15th Feb2019

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/15/19

by Will

No real rants this week, but I guess we should talk about the Marvel/Hulu deal. Hulu announced 4 upcoming Marvel animated series, including Howard the Duck, M.O.D.O.K., Tigra & Dazzler, and Hit-Monkey. Now, for some reason, folks are excited by this announcement. I, however, do not understand why.

There’s nothing amazing here. No marquee characters. Sure, it’s been pointed out that this is Marvel’s first crack at working with a former Fox character in Dazzler but, I mean, it’s Dazzler. The biggest aspect is probably the folks behind the scenes: Kevin Smith will executive produce Howard the Duck, while Chelsea Handler will be the EP on Tigra & Dazzler, and Patton Oswalt will be EP on Hit Monkey. Still, so? I haven’t really liked anything Smith has done in a very long time, while they’re describing Tigra & Dazzler as “woke” which is a buzzword that’s polarizing to some. Put them all together, and it just sounds like a UPN fall schedule circa 1996.

Anyway, all 4 shows will culminate in a crossover called Marvel’s Offenders, which is a clear rub against the Netflix deal, where the initial four shows culminated in the poorly received Marvel’s The Defenders. Hey, you can’t like everything, nor can everything be tailored to you. That said, I won’t be subscribing to Hulu for these.

Trailer Park

MA

I’m not a horror guy, and if you’re a regular reader, you probably already know that. Still, something about this intrigues me. I figure Octavia Spencer is just getting revenge on the people who bullied her in high school by fucking with their kids, but maybe there’s something deeper to it. Still, definitely intrigued.


Yesterday

A world without The Beatles? WHERE DO I SIGN UP?! Yeah, yeah, I know that just triggered some folks, but I maintain that they were a boyband who eventually got into some psychedelic shit. Anyway, this movie looks really good, and I will definitely be seeing it…on Netflix.


Aladdin

During Sunday’s presentation of the Grammys, we got a “Special Look” at Disney’s upcoming live action adaptation of Aladdin. A few months ago y’all complained that Will Smith wasn’t blue in the Entertainment Weekly spread. Now, folks are complaining that he is blue. As I said on Twitter, there’s just no pleasing you motherfuckers. Anyway, I’m sure it’ll make a ton of money, but this isn’t my kind of film. Honestly, I wouldn’t watch this thing it it were free on the Disney Channel. This teaser does absolutely nothing for me.


Frozen II

I’m loath to admit this, but I’m beginning to realize Disney just doesn’t make movies for me – a difficult position to be in when you have 2 small children. There was a day, about a year ago, when we “watched” Frozen about 7 times. At no point, however, did I make it through the entire thing, instead just seeing disjointed scenes. What I saw, though, did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t wanna be one of those “Back in my day, we had The Lion King” folks, but I find it necessary to remind young’uns of that when they start spouting off about The Lion Guard. Anyway, since everyone loves making money, there’s a sequel coming. Based on this teaser, Girl Jesus steels herself to go up against her archnemesis, The Wave. I guess? I dunno. I just hope there’s a song called “Still Letting It Go”.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Echo Kellum is no longer a series regular on Arrow after this week’s episode, where his character Curtis Holt/Mr. Terrific moved to Washington, DC. Meanwhile, there are rumors that Carlos Valdes will be leaving his role as Cisco over on The Flash by the end of the season.
  • After 17 years, Carson Daly will be stepping down from his late night NBC series, Last Call, at the end of the season. He says that “It’s time”, and that he wanted to give the spot up to a younger voice. Look, I know how Hollywood works Nobody leaves a paying gig, where they’re pretty much left alone, on their own accord. That’s the kind of job you do until they pull the rug out from under ya, which I believe is exactly what NBC did. Still he had a good run, and he met his wife on the show, so it was a fruitful enterprise for him.
  • Even though it was always reported as returning “Summer 2019”, it was revealed this week that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s 6th season will premiere sometime in May, and will be set one year after the events of the season 5 finale.
  • Fox renewed Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy for next season, surprising no one. Oh, and The Simpsons was renewed for 2 more seasons, despite the fact that there are reports that Disney could make more money off the franchise by cancelling it, as the original syndication deal was made early in the show’s run and could be renegotiated at a higher rate.
  • Considering the new president of Nickelodeon is the creator of All That, it’s no surprise that he’s going back to the well in his attempt to get the channel back to its roots. Brian Robbins announced he is developing a reboot of the tween sketch show, with breakout former star, and SNL veteran, Kenan Thompson as an executive producer.
  • Marvel announced the upcoming Savage Avengers comic series, which will see Conan the Barbarian join the Marvel Universe. This is a confusing thing to me, from a business standpoint, because what happens when Marvel loses the Conan license, yet certain events will have been propped up from his time in the MU. I mean, ROM: SpaceKnight anyone?
  • In the wake of recent sexual misconduct allegations against director Bryan Singer, his adaptation of Red Sonja has been shelved by Millennium Films AFTER they had sworn their support of him and the project.
  • It was announced that McFarlane Toys has acquired the license to make collectible toys based on DC Entertainment properties. Personally, I feel like they squandered too much goodwill 20 years ago with their “staction figures”, but folks seem to love their recent Fortnite toys, so maybe that’s an indicator of what we can expect?
  • It was announced today that the next iteration of Power Rangers, Power Rangers: Beast Morphers, will premiere on March 2nd, at 8 AM (the franchise’s new timeslot). 8 AM is where you’d need to air Power Rangers to get kids to care about it live. I mean, by that noon timeslot, they were already at soccer or whatever.
  • I’m no longer wasting the time to document the many returns of Toys “R” Us, so NEXT!

  • As I get older, it’s harder for me to tell these pop starlets apart. Between Halsey and Charli XCX, I remember that Halsey is the Double Bi one (bisexual and biracial), while Charli XCX is “The Other One”. That’s not really a knock on her, but rather the fact that I feel they have similar “gimmicks”. Anyway, I caught the video for Charli XCX & Troye Sivan’s new song, “1999”, which was pretty impressive. If I wanted to nitpick, I could point out how most of this stuff actually took place around 1997, but I’ll give her points for effort and attention to detail. Also, I feel like Sivan, an openly gay man, impersonating Eminem, one of pop culture’s most notorious homophobes, is about 1,000 thinkpieces waiting to happen.

So I first learned about Instagram user HardRockNick, AKA Nicholas Rock Johannsen, last weekend while surfing Twitter. Someone had come across his profile, and basically commented that they had found The One in him. Of course, they were being facetious, but it led me, and scores of others, to check out his account just to see what they were talking about. And it did NOT disappoint!

I don’t even know where to begin with this guy. He’s allegedly a multimillionaire casino owner. His likes include banging porn stars, Trump, and Pure-White women (“not mixed with Mexican or Israeli and shit”). I watched as his followers went from about 500 to 10,000 over the course of the day. Of course, there’s the whole sentiment of “Stop Making Stupid People Famous”, but I was getting tired of hearing about the Andy, the Blowjob Guy from the Fyre Festival documentary, so I welcomed a new butt of jokes.

Everything about him is sad-funny. Whether it’s him trying to impress us by the fact that he found a “great little burger place in my neighborhood”, which is actually a Shake Shack, or him showing off the breakfast made for him by his “personal chef”, when the picture is clearly taken at an IHOP. Was he real? Was this performance art? That’s what we all wanted to know.

Any time you encounter someone just so obnoxious, the first question that comes to mind is “Who hurt you?” Well, after some sleuthing, a story began to take shape. HardRockNick at one time was also known as Aly Ashley Jash, who ran a pet grooming business with his wife, stage actress (and former fiancee to Jeff Goldblum) Catherine Wreford. As the business began to go downhill, Wreford allegedly had an affair with an insurance salesman. Jash, however, would have the last laugh, as he broke into Wreford’s house and took a shit in her kitchen sink (this event can be confirmed by court documents found online). The story, however, doesn’t have as jokey of an ending. Jash went on to become whatever it is you can call him now, while Wreford was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

Then, we got the WHOLE truth. I’m not even gonna spoil it here. Click that link and go to town. However, if you’re like Lindsay – who was disgusted just looking at the guy – then you can hop off here. All I know is the internet had a nice little time following this guy’s story, even if it paled in comparison to that week when Pokemon Go brought us all together. In my mind, however, HardRockNick, AKA Aly Ashley Jash, had the West Week Ever.

25th Jan2019

Thrift Justice – Operation Kondo

by Will

I miss writing, and by that I mean that I miss writing about more than just the week’s pop culture news. If you look at the slider on the homepage, there used to be other columns here: Adventures West Coast, which was my graphic novel/trade paperback review column; Best of the West, which showcased the jewels of my various collections; Track Star, which was my music post that sadly never really found its identity. And, of course, my baby – Thrift Justice, where I showed you all the stuff I managed to find while scouring the local thrift stores.

As I was telling some friends recently, Google killed blogging. When Google Reader was taken out behind the shed, nothing came along to capably take its place. Yes, I said capably, just to ward off all of y’all who are about to go, “Well, Feedly…” A lot of folks quit, while others pivoted to other media, like video or podcasting. I, however, am still a fan of the written word. I feel a lot of videos could’ve been blogs, and that also goes for a lot of podcasts (especially the short ones). I’m too old and fat to move to video, so blogging is where I shall stay.

So, this is all a long-winded way of bringing us to why we’re here today. I’ve been sitting on this idea for about 6 months, as I know it should probably be a video, but that’s just not my bag, baby. Instead, I feel like this would be a great way to bring back Thrift Justice: We’re going to liveblog an unboxing. This could be really interesting OR it could end up like that time Geraldo found Al Capone’s vault. Either way, it’s new content, so yay? But first, some backstory.

Back on the 4th of July, I was at a family cookout, when a cousin of mine told me she had something for me in her car. Apparently, I had let her borrow some toys when her nephews came to town, and she had run across them while she was cleaning her house. There are some very important things you should know here, though. First of all, those nephews are about 18 & 20 now, so if I’m doing my math right, this took place around 2004. Secondly, I’m not exactly the world’s greatest sharer, as I’ve had a bad track record of visiting relatives breaking my shit. So, one of two things happened here: 1) I let them have some stuff about which I didn’t give two shits OR 2) my mother gave them some stuff behind my back, which I clearly didn’t care about if I haven’t missed it in 15 years.

Anyway, for the life of me, I could not remember what these kids had of mine. As I followed my cousin to her car, she handed me a shoebox (think Timberland size) in a shopping bag. I’ve got a toddler, and the last thing I need is to be opening toys around her, so I figured I’d just get around to checking out the contents once we got home, and she went to bed. Instead, the box rode around in the back of my wife’s car for months until she eventually had to put it into the shop for body work. So, there’s no time like the present, right?

Here’s how we’re going to make this interesting, though. Thrift Justice is usually about the stuff I get from the thrift store, but this installment is going to be about stuff I’m sending to the thrift store. Everyone in the world is Marie Kondo-ing, by reducing the clutter in their lives by ridding themselves of the possessions that fail to bring them joy. Will anything in this mystery box bring me joy? Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

Somebody call Geraldo, ‘cause I think I’ve got him beat. Man, what a box of garbage! Ugh, let’s take a closer look, though. I mean, we’ve come this far.

So, first up we’ve got Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender, along with his…friend? Enemy? Anyway, let’s call him Pinkeye McGillicuddy. I vaguely remember buying this set because I thought Aang’s wind blaster pack was kinda cool. I’ve never seen one episode of Avatar, but I knew it was one of the hip things back then, so I guess I wanted to gain entry by getting the toys. Plus, when I first got it, Aang’s pack lit up or made noise or some shit. The batteries are dead now, and I’m too lazy to change them.

