17th Jan2020

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2019

by Will

I won’t say 2019 was a complete dumpster fire, but it certainly wasn’t very noteworthy. It was a year that many are glad to have behind them, and we’re looking forward to a better 2020. As you probably know, I took about 1/3 of the year off from posting because, well, there wasn’t a whole lot worth talking about. It was just such a Meh year. However, this is the time when we look back, so let’s see how the year shaped up, shall we?

I remember back in an early West Year Ever, I watched about 70 movies that year. This year I landed on unlucky number 13. Comic Book movies and Rambo films were the name of the game in 2019. The Rambo thing, however, was a fluke, as I did a Rambothon to prepare me for a podcast appearance.

Movies I Watched
1. Captain Marvel
2. SHAZAM!
3. Avengers: Endgame
4. Spider-Man: Far From Home
5. Barbershop: The Next Cut
6. First Blood
7. Rambo: First Blood Part II
8. Rambo III
9. Rambo
10. Rambo: Last Blood
11. White Chicks
12. The Grinch
13. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: I never wrote about this, because I feel like people should be more willing to say “I don’t know enough about this topic to have a strong opinion”. I mean, I enjoyed it in the theater, but it’s got fan service out the ass, and feels like it panders. Still, the lifelong fans seem to love it, so I guess “mission accomplished”? I will say that I’m disappointed in Finn’s character arc. Sure, I was one of the fools who initially fell for “Whoo hoo! Black Jedi!” Even when that didn’t come to pass, however, they never did anything with him. He’s such a blank slate that he’s come to be known by his relationships. That’s why everyone’s constantly trying to ship him with Poe Dameron. EVERYONE Finn encounters becomes a potential love interest. Rey, Poe, Rose, Jannah. He can’t meet someone without catching feelings. I don’t know if that’s because he was snatched as a child so he never had any real nurturing, or if it’s simply bad writing. But they didn’t do my man right.

Top Posts of 2019

While my West Week Ever posts are somewhat disposable, as they don’t mean much once the week has passed, every now and then I write something that I feel is sort of “evergreen” and can be read at any time. 2019 saw the return of my fan favorite segment Thrift Justice, with a heavy focus on physical media I acquired over the year. Then there was also a healthy dose of nostalgia. Check out these posts:

Thrift Justice: Operation Kondo
Thrift Justice: Let’s Get Physical! Physical! Media!
Thrift Justice: Physical Education
The Great Sitcom Fires of the 80s & 90s
Kickin’ It Old School at Retro Con 2019
West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – I Love The 80s REMIX!

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

  • We bid adieu to HarassmentWatch(TM), as #MeToo seemed to have calmed down.
  • All Elite Wresting debuted, finally giving WWE some competition
  • My pals at the Nerd Lunch Podcast announced that their show would be winding down
  • The latest incarnation of Power Rangers, Beast Morphers, debuted
  • The X-Men film franchised limped to the finish line with Dark Phoenix
  • Aunt Becky got caught cheating to get her daughter into USC
  • The Bat Penis made an appearance in Batman: Damned #1
  • The public outcry following the debut of the Sonic: The Hedgehog trailer caused Paramount to go back and change the character’s design.
  • Taco Bell Quarterly took the literary world by storm
  • Adam Levine left The Voice – ya know, that show that has never made a household name
  • We celebrated the 30th anniversary of 1989’s Batman
  • DC Comics shuttered the critically acclaimed Vertigo imprint
  • One of my favorite shows, The Amazing World of Gumball, came to a sudden end.
  • A bunch of y’all crowdfunded a $600 Transformer, so there’s that.
  • The X-Men comics got a major overhaul by writer Jonathan Hickman
  • Verizon, which paid an estimated $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr, offloaded the site to WordPress’s parent company, Auttomatic, for a mere $20 million. At least the porn’s back.
  • Avengers: Endgame unseated Avatar to become the highest grossing movie in the world.
  • Sony opted not to renew their agreement to allow Spider-Man to be used in Marvel Studios films. And there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. And then they changed their mind.
  • Get ready for the purple pill, as a fourth Matrix film was announced
  • SNL made history by hiring an Asian guy, but they also hired a guy who liked to make fun of Asians. And hilarity ensued! Not really. They fired that second guy.
  • NBCUniversal announced their own streaming service, peacock, which will carry the NBC library, as well as revivals of older shows, like Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell
  • Taylor Swift released my favorite album of the year, Lover
  • McDonald’s celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal, with a strange 5-day promotion that featured shoddy reproductions of old toys.
  • John Legend was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive, and even his wife, Chrissy Teigen, is like “Huh?”
  • Disney+ showed up on the scene and changed the streaming game. It’s a wonder Disney makes any money on it, though, as it seems like there are about 6 different cheat codes to get your first year for free.
  • I counted down the top 40 songs of 2019, as decided by moi.

West Week Ever Recipients of 2019
1/11/19 – Marie Kondo
2/15/19 – HardRockNick
3/1/19 – Star Wars: Always trailer
3/8/19 – Power Rangers Beast Morphers
3/15/19 – Captain Marvel
4/5/19 – SHAZAM!
5/3/19 – Avengers: Endgame
5/17/19 – Fox Network
5/24/19 – Live In Front of a Studio Audience
6/21/19 – Blanco Brown
7/19/19 – FaceApp
7/26/19 – Marvel Entertainment
8/16/19 – Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich
8/23/19 – Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich
9/20/19 – Taylor Swift: Lover
11/15/19 – Disney+
11/22/19 – Baby Yoda
12/6/19 – Xfinity’s E.T. commercial
12/13/19 – Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer

 

So, normally we get to this point, and I add up how many things got the West Week Ever more than once, and the West YEAR Ever recipient becomes sort of obvious. That’s not the case this year. While the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich did get the WWE twice, I refuse to consider 2019 The Year of the Popeye’s Chicken Sandwich. No, some special math is needed here.

If you notice, Disney made the list 5 different times (I’m not counting the Star Wars: Always entry, as that was a fan project). Disney was behind the 2 most anticipated films of the year, they tied up the Thanos Saga of the MCU deftly, and they introduced the character of the year: “Baby Yoda”. On top of those successes, they closed to deal to acquire 21st Century Fox, bringing several other franchises, such as X-Men and Alien into the Disney fold. Ya hear that? Ellen Ripley is a Disney Princess now!

So, even though those sandwiches had folks lined up around the block, they eventually lost momentum and now you can just get one whenever you want. Disney, however, is still making moves to increase their vast empire. Some think they’re evil. Some say it’s “just business”. Whatever it is, it’s hard to deny Disney’s success, which is why they had the West Year Ever in 2019.

There you have it. We can finally close the book on 2019 and start focusing on what 2020 has to offer. There’ll also be some changes on the site, but we won’t get into that too much right now. As always, thanks for reading, as Lord knows there are 1,000 other things vying for your time these days. I truly appreciate it!

03rd Jan2020

The WBW40 – Will’s Top 40 Songs of 2019

by Will

With another year behind us, that means it’s time to look back on some of the music that made an impression over those 365 days. If you remember the past WBW40 posts, then you pretty much know what you’re in for. If you’re new, I should preface this by saying I have the musical taste of a 15 year old White girl from Norfolk, Virginia. I hate genre, so a lot of these would blur the lines of certain classifications. Still, it tends to skew to what’s typically played on country stations, with some pop sprinkled in. In fact, there’s more pop this year than in recent years, so that should make a few of you happy. I’m also proud to say that we had such a full deck that nobody made the countdown twice this year. So, without further ado, let’s jump right in, shall we?

 


40. AJ McLean – Boy and A Man

Yes, it’s THAT AJ McLean, of Backstreet Boys fame. He’s taken a few stabs at solo work in the past, but nothing has really stuck. Then, in a weird roundabout way, he decided to record some country music, as he felt that the genre was more aligned with the stories he wanted to tell at this stage of his life. Still, while he debuted this song on country radio, it’d be right at home on your adult contemporary station that airs Delilah.


39. George Strait – Every Little Honky Tonk Bar

I just like this little ditty. I’m not even really a George Strait fan. I know he’s the “Elder Statesman of Country Music”, but he’s never really done it for me. In fact, I think I drunkenly walked out of his concert a few years ago. Don’t ask me how I got there… Anyway, it’s just a fun song about dive bars. Garth also released a song about the same thing this year, but this one is far superior to his!


38. Blanco Brown – The Git Up

You’re already familiar with this one, as I introduced it to my readership earlier this year, swearing it was gonna be THE family reunion line dance of the summer. Now, I can’t confirm if that was true, as I didn’t have a family reunion this year, but I’d like to think my prediction came true, somewhere out there.


37. Jon Pardi – Heartache Medication

I buried a lot of the REAL country at the bottom of the list, but since you’re reading it as a countdown, I’m probably alienating you at this point. Oh well. I like Jon Pardi because he knows what works for him. He’s either singing about hearts or boots. His big single was “Dirt on My Boots”, then he followed that up with “Heartache on the Dance Floor”, followed by “Head Over Boots”, and then he gives us “Heartache Medication”. Somebody needs to let him know there are other words in the dictionary. Anyway, it’s got a catchy chorus.


36. Justin Moore – The Ones Who Didn’t Make It Back Home

So, I actually kinda hate this song, but I thought it would be disingenuous to leave it off the list. You see, this is an example of shrewd business by Moore’s management. To use a wrestling analogy, Justin Moore is what you’d consider a midcarder in the country industry. He’s not really groomed for a championship shot, but maybe he wins the Intercontinental title on a fluke, right? So, what does he do? He releases this patriot-bait song that would make it a crime for him NOT to get the #1 song on the country charts, because that simply wouldn’t be American! All of a sudden, he’s now moved from the midcard, and is a serious contender – all because of this one, heavyhanded song for soldiers/first responders. I’m not even the most patriotic, but it can bring a tear to my eye if it catches me on the right day.


35. Jimmie Allen – Make Me Want To

I love Jimmie Allen, as I know it can’t be easy for him as a Black man trying to make it in country music. It’s not like Darius Rucker has taken him under his wing or anything. Shit, I bet when they’re at the same event, it’s like the party scene from Not Another Teen Movie. Anyway, I LOVED Jimmie’s debut single, “Best Shot”, so it pains me that this song isn’t anywhere near that song’s level of beauty. This is a fun enough song, but nothing too special. It’s the kind of thing that would’ve been buried in the middle of a late 90s boyband album. I’m not even talking *NSYNC or even 5ive. I’m talking BBMak or LFO.


34. Thomas Rhett – Remember You Young

Rhett started the year with “Look What God Gave Her”, where he pretty much just bragged about his wife and her haters. I’m so tired of him singing about his wife. We get it. You’re in love! So, he ended up making the countdown with another love song that’s not so obviously about the mother of his children. Nothing groundbreaking her, but it’s a pretty song.


33. Billie Eilish – Bury A Friend

Couldn’t have a 2019 music countdown and NOT mention Billie. I’m sure most folks would have expected “Bad Guy”, but I simply liked this one more. I’m still not entirely in love with her sound, which is sorta like if they let Harley Quinn make beats while she’s locked up in Arkham. That’s why she’s so far down the list. But I’m gonna keep an eye on her, ’cause she’s clearly going places.


32. Zac Brown Band – Someone I Used to Know

I like Zac Brown, and there’s something about this that just hits right for me. That’s pretty much it.


31. Marshmello & Bastille – Happier

I’m ashamed to say that I know this more from Kidz Bop than the actual recording, as my oldest tends to walk around singing the chorus. That’s as juvenile as this countdown will get, though, since I took “Baby Shark” off the list (What? It hit the Billboard chart this year!)


30. SHAED – Trampoline

They’re actually a local band, but I didn’t know that when I discovered the song. I like its vibe, but it’s also the kind of thing where we’ll probably never hear from them again. It’s got One-Hit Wonder quality to it. Maybe they’ll prove me wrong, though.


29. George Michael – This is How (We Want You To Get High)

I already blogged about this earlier in the year, as George’s sister and father released the song. Then she died on Christmas – 3 years to the day that HE died. Ain’t that crazy?! Anyway, it seems like it would’ve been right at home on his Ladies & Gentlemen album from ’98.


28. Russell Dickerson – Every Little Thing

This was a great summer song, with its whistles and happy beat. And it was so much nicer to hear Russell sing about something other than his blue truck.


27. Mitchell Tenpenny – Drunk Me

Weird name for an artist, but a great song. Seriously, “Mitchell Tenpenny”? Is he an accountant? Or an actuary? I’ll be he’s an actuary. Anyway, I feel like this song could’ve worked just as well sung by an R&B artist.


26. Dan + Shay w/Justin Bieber – 10,000 Hours

What a surprising collaboration! I already love Dan + Shay because they’re not really country. If anything, they’re the second coming of Savage Garden, and the only reason they’re on country radio is because of the low barrier to entry. Their roots are NOT in country, and they work so well, vocally, with Bieber on this track.


25. Lauren Alaina – Ladies in the 90s

I also blogged about this one earlier in the year. Just a fun song about Lauren’s female singer role models while growing up.


24. Matt Stell – Prayed For You

You’d think that he was a Christian artist, but you’d be wrong. Sure, the song is kinda straddles that contemporary Christian line, that’s not what pays his bills. We do have one of those artists coming up, though.


23. Ingrid Andress – More Hearts Than Mine

I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it, as Ingrid is warning her boyfriend that he shouldn’t get too attached, as their potential breakup would end up hurting more people than just her. My wife hates that sentiment, as she said it’s not the guy’s fault if her family’s all clingy and gets attached to him. Still, as someone who’s been in that situation, I completely understand where the song’s coming from.


22. The Weeknd – Blinding Lights

Every time I listen to The Weeknd, I ask myself “Why don’t I listen to more stuff from The Weeknd?” So much of what he puts out sounds like it was unearthed from an 80s time capsule, and that’s right up my alley. This one doesn’t disappoint in that department.


21. Ryan Hurd – To A T

Oh, such great wordplay in this song! I was afraid that Hurd was just gonna end up being known as Mr. Maren Morris, but I’m glad to see he’s carving out a niche of his own. There’s a clear Jason Mraz influence here, and I like it.


20. Miranda Lambert – It All Comes Out In the Wash

Somebody needs to bring that Dixie Chicks fire that’s been missing from the boys’ club of country music, and this single from Miranda does just that.


