02nd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Since I basically took off the month of November I guess this has got to be good, huh? Recently, some online friends were discussing taking breaks from blogging, and one of them said that you don’t need to offer an explanation as to where you’ve been. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around your blog, so it’s kind of egotistical to think anyone cares where you’ve been. I get that, but I don’t really agree with it. When people come to expect something regularly, you do kind of owe them an explanation as to why you broke your “promise”, so to speak. Plainly put, something inside me is broken. Yeah, I’m basically stealing Selena Gomez’s speech from the American Music Awards, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

When I started West Week Ever, it was to celebrate the week that was in pop culture. But can you honestly cite anything that had a great week over the past month? And I’m not even really going to delve into the political landscape of things. I’ll save that for a podcast, where it’ll be harder for someone to cut and paste my words without context. No, nothing had the West Week Ever for the past few weeks. I try to go by the whole “The show must go on” mentality, but I just couldn’t do it. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t go into these posts to be negative, but sometimes that’s what comes out. I couldn’t be positive lately, though, and I saw no reason to put that off on you. I wanted Fantastic Beasts to fail. I want Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s cancellation to be announced. I guess I’m one of those men who wants to watch the world burn. But I’m back in the saddle, trying to fight the good fight. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back and look at things, so that’s where I’ve been. So, ready to talk about pop culture? Let’s go!

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Seeing as how I usually enjoy the CW DC show crossovers, I’m sure some folks probably figured this year’s “Heroes vs Aliens” featuring the Dominators would get the West Week Ever this week. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I really didn’t care much for this year’s crossover. To start, I always thought it was a bit of heavy lifting by spreading it across 4 shows. The Berlanti Dilution Effect is full force on this one. Oh, you’ve never heard of the Berlanti Dilution Effect? It’s probably because I just named it. Basically, whenever the Berlantiverse adds a new show, it dilutes the quality of the preexisting shows, as everyone just seems spread too thin. Folks loved Arrow until The Flash came along. All of a sudden, it was the new hit show, while Arrow’s quality dropped. Then, last season, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow were introduced, while fans felt Flash’s quality dropped, and Arrow was damn near unwatchable. Fans seem to love Supergirl, while Legends is just kinda off to the side, not bad, but not great. Well, since Supergirl is the new kid on the block, I felt like she could’ve sat on the bench for this year’s crossover. This year should’ve just been Flash/Arrow/Legends, as they at least occupy the same universe. Adding Supergirl was just overstuffing the thing, and her addition didn’t really add much to things.

I also had another issue with the crossover: I don’t think Team Arrow should be fighting aliens. They’re too street-level for that. Now, they’ve dipped their toe into the supernatural with Damien Darhk and Ragman, but I’ve also felt those were creative missteps for the series. They should only be concentrating on street level threats, as something extraterrestrial is out of their wheelhouse. Plus, it’s no secret that Arrow is basically TV Batman, as a lot of Batman’s rogues and tropes have been added to the show. I don’t think Green Arrow should be fighting aliens as much as I actually don’t like Batman as a member of the Justice League. Bear with me a minute here. Prior to the New 52, about 10 years ago, the Bat books were united in the fact that they approached Batman as urban legend. He has more power as a mysterious being, whispered about amongst thugs and criminals than he does as a guy fighting next to Superman in broad daylight. I’m fine if Batman lends his support from the Watchtower, but he shouldn’t be a public face of the Justice League, as he really shouldn’t “exist” as far as the Man on the Street is concerned. I feel the same about the Green Arrow. That hero loses his clout if he’s seen running around with Flash and Supergirl, fighting aliens. He needs to stick to what he does best.

Now, for the crossover itself. I skipped the Supergirl episode because I really have no desire to get into that show, and the pertinent parts of the crossover were repeated in the next night’s Flash episode. Flash was just a little too cutesy for me, as everyone got acquainted, learning each other’s names and power sets, but they didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Sure, there was some Flash stuff going on that didn’t make a ton of sense to folks, like me, who are still basically on season one of the show. They did a pretty good job, though, explaining Flashpoint and how it had affected things. They even threw in some development for the Legends crew, following up on Professor Stein’s visions. Outside of that, though, most of that episode was fluff. I mean, aliens KILL the president, and even it’s kinda treated as an afterthought. Then we got to the Arrow episode which was one big dream sequence. Sadly, this was also the show’s 100th episode, so I felt bad that it was “squandered” on a crossover. And of course I didn’t like the episode, as it featured all the non-metas on a friggin’ spaceship, IN SPACE! The Legends finale was just more of the same. Kara acting too cutesy, Team Arrow being USELESS against aliens, and there were too many characters without a use for most of them. There was just WAY too much going on, with a threat that wasn’t entirely credible, vanquished in a manner that also wasn’t too credible. I realize I’ve gotta suspend disbelief a bit, but COME ON! And the episode ends with a private press conference with Green Arrow, front and center, meeting the new goddamn President! THE PRESIDENT SHOULD NOT BE PUBLICLY ASSOCIATING WITH A VIGILANTE! It’s like Flashpoint has got them living in Trump’s America or some shit! Anyway, there was a pretty clever Brandon Routh/Superman Returns joke near the end, so I’ll give them credit for that one.

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In television news, it was announced that the long-gestating Inhumans film had been demoted to a television series to debut on ABC in 2017. In fact, the first 2 episodes will debut in IMAX in theaters. This whole thing is laughable to me, but not surprising if you understand the nuances of Marvel. The Inhumans were a pet project of Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, as Marvel didn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, so he saw the Inhumans as plug and play “freaks with powers” that Marvel Studios could exploit. And he basically forced this idea on Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who really wanted nothing to do with the project. That’s why it was put on Marvel’s film schedule, but kept getting shuffled further and further into the future. Well, after the somewhat ugly divorce between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television last year, Marvel Studios now reports directly to Disney, while Marvel Television is still under the Marvel umbrella. This also dissolved the “brain trust” of comic pros who had given input on the movies up to that point. So, this means there’s even less hope of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever truly aligning with the movies, but it also allowed Feige to get The Inhumans off his plate and pass the buck on to the TV division.

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Anyway, the show is supposed to focus on the Inhuman royal family, such as Black Bolt and Medusa, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather see less of. That franchise has never interested me, and the idea of it on a TV budget isn’t too impressive, either. In its defense, the season will only be 8 episodes long, so they can hopefully apply 22 episodes worth of budget to those 8 episodes. The unofficial cancellation of Conviction, however, has me hoping Marvel might start conversations with Hayley Atwell to bring Agent Carter back for one more season. Adding Ghost Rider to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might’ve been a creative shot in the arm for the show, but it hasn’t moved the needle much in terms of ratings. So, the idea of a 5th season isn’t a guarantee at this point, despite the fact that ABC/Disney own the show. If it were up to me, I’d opt for more Agent Carter as a companion show to Inhumans and say adios to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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In other TV news, three cast members were announced for Star Trek Discovery. Most people are gonna say Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh, but I’m gonna say Supercop 2’s Michelle Yeoh has been cast as Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. Meanwhile, Anthony Rapp of Rent fame will portray the Discovery’s science officer Lt. Stamets. Motion capture veteran Doug Jones will play science officer Lt. Saru, who will be a member of an alien species new to the Trek franchise. And none of these announcements do anything for me. Where’s the obligatory former Benson cast member? Plus, people mistakenly took the news of Yeoh’s casting to mean that she’s the lead, but she’s not, as it was already announced that the lead would not be a captain, and would be a member of the Discovery crew. So, Yeoh is really just more of a high profile guest star. Still, for a show that’s supposed to debut in May (formerly January), they sure seem to be dragging their feet with this casting process.

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In comic news, the rosters were revealed for the upcoming X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue series. Now, for fans of the 90s X-Men, those divisions were important because the adventures of the Gold team were featured in Uncanny X-Men, while the exploits of the Blue team were featured in the X-Men cartoon, as well as the “Adjectiveless” X-Men comic. Fans thought this would be a return to those days, but this week’s announcement dashed those hopes. X-Men Blue will focus on the time-displaced original teen X-Men, led by Magneto – a nod back to the 80s New Mutants era when Magneto served as their mentor. Meanwhile, the Gold team will be comprised of Storm, Old Man Logan, Rachel Grey, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde as leader. In a lot of ways, the current Gold team isn’t too different from the old one, as Storm and Colossus were on that team, while Nightcrawler, Rachel, and Kitty were in Excalibur at the time. I’ll probably grab the Gold book, as it seems the closest to the Extraordinary X-Men team – a book I’m already reading – plus I couldn’t give two shits about that time-displaced team. The Gold team also has the distinction of being written by Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim, whose work I like, while the Blue team is written by Cullen Bunn, whose indie leanings have left me somewhat disappointed. The biggest issue with the team division is that it leaves a LOT of mutants on the table without homes. Back in the day, while it could be argued that the Blue team was the more popular of the two, both had heavy hitters on their rosters. The “wealth” was spread evenly, so to speak. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. If anything, the Blue team is just a continuation of All-New X-Men, while the Gold team seems to be taking Extraordinary’s place. But where’s Magik? Beast? Am I missing their fates since I’m not reading Death of X or Inhumans vs X-Men? The whole thing just feels kind of lopsided, without a real “A” team in the mix. The Gold folks are classic characters, but lack a “wow factor”, while the Blue team just still feels like a gimmick all these years later.

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In movie news, we got the concept art of how Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5 may look in the upcoming Power Rangers movie. This is the stuff of nightmares, kids! Why does he have those floodlight eyeballs? Was his scanner not enough? And why do his arms go down to the floor? I hate everything I’ve seen about this film, but I’m hoping it succeeds just so they can hopefully build off of this for the sequel and make something good. Look, I understand the need to update things for a new audience, but this thing seems almost ashamed of its source material. So, that alienates the built-in fan base, while offering almost nothing to entice a new one. I really don’t know what this movie is doing.