Look at Aang’s eyes, though? It’s like he’s been radicalized. What the Hell was that show even about?! Isn’t “air bending” just a polite way of saying “farting”. I’m bending air as I write this.

Next up, we’ve got these Masters of the Universe 200X Happy Meal toys from McDonalds. I remember these being pretty cool because they were decent action figures, in a 4-ish inch scale, with just a hint of an action feature. They were highly detailed, and we’d kill for something like this today. Sadly, though, nobody gave much of a shit about that show, as the Internet had yet to evolve into the geek hive of scum and villainy that it is today. Thrift stores are littered with these figures, and they’re about to get 4 more.

What the Hell?! Is this alien being LYNCHED?! I don’t even know what this is. It’s the same texture of those spiders you throw at the wall in order to watch them crawl down, but I don’t know what the goal is here. Do you swing him around by the loop? You can kinda yo-yo him, but that doesn’t feel right, either. This is like 2 of the darkest periods of American history rolled into one pathetic gashapon toy.

Gather ‘round, kids, as I tell you a tale from the turn of the century! You probably know (recently deceased) Stan Lee as That Old Man Who Keeps Popping Up In The Marvel Movies, but this wasn’t always the case. Back around 1999, ol’ Stan wasn’t exactly on the best terms with Marvel. Sure, he was getting an annual salary for being the company mascot/cheerleader, but he wanted MORE. So, he decided to start Stan Lee Media, which would go on to inspire a quagmire of lawsuits that continue to this day. From this venture, nothing they threw at the wall stuck, but one of the highest profile creations was The Backstreet Project.

Starring boyband The Backstreet Boys, The Backstreet Project was a comic concept that envisioned the group as superheroes. Remember, this was 1999, and things were different. The Backstreet Boys were one of the biggest pop acts in the world, while comics were on the decline. In 2018, you’d ask “Why would anyone make a comic about the Backstreet Boys?!” but in 1999, it would have been more fitting to ask “Why would the Backstreet Boys slum it in the comic industry?” Since Stan Lee Media was poised to harness the true potential of this newfangled thing called The Internet, the focus was more on webisodes than print.

Anyway, Burger King somehow found itself as the official restaurant of the Backstreet Boys, as they were selling CDs and VHS tapes to go along with your diarrhea-inducing Whopper. And for the kids, they had Backstreet Project toys in the Burger King Kids Club Meals. I actually had the entire set at one point in time, as I thought the concept was pretty cool, plus I had a mad-on for any boyband. If you’ve been to this site before, none of this is news. Hell, a friend of mine was actually working at Burger King at the time, so I just asked him to grab the stuff for me from his job. I wasn’t eating that shit! Because I was a huge BSB fan (until Brian had to go and get all political), there was no way I was letting those kids have my prized BSB toys, so these were probably my doubles.

Here you have Brian (the one holding the basketball), as “Top Speed”, while Nick is the one dressed like a ninja, named appropriately enough “Ninja Man”. Jesus, Stan. Were you even trying? Anyway, the gray thing in the middle is some sort of stasis tank that Brian breaks out of. I have to remind myself that this was an era when these guys could’ve pissed in a Sprite bottle, and it would be distributed all across Europe, but in hindsight there’s not a lot of care or attention invested in this concept.

 

Another Burger King premium. Who was eating all this Burger King? It sure as Hell wasn’t me. Anyway, this is some Dragon Ball thing. I don’t know if it was Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, or Dragon Ball GTFO. I know nothing of that franchise, but I know this little guy does some sort of balancing act. I just don’t seem to have the base upon which he does the balancing.

My Ronin Warriors! Man, I loved that show. That might’ve been my first anime, come to think of it. Anyway, I used to have the whole team because when KB Toys was in their death throes, Ronin Warriors were a mainstay in the 3 for $10 bin. Sadly, I donated mine some years back because I couldn’t find them all and didn’t feel the need to keep an incomplete team around. Well, I couldn’t find them all because they were chilling at my cousin’s house. As you can see, they lost a good portion of their shit, as well as a figure (where’s the White one?). These are probably the best thing in the box, but I’m met with the fact that I don’t want an incomplete team, so maybe these figures will be reunited with their brothers in the thrifting afterlife.

Ooh, this one tickles me to no end. If you know me, then you know I don’t give a shit about Harry Potter. In my mind, JK Rowling just stole all of Roald Dahl’s best ideas, and nobody’s called her on this because they teach the wrong things in school these days. Anyway, my hatred aside, I’m a sucker for a good, translucent action figure. Whether it’s the Spirit of Obi Wan Kenobi that I got from Lays Potato Chips, or this boy wizard I picked up from Toys “R” Us (a moment of silence, please), I love them all. The reason this is funny to me, though, is that those boys’ mom is really pro-Black and pro-Jesus. If she knew her boys were playing with a plastic representation of the White Devil, slinging his witchcraft around from his cloak of invisibility, she would shit a brick. I’m actually gonna see her in about 2 weeks, so maybe I’ll just drop that into conversation to see what happens.

This is probably the worst Optimus Prime toy ever made. I tend to think of Happy Meal toys along the lines of rack toys, as they’re all “toys for poor kids”. But this Transformers Armada Happy Meal toy is so bad that even a poor kid would say, “Man, get that shit up out my face!” There have been many bad Transformers Happy Meal toys over the years, and this is merely one of them.

This isn’t even a quality yo-yo. This is no Duncan, and is more like the kind of thing the dentist gives you at the end of your cleaning if you were a good boy.

Good old little green army men. A true classic. Hey, wait a minute. What the Hell happened to the dude in the middle at the top?! He ain’t got no arms! What did my cousins DO to him? I hope they at least said a prayer over him. It’s what their mom would’ve wanted.

“How are your crayons hanging?”
“Low, and to the left”

How does this happen? I mean, I guess they got hot or something and then cooled down, but they’re all curved like that. It’s eerie. It’s somewhat perverted. I have questions.

This is a Wild Planet motion alarm. Whenever there are commercials for things like this, it’s always some little boy trying to protect his worthless shit from being touched by some bratty little sister. I don’t think they really work like that. I’ve never actually used it, but my pal Tarek got it for me in college on an a cappella gig I wasn’t able to attend. Looking back, though, I could think of quite a few uses for this thing for a growing man…

Ah, we come to the end, featuring a pair that will set off all your nostalgia boner alarms. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow here were from a G.I. Joe two-pack that I think contained a DVD. I remember they were on clearance, and I think I only bought them for that DVD. I don’t even collect this scale, ‘cause these are just “dolls” at this point, but it must’ve been quite a good price, because here they are. They came with a shit ton of accessories, half of which you see strewn about here. There are also a lot missing. Like, where are Storm Shadow’s ninja booties? I’m not even gonna try to put this stuff back on them. To the thrift store they go, and their next owner can worry about all that.

So, there ya have it. My journey back in toy time ends not with a bang, but with a whimper. You win, Kondo!!!! None of that brought me any joy. Still, it was nice to take a stroll down memory lane, thinking of all the terrible ways and reasons I’ve wasted good money. I hope you’ve gotten some kind of enjoyment out of this, and if you want more like it, then leave a comment below. Oh, and don’t forget to subscribe! I don’t know what I mean by that…I just hear the YouTubers saying it all the time.

18th Jan2019

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2018

by Will

2018 was the longest year in the history of years. It’s funny – I always look at past posts to figure out if I ever decided on a format for this wrap-up, and the past few years all start with “Man, this year SUCKED!” So, I guess things are just getting worse, huh? Anyway, when I first started doing West YEAR Ever, it was two-fold: 1) to bring attention to some of the “evergreen” posts I’d written throughout the year that you might have missed and 2) provide something of a director’s commentary to the West Week Ever choices I’d made over the past year. Here’s the rub, though: I didn’t really write any evergreen posts this year. Nope, my focus was pretty much solely on West Week Ever, which are totally disposable posts – which is a great way to think of 2018: disposable.

Between HarassmentWatch(TM), Trailer Park, Things You Might Have Missed This Week and, of course, West Week Ever, we talked about the celebrity wang danglers (reigning WYE Champ of 2017), looked at some movie trailers, I gave you bulletpoint news, and then I tried to point out something about the week that stood out above everything else. That’s the West Week Ever formula you’ve come to know over the past 6 years.

The most interesting stuff about the year is probably the stuff I didn’t write about. For example, I was interviewed by Vulture in anticipation of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, as I was considered a Miles Morales “superfan”. I sat on that chestnut for a couple months, anxiously waiting for the article to come out. Finally, my views on something would get more exposure! Well, it came out, and none of my contributions made the finished article. Womp womp.

Or the fact that I won a $50 gift card at the county fair by DOMINATING at 90s song trivia. I promptly used it to buy a gaming chair from Staples. I’m not even a gamer, but that’s a sweet ass chair!

Or the the fact that I won a pair of Google Home Hubs the week before Christmas, because I was miraculously caller #9 to a radio station (Thanks, WMZQ and iHeartRadio!).

Nah, I didn’t write about any of that. Probably should have. Oh well. Hindsight, and all that.

Anyway, let’s take a look back on 2018, and see if anything really stood out about it.

2018 In Movies

As far as movies went, I only saw 15 – down from last year’s 18, and WAY down from 2015’s 78.

1. Gotham By Gaslight
2. Black Panther
3. Ready Player One
4. Blockers
5. Avengers: Infinity War
6. Pitch Perfect 3
7. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
9. Sorry to Bother You
10. Teen Titans Go to the Movies
11. The Meg
12. Venom
13. Megamind
14. The Christmas Chronicles – I have to review these last two here, as I watched them in that gap between my last post of 2018 and my first of 2019. This was a cute movie. Kurt Russell as Santa actually works, but I have SO many questions about the universe in which the movie is set. I mean, Santa is real, but he only comes to Believers. Are we sure this thing wasn’t sponsored by The 700 Club?
15. Commando Ninja – I didn’t know anything about this movie until someone in a Facebook group mentioned it. After about 5 minutes of research, I felt like it looked like Kung Fury, so I was immediately on board. I think I’ve said it before, but I didn’t grow up watching 80s action movies. And I still haven’t seen most of them. So, I’m sure this thing hit all the right notes for some folks, while some of it just goes over my head. Still, it was hilarious, it was free on YouTube, and it was short. What more could you ask for?

2018 In Television

  • Roseanne announced that her character would be a Trump supporter when her show returned. She subsequently said some dumb shit and the show got cancelled. Then her TV family made deals to return to the show without her. Awww, family!
  • Murphy Brown also returned, to the delight of…well, nobody, really. She fired off her Trump jokes, and will probably be put back in moth balls by CBS.
  • ABC pulled an episode of Black-ish that would deal with the NFL kneeling issue. While it was reported as a “mutual decision” between the network and series creator Kenya Barris, Barris would go on to leave ABC for a 7-figure deal with Netflix.
  • The Fox adaptation of Lethal Weapon was a hotbed of problems. First there were reports of misconduct by show star Clayne Crawford, which put the show’s renewal chances in jeopardy. Then, Crawford was fired and replaced by Seann William Scott (the extra “n” is for flavor!). Then the show’s other star, Damon Wayans, announced he was leaving after fulfilling the season’s original 13-episode order.
  • The Simpsons surpassed Gunsmoke to become the longest-running, scripted primetime series on television, with 636 episodes.
  • After 27 scandalous seasons, The Jerry Springer Show went out not with a bang but with a whimper.
  • The Sharknado franchise came to an end with The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time. Yes, it was time.
  • The Power Rangers 25th anniversary special aired, with obligatory Jason David Frank cameo. Hell, the whole thing was a JDF wankfest.
  • Brian Robbins was announced as the new head of Nickelodeon, which is significant since he and his former Head of the Class costar, Dan Schneider, got their behind the scenes careers started by creating All That for the network back in 1994. It’ll be interesting to see if he throws any work to Schneider, whose Schneider’s Bakery production house was sent packing by Nickelodeon earlier in the year after allegations surrounding Schneider arose.
  • DC Comics debuted the DC Universe streaming service, which is still struggling to find subscribers
  • Kanye West went on TMZ to declare “Slavery was a choice!”
  • And, of course, I wrote my annual Network Upfronts post, with my thoughts on the upcoming TV season.

