24th Jun2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/24/16

by Will

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We’ve got a lot to talk about this week, so let’s get to it, shall we?

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On the movie front, the first thing that I watched was Focus, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Smith plays a con man who takes Robbie under his wing from chump change jobs to the real money jobs. It was entertaining enough, but it just felt like another movie where Will Smith played a version of himself. He never really immerses himself in his roles. Each role is just an alternate timeline version of Will Smith. In this timeline, he wore really nice suits and had an S-Curl. Robbie was fine enough, but I don’t get why she’s the new It Girl. I guess I still need to see The Wolf of Wall Street for that. My problem with heist movies is that my brain doesn’t work fast enough to process what’s going on with the plan. I just blindly accept whatever they’re telling me, and then I end up overanalyzing it once the movie’s over. I’m basically the guy trying to figure out how the magic trick works. Anyway, it was engaging, but it’s also got some twists where you can’t really watch it a second time. Nothing on a “Keyser Soze” level, but I think a second viewing would be affected by what I know now, having already seen it. Anyway, it’s not a bad way to kill an hour and a half.

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Then, Lindsay and I watched The Good Dinosaur with the baby. Since she’s only 14 months old, she kinda watched it while busying herself by climbing on shit. I could think of much better names for this film. For example, it could’ve been called The Dinosaur King, since it’s really just a working class version of The Lion King. Or it could’ve been called Dino Falls, because it sounds like the name of a town, but it’s really because the main character, Arlo the dinosaur, spends a lot of time falling off shit. He falls off cliffs, mountains, etc. It seems like every 10 minutes, he’s getting back up from something, so at least he’s tenacious! Anyway, the story’s about Arlo, the weakest of a dino family, who ends up lost and has to find his way home. On the way, he befriends a caveboy who he initially thought was his enemy. Together, they protect each other in the treacherous environment. It’s got all the Disney tropes you love: dead father, inspirational ghost of dead father, gang of stupid, antagonistic predators. Seriously, the only thing missing was a catchy song or phrase to put on T-shirts (“Hakuna Matata” or “Ohana”, anyone?). Still, even though it’s not considered one of Pixar’s best, and I felt like I’d experienced that story before, I still really enjoyed it. To be honest, I think I liked it more than Inside Out. Maybe it was the hype surrounding that movie, but I just don’t get what you people saw in that film that was so emotional. I was far more touched by the friendship between Arlo and “Spot” than I was about anything going on in Riley’s life. So, you probably didn’t see it when it was in theaters (it was Pixar’s lowest-grossing film), but I think you should definitely check it out now that it’s On Demand and on DVD.

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Finally, I watched Sleeping With Other People, starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. Sudeikis and Brie lost their virginity to each other in college, and then meet up again almost 15 years later at a meeting for love addicts. It seems that neither has been able to have a successful relationship since college, and they sort of become each other’s support system. Meanwhile, everyone around them knows they ought to be together, but they just won’t pull the trigger. It was a funny movie, with a great cast of funny folks. The part that I loved was that many of them had worked together before, so I kept thinking of this as an extension of those other roles. For example, Brie’s character was cheating on her boyfriend with Adam Scott, so I kept thinking of those Smirnoff commercials with the two of them. Or Sudeikis’s business partner is played by Jason Mantzoukas , better known as “Rafi” on The League, and his character is married to Andrea Savage, who played Rafi’s girlfriend on The League. I love little things like that. Anyway, it’s a romantic comedy, so you know how it ends. Plus, Brie must’ve had a no-nudity clause in her contract, as there was a bra-on sex scene, so that was a bummer. Still, everyone’s got great chemistry, and I enjoyed it.

Big Jay Oakerson

On the stand-up comedy front, I was eagerly anticipating Big Jay Oakerson: Live At Webster Hall, which premiered last Friday night on Comedy Central. I’ve recently heard about folks getting too familiar with podcast hosts because they feel like they know them, and that’s exactly how I feel about Big Jay. Seeing as how I listen to him twice a week on The Bonfire, I guess I’m starting to think he’s my friend or something. Crazy, I know, but I do think we’d get along famously. Anyway, for that reason, I was really happy for him that his one-hour special was finally seeing the light of day. It was a great hour, and he’s truly is the master of crowd work. He doesn’t even have to prepare that much material because he just engages the audience, and he’s quick on his feet. It was definitely one of the better specials I’ve seen recently, but I might be biased since I’m a notch away from being a stalker here.

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Then, I caught Quincy Jones: Burning the Light on HBO. No, not that Quincy Jones. If you’re not familiar with Jones, he gained a lot of attention last year when he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. You see, he’s got terminal cancer, and only has about a year to live. He wanted to spend that time touring and doing comedy. Ellen hooked him up and got HBO to give him a one-hour special. He had some funny bits, but it felt like he was still workshopping some stuff. It wasn’t a tight hour, and his crowd work struggled a bit because of a weird audience. It almost felt like they were there out of charity, as they knew his situation, and would kind of laugh at stuff that wasn’t that funny. I feel like he probably could’ve had a strong half hour on, say, Comedy Central’s The Half Hour, but he’s not ready for a full hour yet. Sadly, time isn’t something that he has a lot of, so I guess he had to strike when the opportunity presented itself. It’s worth a watch, but go in knowing that it’s not going to be the most polished special you’ve seen.

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In DC movie news, the logo was revealed for the Justice League film. In order to curry favor with the press, director Zack Snyder invited basically every major news outlet to a site visit recently. Though the movie is only 30 days into a 100 day shoot, reporters got to tour the set and talk to Ben Affleck. And of course, all of the folks who were invited are now positive about the movie, saying that Ezra Miller’s Flash will be a surprising bright spot of the film. It seems the Snyders basically brought the press to them for their Apology Tour, but everyone’s drinking the Kool-Aid. An interesting tidbit came out of the visit: though originally reported as a two-part film, producer Deborah Snyder said that Justice League is ONE film. So, that now means that DC has an open release date in which they can slot something else. It’s also rumored that The Flash will be more of a team-up movie with Cyborg, making me think that the Cyborg movie might be inching its way off the table.

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In Power Rangers movie news, a PR alum comes home as Bryan Cranston has been cast as the Rangers’ mentor, Zordon. Cranston voiced a few of the monsters of the day back during the Mighty Morphin days. I wouldn’t call this a casting “coup”, but it really does come out of nowhere. Meanwhile, Lionsgate released the teaser poster for the film, and it’s the most Lionsgatey thing that Lionsgate ever Lionsgated. If you’re not familiar with Lionsgate’s output, their highest grossing movies are angsty young adult novel adaptations, like Divergent and The Hunger Games. And that seems to be the tone they’re going for here, which I was afraid of. It looks like the poster for a show that would air on The CW or Freeform. Yeah, I see the lightning bolt in the stars, but that’s not doing it for me. There’s gonna be problems marketing this film, as PR typically isn’t for the YA set, while this doesn’t look like something kids want to see. I know it’s just a teaser, but I’ll be interested to see how they handle the marketing going forward. Right now, this just looks like the back cover of an Abercrombie catalog…

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In Star Trek news, CBS/Paramount has issued official guidelines for fan film productions going forward. Ever since the drama with the Anaxar fan film, resulting in a lawsuit from CBS/Paramount, folks have wondered how fan films would be handled in the future. Well, now they know. And some folks are up in arms about the guidelines, but I’ve seen some pretty dreadful Trek fan films, and I know that CBS/Paramount are just trying to protect their IP. There are some interesting rules here, though. For example, no one who has ever appeared on Star Trek can be in your fan production, as it must be cast entirely with amateurs. So, no more Walter Koenig and Tim Russ cameos. And you can’t have Star Trek in your title, but you MUST include a subtitle that says “A Star Trek Fan Production”. And if there are commercially-available costumes or props, you can’t use bootleg versions, but must use the store-bought equivalent. So, no more homemade Starfleet costumes. These rules are really going to shackle the hands of fan film producers, but I think abiding by them will result in a higher quality product. I guess time will tell.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott released “Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid)”. Ray Parker Jr’s career is rolling over in its grave!
  • It was revealed that season 3 of The Flash will loosely adapt the Flashpoint storyline from the comics
  • Sony revealed plans for the animated Ghostbusters: Ecto Force. The show will focus on a team of Ghostbusters in the year 2050. Yeah, not quite sure why they need a time jump, but it is what it is. It just has shades of Stargate Infinity and it makes me sad.
  • FX has renewed Archer for 3 more seasons, which is surprising since that show seemed to be winding down. One of these days, I’ll actually watch past season 1.

