War about how Scott Lang took a house arrest deal after the events of Captain America: Civil War. So, two years have passed, and Scott’s “3 days from retirement”, basically, when it comes to his sentence. As anyone who’s seen any movie ever knows, no upcoming deadline that close ever goes smoothly. The Pyms drag him back into their world, as they need his knowledge of the subatomic quantum world to help them rescue Janet Van Dyne, who they believe is still alive after 30 years in there. Some stuff happens, Laurence Fishburne shows up wearing a swede jacket. Hannah John-Kamen shows off her Biracial Resting Bitch Face that served her so well as F’nale in Ready Player One, and everyone lives happily ever after. Or do they?

Watching this movie gave me the same sort of feelings I had watching Pitch Perfect 3 last week. In both cases, I kept waiting for the movie to “take off”, so to speak. Despite a scene with Giant-Man, I feel the movie doesn’t really aspire to new heights and, like its predecessor, came off like a mundane, slice of life MCU film. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave me longing for more interactions between Lang and, say, Tony Stark or Thor, just to remind me that these folks do occupy the same space. Paul Rudd is at his Paul Ruddest, so he’s not the problem here. Evangeline Lilly has become his badass asskicker, but where did that come from? She was busting out Black Widow moves, yet without the history of Red Room training.

No, I felt the biggest disappointment was Michael Peña’s Luis, who was undoubtedly the breakout star of the first movie. They found the right balance for using him in that first film, but they weren’t able to recapture that magic here. Maybe it’s because we expected the same shtick from him instead of accepting the character’s growth. I also hope the Blu Ray includes some deleted scenes of T.I. and the Russian dude, as I feel they were sorely wasted in their roles as partners in the X-Con Security business.

In all, it was an enjoyable way to spend 2 hrs, but I wasn’t blown away by it. Paul Rudd is just so likable, that I know I’ll watch it whenever I come across it on FX, but until some of its plot points are explored more in-depth in Avengers 4 (because you KNOW they will be), I don’t think this movie did much to move the MCU forward. After something like Infinity War, however, maybe it’s just what we need right now.

I’m gonna say this once, and then move on because there’s no need to dwell on it. That said, I’m pretty much done with professional wrestling for the foreseeable future. You see, over the weekend, WWE reinstated Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea to the WWE Hall of Fame, after his removal in 2015 when recordings of his racist remarks surfaced during the Gawker sex tape kerfuffle. I’ve heard folks defend him the past 3 years, using everything from “Everyone deserves a second chance” to “Well, it was a private conversation that we weren’t meant to hear.” Whatever.

I will say THIS: WWE never should’ve reinstated him BECAUSE they never should’ve removed him in the first place. I say that because it was always clearly an empty gesture – one we ALL knew would never stick permanently. So, it became more of an exercise in “waiting for the other shoe to drop” than actually serving as a cautionary tale to anyone else who might do the same thing. The heat was on the company, and they felt they had to jump and do something, but even they knew they bit off more than they could chew. You can’t just scrub the most famous professional wrestler of the past 40 years from existence, even if he did admit “I am racist”, which he did. You also can’t walk back that statement, which he’s been trying to do for the past 3 years.

If he had tried to go with “I was drunk, and I don’t really talk like that”, I wouldn’t have believed him, but it would’ve at least been an excuse that made sense. Hell, even Roseanne’s Ambien excuse was an attempt. No, here’s Hogan’s whole quote from the recordings:

“I don’t know if Brooke was fucking the black guy’s son. I mean, I don’t have double standards. I mean, I am a racist, to a point, fucking niggers. But then when it comes to nice people and shit, and whatever.”

“I mean, I’d rather if she was going to fuck some nigger, I’d rather have her marry an 8-foot-tall nigger worth a hundred million dollars! Like a basketball player!”

“I guess we’re all a little racist. Fucking nigger.”

Reportedly, when he spoke to the talent backstage after being reinstated, he reminded them to be careful of what they say because you never know when you’re being recorded. This is not a man who’s sorry for what he did. He’s already said he’s racist. No, this is a man who’s sorry he GOT CAUGHT. And I don’t have time for that.

WWE has a history of trying to polish turds, whether it’s this situation, or it’s their embrace of Ronda Rousey, who’s something of a transphobic Sandy Hook truther. Maybe you can separate the art from the artist, but I can’t – especially when the art is throwing someone through a particleboard table. In my mind, they’re not contributing enough to society, or to “art”, to turn a blind eye on their other shit. People love to go to stuff like “Well, Martin Luther King cheated on his wife.” OK. So did Ric Flair. Only one of them marched for my right to vote, however.

In a lot of ways, I feel sorry for Hogan. I feel sorry that, given the Gawker trial, he should be wealthy. Not just rich, but wealthy. However, he’ll never see a penny of that, as it was juts a symbolic victory. I felt bad for him when his dumbass son turned his friend into a vegetable. I felt bad for him when his wife left him as the money dried up. Like most children of the 80s, I saw him as more myth than man.  So, here we’ve got a 64 year old man with no other prospects than to tie on his bandana one last time, and hope his rickety knees can manage as he climbs between the ropes into that ring. But, maybe that’s what life comes down to when you’re a self-admitted racist. So, in closing, FUCK HULK HOGAN.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • That beacon of family values herself, Bristol Palin, will be replacing promiscuous-teen-turned-porn-star Farrah Abraham on the next season of MTV’s Teen Mom.
  • Alice Eve will be portraying Typhoid Mary in the second season of Marvel’s Iron Fist, debuting September 7th on Netflix. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s the blonde with the gratuitous underwear scene from Star Trek Into Darkness. Or the gratuitous underwear scene in She’s Out of My League.
  • We got a trailer for the upcoming Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, and I think it just gave me a seizure. Seriously, this is like a next level ADHD that medical science hasn’t even named yet.
  • Everything old is new again, Nickelodeon announced the return of Rugrats, as both a 26-episode TV series and a CGI theatrical film. I can just imagine as future archaeologists dig up the artifacts of this era, trying to determine if that scorched animation cel is from the first Nickelodeon Era (which will be known as B.K., for Before Kel) or the second Nickelodeon Era (A.S., for After Schneider).

  • Speaking of new old shit, we got a better look at the She-Ra reboot series from Netflix, and the man-children took issue with her character redesign. Sure, she looks kinda mannish in some pics, but maybe that’s a plot point, I dunno. Maybe She-Ra was born Peter-Ra, and is now living her best life? Who am I to judge?

  • We also got this teaser poster for Aquaman, which does absolutely nothing for me. I’m still kinda hung up on Momoa in the role. We get mad about white-washed characters, but how come it’s not the other way? I want my blond-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan Aquaman, dammit! Plus, I just don’t feel Momoa is a *STAR*. Sorry, not sorry. Sure, the ladies love him, but he doesn’t have the juice to put butts in seats.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars has been “saved”, as the series will return on Disney’s streaming service, five years after it left the air on Cartoon Network.

San Diego Comic-Con kicked off this week, and so far it appears that DC Comics is leading the charge. First off, it was announced that the Berlanti Arrowverse would be adding a Batwoman series to The CW, after her introduction in this fall’s DC show crossover. They’re currently looking for a lesbian actress to play the role, which is interesting to me. Maybe it’s all the recent talk about representation and all, but does it have to be a lesbian actress? What if she’s just lesbian for the show? I dunno. I’m sure there’s a lesbian out there who can do it, but it just seems like they might be missing out on some good choices just because of someone’s sexual orientation. On the flipside, if the producers of How I Met Your Mother had specifically sought out a “heterosexual lothario”, then Neil Patrick Harris never would’ve become Barney Stinson – a role in which he was perfect.

Then we got…this. I’m just gonna come out and say I think Titans looks like shit. Some folks are excited about it, and that’s great, but it’s simply not for me. “Fuck Batman”? Does anyone over there even understand their audience? I may come off as a Marvel fanboy, especially if you’ve seen my Twitter avatar, but I grew up on DC, and it’s what I call “home” when it comes to my fandom. If I’m hard on them it’s because I care, and I just feel like they continue to screw the pooch when it comes to a lot of their live action stuff. I’ve got friends who love the grim and gritty “real worldness” of the DC stuff, as they think the MCU is juvenile. That’s all well and good, but let’s call a spade a spade here. We’re not debating the merits of Batman vs. Superman here. No, we’re talking about a show that apparently wasn’t even good enough for TNT. I mean, fucking Batwoman is getting a show on basic TV, but the Titans aren’t? Just how bad is this show? Based on this trailer, pretty damn bad.

On the movie side of things, it’s official that Joaquin Phoenix will star in Joker, and it’s rumored that Atlanta’s Zazie Beetz might costar. I find this whole project unnecessary, but I find it even more odd that it’ll be directed by Todd Phillips, of The Hangover/Old School fame. Is he REALLY the right pick for this? I don’t see him and Phoenix meshing very well. Anyway, the film is slated to be released October 4th, 2019.

Meanwhile, the Birds of Prey movie will reportedly have, basically, every female Gotham character involved – from Cassandra Cain to Harley Quinn. My problem with this movie is that it’ll have the same issue that the Birds of Prey TV show had if they dance around the Batman issue. If you don’t remember, there was a Birds of Prey series on The WB that launched around the same time as Smallville. I will die on that hill that BoP was no worse than Smallville, but one was given a chance to grow and the other wasn’t. My biggest problem with the show, however (and it would also be my biggest issue with The Dark Knight Rises), is that the series was predicated on the idea that Batman was so distraught over the murder of his true love that he quit being Batman and just left Gotham to fend for itself. In Birds of Prey, it was the death of Catwoman that did it, while in TDKR it was the death of Rachel Dawes. In both cases, I never felt like that’s how Batman would handle that situation, as he’d probably become more driven and insane, than just quitting the game entirely. So, in essence, the Birds of Prey series was a Batman show without Batman. He was integral to the whole thing. He was woven into the tapestry of the setting, but he was never seen (except in flashbacks). And he’s too big of a character to exploit but not fully use. So, the Birds of Prey movie will, at the least, need a Suicide Squad-level Batman cameo just to keep it credibly on the tracks.

Speaking of Batman and Catwoman, the outcome of Batman #50’s wedding has polarized so many fans that writer Tom King apparently had to hire a bodyguard for San Diego Comic-Con. Plus, DC Comics has made the issue returnable since retailers and fans didn’t feel they got what they were promised. Y’all really need to get your shit together if you’re threatening a man over something like this.

Finally, for a man who’s reportedly on the outs with the entertainment side of DC Comics, Geoff Johns will certainly be collecting checks from the comic side for the foreseeable future. So far, he’s announced a new SHAZAM! series – likely to capitalize on the upcoming movie starring Zachary Levi, as well as Three Jokers. The interesting thing to me is that Three Jokers is slated to be released as part of DC’s Black Label imprint, where I thought most of those stories weren’t in continuity. That was announced as DC’s Not Elseworlds, But Totally Elseworlds line, with stuff like Frank Miller’s take on Superman, or the collected edition of Batman: White Knight. It’s strange that they’d put Three Jokers over here, when the concept of there having been three Jokers came from the storylines of the core DC Universe. Johns isn’t done with live action just yet, however, as he also announced a Stargirl series for the DC Universe streaming service, starring a character he created based on his sister who died in the TWA Flight 800 explosion.

I may not agree with all of their decisions, but DC is making moves this week, while Marvel is noticeably silent, so that’s why DC Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

13th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/13/18

by Will

I’ve been in California the past few days, and haven’t really been that plugged into the world lately. It’s been so long since I wrote one of these that I’ve kinda forgotten how they work. I mean, it’s been 2 weeks since my last post, and that was the Toys “R” Us tribute. So, it’s been 3 whole weeks since we touched on pop culture news and events. I’ve gotta say, though, not much happened. I mean, stuff happened, but did any of it really matter? Let’s see, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update: Not only did Hardwick’s friend, Lady Sif herself, post this tone deaf tweet, but she also circulated a Change.org petition to reinstate him as host of his AMC shows. Read the room, Jaimie! Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite nerd auntie, Yvette Nicole Brown, will be moderating the SDCC panels that were originally to be hosted by Hardwick. She insists she’s not vying for his job, and is merely “helping out a friend”.

Nev Schulman Update: Production has resumed on MTV’s Catfish: The TV Series, as their investigation found that there was no credible evidence that he had committed the harassment reported by his accuser.

Terry Crews Update: While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on sexual assault, Crews admitted that he had turned down a role in The Expendables 4, after being threatened to drop the case by producer Avi Lerner. Lerner reportedly warned Crews that there could be “trouble” if he didn’t drop his case, and Crews decided that passing on the film was the best thing for his personal safety.

John “Papa John” Schnatter: OK, so everyone already kinda knew Papa John was a piece of shit, but this week he was forced to resign as chairman of the board when it came out that he had used the word “nigger” during a conference call. Reportedly, in response to a question about his opposition to NFL players kneeling, Schnatter said that Colonel Sanders used to call Blacks niggers and that there was never any blowback for KFC. Here’s where this gets dicey for me: while there’s no real evidence that the Colonel had a history of doing this, it’s not like Schnatter used the slur against someone on the call. At best, he was telling the truth and didn’t read the room to know “Maybe it wouldn’t be too Kosher for me to use that word.” At worst, he was lying about the Colonel, but still wasn’t slinging it an individual. In any case, there’s other evidence that he’s a shitty human being, so maybe this was just karma catching up to him, like how they got Al Capone on tax evasion. Shitty views, shitty pizza: Papa John’s.

Henry Cavill: Superman done fucked up, y’all. Admittedly, there’s hyperbole on both sides of this argument, but here it goes: In a GQ Australia interview, Cavill admitted his trepidation about dating in the post #MeToo world, saying

“There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman. There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice,” he remarked. “I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that.”

“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to called a rapist or something.’ So you’re like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and just go back to a relationship, which never really worked,”

Of course there was social media backlash to this, with the common response being “If you don’t want to be called a rapist, then don’t rape anyone.” I get it. I do. But it’s funny how the “We have to listen to both sides” folks are really selective in when they choose to speak out. I think he suffered from a poor choice of words, but his is still a viewpoint that should probably be acknowledged. Men DON’T know how to read cues anymore, and it’s leading to some bad situations (see: Aziz Ansari). Cavill admits his beliefs are old fashioned, but that’s how a lot of people were conditioned and raised. Sure, there’s concepts like “enthusiastic consent” now, but to many that’s just as foreign a concept as when men learned they’d have to wrap their penises in a tire to make sure they don’t die having sex. Change takes time, and getting these views out and discussing them is the only way folks are going to come to some kind of understanding to move forward. No, I’m not saying “Hug a Nazi”, but I AM saying that you can’t really change anything until folks are comfortable enough to speak, while others are willing to listen. Anyway, he apologized through one of his reps, so nothing was really accomplished here except a whole bunch of folks don’t like Henry Cavill anymore.

I’m not doing so well with the movie viewing this year. I think I watched something like 117 in 2016, and at this point I’ve seen about 7. On the flight home last night, I finally got a chance to watch Pitch Perfect 3. I’m not saying I regret seeing it, but I kinda regret that they made it.

As I’ve said before, I kinda relate more to the Pitch Perfect franchise than most folks do because I lived it. I was in the scrappy underdog college a cappella group that placed at competition. I dealt with the ennui that comes from riding that high, and then being thrust into the real world where nobody gives a shit. In fact, I thought the second movie captured that perfectly, even if it didn’t resonate with a lot of fans of the first movie. As much as I love the Barden Bellas, though, this didn’t need to be a trilogy. They go on a USO tour? Is it really that easy for the alums of a 7-year removed competitive collegiate singing group to get a spot on a USO tour? Are the troops that hard up for entertainment? I mean, even I would get tired of Carlos Mencia after one performance, but is this really all that’s left in the barrel for our boys overseas?

If you haven’t seen it, that’s what happens: the Bellas reunite because of a Three’s Company-esque misunderstanding, but decide to take one last shot at the stage by going on a USO tour – one that happens to be a proving ground for DJ Khaled to find his new opening act. Really? HIM? So, the aged Bellas (and Hailee Steinfeld, whose character must have taken a leave of absence from college) jet around the world, competing against three other acts: country-tinged Saddle Up, hip hop duo Young Sparrow & DJ Dragon Nutz, and the all-female Evermoist. Almost immediately the other 3 acts join forces in the traditional riff-off, to show the Bellas just how ineffective a cappella battles are in the real world. Chloe keeps trying to cite them for breaking non-existent rules, like “They used real instruments, so they’re disqualified.” Of course, the Bellas eventually prove themselves to the USO audiences, after a few embarrassing setbacks put into motion by Evermoist. I guess that would be a decent movie if it didn’t have so many other weird subplots floating around.

It’s a movie that tries to do too many things, and doesn’t do any of them well. There’s a weird B-plot about Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) crooked father (played by John Lithgow), who’s scheming to get the $180 million that her mother had put into a trust for her. This results in some crazy choreographed fight scenes between Amy and her dad’s goons, as well as a Die Hardian explosion on a boat.

Then, there’s a co-B-plot (’cause it’s not quite a C-plot) about Becca (Anna Kendrick) being courted as an artist by one of the members of DJ Khaled’s team. While this storyline eventually turns out well for Becca, it just dangles a romance that could have been pursued if they were audacious enough to make a fourth movie, but doesn’t really go anywhere.

Plus, I get that Kendrick is the star, but the whole Becca As a Solo Artist thing doesn’t work for her characterization. Sure, we’re reintroduced to her dealing with her dead-end producing job, but she was never a front and center showgirl. She was a reluctant performer whose musicality and choreo took the Bellas to new heights. If anything, though, her perfect place is behind the scenes, building new artists, and NOT as a headlining solo artist.

