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.

spider-man homecoming

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.

08th Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/8/16

by Will

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First up, I watched Dead 7 last Friday night. If y’all remember, it’s the zombie western starring former boyband members. Written by Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter, it also starred Howie Dorough (BSB), AJ McLean (BSB), Joey Fatone (*NSYNC), Chris Kirkpatrick (*NSYNC), and Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees). This movie was a MESS. Now, I do have a confession to make: I forgot it was coming on until some folks tweeted me about it, so I missed the first 25 minutes. So, once I turned it on, I was LOST! I don’t know why people were zombies or “copperheads”, I’m still not clear why copperhead teeth are used as currency, and I don’t get why they were so hellbent on killing MadTV‘s Debra Wilson. All I know is that the acting was HORRIBLE (UPDATE: After writing this, I went back and watched the first half hour. Yup, still lost). This being an Asylum film, I expected something “so bad it’s good”, like the tongue in cheek Sharknado franchise. Instead, they played this pretty straight, which was to its detriment. Sure, Fatone’s Whiskey Joe was basically comic relief, but he really didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie. The best part of the movie was the end, where everyone was dead except Nick Carter’s wife (What? You weren’t gonna watch it!). So, hopefully that means they can’t try to make a sequel. At the end of the day, it just felt like a bad April Fool’s joke. Still, we did get a decent collaboration track out of it:

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Next up, I watched the DC Animated feature Justice League vs Teen Titans and I must say that it’s my favorite DC “vs” movie that I’ve seen this year. Basically a sequel to both Batman: Bad Blood and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, it brings together the Batman and Justice League goings on of the DC Animated Original Movie universe. Fresh off the events of Bad Blood, Batman feels Damian needs to learn to be a team player, so he has Nightwing take him to join the Teen Titans. In this incarnation, the team is Raven, Beast Boy, and Blue Beetle, mentored by Starfire. Of course, Damian doesn’t really take to being on a team, but when Raven’s father Trigon possesses members of the Justice League, the team comes together. I didn’t like this as much as I did the Batman films, as I don’t know much about the DCAO Justice League, never having seen War or Throne of Atlantis. I don’t know much about that incarnation of the team, so I don’t care that much about them. I’m invested in the development of Damian, and it was great to see something of a crush develop between him and Raven (something we haven’t seen before), so I probably would’ve liked it more had it just been a Teen Titans movie.  I did like how they managed to get Cyborg on the team even though he’s technically a Justice Leaguer. To be honest, I fell asleep on it, but that’s probably because I was really tired. The same thing happened when I watched Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. So, I had to watch it twice. Still, that might’ve been one time too many. It’s not bad, but it’s certainly not as exciting or action packed as the other Damian-centric Batman animated films. There’s also a post-credits stinger that makes me interested in what’s coming next. It’s not the best DC animated movie, but there are worse ways to kill 80 minutes.

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In other areas of nerddom, I finally watched Pacific Rim. My pal Keith came to town and insisted we watch it when he saw it had been on my DVR for the past year. Overall, I liked it a lot. I do have some questions, though. For example, why do they all keep saying “nucular”? I can’t trust my protection in the hands of someone who gets that wrong. Also, did they really think a WALL was gonna stop the Kaiju? The same Kaiju who routinely fuck up buildings made of WALLS?! Was Trump behind that plan? And something about Jaegers seems inefficient. I’m not sure if it’s the walking mechanism or what, but it seems like the pilots expend way too much energy to get those things going. Also, do you think the Chinese Jaeger was modified with the 3rd arm once a set of triplets was chosen to pilot it OR did they seek out a set of triplets to pilot their 3-armed Jaeger? Hated the post-credits scene, but overall, I really enjoyed the film. It’s something of a shame that a sequel is off the table for now, but maybe it’ll end up like Independence Day where we get a sequel in 20 years.

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On TV, I watched the premiere of Wynonna Earp on Syfy and BOY was I disappointed! To be honest, I didn’t even know they were making a show until I saw the commercial during Dead 7. Though I’m familiar with the comic of the same name, the development of this show really flew under the radar. Anyway, starring Canadian actress Melanie Scrofano, it’s about a rebellious chick who happens to be a descendant of legendary sheriff Wyatt Earp. She returns home when her uncle dies under mysterious circumstances, and has to retrieve Earp’s gun which, legend has it, can kill demons or something. The show was VERY Canadian – like, it’s not the kind of thing that deserves a prime timeslot, but would’ve been just fine as a Saturday afternoon syndicated series in the late 90s. While I grew to love Krysten Ritter’s portrayal of Jessica Jones, Scrofano’s Earp is closer to what I had in mind for the look and feel of that character. So, she’s basically Jessica Jones in a shitty vampire show. Or better yet, it’s Witchblade with a mystical pistol. Either way, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in again.

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I also caught the final 5 minutes of The Walking Dead. Now, let me be clear: I don’t watch the show, and I quit reading the comic at #50. To me, something like that needs an endgame, and interviews with creator Robert Kirkman made it clear that the thing is gonna run as long as he feels like it, with no real blueprint in mind. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Still, somebody was supposed to die, and I’m a sucker for those kinds of season finales. So, I turned off Girls and tuned into the end of the episode. Evil villain Negan was due to kill someone important, and I needed to see if he chose the same character he chose in the comics. I was kinda hoping he’d kill that Boondock Saints dude ’cause maybe he’ll stop being able to charge $300 for a picture at shitty comic cons. Well, the episode ended up not telling us who died. Nope, viewers have to wait until October to find out. And they lost their shit! I kinda thought it was funny, as it harkens back to the days of “Who Shot JR?” but viewers seem to feel like they’re owed something. Look, when a show cuts its teeth on dragging shit out (Glenn under the dumpster), then it doesn’t care about you. It’s doing what it’s doing for the sake of drama. I’m curious to see what the ratings will be like for the season premiere. Will they go up because folks want to find out who died, or will they go down because folks feel betrayed by the finale? I’m not gonna watch, ’cause I don’t care, and I’m sure someone will spoil it on Twitter so it’s not like I won’t be “in the know”.

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Arrow tugged at the heartstrings this week by killing off a main cast member (don’t worry – I’m not gonna spoil who it was). This season has really been aimless, and the death didn’t really help things. We knew that one was coming, due to the flash forward cemetery scene from the season premiere. The funny thing, though, is that the writers basically backed themselves into a corner. They knew that someone would die, but they hadn’t decided exactly who would die by the time the season began. They were just going to let the story dictate who would meet their fate. Well, lucky for them, drama erupted behind the scenes. According to rumors (I could’ve said “sources”, but who are we kidding?), this actor reportedly had some disagreements with star, Stephen Amell – which is supposedly the real reason Colton Haynes left the show. So, how long can Arrow survive if Amell is this difficult to work with? The show’s already been renewed for season 5, but they’re really going to need to work hard to return it to the quality that it once had. I never really liked the character who died, so I don’t think it’s gonna hurt the show much. In fact, it might be the first step on the road to making things better. Only time will tell.

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I also caught “Tran Dimensional Turtles”, which was an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon where the current incarnation of the team meets the original 80s team. It was…interesting. I haven’t watched the show since the first season, so I didn’t know all the stuff about Earth being devoured by a black hole or something and that the Turtles are now space faring. The whole episode featured the different teams bouncing between 2D and 3D, but the trick got old fast. Apparently, 80s Krang is the cousin of the Kraang Subprime from the new series – who wears Irma’s head on a pike? I’ve clearly missed a lot. Anyway, I liked this idea better when the 4Kids Turtles show did it as “Turtles Forever”.  Something this monumental needs to take place outside a standard 22 minute episode, and this should’ve been a bigger event.

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In the comic world, Black Panther #1 hit stores on Wednesday to rave reviews and critical acclaim. Written by noted author Ta-Nehisi Coates, with art by Brian Stelfreeze, the book focused on a king without a people. T’Challa, king of the African nation of Wakanda, and Black Panther to the hero set, is trying to unify his people after a string of disasters nearly tore the nation apart. A supernatural force, however, seems to be amplifying the citizens’ feelings of hate and fear, making T’Challa’s job much harder. I…didn’t enjoy this book. Let me say that I was initially looking for a quick, fun read and this was the wrong choice. I really didn’t know what was going on half the time. I think I need to give it another shot, but it didn’t immediately grab me. They do a decent enough job explaining all of the plights that Wakanda had experienced recently, but I still felt like I needed to come into the story with some prerequisite reading of which I was unaware. I actually recently read Coates’s Between the World and Me, so I’m familiar with his style, but I don’t know if I’m a fan yet. For this one, I may just wait for the trade. If I read it at all.

Alfre Woodard

In Marvel news, it was announced that Alfre Woodard will have a role in Captain America: Civil War, as the mother of a civilian who died during Avengers: Age of Ultron. So, basically she’s playing Miriam Sharpe. In the Civil War comic miniseries, the whole thing was kicked off after The New Warriors inadvertently caused an explosion at a Stamford, CT school, resulting in the deaths of several children. The mother of one of the children, Miriam Sharpe, became the face of the movement to require more regulation for super powered beings. So, it seems like Woodard may be playing the same role here, as I doubt they’d cast her as just a throwaway character. Here’s where things get interesting, though: She’s already been cast as Black Mariah in the Luke Cage Netflix series. So, we’ve got one actress playing two different characters in the MCU. I know the film division isn’t really paying attention to what the TV division is doing, but this is a bit much. Couldn’t they have cast Angela Bassett in one of those roles? They’re basically the same chick (Yes, I know she’s currently Amanda Waller, but my point stands)!

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In other Marvel news, it’s reported that a Cloak & Dagger series is being prepared for ABC’s Freeform (formerly ABC Family) network. So far, there’s no script, showrunner, actors, or anything attached, but the show is being developed to focus on a teenage Cloak & Dagger, as they deal with their powers and relationship. Freeform is the perfect place for show like this. I just hope it doesn’t have strong ties to the greater MCU because I really don’t want to have to watch it. I’ve never really been down with Cloak & Dagger, and I pretty much despise everything that comes on that channel. Speaking of Freeform, the same press release announced they have a late night show in development called Later Bitches. $20 says that name doesn’t make it to air.

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In DC news, Warner Bros announced a shift in their DC Cinematic Universe slate, as Wonder Woman has been moved up from June 23rd to June 2nd 2017. They also added two untitled DC films to the schedule for October 5th, 2018 and November 1st, 2019. One of these is probably the standalone Batman film that’s been rumored since before Dawn of Justice even premiered. The shift also bumped Andy Serkis’s The Jungle Book adaptation to 2018, which reminds me that it’s kinda foolish for there to be TWO Jungle Book adaptations released within two years of each other (Disney’s comes out next month). Unless one of these serves as the lead-in to the events of Tale Spin, I’m not interested.

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The Star Wars: Rogue One teaser debuted yesterday. It looked interesting. Female protagonist again. I’m not gonna “raise cane” about it, because representation is good. I am, however, still mad I got “bamboozled” out of my Black Jedi. I remarked that it kinda looks like “The Hunger Games In Space”, and that’s somewhat of the vibe I got from it. It’s not that it’s a young adult dystopia, but I feel like I’ve seen this Jyn character before in other movies. Anyway, I can’t say I’m jazzed about the film ’cause I’m just not a Star Wars person by default, but I might see it. I didn’t initially realize this was a prequel to A New Hope, so it’ll be interesting to see things from that frame of time. Still, it’s another movie with a Death Star. Take that however you will.

Remember Weekend At Bernies? Didn’t you wish Bernie had been used as a machine gun or a jet ski? Well, here’s Swiss Army Man! I can’t believe this is a real movie.

Jenni Konner

In social media, I got a tweet favorited by the co-creator of Girls last Sunday. all I did was tweet a line of dialogue (with an errant comma), so it’s nothing to really write home about.

