22nd Jun2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

04th May2018

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

by Will

 

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

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

Oh, yeah – SPOILERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thoughts about Avengers 4:

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

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

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27th Apr2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/27/18

by Will

So I skipped last week because I didn’t think anything major had happened in pop culture. On the Facebook page for the site, I wrote “Try harder next week, America!” Well, America did not disappoint, as this week was a doozy. What am I talking about? Well, the Universal FanCon implosion, of course! If you’re a White reader, this might be the first you’re hearing of FanCon, so sit back and get comfortable, because you’re about to go on a wild ride.

Universal FanCon was envisioned as a pop culture convention that would embrace the ideals of inclusion and diversity. It catered to marginalized fans who didn’t feel like the major cons took them into consideration. This primarily included fans of color, the LGBTQ community, as well as the disabled audience. It popped onto the scene as a Kickstarter back in 2016, which had a goal of $25,000, but went on to make over $56,000. Remember that number. There are essentially three “founders” of the show, but the most prominent of them is Jamie Broadnax, the blogger behind the Black Girl Nerds brand, which is essentially a community of like-minded, Black female geeks. In Black geek circles, Jamie’s kind of a big deal, so her association with the show is what convinced a lot of people to buy into its mission.

The show was originally supposed to start today at the Baltimore Convention Center, but last Friday things started to get weird when area hotels started sending out reservation cancellations to planned attendees. Apparently the convention hadn’t put down the money to secure the rooms. Immediately, Twitter lit up with “What’s happening with FanCon?” tweets. As folks started trading stories of their cancelled reservations, the actual convention planners weren’t addressing the situation at all. Now, this was one week out from the planned start of the con, so it was too late for many to recoup travel costs they’d incurred when making arrangements to attend the show. Some exhibitors had already shipped their wares to the hotels, and would now need to get those shipments returned.

Later Friday afternoon, FanCon issued a brief statement where they said 1) that the show was “postponed” and not “cancelled” and 2) that it was basically all the hotels’ fault. Oh, and since the show wasn’t cancelled, there wouldn’t be any refunds because all sales were final, and ticket holders would be given passes to the rescheduled show. Well, Twitter wasn’t having it, as they were demanding answers – primarily to the question of “Where did the money go?” Of the three co-founders, one went radio silent, while the other had a bit of a breakdown before locking his tweets. That left Broadnax to take the brunt of the blame, as she was the most public face associated with the show. The show promised to issue an FAQ later that day, but that’s when things went from bad to worse, as the poorly written FAQ was a live document that saw revisions over the course of the day, with folks comparing screenshots just to have a record of FanCon going back and forth on promises made. While blame kept shifting, they remained pretty unwavering on the No Refunds thing. Oh, and I forgot to mention that when FanCon DID start emailing Kickstarter backers about the status of the show, they didn’t BCC the addresses, so they ended up revealing the email addresses of 500-1,000 people. Yeah, folks were NOT happy.

Meanwhile, Twitter was on fire with folks revealing what they’d lost from the situation: travel fees, booth fees, Kickstarter pledges, the works. Apparently, out of the $56,000 raised, only a fraction of those backers had qualified for admission to the show. This was a problem. You see, FanCon was a first year show with lofty goals. Instead of taking the sensible route of starting small, maybe at a Best Western ballroom, they set their sights on the Baltimore Convention Center and expected the kind of attendance numbers that an established show like Awesome Con pulls in. If only a small percentage of Kickstarter backers were guaranteed attendees, where were they going to make up the numbers? And THAT was the problem. Apparently they were DEEP in the hole, and didn’t have the funds to pull off the show as it had been promoted. There had been talks of scaling it down and, according to reports, that was the plan going forward. The show was still going to happen until those pesky Baltimore hotels started actually wanting money for the reservations they’d been holding. How dare they?!

As the truth became something that folks couldn’t get, folks started making their own assumptions. The weekend was rife with accusations that Jamie and the crew had stolen all the money and screwed over a heartbroken fandom that had invested their hopes and dreams and money into the vision of the convention. Jamie, meanwhile, wasn’t helping her case as she did a poor job of trying to distance herself from any sort of power role in the planning of the show. While most materials had billed her as “co-founder”, in her statement she merely referred to herself as a “member” who had volunteered her time and services to the con. This downgrade to “member” was equally suspicious when it came out that, while she had “volunteered” her time, she still stood to make a cut of any profits the show made – not something one tends to get in a volunteer capacity. Also, her original statement said she found out about the lack of funds “48 hours ago”, but later reports said she knew as early as April 3rd, so why did they wait so long to pull the plug? Her other two partners were still silent as she continued to dig her hole deeper and deeper.

Next, it was discovered that a man by the name of Thai Pham was associated with the planning of the show, and he’d had experience planning conventions in the past. The problem here, however, is that he had a track record of raising money for conventions that were, then, cancelled at the last minute, offering no refunds – much like FanCon. The most notable example of this was Pride Con, and his involvement was basically confirmed when jilted FanCon guests received a questionnaire that had been recycled from the Pride Con debacle. With Pham’s involvement, what had originally looked like gross negligence with funds was now beginning to look like a con job to many.

Monday hit, people were still angry, and there were no real answers to anything that had happened. A few Tweeters with hotel experience chimed in that the hotels wouldn’t have breached contract if they didn’t have a reason, so it was most likely a case of the convention not paying them what they owed. Meanwhile, a bunch of Twitter detectives were on the case, piecing things together. For a GREAT takedown of the timeline and folks involved, you should check out this investigative post at Women Write About Comics. Still, Jamie was the main one taking the hits and, realizing her brand was pretty much irrevocably tarnished, she announced that she was stepping down as EIC of Black Girl Nerds. This did little to calm folks, as they simply wanted the truth and they wanted their money back.

In any case, around Tuesday, people surprisingly started reporting that they were getting refunds for the passes they’d purchased. While the show doesn’t seem to have made things right for exhibitors, the planned attendees appear to be getting some sort of compensation. Many of those who couldn’t get their travel arrangements refunded decided to just come to Baltimore anyway, and wondered if there might be a way to scrape something together from the ashes of FanCon. That’s when folks with Black Heroes Matter and The Nerds of Color joined forces to throw together Wicomicon, which is a pop-up con that will take place tomorrow at the Wicomico Building in Baltimore. Instead of FanCon’s weekend-long affair, Wicomicon will try to provide a worthwhile experience in one day.

Whew! That’s a lot, right? Well, that’s just the reporting aspect. Then there’s MY take on the whole situation.

I never had any faith in Universal FanCon. I know, I know. A lot of folks brand me as a “hater”, and that’s not without reason. That said, I first heard about it about a year ago. It was after the Kickstarter had passed, but at the start of the real marketing push. After the success of Awesome Con, a whole lot of shows have popped up in this area in recent years. There’s BlerdCon, there’s the upcoming (and also unproven, first-year) All-Star Comic-Con, as well as some smaller cons. At the end of the day, though, Awesome Con and Baltimore Comic Con pretty much rule the roost in the DMV.

It’s hard to put on a show, and it’s even harder for a first year show. The folks behind FanCon never really filled me with any kind of confidence that they had experience in this realm. Sure, Jamie is a known quantity, but I never really “got” Jamie Broadnax. Like, anybody could livetweet shit and come up with cute hashtags for shows. I never quite understood how that was her claim to fame. I’d see her on panels, and just think “And?” I mean, she was on a few panels for the DC in D.C. event I went to a few weeks back, and I just never understood how a mere blogger shared the stage with actors and producers. But whatever. That’s just me being a “hater” again, I suppose.

I didn’t know the other 2 guys from Adam. They weren’t coming from event planning backgrounds, and they seemed to be motivated by the fact that they were hardcore fans. That’s cute, but this is a BUSINESS at this point. No time for you to start fanboying when you’re handling folks’ money. Anyway, I don’t do first year cons. You’ve got to work out the kinks and figure out your shit. Going to a first year con is like buying a gaming console on release day, knowing it’s gonna have some sort of defect like the Red Ring of Death or something that they won’t rectify till the next batch are shipped. I didn’t go to Awesome Con til, like, Year 3. I don’t have time or money for your dress rehearsals.

Here’s the real kicker for me: the show had a weak mission statement. Yes, inclusion and diversity are good things, and they should be the aims of more conventions that are being planned. That said, it was never really pronounced as to how they were going to achieve this. The show was marketed to marginalized communities as basically, “You know how other conventions don’t treat us fairly? Well, here’s a convention for us!” And that, I feel, was its biggest problem. I’ve heard that a lot of shows don’t take into account the challenges of the disabled. Some shows aren’t safe spaces for Black cosplayers. Some shows don’t consider diversity when programming their panels. I get all of that. So, here’s a show that basically came along and said, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and those communities jumped at it and supported it. Some folks are desperate for community and they should have that. What you end up with, however, is a show comprised of racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, and the disabled community banding together. This is not inclusion. This is actually exclusion.

Inclusion is defined as “the act or state of including or of being included within a group or structure”. If inclusion were the true goal of this show, it would’ve actually been a convention for EVERYONE. Instead, it was a case of “line up with your favorite brand of oppression”. It was a separatist movement. It was a convention For Us, By Us. I guess Daymond John wouldn’t let them use the name FUBUCon, but that’s what this was.

Now, some folks will say “Well, why can’t we have spaces of our own?” You can, but that ain’t inclusion. That’s pretty much the opposite. There’s this underlying bass note to the whole thing that somewhat implies that straight, White congoers are the problem with conventions. They’re harassing the Black cosplayers, they’re not making accommodations for the disabled. They’ve done things their way, for them, so now it’s time for us to do them our way, for us. On the flip side, the show makes another assumption: that if the marginalized are grouped together, without the “oppressor” present, then everything will be copacetic. I got news for you, though: the members of marginalized groups can be just as bad as those outside of them. Being in a wheelchair does not mean a person is incapable of being an asshole. When I was in college, there was this mean little girl (little person? I never knew if she was a young prodigy or just a little person), who wouldn’t give a shit about mowing you down in her motorized wheelchair. The show seemed like it didn’t want a certain element there, while refusing to acknowledge that those problems come in all shapes and size. This is the part where some folks would love to call me a “coon” or say I’m “caping” for the White man or in the “sunken place”, but these are just facts. The show was built on the shaky assumption that White fans are the worst part of the con-going experience and, while history books (and the nightly news) deliver a plethora of examples where White folks have been the devil, their influence over pop culture conventions is not a hill upon which I plan to die.

Let me point out: they never said that any particular group *couldn’t* come to the show, but they treated some groups basically like “I guess they can come if they want” – with the same sincerity that you have when you ask someone “How are you?” and you pray they honor the social contract by not giving you an honest, detailed answer.

