09th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

Welcome to the 1,000th post at WilliamBruceWest.com! Well, technically, I hit 1,000 posts years ago, but when I switched over from Blogger to WordPress, I deleted several hundred posts. So, this is post 1,000 for version 2.0 of the site. Anyway, if this were a comic book, it’d have a holographic cover and it would feature a reprint of my first issue in the back. But it’s not a comic book, so you’re just gonna get some ramblings and some pictures I stole from bigger websites. You’re lucky I even wrote anything considering how few of you read last week’s post. I’ve really gotta stop writing on holiday weekends!

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Speaking of holiday weekends, last week some friends and I took in the Baltimore Comic Con. It was pretty much what you’d expect from the show. It wasn’t the best BCC, but it was made better by the company I kept.

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I will say, however, one thing stood out to me. You see, WWE Hall of Famer Sunny (AKA Tammy Sytch) was a guest on behalf of MCW Wrestling. Now, let’s talk a bit about Sunny, shall we? In her heydey (circa 1994), she was the valet of the Bodydonnas, a fitness-themed duo of heels. That didn’t last long, but her Bodydonnas partner, Chris Candido, was also her boyfriend, so she went wherever he went. They next went to ECW, which is where Sunny’s drug problems really started to surface. After leaving there, they ended up in WCW – also leaving once her drug problems arose again. Candido died in 2005, and then the shit really hit the fan. On top of the drugs, she ended up posing nude for the adult site, Wrestling Vixxxens, which she later said she regretted. Well, she must not have regretted it too much, as last January, she signed with Vivid Entertainment and released Sunny Side Up: In Through The Backdoor – full-fledged porn-o-graphic moving picture! She was even trying to sell her Hall of Fame ring. Rough times…

OK, so let’s fast forward to last Saturday. She was sitting at a table, charging the “Virgil standard” of $20 per picture. Now, she doesn’t look anywhere near as good as she did in 1994. I mean, who does? Still, she’s kept it fairly tight, considering all her life’s been through. But it was weird watching guys have her take pictures with their sons, like it was some sort of rite of passage or something. I mean, we’re not talking about Trish Stratus here, as Sunny never really did anything notable in the ring. She was basically known for being hot and doing porn. And somehow that got her into the WWE Hall of Fame. Anyway, the whole thing was just weird to me.

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In movies, I watched Independence Day: Resurgence with my buddy Keith after the con. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s 20 years after the first movie, and the aliens are back for revenge. Apparently, the mothership from the first movie sent off a distress signal that has finally been picked up by an alien queen. Man, that movie should’ve been called Nepotism Day. I say that because EVERYONE already knew EVERYONE. I’m not even talking about the characters from the first movie who have returned. Even the new characters somehow know everyone else. There are no introductions in this movie. It’s basically, “Hey, it’s been awhile.” Will Smith’s character got killed off on the movie’s promotional website, so his son takes the lead in this installment. Somehow, though, he already knows President Whitmore’s daughter (who was recast because they didn’t feel Mae Whitman was “Hollywood Hot” enough) AND new movie hero Liam Hemsworth. He also knows the new President (Sela Ward), while Hemsworth somehow knows Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson. None of this is really explained. We’re basically expected to just accept that they all met each other over the past 20 years. In fact, the only character that is even somewhat introduced is Angelababy’s Lt Lao, who was clearly crammed in for the lucrative Chinese marketplace.

Another thing is that the deaths are meaningless. In the first movie, when the world capitals and landmarks were destroyed, you kinda felt something (possibly because we hadn’t seen anything like that before). This time around, though, instead of a destructive laser beam, the aliens basically use gravity to pick up one side of the planet (people, cars, buildings) and drop it on the other side of the planet. Visually, it was…interesting, but it felt empty. The movie requires a LOT of suspension of disbelief. The worst part, though, is how it ends in a Super Mario Bros-esque fashion, setting up a sequel that will never come, based on the box office results of this installment.

There’s a subplot of the movie that focuses on Not John Oliver and an African warlord. You see, the Africans fought a ground war against the aliens for the next ten years after the first movie. That would’ve been a MUCH better movie than what we got. Hell, this movie would’ve been better had it just focused on Not John Oliver and the warlord, killing aliens. They were, by far, the most interesting part of the film. If you didn’t see this movie, you definitely didn’t miss anything.

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Speaking of space stuff, Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary this week. The franchise has had a profound impact on my life, but I find myself speechless when it comes to any kind of tribute. I’ve often referred to myself as a “retired Trekkie”, but it’s all still in my heart. Still, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without at least mentioning it. To get my thoughts on the franchise, check out my most recent podcast appearance with the guys over at Nerd Lunch, and check out this classic post from the archives, where I wonder why anyone would want to join Starfleet.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was confirmed that Joe Manganiello will play Deathstroke in Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film
  • Greg Berlanti’s Black Lightning has been picked up for a pilot at Fox, which sucks because there’s no way Fox is gonna play ball with The CW for a crossover.
  • Lil Wayne may have retired from hip hop over Twitter. I hope that means he’s going to devote all his free time to pouring champagne on phones.
  • Shailene Woodley said she’s not interested in doing Divergent as a TV show, which is probably music to the ears of the folks financing the thing
  • This week saw the Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe, which actually just featured everyone ganging up on Ann Coulter
  • MTV announced Wonderland, a September 15th-premiering live music show. I tend to hate when people cite the whole “Remember when MTV used to play videos?”, but it is strange that this is “news” considering this is what they should be doing.

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  • Freddie Prinze Jr and Rachael Leigh Cook hung out, and apparently this WASN’T taken in the unemployment line. Good for them!
  • Lady Gaga finally released her new single “Perfect Illusion”. The only illusion here is that she thought this was a worthy comeback song.

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One thing took me by surprise this week. When I first heard of FX’s Atlanta, I had no interest in it whatsoever. My first thought was “Oh, Donald Glover’s being weird again.” After all, this is the dude who left Community and then had a mini breakdown as to whether or not he’d made the right choice. This was the dude who desperately wanted to be taken seriously as rapper Childish Gambino, despite the terrible name. This is the guy who, in recent years, always looks like he needs a sink and a washcloth. So, what could Donald Glover possibly have to offer that I would want? Well, it turns out he had something I didn’t even know I needed.

Created by, and starring, Glover Atlanta is about Earnest Marks who’s a Princeton dropout who just can’t seem to catch a break. He’s moved back home to Atlanta, but he’s got no money, he has a baby daughter, and he’s in a pseudo-relationship with the girl’s mother, though she’s starting to see other people. He really doesn’t think his ship is gonna come in until he finds out that his cousin is an up and coming rapper named Paper Boi. “Earn” decides that he’s going to manage his cousin, which will change both of their lives. Of course, nothing like that is going to go smoothly. Earn and Paper Boi get involved in a shooting, and Earn finds himself in lockup while Paper Boi starts to question whether he’s as “of the streets” as his music portrays him to be.

It was such an engaging hour, and it left me begging for more. If I could binge the whole season right now, that’s exactly what I’d be doing. I mean, there’s a mystical aspect to it, while there’s also this anxious sadness that I haven’t felt since Breaking Bad. It’s like you know something bad is coming (I feel it involves Paper Boi getting shot), but you kinda just want it to hurry up and get it over with. Sure, Mr. Robot causes anxiety, but it’s wrapped up in so much mindfuckery that it never really settles. Here, though, the suspense is palpable. You want the characters to win, but you also know it’s not going to be an easy road. Plus, at the end of the day what, exactly, would “winning” look like? I look forward to seeing all of this play out, and that’s why Atlanta had the West Week Ever.

02nd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

It’s a holiday weekend and y’all never read this thing when that happens, so let’s keep it short and sweet today, shall we?

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In comic news, the Diamond Retailer Summit is currently happening, so some news is trickling out of there. In the Marvel camp, they revealed a Monsters Unleashed series. Whatever. They’d been teasing something called MU for weeks, first revealing Cullen Bunn was involved and then slowly revealed artists, such as Leinil Yu, Adam Kubert, and Greg Land. Well, today it was announced it was this monster shit. I know some people are into all that, but I’m not one of them, nor do I feel like such an announcement deserved all that fanfare. It’s making me think that Marvel’s cried “Wolf!” one too many times. It’s also odd to me that a monster series is coming out in January instead of October. Also, they announced that the follow-up to Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men would be called ResurreXion. Yeah, you read that right. I’ll bet someone in Marvel’s marketing department got an erecXion when they came up with that one.

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Meanwhile, DC announced their first major Rebirth crossover in the form of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. I can’t help but feel like this would’ve been better timed to coincide with the release of the film, but maybe its release will bolster the Blu Ray sales, while getting folks primed for Justice League. In the story, Batman decides to take down Amanda Waller’s Task Force X – much like *SPOILER ALERT* Batfleck threatened to do in the post-credits sequence of Suicide Squad. And like all comic book fights, I’m sure they’ll be forced to team up against a greater threat. Anyway, it’s expected that a new Justice League of America series will spin out of this event.

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Speaking of Batfleck, this week Ben Affleck “leaked” some footage of Deathstroke the Terminator. Originally a Teen Titans villain, it seems that Mr. Stroke has been promoted to the big leagues. At first, it was believed this might be Justice League footage, but now the word on the street is that Deathstroke will be the main villain of Affleck’s standalone Batman movie. Oh, and it’s rumored that Joe Manganiello will be playing Deathstroke. Not really excited about it at the moment, but I probably will be as we learn more.

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In TV news, it’s reported that Marvel is shopping around a comedy based on the New Warriors – but featuring Squirrel Girl. Now, this bothers me because Squirrel Girl was never in the New Warriors. Sure, I can understand creative liberties, but it seems like Marvel’s just desperate to create a Squirrel Girl vehicle and this is what they’ve come up with. First off, I don’t know if I like the Superhero Comedy genre for television. I think they should wait and see how DC’s Powerless (which looks horrid) does on NBC. Second, I’ve never really understood the whole Squirrel Girl thing. I get that she’s cutesy and all, but I’ve yet to read a comic where I’m like, “Wow! That Squirrel Girl!” Lately there’s been this movement to get Anna Kendrick cast as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, that’s nice and all, but I think that casting’s wrong. And there’s no way Kendrick is gonna do TV at this stage of her career. No, I think The Middle‘s Eden Sher is a much better choice. It was reported that she was having meetings with Marvel years ago, trying to figure out ways to get her into the MCU. Sadly, I think that ship might’ve sailed, as nobody expected The Middle to still be on at this point. At the moment, though, I’m hoping this project ends up with the same fate as Marvel’s Most Wanted.

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Meanwhile, in DC television world, Greg Berlanti is developing a Black Lightning show with the creators of Girlfriends/The Game, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. I’m all for the Berlantiverse becoming more robust, but I always feel like the older shows suffer when he introduces a new one. I’d much rather they try to make Legends of Tomorrow a better show, and maybe add the character over there first. Black Lightning is an inner city teacher who has lightning powers, hailing from an age when all Black heroes had to have “Black” in their name. If this show gets off the ground, I’m sure it’ll end up being called something like Lightning. The funny thing is that he’s supposedly shopping it around to networks, like we all don’t already know it’s gonna end up on The CW.

 

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You know what really grinds my gears? Country radio (yes, some of us still listen to the radio) does this thing where they play a new single from an album, and then they ask listeners to call in and tell them what they thought of the song. Supposedly, if the response is predominantly negative, the song won’t be played anymore. Um, THAT’S NOT HOW THE INDUSTRY WORKS! If a song has been released as an official single, they pretty much HAVE to play it. Radio doesn’t have the power to make or break an artist anymore. There are people selling albums and touring who’ve never even been on the radio. The days of “If I spin your record, it’ll make you a star” are over. So I guess I wish country stations would cut the shit and stop making the audience think they have some power they don’t really have.

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Another thing I don’t like? An Adult Swim show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace. I’ve tweeted before about how I don’t really like the show, but last week I found I’d attracted the wrong attention: fans of the show. Now, first let me explain who’s behind it: Million Dollar Extreme is a sketch comedy group comprised of Sam Hyde, Charls Carroll, and Nick Rochefort who specialize in making you uncomfortable. Just Google Sam Hyde. I’ll wait. Especially look up his TED Talk. Basically they’ve made a name for themselves as part of the alt-right movement that despises political correctness. So, they go completely in the opposite direction. They do shit in blackface, they mock the handicapped. It’s pretty bad. So, last week, I tweeted this to a friend:

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And then I went to sleep. When I woke up, a bunch of their fans had sarcastically favorited the tweet, and were replying to us, saying stuff like “Yeah, but you’ll watch it and LIKE it”. I looked at these folks’ profiles, and they are NOT nice people. I thought I was gonna end up doxxed or something. Anyway, bottom line: don’t watch World Peace.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Image Comics will reportedly relocate from Berkeley, CA to Portland, OR
  • Netflix announced a second season of the show you’re all raving about, That’s Still So Raven. No, I kid. You’re getting more Stranger Things.
  • Jon Favreau will reprise his Happy Hogan role from the Iron Man movies in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, someone’s bound to be upset that Grimm will end after its next, abbreviated season
  • Pretty Little Liars will also end after its next season. Unless, you know, they’re lying about that…
  • The next season of Dancing with the Stars will feature Vanilla Ice, Babyface, Gov Rick Perry, Amber Rose and more. Still no word on which *stars* will be on the show
  • Chris Brown almost got killed by a SWAT team after pulling a gun on some chick who tried to steal his jewelry.
  • Disney Interactive shut down the Marvel: Avengers Alliance mobile game, which won’t be playable by the end of the month
  • Britney Spears released her 3rd “comeback” album, Glory. I’ve heard it, and I don’t think she’s back yet
  • Alison Brie and Marc Maron have been cast as the leads in Netflix’s series GLOW, based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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So, the only thing I really watched this week was the BBC Are You Being Served? special. Sure, it was a UK thing, but luckily I was able to find it on YouTube. I grew up watching the original show, so this was something that I HAD to see.