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So, last night saw the end of an institution, as American Idol signed off for the last time. After 15 seasons, and the creation of a handful of stars, the show is finally taking a rest. I think it’ll be back one day, but America simply isn’t as interested as it once was. After all, they’ve got Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera spinning around in chairs to worry about. Even if you hate the show, you can’t deny the impact it has had on pop culture, for good or for bad. Kelly Clarkson has sold 25 million albums and won 3 Grammys. Carrie Underwood has sold 65 millions albums and has won 7 Grammys. And even “losers”, like Jennifer Hudson (won an Oscar and a Grammy) and Chris Daughtry (sold over 8 million albums), have done well for themselves. It made Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest (who unleashed the Kardashians on the world) household names, while it rejuvenated the career of Paula Abdul. Idol always struck that balance of making it about the contestants, while still making it about the judges (something The Voice has never pulled off). And there was a time when the Idol name meant something. People bought the CDs, and packed stadiums for the tours. Those days are long gone, but the show helped the music industry at a time when it desperately needed a shot in the arm. It made the consumer feel like she had power in the industry by putting success up to a vote. Sure, shows like Star Search had done this in the past, but that show never had as many eyes on it as American Idol. It was the number one show on television for the coveted 18-49 demographic for 8 consecutive years.

American Idol also has personal meaning for me, too. For example, I almost got to audition for the first season, but things got in the way. See, when my a cappella group performed at the ICCA Finals, we were invited to audition the next day. Nobody knew what the show was going to be, so there weren’t lines and folks camping out for auditions like they did in later seasons. They were approaching a cappella groups because they knew those folks had singing experience. The rest of my group, however, was all, “We have finals to study for.” Those guys had no ambition (which is exactly why they’re all successful doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but I digress…)! Later on in college, I was a finalist for Cornell Idol, which was our local campus take on the show. In recent years, I’ve gotten in my fair share of Twitter fights with former contestants, like Justin Guarini and Blake Lewis – not to mention all the grandma fans of Scotty McCreary and Taylor Hicks. You can say that Idol has orbited my extracurricular activities since it began.

Last night, Trent Harmon won the 15th and final season of American Idol and, based on recent years’ winners, you’ll probably never hear from him again. Still, the impact the Idol juggernaut has had can’t be denied. That’s why American Idol had the West Week Ever.

29th Mar2016

The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: California Dreams

by Will

californiadreams

Back in 1992, two shows premiered about beautiful people forming bands. One show aired on NBC Saturday mornings (California Dreams), while the other aired during primetime on Fox (The Heights). The Heights went on to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, but then got canceled a week later. Meanwhile, California Dreams went on to enjoy 4 more seasons on the air, but never achieved the mainstream musical success that I felt it could’ve had. But first, let’s backtrack.

If you were too cool for school, then you probably didn’t watch NBC’s live action Saturday morning fare. After all, some folks think that Saved by the Bell killed Saturday morning cartoons (it didn’t; cable did that), while others simply didn’t like the hokey nature of the show. Well, after Saved by the Bell‘s success, executive producer Peter Engel was at it again with California Dreams. As it could pretty much be described as “Saved by the Bell with music”, I like to call it “Saved by the Bell if the Zack Attack didn’t suck” (C’mon, “Friends Forever” was some garbage and you know it!). Set in Southern California, the show initially focused on siblings Matt and Jenny Garrison, and their garage band, the California Dreams. During the first season, it was more of a family ensemble show, but NBC was all about the pretty teens, so they had the producers get rid of that family aspect when the second season rolled around. From that point on, the focus was on the band, its members, and their struggles to hit it big. Oh and, since they were high school students, there was plenty of homework and dating drama.

This might be sacrilege to some, but I’ve always loved California Dreams more than Saved by the Bell. Most of the “Engelverse” reused storylines, so they were basically telling the same stories, but I liked that you got an original song with most episodes of Dreams. Plus, I had a huge crush on Heidi Noelle Lenhart (the brunette). Based on when the show hit, it was a sound that was so indicative of the era. When it comes to California Dreams songs, they’re pretty much just Wilson Phillips songs. Now, personally, this was a point in my life when I was listening to country, so I didn’t really know this sort of stuff got airplay. Had I known, I would’ve been all over pop radio at the time. Still, there’s something sugary sweet about their sound. It’s soothing to me, and it doesn’t really carry much of a message. Sometimes you just wanna kick back and not think, and the Dreams excelled at that kind of song. Whether it was “Castles on Quicksand” or “Rain”, it was hard to be disappointed by a California Dreams song. That said, I think their best song is the theme song to the show. Even listening to it now, it takes me back to a better time.  For me, the early 90s were perfect. No bills, no puberty, no worries. Just close your eyes and listen:

Those harmonies! Smooth like butter. Most folks can rattle off “When I wake up in the morning, and the alarm gives out a warning…”, but they don’t know about this. I hear something like Wilson Phillips’ “The Dream Is Still Alive”, and wonder how that got airplay and the Dreams didn’t (that’s a “real world” California Dreams song if I’ve ever heard one). Was that just something the producers didn’t pursue with the show? They must not have, as you’ve never heard a California Dreams song on the radio and I think that’s a shame. With all of the throwaway pop groups of the 90s, like The Party, there was certainly a place on the radio for the California Dreams. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Oh, and that other group I mentioned – their song didn’t suck, either. I actually really dig “How Do You Talk To An Angel”, so I’ll leave you with that, as something of a “bonus track”.

18th Mar2016

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

by Will

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So, I didn’t watch any movies this week, but I did watch a TON of television, so that’s what we’ll be rambling about today.

flophouse

First up, I watched Flophouse on Viceland. First of all, why does Vice have a channel at all? If you’re not familiar with the brand, Vice began as a Canadian hipster culture magazine in the early 90s but eventually branched out into other media, including news specials on HBO. Well, at the end of February, Viceland took over what was formerly H2 in the United States, and is programmed under the creative direction of Spike Jonze. I ask why there’s a channel, though, because it seems like their target is specifically the audience that DOESN’T watch television. After all, they’re catering to hipster Millennials, who don’t own TVs, ’cause they’re poor and stuff.

Flophouse 2

Anyway, Flophouse. It’s a show where hipster, Millennial, “alternative” comics host stand-up shows in their houses. It might sound “intimate”, but it’s pretty grody, as these places look like crack dens. There are known comics in the audience, but the ones performing are basically up and comers. The brand of comedy, though, isn’t that funny. It’s observational. It’s hipstery. But I didn’t bust a gut or anything. If this is the future of stand-up, then comedy is pretty much doomed. For one thing, I’m a big fan of Comedy Central’s The Half Hour (formerly known as Comedy Central Presents), so I feel like 30 minutes is a good amount of time to let a comic shine. Still, since there are multiple comics per show, you don’t get that here. That’s fine. You can still have a solid 10-15 minute set. I didn’t see anyone on this show who had that. They pretty much show you one joke, and then you basically get a tour of how shitty the conditions are in the house.

It also doesn’t help matters that everything is censored on the show. I expect Vice productions to be edgy and all, so it’s kind of a pussy move when they can’t even say “shit” during a comedy show that airs at 10:30 PM (you can do this on TBS, Comedy Central, Adult Swim, and so on and so on). It just felt like the Vice brand was being neutered. Maybe this is a network thing from A&E, but it just feels like Vice should’ve found a broadcasting partner that would allow Vice to be Vice.

From what I’ve seen of their programming, I don’t see bright things ahead for the network, but we also live in a world where there’s a channel pretty much dedicated to a Vegas pawnbroker who gets shows for all of his friends, so what do I know?

POH

Speaking of comedy that wasn’t that funny, Party Over Here premiered Saturday night on Fox. I was excited about the show when I originally heard about it, as it was created by Paul Scheer and The Lonely Island. I actually didn’t even realize it was coming so soon, as it was just announced a few weeks back, so I figured it was coming in the Fall. Maybe they should’ve taken their time and waited on debuting it. Party Over Here is a sketch show, featuring an all female cast comprised of only 3 women, and it really wants to be the next Key & Peele. It’s got a long way to go. It’s packaged really well, with a lot of cool bumpers and interstitials, but there’s just nothing there. No substance. Remember how the original SNL cast were the Not Ready for Prime Time Players? These 3 women are the Not Ready for Late Night Saturday Players. Or the You’re Better Off Watching 1st Look Players. It was just the premiere, so maybe it needs time to bloom, but I don’t really see myself coming back. You see, it was designed to not compete with Saturday Night Live, as it airs 30 minutes before SNL since most Fox affiliates have a 10 PM broadcast. In the DC market, however, we have some News Edge garbage at 11, bumping Party Over Here to 11:30. When put up against SNL, it isn’t even a question as to which show I’m choosing. So, apparently, there’s a party over there, but I think I’m partied out.

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NBC is slowly trying to regain some footing in the world of the situation comedy, but they’re pretty hit or miss these days. Superstore has been renewed for a second season, but I don’t see that happening for Telenovela. One of last season’s surprise hits came back this week in the form of The Carmichael Show. Created by, and starring, stand-up comedian Jerrod Carmichael, it’s a multicamera family sitcom dealing with the issues of the times. And that’s probably my issue with the show: it’s always so damn heavy, as every episode seems like A Very Special Episode. Every episode tackles something controversial, be it whether or not you should still enjoy Bill Cosby’s work or whether or not cheating is tied to income level. There are still laughs to be had, but I find myself laughing at the stellar supporting cast including Loretta Devine and David Alan Grier. My least favorite character is probably Carmichael himself, as he comes across as this know-it-all, and I find myself wanting to see him get his comeuppance. I would love to have been in some focus groups for the show, as there had to be some notes about how unlikable he can be at times. But, it’s his show, so I don’t expect that aspect to change anytime soon. Still, if you long for the days of Fox’s Roc, where a Black family can still laugh amongst the tears, then you should probably check this out.

MDOT-Crowded

They’re not all winners at NBC, however, as Crowded had a 2-episode “sneak preview” this week. Starring Patrick Warburton, the show is about a married couple who try to keep their relationship strong when their Millennial kids move back in with them. I said it on Twitter, but I’ll say it again here: Somewhere around the mid-2000s, Patrick Warburton became king of the “Fuck It! Something’s Gotta Air In This Timeslot” sitcom. It means that there’s nothing really bad about the shows, but they’re just not that great, either. The best part about them is that they provide work to the many crew members behind the scenes, but they’re not really doing anything groundbreaking for the medium, either. At the same time, these shows tend to be able to fly under the radar. Their ratings are just high enough for them to regularly be renewed as midseason replacements, and then they somehow find their way into syndication. I mean, Rules of Engagement lasted SEVEN seasons, and you’re probably like “What’s that?” Exactly. If we were talking about 2007 CBS here, I’d say this show has a long life ahead of it. But NBC can’t really afford a show like this. Schedule space is too valuable (it and The Carmichael Show have been dumped off on Sunday night), and they’re looking for a quick turnaround. The show was created by Suzanne Martin, who also created Hot In Cleveland, making me think this show would probably be a better fit for TV Land. And while it’s always nice to see iCarly, Miranda Cosgrove’s role in this show is…strange. It’s like they’re trying to create a female Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, and I’m not sure it works. To be honest, I find her whole “I’m really smart, but it keeps me from being able to relate to people in normal ways” shtick WAY more offensive than anything I’ve seen folks pull out the pitchforks for TBBT, but I digress. This is the kind of show that you leave on in the background, ’cause Dateline‘s coming up, but you’ll never actually learn any of the characters’ names.