19. Blake Shelton – God’s Country

Blake’s in an interesting place in his career, where he just kinda tosses out singles every few months just to remind folks that he’s more than just a coach on The Voice. Some of them never really even chart, but he does it to keep his country dues paid up. Every now and then, one of them actually has something to it, and this is one of the best. I love the chorus, where he pretty much takes us right up to the church door without leading us in. Still, it’s like you can hear the choir from the other side of the doors.


18. Luke Bryan – Knockin’ Boots

Speaking of reality show judges, America has gotten to know Luke Bryan as a judge on ABC’s American Idol reboot, and I don’t know if that’s been the greatest thing for his career. I say that because it’s almost like he’s changed songwriters now that he’s in the spotlight, and his song choices just ain’t that great lately. That said, I like the swing of this track. It’s hokey, and kinda like the joke of how all American fads reach Europe late, here you wonder why country music is just picking up on “knockin’ boots”.


17. Luke Combs – Beer Never Broke My Heart

Remember the midcarder conversation about Justin Moore? Well, sometimes someone comes out of the developmental territories, and you just know that’s gonna be The Guy. That’s Luke Combs. It’s clear that the industry expects big things from him, and everything he touches is a hit. Now, he did release “Even Though I’m Leaving” this year, which I thought was something of sappy low point for him, I LOVE this song. The chorus is just built for drunken singalongs.


16. Lee Brice – Rumor

Ooh, the blues influence here is incredible, and I’m glad to see that Brice has this kind of range in him. More like this!


15. Harry Styles – Adore You

This was something of a late entry, as Harry’s album just came out a few weeks ago, but this song really left an impression on me. It reminds me of the kind of stuff we’d get from Timberlake before he had a kid and lost all of the sexy he’d painstakingly brought back.


14. Michael Ray – One That Got Away

This is just a fun singalong song. I don’t know what else Michael has in the chamber, but I hope it’s more like this.


13. Maren Morris – The Bones

Maren’s really got the crossover appeal, thanks to Target featuring her in a lot of their ad campaigns. Her biggest song of the year was probably “GIRL”, but this is my favorite song from the album of the same name.


12. Chris Young – Raised On Country

Yeah, I know I know. Y’all hate country, but this song speaks to me. You see, I, too, was raised on country. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, as my mom listened to the blues, but from the age of 4 to 11, I listened to nothing but country. I think Ace of Base was what ushered me into the world of pop. So I can relate to this song.


11. Lizzo – Juice

I was late to the Lizzo train, and I’m still not fully aboard, but I’m thinking of buying a ticket. I heard this in Target and it stuck with me. Immediately came home to hear it again.


10. Backstreet Boys – Chances

If you weren’t looking for it, you’d probably never know that the Backstreet Boys released an album last year. In fact, it was released during such a new release drought that it debuted at #1 – their first #1 album in 19 years! Still, the whole thing was kinda terrible as, for whatever reason, they didn’t work with Max Martin, who was responsible for basically every one of their hits. So, this is probably the best song from that album, which shows they’ve still got vocal chops.


09. Lauren Daigle – You Say

Remember when Debbe Boone would sing about God but you thought it was about a lover? Well, get a load of this, as Lauren here is actually a Christian artist, but the song gets play on adult contemporary stations as a love song. It works both ways, but it just drives home the fact that contemporary Christian music has some of the best melodies out there.


08. Old Dominion – One Man Band

On the production side, this is a simple song, but it hits in all the right ways.


07. Jonas Brothers – Sucker

I was never a JoBro fan, but this song got a ton of airplay earlier this year, and it was impossible to escape it. While I never got into their old stuff, I dig their new sound. Marriage has done them some good!


06. Chris Lane – I Don’t Know About You

I love the picture this song paints. “What’s your wrist tattoo Bible verse say?” That is SUCH a type!


05. Panic! At The Disco – High Hopes

I kinda stumbled into this song because I think Panic!’s Brandon Urie sounds a lot like Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy. So, I thought Stump had a new song when it was actually Urie. Still, I love that sound, so the song stuck with me.


04. Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved

I had heard this song, and I had heard the name Lewis Capaldi, but I didn’t realize this song was BY Lewis Capaldi. Great ballad here, and I need to check out more of his work.


03. Morgan Wallen – Whiskey Glasses

I am SUCH a Morgan Wallen stan, ever since “The Way I Talk”, followed by “Up Down”. The play on words here is great, and this ended up being one of my favorite songs of the year.


02. Lady Antebellum – What If I Never Get Over You

If we’re doing the genre thing, this was my favorite song by a country artist. It was ALMOST my favorite of the year, overall, but we’ll get to that. It’s just got such beautiful harmonies, as Lady A brought their A game to this one.


01. Taylor Swift feat Brandon Urie of Panic! At The Disco – ME!

It was hard to narrow down to just ONE Taylor Swift song to put on this countdown. Her album, Lover, was my favorite album of 2019, but it’s also not really fair to boast about that, as I didn’t listen to a ton of albums. What really made it stand out, however, was the fact that I loved pretty much every track on that thing. It’s got everything from peppy pop like this one to vaporwave tracks. Ms. Swift really outdoes herself on that album, but the standout to me was this song because it’s just so FUN. Not to mention the fact that Brandon Urie, from Panic!, shows up with his Patrick Stump soundalike vocals. That just sealed the deal for me.

So, there you have it. My favorite songs of 2019. Which were your faves? Did you discover anything new here? Leave a comment below!

18th Dec2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – I Love The 80s REMIX!

by Will

As we head into the holidays, I know fewer folks will be online (especially those avoiding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker spoilers), so I thought I’d give you an early treat. Now, I briefly considered a West Decade Ever, but I really don’t have that in me. Instead, I kinda wanted to dabble in something different. You see, I don’t really get too musical on this site because I have the musical taste of a 15 year old White girl from Norfolk, Virginia: just enough pop knowledge, with a heavy dose of Tim McGraw sprinkled in there. Since I can’t attract that demographic without ending up on some sort of watchlist, I keep most of the music to the WBW40 post at the end of the year. That said, most of us here are Children of the 80s, and if Stranger Things has taught us anything, we eat that nostalgia shit right up! So, I thought I’d mix a little then with the now, and showcase some amazing 80s remixes I found of recent-ish songs. Some of these might not be new to you, but cut me a break, as I’ve been listening to Darius Rucker and Florida Georgia Line the past few years. This year, my holiday gift to you is a musical trip through time, where hopefully you’ll discover something that knocks your socks off as much as these did mine.

In my albeit brief research, one of the kings of this 80s remix movement seems to be a guy named Johan Olsson. If Max Martin, ABBA, and Ace of Base taught us anything, it’s to never rule out the Swedes when it comes to an earworm. He doesn’t do much to the existing songs, but what he does is SO spot on to the era. He basically isolates the original vocals and puts them over a standard 80s synth beat, but the end product sounds like something that actually charted 35 years ago.  Here’s a few of his best tracks:

“Helena” – My Chemical Romance

This was actually my introduction to this whole scene, when a friend posted the link on Facebook (See, Facebook isn’t ALL evil these days!). This could totally have been a hit by Breathe (of “Hands To Heaven” and “How Can I Fall?” fame). This has got “Awkward Slow Dance at Homecoming” written all over it, which is saying something since you can’t really dance to the original. And that sax solo! I thought it was a perfect homage already, and then that sax kicked in. And then the overlay of the sax on the final chorus? *Chef’s kiss* I would totally do this for karaoke if it were an option.

“Sugar, We’re Goin Down” – Fall Out Boy

If you’re new here, then you don’t know much about my love of California Dreams. An early staple of the 90s TNBC Saturday morning lineup, it was basically Saved By The Bell with a band (a REAL band, and not that Zack Attack crap). I would go so far as to say that I love California Dreams MORE than Saved By The Bell, primarily because of the music. Now, even though the show debuted in 1992, much of the music had that laid back, beachy sound that gave it something of a late 80s vibe. This rendition, right here, is a California Dreams song. Hence, I LOVE it. I already loved Fall Out Boy since their album Infinity On High. Loved them even more when they were part of the Teen Titans Go! The Night Begins To Shine special. With this, I don’t think it’s possible for me to love them more. Sure, they didn’t have a part in the production of this, but they provided the main ingredient, and that’s enough in my book!


“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – Green Day

This has that dark, pulsing beat of a Pat Benatar song. If it were used in a movie, it would most definitely be during a driving sequence through the “bad part of town”. Maybe 80s Times Square, before Giuliani came and supposedly cleaned up the streets.


“Dani California” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

I can’t help but feel like this version would’ve been a great song to use in Beverly Hills Cop, just as Axel arrives in California. They could just use a bunch of standard California B-roll, with bikini girls rollerskating down the sidewalk and beautiful people playing beach volleyball.


“Side to Side” – Ariana Grande feat Nicki Minaj

Coming to a shopping mall near you is this new hit singer, Ariana Grande, and her bouncy hit “Side to Side”! This version puts a happier spin on the song, as the original sounds like snake charmer music. I will say that the Nicki verse doesn’t work as well with what Olsson is trying to emulate, but he kills it on the Ariana parts.


“Perfect” – Ed Sheeran

Know what’s funny? If this had come out in, say, 1986 Sheeran would’ve probably been a One-Hit Wonder, but this song would still be played at Black family reunions to this day. Instead, in the wacky world of 2019, he’s been named the Artist of the Decade! Not Olsson’s strongest offering, but he makes it work. This is actually one of his earliest remixes, so you can contrast this with “Helena” to see just how far he’s come in only a year at doing these.


“Symphony” – Clean Bandit feat Zara Larsson

I actually wasn’t familiar with the original in this instance, so I discovered TWO songs in this case. Immediately took to the Clean Bandits song, especially with that powerful music video that accompanies it. Still, I really like what Olsson does here. It’s understated, but could easily play over the end credits of some 80s thriller about a dystopian future. Anybody ever see that Tom Selleck/Gene Simmons movie, Runaway? Yeah, that movie would’ve been perfect for this. Again, this is one of Olsson’s earliest, but he stuck the landing on it right out of the gate.


“Poker Face” – Lady Gaga

Rest assured that Olsson isn’t the only one out there, doing the Lord’s work, and some artists just lend themselves well to the 80s remix treatment. One such artist is Lady Gaga, and this mix by D.A.M.I.A.N is pure perfection.


“Wrecking Ball” – Miley Cyrus

GK Starwalker turns in this “1987 Version” of Miley’s hit, which fires on all cylinders from the first beat. Nothing crazy is really done here, but it’s a great alternate take on the haunting song. A good, by-the-numbers 80s conversion.


“We Found Love” – Rihanna feat Calvin Harris

I really love what Rath Remix did with his one, and I’m a big fan of the original. I love how the synth comes in at the pre-chorus. This kinda sounds like Saved By The Bell music in a weird sort of way. It even ends like a TV theme song.


“I Want It That Way” – Backstreet Boys

I’ll close things out with one everyone knows. Here, Mohamad Shaxi delivers the song you hate to love, but can’t help but sing along to. You could almost call this the “GTA Mix”, as I feel like it would play in the in-game car, as you’re going to collect money from your bitches. It’s a standard synth beat, but it works. Back when I used to buy maxi singles, I could totally hear this being one of the remixes on there. After all, there wasn’t a ton of difference between late 80s pop and early-mid 90s European disco.

Well, there ya have it – 11 songs you didn’t know you’d hear when you woke up this morning. I fell down quite the rabbit hole, and I thank you for coming along with me. Which were your favorites? Do you know of any good ones I need to check out? Do you want posts like this in the future? As they say in my kids’ YouTube videos, leave a comment below! In the meantime, have a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, and a Kickin’ Kwanzaa!

13th Dec2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/13/19

by Will

In a rare family moment, we all sat down to watch The Grinch last weekend. My wife had actually taken our oldest to see it in the theater last year, but the kid fell asleep during the second half. In all, it’s a cute little movie, if not a bit short. I don’t really make a tradition of watching holiday stuff every year, so I haven’t seen How The Grinch Stole Christmas in forever. I do know that most of this Cindy Lou Who stuff was new, ’cause you’ve gotta do something to fill 85 minutes. I didn’t realize Cumberbatch was The Grinch until my wife looked it up, and then it was obvious. He was using that same “normalized” American accent that Hugh Laurie used as Dr. House. And I loved Kenan Thompson as Brinklebaum. I do have questions, though. If The Grinch isn’t a Who, then WHAT is he? And why is he green? Is this explained in some other part of the Dr Seuss Shared Universe? I didn’t grow up on those books, so someone enlighten me. Anyway, other than It’s A Wonderful Life, we don’t really have Christmas viewing traditions, but I could easily watch this again in the future.

So, this week saw the start of the highly anticipated 5-part Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover on The CW. The first 3 parts aired over Sunday through Tuesday night, with the final 2 parts slated to air in about 4 weeks. Clearly a love letter to fans of DC Comics, the event pulled characters and actors from all over, including Burt Ward (Batman ’66), Robert Wuhl (Batman ’89), Tom Welling (Smallville) and more. Those cameos were woven into the ongoing stories of the individual Arrowverse series, much to the crossover’s detriment in my opinion. I really wanted to like it. I mean, I truly did. That said, it really felt like a cheap fan film –  probably because the costumes of ancillary characters look like bad cosplay (looking at you, Vibe). Here are my random, SPOILERY thoughts, in no particular order:

  • I can’t imagine this was accessible to newcomers. I’m the most casual of Arrowverse fans these days, and I probably only understood about 30% of the non-Crisis stuff going on.
  • Speaking of not being able to follow things, Tom Kavanaugh is on, like, his 4th character in this franchise, right? Is he some producer’s uncle or something?
  • There was WAY too much Supergirl drama going on in Part One to really be able to focus on the fact that the world was ending.
  • I haven’t seen Supergirl since season 1, but that Braniac dude is obnoxious as Hell. I know they represent “the audience”, but why do these shows always have that grating fanboyish character who has to explain everything to the “noobs”?
  • I’m sorry, but I didn’t watch 12 seasons of Two and a Half Men to accept Jon Cryer as Lex Luthor. He’s just hammy in the role, and not in that “good” way. I just can’t take him seriously.
  • I’ve never watched Batwoman, and after Ruby Rose’s performance, I don’t see myself starting any time soon.
  • Ya know, for all the fanfare about Batman: The Animated Series voice actor Kevin Conroy starring as Batman, he didn’t really SOUND like Batman.
  • All the deaths were corny, from Oliver to Bruce to Flash ’90. They were without emotion, and made soap opera deaths look Oscar worthy.
  • Man, I thought I disliked Erica Durance as Lois Lane in Smallville, but I REALLY don’t like the Arrowverse Lois.
  • I always liked Brandon Routh as Superman, and felt he just got shafted with a bad movie. It was great to see him back in the suit here, but, as Clark, it looked like he was wearing his father’s ill-fitting suit.
  • Seeing Hoechlin next to Routh really drove home just how much of a Great Value Superman the Arrowverse has.
  • I love they pretty much had to come up with a “He gave up his powers” excuse to justify Welling’s midlife, lumberjack body.
  • More happened in the Batwoman ep than the Supergirl ep, and that’s still not saying much. Meanwhile, did you know that when this aired in the UK, they had to skip the Batwoman episode because no broadcaster in the UK has the rights to the show? Womp womp.
  • Who did the Gotham producers piss off that Lucifer got a cameo but no one from their show did?
  • So that it doesn’t seem like I’m completely shitting on the whole enterprise, it is cool how they pretty much wove a tapestry of everything that came before and after Arrow into the Multiverse. I know we’re not supposed to talk about it anymore, but it’s basically HyperTime. “Everything counts”.
  • The best acting, and actual genuine emotion, came courtesy of Jefferson “Black Lightning” Pierce. Never thought I’d type that sentence!
  • Speaking of Black Lightning, we got the Black Guy Head Nod between him and Diggle. Let that sink in for a minute, though. We do it because we’ve been through the same shit, and are acknowledging that with each other when we meet. But, in this case, it means in MULTIPLE universes, we STILL go through the SAME shit to make the nod even necessary. Slavery, Inequality, The Struggle. Except the Earth with Black Superman. That’s heavy.
  • Did these episodes really need a Kevin Smith-hosted aftershow to break down what we just saw? I get that DC/WB wanted us to think this was EPIC but the product they delivered fell short of that.
  • That was NOT an ending that’s gonna keep me on my toes for the next 4 weeks. Everyone swore this would have some amazing cliffhanger, but they were wrong.