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While we’re on the topic of Power Rangers, one aspect of the franchise that’s getting it right is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic series from BOOM! There have been several Power Rangers comics over the past 20 years, and they all sucked. I know because I read the vast majority of them (One day I should write about the terrible Hamilton series where the Rangers and Zords just randomly change in the middle of the story). Anyway, for anyone who’ll listen, I’ve been telling them that the current series is better than it has any right to be. Between it and the Kimberly-centric Power Rangers: Pink spinoff, the creators are really mining the property without telling meaningless stories that “dance between the raindrops of continuity”. For example, we found out that Rita actually approached Zack to wield the green power coin before Tommy even came to town. And we also found out that Zordon reenlisted the help of the original Rangers even after they had officially left the team. But this week was this biggest shocker: in #9 of the comic series, we were introduced to a mysterious Ranger who seems to be drawing both green and white power from the Morphing Grid. Oh, and he’s evil and working with Rita. I used to be the guy who said “If it wasn’t in the show, it didn’t count”, but BOOM! is finding ways to tell interesting compelling stories while still honoring the continuity that we already know. If you’re a comic and Power Rangers fan, you should definitely be reading this series.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The season finale of HBO’s Insecure had many Black males joining #TeamLawrence and #LawrenceHive, sparking quite the divide on Black Twitter
  • Speaking of premium cable channels, Showtime announced that Masters of Sex would not be coming back for a 5th season. I guess they, uh, mastered the sex.
  • Full House creator Jeff Franklin actually purchased the San Francisco house that served as the exterior of the Tanner home
  • Billy Dee Williams will be the voice of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Lego Batman Movie, reprising his role from 1989’s Batman.
  • Quantico showrunner Josh Safran has said that the show will never feature a Muslim terrorist. That snickering you hear is coming from the producers of 24.
  • While promoting his new book, Saved By The Bell executive producer Peter Engel said that Zack and Kelly “weren’t built to last” and are probably divorced by now.
  • Good girls finish last, as Amazon has decided against a second season for Mad Men clone Good Girls Revolt

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When I first saw the ads for Search Party, I thought “What a dumb idea for a show.” It looked too hipster, and it starred the Great Value Ilana Glazer, Alia Shawkat, who you probably remember as Maeby from Arrested Development. I remembered reading about it, and wondered how exactly they could make a show out of that premise. Well, I can admit when I’m wrong, and BOY was I wrong!

If you’re not familiar, Search Party kicks off with the disappearance of a young woman. Dory (Shawkat) and her group of Millennial hipster friends kinda knew the girl in college, but they wouldn’t necessarily call her a “friend”. Then, she disappears, and they milk it for all it’s worth. They post updates on social media about how a piece of them is now missing, and they even attend a vigil for her upstate. Meanwhile, Dory is sort of lost in life, and she gloms onto the case with an unexpected fervor. Things really kick into high gear when she randomly sees the missing girl in a Chinese restaurant, yet no one will believe that she really saw her. Like they’ve been doing, Dory’s friends just believe she’s milking the whole thing for attention. Then crazy people come out of the woodwork, a private investigator appears, and a cult is even involved. I never saw any of this coming, but enjoyed every minute of it. It’s like a hipster Nancy Drew.

Airing on TBS, Search Party was sort of burned off at a pace of two episodes a night in Conan’s timeslot all last week. In addition to that, immediately following the premiere on Monday, all the episodes were made available On Demand. So, I can’t figure out if TBS was extremely proud of the show OR if they couldn’t be done with it fast enough. I’m not sure how these tactics helped ratings, but critics seemed to love the show. As some critics pointed out, it’s basically what Girls could’ve been, but wasn’t. The problem with Girls is that is filled with such unsympathetic characters who all suck at life. With Search Party, however, you can kind of relate to those characters and, if not, you at least know someone like them. You understand their insecurities and the ways in which they cope with them. Sure, they kinda suck at life, but they know it, and they want to NOT suck. That can’t be said for Hannah Horvath and her friends.

In many ways, it was a major coup for TBS to get this show. It probably would’ve been more at home on something like Netflix, and probably would’ve gotten more promotion. It’s SO bingeable, and you’re going to want to blow through the 10-episode series in one sitting. It’s that good. I didn’t even see some of the twists coming that it throws at you. And the ending was nothing like you’d expect. Oh, man do I wanna talk about that ending. I don’t know how they’d get a second season out of it, but I’d love to see that cast back together. If it’s just a one and done series, it does the job there, as well. It’s the perfect miniseries. And that’s why Search Party had the West Week Ever.

04th Nov2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/4/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Earlier this week, I found myself having an impromptu Zac Efronathon, as I watched 2 of his comedies the same night. I used to think he was just some one-note himbo, but I think I really like that dude. He’s a funny guy, and he’s also beautiful (What? I have to give credit where it’s due!).

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Anyway, first up was Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. When I first heard about this movie, I was convinced I’d actually see it in the theater, but that didn’t come to pass. I was really looking forward to it, but was too lazy to actually go see it. Oh well, that’s what DVDs/streaming are for! Zac Efron and Adam Devine play the title characters, who have a reputation for ruining family gatherings. Since they’re known to rile each other up, their father insists that they bring dates to their sister’s destination wedding in Hawaii. It’s their father’s hope that they’ll bring “nice girls” who will keep them in check. Well, not knowing how to find these girls, they post an ad on Craigslist, which gets thousands of replies from folks who just want a free trip to Hawaii. Eventually they end up on The Wendy Williams Show, and their episode is seen by two slackers played by Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick. They decide to pretend they’re nice girls so they can get the trip. And hilarity ensues. As an R-rated raunch comedy, it was about what I expected, though it could’ve been better. Plaza has this weird pseudo-ghetto accent that I’m never really sold on, though I do feel like she manages to do the impossible: outshine Kendrick. None of that Pitch Perfect Kendrick magic is on display here, as she pretty much plays The Dumb One opposite Plaza as The Schemer. I’m still not sure if I’m down with Adam Devine’s whole thing or not. He’s a lot like Eric Andre in that he’s not a bad looking dude, but he goes out of his way to make himself look as annoying/unattractive as possible. I guess it’s good he’s found a niche. I wouldn’t say this movie is worth owning, but it’s definitely worth seeing. And make sure you see the real thing, and don’t wait for it to get neutered on FX.

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The Efronathon continued with the sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Now, I have to admit that I remember very little about the first movie, but I didn’t really think the world of Neighbors had a rich continuity to it. Basically, I remembered the airbag gag, and that’s about it. Totally forgot that Dave Franco came out in the last film, which probably would’ve made me less confused by the beginning of this installment. Did you see the first movie? If not, here’s how it went: New parents Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne learn that the Delta Psi Beta fraternity has moved next door to them. They just want a quiet life to raise their newborn, while the frat brothers wanna do what frat brothers do: PARTY. So, a war breaks out between Rogen and the frat, led by Zac Efron. By the end of the film, the college shuts down the house, and it seems like Rogen and Efron are friends. Well, based on the age of Rogen and Byrne’s daughter, this movie takes place roughly two years later. Byrne is expecting their second child, and they’re selling their house to move out to the suburbs. After the sale, however, they enter escrow – meaning that they basically have to cross their fingers that nothing goes wrong for the next 30 days, or the sale won’t go through. Well, everything’s going smoothly until a sorority decides to set up in the old Delta Psi Beta house. And you basically get the same movie as the first, only the guys are replaced with girls. This one, however, kinda has a heavyhanded message about feminism that it’s trying to get across, but I’m not quite sure it sticks the landing. It’s funny, but I’m having trouble accepting that Chloe Grace Moretz has grown up; she’ll always be little Hit Girl to me. I didn’t talk too much about Efron’s role this time around because I don’t wanna give away the whole movie, but he’s just as good here as he was in Mike and Dave. Again, probably not worth owning, but it’s worth checking out.

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Finally, I went to see Doctor Strange last night. For the first time in a long time, a comic book movie didn’t get the West Week Ever. You see, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the film, however. At the end of the day, I just don’t like Mystical Marvel or Cosmic Marvel. I’d probably rank this film with the first Thor. Don’t get me wrong – it’s visually stunning, and probably the first Marvel movie that you NEED to see in 3D. At the same time, I felt it was a little on the short side and some extra time could’ve been used for character development. For example, I don’t think we see enough of civilian Stephen Strange, before all the mystical stuff happens. Then, when the mystical stuff does happen, it happens too quickly. We never really see him struggle to master his power. So, it’s definitely got pacing issues. I actually liked Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, despite the whitewashing. The cape, though…I hated the cape. Also, Marvel keeps telling us “It’s all connected”, but they miss golden opportunities to link in the stuff that they claim is difficult to do. I mean, part of it takes place in a hospital in NYC. Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson’s character from the Marvel Netflix shows) also works in a hospital in NYC, so… Still, it’s got some cool Easter eggs if you’re paying close attention, and Strange seems like a cool addition to the MCU. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I needed more of something from this film that I didn’t get. It’s definitely worth seeing, but this isn’t the film that’s gonna sway the crowd that’s never been fans of the Marvel films.

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On the standup front, I caught Pete Davidson: SMD on Comedy Central. By now, you probably know the general bulletpoints for Davidson: he’s the youngest current SNL cast member at 22, he’s a stoner, and his firefighter dad died in 9/11. There have been a lot of really good interviews with him going around lately, like him talking about how he pretty much hates his life, but he’s trying not to blow this great opportunity that’s been given to him. Well, this one-hour special is more of that. To be honest, he’s not ready for an hour yet. He’s a pretty good storyteller, but he could do the same thing in the interviews instead of doing it onstage. It’s almost like the stage is therapy for him, but he just happens to have an audience. He’s not especially charismatic, nor does he work the crowd. Still, it could’ve been a lot worse. It wasn’t a bad special by any means, but it wasn’t especially polished. The production values were pretty low, but I guess they fit his brand, so to speak. If you like what he does on SNL, it’s worth checking out, but it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything.