Then, you’ve got Aubrey (Anna Camp) dealing with abandonment issues from her dad (which are hastily wrapped up during the end credits), and Chloe (Brittany Snow) hastily falling in love with their USO liaison. Steinfeld is just there to be insulted by Fat Amy, and you don’t really see much of the fire from the last movie that propelled her to the leadership of the current group of Bellas.

The movie is missing a lot of its heart, which was provided in the previous two installments by love interests Bumper (Adam Devine) and Jesse (Skylar Astin) – both of whom are absent here and clearly missed. Jesse was great support for Becca, and it’s curious that they’d break up offscreen and he’s already moved on. Meanwhile, I didn’t expect Fat Amy and Bumper to get married or anything, but I did expect a cameo or something. I mean, Adam Devine is doing straight to Netflix movies these days, so he’s available.

The biggest thing missing here, though, is the musicality. While the first two movies really showcased what a cappella has become, this movie turns it into the butt of the joke. The riff-off is impressive, as they tend to be, but there are no real performances from any of the acts – Bellas to Evermoist – that are that impressive. It’s probably the only installment in the trilogy where I feel I could easily pass on the soundtrack.

Pitch Perfect 3 is a simple retread of Pitch Perfect 2‘s “There’s Life After A Cappella, But It Ain’t Singing” thesis. We got it, but we didn’t need it. It’s a shame because I really like these movies and the stars, but they didn’t leave the stage on a high note.

In Star Wars news, Keri Russell has reportedly signed on for a role in Star Wars: Episode IX, Seeing as how she’s JJ Abrams’ muse or whatever, this news isn’t that surprising. In another part of the galaxy, however, it was reported that Billy Dee Williams would reprise his role as Lando Calrissian and, for the life of me, I can’t imagine what the fuck for. I mean, all of his friends are dead, and he was absent for the one scene that would’ve made sense for him to be in (Canto Bight). So, I guess I’ll look forward to seeing him come back just to die.

In Marvel news, it was revealed that the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming will be called Spider-Man: Far From Home. Let the speculation begin! Does he get left in space after Avengers 4? Does he come back to Earth and end up in Wakanda, hanging out with Suri? The possibilities are endless.

When it comes to hope, though, Sony giveth and Sony taketh away. While Far From Home sounds intriguing, they also announced their continued plans to milk that Spider-Man license dry. Now they’re claiming there will be a Silk movie that’ll never happen. I mean, if they couldn’t get a film off the ground for Black Cat and Silver Sable, I really don’t know how “Asian Spider-Woman”‘s milkshake is gonna bring the fanboys to the yard. On top of that, there are reports that Jared Leto will star in a Morbius film. Yeah, Morbius is the vampire who debuted in the Spider-Man comic, but really has jack shit to do with Spider-Man. If you ask me, Sony making that deal with Marvel Studios was to their detriment, as it left them to play around with the dregs of the Spider-Man license. Imagine if you had a really hot, passionate girlfriend, but then y’all broke up and you ended up with an Amish girl. The Amish girl thinks she’s doing you a favor by flashing a little ankle, but you know what you used to have. That’s this situation right here.

FX announced the cast for their Y: The Last Man pilot, and the biggest surprise is probably that Diane Lane has signed on to play Senator Jennifer Brown, who also happens to be the mother of the main character, Yorick. If you’re not familiar with the story, Y: The Last Man was a comic series published under the DC Comics Vertigo imprint. Running for 60 issues, it featured a world where a virus has killed every male in the world – except for escape artist Yorick and his Capuchin monkey. Women rise up and take on roles that they hadn’t traditionally held in the old world, while Yorick is traveling the globe to be reunited with his girlfriend. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed series of the past 20 years, and I think it was an absolute disappointment.

I have a problem with series creator Brian K. Vaughan because I feel he doesn’t stick the landing when it comes to his long-form series. 60 issues was just enough rope for him to hang himself with. I couldn’t even imagine reading that series on a monthly basis at certain points, because there are YEARS that just drag. So, to me, this just means we might get a compelling show with a really weak season 4 & 5. And don’t get me started on the ending because I felt it was one of those “It’s not about the destination, but the journey” cop out. Anyway, I guess time will tell.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • A bunch of shows got cancelled, but don’t feel bad – they’re dead because nobody cared about them. Likewise, no one will miss them. They include: Famous In Love (Freeform), Nobodies (TV Land), Ghosted (Fox), Champions (NBC), and SIX (History). See? Bet you never watched any of them.
  • In other TV news, Charter Communications has picked up the Bad Boys spinoff, L.A.’s Finest, starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. It’s set to air on their Spectrum cable service, which is about a step up from ending up on the Playstation Network (Yes, that was a jab at Powers).
  • In a recent interview, Paul Reiser admitted that the Mad About You revival “likely won’t happen” for the sheer fact that no network seems to want it. It’s fine with me. Paul and Jamie Buchman had a terrible marriage, and I haven’t ONCE wondered “I wonder where those two crazy kids would be right now.” If anything, I spend time wondering why Leila Kenzle and John Pankow didn’t become household names from that show. They were the only reasons to tune in.
  • WWE SmackDown Live will officially air on Fridays next year on Fox, meaning that Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing revival is basically getting evicted before it even returns to the airwaves.
  • Speaking of WWE, there are reports that they will add a second Wrestlemania branded show in 2020. This sounds like a terrible idea because it’ll just take away the prestige of the now-annual event, especially if it’s a watered down ‘Mania, similar to the recent Saudi Rumble.
  • Classic Nickelodeon show Double Dare is back on the air, and I had stronger feelings about it when it debuted 3 weeks ago. All I can say now is that new host Liza Koshay is kind of annoying, while I wanted to kill this little prick who kept dabbing after every victory. It was a nice nostalgia trip to watch that first night, but it’s nothing I’ve returned to since. Apparently there’s a Kenan & Kel episode coming up, so I’ll probably tune into that, as they play for their favorite charity: Keeping Kel’s Lights On.
  • Jeremy Renner has been cast as Detective “Twitch” Williams in the upcoming Spawn movie. I know that announcement is supposed to be big news, but all I can muster is a Kanye shrug. Remember those? Ya know, before he married that Armenian donkey and lost his mind?
  • The TV series based on The Purge will debut September 4th, on both Syfy and USA Network.
  • Marvel Studios reportedly met with 70 different directors, and settled on Cate Shortland to direct the planned Black Widow solo film.
  • District 9/Chappie director Neill Blomkamp will direct a new Robocop movie for MGM. Have you ever seen any of his movies? Come for the hamfisted allegory on Apartheid, but stay for the wise-cracking alien go-kart that Robocop rides around in!
  • Djimon Hounsou has been cast as the Wizard in that SHAZAM! movie I can’t seem to get excited about.
  • Steven Universe featured the first lesbian wedding on a kid’s cartoon show, but does it count if they’re really space gems? I dunno. I’ve tried to watch that show, and it makes no sense to me, but yay for progress!

I’m amazed that it’s been 3 weeks since I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and it has still stuck with me. If you’re not familiar, the documentary is the story behind Fred Rogers and the creation of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And let me tell you – it is a life-changing experience. Seriously, they broke the mold when they made Fred Rogers, and no one has stepped up to fill the void that he left behind.

The movie focuses on what a remarkable man Mr. Rogers was, and how he impacted the lives or children. An ordained minister, he discovered television in its infancy, and realized the power that it could have in speaking directly to children. He didn’t like how a lot of children’s television seemed to talk down to the audience, so he wanted to meet them at their level, and help them through the roadblocks of life. It contained interviews with everyone from his wife to former crewmates and friends. I’m not a movie crier, but this thing pushes all the buttons of a Pixar movie.

The movie definitely left an impact on me as I left the theater. There’s one clunky part, where an old friend mentions that Rogers was a lifelong, card-carrying Republican. I guess it was meant to imply that his work was imbued with his sense of family values and whatnot, but all I could think was “What the fuck happened to the Republican Party?” Along those lines, how would he feel about the current state of things? He had retired prior to 9/11, but was consulted to create material to help folks cope with the events of that day – and it nearly broke him. As great as he was, even he wouldn’t be able to heal the divide facing the country. At least, not alone. The world needs more people like Mr. Rogers. “Look for the helpers.”

I’m not sure if it’s delusions of grandeur, or lack of sleep, but for a brief period of time after leaving the theater, I thought “I could do it!” I could pivot everything to be more family friendly, I have an early childhood background, and I love (and worry about) kids. But my wife quickly reminded me that I’m a hateful man online, but that it’s what I’m good at, so I wouldn’t be the heir apparent to King Friday’s empire anytime soon. Womp womp.

I can’t believe I still feel this way three weeks later, but nothing has come close to that experience. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time, and I think everyone should see it. That’s why Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had the West Week Ever.

29th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/29/18 (TRU Edition)

by Will

I’m gonna take some liberties with the format this week, as it’s sort of a special occasion. I’ll cover this week’s news next week, and I hope you’ll forgive the departure.

As you probably already know, today is the final day of business for Toys “R” in the United States. Some stores closed earlier this week, but all will be closed by tonight. I’m still processing what this means to me. Sure, as a child of the ’80s, and a pop culture junkie, TRU has meant a lot to me over the years. I’ve touched on it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you my Toys “R” Us origin story. So, there’s no time like the present!

I’ve been talking with a lot of “cohorts” lately, and they’ve said things like “It didn’t mean that much to me.” Or “The toys were too expensive.” They also say they don’t have any real nostalgic connection to the brand. I can’t diminish someone else’s experience, but that simply wasn’t the case for me. I will admit that Toys “R” Us has suffered from something of an identity crisis over the past decade or so, but I think we all remember the golden age of cartoon Geoffrey the Giraffe, and his extended family (Gigi, etc).

For me, TRU was a magical place that I always hoped to sneak off to while my mom and grandmother were visiting the garden center down the plaza from it. I also didn’t get many toys from TRU back in the day, because toys used to be everywhere: People’s Drug, Kmart, Sears, Woolworth’s. But getting a toy from those places was merely pedestrian. To get a toy from TRU was like visiting Mecca. It’s like the song said, “From bikes and trains to video games” – it was the biggest toy store there was!

You know how when you’re a kid, folks are always asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My blanket answer was “I want to own a McDonald’s and a Toys ‘R’ Us.” Yes, young Will didn’t know about franchising and commercial real estate leases. He thought you could own one of those just like some rando can own the corner store. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or cops, and I just wanted to work with Geoffrey. Can’t say I didn’t aim high!

As I got older, I learned that folks actually look down on McDonald’s as a place of employment if you’re not a teenager (which is pretty messed up, if you ask me!). Still, that kinda marred the brand in my mind, so I gave up on that dream. That became a dream deferred. I didn’t give up on Toys “R” Us, though. I decided I was going to work for Toys “R” Us corporate. After all, everyone respects a businessman, and I’d still be working with toys!

Unlike most teenagers, I didn’t have an afterschool job. No, I didn’t get my first job until the week after my high school graduation. Where? Toys “R” Us. I had actually applied during the previous Christmas season, when I handed my application to the store director, Erin. Of course they never called (‘cause they never do. The onus of the job hunt is on the hunter), but I tried again the following summer.

Now, if you’re new here, you don’t know much about me. My dad died when I was 3, and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. To say I was a “Mama’s Boy” would be something of an understatement, but it gets the image across. So, while most teenagers would confidently saunter into a place and ask if they’re hiring, I had my mom with me, and I think she did most of the talking. So, they didn’t call me. However, when I went back the next summer, Erin recognized me because I was the one who had brought his mother with him to apply. She either thought it was cute or sad. I never did find out. Anyway, she hired me and put me to work the next day.

Yay, I was finally working with toys! My dream job! Oh, the smiles I would put on kids’ faces! The funny thing about TRU is that, once you work there, you realize just how big (and kinda unnecessary) that store truly is. I began to realize that I’d spent my childhood worshiping aisles 6D and 7D (action figures), not even acknowledging that there was a whole lot more store than that. More, for which I did not give a shit. They kept putting me in bikes or in diapers, but I’d find a way to sneak back to action figures.

Plus, because I was seasonal (I was leaving for college at the end of the summer), they never saw any need to train me on the register. I worked at that place for 3 seasons before they trained me on register. By the time I was in Year 8, they were like “Here’s Paco. It’s his first day, and we want you to train him on the register.” That was so weird to me. We don’t know that dude, so why are we so quick to let him near the money? Anyway, since I held no “floor value” for them, they had me unload trucks, organize the stockroom, and bring up any big ticket pickup requests, like bikes, swings, etc.

Here’s why TRU means a lot to me: as someone who grew up pretty sheltered, that job gave me a crash course on LIFE. The cute girls, the old ladies – those were the ones they put on the floor. The guys in the back, however, were a rougher bunch. Some of them were ex-cons, while some of them were clearly headed for incarceration. It’s funny looking back on it because I had two very distinct Toys “R” Us employment experiences: the Wheaton era, which was basically Training Day, and the Columbia era, which was Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

These guys were telling me stuff about the women they were seeing, as well as what they were doing to those women. They’d also tell me about their wives. Yup, same dudes. Seventeen year old Will would naively point out “But you’re married!” One thing I will never forget is when Ramone laughed at me, saying “Man, you don’t marry for love. You marry for security.” That was deep, especially at 17.

That place was filled with a cast of characters, and that television show, despite being set in a toy store, would have to air on Netflix or premium cable. There was chainsmoking mumbler, Garrett, who built the bikes. I was working there when JFK Jr. and his wife died, and Garrett was the one who offered up his theory that sky head was to blame. You’ve heard of road head? Well, same thing, but in a privately chartered helicopter. In the sky. Garrett loved his conspiracies.

There was David, the other bike assembly guy, who’d just gotten back from overseas, and was clearly going through some kind of PTSD. He either looked like a fatter Tony Hale or a skinnier Bubba Ray Dudley. The jury’s still out on that. His arms were covered in sleeves, so management made him wear a light blue Oxford to cover his arms so he wouldn’t offend the guests. I remember he was really blinky, and I was always expecting a Falling Down episode from him. He totally took advantage of me because I was young and dumb and had more money than I needed. He had brought some Pocket Monsters stuff back with him from Japan (remember, Pokémon had just hit the US, so this was the original, pure shit), and I remember him selling it to me for some price that really didn’t make a lot of sense. But I hate conflict, and don’t know how to back out of a deal, so “Here’s your money, David.” The sad post-script is that most of that stuff ended up going to my then-girlfriend’s little brother. Yup, I did it all for the nookie. Or was trying to, at least.

Barbara was the first Black lesbian I’d ever encountered, and she scared the shit out of me (not the first lesbian, though – I’d seen the Ellen Degeneres-starring Mr. Wrong almost a decade prior, and well, I just knew…). She was mean, and if she threatened to cut you, I truly believe a cutting was in your future. She had a nice side racket going, where the old White G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels collectors would pay her to put the new cases aside for them, so they could get the good stuff before it hit the floor. I’m sure they were terrified of her, too, but those Treasure Hunts weren’t gonna scalp themselves. Anyway, I clapped back at her one day about something trivial (I was young and stupid) , and stayed on her bad side after that.

Ron was one of the managers, and he made me question every naïve thing I’d ever thought about leadership. Later, in college, I’d learn the difference between management and leadership, but at the time I thought they were the same. He had come from Foot Locker, and I spent a lot of time wondering “What’s he doing here? Shoes have nothing to do with toys.” See, I hadn’t yet hit that realization that retail is just a job. As the youngest person working in the store, I never stopped to think that I was the only one who WANTED to be there due to a love of toys. It was hilarious, though, watching him pursue a phat ass through the store. It’s like he had a sixth sense for it, and then he’d get on the walkie, telling the other guys to meet him in whatever aisle she happened to be in. That shit was pure harassment, but I’d never seen anything like it before. And, to be honest, none of the women ever seemed that offended. If anything, they were just happy to receive some kind of customer service which, as you know, has been lacking in a lot of places in recent years.

Finally, as the ringmaster of this motley crew, Erin was a short woman who wore a tight French braid. In some other life, she was a detective or a parole officer, but here she made sure that Mr. Potato Head was “edged off” (the practice of pulling the boxes to the very edge of the shelf, to give the illusion that the shelves are more full that they actually are. Plus, it brings the item closer to the customer’s reach). You knew it was a rough day when she would pitch in with the clean-up, and release her hair from that braid. She was tough, but fair. She had a maternal, Captain Janeway quality to her, and we were all her Sevens of Nine. They’d eventually transfer her to the Frederick store. I saw her a few years later, and she barely had any recollection of me, my mom, any of it. Through squints, she seemed to sort of register who I was, but I’m sure so many folks had passed through her “finishing school” by that point that they all start to blend together. Still, thanks for not letting Barbara cut me, “Mom”.

In all, I worked for the Wheaton store over the course of 7 years, during summers and Christmas when I’d come home from college, as well as some stints afterward. In early 2006, the company announced plans to close 75 stores across the country, which we thought was unheard of at the time. Still, I didn’t think much about it until I came in one day soon after Christmas to see Store Closing signs hung everywhere. These days you’d probably at least get an email or something, but not then. Were we so primitive in 2006? So, I found out the same way our customers did – seeing the signage in the store.

I’ve already shared some stories about those final days in Wheaton, but that store just kept on teaching me things. In this case, I learned how fun retail could be if you simply didn’t give a shit anymore. Sure, it’s probably not best for the customer, but I had a lot of fun during that liquidation period. Still, it was a part-time job for me, so it didn’t hit me like it probably affected others there. By that point, all the folks I mentioned had already moved on. As I saw it, my education was complete, and I was fine with the store closing. Plus, there was still a TRU across town, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have a local store.