So, for the Black cosplayers seeking a safe space, what was it about this show that was going to protect them that didn’t exist at more established cons? Was FanCon going to have a stringent anti-harassment policy? If so, how were they going to enforce it? I’ve been to uncomfortable conventions before, so I know they exist. Still, I feel like the established pop culture cons are already some of the most inclusive experiences you can have. Nobody cares about who you date, or who you voted for. For that day, you’re all united by your love of the same shit.

For the folks who think they got “scammed” by Jamie and her cohorts, I don’t think that’s exactly the case, either. I think it was gross mismanagement of funds, but I don’t think this was initially an attempt to cheat folks out of their money. Keep in mind I said “initially”. Yes, a lot of people are out of money, BUT that’s primarily because their travel and accommodations got fucked over by the timeline. It’s hard to believe the organizers “scammed” anyone when they didn’t have the $$$ to put on the show. If we’re just talking about the Kickstarter, that’s about $56,000. If they fucked folks over for the price of a midsized SUV, that’s got to be one of the saddest cons in the history of con jobs. Now, let’s look at the other money. Table fees and whatnot. That could add up to, what, another $50,000? Max? So, you want me to believe that the three founders and these shadow members, like Thai Pham, went through all this to split roughly $100,000 between them? Are times THAT hard out in these streets?

At the end of the day, this was just mismanagement. You’ve got folks who can’t even balance their checkbooks handling other folks’ money. While Pham’s involvement is shady, the three founders that folks keep mentioning don’t seem slick OR smart enough to pull this off. Jamie didn’t scam anyone. The other two didn’t scam anyone. That Pham fucker? Yeah, he totally scammed folks, but he’s the smartest of them all because he’s been quiet, he let others take the fall, and still nobody really even seems to know who he is. I think, had the show happened, he still would’ve found some way to make off with a considerably large sum of money, and he’d be in the wind to do it again at a later date with some other show.

Meanwhile, Jamie ruined her brand, which will forever go down in history. She took a chance, just like the affiliates did. If it had been a success, we wouldn’t be here, and errbody would be taking credit for it. She took a gamble, and she lost. A cautionary tale, but not unusual.

Let’s talk about Jamie for a minute. A lot of “tea has been spilled”, as the young folks say, about how she ran BGN and supposedly blacklisted certain folks in the online nerd space. Since the shit hit the fan, BGN writers have been leaving in droves, while former members are starting to speak up about their negative experiences. It’s almost like a Blerd Weinstein situation, as she no longer has the clout to keep them afraid, so it’s a mini #MeToo movement. And while a lot of them have legitimate claims (she wasn’t really paying writers, BGN was a vanity project meant to promote her over everyone else), the timing of it all seems almost as petty as the Comey book. There are tons of tweets like “I been told y’all Jamie ain’t shit, but nobody wanted to listen.” And it’s true. In Black Twitter, there are cliques and cool kids, and you don’t want to get on their bad sides until you find out they’re serial sexual harassers or they seemingly make off with thousands of dollars of other people’s money, and suddenly everyone wants to talk. I’m seeing a lot of people trying to build themselves off Jamie’s misfortune right now, and they’re coming off like opportunistic vampires. I watched a video of one who was basically like “Yeah, I wasn’t really involved in this particular matter, but I knew something was up with Jamie. Anyway, I’ve got a pilot coming out soon.” It’s the social media equivalent of “Check out my mixtape” at the cost of someone else’s misfortune. Sure, I was never her biggest fan, but I feel like Jamie’s got enough to worry about (hopefully lawyering up) than to have to worry about all these folks trying to make a name for themselves off something that didn’t even directly affect them.

As for the entire situation, I’ve made jokes. A lot of them. I think I’m just astounded by what a colossal implosion occurred in such a short amount of time. It’s impressive, in its own morbid way. I wasn’t one of the people who lost anything. Sure, I had a ticket to the show, but it was given to me by a friend. I didn’t invest money in any way because, frankly, I didn’t really see the point (I also hate Kickstarter, which is a rant for another day). I do, however, feel one can laugh at the situation while feeling bad for those who lost something. After all, I’m not laughing AT them. I feel sorry for them. They truly believed in this – some of them to an extreme that I can’t entirely fathom. They feel hurt and betrayed, and for good reason. There were signs, though. People see what they want to see, so a lot of folks missed those signs. Take this bio from the website, for instance:

Or this poorly written blurb from the official FanCon blog:

Or this explanation of their mission, which somehow manages to say both everything AND nothing about who and what they are:

There are so many things wrong here, and this was on a supposedly professional site. People love to be offended by “Grammar Nazis”, but presentation matters. How you put yourself out into the world matters. One look at this, and I immediately go, “That’s a ‘no’ for me, dawg.”

I don’t think we’ll ever get the whole story of what went down, as the situation just seems to get crazier and crazier as time passes (One of the members of the planning board is a Twitter bot and not a real person!). And this failure has tremendously set back the progress of this geekspace. BGN is in shambles, and I really don’t see how a new managing editor is going to right that ship. Anyone else planning a convention for the marginalized is going to be at a disadvantage until folks get the taste of this betrayal out of their mouths. I don’t know how Jamie comes back from this. This is the Empire Strikes Back ending for Black fandom. It’s like the Blerd space has been trapped in carbonite, and we’re gonna have to wait a bit to see how it manages to get free.

HarassmentWatch

Bill Cosby – “Paging Dr. Huxtable! Your jail cell is ready!” Yeah, the Cos was found guilty of 3 counts of aggravated indecent assault yesterday, which I’ve got to say was somewhat surprising. When “world’s first supermodel”, and alleged Cosby victim, Janice Dickinson revealed she lied about the details of her assault in her book, I thought that had pretty much torpedoed this retrial. She said that her accounts differed because Cosby pressured her to remove details from the book, and she really needed the money. Still, in the end, I guess those conflicting accounts didn’t really matter.

I’ll say this, though: Bill Cosby will never see the inside of a jail cell. The man is 80 years old, and I think this is just gonna be another Roger Ailes situation. If you remember, the Fox News exec was so taken aback by his own sexual abuse investigation that it took its toll on him. He resigned from Fox, and less than a year later, fell at his home and died from subdural hematoma. I see the same thing happening in this situation, and folks will be conflicted about how they’re supposed to mourn him. Meanwhile, the Bounce TV network has, once again, removed The Cosby Show from its lineup in the wake of the verdict.

Tom Brokaw – No, not Uncle Tom! A former NBC News correspondent is accusing Brokaw of sexual harassment stemming from some stuff that happened back in the 90s. I’m not surprised, really. He comes from the old school, Mad Men days, when women were merely “broads” and “dames”. Anyway, I don’t see NBC making a big stink about this, as he’s pretty much only used in an elder statesman capacity these days. They really only call on him now when someone important dies, or maybe impeachment hearings (wink, wink!). Anyway, Brokaw denies the allegations, of course.

Charlie Rose Update – When life gives you dick pics, make dick pic-ade. That makes no sense, but you see where I was going. Trying to make something out of a bad situation, Charlie Rose is currently pitching a show where he will interview other men who were caught up in the #MeToo movement. I guess there are two sides to every story, so he wants to get the men’s take on what happened in each of their situations.

Allison Mack – Not exactly harassment, but I think being the #2 in a sex cult earns you a spot in this segment. Previously arrested for alleged involvement in sex trafficking, the former Smallville actress was released this week on a $5 million bond. Who in her life had $500,000 just lying around, yet didn’t care enough to keep her out of the sex cult in the first place?! Anyway, she’s been released to live with her parents, yet was ordered to stay off the internet and to not contact anyone involved with the cult. Stay off the internet? They do realize it’s 2018, right? The Internet’s connected to everything but our toilet paper, and I’m sure there’s a Brookstone catalog out there just waiting to prove I’m even wrong about that.

Two of my favorite flavors are now one, as The Chap Report Podcast has joined the Nerd Lunch Network. Go check out the first episode of the reboot now!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Nikki Bella has joined the rest of the human race, as she can no longer see John Cena.
  • Straight Outta Compton‘s F. Gary Gray has been tapped to direct the live action M.A.S.K. film, based on the 80s Hasbro toy series. I’ll put this in the I’ll Believe It When I See it file…
  • Despite having a pilot in consideration at ABC, and not having an official signed deal, Lauren Cohan ended speculation by announcing that she will return to The Walking Dead for season 9.
  • Apparently, there will be a sequel to A Quiet Place. I hope it has an all Black cast, and is called Bitch, I SAID “Be Quiet!”
  • There were quite a few TV cancellations this week: Ash vs. Evil Dead (after 3 seasons on Starz); Seven Seconds (after 1 season on Netflix); Ghost Wars (after 1 season on Syfy); Here & Now (after 1 season on HBO); and The Path (after 3 seasons on Hulu). Meanwhile, Living Biblically (CBS) and Taken (NBC) have been taken off the schedule, and planned for a summer burn-off, which is pretty much a cancellation.
  • Meanwhile, Fox’s Lethal Weapon is reportedly on the brink of cancellation due to reports of erratic behavior from costar Clayne Crawford. He and costar Damon Wayans are reportedly no longer speaking to each other, and there are talks of recasting Crawford’s Riggs with a female character next season.
  • It wasn’t all bad TV news, as there were also some renewals: The Last OG (after 1 season on TBS); Search Party (after 2 seasons on TBS); Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (season 1 hasn’t even debuted on Amazon yet); Grey’s Anatomy (after 14 (!) seasons on ABC).
  • *NSYNC’s Lance Bass has signed on to be an executive producer on The Lou Pearlman Project documentary for YouTube Red.
  • Netflix has ordered a Fast and the Furious animated series, which will focus on Dom Toretto’s teenage cousin, Tony.
  • Kanye West returned to Twitter, only to lose his damn mind.
  • In the “Huh?!” file, Travel Channel has ordered 4 episodes of Mysteries and Myths with Megan Fox. Yes, that Megan Fox. She’ll be “debunking the myths around some of our greatest historical mysteries”. Um, OK.
  • That spinoff of The Goldbergs just won’t die. While scrapped, the Nia Long-starring backdoor pilot aired as a regular episode of The Goldbergs earlier this season. For some reason, ABC won’t let this go, so the show is being retooled to focus on Barry’s ex-girlfriend, Lainey, as she becomes a teacher at William Penn Academy. Just like the other pilot, this show will be set in the 90s, and will still feature Tim Meadows and Brian Callen as costars.

  • Speaking of The Goldbergs, it was announced that Adam Goldberg himself, Sean Giambrone will costar with Game Shakers‘ Sadie Stanley in the Disney Channel Kim Possible movie. Several things about this make me sad: 1) Why does Sean’s agent hate him? I mean, a TV movie? 2) How demeaning must it have been for original Kim Possible voice actors Will Friedle and Christy Carlson Romano to get that call that said “Hey, we want you guys to come film a skit to introduce the kids taking your jobs”? 3) I’m old enough to remember when Kim Possible was planned as a theatrical live action film.
  • Double Dare is coming back to Nickelodeon with 40 new episodes this summer. Knowing what we know now about original host Marc Summers and his OCD, I kinda want them to bring him back just to see if he could cope.