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On TV, this week saw the season finale of Donald Glover’s exceptional Atlanta, which capped off a near perfect season of television. I really liked how cyclical the whole thing was. The episode, titled “The Jacket”, has Earn retracing his steps from the night before in order to find his jacket. As the episode starts, he wakes up in the aftermath of a party, with the host telling him that he has to leave. The host tells him, “We boys, but we ain’t boys. See, I know you, but at the same time, I don’t know you.” He’s basically saying that no matter how much you think you know a person, you can’t ever fully know what’s going on with them. And that’s proven to us by the final scene of the episode, as we learn we don’t know Earn as well as we thought we did. I’m really looking forward to the next season, which I hope isn’t derailed by filming on the Han Solo film.

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In music, Beyonce decided she wanted a challenge, so she showed up at the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association Awards. And the kids on social media lost their shit. “She needs to stay in her lane! She’s not country music!” Oh, and she didn’t come alone: she brought country music black sheep The Dixie Chicks along for the ride. She basically showed up to the door and said, “These are my Plus Three”. Now, I’m not the biggest Beyonce fan in the world (frankly, I prefer her Destinty’s Child stuff), but it was kinda cool for her to use her clout to usher the Chicks back into the world of country. After all, not everyone has forgiven them for their jab against W all those years ago. With the exception of an International Artist Achievement Award in 2006, the Dixie Chicks haven’t won a CMA since 2002. I’d have preferred it if they’d done a Beyonce take on a Dixie Chicks song, instead of them serving as the backing band for one of her Lemonade songs, but she’s the Queen. I’ve hit that age where pop music bewilders me, but I know everyone on the country charts. I guess the CMAs have become my Grammys, but I’ve got to say that I was disappointed with about 80% of the live performances, as it seemed like nobody had showed up to soundcheck. Levels were off, tempos were off, folks were pitchy. It was a mess, and didn’t feel like a worthy tribute to the 50th anniversary of that institution.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CBS announced that the CBS All Access spinoff of The Good Wife would be called The Good Fight
  • Johnny Depp not only has a cameo in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, but he’ll also star in the sequel.. This isn’t good news, however, to those in the Amber Heard camp…
  • Since it’s just gonna become a full-on Batman adaptation, it was announced that Ra’s Al Ghul’s other daughter (and mother of Batman’s son) Talia will be appearing on Arrow this season.
  • It was revealed that Taylor Swift wrote “Better Man”, the latest single from country group Little Big Town. It’s not clear if it’s about Calvin Harris or Tom Hiddleston, though.
  • Lindsay Lohan now speaks with a really bad Boris & Natasha accent.
  • John Wick director David Leitch is considered the frontrunner to direct Deadpool 2. Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity with former director Tim Miller, composer Junkie XL is leaving the sequel.
  • Speaking of Tim Miller, he’s reportedly developing a Sonic the Hedgehog movie at Sony
  • DC stays losing, as director Rick Famuyima has left the film adaptation of The Flash, citing “creative differences”
  • The Nerd Lunch Podcast celebrated its 250th episode, and yours truly makes a cameo appearance!
  • We got a new Wonder Woman trailer yesterday, and my pals over at The Robot’s Pajamas have a great frame by frame breakdown.

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I’m not a sports guy, so I don’t really have a ton to say here. After I finished watching the CMAs the other night, I decided to turn on Game 7 of the World Series. I haven’t cared about baseball since about 1992, when I was in the prime of my baseball card collecting career. I did, however, know that the Cubs and the Indians are some of the losingest teams out there, so it was pretty awesome that they had made it this far. Immediately, I was riveted by the game, as I watched everything happen that could happen. Fatigued pitchers, sloppy bunts, and a rain delay. But I stuck it out until 1 AM to see the Cubs break a 108 year “curse”, winning the series. I don’t think anything topped that this week, so that’s why the Chicago Cubs had the West Week Ever.

14th Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/14/16

by Will

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15th Jul2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

marvel now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rangers

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

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

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

Beyond-Star-Trek-Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

03rd Jun2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/3/16

by Will

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On the movie front, all I watched this week was The Intern. After the bad taste left in my mouth by X-Men: Apocalypse (HOW DOES THE FLYING GUY DIE IN A PLANE CRASH?!), I just needed a cute Nancy Meyers film to make me forget all that. In the film, Robert De Niro plays a 70 year old widower who’s hired to be the intern for Anne Hathaway, who’s the CEO and founder of a fast-growing online shopping site. The company decided to hire senior citizens because they felt that these people had valuable experience, and still had a few miles left on them. At first, Hathaway doesn’t want De Niro assigned to her because he’s too observant, and she’s a private person. Over time, though, they go through a lot together and become best friends. I know it sounds schmaltzy, but it was a cute movie. It’s probably considered a “chick flick”, though I don’t think that would be a fair label. In a lot of ways, you could almost consider this a sequel to The Devil Wears Prada, as Hathaway is essentially playing Andrea Sachs in the next phase of her career (yeah, I’ve also seen Prada, but that’s only because A) I love Anne Hathaway, and B) the novel was written by a Cornell alum). Anyway, if you’re looking for a movie that you and your girlfriend/wife/husband/partner/parole officer can watch together, I’d recommend it.

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On TV, the biggest thing I watched the the DC SuperHero Girls special on Cartoon Network. If you’re not familiar with it, DC SuperHero Girls is a new initiative by DC Comics to introduce their properties to young girls. It’s comprised of online digital shorts, graphic novels, and an action figure/doll toyline. Instead of the usual digital shorts, this special was an hour long, and MAN was it boring! It followed Supergirl as she matriculates to SuperHero High, having arrived on Earth only 4 weeks prior. She wants to get the same training that her cousin had, so she enrolls and immediately befriends I.T. girl Barbara Gordon. At the end of the day, I just have to admit that it wasn’t made for me. I think we live in a time where most cartoons have several layers: they’re for kids, but they still have jokes and references that adults might get. That’s not the case here. This is full-on for little girls. It also does that whole thing where it disregards who’s “good” and who’s “bad”. For example, morally-questionable Amanda Waller is the principal of SuperHero High, while Flash villain Gorilla Grodd is the vice principal. Meanwhile, Granny Goodness, trainer of the Furies of Apokalips, is the head librarian. Sure, it works in the context of the show, but it doesn’t make a lick of sense to anyone with any familiarity with DC Comics. So, I guess it serves as a nice “gateway drug” for kids to get into DC characters, but those parents are gonna have some ‘splainin’ to do once those kids outgrow this show.

larson marvel

In Marvel movie news, it appears that Oscar winner Brie Larson (Room) is being eyed to star as Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel. I don’t know a ton about Larson, but I don’t hate this news. After all, it’s not like Longmire‘s Katee Sackhoff ever had a serious chance at the role, despite fan desire. I haven’t tried to fancast the role myself, but it’s certainly a better idea than the previous rumor that Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass) was interested in the role. Meanwhile, on the Fatman on Batman Podcast, Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada seemed to confirm that Marvel Studios now has the rights to Namor: The Sub-Mariner. In the past, it was reported that these rights were actually being held up at Universal, along with the Hulk rights.

Famuyiwa

Across the aisle, there was also news from the DC Films camp, as Dope director Rick Famuyiwa has taken over for Seth Grahame-Smith as the director on The Flash. People seem excited by this news, but I’m not sure what to think. I mean, this would’ve been Grahame-Smith’s directorial debut, so he didn’t really have a cinematic track record to go on. That said, what I know about Famuyiwa is that he directed and scripted Dope (which I loved), while he also directed HBO’s Confirmation about the Clarence Thomas hearings (which I enjoyed). So, I’m not really sure what kind of sensibility he’s going to bring to the workd of The Flash. Seems almost out of his wheelhouse, but maybe I’ve just got him pegged in my mind as a certain type of director.

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In comic news, IDW Publishing has announced “Revolution”, which will merge all of their Hasbro-based properties into a shared universe, not unlike the shared cinematic universe that is being created. IDW promises that this is not a reboot, and all of the events of the individual comics still happened, but now they will have effects on other books. This event will merge the worlds of Transformers, G.I. Joe, Micronauts, Action Man, and Rom: The Space Knight. The result of this event will be the debut of the M.A.S.K. comic that I talked about a few weeks ago. If they really wanted to impress me, though, they’d find a way to fit the Jem comic in there. Anyway, that promo image just looks like a mess. Total cacophony. I know a lot of folks love the Transformers comics, so for their sakes, I hope this works out.

hellboy

In other comic news, this week saw the end of Hellboy’s journey, as Hellboy In Hell #10 was released on Wednesday. If you haven’t been keeping up with the Hellboy comic, the character died back in 2011 and has since been having adventures while fighting monsters and demons in Hell. I, for one, have not been keeping up with the book, so most of the recaps that I read didn’t make a lot of sense to me. That said, I’m sort of surprised this book isn’t getting more press. I mean, we live in a time when comic deaths are pretty much meaningless, but fans of Hellboy are calling this a beautiful and fitting ending. Creator Mike Mignola isn’t opposed to returning to the character at some point down the road, but for now he’s giving Hellboy a well-deserved rest.

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In toy news, we got a look at the upcoming X-Men wave of Marvel Legends figures. Due to the contentious relationship between Marvel and X-Men licensees, a lot of people were afraid the wave would be cancelled after it debuted at Toy Fair back in February. The wave will include Deadpool, Cable, Kitty Pryde, Wolverine (Brown Costume), Jean Grey, Iceman, Havok, Rogue, and a Juggernaut Build-A-Figure. These are expected to be released this month, but with Hasbro’s distribution issues, I don’t expect to ever see these in stores.

It’s been a crazy week for me in social media. I woke up Sunday morning to this:

Diggs

Yup, it’s really him – ya know, every red-blooded woman’s “hall pass”. At first, I figured he somehow knew I had a “halfy” kid, and was trying to get me to buy his book about halfy kids. Then, I found out he also followed some of my friends online. So, I’m not sure to what I owe this honor. So, my Verified followers now include Aaron Carter and Taye Diggs. Then this happened:

Spears

If you don’t know Aries, he’s best known as “The Black Guy from MADtv“. as he was on there for 7 seasons before Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele joined the show. Every now and then, he finds himself in a Twitter controversy, but I found myself watching a YouTube interview with him and he was really dropping some knowledge. Two hours later, I realized that I’ve underestimated him all these years. So, when I was done, I tweeted that I had just spent 2 hrs watching this interview series, and I woke up to find he’d followed me. Let’s see how long this lasts. But the craziness didn’t stop there!

