07th Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/7/16

by Will

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So, I surprised even myself by going to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. This movie wasn’t even really on my radar, but my friend, Jenn, was in town and she wanted to see it. She knew her husband back home would have no interest in it, but I was a more willing accomplice. This was the first time in a LONG time that I’ve gone into a movie knowing absolutely NOTHING about it. The most I knew was I was pretty sure it was based on a YA novel. Other than that, I didn’t know a thing.

Well, the movie’s about Jacob Portman, who’s really close to the grandfather who used to tell him fantastic tales about the other children at the orphanage where he grew up. Now, about to turn 18, Jacob visits his grandfather only to find him dying in the woods. He tells Jacob to go to the orphanage and that he would learn the truth. Somehow Jacob’s psychiatrist convinces his parents to take him to Wales to visit this orphanage, and that’s when the craziness starts. All those stories that his grandfather had told were true! Those strange kids really lived at the orphanage. There’s a girl who’s lighter than air and has to wear lead shoes so she doesn’t float away. There’s a little girl with a monster mouth in the back of her neck. There’s an invisible boy. There’s a girl who can control plant life. And more! And they’re all cared for by Miss Peregrine, this sexy schoolmarm type (played by Eva Green) who has the power to control time. It turns out they’re all something called Peculiars, and Jacob’s grandfather had been killed by an evil Peculiar. Apparently, there are evil Peculiars who were trying to figure out how to live forever, but the experiment turned them into monsters. The only way to get back to their human form was for them to eat the eyeballs of other Peculiars. Anyway, the evil Peculiars are led by Samuel L. Jackson who hunts down Peculiars for their eyes so he could heal his friends. Yeah, this is some patented Tim Burton freaky shit, and the monsters are nightmare-inducing. Some fool had their baby in the theater, so I can only imagine those future therapy bills.

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Right now, Tim Burton has been getting a lot of flack for the lack of diversity in his films, but I’m not sure it’s really warranted. He tends to be an auteur of “Weird White People” films to the point where I think diversity would be out of place. He’s still the man who gave us Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, and he created a the Sam Jackson role here just so he could work with him, as the novel plays out slightly differently. So, I’m not about to grab my pitchfork just yet. Anyway, Miss Peregrine’s has been described as “Harry Potter meets X-Men“, and I think that’s probably an accurate assessment. If you like either of those properties, then check this out.

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On TV, I finally watched the pilot for MacGyver. I was never a fan of the original, as the only episode I ever saw was the series finale (I used to be a series finale whore; I’d watch the final episode of anything). All I know is that Angus MacGyver worked for the Phoenix Foundation and he could do amazing things with stuff just found lying around. What I remember from the old series finale (and bear with me, as it’s been about 25 years), but MacGyver met the son he never knew he had. So, I was kinda hoping this series would pick up on that thread, and we’d be watching the son’s adventures, also keeping the door open for appearances by Richard Dean Anderson. But that was not to be, as this is a complete reboot. Now, I wondered how amazing MacGyver would seem in a 21st century world, as we live with smartphones and lifehacks, so a lot of what RDA did back in the day wouldn’t seem so spectacular these days. Surprisingly, it still works. I was really worried about this show, as CBS completely threw out the original pilot and most of the supporting cast. It was a concept they were committed to without any real proof that it would work. So far, though, I think it works. It’s your typical, formulaic CBS one-hour procedural. I thought MacGyver was kinda smug with a punchable face (like Lucas Till), but I got used to him over the course of the hour. I’m not sure I’ll watch it every week, as I’d rather watch Shark Tank, but I wouldn’t mind watching it if my TV somehow got stuck on CBS.

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Also on TV, I caught the premiere of Conviction on ABC. Starring Agent Carter herself, Hayley Atwell, it’s about a former First Daughter who’s kind of a fuck up. She gets arrested for cocaine possession, but instead of sending her up the river (jeopardizing her mother’s Senate campaign), she’s offered the job as the head of the Conviction Investigation Unit. They investigate convictions that should probably be overturned, and they do it with such…wait for it…conviction. The supporting cast is serviceable, including Iceman Shawn Ashmore and Deacon’s wife from King of Queens (I know I wasn’t the only one who recognized her!). It was a basic paint-by-numbers legal procedural, with the crew saving the day in the last five minutes. If it aired on CBS, they simply would’ve called it C.I.U. and kept it moving. But I guess ABC wanted to really wanted to go with the bold title, and it works. Still, I’m not sure this is destination television. Every member of the team has a backstory and, while I’d love to see how some of them play out, I’m not sure I’ve got the conviction to stick with this show. Atwell’s cute and all, but she’s not playing Peggy Carter, and I don’t really buy her as an extreme version of Jenna Bush. You know they’re always gonna win, so I don’t really know what the draw is except to find the answers to those backstories.

