24th Jul2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/24/20

by Will

I couldn’t let Taylor Swift be the only one with a stealth drop today! These sure are some crazy times, ain’t they? I guess you’re wondering where I’ve been. Well, ya see, it all just got to be too much. I haven’t blogged since May, I haven’t tweeted in 2 months, and I’ve just been kinda sequestered over on Facebook and Instagram. Who’da thought there’d come a time when Facebook was the most civilized form of social media?! I guess it’s because I’ve curated my timeline to the point where I’m not in a position to be surprised by anything I see over there. Still, with the state of the world, it was too much. And the stuff I was seeing was maddening. Like, there were folks with Black Lives Matter posts, when I’d had some racially dicey episodes with them in the past where my life clearly didn’t matter much to them. Anyway, I figured I should probably make use of this “brand” until Kanye comes along to claim it, so I felt it was time to dust it off and see if there’s anything left in the tank.

So, what have I been doing while I’ve been gone? Well, I’ve been watching a lot of 90 Day Fiancé and Say Yes to the Dress. Oh, and I, too, cheated on Will Smith and revealed it on my podcast. We jokingly call him “The Fresh Simp of Bel Air” behind his back.

I watched some movies. Wreck-It Ralph was cute, but not very memorable. Maybe it’s because Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix kept taking me out of the film. I kept wanting Jack Donaghy to yell “Get back to work, Kenneth!” I also watched a 70s action movie called The Kill Squad. It’s on YouTube if you’re interested. I’m not gonna talk about it this week, though. I think I’ve got something better in mind for it.

Speaking of McBrayer as Kenneth, I watched that 30 Rock special on NBC last Thursday, and boy was it terrible! Unlike the Parks & Rec special, which came together for a good cause, and was a sweet, albeit “long in the tooth”, return to old friends (It ran out of steam quickly, and why was Adam Scott so wet?!), the 30 Rock special was just a one-hour infomercial for NBCUniversal networks. This is why it didn’t even air in more than half the country, as the network affiliates saw it as advertising for the competition, namely the Peacock streaming service which is designed to take viewers away from network television. For one thing, I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember where those characters ended up in the finale. Liz has a Black child? Where was Dot Com? Did I really need to see Jonathan, when that time could’ve been devoted to a Queen of Jordan update so I could see D’Fwan?

Also, it was the kind of project not meant for consumption by the general public. It’s an inside baseball kind of thing for the network television industry. If you’re not new here, then you know I do a network upfronts post most years, which is where the networks reveal their fall schedules. The 30 Rock special would’ve been right at home as NBC’s presentation to ad buyers, because these kinds of things are commonplace in that setting. I mean, it would’ve made even more sense if 30 Rock was still airing on NBC, but I digress. As its own special, designed to reunite you with old friends, however, it fell short. It was corporate synergy at its worst, and was almost as jarring as that weird Microsoft Windows 95 video starring members of the Friends cast. No me gusta, Liz Lemon!

Speaking of Peacock, it launched, but I don’t have much to say about it. I’ve had it since April, as Xfinity customers got a “sneak peek”, but it’s an odd duck. First of all, it’s “free”, but it’s probably best described as “Freemium”, as there is a paid tier that you’re gonna need if you want ALL of the upcoming content. Right now, however, you can keep yourself entertained with the Saturday Night Live library, as well as some other random stuff. For example, I used it to watch the pilot of The Greatest American Hero one night (Fun fact: The Greatest American Hero doesn’t have a superhero name throughout the entire series). Another weird thing about Peacock is, like HBO Max, it hasn’t yet struck deals with Amazon or Roku, so you can’t really cast it. If I didn’t have it integrated into my cable box/package, I wouldn’t even use it.

Anyway, if you want a GOOD COVID-19 reunion, then look no further than this Happy Endings special. It starts off kinda rough, but they’re fully back in character by the 5 minute mark. I didn’t know how much I needed this in my life!

Another thing I did while I was away was participate in a film directed by CT from the Nerd Lunch Podcast. He and his family filmed a “making of” documentary surrounding a fictional comic strip called Macaroni & Please. Since all scholarly retrospectives need an expert, I was honored that he invited me to play the role of a pop culture expert and Macaroni & Please superfan. Somewhere along the way, I got some sort of “bad boy of Twitter” kind of reputation, but at the end of the day, I’m a joiner, and I like to be invited to things. It really meant a lot to me that they asked me to a part of it, and I think it came out great. If you could watch 7 hours of Tiger King, you can watch this!

I also participated in the Nerd Lunch spinoff, AfterLUNCH, Magnum P.I. season 2 breakdown episode. I was actually invited to be part of the Magnum Panel back when they discussed season 1, but scheduling conflicts kept me off the episode (Look at me, sounding all busy and important!). Anyway, it was fun revisiting Magnum, TC, Higgins and Rick, and I had a lot of fun on the episode, which you can listen to here.