At the end of the day, it’s a cool experiment, but I was mostly bored. It couldn’t hold my attention most of the time, and had I watched it nightly, instead of in one fell swoop in one night, I probably would’ve dropped it after Part One. It’s got 2 more episodes to stick the landing, but I’m not holding my breath.

Trailer Park



Wonder Woman 1984

Remember last week, when I said that the Black Widow trailer really didn’t move the needle for me? Well, along came this trailer, which basically said “Hold my tranquilizer”. I love “Blue Monday” and the 80s aesthetic. Gadot is great in the role, and I love Kristen Wiig, but I didn’t walk away from this, just needing to see this movie. And Steve is just…back? Was he frozen in ice for 40 years? I was kinda hoping they would be brave, and take a page from the Wonder Woman TV series, saying that this is actually Steve Jr, played by the same guy (like Lyle Waggoner in the series). Instead this seems to be Steve Sr? I dunno. I know we’ll get at least 2 more trailers, so I hope they’re better than what we got here.


Like A Boss

This seems like it should be funnier than it is. I’d like to think they saved the best stuff for the movie, but that’s not how these trailers work. I know she’s polarizing, but I watched this and couldn’t help but think “Melissa McCarthy could’ve saved this movie.” Keep Haddish, because I know she’s the new hotness in Holywood, but replace either Rose Byrne or Salma Hayek with McCarthy, and this would probably be a good movie. As it stands, it doesn’t look like much.


Free Guy

Fun trailer, and who doesn’t love Ryan Reynolds? That said, I’m not enough of a modern gamer to truly appreciate what’s going on here. Back in my day, a Non Playable Character was a damn turtle, or a dog that laughed at you. I never immersed myself into the GTAs and CoDs enough to really “get” what’s going on here. Plus, Reynolds has joined the ranks of actors, such as Bruce Willis and Vince Vaughn, where he’s cultivated a character that he now plays in every comedic role. You could say he’s been doing it since Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, but it’s been refined over the past 20 years to where he doesn’t really have to try anymore. He struck gold by cranking it up to 11 for Deadpool, and now he can easily coast on a 7 if he has to. Yeah, I’ll catch this one when it hits FX.



Nora from Queens
(Comedy Central)

Speaking of polarizing, apparently some folks don’t like Awkwafina. I’m not one of those people, however, so this looks good to me. I know we’re losing an Asian-American sitcom when Fresh Off the Boat ends this season, and while this won’t “take its place”, it’s still another option in the marketplace.


Stargirl (DC Universe/The CW)

Yay, another Arrowverse show. I think I’m beginning to feel about the Arrowverse the way those Snyder Cut fanatics feel about the MCU. Enough already! Still, this actually looks kinda cool, but I look at Luke Wilson and think “How’d you end up on The CW?” Then I remember it’s not exactly true. You see, this show was developed for the DC Universe streaming service, but since that service seems to be on its last legs, an interesting deal was struck: episodes will debut on DC Universe, and then air on The CW the following night. This trailer, however, doesn’t seem to want the stink of DC Universe on this show, so they just cleverly forgot the whole “The CW is actually airing reruns” aspect. Anyway, as far as demographics go, this should fall right into The CW’s sweet spot, as it will appeal to Arrowverse fans AND teen girls.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Apparently the sequel to SHAZAM! is slated to be released on 4/1/22. Ya know, if this isn’t some long-range April Fool’s joke.
  • Speaking of release dates, it was announced that the 4th Matrix movie and John Wick 4 will be released on the same day: May 21st, 2021.
  • Batista and the nWo have been announced as members of the 2020 class of the WWE Hall of Fame. I had a great conversation on Twitter about whether or not Batista is really a Hall of Famer.
  • William Shatner, 88, filed for divorce from his fourth wife after 18 years of marriage. How bad is your marriage when you file for divorce at 88?! It’s a wash by that point. You going back out on the prowl? You really don’t want her eulogizing you? What is it?
  • In the Year of our Lord 2019, Nick Cannon is still poking the bear with Eminem. It’s funny that Nick’s still trying to defend the honor of a woman who doesn’t even want his ass anymore.
  • At last night’s Game Awards, the XBox Series X was teased for a Fall 2020 release. With a name like that, I can only assume it has more boobs, and maybe a little bush.
  • Though the writing was on the wall with the announcement of Jeph Loeb’s departure, it was announced this week that Marvel Television will be folded into Marvel Studios, with Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige taking over.
  • ABC is doing another Live In Front of a Studio Audience special next Wednesday, this time tackling episodes of All in the Family and Good Times. The All in the Family cast is the same as last time (Woody Harrelson, Marisa Tomei, etc), while the Good Times cast is new, including Viola Davis and Andre Braugher.


I’ll bet you were looking for it in Trailer Park, but it’s actually got the coveted spot this week. You see, growing up, I was hardcore into Ghostbusters. You wouldn’t know it now, because that part of my brain has been occupied by Power Rangers trivia the past 26 years and, in the age of the Internet, TRUE GB fanatics arose, making my fandom look like nothing.

The thing is, however, I wasn’t ever really into the things that modern day fans feel were “Peak Ghostbusters“. For example, I don’t really revere that first movie, and I kinda prefer the sequel, if only because local Fox affiliate, Channel 5 (shout out WTTG!) used to air Ghostbusters II about every 8 weeks when I was growing up. I’ve just seen it more than the original recipe, so it came to mean more.

No, my fandom was based primarily in the toys and the cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters. In fact, it was that very cartoon that sort of stoked my love of continuity when it actually acknowledged that Janine’s look had changed over the seasons, and provided an in-story reason for that besides chalking it up to “The animators were getting bored”. My love was reignited in ’97, when Extreme Ghostbusters hit syndication. I watched every episode while getting ready for *high school* every morning, and I squeeed during the series finale 2-parter, when the original team came back to meet the new team.

As for the toys, I had the proton pack, the trap, the firehouse, Ecto-1 – all of which I still have to this day. I never really lost my love of the franchise, but I kinda didn’t really feel “worthy” around folks who can quote the movies word for word (and keep in mind, the movies aren’t *my* Ghostbusters). When it comes to live action, I’m still waiting for something to come along that piques my interest. There was Ghostbusters 2016, with the female team, which should’ve been right up my alley, as I love the cast AND the director. Still, I’ve owned it for years, but have never taken the time to watch it, since public sentiment towards it is so negative. We saw a lot of the worst sides of the fandom then, and I think it’s what made me shut down the containment unit for good.

Then this trailer popped up, and brought it all rushing back. What, exactly, was I watching? This wasn’t the theatrical Ghostbusters I’d grown up on, but that wasn’t a bad thing. I HATE movie speculation, but I immediately found myself on a Facebook thread with some friends trying to decipher what we’d seen. How was Egon old enough to have grandkids? Does this movie retcon Ghosbusters II? Is Paul Rudd no longer playing Dana Barrett’s grown kid, Oscar, which is a role that had been rumored for years? Are we sure it’s even Egon we’re talking about here? I mean, sure, his actor is no longer with us, but moving to a farmhouse with the Ecto-1 sounds really “Ray” to me.  And is the world in Ghostbusters basically like the Marvel Universe, in that everything happens in NYC, and doesn’t really affect the rest of the world? I mean, 30 years ago, there was PROOF OF GHOSTS, and now it’s just forgotten about in Middle America?

Anyway, it’s safe to say that I’m interested and on board. I’ll acknowledge that it didn’t do it for everyone, as a lot of folks complained “They got Stranger Things in my Ghostbusters!” Sure, I get that there’s a kid element to this film, with Finn Wolfhard, but we don’t yet know that they save the day. For now, we just know they go for a joyride, and play with a thrower that they totally don’t understand. I’d find it kinda hard to believe if they end up taking out the ghosts with no real guidance or training (even the Extreme Ghostbusters had training), but I feel like there’s a lot they can’t show us yet, so I’ll trust in the process.

Move over, “Is Die Hard a Christmas Movie?”, ’cause there’s a new question on the block: Was Ghostbusters a Comedy? Bigger fans than myself have pointed out that it was apparently never intended to be a comedy, but rather a horror movie with comedic elements. Meanwhile, there’s the camp that swears it’s one of the greatest comedies of the decade. I haven’t really taken a side on that one because, as I said, I prefer the sequel, and it was clearly a comedy. I think its clear comedic approach is why folks don’t think it’s a worthwhile successor to the original. I guess it needed to be a bit more nebulous in its intentions.

In any case, I’ve got a fever, and the only cure for it is new Ghostbusters. I’m cautiously optimistic, and longtime readers know it’s a lot easier for me to shit on something that be optimistic, so I’m trying here. That’s why the Ghostbusters: Afterlife trailer had the West Week Ever.

06th Dec2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/6/19

by Will

So, did everyone have a good Black Friday? I didn’t post, ’cause y’all weren’t gonna read it anyway. There were deals to be had! I did my typical spree on physical media that I’ll probably never watch:

  • I already own both Deadpool movies, but I got this Blu Ray 2-pack for $1.96. I COULDN’T leave that behind!
  • Yes, I know Dark Phoenix sucks, but I still haven’t seen it, and I own all the others, so I had to complete the set.
  • Booksmart always kinda looked like it was basically Girl Superbad, which doesn’t sound like the worst thing to me. Hope I’m right!
  • I didn’t read anything good about Rocketman, but Elton’s my favorite artist of all time, so I’ve gotta see it.
  • Yes, everyone who’s seen Holmes & Watson has wasted no time telling me it’s horrible, but I’m a sucker for that comedy duo, plus it was $3.

The rest of my haul came in last night. These online orders were my “Wait for Black Friday” babies that I’d passed up over the course of the year:

  • Was not fan of Captain Marvel, but I’ve got all the rest, and it was just $7.99, so…
  • I know this is sacrilege, but I enjoyed Venom. Hell, I enjoyed it more than Captain Marvel, which is why it’s here.
  • SHAZAM! was fun, and deserves to be revisited. On the flip side, I never saw Aquaman, but feel it deserves a fair shake.
  • Can’t wait to watch Cooper and Gaga’s Not Relationship play out in A Star Is Born!
  • Everything else here I’ve never seen (Yes, that includes Jingle All the Way and 3/5 of the Transformers films), so they’re New to Me.

I’m convinced that I’ll be the key to the physical media infrastructure after The Collapse, so I guess there’s that.

Trailer Park

No Time To Die

I like to think I’m a James Bond fan, but my favorite of the franchise is Moonraker, and I’ve never seen a Daniel Craig Bond film, so I guess I’m just kidding myself. This looks fine for the folks who are true fans, but that ain’t me. I feel like I’m missing some backstory here or something, but maybe it’s just how the trailer is edited. Yay for Black 00 agent, but she’ll probably die ’cause she’s way too cocky (ugh at the thinkpieces that’s gonna trigger), and Bond never dies. He’s got no time to die! I’ve got nothing against this film, but I’ll probably never see it.


Crisis on Infinite Earths (The CW)

I get that this is supposed to be EPIC, but I also feel like I’m missing something by not being All In on the Arrowverse right now. In fact, I feel like those novices who were like “Can I see Infinity War/Endgame if I haven’t seen the other Marvel movies?” I realize that Flash has been building to this since its pilot, which is why it’s kinda odd to me that, somewhere along the way, this became an Oliver Queen story. In the original 80s comic series, the big deaths were Flash and Supergirl, but I can’t help but feel that basic knowledge of the TV industry kinda puts the kibosh on that happening here. I mean, there are contracts in place. You kill those 2, what are you gonna do for the back half of each of their seasons? Meanwhile, Arrow only has, like, one episode left after this crossover, so… My point is that, while this has become quite the smorgasbord/clusterfuck mishmash of DC properties that some folks have always wanted, I can’t possibly imagine anything they could throw at me that would blow my socks off. And I’m not trying to be difficult here. I stopped regularly watching Arrow when Lian Yu got blown the Hell up, so I’m 2 seasons and change behind. It’s just that I feel really detached from those shows right now, so I’m probably just not the target audience they’re trying to reach. Crossing my fingers that it’s good, though.


Mulan

I’ve actually never seen the animated feature (I know, I know), but that might work in this one’s favor. I’ve made no secret that I’m not a fan of Disney’s recent “Let’s ‘live action’ that bitch!” initiative they’re applying to all their past animated hits. I feel like, outside of Pixar, Disney’s recent films are stagnant, and they don’t really know what to do next. People like to rip on the MCU for being formulaic and lacking stakes, but Disney Proper really isn’t taking many risks these days. Sure, it’s not “easy” translating a lot of these things to live action, but why do it anyway? Just because? Anyway, this looks pretty amazing, and I’m prepared to watch the Hell out of it. Also, it looks like the kind of thing best seen on the big screen, and that’s not something I do for just any movie. But I’m picking up what you’re putting down, Mulan, and I’m ready!