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I just mentioned Iceman and that reminded me that the poster for the third Wolverine film, now called Logan, debuted this week. Based on the color palette and the child’s hand, it feels almost like they’re trying to evoke something like The Road. It’s been rumored that the film would be based on the “Old Man Logan” storyline, in which an older Wolverine has to cross what’s left of the country, in a world in which the heroes lost. The problem with that, however, is that most of the important characters of that storyline are not characters to which 20th Century Fox has the rights. So, it looks like they’re doing their own take on things. Reportedly, Logan is set in 2024, in a world where mutant births are declining, while the government is training young mutants to be soldiers. Oh, and Wolverine clone X-23 might be the child holding Logan’s hand. Now, while I’d love to see an older Wolverine in a dystopian future, I’m not quite sure such a thing would fit tonally with the rest of the franchise. The problem with the Wolverine films is that they’ve never been great. They don’t take any chances, and they’re serviceable at best. I don’t hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine as much as most, but even The Wolverine played it pretty safe with its Wolverine In Japan story. I’d love for this to be a departure from those movies, but it certainly won’t make for a balanced trilogy. Still, Jackman should go out on a high note, so if this is the way for them to do that, then I’m all for it.

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In other movie news, we got our first look at the Red Ranger’s Power Sword from the upcoming Power Rangers film. It looks like a fancy razor from Gillette or a futuristic writing pen. But a sword, it is not. There will be other movie reveals this weekend at New York Comic Con, including the debut of the trailer. There will also be an exclusive Movie Red Ranger Legacy figure, which looks kinda horrible. I really want to like this movie, but nothing about it has me excited. I know you have to reimagine things to appeal to a new audience, but I feel like they’re losing sight of what Power Rangers is.  This is just starting to look like a team full of Guyvers.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, it was announced that former Green/White/Red/Black/All Time Greatest Ranger, Jason David Frank, will be playing Bloodshot in a webseries based on the Valiant comic properties. It’s not a huge surprise because the guys behind it are Bat In The Sun, who JDF has worked with in the past. In the role of Ninjak will be Arrow‘s Deadshot, Michael Rowe. I knew Valiant was trying to do something live action with their properties, but I thought it would actually be something cinematic. You say “webseries” to me, and it just makes my penis soft. Anyway, JDF will also be at New York Comic Con doing signings to promote the project.

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I can’t really let this week go without talking about the whole Kim Kardashian thing. If you were unaware, Kim was robbed at gunpoint in a Paris hotel by a group disguised as police. She was bound and gagged and put in the bathtub. Obviously frightened, she said that she feared they were going to rape her. In the end, they stole millions of dollars worth of stuff from her, including her $4 million engagement ring. And then the jokes started.

Look, I get it: the Kardashians put themselves in the spotlight, so people feel they’re fair game. Still, this is the kind of occurrence that you shouldn’t wish on ANYONE. Sure, people like to think “Well, who cares? They’re rich and famous simply for being famous.” As radio host Bobby Bones put it, we’re all rich to someone. And don’t give me that whole “They’re famous for being famous thing” because that was pretty much the description of Donald Trump until recently, and look where that got him.

I’ve never really understood Kardashian hate, and I guess I’ve become something of a Kardashian apologist. It takes too much energy to hate someone who really doesn’t even give a shit about you. And people like to slut-shame her about being famous for a sex tape, but from the public’s perspective, Taylor Swift has been with WAY more men than Kim, and nobody says shit about that. And I’ll bet there’s a sex tape of her out there somewhere the same way Jennifer Lawrence can’t seem to stop taking nude selfies that end up getting hacked. At the end of the day, Kim Kardashian is still a person and, contrary to what some folks are saying, didn’t deserve to have that happen to her, nor is it funny. If you’re laughing about that whole ordeal, get your life right. I can’t imagine what she went through, and I hope it doesn’t have any long-term effects on her.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix’s The Punisher announced three new cast members, including Ebon Moss-Bachrach from Girls as Frank Castle’s ally Micro.
  • Speaking of Marvel Netflix shows, it was announced that Iron Fist will debut on 3/17/17. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, muthatruckas!
  • It was also announced that BOOM! will publish an ongoing WWE comic book. So, I figure half the book will be nothing but ads for The Network or Connor’s Cure.
  • Despite the fact that director David Ayer claimed the theatrical cut was his final version, an extended cut of Suicide Squad will be released on Blu-Ray on December 13th – because 10 extra minutes are gonna make folks like that movie (for the record, I already liked it).
  • Alec Baldwin made his debut as Donald Trump on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. Hosted by Margot Robbie, it was one of the best episodes in YEARS.
  • Based on how they’ve painted him as an emasculated wimp, I would bet money that President Kiefer’s wife eventually has an affair on Designated Survivor – perhaps with her husband’s Chief of Staff. They might save that for season 2