During my hiatus, I believe it was revealed that the next season of the long-running Power Rangers franchise would be Power Rangers Dino Fury, taking its footage from the 2019 Japanese series Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger. Considering we basically JUST had a dinosaur-themed season, with Power Rangers Dino Charge (wow, I guess that WAS 4 years ago), it feels sort of soon to be returning to that well. Anyway, I’m still probably gonna watch it, mainly because it’s rumored this might be the final live action season of the franchise. Apparently, Hasbro, which purchased the Power Rangers brand from Saban Brands in 2018, has ended their relationship with Toei, Inc, which has supplied the Japanese fight/zord footage for that past 27 years. It’s unlikely that Hasbro would go it alone, as producing that in-house would be more expensive than what they’re paying Toei. So, if this is true, it’s unclear how the franchise could survive without Toei’s involvement.

Trailer Park


Woke (Hulu) 

This looks like a series that FX passed on, by way of Bamboozled. It seems like it would make an interesting movie, kinda like Sorry To Bother You, but a whole series? I dunno, man. Plus I tend to forget that I even have Hulu, so I’m not sure this is going on the list.


Star Trek: Lower Decks (CBS All Access)

I know there are folks who’d kill me for saying this, but there is such a thing as TOO MUCH Star Trek, and I think we’re entering that era. Not once have I ever wondered “What would Star Trek look like through the lens of Rick & Morty?” And is it supposed to be funny? Because I didn’t laugh once during this trailer. Here’s my problem: CBS All Access is too dependent upon Trek offerings. They’re counting on this to join Discovery, Picard, Strange New Worlds, and the Section 31 show in propping up the service. Seriously, the only other thing on All Access that folks watch besides Trek is The Good Fight. This is not a recipe for success. I understand CBS/Viacom knows they’ve got a valuable goldmine they’re sitting on, but less is more. Star Trek used to *mean* something, and I feel like that’s not really the case anymore. However, your mileage may vary.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Brett Eldredge’s “Gabrielle” is the best song Bruce Hornsby never wrote.
  • Ego Nwodim might be about to be the only Black cast member left on Saturday Night Live, as Chris Redd has just joined Kenan’s sitcom, while Michael Che just inked a deal for his own sketch show on HBO Max. In both situations, it’s unknown if these deals will affect their involvement with SNL, but I think it’s highly likely, especially in Che’s case.
  • Speaking of HBO Max, the Harry Potter films are slated to leave the service next month – less than three months after they were added for the service’s launch.
  • I’d give you some Quibi news, but who are we kidding? Nobody watches Quibi.
  • Black actress Javicia Leslie will be taking over the lead role in Batwoman, and I immediately got off the internet when I saw the news, ’cause my poor heart couldn’t take what was surely soon to accompany that news.
  • Let’s be honest – Dancing with the Stars has never recovered from country radio personality Bobby Bones mobilizing his fanbase resulting in his stunning upset win, so it didn’t come as much of a surprise when ABC announced that Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews were out, as the show was going in a “new creative direction”. What was surprising, however, was when Tyra Banks was announced as the new host.
  • Great news for Anglophiles, as Netflix has actually added an additional season to The Crown‘s farewell run.
  • Kidding has been cancelled at Showtime, just in time for Jim Carrey to rail against COVID-19 vaccines!
  • I was gonna mention how Tenet has been delayed indefinitely but, Hell, all movies are delayed indefinitely. It’s not like I was dying to see Black Widow, and now I’m certainly not DYING to see Black Widow.
  • Speaking of delays, Marvel’s Falcon & Winter Soldier won’t premiere on Disney+ this August as originally planned. I guess we’ll get it when we get it.
  • Lots of name changes in the news, based on the recent political upheaval. Lady Antebellum are now Lady A – or, they will be if they win their lawsuit against the Black woman who already performs as Lady A. The Dixie Chicks are now just The Chicks. And Psych‘s James Roday is now James Roday Rodriguez. No, I’m not joking.

 

My favorite game show of all time is Jeopardy!. I’ve been watching it as long as I can remember, and I used to play it over the phone with my friend Brock every night in middle and high school. I’ve taken the test a good 5-6 times already, but still haven’t cracked the code to acing it (the Jeopardy! Test is MUCH harder than the actual show). While this whole virus has been a handful in many ways, everything tends to have a silver lining. The show usually takes a break around this time of year, but they had even fewer original episodes in the can, as production was forced to shut down. So, they decided to go into the vault and show us some classic episodes from the show’s history. On Monday, they kicked things off by airing Alex Trebek’s very first episode from 1984. I had watched a LOT of Jeopardy!, but I don’t think I’d ever seen this episode.

It was amazing to see how much had remained relatively the same over the past 36 years. Sure, the dollar amounts hadn’t doubled yet, but the gameplay was the same. Well, there was ONE important difference: you see, at this point, they still allowed players to answer before Alex had finished reading the clue. This might not seem important, but in the pilot, it led to an energetic round of Double Jeopardy! that proceeded at a breakneck pace. Third place Lois, who didn’t have a very good first round, rocketed to second place through a series of rapid response answers. I swear, when that round was done, I needed a cigarette!

Alex Trebek has been in the news a lot lately, due to his new book and his regular cancer updates, but I think it’s easy to forget that he’s been at the helm of this ship for THIRTY-SIX YEARS. That’s almost my whole life! The man is an icon, and I only hope that one day, when all of this bad stuff is behind us, I can finally take the stage and shake his hand. Ya know, if we’re back to shaking hands in the New World. Anyway, for being my most enjoyed entertainment this week, Jeopardy! had the West Week Ever.