Troop Zero

“As a father of daughters”, I find this looks cute. I’d never pay to see it, and I’d never rent it. However, it’s perfectly placed on Amazon Prime, where I can watch it at my leisure without ever living my house. Ain’t The Future grand?


Black Widow

I’m not completely dead inside yet, but this did absolutely nothing for me. I’m trying not to let the whole “She’s a dead character/Endgame was the perfect coda to the MCU” mentality creep in. All that aside, this movie is a day late and a dollar short. Regardless of the stuff I just mentioned, this should have been ensconced in Phase 2 and NOT all the way in Phase 4. Will I watch it? Sure. Am I excited about watching it? Not at all. This would be like if they said “Hey, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is gonna have a movie”, which is another property that could’ve benefited from some early theatrical love. Widow is not my favorite Avenger, but you say that shit on Twitter, and they’ll cancel ya for hating women. No, I just don’t care that much for how she’s portrayed in the movies, despite the fact there’s been some great comic stories with her (like Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s recent Black Widow series). I know they’re just calling this a teaser, so I’m sure Disney is hard at work on an official trailer, chock full of footage that won’t be in the actual movie.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Almost 2 years after Hasbro’s purchase of the property, the “Saban’s” prefix will finally be removed from the Power Rangers logo in 2020. While Haim Saban had acted in a consultant role on the brand, his future with it is now uncertain.
  • After debuting just last weekend on the DC Universe streaming service, the premiere episode of the animated Harley Quinn series is set to air on TBS this Sunday night. While the worst words will be censored, a move like this is still enough to make folks question why DC Universe is even still around, as far as original programming is concerned.
  • Speaking of animated shows, it’s been reported that the showrunner and writing staff of the Tigra & Dazzler animated series, set to stream on Hulu, have been let go. There are reports that it’s undergoing a “creative overhaul”, but I doubt those Hulu shows ever see the light of day. They were Jeph Loeb’s babies, and his departure was announced during my most recent blog break. Everyone knows the new boss throws out the old boss’s shit so they can do their own shit. I don’t care if Kevin Smith and Chelsea Handler were attached to that planned animated universe, it ain’t happening.
  • In the “Get Yo’ Money, Playa” move of the century, tortured Jar Jar Binks actor Ahmed Best is returning to the franchise to host the Star Wars: Jedi Temple Challenge game show for Disney+
  • There are reports that Disney is looking to revive the Planet of the Apes franchise in some capacity, as it is seen by some as the most viable property in the recently acquired Fox portfolio.
  • Since John Witherspoon’s passing, there are now reports that actress Jenifer Lewis is interested in portraying Granddad’s sister in the upcoming Boondocks revival.
  • If you’re like me, in thinking that The CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths could probably stand to be more than 5 parts, then you’ll be glad (or mad) to know that DC felt the same way. This is why they’re releasing a 2-issue Crisis comic series that will be part of their 100-Page Giant series sold at Walmart. These comics, co-written by original Crisis writer Marv Wolfman, will feature the Arrowverse characters, and fill in some of the blanks that won’t make it to the screen. Issue #1 will be out 12/15, with #2 out on 1/19.
  • Justin Timberlake has publicly apologized to wife, Jessica Biel, for being spotted holding hands with his film costar, Alisha Wainwright. He’s blaming it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol, and swears nothing happened. This is such a juvenile non-scandal that I half expect him to go public with his Cootie Test results.

  • At long last, we’re finally getting full-fledged DC Comics characters in the next series of LEGO Minifigures blind bags! I’m SO glad I won’t have to buy full sets to get some of these characters now.

Since we skipped last week, we never got a chance to talk about E.T.’s grand return. You see, during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, 80s pop culture icon E.T. came back! No, he wasn’t a parade balloon, nor was he in the booth with Hoda and Al. I wish I could say it was a trailer for a long-awaited sequel, but I can’t say that, either. No, the folks at Xfinity decided to dust him off to tug at nostalgia to help them sell bundle packages.

11 million views later, and I’m left here with a lot of questions. I mean, just think of all of Elliott’s therapy that was done by this return! And why wasn’t his wife more frantic? What’s SHE hiding? And where’s Gertie? Please tell me Gertie’s OK! It couldn’t have been easy growing up knowing what she knew.

It’s a cute ad, but luckily E.T. doesn’t hold much of a special place in my heart, so I wasn’t over here weeping like some Evangelical listening to “The Christmas Shoes” for the umpteenth time. No, your trickery didn’t work on me, Xfinity! Plus, I already have your services, so you have nothing left to sell me right now.

I could get used to this, though. Maybe next year, they could do Weird Science with a CGI Kelly LeBrock. I’d LOVE to see Wyatt and Gary try to explain that to their wives and/or husbands. “Um, we created her…for science!”

It’s a cheap ploy, but nostalgia is an instant warp zone into the hearts of many. They used a day meant for family to showcase E.T. being reunited with his own. Well played, Xfinity. Anyway, it’s safe to say that E.T. had the West Week Ever.

15th Nov2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/15/19

by Will

HELLO?! IS ANYBODY HERE?! *echo*

 

I feel like I go on hiatus way too much because I find myself apologizing for having done so way too much. This year, West Year Ever is gonna be pretty easy to compile since I took off, like, 1/3 of the year. Seriously, I even considered switching the format to West Month Ever for a while.

So, where have I been? That’s a great question. Long story short: I had nothing to say. Or, better yet, I had nothing positive to say. And you know the saying, “If you can’t say anything nice…” Sure, there was plenty of stuff to rant about, but I couldn’t balance it out with anything I *LIKED*, and that was a problem. The internet is toxic enough, so I really didn’t feel like feeding into that. So, I spent my time catching up on Power Rangers: Beast Morphers episodes, and trying to clean up my basement. There were times when I was on the verge of posting something, and then life would throw a monkey wrench into my plans. One week, I was working at the work site that has my site blocked, so no posting then. Another week, I was in a car accident and had my car battery die (resulting in a 2.5 hour wait for AAA), all in the same Friday. So, I guess I was just supposed to skip the month of October.

This week, though, couldn’t be skipped because just TOO much happened, and it felt like the perfect time to make my grand return.

In the movie realm, I got around to watching White Chicks the other day. No, I’d never seen it, even though I know it’s a guilty pleasure for a lot of folks. At the end of the day, I didn’t love it. I mean, it’s problematic in a way that only a movie from 2004 could get away with, but I also didn’t find it to be that funny. It could be because we’ve sort of left the era of the socialite behind. Sure, the Kardashians are always considered “famous for being famous”, but they’ve built a business empire upon that. Outside the Hadid girls, we don’t really have the Paris & Nicole Simple Life era socialites anymore, even if we still have spoiled, rich White girls. To be honest, though, I probably would’ve preferred a movie about the Dominican bodega owners that Shawn and Marlon are disguised as in the beginning. I’ll also note that I watched this thing on TV One, so it was probably edited for television with all the good stuff taken out. For you fans out there, is it worth revisiting in, say, an unrated DVD sort of way?

One thing that took the past week by storm was the McDonalds Happy Meal 40th anniversary promotion, and BOY do I have thoughts on that! Designed as a limited run from November 7th through 11th, the promotion first leaked from some YouTuber posting about it. Then, Matt from Dinosaur Dracula tweeted about it, at which point he said McDonalds “kindly” asked him to take down the tweet. Then McDonalds formally announced it: for 5 days only, they would be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal by releasing reproductions of some of their most iconic toys. Oh, and in blind bags.

Let me tell you a little bit of my own history with McDonalds Happy Meal toys, as I was once something of a superfan. This is where my collecting lifestyle began. When there was a new promotion, it was my weekend mission to get my mom to drive us all over town so I could complete those sets. This went on from about Kindergarten to maybe 8th grade. I got to a point where I was modding Happy Meal orders to come with Big Macs and Quarter Pounders with Cheese (I was a “husky”, hungry child) until some employee eventually told me “You know, you can just BUY the toys.” That’s when I moved the to the Extra Value Menu, occasionally shelling out an additional $1.89 for Happy Meal toys. So I had the originals of everything in this anniversary promotion. I would have liked a proper tribute to those old toys, but this wasn’t it.

OK, so here’s the first problem: why reproductions? I know you’re all not like me, spending all your free time in thrift stores, but lemme tell ya something: McDonalds toys are NOT hard to find. Plus I feel like there’s got to be some sort of McDonalds Area 51 with a stockpile of old toys they could’ve drawn from. Even if this doesn’t exist (prove me wrong, cowards!), they could’ve really made this special in other ways. Maybe team up with the American Pickers guys, and have them go out and find some dead stock for them to use. It’d make a great special episode of the show, and it would look like some kind of effort went into it. It could’ve been a yearlong buildup, with webisodes and whatnot. Instead, we get this lame promotion that was shoehorned into a week that McDonalds needed to fill between the Hello Kitty/Pokémon promotion and the Frozen II promotion.

Next problem: blind bagged, though numbered. Why act like it’s such a surprise about what you’ll get when everyone knows there are 17 in the US (#9, believed to be a Barbie, was pulled from the promotion before it began), and the numbers are right there on the polybags? It’s not “blind” if you can read numbers. And I’m not talking some sort of secret Braille code, like the LEGO minifigures use. I’m talking a clear as day number, right on the front, that corresponds to a checklist that most social media influencers posted online after they received a promo shipment from McDonalds. When I didn’t get a special box from McDonalds, that’s when I knew I wasn’t shit.

When the toys actually hit, the third problem became apparent: cheap, inaccurate reproductions. The new toys weren’t as well made as the originals, and they all had 2019 date stamps so as to not confuse folks into thinking they were the vintage toys. A lot of strange decisions had been made. The Changeables burger was no longer a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, as both the cheese and sesame seeds had been removed from the mold. And the one that really grinds my gears: the Red Power Ranger. It’s bad enough McDonalds included this thing when the Power Rangers figures were NOT Happy Meal toys (they were add-on items that you could buy for $1.99 each when the original movie was in theaters), but this Red Ranger they’d included only had one arm and one leg that moved, while the opposite limbs were fixed. Why?! Then they included Bugs Bunny from Space Jam, which was odd because A) I wouldn’t call that promotion “iconic” and B) the gimmick of that toy line was that the different characters were on pieces of basketball court that you assembled into something akin to a train. One toy from the line was kind of boring, but to have them all was sort of special. Here, you got one toy. It’d be like if they had just given you one piece of the Inspector Gadget build a figure promotion. What the Hell are you gonna do with ONE piece?!

Anyway, I found myself on the wrong side of history on this one because the nostalgia bloggers were eating it up. I, however, didn’t get it. Surprisingly, even my wife was like “We’re gonna get Happy Meals every day!” I understand the nostalgia factor, but it just felt so poorly executed. Since the promotion was only 5 days long, restaurants got limited stock and a lot of them seemed to have depleted that stock before the 11th even hit. Plus, I can’t believe that McDonalds contracted factories all the way in China to make such subpar repros for this promotion, especially when the marketing department seemingly screwed the pooch. If you enjoyed it, great, but something just felt rushed and disorganized about the whole thing. Here’s hoping they do a better job for the 50th anniversary, but we’ll be so “woke” by then that Happy Meals will be a salad and a toothbrush.

In the world of comics, there was a lot of hubbub about Jonathan Hickman becoming the new architect of the X-Men line. Everything kicked off in the companion series House of X and Powers of X, which were released weekly over the summer. These led to the release of a new X-Men #1, which I grabbed at a midnight release party (Thanks, Third Eye Comics!).

Now, I had read House of X #1 and thought “Interesting start, but I’m not paying $6 a week for this story.” So, I skipped those minis and dove right into the first issue of the ongoing. And my verdict? These aren’t my X-Men. I like the X-Men who are hated and feared, but always recharge after a huge battle by playing baseball at their school in Westchester county. Hickman’s X-Men, however, has too many moving parts, and I’m not on board with a lot of it.

In a lot of ways, Hickman’s vision is basically just a remix of what Grant Morrison brought to the line when he took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and it became New X-Men. Both share the premise that mutants now have the upper hand, causing frightened humanity to go to desperate measures to prevent their own extinction. It’s an interesting viewpoint, but it’s one where I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. With X-Men, sometimes that takes years (see: Emma Frost), but to paraphrase Karl Mordo, “The bill comes due. Always.”

I have always felt that the life cycle of superhero comic fandom is about 15 years, because audiences cycle in and out, but that’s about how long it takes for Been There, Done That to set in. I feel like I’ve seen this before, and that just might be a sign that my time with Charles Xavier’s mutants is up. Maybe folks are into that sort of journey, but I don’t wanna stay on this ride.

While I was away from blogging, I was still keeping busy, running my mouth on a few podcasts. First up, I recorded a look back on Batman ’89 with my pal Chad at the Horror Movie BBQ back over the summer, and he never told me that the episode was posted. I’d been over here, stewing for the last 5 months, that he had yet another unreleased episode with me (We recorded an Adam West tribute a while back that devolved into chaos and has never seen the light of day), meanwhile it had been on his site the whole time. So, sorry about that, Chad. It was a good discussion, though, as I talk about my Bat Amnesia and more, so check it out!

Next, I joined the guys over at Nerd Lunch for the final “Ned Lurch” episode. As they prepare to “sunset” their show, they’re taking one last stab at some of their themes, and Ned Lurch is a guy whose friends and advisors are constantly giving him bad business advice, in an attempt to see him fail. In our episode, Ned is talked into launching the worst action figure line ever. Check it out, as I give the worst improv performance you’d ever expect from me, but it was a fun show. Speaking of improv, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned how I actually auditioned for the improv group in college. Yeah, there was a period of time when I was bored with a cappella and wanted to try something different. The problem with that plan, though, was that group was led by my girlfriend’s ex boyfriend. At least I made it to the final round, though…

Finally, get ready for the Christmas season by listening to me talk about everyone’s favorite “That’s Not a Christmas Movie!” No, not Die Hard. Instead, podcast extraordinaire, Michael May, had me on his Sleigh Bell Cinema show to discuss Iron Man 3. The same way you’ve got to look at Superman III as “Hey, it’s a Richard Pryor movie, featuring Superman”, you’ve got to do some mental gymnastics with this one, as well. What do I think about Tony Stark’s final solo outing? Take a listen to find out!