In movie news, Sally Field has been making the rounds, talking about how she didn’t like the Amazing Spider-Man movies. Primarily, she’s saying that her character, Aunt May, wasn’t very three-dimensional, and that “you can’t put 10 lbs of shit in a 5 lb bag”. A lot of people are focusing on the “shit” in the phrase, and not the overall meaning. She’s saying that you can only work with what you’ve got, and if there’s no capacity for more depth, you can’t just shove it in there. She says that the only reason she took the role is because it was being produced by her friend Laura Ziskin who was battling cancer. They knew it would be Ziskin’s last movie, and since she had been Field’s first producing partner, Field wanted to be a part of her friend’s final production. Look, I get it. Personally, I don’t hate those movies. I don’t know what folks wanted, but apparently it wasn’t that. Fine. But I do have a problem when actors start shitting on past roles. The way it comes out is always on some platform, like Stern (which is where this interview took place), and it comes across like they’re trying to gain acceptance by saying “Look, I hate this thing you hate, too!” It’s somewhat cloying. But at the end of the day, they cashed a check. I get that people can change their minds, but the professional thing to do is to just keep it moving. You did a job, it may not have been your best job, but it (hopefully) won’t be your last. Learn from it, and move on.

apocalypse

We got another trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse yesterday. When did Three Trailers Per Movie become a thing? I remember, back in the day, seeing A trailer. That was it. Anyway, I thought that trailers were supposed to get better as they go along. Not this one. I’ve got to say that the last trailer for Apocalypse was much better than what we got yesterday. And it simply reminded me that casting Jennifer Lawrence was the worst thing to happen to the X-Men film franchise. Yup, even worse than Brett Ratner. I say that because they had no clue her star power was gonna rise the way it has, and that they’d have to accommodate her. She hates the blue paint, so now they keep her in her human form most of the time, even though HER CHARACTER RAILS AGAINST THE NOTION THAT MUTANTS SHOULD HAVE TO HIDE TO MAKE HUMANS COMFORTABLE. Plus, Mystique ain’t that important. She just isn’t. I’m so sick and tired of every movie being a dance of “Here’s Mystique and Magneto. Whose side are they on THIS time?” THERE ARE OTHER CHARACTERS. Personally, I don’t need Magneto in every film. I don’t care how charismatic you may feel his actor is (McKellan OR Fassbender). And I sure as Hell don’t need to see Mystique each time. The rest of the cast suffers as these “prequel” movies just push everyone to the side for the sake of the Erik/Raven/Charles Show. We finally get a movie with Apocalypse – something I never thought they’d be able to pull off since the first few movies were focused on “grounded” threats – and what does he do? He makes Magneto a Horseman. WHAT?! FOR WHY? I kinda want these movies to end. Singer seems pretty comfortable at the moment, and has basically said he’ll keep making them as long as Fox lets him, but I no longer look forward to an X-Men movie. You pretty much know what you’re gonna get. Same tone. Basically the same actors. You can set your watch to it. “There’s a new X-Men movie? Huh, it’s been two years already?” I’d love for someone to come in and shake up that franchise.

lobo

On the DC side of the aisle, it’s been reported that Wonder Woman screenwriter Jason Fuchs has been hired to write a script for Lobo. THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! The only reason I can see for Warner Bros pushing this back into development is that they probably see the Lobo character as their own Deadpool, so they want some of that R-rated comic movie money. If you’re not familiar with the character, Lobo is a Czarnian bounty hunter who’s so badass that he killed the rest of his race. He’s really strong, he can regenerate body parts, and – due to the Comics Code Authority – called people “bastiches” a lot. He’s so 90s it hurts. His own creator, Keith Giffen, doesn’t understand why the character grew popular:
“I have no idea why Lobo took off… I came up with him as an indictment of the Punisher, Wolverine hero prototype, and somehow he caught on as the high violence poster boy. Go figure.”

I think I rubbed some folks the wrong way on Twitter when I said that most Lobo fans “rode the short bus”, but I don’t think I’m far off. IN MY EXPERIENCE, Lobo was the ultimate White juvenile delinquent power fantasy. He’s just a dude with an attitude problem who liked to destroy shit. Everyone I ever knew who called themselves “Lobo fans” were the kinda kids you needed to keep an eye on, ’cause they were torturing pets or bringing weapons to school. I don’t think this is what the DC Cinematic Universe needs, but hopefully it’ll be some kinda of offshoot that won’t be in the proper DCCU.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The trailer was released for Now You See Me 2. While I still haven’t seen the first one, I’m upset that this installment isn’t called Now You Don’t.
  • Fox has renewed Gotham for a third season. Next season, Not Batman will continue to be Not Batman by Not Batmanning. Meanwhile, his whole frickin’ rogues gallery is showing up early to the party.
  • The CW renewed ALL 11 regular series that they currently air (including DC’s Legends of Tomorrow) for next season, proving they did NOT have a deep bench when it came to pilots.
  • Marvel and Netflix announced that Luke Cage will premiere September 30th, 2016
  • Apparently, Indiana Jones and the Quest for the Last Depend is happening, with a 77 year old Harrison Ford. He clearly doesn’t enjoy working, so he must fucking HATE sitting at home with Calista Flockhart.
  • Pop TV has ordered a season of Hollywood Darlings, which will follow Full House‘s Jodie Sweetin, 7th Heaven‘s Beverly Mitchell, and Step By Step‘s Christine Lakin in a reality show as they juggle career, motherhood, and more. And considering it’s Pop, they’ll probably show up on TNA at some point.
  • After 2 episodes, ABC has cancelled Of Kings and Prophets. I called this almost a year ago. When are broadcast networks gonna learn they can’t have their own Game of Thrones due to standards and budget?

dead 7

I don’t like zombie movies and I don’t really like Westerns. But then I heard about Dead 7, and my mind started to change. It’s a zombie western starring 90s boyband members! Just watch!

I’ve known about this thing for a year, and I still don’t really even know what it’s about. Here’s what I do know:

  • It’s from Asylum, who also gave us Sharknado
  • It features members of Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, one dude from 98 Degrees, and the 4 guys who’re still willing to admit they’re in O-Town
  • It premieres April 1st. Oh, PLEASE don’t be a cruel April Fool’s Day prank!

I will say that I’m kinda bummed it doesn’t include ALL the members of the groups (except Justin, ’cause, c’mon). Out of the Backstreet Boys, Kevin and Brian are the uber Christian ones, so I wonder if they didn’t want to be in something they wouldn’t show their kids. And from *NSYNC, I knew not to expect JC, but Lance didn’t wanna partake in the festivities? I mean, The Meredith Vieira Show just got canceled, so he basically just lost a job and gained some free time. Kinda surprised he passed on it. And while I didn’t expect the weird one from 98 Degrees (you know the one I’m talking about), the Lachey brothers ain’t really doing shit these days. And I’m ready for Ashley Parker Angel to finally just give in and return to O-Town. I mean, he really hasn’t done anything since his stint in Hairspray a decade ago.

longshot

Anyway, I love crap like this. It reminds me of Longshot, which was this really, REALLY bad movie thrown together by boyband mogul and Ponzi Scheme architect Lou Pearlman. The movie went by many names, including Jack of All Trades, but it featured cameos by anyone who was anyone in pop in 2001. You can still find it in FYE dollar bins to this day.

So, we’re at the end of this week’s post, so does that mean that the Dead 7 trailer actually had the West Week Ever? Could it be? No. It was a slow week for big news, but it wasn’t that slow. We got nothing from the trailer but a tease. If it’s anything close to Sharknado, it could be an instant cult classic, but we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, however, nothing had the West Week Ever *sad trombone*. It’s probably Daredevil season 2, but there’s no way I was staying up til 3 to watch that, so it’ll have to wait til next week, when it goes head to head with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Who will win?! Tune in next week to find out!

11th Mar2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/11/16

by Will

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First of all, I want to thank y’all for all the shares last week, as we had our best traffic in quite some time. Let’s keep that up! Tell all your friends!

Man, some weeks there’s nothing to talk about, and then some weeks there’s a ton. This week is certainly the latter. Let’s get to it, shall we?

AILcouple

On the movie front, I caught a documentary called Autism In Love, which focused on 4 folks on the Autism spectrum as they try to find companionship. The youngest guy was probably about 20, and he was being hard on himself because he’d paid a woman just so he could touch her butt. Then, there was a local couple who had met at an autism conference, and the guy was trying to figure out if he wanted them to get married or not. Finally, there was an older guy who’d found love, but his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and was living in a nursing home. It was interesting because it showed that their struggles to find love are just like anyone else’s. In some cases, their condition gets in the way, but most have learned to cope and still find ways to search for happiness. You can currently watch it on the PBS Independent Lens site, so check it out if you’re so inclined.

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Next up, I watched Cop Car, starring Kevin Bacon as a crooked sheriff. When 2 young boys go for a joyride in a police cruiser they find in the woods, Bacon sets out to track them down because he left a body in the trunk. It’s quite the thriller, and it moves fairly quickly. I just stumbled upon it on cable, and didn’t expect much from it, but it’s not bad at all. And the ending leaves you with questions, so watch it so we can discuss it!

the crouches

On Facebook, someone in a group mentioned a UK show called Desmond’s, which ran from 1989-1994, and was set in a barbershop. The whole thing kinda fascinated me because you don’t think of Black shows when you think of Britcoms (except for the exceptional Chef!). Plus, there are only 11 articles on Wikipedia about Black Britcoms, so they certainly aren’t common. Anyway, off to YouTube I went to see if I could find any episodes to watch. I couldn’t find the pilot, but I did find the pilot of another Black Britcom called The Crouches. Premiering in 2003, it focused on a working-class Black family, where the father works as a station attendant for the London Underground. In the first episode, the son rebels because he’d asked for a pair of Reeboks, but receives a pair of knock-offs because the family’s money is tight. It’s still funny to me that you can say “shit” and flip someone off on TV in the UK in 2003, yet still can’t do that here (on broadcast TV, at least). It was definitely no Cosby Show, but if I had to come up with an American equivalent, it was probably closer to The Parent’Hood from the WB. Seeing as how there are only 12 episodes (Thank you, shortened British TV seasons!), I’d love to watch the whole series, but they don’t seem to be online anywhere.

Scalped

In TV news, it was announced that WGN America has ordered a pilot based on the Vertigo series Scalped. I was a big fan of that comic during its run, and talk of a TV series has been going around for years. I was kinda hoping it would end up at a premium channel, though, as it needs that platform for the sex, violence and language. I’ve been meaning to do an Adventures West Coast review of the series, but it seems like most of my focus is on West Week Ever these days. If you’re not familiar with the series, Scalped follows Dashiell Bad Horse who’s a self-loathing Lakota who’s sent back to the reservation on an undercover mission to take down local crime boss Lincoln Red Crow. I remember not really liking the ending, but it probably won’t matter because nobody watches WGN America. They have some critically acclaimed shows (Salem, Manhattan, Underground), but I never hear anyone talk about those shows other than critics themselves. So, unfortunately, I’m not expecting big things, even though I have more invested in this than the upcoming Preacher adaptation.

In other TV news, Dos Equis has announced that they’re ending the Most Interesting Man in the World ad campaign. And how do they accomplish this? BY SENDING HIM TO MARS! I’m not even kidding. Apparently, space was awaiting him, so now I guess he’s the Most Interesting Man in the Galaxy now? I kinda wish they’d continue to make the commercials, ’cause I’d love to see him on a spaceship, just getting drunk off shitty Mexican beer. Imagine it – the commercials get worse and worse, as he gets drunker; drunken ramblings, like “I BANGED JACKIE KENNEDY WHILE MR ED WATCHED!” Apparently, the move is to attract younger customers, so I guess look for lowriders and bikinis in future ads. Anyway, stay thirsty, Most Interesting Man. Stay thirsty.

hulk

There was a lot of legal stuff going on in the world of pop culture this week. First up, Terry Bollea, AKA Hulk Hogan, is currently suing Gawker Media for releasing his sex tape. Well, he was asked if it was true that he had a 10″ penis, which resulted in him snatching down the curtain of pro wrestling. It turns out that the character, Hulk Hogan, has a 10″ penis, but the performer, Terry Bollea, does not. Yes, this came out in court. So, does this mean he was always lying about his 24″ pythons, too?!