 

Before we go, two weeks ago marked the 17th anniversary of this site. Though it’s gone through several incarnations over the years (after all, it didn’t start out as WilliamBruceWest.com!), it’s pretty much been the same vibe since the beginning. Sure, there were those years of “Write like no one is reading” because, well, no one WAS reading. However, that all changed with social media. I got into a groove with things like Thrift Justice and West Week Ever, and readers started to come around. So, I just want to say I appreciate y’all for reading this all these years, as every click and share does not go unnoticed. Especially the shares. I love when that happens. Anyway, here’s to 17 more? Yeah, even I don’t know about that, but I’ve got nothing better to do, so…

22nd May2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/22/20

by Will

 

I considered renaming this thing “Joy Sparkers”, but I was scared Marie Kondo’s people would come after me. You see, there’s just so much negativity in the world right now, and I thought I’d just focus on the things I’d been enjoying lately. The problem is that “positive” doesn’t exactly come naturally to me. So I kinda abandoned that idea, but I’m still gonna give it a try.

If you’re a regular to the site, then you know that this is usually the week of my annual TV upfronts post, where I take a look at the shows slated for the networks’ fall schedules, and give my opinion on whether or not they had a fighting chance. Unfortunately, due to the events in the world, the networks cancelled their upfronts. They were going to do them online, but nothing major really materialized outside of a few press releases and announcements. I’m kinda glad, as I really didn’t have it in me right now. As you know, there’s usually Bloody Friday the week before the upfronts, when the networks cancel a slew of shows to make room on the schedules they’re about to announce. Well, since all productions have ceased, they didn’t really swing the ax too much this year. As I write this, here’s where we stand with cancellations:

Fox:

Outmatched

Almost Family

Deputy

ABC:

Single Parents

Bless This Mess

Emergence

Schooled

Kids Say The Darndest Things

CBS:

Broke

Man with a Plan

God Friended Me

Carol’s Second Act

Tommy

As for upcoming shows, there’s pretty much nothing I’m excited about, mainly because a lot of networks, like The CW, aren’t starting their seasons until 2021. So, I guess I’ve got time to catch up on all the great Netflix shows I’ve been missing!

One of my favorite movies of all time is Steve Martin’s The Jerk. I remember my mom and I had watched it on TV when I was little, and both thought it was hilarious. So, she decided to rent it so that her 80 year old mother could watch it – not knowing about all of the jokes in the original, unedited film. Jokes like “I think next week I’ll be able to send some more money as I may have extra work. My friend Patty promised me a blow job.” Ah, good times! Anyway, if you’ve never seen it, The Jerk stars Steve Martin as naive idiot Navin Johnson – a White man raised by a poor Black family who has to eventually leave the nest and go out into the world. With all the things that end up happening to him, you could almost say it’s a wackier Forrest Gump. Well, I was yesterday years old when I learned that there was actually a “sequel”, called The Jerk, Too, which was released in 1984 as a made for TV movie. I put sequel in quotes because it’s more of a reimagining of the original film instead of a story that takes place afterward. So, I fired up the YouTube and got to watching.

In this movie, Navin was played by Mark Blankfield, a cast member on Fridays, which was ABC’s short-lived take on Saturday Night Live. Whereas the original film had Carl Reiner and Steve Martin involved, this one clearly did not. While serving as producer, Martin was nowhere near this thing and, after watching it, I can understand why. There’s no real heart to it. Martin’s Navin really came off as a sweet guy who did dumb things, while Blankfield’s Navin comes off as a dumb guy who does sweet things. In the original movie, Navin had occasional flashes of brilliance, as shown by many of his inventions. This version, however, just dumbs it down to “He’s really good at cards”. In the original film, Navin leaves home because it’s time for him to become his own man, while in this movie, he’s just going to Los Angeles to attend his pen pal’s wedding. Oh, and can I mention that Pearl from 227 was in this thing, and looked just as old as she always did? The same way Tom Cruise is a vampire who was bitten at 35, Helen Martin was a vampire who was bitten in 1972, at the age of 76. She would be 76 until her death in 2000.

Anyway, Navin’s good at cards, he links up with some hobos who take advantage of him, and then there’s a love story. It’s almost like a pilot, in that it sets things up for the next chapter in Navin’s life, and I kinda would like to see where it goes. I just think it’s sacrilege for them to tie the legacy of The Jerk to whatever it was they were doing here. On its own, though, it’s a predictable, yet serviceable, 80s TV romantic comedy.

 

On the TV front, I discovered a new show that I immediately fell in love with, and have been bingeing all week. First off, though, did y’all know that SYFY has their own Adult Swim clone on the weekends, called TZGZ (it’s just SYFY adjusted by one letter)? At the moment, this programming block includes the Harley Quinn animated series from the DC Universe streaming service. It also includes a little one-season animated Canadian show, called Gary and His Demons. Now, I don’t know how this thing only got one season, but it is excellent.