Trailer Park


Sonic the Hedgehog

I can’t deny that he looks better now, but I loathe the precedent this movie set. In case you don’t remember, the original design for Sonic had fans so outraged that the backlash to the initial trailer led the studio to delay the film and retool Sonic’s look. On the one hand, folks are like “Great job for listening to the fans!” Meanwhile, I’m over here, like, “Ugh, you listened to FANS!” Half the time fans don’t know what they want, and they tend to stick to the familiar because they hate change. That’s fine. I also dislike change. That said, this movie was never going to be a blockbuster, but now folks feel guilty that they have to support it since they raised such a stink. But you see, the internet is full of folks who love a good fight with no vested interest. A lot of the people the most upset about Sonic’s design were never going to see the movie in the first place. So, was the redesign worth it or in vain? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.


SCOOB!

Is this basically a reboot of A Pup Named Scooby Doo? ‘Cause I was ALL about that era in the 90s when everyone got a “Lil” version of their franchise. The Flintstone Kids, Life with Louie, Hell, even Little Rosey (who’da thunk they would’ve given a cartoon to Roseanne?! But they did). I won’t be seeing this in theaters, but I’ll totally grab it on Black Friday for my girls.


Holiday Rush

This looks kinda cute. You don’t get a ton of Black Christmas movies, and I’m a fan of Romany Falco. The beauty of this is that I’d never go see this in a theater, not even if the tickets were free, but I can watch dude hit on First Officer Michael Burnham, while sitting at home in my underwear? Sure, I’ll buy that for a dollar!


Harley Quinn

Looks fun. Still not signing up for the DC Universe service. There’s got to be a plan to rehome these shows on HBO Max going forward, as the existence of DCU is making less sense by the day. They could repurpose that site to be a purely comic hub, like Marvel has Marvel Unlimited, but it doesn’t make sense to keep the shows on there, especially when Warner Media is trying to brand HBO Max as THE streaming portal for their catalog. So, I’ll watch this when I eventually cave and get HBO Max, since Rick & Morty will probably be exclusive to that service by 2025 or something.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • John Legend was named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive, and even his wife, Chrissy Teigen, is like “Huh?” I mean, he seems nice enough, but kinda soft. Then again, he’s a former collegiate a cappella kid, so I guess I’ve gotta support him in this endeavor.
  • Not content to stand on the sidelines of the upcoming Streaming Wars, Nickelodeon has signed a deal with Netflix to develop movies and shows based on their properties. Personally, I can’t wait for Are You Afraid of the Black Mirror?
  • The sand might be running out of the hourglass for one of your grandma’s “stories”, as the entire cast of Days of Our Lives has been released from their contracts. Many feel this is a negotiation tactic by the show’s producer, Corday Productions, as they head into contract negotiations. Worst case scenario is everyone is fired and they all get recast. Best case scenario is everyone is rehired, but now at a lower, take it or leave it, rate negotiated in new contracts. Despite the fact that soap operas are a relic of the past, NBC seems committed to providing a home for Days for the foreseeable future.
  • For a brief moment this week, folks thought that Ecto Cooler’s return had been confirmed, coinciding with the release of next year’s Ghostbusters film. That shit turned out to be fake, though. Ya know, until it’s not.
  • As if Constance Wu’s Twitter rant last Spring was going to be forgiven so easily, ABC confirmed that this season of Fresh Off the Boat would be its last. Cute show, but everyone seemed ready to move on, and they’ll all be fine. I know the show was symbolic as the longest running Asian American sitcom, but there will be others. One day. Hopefully.
  • Rick & Morty came back to Adult Swim this week, and I…didn’t love it. Probably because I hadn’t seen this episode 37 times like I have the others. No, seriously, it airs daily and there are only about 30 episodes. It only takes a month to run through the existing 3 seasons. I’ve seen this show more than anything else on TV and I’m not even a superfan. Maybe I’ll grow to love this season.
  • Three year after his death, George Michael’s estate released “This Is How (We Want You To Get High)” for the Last Christmas soundtrack. I’m a sucker for both George Michael AND songs with parentheses in their names, so this song is a hit to me!

  • After it was first announced, like, 10 years ago, The Rock’s Black Adam movie finally got a release date: December 22, 2021. Too bad it’s never gonna happen.
  • I know y’all claim you don’t like country, but I know some like Halsey, and here she guested with Lady Antebellum on one of my favorite songs of the year at this week’s CMA Awards.

  • Screw it. Here’s another amazing performance from the CMAs, from Dan + Shay:

  • Music industry supervillain Scooter Braun recently purchased Taylor Swift’s back catalog, and won’t allow her to perform a medley of her past hits as she receives an achievement award at the American Music Awards. Dick move, but a powerful move.

Well, you couldn’t swing a dead cat online this week without hitting something having to do with Disney+. The anticipated streaming service launched Tuesday, and it’s all anyone can talk about. The launch, however, wasn’t without its hiccups. For one thing, they didn’t allow you to download the app until launch day, so there was no testing to make sure all your ducks were in a row before the big day. Also, a lot of people got error screens when trying to watch their desired selection. That said, it’s a repository of a HUGE amount of Disney programming – from Star Wars to Disney Channel Original Movies – and all for a mere $6.99 per month.

I am not a Disney evangelist, so this wasn’t exactly the Second Coming to me that it was for some folks. Regular readers know I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Fox buyout, but I’ve got kids, and kids like Disney, so I got Disney+. In fact, I have TWO accounts! You see, I signed up on Monday to make sure we were good to go, but then I remembered that, as an unlimited data Verizon customer, I actually get a year of the service for free. So, we had my wife sign up that way, and then I just need to remember to cancel my trial before they charge me on Tuesday. Hell, I probably should be doing that instead of writing this. I need that $70! Oh well, I said I wanted to live dangerously…

Despite the minor gripes that folks have had, including series episodes being out of order and the constant error screens, I feel the roll out could’ve been MUCH worse. I think the demand for the service exceeded even Disney’s expectations (with a reported 10 million sign ups), I think things settled down rather quickly. Folks online began to post the “true” viewing order for episodes, and the error screens decreased.

Another pseudo controversial aspect is that they’ve added disclaimers to properties, like Dumbo, stating that they contain outdated views and representations. Some folks feel like those programs shouldn’t be on the service at all, but I disagree. At least Disney is owning up to its past, and making it something of a teachable moment. With the disclaimers, they can have their cake and eat it, too. That said, it’s just gonna rile up the “Where’s Song of the South?!” crowd even more. Personally, I think Disney handled this the right way, but you can’t please everyone, and you can barely please anyone in 2019.

The biggest show at launch was undoubtedly the Star Wars spinoff, The Mandalorian. I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, and it clocks in at only 38 minutes. Score! Hopefully I’ll get to it this weekend. Meanwhile, everyone else on social media was posting about the first thing they watched after setting up the service. I’ve got a big audit at work today, so didn’t have time to play around with things myself. My oldest, however, watched Frozen, like we don’t already have 3 copies of that thing around this house somewhere. I’ve got to remind myself that it’s just $6.99, and not a total waste of money. Wait. It’s free. Whatever. She can watch Frozen all day long, ’cause that ain’t costing me a dime!

Anyway, after my long hiatus, I think I can dust off the title, and present it to Disney+, which clearly had the West Week Ever.

20th Sep2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/20/19

by Will

So, my whole two weeks on, two weeks off schedule went off the rails last weekend, but there’s been a lot going on in my world, so forgive. Or not. Whatever. You own me. Anyway, I better get all this out before Tekashi 6ix9ine flips on me for the crew that I rep!

About a month ago, I cared absolutely nothing about the Rambo franchise. I’d never seen any of the movies, despite the fact that it was this FORCE in 80s action movies. Still, I have a lot of pop culture blindspots, and most action “classic” action movies fall into that category. So, I was probably the wrong person for my buddy @michaelmaycomix to ask to guest on the Rambo episode of his Nerd Lunch: Fourth Chair Army Invasion! Podcast. Still, I saw this as a challenge, and proceeded to binge the Rambo franchise over Labor Day weekend. We won’t get too into my thoughts here, as you should definitely go check out that episode, which dropped last week. All this is to say that I walked away from the experience with a newfound respect for those movies, and the 5th installment – Rambo: Last Blood – went from a movie that wasn’t even on my radar to one of my most anticipated movies of the fall. So, I found myself in the Alamo Drafthouse last night, with my buddy Brock, watching a Rambo film on OPENING NIGHT. I only do that shit for things with Stan Lee cameos, but I guess we’ve entered a brave, new era.

I know that not everyone can see a movie on Thursday night, and I know this movie isn’t a priority for most folks, so I won’t spoil anything here. I’ll just say it’s something of an uneven film, which doesn’t even feel like a Rambo movie until the second half. Still, it does a lot with its 89 minutes, with not a single one of them wasted. As I said on Instagram, if you’ve ever thought to yourself “I wonder what a Home Alone remake would be like, starring an old man seeking revenge”, then THIS is the movie for YOU! In the end, I totally enjoyed the film, but I also kinda think there’s a schism in the franchise that occurs around the 3rd film. While the first 3 are about Vietnam vet John Rambo, forgotten by his country, used as a tool of warfare, the last 2 are about a stoic old man who kills the shit out of his enemies with EXTREME prejudice. Even the gore of 2008’s Rambo made sense because it took place in the middle of Burma’s civil war, but the battle here takes place in Arizona, and there’s no real excuse or precedent for that level of violence.

Anyway, if you’re a Rambo fan, maybe check this out. If you’re a fan of Taken/Death Wish, definitely check this out. Oh, and make sure you stay through the first round of credits. There’s a nice montage of scenes from the last 4 movies, and then they sneak something in where you’re like “WHAT?!”

Whew, boy! It’s been a shitshow in Studio 8H, as it’s been a tumultuous few weeks for Saturday Night Live since last we met. First, there was the news that Kate McKinnon – whose deal had expired in the Spring – would actually be returning to the show. Meanwhile, Leslie Jones would not be coming back, with folks wondering if she’d been fired. Well, not even 2 days later, it was announced that she would be hosting (and serving as executive producer of) a revival of the game show Supermarket Sweep. As she put it on her social media, she wasn’t leaving but merely “graduating”, which was a nice way to look at it. I know a lot of folks who’ve left SNL over the years, however, who couldn’t say that.

Next, the show announced the new Featured Players for this season, and there was much rejoicing as Bowen Yang was hired as the first Chinese-American/third openly gay cast member on the show in its 45 seasons. They also hired Shane Gillis, a comedian who just might happen to dislike Asians and gays. Womp womp! If it weren’t for the fact that it’d probably cause a toxic work environment, this arrangement would make for a FIRE reality show! You see, Gillis has a podcast where he’s said some juvenile and inappropriate things about Asians and gays, and those recordings surfaced just as the news broke of his hiring. Then it turned into this whole thing about free speech vs cancel culture, as comedians felt he should be able to say whatever, and “civilians” wanted him fired because his hiring hurt the integrity of SNL. Immediately, Gillis issued a non-apology, saying he’d apologize to “anyone who was actually offended”. Gotta say, it was a shit statement, but I kinda commended him for not going with the boilerplate insincere apology. After a week of unrest, however, Gillis was fired from the show last weekend. His statement after the firing was still on brand, where he said he was disappointed, but was “always a MADtv guy anyway”. I’m sorry, but he kinda had the last laugh with that burn.

Here’s my take: Lorne and everyone else knew about this dude before hiring him, and any attempt to say otherwise is a lie. You know how I know that? The past 2 weeks, everyone is like “Who is this guy? I’ve never heard of him.” Well, I’VE heard of him. See, I’m a big fan of The Bonfire, which is a SiriusXM show hosted by comedians Dan Soder and Big Jay Oakerson. Gillis is a frequent guest, so I already knew his humor. He’s that doughy goof from high school who was always trying to be the class clown. He’ll just say whatever he thinks will make you laugh. No filter. It’s not hard to find his material, so I refuse to believe SNL fell asleep at the wheel in the vetting process like they’re saying. They saw his stuff, and didn’t care, because they didn’t expect it to blow up like this. You see, SNL still likes to believe that they’re this subversive Bad Boy of Comedy that consistently has edge, but that hasn’t been true for a LONG time. No, they’re a very important brand to Kabletown, and corporate, like the house, always wins. Plus, it leaked that Lorne only hired Gillis to court conservative viewers, but look how that turned out. In the words of DJ Khaled, “Ya played yourself!” SNL can’t play both sides against the middle. Having one Affirmative Action conservative hire is not going to open up this untapped fan base waiting to see themselves onscreen. Meanwhile, they just did a bunch for Gillis’s career, as he’s now a household name, even if he’s infamous instead of famous. I never really saw him breaking out of Featured Player status, so it’s probably for the best all around.

So, NBCUniversal revealed that their upcoming streaming service will be called peacock. One of the first shows announced for it sounds like a fever dream. They announced a revival of Saved By The Bell, where Zack Morris is the governor of California and he’s closing all of the low-income schools. As a result, those kids are going to be bused to more affluent schools, like Bayside High. Huh. That seems kinda heavy for the format. Even more odd to me is the casting. While Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Tiffani Thiessen reportedly weren’t even contacted, Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley are expected to appear. That last one is the one that gets me: I mean, Berkley did Showgirls to distance herself from that show, and now she’s going back? Has there even been a precedent for this kind of return? Has anyone ever done a kids show, done something risqué, and then RETURNED to the kids franchise? I mean, I remember when Jessica Biel took those nudes at 17 so she’d be released from her 7th Heaven contract, but that wasn’t nearly as revealing as Showgirls was for Berkley. Is this show even considered for kids? I have so many questions! I mean, it’ll depend on the execution, but this doesn’t exactly sound *fun*. Just sounds like class warfare, but what do I know?