If you’re not familiar with it, Are You Being Served? was a Britcom set in a high end department store called Grace Brothers. The show particularly focused on the employees of the Men’s and Ladies’ departments, including Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe, and Captain Peacock. It had a very rigid class structure, where everyone was supposed to know their place and follow a certain chain of command. Captain Peacock was the snobbish “floor walker”, who kept everyone in line. Mr. Humphries was the butt of gay jokes because he was effeminate and lived with his mother. And Mrs. Slocombe was always talking about her pussy (Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s her cat!). The show ran for 13 years, but only has 70 episodes because, well, England. Once it ended, they even tried to “Golden Palace” it by moving the cast to a manor in which their pensions had been invested.

Anyway, in a celebration of British comedy, The BBC “revived” several shows by casting current actors in one-episode specials. This was especially necessary for AYBS?, seeing as how the entire cast is dead now (well, except for Mr. Spooner, but nobody gives a shit about him). Surprisingly, I didn’t know a single actor they cast in this thing. I always joke that there are only about 11 British actors, but I guess there are only 11 who’ve crossed over the pond. None of them, however, made it to this special. I felt the casting for everyone was pretty spot-on, though, especially Mr. Grainger and Mrs. Slocombe. I did, however, feel like they overdid it with Mr. Humphries. While he was effeminate in the original show, there was always a question of “Is he or isn’t he?” but here they just pretty much played him as humorously gay, which sort of took something away from the character.

When the episode starts, a young Black man named Richard Conway shows up for his first day as a member of the Men’s department staff. One thing I’m always curious about is race relations in other countries. While the episode was set in 1988, I was surprised that they never once referred to or joked about his race. Is this just not done in the UK? Or was it felt like that wasn’t the kind of humor you would expect from AYBS? I’d really love to know more about how they came to that decision, because an American show would’ve been ALL ABOUT the fact that he was this Black guy in a prim and proper establishment. It’d be called Homeboy In Knickers, and would air on UPN after Shasta McNasty.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it felt like a genuine “lost” episode of the show. It completely retconned the spinoff Grace & Favour, and it did some clever tinkering to get Mr. Grainger back in the mix. Basically 3 years have passed since the final episode, but things are pretty much like you remember them. There’s a Downton Abbey aspect to the show where it’s mired in class humor in a world that’s quickly changing. The crux of the episode is that the new Mr. Grace is determined to drag the store into the 20th century. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d actually love to see more of it. From what I’ve read, the special wasn’t well-received by the Brits, but I couldn’t have really asked for more. It didn’t swing for the fences by killing a major character, nor did it go for shock value. It tried to give you more of what you loved about the original show, and in that respect, I think it succeeded. That’s why the Are You Being Served? one-off special had the West Week Ever.

 

26th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/26/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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On the movie front, I watched one good movie and one very bad movie. Let’s start with the bad news first. Called The Day, it’s a 2011 film about 5 friends in a post-apocalyptic landscape who find refuge in a farmhouse, but have to defend it from cannibals. Basically, it’s like someone read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and said “Hey, I could do that.” I actually missed the first 20 minutes of the movie, but that’s when my pal Wikipedia came in handy. I didn’t miss anything of substance, and it was pretty easy to pick up at the point when I joined. It starred Shannyn Sossamon, who I fell in love with in 40 Days and 40 Nights before she fell into whatever hole she was in until Wayward Pines last season. It also starred former Iceman, Shawn Ashmore, who clearly spent the earlier part of this decade doing low-budget suspense films (like Frozen). Part of what I hated about it was its lack of color. Like, it wasn’t quite black and white, but it was devoid of a color palette. It’s like they filmed it and then ran it through the Willow Instagram filter. I know they were trying to set a tone, but it just didn’t work for me. And all the characters sucked at life. We’re supposed to think they’ve become a “family” since whatever catastrophic event happened, but it never really made much sense. I know they’d probably seen some real shit together, but I wasn’t buying their forced bond. Anyway, this kind of movie progressed the only way that a movie like this could: most of them die. What? You weren’t gonna watch it. Hell, when it was released in theaters, it only screened in 12 theaters and made about $20,000. NOBODY saw this movie. To be fair, it seems like it was made for the international market, as it opened in Russia first. Then, it was distributed in associated with WWE Studios over here. That’s a true mark of quality right there! Anyway, the special effects aren’t too spectacular, there’s no gratuitous nudity, and it’s just not very good. You can skip this one.

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Now for the one that I loved. I’ve been putting off watching Kingsman: The Secret Service for the better part of a year. I even bought it when it went on sale, but never watched it. I knew it’d be my kind of movie, but I just never got around to watching it. Even recorded it on the DVR, despite already owning it, because I’m lazy and thought I’d be more likely to watch it if I didn’t have to fumble with a disc. Then, last night, I ended up watching it as it randomly came on Cinemax. Now, I know writer Mark Millar has his critics, but I’ve typically liked his output. I was a fan of The Ultimates, I was a fan of Kick-Ass before they ran that franchise into the ground, and I’ve basically enjoyed all the other stuff he put out under the Marvel ICON imprint, like Superior and Nemesis. The Secret Service, however, didn’t really grab me when it originally came out in comic form. I bought the first issue, and it just felt too British, for lack of a better description. I think I ended up selling that comic in a longbox with a bunch of other junk and never looked back. So, imagine my surprise when they announced it would be adapted into a film. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an independent British spy organization tasked with testing new recruits to fill a recent vacancy in their ranks. Colin Firth spends almost 2 hours wearing the Hell out of everything he puts on, while trying to train a young chav named “Eggsy” to be a Kingsman agent. And it does follow the trend of being very British, as the villain, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the quintessential Ugly American. I mean, he even feeds Firth McDonalds at what’s supposed to be a fancy dinner party. Imagine if Spike Lee had Bill Gates money, and you’ve basically got Jackson’s character. Oh, and add in a lisp that seems to come and go. I really don’t remember that obnoxious lisp from the trailers, so I wonder if they added it in post-production. Anyway, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a bit formulaic and predictable at points, but there are certain parts that make it worth the price of admission. Two words: church scene. It has to be seen to be believed. Only Millar could end a comic book movie on an anal sex joke, but I was actually grinning when the movie ended. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I am totally looking forward to Kingsman: The Golden Circle next year.

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In comic news, it was revealed that when Riri Williams takes over for Tony Stark following Civil War II, her hero name will be Ironheart. I don’t hate it. It works. It’s a lot better than how Pepper Potts was called Rescue when she had armor. What’s odd to me is how the comic will still be called The Invincible Iron Man, even though Iron Man ain’t in it. I know it’s a name that recognizable, but even a subtitle could’ve worked. They couldn’t call it The Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart? Just kind of odd that it’s a solo book where the title doesn’t refer to the title character. Anyway, there was some #rabblerabble, as my friend Tim likes to say, this week about her codename because it’s also the name of an Japanese Iron Man porn parody. I’m sure, however, this was merely coincidence.

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In comic movie news, it was announced that director Doug Liman would be jumping from one comic book movie in order to helm another. Previously attached to Channing Tatum’s doomed Gambit film, Liman is now slated to direct DC’s Dark Universe, focusing on the characters of Justice League Dark. This was surprising to me because I didn’t even think this was still on DC’s schedule, seeing as how they went ahead and made the upcoming Justice League Dark animated film. I mean, Assault On Arkham didn’t keep them from making Suicide Squad, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Still, the team is comprised of a bunch of characters who are hardly household names, including John Constantine (star of a mid ’00s cult film and a shortlived TV series), Zatanna, Deadman, and Etrigan The Demon. I always kinda hated that they even adopted the Justice League name, as it wasn’t really appropriate for them. It was DC’s attempt to “Avengerize” their lineup. You see, in the early ’00s, basically every group of Marvel characters were Avengers. There were the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, the Secret Avengers, Avengers Initiative, etc.  It helped boost sales because the Avengers name held some clout, but being used so much also kinda devalued the brand. DC did the same after the New 52 with Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League of America, etc. But I guess a book with Justice League in the title will sell better than something called Shadowpact.

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In other movie news, it appears that the international take of Ghostbusters will be about $220 million. Now, this might sound like a decent amount of money, but as someone on Twitter pointed out, that’s less money than Adam Sandler’s Pixels made. It’s really a shame because I wanted that movie to succeed. No, I still haven’t seen it, but I trust Paul Feig and I love whenever he and McCarthy work together. I still say it would’ve succeeded if they simply hadn’t called it Ghostbusters. They could’ve called it Ghosted or something like that, and sure folks would’ve made comparisons to the original Ghostbusters, but it wouldn’t have been co-opting an established brand that clearly a lot of people had strong feelings about. The release of this movie should be a case study in marketing courses across the country.

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a pretty strict “no death” policy for this column. The way I see it, if I talk about one, I’ve got to talk about them all. And they all don’t mean something to me. This week, however, we lost someone who meant a lot to my formative years. Boyband impresario/Ponzi scheme architect Lou Pearlman died in prison from a heart infection.

A cousin of Art Garfunkel, Pearlman had been in prison since 2008, serving a 25 year sentence for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in US history. Before all that, however, he had a knack for discovering talent. After New Kids On The Block chartered his planes, he looked at that business model and thought, “I could do that”. So, he opened up a pop boot camp in Florida called Trans Continental Studios, and he started churning out boybands like a well-oiled machine. He gave us household names the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. He gave us LFO, who spent a whole summer telling the world about how Chinese food made them sick. He gave us O-Town, whose first single was a vivid description of which stars showed up in their wet dreams. He also helped put Britney on the map, as he signed Innosense, the girl group she was in before she went solo. On the flip side, he also gave us Aaron Carter’s career. Welp, you can’t win all the time.

Anyway, Lou made his money by screwing over his most successful acts. He was contractually the 6th Backstreet Boy, and he took 1/6th of everything they made. So they sued him. He was skimming money off *NSYNC. So they sued him. Hell, he was even cheating Aaron Carter. And he sued him. My favorite scene in the original Making The Band (yes, it existed on ABC before Diddy took it over on MTV) was when O-Town were about to sign their contracts, and the news broke about *NSYNC suing Lou for cheating them out of money. I know reality TV’s fake, but that was some damn good editing.

Plus, there were the sexual allegations. He was a man who was surrounded by hot boys 24/7, meanwhile he had a ten-year relationship with a nurse that was never consummated. It’s been alluded to that the Carter boys experienced some things, while LFO’s Rich Cronin reported that he was in therapy for a lot of what he experienced. I used to know a producer for Making The Band, and she told me that the reason Ikaika quit O-Town was because of his resemblance to BSB’s Kevin Richardson, and that Lou was making advances toward him because of it. Can I get sued for saying that? “Slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel” (Thank you, Spider-Man).

Anyway, all of that is to say that Lou was probably a pretty bad dude. I didn’t even get into the Ponzi shit, which is way over my head. I only know boyband rosters and hit singles. If you want financial news, go to Bloomberg. Lou definitely did some shitty, shitty things in his life, but he almost singlehandedly propped up the pop music industry from about 1996 to 2000. That’s got to count for something, right? I mean, we still laud Woody Allen and Roman Polanski films. Lou Pearlman was probably a sexual predator, but damn it did he know talent when he saw it. This week saw a lot of strained tributes from his former charges. Most of the reactions were basically “He was a scumbag, but I owe my career to him.” My favorite tweet came from O-Town’s Jacob Underwood, who said “Hard to describe what I’m feeling.. He was always nice to me, even when he was stealing from me. RIP.”

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Lou made tens of millions of dollars off the artists he cheated, and that should’ve been enough. But he had to go down the Ponzi route so he could get more. He was brought down by greed, and he died in prison because of it. None of the sexual stuff had been substantiated, so had he just stuck to the music business, we’d be morning a creepy dude who did a lot for music. Instead, we’re left with the death of a man who defrauded investors of almost $300 million, and that was only a fraction of his adult life. Lou Pearlman. A conflicting figure. A legacy of pop.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Gawker was sold at auction to Univision for a reported $135 million. It will now be known as SuperGawkerGigante.com
  • Former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne revealed that she was bisexual in a tweet, after being photographed kissing a girl
  • Apparently there’s a Max Steel movie coming, despite the recent failed revival of the toy line. I’ve got to hand it to the producers, though. I didn’t give a shit about this movie until the trailer wasn’t available in the US, and now it’s all I can think about.
  • Earlier this week, it was reported that Netflix was interested in producing a third season of the Young Justice cartoon. A fan site reported that writer Peter David had been approached about reviving the show, but it was later revealed that he was misquoted.
  • It was reported that Connie Britton may have a reduced role in the CMT revival of Nashville. Welp, there goes any chance of me ever watching that.
  • Soccer player Hope Solo was suspended for 6 months after calling Sweden a bunch of “cowards” after the US lost to them in the Olympics. So, she can’t play soccer for 6 months. Ya know, during the period of the calendar year when very little soccer was gonna be played anyway. Whatever…
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dethroned Robert Downey Jr as the highest paid actor this year, making $64.5 million. He’s still not the former wrestler to make the most money this year, though. Not even close, brother.
  • KFC gave away over 3,000 bottles of fried chicken scented sunscreen. Yes, you read that correctly.
  • Last week’s West Week Ever recipient, Ryan Lochte, is in talks to join the next season of Dancing with the Stars


Ya know, nothing major happened this week, but the one thing that did stand out was the English trailer for Guardians. Now, the original trailer came out months ago, and everyone online was like “Hur, hur. Crazy Russians.” I’ll tell ya what – this thing looks awesome as shit to me. And I’ll bet it’s even better than Dawn of Justice, mainly because these characters probably aren’t betraying some 75-year legacy. A werebear with a gatling gun? An invisible hot chick? A dude with crazy electro whips – THAT CAN BRING DOWN BUILDINGS?!!! Sign me the fuck up! Now, don’t get me wrong. The English overdub is terrible. It’s like something someone made in their bedroom, but at least we have an idea of what the movie’s about now. And I fear all the best stuff might be in the trailer. Still, if I get a chance to see this thing, I’m doing it, and I think you should, too. For delighting all my senses in a mere 2 and a half minutes, the Guardians trailer had the West Week Ever.