Gary and His Demons focuses on a demon hunter who is the Chosen One, and he dropped out of high school to do a 15-year stint with the Demon Ministry. Since they haven’t been about to find his replacement, he’s now a 45 year old man, in his 2nd stint, and he’s been talked into doing one more. He hates his life, as his one true love was killed 20 years ago by a demon, and he’s just tired of the life. On paper, it wouldn’t be my type of show, but I ended up watching an episode after Harley, and I was hooked. Since the show is over, Comcast has them all On Demand, and I’ll finish it up after I put the finishing touches on this post. It’s got QUITE the Rick and Morty meets South Park vibe, without being up its own ass as much as R&M has been lately. Seriously, that show has gotten TOO meta for me the past few weeks. Anyway, I’m hoping it sticks the landing, as I’ve loved everything I’ve seen so far. Plus, like a true Adult Swim clone, the episodes are only about 11 minutes long, so it’s a quick watch.

Trailer Park

The Old Guard

This is apparently “based on the acclaimed graphic novel”, but I’ve never read it. Heard of it, but never read  it. Looks pretty good, although it feels like Charlize is carrying this thing on her shoulders. Still, it’s on Netflix, which means I already pay for it and won’t have to go anywhere. Sold!


The Last Days of American Crime

If you can believe it, I’ve been waiting over ten years for this movie. You see, when I was working at Diamond, a new publisher came on the scene, called Radical Studios. Radical was basically an IP farm that used comics as testing ground for movie ideas. Their comics were pretty much illustrated screenplays. That was done quite a bit at the time (Remember Cowboys vs. Aliens?). Anyway, one of the miniseries they published was The Last Days of American Crime, which I really enjoyed.

If you couldn’t tell from the trailer, it’s about the near future, when the government emits a signal that prevents anyone from committing crime. So, this guy decides to go on one last heist before the signal goes out. Funny thing is I don’t really remember many of the details right now, other than the fact I thought it was good. So, watching this trailer, I can’t tell you if it’s faithful to the book or not. Apparently Sharlto Copley is in this thing somewhere, but I didn’t see him. Other than that, I don’t know anyone else in this film. Also, considering Radical was also behind the Dwayne Johnson Hercules, well, I’m not exactly holding my breath for quality. But, like with The Old Guard, I can watch it at home in my underwear, so that’s good enough for me.


Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga

This is less of a trailer, and more of a truncated music video. Still, it combines my love of the Eurovision Song Contest and Will Ferrell, so it’s a no-brainer. In case you’ve not familiar, the Eurovision Song Contest is like the Olympics of music on the European stage. Started in 1951, it’s an annual event (except for this year, of course), but the US can’t compete in it ’cause we just had to break away from England.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • This week saw the 20th anniversary of the release of the second album from Britney Spears, Oops!…I Did It Again
  • CBS All Access announced they were developing Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, a spinoff of Discovery, focusing on the original crew of the Enterprise.
  • It was revealed that the next season of Power Rangers would adapt Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger, and would be known as Power Rangers Dino Fury. Personally, I feel like it’s too soon for a return to dinosaurs, but whatever. I’ll still watch it.
  • Many viewers thought they were witnessing Ryan Seacrest having a stroke on Sunday night’s American Idol. Apparently, he started slurring his words and his left eye was trying to close. His people claim it was just “exhaustion”, but he didn’t show up to work at Live with Kelly and Ryan the next morning.
  • FX has renewed two of my favorite new shows for a second season: Dave and Breeders
  • In a surprising move, The CW’s Batwoman and star Ruby Rose have parted ways after just one season. While it was initially posed as Rose’s decision, word on the street was that it was a “mutual parting of ways”, as she was unhappy on the show, which resulted in a difficult set.

So I made a vow to myself that I wasn’t going to discuss this on social media and, for the most part, I’ve kept that vow. Remember, I’m trying to be more positive, and I didn’t really have good thoughts about it. Still, it’s a pretty big deal this week, so I guess we’ve got to dive into it.

Justice League was released three years ago, in the fall of 2017, to great expectations. As it was inevitably going to be compared to what the MCU had done up to that point, it had a lot going against it. Directed by Zack Snyder, who’d already helmed Man of Steel, as well as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the movie was actually completed by Joss Whedon after the sudden death of Snyder’s daughter. The result was a passable, yet mediocre, movie that should have been so much more.

After its release, Snyder fans swore that there existed a “Snyder Cut” of the film that was a masterpiece, and that Warner Bros was conspiring to ensure that it never saw the light of day. Snyder, himself, fueled the fire by saying that he filmed 4 hours worth of movie, so there’s bound to be a lot missing that could have strengthened the film – as well as some stuff that could have definitely been cut, like that Russian family. Seriously, what was that all about? Anyway, a #ReleaseTheSnyderCut movement started to grow. And this wasn’t exactly peaceful demonstration. The Snyder Cut fans were some of the most obnoxious, overbearing fanatics on social media. You mention a comic movie, and they’d jump into your mentions to tell you Guardians of the Galaxy was garbage, but somehow Batman v Superman was this jewel of a film. And before you say “Not ALL of us”, let it be known that *enough* of you fit that description. I mean, the DCEU fan is already in a special, yet unfortunate, situation because they feel like they’re constantly the underdog to what Marvel accomplished with the MCU. “Why can’t people see what Snyder was trying to say instead of fawning over these films made for children?!” I feel bad that they feel that way. Why can’t the two just coexist? No, this Marvel vs DC rivalry has been going on before there were even movies of the characters, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I just sort of hoped the discourse would be a bit more civil.