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Luke Cage won the week. The Marvel Netflix series debuted last Friday, and was so popular that it BROKE Netflix. Spinning out of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage focuses on a nigh invulnerable man with bulletproof skin, forced to survive in a world that fears and hates him. Or I guess it does. I haven’t watched it yet. I still need to watch Daredevil season 2 because I wanna watch them in order, so I probably won’t get to Luke Cage til around Christmas. Still, it was on everyone’s lips, and the thinkpieces runneth over. Everyone had something to say about the series, and I feel like it has even stolen the thunder of Marvel’s upcoming Dr. Strange film. Once I watch the series I’ll have more to say, but I think it’s safe to say that Luke Cage had the West Week Ever.

16th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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I didn’t really watch anything this week, but I did kick things off by checking out Monday Night Raw, live in Baltimore. Here’s my recap of the event. No, don’t act like you already read it. I track these things! Go ahead – I’ll wait.

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Well, this could be called The Week of Delays, as two pretty big projects just got shuffled down the release schedule. First up, Marvel’s Civil War II is now running so late that the final issue isn’t set to hit stores until December 28th, 2016. Yup, their “summer event” will now be cleaning up after Santa’s reindeer. This shit is getting out of hand. A similar thing happened with Secret Wars, where the final issue shipped after all the All New, All Different Marvel titles that were meant to spin out of the event started hitting shelves. It really took the wind out of that story’s sails. It was like, “Guess Doom doesn’t die since he’s now co-starring in Invincible Iron Man.” In that situation, another issue was added late in the process just like they did here. The writers always spin it as “I came up with a better ending, and Marvel was so gracious to allow me to write the best story that I can.” Well, why couldn’t you plot that shit out better in the beginning? It’s funny books, not rocket science. A lot of folks act like we should just shut up and let them write the best story that they can, but we all know that’s not it. Nothing ever ends with Marvel. It’s all just set up for the Next Big Thing. Marvel is 4-color blue balls. With DC, at least shit is wrapped up til the next Crisis. With Marvel, however, you end up just letting one event feed into the next, with little to no payoff. It’s the print equivalent of watching this gif :

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SPOILER ALERT: HE NEVER BREAKS THE FUCKING GLASS! BREAK THE FUCKING GLASS, MARVEL!

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Elsewhere in the world of failed deadlines, it was announced that Star Trek Discovery is delayed until May 2017 on CBS All Access. It’s not really a surprise, seeing as how it’s September and they haven’t even announced a cast yet. It’s just one more way CBS/Paramount screwed the pooch when it came to Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. I was talking to some friends online this week about Trek‘s 25th anniversary. They actually *cared* back then. I remember that Star Trek was EVERYWHERE, and the movies were being played at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space. In fact, that’s how I first saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There were trading cards, WITH HOLOGRAMS! Sure, that’s all very 90s, but where’s my Star Trek mobile game (no, Star Trek Online doesn’t count)? Where’s my Star Trek cross-promotion with Pokemon Go or Angry Birds or some shit? Instead, we’ve just got some weird Quicken Loans commercials. Anyway, it’s probably a smarter move to wait til May because then the show won’t have to compete with the regular broadcast networks. If it premieres during May sweeps, then the rest of the series will roll out over the summer, competing against less prestigious summer series. So, it might be a smart TV decision, even if it rubs fans the wrong way. In the meantime, as a consolation prize, the streaming spinoff of The Good Wife will now debut in February, which is earlier than its originally planned premiere. Whatever.