The Wheaton store closed, and I thought that was it for my Toys “R” Us time. In college, I majored in Human Development, with a concentration on early childhood. The whole “I want to work with toys” wasn’t just a pipe dream to me. I took courses on play interaction, and interned at a daycare to study how kids play with each other. The problem, though, is that there was no real career path for that at the time. Sure, now there are schools with toy curriculums, like F.I.T., but that wasn’t a thing in 2001. Once I graduated, nobody knew what to do with me. I sent a bunch of blind letters to Hasbro, TRU, Mattel, and more. See, it turns out toy companies care more about design than intent. It’s more likely they’ll make a cool-looking toy educational instead of making an educational toy cool-looking. If it teaches something, great, but the aesthetic came first. So, the folks who did gave me the time of day wanted to see my portfolio – a portfolio that I did not have. I remember I got a really nice letter from some VP at TRU corporate that was basically “We don’t know what to do with you, but don’t give up on your dreams.” Sorry, lady, but I gave up.

After a stint in commercial real estate, I got a chance to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. It wasn’t quite toys, but it was as close to the toy industry as I felt I was going to get. The sad thing, though, is that you have to sacrifice for your dreams. So, I took a huge pay cut and then found myself with a life I couldn’t afford anymore. My commute was 100 miles a day round trip (that’s not an exaggeration), and I could barely pay my rent. So, I was going to need a second job, and I realized the Columbia Toys “R” Us was halfway between work and home. It also helped that a few of the managers from the tail end of the Wheaton days had transferred to that store. I had an “in”.

Remember when Saved By The Bell: The College Years got cancelled, and Screech kinda crawled back to Bayside in Saved By The Bell: The New Class? That was pretty much my experience here. I had started my TRU career as the youngest person in the store, and now I was something of an elder statesman. Everyone I worked with now was somewhere between 19 and 22, and I thought it was going to be my turn to teach them life lessons. It would by my Training Day. Yeah…that didn’t happen. The Columbia staff had different interests and were in different places in their lives than the Wheaton staff. The Wheaton folks were just working there until a better retail job came along, while the Columbia kids were working their way through community college and didn’t see retail as the end for themselves. With my prior experience, I expected to walk into some kind of Degrassi environment, but it was a lot more madcap than that.

I’ll admit that I probably wasn’t the best person to manage at this point. I mean, I was a good worker – a hard worker – but I did what I wanted. I just kinda took action figures for myself, and made it clear “Don’t you even think about putting me somewhere else.” And I provided good customer service to folks in those aisles, but I did not give a shit about anything outside of Boy’s World. The location of the store made sense on weekdays, as it was on the way home, but it made no sense for me to drive 30 miles on a Saturday morning, to work 5 hours – I was just wasting gas at that point. So, I kinda did what I wanted to “justify” the inconvenience. Yeah, I know it’s a job, and it was my choice to make that commute, but they let me get away with “creating my own experience”, so I guess I “won”?

While my early time with the company was about life’s hard lessons, the latter time was really just about decompression. I looked forward to my Saturday shifts as “Wow, I really tricked this company into paying me to hang out with my friends.” We had a lot of fun, and I still think about a lot of those folks.

Patrick was an interesting kid. He was Chinese, but somehow had a redneck, Tea Party uncle whom he idolized, so he was basically a Chinese redneck. He never understood the contradictions in that, but he never let that stop him. Still he was a lot of fun, as we’d talk about cartoons and Power Rangers. We would team up in the boy’s department, and called ourselves Team Bumblebee.

Crystal was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, which is why it was perfect that they put her at customer service. Customers loved her, while she had an apple bottom that some folks would’ve paid to take a bite out of. She was our Kelly Kapowski, hands down.

If Crystal was our Kelly, then Amber was definitely our Jessie Spano. She and Crystal looked like they could’ve been sisters, but Amber was the spitfire of the two. She had little Lisa Loeb glasses, and took her supervisor role seriously – almost too seriously at times. That’s why it was even more interesting when she lightened up, and found herself in a love triangle with managers Paul and Jesse.

Bryan was the most responsible 19 year old I’ve ever met in my entire life. He had actually come from the Wheaton store, and was one of the reasons I was looking forward to working at Columbia. He had a mad-on for law enforcement, though. His dream was to go to the police academy, and he’d go on ride alongs during his free time. In the grand scheme of the Columbia store, Bryan was “The Adult”.

Marvin was basically Lord of the R-Zone, which was the electronics department of the store. I never really got a read on him, despite working in his orbit for years. Was he shy? Did he just not like me? I dunno, but I still run into him at comic conventions, as he has segued into the life of a cosplayer in recent years.

The best of the bunch, however, had to be Mike, whom we affectionately called “Special Forces”. Ya see, when he started, he was seasonal and those guys didn’t wear TRU uniforms because A) I don’t think TRU wanted to “waste” them on seasonals, and B) they didn’t want them to be instantly recognizable as employees to customers, as customer interaction would affect their ability to move in the background of everything. So, he wore a black shirt and black jeans, which made him look like some sort of special forces agent, so… Mike’s still around to this day, as many of you know of him from my Thrift Justice posts. He’s one of my best friends, and definitely one of the better things to come from that last TRU stint.

As much as I wanted to think I was the oldest, non-manager there, that wasn’t true. No, that “honor” belonged to “Stanley” (Yeah, that’s not his real name. You don’t need to know that). I’m gonna level with you here: there’s a good chance Stanley was some kind of molester. He was in his 70s, creepy, and wore a Dora the Explorer cap that he found in a shopping cart one day. I know for a fact that he offered $50 to a young employee to have sex with him. I also know she strongly considered it. He knew where all the hooker pickup spots were, and he had some stories. Just as earlier in my career, TRU was still teaching me things. I learned how you can like people who are possibly horrible. Like, I didn’t have *proof* that he had done anything illegal, but I also didn’t have proof that he had not done those things. Still, something about him still came off as “kindly”. I still think about him, and wonder if he’s still with us.

I made it 10 years with TRU, and not much longer. They even gave me a catalog of shit to choose from for my anniversary gift. I never did get that cordless screwdriver… Anyway, I had my performance review, and found out I wasn’t good enough to receive my $0.25 raise. I took a long hard look around, and wondered why I was fighting for a quarter. I’d been raised with the “Every little bit helps” mentality, but here was a company that didn’t think I was worth an additional quarter. Yes, I know that adds up when it’s a quarter for everyone, but TEN YEARS! Call it “Millennial Entitlement” if you want, but that was it for me. I was tired of the commute. I no longer had the job that made this one convenient in the evenings, and I had pretty much just met Lindsay, so I had other stuff I’d rather be doing. So, I basically quit that day of the review. I’d worked out my schedule, and I didn’t owe them any time. I’d show them!

In the years since, I’ve sort of regretted how it ended. I definitely missed the excitement of the holiday season, and even wondered if I was rehireable. I once applied to the closer Rockville store, but never heard back. Ya know, ‘cause the onus of the job hunt… So, my TRU career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s not how I would like to have gone out, but that’s how life is sometimes. My time at Toys “R” Us was filled with those life-affirming moments, so this just seemed like a natural, if not completely satisfying, end.

As a customer, I’ll definitely miss Toys “R” Us. Sure, Target and Walmart have a foothold in the industry, but their 7 toy aisles don’t hold a candle to the selection at TRU. I used to stop and think about how almost unnecessary a store like TRU was. I mean, think about it: it’s a big box store devoted solely to toys. Only in a capitalistic society could that idea fly and, as we have learned, that same capitalistic society would be what killed it.

Still, folks don’t realize that the concept of “childhood” is fairly young. Before, say, the end of the Industrial Revolution, kids were just seen as tiny adults. Sure, take them to that public execution, nobody cares! So, it’s always amazing to me that, not only did the concept of childhood develop, but that successful businesses arose to capitalize on that. Folks say that toy sales are down, with the internet and other time wasters available, so I often wonder what that means for the evolution of childhood. I guess time will tell.

Anyway, we’re not here to forecast the future of the toy industry. No, we’re here to say goodbye to an old teacher, an old friend. I got to take my oldest to say “goodbye” a few months back, but it saddens me that my youngest will know nothing of Toys “R” Us. She’ll know nothing of the place that helped to shape her father’s worldview. She’ll know nothing of Geoffrey the Giraffe. I only hope that she one day experiences something that affects her the same way that my Toys “R” Us experience affected me. That’s why Toys “R” Us had the West Life Ever.

22nd Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/22/18

by Will

I don’t know how much longer I can do this. Like, seriously. Writing this just gets harder and harder, and I know you’ll say “Nobody’s making you do this, Will”, and that’s true. It’s just the world keeps getting worse and worse, and what was supposed to be a digital respite from all of that is harder and harder to create. We had the celebrity death onslaught of 2016, but 2017 was gonna be better. Then we had a year of Trump blunders, but 2018 was going to be better. We’re only halfway through the year, and there are fucking children in CAGES. And I swear PETA works harder to get animals out of cages than folks are working to rectify this. Social media has become both battleground and echo chamber. Either it’s a cacophony of everyone asking “Can you believe this shit?” OR it’s the opposition coming out with, “Stop being so dramatic, ya snowflake Libtard!” I mean, are you even reading this? I know way too many people on a social media sabbatical because they just can’t deal with it anymore, and since a lot of y’all find out about these posts via social media, I’m just gonna assume I might be talking to myself this week.

I don’t watch the news. I honestly don’t. Still, it’s impossible to go through the world (especially online) and not know what’s going on. So, I may not be the most informed, but I feel I’m informed enough to know I don’t want any more information. Does that make sense? I don’t need to hear the audio of the separated children crying. That’s the kind of emotion porn that keeps people doing shit like watching This Is Us. Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby! So, with just dipping my toe in the news I get on timelines, here’s what I gleaned from the past week:

  • The US President threw Starburst at the German Chancellor at the G7 Summit, and said “Don’t say I never gave you anything.” And to think we once thought the worst thing a president could do to her was give her an unwanted neck rub. Remember that?
  • That same president wants to create a fucking Space Force. How is that even gonna work? Will it be like the pre-NASA days, when you had to join the Air Force first (Yeah, I watched I Dream of Jeannie)?
  • THERE ARE CHILDREN IN CAMPS!
  • The same president who greenlit the camps also signed an executive order to stop the separations. Um, that’s some Tony Stark shit. You don’t get points for solving a problem you created.
  • Oh, and while the separations are halted, THERE ARE NO PLANS IN PLACE FOR REUNIFICATION
  • The First Lady set out to visit the camps, wearing a coat that said “I Really Don’t Care. Do U?” Her spokespeople say it meant nothing, while her husband claims it’s a calculated attack against the “fake news” media. At the end of the day, what it truly was was “tone deaf”.
  • And then the US decided to pull out of the UN Human Rights Council, ’cause why the Hell not?
  • Oh, and did I mention the organizer of the Charlottesville bullshit got approved for a White Civil Rights Rally in DC in August?

This is stuff going on in the country. Stuff that MATTERS. Meanwhile, if my timeline isn’t upset about this, they’re still bitching about The Last Jedi or the fact that some woman-beating rapper named Xtension Cord or some shit got murdered. Not only is it hard to care about pop culture at times like these, but it’s even harder to care what others think of said pop culture. I try to tailor this thing to what I think people want to read about each week, but I don’t even know if I know what that is anymore. Something’s got to change, and I only really see 3 options:

A) I get political and, frankly, there’s enough of that out there. I already said I’m not the most informed, so God forbid you get your political analysis from me. I don’t want to come across like a late night talk show monologue, which has become a genre I’ve dubbed “Late Night Liberal Smuggery”. Nobody ever changed their mind because Seth Meyers was yelling at them. The closest one to come close to inacting change was Jimmy Kimmel, but that’s something of an outlier. No, I don’t want to do this, but it almost feels like a necessary pivot.

B) I lean more into the fluff, which might be harder to swallow as bombs start dropping around us. From space. Ya know, from the goddamn star war this man is trying to start. I’m more partial to this one because it’s pretty much just an extreme version of the original intent of this column. Although I’d feel awkward blatantly ignoring the world around us in favor of “The Backstreet Boys have a new single!”

C) I quit. I don’t think this is going to happen because I don’t know how to quit. Eventually Twitter will die and the the Chinese will buy Facebook and I’ll have nowhere to promote these posts, so it’ll just be me reading them, along with the 4 of you who may have bookmarked this site. Even then, I won’t know how to quit. It’ll just be like the early days, when I wrote like no one was reading…because they weren’t.

Anyway, that’s the world we live in right now, folks. Drink it in ’cause the crazy ain’t stopping anytime soon. So, let’s talk about some entertainment stuff, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update: So, Hardwick responded to Chloe Dykstra’s allegations, saying that he never sexually assaulted her. Then, in true Hardwick dickish fashion, he wrapped up his statement with “As a husband, a son, and future father, I do not condone any kind of mistreatment of women.” This ranks up there with any time a woman is assaulted, and some famous dude comes out with “As a father of daughters…”, but this is actually worse. Why? Because Hardwick ain’t got no damn kids! HIS WIFE ISN’T EVEN PREGNANT. Many feel that was a knife twist added to dig at Dykstra’s ectopic pregnancy mentioned in her essay.

Meanwhile, someone leaked texts between Dykstra and Hardwick following the breakup, where she spent months begging him to take her back. “If it was so bad, then why did she want him back?”, they ask. Well, this isn’t uncommon in abusive situations, and that question is just as dumb as “If it was so bad, then why didn’t she leave?” We don’t know, but that doesn’t diminish her experience. Still, Hardwick wrote what must be the longest text message known to man, as captured by The Daily Mail.

Reading that, he doesn’t come off as the worst guy. Did he actually write this in 2014? Who knows? But the guy who capped off his official rebuttal with the “future father” comment is the Hardwick that I always suspected was the “real Hardwick”. Still, do I feel bad he got cheated on? Sure. Do I feel bad that what he saw as a promising relationship ended? Sure. From what I’ve heard, he didn’t really keep his promise about not disparaging her in public, so he was two-faced there, as well. What I’m trying to say is that it’s a pretty complex situation that we were not present for, nor can we necessarily hand down a judgement upon.

I swear this would’ve gotten more retweets if I’d been fully awake, and hadn’t misspelled “Acceptable”

Still after discussing this with some people, I will point out the dangers of these things being tried in the court of public opinion. I don’t like Chris Hardwick. I can admit that, and I think I made that known. That said, that doesn’t mean I want these allegations to be true. I wouldn’t wish that on either party. All I meant was I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. As some outlets have pointed out, she didn’t accuse him of doing anything illegal, per se, but it still involved alleged abuse and character assassination. AMC has cancelled the Talking with Chris Hardwick series, as they reassess their business relationship, while NBC has suspended production on his game show, The Wall. Also, the panels that he was set to host at San Diego Comic Con have also been cancelled. Meanwhile, the Nerdist empire, which he built, scrubbed all reference to him from their website. If he did the stuff Dykstra alleges, then these are all great steps. If he didn’t, though…

I’ve always feared what would happen when the #MeToo movement targeted the wrong person. There’s a guy out there who’s not going to be equipped to handle that backlash and he’s going to take his own life. Now, some folks will be quick to say “He hurt women, so fuck him!” We also live in a society, though, where everyone wants to get to the root cause of shit – especially if the perpetrator is White. John Boyd Klemmer shoots up a school and there’ll be the folks who say “Fuck that dude”, but there will also be the contingent of “Well, why did he do it? Did he have a manifesto?” So, applying that sequence of events to #MeToo accusations, nobody really stops to ask these questions. We talk about toxic masculinity, but don’t really acknowledge how it can play into these sorts of scenarios happening. Plus, there are degrees to this stuff. Not everyone is Harvey Weinstein. Aziz Ansari certainly wasn’t, but he had to deal with much of the same caliber of backlash. And I’ll tell ya, I thought Aziz was gonna be the guy to kill himself. He’s kept a low profile since everything went down, and it’s going to be a long road to rebuilding his career, but I think he’ll turn out OK. His situation is mired in interpretation, and it was more embarrassing for him than damning.

Now, contrast that with Louis CK. That dude lost EVERYTHING in, like, 48 hours, and I really hoped someone was looking in on him during that period because I honestly feared he’d commit suicide. I don’t think folks process that these are possible outcomes. You have people in power, who abuse that power, get caught, and then lose everything. The story doesn’t end there, though. This isn’t an episode of Law & Order. There is a large contingent of folks who will just say “Fuck that guy”, but they don’t think to the future. They don’t want these people working anymore, but fail to realize that they’ll need to eat and live somehow. Folks will say “Well, they’re rich”, but that money will eventually run out, especially when they’re cut off from every method of sustaining it. I wonder what people feel is adequate “justice” in these cases. Is it for the person to actually become destitute, and just shrivel up and die in a gutter? Is that what folks really want? I don’t even know what I feel is correct, but I do know that once you enter the #MeToo conversation, it’s fucked up either way. Either you did the stuff, and you lose everything, or you didn’t do the stuff, but you still lose everything.

I used to have this concept in my head, possibly for a story or an actual government policy, who knows? Anyway, it was called the Urban Defender, who was basically an appointed “official”, dressed as a cowboy, who would patrol cities, shooting people seemingly at random. Pretty much, every morning at UD HQ, there was something of a lottery. Someone’s number would come up, and the UD went out on patrol and shot them. The idea was something akin to The Purge, in that you would be on your Ps and Qs at most times because you never knew if the UD was coming for you that day. Also, you’d appreciate life more, as every day would be a gift. Sure, there’s also the counterargument that such an arrangement would just spark anarchy because life would be rendered meaningless, but I thought of this in more “optimistic” days. I feel like we’re getting close to that here. We’re just shooting at everyone, hoping that the ones who are outed will serve as a message to those who might think of committing such atrocities, but there needs to be some controls, some processes, in place, instead of just going at these dudes, guns a-blazing. I feel like the shock & awe was a good introduction to the cause, but it’s just not sustainable for any sort of manageable, reasoned response. Just my two cents.