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There’s a rumor floating around that Marvel Studios is considering going with an actor of color for Magneto when the X-Men are introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This quickly turned into “DENZEL WASHINGTON IS GONNA BE MAGNETO!” I will say that I don’t totally hate the idea, mainly because it’s becoming increasingly unrealistic, just from a timeline perspective, for Magneto to continue to be a Holocaust survivor when the MCU doesn’t have the same established rebirths and resurrections that he’s experienced in the comics in order to make that possible. Plus, there are other genocidal conflicts that could stand in, just as Tony Stark’s origin has slid to more modern conflicts. Still, I don’t wanna live through the online shit storm such a move would trigger, so I’ll gladly pass.
  • Speaking of Marvel, word on the street is that the New Warriors series (ya know, which was gonna star Milana Vayntrub, AKA Lily The AT&T Girl, as Squirrel Girl) is basically dead because it couldn’t find a home. It’s a crying shame when a Marvel show “can’t find a home”, and Disney’s got a whole damn streaming service coming. That’s what it gets for being from Marvel Television and not Marvel Studios like the other shows. Sucks, though, ’cause I was looking forward to it.
  • Across the aisle, it was announced that Tom Welling and Erica Durance will reprise their Smallville roles as Clark Kent and Lois Lane, respectively, in the Arrowverse “Crisis”. I say Clark Kent because, true to Welling form, it hasn’t been confirmed that he’ll be in the Superman suit.
  • After 4 seasons, TBS has cancelled The Detour. It was a really good show that I, for whatever reason, dropped after S1. I need to catch up, but now I’m like “Should I?”
  • Netflix announced that GLOW has been renewed for a fourth and final season. I need to give that show another chance, but it’s in the middle of a very long To Do list right now.
  • My good online pal @thesurfingpizza masterminded the Taco Bell Quarterly literary zine which is such an insane undertaking that I can only look on with awe. If you love Taco Bell AND the arts, then you can’t do better than this collection. I wish I had some kind of connection to that brand to have contributed but I was a latecomer to Taco Bell. My mom always felt that tacos “don’t make no sense”, so…

I’ve got a confession: so, I went to Retro Con last weekend, and was going to do a whole recap post for it. Then, as time dwindled, I was like “Eh, I’ll just give it the West Week Ever” and kill two birds with one stone. Then I started writing this and it got pretty long on its own, so I started thinking it should have its own post again. So, long story short, Retro Con would have had the West Week Ever. Instead, I’m giving it to something else that has brought me joy since we last spoke.

When I first heard Taylor Swift’s Lover, I wasn’t impressed. I thought it was an album of vanilla Muzak that you’d hear while shopping in a Target – fitting, since Target has a massive display for the album, as they’re selling 4 (!) different special edition versions of it. It was a relatively quick listen, though, so I let it loop. And I kept it on loop. And then I fell in love with, basically, every song on that album. I considered doing a track by track review, like I’ve done with some boyband releases in the past, but my target audience doesn’t care what I think about Taylor Swift (then again, y’all didn’t care about Backstreet Boys, and I still did that, so…). So, I’ll spare you the nuanced “I see what she did here” review, and just point out some MUST HEAR tracks:

Cruel Summer

The Man

Cornelia Street

Death By A Thousand Cuts

Soon You’ll Get Better (feat. Dixie Chicks)

False God

ME! (feat Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco)

Daylight

Honestly, I love the whole album, but those listed above are the best of the best. I spend so much time griping and bitching about stuff I don’t like that it’s nice to share something that I did truly enjoy. I know it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re just looking for a good, pure pop album, you really can’t do better than this. This might go down as my album of the year, but time will tell. In any case, for all these reasons, Taylor Swift’s Lover had the West Week Ever.

 

23rd Aug2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/23/19

by Will

 

Do we have to talk about the Spider-Man/MCU thing? ‘Cause I really don’t wanna talk about the Spider-Man/MCU thing. Let’s do it Lightning Round style, shall we? OK, imagine Michael Pena’s Luis going through all this, as it’ll make it a lot more entertaining.

*Deep breath* Prior to the establishment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, long before Disney even purchased Marvel, Sony acquired the Spider-Man film rights. This deal gave us 2.5 good movies with Tobey Maguire and 2 movies starring Andrew Garfield that nobody really talks about. Then came the MCU, and it was good. So, Marvel Studios was able to strike a 5-movie deal with Sony that allowed them to use the character in their universe. It started with Captain America: Civil War and ended with Spider-Man: Far From Home. Everyone assumed a renewal of the deal was a foregone conclusion, but two things happened: 1) Venom, a Spider-Man spin-off NOT connected to anything the MCU was doing with Spider-Man, somehow made close to $1 billion worldwide and 2) Sony’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated feature (without any major input from Marvel Studios) won Best Animated Feature Academy Award. So, now Sony’s shit don’t stink.

Fast forward to this week, when it was reported that Sony and Marvel couldn’t come to a deal, and that the character’s involvement in the MCU was most likely over. This spawned so many questions: How do you explain anything about this Spider-Man without the MCU stuff? Would Tom Holland still play the character in Sony’s standalone films? Did Tony Stark die for nothing (like Zordon did in Power Rangers In Space)? SO. MANY. QUESTIONS – which spawned SO MUCH NERD ANGER. OMG! It was nothing but hashtags about leaving Spider-Man in the MCU, and everyone took a side: Disney/Marvel’s being greedy because they don’t deserve a 50/50 split (later reported to be closer to a request of just 30%), while Sony’s being dumb because Disney/Marvel did all the heavy lifting to make the character worthwhile, so Disney/Marvel deserved anything they were asking for.

Listen here, young person! Come close, ’cause I’ve got something important to tell ya: There are no heroes here. These are both multi-billion dollar companies that have you crying crocodile tears for them. People want to start throwing around how Disney is a growing monopoly – something nobody cared about with the Fox deal, but now that their precious MCU is in danger it’s suddenly a concern. Well, I hate to break it to ya, but it’s not a David and Goliath story. Sony isn’t some little upstart studio like A24. And the problem with a David and Goliath story in 2019 is that everyone wants Goliath to win, and luckily for them, this is Goliath vs Goliath. Ya can’t lose. And, really, you can’t because this will shake down one of two ways: 1) Sony does their own thing, without Disney’s assistance, and you’ll still go see it OR 2) The two companies strike a deal, and you’ll still go see it. At the end of the day, you’re gonna see whatever it ends up being regardless. And if you all could just calm the fuck down, you’ll realize this is more than likely going to end up in your favor. In the meantime, I ask that you have some decorum, as you’re making those #ReleaseTheSnyderCut people look good.

So there’s a Variety article this week about podcasts that has ruffled some feathers. You see, after only 30-something weeks in the mines, Conan O’Brien has been crowned the new golden boy of podcasts. And the folks who have been podcasting for years are feeling some kind of way about this. I totally understand why folks would be upset, as it’s a poorly-written, somewhat naive, piece that acts like podcasts are these newfangled things that just hit the streets. If this were Parade Magazine, I’d understand this kind of take, but this is Variety! I’ve been guesting on podcasts for TEN years. They are NOT new. Still, like most things, a celebrity endorsement gets it in front of more eyes, and celebs are turning to podcasts in order to “diversify their bonds”. It also doesn’t help that Conan was a reluctant host, who basically told his staff “I have a TV show. Why do I need a podcast?” whenever the suggestion would come up. Meanwhile, there are folks putting their blood, sweat, and tears into shows and aren’t blowing up anywhere near as much as Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend has in the past year. So, it’s more than just “sour grapes”.

At the same time, though, there were some folks who were just never going to listen to a podcast. They just weren’t. It’s like me with videos. With very few exceptions (and you know who you are), I am not a YouTube guy, and there’s very little chance of me becoming one. Believe it or not, that’s how some folks feel about podcasts. But then someone they enjoy, like Conan, comes along and introduces them to the medium. Next thing you know, he’s served as a gateway to other podcasts out there, possibly even yours. “A rising tide lifts all boats”, right?

Then again, it’s like being the best football player in Baltimore circa 1994, but it didn’t matter because there was no professional team. So, you toil away in some shitty after work/weekend league only for the Browns to sneak into your city under the cover of darkness (That really happened!). A lot of folks had these dreams that their shows might grow and become these breakout hits, and now they’ve been knocked down a few pegs by celebs who see the medium as a way to supplement their income. I mean, Conan even has a bit on his show when he does ad reads, saying that he’s doing this to pay the mortgage on his expensive beach house. So, it might rub some folks the wrong way because Conan sometimes doesn’t come off as genuine, even though the show is enjoyable. It’s just it feels like he’s not doing it for the “right” reasons.

In any case, I think this might serve as a reality check for some, while it might inspire others. I’m not really sure which way the wind is gonna blow here. Some pods are packing it in, while 5 more have popped up to take the place of each. It’s so 2019 to have a podcast now. You listen to a podcast, and every guest is like “Oh, and listen to MY podcast, which is yadda yadda yadda.” The problem with the rising ships thing is that every show IS competing for the listener’s time. With only 24 hours in a day, choices must be made, as well as sacrifices. Anyway, as someone who weathered both the rise and fall of blogs, I only offer this piece of advice: stay away from Hulk Hogan’s penis, and you should be fine.

Trailer Park

Bombshell

This looks SO good, but it doesn’t feel like a theatrical release. No, this feels like something that would premiere as an HBO Original Movie. I hope they follow Megyn up to her time at NBC just so there’s chance of us getting Aisha Tyler as Tamron Hall.


No Time To Die

Formerly referred to as “Bond 25”, there’s not a lot to chew on here. Why’d they use the font from The Love Boat? Is this movie gonna be set on The Love Boat?! Anyway, that’s probably the only way I would be excited for this, as I’ve actually never seen a Daniel Craig Bond film. He just always seemed humorless, and every time I see him, it’s like he’s still just playing his character from Layer Cake.


The Morning Show (Apple TV+)

Sure, looks good, but it’s not what I was expecting. We all know Carell has range, but I was hoping for something humorous instead of an SVU-esque retelling of the Matt Lauer saga. I’d watch it were it on Netflix, Amazon – Hell, even HBO, but – and mark my words – there is no way in Hell I’m subscribing to this service. And I don’t particularly have an axe to grind with Apple, but I’m also not a devoted disciple that partakes in all of their products. I just see no draw to this service other than this show.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • After 11 years of cohosting The Country Music Association Awards with Carrie Underwood, Brad Paisley has seemingly been ousted, as this year’s awards are being touted as a “Celebration of Women”. Underwood, will instead, be joined by Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire.
  • It was an expensive week for Hasbro, as they revealed they had acquired the Ghostbusters license from Mattel, and they also became the new owners of Peppa Pig and PJ Masks by paying $4 billion in an all-cash deal for studio Entertainment One. Bet they kinda with The Hub was still around now, huh?
  • Original cast member Brandon Routh will be leaving DC’s Legends of Tomorrow after its upcoming fifth season. Guess he’s gotta free up some time for all those conventions he’ll probably end up doing…
  • The show that nobody besides Elizabeth Warren admits to watching, Ballers, will be ending after its upcomign fifth season. I really hope The Rock’s been saving his money, ’cause it’s not like he’s in every other movie that comes out these days.
  • Most of the gang’s going back in the goo as a fourth Matrix film, starring Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, was announced. This makes me wonder about the status of the rumored Michael B. Jordan-starring Matrix film which sounded a lot more interesting to me.
  • Move over Monday Night Wars, as Wednesday is about to be the new wrestling battleground when WWE moves their development show, NXT, to USA in September – opposite All Elite Wrestling (AEW) on TNT, which will debut a few weeks later. Damn, that was a LOT of letters!
  • Speaking of USA, all the shit going down with Chrisley Knows Best, and USA hasn’t even hinted at cancelling that show. Surely the ratings can’t be THAT good, right?
  • If you’re a fan of the He-Mans, there’s a whole lot of He-Manny goodness coming your way out of last weekend’s Power Con. First, there was more info about the Masters of the Universe Origins figure line, which will be updates on the classic figures at retail for $14.99. Then, it was announced that Kevin Smith (yup, THAT Kevin Smith), would be working on an “anime” MOTU series for Netflix, set after the original 80s cartoon.
  • Dancing With The Stars skipped a cycle because they felt the show was broken when “dark horse” Bobby Bones wrangled his radio fan base to help him win. They ain’t seen nothing yet, as former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has joined the cast in a controversial move, He doesn’t make it past Week 1.

Alright, y’all – this chicken sandwich shit has just simply gotten out of hand. Last week, I declared that the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich had the West Week Ever, but I had no clue just how crazy things would get. The memes! The pics of Chick Fil A employees eating at Popeyes! The other chains, like Wendy’s and Shake Shack, trying to “Catch that smoke”, as the kids say! There are lines out the door at Popeyes locations, and many have sold out of the sandwich until the weekend. It’s kind of hard to believe. And then, at the same time, it isn’t.

I don’t want to go all “preachy Hotep” on folks, but Black people are going crazy over a chicken sandwich. In the year of our Lord 2019, my people are living out a racist caricature. Sure, folks will chime in “Just let people enjoy things”, but surely you’ve got to acknowledge the optics of this whole thing! It looks horrible, and it’s all for WHAT? Even HIGHER blood pressure than we already have? As I joked on Twitter, if you turn these Popeyes locations into polling places, then we might actually be on to something. Put that energy into something constructive. And this isn’t me judging someone for their hobbies or extracurricular activities, No, this is me judging you for acting like you’ve never had a damn chicken sandwich before!

Anyway, I can’t act like anything else took the pop culture world by storm this week quite as much as Popeyes so, once again, *sigh* the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich had the West Week Ever. PLEASE let something amazing happen next week, ’cause I can’t keep doing this. Then again, we’re only about a week away from finding out that Popeyes is the exclusive food vendor to ICE agents, and this shit will all blow over.

16th Aug2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/16/19

by Will

I’ve come to realize that my Nerd Boner Refractory Period (NBRP)™ is about 2 weeks these days. It takes me about 2 weeks to get excited about anything going on in pop culture, I can keep it up for an extra week, and then I need another 2 to recharge. So, here we are, 2 weeks after we last got together. How have you been? I like those shoes. Are they new?

Since we last spoke, I finished my binge of NBC’s Superstore. If you’ve ever worked in retail, you will COMPLETELY relate to this series set in the Cloud 9 big box store. Clocking in at 4 seasons, it’s not too much of a lift to get through, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I will point out, though, that it takes a turn in season 3. Like, the first 2 seasons are pretty run-of-the-mill single cam sitcom, but in season 3 it gets more…mature? I’m not sure that’s the right word, but the language changes, like they say “Jesus Christ” and “dick”, which were formerly reserved for things like basic cable. Most network shows still censor “Jesus Christ” to this day, in 2019! The only downside to the binge is that I watched it on the NBC app, where they also included the Superstore panel from SDCC. The general vibe I got off that was that this show is another Seinfeld, where the actors only pretended to like each other. A friend of mine pointed out that this is exactly like working in retail. In any case, It felt like America Ferrera kinda runs that set, and they all just sort of work one rung beneath her. Maybe it was just convention panel jitters, but it didn’t come off like “These are people who enjoy each other’s company”. I want to believe they’re really friends! Anyway, if you’ve ever been curious about the show, I highly recommend it.