  • We got this Venom trailer. What the Hell is with Tom Hardy’s accent? This thing looks like something from Cannon Films in the 80s. Hard pass.
  • Hot off the Hari Kondabolu/Apu controversy, Hank Azaria now says he’d be willing to step away from the role, which would be a nice gesture if The Simpsons had more than about 2 seasons left in the tank.
  • S.J. Clarkson has been tapped to direct the untitled fourth Star Trek film set in the rebooted, J.J. Abrams “Kelvin Universe”, making her the first female director in the Star Trek film franchise. The film is rumored to feature Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk interacting with his father, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, who would be reprising his role from the 2009 film.
  • Cathy Yan has been hired to direct the Margot Robbie Harley Quinn film that nobody (including Robbie herself) really seems to want.

Last weekend, partially naked Travis Reinking walked up to a Nashville area Waffle House, brandishing an AR-15, and proceeded to kill 4 people before he was stopped by customer James Shaw Jr. Shaw hid near the bathroom and rushed Reinking, grabbing the gun and throwing it over the counter before Reinking escaped. I’m not here to talk about Reinking because, well, fuck that guy. They found him 34 hours later, and took him alive, ’cause of course they did. I’m surprised they didn’t give him the Dylan Roof treatment, and swing by and get him some Burger King. No, let’s talk about Shaw.

Hours after the shooting, Shaw set up a GoFundMe to raise money for the families of the shooting victims. He ended up raising more than $165,000 in just a few days – all this while nursing the injuries he sustained during the scuffle, including burns on his hands from handling the hot gun muzzle, and a wound on his elbow while he was grazed by a bullet. He said, “I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it.” A fucking hero.

Shaw has since been recognized for his heroism, as a New York man set up an online fundraiser that has raised more than $175,000 to benefit him. Meanwhile, his bravery was also recognized by the Tennessee state General Assembly. One political figure who has been noticeably quiet, however, is the president himself (Gee, I wonder why…)- though he did have time to call into Fox & Friends and let us all know that he forgot to get his wife a birthday present. Ooh, he’s such a stinker!

Anyway, West Week Ever is usually given to someone/thing that had a pretty good week. I wouldn’t say that about James Shaw Jr. I’d say his week started off in one of the worst ways possible. He’s still dealing with injuries, not to mention the psychological impact, from what happened last weekend. He did, however do a lot of good for a lot of people – both the customers whose lives he was able to save, as well as the families for those who weren’t as fortunate. I have no more appropriate honor to bestow upon him, but his bravery was the best thing that happened this week, so James Shaw Jr had the West Week Ever.

13th Apr2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

30th Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/30/18

by Will

It might be a controversial one this week, so let’s get to it, shall we?

 

Last night I saw my second movie of 2018 (it’s been a busy year so far…), and that honor was bestowed upon Ready Player One. Yeah, I already know some of y’all have already decided to hate it, so you can just jump down to where I talk about the molesters and the wang danglers. For those who are actually willing to give the movie a chance, however, strap on in.

Remember this commercial?

Yeah? Well, Ready Player One is that, but two hours long. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, your mileage may vary. As my friend pointed out, it’s really just the Willy Wonka story laden with pop culture references. Poor kid finds himself in a magical world, with the chance to take over said world if he survives various challenges. We’ve heard this before, right? Still, don’t count it out yet. The injection of those pop culture references is pretty amazing. I mean, it’s pretty astonishing to me that a group of Hollywood lawyers paved the way for HALO, Overwatch, Batman, TMNT, The Shining, Back to the Future, and more to be featured in the same movie, yet we still don’t have peace in the Middle East! The soundtrack is great, as you would expect from anything that was a legitimate 80s nostalgia wank.

If I had any problems with the film, it’s that it didn’t take enough chances. For example, when the movie starts out, everything set in the fantastical world of The OASIS just looks like cut scenes from a video game. And while we live in a time where those cut scenes can be pretty amazing, at the end of the day, they’re still just cut scenes and I expect more from a Hollywood blockbuster than that. I mean, the OASIS is an engaging world, and it’s certainly the kind of game I’d be interested in playing. That said, there’s a generational gap going on in gaming. When I was growing up, it SUCKED having to sit there and watch your friend play, waiting for it to be your turn. Nowadays, hot chicks are paying their rent by having fans watch them play video games online. I just don’t get it, but if you get it, then you’ll like the cut scene stuff.

Another way it fell short was in some of the characters. Tye Sheridan’s Wade Watts has got the most punchable face I’ve seen this side of Miles Teller, but they kinda take you out of that mindset by primarily showing him as his avatar, Parzival, who’s basically “What if Bob from ReBoot was a scaly Albino?” There are some twists with a few characters, which I won’t spoil here, but one thing that really got me was the character of Art3mis. In the OASIS, she’s a hot, scaly pinkish character who gives this whole speech to Parzival about how he’s not in love with the real her, but rather what she has projected herself to be. She insists that he wouldn’t like the “real” her. Nice opening for some daring casting, right? Maybe she’s in a wheelchair. Maybe she’s mangled or something. We meet her in the real world and nope! She’s a cute White girl. Sure, she has a birthmark on one side of her face about which she acts is the end of the world, but it’s nothing you’d kick her out of bed over. Lame! I also didn’t really like the characterization of OASIS creator James Halliday until the very end. Nothing about him really made sense until they got to the final act.

There were things I absolutely loved, however. For example, there’s a female badass of unknown racial origin named “F’Nale”, who fittingly shows her mettle in the final act. I also LOVED Director Krennic as a technological Vince McMahon. I know Bradley Cooper might be in that Pandemonium film about McMahon, but Ben Mendelsohn does SUCH an amazing job channeling Attitude Era Mr. McMahon. I kept waiting for him to scream “WADE SCREWED WADE!” And I know he’s caught a lot of heat lately for his possible sexual misconduct, but TJ Miller is pretty much the only person I could’ve imagined cast as the mercenary i-R0k.

In all, I really enjoyed this movie. I know a lot of you have read the book, and hate how it does the Family Guy thing of “Hey, Bill & Ted was a thing that happened” when appealing to nostalgia. It’s all surface pop culture. Sure, having some knowledge of the world of gaming might help out in some places, but mainly it’s nostalgia boner eye candy. Why does the Back to the Future DeLorean have K.I.T.T.’s scanner? Don’t worry about it! Just go with it! That’s pretty much how the movie treats the audience. If you find that offensive, then this might not be the film for you. They don’t really wax philosophically on Star Wars, but the mere mention of the Millennium Falcon is supposed to be enough for the audience to be like, “Hey, I get that reference!” To some, that’s enough. They feel like they’re “in the goddamn club”. To others, that approach lacks depth. I can appreciate both stances, but I hope you’ll at least give the film a shot, as it is a marvel for the eyes, and I think a lot of it will get lost outside of the big screen presentation.

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Dan Schneider – This is a BIG one. A lot of you might know him best as “the fat guy from Head of the Class“, but to anyone under the age of 25 he kind of defined their Nickelodeon experience. You see, he and his Schneider’s Bakery production company launched the careers of Miranda Cosgrove, Victoria Justice, Amanda Bynes, and Ariana Grande. Not only did he co-create All That and Kenan & Kel, but he went on to create The Amanda Show, iCarly, Drake & Josh, Victorious, and Sam & Cat, to name a few. Well, this week Nickelodeon ended a relationship that has lasted over two decades, parting ways with the Schneider’s Bakery production company.

Apparently it all kicked off earlier in the week, when Nick executives told Schneider that they’d be cancelling his most recent show, Game Shakers, after its third season. Known for a very bad temper, Schneider protested because the season ends on a cliffhanger, and fans wouldn’t get closure. Also, since his other show, Harvey Danger, is on hiatus, Nick wanted a new, non Schneider’s Bakery show, Cousins for Life, to move into the production space that Schneider had previously used exclusively. He didn’t feel he should have to share, based on his history with the network, and it all culminated in the end of the relationship.

That’s not the whole story, though. Apparently, Schneider had been living under a “cloud of suspicion” for some time, as his relationship with his young actors and actresses seemed inappropriate to some. For example, he has tweeted pictures of his young actresses’ toes. Plus, working conditions on set are considered long and grueling for the young actors, while his shows regularly ran over budget. At the moment, this seems more like a harassment thing than a sexual harassment thing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more came out as the story develops.

John Kricfalusi – The Ren & Stimpy creator was the subject of a Buzzfeed News article this week, as two women accused him of sexual misconduct, while they were underage, with the promise of career advancement attached. One of the women even became his live-in girlfriend when she was 16 and he was 37. One of the women also accused Kricfalusi of possessing child pornography. It seems like his proclivities were known in animation circles, but nobody ever did anything about it, I suppose for fear of retribution or negative impacts on their careers. It’s a whole long saga, dating back 25 years, and it’s not clear if anything will be done to Kricfalusi, who’s now 62.

Ryan Seacrest Update – Seacrest’s former stylist, and accuser, Suzie Hardy has now filed a police report against Seacrest. While his employers seem to be taking Seacrest’s side on this one, it was an uncomfortable situation at the Oscars when many of Hollywood’s elite went out of their way to avoid him on the red carpet. It’s unclear what’s going to happen here, but I can’t help but feel that Carson Daly has been going to sleep, smiling from ear to ear lately.

Allison Mack Update – You all thought I was crazy when I wrote about it back in November, but now it’s pretty much confirmed that the Smallville actress was, in fact, second in command of a sex cult! But it gets better: apparently her Smallville costar, Kristin Kreuk is the one who originally recruited Mack, and they used their celebrity status to recruit women to the cult. Led by self-help guru Keith Raniere, the upstate New York-based group, called NXIVM (pronounced Nexium), was believed to be involved in sex trafficking, and reportedly branded women in their pubic area. Raniere was arrested in Mexico this week, and extradited to the US on the sex trafficking charges. Mack is expected to be arrested next, as a co-conspirator. Somebody SAAAAAAAAAAAAVE her!

So, almost as stealthily as it was announced, Donald Glover’s Deadpool animated series for FXX has been cancelled. If we’re being honest, he really only got the gig because Atlanta was such a huge hit and they wanted to stay in the Donald Glover Business. It’s kinda like how Fox jumped on Oscar Isaac for Apocalypse just because everyone in Hollywood was lining up to fellate him during that particular window. Anyway, it seems like it came down to “creative differences” between Glover and Marvel, but he doesn’t seem to be taking it well. He took to Twitter, posting 15-pages of a faux script about the show’s cancellation. In true Deadpool, 4th wall breaking action, the tweets allude to the cancellation of Deadpool’s show within the show itself:

Reportedly, Marvel didn’t like the direction Glover and his team were taking the show, while FX stood by them – ’cause they don’t wanna lose Atlanta (even though Glover will probably have a nervous breakdown and walk away from the show halfway through its 3rd season…)! I’m not quite sure what Marvel expected, but Glover always seemed like an odd choice. It’s unclear if the project will be revived elsewhere, with a new team, or if Deadpool solely has a box office presence for the moment.