 

12th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/12/16

by Will

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*Varnell Hill voice* “DID YOU MISS ME?!”

Yeah, very few people are gonna get that reference, but I did take a week off to recharge the batteries, so I hope somebody noticed.

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So I watched Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, and I think it’s time to declare this franchise dead. It was cute in the beginning, in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way, but it has simply overstayed its welcome. When I reviewed the last installment, I mentioned how it lost most of its spark halfway through, and I just wanted it to end. Well, I felt that way from minute one of this one.

First off, it’s set five years after the last one and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember a single thing that happened in the last one. All I remembered was that they pulled a “Jason Todd” and let the audience decide if Tara Reid lived or died. Other than that, I couldn’t remember how many kids Finn was supposed to have, I couldn’t remember if this sexy sidekick was the same sexy sidekick from the past movies – it was a mess. And the movie doesn’t do a good job of catching you up because it’s stringing along the drama of the “Did Tara Reid survive?” mystery. Turns out Finn’s son is now coming home from deployment, and he’s got a new, Black wife in tow. I emphasize her race because it kinda becomes important down the road. They’re meeting in Las Vegas for a family reunion when the first Sharknado in 5 years hits. You see, In Living Color‘s Tommy Davidson plays an Elon Musk analogue who has created these towers that prevent tornadoes from forming. Because of them, there haven’t been any Sharknadoes since the events of the last movie. For some reason, though, the Vegas tower failed, and we ended up with the first Sharknado in years. And luckily, Finn Shepard and family were there to fight them off.

Meanwhile the Sharknado then goes on to become an Oilnado and then a Firenado and a Nukenado. Yeah, they blew their wad on potential spinoffs all in this one movie. And then my brain just stopped processing what it was seeing. I only made sense of bits and pieces after that point. Tara Reid did live, but only because her dad, played by Gary Busey, had turned her into a cyborg. Oh, and it’s clear that Busey and Reid were never in the same room during their scenes, so I wonder what that was all about. Then Davidson blows up the Grand Canyon in an attempt to curb the Sharknado. Yeah, I really don’t think the US Government would just be cool with Elon Musk blowing up the Grand Canyon, but what do I know? Then, as they all retreat back to Finn’s farm, Black wife (I don’t think she even had a name) gets killed by a shark and NOBODY notices! Her own fucking husband doesn’t even mention her ever again in the film. It’s almost like they added her in post-production, and then just said “Fuck it!” Like, it’s amazing how he NEVER stops to wonder what happened to her, nor does any other member of the cast. Then, Tommy Davidson jumps out of a plane in a squirrel suit, so he can do something on a cliff to stop the Sharknado, but then the cliff falls into the ocean. Oh, and then Finn fights the Sharknado in a really shitty mech suit, but ends up being eaten by a shark. And the oldest son gets eaten by a shark. And the sexy cousin gets eaten by a shark. But wait! The youngest kid – all of five years old – pulls a tiny chainsaw out of a stone, King Arthur style, and uses it to cut into all the sharks and save his family. So, at the end of the day, the only people who actually died were Black wife and Black Tommy Davidson. Fuck this movie. Oh, and there’s a weird cameo by Steve Guttenburg to remind you that Lavalantula is still a thing and that, yes, they take place in the same universe. It must’ve been messed up with editing, as he gives them a car, named Christine, that is built up to be this amazing thing, which they then abandon while being chased by a ball of twine covered in sharks. Again, fuck this movie.

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In movie news, it was announced that the main villain in Aquaman will be Black Manta. Congratulations, DC – you chose the only villain he has to headline his movie. As I joked on Twitter, in the sequel, Aquaman will face an oil spill. There will be no third movie, as he will have vanquished all of his foes. Meanwhile, Aquaman star Jason Momoa is being eyed to star in the reboot of The Crow. My problem with this is that Momoa keeps taking on these franchise reboot roles (like Conan The Barbarian) when his star power isn’t strong enough for a franchise to rest on his shoulders. Now, it’s not like The Crow is gonna break the bank anyway, but it just doesn’t seem like a good fit.

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Ghostbusters is expected to take an estimated $70 million loss, putting any sequel plans in jeopardy. The fact that it didn’t open in China REALLY hurt it. I mean, China saved Warcraft. Imagine what it could’ve done here. Sure, it would’ve been renamed to something like Lady Ghost Killers, but the money would’ve been great.

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There was quite the shakeup at Saturday Night Live this week, as it was announced that 6-year veterans Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah wouldn’t be returning for season 42. At first, I figured this was just a case of the actors wanting to move on to other things, but then it was revealed that Killam’s contract simply wasn’t renewed. Huh? Really, Lorne?! I mean, I get the thing with Pharoah – he’s a great impressionist, though the show struggled to find any way to use them. Sure, he did Ben Carson, but that impression made no sense, plus it’ll be obsolete very soon. Killam, though, is quite the utility player. I’d say he’s basically the male Kristen Wiig, but I don’t think anyone hates him the way that some hated Wiig. His departure will be a huge blow to the show. However, when God closes a door, He opens a window – one for Jon Rudnistsky to jump out of! The featured player will also not be returning next season, and I can’t say that I’m too disappointed. He brought very little to the show during his freshman season, and he just had too much of a guido bro vibe to him for me to be able to take a shine to him.

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We got a full trailer for the Luke Cage Netflix series. *Yawn* It’s funny – it’s the new “cool kid” thing to say you’re tired of the Marvel movie formula, but the minute you say that about the Netflix shows, suddenly you’ve gone too far. Well, I’m tired of the Netflix shows. Ooh, it’s gritty. Ooh, there’s another fight in a hallway. I LOVED Daredevil season 1 and, though it took me a few months to get through, I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Jones. That said, I still haven’t seen Daredevil season 2, and I’m not really in any rush (after all, I’ve still got 2 seasons of Bojack Horseman and one of Kimmy Schmidt to finish). So, just add Luke Cage to the pile of “I’ll get to it”, but I don’t plan to binge on it when it hits Netflix on September 20th.

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Not to be outdone by Marvel, DC had a bunch of TV news during The CW’s presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour. First off, we got our first look at the new Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow. Also, it was reported that Sarah Grey has been cast as Stargirl on the show, while Friday Night Lights alum Grey Damon has been cast as Mirror Master on The Flash. They also announced Freedom Fighters: The Ray, which is an animated series that will debut on The CW Seed streaming platform. He will be the first ever gay superhero to lead a series and, like with Vixen, the plan is for him to eventually cross over into the live action shows, with the voice actor portraying him. Finally, it was announced that Dolph Lundgren will play the Big Bad in Oliver’s flashbacks this season, as it documents his time with the Bratva. Also, this will be the final season of Ollie’s flashbacks, as the show will catch up to real time.

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We also got some news about Star Trek: Discovery. It turns out the show will be set ten years prior to Kirk’s mission, and is set in the prime (Shatner) timeline. The lead will be a female, who may not be entirely human, but also won’t be a captain. The show might also feature Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson (played by Winona Rider in 2009’s Star Trek), as producer Bryan Fuller is fascinated by the character. There will be robots and a gay character, and the main cast will consist of about seven characters. As we already knew, it won’t be episodic in nature, but rather a tight 13-episode story unfolding throughout the season. Finally, the ship’s design is based on Ralph McQuarrie’s illustrations from an abandoned 70s Star Trek film called Planet of the Titans.

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Over on Twitter, I had my most popular tweet in years, which resulted from casually flipping through Olympics coverage. Sure, I know a lot of y’all have gone viral, so this is nothing to you, but let me have this!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Despite getting a logo and James Bobin as director, Jonah Hill is now saying that the Men in Black/21 Jump Street crossover, MIB 23, will probably never happen.
  • Criminal Minds star Thomas Gibson has been suspended for a couple of episodes for kicking a writer onset. I bet he didn’t pull that kind of shit on Dharma & Greg!
  • As the writing was on the wall when costar Nicole Byer got her MTV show, Loosely Exactly Nicole, Fox has officially cancelled The Lonely Island’s Party Over Here sketch show.

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  • We got our first look at the cast for The BBC’s Are You Being Served? one-off anniversary special. It looks like a group of friends dressed up for a costume party and the one Black guy had to be Mr. Lucas. For some reason, though, the special actually calls him a “Mr. Lucas-like character” named Mr. Conway. The special will air in September, and we’ll have to pirate it over here.

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  • We got another fake-out *NSYNC reunion, as the guys reunited for JC Chasez’s 40th birthday. I still hate that JC’s solo album tanked. He’s a better singer than JT, but he never seemed comfortable in the spotlight, and lacked JT’s charisma. Oh, what might have been…
  • Though I’m sure you’ve never seen it, Powers has been cancelled by Playstation Network after 2 seasons.
  • To beef up the CBS All Access portal, a “special edition” of Big Brother will stream on the site later this Fall. The network insists, however, that this shouldn’t be considered season 19 of the show.
  • If you’re just dying for news on Spider-Man: Homecoming, some dude named Michael Chernus has been cast as The Tinkerer. Yeah, whatever.
  • VH1 is developing Martha and Snoop’s Dinner Party, which is exactly what it sounds like: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg hosting dinner parties for their celebrity friends
  • Arianna Huffington will step down as editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. I wonder if it’ll change its name. Ya know, ’cause that worked so well for Topless Robot…
  • Apparently Vin Diesel and The Rock got into it on the set of Fast 8. It was probably an argument over which one of them was more racially ambiguous.
  • According to reports, Donald Glover is the frontrunner to play young Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo film. I dunno, but I don’t think Glover has the swagger of a young Billy Dee Williams.

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So, I vowed not to see Suicide Squad in theaters. I said I was done with the DC Cinematic Universe until Justice League. Well, last night I saw Suicide Squad. I even paid for it. And ya know what? I really liked it. It’s not amazing, but it’s an enjoyable popcorn flick. I don’t know what movie everyone else saw, ’cause a lot of folks were just dying to issue their hot takes about how DC has failed again. If you compare them to Marvel, sure they’ve got a ways to go. But I thought it was a lot better than Dawn of Justice, and I was pleasantly surprised by it considering I did not go into it with an open mind.

First of all, let’s get the Marvel comparison out of the way. It’s unfortunate that DC has to be compared to Marvel, but we do it with the comics, so we’re gonna do it with the movies. There’s something to remember, though: not all Marvel is created equal. There’s Marvel Studios Marvel, which can give you a gem like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but can also give you a dud like Thor: The Dark World. Then, there’s Fox Marvel, which can give you something as great as X2: X-Men United, but can also turn around and give you Elektra (No, I’m not going to use Fantastic Four as an example because, as weak as they may be, I actually liked those movies). With the world building that Marvel Studios has done, however, it means the best Fox movie still only lines up to a mediocre Marvel Studios film. There’s a certain tone and use of budget that tends to go into a Marvel Studios film. Take Ant-Man for example. While a Marvel Studios film, it really didn’t feel on that level. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it and watch it every time it comes on Starz, but tonally it feels like a really strong Fox Marvel movie. So that’s kinda where Suicide Squad is. No, it’s not a Marvel Studios film, but it could hold its own as a decent Fox Marvel film and I think that says a lot. For one thing, I think we got too used to the Nolanverse, so we expect that from DC all the time. The aesthetic of this film is somewhere between Burton and Schumacher. Once you embrace that, you’re in for an entertaining ride.

What’s it about? Well, in light of Superman’s death in Dawn of Justice, the government realizes that they need something to be able to handle metahuman threats. Enter Amanda Waller, the director of ARGUS, who decides to form Task Force X – a team comprised of the worst of the worst bad guys. They’ll be sent on missions from which not all of them will return, but in exchange for their service, they get time knocked off their prison sentences. For their first mission, the team consists of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Katana, Diablo, Killer Croc, and Slipknot, led by uber soldier Rick Flagg. They think they’re being tasked to extract a hostage from a terrorist attack, but they find out they’re in for more than they bargained for.

No, the movie’s not perfect by any means. I could’ve completely done without Killer Croc and even Katana. Rick Flagg has a “midcard wrestler who’ll never get a shot at the title” vibe to him. And, as someone on Twitter pointed out, this was Enchantress most of the time:

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There’s no real way the Squad could’ve handled a threat like they did in the film, but whatever. It’s a movie, so I’ll go with it. I just felt like it was too “otherworldly” to be something they could handle. And the third act has a decidedly Ghostbusters (1984) feel to it, effects-wise, which seemed kinda cheesy in 2016.