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      • The Ben 10 reboot will debut on Cartoon Network in North America in 2017, while Playmates now has the toy license. As you can tell from the art, this version seems to be targeting a slightly younger audience than the last show.
      • Jamie Chung has been cast as Valerie Vale for next season on Gotham. Apparently, shes Vicki’s aunt. This fucking show…
      • Former Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter has been cast as the President in the next season of Supergirl. And that’s STILL not enough to make me interested in that show.
      • After already renewing the show for a second season, HBO decided to cancel the low-rated Vinyl.
      • Maisie Richardson-Sellers has been cast as Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow, where she will play the grandmother of current Vixen Mari McCabe, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke
      • Comic writer Mark Millar announced ongoing series for Hit-Girl, as well as Kick-Ass: The New Girl. The latter will feature a young Black woman taking on the mantle of Kick-Ass. One day, I’ll actually get around to reading the finale of the last guy who wore the suit.

  • My pal Chris Piers is at it again with the Comic Tropes videos. This time, he tackles polarizing artist Rob Liefeld and an increasingly hot assortment of peppers. Check it out!

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This week, each day brought us more casting news about Spider-Man: Homecoming. At first, we learned comedian Hannibal Buress had joined the film. Then, Abraham Attah, from Beasts of No Nation, joined the cast. Then Bokeem Woodbine. Then Laura Harrier. And then Garcelle Beauvais. I joked on Twitter that the casting mandate for this movie is clearly “Get all the Blacks who aren’t already in that Black Panther movie!” So, if you’re a working Black actor in Hollywood, you probably had the West Week Ever. And if you didn’t, just sit by your phone. The call is coming!

 

03rd Jun2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

27th May2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/27/16

by Will

 

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So, the main movie that I watched this week was X-Men: Apocalypse. Where to even begin with this film? When I reviewed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I tried to be diplomatic. I never said that was a *bad* movie, but I simply said that it didn’t work for me. I can’t do that here, though. This was a bad movie. At the end of the day, it suffers from a failure to launch. It never feels like it builds to anything worthwhile. It has a decent 1st act, but an almost non-existent 2nd act, finished off with a rushed 3rd act.

I’ve already mentioned that I’m tired of the Erik-Charles-Raven Show, and this is just more of that. The other characters are never fleshed out, and just serve as window dressing for that trio. They are their comic counterparts in name only. Psylocke? Useless. Storm? Really doesn’t improve much on the Halle Berry incarnation, but that’s not the actress’s fault. She did the best she could with what she had. I’ve never seen Game of Thrones (outside of a supercut of all the sex scenes from the first 4 seasons), but I don’t know what it was about Sophie Turner that made Fox think she was the one to play Jean Grey. Sure, Famke Janssen was no Oscar winner, but she at least had a personality. Oscar Isaac is wasted as Apocalypse, as that character could’ve been played by almost anyone. He brought nothing to that role. Apocalypse’s motives aren’t all that clear to anyone unfamiliar with the character. Someone on Twitter mentioned that Hive on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually did Apocalypse BETTER than the actual Apocalypse did in this film, and I can’t disagree. Hive had a purpose, he had his own kind of “horsemen”, and he capably swayed the Inhumans to his cause. Apocalypse just goes around giving folks makeovers and amping up their power levels, but there’s no real indication as to WHY. Quicksilver’s great, and I’d watch a whole spin-off about him, even though that sounds like a terrible idea on paper.

Plus, where’s the “world that fears and hates them”? Since the events of Days of Future Past, where Mystique saved the President, the public seems to actually appreciate mutants. That’s not how that’s supposed to work. They should be terrified at the display of power they witnessed in DC. I mean, Nightcrawler walks through a mall, with no image inducer, and no one bats an eye!

It’s surprising to me that this was directed by Bryan Singer, because it felt like it was made by a first-time director with no familiarity with the characters. This is Singer’s 4th time at bat with this franchise, and he fails colossally. It’s funny because the film even makes a joke about how the 3rd movie is always the worst. There was a lot riding on this film, as it’s basically the 3rd movie in a second trilogy. Unless you’re a hardcore X-Men fan, you can skip this. In fact, you probably should just skip this.

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Whew! So, what did I like this week? Well, I caught the Comedy Central stand-up special Dan Soder: Not Special. Formerly of MTV2’s Guy Code, I’m a big fan of Soder, as he’s the co-host of my favorite radio show, The Bonfire, on Comedy Central Radio. He had a great bit about how he used to think he was possessed by the Devil. It wasn’t a gut buster, but it was more of what I’ve come to expect from him. I enjoy listening to him and Big Jay Oakerson every Monday and Wednesday evening, and this was like a nice bonus episode of that. If you’re looking for a laugh, definitely check it out.

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To say it’s been quite a week for Captain America would be quite the understatement. When the week started, #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend started trending on social media, as fans began to “ship” Captain America and Bucky. If you’re not familiar with shipping, it’s when fans desire that certain characters enter into a relationship. From how they were portrayed in Captain America: Civil War, some folks think there’s something between Steve and James that’s a bit more intense than mere friendship. Of course, everyone took a side in the matter. Even I was like, “No, that would change the character too much because he’s been depicted in relationships with women.” I’m all for representation when it makes sense, but this seemed like it was changing a character just for the sake of change. Why make Cap gay when there are actual gay Marvel characters who “get no shine”, as the young kids say? Then I read this. My pal Pete wrote a powerful piece on representation, and what a gay Cap would mean to him. And something happened that rarely happens: my mind was changed by something I read on the Internet. At the end of the day, I hate change. That’s something that I have to deal with, but I guess I can’t stand in the way of progress. I can understand what it would mean to LGBT folks to have a symbol like Cap on their side. And it doesn’t change anything he stands for. In fact, he would now stand for MORE. If he is gay, though, he can do a LOT better than Bucky! Anyway, I was dealing with my newfound enlightenment and then Wednesday morning happened.

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The news cycle was supposed to belong to DC (we’ll get to that later), but Marvel just couldn’t let someone else have the spotlight. For the past couple of years in the comics, Steve Rogers has been depowered and advanced to his rightful age. Well, recently, he regained his Super Soldier Serum and returned to his normal self, reclaiming the mantle of Captain America, while still allowing Sam Wilson to ALSO be Captain America (yeah, that’s not gonna be confusing!). The first issue of his new series, Steve Rogers: Captain America was released Wednesday morning, with a major twist on the final page: Steve says “Hail, Hydra”, revealing that he is, and apparently always has been, an agent for his supposed greatest enemy. AND PEOPLE LOST THEIR SHIT!

It got to the point where the former Captain America writer, Ed Brubaker, was getting hassled, while the current writer, Nick Spencer, started receiving death threats. The Internet was basically divided into two camps: A) “Apparently you’ve never read a comic before, ’cause nothing’s ever permanent in comics” and B) “How dare Marvel invoke Nazis, considering they were actual bad people, and Captain America was the creation of two Jewish creators?” And both sides have their merits.

winter soldier

This storyline won’t matter in 2020, but maybe some new, cool supporting character will come out of it, like how we got the Winter Soldier a few years back during another storyline that could be considered a “gimmick”. I’ve always said that the current marketplace of licensing and lunchboxes kinda prevents major changes from happening to major characters, but some good can still come out of these stories.

At the same time, Nazis have been kinda neutered so much in pop culture that it’s easy to forget that these folks did some pretty fucked up shit. We live in a Call of Duty world, where you can log on and kill Nazis to your heart’s content, but that doesn’t change actual history. Just because the concept is toothless today doesn’t mean that it didn’t once carry some major weight. So, I can kinda see some folks getting offended by that. However, Cap’s been fighting Nazis for 75 years. Wasn’t it equally offensive that this comic book character was depicted fighting a real life foe that was out there eradicating people? I mean, if you’re really offended by the Nazi thing, then it seems like Cap just isn’t the right property for you. Nor is Call of Duty. Nor is The Producers. I get it. Nazis off limits.

Personally, I believe that we should wait and see where the story is going. I mean, it’s kinda hard to write it off from the first issue. If it wasn’t your cup of tea, that’s fine, too. Everything can’t appeal to everyone. I know people look to him as a symbol, and can’t understand why he would side with his enemies, but there’s clearly something bigger at play. And it doesn’t behoove anyone to waste outrage at this point in the game.

TMNT1-1300x

Speaking of outrage, folks were up in arms in the toy community about a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figure release. Created by NECA, there are 8 figures, split across 2 sets, designed after the classic TMNT video game. Based on the licensing rights, however, NECA is only allowed to sell these sets at SDCC; these will not be available in stores or at any other convention. Since not everyone can make it to the convention, fans are lamenting the fact that their only chance to get the figures will be by paying a markup on eBay. Or, as they’ve been saying, “The Scalp-Ors Win”. Maybe I feel this way because I’m not the biggest TMNT fan these days, but I kinda like that they’re exclusive to the con. Sure, it sucks for completists, but these things supposedly exist to make attending the con feel that much more special. It sorta takes away from the whole exclusivity when the items are sold on company sites a few weeks after the show. If I paid over $1,000 for an experience ($245 just for show admission), you better damn well believe I want to get something special out of it. And the way I see it, whatever fans end up paying on eBay is gonna seem like a steal compared to what it would actually cost to go to SDCC and get the figures themselves. All is not lost! Right now, NECA’s saying that these figures will be released in no other form, but it seems odd that they’d go to the trouble of new tooling for something that won’t hit mass market. Just doesn’t seem practical. Maybe they’re just saying this to hype up the exclusivity of the convention sets. I guess time will tell. Whatever. I feel like the fans who REALLY want the sets will find a way – even if they have to sell a kidney to do so.