After 3 years without a book to call their own, it was announced yesterday that the Fantastic Four would be returning in August, in a series by Dan Slott and Sara Pichelli. And folks pretended to be excited. I maintain that nobody really likes the Fantastic Four. They either see a lot of potential in the franchise, or they just like stuff they can’t have, but there really aren’t as many Fantastic Four “fans” as you’d be led to believe. The book wasn’t cancelled out of some movie rights spite. It was cancelled because it didn’t sell. Any business worth its salt wouldn’t cancel something that’s virtually a license to print money, simply because they didn’t have the movie rights. Marvel also doesn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, but they didn’t cancel them. They ran them through the ringer, and did some dumb shit with them, but they still printed the books. Marvel did the smart thing with the FF: they extracted the characters that folks actually find interesting, like Johnny, Ben, and Doom, and kept them in the spotlight in new settings. Reed Richards and his neglected wife are simply not interesting. Or at least, that’s been the case. Maybe Slott has something great planned for them. I know folks loved his Thing run, so he’s familiar with at least some of the franchise. Still, it’s Slott, so he’s polarizing. The folks who claimed they’d do anything for a return of the FF are now having to eat their words since Slott was announced at the helm. I’ll give it a shot, and I doubt Marvel will take them off the board for this long again, but I won’t be surprised if the book ends up being frequently relaunched like recent Fantastic Four runs.

In other Marvel news, Agent Phil Coulson is returning to the MCU! Don’t get too excited, though, ’cause it won’t feature the Avengers finding out he’s alive. No, he’ll be appearing in the Captain Marvel film, which is a 90s-set prequel to his MCU/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. adventures. Also appearing in the film will be Lee Pace reprising his role as Ronan the Accuser and Djimon Hounsou reprising his role as Korath – both from Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s also a petition to include Ming-Na Wen’s Melinda May in the film, mainly because those “Philinda” shippers are insufferable. Either way, it’ll be good to have Phil back in the movies, especially if Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ends up killing him off this season.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There’s a Jack Black movie coming, called The House With A Clock In The Walls. Yeah. that’s actually its title. They couldn’t call it Clock House or something? Casa de Clock? Anyway, I’m not posting the trailer simply because of how stupid that title is.

  • We got a new look at Incredibles 2, which I’m really starting to warm up to.
  • Freeform has cancelled Beyond, after 2 seasons. This is the first I’ve ever heard of it, so…
  • SEAL Team and S.W.A.T. have both been renewed for season 2 at CBS, so your cranky grandpa will be pleased. Ya know, until he remembers there was a Negro President for 8 years. Then watch out!
  • Speaking of renewals, One Day At A Time and the Queer Eye reboot have been renewed on Netflix.
  • Locke & Key is dead…again. The second pilot, this time filmed for Hulu, was passed on due to a regime change amongt its executives. The IDW comic adaptation was originally developed by Fox, who previously passed on the project.
  • 80s heartthrob Corey Feldman claims he was stabbed at a red light, as retribution for speaking out about a secret Hollywood pedophilia ring. The LAPD, however, said Feldman had no lacerations or wounds, and that he drove himself to the hospital. He’s been a bit loony lately, but this is gonna be one of those things where, 30 years from now, we’ll learn it was all true, and it’ll be too late…
  • Screenwriter Zak Penn is developing ROM: Spaceknight for Paramount/Hasbro. Sure he is. That Hasbro film slate, outside of Transformers, is doomed.
  • Apparently SuperMansion season 3 will debut soon on Crackle. Really? Still? I figured once it had graduated to Adult Swim it had left Crackle behind. Man, Sony (Crackle’s parent) must have quite a bit of dirt on Senreich and Wells to keep the show in its streaming ghetto.
  • Overnight comedy sensation Tiffany Haddish is voicing secret character in The LEGO Movie 2
  • Pop group Fifth Harmony announced they were going on hiatus, which is fancy pop music talk for “We’re racing to see who can get their solo album out first.” If you’ll remember, they were already down to four harmonies, as member Camila Cabello quit the group back in 2016 and launched a successful solo career of her own.
  • Already announced to voice the character in an upcoming TV series, Gina Rodriguez has been cast as Carmen Sandiego in a live action film for Netflix.
  • Music mogul Scooter Braun, and David Maisel, founding Chairman of Marvel Studios, have created Mythos Studios which has acquired a 50% stake in Aspen Comics as well as the entertainment rights for the comic book company’s IP. So, get ready for that Fathom movie that nobody asked for…
  • There’s a Russian remake of CBS’s The Good Wife heading to television over there. I can only assume their title is Wife Is Good? Actually, it’s Khoroshaya Zhena, which actually translates to “Good Wife”. How often does THAT happen, huh?
  • Gearing up for their possible purchase by Disney, Fox is rearranging the deck chairs on the X-Titanic, as X-Men: Dark Phoenix has been delayed from November 2nd, 2018 to February 14th, 2019. Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a bald guy and some weird kids he took in like strays! Also, tone deaf, “horror-driven” The New Mutants moves from February 22nd, 2019 to August 2nd, 2019.
  • Adult film star Stormy Daniels went on 60 Minutes to detail the sexual encounter she had with the current President back in 2006. This came on the heels of 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal’s claims of an affair with the man during the same period of time. And yet, he’s still President. Go figure! Remember when Obama caused a stir by wearing a tan suit? Or how Howard Dean lost his shot at the big chair because of a primal growl? Good times!
  • The upcoming 6th entry in the Sharknado franchise will be the end…for now (you know they’ll reboot it with James Van Der Beek or some shit in 5 years). Apparently, the world ended in Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (which I missed, so now I HAVE to go back and watch it!), so this installment will feature Steve Sanders going back in time to stop the events from the last movie from occurring.

I have this thing where I have to give credit where it’s due, even when I might not want to. That brings me to this week’s Roseanne revival. It was highly publicized, and turned out to be a ratings success. I’m sure that TV execs will take away the wrong message from this, as that’s pretty much what they do. In any case, I find myself struggling to really be happy about its success.

I’m not boycotting the show by any means, and only missed Tuesday’s back-to-back airing due to a scheduling conflict. I will say I found the whole Trump thing off-putting, and still don’t believe it lines up with Roseanne Conner as a character. I know people change, but this is the same woman who was championing Hillary the last time we saw her. Then again, that season “never happened”, so maybe it was just more make believe. No, I’m not very interested in the show because I’m not a fan of what some folks have taken to calling “zombie shows”. They’re shows that just don’t know when to die. And it’d be one thing if they originally had an open-ended finale, or on a cliffhanger that deserved resolution. In the case of Roseanne AND Will & Grace, however, they had to retcon both series finales in order to make these new seasons possible. Both shows ended with some pretty drastic changes/time jumps, and all that was thrown out in The Quest For More Money.

I’m fine with sequel shows, like Girl Meets World or Fuller House because they’re kind of doing a new spin on an old favorite, but Roseanne and the Will & Grace are just trying to hope we’re too dumb to realize they’re just doing more of the same, as if there’s really been no passage in time.  Anyway, I plan to check out the Roseanne premiere just so I can know what I’m talking about, but I really don’t want to support it, per se. At the end of the day, Roseanne is something of a vile human being these days, and I can’t separate the art from the artist – especially when the artist is incorporating some of that into the art. I also don’t think it’s fair to brand this as some bold, conservative move to display an alternate viewpoint, when it was aired by the same network that just recently refused to show an episode of Black-ish that dealt with the NFL player kneeling scandal. Again, I don’t want execs to learn the wrong lessons from this, even though I know that’s what will happen.

So, Tuesday night’s Roseanne was the highest rated sitcom airing in 3 and a half years, so a renewal is more than likely. It broke a bunch more records, but the most interesting part is that a show that’s been off the air for 20 years can come back and still appear to be relevant to some folks. The president even took time away from golfing and ignoring the Parkland kids/Stormy Daniels saga to call Roseanne to congratulate her on the success of the revival. So, clearly she’s doing something right, right? Right? Anyway, the Roseanne revival had the West Week Ever.

23rd Mar2018

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

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the subscription box idea prompted this response from me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

16th Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/16/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Jeff Franklin – I kinda missed this one from a few weeks back, but the Full House/Fuller House creator, showrunner, and executive producer was fired for misconduct allegations. While it doesn’t seem like he was dangling his wang around the office,  he would tell coworkers about his sexual exploits, and he’d bring his girlfriends to the set and give them bit parts in episodes. Not only was he fired from Fuller House, but his entire deal with Warner Bros Television was terminated.

James Levine – the Metropolitan Opera fired conductor was following a sexual misconduct investigation. Hey, he’s a baton waver, so he might as well be a wang dangler, right? Anyway, Levine is now suing the Met, accusing them of “cynically hijacking the good will of the #MeToo movement,” He’s seeking roughly $6 million in damages for breach of contract.

Fresh off the success of A Wrinkle In Time, Ava Duverney has been tapped to direct New Gods for DC/Warner Bros. And I could not care less. The New Gods/Fourth World stuff is a pretty big thing that Jack Kirby’s known for, but ya see, I’m not a Jack Kirby fan. You know how there are those folks who root for Johnny instead of Daniel in The Karate Kid? That’s how I am with the whole Stan vs Jack debate. People will tell you that Kirby did so much for the medium, and how comics were never the same after him, but I feel like it’s one of those “You had to be there” situations. I’ve seen some Kirby stuff that looked like cave drawings. So, not a Kirby fan.

Also not a New Gods fan. I think I’ve always seen Darkseid as Not Thanos (yes, I understand Darkseid came first, but I was introduced to Thanos first). But their whole mythology has never interested me. I like Mr. Miracle and Barda, as a married couple and as Justice Leaguers, but I don’t care about anyone else from that corner of the DC Universe. Not Granny Goodness, not the Furies, not Apokolips, none of it. So, as great as Ava is, not even she can excite me about this. I honestly can’t name anything that would make me care about it. While Taika Waititi incorporated some Kirbyisms into Thor: Ragnarok, sometimes I feel like the vast majority of that Kirby stuff can’t really be translated to film. While he did a lot with the comics medium, that’s just it – it was the *comics* medium. He did it there because it couldn’t really be done any other way. Sure, we have the technology now, but can it be done? And even if it’s accurate, it could end up like Watchmen. A lot of folks will tell you that Watchmen was a faithful adaptation of the original miniseries, but was that a good thing? I like parts of that movie, but not all of it. Maybe I’ll like parts of New Gods, but I’m not even a guaranteed movie ticket sale at this point.