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Speaking of TV, this was the kickoff of syndication week in most markets. That’s when your local CW’s evening schedule gets shuffled so you get one less episode of Mike & Molly but one more episode of something, like, Anger Management. I used to LOVE this week, as I grew up watching syndicated TV. Everything I watched came on five days a week, which is how I ended up watching every episode of most of those shows. Something odd happened this week, however: nothing changed. It’s no secret that TV shows aren’t lasting as long these days. It used to be that 5 seasons or 100 episodes would get you to syndication. Then they lowered it to 80 episodes. Then Community went into syndication in its third season. The model got desperate, so it took what it could get. Anyway, on my local CW affiliate, nothing changed. Wait, one thing changed: The Bill Cunningham Show ceased production, and it’s been replaced by The Robert Irvine Show, sandwiched between two episodes of Maury. Other than that, though, no new shows, no new timeslots, same old shit. I actually do the math in my head to figure out when these things should be hitting. By all reasoning, New Girl should’ve hit syndication this fall. Sure, it’s syndicated on basic cable, but I’m talking about free TV here. Meanwhile, as episode orders have decreased, it’s getting harder for shows to hit that magic number. Take The Carmichael Show, for example. It will have to air for TEN YEARS in order to get enough episodes for the “classic” 5 days a week syndication model. Now, it could do into weekend syndication, which would require fewer episodes. Maybe airing late Saturday night opposite SNL or something. Still, as a TV guy, this sort of stuff both intrigues and worries me. There aren’t a lot of evergreen syndicated hits. Sure, Friends and Seinfeld are still airing to this day, but do you really think Modern Family or The Middle have that kind of staying power?

One of my favorite songs at the moment is Blake Shelton’s “She’s Got A Way With Words”. Rumored to be about his ex wife, Miranda Lambert, it features some clever wordplay about how he feels about her. The chorus goes:

She put the “her” in “hurt

She put the “y” in “try”

She put the “S-O-B” in “sober”

She put the “hang” in “hangover”

She put the “ex” in “sex”

She put the “low” in “blow”

She put a big “F-U” in my “future”

Yeah, she’s got a way, she’s got a way with words

Well, I knew that country music was full of a bunch of conservative prudes, so I was surprised that last line about “F-U” made it into the song. So, imagine my surprise as I’m singing along the other day, and discover there’s a new radio edit. They’ve replaced that stanza with “She put the ‘S-O-L’ in ‘solo’.” What the fuck? I Googled the song to see if anyone else was talking about it, but there’s no outrage. I even tweeted at Blake himself, asking why he let his label release that neutered thing. Why aren’t more people mad about this?! Stupid Clear Channel. I mean iHeart Media. Ugh!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • 12 year old Grace VanderWaal won America’s Got Talent by singing with her ukulele. America lost their mind over her, like she’s the next Jewel, but I think she’s a cubic zirconia
  • Timbaland got fired as the musical supervisor for Empire, to be replaced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and Ester Dean. So, they’re basically going from the sound of 2008 to the sound of 2000. Whoever’s at fault here, I wonder if it’s too late to ‘pologize…
  • As a surprise to no one who saw the post credits scene in X-Men: Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister will be the villain of Wolverine 3 (Why isn’t it actually called Wolverin3?) Anyway, there’s absolutely no way they can screw that up. Nope, nada, no way
  • Saturday Night Live hired SEVEN new writers and three new featured players for the upcoming 42nd season, which premieres October 1st. Don’t get too happy. Kyle Mooney’s still there.

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  • Zack Snyder revealed the Tactical Batsuit from Justice League. Is it supposed to look like Nite Owl from Watchmen? This is where I feel like Mattel got involved and said “Help us sell some shit!”

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  • Do you see this shit? This isn’t fan-made! This is something Marvel officially released. Do you see Ghost Rider up there in the corner? Scowling Coulson? And Daisy/Skye as the Not Black Widow? I can’t take anything seriously on this teaser poster for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – which premieres next Tuesday in its new timeslot.

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  • Lady Gaga announced that her next album would be released on October 21st, and would be called Joanne – which is her middle name, as well as the name of her aunt. I dunno, y’all, but I’m expecting to be disappointed by this one

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So, for the past four weeks, I’ve actually been watching a certain reality show with my mom. Since y’all are cool and hip, I’m sure you’ve never heard of it, but I’m ’bout to give ya some schoolin’! The show is called Better Late Than Never, and it’s an NBC show that follows four senior citizens as they travel through Asia. It’s an American remake of the South Korean show Grandpas Over Flowers. These are no ordinary senior citizens, however. Nope, they’re Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, Bill Shatner, boxing great and grill mogul George Foreman, and NFL legend Terry Bradshaw. To round out the group is 30 year old comedian Jeff Dye, who kind of acts like a chaperone for the guys. Sure, they’re all rich, but the point of the trip was for them to basically backpack so they could get the true cultural experience.

Throughout the trip, you really get to know the guys, and in a lot of ways, you feel for them. For example, Shatner’s 84 years old, but he said that the older he gets, the more he feels death approaching, and the more he is afraid of dying. Here’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk who’s afraid of the grim reaper. After all he’s done and seen, wouldn’t necessarily expect that. I mean, at least I wouldn’t. I really saw a vulnerability in Shatner here, and while everyone who’s worked with him seem to have horror stories, he really seemed to gel well with the rest of the guys.