Man, you Star Wars folks just can’t relax, can you? It’s been how many months since The Last Jedi, and folks are still irate? It’s one thing to have not liked it, but it’s another to be mounting a crowdfunding campaign to raise $200 million to remake it. ‘Cause that’s exactly what happened this week. Some Twitter account called @RMTheLastJedi popped up, with a manifesto about how they wanted to “save Star Wars”. And the sad thing is that they have supporters. This isn’t how IP works. This isn’t how art works. But I’m so exhausted by this shit.

After the lackluster performance of Solo, Disney is taking their Millennium Falcon and going home for a bit. Reportedly, production has halted on all Star Wars spinoffs, including the rumored Boba Fett movie from James Mangold, as well as the rumored Obi-Wan movie. They will focus their attention on Episode IX at this point, which is probably for the best. Still, with the backlash they received, I’m sure Episode IX will be some pandering thing that rubs everyone’s balls so they’ll leave the theater, saying “The Force was with that one! All is forgiven.”

While all movement seems to have stalled on developing the Star Wars universe, the Star Trek universe is starting to rev up again. Star Trek: Discovery showrunner Alex Kurtzman just signed a five-year deal to expand the Trek television slate. While Discovery streams on CBS All Access, these new potential shows could end up anywhere, from broadcast to cable networks. The five shows potentially in development are:

  • A Starfleet Academy series, from Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz – the folks behind the Dynasty reboot, as well as the Runaways series. I like this idea, and have always liked this idea since it was floated almost 20 years ago. You see, this isn’t the first time an Academy series was in development (at the time it was described as “Dawson’s Creek in space”), but they opted to go with Enterprise instead. I’d watch this one
  • A miniseries based on the character of Khan
  • A top secret series
  • an animated series
  • A Star Trek: The Next Generation sequel, featuring Patrick Stewart reprising his role as Jean-Luc Picard. I have been clamoring for YEARS for a Trek series that isn’t a prequel. The way DS9/Voyager left things with the Dominion War, I really wanted to know the state of the Federation after all of that. Almost 20 years have passed since the finale of Deep Space Nine, so would the series also experience a similar time jump? As much as I want a “future” Trek series, I’m not sure a Picard series is what I want. I mean, I’d love cameos, but do I really want a show centered on him? It would make up for the fact that the TNG movies just kinda petered out, but I’m on the fence with this one.

Anyway, more Trek TV is a good thing because I refuse to pay for Discovery, so it’s been far too long for me.

In comics news, Batgirl is finally getting a new costume in the upcoming Batgirl #26. If you’re not familiar, they did a soft reboot of the character a few years back, moving her to the hipster Gotham neighborhood of Burnside. At the same time, her van, which held her costume and gear, blew up, forcing her to cobble together a new suit. The “Batgirl of Burnside” costume has pretty much been around now for the past 4 years or so, but it never really made sense for it to stick around. Sure, in the details of the story arc, it made sense. However, once the dust settled, and her life returned to normal, she should’ve gotten a “real” costume again. Still, it served as the influence for her costume in DC Super Hero Girls, as well as other licensed products. I’m not sure how I feel about this one, though – especially with the lack of a cowl. What happens when Barbara Gordon gets a haircut? Will she just wear a wig, like Yvonne Craig did in the 60s TV show? Plus, it feels really irresponsible to have all the hair exposed during combat. I do like the classic aspect of the suit, as it looks like the one Batgirl wore back in the 80s. That said, the little bat ears seem a little stupid. I mean, they’re even kind stupid on Batman, so they’re especially stupid in this presentation.

I better get a cut of this, because I SO called it! Late yesterday evening, ABC announced they had ordered a 10-episode Roseanne spinoff called The Conners for next Fall. Everyone will be back except Roseanne Barr, as she agreed to a settlement that would get everyone back to work, but she wouldn’t have any creative or financial involvement with the show. I don’t know the ins and outs of the deal, but I kinda have to hand it to her. She didn’t have to do this, especially when the show was based on, and influenced by, her life. I don’t know if folks would consider this redemption, but she did look out for the cast and crew who were affected by her actions, plus I know this will be even more of a ratings coup for ABC.

How will they write her out, though? Well, it seems like they’ll kill her off. Here’s the synopsis:

“After a sudden turn of events, the Conners are forced to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before. This iconic family — Dan, Jackie, Darlene, Becky and D.J. — grapples with parenthood, dating, an unexpected pregnancy, financial pressures, aging and in-laws in working-class America. Through it all, the fights, the coupon cutting, the hand-me-downs, the breakdowns – with love, humor and perseverance, the family prevails.”

Here’s the thing about killing a main character like this: you’ve GOT to start with a time jump. You can’t just pick up after the funeral because the spectre of that character will still cast its shadow over every episode. “Oh, there’s mom’s favorite chair.” Shit like that. You need to pick things up about 6 months later, once the grieving process has settled, and folks are getting back to their everyday lives. Kevin Can Wait tried to do a Kill The Wife Time Jump, but it didn’t work because the show was so new, fans liked the character who was killed, and it was obvious they were trying to reinvent The King of Queens by bringing in Leah Remini. This has a better shot of working, but I don’t know if I’d want it to go past the initial 10-episode order. I’m sure that decision will be dictated by ratings, and ratings alone.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Talk about moving fast – it was only, like, two weeks ago that I told you Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande were dating. Well, now they’re engaged! That marriage is never happening, as he’ll probably go back to rehab for his weed addiction, and she’ll realize “What the fuck did I get myself into?”
  • Jodi Foster is apparently in talks to star in the FX adaptation of the comic Y: The Last Man. Let’s hope they manage to end the show a lot better than they ended the comic!
  • Good news, Luciferites! Netflix has picked up the recently-cancelled Lucifer, for a 10-episode fourth season.
  • Amazon has ordered an 8-hour “adult animation” series based on the Robert Kirkman comic Invincible.
  • We got the trailer for Creed II. I mean, I was already a guaranteed audience member, but I’m not seeing a lot here. I’m hoping we get more Drago in the next trailer.

  • We also got a trailer for the incredible looking Welcome to Marwen. I don’t know much about the true story upon which it’s based, but I hear there’s a great documentary out there called Marwencol that I need to check out. Anyway, this thing is visually stunning.
  • MTV announced the launch of MTV Studios, which will be tasked with rebooting some older MTV hit shows, like The Real World, a live action Aeon Flux, and a rebooted Daria, called Daria & Jodie. I’m kind of surprised by that last one, as the addition of Jodie to the title feels like a diversity play. I mean, didn’t Daria have more of a rapport with Jane? Anyway, if they want to fix The Real World, just cast more ugly people. Prior to the Vegas season, every cast was at least 50% ugly. Then Vegas happened, and everyone was hot, drank all the time, and fucked each other. Changed the entire franchise. Bring back the uglies!
  • So they’re rebooting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films again, with Michael Bay still attached. Why?
  • NBC cancelled Timeless for the second time. Wonder if the team can go back in time and stop their second demise.

  • Gotta say, I didn’t expect this sort of speech from Chris Pratt. Didn’t expect that at all.
  • There was more Comcast/Disney shit. I don’t want to get into it, but let’s just say Disney countered, and now they’re winning again in the bid for Fox.
  • Pete Docter (director of Up and Inside Out) and Jennifer Lee (writer of Frozen) have been named Chief Creative Officers of Pixar, succeeding the departing John Lasseter.
  • Speaking of Pixar, The Incredibles 2 had the eight biggest opening weekend of all time in North America, as well as the biggest launch ever for an animated film, with $180 million.

Outside of the 11th hour decision that let the Roseanne cast and crew keep their jobs, nothing GOOD happened this week. Go back up and read that intro. I don’t want you to look back and think “Oh, that’s the week The Incredibles 2 made history.” No, I want you to remember the shit. We are knee deep in it, and I don’t know how much worse things have to get before they start to get better. For that reason, nothing had the West Week Ever.

15th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/15/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM):

Chris Hardwick: Thank sweet Baby Jesus it’s finally acceptable to say Chris Hardwick is a piece of shit! I could’ve told you that from back during the Singled Out days. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, his former girlfriend, Chloe Dykstra, posted an essay on Medium detailing the abuse that she suffered during their relationship. Not only was he emotionally abusive to Dykstra, but he also regularly made her have sex with him when she didn’t want to do it. Then, when she finally left him, he used his sway in geek circles to have her blacklisted.

Now, I don’t want to make light of what he did for some personal vendetta. All I’m saying is that none of these allegations surprise me. He always came off as an insecure little man who never got over the fact he was bullied in school. He’s the kind of person who’d keep a Shit List to “get back at his enemies” once he was in a position to do so. I never liked the cut of his jib, and there was just something I couldn’t put my finger on. To say these things online, however, were a nonstarter, ’cause he has something of a deplorable fan base. You know how folks hate the Rick & Morty fans? Well, these are basically the same guys. Say something about him, and they come mock you. Why? Because they’re the guys who’d do the same shit in his position. Anyway, he recently renamed his podcast to ID10T and moved from the Nerdist Network that he created, to the ID10T company that he also created. The Nerdist brand now belongs to Legendary, but he remains the CEO even if it’s just a vanity title at the moment, as he has very little day to day involvement. Still, it will be interesting to see how many folks in the ID10T/Nerdist family leave over these allegations.

So, it ain’t looking good for folks who assumed the Disney/Fox acquisition was a done deal. On the heels of the court approving the AT&T/Time-Warner merger, Comcast has submitted an offer for Fox for $65 billion, in an all-cash deal. While the cash aspect might be unattractive, due to the taxes involved, the deal is still worth more than Disney’s offer of $52.4 billion in stock. Plus, to sweeten the deal, Comcast has offered to pay the $1.5 billion “breakup fee” that Fox would have to pay Disney for backing out of their negotiations. So, it’s currently Disney’s game to lose, as they’ll need to come back with a more attractive offer. There’s a chance, though, that the X-Men and Fantastic Four aren’t “coming home” as soon as many previously assumed.

While things for Disney/Marvel are sort of in a holding pattern, things over at Warner Bros/DC Comics are crazy sauce right now! First off, President of DC Entertainment and President of Warner Bros Consumer Products, Diane Nelson, has officially left the company. She reportedly went on a leave of absence back in March to attend to family matters, but now it appears she will not be returning to her post. Insiders stress that she made the decision to leave, and wasn’t ousted.

But wait, there’s more! Earlier this week, it was reported that the Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, who worked closely with Nelson, would also be leaving the company. His CCO role will now be added to DC Publisher Jim Lee’s plate, while he’s being given something of a consolation production deal at Warner Bros, called Mad Ghost Productions. Unlike Nelson, it seems the writing was on the wall for Johns. The studio wasn’t happy with the response to Justice League, which he produced, not to mention the majority of the DCEU slate. In January, Johns sort of lost his seat at the table when Warner Bros promoted Walter Hamada to oversee the comic book movie division.

Still, I can’t help but think these two departures are related. Were they banging each other? Are they splitting off to form their own company, like Sterling Cooper did that time on Mad Men? I’m honestly not surprised about the Nelson thing, really. I have no clue what she’s going through, but I remember how…unprepared she seemed to be at the “DC in D.C.” event back in January. Sure, it was the inaugural edition of an untested concept, but her speech was more disjointedly off-the-cuff than prepared, and she struck me as someone who probably couldn’t have run a PTA meeting, let alone a company like DC Entertainment. Maybe it was just a bad morning for her, but it was clear that whatever she eventually left to deal with in March was already going on back then.

On the comics side of things, though, there’s some interesting things on the horizon. This week, we got more information about the upcoming event, Heroes In Crisis. Written by Tom King, who I hear has been doing some amazing stuff with the Batman book (and who I can confirm did an amazing job on Sheriff of Babylon), the story focuses on PTSD in the superhero community. In order to deal with it, and get heroes mentally prepared to get back on the streets, the DC Trinity of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman established Sanctuary. The facility is something of a secret amongst the hero community, and anonymity is kept because it keeps no patient records. Suddenly, however, some recent patients turn up dead, and a murder mystery is ignited.

I like the sound of this storyline because it’s something we don’t think about too often. Sure, there’s always a danger in incorporating real world events into comics (I’m looking at you, post-9/11 crying Dr. Doom!), but I could see how this would work. I also like how it seems like a more grounded story, where change might occur, but it isn’t necessarily on the “The Universe Will Never Be The Same!” level of most crossover events. It sort of reminds me of Identity Crisis, which is a story I didn’t hate as much as some others. Sure, I thought the ending/reveal was something of a cop out, but it also didn’t seem like a huge betrayal because I wasn’t all that familiar with the character. I kinda hate that they managed to slip “Crisis” into the title, as DC execs are bound to know how triggering that is for fans. Still, I like the more character-based stories, and I don’t feel you have to go to space just to make a storyline seem like it “matters”. So, I’ll definitely be picking this up. And then reading it 2 years from now, because that’s how far behind I am on my DC reading.

They said the Revolution would not be televised, but they were wrong. What they didn’t tell us was that it would end, not with a bang, but with a whimper. Yes, it is with heavy heart that I report that, after 28 seasons, production has ceased on The Jerry Springer Show. In a deal reported this week, The CW has acquired the show’s library to air in the afternoon spot being vacated by cancelled The Robert Irvine Show on their stations. While the door is open for possible tapings down the road, new episodes of the show are no longer in production. I will never fulfill a lifelong dream of sitting in an audience of drunken Spring Break college kids, yelling “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!”

I mean, I get it. Jerry’s 74 years old, and he’s made his money. When the show hit its peak, the guests seemed like a weird microcosm of American society. We’d watch the show and ask each other “Where do they find these people?” Now, we look around us, and that IS America. We won! No, no we didn’t. We’re a heartbeat away from Idiocracy. You could blame Springer for ushering in this era, or you could credit the show for giving us a preview of what we would become. We had the chance to stop it, but we decided we’d rather laugh at the cousin-fucking chair throwers. This just led to not only the reality show craze, but also inspired the World Wrestling Entertainment “Attitude Era”.

What was always interesting to me was Springer’s pivot. I’ve been with the show from the very beginning, and you wouldn’t recognize those first few seasons, where he was doing his best Phil Donahue impression. He had serious, sometimes heartwarming topics, like little kids with HIV and how they were coping. Then, in the mid 90s, the fights began. The chairs took to the skies. The security budget increased. At some point, they redesigned the set to look like a back alley and installed a stripper pole. The lower they sank, the more popular they became. It was the smart, conservative diligent student who realized she’d be more popular if she said “Screw homework!” and showed a bit more cleavage. It got so bad that the show came under fire for its most outrageous bits, prompting them to do more cutaways, yet it provided more footage to fuel their Girls Gone Wild-esque Jerry Springer: Too Hot For TV video series.

I’ve often wondered which was the REAL Jerry Springer: the early nuDonahue OR the modern-day White Trash ringmaster? The man’s earlier political career was tarnished when a raid on a massage parlor revealed a check that he had used to pay for a prostitute (People used checks to pay for hookers? Can you imagine how many of those had to have bounced?! Man, I miss the old days!). So, was the gentle, caring early Springer something of an image restoration, and in his older age he decided he just didn’t care anymore? Or is he still that Springer, but he’s essentially doing all this because it’s what the people want?

I’ve also been impressed that the production aspect of the show is one of show business’s greatest kept secrets. I mean, it’s been almost 30 years, and we still don’t really know how they pull it off. We know how wrestling is done. We know how some of the greatest magic tricks are done. But we still don’t really know what goes into producing an average episode of The Jerry Springer Show. Where DO they find these people? Are they paid? Are they actors? If they are actors, none of them have ever made it big. There’s no footage of a young Benicio Del Toro on stage for his love of midget strippers. Sure, there have been stories. For example, Lunchbox, who’s a morning radio personality as part of country radio’s The Bobby Bones Show, went on Springer when he was in high school. He admits he lied, though, about his age and his reason for being there. So, that’s one case. From that, we learn they didn’t vet their guests that well, but then why would they? Some of those stories are so fantastical that you wouldn’t want to prove them false, and there’s no real legal ramification for putting it out there without researching it. I mean, it’s entertainment, not a scientific breakthrough needing FDA approval.

Anyway, it’s truly the end of an era, which may not be a bad thing. Nobody could really keep up with Springer’s outlandish show, even though they tried. Some eventually found their niche, like Maury ruling the paternity test roost. The latest trend in syndicated daytime talk shows are known as “conflict talkers”. This is your Steve Wilkos, your Robert Irvine, your Jeremy Kyle. It’s a genre of show where middle-aged White men (usually muscle-bound and/or former cops) yell at poor people. “You need to respect your mom!” “Close your legs and open your eyes!” “Why won’t you let him see his kids?!” In all honesty, it’s a natural progression from the Springer era. Everyone had their fun back then, and this is the wind-down, where you’re forced to look back at what you did. Meanwhile, the more outrageous Springerites have moved over to the world of court shows, just as they used to migrate to the dating shows back at the turn of the century.

My grandmother used to love Springer. She’d pretend she was appalled by it, but her 85 year old self loved to watch people fight. Not boxing fights, but visceral “real people” altercations. She also used to love any episode of Married…with Children when the Bundys grew closer by throwing down with another family. She was an odd bird at times, and I loved her for it. She’s been gone for almost 20 years now, but this is kind of the end of an era of something we shared. Thanks for the memories, Jerry. Until we meet again, you take care of yourself, and we’ll try to take care of each other.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of guesting on quite a few friends’ podcasts. One that was especially good to me was the Cold Slither Podcast Network. I was invited on pretty early, and they always supported me during the Will’s World of Wonder years. So, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that CSPN chairman/president/CEO, Classick Materia, announced his retirement from the network last week. Now known to the world simply as “Jamal”, his life is in a different place than when he started the Cold Slither Podcast, and then expanded it into a full network with a slate of shows. I’ve been on the flagship show, I’ve been on Comic Book Chronicles, and I’ve had some of the most fun on The Classick Team-Up. So, I do feel like I’m losing a small part of myself here. Still, I understand his decision and wish him well. And it’s not like the CSPN is going away. No, he’s leaving it in capable hands. Still, I don’t know those dudes, so they ain’t asking me on anytime soon!