Anyway, one of the worst kept secrets in Hollywood was that Snyder was hosting a watch party for Man of Steel, where he was going to reveal that his version of Justice League would finally be released. And, sure enough, it was announced – but there’s a twist. You see, there IS no Snyder Cut. At least, not yet. Doesn’t exist. But it will. Warner Bros, needing new content for HBO Max (seriously, they shelled out all that money for Friends, but didn’t invest in new shows?!), is going to pump $20 million into developing Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which doesn’t even have a true format yet. Will it be a 4-hour movie? Will they break it into “chapters”, as they’ve been batting around? Who knows? Won’t know til 2021, and I don’t know about you, but I kinda don’t look forward to anything more than a week out these days.

Here’s where I’m conflicted. You see, on the one hand, this feels like another case of toxic fandom getting its way. I was never really on board with the changes demanded on the Sonic the Hedgehog movie, because I felt it set a dangerous precedent. Like it or not, all of this stuff is “Art”. Now, while art can be interpreted by the public, it really shouldn’t be influenced or directed by the public. That’s when art becomes fanfic. We live in this culture where everyone has to have it their way, when life isn’t Burger King. I feel like we don’t teach that enough, but it’s probably because we also live in a time when you pretty much can get what you want, when you want it. Hell, Amazon will get it to you in 48 hours. Fo’ free! So there’s this unrealistic notion of ownership and privilege that just shouldn’t exist. If you like something, become a patron of it. If not, keep it moving, but don’t try to change it to fit your whims. Justice League came out, it was what it was, and WB spent the next couple of years cutting ties with it. A better version of the film doesn’t exist. It’s not like it was in the water tower, being guarded by Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. Plus, I know some people who LIKED the film for what it was. You don’t get do-overs in Hollywood, until they decide to remake your movie in 20 years. What other studio is gonna say, “Hold up, if you let us pump another $15 million into it, we can get you a better version of ________”? Instead of rebooting the Fantastic Four, what if Disney just did that on the Josh Trank movie? It was 2/3 of a decent film, so it’d work. But no, it doesn’t work like that.

In the middle, I kinda don’t care because I don’t know if it’ll be drastically different enough to matter. It would be nice if they explained a few things, and maybe actually showed Darkseid instead of leaving Steppenwolf as the Big Bad. It was a movie made by committee, so it might benefit from a singular voice, especially if WB is hands off in the process.

On the other side of it, this is something of a redemption story, and everybody loves those. They say you can’t change anyone’s mind on social media, but I’m here to say someone changed mine. Someone pointed this out to me: Snyder had to step down at probably the worst time in his life. He had a vision for this entire DCEU, and it all ended at that moment. So, from an artistic vision standpoint, this is something of a triumph. Like I was saying above, THIS DOESN’T HAPPEN. Studios don’t care about “art”, and they take their losses and move on to the next thing. So while I am afraid of the precedent this sets, I’m glad to see that Snyder will actually get to see his vision come to fruition. And who knows? Maybe they can actually salvage the DCEU through all this. I mean, Wonder Woman ’84 and SHAZAM 2 still take place in that universe. Who am I kidding, though? We’ll probably all be dead by then. See? I told you I don’t do “positive”.

In any case, for making dreams come true, Zack Snyder’s Justice League had the West Week Ever.

24th Apr2020

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/24/20

by Will

Not a whole lot to talk about in the world of pop culture these days, is there? I mean, besides moved movie premiere dates, and truncated TV seasons, the uncertainty around everything makes it hard to really plan for the future. Sadly, it feels like we’re in an era of endings more than beginnings right now. For a lot of the things that bring us enjoyment, we’ve either found ourselves saying “See you later, some day” or even “Goodbye forever”. Some of it is related to everything going on, while some of it was just coincidentally timed. Regardless of the reason, though, it’s a difficult time to lose something that brought you enjoyment. No, I’m not talking about the Will & Grace 2.0 finale (You only get ONE series finale, guys!). I’m here to talk about the finale of the Nerd Lunch podcast.

If you’ve been coming to the site for a while, you’re already quite familiar with the show. Hosted by Carlin Trammel, Paxton Holley, and “Jeeg”, Nerd Lunch was a weekly exploration of the world of geek pop culture. Whether it was an episode where the gang came up with restaurant menu items based on popular films, or a thorough analysis of the most recent Star Wars offering, you always knew they’d cover it with enthusiasm and respect. When recommending it to friends, I often referred to it as “kind of like a geeky NPR”, as it was always so engaging and informative. I know some folks have an aversion to things like NPR,  but I like how civil it is, with folks being given an equal chance to speak, without being talked over. That’s just the kind of experience you got when listening to, and guesting on, Nerd Lunch.