Still, there was a lot to like. LOVED Margot Robbie’s Harley, which was surprising since I feel a little of that character goes a long way. With the cosplay onslaught, we’re living in the middle of Harlegeddon, yet I still didn’t get tired of seeing Robbie’s portrayal onscreen. I felt she nailed that character. I even liked My Chemical Romance Joker. It’s the first time that I was actually scared of him, and believed that he was a crazy fuck who could do something like kill a Robin. I’m gonna level with ya: Jack Nicholson never did anything for me. I know, I know. He’s supposed to be the cinematic gold standard, but I was too young, and I’d been raised on Cesar Romero. Say what you will about how corny Batman ’66 was, there was still something kinda menacing about Romero that I never quite saw in Nicholson. He had crazy eyes! Ledger came close to approximating what I felt I had read in the comics, but Leto kinda did right by me. Plus, if you’ve been reading comics lately, then *spoiler alert* you know that there are apparently three Jokers. Yeah, whatever. Anyway, I feel like Leto earned his spot as one of the three. I was picking up what he was putting down. Will Smith was spectacular, and I say that as a guy who’s not necessarily a Will Smith fan. I kinda cheered in my heart when he died in I Am Legend. That’s where I stand on The Fresh Prince, so I was equally surprised by his performance. But the true standout, though, HAS to be Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Ho Lee Shit! I grew up with “stout” Amanda Waller, so I wasn’t too happy when they hotted her up in The New 52. When she appeared on Arrow, again, she was the svelte Amanda Waller. No, I needed someone who could convincingly be referred to as “The Wall”. In my mind, Marsha Warfield was always the perfect person to play Waller (has anyone seen her lately? Someone should probably check in on her!). Then Davis came along and showed me there were other options. No, she doesn’t have the weight, but she’s hella imposing, and such an amazing character. I’d watch 2 hours of just her, but there’s no way they could sell that, so they had to give us Suicide Squad instead. Whatever. I’ll take it. She is cold blooded, and I loved every minute she was onscreen.

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Can we talk about something, though? It’s going back to the Marvel/DC comparisons. I’ve come to realize that I don’t want world building from the DC movies. I’d kinda like them to all be standalone. My biggest issue with Dawn of Justice was that I felt that, tonally, it was the wrong cornerstone on which to build a cinematic universe. As a movie on its own, though, it was more serviceable. In this movie, I would’ve been completely fine if some rando had been playing Batman instead of Affleck. Having Affleck there did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t want their movies connected because I don’t need another Marvel. I’ve got a Marvel. What I need is a DC. Sure, they think they’re doing something different by basically starting with the Justice League and branching out, but it’s still a shared universe, and I don’t think that’s playing to their strengths. If I want a shared DC Universe, I’ll just stick with watching their TV shows.

Despite all the “haters” and poor word of mouth, the movie still managed to pull in $160 million over its first five days in the US. Still, I think it’s made DC a bit more gun shy about developing projects with other characters, as they instead announced that Man of Steel 2 is now in active development. Folks claim they’re tired of always getting Batman and Superman stuff, but when given something different, they say they don’t want it. Or, in this case, they say they don’t want it, but they go see it anyway. Like I did. Anyway, I can admit when I’m wrong, and I feel like I was wrong about this movie. Sure, it’s not gonna win any awards other than, maybe, an MTV Movie Award, but it’s still pretty entertaining. If you’re on the fence, give it a shot and decide for yourself. In any case, the movie’s box office broke a bunch of records, so I’m saying Suicide Squad had the West Week Ever.

29th Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/29/16

by Will

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The Equalizer is what Rod from The Black Guy Who Tips Podcast would call “An Impossible White Man” movie. That’s when a (usually) White male protagonist gets away with a whole lot of crazy, death-defying shit that no one should be able to survive. There’s a caveat, though, that this doesn’t only apply to White males, despite its name. For example, ScarJo’s Lucy could be considered an Impossible White Man role. It’s more about branding than accuracy. Anyway, in The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays a former black ops dude who’s trying to live a quiet life working at a Home Depot (they don’t call it Home Depot, but I know one when I see it!). He lives a meticulous, almost OCD life, dining at the same diner, bringing his own teabags, and placing his utensils in a certain manner. Another regular at the diner, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, happens to be a Russian prostitute, and when she gets roughed up by her pimp, Denzel comes out of retirement to exact revenge – not just on her pimp, but on the whole Russian organized crime establishment! The crazy thing to me is that the mob didn’t even kill Moretz – they just beat her up, yet Denzel proceeds to leave a trail of bodies for a girl he barely even knows. The action in it is insane, so I’ve got to hand it to Denzel, who’s no spring chicken. Anyway, it’s definitely worth checking out, even though they’re apparently making a totally unnecessary sequel.

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I’ve wanted to see The Bronze since the moment I first heard of it. It stars, and was written by, Melissa Rauch, who you wouldn’t know as Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory because I’m sure you’re too cool to watch that show. Anyway, Rauch plays Hope Ann Greggory, a foulmouthed Bronze medalist gymnast from the 2004 Rome Olympics who is still milking what’s left of her fame in her small town of Amherst, Ohio. She became a hometown darling for winning the medal despite being injured, Kerri Strug style. Now, 12 years later, she’s got no job, still lives with her postal worker father, and steals money from his mailbag. She cruises around town, blasting hip hop while going to the mall to pressure folks into giving her free stuff. Long story short, her life is going nowhere. Meanwhile, Maggie, a young promising local gymnast is headed to Nationals, and she just may make the town forget all about Hope. Feeling threatened, Hope wants nothing to do with Maggie. That is until Hope’s former coach commits suicide. In her suicide note, she promises Hope $500,000 if she’ll agree to coach Maggie all the way up to the championships. Suddenly Hope has a purpose, even if it’s just so she can get that money. At first, Hope tries to sabotage Maggie until former beau/rival Winter Soldier Sebastian Stan comes along and tries to steal her away from Hope so that he can coach her. Hope gets no money if this happens, so she decides to take the training seriously and actually train Maggie for success. I won’t spoil the ending for ya, but I’d highly recommend watching it if only so you can see that crazy ass gymnastic sex scene between Rauch and Stan. Trust me when I say you’ve never seen anything like it. While it may not have been as bust-a-gut hilarious as I thought it would be (it is kinda dark after all), I still really enjoyed it and felt it could easily become a quotable cult hit. My favorite lines include “Absence makes the dick grow harder. You better not have gotten any clit jizz in my car!” and “This is what I wear. THIS IS WHAT HEROES WEAR!” Anyway, if you ever get the chance to watch this, check it out.

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I love The Lonely Island. I love their albums, I love their digital shorts, and I love their movies. Though it bombed in theaters, Hot Rod is hi-larious, so I had nothing but high hopes for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. In the film, the Lonely Island guys were once a boyband called StyleBoyz. Eventually, they had a disagreement that caused them to break up, and Andy Samberg’s Conner4Real became a Justin Bieber-esque solo artist. His debut album was called Thriller, Also and it sold 4 million copies. Now, as the movie starts, it’s on the eve of the release of his second album, CONNquest. He partners with a company called Aquaspin that’s going to package his album with their home appliances, so his music will be coming out of refrigerators, microwaves, etc. Well, this plan fails miserably, as some folks even see it as a violation of privacy. His album tanks, and the film follows Conner as he deals with all of that. At the end of the day, it feels like a REALLY long SNL Digital Short, and it’s completely built on its cameos. Like, it’s sort of amazing how many music stars they got to agree to be in this movie – some of whom I didn’t even know had a sense of humor, like Nas. And if you follow The Lonely Island, then you already know some of the cameos you’re gonna get (hint: “Dick in a Box” and “Jack Sparrow”). While I didn’t laugh as much as I did at Hot Rod, it was still pretty funny, and I think I got exactly what I was expecting. Also, I’ve given him some shit online for taking terrible TV roles (all of his shows get cancelled), but Tim Meadows playing a parody of boyband manager Johnny Wright is probably my favorite Meadows role since The Ladies Man. Oh, and look for the brief cameo by original Black Ranger Walter Emmanuel Jones! Anyway, I definitely recommend this movie.

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So I saw Batman: The Killing Joke in the theater on Monday as part of a Fathom Event. There had been a lot of controversy surrounding the movie, as it’s based on a controversial story. If you’ve never read it, The Joker cripples and sexually assaults Barbara Gordon and then shows the pictures to her father in an attempt to drive him insane. To further the controversy, however, in order to pad out the story to a feature-length movie, the writers added some additional material – including a scene where Batgirl and Batman have sex on a rooftop. A lot of folks took issue with this because they believe that Batman serves as a father figure to the other members of the Bat Family. I actually disagree somewhat. I think he’s a father figure to Robins, but Batgirl is a different story. Plus, there’s already a precedent for a relationship between the two, as this was established in The Animated Series/Batman Beyond continuity. In fact, it was the relationship between Bruce and Barbara that drove Dick away, causing him to establish the Nightwing identity. Further along, in Batman Beyond 2.0, the comic that is set in this continuity, Barbara becomes pregnant by Bruce, but loses the baby after an attack. So, as you can see, Bat Banging happens.

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Anyway, the first 25 minutes feel like a tacked on “This is why you should care about Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, so when we cripple her, it’ll matter to you” prologue. It honestly does feel like a lost episode of The Animated Series, even though it’s a slightly different animation style. It’s got the same voice actors, and even the Batmobile from The New Batman Adventures. It’s generally an unspoken rule that every artist/designer does their own take on the Batmobile, so it’s almost like they went out of their way to make it feel familiar. An up and coming mobster takes a shine to Batgirl and makes her chase him around the city. Meanwhile, Batman isn’t treating her like an equal partner, so she’s actually welcoming the attention from the mobster. It all culminates in that rooftop sex scene, which then results in her deciding to hang up the cape and cowl. Again, it’s a good “lost” episode, but it’s almost superfluous to what’s to come in the rest of the movie. The writers probably felt like the prologue would strengthen Batgirl’s character, but it actually does the opposite. She comes off as an annoying single gal from a romantic comedy who can’t understand why Batman won’t see the potential in her. She even comes with her own stereotypical gay best friend, to whom she complains about the lack of attention from Batman.

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The rest of the film plays out like the comic you probably know and hate. The sad thing, though, is that Barbara Gordon is nowhere near as important to The Killing Joke as The Killing Joke is to Barbara Gordon. What I mean is that the story changes the character (almost) irreparably, while she contributes very little to the story itself. Her attack is simply a mcguffin used to break her father. It really doesn’t matter that she’s Batgirl, as it’s not like her crippling happened “in the line of duty”. I mean, her attack doesn’t even spur her father OR Batman to action. The story ends on a joke, for God’s sake, which I’ve always felt somewhat belittles what happens to her. There’s no reason to strengthen Batgirl/Barbara as she doesn’t leave the story a hero. Contrary to how it’s been sold over the years, it’s not Barbara Gordon’s story. She’s just collateral damage in a different matter altogether. I mean, Batman tries to reason with the same guy who has killed one partner and maimed another. The story has never made a ton of sense to me, but it’s always lauded because “Alan Moore”. Anyway, if you want to see a faithful adaptation that brings the story “to life”, this was a pretty good adaptation. The new material is unnecessary, but the stuff you’re familiar with is still familiar here. It’s worth seeing, if only for the discussion it’s bound to trigger. If you want to read more of my thoughts on the film, I was invited by the kind folks at Action A Go Go to write a review, so check it out!

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On TV, I caught the lackluster return of MADtv, now airing during prime time on The CW. A Dora parody in 2016? And it really botched the political stuff, which should be left to SNL. Elizabeth Warren as a Def Jam comic? It all just felt so dated. Like, it would’ve been out of place during the original run of the show, let alone the reboot. Their makeup person should be fired. If anyone’s gonna be a breakout star from this incarnation, it’ll probably be Michelle Ortiz. She kicked off the show with a prayer to the dark lord Satan, and then starred in the aforementioned Dora sketch. Will Sasso came back to do his Kenny Rogers impression, which is hella dated. When’s the last time anyone talked about Kenny Rogers? And it was kinda cheap that they used a “classic” sketch with Key & Peele. At this point, the show feels more like a summer burn-off than a promising debut. I know it’s just the first episode, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it got canceled after these 8 episodes, to merely become a footnote on a Wikipedia page.

In TV news, #DontCancelGirlMeetsWorld was trending earlier this week. As the story goes, the cast of Girl Meets World filmed the 3rd season finale this week, and there’s no official word on whether the show will be renewed. Star Rowan Blanchard sounded kinda bleak with the following tweet:

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I don’t really know what the ratings situation is, but I don’t think folks have anything to worry about…yet. You see, I’m fairly certain the show will be back for a 4th season because Disney likes to get as close to 100 episodes as they can. There are already 58 episodes of the show, but they’ve been doing 30-episode seasons lately. So, the good news is that they still have a ways to go. The bad news, however, is that it’ll probably be done after episode 100. Again, Disney doesn’t like to do more than 100 because it’s just not profitable for them after that point. Even Jessie got 98 episodes, and it was nowhere near as beloved as GMW. The thing to point out is that, barring a time jump, we’ll never get to see Riley and the gang graduate. She’ll never get to meet the World to which the show is meant to introduce her. Anyway, according to the pic above, the season appears to be going out with a bang, with a mega reunion of the Boy Meets World cast – including BOTH actresses who played little sister Morgan. I feel like the show gets way too heavyhanded at times, but I’d be sad to see it go. Still, it opened the doors for other revivals, like Fuller House, so who knows what we’ll end up with next. Perfecter Strangers? Just The Eleven of Us?

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In other TV news, it was announced that the new Star Trek series would be called Star Trek: Discovery. The show will air on CBS All Access in the US, and on Netflix everywhere else. Why couldn’t it be on Netflix EVERYWHERE?! I mean, who doesn’t have Netflix? Anyway, the show will be set on the U.S.S. Discovery, NCC-1031, in the prime timeline (not the J.J. Abrams “Kelvin” timeline of the recent movies). I know it’s the future and all (so the holiday probably doesn’t even exist anymore), but someone better make a joke about how it’s basically the “USS Halloween”. Anyway, we were introduced to the ship in a teaser video that debuted at SDCC. I hate the design of this ship. The saucer is fine, but the secondary hull is way too angular. If you know your Trek, it kinda reminds me of an IDIC. As I said on Twitter, it looks like that Star Trek pizza cutter that ThinkGeek’s always trying to get people to buy.