The show is basically a travelogue as seen through the eyes of some grumpy old men. But they also know how to have some fun. Bradshaw will jump at anything that involves singing and/or karaoke, as he’s actually released several albums. Winkler approached everything wide-eyed, with a positive attitude. Foreman was shy, but had an inner child he was dying to let out. They ate exotic foods, like chicken vagina and live octopus. They participated in a water festival in Thailand, and robot fights in Japan. They stayed in a luxurious hotel in Hong Kong (so, they kinda broke the rules on this one, but Shatner said he didn’t know if he would ever see Hong Kong again, so he’d like to know that he did it the “right” way). Now that I think of it, I keep coming back to Shatner. I hope he’s OK. While he seemed to truly enjoy the experience, there was a sort of pall hanging over him. He’s a man searching for something, and I hope he finds it.

Anyway, it’s a great binge, as it’s only 4 one-hour episodes, and they’re all On Demand now. The season (series?) finale aired this week, and I really hope it gets a second season. Sure, they could switch up the cast, but these guys have great chemistry. And I think a Europe is the prime location for a second season. Anyway, it was fun watching The Fonz ride an elephant, and George Foreman knocking out Captain Kirk, and Terry Bradshaw get a tattoo for his birthday. Oh, and then the whole gang starred in a music video with K-Pop sensation Girls’ Generation. Despite their age, they all discovered that they’re still kids at heart, and that you’re never too old to experience new things. It’s a really fun show, and it’s fun for the whole family! Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed all four weeks of the show, so that’s why Better Late Than Never had the West Week Ever.

02nd Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

26th Aug2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

kingsman

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

ironheart

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

JLD

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

ghostbusters reboot

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

lou pearlman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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


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

 

12th Aug2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

aquaman momoa

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

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

Killam and Pharoah

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

luke cage

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

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

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

Phelps

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

suicide-squad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29th Jul2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

Links I Loved

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

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

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

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

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

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

15th Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/15/16

by Will

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First off, I just want to thank everyone for the support last week. Between your comments, your emails, you sharing the post, etc, it really meant a lot to me. These are scary times, and I just had to get it out there that I’m scared, too. Plus, blogging’s cheaper than therapy! Anyway, I was amazed that it resounded with so many folks, and if you’re out there scared, too, at least you know you’re not alone. We’ll all get through this together. So, this week we’re back to business as usual.

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On the movie front, the only thing I saw this week was Southpaw. I try not to spoil things on here, in case you wanna see it for yourself, but I’m going to have to go all out on this one. Originally developed as a starring vehicle for Eminem, Jake Gyllenhaal stepped in when Em decided he wanted to focus on his music. Anyway, Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope (the great White hope, get it?), a former kid from the system, who’s now the world boxing champion. His record is 43 & 0, but he’s challenged by up and comer Miguel Escobar, who’s pretty convinced he can beat Hope. He keeps taunting him in public situations, and Hope wants the fight, but his manager, 50 Cent, won’t let him fight Escobar because he secretly believes Escobar would win, and that’s just not good for business. Meanwhile, Hope’s rock is his wife, Maureen, played by Rachel McAdams. They met in the orphanage when they were 12 and have been together ever since. So, one night, they go to a charity dinner, and as they’re leaving, there’s Escobar with his taunting again. Hope’s got a short fuse, so a fight breaks out, and in the ensuing chaos, one of Escobar’s entourage member’s gun goes off, killing Maureen. And that’s when Hope just goes to shit. Remember Rocky V, when Rocky came home to find out he’d lost everything? This is basically that, but times 10.

Hope loses all his money, his crew, his title, and then they take his daughter away and put her in the very system he and Maureen had escaped from. Before she died Maureen told him that it would all dry up, and all he’d have left is her and their daughter. That his entourage wouldn’t stick around, and she was basically right. So, Hope has to get his life right so he can get his daughter back, and he seeks out Forest Whitaker to train him. Remember how Adonis Creed basically ran down Rocky until he agreed to train him? This was like that, but sadder. Forest doesn’t want to do it, and has his own shit going on, trying to keep kids off the street. Anyway, Hope gets a job in the gym, cleaning bathrooms or whatever, and then trains when he’s not working. He gets to a point where he’s invited to fight in a local charity fight, which he ends up winning. All of a sudden, here’s 50 Cent (who’s now repping Escobar), who says he can get Hope’s suspension lifted if he’d be willing to face Escobar in a “Revenge Match”. He’s got 6 weeks to get his shit together, and then they fight. And it’s a close one. But of course Hope wins, and gets his daughter back. And everyone lives happily ever after. But wait!