SmackDown_2--9a7892a871eb29e1e31a596eadf097b6

These days, I’m only an occasional wrestling fan in that I don’t watch any of the shows or PPVs, but I still keep track of who’s in and who’s out. Everyone’s injured and the fans hate Roman Reigns. That about sums it up, right? Anyway, this week the WWE announced that their TV show SmackDown would be moving to Tuesdays, and switching to a live format (for the past 16 years, the majority of the episodes were pre-taped). The reason for this is because WWE is going back to a “brand extension” model. Used in the past, but abandoned in 2011, the brand extension involves a wrestler draft, determining which wrestlers will end up on Raw and which ones will end up on SmackDown. Seeing as how Raw has been the flagship since about 1997, that’s where you really want to be. SmackDown, though originally created to be “The Rock’s Show”, has settled into an existence as the mousy little sister in the company. If you ask me, however, SmackDown has outlived its usefulness.

When SmackDown debuted, what made it special was that it was 2 hours of wrestling programming on broadcast television. Originally airing on UPN, it provided a free alternative to the pay cable Raw. Since the end of the syndicated WWF Superstars and WWF Challenge, there was a void of broadcast wrestling that needed to be filled. And SmackDown filled this void  for 11 years, even past the merger of UPN and The WB, eventually landing on Fox’s short-lived MyNetworkTV. At its peak, it was the #1 program in Spanish-speaking households. Sure, the major stuff happened on Raw, but you still got recaps and some action on SmackDown. Then, after failing to really fit into MyNetworkTV’s plans, the show ended up on Syfy. This meant that both of WWE’s major shows were now on cable, with nothing being provided to those broadcast TV fans (with the exception of the severely short-lived WWE Saturday Morning Slam on The CW). Like the MyNetworkTV move, the move to Syfy made little sense, and the show was eventually moved to USA Network – the same network that serves as the home of Raw. So, what makes SmackDown special now? It also doesn’t help that WWE now has a streaming network for its programming. The popular NXT program, featuring up and coming developmental talent, is solely on the WWE Network, yet SmackDown is presenting a not-as-good-as-Raw product on USA. Why not swap them? Everyone knows SmackDown is the lesser-than, so give its USA timeslot to NXT, differentiating the offerings on USA. That still doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of WWE programming on broadcast TV.

I know a lot of folks have cable, but everyone doesn’t have cable – especially in the world of cord-cutting. What I propose is that WWE bring back WWE A.M. Raw, which was a Raw recap show that used to air late Saturday night/Sunday morning. It was an abridged version of that week’s Raw, focusing on the highlights. I say WWE should package that and sell it to CW affiliates to air on Saturday mornings/early afternoon – similar to when WWF Superstars used to air. It’s just editing existing footage, so there aren’t too many production costs involved, and I feel like there sorely needs to be wrestling on “UHF” channels like back in the old days. Sure, television is changing, but it wouldn’t hurt for WWE to have all their bases covered: cable, broadcast, and streaming.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a conference call, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer announced that they may make up to seven Power Rangers films. Oy vey!
  • In other Power Rangers news, the new logo debuted for the upcoming Power Rangers Ninja Steel. I don’t know why these “reveals” are a big deal, seeing as how they’ve been using the same Power Rangers font since Zeo. The only thing that changes is the subtitle, and this one looks like bad Photoshop
    ninja steel
  • HBO insiders are implying that there probably won’t be a third season of True Detective. I missed the second season, but the first gave us a naked Alexandra Daddario, and for that I will always be grateful.
  • A new Star Trek Beyond trailer came out. It didn’t suck.
  • Michael Keaton has reportedly signed on to be the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Most reports are saying he’s playing the Vulture, though I saw one mentioning Norman Osborn. I’d prefer Osborn.
  • Marvel announced that Creed‘s Tessa Thompson will be portraying Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, and the Internet DIDN’T lose its collective mind! Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, and Cate Blanchett have also joined the cast
  • Amazon’s Man in the High Castle‘s production has been halted, as showrunner Frank Spotnitz suddenly left the project. It is NOT a good week for Nazis!
  • FX announced that The Americans will end after two more seasons. I really need to catch up on the show.
  • It’s rumored that Rob Lowe may be replacing Michael Strahan on Live! With Kelly and…I wanted NPH, but I don’t hate this idea.
  • Digital comics platform Comixology introduced Comixology Unlimited, which offers a limited “all you can read” service for non-Marvel and DC comics, at $5.99 a month. It’s unclear, however, how creators will be compensated. Right now, it seems like they’re just getting “exposure”.

No podcast appearances this week, but I did want to share some shows with you. First up, the No Topic Required Podcast is back up and running. They sort of took a break after episode #100, but it seems like Zack and Adam are back in the saddle. As the title suggests, there’s no specific topic for the podcast, but they cover everything from video games to movies to comic/toy controversies. I’ve been on a few times with them, and always have a great time. If you’re looking for a new show, check them out!

Also, one of my favorite discoveries is the Positively Nerdy Podcast. I can be kinda ornery on here, but I really do want the best from things. Ryan looks at all that’s good in geek culture, and he records so many different shows that he’s a podcasting machine! If you like comic reviews, he’s got them. If you like movies, he’s got the review show Ryan and Leah: At The Movies. If you want a quick listen, he’s got Nerdy Nuggets. He’s a great guy, and I really like everything he puts out. If you’re looking for the non-cynical side of fandom, I highly recommend that you check out Positively Nerdy.

Links I Loved

Ranking the Megazords – The Robot’s Pajamas

The Case Against Dan DiDio – The Savage Critics

How I Used Lies About a Cartoon to Prove History Is Meaningless on the Internet – Geek

DC-Comics-Rebirth (1)

Despite the Captain America hubbub, I really believe the comic news cycle belonged to DC Comics and DC Universe: Rebirth #1. I’ve been covering the lead-up on this site, but we finally got to see what it’s all about. Released midnight Wednesday, the comic sets the DC Universe on a new path, to recapture something that it had lost: hope. As many DC fans will tell you, the New 52 reboot drove away a lot of long-time readers, and it created a universe that was bleak and somewhat hopeless. Basically, it was a Zack Snyder movie in print. So, this was an attempt to win back those old fans.

Where to begin? Well, (and in case you didn’t know, this part’s gonna contain mad spoilers, but nothing you haven’t already seen spoiled by the mainstream media), the story focuses on original Kid Flash, Wally West, as he’s unhinged in time. We haven’t seen this character since the 2011 Flashpoint event that spawned the New 52, so it was the welcome return of a fan favorite hero. Wally visits several characters, like Batman and the original Johnny Thunder, in an attempt to warn them that some outside force has been influencing the timeline, resulting in a loss of memories and a 10-year span of time. He’s unable to reach any of them, and is continually sucked back into the Speed Force – the energy pool from which all DC speedsters draw their powers. Finally, he reaches out to his former mentor, Barry Allen/The Flash, who eventually remembers Wally and helps to rescue him from the Speed Force. Over the course of the story, we find out more tidbits and revelations. Apparently, there have been THREE different Jokers, which seems odd ’cause wouldn’t Harley realize she’s obsessing over three different dudes? Wonder Woman has a twin brother. Jackson Hyde/Kaladur’ahm/Aqualad made his post-Flashpoint debut. And, to the joy of many, Ted Kord made his post-Flashpoint debut as a mentor to Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. And to cap it off, we got a doozy of an ending: Dr, Manhattan, of the classic 80s comic Watchmen, was revealed to be the force that had altered the DC Universe’s timeline. Huh.

That ending is important because it’s the first time that the Watchmen characters have been incorporated into the mainstream DC Universe. The story is largely seen as a contributing factor in comics becoming dark and gritty, so it sort of makes sense that in order to find what’s lost, you return to where you last saw it. The happy-go-lucky, “heroic” DC existed prior to Watchmen, prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths. So, this sort of brings everything full circle. But what does it really mean? Are they blaming Alan Moore for the state that DC eventually found itself in? What’s to be gained by reclaiming that story and incorporating it into the mainstream? Alan Moore has notoriously dismissed any association with the story after he was screwed out of ownership. I feel like he wouldn’t necessarily agree with how they’re being used now, as that wasn’t his original intent. Still, they’re technically DC’s toys, so they can do with them as they please.