There was quite a bit of controversy in the world of wrestling this week as WWE announced the Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 34. It was meant to honor late female wrestler Fabulous Moolah (AKA Mary Lillian Ellison) but, ya see, Moolah wasn’t such a good person, according to various reports. After her death in 2007, reports started to trickle out that Moolah used to abuse the women who trained at her compound, and she kept them in indentured servitude. She routinely took about 30% of everything they made, while charging them rent and expenses, but there are also reports that that she pimped out some of the girls to a nearby brothel. So, you can see why there was fan backlash against WWE’s idea.

The company always seems to end up on the wrong side of history with controversial topics. After all, the late Chyna can’t be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame because she did porn, and Triple H doesn’t want his kids to know he banged her before he met their mom (Hey CBS – there’s a reboot idea for ya!). Meanwhile, Moolah was the first woman inducted into the WWE HOF in 1995, and she was a frickin’ pimp! The backlash against the announcement was strong, causing WWE to disable the comments on the announcement video, as a petition was also circulating, which gathered 10,000 signatures. WWE bowed to the pressure, and did the right thing by changing the name. It will now just be called the Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal, which is kinda generic, but at least it doesn’t offend anyone. They could have called it The Godfather’s Ho-Tacular Battle Royal, but they don’t pay me for ideas…

People are always surprised when I say that Elton John is my favorite solo artist of all time. Why, ’cause I’m Black?! To take it even further, my favorite Elton era is the late  80s, early 90s, pre Lion King Elton, when nobody gave much of a shit about him. He was cranking out “Sacrifice”, “I’m Still Standing”, and “Simple Life” and I LOVED IT! I own the entire Elton discorgraphy, and he’s actually been doing so really great experimental stuff in recent years, like when he dipped his toe in the country waters on The Union – his duet album with the late Leon Russell.  Well, the experiments just keep coming with this upcoming Elton tribute two album tribute. First up, there’s Revamp, which has some of today’s hottest artists and bands tackling Elton and songwriter Bernie Taupin’s hits. Here’s the track listing for that one:
1. “Bennie and The Jets” – Elton John, P!nk, Logic
2. “We All Fall In Love Sometimes” – Coldplay
3. “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” – Alessia Cara
4. “Candle In The Wind” – Ed Sheeran
5. “Tiny Dancer” – Florence + The Machine
6. “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” – Mumford & Sons
7. “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” – Mary J. Blige
8. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” – Q Tip feat. Demi Lovato
9. “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” – The Killers
10. “Daniel” – Sam Smith
11. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” – Miley Cyrus
12. “Your Song” – Lady Gaga
13. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” – Queens of the Stone Age

From this collection, the tracks I’m most worried about are 1, 11, and 12. P!nk better not screw up “Bennie”, while I don’t think Miley has the chops for “Don’t Let”. And Gaga could be really good on “Your Song”, but will she be?

Next up is Restoration, which Elton said was Bernie’s project. Basically, it features a bunch of country artists taking a swing at Elton’s hits:
1. “Rocket Man” – Little Big Town
2. “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” – Maren Morris
3. “Sacrifice” – Don Henley and Vince Gill
4. “Take Me To The Pilot” – Brothers Osborne
5. “My Father’s Gun” – Miranda Lambert
6. “I Want Love” – Chris Stapleton
7. “Honky Cat” – Lee Ann Womack
8. “Roy Rogers” – Kacey Musgraves
9. “Please” – Rhonda Vincent and Dolly Parton
10. “The Bitch Is Back” – Miley Cyrus
11. “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” – Dierks Bentley
12. “This Train Don’t Stop” – Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris
13. “Border Song” – Willie Nelson

I actually prefer the Revamp tracklisting to Restoration‘s, but I’m excited to hear what Little Big Town does with “Rocket Man”. All I know is Don Henley better not screw up “Sacrifice”! Anyway, both collections come out April 6th, so I guess I’ll be buying my first CDs in about 3 years.

I’m still getting my thoughts together around Toys “R” Us, so I’m sorry to disappoint ya if you were looking for that this week. Maybe it’ll be its own post. I’m not even sure. What I do know is that it’s still too early to tell what’s going to happen. Sure, the company did announce that they would sell OR close their remaining roughly 700 stores. That’s what I’m hung up on. Someone could come in and buy the name and TRU will live again in some way. I don’t know. All I know is that we went to say our possible goodbyes as a family last weekend. I’d be lying, though, if I said I felt it was truly the last time I’d be in a Toys “R” Us.

I had a funny interaction online last weekend with a popular radio DJ. I’ve been listening to country now for about 10 years (the things we do for women!), and I guess Evie’s being raised on it. The biggest morning show in the format is The Bobby Bones Show, and we all listen to it every morning. Well Evie, being all of 2.95 yrs old, has come to think ALL radio is Bobby Bones. So, when we get in the car, she’ll demand “Bobby Bones!” I decided to tweet Mr. Bones and let him know about this. Not only did he Like the tweet, but he even retweeted it with a modified Jeff Foxworthy joke. I’ll take it!

Unless you’re new here, you know I love to talk. This means I love being on podcasts, and I was honored to join the Nerd Lunch Extra Helping episode on Black Panther that went up this week. I actually had more to say about the film than what you probably heard on Classick Team-Up, so think of that episode as Part 1 of my thoughts, and this one as Part 2. Will there be a Part 3? Have your people call my people!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • For all the parents out there, you’ll be glad to know that Disney Channel has renewed Mickey and The Roadster Racers for a 3rd season. Actually, I kinda hate that show. I prefer the pre-K nuance of The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse myself.
  • AMC has announced a 31-hour Marvel Cinematic Universe marathon, culminating in the release of Avengers: Infinity War. Some of y’all have enough of a problem showering for a 2-hour movie, so this is a hard pass for me.
  • Speaking on theater events, Fathom Events has announced Survival Sunday, which will see the 8th season finale of The Walking Dead and the 4 season premiere of Fear The Walking Dead shown up on the big screen for one night only – April 15th.
  • Noted physicist Stephen Hawking passed away with week after a LOOOONG battle with ALS. I’ve got to say that I’ve always been surprised that his appearances on The Big Bang Theory didn’t lend the show any “legitimacy”. Like, here’s this brilliant guy who thought it was funny (or at least liked the paychecks), but that wasn’t good enough for folks.
  • Fresh off her firing from Grey’s Anatomy last week, Sarah Drew has been cast alongside Michelle Hurd as the stars of CBS’s Cagney & Lacey reboot. Not sure if she’s Cagney or Lacey. Also not sure it even matters.
  • Calling all fast teenage girls – you’ll have to get your kicks at the Piercing Pagoda from now on, as your beloved Claire’s plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Oh, and they’ve found asbestos in the makeup. Remember when your biggest high school problem was whether Johnny was gonna ask you to the big dance? Now you’ve got to worry about asbestos?!
  • Despite the fact that we live in a world of YouTube and Tosh.0, America’s Funniest Videos was somehow renewed for its 29th (!) season this week
  • Bravo developing limited series based on the New York Times bestselling graphic novel, The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story
  • Kindly peek your head into your distant stepfather’s study, and inform him that The Librarians has been cancelled on TNT after 4 seasons.
  • The Church of Scientology launched The Scientology Network this week, as a 24 hr TV network on DirecTV. For now, it’s probably just episodes of Rebecca Chambers era Cheers reruns and Dharma & Greg.
  • HBO has ordered a pilot for Euphoria, based on an Israeli show described as Kids meets Trainspotting. Um, wouldn’t that just be Skins?
  • Norm Macdonald Has A Show, a new talk show hosted by, well, Norm Macdonald, has gotten a 10-episode order at Netflix
  • CNBC is bringing back Deal or No Deal, which will again be hosted by Howie Mandel. What’s the show about again? Something about a briefcase? Never seen it.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris and ABC “mutually decided” (uh-huh) to pull an episode about the NFL kneeling debacle, due to “creative differences”. Whatever. It’ll just sweeten the syndication deal when that rolls around.
  • ABC’s Katy Perry-fronted American Idol reboot debuted on Sunday night, while Fox aired an OJ confession. Man, I’d forgotten what it was like to live in 2003!
  • Fresh on the heels of the completely irrelevant iHeartRadio Music Awards, the parent company, iHeartMedia Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Ya know why? BECAUSE THEY WASTE MONEY ON THINGS LIKE IRRELEVANT AWARDS SHOWS!
  • There were recent tests screenings of Deadpool 2 at and apparently it was a mess of a film. I kinda don’t find this surprising. There are reshoots going on now, but that’s not unusual for a movie to do. Nothing to see here, kids.

  • We got a trailer for Sorry To Bother You, starring Atlanta‘s Lakeith Stanfield as a reluctant telemarketer, and it looks really quirky. It’s definitely got a Bamboozled vibe to it.
  • Some chick online was upset about Bruno Mars’s fame, saying that his success was the result of cultural appropriation. I’ve gotta say I never even knew he wasn’t Black. I knew he wasn’t Djimon Hounsou Black, but I thought he was, like, Dwayne Johnson Black. Either way, he’s dark enough to not be able to drive through certain areas late at night, so that’s good enough for me!


Behold! I’ve been waiting all week for this, and it did not disappoint. There will be many tears shed by the end of this film. Yeah, the final Avengers: Infinity War trailer had the West Week Ever.

09th Feb2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/9/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

We almost did it, kids. We almost had a week without this section. This one is a bit sad, though, and it’s something of an update more so than the reveal of a new wang dangler. You see, film producer Jill Messick took her own life.

Messick was the former manager of Rose McGowan, at the time when McGowan alleges she was raped by Harvey Weinstein. According to the statement issued by Messick’s family, she was battling depression and ended up as “collateral damage” in this whole scandal. She couldn’t bear to see her name dragged into headlines about the whole ordeal.

THIS is the kind of thing I’ve been worried about this whole time. Yes, people are out here doing bad things, but it was only a matter of time before someone lost their life to these developments. I’ve said before that I was scared that Louis CK would resort to this, just based on the instantaneous way in which he lost everything. Following the character assassination that Aziz Ansari faced, I also feared he might resort to something like this. Instead, the first victim of these call-outs is a woman herself.

Now, it could be argued that Messick didn’t know what was going on, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. McGowan said that she first went to Messick, who comforted her at the time, but was later shocked to find out Messick had taken a job as the vice president of development at Miramax, which was run by Weinstein. Messick’s family said that she remained quiet during the recent allegations because she didn’t want to undermine the voices of the women who had come forward. So, was this the cost of silence? Will she be the last? These are sad and interesting times…

So, when I was unable to watch The Cloverfield Paradox with the rest of North America, I decided to catch up on The Good Place instead. Have you guys been watching this show? Over the 3 nights, I binged the second season, and I’m constantly amazed by how great that show has become. And that’s not to say that it started off poorly. The opposite is actually true – I loved the show from the beginning, but wasn’t sure how it would bounce back from the major twist of the first season finale. Let me back up a bit first, though.