Speaking of guesting, Nerd Lunch is the show that’s had me on the most times as a guest. As you can see, I love rambling about pop culture, so it was nice to have the chance to have real discussions, instead of just the one-sided thing that I do here. Starting all the way back in 2012 on episode #52, where we discussed DC Comics’ strategic plan for their films, I was a guest on Nerd Lunch proper, or one of it’s various spinoffs, over 10 times. As podcasts came and went, they persevered for NINE years, and eventually became my go-to spot for guesting. We discussed TV series finales, created a Nerd Lunch University, and created toy lines. On their spinoff shows, I taught them about the myriad world of Power Rangers in their Down The Rabbit Hole show, and I was introduced to the world of the Rambo films in their 4th Chair Army Invasion show.

My favorite memory of guesting was probably that Power Rangers episode Rabbit Hole, as I was both impressed and ashamed of all of the knowledge that I imparted to a panel that probably didn’t care, yet was still respectful LOL. If you never listened to a Rabbit Hole episode, it went like this: you’d fire up Wikipedia (or a specialized genre wiki), and you’d link hop after a short amount of time, with the goal of trying to get from one point to a specific final point. It was almost like a timed Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where it’s more about the journey than the destination. I knew I had a group with me that knew almost nothing about the franchise, and they probably couldn’t have cared less prior to recording, but I dangled just enough items to elicit a few “WTF?” moments, that I think they actually kinda got into it. I was spreading the Gospel of Zordon!

In any case, I know that my Tuesdays won’t be the same after this week, when they dropped their final episode. As with all good things, Nerd Lunch came to an end, which is such a weird feeling for me, as they’ve been a regular part of my life since 2011 – longer than my marriage, older than my kids, and a couple of jobs ago. Through all of that, I knew it was Tuesday because it was Nerd Lunch Day. I’m going to miss them, but probably nowhere near as much as they’re going to miss the show. They put their blood, sweat, tears, and dilithium into that show, week in and week out.  There was a clique of us that were sort of brought together, either through the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, or as members of the 4th Chair Army (what they call the guests of the show), and it sort of feels like that era is coming to an end. Sure, we’ll all stay in contact, but it just won’t be the same. In any case, I’d just like to thank CT, Pax, and Jeeg for having me on so much over the years, as well as for the conversation and the friendship. By extension, I also want to thank Michael May for wrangling the 4th Chair Army into its own show, and thank Corey Chapman for having me on his The Chap Report podcast, which also aired on the Nerd Lunch feed.

I always knew this day had to come, but I had hoped it would be much further down the road than it is. In any case, the Nerd Lunch Podcast has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of my time on social media, and a part of me goes with it (I guess I’m a semi-retired podcast cast now!). Anyway, they did well, and they deserve a break. If you’ve never given them a chance, there are nearly 600 hours of programming just waiting for you! With this week’s final episode, they went out on top with a great series finale (a hard thing to achieve), and that’s why the Nerd Lunch podcast had the West Week Ever.

03rd Mar2020

Thrift Justice – I’m SO Board!

by Will

I’m not a board game guy. I didn’t grow up playing them, and the idea of a “game night” makes me want to tear my eyes out. That said, I know that there are plenty of folks out there who do love board games, and the right games can net you a pretty penny on the resale market. Why do I dislike games? Well, I’m an only child, and there weren’t a ton of kids in the neighborhood when I was growing up. I used to play The Game of the States with my grandmother, but I never played any of the “staples”, like Monopoly, Candy Land, or The Game of Life. In fact, I’ve still never played a game of Monopoly outside of the annual McDonald’s sweepstakes. I didn’t learn Candy Land until about a year ago, because my daughter was playing it.

Board games are a blessing and a curse when it comes to thrifting. If you find the right game, and it’s still sealed (score!), you could make a good deal of money. For example, I made about $100 a few years ago when I sold a vintage copy of Ghettopoly. It’s hard to find because it’s offensive as Hell, so it wasn’t on the market long. Meanwhile, some opened games can also net you some good money, but you’ve got to count the pieces to make sure they’re all present. That step right there is why I hate board games. You’d be surprised how many board game instructions don’t expressly list the count of all the pieces. Do you know how much time I’ve spent online trying to find the total of each denomination of Monopoly money that should be in every game?!

Check these groovy contents!

Anyway, despite my disdain for board games, every now and then one will catch my eye, and I just have to take it home. Today we’ll look at a few games that fell into that category.

I don’t know anything about The Magnificent Race, but the box art had a weird, Beatles cartoon-esque vibe to it. Supposedly, the players are chasing someone named “Dastardly Dan”, who seems like he’s a Great Value Dick Dastardly. Apparently it sells pretty well, too, but board games are such a chore to ship, as the shipping alone on a “standard” board game box is about $20. USPS even has a board game shipping box for these things, but I don’t know if there’s enough “meat on the bone” here to make it worth even trying to sell.

A lot of the games I pick up have a nostalgia bent, where they’re based on something I used to love, but I still don’t feel like seeking out 1-3 more people to play. So, they end up being collectibles more than things to actually play. Growing up, I LOVED The Beverly Hillbillies, so I jumped at this one when I found it at the thrift store. I still don’t know how to play it. A quick glance at the rules says that players are trying to fit the Clampetts’ old belongings into their new mansion, but is that it? Am I looking for “black gold” or “Texas tea”? Am I trying to keep Mr. Drysdale from stealing my money? No clue, but I also don’t see myself getting rid of this any time soon.