I went to a midnight release for the book, and couldn’t wait to get home and crack it open. When I was done, all I could say was “huh”. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love. I was really just confused. Why was The Comedian’s button in the Batcave? Like, it’s a great visual, but how would it even get there? And sure, it was great seeing Ted Kord, considering the last time we saw him was pre-Flashpoint, with a bullet in his head. It seems like DC did everything right to cater to those lost fans. They brought back dead/forgotten heroes, they tied the story back to a seminal classic, and it set the stage for things to come. From a lot of the folks I’ve been following online, they love this book. And, to me, that’s a problem.

DC-Rebirth-Splash

The people who are really loving Rebirth #1 are in their 30s and 40s, and they’re saying “This reminds me of the DC I used to read.” That’s great for you, but bad for the industry. I’ve been reading comics for over 20 years, so I know the main tentpoles. The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Crisis on Infinite Earths. I know what those did for the industry, and I know they’re basically revered, But I didn’t see anything about this comic that would necessarily appeal to a NEW reader.

Folks in their 30s and 40s have other priorities. They can’t be depended on to keep this hobby afloat. You need to reach out for NEW blood. Now, it can be argued that DC was trying that when they introduced the New 52 reboot, starting (most) books back at square one. At that point, Batman and Green Lantern were the only books that required prior knowledge in order to fully understand them. But for all their desire to start fresh, DC is consumed by this desire for “legacy”. Chief Creative Officer, and writer of Rebirth, Geoff Johns has said in interviews that this is what Rebirth is all about: regaining a sense of legacy. DC has a rich history, and I can understand the desire to capitalize on that, but they’re so busy reminding us of where they came from, that they don’t spend enough energy figuring out where they’re going.

watchmen1

Rebirth #1 is nothing but another self-referential circle jerk by DC, tied to a 30 year old story – WHICH, by the way, generated a movie that was polarizing at best. Had the Watchmen film been a huge critical and financial success, then maybe I’d understand this. After all, it was just released 7 years ago, so it would be somewhat fresh in folks’ minds. Instead, this book holds no real meaning to new comic fans. I’m of the argument that Watchmen is very much a “you had to be there” sort of read. I’m sure it was groundbreaking when originally released, and it changed the industry in such a way that a lot of folks only know a comic industry painted by the influence of the book. They have no clue that things don’t HAVE to be dark and gritty. Rebirth seems like an opportunity to introduce that concept to new fans, but instead it’s like DC crawling back to old fans like, “Are you still mad at me?”  If anything, it feels like this move was really just to sell more copies of Watchmen, as now the new fans are gonna go seek out that story in order to try to figure out what they just read, or why that ending should be seen as significant. That’s great for DC’s backlist, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything for its future.

rebirth

But I don’t want to sound like it’s all bad. I am eager to see where things go, and I would also like to see hope restored to the DC Universe. I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed the direction of the New 52, so if we can get back to a pre-Flashpoint tone, I’m all for it. When it comes to DC, though, I’m a ride or die bitch, so I’ll be with them if it succeeds, and I’ll be with them if it fails. I just wonder how many new fans are gonna be right there with me. In any case, it’s rare that DC Comics can dominate the news cycle, and also get folks excited about their product. So, with that in mind, DC Universe: Rebirth #1 had the West Week Ever.

 

20th May2016

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

by Will

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ladykillers

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

cloverfield

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

jerrod

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

bargatze

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

1893

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

ghostbusters

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

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

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

the-order

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

chap report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06th May2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/6/16

by Will

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I watched quite a few things this week, so let’s get to it!

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I’ve been in a stand-up comedy mood lately, and Comedy Central has been celebrating a month of new specials. First up, I caught Daniel Tosh: People Pleaser. If you’re familiar with Tosh, then you already know what you’re in for. His onstage persona is basically that of an asshole, and he brought that in full force here. It was mostly new material, though he did rework an old joke about Nadya Suleman (“Octomom”) into a joke about the 19 Kids and Counting Duggars. My biggest issue, I guess, is that I didn’t watch it when it premiered, so it was all kinda old for me. You see, I listen to Comedy Central Radio on SiriusXM in the car, and they’ve been playing clips from the special for about a month now (the special actually premiered at the beginning of April), so by the time I got around to watching the whole special I realized that I’d already heard all of the jokes. Even though Tosh’s humor isn’t for everyone, I think he’s a lot better at the Asshole Comic thing than, say, Anthony Jeselnik. If that’s your cup of tea, then check it out.

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Next up, I watched Chris Hardwick: FUNcomfortable. This isn’t a popular opinion amongst the geek set, but I do not like Chris Hardwick. I had no problem with Singled Out/Shipmates game show host Hardwick, but I don’t like Hardwick 2.0 of the Nerdist empire. Something about him just rubs me the wrong way. The folks who listen to his podcasts tell me that his biggest flaw is that he makes everything about himself. I’ve never listened to a Nerdist podcast, so I don’t know about that, but I do know that I just don’t like his vibe. So, if I already knew I didn’t like him, why did I watch his special? Well, Comedy Central Radio had a town hall interview with him, moderated by Wil Wheaton, that aired several times over the weekend. I did a lot of driving, and ended up listening to parts of it 4 different times. And I came to realize that I actually had a lot in common with him, in terms of depression and anxiety. And it was interesting hearing about his alcoholism and how he decided to get sober. I think I didn’t like him because he just seems like he tries too hard, but the interview made me realize why. I kinda felt like I needed to cut the guy a break after that. I’m still not interested in his podcast, but I was willing to give an hour of my time to watch his special. And it was good. I’m glad I watched it. If you’re a fan of all the Nerdist stuff, you’ll probably love it. If you want to know more about Hardwick himself, though, I recommend checking out that town hall interview, which is probably on demand on the SiriusXM site. He seems like he’s in a good place now, and I’m happy for him for that. His comeback story is kind of amazing, going from TV host to producing mogul, so I’ve got to give him credit for what he’s achieved in this second phase of his career.

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On the movie front, I watched The Boss, starring Melissa McCarthy. I already know that there are people predisposed to hating her and her movies, so you should probably just skip to the next paragraph. I, however, happen to be an unabashed fan of her films. I even liked Tammy. So, I was kinda surprised that I was disappointed by this one. In the film, McCarthy plays a Martha Stewart analogue who’s sent to prison for insider trading. Once she gets out, she partners with her former assistant to create a brownie empire. It’s not bad, by any stretch, but it wasn’t hilarious. I loved The Heat. Spy was incredible. This, not so much. It suffered from the fact that the funniest parts were spoiled in the red band trailer. Plus, and I had this same problem with Deadpool, I didn’t really feel like it had to be an R-rated film. Over the years, McCarthy has kinda become the queen of the R-rated comedy, so I guess the studio just said, “Well, let’s make another R-rated comedy for her”. That said, most of the “fucks” seemed forced (like they were just there to justify the rating), as well as all the other material that guaranteed the rating. She implies a tween is a lesbian, Tyler Labine is supposed to perform oral sex on a security guard. All the “edgy” stuff just felt out of place. Don’t get me wrong – I laughed, but it was at stuff I’d already seen in the trailer. Outside of that, the movie didn’t have much more to offer.

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On “television”, I watched the Netflix series Love, on recommendation from my pal Chris Piers from over at The Robot’s Pajamas. Geeky Gus meets trainwreck Micky in a convenience store after they both get out of bad relationships. Over the course of 10 episodes, we try to find out if two damaged people can truly find love. The show starts Paul Rust (who’s also the co-creator) and Gillian Jacobs (Community), and is produced by Judd Apatow. In true Apatow fashion, the characters occupy this state of arrested development, where they’re in their 30s, but not quite “adults” because they’re just trying to figure their shit out. Gus has always been the nice guy, so he pretty much ends up in the “friend zone” when he meets Micky. Meanwhile, Micky’s a pretty, yet slovenly, woman who’s got an addictive personality. She’s addicted to alcohol, she’s addicted to sex, and she may be addicted to love. So, is Gus what she really needs right now? Can Gus handle a woman like her? Meanwhile, Gus kinda becomes my hero, as in the course of the series he sleeps with both Milana Vayntrub (Lily from the AT&T commercials) and Briga Heelan (Ground Floor, Undateable). It’s a great show, and I ended up watching the majority of the series in one night. I simply couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it!

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In movie news, we got our first look at the new Power Rangers movie suits, thanks to Entertainment Weekly. I don’t…hate them. Seriously, I actually kinda like them. They’ve not been without controversy online, though. First up, people don’t understand why the female Rangers’ breasts are molded into the suits. Or why the female Rangers’ boots have wedged heels. That said, I’m finding that most of the people with the biggest issues with them are folks who checked out of Power Rangers during the Mighty Morphin incarnation. We’re talking about a 20+ year franchise, being judged on its first 3 years. That’s not exactly fair. To me, these suits are a natural progression from the original movie suits from ’95. This is just an ’00s update of what we got back then. People are saying that they look like Iron Man, and I see that, but I think it makes sense. It’s not like they were going to be able to go the spandex route for the big screen, so folks should’ve expected some kind of armored form. The thing I like most, though, is that the Rita suit is starting to make more sense. Hers is clearly a damaged version of their suits, so was she the Green Ranger? They also look reminiscent of Lord Zedd’s design, so will he factor into things, too? You’ll see a lot of hatred about the suits online, but you won’t see any of that from me.