The Good Place stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor Shellstrop, a horrible young woman who dies and, seemingly by accident, ends up in the place reserved for good people when they die. Based on the life she’d lived, she immediately realizes there’s been a mistake, but she doesn’t voice her concerns to her guide, Michael, played by Ted Danson. The first season basically follows her as she tries to conceal the fact that she belongs in The Bad Place, while simultaneously trying to mend her ways and truly earn her place in The Good Place. Along the way, she befriends philosophy professor Chidi, socialite Tahani, and Jason. Man, there’s SO much to say about Jason, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself.

Anyway, the first season finale throws EVERYTHING for a loop, which made the audience really curious as to how they’d stick the landing in the second season. I’m glad to say that they were not only successful, but also added new dimensions to and challenges for the characters. And the way the second season ends? WOW. It’s the kind of show that can’t overstay its welcome in order to still work, so I don’t see it running for more than, say, 5 seasons. It’s already been picked up for a 3rd season, but I like that the show is packaged in tight, 13-episode seasons so there’s no filler or wasted time. If you haven’t checked it out, you really should. Even if you don’t believe in Good Place/Bad Place, I think you’ll still find it enjoyable. I mean, you don’t believe in dragons, but you like Game of Thrones, right? Anyway, if you DO believe in those places, it also gives you some stuff to think about. I know I’ve spent a lot of the past week thinking about the concept of Moral Dessert: that we do good things with the expectation of some sort of reward at the end, when we should be doing good things simply because it’s the right thing to do. But I digress…The Good Place. Watch it!

It was a big Star Wars week, as we got our first teaser for Solo: A Star Wars Story during the Super Bowl, followed by the full trailer the next morning. Basically, the fandom is split between “Why is this a thing?” and “I guess I’ll give it a shot”. Nobody seems particularly excited about the film, but everyone’s at a various point of cautious anticipation along the spectrum. There are some folks out there who just refuse to believe that anyone other than Harrison Ford could play Han Solo, and I guess that’s their prerogative. That said, it’s been revealed that Ford did coach star Alden Ehrenreich on how to play the character. Based on recent Ford, though, I can’t imagine he did more than sit back in a chair and say “Make sure you cash all the checks they send ya!” Most people seem more excited by the glimpse we got of Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian.

Meanwhile, it was announced that the Game of Thrones TV show creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are being given their own series of Star Wars films. There are two takeaways from this development. First of all, this seems like a smooth way for them to quietly transition out of their planned Confederate show for HBO. In case you’ve forgotten, this was to be their next project, a controversial drama where slavery still exists and the US is on its 3rd Civil War. The backlash to that announcement was pretty fierce, but HBO didn’t show many signs of backing down from it. Now that these guys have bigger fish to fry, combined with the fact that Confederate hadn’t been fully fleshed out, seems to imply Confederate is dead in the water. The second takeaway is that maybe it’s time for an R-rated Star Wars installment, since that’s the kind of material in which these two specialize. Most fans are saying “No!” to that idea, but it might be interesting to test the boundaries of what the franchise is capable of doing. I wouldn’t hate an R-rated Star Wars, mainly because I’d love them to go “HARD R” with it. But that doesn’t sell toys, so it probably won’t happen. After all, it’s not 1987 anymore, when you can make toys for an R-rated movie.

Some folks are upset that Disney went with more White guys to make Star Wars movies when there are diverse voices out there. Ava Duvernay’s name keeps coming up, but maybe they don’t want her on the franchise. Or maybe she doesn’t want them. After all, she turned down Black Panther, so maybe she likes having room to tell her own stories without being beholden to franchise mandates. I don’t know. Either way, these kinds of debates aren’t going to go away any time soon.

We got our first information about what to expect from Disney’s upcoming streaming service. While we knew that it would launch with around 5 series, including High School Musical, Monsters, Inc, a live action Marvel series, and a Star Wars series, it’ll also launch with about 5 films that are being fast-tracked for the service. Also, there will be no R-rated content on the service, as that will be routed over to Hulu (of which Disney now owns a majority share). The service will cost less than Netflix, though no price has been revealed yet. Also, the Marvel shows on other streaming services (Defenders series on Netflix and Runaways on Hulu) are expected to stay put.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Jessica Jones season 2 will premiere on Netflix on March 8th. It looks like this season will delve into her origin story. Seeing as how I haven’t seen The Defenders yet, it doesn’t appear that she experienced any sort of character growth from that team-up…
  • Speaking of Netflix, the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy reboot debuted on the streaming service this week. Karamo Brown from The Real World: Philadelphia is the new Culture Guy and, just like his predecessor Jai Rodriguez, they still haven’t figured out what his job is.
  • Netflix and Paramount shocked the world by teasing the next installment in the Cloverfield franchise, The Cloverfield Paradox, during the Super Bowl, only to release the film on Netflix immediately following the game. I couldn’t even get on the service to watch it that night, but the reviews seem to imply that burning it off without a theatrical release was the smart move. Oof!
  • It’s another week, so that means Bryan Fuller has left another project. This time, he’s stepping down from Apple’s Amazing Stories anthology reboot, due to “creative differences”. I swear, this guy pretty much stays on a project long enough to get that first check. He’s living off advance money!
  • If you’re trying to keep up with the Kardashians, there’s a new one you’ve got to keep track of, as Kylie Jenner gave birth to her daughter, Stormi Webster, fathered by rapper Travis Scott.
  • Disney is finally reviving the Kim Possible live action movie plans, but this time it’ll just be a Disney Channel Original Movie. She deserves SO much better…
  • Another YouTuber is in trouble, as some kid named Kian Lawley just got fired from the movie The Hate U Give for posting a video where he uses the N-word a couple times. In the film, he was playing the boyfriend of a Black girl. Womp womp.
  • Fox renewed The Four for a second season hours before its season finale aired last night. No word yet on whether judge Charlie Walk will return or be replaced amid his sexual misconduct investigation.
  • It was announced that one of the sisters in the Charmed reboot will be a lesbian. In my headcanon, they were ALL lesbians. And the show ran for 25 seasons. On Cinemax.
  • Jenny Slate will voice Nanny on Disney Junior’s Muppet Babies reboot.
  • Attention all spinsters and cat ladies, ABC has cancelled Once Upon A Time, which will end at the conclusion of its current season.
  • Kevin Hart will produce and voice Lil Kev, an animated series at Fox that focuses on a 12 year old growing up in North Philly.
  • Speaking of Hart, he, along with Alison Brie and Jim Rash, will be the first guests on Netflix’s The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, which premieres February 18th.

  • We got our first teaser for Venom: The Case of the Evil MRI. This movie is gonna suck so much…
  • Jumanji has become The Rock’s highest grossing film in the US, so of course a sequel is coming.

  • Speaking of Dwayne Johnson, we got a full trailer for his post-Rampage film, Skyscraper. Four thoughts came to mind when I saw this: 1) Hey look! Neve Campbell’s got work again! 2) They finally gave him kids that actually look like they’re HIS kids (looking at you, San Andreas!) 3) Can a man run like that with a prosthetic leg? 4) You know at some point, the studio looked into just calling it Die Hard.

  • While we’re on trailers, here’s the new one for Deadpool 2. I didn’t just LOVE that first one, but I’ll see this.
  • It’s the end of an era, as Best Buy will reportedly pull CDs from stores on July 1st. Target may follow suit if the labels don’t meet their demands, which include selling CDs on a consignment basis.

I started the week thinking that the Philadelphia Eagles toppling the New England Patriots dynasty would be the biggest event of the week. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, was prepared for the bombshell that’d be dropped in our laps Wednesday, in the form of a VERY candid interview that producer Quincy Jones gave Vulture. Not only did he reveal who killed JFK, but he also revealed a few homosexual relationships between some celebrities that surprised everyone. Then he revealed he’d dated Ivanka Trump! I mean, every paragraph had him dropping a new nugget of amazing information, only to nonchalantly change the subject like he hadn’t done anything as major as he had.

I don’t want to give a laundry list of the truth bombs in the interview because that simply wouldn’t do them justice. No, you’ve got to go read this thing for yourself. When you’re done, I think you’ll agree with me that Quincy Jones had the West Week Ever.

02nd Feb2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/2/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

One of these days, the well for these allegations will dry up and this segment will be discontinued. That day ain’t today, however!

  • Nolan Bushnell – The Game Developers Conference was bestowing their Pioneer Award to the Atari founder, only to be met with the #NotNolan hashtag. Apparently, back in the day, he didn’t treat women so well. He used to hold business meetings in hot tubs, and walk around the office wearing an “I Love to Fuck” t-shirt. Anyway, the GDC rescinded the award following the outcry, saying nobody would get a Pioneer Award this year. Bushnell actually agreed with them, saying:

“I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace. And if that means an award is the price I have to pay personally so the whole industry may be more aware and sensitive to these issues, I applaud that, too.

“If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation.”

  • Scott Baio – Chachi turned out to be a dirtbag? NO! Whatever. Baio’s been a douchebag for years, so it was only a matter of time before something caught up to him. The something is former Charles in Charge costar, Nicole Eggert, who is accusing him of sexually assaulting her when she was a minor. She alleges he “let his fingers do the walking” when she was 14, and then had sex with her when she was 17. He confirmed the sex, but insists she was 18 when they did it. She was set to appear on Dr. Phil this week, but the show shelved the episode when they couldn’t verify her timeline of events. After she later appeared on Megyn Kelly Today, Phil had a change of heart and aired the episode Wednesday. Baio said that if she was so certain about it, then why didn’t she file a police report. She replied, “Be careful what you wish for.” Welp, yesterday’s TMZ headline was ”
    Nicole Eggert Headed to L.A. to File Police Report Against Scott Baio”.
  • Charlie Walk – The fourth judge from Fox’s The Four, who nobody had ever heard of just 6 weeks ago, is headed back to anonymity as multiple women have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations. Not only has he been fired from The Four just before the season finale, but he’s also been placed on leave from his role as president of Republic Records.
  • James Franco Update- Following his sexual assault allegations, he’s being erased everywhere. Reportedly vanity Fair digitally removed him from the cover of their Hollywood issue. Meanwhile, his high school has removed his artwork, like a disgraced quarterback who bombed during the big game against Central. A mural he had painted has, since, been painted over.
  • Fred Savage/Jason Hervey – In a story I’d never heard before, in an interview celebrating the 30th anniversary of the debut of The Wonder Years, former costar Alley Mills said that the show was actually cancelled because of an ongoing sexual harassment case that involved her TV kids Fred Savage and Jason Hervey. Apparently, Savage had a crush on the show’s costume designer, and would repeatedly ask her out. Well, costume designer didn’t like being hit on by a 13 year old kid, and went to the network brass. Mills is especially angry because the network apparently paid her off, which is something that folks only do when there’s guilt. Mills vehemently defended Savage, calling him “the least offensive, most wonderful, sweet human being that ever walked the face of the earth.” I’ll point out that at no point did she say anything defending Hervey, who I’d TOTALLY believe sexually harassed someone at some point in his life.