First off, I have to believe there’s a director’s cut out there somewhere that fills in a lot of the holes in this movie. For instance, they completely DROP the whole thing about Maureen getting murdered. Like, there’s no investigation or anything. Escobar helps his boys smuggle the gun out of the benefit, but nothing ever becomes of that. It’s just gone. Meanwhile, the only Black dude in Hope’s entourage also had a gun, which he had drawn at the moment of the shooting. The cops end up taking him down, assuming he was the shooter. Nothing ever happens with that. The last we see of him, the cops are holding him down. Did he get released? Is he doing time for a murder he didn’t commit? Did Hope even try to help his boy out?

Next, Hope knew his boys weren’t shit. They disappeared the minute things went south. Maureen told him that was going to happen. Yet, when he makes his comeback in the Revenge Match, they’re right back in his corner. Like, he totally took them back, even though they weren’t there when he needed them most. You’d think he would’ve replaced that entourage with Forest and the guys at that gym, but the old gang is right back there, cheering in his corner. That’s not how that’s supposed to work. That’s like if the other reindeer went right back to treating Rudolph like shit on December 26th.

Also, I don’t feel like Hope should’ve won. I think it should’ve been close, but if you’re gonna steal that much from the Rocky franchise motif, then you’ve gotta let the dude lose, but still learn something from the experience. It’s wrapped up in too nice of a bow that he wins, especially since he was gonna get a payout either way – which would’ve been enough to start a new life with his daughter.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a great movie either. Gyllenhaal does a Hell of a job with what he’s got to work with, but there’s not a whole lot there. Hope isn’t terribly likable, but you’re to root for him because he made it out of the system and he really loves his wife. But he’s not the lovable, semi-retarded pugilist that Rocky was. Do I recommend it? Yeah, sure. But since I just told you the whole thing, I doubt you’ll want to spend the 2 hours on it.

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On TV, Mr Robot came back for season 2 this week. About 5 minutes into the episode, I was quickly reminded of the anxiety that the last season put me through. I really don’t know if I’ve got it in me to stick with this show. I’m already tired of the whole Christian Slater is actually Elliot, but he’s really his dad who lives in his head, and is probably also that Tyrell Wellick dude. The premiere picks up where last season left off, right after the big fsociety hack sent the world into a financial crisis. For one thing, I kinda expected more chaos. Sure, some folks’ mortgage payments have disappeared, but it seems like life is pretty much carrying on as usual. I kinda expected a dystopia like we saw in Dark Angel after the EMP went off. No cars, everyone riding bicycles, people dressed in rags. Nope, pretty much business as usual. Maybe future episodes will delve deeper into how the world has been affected, but I just didn’t feel it – even when they had cleverly edited President Obama into the whole thing. I already bailed on Wayward Pines because I didn’t feel like it needed a second season. I don’t want to have to do that here.

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In comic news, Marvel released Civil War II #3 this week, which featured the death of a HUGE character. I dunno, man. I haven’t even bought it yet. Yeah, I know who died, but I haven’t been this uninterested in a comic death in a long time. There was a local midnight opening for the book, and usually I’m all about that, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I’m about 3 months behind on Marvel books, so it wouldn’t have made much sense to me anyway. Wanna know what happened? Highlight this text: Hawkeye kills Bruce Banner before he can Hulk out and kill a bunch of people.

Now, this leads me to ask several questions, but I’m sure they’ll all be answered OR ignored in upcoming issues. I’m just sick of death having NO meaning in comics. I know it has basically become a trope at this point, but if they’re going to do this, I wish they’d at least acknowledge it in story. For example, in X-Factor, there was a long-running background story where Siryn was waiting for her father, Banshee, to return from the dead. After all, every other fallen comrade she’d had had returned, so why not him? And characters kept trying to convince her he was really gone, but she wasn’t buying it. And then he came back. Sure, it wasn’t a straight road, but he came back in some not-dead form. I’d kinda like more of that. You know, I’m not stupid. I’d actually be fine with a storyline that says “Wolverine is in a coma, and we don’t know if he’ll wake up.” We know he will, because that’s like printing money, but at least we know that he’ll be back in action when they need him most. I don’t need *DEATH* to be this storytelling device to get your point across. Shit, tell me that Superman went to Europe to find himself, and these 4 guys are gonna take his place. You don’t have to keep playing the Death Card, comic publishers. This stunt is really on its last legs. Sure, it gives the mainstream media something to talk about for a day, but actual comic fans are tired. There is next to no goodwill left when it comes to this.