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In TV news, it was revealed this week that Star Trek fans won’t be able to initially bingewatch the new Trek series when it premieres, as the episodes will be released weekly. I understand the reasoning behind this, as CBS probably doesn’t want people signing up for All Access for a month and then leaving once they’re done watching the show. That said, I’ve never been one to keep up with weekly streaming shows. I don’t know what it is about the platform, as I’ll watch weekly shows on “real” TV. Back when Yahoo Screen released Community on a weekly basis, I pretty much just waited til the end of the season and then binged all the episodes I’d missed. That’s probably what I’ll do with this show, if I watch it at all. I love Star Trek, but everything I’m hearing about this show’s distribution makes me sad. Creatively, it sounds like they’ve got a great team on the project (it was also announced this week that it’ll begin filming in Toronto in this fall), but it’s almost like CBS is hellbent on screwing up its distribution. It was also revealed why the show is debuting in 2017, and not this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise. Apparently, during the 2006 split between CBS and Viacom, CBS got the Trek TV rights, while Viacom retained the Trek film rights. As part of that deal, Viacom insisted that the new show couldn’t debut until 6 months after the film premieres, in order to avoid confusion in the marketplace. Now, in a world where DC Comics has a “Batman” show on TV, and batman in films, it’s clear that the audience isn’t that dumb, but I guess Viacom wanted to protect their investment in Star Trek Beyond.

Supergirl

In other CBS TV news, it’s really coming down to the wire on Supergirl‘s renewal, as CBS is scheduled to announce their fall schedule at the network upfronts in two weeks. Apparently, the show costs about $3 million per episode, and the network really wants to cut down that license fee. CBS doesn’t feel that the ratings justify the amount they’re paying to Warner Bros to air the show. So, now the rumor of the show moving to sister network The CW is picking up steam. The pro of the move means that the show would be on the same network as the other Berlantiverse shows Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. The con, however, is that The CW doesn’t pay high licensing fees, so that means some budget cuts would probably have to happen. For example, Calista Flockhart probably makes a nice piece of change on that show, so she’d probably be out. That’s just my speculation, though. In any case, CBS needs to make a deal quickly.

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Over on NBC, Natalie Morales is out at the New York offices of The Today Show, and is moving out west to be the West Coast anchor of the show. She’ll also be the new host of Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live. Meanwhile, current Access Hollywood host Billy Bush is headed to New York to join The Today Show. This switcheroo is the beginning of some more ongoing structural changes coming to The Today Show over the next few months.

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In comics news, USA Today announced that IDW Publishing will be releasing a comic based on the 80s cartoon M.A.S.K. Following the members of Mobile Armored Strike Kommand as they fight the evil agents of Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem (V.E.N.O.M.), it was basically G.I. Joe with transforming vehicles, and enjoyed a cartoon series and toyline. Since IDW seems to be in Hasbro’s good graces, having published years of G.I. Joe and Transformers comics, it makes sense that this series would end up there. Writer Brandon Easton and artist Tony Vargas are reportedly “putting a Fast and Furious spin” on the property. I’m not sure what to think about that. From what the creators say in the interview, it doesn’t really sound like M.A.S.K. Plus, I think fellow kids of the 80s would rather have a M.A.S.K. toyline than a comic, but maybe that will come from Hasbro’s Cinematic Universe.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The Russo Bros revealed that Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 & 2 would be renamed before their release, as they’re both 2 very different movies.
  • Batman: The Killing Joke will be released digitally on July 23rd, followed by the Blu-Ray and DVD on August 2nd
  • sharknado-4-posterSharknado: The 4th Awakens will premiere July 31st, featuring appearances by Baywatch‘s Alexandra Paul, David Faustino, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and Stacey Dash.
  • The Flash film lost its director when Seth Grahame-Smith stepped down. Now there are rumblings that James Wan might leave his directing post on Aquaman.
  • Hulu renewed The Mindy Project for a 5th season
  • Netflix announced a spinoff series for The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal

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The other night, I had the pleasure of joining Classick, and CJ from 3 Black Geeks, to do a Civil War preshow podcast. It was a great time where we talked about recent comic book movies, as the recent deaths of some celebrities. You should definitely check it out here.

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I saw it last night, and I can say that Captain America: Civil War definitely had the West Week Ever. If you want to know why, then go see the film. I’m not gonna spoil anything here. Let’s just say that I went in Team Iron Man, and I left Team Iron Man. I’d love to know how you felt after you saw it. Sure, there are some similarities to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so folks are gonna make some comparisons, but I’m not gonna do that here. I’m not sure if I’m ready to say it was the greatest comic book movie of all time, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Seriously, go see this movie this weekend!

29th Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/29/16

by Will

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The only thing I really watched this week was the Comedy Central stand-up special, Amy Schumer Presents Rachel Feinstein: Only Whores Wear Purple. The title just goes to show ya that it really is all about who you know. Feinstein’s had specials before, but I guess since she’s friends with Schumer, and Schumer’s name now carries some weight, they felt this was the best way to present the special. I actually think it kinda takes something away from Feinstein – like, she only got the special because of her friend, which isn’t true. Anyway, a finalist on season 7 of Last Comic Standing, I’ve followed Feinstein for the past few years because she’s a local, having grown up in Bethesda, MD. Plus, she’s easy on the eyes. I think she’s hilarious, but I didn’t find this special as funny as her album, Thug Tears. Still, it’s got some funny bits, especially when she talks about the night Jenna Jameson came to one of her shows. It’s one of the funnier stand-up specials I’ve seen recently, so I’d recommend it if you’re looking for one to watch.

wonder man

In movie news, it was revealed that Nathan Fillion will be portraying Simon Williams AKA Wonder Man in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. As long as I’ve been reading comics, I don’t know much about Wonder Man. He always seemed to be part of things that weren’t that great to me. He was in the West Coast Avengers, which were the “Not So Good Avengers” or he was on the main Avengers roster back when they all wore flight jackets and they’d let anyone on the team. So, I can’t really say if this is good casting or not. If he plays it like he played Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, he’ll at least be hilarious. It’s interesting he’s being introduced as a part of Space Marvel, as I never really saw him in that realm, but I trust the architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

UPDATE: My pals over at The Robot’s Pajamas have more info on Fillion’s “cameo”. Needless to say, it’s not what I expected!

ancient one

Meanwhile in the MCU, it’s been reported that Marvel didn’t want to make Doctor Strange‘s The Ancient One a Tibetan man for fear of upsetting the lucrative Chinese marketplace. So, they decided to make the character a Celtic woman. Huh? Yeah, that’s pretty much the collective reaction of everyone who read that story. According to actress Tilda Swinton, they’re treating the character as a mantle that is passed down and, in her case, it just happened to pass to a Celtic woman. OK. Next!

apocalypse

We got another trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse, because there were some parts of the movie they hadn’t shown us yet. The more I see of this movie, the more my erection subsides. It just looks so meh. And I’ve already explained my issues with Jennifer Lawrence and the X-Men movies since First Class, so I won’t rehash all that. I just kinda want this movie to come and go, so we can focus on the next installment.

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Across the aisle, we got the trailer for the DC Animated Original adaptation of famous Batman story The Killing Joke. It’s not without controversy, though, as a lot of folks kinda want this story to be forgotten, as it depicts Barbara Gordon/Batgirl as a helpless victim. If you remember, this discussion picked up last year when DC wanted to print an homage cover to Batgirl #41 (which I wrote about here). If you want to know my feelings on the subject matter, go read that old post. Right now, I’m just gonna talk about the movie. First off, the animation looks kinda bad to me. It’s not Mystery of the Batwoman level bad, but it’s close. It’s not as slick as what we’ve come to expect from the DCAO output. Also, I’m not sure how I feel about Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy coming back to reprise their roles as Joker and Batman. As someone who grew up with Batman: The Animated Series, they are my Batman and Joker. That said, I kinda don’t like the idea of them involved in something NOT attached to the old DC Animated Universe that began with that show. I liked that they kept the vocal continuity from B:TAS through Justice League Unlimited. I didn’t really care too much when they came back for the Arkham games, because those were just video games and didn’t really “count”. Since I’ve associated them so much with the DCAU, I can’t help but mentally put this as part of that saga, which is kinda blowing my mind with the subject matter and the R-rating (a first for DC’s animated output). If I’ve learned anything from the other DCAO features, it’s that there are other people who can play Batman, and I think I’d have preferred that for this installment. I guess I just want to keep Conroy and Hamill “pure”, as odd as that sounds. So far, I don’t like the character designs or the choice of voice talent, but I’ll still check it out.