In the comic world, former Ultimate Marvel Universe architect Brian Michael Bendis’ first DC Comics work has been revealed. Following a short story in Action Comics #1000, he will, then, deliver a 6-issue miniseries called Man of Steel. Once that’s done, he will become the writer of both Action Comics and the Superman comic. Action Comics will focus on the Clark Kent/Superman dichotomy and his relationships at the Daily Planet, while Superman will be the more adventurer stories. And I have an issue with this.

Why give him BOTH books? If you want to make a big splash with him, give him his OWN Superman book and make it the flagship. Marvel did a similar thing when Joss Whedon joined the X-Men franchise, where they created Astonishing X-Men for him, and shifted the “flagship” status from Uncanny X-Men to that book. As it stands, this new plan puts THREE people out of work: Dan Jurgens on Action, and Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason on Superman. It’s comics, so I’m sure they’ll land on their feet somewhere, but does he really need to corner the entire Superman franchise? AND they’re relaunching Superman from #1 again – the 3rd Superman #1 in the past 10 years. I understand DC getting Bendis was a major coup, and they want to make a splash, but there were better ways they could do this. Plus, if you end up not liking his take on Superman, it’s not like you can say, “Oh, I’ll just stick to Action.” Nope, it’s ALL him now.

We got the reveal of the character designs for the new Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, and the Internet reacted just about how you’d expect: the usual “What is this shit?!” and the “This raped my childhood”. I mean, there’s a lot to unpack here. April’s Black again (she was always intended to be Black but the 80s cartoon had other ideas), Raph has no sais and Mikey has no nunchucks. The big thing about it, though, is that Raph is now the leader. And I HATE this.

 

Nothing about Raph  says “leader”. Sure, this is a different iteration, and they can do what they want with it. I hate to sound like those folks who hate when a comic character’s race is changed, but when you mess with the core of the character, that’s a problem. Donnie’s smart, Mikey’s fun, Raph’s the hothead, and Leo LEADS. That’s pretty much every iteration. This feels like a decision made by pro wrestling reasoning. It’s like, “Well, Raph’s merch sells the best, so he’s clearly over with the fans. Time to move him up the roster.” Then again, it’s for another generation, who may have no prior knowledge of the different personalities. It’s like when kids discovered Tommy Oliver on Power Rangers Dino Thunder, thinking he was always a paleontologist with a PhD, not knowing he was once a struggling high school student who probably wouldn’t have even made it through college. I mean, NOTHING about Tommy’s character trajectory made you think he’d end up where Dino Thunder put him. So, the loner became the leader. It kinda worked there. So maybe it could work here. At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t matter if I think it works or not. Just like the Muppet Babies reveal from last week, this isn’t for my generation, even if they haven’t realized that yet. It’s for the children. And if you learn nothing else today, it’s that this, like Wu-Tang, is for the children.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the film won’t reference Dumbledore’s sexuality, which is funny because “fantastic beast” seems like the kind of thing a gay guy would call something.
  • In what’s sure to be an ill-fated venture, DC Entertainment announced that they were preparing a Metropolis series for their upcoming streaming service, which will focus on Lois Lane and Lex Luthor investigating the mysteries of the city. But no Superman. Ya know, ’cause THAT’s what folks really want.

  • We got our first teaser for the next installment in the Purge franchise, this time showing us how it all began in The First Purge. I swear, if this idea were ever gonna come to fruition, this administration would be the one to do it.
  • SNL‘s Leslie Jones is traveling to South Korea to be part of NBC’s team covering the XXIII Olympic Winter Games
  • USA has renewed Suits for an 8th season, as costars Meghan Markle and Patrick J. Adams leave. Don’t worry, though, ’cause Katherine Heigl is joining the cast. Grand opening, grand closing.
  • Marvel announced that season 2 of Jessica Jones would hit Netflix on March 8th.
  • Syfy has renewed Grant Morrison’s Happy for a 2nd season. I gave that pilot 30 minutes. Not for me!
  • Tom Hanks has been tapped to play Mister Rogers in an upcoming biopic.
  • Valiant Entertainment has been purchased by DMG Entertainment, which I’ve never heard of. Apparently we’re supposed to think this is some kind of big deal, but it’s Valiant and it’s some entertainment company run by some dude. ‘Cause everyone’s clamoring for that X-O Manowar movie…
  • Fox has outbid NBC and CBS for the 5-year rights to Thursday Night Football for $3 BILLION. In true Fox fashion, they’ll cancel it after one low-rated season, and replace it with a wacky sitcom starring Wanda Sykes or Seth Green.
  • In what seems like a vote of no confidence, Paramount has sold the international rights to Natalie Portman’s upcoming Annihilation to Netflix. So, the movie will only open theatrically in the US and China, but will hit the streaming service everywhere else.
  • Not one to let Superman have all the wardrobe fun, Batman’s yellow oval will be returning to his costume regularly following Doomsday Clock
  • Family Guy predicted Caitlin Jenner and it also predicted the proposed sequel to The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson is getting the band back together, with original Jesus, Jim Caviezel, on board.
  • CBS has ordered pilots for reboots of 80s classics Magnum P.I. and Cagney & Lacey. I could’ve sworn we already got a Cagney & Lacey reboot. It was called Rizzoli & Isles
  • My pals over at Nerd Lunch released a THREE HOUR episode about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. That’s longer than the film itself. Anyway, I’m considering their take to be the final word on that film, as they brought both sides to the table. If you haven’t, be sure to check it out.

  • We got our first teaser for Ant-Man and the Wasp. And it was good.

So this week I had a first: I watched my first Royal Rumble. As an in and out wrestling fan, my fandom has pretty much been at its highest when wrestling programming was readily available. When I knew WWF Superstars or WWF Challenge were coming on Channel 5 every week, I was there. When I knew Smackdown was coming on Channel 20, I was there. Basically, if WWE had a “free TV” show, then I was an active fan. Sadly, there were spans of time when that wasn’t the case. Superstars ended in syndication in 96, and Smackdown moved to cable around 2010, and there went my fandom. Considering I always watched the free shows, this also meant I’d never seen a pay-per-view. I did find an illegal stream of Wrestlemania where Undertaker ended The Streak, but other than that I’d never seen one of WWE’s big events. My friend has The Network, so he invited me over, and I was NOT disappointed.

The matches were whatever, but the real draw was the rumble itself. If you’re not familiar with the concept, they start with two men in the ring, and then add a new one every 90 seconds until 30 guys have come out. Whenever someone goes over the top rope, they’re out of the rumble. The winner would get a shot at the title at Wrestlemania. That winner turned out to be Japanese wrestler Shinsuke Nakamura – a dude I’d never seen before, but was fascinated by his “strong style”.

The BIG point of the night, however, was the first women’s rumble. Same concept and rules as the men, with the winner having a choice of facing the Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair or RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss. The beauty of the women’s rumble was that they don’t currently have 30 active women on the roster, so they had to reach back in history to pull in some of the women who helped pave the way for the Women’s Division. There were appearances by Lita, Trish Stratus, and Mrs. Undertaker herself, Michelle McCool. In the end, though, the last woman standing was Japanese wrestler Asuka. Can you believe that?! Vince McMahon let TWO Japanese wrestlers win his Rumbles. Is there a shift happening? Is this a hint of things to come? Before we learned which challenger Asuka would choose, it was interrupted by wrestling’s worst kept secret: the debut of former UFC star Ronda Rousey, who’s officially signed on to the WWE.

Both rumbles were electrifying and had me on the edge of my seat. I got kinda bored during the matches, like Cesaro/Sheamus vs whoever those guys were. I will say, however, that I felt the introduction of Rousey kinda shat on Asuka’s moment. I’ve heard that argument that Rousey will bring more viewers and more mainstream attention which should trickle down to everyone else, but I just didn’t feel like this event needed that. The women’s rumble was great enough. Adding Rousey at the end almost made the show overstuffed. Plus, I kinda hate Rousey. Whatever.

Anyway, for being something of a trailblazer this week (Wrestling? Who knew?), the WWE Royal Rumble had the West Week Ever.

26th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/26/18

by Will

 

HarassmentWatch(TM)

I thought we’d get through a week with no sexual assault updates and allegations. I thought wrong.

  • Eric Ardnt – the WWE wrestler known as “Enzo Amore” was released from his contract AND his Cruiserweight title this week when a woman came forward, saying that he had raped her in a Phoenix hotel back in October. At first WWE suspended him, due to a supposed “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual assault, but they fired him later the same day. Word on the street is that Ardnt knew an investigation was ongoing, but didn’t warn WWE officials about it. So, it seems more like he was punished for keeping it a secret than for actually doing it. After all, it’s bad for business…
  • Casey Affleck – Casey Affleck was accused of sexual harassment a couple of years ago, but nothing came from it. When the #MeToo movement started up, there were rumblings again about his misconduct. Last year he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea, and tradition dictates that he present the Best Actress award at this year’s ceremony. Well, with the heat on him for negative reasons, he’s told the Academy that he won’t be attending or presenting, for fear of taking attention away from the films and the winners.
  • Larry Nassar Update – After the testimonies of over 140 women, the former Team USA Gymnastics doctor’s trial ended with him being sentenced to up to 175 years in prison – a sentence to begin AFTER completion of his 60-year sentence for possession of child pornography…

Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. There were some surprises: Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, which is an honor that’s not typically bestowed to comic book movies. Get Out scored 3 nominations: Best Director (Jordan Peele), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Kaluuya), and Best Picture. The biggest surprise to many, however, was the nomination of Boss Baby for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was maligned when it was announced (I added to some of that because I was sure it was gonna bomb), and it went on to make $500 million. A lot of folks felt the nomination should’ve gone to something like The LEGO Batman Movie. Just as I had to pour water on some of y’all for the Wonder Woman nomination “snub”, I feel the need to do that here, too.

As much as I enjoyed most of LEGO Batman, it lacks a strong 3rd act. At some point it devolves into a weird LEGO Dimensions team-up movie and I can’t even remember how it ends. Meanwhile, I haven’t even seen Boss Baby straight through, even though I’ve watched 3/4 of it about 37 times (my daughter LOVES it), and I feel like I had a more enjoyable experience with it, even while consuming it in disjointed chunks. It’s cute, clever, and pretty well done. I felt like LEGO Batman was a “less is more” character, so while a Batman fan, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy about this particular iteration having the entire spotlight on him for a feature length film. I know a lot of y’all are cool and/or childless, so you wouldn’t be caught dead watching Boss Baby, but I’m here to tell you that it’s better than you think it is. Plus, let’s not ignore the fact that Ferdinand‘s on that list. Forget Boss Baby. LEGO Batman actually lost the nomination to John Cena as a talking bull, so think on that!