June

My pal Chad had posted on Facebook that Honey Boo Boo’s mom, Mama June, would be appearing at the Baltimore Hustler Club. I thought it was a joke, so I tweeted about it. I didn’t think that A) she’d reply or B) it’d be true. I guess she’s gotta make that money, but the whole thought is just kinda sickening to me. I mean, I hope she’s not stripping! Maybe she’s just signing shit or something.

Valene

Later that night, I was watching my new favorite reality show, Single Dad Seeking, and I was tweeting about it. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a show on TLC that follows 5 single fathers as they look for love. One of the dads, Mike, is a roofer from Jersey, and he’s dating this chick named Valene. Valene’s hot, but doesn’t appreciate that she’s been thrown into this role of being a parent so early into the relationship. In the most recent episode, it was Mike’s kid’s birthday party and Mike had invited Valene. Mike’s ex (and baby mama) was there, and she’s just straight Jersey trash. She and her friend were talking shit about Valene, but Valene composed herself and handled it like a trooper. I tweeted the above, and didn’t expect to get a reply. I guess reality “stars” don’t have anything else to do when not filming, but it’s always weird when these people actually see what you’re saying about them.

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To top it all off, the official Instagram account of the Power Rangers movie followed me. You all may not Like my pics, but somebody out there clearly cares!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The Rock has signed on to play pulp hero Doc Savage, once he’s finished filming the 70 other movies to which he’s currently attached
  • The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition has been announced to hit HD Digital on June 28th, followed by a physical release on July 19th. This edition features 30 more minutes of torture, clocking in at 182 minutes, and will be rated R for “Really?!”
  • That dude from Hamilton will probably be leaving Hamilton, to no longer play Hamilton, when his contract ends on July 9th. He’ll, then, go on to costar in the Mary Poppins sequel with Emily Blunt
  • In leaked storyboards from the abandoned Spider-Man 4, it was revealed that Anne Hathaway would’ve been playing Felicia Hardy. Instead of sporting the alter ego of the Black Cat, she would’ve, instead, been a character named The Vulturess. Bullet dodged.
  • American Idol season 11 winner Phillip Phillips is currently being sued by Idol production company 19 Entertainment for breach of contract. They claim he owes them millions of dollars, but considering the fact that he’s only sold a million albums in the past 4 years, I’m pretty sure he ain’t got that money.

ecto cooler

Man, y’all went crazy for Ecto Cooler this week, didn’t you?! Hi-C Ecto Cooler was a mainstay in all of our lunchboxes, back when The Real Ghostbusters was tearing up the weekday afternoon AND Saturday morning airwaves. Then, it disappeared in 2001 once the Ghostbusters craze had all but dissipated. Yeah, I know it was originally one flavor, and then renamed to another flavor, but there are other pop culture bloggers out there who can give you a better rundown of its history than I can.

My relationship with Ecto Cooler was superficial at best. I never liked the flavor that much, but I liked it because it was the cool thing to like AND it had Slimer on the box. Once it disappeared, I really didn’t think much about it. To be honest, I’m more curious if people remember McCain’s Junior Juice. It came in a tiny box, and had a dapper frog on it. That shit was classy!

Anyway, fans of Ecto Cooler have been longing for its return and, in conjunction with the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot, they’re getting their wish. A few well-connected bloggers got a nice shipment from Coca-Cola to celebrate the return of the cherished beverage, but I guess mine got lost in the mail. Nope, not bitter at all. Anyway, the drink was set to be on shelves this past Monday. Though it’s odd that a release would be scheduled for a holiday, the Cooler fans took to the streets, scouring store after store for their light green nectar. As I said on Twitter, if the Ecto Cooler street teams were in charge of some voter registration drives, maybe we wouldn’t be in the shitstorm we’re in. Now, there are a lot of ways to read into that statement, but I’m just gonna say it’s a tribute to the organization of the Ecto Coolites. Yeah… Anyway, the stuff wasn’t on shelves when promised, so some folks have resorted to ordering it off Amazon, where it’s available to Prime customers. I don’t plan to join the reindeer games. It’s nice that folks are getting something they’ve wanted for years, but I just don’t love the taste enough to scour the globe. If I happen to find some in my travels, I’ll pick it up for old times’ sake, but for now, I’m gonna leave this to the professionals. In any case, Hi-C Ecto Cooler had the West Week Ever.

P.S. Let me know if any of you will be at Awesome Con tomorrow, as I’d love to meet up!

22nd Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/22/16

by Will

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trainwreck

I finally caught the comedic hit Trainwreck, and I thought it was…decent. Written by and starring Amy Schumer, Amy knows how to screw, but she doesn’t know how to love (that really should’ve been the tagline). Raised by her father to believe that monogamy isn’t realistic, adult Amy tries to avoid any sort of commitment or intimacy in her relationships. That is, until she meets a particular sports doctor, played by Bill Hader. Since last summer, I’ve heard how laugh-out-loud funny this film was, but I’m not sure I saw the same movie. It has some great moments, especially any scenes containing John Cena and Lebron James (who’s a surprisingly good actor for an athlete. Those guys are usually wooden onscreen). Directed by Judd Apatow, it follows several Apatow tropes, in that it’s slightly too long, and the message is basically “Grow the fuck up!” I don’t really see what it is about Hader’s character that makes Amy think he’s The One. He’s a nice enough guy, but he’s not charismatic or all that interesting. He’s a bit of a square, so when Amy chooses him, it’s almost like she’s settling. I wasn’t fully paying attention, though, so I’ll probably watch it again to see if I’m being unfair. At the moment, though, I don’t really get the hype behind the movie, other than the fact that it was written by a popular female comedian whose star is on the rise. Outside of that, it’s a pretty formulaic, by the numbers romcom.

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On HBO, I caught the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill drama Confirmation. Focusing mainly on Thomas’ confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, it followed all the parties involved after Anita Hill came forward with allegations that Thomas had been sexually inappropriate with her ten years prior. I think everyone went into the film with their biases intact, but even though I believe Hill, I felt the movie was really skewed towards Thomas. The entire time, he maintained that these were baseless allegations, and there were scenes where it felt like he was to be seen as the victim here. One thing I did learn was that Thomas’ wife looks like a Shoney’s night manager – ya know, the kind who won’t accept your coupons? Yeah, that one. Anyway, when women come forward with these sorts of allegations, there are people who don’t believe them, and that was definitely covered here. Also, Joe Biden, portrayed by Greg Kinnear, didn’t come away from the film looking like the best guy. In the end, as anyone who knows history already knows, Thomas was confirmed, though the damage to his reputation had been done. 25 years later, and he’s still sitting pretty on the Supreme Court, while Hill is a footnote in American history. So, who really won here? The movie seems to imply that Hill won by coming forward, and opening the doors for more women in Congress and other high ranking positions. It seems like a last minute Hail Mary play, however, by a film that didn’t feel like it was on her side for most of the time. I’d love to know how other folks felt who watched it.

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On TV, I finally finished Fuller House, and I LOVED it. Sure, critics hated it, but the original wasn’t really beloved by critics, either. There were times I tried to watch it stoically, and then felt a smile creep across my face. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s a type of humor that’s missing from most modern sitcoms (especially considering most modern sitcoms are single cam, with a faux documentary being filmed). I loved seeing the old cast, I love the new kids, I love the crazy love triangle. To me, season 2 can’t come fast enough.

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This week also saw the season finales of two shows about hipster girls in NYC. First up, Girls wrapped up its fifth season, and I thoroughly enjoyed the two episodes that capped off the season. I tend to like Hannah the least of all of the titular girls on the show, but I really kinda felt for her in the finale. I started to really understand where she’s coming from, and didn’t hate her guts. She’s just a twenty-something, trying to do the best that she can. In the past, I thought she represented this sort of dangerous, arrested development. She wasn’t an adult, but rather just a big girl (which could be said for most twenty-somethings). The problem, though, was that she was OK with that. She never really seemed to be aspiring to anything greater. She was just a quitter at everything she tried, because she didn’t like the rules or whatever. The season ended with her in a different sort of place, though, so I’m interested to see where she goes in the sixth, and final, season of the show.

broad city

Meanwhile, Broad City wrapped up its third season with the girls taking a Birthright trip to Israel. I never thought I’d say this, but out of the two female-centric Millennial shows on cable, I think I enjoyed Girls more than I enjoyed Broad City this year. It used to be that Broad City was kinda quirky, but it still boiled down to the friendship between Abbi and Ilana. This season, though, Ilana turned into a cartoon character, and her “lesbianic” undertones toward Abbi got cranked up to 11. In the past, it was implied that Ilana had a crush on Abbi, but this year she wanted to be her full on wife, getting threatened whenever a dude came into the picture who might affect what they have. Ilana went from a delightful character to an annoyance for me. I figure we’ve probably only got another 2 or so seasons of Broad City left, as the girls’ other projects, like Time Traveling Bong, are getting off the ground. Here’s hoping they make the most of the time they’ve got left.

THREE S COMPANY

In movie news, there are talks that New Line is trying to acquire the rights to Three’s Company. Right now, the writers of He’s Just Not That Into You are attached, so this thing will probably be TURRIBLE. If you’re not familiar with it, Three’s Company was an ABC hit that ran from 1977-1984, starring John Ritter as an aspiring chef who lives with two girls. Since that was frowned up during that era, they told the landlord that he was gay so that he’d be OK with the living arrangement. It’s one of my favorite TV shows, but this sounds like a bad idea. I do, however, think it’d work as a rebooted television series, which I wrote about a few years ago. Here’s hoping this reboot talk gets me some website hits!