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In Power Rangers movie news, we’ve gotten some on-set pictures of Rita Repulsa in 2 different costumes, and I’m still not feeling it. Last week, I said her suit was Scorpina meets Divatox, but she’s really just Power Rangers Lost Galaxy villain Trakeena.

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In television news, our national nightmare is over, as Kelly Ripa returned to Live! with Kelly and Michael on Tuesday. It’s rumored that Disney apologized to her and assured her that she wouldn’t be blindsided by any changes made to the show in the future. That said, Michael Strahan’s originally scheduled September departure has been moved up to May 13th, thus eliminating some of the tension between the two. They said this was to get a jumpstart on Strahan’s Good Morning America onboarding, while also allowing Live to begin the process to find its new cohost. I was kinda hoping it would get dragged out a bit more, just to see how long it would take Ripa to finally come back to work, but that wasn’t in the cards.

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In toy news, the DC Multiverse 6″ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice mystery figure has been revealed, and it’s the Bat Monster that Batfleck sees when he visits his parents’ mausoleum. What an odd choice for a figure! I hate this thing so much, but I’m DETERMINED to build the Collect & Connect Grapnel Gun. I guess I’ll order the piece on eBay or something. I just really don’t wanna own this thing. Why this, when they could’ve made a Parademon or a Superman Trooper or any other army builder figure? Just such a weird choice…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Ecto Cooler will be returning to shelves on May 30th. Maybe my adult palette will like it more than I did as a child…
  • Saturday Night Live‘s Pete Davidson is dating Larry David’s daughter, Cazzie.
  • Formerly of ESPN and Grantland, Bill Simmons’ Any Given Wednesday pop culture show will debut on HBO on June 22nd
  • Fresh off the Aloha controversy, Emma Stone has been cast as Cruella de Vil in the 101 Dalmatians remake
  • 4/26 was Alien Day apparently. I know nothing of that franchise, but apparently the planet the Aliens were from was LV-426? I dunno, seems like a stretch. Everything’s gotta have a day now! I’m gonna hide in a bunker when May the Fourth comes along.
  • Netflix has ordered 8 episodes of Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later. I didn’t love the movie, so I’ve yet to check out the prequel series. I’ll get around to it eventually.
  • The trailer was released for Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, and just like the show itself, I didn’t find it funny. It’s the one BritCom I could never get into. I’m sure someone’s excited for it, though.
  • The sixth season of Game of Thrones premiered this week, so fans got their weekly dose of titties and swords. Man, if I were George RR Martin, that’s what I would’ve called the series: A Song of Titties & Swords.
  • Alec Baldwin will host ABC’s revival of Match Game. That is, until he throws a fit or gets recorded calling an Uber driver some kind of slur. It’s only a matter of time, really.
  • Comcast has purchased Dreamworks for its NBCUniversal arm for $3.8 billion. So, brace yourselves for a Minions/Madagascar crossover.
  • Contrary to the Daisy Ridley rumors, Alicia Vikander of The Danish Girl has been cast as Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot.

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Everyone was talking about Beyoncé after her “visual album” Lemonade was released Saturday night following an HBO special. Instead of releasing videos for the songs, she released a one-hour special to the premium cable channel. Most telling about the album is that is seemed to be a personal affair where she alluded to the possibility that her husband, Jay-Z, cheated on her with “Becky with the good hair”. This kicked off a firestorm of thinkpieces, with folks wondering “Did Jay-Z cheat?” and “Who’s this ‘Becky’ she’s talking about?” At first, it appeared that the “Becky” in question was actually Rachel Roy, the ex-wife of Jay-Z’s former business partner, Damon Dash. Over the course of the week, speculation then spread to singers Rita Ora and Mya. Unfortunately, even food personality Rachael Ray got caught up in the crossfire, as some folks online mistook her for Rachel Roy. And then the memes started:

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Did Jay-Z actually cheat? Who knows at this point. Beyoncé kicked off her Formation tour the other night, and dedicated the song “Halo” to her husband. Was it all a carefully planned stunt? We’ll probably never know, but folks are raving over the album, which received the nigh-impossible 5-star rating from Rolling Stone. So, it’s safe to say the week belonged to Beyoncé, which is why she had the West Week Ever.

22nd Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

15th Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

25th Mar2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/25/16 (“Do You Bleed?” Edition)

by Will

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This week, I decided to tackle the Marvel Netflix series that was on everyone’s lips…4 months ago. In order to catch up so that I could start Daredevil season 2, I finally finished Jessica Jones. If you remember, I had only gotten 3 episodes into the season, when technical difficulties sent me packing. Once everything was resolved, I just didn’t feel like getting back on that horse. Now that I’ve finished the season, however, I’m glad that I did. It truly was a great season, and I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a fan of the Jessica Jones character since the Alias comic debuted, and I’ve followed her development over the years from hard-edged private eye to doting wife and mother. She’s probably one of the rare characters to actually experience *growth* in comics, as she wasn’t looked upon to sell lunchboxes and Underoos, so Marvel let Bendis have a bit more control over her destiny.

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First up, I’ve got to admit that I was wrong. I didn’t like Krysten Ritter’s casting because I felt like the role would’ve been better with someone a bit older, like Yancy Butler. Well, Ritter handled herself well in the role, and by the end of the season, I pretty much believed that she was Jessica. The rest of the cast members were great, too, like Power Rangers RPM‘s own Eka Darville as Malcolm.

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And the world-building was great, as they introduced characters that seamlessly fit into their world, even if you wouldn’t initially think it would work (I’m looking at you, Nuke!). I will say, however, that it really bothers me how Marvel treats the television shows in relation to their films. I mean, they Netflix shows are better at showing links than the ABC shows. At least Netflix refers to “The New York Incident” and “the big green guy”, but that’s about it. Would it KILL them to put Stark Tower in the background of a scene? If there’s a delivery truck driving down a street, couldn’t it have “Stark” plastered along the side? It’s the little things that help to remind us that everything’s connected. Marvel does the shared universe concept like no one else, but they do it a lot better in the comics than in the live action. Oh, and the Netflix series sure do love killing off kindly, old, retirement-ready Black men. What’s that all about?

Anyway, now that I’m caught up, I’m ready to dive into Daredevil‘s second season. I’m currently on Spring Break, so I should be done with that in the next day or so. Tune in next week for my thoughts on it.

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So, let’s talk about the elephant in the universe: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was talking to a friend recently, who said that even saying “I loved it/I hated it” constituted a spoiler. I’m not sure I agree with that, but if you’re of that mindset, you should stop reading now. I mean, I already got your click, so we’re pretty much done here. I promise not to post any story spoilers, but I am gonna tell you what I thought.

Dawn of Justice suffers from the crime of trying to do too much. It wants to introduce Batman, redeem Man of Steel, introduce Wonder Woman, establish Lex Luthor, and set up the Justice League film all at once. And it really only succeeds at one of these. At 2 and a half hours, you’d think they had mastered the pacing to accomplish all this, but you’d be wrong. This is 2-3 movies all crammed into one.

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Ultimately, I don’t feel like Warner Bros understands their own characters. For instance, it seems like they can’t seem to get away from the Christ allegory of Superman. This has been a theme in the films since Superman Returns, and it has never worked. It’s too obvious of a comparison, so when they go there, it just feels hamfisted and lazy. I mean, just look at how he hovers, reaching out to his believers. And if you look closely in some of the debris, you’ll see crucifixes haphazardly made out of detritus. This is not a coincidence, and I feel like there are other facets of Superman, even as an outsider, that don’t take him in the Jesus direction. I really felt like they didn’t have a grasp on the characters during the main fight between the titular heroes. It seemed like the desired effect was for fans to take a side, and to root for the hero of their choosing. I, however, found the whole enterprise made me uncomfortable. If making the audience uneasy was the goal, then the film succeeded. The fight should’ve been amazing, but Out for Blood Batman vs Just Trying to Save a Loved One Superman didn’t work for me. Is this how they want their characters to be seen? As the start of their film initiative, is this how they wanted to introduce this world to the audience?