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In other legal drama, “Chumlee”, of Pawn Stars fame, was arrested this week in connection to a sexual assault investigation. Also known as Austin Russell, Chumlee’s house was raided and the cops found firearms and drugs. Chumlee’s prohibited from owning firearms, so that’s a no-no. In fact, they arrested him on NINETEEN drug charges, including possession of weed and meth. Kinda sucks, as he seemed like a sweet, though simpleminded, dude. Not surprised about the weed, but I never really pegged him for a meth head.

Two trailers came out yesterday concerning things that I love. First up, there’s The Lonely Island’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. If you’re not familiar with The Lonely Island, they’re Andy Samberg’s crew – best known for their SNL Digital Shorts. Well, in this film, Samberg appears to be a Justin Bieber-esque popstar in a hilarious takedown of the pop music industry. I love everything The Lonely Island has done, from their album Incredibad to their film Hot Rod. I am ALL IN for this.

SpideyWar

The trailer everyone was waiting for, however, was the final Captain America: Civil War trailer. If anyone was on the fence about this movie before the trailer, I thin they’re definitely chosen a side by now. It’s an exciting trailer, but I had an issue with it: I didn’t need to see Spider-Man. I know it’s to get folks jazzed about the film, and to let folks know “Yes, he’s in here”. After all, the Man on the Street isn’t as plugged into geek media as would like to believe, so I can see why his reveal might’ve been necessary for audience awareness. That said, can you imagine how huge that scene would’ve been had they held it until the film? Like @OAFE said on Twitter, I’d have been fine if we just got the “thwip” of his grabbing Cap’s shield, without getting the full shot of him. The thwip would’ve been more than enough. But here we are. I’m still #TeamIronMan all the way, and this trailer didn’t sway me from that.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Actress/singer Zendaya has been cast as mysterious character “Michelle” in the Spider-Man reboot film
  • Craig Robinson is joining Mr. Robot‘s second season in a recurring role
  • Supergirl has been renewed for a second season on CBS
  • Citing differencs with the studio on the direction the project was taking, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has left the Sandman adaptation.
  • Former J. Jonah Jameson actor, JK Simmons, has been cast as Commissioner Gordon in the Justice League film

Based on Twitter reaction, you’d probably expect that the Civil War trailer had the West Week Ever. That means that you clearly didn’t see Saturday Night Live last weekend. Yeah, I know it’s “cool” to hate the show. “It hasn’t been funny since *fill in year when you were 13*.” I get it. Still, every now and then something incredible happens on there that becomes the watercooler conversation the next week. A lot of folks were sharing the Trump racism sketch, but I actually had problems with that because SNL ignored the racism allegations before asking him to host, but now that it’s happened, they want to be “hip” and “edgy”. Why not call him a racist while you were smiling in his face a few weeks back, huh? But I digress. No, THIS was the best part of last week’s SNL:

That was INCREDIBLE, as my assessment of it got me 33 Likes on Twitter:

It’s a shame that SNL can’t figure out more to do with Pharoah, but I guess they can’t rely on impressions alone. I reviewed his standup special a few months back, and he’s got so much promise. I just wish he had a better showcase for it. In any case, for that amazing riff, Jay Pharoah had the West Week Ever.

15th Jan2016

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

by Will

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DOFP

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

we dont

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

madtv 20th anniversary

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

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

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

Cloverfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

Links I Loved

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

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

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

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

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

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

MightyMorphinPowerRangers 0 Red

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

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

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

08th Jan2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/8/16

by Will

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Welcome to the first West Week Ever of 2016! Thanks to everyone who checked out West YEAR Ever earlier this week, and brace yourself because we’ve got a lot to discuss today!

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On the movie front, I finally watched Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson. What the Hell did I watch?! I thought I’d heard good things about this movie, but no me gusta! It’s overly ambitious in that it can’t seem to figure out if it wants to be a full out action movie or an action-philosophical movie. Sorry, but not everyone can pull off a Matrix. In the film, Lucy ends up being a drug mule for a new synthetic drug, but the package ruptures inside her and causes her to change. That change involves her using more of her brain than most humans use. Apparently, when you’ve mastered control of your brain, you can change your hair color at will or control electronics. Hell, right before she hits 100% of brain use, she literally swipes left on the timeline. She finds herself all the way back at the moment of the Big Bang. There’s some substory about human potential and how we never truly die, and Morgan Freeman is there, I suppose, to lend a bit of “legitimacy” to the film. I don’t see how this movie made over $400 million.

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Next I found myself watching Beauty Shop, Queen Latifah’s 2005 entry to the Barbershop franchise. I really liked the Barbershop movies, and I’d always wanted to see this but just never got around to it. Like the Barbershop movies, it focuses on how the beauty shop is the nexus of gossip and information in the Black community. It also features what might be my favorite Alicia Silverstone role – Lynn, the sweet, naive girl from backwoods Georgia. She starts out as a shampoo girl at the high end salon where she and Latifah work, but later comes to work in the beauty shop that Latifah opens after striking out on her own. The other women in the shop don’t like her because she’s White, and they really don’t understand why she’s there. Silverstone’s accent is over the top, and the character is overacted, but that’s kinda what makes her endearing. And she got the guy in the end – not because she was White but because she wasn’t a bitch like the other women in the shop (especially Golden Brooks’s character, Chanell). It also features the lovely Andie MacDowell, who ends up with a donk at the end of the movie because she ate too many collard greens. Yeah, that happened. When you think about it, the movie really tried to make the White folks into outsiders, but they end up not only being accepted at the end, but they also end up being the most likable characters (with the exception of Mena Suvari’s character. Man, where’s she been the past 10 years?). Anyway, it got me in the mood for the upcoming Barbershop 3.

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Then I watched a movie called Bikini Spring Break. I’m not proud of it, but I’m honor bound in my duty to report every movie I watch in full. I knew it couldn’t be too “porny” because one of the stars was Robert Carradine of Revenge of the Nerds fame. Basically, it’s about a female collegiate marching band whose van breaks down in Fort Lauderdale on the way to Miami for a competition. Oh, and it happens to be Spring Break. So, they end up doing random things to raise money to fix their van, like jello wrestling and riding mechanical bulls. Oh, yeah, there are boobs, but no sex. It was pretty bad. I probably should’ve just watched something on the DVR.

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Finally, I watched Fifty Shades of Grey. What? It was on HBO and I was curious. Anyway, this movie made Bikini Spring Break look like Citizen Kane. It’s a shame when a low budget titty comedy ends up being a better movie than one that’s based on a bestselling novel. It’s so, so bad. The dialogue…I mean, women actually like this shit? My favorite lines from the movie are “I don’t ‘make love’. I FUCK. HARD.” and “I would like to fuck you into the middle of next week”, said with no seduction or anything alluring. It was said during a business meeting – which brings up another issue: Christian Grey is a horrible businessman. He issues a contract to Anastasia for all of the kinky stuff that he wants to do to her, yet he “renders services” before she even signs the damn contract! I think I liked this movie better when it was called Secretary. At least that movie knew that it was a dark comedy, and James Spader and Maggie Gyllenhaal knew how to ACT. I can’t tell if Jamie Dornan is a bad actor or if it’s just a reflection on the material he was given. Dakota Johnson is OK, but her breasts sadden me.  Just looking at them makes me sad. Is that body-shaming? I mean, she was hired to be naked a good portion of the movie, so you’d think her chest wouldn’t remind me of a Sarah McLachlan commercial. Anyway, the ONE good thing I can say about this movie is that it has a great soundtrack. Other than that, I can’t believe they’re making more of these. Sure, the books are a trilogy, but they could just call it quits now, right? Right?

Grinder

On the TV front, I caught a marathon of The Grinder on FX. I’d seen a couple of episodes, and liked what I saw, but it was so much better as a binge-watch. That’s a really good show! It stars Rob Lowe as the former star of the court series The Grinder, who moves in with his brother’s family as he tries to figure out how to live a “normal” life. The brother, played by Fred Savage (yup, that Fred Savage), kinda resents Lowe’s character, as he has worked hard to become a real lawyer, while Lowe just played one on TV. The series really gets good, though, when Lowe is betrayed by friend Timothy Olyphant (playing himself), who agrees to star in the spinoff The Grinder: New Orleans. I can’t really think of a series to compare it to, but it’s so good. If you’re looking for a new single cam sitcom, definitely check it out.

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While Fox has a hit on its hands with The Grinder, it premiered 2 real duds on Sunday night. First up was the comedy Cooper Barrett’s Guide to Surviving Life, which was marketed almost like an update of the 90s series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. I mean, both star a good looking kid who’s kinda smarmy and finds himself in weird situations, with a motley crew of friends tagging along. It was a serviceable pilot, jumping around the timeline instead of telling a linear story, but I still don’t feel it’s anywhere near as good as Brooklyn Nine-Nine – the series that previously occupied that timeslot. Following that night’s Family Guy, they finally premiered the Seth MacFarlane-produced Bordertown. This show has been in development for years, and now that it’s finally been released, I still don’t think it was ready. Set in “Mexifornia”, it focuses on a border agent and his family who live next door to an immigrant family. And hilarity ensues…or does it? No, it’s not a very good show. Even by MacFarlane standards. I know some people hate his shows, but I’m a big fan (though I can easily admit that Family Guy has been treading water the past 2 seasons). Remember how American Dad started out as a one-note response to 9/11? It’s like that, but much, much worse. And at least American Dad eventually became amazing. I don’t see that in the cards for Bordertown. Originally announced for the 2014-2015 television season, Fox didn’t even see fit to burn it off over the summer. Anyway, I wouldn’t be surprised if The Last Man On Earth returns a lot earlier than expected, even if they’re just reruns.

TitansTogether

In television news, a lot of stuff happened this week. First up, it was announced that the DC Titans show is no longer in production at TNT. Yay! I NEVER wanted this thing, and I’m glad it’s dead. I mean, they were putting Oracle/Barbara Gordon/former Batgirl on the team, for God’s sake! Based on the Teen Titans/Titans comic series, the show was to focus on an adult Dick Grayson as he led his own superteam. I may have been onboard the project had it not been focused on Grayson. I’m just tired of Batman projects orbiting the story they actually want to tell. Birds of PreyGotham, Titans – eventually the audience is going to ask “Where’s Batman?” which requires more complicated answers than they’re looking for (TV rights vs movie rights, the desire to not confuse the consumer, etc). Plus, I’m just tapped out on superhero shows right now. I already skipped Supergirl, despite everyone telling me how great it is. Titans probably would’ve been another one I’d skip, as I just don’t see it bringing anything desired to the table. I know some folks, like @Jordamus_Prime, LOVE the Titans, but I just never really saw TNT as the best home for such a project.

TFTC

Speaking of TNT, they’re rebooting Tales From The Crypt with M. Night Shyamalan. I enjoyed the original series, but I also watched it in syndication instead of the original HBO episodes. So, I’m sure I missed out on them as the Lord intended. Folks love to crap on Shyamalan, but I’ve actually enjoyed his recent projects. After Earth wasn’t that bad, and I raved about my love of Wayward Pines. Just like the HBO series, the new Crypt will use the original EC Comics line as inspiration for episodes, but it’s not clear if the Cryptkeeper character is coming back.

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This is news from a few weeks back, but NBC officially canceled Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris. And so goes my dream of being on a game show. I was so close, but I pretty much knew that if I didn’t get on that first season, then it wasn’t happening. Just like that American Idol audition…

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Yahoo announced they were discontinuing Yahoo Screen, which was the portal that was released in conjunction with Yahoo’s acquisition of Community. The service was plagued with ads and a shoddy player, so it’s not a huge surprise. Outside of Community, there weren’t any other success stories. There was a series called Sin City Saints about a basketball team in Vegas, and there was Other Space, which costarred Lily the AT&T Girl (Milana Vayntrub). Neither show really developed a fan base, though. The videos will still be online via the Yahoo site, but the Screen portal is gone, and it seems like Yahoo’s done with original programming.