2018 In Music

Yeah, I already covered that. No, you didn’t read it because you’re scared of the unknown!

West Week Ever Recipients of 2018:

1/12/18 – Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
1/19/18 – Black Lightning
1/26/18 – Vince McMahon
2/2/18 – WWE Royal Rumble
2/9/18 – Quincy Jones
2/16/18 – Black Panther
2/23/18 – Black Panther
3/2/18 – Atlanta
3/9/18 – DC Black Label
3/16/18 – Avengers: Infinity War trailer
3/23/18 – Nothing
3/30/18 – Roseanne
4/13/18 – Wrestlemania 34
4/27/18 – James Shaw Jr.
5/4/18 – Avengers: Infinity War
5/11/18 – Donald Glover
5/18/18 – CBS
5/25/18 – The Middle series finale
6/1/18 – Solo: A Star Wars Story
6/15/18 – Charley
6/22/18 – Nothing
6/29/18 – West Life Ever: Toys “R” Us
7/13/18 – Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
7/20/18 – DC Entertainment
7/27/18 – Teen Titans Go to the Movies
8/3/18 – Lebron James
8/10/18 – Patrick Stewart
8/17/18 – Omarosa Manigault Newman
8/24/18 – Crazy Rich Asians
9/7/18 – Nike
9/14/18 – John Legend
9/21/18 – Marvel Studios
9/28/18 – Lady Gaga, “Shallow”
10/5/18 – Venom
10/12/18 – Kanye’s MAGA Hat
10/26/18 – Roman Reigns
11/9/18 – Jeopardy! Champion (and friend of the site!) Mary Ann Borer
11/16/18 – West Life Ever: Stan Lee
11/30/18 – Wolverine: The Long Night
12/7/18 – Avengers: Endgame trailer
12/14/18 – Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
12/21/18 – Nothing

This is normally where I’d give you some insight on my thought process, but I feel like a lot of this needs no explanation. It’s either obvious why it was chosen, or it’s indicative of just what kind of a shitshow pop culture was for that particular week. I’m particularly proud of my West Life Ever posts, for both Toys “R” Us and Stan Lee. Unbeknownst to most, the West Life Ever distinction was created with Adam West and Stan Lee in mind. As they got older, we all knew it was only a matter of time, and they both meant a lot to me. While the designation has been given to a few other things, (like TRU), it was custom made for those two, and I don’t know when, or if, it’ll ever be used again. I can’t think of anyone else in pop culture that meant as much to me, but I guess time will tell.

The year basically started with Black Panther and ended with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. In between the two, we all lived about five lifetimes and have the scars to prove it. I spent a lot of time thinking about what this is all about, and why it is that I do it every week. In the end, I guess I want to make some kind of an impact – leave something behind. While pop culture is fleeting, I pour a lot more into “disposable” posts than makes actual sense. I know I’ve said that I stop caring about these things once the clock strikes 12:00 on Saturday morning, but up until that time, I’m as wired as a kid waiting for his dad to come back from “going out to get cigarettes”. “Are they reading it?”, I anxiously wonder as I constantly retweet the links and look for engagement. Like the aforementioned kid, whose dad is never coming back, the audience never really comes. It leads to a lot of existential questions, like “Well, who am I?” and “Why would anyone care what I think?” Maybe the posts were too long. Everyone’s in a hurry, and don’t like reading long things. I don’t want to contribute to “Hot Take Culture”, and I try to write reasoned arguments for my opinions. Yeah, yeah blogs are dying. I get it. Maybe I need a podcast, ya know, ’cause everybody has a podcast. Maybe this should be video, but that hardly seems worth the effort. Still, in all this introspection, one thing stood out – one thing that proved my “impact”, and would withstand the test of time.

If you’re a longtime reader, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, ’cause I did it for my first kid, and I don’t need to look like I’m playing favorites. Still, the best thing about 2018 was Charlotte Bruce West. I know it’s the hip thing now to hate kids and love the Hell out of dogs instead, so if that’s you, then you should probably stop reading.

This was not a fun year for anyone, and some days were harder than others. The thing about Charley, which was so surprising to me, is that she’s such a happy baby. Sure, those first few months she didn’t realize she was smiling, and it was just something her mouth was doing. Over time, though, they became genuine smiles. Smiles that could make a bad day better. She’s just such a happy baby. Where does she get that from? Was I ever that happy? If so, what happened? I only hope it’s something she can hold onto throughout life. I hear a positive attitude can take ya places, and I sure as Hell wouldn’t know. I’m not one of those parents who’s all “She’s going to be President someday.” She could be a blogger with readership in the double digits, and that’d be just fine. At least she came by it honestly.

I read this Conan O’Brien interview in The New York Times the other day, and it really resonated with me. If you’ve run out of free NYT articles for the month, or just don’t feel like clicking, it’s him discussing the decision to change his TBS show from a full hour to a half hour format. After 25 years in late night, he looked back on what he had done, and thought about how he would like to go forward. He said that, while it might seem selfish, he wanted an experience that allowed him to have the most fun because, in the end, none of it matters. “This is going to sound grim, but eventually, all our graves go unattended.”

On the worst days, I can come home and play “Grocery Store” with my oldest, while keeping the youngest from swallowing a Hatchimal. I’ve made, and continue to make, my impact on them, and that’s what matters. As for this, let’s make it fun again. No more “writing for the audience”. I want to be as blissfully happy as a 7-month old baby, and that’s accomplished by focusing on things a lot of people don’t care about, like 90s boybands and forgotten teen sitcoms. Let’s bring back Thrift Justice! Let’s dive into that backlog of comics that’s only been growing. No more expectations, as I’m leaving that mentality in 2018. It won’t be an overnight process, but it’s the destination I’m working towards. I’ve already made a mark somewhere, so let’s see where that takes us. As a great, rich man once yelled, “You wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!” Let’s consider 2019 the year of How Will Got His Groove Back. In the meantime, let’s leave 2018 behind like the garbage year that it was.

So, for being the best thing to happen to me in 2018, and for inspiring this introspection, Charley West had the West Year Ever.

05th Oct2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/5/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Brad Kern Update – the former NCIS: New Orleans showrunner was fired by CBS Studios after a THIRD misconduct investigation. He had already stepped down after the 2nd, but he remained on the payroll as a consulting producer. He reportedly had a history of belittling women, and making insensitive racial remarks.

Vincent Favale – What the Hell is going on over at CBS?! Man, they are draining the fucking swamp! Favale, the senior vice president of talent at the network has been placed on administrative leave after reports of sexual and homophobic remarks – many of which were reported by staff of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Favale reportedly once said that he “got four erections” while watching Jennifer Hudson rehearse for a Late Show appearance. Sounds like a real great guy…

*Takes long drag off cigarette* “Geoffrey? Now, that ain’t a name I’ve heard in about a month.” So, this week, Toys “R” Us called off the auction meant to sell off their IP and trademarks, as they reported they felt there was more value in relaunching the brand. Paperwork reveals that they registered the name “Geoffrey’s Toy Box”, but for what nobody is sure yet. Meanwhile, the Dallas Toy Fair is going on, and there have been sightings of Geoffrey walking the aisles, wearing a cape that says “Back from vacation”. All of a sudden, every news outlet lit up with “Toys ‘R’ Us is Coming Back!” Hold on there, cowboy.

Toys “R” Us rushed into bankruptcy, leaving long-time employees without severance, and owing toy manufacturers millions for unpaid product. That giraffe can’t just mosey back in like nothing happened. While the man on the street might be happy about TRU returning, there are a lot of folks who are going to feel some kind of way about that. And if it turned out that they only filed bankruptcy to divest themselves of debt, overhead, and responsibility, that’s going to cause even more problems. Had they been a public company, I’m pretty sure the SEC would be stepping in right about now, but they were private, so I don’t really know what happens next. All I do know is that they need to read the room and understand it’s too soon. The body ain’t even cold yet. I mean, I’m half expecting the next marketing image to be Geoffrey rolling back the stone from his tomb. That’s how this feels right now. They really need to give it a bit more time before rushing into this – if only so I don’t have to hear all the armchair quarterbacks talk about “They better lower their prices! That’s what drove them out of business in the first place!” Not exactly, Poindexter, but you keep on thinking that…


I was hesitant to post this ’cause y’all are never on the same page as me musically, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the stuff I think is good. Now, I know some of you see “country” and just think “NEXT!”, but I will die on the hill that modern country isn’t what you think it is. There are tons of artists who get airplay on country stations, yet if I played the song for you without telling you that, you’d never know it. Today, I can’t really do that ’cause I think everyone knows Tim McGraw is a country artist. Still, yesterday evening, he released his latest song, “Neon Church”, that I’ve been streaming for the past 24 hours.

While I love the wordplay, likening a bar to a church, I’m really here for the melody and what’s going on in the background. The first time I heard it, I was like “That’s ‘Purple Rain’!” In an interview this morning, McGraw said that while recording, he and his band were listening to a lot of Prince and Journey, and it shows here. I played it for Lindsay, and she didn’t like it – I somehow managed to marry the only White woman who hates Journey. Anyway, listen near the bridge and the at the end – that guitarist is doing his best “cruise ship ‘Purple Rain'”. It’s something of a vocal stretch for McGraw, as it’s at the top of his range, but I’m still really digging what’s going on here.

Trailer Park


Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

So, we got a new trailer for this one. Again, I am one of the BIGGEST Miles Morales fans, and this movie does nothing for me. I’m not digging the animation style, which I’m finding to be just as jarring as the MTV Spider-Man animated series based on the Raimi movies. Plus, I’m not sure Jake Johnson is how I imagined Peter Parker would sound. And Miles’ dad isn’t a cop. I get they had to take certain liberties or whatever, but I’m not feeling it. Maybe it’s not meant for me, which is sad, ’cause I pretty much glom onto any and all Miles merchandise and comic appearances.

Plus, I just don’t know if this is a theatrical project. I mean, I look at this, and think it would be a cool animated special that airs on ABC during primetime on a Wednesday in June or something, but to actually go pay to see it in a theater? I don’t think so. It feels like a nice special one-off event, like that Toy Story That Time Forgot special or something. Maybe even a special event on Disney XD. But this ain’t an “I’m headed to Fandango to order tickets” kind of thing.


Daredevil Season 3

So glad they quickly got this out there, ’cause the teaser I showed you last week left me scratching my head. Apparently this is adapting the “Born Again” storyline, but I read that thing over 10 years ago, and don’t remember it, so don’t take my word for it. It looks good – SO good, that I might just skip that other Netflix shows I haven’t seen and skip right to it.


Runaways Season 2

I’ve never watched an episode of this show, and that’s because A) I don’t have Hulu and B) it looks hokey as Hell. From the special effects to the way the kids all look like “teen outcasts” straight from central casting, it just doesn’t look good to me. I was a big fan of the comic series when it launched, but I watch these trailers, and I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you’ve read the comic, you probably know what I’m talking about. It’s like, if you think they’re on the run NOW, you just wait! There’s a twist coming, and I might jump onboard if/when I hear they’ve pulled that trigger. Until then, I’m content being in the dark on this one, Cloak & Dagger, and all the teen-centric Marvel stuff.