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I hate to go into the Marvel vs DC aspect of the matter, but it’s got to be done. Like them or hate them, there’s still a sense of humor to Marvel films. Even the darker ones, like The Winter Soldier, still have lighthearted moments. I appreciate that about those films. This world that Snyder has built, however, is just so goddamn bleak. There’s no hope and no humor. In fact, there’s a really bad joke that doesn’t land because it doesn’t fit the tone of the movie at all. Taking a step back from things, I would probably be fine with that if this were a one-off movie. The problem, however, is that this is essentially the foundation of DC’s Cinematic Universe. Everything that comes after will be based on this world, and I HATE that. Why am I to root for any of these characters? Batman isn’t necessarily a Batman we’ve seen before, nor am I sure he’s a character I like (which is hard for me to say, as a die-hard Batman fan). Superman basically deals with his own Benghazi in the movie, and you’ve kinda got to question his motives. Lex Luthor is so over the top that he makes Cesar Romero’s Joker look like Heath Ledger’s Joker. Seriously, Jesse Eisenberg debuted in one of my favorite movies of all time (Roger Dodger), and I know he’s got range, but here it’s like he heard someone say “comic book”, and he decided to go balls to the wall insane. There have been many Lex Luthors over the years: mad scientist, businessman, president of the United States, etc. This is none of those, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing if it felt like he even knew anything about the character whatsoever. At the end of the day, this is not the movie that DC needed. These are trying times for the company, as they’re trying to get their publishing house in order via the Rebirth initiative, at the same time as trying to build a cinematic universe. I don’t, however, feel like they put their best foot forward with this effort.

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Then, Wonder Woman showed up (that’s not a spoiler, as it’s been in every trailer and on every magazine cover). And SHE was a delight. I never really cared much for that character, and I wasn’t supportive of the casting of Gal Gadot, but she stole every scene that she was in. I will say that it goes kinda overboard when she joins the fight, as the movie briefly seems to turn into Sucker Punch (Cue rock music! Flying fighting females!), but you don’t mind because she injects life into some of the most boring scenes. And there are some boring scenes. After all, the thing is almost 3 hours. There were moments I’d look up and think “Man, this fucker’s still going?” The movie succeeds in not only introducing the character as a badass, but also really makes you look forward to her solo film.  Anyway, it pretty much wasn’t even a contest, but Wonder Woman had the West Week Ever.

 

04th Mar2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/4/16

by Will

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Howdy, folks! I took a week off because there was just too much going on in “real life”, but I’m back in style. We’ve got a lot to talk about this week, so let’s get to it!

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On the movie front, I found myself watching the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies. Lindsay had them on, and I caught the tail end of the first one. I liked it so much that I sat and watched the second one, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. If you’re not familiar with the series, it’s based on the HUGELY successful kids book series, and follows middle schooler Greg Heffley and his struggles. In the first movie, Greg and his best friend Rowley join the safety patrol in order to become popular. Yeah, that goes about as well as you’d expect. In the second movie, Greg and his older brother, Rodrick, despise each other. But when they’re left home together and throw a party, they have to lean on each other to keep their story straight. Meanwhile, Greg is still trying to be popular in middle school, and falls for the new girl in town. I actually really liked these movies, and I’m curious to check out the final film, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. I was too old for the Wimpy Kid books when they came out, but I’ve always wondered why they resonate so well with middle schoolers. After watching the movies, I think I get it now. If you like innocent fun, or have a middle schooler in your house, I highly recommend this franchise.

F is for Family

On the Netflix front, I finally finished F is for Family. Considering I only had one episode to go, I’m not quite sure why it took me, like, 2 months to finish it, but here we are. Created by comedian Bill Burr, it’s basically an edgier King of the Hill. I really enjoyed the series, but it felt a bit disjointed to rejoin it so long after watching the first 5 episodes, as it was clearly made to be binged. I hope it gets a second season but, unlike most Netflix shows, this one kinda flew under the radar, with little promotion.

realoneals

On TV, The Real O’Neals debuted on ABC, and I really enjoyed it. It’s about an Irish-Catholic family whose perfect veneer cracks when all of their drama becomes public during a church bingo game. The parents are getting a divorce, one son comes out of the closet, the other son has an eating disorder, and the daughter has a bunch of stuff going on. And hilarity ensues! No, really. I felt like the show was pretty funny, and seemed like a natural fit for ABC. After Raising Hope, Martha Plimpton has really carved out a niche of “working class wife and mother”, and she’s great in this show. The marketing seems to be making the gay son the focus, but it really plays more like an ensemble show. Its moral is that family can overcome anything. I find the scheduling to be somewhat worrisome, though. While it debuted with 2 episodes on Wednesday, it will eventually move to Tuesdays, following Fresh Off The Boat.  I feel like The Middle and The Goldbergs are better companion shows for this one, but I also know how precious Wednesday night real estate is for ABC. Modern Family ain’t moving, and I think Black-ish has pretty much earned its timeslot at this point. I guess time will tell.

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I’ve also found that I’m back to hate-watching Girls. Why, oh why, do I watch this show? I hate everyone involved with it except for Peter Scolari and Allison Williams (and I still can’t look at her without thinking of her father’s fall from grace). It’s hard to stomach Lena Dunham’s female empowerment shtick when her character Hannah Horvath sucks so much at life. I mean, is she a role model for people? Yeah, I’m having a hard time separating the actor from the role. I don’t expect that everyone should even be a role model, but I feel like there are people out there who look up to her. WHY? And I really don’t need to see her naked anymore. You can call me a body shamer, but it just makes me sick to my stomach at this point. I could just stop watching. I get that. But I still have a morbid curiosity about the whole thing.

power-rangers_612x380In movie news, we got our first cast picture of the cinematic Power Rangers team. Filming has begun, as someone posted a picture of an Angel Grove Police cruiser online. I dunno what it is, but I’m getting a Divergent vibe from this film. I’m not sure if it’s because they’re both from Lionsgate. Or the fact that every teen action movie lately is basically Divergent/Hunger Games/The Maze Runner. Or the fact that the director was also behind Project Almanac. I just feel like it’s gonna be “teen angstier” than it needs to be. I mean, read this from Entertainment Weekly: “The new Power Rangers is a coming of age story for these “disenfranchised and disparate” high schoolers, who are not friends when the new story begins.” NO! I don’t need a Power Rangers team composed of a bunch of outcasts and outsiders. That’s not..breathe, Will. I’m reserving judgment on this thing until I see more, but I don’t like how it’s shaping up right now.

ghostbusters

So, the Ghostbusters trailer came out yesterday. I liked it. I wasn’t wowed by it, but I think it shows promise. Of course, the folks who were against it from the get-go are even more against it now. I think it swayed folks who are on the fence, but it didn’t do anything for the ones who have been against it from the very beginning. I have a long history with the Ghostbusters franchise. I have the Firehouse playset in my mom’s basement. I have the Proton Pack. Let’s just say that I loved me some Ghostbusters. That said, I think I’ve been more of a fan of the cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters, than I was of the movies. I’ve been an unorthodox fan of the movies, as I don’t feel the first one is the sacred cow that some think, and I personally like the second one more (sacrilege!). So, when they announced a new movie, it didn’t really hurt me. When they announced it would be directed by Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy, I was ready to surrender my money. The trailer, however, was kinda meh to me. I mean, I’ll still see the movie, but it didn’t get me any more excited than I already was. Some folks are upset that Leslie Jones’s Patty Tolan is an MTA worker instead of a scientist, but I think it works for her. I don’t see Leslie Jones as an actress who’s gonna play anything far from who she really is, so I’m fine with what she’ll bring to that type of role. Still, haters gonna hate. I’m OK if you don’t like the idea of the movie. I get that. Sacred cow and all that. But at least give it a chance before you judge it, right?

agent carter

This week saw the season (series?) finale of Marvel’s Agent Carter. It’s up in the air because it really doesn’t seem like ABC is gonna renew it. The ratings for this season were even lower than those from last season. It also doesn’t help that star Hayley Atwell has landed the lead role in the pilot for ABC’s Conviction. Sure, she could film Agent Carter once Conviction goes on break (IF it’s picked up as a series), as Agent Carter is more of a mideseason fill-in than a full season show. While there was a cliffhangery aspect to the finale, it ended on a note where we could be satisfied if this truly is THE END. Plus, the character keeps popping up in Marvel films even when she doesn’t need to (Ant-Man, anyone?), so it’s surely not the last we’ve seen of her. Meanwhile, ABC renewed 8 shows yesterday, including Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I doubt we’ll have any news on Agent Carter before the May upfronts.

finn as iron fist

 

Speaking of Marvel television, during my little hiatus, it was announced that Finn Jones from Game of Thrones has been cast as Iron Fist in the upcoming Netflix series. *Sigh* I really didn’t want to get into this, but I guess there’s no time like the present, right? Anyway, I’m part of an online collective called The Nerds of Color, but I don’t really write for them anymore because nobody reads my stuff over there. It was created by a former coworker of mine, Keith Chow, and it originally contained a couple of friends of mine until they were deemed too controversial. In any case, Keith wrote an article about 2 years ago, pleading with Marvel to cast an Asian American in the Iron Fist role.

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If you unfamiliar with the character, Iron Fist is the heroic identity of Danny Rand, a rich White guy who grew up in the mystical city of K’un-Lun after he was orphaned in a plane crash. Rand learns all the kung fu, and gains the magical power of the Iron Fist. He returns to New York, and becomes the best friend of Luke Cage, AKA Power Man, with whom he forms the Heroes for Hire. So, basically you’ve got this blonde guy who’s a martial arts expert, in a mystical Orientalist society, making him a fish out of water. I always thought that made the character unique. At the same time, though, it’s problematic because it basically means this White dude is better at Asian stuff than actual Asians. While I wouldn’t necessarily cast him in the “White Savior” role, it does seem a bit…off. Still, I always kinda rolled it into the “that’s what makes his character special” argument.