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In other movie news, it was reported that author Michael Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) and comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) have joined the writers room for Hasbro’s shared cinematic universe. Damn, talk about a waste of talent! These guys are the real deal, and they’re being used to figure out how G.I. Joe is gonna mesh with ROM: The Space Knight?! Hasbro must’ve REALLY backed up a Brink’s truck.

I can’t wait for The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc – the founder of McDonald’s. Though, the story isn’t so cut and dried, as this movie explores. After all, Kroc was just a milkshake machine salesman, while the McDonald brothers created the brand. And then Kroc stole it from them by franchising it. As a lifelong fat kid, McDonald’s means a lot to me, so this is basically my The Social Network.

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In TV drama, it was announced that Michael Strahan would be leaving Live! with Kelly and Michael and joining Good Morning America full time. This seems like a network decision, as both shows are owned by Disney and they wanted more for Strahan, but Kelly Ripa is PISSED! She feels like Strahan betrayed her, and she’s now refusing to show up for work until he’s gone. This is going to be somewhat hard, as he’s not scheduled to leave until September. *Looks at calendar* It’s now APRIL. I feel like the lawyers are gonna get involved before this goes on too long, but I imagine it’s going to get uglier before it gets better. I feel like this is a great opportunity, though, because they can now just hire Neil Patrick Harris to be Kelly’s cohost. The word on the street is that he was one of the favorites for the job the last time that it was available, but he was still doing How I Met Your Mother, and couldn’t do that commute. Now that HIMYM has ended, and Best Time Ever got canceled, the timing is perfect.

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In Power Rangers news, we got our first look at Elizabeth Banks as villain Rita Repulsa. I’m not so sure about this. On the one hand, it looks like a combination of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers henchwoman Scorpina, mixed with Power Rangers Turbo villain Divatox. I can see those influences. And the green color kinda makes sense as to why she’ll be so obsessed with the Green Ranger once he’s inevitably introduced. Still, it’s odd to me that there are no callbacks to the original design. No pointy boobs, no headdress, nothing. She’s just Generic Space Villainess. If anything, it just makes me nervous about what the Ranger suits are gonna look like. To me, it’s pretty risky because if you deviate too much from the pattern, then they look like those bootleg action figures you’ve been finding in dollar stores for the past 20 years. I get this is something of a “reboot”, but there still needs to be ties to the original property, for both casual and hardcore fans. Is it enough that it’s a bunch of teens fighting an evil space alien? It might as well be Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills: The Movie. Or Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad: The Movie. There are things that make Power Rangers special, and I’m not seeing them yet in what we’ve seen from this adaptation.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Season 2 of Mr. Robot premieres July 13th on USA
  • Carrie-Anne Moss is joining season 2 of AMC’s HUMANS
  • After 30 years, Dr. Drew Pinsky is leaving the Loveline radio show. It’s unclear if the show will continue with a new host
  • Robert Downey Jr. will appear as Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming

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I guess, looking back on the week, Harriet Tubman was cock of the walk. Who’da thunk an abolitionist would be making news in 2016? Anyway, it was announced that Tubman will soon adorn the $20 bill, moving Andrew Jackson to the back of the bill. Originally, the plan was to remove Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill, but the popularity of the Broadway (and Pulitzer prize winning) show, Hamilton, stopped that plan in its tracks. Now, Millennials will be even more insufferable about that show, AND tickets will be even harder to get, but I digress…According to history, Jackson was a bad man, sending the Native Americans off on the Trail of Tears. Why? Because he wanted their land for plantations. Way to go, dude! Anyway, the idea of putting a woman on some paper American currency gained steam last year when a young girl named Sofia sent a letter to President Obama urging him to do so. Well, this week, little Sofia got a birthday surprise when it was announced that the design will be made public in 2020. Tubman will be the first Black person on American currency, and the first woman in over a century. So, in light of this development, Harriet Tubman had the West Week Ever.

15th Jan2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/15/16

by Will

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DOFP

So, on the movie front, I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past (The Rogue Cut). Now, I’d already seen the movie in theaters, but I really wanted to know what this edit was about, seeing as how it has been called the “definitive” version of the movie. Well, for starters, Rogue doesn’t appear until an hour and a half into the movie. I didn’t even notice that the opening scenes had been shuffled to the middle of the movie, but they were. As for Rogue’s inclusion, it’s pretty ambitious that it’s called “The Rogue Cut”, seeing as how her addition adds nothing to the movie outside of pleasing a few True Blood fans. Oh, and Iceman dies twice instead of once. Other than that, the movie is pretty much the same. I still enjoyed it, but some of the editing tricks were a little jarring (flashing back and forth between Magneto’s past plan and his future heist). I did notice a few things this time around, though. For example, the future Sentinels are pretty sadistic, in that they actually got creative with their killing. And there’s a mid credit stinger in this version, with Trask in Magneto’s cell. Now, why would they put him in that expensive ass cell when he ain’t got no powers? Anyway, I think I prefer the theatrical cut, but seeing as how everyone seems to think this is Singer’s true vision, it’s probably the one that’s gonna go the distance (after all, it was airing on Cinemax instead of the theatrical version).

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Next, I watched the drama We Don’t Live Here Anymore. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, and Peter Krause, the film’s about two couples experiencing marital woes in a small town. So, they pretty much just start cheating on their spouses…with each other. It’s a really powerful and emotional film, and I’ve got nothing snarky to say. I’m not sure I recommend it, as it can be uncomfortable to watch at times, but everyone in it gives a great performance.

madtv 20th anniversary

On the TV front, I caught the MADtv 20th Anniversary Special on The CW. That sentence should say it all: Fox, the network on which MADtv aired, didn’t even care enough about the show to air the special. The rumor’s been that Fox was always somewhat hard on the show because they didn’t own it, but it still carried their late night division for FOURTEEN YEARS, and garnered 35 Emmy nominations. If we’re being honest, though, this anniversary special never would’ve happened without the success of Key & Peele. After all, the duo was introduced to viewers on the show (even though it was when MADtv was at its weakest). With that in mind, it was pretty glaring that Jordan Peele did not participate in the special (Keegan Michael Key recorded a pretaped segment). The special was basically a clip show in the guise of an awards ceremony. At the end, fans were going to vote for their favorite character, and that actor would have to recreate the character onstage. Surely, a classic character like Miss Swan or Stuart would win, right? Nope, it was Bon Qui Qui – a forgettable ghetto caricature from the later seasons. Still, it was nice seeing some of the core cast members again, like Nicole Sullivan, Will Sasso, Michael McDonald, and Debra Wilson. MADtv never really gets enough credit, as it was in the shadow of Saturday Night Live, but there were a few seasons where it gave SNL a run for its money. I’m not really sure it has aged as well as SNL, though. They tried to show some clips, but they weren’t exactly funny. And it’s harder to see MADtv archives, as the only way to see episodes is to watch the 75 that are available on the CW Seed streaming channel.

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In movie news, the shortlist for the Star Wars Han Solo…solo film has been revealed, and it includes Miles Teller (Whiplash), Dave Franco (21 Jump Street), and Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson franchise). Apparently, there’s still a month left of shooting Star Wars: Rogue One, and it seems like they want this actor to make an appearance as Han in the film (similar to how Tom Holland was cast to appear in Captain America: Civil War prior to his solo film). Some folks feel like Teller lacks charisma, but he’s really grown on me and I think he’s kinda smug like Han. I’d actually LOVE Franco in the role, but that feels more like a Funny or Die sketch to me instead of a full-length film. And I enjoyed Lerman in Fury, but I don’t know if he’s “Han Solo”. Anyway, the Han movie is scheduled to be released May 25th, 2018.

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In other movie news, it’s reported that Amber Heard is in talks to portray Aquaman’s wife, Mera, in both the Aquaman film, as well as the Justice League film. At this point, all we know is that she’ll be playing opposite Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. At the rate Warner Bros is going, however, if they can lock up the deal soon, they’ll probably try to shove her into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice somehow. I mean, everyone else is in that damn film. The latest rumor is that the whole Justice League will show up, which is suspect seeing as how they haven’t even cast Green Lantern yet. Ya know, I used to consider myself a DC fan foremost, but nothing they announce about these movies gets me excited for them. On Twitter this week, I said that DC is the Republican Party of the comic industry: no matter what they do, they will never be seen as cool or hip. It has taken them so long to get their movies off the ground that they can’t help but be in Marvel’s shadow, at a time when folks are starting to tire of the superhero movie. DC stays losing.

Cloverfield

Somehow, JJ Abrams managed to film the sequel to Cloverfield without anyone knowing. A bootleg trailer went online last night for 10 Cloverfield Lane, which appears to star John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. They appear to be in some sort of bunker and Goodman doesn’t want Winstead trying to get outside. Abrams has implied the movie is in the same universe as Cloverfield without being a direct sequel. And to make things even more exciting? It comes out March 11th! How this was kept a secret this long is pretty amazing in the Internet Age. Anyway, it looks really good and I can’t wait to Redbox it. What? You thought I was actually going to the theater?

FRIENDS -- Season 2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Matthew Perry as Chandler Bing, Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green, David Schwimmer as Ross Geller, Courteney Cox as Monica Geller, Matt LeBlanc as Joey Tribbiani, Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

In television news, every media outlet was running around, screaming about a FRIENDS reunion. That was a bit misleading, however. You see, NBC is planning a two-hour special to honor legendary director James Burrows who recently shot his 1,000th episode of television. Since FRIENDS was one of his shows, it’s natural that the cast would show up to honor him, right? Well, NBC isn’t even sure how they’re going to pull it off. They seemed to have secured the involvement of all 6 cast members, but they’re not sure they can get them all physically in one place, so expect some pretaped segments. Also, this clearly isn’t the “reunion” that folks were expecting. Still, it made for good clickbait this week.