Harley Quinn

So, they announced that Kaley Cuoco would be voicing Harley, and I was like, “Huh?” I mean, were Tara Strong or Arleen Sorkin busy? But I guess they wanted a “name” behind this, since it’s one of DC Universe’s more high profile upcoming launches. After seeing this trailer, Cuoco does a decent job. And I really love Poison Ivy doing her best Daria. I like that DC seems able and willing to poke fun at them themselves here. I’m curious to see how this plays out since it’s marketed as an “adult animated series”. Let’s just hope the show is good, and not another Stripperella.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fox announced the release of Untitled Deadpool Movie slated for December 21st, which will reportedly be a PG-13 cut of Deadpool 2. Keep in mind that this is also the weekend that Aquaman and Bumblebee hit theaters. I was kinda hoping it would be a new movie made up of deleted scenes and cut subplots, kinda like Wake Up, Ron Burgandy. Anyone ever seen that? It’s HORRIBLE but, as an Anchorman completist, I had to see it.
  • Speaking of Fox, they made a lot of schedule moves, as Untitled Deadpool Movie takes the release date of James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel, which, itself, is moving to Dark Phoenix‘s previously announced date of February 14th, 2019. Dark Phoenix, meanwhile, is moving to June 7th. Also, Channing Tatum’s X-Men spinoff, Gambit (ya know, that movie that’s never gonna happen?), has been pushed to March 13th, 2020.

  • So, those pitches are teasing a Pitch Perfect 4, and I’ve got to beg them to stop. The only thing they could even possibly do is have it based on NBC bringing back The Sing Off, and having the Bellas compete on it. Anything else would be absurd. No, the 3rd one was just not worth it, so I say we let it die as a trilogy.
  • Before the first episode has even aired, Titans has been renewed for season 2 on the DC Universe streaming service. Ya know, why not? It’s not like they’re sitting on anything else amazing to throw on that thing.

  • Speaking of bad DC live action ideas, Lobo is going to debut on Syfy’s Krypton next season. This looks like a Spirit Halloween ad! Ugh, fucking Lobo. He’s just the absolute WORST. Even though he debuted in the 80s, he’s the 90s at its 90iest, and I hate everything about him. I’ve always said that you can tell a lot about a person if they’re a Lobo fan. They’re usually Special Ed. Probably ate paste in school. They either grow up to own a landscaping business or become a Best Buy stereo installer. Fucking Lobo…
  • Realizing he’s getting too old for this shit, Damon Wayans has announced that he’s leaving Lethal Weapon at the end of season 3’s initial 13-episode commitment. Man, how mad do you think Fox is at the Lethal Weapon office right now? They already had to replace Clayne Crawford with Sean William Scott just to keep the show going, and now THIS?! Somebody’s GOT to be saying “We don’t need this shit! We could’ve renewed Lucifer!” As I said on Twitter, they should replace Wayans with Bill Bellamy, then kill off Scott, and replace him with Peter Facinelli. Then, I’ll get my backdoor Fastlane revival I’ve been wanting since 2003!
  • Kanye did some dumb shit on SNL, and water is wet.
  • Looks like Robert Kirkman is going to have to be content living off his The Walking Dead empire, as Cinemax has cancelled his series Outcast after 2 seasons.
  • Everyone wants in on the fantasy genre, as Netflix is adapting the C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia for series and movies, while Amazon is developing a series based on Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time novels.
  • Remember Mischa Barton? Ya know, the It Girl from The O.C. who went nowhere? Well, she’s going to be joining the cast of The Hills: New Beginnings on MTV.
  • Chelsea Peretti announced that she won’t be returning to Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a series regular when the show debuts on NBC this season.
  • Amy Schumer was detained yesterday in DC during the #KavaNope protests, but she blocked me on Twitter ages ago, so she’s dead to me. YOU’RE DEAD TO ME, AMY!

  • We got this poster for the upcoming Hellboy reboot, starring David “You Wouldn’t Even Know My Name Were It Not For Stranger Things” Harbour.
  • Elon Musk took one step closer to becoming The World’s First Supervillain, as he was forced to resign as Tesla chariman, and was fined $20 million by the SEC, due to a tweet where he implied he had secured funding to take Tesla private.
  • Last night marked the finale episode of the hour-long version of Conan on TBS, as he bid farewell to his house band, Jimmy Vivino and the Basic Cable Band (formerly the Max Weinberg 7). The future show will switch to a half hour format, with no musical guests, but with more special events, like shows from foreign countries.
  • Brian Robbins was announced as the new head of Nickelodeon, which is significant since he and his former Head of the Class costar, Dan Schneider, got their behind the scenes careers started by creating All That for the network back in 1994. It’ll be interesting to see if he throws any work to Schneider, whose Schneider’s Bakery production house was sent packing by Nickelodeon earlier this year after allegations surrounding Schneider arose.
  • Talk about an “unfortunate Situation”! Jersey Shore star, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, was sentenced to 8 months in prison for tax evasion.
  • Jon Favreau will write and produce Star Wars series The Mandalorian, which appears to follow another Fett, after the events of Empire, but before the rise of the First Order. The series will stream on Disney Play.

I know you’ve gotten this far, and you’re like “Wait, didn’t he have Venom in the header pic? He hasn’t even mention…wait. He WOULDN’T!”

OK, bear with me here. I know the critics gave this film a shellacking, and I can understand why. In the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and, to some extent, the DCEU, Venom isn’t what we’ve come to expect from a comic book movie in 2018. And I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. I swore that I wouldn’t spend money to see Venom, and I kept that promise, as Special Forces wanted to see it, and it was his turn to pay. That said, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I really enjoyed it. Now, I am known for liking shit, so don’t equate “Will liked it” with “It’s a good movie”. I don’t know if I’m “Film Twitter” enough to say it’s good or bad, but I definitely enjoyed it.

OK, so the movie starts out with investigative reporter Eddie Brock on top of the world. He’s got his own cable news show, where he roots out corruption, he’s engaged to corporate attorney Michelle Williams, and he’s about to get a chance to interview Elon Musk analog, Carlton Drake. Actually, that’s not how the movie starts. It actually starts with a space shuttle crashing upon reentry – a shuttle that happens to carry organic samples. All of the astronauts die except one, named “Jameson”, where I guess they’re alluding to J. Jonah Jameson’s astronaut son, John Jameson, who later becomes the Man-Wolf in the comics. Anyway, while transporting Jameson to the nearest hospital, it appears he’s got a symbiote in him that jumps from him to his EMT, wrecking the ambulance. Oh, and that shuttle? It was owned by Carlton Drake.

Brock’s boss wants him to interview Drake, but he doesn’t want to do it because he doesn’t trust Drake. His doubts are reinforced when he hacks into his fiancee’s computer (her firm happens to be representing Drake’s company, The LIFE Foundation), and discovers a wrongful death suit filed against the computer. When he gets his shot at interviewing Drake, instead of sticking to the script, he decides to ask about the wrongful death suit. Well, this doesn’t go well, as Drake kicks Brock out of his building, ends his career, and gets Williams fired from her firm, where she, then, gives Brock his ring back. In one fell swoop, Brock’s life is ruined.

Fast forward six months, and Brock is a drunk, “slumming it” in what has to be a $4500/month apartment (seriously, the thing is huge, and they’re in San Francisco!). He’s got no job prospects and no future, until a horribly miscast Jenny Slate shows up as Dora Skirth, a scientist at the LIFE Foundation who has doubts about the organization’s goals. See, Drake thinks humans have ruined Earth, and the only possible solution is to equip them with the means to survive – whether here or on another planet. He sees the symbiote samples as a means of doing that, and he has ordered trials to begin on humans. LIFE picks up vagrants and has them sign away their rights as they test the symbiotes to see if they’ll bond with humans. Well, this is too much for Dr. Skirth, who seeks out Brock to help her expose the company.

Dr. Skirth sneaks Brock in, who goes exploring while she tries to distract a security guard. While exploring, Brock finds his neighborhood homeless friend in one of the cells. When he breaks her out, she attacks him ’cause she’s got a symbiote in her, which she passes to Brock, unbeknownst to him. As he’s fleeing from security, he notices he can do things he shouldn’t be able to do, like shatter trees and quickly scale great heights. This is when he starts to realize something’s not right, as he starts to hear a voice in his head that wasn’t there before.

So, now he’s riding for two, as Venom’s in his head, but pops out when necessary – like when Drake’s hired security show up to take back the symbiote, and there’s a well-choreographed fight scene in the apartment, leading to a great car chase scene. The action is actually pretty impressive in the film. There’s one scene of Venom versus the SWAT team that plays out like a boss battle in a video game. They’re throwing flash grenades and shooting at shadows, while Venom bounces around the rafters.

I’ll stop spoiling stuff here, as you might actually want to see the movie one day. I’ll say there were a couple of things that bothered me. For one thing, Michelle Williams. I mean, the entire time, I’m watching the film, thinking, “You’re better than this, Michelle! You’ve been nominated for an Oscar FOUR TIMES, yet here you are, doing your worst Great Value Pepper Potts!” Also, there are continuity issues. There’s a scene where Drake is speaking to a field trip at his HQ, and a little girl tries to ask him a question. The rest of the class tries to stop her for interrupting, but Drake says something inspiring like, “No, speak. That’s what people do. They try to dissuade you from asking questions, but that’s how we learn.” He, then, gives her the pin off his lapel, but HE DOESN’T ACTUALLY LET HER ASK A QUESTION! he basically grandstanded, only to shoot her down. I mean, she was happy with the lapel pin, but nobody seems to notice she didn’t ask her question. Lost in editing maybe? Also, I didn’t really like Riz Ahmed as Drake. I thought it was another casting misfire. I would’ve gone for someone with more gravitas, like maybe Dev Patel, if they were going for a “type”. I also didn’t appreciate that it was clearly an R-rated film, edited down to PG-13, and Hardy has said that 40 minutes got cut, including his favorite scene.

Things I did like: Tom Hardy was great as Guy Who Ends Up As Venom’s Host. I can’t honestly say he was a great Eddie Brock, as I don’t have a ton of familiarity with that character. When he was ruling comics in the 90s, I still pretty much a strictly DC guy, so I haven’t read most of those iconic Venom stories. I know Brock was Peter Parker’s rival, so you’re not really supposed to be rooting for him, but you kinda have to here. That’s why I can understand why they wanted Spider-Man as far away from this film as possible. Still, I liked Hardy for what he was, and I loved his interplay with Venom in his head. I also LOVED Venom, as he was funnier than I expected him to be. The CGI wasn’t as troublesome as I was expecting, and I was even fine with no spider symbol on his chest.

As much as I enjoy the MCU movies, I’m getting a little tired of them. As a fanboy, they’re work. It’s not enough to just sit back and enjoy the movie, but Marvel really drives home the interconnectedness of it all. So, the first time you watch, you’re on guard for any Easter egg that might fly by. Like “Hey, he just mentioned Damage Control!”, etc. I get it, Marvel – you’re good at tying your shit together. But I don’t ALWAYS need that. Venom was a nice change of pace. It was still “In Association With Marvel”. I still got my Stan Lee cameo. It did everything it needed to do. And the mid credits scene has me hoping we get a sequel, ’cause there’s a lot of potential with what they teased.

Yes, this was a pretty slow week unless your name was Brett Kavanaugh, so there wasn’t a ton of competition here. So, I’m gonna shock y’all and say that Venom had the West Week Ever.

13th Jul2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/13/18

by Will

I’ve been in California the past few days, and haven’t really been that plugged into the world lately. It’s been so long since I wrote one of these that I’ve kinda forgotten how they work. I mean, it’s been 2 weeks since my last post, and that was the Toys “R” Us tribute. So, it’s been 3 whole weeks since we touched on pop culture news and events. I’ve gotta say, though, not much happened. I mean, stuff happened, but did any of it really matter? Let’s see, shall we?