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Now for your weekly Fuller House update. Apparently, show creator Jeff Franklin approached Elizabeth Olsen to play the role of Michelle when her sisters, the Olsen Twins, declined. According to John Stamos on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM radio show, when the Olsens said they didn’t “think of [them]selves as actors anymore”, he said “Get the sister”. They even went as far as to call Elizabeth’s agent, but it didn’t get much further than that. Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly released new set photos, like the one above.

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Speaking of Netflix shows, a teaser was released yesterday announcing a premiere date of 3/18/16 for the second season of Daredevil. They also released the godawful poster that you see above. This is a rare misstep for Marvel stuff. I know they want us to see the Punisher skull, but there had to have been a better way to get there than this. Anyway, here’s hoping I’m done with Jessica Jones by then.

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In toy AND movie news, a leaked image of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows toys revealed that Krang will be in the movie, as well as the Technodrome. With this, combined with Rocksteady and Bebop,  I fear that this movie is becoming such a love letter to fans of the original cartoon that today’s kids aren’t even gonna care about it. But, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. And it would be kinda cool to see Krang on the big screen.

Batcave

Batcave2In other toy news, pics have leaked of the upcoming LEGO set based on the 1966 Batman Batcave. I don’t do large scale LEGO sets, but this thing looks beautiful. It also comes with the Batcopter, Batmobile (which I believe may be the one that was originally an SDCC exclusive), and Batcycle, as well as 9 minifigures. We still don’t have a piece count, but I’m hoping it doesn’t turn out to be as expensive as the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier or Ghostbusters Firehouse.

Ghostbusters

Speaking of Ghosbusters, Director Paul Feig tweeted out this pic last night of the prototype for the Ghostbusters 6″ movie figures. Look at that Leslie Jones! These look like they’ll have Movie Masters-level articulation, so the real trick will be if they can keep them under $19.99.

Things You Might Have Missed this Week

  • Michael Weatherly is leaving NCIS. Never seen it. I do, however, remember when he was banging Jessica Alba while they costarred on Dark Angel.
  • It was announced that HBO’s Girls will end after season 6. Yay, no more Lena Dunham nudity!
  • Model Kelly Rohrbach has been cast as Pamela Anderson’s character, C.J. Parker, in the Baywatch movie.
  • Broad City scored a 2-season renewal from Comedy Central. Yass, queen!
  • Twitter announced an increase in character limit from 140 to 10,000. This is McDonalds breakfast all over again. I never needed All Day Breakfast. I just needed Until 2 PM Breakfast. Sure, I could use a few more characters, but I’m not trying to write War and Peace here!
  • Pitch Perfect stars Skylar Astin and Anna Camp are engaged. Aca-gratulations!
  • After 2 seasons, The Meredith Vieira Show has been canceled. Wonder if they’ll let her come back to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
  • Michael Bay will direct Transformers 5. And as much as you say you hate him, you’ll still see it
  • Netflix and Dreamworks are rebooting Voltron. I really couldn’t give two shits, but I know some of you care.
  • For the sportsball fans, the St. Louis Rams, the San Diego Chargers, and the Oakland Raiders have all applied to relocate to Los Angeles.
  • Former Arrow costar Colton Haynes may have come out while responding to a Tumblr post about his “secret gay past”. His response: “Was it a secret? Let’s all just enjoy life and have no regrets.”

Links I Loved

Nik’s Piks (Pretend this is a regular feature!) – Top 10 Toys of 2015 – nik tumbls art and stuff

Why Do You Write? – Team Hellions

9 Former American Idol Contestants on What Viewers Don’t Know, Life After the Show, and Who Deserved to Win But Didn’t – Vulture

Sifting: Technology, Trash, & Digging for Memories – NEMMC

In 13 years of blogging, I finally made someone’s Top 10 list – and it wasn’t even for work on my own site. As I mentioned in West YEAR Ever, I wrote a piece for The Robot’s Pajamas about the current star power of some former Power Rangers actors. Well, it turns out that was one of their top posts of the year. You can check it out, as well as the other 9 posts, here.

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Also, I recorded my 49th podcast with @Engineernerd from Action Figure Blues and @ISeeRobots from The Toys “R” Us Report. We discussed the ins and outs of thrifting, and it was a great conversation. Now I know you’re saying, “But Will, last week you posted about your 50th podcast appearance, so how is this 49?” Well, 50 just got posted sooner. You’re not traveling through time or anything. Anyway, check it out here, on the most recent episode of the Action Figure Blues Podcast.

On the music front, I LOVE music video sequels. So, imagine my surprise when one my favorite bands, Fall Out Boy, filmed the video to “Irresistible” as a sequel to “It’s Gonna Be Me”, by another of my favorite bands, *NSYNC. Fifteen years ago, Wayne Isham directed the *NSYNC video where the guys portray marionettes who come to life in a toy store. Now, in 2016, Isham is back filming Fall Out Boy as bobbleheads in the same toy store. Demi Lovato’s also in the video, as well as original *NSYNC members Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone. I’d really love to see more artists do stuff like this.

Sure, there was a Daredevil teaser and some toy news, but this was probably my favorite thing to come out of the week. What can I say? I’m a sucker for boybands and nostalgia. So, Fall Out Boy’s “Irresistible” video had the West Week Ever.

06th Jan2016

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2015

by Will

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2015 was quite the year in pop culture. Adele broke all the records, Charlie Sheen got the HIV, Steve Harvey pissed off Colombia, and Star Wars came along and broke all the records that Adele didn’t touch. And some stuff happened in between all that, too. The Netflix series Daredevil, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Master of None wowed audiences,  Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary, and Marvel released a bunch of movies. Things were also pretty exciting here on the blog, too. power-rangers-legendary-battle-e1421106185742

I guest-posted over at The Robot’s Pajamas ranking the current star power of several Power Rangers alums

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I wrote about the best, and most underrated, pop album of 2014

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And because I can’t get enough Power Rangers, I wrote about Red Ranger turned Murderer, Ricardo Medina Jr

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To celebrate the release of their documentary, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, I made a list of the best Backstreet Boys songs that you’ve never heard

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I got in a Twitter fight with American Idol season 1 alum, Justin Guarini

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In one of my most popular posts of the year, I had some controversial thoughts about Batgirl

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Thrift Justice: Yard Sale Edition made a lone appearance this year

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I got on the radar of Andre, The Black Nerd

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Bob Ross and his happy little trees

I attended DC’s Awesome Con for the first time, and got some cool cosplay pictures

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I had some random thoughts about some random comics

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I got my first Cease & Desist order AND I got killed in a comic book!

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My biggest post of the year explored the racial implications of Jurassic World

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I recorded a “backdoor pilot” for a podcast that’ll probably never get off the ground

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I got retweeted by adult film star Ryan Driller

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I defended Fant4stic Four

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I got my first verified celebrity follower on Twitter

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I applied to be on a game show

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I made my 3rd trip to Retro Con and took lots of cool toy pics

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I participated in a summer swap of nerd swag

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I went to New York Comic Con on a quest to see how much free swag I could get

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I got caught talking about a Jeopardy contestants boob’s on Twitter, and then we became besties

I’ve never considered myself a “movie guy”, but this year saw me watching 78 films. That’s GOT to be some kind of record for me. No, I’m not going to rank them, because I’m not enough of a cinephile, but I will list them so that you can see that I was all over the place when it came to what I watched:

  1. Obvious Child
  2. Live. Die. Repeat
  3. Wish I Was Here
  4. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  5. Non-Stop
  6. The Skeleton Twins
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
  8. Man of Steel
  9. A Million Ways To Die In The West
  10. The Chernobyl Diaries
  11. Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of
  12. The Purge
  13. Bad Words
  14. Dredd
  15. Gravity
  16. A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce)
  17. Wet Hot American Summer
  18. After Earth
  19. Cloverfield
  20. The Marine
  21. Tammy
  22. Behind The Candelabra
  23. Choke
  24. St. Elmo’s Fire
  25. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  26. Tron
  27. The Purge: Anarchy
  28. The Babadook
  29. The Signal
  30. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  31. St. Vincent
  32. Top Five
  33. Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  34. The Wedding Ringer
  35. Seeking Asian Female
  36. Southern Rites
  37. Two Night Stand
  38. The Great Bikini Bowling Bash
  39. Kung Fury
  40. This Is Where I Leave You
  41. The Watch
  42. Hot Girls Wanted
  43. Jersey Boys
  44. John Wick
  45. Whiplash
  46. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
  47. The Duff
  48. Shopgirl
  49. Horrible Bosses 2
  50. Inside Llewyn Davis
  51. 2 Guns
  52. Toy Story 3
  53. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
  54. Ant-Man
  55. Lavalantula
  56. Fant4stic Four
  57. Snowpiercer
  58. Spice World
  59. Fury
  60. Frozen (2010)
  61. The Inbetweeners 2
  62. Pitch Perfect 2
  63. Mad Max: Fury Road
  64. Dreamgirls
  65. Spy
  66. Vacation
  67. Get Hard
  68. Miss Congeniality
  69. Bernie
  70. The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
  71. Chaos on the Bridge
  72. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
  73. Here Comes the Boom
  74. Unfinished Business
  75. Dope
  76. Attack the Block
  77. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  78. I Smile Back

All of these were reviewed on the site, so just plug them into the search field up on the right to see what I thought about any particular one of them.

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West Week Ever Recipients of 2015 (with commentary)

1/9/15 – Agent Carter

In hindsight, this deserved to have the WWE even more by the end of its run than it did this week. It was a strong premiere, but I was still at a place where I didn’t feel the character could carry her own show. By the end of the 8-week run, I was a True Believer. I guess I just saw a lot of potential in that pilot.

1/16/15 – Empire

This show brought back the sudsy primetime soap, and was SO good for that first season. I definitely feel like it deserved the WWE at the time, but I don’t know if it’ll ever return to the dramatic highs of that first season.

1/23/15 – Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars

This was based purely on speculation, as the West Week Ever was essentially given to an *announcement*. The miniseries hadn’t even begun, and this was based on what was promised in the aftermath: A new Marvel Universe, the destruction of the Ultimate Universe, and the Miles Morales Spider-Man making the move to the mainstream “616” universe. All of this had the makings of something huge. As of this writing, the much-delayed miniseries STILL hasn’t finished, even though the regular Marvel books have relaunched and carried on with their business. From what we can tell, not much has changed in the regular universe, while Secret Wars as a miniseries has been something of a disappointment (with several tie-in miniseries that showed a lot of promise). The surest shot Secret Wars ever had of having the West Week Ever was by receiving it before the first issue even launched. Nothing about the actual mini has been worthy of the WWE.

1/30/15 – Fant4stic Four trailer

The trailer had me interested in the film – something that a lot of people couldn’t say because they were already pissed about reports of “Hacker DOOM” and other stuff. It was clearly a slow week for entertainment, but I really did like what I saw. More about Fant4stic Four later…

2/6/15 – Jimmy Fallon’s Saved By The Bell reunion

This is the kind of thing that West Week Ever is all about: those potential “flash in the pan” moments that embody a particular moment in time. Looking back, I’d like to think I chose things that made some sort of cultural impact, but at times it’s the small moments that also matter. Jimmy Fallon had been trying to do a Saved By The Bell reunion since his days hosting Late Night. He didn’t pull it off, but managed to do it for the cast of California Dreams instead. I loved that reunion and I loved this one, too. Fallon’s at just the right age where his nostalgia is my nostalgia, and as an unabashed fan of all things TNBC, this was certainly my favorite moment of that week.

2/13/15 – N/A

Sometimes nothing has the West Week Ever. This was one of those weeks.