In movie/TV/80s/cartoon/toy news, Hasbro is moving forward with a G.I. Joe spinoff film starring Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding as Snake Eyes. I find that character exhausting, which is why I’m much more interested in another Joe spinoff that was announced, which would focus on the character Chuckles. As the Joes’ undercover specialist, his sole animated appearance was in G.I.Joe: The Movie. As such, he’s never been taken that seriously by the fandom, so this announcement comes as a surprise to many. I, however, am not surprised because I read the IDW comic miniseries G.I. Joe: Cobra, which focused on Chuckles being sent on an undercover mission to infiltrate Cobra. Not only did I enjoy that series more than the regular Joe book at the time, but I also saw the character in a whole new light. That series felt like a dark Showtime/FX series, so I could definitely see it as the source for a good movie. I mean, it’s Paramount, so we can’t really hope for too much, but all is not lost!

Speaking of old 80s properties, I posted that tweet last night and was pretty surprised at the response. It was the result of a random tweet that popped up on my timeline, of someone swearing the Are You Afraid of the Dark? reboot better be good. Now, he clearly wasn’t the target audience for this show, so why was he so invested in it? A lot of folks asked me which show I was referring to, but the sad thing is that it didn’t matter. You could plug any old property into that blank, and you’d get the same response. There’s something about 80s and 90s kids who think these properties were theirs and theirs alone. Every generation needs their own stuff.

I’ve been saying for years that Hasbro should move away from the Duke/Destro iteration of G.I. Joe. It has its time and place, but too much has to be changed to work now. Can’t call Cobra a “terrorist organization” anymore, for one thing. Plus, kids really don’t give a shit about G.I. Joe anyway. Even if you tried to modernize it, they wouldn’t care. Is it a mobile game now? Maybe. Other than that, nope. A lot of this stuff is only loved by 40 year old men, and you can’t make them happy anyway. Between sexless marriages and prostate exams, they’re always gonna be full of piss and vinegar. I’m also talking to you, 40 year old men. You’re not really mad that She-Ra “looks like a boy”. No, you’re upset you got passed over again for a promotion, or you’re upset you can’t see your penis anymore. Let’s let kids have shit. Is that too much to ask? If you also happen to enjoy it, great, but Hollywood can’t keep catering to your old ass.

Trailer Park

Dolemite Is My Name (Netflix)

I never thought I would see Rudy Ray Moore as a sympathetic character, yet here we are. This looks so good to me. And that cast! I haven’t seen a Dolemite movie in, maybe, 25 years and it was an edited version on Channel 54. I’d like to check out the full, uncensored stuff, but I know that box set I used to see at Walmart is probably going for 3 figures on the secondary market as everyone jumps on the bandwagon in anticipation of this film. And the best part? I won’t even have to leave home to watch it!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Verizon, which paid an estimated $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr, offloaded the site to WordPress’s parent company, Auttomatic, for a mere $20 million. Womp womp. That’s what you get for getting rid of all the porn! As someone once put it, Tumblr was the world’s most efficient porn delivery service, and they just threw that all away.
  • The X-Men adjacent series Legion ended on FX this week after three seasons. I’m sure one or two of y’all care about that.
  • Did we ever talk about the fact that the Mad About You revival got picked up by Spectrum? So, yeah, nobody’s gonna see it. In any case, actress Abby Quinn was cast as Paul & Jamie’s daughter, Mabel, who’s heading off to college. Who, besides Paul Reiser, wanted this show?
  • NBC is in talks to modernize ’80s Brat Pack film St. Elmo’s Fire and adapt it into a TV show. I remember watching this movie in the hospital room when my oldest was born. Despite being set locally, I could not relate to it, and couldn’t even tell you what it was about if ya asked me. That song, though, is iconic.
  • After 13 years apart, CBS and Viacom have resolved their differences, re-merging as ViacomCBS. On the upside, as my friend Zac put it, this means the Star Trek film and TV rights are now back under the same umbrella, which had been a source of problems over the last decade.
  • Speaking of CBS, there are reports that Drew Barrymore is in talks with the studio to develop a daytime talk show. I see that lasting about a season, if she’s lucky.
  • So, I guess Ewan McGregor is getting his Obi-Wan show on Disney+? I can’t even keep up anymore. I know there reports of it, but it still seems “iffy” right now. I just find it funny that the Star Wars fans want this, even though he’s a reminder of how much they supposedly hate the prequels (though 2019 revisionist history claims “They actually weren’t that bad”).
  • Some feel Jay-Z has sold out with his Roc Nation’s recent partnership with the NFL. He has argued that he can do more work to effect change from the inside, but that’s not enough for many. At the end of the day, rich folks gonna rich, so…
  • Chrisley knows best? It sure doesn’t seem like it! Reality stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were indicated this week, before a federal grand jury, for tax evasion, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States. WOW! And, to top it off, Todd tried to extort his daughter Lindsie by threatening to release a sex tape of her. I see the Chrisleys are trying to go FULL Kardashian! Let me know how that works out for you, Todd. In any case, the Chrisleys are facing up to 30 years in prison.

So everyone on Black Twitter this week seemed captivated by this new creation brought into the world by fast food fried chicken chain Popeyes. Now, I can’t even get arrested on Black Twitter, but I know people who know people, so I get the info I need to get. Apparently the chain had debuted a Chicken Sandwich, which was available in regular or spicy. I didn’t see a single person who didn’t get spicy. I wanna be hip. I like chicken. The problem, though, is that I HATE Popeyes.

You see, a few years ago, there used to be a Popeyes behind my then-job, and it made me sick every time I ate there. Not to mention the chicken never really looked right. You know how *done* fried chicken looks? Yeah, it didn’t look like that. It was always kinda pale looking. Anyway, that helped to reshape my chicken eating habits. Growing up, I always said I liked KFC’s chicken, but Roy Rogers chicken skin. I always wished there was some way to merge the two. Then Roy Rogers disappeared for about 20 years, so then I was pretty much just left with KFC.

When it comes to the chicken sandwich, however, there’s one chain that reigns supreme: Chick Fil A. Yeah, we all know about their politics, and they’re terrible, blah blah blah. But they sure make a damn good chicken sandwich. It’s the reason why so many people are conflicted: “My sister’s gay, but GODDAMN is that a good sandwich! Sorry, Christy.” So, in our new era of wokeness, everyone has been wanting that same experience, without all the guilt. Some will say “Wendy’s has a Spicy Chicken Sandwich that’s just as good!” No, they don’t, and you’re just playing yourself. Whenever a new chicken sandwich hits the streets, the Left (yeah, it IS a partisan matter at this point) can’t wait to see if there are guilt-free chicken sandwiches ahead for them. And there never are. You see, people are so desperate to replace those hate mongers, but they don’t realize that hate is their secret, tasty ingredient. Everyone knows it, but they can’t bear to admit it. I mean, that’s GOT to be it, right? Other than that, it’s just chicken and peanut oil. It’s not like there are 11 secret herbs and spices. Nope, gotta be the hate.

Anyway, I got sidetracked there. So, the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich is a large boneless breast of chicken, on a plump brioche bun, accompanied by thick pickle chips and a reddish Cajun sauce. Sounds good to me! So, I went to the Popeyes nearest my job for lunch yesterday, and placed my order for this thing all the cool kids were raving about. I, then, proceeded to eat it in a parking lot in a safer neighborhood, ’cause this place is dangerous! What did I think? OVERRATED. I pretty much only tasted bun and pickles, which is odd because there was a sizable piece on chicken there. It was very crispy, but almost at the expense of juiciness. I can’t say it was “dry”, but it wasn’t exactly juicy and succulent. It’s certainly a filling sandwich, and I didn’t feel like “Huh, I could eat another one of those” when I was done. Still, I came here for the full chicken experience, and not just a brioche bun. I’d go to Panera if I wanted that. The chicken didn’t have much taste to it, while the bread and pickles were the only things that had *flavor*. Meanwhile, I thought the Cajun sauce would be doing the heavy lifting, but it’s just there, as a runny, mayo-based sauce. I’m willing to give it another chance, but I don’t think it’s exactly the King of Chicken Sandwiches. Not yet, at least. Still, nobody has cared this much about Popeyes on social media since we were all trying to decide who that Black chick was supposed to be in their commercials (does she own a franchise? Is she Mrs. Popeyes? Who IS she?!). That’s why the Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich had the West Week Ever.

 

26th Jul2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/26/19

by Will

Look at that – I’m back a week after my last post! Speaking of that post, I had a lot of good engagement. I reconnected with old friends, and another good friend even wrote a response piece. That’s what I like to see!

I’ve been really slacking in the movie-watching department ever since my second daughter was born. I think I watched something, like, 13 movies last year. The year my first was born, I watched around 71! So, I’m trying to work on that, which is why I sat down and watched Barbershop: The Next Cut when I caught it on TV last week. Luckily it was only rated PG-13 in theaters, and you can get away with murder on basic cable these days, so it was hardly edited.

I’ve been wanting to see this movie for years, as I was a big fan of the first one (I barely remember the second one), but just never got around to it. At the end of the day, the plot isn’t what these movies are about. No, the star of the franchise is the barbershop itself, as a safe haven where Black men (and now women) come to learn the news and gossip of the day. It’s akin to a community center and church, but you can also get shape-ups. The thing about these movies is that I always felt on the outside looking in, as I haven’t traditionally had the Black barbershop experience. When I was much younger, my mom would take me to Mr. Bill’s, which was a traditional Black barbershop just over the DC line. Shit was dangerous and inconvenient, though, so I ended up at the Hair Cuttery near our house for the next few years. Then, there was the stint where she’d just cut it herself, as it’s pretty easy to just do the same length all over with clippers. So, it wasn’t until college that I got the TRUE barbershop experience. And, in true Will fashion, I fucked it up. Gather ’round, children, as I’m gonna tell you a lost adventure of which I’m not very proud.

So, at Cornell (did I tell you I went to Cornell?), there were really only 2 ways to get a haircut if you were Black: 1) you got it cut by someone at Ujamaa (the Black dorm – no, dorms weren’t segregated, but it was an option if you wanted to live amongst your people. I did not live in Ujamaa. I lived across the street, and looked at them from my window like a Jewish kid looking at the Christian family on Christmas morning) or 2) you went to JC Knight downtown. Every time I went over to “The Uj”, the reception was basically “Who the fuck are you and why are you here?” So, JC Knight it was. Knight’s shop was downtown, just off the Ithaca Commons pedestrian mall, and was highly popular. Every Black person in town knew him and his shop. So, one day I went down there and sat down waiting for my turn. Bad move. At the Cuttery, you just took whoever was available, so I didn’t understand the politics that I needed to request someone. So I think I sat a good hour before they even acknowledged me and were like “Um, you waitin’ for somebody?” I meekly said “Anyone who will take me.” Thus began my immersion into the Black barbershop experience.

I would go down to the shop about once a month (or whenever I hadn’t blown all my money on comics), and learn what had been going on in the Black world while I’d been studying up on The Hill. Sophomore year I started going less and less because that was the year of my S-Curl Experiment. Oh, you don’t know what an S-Curl is? Ugh, I need more Black readers.

So, an S-Curl is kinda like a Jheri Curl, in that your hair is processed, and you keep it wet looking by spraying “activator” on it every now and then. Think 80s Michael Jackson. It’s a lye process that basically straightens Black hair, but then you can do shit to it, like style it with gel and stuff. So, in my “Man, I sure would like to look like I’m in a boyband” year 2000 desperation, I did this to my hair. As such, I didn’t need as many haircuts because you wanted it to get long so you could do more with it. Every now and then you’d just need the sides touched up. And this was the beginning of the end.

You see, Knight and his boys knew I was sheltered and really didn’t have much “street cred”. I was just some innocent kid from Wheaton, Maryland, but I’m sure they probably said stuff like “He thinks he’s White.” People always said shit like that when I was in predominantly Black situations. It has taken me years to come to this realization that I’m about to share with you, but it just goes to show that I’m somewhere on the spectrum that it never occurred to me sooner. So, one time he cleaned up my sides, and when he was done it was time to pay him. God…I hate just thinking about this now. You know how you MEAN to say one thing, but something else comes out? OK, so the haircut was $20, and I wanted to tip, but I only had two $20 bills. I gave him both, and he was like “Are you sure?” *Sigh*

OK, like I had said above, I was spending every last cent on comics, because I could Cornell Card anything else I needed, and just charge it to the bursar. So, I knew that money in my hands would be a bad situation. What I MEANT to say was “Hey, it’s better in your hands than in mine.” However, I’m awkward and nervous at times. What I DID say was “Hey, you probably need it more than I do.” FUUUUUUUUUUUCKKKK. I basically pulled a Rich Frat Boy on him, and the saddest part was I didn’t even realize it at the time. It was years later when I was like “Oh, wait, that said in that way is pretty fucking bad.” I just walked out of the shop, thinking everything was hunky dory. So, the next time I went, nobody could fit me in. I had been blackballed by the barbershop. Knight DID do me a sold, though, by giving me a referral. He wasn’t gonna mess with me anymore, but his friend Carol, this White lady who worked at the salon in the mall, could cut Black hair. I think he played it off as not knowing what to do with the S-Curl, but we know what the real reason was. So, cast out of Black Eden, I proceeded to get my hair cut by Carol until I graduated.

About 10 years ago, I tried to reenter the barbershop world. I found a place in Silver Spring, but there are so many unspoken politics of the shop – not only the different ways to get into someone’s chair, but also learning what you can and can’t talk about. Does this shop think Obama does enough for Black people? Does this shop think Obama is a sellout? What about the Hotep guy in the corner? He’s probably got some off-the-wall thoughts on things. That stuff was just tiring, so I retreated back to the Cuttery, where some woman asks me how I’m doing, in broken English, and leaves it at that.

Anyway, Barbershop: The Next Cut was like revisiting an old acquaintance. We were never close enough to be friends, but our association was enough that I could wonder what might have been. If you’ve never seen this one, the gang violence around the shop in the south side of Chicago has increased, and Ice Cube’s Calvin struggles with the decision of whether or not to move the shop to the north side. Meanwhile, a bunch of stuff is going on in the shop, like Common is married to Eve, but Nicki Minaj is trying to break up their marriage (why did it take this movie for me to finally see Nicki and say “DAMN!”?). There are new barbers, played by New Girl‘s LaMorne Morris and The Mindy Project‘s Utkarsh Ambudkar added to the mix. When the violence reaches its peak, the shop decides to sponsor a weekend ceasefire to bring to community together. Meanwhile, you got all that good barbershop banter: What did Obama do for US? Can you blame THOTS for unfaithful men? And to quote a deplorable man, “There were good people on both sides.” Anyway, it was an enjoyable little movie, even if Hella predictable at times (that straight-laced, good boy didn’t stand a chance).