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Chris Hardwick Update: Not only did Hardwick’s friend, Lady Sif herself, post this tone deaf tweet, but she also circulated a Change.org petition to reinstate him as host of his AMC shows. Read the room, Jaimie! Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite nerd auntie, Yvette Nicole Brown, will be moderating the SDCC panels that were originally to be hosted by Hardwick. She insists she’s not vying for his job, and is merely “helping out a friend”.

Nev Schulman Update: Production has resumed on MTV’s Catfish: The TV Series, as their investigation found that there was no credible evidence that he had committed the harassment reported by his accuser.

Terry Crews Update: While testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on sexual assault, Crews admitted that he had turned down a role in The Expendables 4, after being threatened to drop the case by producer Avi Lerner. Lerner reportedly warned Crews that there could be “trouble” if he didn’t drop his case, and Crews decided that passing on the film was the best thing for his personal safety.

John “Papa John” Schnatter: OK, so everyone already kinda knew Papa John was a piece of shit, but this week he was forced to resign as chairman of the board when it came out that he had used the word “nigger” during a conference call. Reportedly, in response to a question about his opposition to NFL players kneeling, Schnatter said that Colonel Sanders used to call Blacks niggers and that there was never any blowback for KFC. Here’s where this gets dicey for me: while there’s no real evidence that the Colonel had a history of doing this, it’s not like Schnatter used the slur against someone on the call. At best, he was telling the truth and didn’t read the room to know “Maybe it wouldn’t be too Kosher for me to use that word.” At worst, he was lying about the Colonel, but still wasn’t slinging it an individual. In any case, there’s other evidence that he’s a shitty human being, so maybe this was just karma catching up to him, like how they got Al Capone on tax evasion. Shitty views, shitty pizza: Papa John’s.

Henry Cavill: Superman done fucked up, y’all. Admittedly, there’s hyperbole on both sides of this argument, but here it goes: In a GQ Australia interview, Cavill admitted his trepidation about dating in the post #MeToo world, saying

“There’s something wonderful about a man chasing a woman. There’s a traditional approach to that, which is nice,” he remarked. “I think a woman should be wooed and chased, but maybe I’m old-fashioned for thinking that.”

“It’s very difficult to do that if there are certain rules in place. Because then it’s like: ‘Well, I don’t want to go up and talk to her, because I’m going to called a rapist or something.’ So you’re like, ‘Forget it, I’m going to call an ex-girlfriend instead, and just go back to a relationship, which never really worked,”

Of course there was social media backlash to this, with the common response being “If you don’t want to be called a rapist, then don’t rape anyone.” I get it. I do. But it’s funny how the “We have to listen to both sides” folks are really selective in when they choose to speak out. I think he suffered from a poor choice of words, but his is still a viewpoint that should probably be acknowledged. Men DON’T know how to read cues anymore, and it’s leading to some bad situations (see: Aziz Ansari). Cavill admits his beliefs are old fashioned, but that’s how a lot of people were conditioned and raised. Sure, there’s concepts like “enthusiastic consent” now, but to many that’s just as foreign a concept as when men learned they’d have to wrap their penises in a tire to make sure they don’t die having sex. Change takes time, and getting these views out and discussing them is the only way folks are going to come to some kind of understanding to move forward. No, I’m not saying “Hug a Nazi”, but I AM saying that you can’t really change anything until folks are comfortable enough to speak, while others are willing to listen. Anyway, he apologized through one of his reps, so nothing was really accomplished here except a whole bunch of folks don’t like Henry Cavill anymore.

I’m not doing so well with the movie viewing this year. I think I watched something like 117 in 2016, and at this point I’ve seen about 7. On the flight home last night, I finally got a chance to watch Pitch Perfect 3. I’m not saying I regret seeing it, but I kinda regret that they made it.

As I’ve said before, I kinda relate more to the Pitch Perfect franchise than most folks do because I lived it. I was in the scrappy underdog college a cappella group that placed at competition. I dealt with the ennui that comes from riding that high, and then being thrust into the real world where nobody gives a shit. In fact, I thought the second movie captured that perfectly, even if it didn’t resonate with a lot of fans of the first movie. As much as I love the Barden Bellas, though, this didn’t need to be a trilogy. They go on a USO tour? Is it really that easy for the alums of a 7-year removed competitive collegiate singing group to get a spot on a USO tour? Are the troops that hard up for entertainment? I mean, even I would get tired of Carlos Mencia after one performance, but is this really all that’s left in the barrel for our boys overseas?

If you haven’t seen it, that’s what happens: the Bellas reunite because of a Three’s Company-esque misunderstanding, but decide to take one last shot at the stage by going on a USO tour – one that happens to be a proving ground for DJ Khaled to find his new opening act. Really? HIM? So, the aged Bellas (and Hailee Steinfeld, whose character must have taken a leave of absence from college) jet around the world, competing against three other acts: country-tinged Saddle Up, hip hop duo Young Sparrow & DJ Dragon Nutz, and the all-female Evermoist. Almost immediately the other 3 acts join forces in the traditional riff-off, to show the Bellas just how ineffective a cappella battles are in the real world. Chloe keeps trying to cite them for breaking non-existent rules, like “They used real instruments, so they’re disqualified.” Of course, the Bellas eventually prove themselves to the USO audiences, after a few embarrassing setbacks put into motion by Evermoist. I guess that would be a decent movie if it didn’t have so many other weird subplots floating around.

It’s a movie that tries to do too many things, and doesn’t do any of them well. There’s a weird B-plot about Fat Amy’s (Rebel Wilson) crooked father (played by John Lithgow), who’s scheming to get the $180 million that her mother had put into a trust for her. This results in some crazy choreographed fight scenes between Amy and her dad’s goons, as well as a Die Hardian explosion on a boat.

Then, there’s a co-B-plot (’cause it’s not quite a C-plot) about Becca (Anna Kendrick) being courted as an artist by one of the members of DJ Khaled’s team. While this storyline eventually turns out well for Becca, it just dangles a romance that could have been pursued if they were audacious enough to make a fourth movie, but doesn’t really go anywhere.

Plus, I get that Kendrick is the star, but the whole Becca As a Solo Artist thing doesn’t work for her characterization. Sure, we’re reintroduced to her dealing with her dead-end producing job, but she was never a front and center showgirl. She was a reluctant performer whose musicality and choreo took the Bellas to new heights. If anything, though, her perfect place is behind the scenes, building new artists, and NOT as a headlining solo artist.

Then, you’ve got Aubrey (Anna Camp) dealing with abandonment issues from her dad (which are hastily wrapped up during the end credits), and Chloe (Brittany Snow) hastily falling in love with their USO liaison. Steinfeld is just there to be insulted by Fat Amy, and you don’t really see much of the fire from the last movie that propelled her to the leadership of the current group of Bellas.

The movie is missing a lot of its heart, which was provided in the previous two installments by love interests Bumper (Adam Devine) and Jesse (Skylar Astin) – both of whom are absent here and clearly missed. Jesse was great support for Becca, and it’s curious that they’d break up offscreen and he’s already moved on. Meanwhile, I didn’t expect Fat Amy and Bumper to get married or anything, but I did expect a cameo or something. I mean, Adam Devine is doing straight to Netflix movies these days, so he’s available.

The biggest thing missing here, though, is the musicality. While the first two movies really showcased what a cappella has become, this movie turns it into the butt of the joke. The riff-off is impressive, as they tend to be, but there are no real performances from any of the acts – Bellas to Evermoist – that are that impressive. It’s probably the only installment in the trilogy where I feel I could easily pass on the soundtrack.

Pitch Perfect 3 is a simple retread of Pitch Perfect 2‘s “There’s Life After A Cappella, But It Ain’t Singing” thesis. We got it, but we didn’t need it. It’s a shame because I really like these movies and the stars, but they didn’t leave the stage on a high note.

In Star Wars news, Keri Russell has reportedly signed on for a role in Star Wars: Episode IX, Seeing as how she’s JJ Abrams’ muse or whatever, this news isn’t that surprising. In another part of the galaxy, however, it was reported that Billy Dee Williams would reprise his role as Lando Calrissian and, for the life of me, I can’t imagine what the fuck for. I mean, all of his friends are dead, and he was absent for the one scene that would’ve made sense for him to be in (Canto Bight). So, I guess I’ll look forward to seeing him come back just to die.

In Marvel news, it was revealed that the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming will be called Spider-Man: Far From Home. Let the speculation begin! Does he get left in space after Avengers 4? Does he come back to Earth and end up in Wakanda, hanging out with Suri? The possibilities are endless.

When it comes to hope, though, Sony giveth and Sony taketh away. While Far From Home sounds intriguing, they also announced their continued plans to milk that Spider-Man license dry. Now they’re claiming there will be a Silk movie that’ll never happen. I mean, if they couldn’t get a film off the ground for Black Cat and Silver Sable, I really don’t know how “Asian Spider-Woman”‘s milkshake is gonna bring the fanboys to the yard. On top of that, there are reports that Jared Leto will star in a Morbius film. Yeah, Morbius is the vampire who debuted in the Spider-Man comic, but really has jack shit to do with Spider-Man. If you ask me, Sony making that deal with Marvel Studios was to their detriment, as it left them to play around with the dregs of the Spider-Man license. Imagine if you had a really hot, passionate girlfriend, but then y’all broke up and you ended up with an Amish girl. The Amish girl thinks she’s doing you a favor by flashing a little ankle, but you know what you used to have. That’s this situation right here.

FX announced the cast for their Y: The Last Man pilot, and the biggest surprise is probably that Diane Lane has signed on to play Senator Jennifer Brown, who also happens to be the mother of the main character, Yorick. If you’re not familiar with the story, Y: The Last Man was a comic series published under the DC Comics Vertigo imprint. Running for 60 issues, it featured a world where a virus has killed every male in the world – except for escape artist Yorick and his Capuchin monkey. Women rise up and take on roles that they hadn’t traditionally held in the old world, while Yorick is traveling the globe to be reunited with his girlfriend. It’s one of the most critically acclaimed series of the past 20 years, and I think it was an absolute disappointment.

I have a problem with series creator Brian K. Vaughan because I feel he doesn’t stick the landing when it comes to his long-form series. 60 issues was just enough rope for him to hang himself with. I couldn’t even imagine reading that series on a monthly basis at certain points, because there are YEARS that just drag. So, to me, this just means we might get a compelling show with a really weak season 4 & 5. And don’t get me started on the ending because I felt it was one of those “It’s not about the destination, but the journey” cop out. Anyway, I guess time will tell.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • A bunch of shows got cancelled, but don’t feel bad – they’re dead because nobody cared about them. Likewise, no one will miss them. They include: Famous In Love (Freeform), Nobodies (TV Land), Ghosted (Fox), Champions (NBC), and SIX (History). See? Bet you never watched any of them.
  • In other TV news, Charter Communications has picked up the Bad Boys spinoff, L.A.’s Finest, starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba. It’s set to air on their Spectrum cable service, which is about a step up from ending up on the Playstation Network (Yes, that was a jab at Powers).
  • In a recent interview, Paul Reiser admitted that the Mad About You revival “likely won’t happen” for the sheer fact that no network seems to want it. It’s fine with me. Paul and Jamie Buchman had a terrible marriage, and I haven’t ONCE wondered “I wonder where those two crazy kids would be right now.” If anything, I spend time wondering why Leila Kenzle and John Pankow didn’t become household names from that show. They were the only reasons to tune in.
  • WWE SmackDown Live will officially air on Fridays next year on Fox, meaning that Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing revival is basically getting evicted before it even returns to the airwaves.
  • Speaking of WWE, there are reports that they will add a second Wrestlemania branded show in 2020. This sounds like a terrible idea because it’ll just take away the prestige of the now-annual event, especially if it’s a watered down ‘Mania, similar to the recent Saudi Rumble.
  • Classic Nickelodeon show Double Dare is back on the air, and I had stronger feelings about it when it debuted 3 weeks ago. All I can say now is that new host Liza Koshay is kind of annoying, while I wanted to kill this little prick who kept dabbing after every victory. It was a nice nostalgia trip to watch that first night, but it’s nothing I’ve returned to since. Apparently there’s a Kenan & Kel episode coming up, so I’ll probably tune into that, as they play for their favorite charity: Keeping Kel’s Lights On.
  • Jeremy Renner has been cast as Detective “Twitch” Williams in the upcoming Spawn movie. I know that announcement is supposed to be big news, but all I can muster is a Kanye shrug. Remember those? Ya know, before he married that Armenian donkey and lost his mind?
  • The TV series based on The Purge will debut September 4th, on both Syfy and USA Network.
  • Marvel Studios reportedly met with 70 different directors, and settled on Cate Shortland to direct the planned Black Widow solo film.
  • District 9/Chappie director Neill Blomkamp will direct a new Robocop movie for MGM. Have you ever seen any of his movies? Come for the hamfisted allegory on Apartheid, but stay for the wise-cracking alien go-kart that Robocop rides around in!
  • Djimon Hounsou has been cast as the Wizard in that SHAZAM! movie I can’t seem to get excited about.
  • Steven Universe featured the first lesbian wedding on a kid’s cartoon show, but does it count if they’re really space gems? I dunno. I’ve tried to watch that show, and it makes no sense to me, but yay for progress!