2/20/15 – Saturday Night Live

This was the week after the 40th anniversary aired, and I definitely feel like it was deserving of the WWE. It was a great special, in a vain that you rarely see anymore. It was great to see all of those old faces return to the studio, including Eddie Murphy who hadn’t returned to SNL since his days as a cast member.

2/27/15 – Parks & Recreation

I didn’t love Parks & Rec in the beginning. I’ve often said that it was the show least deserving of a second season that I’d ever seen. That first season is HORRIBLE. After some cast shakeups and some creative tinkering, the show finally found its footing. While it never really hit the acclaim of its “brother” The Office, it certainly ended a lot stronger than that show did. I didn’t appreciate how NBC burned the show off during its final season, and I feel like that broadcasting decision caused a lot of folks to miss out on those episodes. Luckily, the season is coming to Netflix later this month, so hopefully they’ll get to see what I saw in the show. Those final eps had a lot of heart, and the characters all end up in a great place. This one totally deserved the WWE.

3/13/15 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

This one was tricky due to the “Here’s everything at once” nature of Netflix. Timing was on its side, though, as this was the best thing that happened that week I finally consumed the series. This was not only one of the bright spots of 2015 television, but as a Tina Fey project, it’s cemented its influence on popular culture. I’ll bet NBC is still kicking themselves for cancelling this thing before it even went to air, but more folks saw it online than would’ve seen it on NBC in the midst of its death throes.

3/20/15 – Community

Did it deserve the WWE at this time? I’m not sure. It was more a testament to its triumphant return from cancellation, as well as it was helping to launch the Yahoo Screen platform (which has just been shut down, as of this past Monday). We didn’t know much about what the season would bring as, unlike Netflix’s full-season dump, Yahoo Screen debuted new episodes every Tuesday.

3/27/15 – Evelyn West

I had a daughter that week. It was pretty cool.

4/3/15 – Going Clear

I love anything about Scientology, so this was right up my alley. The documentary premiered that week, so it was definitely the standout of what was essentially a slow week for news.

4/10/15 – Daredevil

The Netflix series got the WWE based on my watching the pilot alone. Sure, it was a great pilot to a great series, but here’s something to consider: that thing came out 3 AM EST Friday morning. This means that, had I not watched the episode, nothing would’ve gotten the WWE that week. Sometimes, it really is about being in the right place at the right time.

4/17/10 – Daredevil

I had finally finished the series, and was truly impressed by everything I’d seen. To me, this is the WWE that the series definitely *deserved*, while the previous week’s honor was really just me trying to make sure that something had the West Week Ever. That’s not to say that it was a bad pilot, but I feel a lot better about this week because the whole thing was a quality series, and it just means more to me that it maintained its quality across all 13 episodes. So, last week’s WWE for Daredevil was a bit of a fluke, while this is the one that “matters”.

4/24/15 – Iceman

This one is tricky. When it happened, it was definitely a hot topic that week. To me, however, it was a cop-out. Instead of them revealing that the “regular” Iceman was gay, Marvel instead said that it was teenaged, time-displaced, possibly from an alternate timeline Iceman. It was too much of Marvel trying to have its cake and eat it, too. So, imagine my surprise when Uncanny X-Men #600 came out months later, revealing that regular 616 Iceman is also gay, and that he hadn’t acknowledged it because he had enough of his plate, being persecuted for being a mutant and all. To me, that would’ve been a MUCH more important story to tell, but it got lost in the Secret Wars delay shuffle.

5/1/15 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

It was a big movie. In hindsight, was it a good movie? People seem to have differing opinions. At that point in time, though, it had a big opening and a lot of eyes on it, so I think it totally deserved the WWE.

5/8/15 – The New Hamburglar

This was quite the failed marketing push. It seemed like McDonalds was on to something, but this thing disappeared quicker than the Halloween Whopper that was turning everyone’s shit green. This hasn’t been a strong year for McDonalds, as they’re just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. This year saw the return of The Hamburglar, mozzarella sticks added to the menu, and even mac & cheese added in the Ohio test market. I think this was the victim of public backlash, as folks joked that the new Hamburglar looked kinda like a pedophile. Seems like McDonalds got antsy and canned the whole campaign. Out of everything on 2015’s WWE list, this was probably the biggest fail.

5/15/15 – Major Broadcast Networks

This one may feel like a cop-out, but it was warranted. This was the week of the Spring network upfronts, where we learned what was cancelled, what was renewed, and what new shows were coming in the Fall. This is always an exciting time for television, and I lost a few “friends” that week (ABC’s Forever, for instance).

5/22/15 – David Letterman

Never really been a Letterman fan, but the man was an institution. This was all about giving credit where it was due, and he deserved that WWE honor.

5/29/15 – Kung Fury

This was another example of a slow news week. If you read my thoughts on Kung Fury, I wasn’t actually a fan. I mean, I enjoyed it, but 90% of the “movie” (the thing is THIRTY minutes long!) was given away in the trailer. Seriously, the only thing in the movie that wasn’t in the trailer was the sentient arcade machine. I really expected more. I think I gave the WWE to the *idea* of the project rather than the actual finished product.

6/5/15 – Community

This was the WWE that Community truly earned. The season had concluded, and it was pretty obvious that the show wasn’t coming back. Sort of like Two and a Half Men, Community persevered whenever something happened that shouldn’t ended it.  It lost Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover, got cancelled by NBC, and got picked up by Yahoo for an untested platform. All of these should’ve spelled the end. To me, however, the Yahoo episodes turned out to be some of my favorites of the entire series.

6/12/15 – N/A

Not even a cop-out choice could save this week.

6/19/15 – Jurassic World

Universal had a great year, and Jurassic World was its crowning achievement. I also gave it the WWE because of what JW had done for me. After all, my post, The Price of Admission: The Socioeconomic and Racial Implications of Jurassic World, was my most popular post in years.

6/26/15 – N/A

I swear, I TRY to give something the WWE every week, but sometimes the world just doesn’t cooperate.

7/17/15 – Go Set A Watchman

This choice was kind of a betrayal of what I stand for. Typically, the WWE had to have had some sort of impact on me. I haven’t read this book, nor am I even that big of a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird. I mean, I understand its place in popular culture, and another book in the franchise seemed like a “sure thing”, right? Well, I’ve heard nothing but negative stuff about this book, and it has had the cultural impact of Joey.

7/24/15 – Ant-Man

Loved it, and it was probably a stronger movie than Age of Ultron. I’m a Marvel fanboy, though, so this shouldn’t come as a shock. For that point in time, it totally deserved the WWE.

7/31/15 – Rick and Morty

As much as I enjoy the show, this originally got the WWE because it was a slow week, and the second season premiere had aired that week. In hindsight, though, this was the beginning of what would turn out to be an incredible season. To cap it off, when I went to New York Comic Con later in the year, Rick and Morty cosplay was EVERYWHERE, proving to me that the show had made a bigger cultural impact that I had realized. Totally deserving of the WWE – I just didn’t know it yet.

8/7/15 – Deadpool trailer

The little superhero movie that could. This movie, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist. It’s based on a one-note appearance from the universally panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so it’s amazing it got made. Sure, Ryan Reynolds is the perfect choice for the role, but he’s also been box office poison for the past few years. This trailer, however, captured everything a Deadpool movie should be. I still don’t know if it needs to be rated R, as they’re cutting out a portion of potential audience members, but it seems to be everything Deadpool fans would want. The movie’s not out yet, and I still have my doubts, but I think they crafted a good trailer.

8/14/15 – Fant4stic Four

This movie isn’t as bad as your neckbeard friend keeps telling you it is. Most of the people running their mouths about it didn’t even see it. They checked out after the reveal of Black Johnny Storm and the rumor that Doom was just a message board troll instead of a sorcerer. I defended this movie because I think it’s worth checking out, if only to make up your own mind about it. I maintain that it’s 2/3rds a strong movie, while the final 1/3 is clearly a movie “made by committee”. It wasn’t even necessarily a slow news week. I just really thought that Fant4stic Four was deserving of more positive attention.

8/21/15 – Rte 29 Batman, Leonard B. Robinson

This one was a big departure. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve got a “No Death” policy for WWE. I don’t talk about deaths because if you talk about one, you’ve gotta talk about them ALL. And a ton of them just don’t mean that much to me. So, it’s easier to just keep things a death-free zone. That said, Rte 29 Batman was something of a local hero, who donated his time and money to visiting sick kids in the hospital dressed as Batman. He was killed returning from one of these trips, when he was hit by a car on the side of the road. I’ve often wondered why some rich guy hasn’t tried to be Batman, and here was one who had. Sure, he didn’t fight crime, but he wanted to make things better for kids. That’s the kind of thing that’s worth talking about.

8/28/15 – Aqua Teen Hunger Force

I loved Aqua Teen, and it was something of an Adult Swim institution. It was on for 15 years, so I don’t see it leaving the air anytime soon, but its ending was definitely something worth noting. Nobody ever seems to talk about it, so I wonder if it’s a show that wore out its welcome, or if it’s just not the kind of thing folks discuss at the watercooler. After all, most Adult Swim shows seem like stoner fare, so maybe there’s some 420 subreddit out there mourning its cancellation.

9/4/15 – Force Friday

Now that the movie’s out, it’s hard to remember that this was A BIG DEAL! The Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys were being released, giving us the first glimpse of the characters from the hotly anticipated film. I know I was at a midnight Toys “R” Us opening just to get the figures. So many questions: Who was the Black kid? Why did Kylo Ren’s lightsaber have a laser hilt? And who was this badass known as “Captain Phasma”? Sure, all of these questions have now been answered, but this was the beginning of the merchandising onslaught brought on by The Force Awakens. Totally deserving of the WWE.

9/18/15 – Ahmed Mohamed, the Clock Boy

Muslim kid made a clock, but folks thought it was a bomb. Big news story. I actually tend not to get “real world” topical, but it was just one of those weeks. In hindsight, this wasn’t “pop culture” enough for the WWE. Sure, he got a lot of notoriety and offers, but where’s he now? He’s seeking $15 million in damages. That’s not a happy ending. Nah, I wanted him to get a show on Nickelodeon or some shit. THAT’s what gets ya the WWE. I flew a little too close to the CNN sun on this one.

9/25/15 – Pope Francis

The Pope came to the US, and it was Beatlemania all over again. It probably would’ve helped if he had done the talk show circuit or something, but everyone had Pope on the brain. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s skilled at saying exactly what you want to hear. You want to know if the dinosaurs went to Heaven? Pope Francis will not only tell you they did, but he’ll also name some dinosaur species you’ve never even heard of. ‘Cause he’s got connections like that. So yeah, I think he deserved the WWE.

10/2/15 – Power Rangers

If this site had a subtitle, it’d probably be “Amateur Power Rangers fansite”. I maintain just enough of a connection to the franchise to know what’s going on, but I’m not so engrossed that I haven’t experienced the touch of a woman. Was that mean? Check out Rangerboard sometime, and then get back to me. Anyway, the franchise was celebrating its 800th episode, so it sure as Hell deserved the WWE. How many shows reach that kind of episode count? And it’s a 22 year old franchise that’s still going strong.

10/9/15 – New York Comic Con

It was convention weekend. The show hadn’t really gotten started yet, but I had high hopes. In fact, it’s pretty funny that NYCC got the WWE when SDCC did not. I think I gave it to NYCC because I was actually going to that show, and I had hoped to meet up with a bunch of Twitter friends that weekend. That, sadly, did not happen. So, this WWE was given out in the hopes of “what might’ve been, but was not to be”.

10/16/15 – The Nerd Lunch Podcast

As a five-time guest, and member of the Nerd Lunch Army, this totally deserved the WWE. So many podcasts come and go, but they don’t all have staying power. 200 episodes is nothing to sneeze at, and I always have a great time on that show.