Everything old is new again, as two popular 80s properties are coming back to television. First up, not one to be left out of the reboot spree, CBS announced that Murphy Brown will return for a 13-episode run. I watched Murphy Brown pretty religiously (up until Miles left, and Lily Tomlin’s quirky ass was brought onboard). I remember all the Murphy Brown controversies: the child out of wedlock, the cancer, the medical marijuana, etc. My problem with the Murphy Brown announcement is that you just know it was greenlit the minute the whole “The Conners are Trump supporters now on Roseanne” news hit. And I don’t need the liberal counterpoint. You just KNOW Hillary’s gonna guest star on it. I mean, she did Broad City! I know Murphy will have a ton to say about the state of the world, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood to hear it right now. Maybe when this whole circus is over, but not while we’re still in the thick of it.

Meanwhile, Disney is reviving Muppet Babies, with a new Muppet along for the ride. Summer is a purple penguin who’s artistic. That means she likes art, not that she’s on the spectrum. Anyway, it seems like she’s replacing Skeeter, who reportedly won’t be a regular on the series. They said that they wanted another girl to help balance things out. The computer animated incarnation will premiere in March on Disney Junior.

In other TV news, comedian Mo’Nique’s is trying to get Black people to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special, which pales in comparison to what Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer got for their specials. She claims the streaming network is racist and sexist for giving her such a “lowball” offer. Um, Mo’Nique, you ain’t relevant, baby. You should’ve taken that $500K and used it as a springboard for brighter things in the future. The Original Queens of Comedy came out SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO almost to the day. Sure, you won an Oscar for Precious, but that was NINE YEARS AGO. Everyone in Hollywood says you’re hard to work with, which is why you’re falling back on stand up. I can’t boycott Netflix ’cause there’s too much on there I wanna watch. Go start some beef with Hulu. I don’t have an account with them, so I’ll be right there with you in spirit. Anyway, Wanda Sykes popped up to thank Mo’Nique, because she said that Netflix offered her even less than $500K. Um, I love you, Wanda, but your current job is the voice of of a gargoyle on Disney Channel’s Vampirina. I’m pretty sure they just offered what they thought you’d take…

In comic news, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott announced that he’s leaving the book after a 10-year run as the head writer. His final issue will be #801, and he will be moving over to the Iron Man series. He said that this has been the plan for about 4 years or so, and that he always wanted to break the record for Most Spider-Man Books By One Writer, which is currently held by Brian Michael Bendis. He said that he never saw Bendis leaving, so that was a number that kept moving and was always out of reach. When Bendis announced his departure, however, Slott saw it as his chance. He says he’s still about 18-20 issues shy of reaching the goal, even when #801 hits, so he might come back one day down the road to do an arc or two just to hit that magic number.

A lot of fans are rejoicing at the news, while I’m not sure how to feel. I know many fans didn’t like Slott’s take on Spider-Man, but I haven’t read enough of his run to have formed an opinion. Full disclosure: I own every issue of Amazing Spider-Man from the past 17 years, but the past 5 years are in my To Read pile. For those of you familiar with the series, I’m at “Spider Island”. Nope, haven’t even gotten to Superior Spider-Man yet, where Doc Ock takes over Peter’s body. So, needless to say, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Still, it’s an impressive run, even if I was recently saying it was time for him to give a new voice a chance. Well, I guess I got my wish. Now I just hope he doesn’t ruin Iron Man.

Meanwhile over at DC Comics, a play in 3 acts:

What’s funny to me is that this exact scenario was the plot of the pilot for Comedy Central’s new series, Corporate. I mean, the thing just aired a week ago.

It’s not all PR blunders for DC, though. They did announce that Superman’s red trunks return in Action Comics #1000 – which also features the DC Comics debut of Brian Michael Bendis. I’ve got to say that I got used to the Jim Lee New 52 redesign. They made slight tweaks along the way, but I didn’t really miss the red trunks. The be honest, it was more jarring to me to see Batman without his trunks than Superman without his. Still, DC’s trying to get the old fans to come home again, so I guess they felt they needed to do this. The only thing that upsets me is the switcheroo nature of The New 52. They went to all this trouble to reboot everything, and then spent the past 2 years undoing what they’d done with Superman in order to turn him back into the character he was pre-New 52. It reminds me of how Marvel gave Grant Morrison the keys to the X-Men kingdom, only to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he’d built. Some folks will say, “Well, at least you enjoyed reading the comics”, but I counter that with “Yeah, but now I’ve got 7 years of Superman comics that don’t ‘count‘ anymore.” Continuity is important to me as a fan, and a move like this makes me look at the whole New 52 enterprise and just wonder “What’s the point?” Ya know, besides a temporary, unsustainable spike in sales…

In music, we got a new single from Justin Timberlake, called “Supplies”. This is the second song I’ve heard from his upcoming album, Man of the Woods, and I just don’t know what he’s trying to do here. I almost wonder if the song works better without the video to distract you. I mean, the video is almost like he’s homaging Michael Jackson’s “Scream”, then the bridge comes along, and he’s like “Hold up, while I bang this hot girl”. Then it’s right back to the political stuff, almost like he’s saying, “I’m sorry, girl, but racism makes my dick soft”. Part of me thinks he saw that failure of a Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, and was like “Oh, I can make this work”, because there are definitely shades of that project found here. Anyway, I hope these songs get gradually better, or else I’m about to write this album off like I did Taylor Swift’s Reputation.

Then, last night, he released the video for “Say Something”. I swear, this album is just gonna be a collection of sounds. I feel like he just got a mixer, and is releasing his demos as he tests out the effects. At least this one has a melody, and it only took him 3 singles to get here. I hope the radio edit chops off the first 1:16, ’cause after that you’ve got a pretty tight song. The big surprise here is he’s got a feature: breakout, soulful country star Chris Stapleton. It’s an odd pairing, but it works. Can I just say that I hate this new trend of releasing all your songs before the album comes out? I mean, I realize the industry has changed, but I miss the act of finding a surprise gem or possible deep cut on an album, and then later being surprised when it was released as a single. It was validation, like, “”Huzzah! I knew this was a hit, and now it truly is!” Anyway, it’s a 16-track album (and the inevitable Target exclusive edition will scrape together another 3 tracks from demos or something), so there’s still 13 songs we haven’t heard yet. More songs like this, JT!

Toys “R” Us announced that they’re closing 182 stores, and everyone’s getting a hard-on for the going out of business sales that are bound to result from this. Well, hold your horses, cowboy. I posted this one Twitter, but it bears repeating – I’ve been through a TRU closing, so here’s what happens: the store is taken over by a liquidation company that marks everything UP. The good stuff is returned to the manufacturer or sent to a non-closing store. So, what’s left is marked up stuff you don’t want. Everyone has these visions in their heads of these great sales that are about to take place, but you’re pretty much about to be as disappointed as you have been any other time you walked into a TRU in the past 20 years. So instead of Transformers and Power Rangers, it’s more than likely they’ll dig out some lost cases of the female Ghostbusters or have a ton of The Good Dinosaur toys they never sold. If you’re a reseller who utilizes FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) then it’s a great time to stock up, but there’s not much to offer to the casual shopper/collector. So, happy hunting, but I doubt you’ll find much…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There are Jurassic Park Funko Pops coming. While I typically wouldn’t care, you can’t NOT love this one of Dr. Ian Malcolm

  • 9 years after the release of the original, we’re apparently getting a sequel to Black Dynamite, based on this teaser released by creator and star Michael Jai White. I hope it washes the taste of that animated series out of my mouth, which just didn’t work tonally for me.
  • It appears the original Barney suit actor now runs a tantric sex workshop. “I love you, you love me” indeed!

  • We got our first look at Brie Larson suited up as Captain Marvel. Some folks aren’t feeling the green uniform, but it works with the source material. She’s also sporting the “Rachel” hairstyle, so this movie’s gonna be 90s to the max!
  • After 8 seasons of putting a bird on it and just generally being weird, Portlandia started its 8th and final season last night.
  • Certain media outlets are reporting that ABC has cancelled Marvel’s Inhumans based on the fact that the network has removed the show from its press site. While that’s probably true, I think I’ll wait til the official announcement at the May upfronts.
  • 90 years after her debut, and 40 years after Mickey got his, Minnie Mouse finally got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • There’s talk of a Mighty Ducks television series, but there’s no script, no stars, and no known home for it (though it’s not like Disney is lacking for TV networks). I’ll talk more about it when the project is further along.

Did anyone have a week quite like WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon? He started the week celebrating 25 years of his flagship wrestling program, WWE Monday Night Raw, and he ended the week reviving one of his greatest failures, the XFL.

First, let’s talk about Raw 25. The anniversary broadcast had been promoted for weeks, with special guests announced on each preceding episode. They were bringing back the likes of The Undertaker, old Divas, and they were even gonna have a reunion of Triple H and Shawn Michaels’ old DeGeneration-X stable. To commemorate the big event, it was held in 2 different venues: the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Center in Midtown Manhattan. I’m sure folks at both venues thought they were in for an awesome show. They would be proven wrong. You see, all the big stuff happened at the Barclays Center, while the folks in Manhattan seemed to get a lot of the cast off stuff. Barclays got John Cena, while Manhattan got old Scott Hall. It was clear that the Manhattan Center was geared more towards the older fans, but I’m not quite sure they got their money’s worth. Anyway, I’m sure Vince would say it was a success, and it’s pretty impressive he’s kept that show on the air for 25 years.

Yesterday, Vince proved he wasn’t done surprising us this week, as he announced the upcoming return of his football league, the XFL. Scheduled to debut in either January or February of 2020, there are a couple of things that will set this league apart from the dominant NFL. First of all, he plans to keep games to 2 hrs, as he believes this is the longest people can be expected to watch – which is funny, considering he runs a weekly THREE-HOUR wrestling program. Next, there will be no politics on the field, so all players will stand for the national anthem. Finally, he says that none of the players can have arrest records. Muhuhahahahahahaha! Where, pray tell, does he plan to find these professional caliber athletes, with no arrest records, who haven’t already been snatched up by the NFL. He better shut up and load those teams up with convicts. I know that’d get ME to watch! Instead of being the badass leaague that it was during WWE’s Attitude Era, McMahon hopes to present a family friendly game, with simpler rules than the NFL.

I’m confused here. The dominant professional football league in the country is already experiencing a ratings downturn, so I’m not sure competition is what’s needed now. Plus, let’s not forget how colossally the first XFL failed. It barely lasted a season. I mean, it must be nice to have so much money that you can blow MILLIONS reliving your biggest mistake simply due to ego. And I know the television landscape has changed, but he doesn’t even seem to have broadcast partners yet. Back in the day, he at least had NBC and UPN to lean on to broadcast the games. He can’t rely solely on streaming, and he created a separate entity for this venture, so it’s not like he can just throw the games on the WWE Network stream. I dunno, man, but it’s not my job to. It’s not my money, it’s Vince’s. And he has so, so much money to waste.

In any case, based on his dominance in all corners of sports entertainment this week, Vince McMahon had the West Week Ever.

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