I’m amazed that it’s been 3 weeks since I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and it has still stuck with me. If you’re not familiar, the documentary is the story behind Fred Rogers and the creation of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And let me tell you – it is a life-changing experience. Seriously, they broke the mold when they made Fred Rogers, and no one has stepped up to fill the void that he left behind.

The movie focuses on what a remarkable man Mr. Rogers was, and how he impacted the lives or children. An ordained minister, he discovered television in its infancy, and realized the power that it could have in speaking directly to children. He didn’t like how a lot of children’s television seemed to talk down to the audience, so he wanted to meet them at their level, and help them through the roadblocks of life. It contained interviews with everyone from his wife to former crewmates and friends. I’m not a movie crier, but this thing pushes all the buttons of a Pixar movie.

The movie definitely left an impact on me as I left the theater. There’s one clunky part, where an old friend mentions that Rogers was a lifelong, card-carrying Republican. I guess it was meant to imply that his work was imbued with his sense of family values and whatnot, but all I could think was “What the fuck happened to the Republican Party?” Along those lines, how would he feel about the current state of things? He had retired prior to 9/11, but was consulted to create material to help folks cope with the events of that day – and it nearly broke him. As great as he was, even he wouldn’t be able to heal the divide facing the country. At least, not alone. The world needs more people like Mr. Rogers. “Look for the helpers.”

I’m not sure if it’s delusions of grandeur, or lack of sleep, but for a brief period of time after leaving the theater, I thought “I could do it!” I could pivot everything to be more family friendly, I have an early childhood background, and I love (and worry about) kids. But my wife quickly reminded me that I’m a hateful man online, but that it’s what I’m good at, so I wouldn’t be the heir apparent to King Friday’s empire anytime soon. Womp womp.

I can’t believe I still feel this way three weeks later, but nothing has come close to that experience. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a long time, and I think everyone should see it. That’s why Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had the West Week Ever.

29th Jun2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/29/18 (TRU Edition)

by Will

I’m gonna take some liberties with the format this week, as it’s sort of a special occasion. I’ll cover this week’s news next week, and I hope you’ll forgive the departure.

As you probably already know, today is the final day of business for Toys “R” in the United States. Some stores closed earlier this week, but all will be closed by tonight. I’m still processing what this means to me. Sure, as a child of the ’80s, and a pop culture junkie, TRU has meant a lot to me over the years. I’ve touched on it here and there, but I don’t think I’ve ever told you my Toys “R” Us origin story. So, there’s no time like the present!

I’ve been talking with a lot of “cohorts” lately, and they’ve said things like “It didn’t mean that much to me.” Or “The toys were too expensive.” They also say they don’t have any real nostalgic connection to the brand. I can’t diminish someone else’s experience, but that simply wasn’t the case for me. I will admit that Toys “R” Us has suffered from something of an identity crisis over the past decade or so, but I think we all remember the golden age of cartoon Geoffrey the Giraffe, and his extended family (Gigi, etc).

For me, TRU was a magical place that I always hoped to sneak off to while my mom and grandmother were visiting the garden center down the plaza from it. I also didn’t get many toys from TRU back in the day, because toys used to be everywhere: People’s Drug, Kmart, Sears, Woolworth’s. But getting a toy from those places was merely pedestrian. To get a toy from TRU was like visiting Mecca. It’s like the song said, “From bikes and trains to video games” – it was the biggest toy store there was!

You know how when you’re a kid, folks are always asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My blanket answer was “I want to own a McDonald’s and a Toys ‘R’ Us.” Yes, young Will didn’t know about franchising and commercial real estate leases. He thought you could own one of those just like some rando can own the corner store. Other kids wanted to be astronauts or cops, and I just wanted to work with Geoffrey. Can’t say I didn’t aim high!

As I got older, I learned that folks actually look down on McDonald’s as a place of employment if you’re not a teenager (which is pretty messed up, if you ask me!). Still, that kinda marred the brand in my mind, so I gave up on that dream. That became a dream deferred. I didn’t give up on Toys “R” Us, though. I decided I was going to work for Toys “R” Us corporate. After all, everyone respects a businessman, and I’d still be working with toys!

Unlike most teenagers, I didn’t have an afterschool job. No, I didn’t get my first job until the week after my high school graduation. Where? Toys “R” Us. I had actually applied during the previous Christmas season, when I handed my application to the store director, Erin. Of course they never called (‘cause they never do. The onus of the job hunt is on the hunter), but I tried again the following summer.

Now, if you’re new here, you don’t know much about me. My dad died when I was 3, and I was raised by the Black Golden Girls. To say I was a “Mama’s Boy” would be something of an understatement, but it gets the image across. So, while most teenagers would confidently saunter into a place and ask if they’re hiring, I had my mom with me, and I think she did most of the talking. So, they didn’t call me. However, when I went back the next summer, Erin recognized me because I was the one who had brought his mother with him to apply. She either thought it was cute or sad. I never did find out. Anyway, she hired me and put me to work the next day.

Yay, I was finally working with toys! My dream job! Oh, the smiles I would put on kids’ faces! The funny thing about TRU is that, once you work there, you realize just how big (and kinda unnecessary) that store truly is. I began to realize that I’d spent my childhood worshiping aisles 6D and 7D (action figures), not even acknowledging that there was a whole lot more store than that. More, for which I did not give a shit. They kept putting me in bikes or in diapers, but I’d find a way to sneak back to action figures.

Plus, because I was seasonal (I was leaving for college at the end of the summer), they never saw any need to train me on the register. I worked at that place for 3 seasons before they trained me on register. By the time I was in Year 8, they were like “Here’s Paco. It’s his first day, and we want you to train him on the register.” That was so weird to me. We don’t know that dude, so why are we so quick to let him near the money? Anyway, since I held no “floor value” for them, they had me unload trucks, organize the stockroom, and bring up any big ticket pickup requests, like bikes, swings, etc.

Here’s why TRU means a lot to me: as someone who grew up pretty sheltered, that job gave me a crash course on LIFE. The cute girls, the old ladies – those were the ones they put on the floor. The guys in the back, however, were a rougher bunch. Some of them were ex-cons, while some of them were clearly headed for incarceration. It’s funny looking back on it because I had two very distinct Toys “R” Us employment experiences: the Wheaton era, which was basically Training Day, and the Columbia era, which was Saved By The Bell: The New Class.

These guys were telling me stuff about the women they were seeing, as well as what they were doing to those women. They’d also tell me about their wives. Yup, same dudes. Seventeen year old Will would naively point out “But you’re married!” One thing I will never forget is when Ramone laughed at me, saying “Man, you don’t marry for love. You marry for security.” That was deep, especially at 17.

That place was filled with a cast of characters, and that television show, despite being set in a toy store, would have to air on Netflix or premium cable. There was chainsmoking mumbler, Garrett, who built the bikes. I was working there when JFK Jr. and his wife died, and Garrett was the one who offered up his theory that sky head was to blame. You’ve heard of road head? Well, same thing, but in a privately chartered helicopter. In the sky. Garrett loved his conspiracies.

There was David, the other bike assembly guy, who’d just gotten back from overseas, and was clearly going through some kind of PTSD. He either looked like a fatter Tony Hale or a skinnier Bubba Ray Dudley. The jury’s still out on that. His arms were covered in sleeves, so management made him wear a light blue Oxford to cover his arms so he wouldn’t offend the guests. I remember he was really blinky, and I was always expecting a Falling Down episode from him. He totally took advantage of me because I was young and dumb and had more money than I needed. He had brought some Pocket Monsters stuff back with him from Japan (remember, Pokémon had just hit the US, so this was the original, pure shit), and I remember him selling it to me for some price that really didn’t make a lot of sense. But I hate conflict, and don’t know how to back out of a deal, so “Here’s your money, David.” The sad post-script is that most of that stuff ended up going to my then-girlfriend’s little brother. Yup, I did it all for the nookie. Or was trying to, at least.

Barbara was the first Black lesbian I’d ever encountered, and she scared the shit out of me (not the first lesbian, though – I’d seen the Ellen Degeneres-starring Mr. Wrong almost a decade prior, and well, I just knew…). She was mean, and if she threatened to cut you, I truly believe a cutting was in your future. She had a nice side racket going, where the old White G.I. Joe and Hot Wheels collectors would pay her to put the new cases aside for them, so they could get the good stuff before it hit the floor. I’m sure they were terrified of her, too, but those Treasure Hunts weren’t gonna scalp themselves. Anyway, I clapped back at her one day about something trivial (I was young and stupid) , and stayed on her bad side after that.

Ron was one of the managers, and he made me question every naïve thing I’d ever thought about leadership. Later, in college, I’d learn the difference between management and leadership, but at the time I thought they were the same. He had come from Foot Locker, and I spent a lot of time wondering “What’s he doing here? Shoes have nothing to do with toys.” See, I hadn’t yet hit that realization that retail is just a job. As the youngest person working in the store, I never stopped to think that I was the only one who WANTED to be there due to a love of toys. It was hilarious, though, watching him pursue a phat ass through the store. It’s like he had a sixth sense for it, and then he’d get on the walkie, telling the other guys to meet him in whatever aisle she happened to be in. That shit was pure harassment, but I’d never seen anything like it before. And, to be honest, none of the women ever seemed that offended. If anything, they were just happy to receive some kind of customer service which, as you know, has been lacking in a lot of places in recent years.

Finally, as the ringmaster of this motley crew, Erin was a short woman who wore a tight French braid. In some other life, she was a detective or a parole officer, but here she made sure that Mr. Potato Head was “edged off” (the practice of pulling the boxes to the very edge of the shelf, to give the illusion that the shelves are more full that they actually are. Plus, it brings the item closer to the customer’s reach). You knew it was a rough day when she would pitch in with the clean-up, and release her hair from that braid. She was tough, but fair. She had a maternal, Captain Janeway quality to her, and we were all her Sevens of Nine. They’d eventually transfer her to the Frederick store. I saw her a few years later, and she barely had any recollection of me, my mom, any of it. Through squints, she seemed to sort of register who I was, but I’m sure so many folks had passed through her “finishing school” by that point that they all start to blend together. Still, thanks for not letting Barbara cut me, “Mom”.