It’s not all endings, however. We’ve also got some beginnings! My pal Kevin Hellions runs TeamHellions.com, and he’s got a new thrifting column called T.H.R.I.F.T. that you need to check out. When I was doing Thrift Justice, I always meant to do “Tips from the road”, giving folks advice on how to find stuff. Instead, it turned into “Look at my cool shit!” Kevin here has excelled where I fell short. Great stuff!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Remember when you bought a new outfit that really didn’t fit your personality, but were excited to wear it to school because you thought it would make you cool? But, instead, everyone just laughed at you? That’s pretty much what happened to IHOP this week, when they announced that they were temporarily changing their name to IHOb, for International House of Burgers. Apparently they’ve got some new steak burger line they’re trying to promote, and this is what their genius marketing people came up with. It’s sad because it shows a lack of commitment. Last week, when the change was teased, nowhere did they mention it was temporary. We got the impression they’d be updating signs, menus, etc. Now that we know it’s just a temporary marketing ploy, they just look sad.
  • Not everything in Washington sucks these days, as the Capitals won the Stanley Cup finals. There was a parade and everything. I’m not a sports guy, so I missed all that, but I know folks are happy. They’d be happier if it were football or baseball instead of hockey, but they’ll take what they can get.
  • CBS continues its retooling of the upcoming Cedric The Entertainer-starring sitcom, The Neighborhood. When I did my upfronts post, I mentioned that star Josh Lawson had been replaced by New Girl‘s Max Greenfield. At the time, my only comfort was knowing that Dreama Walker would be on the show. Well, that’s over, as she’s been replaced by 2 Broke Girls‘ Beth Behrs. I already had issues with the one-note nature of the show, and these recasts don’t fill me with any additional confidence.
  • Somehow, author James Patterson and former President Bill Clinton were paired together to write a novel. And someone, somewhere thought it would be a good idea to send them on a book tour on the tail end of the #MeToo movement. I take it that person is currently looking for work. In a pseudo-contentious interview with NBC’s Craig Melvin, Clinton said that he never apologized to former intern/cigar holder Monica Lewinsky, nor does he feel he owes her an apology – all of this while Patterson sat idly by, with “I just wanted to talk about my book” clearly plastered across his face.
  • The Miss America Pageant will be eliminating the swimsuit competition, at which point I feel we should just call a spade a spade and get rid of the whole thing. It’s not that I feel women need to be objectified in swimwear, but it’s that I feel the pageant as a whole doesn’t really offer much more than that. It’s all just surface appraisals, so why start acting like you care about a woman’s character and all that? It was founded in 1921, so do it til 2021 and wrap that shit up with the rest of the historical artifacts.
  • FX has renewed Atlanta for season 3. I actually finally finished season 2 over the weekend, and I would have had no problem if it had ended as something of a 2-season “experiment”. I felt season 2 was weird solely for the sake of being weird. Glover deftly handles that sort of material, but I just wanted some episodes I didn’t have to analyze or Google to get the whole picture. Considering season 2 was “Robbin’ Season”, which saw everyone have something taken away from them, I really hope season 3 is a little more positive for all involved.
  • TBS reversed its renewal of the Conan O’Brien-produced sitcom People of Earth. It had been renewed for a 3rd season last fall, with the season already written, but the show’s creator took to Twitter to report that it wouldn’t be shot. This makes me worry for The Detour, which is a recently-renewed favorite of mine, also on TBS, which was never a ratings darling.
  • The Tony Awards were cattier than ever this year, as Robert DeNiro said “Fuck Trump” on the live telecast, while Neil Patrick Harris started a Twitter feud with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom. And a bunch of shows won some awards, but none of them were Hamilton, so nobody outside the theatre world cared.
  • Keiynan Lonsdale is leaving his role of Kid Flash on both The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, reportedly for “personal reasons”. Yeah, I’ve got nothing snarky to say there. He seems like a good kid.
  • Bill Cosby’s wife, Camille, is reportedly ready to file for divorce. Bitch, you had 30-plus years to leave him. Bye!
  • The showrunners for Star Trek: Discovery, Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg, have been ousted, with Alex Kurtzman taking over as showrunner for season 2. Half of the season has already been completed, but the pair were accused of budget overruns, as well as mistreatment of writing staff. Akiva Goldsman, who came on as executive producer last season will also not be returning.
  • Silver & Black, the Silver Sable/Black Cat Spider-Man spinoff film that nobody wanted, has lost its release date, and has been delayed indefinitely. I guess they’re taking notes from the Universal Fancon folks…
  • It’s a confusing story, so I’m not even going to try to make sense of it. Let’s just say that Stan Lee has been granted a restraining order against his supposed business partner Key Morgan. Morgan has served as Lee’s “caretaker” since the death of Lee’s wife, but many suspect he is responsible for elder abuse of Lee. This story has been going for the last 6 months, and only seems to get crazier.
  • We got three trailers last week worth talking about. I’m running short on time, so I’ll use the In Living Color review scale. Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Hated it!); The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Hated it!); Bumblebee (Two Snaps Up!)
  • Speaking of trailers, though, here’s one for a movie, Hearts Beat Loud, that I’d really like to see. It’s out now, but nobody’s gonna see it, so hopefully it finds life on DVD/streaming.

Here comes the swerve! You know how one of the four in the intro pic gets the West Week Ever? Not today, suckas! I really should’ve written a post last week, ’cause I was scared I wouldn’t get to do this. I mean, nothing really happened in the world of pop culture last week, but this week was something of a shitshow. Still, nothing GOOD happened like this:

Charlotte “Charley” Bruce West was born last Tuesday at 10:33 PM, at 7 lbs and 1 oz. She was originally due May 30th, so you can see she’s pretty stubborn (she didn’t get that from me!). While her older sister took a good 24 hours to come put, this delivery was shorter than Avengers: Infinity War. Her mom didn’t even have time to get an epidural, ’cause she’s a warrior like that!

Anyway, I now have two kids – two daughters at that. I walk around my house, mumbling “Two kids…two kids.” It’s much more difficult than I thought it would be. I mean, changing a diaper while the older one is climbing on your back? It’s like a demented reality show! Anyway, I now have two kids. My mom only had one, so she can’t tell me shit. Every time she opens her mouth, I’m like “Two kids. I won.” So, to me, that’s the best thing that happened in popular culture the past 2 weeks. You can have your Stanley Cup and your CMT awards. I’ve got Charley, and she had the West Week Ever.

01st Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/1/18

by Will

There are some weeks where I actually dread writing this post, and this is one of them. I mean, a LOT happened, but nothing I’m really excited about. Still, I guess it all needs to be discussed. Let’s get to it, shall we?

So, I guess we’ve gotta talk about Roseanne. I pretty much went on record that I wasn’t just dying to watch the revival after it was announced it would have more of a political slant, with the Conners as Trump supporters. Now, before any of the 2 Trump supporters who might be reading this get all butthurt, my problem with this is that I didn’t feel like it was inline with what Roseanne Conner would be, regardless of Roseanne Barr’s personal beliefs. The problem with “separating the art from the artist” is that it becomes increasingly harder to do when the artist controls the product and imbues the product with their own personal quirks. While some of you may feel he’s “making America great again”, Trump has a history of being a bullshitter, con artist, womanizer, etc. If there’s one good thing I could say about the character of Roseanne Conner, it’s that she had a really good bullshit detector. I feel like the characters of Dan and Roseanne Conner, in this case, were appropriated to expound on a view that someone, somewhere was trying to get across. On the one hand, you could say, “Well, they’re lower middle class, and he promised to bring jobs.” On the other, though, I don’t think Roseanne Conner would’ve trusted a guy whose sole claim to fame during Roseanne’s original career rise was simply that he was “The Rich Guy In New York”. She would’ve seen right through his bullshit.

So, the revival seemed like they wanted to play both sides. I mean, they establish the Trump thing in the premiere, and then don’t touch on it again. All of the other episodes seem to sort of dip their toe into class anxiety, like “What does it mean when Muslims move next door?” In a heavyhanded Archie Bunker kind of way, Roseanne has her beliefs challenged, and is supposedly better off by the end of the episode. Except for the Trump thing. It was thrown out to establish a foundation, and then abandoned. In many ways, it did more harm than good, even if there are Conservatives who applauded the show for “having the guts to go there.” Anyway, the whole having her beliefs challenged aspect is all well and good – if it were based on any truth.

I didn’t want to support the show because I felt Roseanne had become a vile human being in the time since the original run ended. There’s Conservative, and then there’s Nut Job, and she’s the latter. Were I a Conservative, I’d hate to be lumped in with the likes of her. “Well, what has she done, Will?” First, there’s the Heeb photo shoot, where she dressed as Hitler while putting Jew cookies into an oven. Then, there’s the Twitter feed, which is almost as incendiary as that of…someone else you’re familiar with. No, after all of that, I had no real interest in giving her ratings. I did, however, wonder if she was still trying to exhibit an air of inclusiveness that I felt was in the original show. So, I found myself reading episode recaps, and it seems like she was trying to recapture a lot of that old “magic”. I actually did watch the Muslim episode because it was on in the background at my mom’s one night. After seeing it, I might’ve forgiven the show. I might’ve even binged on the episodes I missed over the summer. Then, any goodwill the show engendered was immediately thrown out the window the minute the Real Roseanne took to her Twitter account.

So, some backstory: Roseanne was talking politics on her feed, as she’s wont to do, and Valerie Jarrett was mentioned. Jarrett, a top aide to President Obama, is also a Black woman. So, Roseanne basically called one of Obama’s top people an ape and tied her to the Muslim Brotherhood. And, rightfully so, people were upset. Little did we realize what would transpire in just a few hours, as ABC announced that it was cancelling the show. Over the next day or so, there was a debate back and forth over whether she should’ve been fired, and how it sucked for all of the cast and crew who were now out of jobs. A couple of Roseanne’s TV kids, including Sara Gilbert and Michael Fishman, “threw her under the bus” (in her words) by tweeting in opposition of her statement. Roseanne later tried to say that the Twitter tirade was the result of the fact that she had taken Ambien, at which point the makers of Ambien popped up and denied her quicker than Peter denied Jesus all three times in the Bible.

Meanwhile, folks really started grasping at straws, claiming this was a “double standard” or a “violation of freedom of speech”. One thing I read a lot were people saying “They fire Roseanne, but let them say whatever they want on The View, and nothing happens.” That’s not true at all. You just don’t hear about that stuff as much because nobody gives a shit about The View. Panelist Joy Behar insinuated that Vice President Mike Pence might have mental problems because he claims that God speaks directly to him, and she was *forced* to apologize for that on air. Don’t say that “nothing happens”! As for “freedom of speech”, sit on back, because a lot of y’all in the cheap seats need to hear this message: Freedom of speech only protects you from the government. It means all of jack shit in private industry. ABC cancelled the show because they knew the repercussions could negatively affect their bottom line. They didn’t censor Roseanne. They just made a business decision.

I’ve got to say that I’m a bit surprised the show got cancelled. I mean, it was the biggest show of the season, and ABC had clearly stumbled onto a cash cow. Yes, I get the gesture they were trying to make, but keep in mind that these were the same folks who greenlit the show in the first place. ABC President Channing Dungey made the call to end the show, but she also made the call to pick it up. There was no regime change in the middle of those decisions. Frankly, I don’t even feel like this is the worst thing Roseanne did THIS YEAR, but I guess it was the straw that broke the camel’s back? It’s just odd to me that a network that was so squeamish about airing a Black-ish episode about the NFL kneeling protests is now trying to earn back some brownie points for slapping down Roseanne.

I also think it was crazy for all of the Viacom networks to pull the reruns of the old show. This is the same thing that happened to Bill Cosby when that shit went down. Everyone yanked the reruns of The Cosby Show. It’s an empty gesture because we all know they’ll eventually come back. Stations pay for a certain amount of airings when they buy a syndication package, and you damn well better believe they’re going to get their money’s worth. It’s like the Hulk Hogan thing to me. WWE scrubbed him from EVERYTHING after his slurs went public, but there’s a constant campaign to reinstate him. We all know it’s not a matter of IF, but rather WHEN. And it’s the same here. Roseanne doesn’t need this money. She doesn’t need the show. It was something for her to do. At this point, this whole thing probably just emboldened her to be a voice for the extreme right, akin to SNL‘s Victoria Jackson, without the failed acting career. Anyway, she fucked over her cast and crew, but at the end of the day, Roseanne will be fine.

Then, The Left just had to go and fall in the swimming pool. I know I’ve touched on this before, but I despise what I call “Late Night Liberal Smuggery”. I hate all of the talk show monologues that get on a soapbox about politics, yet nothing changes. It’s why I was never a fan of Jon Stewart. Even when we’re winning, we’re still somehow losing and want to be snarky about it. That snark gets old. The biting edge eventually dulls. I like Trevor Noah. I have his book and have seen his standup specials, but I’m not the guy to watch The Daily Show every night, yelling “Preach!” to the screen. So, I was especially not much of a fan of Samantha Bee when she came along. It’s like she’s Jon Stewart, but feels she has to work harder because she’s a woman. That’s probably true in comedy, entertainment, and politics, so I’m not trying to take away her work ethic and whatnot. No, what I will take issue with, however, is her inability to read the room.

On Wednesday, Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt”. I take it that’s a vagina without fecks? I dunno. Why did she do this? Well, there’s primarily two reasons. First off, Ivanka’s apparently profiting from her position by being granted special patents from China for her product line. It’s a total conflict of interest. Meanwhile, she posts pics of herself with her kids at the same time her father has emboldened ICE to split up families and deport parents. So, her conflict of interest, combined with her perceived insensitivity, seems to have triggered this. But The Right were NOT having it! “Double standard!” “TBS should fire her like ABC fired Roseanne!” And ya know, I wouldn’t have marched if TBS had cancelled her. Again, it would’ve been a business decision. I think Bee made a gross miscalculation thinking she could get away with that smoothly.

This isn’t a question of “Well, was she right?” I think timing is everything, especially in comedy. Had it been pre-taped a few weeks ago, I’d probably let it pass. If she filmed it after the Roseanne shit went down, however, then that was just not smart. I’m just saying she never should’ve thought she’d fire that joke off successfully. And that’s the thing: it’s not a joke. It came from a place of passion and emotion, so you can’t write it off as humor, even if it was said on a “comedy show”. What Ivanka is doing IS wrong, but I’ve always said HOW you say things is just as important as WHAT you say. This wasn’t the way to do that.

What I’m not here for, however, is the pearl-clutching from The Right. We had an entire election season of Hillary being gleefully called the same thing. There were t-shirts emblazoned with it. These are the same “Fuck your feelings, snowflakes!” folks who now get offended when someone acknowledges that Sarah Huckabee Sanders looks like Shrek. Ya can’t have it both ways. Ted Nugent called Hillary a cunt and he got invited to the Trump White House. It’s like the old anti-drug PSA: The Right can’t get mad at The Left, ’cause “I learned it by watching YOU.”

And no, the statements of Roseanne and Bee are NOT the same. Roseanne’s was racial in tone, and compared a Black woman to an ape – something that White people have done for centuries to degrade Black people. Bee called Ivanka feckless (meaning “irresponsible”) and a cunt, which is self explanatory. Think of “Cunt” like “Super Bitch³”. While seen by some as degrading to women, it’s not degrading to a racial group with a history of being oppressed. It’s like the statements by both women went to the same school, but they certainly weren’t in the same grade. Meanwhile, the White House is calling for TBS to fire Bee. This, folks, is where your cries of “Freedom of speech!” should come in. This is a violation of the First Amendment, spearheaded by an administration determined to defeat all of its perceived enemies. Thousand of people are dead in Puerto Rico, yet the President takes time out of his busy schedule of ignoring that by tweeting about how he was still waiting for his own apology from ABC for the “horrible statements” they’ve said about him. What a fucking petulant child. And I realize I can only say that because I’m a nobody with a vanity blog and not someone with a national cable TV show.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Star Jason Momoa and director Corin Hardy have left the remake of The Crow. I really don’t know why they keep trying to make this happen. That movie is the Heath Ledger of movies, as we’d have completely forgotten it had Brandon Lee not died filming the original.
  • Amazon has officially picked up The Expanse for its fourth season after it was cancelled by Syfy a few weeks ago.
  • Red Sonja herself, Brigitte Nielsen, announced that she is pregnant with her 5th child at the age of 54. Her husband is 39, and I’m just glad she never popped out any kids during that whole Flavor Flav phase…
  • For you car folks, Matt LeBlanc will be leaving Top Gear after its upcoming 4th season.
  • Maybe the third time is the charm for Locke & Key, as a 3rd pilot for the comic adaptation has been ordered by Netflix.
  • L.A.’s Finest, the Bad Boys TV show spinoff starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba, may not be dead after all. After NBC passed on the pilot, apparently Charter Communications entered into discussions to acquire the series to air on their Spectrum service.
  • Sesame Workshop filed a suit against The Happytime Murders because they felt that the trailer was damaging their brand’s image. The film is actually directed by Muppets creator Jim Henson’s son, Brian Henson. The judge threw out the case, siding with the film.
  • Jamie Foxx will star in the film reboot of 90s Image comics hero Spawn. I can’t tell if this is a major coup for the Spawn brand OR if Jamie really needs money to keep hiding his secret relationship with Katie Holmes. I mean, he hosts a Name That Tune rip-off on Fox, so something tells me he may not be the best with money. Anyway, the film will be directed by Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, which is laughable to me seeing as how he hasn’t even inspired *action* in his own toy line for the past 20 years. I really don’t see how he’s gonna pull this off.
  • Andrew Lincoln is reportedly leaving The Walking Dead after next season, with Norman Reedus taking over as the lead. This is quite the departure from the comic, where the character of Rick Grimes is pretty pivotal with all of the goings on. The show, however, solidified its willingness to diverge from the source material with the way that it handled Rick’s son, Carl.
  • Apparently there’s some kind of rap beef going on between Drake and Pusha-T. It seems like Drake was just soft-shoeing it, and then Pusha clapped back by revealing that Drake has a secret child. Man, Pusha went for the jugular! That’s like if you got in a fight with your girlfriend in public over something stupid, and she retorts with “Well, yo’ dick ain’t shit!” Anyway, it appears that funeral services for Drake will be announced shortly.
  • Last week I told you that Fox had entered into a deal to air WWE SmackDown starting in 2019. Well, now there are reports that they’ve also entered into a deal to carry the WWE NXT brand on Fox and FS1 channels.
  • In light of ABC now having another half hour to fill on Tuesdays next fall, there are reports that they are fastracking a spinoff of The Middle, starring Eden Sher’s character, Sue Heck. I am SO here for this, even though I felt The Middle had the perfect finale. Here’s hoping this is more Frasier than Joey.