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When it comes to Marvel, I guess I ought to do an SDCC wrap-up. Let’s see…OK, Brie Larson was confirmed as Captain Marvel. Yay? I mean, I have no real opinion on that casting one way or another. Folks seem to like her, so I guess it’s a good choice. I just don’t know that much about Captain Marvel. I was more of a fan before she was promoted to Captain. We also got the full trailer for Luke Cage, as well as teaser trailers for Iron Fist and The Defenders. A friend on Twitter said “You know it’s a Marvel Netflix show when there’s a fight in a hallway”, and that’s exactly how I felt watching the Cage trailer. People like to say the Marvel movies are too formulaic now, but I feel that way about the Netflix shows. I haven’t even touched Daredevil season 2 yet because I’m just sort of tired of their whole gritty thing. We didn’t see enough of Iron Fist to really make an opinion, but at least it didn’t trigger the cries of “He should’ve been Asian!” like I thought it would. I don’t know if folks have moved on from that or if they were just too overwhelmed by all the other SDCC news to even think about it. I know folks don’t like to “count” the Fox stuff, but we got a trailer for the X-Men related show, Legion. It actually looks intriguing, but I’m not sure I’m ready for yet another Marvel show that’s only tangentially related to a movie franchise (looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).We also got a trippy new Doctor Strange trailer, but that movie’s just not registering for me. I don’t like the magical side of the Marvel Universe, so there’s really nothing to lure me in at this point. I mean, I’ll see it but, as the kids say, I’m not “hype” for it. And there was supposedly some footage of Spider-Man fighting Vulture, but that’s not a sentence that fills me with excitement. I always felt Vulture was, like, a 3rd-tier Spider-Man villain, so I don’t care who’s playing him because it’s going to take a lot of convincing for me to take him seriously. I don’t mean to sound so “meh” about Marvel’s showing, as there was some notable stuff there. I just felt like the presentation was more of the same.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix has ordered a second season of one of my favorite shows of 2015: Scrotal Recall. Since the title is off-putting, however, the show will be renamed Lovesick.
  • The Vampire Diaries will end after season 8. With it and Teen Wolf gone, how will our teenage daughters embrace their desire to bang monsters?!

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  • Speaking of Teen Wolf, we got our first look at Tyler Hoechlin as Superman on Supergirl next season. Yeah, not feeling it. He looks like some dude off Tindr who went to a Halloween party dressed as Superman. He’s not built enough.
  • Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes will be appearing on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. next season. As someone on Twitter said, he’ll probably just be a guy in a leather jacket who has smoke come out of his ears one episode. TV budgets!
  • Thor: Ragnarok will officially incorporate aspects of the Planet Hulk storyline into the movie, with Hulk’s armor on display at SDCC
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Kurt Russell will officially be playing Star-Lord’s dad in the form of Ego The Living Planet
  • Reportedly, a reboot of The Rocketeer is being developed with a Black woman as the title character.
  • Apparently the human stars of Sesame Street have been let go as the show heads in a new direction. I figured Elmo had taken out a hit on them years ago, so I was surprised to learn they were even still around.
  • Viacom announced that VH-1 Classic will be rebranded as MTV Classic on Monday. The network will air 90s programming, like Daria, Beavis & Butthead and, most importantly, music videos!

Links I Loved

The Wedding Crasher of Lincoln, Neb. – The New York Times

I Need To Move: A Pokémon Go Sob Story – The Workprint

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I never thought I’d be saying this, but I think that DC “won” SDCC. They definitely brought their “A” game on all fronts. For the TV shows, we got new trailers showing the effects of “Flashpoint” on the cast of The Flash, while also showing Oliver putting together a new team on Arrow. Speaking of the TV shows, it was announced that Katie Cassidy scored one of those “Berlantiverse” series regular contracts like Wentworth Miller and John Barrowman got. So, even though Laurel’s “dead”, she’ll now be able to pop up wherever she pleases, including The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

On the movie front, they made one final push for Suicide Squad with a “remix” trailer that they showed in Hall H. I hate to say it, but I think they’re wearing me down. I had said I had no plans to see it in the theater, but now I have a morbid curiosity about it. We also got the trailer for The LEGO Batman Movie, which was exactly what I thought I was gonna get when I watched LEGO DC Comics: Batman Beleagured. That movie was a toyetic disappointment, but this looks hilarious. I love Will Arnett’s Batman because he has this comedic douchebaggery to him that just makes everything he does funnier. I can’t wait for that to come out.

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Now for the big boys. I did not like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I still haven’t seen the Ultimate Edition, so maybe I’ll change my mind. Or just lose more hours of my life. Still, that movie soured me on the Zack Snyder DC Cinematic Universe. It made me not want to see Suicide Squad, and it made me fear for what a full scale Justice League movie would entail. Then I saw the footage they revealed at SDCC. The movie’s only been filming for a few weeks, but it already looks really good. Hell, it looks great. I didn’t hate Ezra Miller as Barry Allen as much as I thought I would. I was thoroughly impressed by Cyborg’s appearance onscreen. I liked the humor, as the tone didn’t seem as dark of Dawn of Justice, even though they’re supposedly facing a bigger threat. It was kinda weird seeing Bruce Wayne in the Nick Fury recruitment role, as Batman isn’t exactly a “joiner” unless it’s his own Bat Family. Still, I can buy it, and roll with what they’re trying to do. I am actually looking forward to Justice League, which is not something I could’ve said back in March.

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The true gem of all the trailers, however, was the Wonder Woman trailer. It’s funny – Whenever people talk about the fact there’s a Wonder Woman movie coming, someone tends to always chime in with “It’s about time”. I also roll my eyes at this person because I never really saw the potential of a Wonder Woman film. I’m the guy who points out there are very few “definitive” Wonder Woman comic runs. To me, she hadn’t “earned” a movie, so there was no “about time” about it. Then I saw the trailer from SDCC, and I thought aloud “It’s about time”. I would never call myself a “Wonder Woman fan”, but I’m trying to learn more about her so I can indoctrinate my daughter at an early age, and WW is the gateway drug (kinda like how every early ’00s article about comics said you should introduce your girlfriend to comics by having her read Blankets). I went from casual fan to “OH MY GOD WHERE CAN I BUY TICKETS?!” in the span of that trailer. It’s amazing how we were all against Gadot when she was first cast, and now I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. I did, however, kinda dislike how the lasso was animated, but maybe it’ll look better on the big screen. Anyway, I feel like DC ruled Hall H this year – something that’s usually a notch on Marvel’s belt. For this reason, I think DC Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

22nd Jul2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

Power Coins

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

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

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

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

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

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

01st Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/1/16

by Will

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In the world of movies, Lindsay and I watched Big Hero 6. It’s been on the DVR for, like, a year, so it felt like it was finally time to climb that mountain. I’m honestly not sure what took so long as, on paper, it’s my cup of tea. I mean, it’s an animated Marvel/Disney collaboration. That should be a no-brainer. If you haven’t seen it, Hiro Hamada is a teen prodigy who has graduated high school by the age of 13. Instead of using those smarts constructively, however, he spends his time competing in illegal robot fights. That all changes, though, when Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, takes him to his college to show him the inventions he and his friends have been working on. At that moment, Hiro decides he MUST get into that school. And then some other stuff happens that I don’t want to spoil for you. If you know your Disney movies, you can probably figure it out. It just hit me: ya know why I never really wanted to see this film? It’s for that reason right there. The trailers couldn’t really get into the plot because it would spoil the stuff I can’t tell you about. So, they just showed this kid with a lovable marshmallow-looking robot in a police station, and that’s really all you have to go on. That robot is Baymax, who’s Tadashi’s crowning achievement. He’s a health bot that activates whenever someone says “Ow!’ Anyway, some stuff happens and everyone becomes a superhero. I really liked this movie. I mean really liked it. That said, the ending is kind of funny to me because I feel like Baymax would’ve saved more lives in his original capacity as a health bot than as a superhero, but what do I know? At least it sets things up for further adventures, which we’ll see in the Big Hero 6 TV series that premieres on Disney XD next year.

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Then, I watched Keanu. God, was that a disappointment. Colloquially known as “The Key & Peele Movie”, it stars the comedy duo as cousins who get wrapped up in the drug trade while trying to get back the cat that had been stolen from one of them. But it’s so much more involved than that. You see, the cat originally belonged to a Mexican drug lord, but it escaped when said drug lord was killed by The Allentown Boys (assassins also played by Key & Peele). The cat, then, ends up on the doorstep of Rell (Peele), who takes him in and names him “Keanu”. After a guy’s night with his cousin Clarence (Key), Rell returns home to find that Keanu’s been stolen. So, they set out to find Keanu, and somehow end up in the drug trade because the local gangsters think they’re the Allentown Boys. Meanwhile, the Allentown Boys are trying to track down the guys who’ve been pretending to be them. I guess? There’s no real motivation behind the Allentown Boys. They’re just these supernatural killing machines. The whole movie’s just doing too much. And it’s nowhere near as funny as what you’d come to expect from Key & Peele. It has its moments, but then there’s a lot of weird stuff going on, like how the movie is really just one big George Michael music video. As much as it pains me to say it, I do not recommend this movie.

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On the stand-up comedy front, I caught Deon Cole: Cole Blooded Seminar, which premiered Saturday on Comedy Central. If you’ve seen him on Black-ish or Angie Tribeca, then you know that Cole is HILARIOUS. A former writer for Conan, he’s clearly a funny guy, but I feel like his strengths are outside of stand-up. To say that I prefer his acting doesn’t mean he’s a bad comic, though, and he’s got some funny bits in this special. His writing credits give him crossover appeal, but don’t expect something like you’d get from W. Kamau Bell or someone like that. He’s definitely a Black Comic, and that’s what you get here. Cole actually took over the Comedy Central Radio Drive Home on Friday, where he played some of his favorite stand-up acts. His influences range from Earthquake and Corey Holcomb to Steven Wright and Ellen DeGeneres. He’s got eclectic taste, and that comes across in his stand-up. Anyway, tl;dr it’s definitely worth checking out.

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In comics news, Marvel spoke to Fast Company about an upcoming publishing initiative called “Divided We Stand”. Based on the promo art above, it appears to be The Old Farts vs The Young Upstarts. I really hope it’s not some generational disagreement, like Gen X vs Millennials. It’s also been pointed out that the “old” grouping tends to be less diverse than the “new” grouping. According to Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, everyone featured in the teaser images is there with a purpose, be it an upcoming solo book or an integral role in an established book. I’m reminded of one of the last storylines in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, called “Divided We Fall”. While most folks had checked out of those books by that point, there was some really daring storytelling going on, as Captain America was elected President of the United States, mutants were placed on a reservation, and an actual Civil War broke out, with part of the country wanting to secede. It was hastily wrapped up, as Marvel had to get the universe ready for Ultimate End to coincide with Secret Wars, but if this even comes close to what that was, we might be in for an interesting ride. Anyway, the article stresses that the art doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a storyline coming, pitting both groups against each other. After all, we’re just getting into Civil War II, so it’s not like they could go back to that well so soon. But this could be an indication as to how they’re handling the Marvel brand for the foreseeable future. It’s worth noting that there are some important characters missing, like Tony Stark, Peter Parker, or Sam Wilson. Peter might be busy with the whole “Clone Conspiracy” storyline, but I am curious about Tony and Sam. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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In toy news, we’re getting another series of LEGO DC Super Heroes Mighty Micros, coming in January 2017. The sets will be on display later this month at San Diego Comic-Con. It seems kind of interesting that Wonder Woman would come with Doomsday, but I guess they’re trying to capitalize on that pairing from Dawn of Justice (which seems to be the only scene that everyone unanimously enjoyed). As a big fan of the Mighty Micros line, I can’t wait for these, but I still with they came with regular minifigures; instead of the normal legs, they use the stubby Hobbit legs that don’t have leg joints. I’m not sure if this decision was based on a licensing agreement or what, but I’d like to be able to get regular DC minifigures without having to buy big ass expensive sets to get them. Anyway, here’s hoping we also get another series of the Marvel Mighty Micros, as well.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

CW DC Promo Group

    • We got a new promo image for the CW’s DC lineup this fall. Kinda hate how Supergirl is the focal point, seeing as how this is all “The House That Arrow Built”, but I understand why. Plus, it’s just better symmetry to have her in the middle instead of Ollie.
    • Wreck-It Ralph 2 was announced, with a release date of March 9th, 2018. One of these days, I’ll finally get around to watching the first one. Fun fact: Brave made more money domestically, yet this is the one that gets the sequel!
    • Captain America: Civil War will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray on September 13th.
    • Preacher has been renewed for a second season on AMC. Quite the feat, considering it was on against Game of Thrones.
    • Backstreet Boys hinted that they might be in the studio with country duo Florida Georgia Line. This is kinda funny, seeing as how FGL have recently started singing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” at their shows.
    • The J.J. Abrams Star Trek universe has officially been named the Kelvin Timeline, based on the fact that Kirk’s dad commands the U.S.S. Kelvin at the beginning of the first movie. In the real world, Henry Kelvin was Abrams’ grandfather, and has been incorporated into several Abrams projects as Easter eggs.

  • My buddy Chris is at it again with his Comic Tropes video series. This time around, he takes a swing at the tropes of comic writer Brian Michael Bendis, while getting drunk on cider. Check it out!