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Speaking of Marvel, they released a catalog of their Marvel NOW! 2016 books, and there were some surprises. First of all, a few books that basically JUST launched are being relaunched. These include The Ultimates, Hawkeye, Nova, Invincible Iron Man and Captain Marvel. I swear, for a character they claim to want to push into the limelight, Marvel makes it really hard to follow Captain Marvel’s series. They launch, end, relaunch, then get collected in random formats. I seriously hope they get this straightened out before her movie comes out. Anyway, there are some interesting moves, as there’s no more flagship Amazing Spider-Man. Instead, we get Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, seemingly picking up where the Secret Wars miniseries left off, and The Clone Conspiracy, which it turns out is its own series and not just the name of a storyline. So, it looks like ASM is going on hiatus for a bit – a series that has already been relaunched twice in the past 2 years. Also, Marvel really seems to love stoking the fires of the “Marvel hates the X-Men because they don’t own the film rights” conspiracy, as all the X-Books are missing except for the newly launching Death of X series. No more All-New Wolverine, Old Man Logan, Extraordinary X-Men, All-New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Yo Mama’s X-Men. All gone. These are probably just another case of a temporary hiatus, as they don’t want Death of X to be overshadowed as the “event” they’re purporting it to be. I really don’t know what Marvel is doing here. They tend to only think of the short term instead of playing the long game. Sure, these things get them some attention but, just like the death thing, fans are getting tired of these practices. And to look at some of these upcoming books – SlapstickSolo? I feel like the 90s are upon us again, and that doesn’t bode well for the business side of things.

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In toy news, Mattel made an interesting decision. According to Action Figure Insider, they’ve decided to offer up their San Diego Comic-Con exclusives online via the Matty Collector site instead of selling them at the show. Now, of course some fans are excited about this, but it just leads me to wonder what exactly is going on over at Mattel. A couple of years ago, I mentioned how Scott “ToyGuru” Neitlich had left the company to go work for Jakks Pacific, making those 31″ figures that nobody buys from Walmart (apparently, he just got hired by Jada Toys, working on those metal Funko Pop wannabes that nobody buys from Target). Anyway, since he left, Matty Collector, and the Mattel output as a whole, has just been a disappointment. There have been rumors that nobody’s steering the ship over there. Now comes this SDCC news. There’s usually a big to-do, with a booth and a lottery to get the chance to buy the exclusives. Instead, folks who have preordered the toys can still pick them up at the show, but they’ve got to go to the Marriott next door to the con to get them, like a seedy drug deal. Anyway, the sale begins July 18th, and you can buy the following items:

Barbie® Amazon Princess Wonder Woman™ Doll ($80)

DC Comics™ Multiverse Wonder Woman™ Figure + Invisible Jet ($15)

Ever After High® Cedar Wood® SDCC 2016 Exclusive Marionette Doll ($30)

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe® She-Ra® ($75)

Hot Wheels® Star Trek™: ’64 Buick Riviera & Spock 1:64 Figure ($20)

Monster High® Ghostbusters Frankie Stein® Doll ($25)

Thomas & Friends™/DC Super Friends™ MINIS ($19.99)

ThunderCats™ WilyKit & WilyKat™ 2-Pack ($60)

Rangers

In Power Rangers movie news, Lionsgate released these character posters yesterday. I swear, this movie is shaping up to be something I’d have no interest in seeing if it weren’t named Power Rangers. Some folks have said that they like the David Bowie vibe to these, but it’s just not Power Rangers to me. This is gonna be your typical Lionsgate young adult novel adaptation, without the necessary camp that’s inherent to the franchise. I know things have to evolve, but I just don’t know if this is the direction I’d have taken things.

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Nintendo announced the upcoming release of the NES Classic Mini. Scheduled to hit stores in November (just before Christmas. Smart!), the tiny console will come loaded with 30 original NES games, including Super Mario Bros 1-3, Pac-Man, The Legend of Zelda and more. The system will retail for $60, but doesn’t contain physical media, so there aren’t going to be any more games than the 30 that come with it. Some fans are disappointed by this, as they’d like to be able to play their old games on modern televisions (the NES Mini will have HDMI outputs). It’s a cute idea and all, but it seems just like the Atari and Sega versions that hit stores years ago. It’s hardly a new concept, but Nintendo has brand loyalty, so I know some nostalgia gamers will be all over this. If I find it on sale or something, I might bite, too.

My buddy Chris is at it again – this time he’s got a friend with him, and they’re checking out the tropes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. And then they actually have to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time. Check it out!