Children of the ‘80s will remember M.A.S.K., aka Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, as the line of quick change vehicles that came with 2-inch, helmeted figures. Where else could you find a Camaro with gull wing doors that allowed it to fly?! So, of course all of this fun would translate well into a board game, right? Right? Wrong! You see, the beauty of the toys was the transforming nature of the vehicles, which is completely lost when translated into a 2-D board game. It’s the age-old battle between good and evil, but there’s no way this is as fun as playing with the actual toys. I grabbed this for 2 reasons: 1) I didn’t want anyone else to have it and 2) I was drawn in by the box art. I’ll never play it, and I may even release it back into the wild, but for that very moment, I had to have it.

Because I love all things Saban, I used to be a big fan of the Sweet Valley High TV series (and not just because the original Green Ranger made a few cameos. OK, that was the main reason). So, I snagged this board game based on the adventures of the Wakefield Twins. I’ll be honest here: I got this and Mall Madness simply to resell to that “disposable income” crowd. I’ve done an inventory of it, and everything is here. Since it’s based on the books, and not the show, it’s missing some of my favorite characters, like Andrea Savage’s “Renata”. The problem I found here, however is the box is LARGE. Shipping this thing would be a bitch, so I’m probably gonna throw this one back to the thrift store.

Speaking of Power Rangers, I got this game from my Secret Santa last Christmas. I’ve actually owned it a few times over the years, but never had anyone to play it with me. I’m drawn to the fact that it features King Sphinx who, according to early MMPR merchandising, was apparently an important character. Spoiler alert: he wasn’t! You’d think he was the Big Bad, or at least one of Rita’s henchmen, but he appeared once. Still, he’s got a great agent, as he’s all over the first year Power Rangers merch. I haven’t felt this let down since the Star Wars “Black Jedi” marketing of Finn! Damn it, I’m gonna make somebody play this with me!

Finally, we’ve got King Kong, where the famous gorilla scales the World Trade Center. Ehhhhhhhhh… Sure, when it was made, nobody ever thought that it would be the site of one of America’s greatest tragedies. They just knew the dude liked climbing tall buildings, and the WTC was two for the price of one! I’ve been sitting on this particular game for about 5 years, as I didn’t know what to do with it. The previously sold prices on eBay are all over the place, plus this box had a bunch of tape on it and I didn’t feel like ruining the box art trying to get it all off. So, I finally opened it up the other night, only to find that it’s basically incomplete. I mean, most of it’s there, but it is missing a player piece, so it can only be played by 3 people instead of 4. I guess I could part it out, but is there really a market for a cardboard cutout of the World Trade Center? I’ll probably end up throwing this one back.

There ya have it. I don’t wanna keep this too long, as I know nobody’s got an attention span anymore. In the comments, let me know some of your favorite board games. Am I missing out?

17th Jan2020

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2019

by Will

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

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

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

Top Posts of 2019

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Year

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

13th Dec2019

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park



Wonder Woman 1984

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


Like A Boss

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


Free Guy

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



Nora from Queens
(Comedy Central)

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


Stargirl (DC Universe/The CW)

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06th Dec2019

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park

No Time To Die

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


Crisis on Infinite Earths (The CW)

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


Mulan

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


Troop Zero

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


Black Widow

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

15th Nov2019

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

by Will

HELLO?! IS ANYBODY HERE?! *echo*

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park


Sonic the Hedgehog

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


SCOOB!

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


Holiday Rush

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


Harley Quinn

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

27th Sep2019

Kickin’ It Old School at Retro Con 2019

by Will

That’s right, folks – we’re putting West Week Ever back on the shelf this week for me to, instead, regale you with my trip up to Oakes, PA two weeks ago for Retro Con 2019. Now, this was far from my first trip to Retro Con, as it’s been something of an almost annual excursion for me since around 2012. Oh, wait. You haven’t heard of Retro Con? Well, the official website describes it as a pop culture and memorabilia show catering to anything considered “retro”, especially the 80’s! Transformers, Star Wars, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, He-man, classic video games, etc.. We’ve got 215+ tables of collectibles and art for sale, special guests, video games, a costume contest, raffles, a trivia contest, panels, replica props, and much more! Basically if you answer “yes” to the questions “Do you like old toys” AND “Do you wonder what happened to that character actor who was on The Fall Guy that one time?”, then Retro Con is the place for you!

I’m not trying to knock their guests, but they certainly are not the draw for this show. The guest list tends to be comprised of voice actors from classic 80s cartoons, and they had a couple of guys from The A-Team last year (ya know, the ones who either aren’t Mr. T or dead). Throw in an old school WWF wrestler who never really held a belt (in the past, Sgt Slaughter; this year, Hacksaw Jim Duggan), and you’ve got the Retro Con guest list!