10/23/15 – Back to the Future Day

This is one of those picks “for the fans”. I don’t really have a special place in my heart for Back to the Future. I haven’t seen the movies in a long time, so that could have something to do with it. Everyone and their bookie was losing their mind over Back to the Future Day, however, so I couldn’t let the week go by without acknowledging it. The wrong date had been faked on memes for years, so it was a pretty important event that the real day was finally upon us. As something that could only really happen once, and the fact that it resulted in mostly positive things, I think BTTF Day deserved the WWE.

10/30/15 – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This was based on a particular episode that aired that week, which I found to be incredible television. It’s amazing how far the show has come from that terrible first season, and I wanted to find some sort of way to give it its due. There was no better time than this week, which finally revealed what happened to Simmons on the alien world Maveth. Watch the episode and you’ll agree with me.

11/6/15 – Star Trek

This choice was due to the announcement that there would be a new Trek television series in 2017. That’s the end of the good news. There are too many caveats. It’s only going to air on CBS All Access, which is the CBS subscription service. Plus, the folks behind it are the same folks behind the NuTrek movies. After seeing the trailer for Star Trek Beyond a few weeks later, my enthusiasm for this project waned. Still, it was big news in the geek world, though the jury is still out on its execution.

11/13/15 – Master of None

The Aziz Ansari Netflix show kinda became a critical darling, and I was just bandwagoning. I enjoyed it immensely, but I don’t think I really changed the world here. If you were gonna watch it, you were going to before I chimed in. If you were not gonna watch it, I sure as Hell didn’t convince you to do so. Since the dust has settled, there’s been some controversy surrounding some of the race stuff in the show, but I still think it was a great season. This was truly the best thing in pop culture that week.

11/20/15 – Adele

She broke every sales record out there, and she delivered the kind of stuff you expect from her. This was a bit of a reach, as I don’t think my readership shares my musical taste. I like pop. I make no bones about that. Still, whenever I do music posts, they tend to fall on deaf ears, as I don’t have a high 14 year old readership. So, this is one of those WWEs where most of my readers couldn’t give a shit, but I definitely think she earned it.

11/27/15 – Captain America: Civil War trailer

Just when we were catching our breath from Ultron and Ant-Man, the Marvel hype machine cranked back up with this one. It was like a poorly kept secret show or something. Everyone knew Evans and Downey were going to be on Kimmel, and everyone knew why, yet everyone pretended to play dumb. And when it went live, it did what Marvel trailers do: it got you excited for the next chapter in their grand plan.

12/4/15 – The Flash/Arrow “Heroes Join Forces” crossover

Last year’s Flash/Arrow crossover also got the WWE, so I guess it’s a tradition now. The Flash was stronger than Arrow, but it was still entertaining television. DC should just hand their movies over to Greg Berlanti, but that’s another discussion for another time.

12/11/15 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows trailer

They finally seem to be making a movie based on that 30 year old cartoon that grown men love! I don’t know why grownups can’t just let go of stuff so that a new generation can enjoy it. I didn’t hate the last TMNT movie, and I know kids seemed to like it. Still, this sequel seems to be incorporating a lot of things that adult fans will love, especially Shredder’s goons Rocksteady and Bebop. It made me giddy to see them, but it really got me thinking about the legacy of franchises. Maybe there’s a post in there somewhere.

12/17/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Um, the premiere of the next installment of a franchise that some fans have been waiting 30 years to see (if they ignore the prequels)? Yeah, this was a no-brainer.

12/23/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

See above, and then add in the fact that it made a shit ton of money in a week’s time.

12/31/15 – Hoverboards

While these things popped up on Vines and YouTube back in the summer, they were atop the want lists of all the “normal” folks come Christmas time. And they became infamous. Charging them caused fires to break out, they were banned from most public places, and most retailers refused to sell them. Which only made people want them MORE. It’s somewhat unorthodox to give the WWE to a *thing* rather than a franchise or person, but this seemed fitting.

So, here we are. The moment you’ve all been waiting for: what had the West YEAR Ever? Well, looking back over the nominees, it’s looking like our finalists are the multiple WWE recipients Daredevil, Community, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The interesting thing here is how their “reign” kinda divided up the calendar year. Daredevil was great, but folks were basically done talking about it by Summer. Sure, some sites foolishly tried to do weekly recaps of the episodes, but seeing as how everyone binged that thing, nobody gave a shit about those. Community was around from Spring to Summer, but the season kinda flew under the radar for anyone but the most die hard fans. And once Summer ended, the ramp up to The Force Awakens began. So, what I’m saying is that nobody really carried the year on their shoulders – not like Taylor Swift did last year, or Breaking Bad the year before that. So, this is where I get to use my veto power (’cause it’s my site and all) and award a winner.

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To me, Evelyn West had the West Year Ever. Let me explain. I know some of y’all are “child free” and/or don’t give a shit about my kid, but she really changed my life. It’s not every day that you have your first kid, and stuff really does change. No, I’m not going to get into the mushy stuff. I’m talking practical stuff, like all your stuff goes off to a storage unit, and you’re on bottle-making duty every night. But oddly, you don’t really care. This is probably the worst way to describe a human being, but I sometimes refer to her as “my favorite toy”. She’s just so fascinating, and sometimes I have trouble fathoming that she’s a living, breathing thing. I just like to watch her crawl around and get into stuff she shouldn’t be touching. Plus, we’ve already instilled in her a love of superheroes, so she’s already on the right pop culture track. The clincher, though, is that she was born at the end of March, and has been here ever since. So, that’s more dominance of the calendar year than any of the other options I listed. Sure, you may have been looking forward to The Force Awakens, but I was looking forward to things like her crawling or learning to blow raspberries (which she does with precision). So, in a few days, West Week Ever will be back to normal, and something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the honor. And I don’t plan to have any kids this year, so I can pretty much guarantee that something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the 2016 West Year Ever honor, too. But for now, you’re just gonna have to bear with me, as my daughter pretty much had the West Year Ever in 2015. But if that’s not good enough for you, then you can tell your friends that it was Star Wars. It’s not like they won’t believe you.

31st Dec2015

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/31/15

by Will

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Welcome to the final West Week Ever of 2015! I figured you’ll all be hungover tomorrow, so I’d probably better post this today. As I’m sure you’re aware, NOTHING happens between Christmas and New Years, so it’s a wonder I even found enough material for a whole post. Or did I? You be the judge!

I Smile Back

On the movie front, I watched I Smile Back, which stars Sarah Silverman. Despite its star, this movie is NOT a comedy. In fact, it’s probably the most dramatic role Silverman has ever played. Based on the novel of the same name, Silverman plays a married upper middle class woman whose life is spiraling out of control. On the surface, her life is perfect: she’s got a loving husband, two great kids, a big house, etc. Below all that, however, she’s dealing with daddy issues and a substance abuse problem. Oh, and she bangs a lot of dudes who aren’t her husband. She does a stint in rehab, and you think things will start to get better for her. Well, you’d be wrong. It’s a really dark film, and I’m not sure if I recommend it, per se. I will say that if you’ve ever wanted to see Silverman topless, then this is the film for you. I’m still trying to process its ending, and part of me wants to read the book just to see if there’s more clarity to what’s going on there. This isn’t the kind of movie I’d just jump at watching. Honestly, I was all in when I saw that Silverman was in it, but I had no idea it’d be as dark as it was.

TFA

I also saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the second time. I went with my friends James and Jenn, and I was really interested in what they would think of the movie. They tend to dislike things that the public just eats up because they’re really cerebral. “Popcorn movies” are a waste of time to them, as they prefer entertainment that makes them *think*. So, I knew going in that they’d probably dislike the movie, but I was really curious to know what about it they would dislike most. James zeroed in on one of the things I mentioned last week: if there were a Bechdel Test for race, this movie would fail. Finn exists solely to move Rey’s story along. Sure, he has his moments, but he never really gets to be the hero of the film. Someone online put it best, saying that there’s no moment in the film when a character thinks “We’re in trouble! Better call Finn!”

Also, due to the fact that I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, I didn’t really notice until it was brought to my attention: the movie is just a remix of the original trilogy. Hell, it might as well just have P. Diddy yelling “Bad Boy” every few minutes in the film. We’ve seen this movie before, and some have called it the “most expensive fan fiction to ever be put onscreen”. It relies too heavily on nostalgia, but a lot of you reading this who disagree with me are too close to the franchise to even realize that. You have fond memories of Star Wars as being a milestone in your upbringing, so something to come along and tug on those heartstrings isn’t really a “fail” in your book. I feel like the movie is almost exploitative in its nostalgia, and doesn’t even hide the fact about what it’s doing. I always thought it was funny that The Four Tops re-released “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” as “It’s The Same Old Song”, and nobody realized it, even though they had the balls to tell you what they were doing simply in the title. That’s how I feel about The Force Awakens. It works because it’s something familiar that the public has already devoured and enjoyed. Sure, it may have new players, but are they really that new? I’m not trying to piss in anyone’s Corn Flakes, and if you liked the movie, that’s great. As a pseudo- “man on the street”, with no real ties to the original franchise, I thought it was entertaining, but nowhere near the amazing cinematic marvel that folks would lead you to believe it is, though. It’s a fun movie, but is it a good movie? I don’t consider myself enough of a cinephile to say, but I’m leaning towards “no”.

F is for Family

On the Netflix front, I’ve started watching F Is For Family. Created by comedian Bill Burr, it’s kind of like a mature King of the Hill. It focuses on patriarch Frank Murphy as he supports his family as an airport baggage handler in 1973. At its core, it’s just an animated sitcom focusing on a middle class family in a different era. I wish I could say it was based on Burr’s real life, but I haven’t seen anything supporting that theory. Anyway, I’m about 2 episodes in, and it’s pretty funny. The first season is only 6 episodes, so it’s a quick binge. Maybe when I’m done, I’ll finally circle back to Jessica Jones. Or I’ll just finally watch that second season of Bojack Horseman.

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In the world of television, I just discovered Teen Titans Go! Where has this show been all my life? Is this thing really for kids, ’cause I don’t believe it. I never watched the 2003 Teen Titans cartoon, as I felt it was for kids with ADHD. I mean, there was just simply too much erratic shit going on, plus I was, like, 20 when it debuted. Still, I think it’s a novel idea to focus on the team when they’re not saving the world, ’cause what they get into is hilarious. There’s one episode where they have to save the Justice League from Darkseid (voiced by Weird Al), while another had them hanging out with a thinly veiled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Plus, I love when Beat Boy calls Raven “Mama”, as it makes me picture him as a little, green A.C. Slater. Anyway, the show seems too good to be for kids, as I doubt they even get most of the jokes. I know a lot of folks have been hesitant to check it out, as they’re still pissed at Cartoon Network for cancelling other DC Comics show Young Justice (come on, was that show really that good?). I’ve got to say, though, that Teen Titans Go! has bumped Clarence out of my #1 cartoon slot for the moment.

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Just like I became the hub of all things Girl Meets World leading up to its premiere, I guess the same thing is happening regarding Fuller House. It was revealed this week that Carly Rae Jepsen has re-recorded the original theme song for the Netflix series. This is where I’d say something snarky, like “I guess that ‘Call Me Maybe’ money ran out”, but all I can really think is “Good for her!” I feel like this show will have a lot of lookie-loos, so it’ll definitely be good exposure for her. Meanwhile, I had no clue she came from Canadian Idol! And in true Idol fashion, she didn’t even win (placed 3rd), yet has gone further than the winner that year.

TGIF

Normally, this would go in the Links I Loved portion of the post, but I’m on vacation, and haven’t read much in the past week. That said, Entertainment Weekly had a great oral history of ABC’s TGIF lineup. It was the kind of thing Grantland used to be great at doing, and I would totally read an entire book on the subject. Things I learned from reading it: Full House creator Jeff Franklin? Kind of a dick. Steve Urkel actor Jaleel White? Kind of a dick. Franklin is bad ’cause he refuses to admit that the creation of TGIF helped Full House – a show that never really made a ratings dent until it landed on Friday night. White has said dickish things in the past, but he just comes across kinda jerky in the write-up. And I totally forgot that the creative force behind Boy Meets World also gave us Dinosaurs. Anyway, it’s a great read if you have fond memories of Urkel crash landing into the Foster-Lamberts’ backyard.