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In other TV news, a bunch of shows nobody watches won Golden Globes last Sunday. First up was Mozart in the Jungle from Amazon. Despite its name, it apparently is not about Mozart trying to survive in the jungle while teaching music to animals. I really have no clue what it’s about, but it’s got that guy from Y Tu Mama Tambien. Remember that movie? A 17 yr old and his friend have sex with an older woman? Coming of age tale? Just me? OK. Anyway, the real surprise was that Rachel Bloom won Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Anyone familiar with Bloom knows that she already has two golden globes (hey-o!) but this win pretty much means that The CW can’t just outright cancel the struggling series. That reminds me that I still have about 5 episodes to catch up on…

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The new Sesame Street will debut on HBO this weekend, and some of the changes are coming to light. For example, Oscar the Grouch still lives in a trash can, but that can is now ensconced in a recycling and compost bin. Friggin gentrification! A lot of folks are worried about the show’s transition to HBO, but insiders are saying that this was the only long-term plan for the show’s survival. The show will still air on PBS 6 months after episodes air on HBO.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 17: (L-R) Singers Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Harry Styles of One Direction attend the 2015 Billboard Music Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 17, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/BMA2015/FilmMagic)

In music news, sources are saying that One Direction’s recently announced “hiatus” is a permanent split. Whoop-dee-doo! Anyone surprised by this is a moron. After all, *NSYNC has been on “hiatus” since 2002. This is pretty common in the pop world. They don’t really know how their solo careers are gonna do, so they leave the door open for a return. Anyway, Harry Styles will probably get in the studio with some known producers, and he won’t even look back at those other guys. That’s right, Directioners – the end is now.

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Yesterday, Marvel announced an ongoing Poe Dameron comic by writer Charles Soule and artist Phil Noto. Ugh. I don’t CARE about Poe Dameron, but I LOVE Phil Noto. I’m sure Disney will have oversight, but don’t folks realize that nothing can really *happen* in this Poe comic? That’s the problem with licensed comics. Nothing can happen. They just give you a bunch of filler stories that fit within movie events. The thinking of “I really loved Poe Dameron, so I can’t wait to learn more about him” isn’t really gonna pay off with a comic. The writer might write in Poe’s “style”, but it’ll ultimately be a throwaway story, dancing between the raindrops of continuity. The Lando comic was pitch perfect. Fully captured who he was. Was great seeing him again. But did it “matter”? At the end of the day, it was like spending time with an old friend. I didn’t learn anything new. Just more of the same.

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In other comic news, my pal @TimDogg98 runs the site The Kliqnation, so imagine my surprise when I looked at the back of the Chrononauts trade paperback at my local shop, and saw that his five-star rating had made it to print. Congrats, Tim!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The Al Jazeera America news network is shutting down in April. USA! USA! USA!
  • NBC is in early talks to develop Chicago Law, to join the existing Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, and Chicago Med.
  • Speaking of NBC, there will be no season 2 for Heroes Reborn
  • Creed director Ryan Coogler has officially signed on to helm Black Panther – which, being a superhero film, automatically gets a snub from the Academy unless it’s for Sound Editing or some shit
  • Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the 60s Batman TV series. Nobody did anything special for it, though, so that’s pretty much all there is to say…
  • Jonah Hex will appear on Legends of Tomorrow, which means WESTERN EPISODE! Not sure why I typed that like I was excited about it. I’m not really a western fan…
  • Weeks after finishing its run on The CW, America’s Next Top Model has been revived by VH-1.

Links I Loved

Finding Rey: #WheresRey, Really? – Idiot Nerd Girl

The Forgotten Way African Americans Stayed Safe in a Racist America – The Washington Post

Tom Brevoort Confirms “No More 616” – And It’s The Last Fantastic Four Story – Bleeding Cool

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It was quite the week for the Power Rangers franchise. At the beginning of the week, it was announced that Saban is in fact skipping a season of the Japanese source material, and is instead adapting Shuriken Sentai Ninninger as Power Rangers Ninja Steel. For those not in the know, the skipped season was train-based, and The Powers That Be decided that “kids don’t like trains”. So, Ressha Sentai ToQger was thrown out, and the ninja-based series was subbed in. By Wednesday, we even had the official synopsis for the series:

“Saban’s Power Rangers Ninja Steel starts deep in space, where Zircon is the reigning champion of the most popular intergalactic game show in the universe, and monsters battle to prove who is the mightiest warrior. Zircon is determined to become invincible by controlling the mythical Spirit Crystal, which contains six supernatural Ninja Power Throwing Stars. The only thing standing in his way is a new team of heroic teenage Power Rangers who possess the Spirit Crystal. The evil Zircon sends his warrior contestants down to Earth to steal the Crystal, where each epic battle against the Rangers is broadcast throughout the universe. Together, the Rangers must master their arsenal of Throwing Stars, Zords and Megazords, each made of legendary ninja steel, in order to stop this evil threat and save our planet from destruction.”

Yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, either. Basically, it’s a game show where the regular Power Rangers tropes take place. Colorful spandex kicking the shit out of aliens, who eventually get big, and get the shit kicked out of them by robots. The end. The show will debut in 2017, and continue to air on Nickelodeon. I’m not in love with the suit designs, but I like them a Hell of a lot more than that train series. Plus, this one includes a 6th Ranger who’s a space cowboy with an electric guitar sword and a ninja star cheeseburger phone! How Japanese is THAT?!

MightyMorphinPowerRangers 0 Red

Meanwhile, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers #0 comic was released by BOOM! on Wednesday to rave reviews. Focusing on the events following the “Green With Evil” miniseries, it focuses on Green Ranger, Tommy, as he learns to be accepted by the team of heroes. On the show, they were basically like “We know you were possessed, so welcome to the team.” In actuality, though, something like that wouldn’t be such a smooth transition. The comic even shipped with 1:50 (Green Ranger) and 1:100 (White Ranger) incentive variant covers, and the sales reports from retailers have been positive. The ongoing series will launch in March.

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It wasn’t all good news for the Rangers, though. Remember when I wrote about Ricardo Medina Jr murdering his roommate? While he was released shortly afterward, it seems he’s being formally charged for murder. He’s currently being held on $1 million bond, and he could face 26 years in prison. Medina portrayed Cole, the Red Ranger in the 2002 iteration of the series, Power Rangers Wild Force.

As you can see, the Power Rangers have been on everyone’s lips in some form or fashion this week. Sure, there was the unfortunate Medina situation, but two out of three ain’t bad. So, Power Rangers had the West Week Ever.

06th Nov2015

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/6/15

by Will

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dreamgirls

When it comes to movies, the only thing I watched this week was Dreamgirls. Sure, it came out in 2006, but I’d never gotten around to seeing it. To be honest, I had absolutely zero interest in watching it when Lindsay put it on, but I quickly got into it. If you’re not familiar, it’s an adaptation of the Broadway fictitious account of the rise and fall of a Supremes-esque girl group called The Dreams. And it was really, really good. I tend not to like Beyonce’s acting, but I thought she did well in her role as Not Diana Ross. And Jennifer Hudson is incredible. If you’re like me, and know your Broadway songs, then I’m sure you’ve heard “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” – THE song that the story is known for. And Eddie Murphy redeems himself from his “Party All The Time” days with some great singing in the film. In all, I highly recommend it.

BTE

In the world of television, Neil Patrick Harris’s Best Time Ever concluded its first season this week. I’ve been covering the show since it started and, while it’s not great, I’d like to see it get a second season. It’s a concept that I think could work with some tweaking. The variety show format needs to be about an hour, but he’s only got about 3o minutes of strong material. If it were up to me, I’d get rid of the Karaoke contest, as well as the opening segment where he awkwardly interacts with a member of the audience. I’d also get rid of Nicole Scherzinger, who doesn’t really bring much to the show. I’d expand the End of the Show Show, and maybe move it earlier in the show to keep the audience engaged. It’s the most awe-inducing part of the show, but it’s a shame that it comes at the end, once the show’s already lost a portion of its audience. In any case, NBC hasn’t decided whether or not there will be another season, but it’s not like they really have anything amazing in development to take its place.

Superstore

Speaking of NBC, while I was watching Undateable Live last week, I saw a commercial for an upcoming sitcom called Superstore. The commercial made me chuckle, but the idea of a comedy set in a Not Walmart just didn’t sound solid to me. So, of course I took to Twitter about it, and I got a reply from one of the writers, Sierra Ornelas. It turns out that a lot of the people behind Superstore actually used to work on Happy Endings. I loved the Hell out of that show, so now I’m excited. She did the impossible: changed someone’s mind via social media. Anyway, NBC announced that Superstore would have a sneak preview airing on November 30th, following The Voice. The show, starring Ugly Betty‘s America Ferrera, will then officially premiere on January 4th – going against Gotham, Supergirl, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Things already seem questionable for the show, as the episode order has already been cut from 13 episodes to 11, and it’ll be going up against some steep competition.

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In other TV news, The Muppets showrunner, Bob Kushell, has left the show, as it gears up for a midseason reboot. While the premiere was considered a “success”, The Muppets is currently the lowest-rated comedy on ABC and, with the exception of Blood & Oil, is the lowest rated freshman show on the network. I tried watching the first episode, and it put me to sleep. Plus, I’ve just never really been a Muppets fan, so it was never for me. I’ve read everything from “It’s terrible!” to “It’s good, and if you say otherwise, you don’t deserve it!” All I know is that Fresh Off the Boat has risen to become the highest-rated ABC comedy on Tuesday nights. Maybe after they take the show in a new direction, I might give The Muppets another shot.

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Meanwhile in television, Matt Ryan reprised his role as John Constantine on this week’s episode of Arrow. Now, I never gave Constantine a chance when it was airing on NBC last season because I KNEW it’d get cancelled. That said, I really loved what I saw of Ryan this week, and it kinda makes me wish I had watched his series. Here’s hoping that they find a way to shoehorn him into the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series.

courtesy of comicbook.com

courtesy of comicbook.com

In other superhero news, Buffy‘s Emma Caulfield has been cast as Cameron Chase on Supergirl. Now, I know I said that I wasn’t watching Supergirl, but they’re really trying to bring me in. I’ve loved the Chase character since her first appearance in Detective Comics. She’s an agent for the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO), and knows all of the DCU’s secrets. If they end up making her, like, a member of “Team Supergirl”, I’m gonna have to give in and watch this show. If you haven’t heard of Chase, her whole short-lived series has been collected in trade paperback form.