No, if you’re making the trek to Oakes, PA, then you’re headed there for the TRUE stars of the show: the collectibles! The show never disappoints, and it is THE destination for anyone looking to fill some holes in their vintage collection. While you’ll still find convention mainstays, like Funko Pops and seriously overpriced vintage comics, you’ll also find guys with bins who’ll practically say “Make me an offer ’cause I don’t want this shit in my garage anymore.” I will say, though, that the sliding timeline of what it means for something to be “vintage” sort of changed the makeup of what was available for sale. For one thing, there were fewer G.I. Joes and Transformers, and a LOT more Power Rangers. While there were recent Rangers, the sweet spot of what was there were the toys from Mighty Morphin‘s peak, around ’94-’95. Also, the bootleg video guys have upgraded to Blu Ray, which is somewhat puzzling, since that just means their substandard rips are just gonna look like shit in High Definition. Still, there was cool stuff to be found on the showroom floor, so sit back and take a gander at my award winning* cell phone photography!

As the original 8′ Mighty Morphin Power Rangers figures were almost impossible to find for most early collectors, the 5.5″ Auto Morphin line (disgustingly referred to as “Head Flippers” by some Troglodytes) became the line that most people flocked to. Flick the morpher on their belt, and the human head would flip into the figure’s chest to reveal a helmeted head. I always thought that was a concept that had originated with Bandai of America for the US line, and had no idea that Bandai of Japan had used the same feature on the figures for Chouriki Sentai Ohranger (which would be later adapted here as Power Rangers Zeo).

They don’t make playsets like this anymore! Despite the fact that you can get Playmates Star Trek figures for essentially pennies on the dollar now, that’s less true for the playsets and vehicles. Galoob had designed an Enterprise bridge playset for their own Star Trek: The Next Generation line, but it never made it to retail. This Playmates one, then, became one of my grail pieces while I was still into that line. If I had the room for it, I probably would’ve tried to swing a deal. I mean, I’ve still got the figures, and I currently have the Transporter playset sitting in the middle of my basement floor, waiting to be tested.

There was once a time when kids WANTED to dress up like a disgruntled Vietnam vet with a penchant for urban terrorism. Yet they say THESE are the end times we’re currently living in! Pfft!

I’m not sure what’s more interesting to me in this pic: the fact that the Burger King predates my recollection OR the Rambo villain who looks like Vladimir Putin cosplaying as Die Hard‘s John McClane. “Yippee Ki-Yay, Comrade!”

I love those M.A.S.K. boxes so much! And there were toys in them, too!

Whatever’s happening with Slimer here, he’s clearly having an amazing time!

Sometimes you see things and wonder “Where has this been stashed for the past 30 years?!” This is one of those things.

Things of which I am a huge fan:

  • Batman
  • Super Powers
  • The condition of this packaging

Things of which I am NOT a huge fan

  • These prices

I know @DorketteTweets will get a kick out of this Spectra stuff they had.

It ain’t a convention without old lunchboxes, and I would love to meet whomever owned that Fame lunchbox, merely to commend him/her/them for their bravery.

Just look at the condition of this box! This is an almost 30 year old toy! Looking back, I probably should’ve just thrown the $10 at it.

This figure brought back fond memories as to how I’m bad with money. You see, this was the first time I ever overdrew my checking account, buying this figure at a Spencer Gifts when I was in college. I didn’t really know how “balancing checkbooks” worked yet, and this $5 figure ended up costing me about $35. That was a quicker financial lesson than Suze Orman could’ve taught me!

I actually really like the simple packaging design of vintage Barbie, and I’d never heard of Dazzle until that day. I guess it’s an equestrian line?

Ya know, John Rambo deserves to treat himself every now and then!

In hindsight, this was an amazing concept and design. I think we took it for granted at the time, but they managed to shove entire games into a shell the size of a “regulation” cassette tape! It deserves to be in the Toy Hall of Fame!

They were selling their vintage $400 Fireball Island around the corner from the Kickstarter $70 repro Fireball Island. So, um, yeah. Good luck with that…

G.I.Joe charitable group had a nice U.S.S. Defiant on display.

Another HTF vintage piece in BEAUTIFUL shape!

I don’t care if it’s 90% complete. I’m more fascinated by the fact that the box survived this long and doesn’t look any worse than it does!

I was late to Ghostbusters toy fandom, so I missed out on the original suit Real Ghostbusters. These guys here were more my speed, with their track suits and their wacky action features.

While not a “vintage toy”, this was a cool 3-D collage that someone created using parts of the recent Fisher Price Imaginext line, as well as panels from the Boom! Power Rangers comic series.

As a huge Baywatch fan, I’ll admit that it was a little hard leaving this guy behind.

Plus, it’s not a modern-day pop culture convention without cosplay, and the following folks did not disappoint!

So, there ya have it: Retro Con 2019. While it’s always cool to see all these random toys, the best part of the weekend is that it has become something of an annual meetup between my online friends. This year was no exception, and it was great seeing Dean, Jordan, [REDACTED], Jason, and Wyatt!

Oh, we also can’t close out without showing what I got. I’m proud to say that I played it cheap this year, and didn’t pay more than $5 for a single thing you see here. That’s how you con!

Anyway, thanks for taking this look back with me, and be here next week, when West Week Ever returns!

*No actual prizes have been awarded to Will for his photography, but it’s 2019 and people don’t fact check shit anymore, so…
23rd Aug2019

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer Park

Bombshell

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


No Time To Die

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


The Morning Show (Apple TV+)

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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