Cosby

Ya know who’s NOT having the West Week Ever? Bill Cosby. Man, I still can’t believe there are Cosby “truthers” out there. We’re talking about over 50 women here! There are as many stars on the flag as women Bill Cosby zippity-zoppotied in the bippity bop! Some people like to think there’s some sort of conspiracy out there to take down a “great Black man”, but I always heard he was the head of the Secret Black Leaders of America. I mean, by that rank alone, the only person with the power to take him out would be Oprah, and she’s too busy with Weight Watchers right now. Sure, Beyoncé could be gearing up for a major heel turn, but I don’t see that happening, either. So no, there’s no conspiracy. A dude used his power and influence to take advantage of women, and it’s coming back to bite him in the ass. Kinda like Star Wars, I have no real reverence for The Cosby Show, so it’s not like this has “tainted his legacy” or anything in my mind. Sure, The Cosby Show changed how Black people were viewed in primetime, but that still doesn’t excuse the fact that its star was using that platform to help him in his “extracurricular” affairs. And to stand up for Cosby, what would I get out of that? First of all, I’d look like a fool. Second, Bill Cosby HATES my generation. Hell, I don’t even do most of the stuff he pins on us (we wear our pants too low, etc), but he still hates my cohort. So why the Hell should I go to bat for his lecherous old ass? If anything, I’m just kinda glad Brandon Tartikoff didn’t live to see this. Then again, he was there at the beginning, so maybe he knew…

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In happier news, I made my 50th podcast appearance last week on the 2015 year end recap episode of The Recurrent Events Podcast. I joined up with my pals Jason and Chad to talk about the year that was in popular culture. If you like that sort of recap thing, be sure to check out West YEAR Ever next week. In the meantime, listen to our gabfest here.

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Like I said, nothing happens between Christmas and New Years, so there wasn’t a lot of “news”. If you ask me, the West Week Ever goes to all the nameless Chinese manufacturers of the hoverboard. Sure, they’re breaking wrists and burning down houses, but they were the hottest gadgets of the holiday season. Whether yours is a “Swagway”, “HoverTrax”, or an “AirBoard”, you weren’t an official Vine star unless you had one of these things this year. They’re currently banned from most sidewalks, malls, airports, and everywhere else, but that didn’t take them off the top of every teen’s Christmas list. So, for winning the season despite the odds stacked against it, the hoverboard had the West Week Ever.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to Like us on Facebook!

17th Dec2015

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/17/15

by Will

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Your weekly dose of pop culture is coming at ya a day early this week, since I know a lot of you are getting offline this evening so you don’t run into any Star Wars spoilers. Tomorrow’s probably gonna be a ghost town on here, so I thought I’d get the post in early this week. But I promise there are NO Star Wars spoilers below!

DopeThis week, I checked out the film Dope. I’d heard good things about the movie, but I don’t get to the theater too much, so I was gonna wait until it came out on Redbox or something. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, it’s kinda like a Black version of the 1999 film Go. Now, don’t ask me how to explain how I got to that comparison, but I think it’s apt. It’s about high school senior Malcolm and his best friends as they get wrapped up in a messy situation with some drugs. It’s about so much more than that, though. On the heels of the “blerd” movement, it deals a lot with identity and what it means to not be “Black enough”. Malcolm and his friends are in a punk band called Awreeoh (pronounced Oreo), and they idolize 90s hip hop culture. They don’t really fit in with the rest of the kids their age, so they’ve kinda bonded over being outsiders. It’s really fast paced, and doesn’t follow standard chronology. I really enjoyed it, and I think you should check it out if you get the chance.

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Since everyone knows that Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out this week, I figured I should get acquainted with the work of star John Boyega. For years, I’d been hearing about how great Attack the Block was, so it was finally time for me to check it out. The biggest problem was that I couldn’t really find it streaming anywhere, so I had to resort to…alternative means. Anyway, Boyega stars as the leader of a teenage gang that has set up shop in the projects of South London. One celebratory night, the neighborhood becomes the site of an alien invasion. Once Boyega’s character kills one of the aliens, he and his friends become targets for the rest of the aliens that have landed. While it’s comedic sci fi, it’s got some horror aspects to it. Part of it feels like a Black Goonies (nobody steal that idea!), but there’s also another story being told about the socioeconomic state of a lot of London youth. When the gang teams up with the White woman they had mugged earlier in the movie, they’re shocked to learn that she lives in their building. There’s quite a notion of “Why do YOU live HERE?” Boyega’s slow to boil, but once he gets going, he’s a commanding presence and a good leader. The version I was watching had subtitles turned on, and boy was I glad because it was hard keeping up with the slang AND the accents. Still, it’s a really good movie that I highly recommend.

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The Star Trek Beyond teaser trailer was released this week and, while NuTrek has given us some decent action movies, it has never really understood that that is NOT what Star Trek is about. I understand that it’s just a teaser, but you have to remember that this is *marketing* and, at the moment, they’re marketing it as a high adrenaline Fast and the Furious in Space action movie. That’s not what Star Trek is. Even if that movie turns out to be a completely different animal, the way they’re portraying it is not something a typical Star Trek fan would gravitate towards. That’s been my biggest issue with NuTrek – it acts like it’s ashamed of its own built-in fanbase. Instead of realizing the nice, pretty girl in front of it, it longs for the mega hot cheerleader who has to be tricked into dating it. If you want some Star Trek goodness that won’t disappoint, check out the Deep Space Nine drill down over on this week’s episode of the Nerd Lunch Podcast.

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Speaking of space movies, the trailer was released for Independence Day: Resurgence, and it looks good. In fact, I’m probably more intrigued by it than I was for Star Trek Beyond. Everyone’s back except Will Smith and Mae Whitman. At least Whitman’s character still exists (they recast her, with some folks assuming the studio was looking for a more “conventionally pretty” actress. Not my words!), while Smith’s Colonel Hiller was killed off on a website. Seriously, if you go to http://www.warof1996.com, which is the official viral site for the movie, there’s an entry on the interactive timeline that reveals Hiller was killed in 2007 while test piloting one of the new alien hybrid ships. Seeing how there probably wasn’t a body, I guess Smith could still come back in a third movie. “Look, he was actually teleported to the mothership before the explosion!” But I don’t know if that would work in the world already established by the rest of the franchise.

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In other movie news, toymaker Hasbro has announced a deal with Paramount to create a shared cinematic universe with their some of their biggest properties from the 80s, including G.I. Joe, ROM, M.A.S.K., Visionairies, and Micronauts. I really don’t know how this is going to work. On the one hand, I could see Joe and M.A.S.K. working together, and I could see ROM and Micronauts working together. But all under the same umbrella, in the same universe? I dunno, man. Everybody’s in love with the idea of the “shared cinematic universe”, but very few understand just how hard it is to pull off. Marvel’s never should’ve worked, and it should be seen as the exception rather than the norm. Sure, this will probably mean more toys for beloved properties, and I’m sure the folks over at IDW Publishing (the comics license holder for most Hasbro properties) are experiencing raging boners over this news, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

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There’s a rumor that James Gunn is looking at Kurt Russell to play Star-Lord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Right now, though, it’s just a rumor, so nothing to see here…

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Across the aisle, we got new character posters for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. They’re decent, but they’re not exactly “taking me from 6 to 12”, if you know what I mean…

Meanwhile, the trailer for something called Knight Rider Heroes surfaced this week, and nobody knows what it is. Based on the URL of http://www.KnightRiderHeroesMovie.com, it appears to be a movie, but it looks more like it’s on the fan film side of things. To its credit, they got Hasselhoff involved, but that dude will pretty much do anything. It’s equal parts cool AND depressing to see Michael Knight 30 years removed from the original series. He’s still wearing that belt and that jacket? He just looks like an out of fashion old man. At least when he showed up in Knight Rider (2008), his look had been modernized somewhat. This dude, however, just looks like a man out of time. Like he’s just been wearing the same thing, and driving the same car since 1986. And if this movie revolves around assembling a team of Knight Riders, it’s already been done. It was called Team Knight Rider, and it desperately needs a DVD release!

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Finally for movies, the first official image was released for Ghostbusters. I know folks hate the idea of this film, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s got a cast filled with folks that I love, and the original GB isn’t this sacred cow to me that it is for a lot of folks. If you ask me, this movie can’t get here fast enough. Definitely one of my most anticipated of 2016.

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In the world of comics, Marvel officially announced Civil War II. Piggybacking off the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie, nothing’s really known about this miniseries at the moment. The creative team has been revealed as Brian Michael Bendis writing, with David Marquez on the art. While I’m enjoying their current run on Invincible Iron Man, I’m not sure I’ve forgiven Bendis yet. He’s usually capable with these events, but I just hate to see them going back to the Civil War well, especially so soon after their “soft reboot”. I mean, the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe is still being solidified, and we’re already about to enter another “Whose Side Are You On?” situation? The timing just doesn’t seem right, other than the fact that Marvel’s got a movie with that name coming out at the same time, that loosely appears to deal with a Superhuman Registration Act. This has “cash grab” written all over it, but maybe it’ll sound more interesting once more details are revealed.

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In the world of TV, CBS has reportedly canceled Mike & Molly following the upcoming 6th season. It’s a bit sad, as I actually enjoy that show, as schizophrenic as it can be. Seriously, the show is only 6 years old, but has changed direction about 3 times. The first 2 seasons are about a couple that meets in Overeaters Anonymous and fall in love while trying to lose weight. The third season is about their quest to have a baby, and the weight loss journey goes out the window. In the fourth season, Molly quits her job and decides to become a writer, and the show kinda pushes Billy Gardell’s Mike into the background as Melissa McCarthy’s star was on the rise. To be honest, I’m surprised she’s still on a network show, seeing as how her movie career is doing well. She’s said to be heartbroken over the end of the show, however, as no one can really explain why CBS decided to pull the plug. It seems that everyone except Gardell had six-year deals, and CBS isn’t really open to discussions about another season (mainly because they don’t own the show), so Warner Bros (the producing studio) doesn’t want to renew deals with cast members. Now, CBS could just be waiting til the last minute to renew, but it could possibly hurt its relationship with Chuck Lorre, who’s been the force behind CBS’s most popular sitcoms. Anyway, the show made it to syndication, which is “the dream”, but it would’ve been nice if was getting a proper sendoff.


In the world of music, my favorite Spice Girl, Melanie C (“Sporty Spice”), stopped by BBC Radio to perform a stripped down version of one of the best songs off the SpiceWorld album: “Too Much”. Click above to check it out.

thriller

Meanwhile in America, Michael Jackson’s Thriller became the first album to sell 30 million copies in the US, making it 30x Platinum. To put that in perspective, that’s like if everyone in the state of Texas owned a copy. EVERYONE. Even the babies. And a couple of copies for some of the superfans. That is INSANE!

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Who are we kidding here? I’m not gonna insult your intelligence by pretending that Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t having the West Week Ever. The thing isn’t even officially in theaters yet (at least for the general public), but it stands to be one of the biggest releases EVER. I promised no spoilers, and I stand by that. Plus, I won’t even be seeing the movie until Saturday morning, so I couldn’t spoil it if I wanted to. Still, nothing came close to Star Wars this week, as the franchise was popping up everywhere from car commercials to bags of oranges. The early reviews are in, and it’s 95% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. For the folks who ignore the existence of the prequels, this movie was 30 years in the making and has a lot to prove. I’m not worried, though, as I think it’ll be great. So, for probably breaking every release record known to man, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had the West Week Ever.