This week in comics, the X-Men franchise got something of a housecleaning when Jonathan Hickman took over, with House of X #1 as the start of his run. Now, I’m always apprehensive when Marvel starts touting a grand plan for the X-Men because of two reasons 1) I tend not to like those grand plans and 2) I feel it shits on the journeymen who were struggling to keep the books afloat between grand plans. Imagine you finally get your dream job of writing X-Men, only for your run to be forgotten as some palette cleanser between 2 big name writers. You either die Grant Morrison, or you live long enough to become Chuck Austen.

Now, one of the biggest X-Men relaunches was when Morrison took over “adjectiveless” X-Men and renamed it New X-Men (meanwhile, Chuck Austen was cranking out massive turds over in Uncanny X-Men). Morrison had a grand plan where humans discovered that they would be extinct in a few generations and mutants would become the dominant species. Characters were experiencing “secondary mutations”, resulting in newer appearances and powers. In true Morrison fashion, his ideas were “out there” and, while they brought a lot of attention to the line, Marvel proceeded to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he had done. As then-Editor in Chief Joe Quesada said, they “had to put the genie back in the bottle”. So, enter Scarlet Witch, whose utterance of “No More Mutants” reduced the Earth’s mutant population down to a mere 198 characters. There goes any designs of taking over humanity when your entire species could fill a 737. Secondary mutations? Fake. Sure, a few characters from his run remained, like the Stepford Cuckoos and Xorn, but Marvel did their damnedest to erase the broad strokes of his story.

So, imagine my surprise when they started touting Hickman’s upcoming run as the most drastic, sweeping thing they’ve done since Morrison’s run. Well, first of all, RIP to all the writers who’ve manned the books since Morrison’s run ended in 2004. And next, I already know how this is going to play out. My fears were confirmed when I went to a midnight release for House of X and read the book. Verdict? NOT FOR ME. It really does feel just like a remix of the Morrison run, even though I’m sure there will be Hickmanian twists and turns. I can’t do Mutants Have The Upper Hand because I always wait for other shoe to drop.

In the book, it appears that Xavier and Magneto’s dreams have finally learned to co-mingle, and Xavier has a bunch of wonder drugs he’s willing to offer to humanity in exchange for them recognizing his sovereign nation of Krakoa (yeah, the island from 1975’s Giant Size X-Men #1).  We learn a lot about what the drugs do, and how the world’s governments feel about them. In true Hickman fashion, there are charts in infographics, so reading it makes you feel like you’re studying for a final, trying to glean every important detail from the page. Once again, we discover that not only is humanity on the verge of extinction, but that it’s approaching more rapidly than previously thought. The book ends with Magneto introducing mutants as the new gods of Homo Sapiens.

As we saw in Avengers/Secret Wars, Hickman is ALL about playing the long game. He will mine history and go for some deep cuts. It’s probably a rich experience for those who really commit to it, but I found myself bored early on with his Avengers run, and only came back for the pseudo-satisfying Secret Wars. I’m sure y’all are in for an interesting 4-5 year ride, but I don’t think I want a ticket for it. It’s a pretty sizable dose of Been There Done That, with more than a dash of I Simply Don’t Care. Not trying to be cynical because I WANTED to like it. It’s just not BOLD enough.

Meanwhile, characterizations didn’t feel right. Other than the Magneto/Cuckoos scenes, everyone else felt strangely out of character. I’m sure there’s a reason for it, but I’m not sure I care to invest 3 months in finding out WHY. Because we ALL know that the only way to get this genie back in the bottle is gonna be to have some kind of devastating No More Mutants event around 2024. If comics are still around by then…

The problem with comics is that they’re cyclical. They have to give the appearance of change without offering actual change. And I’ve often said that the average life cycle of a comics fan is about 15 years. Marvel’s counting on folks to have not read the Morrison run because, well, it was 15 years ago. So it’s not really a “crime” that Hickman seems to borrow heavily from it, as the fan base that read that story should have already cycled out of comics by now. Sure, some have stuck around, and they might be as vocal as I am about it, but I just feel it’s kinda cheap to go back to that well, no matter how much time has passed. It’d be like trying to mount the full-on Age of Apocalypse again (which would be nigh impossible in the Internet Age).

At SDCC, it was announced that the House of X/Power of X miniseries wrap up in October, at which point the actual ongoing series will launch. Maybe the dust will settle by then, and I’ll check out the franchise at that point. House of X, however, didn’t grab me enough to come back to this party on a weekly basis. If anything, I’ll read it once it’s collected.

Over the weekend, I took on the Herculean task of cleaning out my Gmail. I’m terrible with email, and I often say if you want to get in touch with me you’d better just tweet at me. On Saturday night, my inbox was over 7,000, but I got it to 198 by Monday morning. The biggest problem is that I don’t delete the junk immediately when it comes in. It also doesn’t help that I have Twitter set up to email me whenever I get a DM or a Like/RT.

The DM thing is funny because I have a record of conversations long after some folks have unfollowed me. If you’ve ever DMed me, I still have it in Gmail. And it was quite the trip down Memory Lane. People I’d forgotten about, who just, one day, stopped tweeting. Did they die? Were they deported? In most cases, I’ll never know. In a lot of ways it was sad. “Oh, here’s that trans gal who I supported during her difficult transition, but unfollowed me out of the blue.” Or “Oh, here’s the girl who might’ve catfished me, but I’ll never know because her sister now says she’s dead”. Yeah, I’ve lived a crazy life online. It’s just interesting how people can come into your life, and you make what you consider to be meaningful connections with them, and then they can leave just as easily as they entered.

Trailer Park

Ready or Not

Man, White people won’t let us have anything! This is just White Get Out.

Zombieland: Double Tap

I honestly didn’t care about this thing until Rosario Dawson showed up. I mean, I enjoyed the original, but it really doesn’t hold a special place in my heart, nor did I just love the characters. I guess it’d be interesting to see what they’ve been up to all these years, but this is not a theater movie for me. I’ll be streaming it somewhere.

Playmobil: The Movie

First and foremost, I’m just bracing myself for folks to mispronounce the brand’s name. It’s Play-mo-BEEL. It’s European, you uncultured swine! Second, this is just sad. We all know WHY they’re doing it, but they never seemed to stop to discuss whether they SHOULD. They’ve kinda sold out, and this is a prime example of that.

When I was growing up, Playmobil was a high-end brand, bought by upper middle-class White parents who wanted their kids to have the “action figure experience”, without it being tied to some sort of cartoon or movie. It promoted creativity and, while not a brick system, its pieces were modular. You know the kids who had Playmobil: unless their parents were European, it was usually that kid who was allergic to something weird, like foods that were red. And he always wore corduroy. In recent years, however, they’ve tried to “diversify their bonds” by taking on licenses, like Ghostbusters and How to Train Your Dragon. I get it. Gotta do what you can to survive. But a movie? One that doesn’t even look remotely GOOD? PASS. I just hope this thing doesn’t drag the toys down with it.

The Rocketeer (Disney Junior)

Surprisingly no one is talking about this trailer that debuted last weekend at SDCC. OK, honesty time: I’ve never seen The Rocketeer. Based on the ratio of Likes to Dislikes on YouTube, those who have seen it aren’t too keen on this show. I think it looks cute, and I know my girls would enjoy it. This might be as close to superhero stuff as I’m gonna get with Evie, so I’ll take it.

Power Rangers: Beast Morphers (Nick)

Though the show is currently on hiatus, this trailer that also debuted at SDCC confirmed a longstanding rumor: original Red Ranger, Jason (played by Austin St. John), would be returning to the franchise next season. Now, I always felt that Austin AND his character had the charisma of a wet paper bag, but I think everyone is tired of Green/White Ranger Jason David Frank, so I’ll take it.

Harley Quinn (DC Universe)

I enjoyed this sizzle reel of the upcoming series, but not enough to actually subscribe to the DC Universe streaming service. The animation looks choppy at times (see the scene where she’s flossing out of the room), and I think I’d prefer Rauch to Cuoco if we HAD to cast a Big Bang alum. I don’t think the service is long for this world, so hopefully this show doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, and at least comes out on Warner’s streaming service, HBO Max.

Star Trek: Picard (CBS All Access)

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY! WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE? TAKE IT!

I have been adamantly against the CBS All Access “experiment”, and my love for Trek wasn’t strong enough for me to subscribe for Discovery. But THIS?! Seven of Nine?! And Sirtis and Frakes have confirmed that Riker and Troy are coming back?! Oh, sign me the fuck up! You got me, CBS.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a surprising move, Seth MacFarlane announced that his sci fi drama The Orville would be moving to Hulu for its 3rd season. Apparently he needed more time to deliver the episodes, while Fox needed to fill its schedule. So, with the Hulu arrangement, the show won’t return until late 2020.
  • Thank you, Yahweh! Avengers: Endgame has finally unseated Avatar as the highest grossing movie in the world. Now, I’ve actually never seen Avatar, but it always bothered me that something with absolutely no pop culture footprint sat atop that chart. Yes, I know the film was responsible for advances in film making, but that’s not enough for me. I want lunchboxes! So, bye, Avatar!
  • It was announced yesterday that the Will & Grace revival would end after this fall’s 11th season. I guess that’s sad news to someone, but I never acknowledged the revival since it would have to retcon the show’s original finale.
  • Damon Lindelof has clarified that the upcoming HBO Watchmen show is NOT a reboot of the classic comic miniseries, but rather a sequel set 30 years after the original.
  • It was a big week for comic adaptations, as AMC is developing a series based on Image Comics’s Farmhand, meanwhile Amazon is developing a series based on Image’s Paper Girls.
  • Brandon Routh will be suiting up again as Superman for the first time since Superman Returns, in The CW’s “Crisis On Infinite Earths” event this fall. Since they can’t use the Returns suit, he will actually don the “S” of Kingdom Come Superman.
  • After “saving” it following its cancellation at ABC, Netflix has cancelled Kiefer Sutherland’s Designated Survivor. It’s almost like it was based on a shaky premise with no real longevity, huh? Look for talk of that 24 movie to heat up in the next few months…
  • Lifetime is prepping a movie based on the Lori Loughlin college bribary scandal, and I’m left wondering if she can play herself. I mean, who else is a “Lori Loughlin type” whose quote is in line with what Lifetime is willing to pay? Some good recommendations from Twitter were Dina Meyer, Paige Turco, and Jennie Garth.

It was a huge week for Marvel Entertainment, as they revealed a ton of things during San Diego Comic Con last weekend. First, we got new Marvel Legends toy reveals, including some figures a lot of folks had been clamoring for, such as Squirrel Girl, a redesigned Jean Grey and a beautiful Doctor Doom.

And for their MCU figures, they revealed that “Dude” Thor would be the Build A Figure for an upcoming all MCU wave of figures:

For a full list of what’s coming out from the line, check out my pal over at AwesomeToyBlog!

But the excitement didn’t end with the toys. Marvel also unveiled their Phase 4 slate of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We already knew about the Disney+ shows, including WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If? and Hawkeye. No, the real surprises were the film reveals, including Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder, Black Widow, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Shang-Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings. And just when everyone thought they were done, they announced Mahershala Ali would be starring in a new Blade film.

While these announcements took folks by surprise, there were some glaring omissions: Black Panther 2, Captain Marvel 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, etc. Kevin Feige promised, however that these are still in development, as well as plans for the Fantastic Four and the mutant contingent.

Quick thoughts on each film:

Eternals – I know nothing of the source material, but it’s got Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, and Brian Tyree Henry in the cast, so that’s good enough for me. Maybe it’ll take us by surprise, like Guardians did.

Thor: Love and Thunder – I don’t really know if we needed Thor 4, but I guess they’d be leaving money on the table by not doing it. The biggest surprise is that Natalie Portman is returning as Jane Foster, who will also become the Mighty Thor, just as in the comics a few years back. It’s just funny that, for years, I heard Portman was difficult to work with, but apparently not that difficult if they’ve brought her back.

Black Widow – I still say this thing is a day late and a dollar short. Plus, if Scarlett keeps opening her damn mouth, she’s gonna kill any goodwill folks have towards this movie.

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness – Finally, a movie that will do what Far From Home did not: explore the Multiverse. Still, I felt Doctor Strange’s first movie was “meh” (It was basically a remixed Iron Man, with half the charisma), and it’s being billed as the MCU’s first horror film, which ain’t exactly my genre. I’ll still see it, though.

Shang Chi: The Legend of the Ten Rings – This one was somewhat surprising in that it actually seemed to confirm a fan theory that I’d seen online before it was announced. Someone had said “What if Shang Chi’s father is the REAL Mandarin?”, instead of the fraud we got in Iron Man 3. And while that’s not necessarily the plot (that we know of), it does seem to be headed in that direction, with the mention of the Ten Rings.

Blade – I don’t love those Wesley Snipes movies like the rest of y’all. I think I only saw the first one anyway. So, I welcome a change. Snipes is too old anyway, but I’m sure they’ll work him in there as something. Maybe a mentor character or something.

So, while they walloped us with surprises, I still feel like the slate is missing a bit of Wow Factor. With Thor as the elder statesman of the MCU, I’d like a few more familiar properties to anchor this phase, with the newer stuff sprinkled in. Like, it’s time for Doctor Strange 2, but Blade could’ve waited, as could Eternals. I guess they’re trying to get a new trilogy off the ground, but there are a lot of untried concepts here. It’s not like they can easily make a Black Widow 2 by just shoving the movies between preexisting films, as there are no stakes if we already know how her story ends. I mean, Chadwick Boseman is already 41. We need to crank out 2 more Panthers while he still can! Anyway, they’re taking a lot of chances here. It’s not that it’s unearned, but it does feel a bit like hubris.

At the end of the day, I think it’s safe to say that Marvel won Comic Con. Back in the day, that was a thing. “Who won SDCC?” This year, I couldn’t even tell you any comic news that was announced, other than some auxiliary X-books that don’t sound too interesting. Did DC even show up? So, some might say it wasn’t even a competition this year, but whatever. Marvel came away from the show on everyone’s lips, and that’s why Marvel Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

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