Keith argues that you could keep all of these aspects while still casting an Asian American as Rand. His main push for this is the matter of representation. It would mean a lot to Asian American viewers to see themselves represented in the Marvel Universe. He argues that Rand could be alienated from his Asian culture, which would help him to retain his position as an outsider. If you want to know more, just read the post. In all, Keith has a valid argument and I can see where he’s coming from. That said, I don’t like it.

There’s more to representation than just showing up to the party, and I feel like that’s what would be happening here. It’s changing a race merely for the sake of change. Even if it gives the character more depth, does it, then, remain the same character? Danny Rand isn’t that deep. If they cast an Asian American, then the argument would be “Why is he so vapid? Why doesn’t he reflect the best of us?” On top of that, you run into issues with the whole “look at the Asian who’s great at kung fu” thing. In a lot of ways, you’re reinforcing a stereotype for the sake of representation. My friend James took offense to some representation in a reboot of Firestorm a few years back. Sure, the new Firestorm was Black, but there’s also a scene with him in a chicken suit. To James, that cost of representation was too high. I feel that way here. Sure, you get another (definitely sorely-needed) Asian American on television, but at what cost? It certainly isn’t really changing many minds about what they’re capable of. The argument screams “We own kung fu, so we should be the only ones depicted doing it”, but we live in a time and world of cultural appropriation. Nothing belongs to anyone anymore. Ask Eminem and Adele. So, to me, there’s nothing special about an Asian American who knows kung fu. I’m sorry to say that, but if you didn’t know anything about me other than the fact that I’m Black, would you be surprised if I could rap? Probably not. Stereotypes are a bitch like that.

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At the end of the day, though, I just hate change. Sure, you could say that it’s been done before with Samuel L. Jackson and Nick Fury, but even that is a trickier situation. There was some source material for that (The Ultimates comic), so it sort of “cushioned the blow”, so to speak. The Ultimate Universe was a different reality, and in that one, Nick Fury just happened to be Black. If they had made Ultimate Iron Fist an Asian American, I’d probably get behind it. I guess I just have issues with the live action going their own way without cues from the comics. Even the comics make stupid race decisions sometimes, like introducing a random ass Black character who suddenly turns out to be Nick Fury Jr., just so all the comics kinda match the movies. That was a hamfisted move, and as nuanced an argument as Keith makes, casting an Asian American as Iron Fist, in some sort of attempt at cultural reclamation, also feels hamfisted. I’ve been quiet because I really didn’t have an intelligent rebuttal. All I had to go on was how I felt. My problem, however, was that The Nerds of Color never issued a counterpoint. #AAIronFist became the rallying cry of the site, so it was pretty much assumed that if you were with them, then you were with them. Now, since the news broke, people are talking about how disappointed they are in Marvel, and even saying they’re boycotting the show. Look, everyone has drunk the Marvel Kool-Aid by this point. It doesn’t matter if Iron Fist is purple, you’re gonna at least watch the first episode to see what it’s all about. At this point, I feel like it was a valiant effort, and I applaud everyone for their hard work, but I believe it’s time to move on and give Finn Jones a chance. Not a sermon, just a thought.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Disney announced a Big Hero 6 series for DisneyXD from the Kim Possible creators
  • Nickelodeon announced a TV movie based on the Legends of the Hidden Temple game show. I only saw this thing in hotels (no cable), so I’m not quite sure why everyone loves it so much.
  • The Baywatch film, which is being described as “Avengers meets Anchorman“, has added David Hasselhoff to the cast in an unknown role.

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Everywhere you look, folks were talking about it this week. That’s right: Fuller House debuted last Friday to horrible reviews. But that didn’t matter, because folks ate it up anyway. It did so well, that a second season has already been greenlit just a week after its premiere. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Fuller House is an update to the TGIF mainstay of the 80s and 90s, Full House. In the original, widower Danny Tanner was raising his 3 girls with help from his brother in law and best friend. In this sequel series, oldest daughter, DJ Fuller (née Tanner) is a widow herself, and her sister and best friend help her to raise her 3 boys. I’m only 4 episodes in, but I’ve got thoughts. Come along with me, will you?

  • Jodie Sweetin, Jodie Sweetin! Never has a former meth addiction looked so good. I know every website and Tumblr has been enamored with her breasts over the last week, so I won’t go that route. I’ll just say I was begging for another season just for more Jodie.
  • Critics wanna bash the show, but clearly they forgot that the original series wasn’t exactly Waiting for Godot. It was a cheesy, saccharine show – the kind critics have NEVER liked. That was the plight of the entire TGIF lineup. As hard as they worked, they never go the recognition of other sitcoms.
  • As much as people are loving Jodie Sweetin, I was glad to see Andrea Barber. See, I always kinda had a crush on Kimmy Gibbler. They always tried to paint her as gross, with smelly feet and all that, but I wasn’t buying it. I think it’s because she always had that “Yeah, she’d probably date a Black guy” vibe to her. I guess the producers saw that, too, as her ex-husband on the show is Latino (close enough!).
  • LOVE the updated theme song. Glad to see that Carly Rae Jepsen will be remembered as more than just the “Call Me Maybe Girl”
  • I was kinda disappointed in the decision they’d made with Danny’s new wife. If you followed the casting call, they were reportedly looking for an “Attractive, vivacious and youthful African American woman in her 40s”. That made me think they were going the Niecy Nash route. I mean, could you imagine Danny Tanner married to a Black chick? Nope! And that is EXACTLY why I wanted to see it. Instead, they went with Latina actress Eva LaRue. I used to LOVE her about 20 years ago, when she was making the crappy UPN sitcom rounds.
  • Unlike a lot of sitcoms, I like the kids – especially Max. They feel like kids, and not little adults trapped in kid bodies (I’m looking at you, Girl Meets World).
  • Speaking of the kids, Ramona Gibbler is an interesting character, as she’s the first time hamfisted diversity has been introduced to the Full House universe. Sure, Michelle had a bunch of halfy friends, like Denise and Teddy, but it was never dealt with like “I’m White, and they’re Black”. They just were. Eager to embrace her Latin side, early in the season Ramona comments that the Fullers are the Whitest family around. Yeah, the Tanners/Fullers always have been, but it didn’t seem “in universe” to ever bring attention to that.
  • It was nice that they got back the original Nicky and Alex. Man, the Twin gods did not shine brightly upon them!
  • Joey was married (check the ring), but never mentioned his wife and/or kids. I’ll need to know more about them next season.
  • Isn’t it nice that everyone got to pursue their dreams? Danny and Rebecca are about to have a nationally syndicated morning show (the current climate for those doesn’t indicate success, but whatever), Jessie is the music director for General Hospital, and Joey’s got a Vegas residency. Couldn’t, like, one of them be struggling? Well, I guess they had to write them out of the main show somehow.
  • I know we’ve had over 20 years to kinda hate Dave Coulier, especially after The Surreal Life and the Alanis Morissette drama, but it doesn’t feel like he has “it” anymore. Like, when he was doing his voices, I felt the same kind of sad for him that I feel when Michael Winslow still tries to do sound effects. It’s like “Awww, bless his heart!”
  • Finally, I don’t miss Michelle. Never liked her. Sure, it was OK to have the occasional “You got it, dude”, but she Urkeled that show into the ground. So, I’m not disappointed that she didn’t come back. It was interesting that they had the whole in-joke about it in the first episode, but I’m just fine with her focusing on her “fashion empire”.

Anyway, as I said, I’m only 4 episodes in. I’ve got another 9 to go, but so far I like what I see. They don’t really make television like this anymore, and Netflix is the perfect home for it as it wouldn’t fit on today’s broadcast networks. It’s too sweet and sappy for primetime, but it’s too adult for Nick/Disney (there’s a semen joke in the premiere). So, I’m glad that Netflix exists for these shows that are a bit outside the box. I look forward to the next 4 and a half hours, and I look forward to next season. So, for that, Fuller House had the West Week Ever.

*credits roll*

Best Boy – Some Dude

Gaffer – Another Dude

Key Grip – A Third Dude

*more credits*

 

Still here? Great. Well, I want to have a discussion about sharing. You see, views and likes are nice, but when you don’t share posts, you’re being selfish. To put it in Sunday school terms, you’re hiding it under a bushel. Don’t you want to let it shine?! Surely you have friends who might enjoy some of these ramblings, right? I know you do. Like Greg. Greg would LOVE this post, and you know it! Shares are the lifeblood of sites in this day and age, and we can’t really survive without them. So, like I always say, “Likes are nice, but shares are cares.” Thanks for your time 😉