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It was a great week if you were  a woman and/or person of color in Hollywood, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences sent out 683 invitations to new members. 46 percent of those invites went to women, while 41 percent went to people of color. If you’ll remember, the Academy, which votes on the Oscars, came under fire this year due to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on social media. It was felt that the Academy needed diverse voices, as the films being nominated seemed to represent only a particular segment of the films that were being released. The 683 invites set a record, and they went out to folks like Idris Elba and John Boyega. It’s a funny mix, however. I mean, for every Oscar Isaac and Chadwick Boseman, they also sent invitations to Kate Beckinsale and Marlon Wayans. Tom Hiddleston and Michael B. Jordan? Yup, but you also got Morris Chestnut and Vivica A. Fox. Brie Larson and Rachel McAdams? Sure, but you’re also getting Michelle Rodriguez and Daphne Zuniga. So, if it’s diverse voices that folks wanted, it’s diverse voices they’re gonna get! Still, this initiative seems to move the makeup of the Academy closer to “a jury of one’s own peers”, so maybe the Oscar votes will start to represent what regular people liked instead of being limited to the whims of the stodgy old guard. So, if you were one of the 683 people invited to join the Academy, you’re probably having the West Week Ever.

20th May2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/20/16 (Upfronts Edition)

by Will

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On the movie front, this week I watched The Ladykillers, from the Coen Brothers. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a 2004 remake of a 1955 British film, where a band of criminals plot to rob a riverboat, using an old lady’s basement as their base of operations. When the lady discovers their plan, and doesn’t agree with it, they decide the only option is to kill her. It’s funny because I know I’ve seen this film before, but I can’t remember why or when. I usually don’t include rewatches in my reviews, but it wasn’t until the end that I realized, yes, I’ve seen this movie. It’s got a great ensemble with Tom Hanks, Marlon Wayans and JK Simmons. Hanks’ character steals the show as the creepy, yet educated, southern gentleman ringleader of the bunch. One thing I found interesting: the kindly old lady is Black, uber religious, and prides herself on the fact that she sends $5 to Bob Jones University every month. Now, Bob Jones is a pretty racist institution. Founded in 1927, it didn’t admit Blacks until 1975, and had a ban on interracial dating until 2000 (!). It seems odd to me that she’d be funneling her money there. And it’s not a case of colorblind casting, as the character is clearly meant to have always been a kindly old Black church lady. I just found that odd. Anyway, if you’re looking to kill some time, it’s a cute little movie.

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I also caught 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s shrouded in mystery, so I won’t give too much away. Watching it, though, I realized that it’s really just a dramatic adaptation of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: A girl gets kidnapped and taken to a bunker where she’s told the world has ended outside. Only instead of The Reverend there’s John Goodman. It was pretty suspenseful, and it was interesting to see how it tied into the whole Cloverfield universe. They’re clearly building something big here, and I’m eager to see what the next installments bring.  I actually had the ending spoiled for me by a coworker back when it came out, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment. I definitely recommend this movie.

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On the television front, I caught the HBO stand-up special Jerrod Carmichael: Love at the Store. Now, like me, you’re probably more familiar with Carmichael as the star and creator of The Carmichael Show. That said, I didn’t know anything about his stand-up. I’ve already mentioned that Jerrod is probably my least favorite character on his own show, so imagine my surprise when his special actually really spoke to me. He said a lot of stuff that would probably be considered controversial, but it was hilarious. There were even some bits where the audience seemed scared to go along with him. He goes into a few things like how talent trumps morals, which is why Michael Jackson still probably got into Heaven. You could see where a lot of the material from the sitcom came from, as it was derived from his stand-up act. I had just seen the episode earlier that evening where his father says that he tolerates road rage from folks in expensive cars because they’re clearly important and have places to be. That same joke was used in the special. Anyway, this special gave me a newfound respect for Carmichael that I didn’t necessarily have before. I’ve always enjoyed the show, but his character just wasn’t very likable. This special showed me that that’s not what he’s about, and he’s just not warm and fuzzy, but he is pretty smart. I highly recommend checking it out.

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I also watched the stand-up special Nate Bargatze: Full Time Magic. I really like Bargatze, as he’s got a sort of Southern everyman vibe to him, but he’s not country like the Blue Collar Comedy guys. He plays it pretty safe, and I’d say he’s family friendly. He’s got a funny bit about trying to fight his wife’s ex-boyfriend on a boat. I’ve been watching a lot of guys doing the Asshole Comic thing lately, like Tosh and Jeselnik, so this was a welcome reprieve from that. Funny stuff from a nice guy. Check it out!

1893

I don’t normally do food and beverage reviews because I don’t have the most refined palette, but when I tried Pepsi’s 1893, I knew I HAD to talk about it. Marketed as “a bold spin on an original cola”, it’s…interesting. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t just love it either. Like, if it were on tap at a restaurant, I wouldn’t order a refill. It’s good in one dose. In a lot of ways, it’s the Arch Deluxe of cola. Anyone remember the Arch Deluxe? If not, it was an attempt by McDonald’s to make a sophisticated “adult” burger since most of their fare had been seen as something for kids. It had peppercorns, and Dijon sauce, and a whole bunch of other nonsense. Needless to say, it didn’t last. The commercial has the footnote that 1893 doesn’t contain alcohol, but they’re clearly marketing it as an “adult” drink. I mean, the commercial even features a Soda Sommelier (that’s a fancy word for “wine dude”). In fact, if you go to the website, it has recipes for cocktails where you use the soda as a mixer. I also tried the Ginger Cola variant, and no me gusta! At first, it started out tasting like Holiday Spice Pepsi, but then the ginger overpowered everything. After a few sips, I felt like I was drinking straight cologne out of that can. So, at the end of the day, 1893 is NOT a thirst quencher. If anything, Pepsi’s just trying to get into the mixology business by tying into their preexisting brand.

ghostbusters

A new Ghostbusters trailer was released this week, and it’s miles above what we got before. I think this movie could be pretty funny, as I always trust Paul Feig, but I fear the well’s been poisoned on this one. There’s just SO. MUCH. BACKLASH. And it’s gotten ugly. It didn’t help that the “Angry Video Game Nerd” James Rolfe posted a video about how he wouldn’t be filming a video reviewing the movie. Huh? What a bunch of wasted effort! It’s funny because his own film, Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie, is probably the worst piece of shit I’ve ever seen. Ever. Anyway, he’s now the figurehead of the Anti-Ghostbusters 2016 crowd, and he’s amassing followers quicker than Rocky did during that Philly jog. Now, we’ve got folks claiming the haters are sexist, while the haters are defending their right to hate without sexism coming into play. Then Patton Oswalt got involved, and folks started making jokes about his recently deceased wife. Like I said, ugly. At this point, however, I do kinda wish they hadn’t called it Ghostbusters because there are going to be comparisons and expectations. I’d rather it thrive or fail on its own merits, and not by how it didn’t live up to some 30 yr old movie that a bunch of folks seem to think is infallible.

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There was a LOT of news over at DC Entertainment this week. First off, they debuted that boring logo that you see above this paragraph. Ugh! Why? I said it on Twitter, and it got a bunch of likes and RTs, so it must be true: DC is like the insecure kid who changes just to fit in with the cool kids. This is their 3rd logo change in 10 yrs. That’s a brand problem. They had a logo that worked for THIRTY YEARS in the form of the “DC Bullet”. Then, for no real reason other than “change”, they adopted the “spin” logo in 2005. I liked that logo because it was something of a natural evolution of the bullet. Then, when “The New 52” happened, we got the “peel” logo which, as my pal Dean pointed out, kinda looked like a penis head. I did not like the peel, but I did like how it was customized for each property. There was a different one for Gotham, Arrow, etc. Now, we get…this. They’re trying to say it’s like a throwback logo, but it really isn’t. It’s just underwhelming. And for what? “Rebirth”? We don’t even know what this whole initiative is yet, but it’s important enough to change the brand again? I just don’t buy it. And I don’t see this logo having much staying power.

Meanwhile at DC, it was announced that Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Warner Bros Executive VP Jon Berg will co-run a new division called DC Films. So, basically these two guys are the Kevin Feige of the DC Cinematic Universe. Yup, it takes two guys at DC to do the same job as one at Marvel. OK. Anyway, the reaction to this has been mixed. Some feel like this is a great move, as it might wrest some control away from Zack Snyder, who’s seen as a detrimental force behind the scenes. Others, however, who think Johns is the worst thing to happen to comics, believe that this is just another bad move from a poorly run company. I’m kind of in the middle. I like Johns, and I feel like he longs for the days of the Silver Age of comics. After all, he’s spent the better part of his career trying to take things back to the way they were. That said, I don’t know what I expect him to do for the movies. After all, he was heavily involved in Green Lantern, and look how that turned out. He’s no Greg Berlanti, so I haven’t learned to just trust everything he’s involved with onscreen. I hear they’re already developing a Harley Quinn spin-off of Suicide Squad, which was never on their production slate, so it’s clear they’ve pretty much thrown out that “roadmap”. So, maybe Johns is what’s needed to right the ship, and get things on track. Or maybe he’s just another distraction. I guess time will tell.

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It wouldn’t be a West Week Ever without a Power Rangers update. No, this time I’m not talking about the upcoming movie. Instead, I want to introduce you to The Order. It’s a crowdfunded film that stars nothing but former Power Rangers actors as mercenaries who turn on each other. And it looks dreadful. On the plus side, it kinda looks like something Asylum would put out. On the negative side, it’s more Dead 7 than it is Sharknado. Reading interviews with the writers, it seems like they got inspired by the Power/Rangers dark fan film that came out last year, and decided “We could do that”. Unfortunately, there are no powers or cool helmets. Instead, there are a whole bunch of prop guns and scowling actors. Oooh, they’re so edgy! I can’t figure out what’s more astounding, though: the fact that they assembled this many former PR actors OR the fact that Jason David Frank isn’t involved. Check out the trailer here.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was announced that Chris Hardwick will be hosting the Preacher after show, Talking Preacher. It should have been called Preaching to the Choir
  • The fifth Transformers film will be called Transformers: The Last Knight. But Michael Bay is still involved, so it’ll just be another 2 hours of nondescript metal things hitting each other.
  • At their network upfronts, CBS debuted the trailer and logo for the upcoming Star Trek series

    • Joining the new Star Trek series, CBS announced a spin-off of The Good Wife that will only air on the streaming CBS All Access service
    • Justin Timberlake released a SECOND video for “Can’t Stop The Feeling”. And people wonder why the music industry is broke…
    • If you hate the idea of an all-Black Uncle Buck reboot, then you’re really gonna hate the Latino One Day at a Time reboot being developed at Netflix
    • Kevin Smith is in talks to develop a TV series based on 80s cult film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
    • This promotional video for Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters was released in conjunction with the release of X-Men: Apocalypse. If you want a real surprise, call the number in the ad.

chap report

There’s been a LOT of TV news in the past week, but we’ll all remember “Bloody Thursday”. I had the pleasure of discussing that day of massive cancellations with Corey over at The Chap Report. Check out our episode here.

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I hate to break it to ya, but nothing really “won” the week. There was, however, a lot of TV news as the broadcast networks had their upfront presentations where they presented their fall schedules. I usually post the trailers, but the networks tend to make them private on a whim, so just look for them on YouTube. So, I thought I’d leave you with a few thoughts on what was revealed (I left out midseason shows, as we don’t know where they’ll be scheduled at this time):

ABC: Kinda surprised about the Secrets and Lies situation. I mean, when was the last time that a renewed show sat on the bench for an entire season? It was renewed in May 2015, but the second season won’t debut until fall? This ain’t the UK. We don’t take those kinds of breaks here. Were there production issues? Conviction looks good. Very ABC, even though it’s not a Shondaland series. Too bad we lost Agent Carter and Atwell’s accent, but I think it’ll be a winner. The Middle loses its Wednesday perch, but I think it can hold its own anchoring Tuesday night. Plus, it’s been living on borrowed time for the past 2 seasons, anyway. American Housewife is…interesting. Katy Mixon and Diedrich Bader as your leads? This looks like the kind of show ABC tries and ultimately fails with. It’s Trophy Wife meets Suburgatory, both cancelled. I also think moving Fresh Off the Boat to 9 is a bad move, as it’s a family favorite. Maybe it’ll regain the 8:30 slot once Housewife fails. They say moving Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to 10 will allow them to make it an edgier show. Hell, if it becomes a better show, I’m all for it. Speechless is ABC’s second new comedy about a special needs kid (Housewife being the other), but Minnie Driver doesn’t have the best TV track record. Still, it looks like it has a lot of heart, and it can’t do better than being sandwiched between The Goldbergs and Modern Family. Designated Survivor looks interesting, but I think everyone just wants Jack Bauer back. I like Kiefer, and it looks like his character went to Cornell, so I give this one season. I don’t think it’s gonna be a runaway smash. I could be wrong, though. It’s gonna be my ABC wild card. Notorious has the benefit of being the meat in a Shondaland sandwich, as it gets Scandal‘s timeslot while Kerry Washington’s pregnancy progresses. It doesn’t look that good, though, and we all know it’s just keeping Scandal‘s seat warm. I think I’d rather this timeslot go to Conviction, as it just seems like a worthier show for TGIT placement.