In all, I worked for the Wheaton store over the course of 7 years, during summers and Christmas when I’d come home from college, as well as some stints afterward. In early 2006, the company announced plans to close 75 stores across the country, which we thought was unheard of at the time. Still, I didn’t think much about it until I came in one day soon after Christmas to see Store Closing signs hung everywhere. These days you’d probably at least get an email or something, but not then. Were we so primitive in 2006? So, I found out the same way our customers did – seeing the signage in the store.

I’ve already shared some stories about those final days in Wheaton, but that store just kept on teaching me things. In this case, I learned how fun retail could be if you simply didn’t give a shit anymore. Sure, it’s probably not best for the customer, but I had a lot of fun during that liquidation period. Still, it was a part-time job for me, so it didn’t hit me like it probably affected others there. By that point, all the folks I mentioned had already moved on. As I saw it, my education was complete, and I was fine with the store closing. Plus, there was still a TRU across town, so it’s not like we wouldn’t have a local store.

The Wheaton store closed, and I thought that was it for my Toys “R” Us time. In college, I majored in Human Development, with a concentration on early childhood. The whole “I want to work with toys” wasn’t just a pipe dream to me. I took courses on play interaction, and interned at a daycare to study how kids play with each other. The problem, though, is that there was no real career path for that at the time. Sure, now there are schools with toy curriculums, like F.I.T., but that wasn’t a thing in 2001. Once I graduated, nobody knew what to do with me. I sent a bunch of blind letters to Hasbro, TRU, Mattel, and more. See, it turns out toy companies care more about design than intent. It’s more likely they’ll make a cool-looking toy educational instead of making an educational toy cool-looking. If it teaches something, great, but the aesthetic came first. So, the folks who did gave me the time of day wanted to see my portfolio – a portfolio that I did not have. I remember I got a really nice letter from some VP at TRU corporate that was basically “We don’t know what to do with you, but don’t give up on your dreams.” Sorry, lady, but I gave up.

After a stint in commercial real estate, I got a chance to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. It wasn’t quite toys, but it was as close to the toy industry as I felt I was going to get. The sad thing, though, is that you have to sacrifice for your dreams. So, I took a huge pay cut and then found myself with a life I couldn’t afford anymore. My commute was 100 miles a day round trip (that’s not an exaggeration), and I could barely pay my rent. So, I was going to need a second job, and I realized the Columbia Toys “R” Us was halfway between work and home. It also helped that a few of the managers from the tail end of the Wheaton days had transferred to that store. I had an “in”.

Remember when Saved By The Bell: The College Years got cancelled, and Screech kinda crawled back to Bayside in Saved By The Bell: The New Class? That was pretty much my experience here. I had started my TRU career as the youngest person in the store, and now I was something of an elder statesman. Everyone I worked with now was somewhere between 19 and 22, and I thought it was going to be my turn to teach them life lessons. It would by my Training Day. Yeah…that didn’t happen. The Columbia staff had different interests and were in different places in their lives than the Wheaton staff. The Wheaton folks were just working there until a better retail job came along, while the Columbia kids were working their way through community college and didn’t see retail as the end for themselves. With my prior experience, I expected to walk into some kind of Degrassi environment, but it was a lot more madcap than that.

I’ll admit that I probably wasn’t the best person to manage at this point. I mean, I was a good worker – a hard worker – but I did what I wanted. I just kinda took action figures for myself, and made it clear “Don’t you even think about putting me somewhere else.” And I provided good customer service to folks in those aisles, but I did not give a shit about anything outside of Boy’s World. The location of the store made sense on weekdays, as it was on the way home, but it made no sense for me to drive 30 miles on a Saturday morning, to work 5 hours – I was just wasting gas at that point. So, I kinda did what I wanted to “justify” the inconvenience. Yeah, I know it’s a job, and it was my choice to make that commute, but they let me get away with “creating my own experience”, so I guess I “won”?

While my early time with the company was about life’s hard lessons, the latter time was really just about decompression. I looked forward to my Saturday shifts as “Wow, I really tricked this company into paying me to hang out with my friends.” We had a lot of fun, and I still think about a lot of those folks.

Patrick was an interesting kid. He was Chinese, but somehow had a redneck, Tea Party uncle whom he idolized, so he was basically a Chinese redneck. He never understood the contradictions in that, but he never let that stop him. Still he was a lot of fun, as we’d talk about cartoons and Power Rangers. We would team up in the boy’s department, and called ourselves Team Bumblebee.

Crystal was the sweetest girl you’d ever meet, which is why it was perfect that they put her at customer service. Customers loved her, while she had an apple bottom that some folks would’ve paid to take a bite out of. She was our Kelly Kapowski, hands down.

If Crystal was our Kelly, then Amber was definitely our Jessie Spano. She and Crystal looked like they could’ve been sisters, but Amber was the spitfire of the two. She had little Lisa Loeb glasses, and took her supervisor role seriously – almost too seriously at times. That’s why it was even more interesting when she lightened up, and found herself in a love triangle with managers Paul and Jesse.

Bryan was the most responsible 19 year old I’ve ever met in my entire life. He had actually come from the Wheaton store, and was one of the reasons I was looking forward to working at Columbia. He had a mad-on for law enforcement, though. His dream was to go to the police academy, and he’d go on ride alongs during his free time. In the grand scheme of the Columbia store, Bryan was “The Adult”.

Marvin was basically Lord of the R-Zone, which was the electronics department of the store. I never really got a read on him, despite working in his orbit for years. Was he shy? Did he just not like me? I dunno, but I still run into him at comic conventions, as he has segued into the life of a cosplayer in recent years.

The best of the bunch, however, had to be Mike, whom we affectionately called “Special Forces”. Ya see, when he started, he was seasonal and those guys didn’t wear TRU uniforms because A) I don’t think TRU wanted to “waste” them on seasonals, and B) they didn’t want them to be instantly recognizable as employees to customers, as customer interaction would affect their ability to move in the background of everything. So, he wore a black shirt and black jeans, which made him look like some sort of special forces agent, so… Mike’s still around to this day, as many of you know of him from my Thrift Justice posts. He’s one of my best friends, and definitely one of the better things to come from that last TRU stint.

As much as I wanted to think I was the oldest, non-manager there, that wasn’t true. No, that “honor” belonged to “Stanley” (Yeah, that’s not his real name. You don’t need to know that). I’m gonna level with you here: there’s a good chance Stanley was some kind of molester. He was in his 70s, creepy, and wore a Dora the Explorer cap that he found in a shopping cart one day. I know for a fact that he offered $50 to a young employee to have sex with him. I also know she strongly considered it. He knew where all the hooker pickup spots were, and he had some stories. Just as earlier in my career, TRU was still teaching me things. I learned how you can like people who are possibly horrible. Like, I didn’t have *proof* that he had done anything illegal, but I also didn’t have proof that he had not done those things. Still, something about him still came off as “kindly”. I still think about him, and wonder if he’s still with us.

I made it 10 years with TRU, and not much longer. They even gave me a catalog of shit to choose from for my anniversary gift. I never did get that cordless screwdriver… Anyway, I had my performance review, and found out I wasn’t good enough to receive my $0.25 raise. I took a long hard look around, and wondered why I was fighting for a quarter. I’d been raised with the “Every little bit helps” mentality, but here was a company that didn’t think I was worth an additional quarter. Yes, I know that adds up when it’s a quarter for everyone, but TEN YEARS! Call it “Millennial Entitlement” if you want, but that was it for me. I was tired of the commute. I no longer had the job that made this one convenient in the evenings, and I had pretty much just met Lindsay, so I had other stuff I’d rather be doing. So, I basically quit that day of the review. I’d worked out my schedule, and I didn’t owe them any time. I’d show them!

In the years since, I’ve sort of regretted how it ended. I definitely missed the excitement of the holiday season, and even wondered if I was rehireable. I once applied to the closer Rockville store, but never heard back. Ya know, ‘cause the onus of the job hunt… So, my TRU career ended not with a bang, but with a whimper. That’s not how I would like to have gone out, but that’s how life is sometimes. My time at Toys “R” Us was filled with those life-affirming moments, so this just seemed like a natural, if not completely satisfying, end.

As a customer, I’ll definitely miss Toys “R” Us. Sure, Target and Walmart have a foothold in the industry, but their 7 toy aisles don’t hold a candle to the selection at TRU. I used to stop and think about how almost unnecessary a store like TRU was. I mean, think about it: it’s a big box store devoted solely to toys. Only in a capitalistic society could that idea fly and, as we have learned, that same capitalistic society would be what killed it.

Still, folks don’t realize that the concept of “childhood” is fairly young. Before, say, the end of the Industrial Revolution, kids were just seen as tiny adults. Sure, take them to that public execution, nobody cares! So, it’s always amazing to me that, not only did the concept of childhood develop, but that successful businesses arose to capitalize on that. Folks say that toy sales are down, with the internet and other time wasters available, so I often wonder what that means for the evolution of childhood. I guess time will tell.

Anyway, we’re not here to forecast the future of the toy industry. No, we’re here to say goodbye to an old teacher, an old friend. I got to take my oldest to say “goodbye” a few months back, but it saddens me that my youngest will know nothing of Toys “R” Us. She’ll know nothing of the place that helped to shape her father’s worldview. She’ll know nothing of Geoffrey the Giraffe. I only hope that she one day experiences something that affects her the same way that my Toys “R” Us experience affected me. That’s why Toys “R” Us had the West Life Ever.

13th Apr2018

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

23rd Mar2018

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

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the subscription box idea prompted this response from me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

16th Mar2018

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

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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


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

09th Mar2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/9/18

by Will

HarassmentWatch(TM)

Ryan Seacrest – Last week I said that he was basically Teflon, as the sexual misconduct allegations against him were sliding right off him. Well, last week I was wrong. Ya see, the Oscars were on Sunday, and celebrities were going out of their way to shun him on the red carpet. I mean, this is his livelihood, and he can’t do his job because the accusations are affecting that. Right now, American Idol seems to be standing by him as they prepare for their premiere this Sunday, but I really wonder what the end result of this is going to be. I don’t “cape” for him because I like the guy. I mean, I certainly admire his work ethic, but he’s not my favorite celebrity or anything. Still, I guess I’ve kinda put this into the Paul Haggis category – Haggis seemed more like the target of a Scientology smear job, while I thought we had all agreed as a people that Seacrest didn’t even like women. What happened to that?

Terry Crews – I don’t know if I ever even wrote about this when it initially happened (cut me some slack – I do this weekly, and my site search is broken), but Terry Crews was the victim of inappropriate physical advances by a high-level Hollywood executive. He was on the verge of being blackballed, as no one was really coming to his defense. Still, he continued his fight, suing talent company William Morris Endeavor – the company led by the exec – for sexual assault. Well, this year, prosecutors decided not to press charges, as the statute of limitations had passed because the incident occurred in 2016. It really seems like some powerful folks in Hollywood are trying to bury this, but Crews isn’t backing down. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.


Remember how Finn was completely wasted in Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Remember how he really didn’t have his “moment” – the thing you’d remember about him most from the movie? Well, it turns out such a thing does exist. They just didn’t use it. Here’s the alternate cut of his confrontation with Captain Phasma. I think this scene actually provides more depth to both characters, and it’s shame we lost it. I mean, up to this point, Phasma is just Boba Fett Mark II: she’s all style and no substance. Meanwhile, Finn really could’ve used a “win” in this film, and this would’ve done it. The only problem I have is that the effect of him blasting her away looked like it was straight out of an 80s movie, but I’ll just blame it on the fact that the effects were probably unfinished.