I guess I’ve gotta give the West Week Ever to Solo: A Star Wars Story? Is that how this works? Wait, why am I asking y’all? This is MY site. I mean, the movie has made $200 million worldwide in its first week, and I believe it was director Ron Howard’s biggest opening. That said, it’s still seen as “underperforming”. While I wasn’t rooting for Solo to bomb, I do hope it causes them to rethink this whole Annual Star Wars Movie strategy. Star Wars just isn’t special anymore.

As I said on social media, Star Wars went from being your rich uncle who bequeaths his fortune to you to being your grandparents who visit every year, and somehow think the $5 bill they slip you can still buy anything in this day and age. I am far from a discipline of the franchise, but I always felt like a lot of what made Star Wars special was The Wait. I’m talking about the anxiety that built between the ending of The Empire Strikes Back and the release of Return of the Jedi. The anticipation of the Prequel Trilogy (contrary to how folks feel now, y’all were looking forward to those things at the time!). Force Friday toy releases, timed to coincide with the first film after one of those extended waits. From outside the fandom, Star Wars always seemed to have a “Good Things Come To Those Who Wait” thing about it, and I think there’s just an embarrassment of riches right now that kinda tarnishes the brand for me. I haven’t seen Solo yet, so this isn’t a knock on quality, but rather business strategy.

I had a friend compare this to Marvel, saying if Superhero Fatigue hasn’t set in, why is it OK to assume Star Wars Fatigue is a thing? He posited that the Marvel machine could be applied the same way to Star Wars, but I just don’t think that’s true. I realize Star Wars is doing the whole One Saga Film, One Spinoff model, but I often wonder what will happen when the Skywalker Saga truly ends. I mean, folks claim they want new things, but their actions show otherwise. A lot of fans hated The Force Awakens because it was too much of a rehash of A New Hope. Then, The Last Jedi offered something new, and it proceeded to destroy friendships and families because it “wasn’t Star Wars“. I wish Disney would take a parental stance on this franchise, and just say “If you can’t appreciate what we give you, then we’ll just take it away from you for a while.” That, then, would trigger a Wait. And hopefully the fans will either discover a newfound appreciation for what they have or they’ll find something else to tickle their fancy. Either way, a lot of Star Wars fans right now don’t deserve Star Wars, but there’s too much money to be made, so look for Star Wars: Lobot’s Reckoning coming soon to a theater near you. Anyway, this is me, begrudgingly saying that Solo: A Star Wars Story had the West Week Ever.

04th May2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/4/18

by Will

 

It has been a week. Over the past seven days, I’ve had Internet fights with racist veterans, old friends, and complete strangers. Last Friday I bought a house, only to immediately discover that everything in my mother’s house was breaking down. I’ve been through a flood, a new hot water heater, 2 unresponsive plumbing companies, and 2 failed inspections. So, it would be safe to say that I’m in a bit of a mood…

So, I had been really looking forward to writing about Avengers: Infinity War. I had a lot of thoughts. Sure, a lot of folks left the Thursday night showings with their minds blown, but I wasn’t really happy. I had to process a lot of what I’d seen. There were simply SO many moving parts. I needed to really grasp what I’d seen. I saw it again with my wife on Saturday morning, and I think I came back with a better understanding of the film. Then the weekend happened. On top of the rampant speculation that follows the release of these movies, I also found myself in the middle of drama over on Facebook. It turned into this MCU vs DCEU stuff that I really didn’t want to get into. This shit is about men in capes and tights. It’s not Schindler’s List. Anyway, it kinda put a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing, so I’m not that excited to talk about it anymore. But “The show must go on!”, so here we are (NOTE: I also owe @zacshipley an apology ’cause we were supposed to podcast about all this before my world started crumbling apart, as detailed above!).

Oh, yeah – SPOILERS

Let me preface this all to say that I am amazed by the tapestry woven by this whole feat. You can like or hate the MCU, but you have to give credit where it’s due that 18 movies culminated in this payoff. The Russos did an amazing job handling characters who weren’t originally theirs (Directors Taika Waititi and James Gunn pitched in to make sure their characters’ voices – Thor and the Guardians, respectively – stayed true). For fans of the world that Kevin Feige has guided, this was pretty much everything you could’ve wanted. Again, SO many moving parts, but they handled it deftly. If you haven’t seen all the films, well, in the words of the great poet laureate Jay-Z, “I feel bad for you, son.” I feel bad because this thing probably made very little sense to you. I joked on social media that my new favorite thing is following Black folks who were introduced to the MCU via Black Panther, only to check out Infinity War and leave, going “What the f-?!”

There’s a review from The New Yorker making the rounds, where the writer basically says that the film is just a culmination of ads for other Marvel films. It lends itself to the argument that there was nothing to grasp onto for the newcomer. First, you’ve got to ask if a newcomer should even be watching this film, and I answer that with a resounding “No!” This isn’t gatekeeper mentality, either. It’s just that you won’t get the full experience of what’s happening. It’s like watching the season finale of a show you’ve never seen before. You might be able to follow it, but you’re still gonna miss some important stuff. The problem with the review is that most folks who are bashing it are too close to the source material to understand where he’s coming from. He’s not wrong. Take, for instance, how the movie treats Steve Rogers.

Steve Rogers is treated as a real life “splash page” in the film (if you’re not a comic fan, a splash is 1-2 pages that showcase some impressive artwork, typically of a battle or character introduction, with minimal dialog or panels to detract from its impact). He shows up in the shadows, catches Proxima Midnight’s staff, and emerges to look badass. Later, he flexes on General Ross (“Who is THAT guy?” asks an unfamiliar audience member), still looking badass but there’s no real context. Yes, you’re reading this, yelling “He’s mad because of the Sokovia Accords!” Yeah, I know that, but I’m immersed in this shit. Still, this film does a poor job of explaining WHY this group is on the outs. The mention of the Accords is brief, and you’d really only get it if you’d seen Civil War – which you probably did, but not everyone did.

There is no substance to Steve Rogers in this entire movie. He shows up, looks badass, the end. Outside of the blurbs on the toy packaging, we don’t know what he and his team have been doing the past 2 years. We don’t know how those years, combined with the events of Civil War, have affected him. They choose a weak rendition of “Show, Don’t Tell”, by giving him a beard, long hair, and a darker costume, but that’s it. Steve Rogers is basically a man who has lost his religion. His religion was Uncle Sam, and he began to sour on it in The Winter Soldier. It was completely Uncle Bad Touch after Civil War. So who is he now? WHAT is he now? How has it all changed him? Is he better for it, or is he now a man with nothing more to lose? Yes, this movie had a lot of moving parts, so we couldn’t get what we wanted in terms of deep character moments for everyone. Still, seeing as how he’s the leader of this whole Earth-bound defense force, I’d kinda like to know more about the man leading everyone into battle. The Captain America movies had done a really good job of showing us the growth of Steve Rogers, and I just didn’t get that here. Oh, and folks love to fawn over everything about and from Wakanda, but those shield gauntlets were stupid. It made Agent Coulson’s TV budget holo shield look better in comparison, which is QUITE the feat!

Another problem I had: The Black Order. I’ve seen the debates on various Facebook pages, but the Black Order didn’t live up to their hype. Now, I realize they’re recent additions to the Thanos mythos, having been created by Jonathan Hickman in his recent Avengers run, but I just never felt they displayed WHY they should be feared. These are the “Children of Thanos”, by his side as he annihilated 50% of PLANETS. They come to Earth, and fail to rack up ONE KILL. Now, sure we can talk about the “formidable human spirit” or how “anything is possible when your back is against the wall”, but Black Widow and Akoye should not have survived that fight. I don’t care if Black Widow is the best graduate of the Red Room or that Okoye is the fiercest warrior in Wakanda. They’re facing an unfamiliar, extraterrestrial threat that kills people like it’s their job. Because it IS. People are saying “It was an even match when it was 1:1, and the Black Order took the L when folks teamed up against them.” Doesn’t matter. They couldn’t even successfully kill a ROBOT. Daddy had to come finish that job. So, I felt they went out like some bitches, even if I do want Ebony Maw to record my voicemail message.

Next problem: Because we, as fans, are so close to the source material – and the business behind it – it’s hard to really take the “deaths” seriously when you know the business side of things. First of all, I wasn’t affected by the deaths because they weren’t graphic. They weren’t impactful. Folks just turn to dust. Remember how I was disappointed by the Black Order? That could’ve been rectified here. Instead, it was more like the characters were *erased* than that they died. The only one that held any weight was Peter Parker’s, which was reportedly ad-libbed. Still, when the vast majority of the stars of the movies that Marvel has in the pipeline are the ones who “die”, it’s like “Whatever”.

And people love to be so smug with their “It’s comics. Characters always comes back from death.” Well, yes and no. Yes, it’s a common trope today, but that wasn’t always true. It wasn’t really until Superman where publishers realized the life/death yo-yo was a cash cow they could return to time and again. No, because the MCU hasn’t established this to be true within the confines of what has been set up.

 

One thing a lot of folks don’t seem to reflect upon is that the MCU has more ties to the Ultimate Marvel Universe than the regular, “616” Marvel Universe. Sam Jackson Nick Fury, Hawkeye with a Black Ops background, – just a few examples of how The Avengers film franchise owes more to the widescreen cinematic depiction of the team in The Ultimates comic than it does to the team seen in The Avengers comic. The Ultimate Universe, as a publishing imprint, ran between 2000-2016, and in that time death meant DEATH. When a character died there, they stayed dead (Don’t talk to me about Peter Parker because I’m proving a point here, and I’m convinced Bendis wrote that arc because someone was holding his family for ransom). Though Jeph Loeb’s Ultimatum event is generally considered a poorly-written gorefest, a shit ton of important characters died, and STAYED dead, forcing that universe and its characters to move forward and grow from it. With that said, the MCU has never really established that resurrections occur. There’s the Coulson thing, but it’s not exactly a routine occurrence, so they still could’ve played it that way here. Instead, though, they took all their cash cows with active contracts and sequels in the works, and “killed” them. Even if we KNOW they’re gonna “comic book” it and bring them back, they kinda shot the pooch in the selection of who stays and who goes.

In true comic fashion, it’s a story where ultimately nothing happens. Sure, there are some amazing set pieces and character moments, but it plays like one of those summer comic events where “The Marvel Universe will never be the same!!!!” Until next summer, when something else happens over 6-10 horribly delayed issues, and we get the same threat/promise. I feel almost like Feige and the lot lied to us when they promised that Infinity War was no longer a Part 1 & Part 2 deal, since it told its own story, just as Avengers 4 would. Nah, that dog don’t hunt. This is clearly a Part 1, even if not in name, and there is no complete story here. There’s a hell of a first (and possibly half of a second) act, but this is the MCU’s The Empire Strikes Back. At least we don’t have to wait 3 years for the resolution.

Last thing I hated: the after credit sequence. I think it might be the first one to make me groan. Why? Because I’m NO fan of Captain Marvel. I’ve followed her for some time, and I’m not against her, but I’ve never really understood the “Carol Corps” and the fan base that has developed around her.

If you’re not familiar, Carol Danvers was a pretty forgettable character for the first the 40 years of her existence. She went back and forth between codenames, calling herself Ms. Marvel, Binary, and Warbird at different times. Until about 10 years ago, her biggest claim to fame was that X-Men member Rogue stole her powers of flight and super strength (also why these powers are missing in the X-Men films, since Fox didn’t have the rights to Ms Marvel to do this). Then, about 10 years ago in the House of M event, Carol gets a glimpse of what she could be. Instead of a recovering alcoholic, C-list jobber, she could actually be the most powerful hero in the universe. So, she really starts to apply herself, and gets promoted from Ms. to Captain. And in a rare feat for comics, it stuck.

Usually when a former sidekick or lesser hero gets a “promotion”, it’s to goose sales and it’s temporary. With Captain Marvel, though, we’re ten years in and it seems like she’s going to stay this way. Good for her. My problem is I just don’t feel like having her Deus Ex Machina her way into Avengers 4 to save the day. As far as the comics go, she’s just not a likable character. Now, there’s some argument to be made that “Maybe you just don’t like strong women!” I don’t think that’s it, YET I feel like she’s written in a way to force folks to have that conversation. She was on the wrong side of history with the Superhero Registration Act. She was on the wrong side of history in Civil War II. In big crossover events, she tends to be written like a headstrong character who’s not really a great team player. “But, the same could be said about Tony Stark, Will!” Yeah, but he’s rich and charismatic. Can’t the same about Carol. Outside of her own book, she’s just kinda written like a fuck-up, yet I’m supposed to take her as the most powerful hero on Earth. Maybe I’ll gain a new appreciation for her after her movie drops in March, but right now, I’m just like “Ugh.”

Oh, and what is Nick Fury’s job now? I mean, he fakes his own death in The Winter Soldier, returns to the land of the living with helicarrier, like “What up, motherfuckers!” in Age of Ultron, and now he’s here. He has his own Personal White Woman (TM) in Maria Hill, but he ain’t the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Right now, he’s a private citizen with his own flying death machine, which really needs to be explained. Or maybe it doesn’t. Hell, in the comics, S.H.I.E.L.D. has 2 different “Executive Directors” at the same time, depending on what book you’re reading.

So, since we slogged through all of that, and you might be mad, let’s get to what I liked: All of it. Despite the fanboy nitpick stuff I just pointed out, I really had an amazingly enjoyable time at this movie. I just take things further than the casual moviegoer, since I’ve sort of lived a lot of this stuff for the past 25 years. The things I pointed out didn’t make me hate the movie. They were just observations I had while others swore the film was perfect.

  • I loved Thanos, even if basic knowledge about population growth and sustainability point out the flaws in his plan. “Why didn’t he just create more resources?” Shut up! The movie would’ve been 10 minutes long, and you’d be pissed you paid $15 to see that. And how many times do you get to see the villain win?
  • Thank sweet baby Jesus that M’Baku survived. I was ready to throw my popcorn if he turned to dust.
  • Even though I have no clue how it’s possible, I’m glad that Thor’s little soliloquy established that Thanos only killed HALF of his people, so there’s still hope for Valkyrie and Korg to pop up in the future. I’m just imagining the potential showdown between Valkyrie and Sif (who ain’t dead ‘cause she didn’t take time off from her struggling NBC show just to come back and get killed. Respect!).
  • Even though some folks hated it, I enjoyed the erectile dysfunction joke with Hulk. When he finally does appear next movie, it’ll mean something, and hopefully he’ll get redemption. Still, it had to happen to prove that Thanos was a formidable foe. If he scared Hulk, then he should scare everyone.
  • Xandar got destroyed offscreen, so I’m glad I didn’t have to watch Nova Prime Glenn Close get killed along with John C. Reilly and his little pink daughter. And, with the Corps’ destruction, it certainly does pave the way for a Nova film – just as Feige’s been teasing lately.
  • Thor was SO good here. It’s a damn shame it took them 3 movies to get him right, but with the original team’s contracts expiring, I hope he’ll come back for more. He seems to be having as much fun as we are watching him, and they’ll need a thru-line from the original team to whatever is left standing at the end of the next film. The Avengers cannot live by Black Widow kicks alone.
  • I was glad that this film “fixed” the MCU timeline ‘cause I was really messed up by that “8 Years Ago” from Homecoming, yet Tony establishes here that the Battle of New York was SIX years ago. I know, fanboy problems.