CBS: Supergirl‘s gone, and Scorpion moves to 10, so Monday night is about comedies again. The Big Bang Theory does its annual Monday residency until Thursday Night Football ends. We also get the new Kevin James show Kevin Can Wait. It’s the kind of title I’d have come up with, but riddle me this: why not just bring back The King of Queens? Everyone loves revivals these days, and the entire cast is available right now. Anyway, CBS knows what it’s doing with this one. Erinn Hayes is great, and I genuinely think the public likes Kevin James. This thing’ll get 7 seasons, easy. I’m amazed Two Broke Girls is still on, but I also think it’s the wrong lead-in for The Odd Couple. Its humor is a bit raunchier, but I feel like CBS just didn’t know where to put Couple – especially since its renewal was reportedly a last minute decision. Bull looks really good. Michael Weatherly has a built-in fan base from all those years on NCIS (and Dark Angel), so I’m sure CBS is hoping they come over and check out this show. I wonder, however, how many folks would be turned off if they knew the show was based on the early career of Dr. Phil. Yeah, that Dr. Phil. Anyway, it’s in the middle of an NCIS sandwich, so that should help ratings. I don’t typically watch procedurals, but I think I’ll check this out. The Great Indoors just looks like Scruffy Jeff Winger hates Millennials. I don’t really see it lasting, but I like McHale’s smarminess, so I’ll check it out. Pure Genius is an interesting case. I watched the trailer waiting for the other shoe to drop, and when it did, it still didn’t really sway me. I don’t like the lead, and I wonder how he tested in focus groups. I get what they’re trying to do here, but I don’t know about this one. This is gonna be my CBS wild card. MacGyver just feels like a lazy nostalgia grab. I don’t like the lead, as he’s got a punchable face and needs a haircut. All that aside, there are major production issues with this show behind the scenes, as it was reported they’re basically throwing out the entire supporting cast and starting over. CBS felt they had something with the MacGyver name, but it doesn’t seem like they really know what they want to do with it. This feels rushed into production, similar to Fox’s Touch from a few seasons ago.

Fox: Only Fox would pick up a show like Son of Zorn. I know they did it because it’s from Lord & Miller, but this show is just too weird to work. A live action/animation hybrid? Nah, son. It’d probably be just as funny if they had done the whole thing as animation, but I just don’t see an audience flocking to this. Scream Queens is back, and scheduled against CBS’s newcomer, Bull. Queens didn’t have the best ratings this season, but got renewed because Ryan Murphy. That said, I don’t know if it’s gonna win its timeslot. Lethal Weapon gets Rosewood‘s former timeslot, leading into Empire. Now, the trailer for this adaptation looks very Fox, but it could’ve been called Fastlane 2016 and they wouldn’t have had to change a thing. I don’t know if its connection to a film franchise helps it or hurts it. I’m making this my Fox wild card. Rosewood moves to Thursday, opposite Grey’s Anatomy on ABC, and The Big Bang Theory (after Thursday Night Football ends) on CBS. Bye bye, Rosewood. Somebody at Fox thought they were being cute scheduling The Exorcist after Hell’s Kitchen, but that’s a terrible pairing. It would’ve made more sense to pair it with Lucifer. Anyway, it’s Fox, so The Exorcist is totally getting cancelled.

NBC: Timeless just looks like Legends of Tomorrow without a tie to a preexisting universe. It also looks expensive. It’s scheduled against ABC’s Conviction and CBS’s Scorpion, so it might not get trounced in the ratings like it would if it were going against TGIT or an NCIS. I’m giving out my NBC wild card early to this one. Every so often, NBC needs that show that tugs on the heartstrings. They had Friday Night Lights, and then they had Parenthood. Now, they have This Is Us. It’s got a strong cast, and I can see it attracting an audience. It’s got some steep competition in that Tuesday 9 PM timeslot, but I think it offers something none of those other shows do. Blindspot moves to Wednesday at 8, possibly to the detriment of Lethal Weapon and Arrow, as I see them having some audience overlap. Superstore moves to Thursday at 8, which is a risky move. It’s nice to see NBC trying to rebuild that Thursday comedy block, but that show’s not strong enough to go against the juggernaut that is The Big Bang Theory. Still, it offers a single cam alternative, so it might survive. Maybe. It’s followed by The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. So, a woman wakes up in Heaven and realizes she’s not supposed to be there. Might be an interesting movie, but I don’t see it working as a series. I feel like American pop culture is going through something of a secular awakening right now, and these “spiritual” shows just don’t work, even if they’re quirky (see this season’s Angel from Hell). I’d like to see it survive, but I don’t think it does. Plus, the world needs Kristen Bell free to make movies. I see they’re sticking with the Nick Cannon-hosted Caught on Camera where Undateable used to air. Bad move, NBC.

The CW: Supergirl makes its debut on the network, but keeps its 8 PM timeslot. This is great for fans of the DC shows, as they know they’re always kicking off their respective nights. It sucks, however, for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, which gets shipped off to Friday night. On Tuesday, iZombie is being held til midseason to give No Tomorrow a shot. This is another quirky show, kinda like NBC’s The Good Place, but I just don’t see it lasting. Honestly, though, if they wanted to give it a better chance at survival, it should probably be paired with Ex-Girlfriend instead of The Flash. On Wednesday, Arrow leads into Frequency, which is an adaptation of a 16 year old movie. I want to say this is a dumb idea, but it kinda feels very CW to me. I wouldn’t be surprised if this show lasted a good 4 seasons (see Beauty and the Beast). Supernatural moves to Thursday at 9, while The 100 is held til midseason. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter where you put Supernatural, as it’s been living on borrowed time for about 3 years, plus its audience will find it. The CW did some interesting scheduling because it’s like they’re determined to have a DC show on every night, even if that’s not in the best interest of their shows. I’d have blown up the schedule a bit more. Leave Jane the Virgin on Monday, but pair it with Frequency. Then, on Tuesday, I’d schedule Crazy Ex-Girlfriend leading into No Tomorrow. On Wednesday, I’d give you the DC 1-2 punch of The Flash leading into Arrow. Thursday would be Supergirl leading into Legends of Tomorrow. Friday would be The Vampire Diaries leading into Supernatural. I honestly think that’s a stronger schedule, even if you’re dishing out double doses of DC shows two nights in a row. But they don’t pay me to make these decisions…

So, there ya have it – the fall 2016-2017 broadcast schedule. There’s nothing I’m really jazzed about this season, but there are a few shows where I’m curious to see how they fare. What do y’all think? Let me know in the comments!

13th May2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/13/16

by Will

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On the movie front, I traveled back to 1988 and finally watched They Live. Yeah, I know it’s something of a cult classic, but I’d never gotten around to seeing the thing in its entirety. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper stars as a drifter who stumbles upon a pair of magic sunglasses that reveal the world has been overrun by aliens. They hide subliminal messages in marketing and advertising, convincing humans to “Obey” and “Consume”. In humanity’s quest to acquire more money and status, we ignore the conquest going on around us. Piper and his reluctant partner, in the form of Keith David, decide to stick it to the aliens and take back the night. Why am I even summarizing this film, when everyone reading this is probably more than familiar with it?  Anyway, I really liked it, but I feel like it was too short. Maybe it’s because we currently live in a 2.5 hour action movie society, and I’m spoiled. It’s probably great that the movie was made when it was, as it would’ve been completely different if made today. We would’ve gotten some drawn out origin of the aliens, and then we would be forced to believe that this manual laborer had the computer skills to hack them and take them down. For this film, all it took was a gun and a satellite dish. And what was up with Meg Foster’s eyes?! Was she blind? I’ve never seen eyes like that in nature before. Anyway, it’s a good 80s romp, but it’s just as poignant today as it was when it was released. Maybe even more so. Anyway, I’m sure there’s some unnecessary 21st century update sitting on some producer’s desk as we speak.

Ted 2

Next up, I watched Ted 2 and I really don’t get why it bombed so hard in theaters. I thought the film was just as hilarious as the first one, though not necessarily as good. In this film, teddy bear Ted and human Tami-Lynn decide to have a baby in order to repair their struggling marriage (’cause THAT works…), but their attempt at adoption fails when the courts decide that Ted is property and not a person. He loses his job, the marriage is annulled, and his credit cards are cancelled, so Ted and his Thunder Buddy, John, set out to prove that Ted is, in fact, human. The movie’s basically like a live action Family Guy, and even reuses a few gags from the show. Maybe America just needs a break from Seth MacFarlane. I mean, first A Million Ways To Die In The West bombed, and then this. MacFarlane just isn’t having a lot of luck at the box office, and the first Ted‘s success is starting to look like a fluke. The film’s got some fun in-jokes and cameos from folks like Michael Dorn, Patrick Warburton, and Nana Visitor. Which reminds me: is Michael Dorn OK? Like, has he been sick? ‘Cause he’s lost a LOT of weight, and not in a good way. Anyway, I think this is the first film to promote New York Comic-Con as a big deal. Sure, there are films that showcase SDCC, but this movie put NYCC on the national stage. Anyway, I feel kinda bad for the MacFarlane empire at the moment. This movie underperformed, and then we got the terrible Bordertown and an unmemorable season of Family Guy (which, conspicuously enough, hasn’t been renewed for next season yet). If you’re a MacFarlane fan, you’ve got to see this film. If not, then you should probably just keep moving.

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I also finally caught Creed. What a great film! Seriously, it was uplifting and inspiring in all the right ways. Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him to become a fighter outside of his father’s shadow. Michael B. Jordan is just so cool, and great in the role. Director and writer Ryan Coogler did a great job capturing the underlying Rocky themes of redemption and perseverance. It was a great “passing the torch” film, and while I’d welcome a Creed sequel, I’m also fine with it being the coda to the Rocky franchise. I’ve got nothing snarky to say. Just see this movie!

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Sadly, I also saw Zoolander 2. I LOVED the first Zoolander, but this movie joins Anchorman 2 in the disappointing “Too Little, Too Late” bin. Seriously, 15 years for a sequel?! The movie is pretty dreadful, and doesn’t really gain any sort of spark until Will Ferrell’s Mugatu reappears halfway into the film. The film kicks off with a break-neck montage to show us what Zoolander’s been up to since 2001. The Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff suffered a structural catastrophe, collapsing into the ocean, killing Zoolander’s wife, Matilda. Derek, then a widower and single parent, has his son taken away from him by Child Protective Services, and he decides to live life as a “hermit crab”. Derek’s brought out of retirement when his son is kidnapped by Mugatu in order to sacrifice him for some mystical fashion ritual. It’s a really crazy plot, but that’s kinda par for the course when it comes to Zoolander films. It’s got a lot of fun cameos, and it features SNL‘s Kyle Mooney in a role where I don’t totally hate him. Like Anchorman 2, it was nice to see the gang back together, but the magic just isn’t there anymore. It had a very lackluster start, but it just barely sticks the landing. You can skip this one.

glaser

On TV, I caught the Comedy Central stand-up special Nikki Glaser: Perfect. She talks a lot about sex. A LOT. It’s not that that’s a bad thing. She does it in a funny, self-deprecating kind of way. The problem, though, is the same problem I had with Tosh’s last special: I didn’t watch it when it premiered, so I’d already heard all the jokes on Comedy Central Radio by the time I got around to watching it. Not Glaser’s fault, by any means.

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In television news, NBC has officially picked up the DC/Warner Bros series Powerless, which stars Vanessa Hudgens as an insurance agent who handles claims after superhero battles. It’s a workplace comedy set in the DC Universe, and is set to showcase some lower-rung DC heroes. NBC had success with The Office, so they’re going back to the well, but this sounds like a terrible show. Also, I feel it’s way too similar to Damage Control, which is the company in the Marvel Universe that handles repairs after superhero battles. Not coincidentally, a Damage Control show has been rumored to be in development at ABC, but DC and NBC beat them to the punch. Anyway, the show also features Danny Pudi and Alan Tudyk. To me, Tudyk is something of a modern-day Ted McGinley, so I’m not sure that bodes well for this series.

RIP Shows

There was a LOT of TV news last night, as the culling began in preparation for the network upfronts next week. On the ABC front, Marvel’s Agent Carter has been cancelled, as well as 8-season stalwart Castle. Meanwhile, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off Marvel’s Most Wanted will not be going ahead at the network. The Muppets has also been canceled after a lackluster first season that required a midseason retooling. Musical Galavant has also been canceled after 2 seasons. In a somewhat surprising move, ABC also canceled the cult favorite Nashville, as well as freshman drama The Family. Over at Fox, Second Chance has been canceled, meaning it won’t be getting, well, a second chance. As a dagger through my heart, Fox also canceled comedies The Grinder and Grandfathered. I kinda bailed on the former (even though I really enjoyed it), but I really felt the latter had grown into something special, with a lot of heart. Oh well, I guess it means Stamos will be more of a presence in season 2 of Fuller House now. Seth MacFarlane’s Bordertown also got the axe. Meanwhile, it’s official, as Supergirl will be moving to The CW in the fall. The Archie series Riverdale has been ordered to series, while Containment has been canceled. Also, NBC has ordered Chicago Justice to series, therefore basically handing their network to Dick Wolf.

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If you watched last night’s Legends of Tomorrow, then you’ll understand why Wentworth Miller won’t be a series regular next season. Instead, he’s entered into an interesting deal with Warner Bros TV that essentially makes him a regular in the “Berlantiverse”, not tied to one particular show. His talents will primarily be spread across Flash and Legends next year, but he could even appear on Arrow or Supergirl. I guess WB realized they had something special on their hands with that character and, while I’m sad to see he won’t be part of the Waverider crew next year, I am glad to see it’s not the end of the road for Leonard Snart.


On the music front, Justin Timberlake released his first song since 2013 last Friday. Called “Can’t Stop The Feeling”, it’s from the soundtrack to the upcoming DreamWorks animated film Trolls. It’s already being called “the song of the summer”, but it’s only May so let’s not get carried away. Still, any chance to see Ron Funches and Anna Kendrick dance (for different reasons, of course!), is a good thing. It’s a fun little ditty, so check it out.