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There’s a story going around that Disney wants to retire all the Slave Leia merchandise. While some folks are upset about it, I’m kinda fine with it. I’m so tired of that costume. Pop culture has just become oversaturated by it, and it’s just gotten kinda played out. I don’t, however, see the need to officially retire the stuff. Just kinda lay back on the production of it. Less is more, and all that.

In what was probably the strangest news of the week, former boybander Nick Lachey was poised to become a drug kingpin. You see, he’s part owner of a 29-acre marijuana farm in Ohio, and the legalization of marijuana was on Ohio’s ballot. Had the vote passed, Lachey and his partners would’ve made over $1 BILLION, ANNUALLY! They had struck a deal where their farm would be the sole provider of marijuana for the state. Sadly for him, Ohioans struck it down at the polls. So, for now, Justin Timberlake will have to remain the richest boyband alum (unless you count The Beatles, which you SHOULD!).

Tevin Campbell, Pauly Shore, Jenna von Oy – not only are those folks extremely associated with the 90s, but they also happen to be in my favorite Disney film, A Goofy Movie. Designed to be a sequel to the television show Goof Troop, the movie has achieved a cult following over the years. Part of its charm are the songs in the film, performed by fictional R&B star Powerline (Campbell). Well, in a cappella circles, the name “Peter Hollens” carries a lot of weight, so imagine my surprise when I found out he’d arranged a medley of the biggest songs from the movie. Check it out:

 

Links I Loved

NYCC 2015: Best of TMNT (Part 1 of 2) – The Sewer Den

The 5 Worst Bond Girl Names – The Robot’s Pajamas

Please, No One Come Trick-Or-Treating To My House This Year, For I Will Be Masturbating To Pornography – ClickHole

Four Words We Only Knew Because of Sitcom Opening Themes – UnderScoopFire

The True Story Behind ‘Zola,’ The Epic Twitter Story Too Crazy To Be Real – The Washington Post

SummerSwap2015 – Stop 7 – AEIOU…and Sometimes Why

The Actor Who Played Jar Jar Binks Is Not Sorry – Vice

Your Show Is Dead (or the Age of Denial in Broadcast TV) – The Hollywood Reporter

Will’s Other Posts Of The Week

Mail Call Monday – SummerSwap 2015

Will’s Really Late NYCC 2015 Swag Grab Recap

trek

The biggest news this week had to be the fact that Star Trek is coming back. Sure, we’ve had a couple movies recently, but Trek in its truest form is on television. CBS announced that a new Star Trek series would premiere on CBS in January 2017, and then move to their streaming service, CBS All Access. Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of the past 2 Trek movies will executive produce, so it seems like this show will live in the NuTrek timeline.

Here are my issues with this announcement. First off,  you’re gonna have to pay $6 a month to watch this show. No dice, CBS! As folks online have joked, this will probably be the most torrented show in history. Apparently CBS All Access already streams all the past Star Trek series, but I’d never even heard of the service before this announcement. Next, I’m something of a starship snob, in that I find it hard to really care about any ship not named “Enterprise”. I made an exception with DS9, but it took some time. I couldn’t do it with Voyager. Since there’s already an Enterprise in the movies, I doubt they’d allow that ship to be used. So, we’re probably gonna end up with some janky, Excelsior class ship that I don’t care about, filled with people I don’t care about. Yeah, I’m not being very open-minded here.

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You see, they clearly left the established universe in existence for a reason. They may not be doing anything with it, but the movies don’t affect anything that happens there, and vice versa. If the movies are gonna focus on NuTrek, then let this new show depict what’s going on in the “prime” universe. We never did get to see any real aftermath from the Dominion War. Let’s see that. Hell, I’d probably even rather have that Captain Worf show Michael Dorn’s been trying to make over a series set in NuTrek’s timeline.

At the end of the day, however, new Star Trek can’t be a bad thing. I mean, the show could suck, but we don’t know at this stage of the game. So, I’m going to try to adopt a positive outlook for the sake of my inner Trekker. Seriously, 1994 Will would be bouncing off the walls about this news, but 2015 Will is going to be a bit more reserved. Still, for announcing the first television show in ten years, Star Trek had the West Week Ever.

 

26th Jun2015

West Week Ever – 6/26/15

by Will

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I watched absolutely nothing this week, so I’ve got nothing for this part of the post. Oh wait – I did watch The Briefcase on CBS. Have any of you seen it? It was pretty controversial when it first aired, and the season finale is already airing tonight. Basically, they present a briefcase filled with $100,000 to two different poor families. The families, then, have to decide whether to keep the money for themselves, or to share some of it with the other family. So, they’re demanding poor people make a Sophie’s Choice over this windfall that could be seen as a gift from Heaven. I mean, they all could use the money, but they don’t wanna look like assholes by keeping it all to themselves. Later in the show, once the families meet, they realize that there were TWO briefcases, and not just the one that was presented to them, so there’s $200,000 up for grabs. On the episode that I watched, one family gave $20,000 to the other family, while the second family gave $11,000 to the first family. So, they both ended up with the bulk of the money. For each of them, the amount given was such a drop in the bucket that I would’ve been offended, but they at least pretended to be thankful. They both owed so much money that the full $100K still wouldn’t have solved all their problems. I really hope there’s a “Where Are They Now” episode next season if the show gets renewed.

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Lots of news in the world of Spider-Man this week. First off, it was reported that Miles Morales, formerly the Ultimate Spider-Man, will be the MAIN Spider-Man in the regular Marvel Universe following the Secret Wars event. The new series, Spider-Man, will be handled by the Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man team of Brian Michael Bendis and Sarah Pichelli, and it also appears that a retired Peter Parker will serve as his mentor. I’ve written about my love for Miles in the past, and I’ve also written about how an association with Peter could only be a good thing for Miles. This is a pretty big deal, as Miles will also be one of the New Avengers as that team rebuilds following the event. I’m really excited for this, but part of me is wondering “How long is this really gonna last?” Comics have tricked us with “cowl rental” in the past, and the original wearer always comes back. I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, and I really want this to be a permanent thing, but I just know better than to get too excited about it yet.

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Meanwhile, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel and Sony decided on Tom Holland, and not Asa Butterfield, as the next actor to portray Peter Parker/Spider-Man. A moment of silence for Andrew Garfield. Not only will Holland star in the 2017 Spider-Man film, but he has been confirmed to debut in next Spring’s Captain America: Civil War. In fact, they say that he has already been sent to the set to start filming his scenes. Meanwhile, Jon Watts has been tapped to direct the next Spidey film, which will only be his third feature film.

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Also this week in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was rumored that Selma‘s Ava Duvernay had been hired to direct Marvel’s Black Panther. While Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has confirmed that they’ve had talks with DuVernay, her hiring is still just speculation at this point. While I know she’d bring a certain amount of, I guess, “legitimacy” to the movie, I don’t really know if that’s what her career needs. Sure, Kenneth Branagh directed Thor, but I kinda hate that we live in a period where it’s assumed that EVERY director needs to have a superhero film under his/her belt. I mean, other than the fact that they both feature Black casts, why would you think the director of Selma would automatically be the best person to showcase the king and world of Wakanda? To me, that’s just as dumb as the marriage between Storm and Black Panther which seemed based solely on the fact that they’re both African. It’s just sort of stupid that once you’re on everyone’s radar these days, it’s assumed your next move will be a superhero film.

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Also in movies this week, Rotten Tomatoes held a Q&A livestream with the cast of the Independence Day sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence. I guess the importance of the event was to showcase the new title, but it just seemed kinda like a sad affair. Instead of being excited about the movie (which is a year away), I was more sad for these actors that they didn’t have anything else lined up. I mean, even secondary characters like Vivica Fox, Brent Spiner and Judd Hirsch are back. Hell, if Harvey Fierstein hadn’t died in the first one, they probably would’ve gotten him back, too. But there is one glaring omission: Will Smith, who reportedly wanted $50 million to do the two planned sequels. So, instead of having him, they cast actor Jessie Usher (who?) as Smith’s character’s son. Anyway, since filming just started a month ago, they really didn’t have much info to share. I’m not sure whose idea it was to schedule this thing so early, but it was just an awkward, uncomfortable mess.

Photographer Dennis Stylist Lin

Photographer Dennis
Stylist Lin

Some San Diego Comic-Con exclusives are starting to trickle out (you can get up-to-the-minute coverage over at Awesome Toy Blog), but my favorite is probably this Toys “R” Us exclusive Batgirl figure. I was a pretty devoted collector of the Batman ’66 line, and I’ve been waiting for this figure since it was announced over a year ago. I really kinda hate that it’s an exclusive (especially since it’s a TRU exclusive, exclusively for SDCC – it’s an exclusive inception!), as that means it’ll be harder to get than just walking into your local TRU store. It seems that TRU actually posts these for sale on their website during the convention, so I’ll try my luck at getting one that way. I’ll need two – one to open and one to put in storage. Yes, I’m that guy. Sometimes.

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It was quite a week for fallen child stars. First off, young Anakin Skywalker, Jake Lloyd, who apparently suffers from schizophrenia, attacked his mom before setting off a high speed police chase. Then, Saved By The Bell‘s Dustin Diamond was ordered to serve 4 months in jail for stabbing a guy back in December.