Thoughts about Avengers 4:

  • I don’t think Gamora comes back in this film. I think she’s in the Soul Stone, and I could totally see GOTG 3 as The Search for Gamora.
  • I’m still not convinced Cap ever dies in this franchise. Look at it this way: yes, people are clamoring for a heroic sacrifice, so Bucky (or less likely Falcon) will take up the shield to honor him. I don’t think he needs to die. Bear with me here: Steve Rogers never got a life. Just as he was becoming a man, he volunteered for a way to fight for his country. He was frozen for 70 years, only to thaw out and be thrown right into the next fight. I think he deserves to walk off into the sunset. He’s done more than enough for his country. Now, he could buy himself a fishing boat and find himself a nice girl. It’s what Peggy would’ve wanted for him.
  • Also don’t think Downy dies. If he was gonna go, this was going to be his window. A lot of folks think Pepper was trying to tell him she was pregnant when the comm link cut out, so I could see him taking a step back, and just providing tech and money to the team while he focuses on his family. Can’t you see him giving Clint a new bow, saying something like “Be careful with that. It cost more than that farmhouse of yours!”?
  • To be honest, I see this era of the MCU ending without any meaningful deaths that stick. I know some folks would be fine with that, but when looking back on 19 movies, it leads one to wonder “What were the stakes?” At this point, the only real deaths we’ve had were Coulson, Quicksilver and Agent Carter – and one of those was simply from old age. I’m not some morbid deathmonger, but I feel a calling like this comes with a price. And nobody *important* has paid that price. If that’s how they wanna play it, then so be it, but it’s definitely something that sticks out to me.
  • Completely never realized there was no deal in place for Doctor Strange 2. Feige’s explanation is that he felt like Strange got so much time in Infinity War that he didn’t need a second movie so soon. I could see that, but it’s just odd how a franchise that can’t keep its 5 year plan a secret doesn’t have anything lined up for him (officially) in the next five years. Oh, and I kinda hated him in this movie during my first viewing. I feel like MCU Doctor Strange is Great Value Tony Stark, but I came to appreciate him more during viewing #2.
  • If Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. does end this season (which is looking less likely, even though this season’s finale was written as a series finale), I really hope it’s acknowledged in this film. No, I don’t think we need a cameo from the whole damn team, but I think the Avengers finally need to learn about Coulson, and they’re clearly setting Chloe Bennett up for something, so she could cameo, too. Sorry, fans of Melinda May. I also don’t need cameos from the Netflix folks. I’m fine with just acting like that’s its own thing, but AoS is supposed to be part of the “Everything is Connected”ness of the MCU. That’s what we were promised, so that’s what I expect. The tangential shows, like Runaways and Cloak & Dagger, can do whatever they want ‘cause I’m never gonna accept them into this family.

I’ve got more to say about Infinity War, but we’ll get to that a bit later down the page.

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Harvey Weinstein Update – Ashley Judd has sued Weinstein for “torpedoing” her career when she rebuffed his advances. Peter Jackson already reported that he was convinced not to cast Judd in The Lord of the Rings due to influence from Weinstein. So, she’s suing him for defamation, sexual harassment, and for violation of California’s unfair competition laws. I swear, if he cost us Where The Heart Is 2: Forney’s Revenge, then I say let the bastard fry!

Bill Cosby Update – The Cos, along with Roman Polanski, found himself expelled from The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, who are responsible for the Academy Awards. While this probably seems like a huge gesture to some, it’s not like they’re taking away his Oscar. Can’t win an Oscar when you’re cranking out shit like Ghost Dad and Leonard Part 6. Nope, he just can’t vote anymore. That’s cool, ’cause convicted felons can’t vote anyway, so… Meanwhile, his wife Camille issued a statement that this is the result of mob mentality, and that he’s being railroaded. If you ever want to feel sad for humanity, hop over to his Facebook page for the litany of “I stand by you, Mr. Cosby!” The motherfucker gave us a TV show. He didn’t cure cancer. Let that shit go. It’s a numbers game. Even if you think some of those women lied, ALL of them aren’t lying. We’re talking over 50 women! People want to act like it’s a giant conspiracy, but you can barely get 50 women to respond to an Evite, let alone corroborate a rape story. How many do you need? What’s your threshold on sexual assault? Get back to me if you need to think on that.

So, I guess we should get this out of the way since everyone in my life has asked my thoughts on it: in a somewhat surprising move, toymaker Hasbro announced they have purchased the Power Rangers franchise from Haim Saban for a reported $522 million. They also bought some other stuff, like 80s property My Pet Monster, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I say “somewhat surprising” because we knew it was a possibility. After all, it was in the fine print when Hasbro acquired the master license to produce Power Rangers toys in the United States. The company would have the first right of refusal should Saban ever decide to sell. It looked like this was a sure thing down the road – ya know, after they’d had a season or two under their belt, making product. Instead, they pulled the trigger before the next incarnation of the show, and before the Bandai license has fully lapsed. It kinda makes one wonder: “What’s the rush?” I mean, does Saban need to send an envelope of cash over to Israel or something?

OK, sidebar – if you’ve never been to this site before, or don’t know much about Haim Saban, then you saw that last sentence and said, “Whoa, Will! That was kinda anti-Semitic!” Not exactly. You see, Saban has always called himself a one-issue voter, and that issue is Israel. He’s quite the political donor, and has no real political allegiance except to anyone who promises to make the affairs of Israel a priority. He was quite the donor to the Clintons (which was always intriguing to me, as early on the Clintons railed against violence in children’s programming, like Power Rangers. Nothing that a few million dollars couldn’t fix!). He would go on to publicly lambaste both Bernie Sanders and DNC chair candidate Keith Ellison as being “anti-Israel”. Oh, and he firmly believes that the key to political power is to control media outlets. Yup, that old conspiracy theory about the media is actually one of his dreams. Betcha didn’t know all that about the guy behind your favorite spandex heroes! Anyway, the dude is worth over $5 billion, so it wouldn’t be shocking if a quarter of this sale is earmarked for Israel.

Anyway, the writing was on the wall with this sale. Hasbro needs something to bolster the aging Transformers franchise, and the essentially lifeless G.I. Joe franchise. This is a something of a renaissance for them, as owning something like the Power Rangers franchise changes the game. It’s not one of those “It’ll keep the lines on” situations like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is for Playmates Toys, but it’s definitely the shot in the arm that Hasbro could use these days. Meanwhile I don’t think Saban ever really recovered from the anemic box office for last year’s Power Rangers movie. He knows, as any smart man would, that the franchise’s best days – as far as he was concerned – were behind him. He would never again experience the Beatlemania that accompanied the 93-94 era of the franchise, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t be a valuable franchise for someone else.

Plus, let’s just look at the numbers here: Saban originally sold Fox Family Worldwide (which included Power Rangers and the Fox Kids library) to Disney for $5.3 BILLION in 2001. Yes, Disney paid more for that than they paid for Star Wars OR Marvel. Disney, then, proceeded to junk everything from that sale (Where’s my Eek! The Cat, bitches?) except Power Rangers, while never really figuring out what to do with it. They went on to produce seven original Power Rangers seasons of varying quality, from Ninja Storm to RPM. After a rumored failed animation pilot, and a half season where they just added Batman ’66 effects to old Mighty Morphin episodes, Disney sold the Power Rangers franchise back to Saban for a reported $43 million. He spends a few years doing basically the bare minimum as far as maintaining the brand, and then sells if off for half a BILLION dollars. You can say a lot of things about Haim Saban, but you can’t say he’s not a smart businessman!

So, what do I think? I’m not really sure. We’ve had multimedia franchises owned by toy companies before, but I can’t remember the last time we’ve seen a transition like this. I mean, it’s basically going from Saban’s Power Rangers to Hasbro’s Power Rangers, and I don’t entirely know what that will mean. That’s like if it went from Jimmy’s G.I. Joe to Hasbro’s G.I. Joe. Will all of the wit and charm that Jimmy brought to the franchise be honored and respected by the new owner? Who knows? And we don’t know in my scenario, as there was no Jimmy and Hasbro always owned Joe. So, the question is How does Hasbro put its mark on Power Rangers, while retaining what it has come to mean over the past 25 years?

From a toy perspective, I don’t think we have a lot to worry about. Hasbro is a friend to the “adult collector”, so I’m confident we’ll get some sort of 6″ Black Series/Legends action figure line to rival what we got with Bandai’s Legacy Collection. They’re also good at articulation, when they want to be. So, we could end up with 4″ Rangers with 5 points of articulation, in some sort of weird, retro throwback model, or they could give us the $13 Walmart exclusive Star Wars figure articulation. Plus, with their “Big Toys for Poor Kids” Titan Heroes line, they can continue to give us the same unnecessary 12″ shampoo bottle figures that Bandai cranks out. Where they will fall short, however, is when it comes to role play toys.

Kid sized Ranger weapons and morphers are a big part of the Power Rangers toyline legacy, and that just ain’t Hasbro’s strong suit. The closest they’ve come to a morpher in recent years is the Star Wars Force Link, which has now died on the vine in two different iterations (three, if you count its “father”, the CommTech Reader from the Star Wars prequel toylines). They have never simply gotten the consumer to care about those things, though it might help if it’s an item that’s actually featured in the show, instead of some weird, out-of-left-field piece of tech that isn’t featured in the source material. On top of that, Hasbro goes the extra mile for role play stuff that the marketplace isn’t really demanding. Take the recent Hero Vision Iron Man helmet for Avengers: Infinity War, which is an augmented reality experience where you put your cell phone into an Iron Man helmet to pretend you’re fighting Thanos. Cute idea, but not for the $50 price point. This is not something that works at mass market retail. You know how I know? Because Walmart can’t even sell $15 VR sets, so the addition of a plastic Iron Man helmet ain’t gonna make these fly off the shelves. No, this is a hobby piece. This is the kind of thing you MAKE yourself, with the help of a YouTube tutorial. It’s not the kind of thing that you BUY. For other recent role play offerings, it’s clear the Action Figure folks just farmed the development out to the Nerf team. So, I really hope they’ve got some PR experts on the team (possibly from Bandai) instead of trying to acclimate their current folks to the Power Rangers brand.

I guess my biggest worry surrounds the show itself. Does Hasbro know how to produce a weekly live action kids show? Will it stay in New Zealand? Is this the end of the franchise’s love affair with actor Jason David Frank? He’s spent years ingratiating himself to the folks at Saban and Bandai. I mean, the current comic book storyline is based around his character. What happens now that he has a new master to please? Will Hasbro allow Nickelodeon to keep forcing so many breaks between new episodes? Can Hasbro void the Nick contract Saban just signed, and take the show elsewhere? Those are the questions I have. The toys will be fine, but Power Rangers, while toyetic in nature, wasn’t necessarily a brand created to sell toys. Sure, like anything else, it was created to make money, but not primarily to sell toys. How does that change when its new owner is primarily in the business of selling toys? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…

On the other end of the pop culture spectrum, Kanye West went on a bit of a press tour this week, and proceeded to make a fool of himself. Most notably, he went on TMZ and said that slavery was a “choice”. He went on to give this extended rant:

He also gave an interview to Charlamagne tha God on The Breakfast Club, where we learned the following things about him:

  • He developed an Opiod addiction after getting liposuction. Now, let me just say that if my mom died on a plastic surgeon’s table, I’m fairly certain you wouldn’t catch me getting plastic surgery. Most folks won’t even return to a restaurant that gave them food poisoning!
  • He was hurt that Jay-Z and Beyonce didn’t come to his wedding
  • He likes that Trump won because it gives him hopes for his own political aspirations. He feels that Trump’s win means that anyone can win, and that inspires him.
  • He turned on Obama because Obama once said that Kanye was his favorite artist, but then proceeded to call him a “jackass” when asked about more recent antics. That hurt Kanye’s widdle feelings.
  • He recently bought 300 acres on which to build a community

Here’s the thing: some of what he says isn’t the craziest thing I’ve ever heard, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. His issue is he’s conflating physical slavery with mental slavery, which are 2 different things. Meanwhile, there are a bunch of Hoteps out here, saying “He’s right!” It saddens me that there are modern day Black people who hear about slavery, and then think “They wouldn’t have made ME no slave!” Yes, they would have. Slavery was more than just the fact that White people owned us. There are psychological underpinnings to that system that held us, and continue, to hold us down. I am all for ignorance being brought into the light, but in the year of our Lord 2018 there are way too many White Supremacists who’ve been waiting for someone like this to come along to bandy about. This would be a “mistake” if he’d said the dumb stuff ONCE, but he just keeps digging his hole. This is a full on meltdown, but to what end? At what cost? The “bad” people hear his words, and it just empowers them. Kanye lives in an ivory tower, so he doesn’t have to deal with a lot of the day to day stuff folks face. He’s out of touch, and making things worse for those who are not.

The problem with Kanye is he’s all over the place and, as they say in the South, he “can’t get to Hell fast enough”. It’d be one thing if he wanted to talk Black empowerment. It’s an entirely other matter when his “argument” is merely used as a distraction from his MAGA hat wearing photo op. He’s not the guy saying “Let me show you another way of thinking”, at least not eloquently. Instead, he’s a petulant child who’s saying “I do what I want, and your reasons for your views don’t apply to me.” OK, cool. But he shouldn’t expect folks to take his views seriously when he’s been so dismissive of theirs. People don’t forget so easily, yet they see what they want to see. It’s like Cosby, who we’re supposed to hold up as this paragon of Black greatness, who also spent the past 20 years berating the Black community. Like Kanye, a lot of what he said wasn’t “wrong”, but it was HOW he said it. Context AND delivery are just as important as the words themselves.

I don’t feel “betrayed” by Kanye West. If nothing more, I hate how he’s giving my “family” a bad name (even though there’s no relation…I hope). No, I have NEVER given Kanye money (thank you, Shawn Fanning, for teaching me about the wonderful world of free music!), and he’s never been a “musical genius” to me. No, I reserve that praise for folks like Max Martin, because I have the musical taste of a 14 year old girl who was punted forward in time from the year 1998. I just think this thinking is dangerous. It’s one thing to have this kind of discussion in the parlor, over brandy, but it’s another to go on the steaming pile of muckraking shit that is TMZ and hold court. I give TMZ some credit because they’re the first ones to let us know when a celebrity dies, but Harvey Levin would make PT Barnum clutch his pearls. When he looks at you like you’re a piece of shit, well, it’s pretty clear that you’re a piece of shit. And the same folks who are saying that “We need to stop being divisive and love each other” are just suffering from “Winner’s Bullshit”. They weren’t worried about divisiveness when they were trying to prove the last president was a secret Kenyan Muslim who killed Santa Claus. Nor did they apologize when they couldn’t prove it. So, in conclusion, fuck Kanye West, fuck Kenny Chesney, and fuck anyone else who wants to tell me that all my great grandmother had to do was clock out at the end of the day on the plantation, and everything would’ve been hunky-dory.

Wow. That felt good to get out. Sorry to the White people (which is pretty much all of you) who are feeling some kind of way right now. I’ll lighten things up at this point. Promise!

In TV news, it was reported that Conan on TBS will switch to a 30-minute format. I don’t really know what to think about Conan anymore. I mean, yes, he got royally screwed by NBC. That said, he’s basically now the Hillary Clinton of the late night world. He needs to read the room and realize he’s never going to be Johnny Carson. There are other things he could do, though. Leave the late night space to the other guys, and focus on producing. The Conaco brand isn’t that strong right now, and it could use his stewardship. Out of the three shows he’s currently producing (Conan, People of Earth, and Final Space), only one of them is actually good. His late night show isn’t breaking new ground, nor does anything from it go viral, which is the new measure of “worth” in that sector. Final Space is just a miss all around, and People of Earth isn’t the kind of show that’s gonna last 10 years. I just don’t know what he’s trying to prove at this point. TBS has been a great home for him and his projects. It’s to his benefit that he didn’t go to Fox when his non-compete was over ’cause they would’ve cancelled Conan YEARS ago. Over on TBS, he’s a big fish in a small pond, but he’s not contributing much to the late night space anymore, and it seems like TBS doesn’t want to hurt him by showing him the door, but clearly realizes that they could be doing more with the timeslot. Sadly, they could probably bring in more eyes just by bringing back those reruns of Cougar Town.

In other TV programming news, DC Comics began teasing the DC Universe streaming service. Details are scarce at the moment, so we don’t know price point, or what will make up the bulk of the programming. We do know that the previously announced live action Titans will be joined by a live action Swamp Thing series, as well as the third season of Young Justice and an animated Harley Quinn series. Meanwhile, the ill-conceived Metropolis, that featured Lois Lane and Lex Luthor solving mysteries, is being “redeveloped”. This all sounds TERRIBLE to me. I feel like this is going to be the home of the shows they couldn’t sell to other networks. I mean, if you remember, TNT passed on Titans. TN-fucking-T. Their schedule is nothing but Bones reruns and NBA games. Sure, you could make the argument that “Maybe it just didn’t fit their network image”, but I can assure you more people get TNT than will initially sign up for this service. Plus, are folks really creaming their jeans over a Swamp Thing show?

Wanna make this thing a Must Have expense? First, pull all existing shows from networks and put them on the service. Sure, The CW would collapse, but Fox wouldn’t have to worry about renewing a bubble show like Gotham, and the service would officially become THE exclusive home for DC programming.  ‘Cause even if the service has every DC production in history, it should be acknowledged that a lot of that stuff was shit. Yes, there’d be Justice League Unlimited and the rest of the DCAU, but there’d also be Lois & Clark, that really bad 80s syndicated Superboy, and The Zeta Project. People talk about how Disney is buying Fox to bolster their streaming service, but there’s REALLY nothing about DC’s catalog that’s gonna bring all the boys to the yard. You really going to pay a monthly fee just so you can watch Superman III whenever you want? The shit is in the $5 bin at Walmart. Knock yourself out. Your credit card will thank you. Anyway, I’m putting this in the Need More Information file for now.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We got this new trailer for Teen Titans GO! To The Movies, and I cannot wait! I posted how I’m more excited for this movie than I am for Deadpool 2, and some dude on Twitter felt the need to tell me that it’s going to make no money. Cool story, bro! Why is the Internet full of people who simply don’t want you to be happy about something? Anyway, Will Arnett as Deathstroke…I mean, “Slade”? Sign me up!
  • I have never loved Arrested Development as much as a lot of folks, but I’ve been meaning to give it a second chance. I became even more inspired to do so when, this week, series creator Mitch Hurwitz announced that a “remix” of season 4 would actually be dropping on Netflix today. Due to the conflicting schedules of the cast, season 4 was originally filmed with each episode focusing on one character. This new edit, however, treats it like a traditional sitcom, much in the way the first 3 seasons were filmed. New jokes, and actual character interaction. This should be interesting, even if just as a case study to see if such a thing can be done well.