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In the world of video games, Disney Infinity has been discontinued, and Disney is exiting the game publishing industry. Reportedly, they’re taking a $147 million loss, which is surprising considering the platform featured Star Wars and Marvel characters in addition to Disney ones. I mean, if you can’t make money with Marvel and Star Wars right now, you’re doing business wrong. Anyway, I never trusted any of those “figurine switcheroo” games because they just seem like cash grabs. Skylanders seemed kinda groundbreaking, but then we ended up with Infinity, LEGO Dimensions, and amiibo – not to mention Hasbro’s own failed Playmation platform. Are they in the game industry or the collectible figure industry? Because it doesn’t seem like you can successfully be in both for long.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was reported that Alden Ehrenreich has been cast as Han Solo in the Star Wars character’s solo film. Never heard of him, but good for him!
  • Ben Affleck was named an executive producer on the Justice League film, amid rumors that Zack Snyder and Warner Bros are currently fighting over the project.
  • Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne split up after 33 years together, after Sharon allegedly caught Ozzy having an affair with a celebrity hairstylist
  • Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham admitted that her mic was never on during Spice Girls performances
  • The Superman prequel Krypton has been ordered to pilot at SyFy. Seriously, though – who gives a shit about Krypton?
  • After 30 years with the company, Steve Lombardi, also know as the Brooklyn Brawler, was released by WWE.
  • Gentlemen, start your engines! Topanga’s back on the market! Danielle Fishel has divorced her husband after 2 years of marriage
  • Chris Evans is reportedly dating Jenny Slate. I’m not sure which one I’m more jealous of!
  • CSI: Cyber was cancelled by CBS, ending the CSI franchise for the foreseeable future

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I had the pleasure of joining @TimDogg98, @ClassickMateria, @Agent_70, @Roddykat, and @blackastronaut1 for a special treasury edition of The Comic Book Chronicles, as we discussed Captain America: Civil War. It was a fun chat, so be sure to check it out.

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It’s currently the #1 movie in the WORLD. It opened in the US to $179 million last weekend. It introduced the man on the street to Black Panther. It’s loved by almost everyone. And I’ve gotten 2 podcast appearances out of the whole thing. I won’t get into story beats, as not everyone’s seen it, plus I’ve already discussed it ad nauseam on the aforementioned podcasts. So, I think it’s fair to say that, for the second week in a row, Captain America: Civil War had the West Week Ever.

15th Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/15/16

by Will

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So, I did something kinda special this week, in that I attended a live taping of the Jeopardy Teen Tournament. Until I pass that online test, it’s as close as I’m gonna get to being a contestant, so it was a pretty cool experience. Taped at DAR Constitution Hall on Tuesday, I was present for the filming of 3 episodes of the tournament. Pictures and social media weren’t allowed, ’cause they didn’t want anyone spoiling the winners. As you can see, I didn’t heed their warning, but I at least waited until taping was done. They film the show with the commercial breaks, so that’s when host Alex Trebek comes out and answers questions from the audience. Here’s some tidbits that I learned:

  • Alex has 55 suits in his show wardrobe
  • They film 46 days a year, on Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • Alex’s true first name is George. George Alexander Trebek
  • Alex’s favorite movie is 1941’s How Green Was My Valley.
  • I was present for the filming of episodes 7,356 through 7,358
  • Alex said that he really enjoyed Hamilton, even though he doesn’t like “that music”
  • In what seemed like hometown pandering, Alex said that his favorite NFL team of the last 30 years was the Washington Redskins. Then, things took a turn as he added that he’s never had a problem with the team name. He said that it was never meant as a negative, but as something positive. Uh-oh…
  • Then he tried to turn things around by saying that his favorite book is called The Divide, by Matt Taibbi. It documents the Wealth Gap, and how there have been no prosecutions in recent major Wall Street crimes, while we continue to incarcerate minorities for minor offenses. This garnered applause from the audience. Not from me. I’m on to you, Trebek!

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On the movie front this week, I watched the documentary All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records. I used to LOVE Tower when I was in high school, because it was the local retail establishment that was open the latest. Bored at home at 11:30? Let’s go to Tower! As a devoted fan of the import maxi single, Tower was my saving grace for obscure pop tracks that no one knew about in America. When Tower closed, it’s like I lost a friend. So, I heard about this documentary when it was in the Kickstarter phase, but I remember thinking “This thing probably won’t get funded.” Well, color me wrong, as the finished product is now available for viewing! Directed by Colin Hanks, the doc follows the creation of the successful music chain in California, and its gradual spread to Japan and across the rest of North America. The biggest issue with the film, however, is that it’s not balanced very well. The majority of it focuses on the rise of the brand, while the “fall” really just occupies the last half our or so. I think part of that, however, may be due to the fact that the demise happened so quickly. Basically, Tower couldn’t brace itself against digital music, along with discount stores like Target and Best Buy selling CDs, and they didn’t survive. To my surprise, however, there are still 85 Tower locations in Japan. I must go to Japan! If you want to see a bunch of old people talk about how they smoked “doobies” at work, this is the documentary for you. It’s really more about the culture of the store than it is about the state of music during the store’s rise, so you’ve really got to care about Tower in order to enjoy it. I do, though, so I did. Your mileage may vary.

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Then, I caught the film CHAPPiE, by District 9‘s Neill Blomkamp. Reuniting with District 9‘s star, Sharlto Copley, Blomkamp seems to be telling a tale about what it means to be “alive”. At the beginning of the film, the Johannesburg government has resorted to using robots on their police force, greatly curbing the amount of crime in the city. One particular robot, Unit 22, seems to be somewhat accident prone and, after being damaged irreparably, is slated for destruction. Meanwhile, the robots’ creator, Deon, wants to test out a new AI program that will give robots sentience. After he’s turned down by his boss, he steals Unit 22 and uploads the program. At the same time, a trio of criminals (played by rap-rave group Die Antwoord) kidnap Deon and Unit 22 because they need help with a heist. They rename Unit 22 “Chappie”, and try to train him to be a real gangsta. During all this, Chappie seems to be able to isolate his own consciousness through a special helmet, and begins to believe he can transfer his consciousness into another body before his battery dies. This shit really gets weird. I won’t spoil any of it, but it basically asks the questions “What is life” and “Can you live forever?” When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was just another crappy Hugh Jackman robot movie, but it turned out to be so much more than that. I highly recommend checking it out.

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I also caught another documentary called Unhung Hero, which I’d heard about on a radio show that I love (The Bonfire on Comedy Central Radio). Comedian Patrick Moote proposed to his girlfriend during a UCLA basketball game, but she turns him down on the kisscam. Not only did the video go viral, but she later tells him that she couldn’t marry him because his penis was too small. So, he embarks upon an international journey to find out what is “small” when it comes to penises, and is there a “cure”? It’s really kinda heartbreaking to see him explain to his parents why his girlfriend left him. He even consults old girlfriends to see if they also felt the same way. He tries pills, pumps, and exercises to make his penis bigger. He, then, travels the world to see if there’s any hope for reversing his penile fortune. He eventually ends up in Papua New Guinea where he’s about to have some oil injected into his penis to make it bigger. Does he go through with it? Moote seems like a really good dude, but I almost wonder if he was ready for marriage at the time of the proposal. He’s got a lot going on in his head, and one almost wonders if she did him a favor by turning down the proposal. By the end of the film, and the journey, he seems to have come to a better understanding and appreciation of himself. If you’re at all curious about all this, it’s currently available to stream on Netflix.

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On TV, I caught the premiere of The Detour on TBS. Airing Monday nights in the old Angie Tribeca timeslot of 9 PM, the comedy was created by The Daily Show contributors Jason Jones and Samantha Bee. It’s loosely based on their own experiences on family vacations, and it follows a family that abruptly decides to drive to Florida for their vacation instead of flying, and the problems that arise from doing so. In the course of things, they wreck their car, we find out why they had to drive, and more. It was really enjoyable, and was renewed for a second season before Monday’s official premiere.

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In TV news, The CW has ordered 8 episodes of MADtv, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, seeing as how the network aired the 20th anniversary special and airs old episodes on The CW SEED streaming site. From what we know, the show will feature new and returning cast members (mainly in guest host capacity). This is good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m glad the brand is alive again. There was a window of time where MADtv was edgier and funnier than Saturday Night Live, though a lot of people would hate to admit this. I feel like TV needs good sketch comedy these days, and the arrival of dreck like Party Over Here made me appreciate what we’d lost. Now the bad news. This show belongs in late night in order for it to hit on all cylinders. Unfortunately, The CW doesn’t program nights or weekends. In case you weren’t aware, The CW is only Monday through Friday, 8 PM to 10 PM. The rest of the time belongs to the local affiliates. So, late night Saturday is off limits, though it’d be the perfect place for the show. At the moment, I’m scared we’ll get some neutered version that ends up airing after The Flash or something. There are worse fates, but I don’t think this is a recipe for success.

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In other television news, it’s rumored that the new Star Trek series will actually take place in the classic continuity, and not the JJ Abrams “NuTrek” universe. According to sources close to the production, it will be set between the events of The Undiscovered Country and The Next Generation. Eh. On the one hand, I’m glad we’re not in the Abramsverse. On the other, I really wanted something set post-TNG, to see how The Federation has recovered from the events of the Dominion War. I still don’t plan to pay for CBS All Access, though, so I’m either not watching it or pirating it.

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In movie news, Sony had some big announcements at Cinema Con 2016. First up, they confirmed the existence of the Men In Black/21 Jump Street crossover originally revealed from the Sony email hack. Officially called MIB 23, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are reported to be returning, though original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller are being replaced by James Bobin. Also, they revealed that the upcoming standalone Spider-Man film will officially be called Spider-Man: Homecoming. Some folks hate the title, but I don’t. It’s not the strongest choice, but it does refer to the fact that Spidey’s basically back in the MCU fold, so I’m fine with it.

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The first image of Scarlett Johansson from Ghost in the Shell hit the web yesterday, and people are LOSING THEIR SHIT. Mainly, it’s the minority set, wondering why the lead character has been “whitewashed” and isn’t Asian like in the original anime. First off, they need a big star to sell a movie that’s not necessarily a guaranteed American blockbuster. I get that Scarlett has star power. Still, I’m not even sure why we’re making this movie in America. As far as anime goes, it’s one of the more well-known franchises, but it’s still not a “household name”. Sure, folks will come out and see it because it’s a ScarJo movie, but why not give us that Black Widow movie? Or, God forbid, Lucy 2? Why go for a franchise that has to be “westernized” in order to make it successful when that’s going to detract from the source material? Could it have been made with an Asian lead? Of course. Should it have been made with an Asian lead? Probably. Would it make as much money? Unless they’re flying from trees and shit, I highly doubt it.

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In Power Rangers news, they unveiled the logo for the upcoming film yesterday. Meh. I think it’s too generic. It has no WOW or pizzazz. There are a couple of things I don’t like about it. First of all, I don’t like Saban’s insistence on putting his name in the title. He doesn’t carry the clout of a Marvel or DC, so branding it “Saban’s Power Rangers” means nothing to the man on the street. There’s the argument that “You’ve got to start somewhere”, but I just think it’s more of a ego move than a branding opportunity. Also, there’s already a Power Rangers font, which has been used for the past 23 years. Sure, this is a chance to breathe new life into the franchise, but you don’t mess with the classics. Compare the new logo to the logo for the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie:

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The new one looks so flat in comparison, even though it’s “cleaner”. At least you’ll be able to differentiate the TV toys from the movie toys on shelves, but that’s about the only benefit I can see from this new logo.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Elizabeth Banks is attached to direct a reboot of Charlie’s Angels.
  • Warner Bros finally confirmed that they are in talks with Ben Affleck for a solo Batman film
  • A new trailer was released for Suicide Squad, cementing my resolve to not see this movie in the theater
  • Reportedly, Warren Beatty is working on a script for Dick Tracy 2. I’ve been hearing this same rumor for the past 25 years.
  • James Cameron announced that there will be four Avatar sequels. OK, sport.
  • Dustin “Screech” Diamond was released early from jail on Monday.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch will voice The Grinch in an unnecessary 2017 reboot

doctor strange

I guess you could say it’s been a Marvelous week. At the beginning of the week, it was reported that Natalie Portman wouldn’t be coming back for Thor: Ragnarok, but Creed costar Tessa Thompson has been cast in a mysterious role. According to rumors, she may be portraying the character Valkyrie. The movie also features Bruce Banner/The Hulk, so I figure we’ll see what they’re up to while the rest of the Avengers are Civil Warring each other.

Then, on Tuesday, we got the first teaser trailer for Doctor Strange, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Now, I have a confession to make: I don’t like mystical Marvel. I probably hate it even more than I hate space Marvel. There’s just something about it that I never really took to. That said, I saw glimpses of the first Iron Man movie in that teaser, and that’s the movie that kicked off this whole Marvel Cinematic party. So, if this movie can recapture even a small bit of what made Iron Man special, then we might have a winner. Now, there is some controversy over the whitewashing of The Ancient One by casting Tilda Swinton, but I don’t even know what to make of that. Yeah, the character probably should’ve been portrayed by an Asian actor, and is Tilda Swinton, perfect androgyny aside, the right choice for that character? Who knows, but I guess I’ll wait to see the movie before I pass judgement. A lot of folks thought the trailer was kinda “meh”, but it definitely got me interested, which is something I was not prior to seeing it. I’d been telling folks that I was cashing out on the MCU after Civil War because I just don’t care about Doctor Strange or Black Panther, but now I’m intrigued.

Meanwhile, the embargo was lifted on Captain America: Civil War, and the early word is very positive. Some are saying it might be Marvel’s best movie yet. I’m kicking myself because Marvel chose 25 cities in which to have an advance screening last night (and DC was on the list), but I completely missed the boat on trying to get passes. If any of you reading this happened to see the film last night, I hate you.

So, between those 3 tidbits, as well as the announcement of the Spider-Man film title, everything was coming up Marvel this week. That’s why Marvel had the West Week Ever.

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