Another week means another Cobra Kai teaser, and I might slowly be coming around on this thing. I still think YouTube Red is just Yahoo! Screen Redux, and this series ain’t gonna get me to subscribe to it. Still, I’d watch this if it were right in front of me. I was hung up on the point that Karate Kid wasn’t a comedy. Still, over the years, there’s been that growing fan theory that Daniel is the real asshole of the story (Thanks for that, Barney Stinson!), and this series seems like it’s leaning into that. That’s actually a story I’d be interested in seeing. Plus, they made Daniel a car salesman. Name ONE car salesman in pop culture who isn’t The Asshole? Even Moesha’s father did a heel turn there for that last season, where we found out he was actually the father of his “nephew”.  Anyway, I’m down for a Johnny Lawrence redemption story.

So, I know nothing of the current state of hip hop, but apparently there’s a dude named Vince Staples who seems to have a lot of haters. So many haters, in fact, that he set up a GoFundMe where he’s asking those haters to raise $2 million for him. In return, he will simply GO AWAY. Yup, he said, he’ll stop performing, doing interviews, all of it. He’ll take his ball and go home. A lot of this is in response to recent negative reviews of his live performances,  He basically gives the audience an alternative: “Get off of my dick OR fund my lifestyle”. So far, he’s raised over $1500. To add to the campaign, he just released the song “Get The Fuck Off My Dick”, to further drive home his point:

I’ve gotta say, I admire his business sense. He’s taking “Fuck you, pay me!” to a whole new level.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Apparently Amazon Alexa-powered devices are laughing at their owners, and folks don’t seem to know why. “First they laughed at the Socialists. And I did not speak out…”
  • The Oscars were this week, with a lot of fan favorites taking home awards, including The Shape of Water winning Best Director and Best Picture, Coco winning Best Animated Feature Film, and Get Out won Best Original Screenplay.
  • Following a recent domestic violence arrest, Heather Locklear is heading to rehab. If I know my Hollywood, Dr. Drew is talking to his people as we speak.
  • Box office wunderkind Black Panther could possibly top $1 BILLION worldwide today.
  • Tom Cruise may be in talks to play Green Lantern for DC/Warner Bros. So, I guess that means there’ll be at least one scene of him running. After seeing the Mission Impossible: Fallout trailer, where he’s just treated like a death-defying ragdoll, I’d pay to see CGI’d Tom Cruise slamming into shit. I don’t hate this idea.
  • Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins confirmed that Kristen Wiig has been cast as Cheetah for the sequel. I guess I’m just gonna have to trust Patty on this one…
  • In light of Marvel moving the Avengers: Infinity War release date up a week, from May 4th to April 27th, New Line Cinema has moved the Rampage release date up a week, from April 20th to April 13th. Gotta make sure The Rock gets all the ticket money has has coming to him!
  • Jon Favreau will be producing a live action Star Wars series for Disney’s upcoming streaming service. He also apparently has a role in Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was news to me!
  • Vin Diesel has been cast in the Bloodshot movie, based on the Valiant Comics character. If you spend a lot of time online, you know that former Power Rangers actor Jason David Frank had been cast as the character for a web series, and it was pretty obvious he was using that to lobby for the big role. Folks might wanna stay out of is way for the next few days!
  • Bronson Pinchot has been cast in Netflix’s Sabrina series, as the title character’s principal. Sounds like he’ll be more Principal Snyder than Mr. Belding, as he’s described as a “constant thorn in her side”.
  • An upcoming episode of Supernatural, called “Scoobynatural”, will feature the Winchester brothers being sucked into a Scooby-Doo cartoon and teaming up with the Scooby Gang. I’m kinda surprised Warner Bros is giving this away for free instead of selling it from Warner Bros Home Entertainment.
  • There are reports that Barack and Michelle Obama are in talks for a production deal with Netflix. I…don’t really know what to think about that. I mean, won’t this void his membership in The X-Presidents? WILL HE BE MAKING AN X-PRESIDENTS SERIES?!

  • Here’s a pic of Zachary Levi in his SHAZAM Captain Marvel costume. I guess it looks OK. I mean, I’m not about to lose my shit over SHAZAM until I see a trailer.
  • Speaking of ill-advised DC movie ideas, the rumored standalone Joker film will position the character as a failed comic from the 80s. Do you know how much you had to suck to bomb in the 80s? Was Joker losing gigs to Yakov Smirnoff?

  • Luke Cage season 2 will debut on June 22nd on Netflix, and it’ll be interesting to see how the show is received in a post-Black Lightning/Black Panther world. Cage tends more to Lightning than Panther, with his street level heroics, but it seems like Lightning has achieved what Cage was trying to do in that first season. From what I’ve read, at least. Technically, I’m still on Daredevil season 2. Hopefully I catch up by this release date. Meanwhile, Jessica Jones season 2 debuted this week, and nobody”s saying shit about it. Are folks over MCUFlix (patent pending)?

  • This thing is depressing as Hell. Up until the 30-second mark, I thought, “Are they remaking Schindler’s List?” I don’t think Christopher Robin is for me. And when you think about it, this is just a socially-acceptable, family friendly Ted. I’ll stick to the original recipe, thank you very much!

  • Why is every upcoming live action Disney movie set in some sort of 1930s dystopia?! What the Hell, Disney? Anyway, I don’t remember the first Mary Poppins, so this thing didn’t tug on any heartstrings for me. Your mileage may vary.
  • The Toys “R” Us situation has gotten more dire, as complete liquidation of their assets in the United States is now an option on the table – one that several creditors are hoping they’ll choose. On Monday, we’ll find out if Geoffrey is headed to the dog food factory.

This week’s I’ve got less of a “This blew my socks off!” and more of a “Hmm…This Could Be Interesting”. You see, DC Comics announced the DC Black Label imprint, which will feature high-profile creators on outside-of-continuity stories about their biggest characters. Ultimately, and they make no bones about this, this is their quest for the next The Dark Knight Returns – the classic Frank Miller Batman story that changed the world of comics, for better or for worse. DC has always positioned themselves as a legacy publisher, which I’ve felt is sometimes to their detriment. After all, at times it seems they spend so much time reminding folks of where they’ve been that they don’t focus enough on where they’re going. This seems like a little bit of both. They’re trying to make more timeless, evergreen stories that they can keep in print, and also get out into the book market as another channel of revenue. The titles and creators announced are kinda interesting, though. Let’s take a closer look at the creative teams and synopses for the upcoming stories:

SUPERMAN: YEAR ONE from Frank Miller (THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT: MASTER RACE) and John Romita Jr. (ALL-STAR BATMAN, SUPERMAN)
A groundbreaking, definitive treatment of Superman’s classic origin story in honor of his 80th anniversary. This story details new revelations that reframe the Man of Steel’s most famous milestones—from Kal-El’s frantic exile from Krypton, to Clark Kent’s childhood in Kansas, to his inevitable rise to become the most powerful and inspiring superhero of all time.

Will’s Thoughts: Sounds like a pass for me. The teaser art is horrible, and John Romita Jr. hasn’t really tried in a LONG time. Outside of Kick Ass, everything else he’s done recently has been lazy, and Miller is batshit crazy these days. Plus, how many times do we have to get Superman’s origin? That’s gonna be a “No” for me, dawg.

BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, the creative team behind DARK KNIGHTS: METAL
Batman wakes up in a desert. He doesn’t know what year it is or how The Joker’s head is alive in a jar beside him, but it’s the beginning of a quest unlike anything the Dark Knight has undertaken before. In this strange future, villains are triumphant and society has liberated itself from the burden of ethical codes. Fighting to survive while in search of answers, Bruce Wayne uncovers the truth about his role in this new world—and begins the last Batman story ever told.

Will’s Thoughts: I’m oddly intrigued. A lot of the problems I had with the Snyder and Capullo Batman run was their treatment of continuity. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do without those shackles. And I’m sucker for “Last ____ Story Ever” tales.

BATMAN: DAMNED from Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo, the creative team behind JOKER
On a deserted Gotham City bridge, a body is found. Whispers spread the news: Joker is dead. But is this a dream come true or a nightmare being born? Now Batman and DC’s outlaw magician John Constantine must hunt the truth through a Gotham City hellscape. The city’s supernatural recesses are laced with hints about a killer’s identity, but the Dark Knight’s descent into horror will test his sanity and the limits of rationality, as he must face a horror that doesn’t wear a mask.

Will’s Thoughts: Out of the two Batman stories launching with Black Label, this is probably the one I trust the most. I know what I’m getting from this creative team, based on their work on Joker and Lex Luthor: Man of Steel – both of which I loved. Azzarello “gets” Batman, while Bermejo’s style is a treat that you don’t get on a monthly book.

WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS from Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet) and Phil Jimenez (INFINITE CRISIS)
A Homeric epic of the lost history of the Amazons and Queen Hippolyta’s rise to power. Featuring monsters and myths, this three-book saga spans history from the creation of the Amazons to the moment Steve Trevor washes up on the shores of Paradise Island, changing our world forever.

Will’s Thoughts: I’m curious to see this, as it’s DeConnick’s first real work for DC. That said, I’m not sure I’m what you’d call a “DeConnick fan”. I read Bitch Planet, and I was like “Yeah, I don’t get intersectional feminism enough to appreciate this.” I also don’t love Wonder Woman, but I know Jimenez has a strong track record with the character. I’ll check it out, but it’s still an unknown to me at the moment.

WONDER WOMAN: DIANA’S DAUGHTER (working title) from Greg Rucka (WONDER WOMAN, BATWOMAN)
It’s been 20 years since the world stopped looking to the skies for hope, help, and inspiration. Now the world keeps its eyes down, and the powers that have risen have every intention of keeping things that way. Amongst a scattered, broken resistance, a young woman seeks to reclaim what has been forgotten, and on the way will learn the truth about herself, her heritage, and her destiny.

Will’s Thoughts: Rucka *gets* Wonder Woman – one of few creators from the past 25 years for which you could say that. I think they need to make sure he has the right artist here, but it sounds like an interesting concept. It’s basically an origin story with a new backdrop. Even without knowing the artist, if I had to bet on one of the Woman Woman Black Label series, this would be the one. Hopefully they’re trying to get J.G. Jones, so we get a reunion of the creative team behind the great Wonder Woman: The Hiketeia.

THE OTHER HISTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE from John Ridley (12 Years a Slave, THE AMERICAN WAY)
A compelling literary series analyzing iconic DC moments and charting sociopolitical gains through the perspectives of DC Super Heroes who come from traditionally disenfranchised groups, including John Stewart, Extraño, Vixen, Supergirl, Katana and Rene Montoya, among others. At its core, the story focuses on the lives of those behind the costumes, and their endeavors to overcome real-world issues. It isn’t about saving the world, it’s about having the strength to simply be who you are.

Will’s Thoughts: Out of all of the announced titles for the first wave, this is probably the one I’m most eager about. The story was teased over the weekend that DC in D.C. was taking place, and Ridley was present but couldn’t provide any details. When it comes to the minority lens, Marvel tends to do a better job at this than DC, but I think they’ve got the right guy here to do it, especially if you’ve read his series The American Way. Looking at the list of characters, it almost feels like “One of these things is not like the others” with Supergirl there. I know she’s an alien, but it’ll be interesting to see how she’s categorized as “disenfranchised”. Anyway, this has the potential to be DC’s own version of Marvels, which is just the kind of classic tale they’re trying to create here.

While Marvel is busy with their “fresh start” to right the ship over there, DC is finally thinking outside the box and taking some risks. At a glance, sure it seems like, “Ugh, MORE Batman, another Superman origin, and a bunch of uncertain Wonder Woman books.” On paper, I can see how it comes off that way. But DC is VERY protective of their continuity, so they’ve created a little corner where some industry stars can just go wild. I also think this is a more focused approach than DC’s more recent imprint, Young Animal, where “Weird!” seems to be the only driving principle. DC has been making a lot of moves that have impressed me, and this is just another one to add to that list. I think DC Black Label shows a lot of promise, and that’s why it had the West Week Ever.

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