  • *NSYNC received their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week. Three things stood out to me about this: 1) I’m amazed Justin Timberlake actually showed up for the ceremony, as I was certain it was just gonna be the 4 less successful ones there. 2) Apparently Loki is real, and he now goes by the name “JC Chasez” on Midgard. 3) Chris Kirkpatrick still looks like the kid that you only let hang out with you because he either has a hot, slutty sister OR his brother is your weed dealer.
  • On a related *NSYNC note, they popped up on Ellen, where it was revealed that Timberlake once hooked up with a Spice Girl. If it was Sporty, he will have my undying love. It was probably Scary or Ginger, though.
  • Comedian Michelle Wolf hosted the White House Correspondents Dinner, and the butthurt, snowflake libtards couldn’t take a few jokes! Wait…we’re receiving an update on this story. Oh, so it wasn’t the Liberals? How interesting…

  • We got the new trailer for Ant-Man and The Wasp, which looks like a MUCH needed, light fare palette cleanser after the heavy events of Infinity War.
  • Taking a page from DC’s marketing of The Dark Knight, Fox is dropping X-Men from the title of the series’ next installment, which will now just be called Dark Phoenix. Yeah, I think the great Dwayne Johnson put it best when he said, “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHAT YOUR NAME IS!”
  • Speaking of The Rock, he just cast John Cena as the lead in The Janson Directive, which Johnson is producing, based on a Robert Ludlum book. A Robert Ludlum book that sounds a lot like The Bourne Identity
  • Detective/Captain/Mayor Quentin Lance is leaving the Arrowverse, as actor Paul Blackthorne is exiting Arrow at the end of the season. I’ve felt he’s been living on borrowed time since season 2, but I grew to love him. Here’s hoping he gets to walk off into the sunset instead of getting killed off.
  • The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt will be ending after its upcoming 4th season, with a planned movie that will wrap up any loose ends. Sad to see it go, but I never made it through season 2, and I guess this gives Tina Fey time to work on that 30 Rock revival she’s been teasing.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu), The Good Fight (CBS All Access), and Westworld (HBO) were all renewed for a 3rd season this week.
  • Thought I’ve never encountered anyone who liked the show, Netflix somehow renewed Friends from College for a second season, and Sarah Chalke will be joining the cast.
  • The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running, scripted primetime series on television, with 636 episodes.
  • Because we’re in the midst of a conservative TV family renaissance, with the success of Roseanne, it’s being reported that Fox is close to reviving Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing for a 7th season. I get the Why, but Fox ain’t the right home for that show. They don’t have any other multicam sitcoms to pair with it. It’ll be an anomaly on their schedule, but it ain’t my money, so…
  • Speaking of Fox, they renewed Empire for season 5. I can only imagine that Lucious spends half the season in space, only to return to an Earth where everyone has seemingly forgotten about Dre.
  • The current story arc on Black-ish makes it seem like Dre and Rainbow are headed for splitsville. There are so many things at play here. It’s rare to have a positive, Black nuclear family on television, so they’d spit in the faces of a lot of fans to destroy that. It’s also reportedly based on the real-life relationship of show creator Kenya Barris, and he and his wife (also named Rainbow) worked through their problems. Still, this is a matter dictated by business. Star Tracee Ellis Ross is upset that she doesn’t make as much as costar Anthony Anderson. She’s said she’s willing to reduce her role to part-time in order to take work on another series to make up the difference. Negotiations are ongoing, and there’s no renewal deal yet for next season. Oh, and Barris is trying to get out of his ABC deal. So, yeah, this is gonna come down to the 11th hour, and it doesn’t look good.

  • We got this cast pic from the upcoming Murphy Brown revival. I love how Faith Ford’s face basically says “God, I wish my husband hadn’t racked up all that gambling debt…” Anyway, before conservatives get all upset, they didn’t recast Murphy’s kid with that Indian dude. No, he’s the social media manager for FYI, which is only slightly less offensive…

  • 16 year old Isabela Moner has been cast as the lead in the live action Dora the Explorer film. Look, I know I grew up in a time when high schoolers were played by 30 year old actors, but I draw the line at a 16 year old Dora. The Sketchy Dad contingent, however, is gonna eat this up!

So, I bet you thought we were done with Infinity War. Well, you were wrong, sucka! Up top we discussed opinions, but now we’re gonna talk about facts.

  • It’s the culmination of 18 films, released over the past 10 years
  • The film is expected to pass $1 BILLION worldwide this weekend – just ONE WEEK after its release, and it doesn’t even in China until May 11th

  • The film beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens to have the biggest opening of weekend of all time, with $250 million. Game recognizes game. And they have the same corporate parent, but whatever.
  • It was the payoff of a decade’s worth of film-making, and it provided an experience that a lot of comic fans never dreamed they ever see on film.
  • It’s the endgame of Book 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the dust settles, we’ll have the entire story of Steve Rogers as Captain America, Tony Stark as Iron Man, and possibly more. And what a ride it has been!

All of this is just a long winded way of saying that Avengers: Infinity War, hands down, without a doubt, had the West Week Ever.

13th Apr2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/13/18

by Will

Thanks for bearing with me as I migrated my hosting over the past couple of weeks. Hopefully this new home will keep me from getting notifications that I’ve maxed out my resources every 24 hours! I mean, it’s nice to know I’m popular, but the threshold that hosting company had set was embarrassingly low, so it’s not like I was doing gangbusters. Anyway, here’s to the future!

It’s April, but I’m finally starting to get the ball rolling on this movie watching thing for 2018. Last week I found myself in the theater to watch Blockers. Now, I love a teen sex comedy as much as the next guy, but I’m also 36 now, so it’s a bit of a weird feeling. I mean, I felt strange sitting in Superbad, and that was 11 years ago, and I’m much older now and still feeling just as weird about it. The thing about Blockers, though, is that it’s really more from the parents’ perspective, so your focus is more on them and not on their teenage kids preparing to lose their virginity.

If you’re not familiar with it, Blockers is the story of three parents, played by Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, and John Cena (yup, THAT John Cena), who discover that their daughters have made a sex pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Once they find out about the pact, the parents set out to make sure that the plan fails. In the middle of the crass humor there’s a discussion about gender politics, as well as a coming out story. As a lot of reviews have said, it’s a teen sex comedy with heart.

The thing that stood out most to me is that the casting is so odd. While Barinholtz is perfectly cast as the philandering dad who had previously been cast out of the parent group, and Mann does a good job as doting mother afraid to cut the cord, I don’t know where Cena came from. At the beginning of the film, he seems to be treating it like an SNL skit where he’s desperately trying not to break. His character is this macho sports guy with a sensitive side, but it’s played more for laughs than ever really seeming genuine. Over the course of the film, he begins to settle into the role a bit more, but the whole time you’re never at a point where you don’t realize “That’s John Cena!” The kids themselves are OK, I guess. There’s the main, “pretty blonde girl” who’s the leader of the group, there’s the jock, who normally would’ve been the Black one, but in a twist is half Indian, and then there’s the frumpster who’s clearly the hottest but frumped up to make the other two look better. If you ask me, frumpster, played by Gideon Adlon (daughter of Pamela Adlon) is the breakout star of the film. Still, there are wasted opportunities, like with Hannibal Buress and June Diane Raphael, who just aren’t given much to do.

In the end, I really enjoyed the film. It’s not quite as iconic as, say, American Pie, but I don’t think it’s meant to be. Instead of being the teen sex comedy for the Snapchat generation, this is the parent cockblock comedy for the American Pie generation. When you approach it like that, I think it works pretty well.

So, there’s this controversy going around about the Apu character on The Simpsons. You see, last year “comedian” (I put that in quotes because I don’t remotely find anything he does funny) Hari Kondabolu produced a documentary called The Problem With Apu, where he detailed his problems with the racial stereotypes associated with the character. Kondabolu also took issue with the fact that the character was voiced by a White man doing an accent. The documentary made the rounds for a bit, and even aired on TruTV. And that seemed like the end of it – until this week, when The Simpsons actually addressed it. In a scene between Lisa and Marge, they basically insinuate that the backlash towards the character is merely founded in political correctness, with the argument that “Well, it wasn’t a problem when we started.” It was clear what they were referencing, as they look at a picture of Apu, and then directly at the audience.

I’m on the fence on this one. On the one hand, The Simpsons didn’t have to address this whole thing, especially if this was going to be their stance. I mean, it’s an aging show with little bark or bite left in it, so why squander time and resources on this? It just seems petty. On the other hand, Kondabolu isn’t wrong, as there are a lot of things in popular culture that were created during a time when folks weren’t as “woke” as they are now. It’s not a case of infringing “political correctness” but rather a case of righting wrongs of the past. But on the theoretical, alien third hand, this is a perfect case of how important it is to carefully choose who you’re hitching your wagon to. While it’s a valid argument, I find Kondabolu so fucking insufferable where I’d almost side with The Simpsons just because it rubs him the wrong way. He’s like the Neil deGrasse Tyson of identity politics comedy, and that’s a terrible thing. In many cases the person pushing an issue is just as important as the issue itself, and I feel like if this had come from someone like Russell Peters, Kumail Nanjiani, or even Kunal Nayyar, it would’ve been readily accepted by more people. Instead, folks see Kondabolu and don’t want some New York hipster talking down to them about the same “beloved” Simpsons that they’ve spent the past 15 years saying it should’ve been canceled 10 years ago.

Anyway, it’s a tough position to be in. They can’t kill off Apu because that doesn’t do anyone any good, but they’re not gonna recast Hank Azaria ’cause, well, they aren’t. So, this is where we are. I kinda wish this Civil Race War would start already just so we can get it over with.

Meanwhile, there are suspicions that the godfather of Marvel Comics himself, Stan Lee, is the victim of elder abuse. There have been rumblings the past few months concerning an abrupt change in his handlers, as well as him being cut off from friends and family. He came down with pneumonia, but wasn’t in a hospital. Vials of his blood had been stolen and used to sign books sold at conventions. A lot of industry folks are worried that the people surrounding him are just vultures trying to bleed him dry. This recent profile in The Hollywood Reporter gives some good background on the battle over Lee’s finances. Anyway, Lee fired back at the claims with this video:

Yeah, that’s totally not filmed under duress. Blink twice if you need a quick evac, Stan! Anyway, this seems like a situation that’s only going to get worse unless someone steps in and does something.

A few weeks back, I was invited by the good folks at OAFE to share some of my Toys “R” Us memories. I shared one I think you’ll enjoy.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining the Down the Rabbit Hole Podcast from the Nerd Lunch crew. If you’re not familiar with the concept of the show, you basically choose a Wiki on a topic, and see where the links take you. For this episode we chose the RangerWiki, in order to explore the world of Power Rangers. Since the hosts didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the franchise, I got to drive the car and had a lot of fun doing so. I never realized just how crazy some of those plotlines were until I had to boil them down to 5 minute explanations. Anyway, do yourself a favor and go check out the episode!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hot on the heels of Willa Holland’s departure, it was announced that Colton Haynes will return as a series regular on Arrow next season. Methinks maybe they hated each other on set?
  • The streaming services were vicious in their cancellations this week, as Netflix cancelled Everything Sucks! after one season, while Amazon cancelled Golden Globe Award winning Mozart In The Jungle after four seasons. Will Mozart ever get out of that jungle?! The world may never know…
  • It’s not all doom and gloom, though, as Netflix renewed Jessica Jones for a third season. I’m never gonna catch up on those Netflix Marvel shows at this point.
  • Fed up with being bumped every week on What Up With That?, Lindsey Buckingham is finally demanding respect. Following a disagreement, Buckingham announced he would not be participating in Fleetwood Mac’s upcoming tour. The band responded by officially firing him, and announcing that Crowded House’s Neil Finn and Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers would be taking his place.
  • The 5th season finale of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is titled “The End”, written as a possible series finale should the show not be picked up for season 6.
  • Speaking of struggling ABC Marvel shows, Anson Mount, most recently of Inhumans, has been cast as Captain Christopher Pike for the second season of Star Trek: Discovery. I’m sure he’s happy he’ll actually get to speak this time.
  • It was announced yesterday that the upcoming 5th season of Broad City would be its last. If you ask me, it’s the right time. I got so bored by season 4 that I didn’t even finish it, and it’s clear that Abbi and Ilana want to spread their wings.
  • Word on the street is that Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt have negotiated their return to Mad About You. This is yet another show that will probably have to retcon its 20 year old series finale in order to make this work. I’m really getting tired of this, especially since there’s nothing that Paul and Jamie Buchman have to say about life in 2018 that I really want to hear.
  • Already in hot water for his alleged sexual misconduct, Hollywood moron TJ Miller apparently called in a fake bomb threat on a train. Apparently he got into a drunken altercation with a woman on an Amtrak train, and reported her as a suspected terrorist to get back at her. Wow.
  • In News We’ve Known Since 2001, Mariah Carey revealed she suffers from Bipolar Disorder. We all remember that TRL appearance, Mimi. We knew all along.
  • Deadpool 2‘s David Leitch is attached to direct the untitled Fast & The Furious spinoff starring The Rock and Jason Statham.

  • We got our first set pics of the Titans cast, and it looks like something that would’ve been released in the 80s by Cannon Films.
  • AMC has ordered a vampire series called NOS4A2, based on Joe Hill’s 2013 novel of the same name. That same, stupid name.

It was a big week in wrestling, as we’re coming off the end of WrestleMania Week. WrestleMania 34 was held in New Orleans, featuring some electrifying matches, like the HHH/Stephanie McMahon vs Kurt Angle/Ronda Rousey match, as well as the Royal Rumble champ Shinsuke Nakamura going up against WWE Champion AJ Styles. Plus, it featured the in-ring return of Daniel Bryan. For a card that really didn’t seem that exciting on paper, most who watched seemed to have enjoyed what they saw.

For me, the biggest part of the night was the return of The Undertaker. Gone since his seeming retirement at WrestleMania 33, Taker was at the top of John Cena’s list as a competitor for the event. Cena spent weeks pleading for Taker to accept his challenge, but was met with silence. At the actual show, Cena was content to watch from the audience as a fan, until someone whispered to him and he went running up the ramp. Yeah, so the Undertaker came back, and I’m not happy. You see, his departure at the end of last year’s match was perfect. While he wasn’t at his best, it was clear that we were seeing the waning days of an aging warrior. He’s 52 and really shouldn’t be putting himself through all of that anymore. He had been a good company man, and now it was time for him to go to his reward. Time for the Undertaker to be undertaken. Or so I thought.

Next, there were rumblings that he might not be done. I was really hoping those rumors weren’t true, because I really didn’t know what else he had to prove. “Well, it could be John Cena vs. Taker at Mania.” Yeah, so? That match-up means absolutely nothing to me. “Well, maybe he’ll come back as The American Badass.” OK, I’m listening. You see, back in the early ’00s, WWE had really built up the working class hero aspect of Stone Cole Steve Austin, but he had the knees of 1994 Nancy Kerrigan. So, he wasn’t always in working shape. During one of his hiatuses, The Undertaker took on a new persona, closer to how he is in real life, of a biker. He’d ride his hog down to the ring, wore a sleeveless vest and bandana, and did a lot more talking than he did as The Dead Man. While this gimmick is highly unpopular with a lot of fans, I loved it. I’ve loved every aspect of The Undertaker (except the whole Lord of Darkness thing, where he was crucifying people, that I missed during the Attitude Era), and I love any glimpse into what he’s like in real life (SIDE NOTE: One of my favorite books is the coffee table book WWE: Unscripted. They ask Undertaker about the “Sara” tattoo on his neck, and what he’d do if they ever broke up. His response: “I guess I’ll just have to find another girl named ‘Sara’.” His next wife would be named Michelle, and he’d remove the tattoo, but I always loved that answer).

Anyway, it seemed like a smart idea. He had retired the Dead Man gimmick at WrestleMania 33, leaving his coat and gloves in the ring. So, if he wanted to come back, like the mighty caterpillar he would have to become a majestic butterfly! Plus, Kid Rock was being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame that weekend, for whatever reason, and his song “American Bad Ass” just happened to have been the entrance song for Undertaker’s American Badass stint. All the pieces were coming together. So, fast forward to Sunday night, as I was following along on Twitter (What? I ain’t got $9.99 to give to Vince McMahon every month!), imagine my disappointment when Mark William Calaway came to the ring, as The Dead Man. From my rants about Will & Grace and Roseanne, y’all already know how much I hate when finales are retconned. Sure, Mania 33 wasn’t the greatest match, but it was a fitting end. And WHAT, exactly, does he get out of this return?

Apparently the win earned Undertaker a casket match at The Greatest Royal Rumble taking place in the Middle East later this month. I don’t even know why folks care about that show, as it’s basically a really elaborate house show, with no bearing on the actual titles or storylines. Still, Taker was set to face Rusev until Rusev’s wife, Lana, feared for her husband’s safety and begged him not to do it. So, now Taker will face fellow over the hill wrestler Chris “Y2J” Jericho. Yay. You wanna talk about elder abuse? THIS is elder abuse. WWE dragged Taker back out for no good reason, and the only fitting end I could see would be for him to lose his own casket match, which would suck in a match that’s basically “out of continuity”.

Anyway, back to Mania. Folks loved Rousey using HHH like a punching back, but lost their shit when Braun Strowman won the Tag Team title with surprise partner, Nicholas – a 10 year old kid, seemingly plucked from the audience. When Power Rangers Turbo tried this, it was met with fan revolt, but WWE seemed to know what they were doing, as it turned out to be many fans’ favorite part of the night. Again, for an event that looked pretty lackluster on paper, and didn’t seem like it could follow in the greatness that was The Royal Rumble, WrestleMania 34 still manage to pull out a few surprises and give fans an enjoyable night of wrestling. So, with that in mind, WrestleMania 34 had the West Week Ever.

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