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In the world of music, Taylor Swift surprisingly became the voice for artists’ rights when she declined to allow her album 1989 to be offered via Apple Music’s streaming service. This is nothing new for Taylor, as she also yanked all of her albums off Spotify a few months ago. Still, she wrote an open letter to her fans, saying that she couldn’t go along with Apple, seeing as how they weren’t going to be paying artists royalties for the first three months of the service. Well, she cried and Apple listened. Responding to her on Twitter, Apple senior vice president of internet software and services, Eddie Cue, said, “Apple will always make sure that artist are paid,” tweeted Cue. “#AppleMusic will pay artist for streaming, even during customer’s free trial period. We hear you @taylorswift13 and indie artists. Love, Apple.” Now if she could only squash that beef with Katy Perry that easily…

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I don’t usually get too political on here, but this has been some kind of week. As I’m sure you know, there’s been a lot of movement to get the Confederate flag taken down at southern government buildings. Then things really shifted into turbo, as Wal-Mart, Amazon and more announced that they would no longer be selling items bearing the flag. Then Warner Bros announced that they wouldn’t sell any more Dukes of Hazzard merchandise with the flag on it. When all of this stuff was happening, I jokingly tweeted that I was fine with the flag being on the General Lee. And then they pulled it. Finally, Apple kinda screwed the pooch by removing Civil War games from the App Store because they depicted the flag. I say “screwed the pooch”, as this is almost like pulling a textbook because the flag was in it. It’s a part of history, but that’s where it should remain. If it’s a game or book about history, then it seems kinda fitting for it to be in there. It just probably shouldn’t be flying high like we’re still all in 1861.

As a Black man in America, it should be pretty clear where I stand on this matter. As someone whose relatives hail from the South, it has even more meaning to me. I’m conflicted, though, ’cause I grew up loving The Dukes of Hazzard. I guess you could say that I didn’t know any better, but I was an avid fan of the “Cars Jumping Over Shit” genre of television that ruled the early 80s. I was asked to write a guest post about my stance on this, and I really didn’t know how to approach it without coming off like some kind of race traitor. I hate the flag, but I love the General Lee. I’m not going to get into a debate about whether or not the flag represents racism or any of that. You already have your opinion, and some rando’s pop culture blog isn’t about to change that. I will say this, though: Nice work, America.

I say that sarcastically because this whole thing was NEVER about the flag to begin with. I have a pretty strict No Death policy for West Week Ever, but everyone knows that 9 people were killed in a church last week. And, as these things are prone to do, the debate about gun control was just about to start up and then all this flag shit happened. This is what they want. Instead of doing something about guns, they’ve diverted our attention to this other matter, hoping we’ll forget the first thing. And I don’t say this as some kind of “Nobody needs guns!” kind of person. I honestly haven’t fully fleshed out my views on the matter, but I do know that a church is supposed to be a safe place. Just like a school. Or a movie theater. And none of that is true anymore.

Keep the flag or get rid of it. That’s not what any of this is about. It’s about changing the conversation, and it’s been very successful. I guess we’ll revisit the original conversation after the next mass shooting. Or maybe we’ll finally change the Redskins’ name instead. End of soapbox rant.

Links I Loved

‘Star Trek’: The Story of the Most Daring Cliffhanger in ‘Next Generation’ History – The Hollywood Reporter

Paul Rudd and Marvel’s Kevin Feige Reveal ‘Ant-Man’s’ Saga, from Director Shuffle to Screenplay Surgery to Studio’s “Phase Three” Plans – The Hollywood Reporter

Why I Left Scientology – Gawker

Harmony Korine on ‘Kids’: ‘It Would Be Impossible To Make That Film Now’ – The Guardian

The Least-Plausible G.I. Joe and Cobra Vehicles – The Robot’s Pajamas

ctu27

Now this is typically the part where I tell you who had the West Week Ever, but I’m gonna try something different this week. You see, I’ve been working on a project that I kinda want to share with you.

After guesting on some 40+ podcasts, I always get the same question: When are you going to start your own podcast? Well, I never really wanted to because A) I’m lazy and B) I didn’t really think there was a demand. I mean, I already have to beg folks to read this thing every week, so why would I think they’d want to listen to me, too? It just didn’t seem worthwhile. Then, I had a conversation with my Twitter Sister, Brandi Brown. I call her that because we’re basically the same person, only she’s a stand-up comic in Minnesota, and I’m not. We started talking about Carmen Sandiego, and then we just fell down the rabbit hole trying to make sense of that whole franchise. We decided that it would probably be a good idea for a one-off podcast. As we kept talking, we realized that we had a few topics that deserved to be discussed – the only catch would be that this wouldn’t be a weekly show. Hell, it might not even be monthly. Think of it like a series of specials. If they do well, then we’ll figure out where to go next, but for now, we’re just thinking of this being an occasional sort of thing. Well, our good buddy Classick, over at the Cold Slither Podcast Network, invited us to be on the latest episode of his Classick Team-Up show. That episode was to serve as something of a “backdoor pilot” for the show that Brandi and I had devised. Oh, you don’t know what a backdoor pilot is? It’s when an episode of an existing show is used to spin off a new show. Got it? Good.

It was a lot of fun recording this, as we tackled topics such as Rachel Dolezal, paying it forward, and the conspiracy theories that we hold dear. The project is clearly a work in progress, so bear that in mind. We’ve got to figure out things like audio levels, podcast setup, mics, etc. Still, I think there’s a lot of potential here. So, I ask that you give it a listen and let me know what you think. Do you want more Brandi & Will? It’s all up to you. If not, I’ll be cool with that, too. Sure, I might cry a little, but I’ll get over it. So, in lieu of a West Week Ever, I give you Classick Team-Up #27 with Brandi & Will.

Oh, and there won’t be a post next week ’cause y’all never read it on a holiday weekend. So, unless something crazy happens and I write it on Thursday, we’re taking a week off.

17th Apr2015

West Week Ever – 4/17/15

by Will

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The week started out with the debut of the newest Ant-Man trailer. I’ve got to say that I’m getting more excited about this movie the closer that it gets. Sure, it won’t be Avengers-level awesome, but I think it’ll hold its own in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know a lot of you like to avoid trailers and spoilers, but this one is worth watching just for the train gag at the end. Trust me. Anyway, for a great scene-by-scene breakdown of the new trailer, check out this post from my pals at The Robot’s Pajamas.

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Next in comic movie news, DC’s Wonder Woman lost its director when Michelle MacLaren left the production, citing “creative differences”. That director’s chair wasn’t cold for long, however, as Patty Jenkins was given the job a few days later. In the long run Jenkins may be the better choice, as she has box office experience, having directed Monster, which won an Oscar for Charlize Theron. On top of that, she was slated to direct Thor 2, before leaving that production citing “creative differences”. So, she’ll make her comic movie debut in the DC Universe instead.

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Meanwhile in the DC Cinematic Universe, the trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is slated to be released in a special event on Monday. They even released a teaser for it yesterday. Yes, a TEASER for a TRAILER. Can this just stop? Movie studios are like sluts, where they start out slow, by just letting us slip the tip in, and right before the movie comes out, they’re just GIVING IT AWAY. Look at what’s going on with Age of Ultron. They insist that we haven’t seen anything yet from the third act, but I sure as Hell feel like I’ve seen everything else. Just release your trailer and move on. Sure, there are fans clamoring for this, but I’m not one of them. I think it’s pretty stupid. But if you wanna pay for an IMAX ticket to go watch a trailer, I guess that’s your business. As for me, I just can’t find myself getting excited about this movie. If it were another DC television series, I’d be all about it. They’ve figured out television. They’re still trying to understand movies.

Jessica Jones

In comic television news, hot on the heels of the Daredevil debut, we got our first look at the Netflix series A.K.A. Jessica Jones. I love Krysten Ritter and I love Jessica Jones, but I’m still not sure I love Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones. I still think Alexandra Daddario would’ve been a better choice, but I’ve learned to trust Marvel’s judgement at this point. As for Luke Cage, I’ve got no real thoughts on him. I kinda wanted Lance Gross to get it, since it’d be nice to see someone graduate from Tyler Perry stuff to the big leagues (someone not named Sofia Vergara, that is).

One thing I’ve been curious about these Netflix series is the production timeline. Daredevil has clearly been a runaway hit, so smart money is on a season 2. That said, do we have to wait until after the Defenders team-up, or could it potentially happen before? At this time, there are no production dates for Iron Fist or The Defenders, but it’s unlikely they’d take place before late 2016/early 2017. Would they sneak another Daredevil season in before then, or would we have to wait? Seems like a long time to keep your cast sitting on the bench, especially since it’s now rumored that those stars may appear in Avengers: Infinity War. I’d love to find out more information about the Netflix deal.

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Probably the biggest news this week, the second Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer debuted at Star Wars Celebration yesterday. I’m far from a hardcore Star Wars fan, but I enjoyed it. I’ll see it. I’m sure you want more than that, but I’ve got nothing. I’m sure a ton of you needed a towel after that final scene. For a better explanation of the trailer, again, check out this post at The Robot’s Pajamas.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

– A couple of people announced they were running for President.

-For some reason, a 25 year old Sizzler commercial went viral.

-Ryan Gosling has been cast in the Blade Runner sequel

Other Space debuted on Yahoo Screen, co-starring Milana Vayntrub, AKA The AT&T Girl

-It appears David Hasselhoff just discovered the glory of Kung Fury

Links I Loved

Daredevil Netflix Series: Marvel Universe Easter Eggs and Comic References Guide
– Den of Geek US

On Jackie Robinson Day, Let’s Remember When He Was Fired From the New York Post for Being Too Republican – Reason.com

How Avengers: Age of Ultron Nearly Killed Joss Whedon – Vulture

Japanese Game Show Where The Contestants Get Hand Jobs While Singing Karaoke (NSFW) – Dangerous Minds

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Yeah, I know the new Star Wars trailer is driving nerds crazy, but I’ve got to give WWE to Daredevil. Again. Last week, it was just for the pilot. It still had 12 more chances to go downhill from there. And it did not. On top of that, I’ve yet to see anyone say anything negative about it – ON THE INTERNET! When’s the last time that happened? Sure, Star Wars will have its day in the sun but, to me, this week belonged to Ol’ Hornhead and Hell’s Kitchen. If you haven’t watched it yet, what’s wrong with you? Is it because you don’t have Netflix? If that’s the case, I’m sure there’s some kind of free trial you could exploit or something in order to watch it. If you just don’t care, then I feel bad for you, son. You’re missing out on the best television comic adaptation to date. That’s why Netflix’s Daredevil had the West Week Ever.