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Last week, I had the pleasure of joining the Nerd Lunch guys to talk about Star Trek. We discussed where it’s been, where it is now, and where we think it’s going. Enterprise, TNG, Kelvin Timeline – it’s all there! I even say some controversial stuff about The Beatles. You know you want to check it out!

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Pokémon GO. Pokémon Mother Effing GO. Where do I even begin? This game has taken the country by storm. It just hit North America on July 6th, and has already surpassed Twitter in amount of daily users. You’re either playing the game or complaining about others playing the game. Either way, it has somehow entered your world in the past week. There are no divisions when it comes to this thing, as it’s crossing all social and color lines. It’s like that episode of The Next Generation, “The Game”, where Wesley Crusher and Ashley Judd have to break the crew’s addiction to virtual reality. To paraphrase Usher, “We’ve got it bad”.

What is Pokémon GO? I had a friend ask me that on Facebook, and I tried to explain it the best that I could. I won’t go over that here, as I’m sure you all know how it works by now. There are little things about the game I find interesting, however. It’s funny to me that most of the gyms are churches, so we’re basically battling tiny demons for the right to possess churches. And then we force evolution on them to make them more powerful so they can take over even more churches. If you’re an Evangelical preacher, I just wrote Sunday’s sermon for you. You’re welcome. They say that the game is actually causing an increase in folks visiting houses of worship, but I’m sure they’re just grabbing Pokéballs and then it’s “Seacrest out!” The Episcopal Diocese of Washington actually sent an email yesterday, instructing parishes as to how they could encourage “Poké Pilgrims” and welcome them to their congregations. Look for more stuff like this, as corporations and the like decide they want to get in on the action. These are the glory days of GO, y’all. We’ll look back on these days when we’re drinking Pokémon GO Slurpees at the local 7-11.

I never thought I’d play the game. I was prepared to be a hater like I tend to be, but then I downloaded it on a whim. I was hooked instantly. I haven’t been this into a computer game since Farmville, and I lost a lot of Facebook friends over that (Sorry for all the requests! The game made it look like you were actually playing). Since Monday, I’ve caught 144 Pokémon and I got spoiled because I won my very first gym battle. Conservatives LOVE to say “Pokémon GO has achieved what Michelle Obama spent years trying to do.” No, not really. I drive to Pokéstops. Is that cheating? Maybe, but when there’s a dearth of Pokéstops nearby, you do what you gotta do. Anyway, I’m still a fat ass, so nice try, conservatives. There’s something unsettling, though, about slowly cruising by a park after dark so you can get more Pokéballs – especially in today’s political climate. Please, Lord, don’t let me get killed over some tiny computer demons! I mean, folks are getting robbed, they’re walking off cliffs. It’s chaos out there, but it’s also really fun.

I’ve noticed a glitch in the game. I mean, it’s new and really popular, so it’s bound to be buggy. My issue is that I try to play on the sly when I’m in public. I’m still kinda ashamed to be playing it, when all the folks around me are 13 year old boys. There was a group of teens hanging outside the Korean church (the local gym), and I was scared to go down there because they were just that right age to be unmercifully vicious. Anyway, the game seems to hate sunlight. I can’t tell you how many Pokémon I’ve tried to catch while on the move outside, only for the Pokémon to pop out of the ball and I have to recatch it.  Multiple times. It has something to do with the game not properly syncing with the servers (which are regularly down for the count), but I have the most trouble with this on sunny days. Anyone else experience this?

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. You’d have to be a fool not to realize that Pokémon GO had the West Week Ever.

 

 

08th Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/8/16

by Will

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I really thought about skipping this week. I mean, a lot of y’all missed last week’s post (based on my stats), so it’d be “new to you”! The main reason I thought about skipping is that I just didn’t know if I could do this. I’ve always liked when, after a tragedy, late night comedy shows would “break kayfabe” and actually address the matter at hand. It’s funny because I recently tweeted that folks needed to stay in their lanes. For example, if you’re a retro pop culture blogger, it’s kinda jarring when you start screaming “BENGHAZI!” Well, I’m gonna veer out of my lane for a bit. You might hate it, or you might agree with it. At the end of the day I still got your click. No, this needs to be said.

There’s something wrong in this country. Honestly, there’s a lot wrong with this world, but I’m trying to localize it somewhat. It strikes me as odd that in the same week we celebrate “freedom” and “independence”, a lot of people out there are still in danger. They’re being hunted. When these police shootings really started booming, it was always argued that “Well, he did X to deserve this.” As none of us were there, we don’t know WHAT happened, but I find it hard to believe that he needed to be KILLED. The part that really gets to me is that this is being done by the people who are supposed to be protecting us. I mean, if we can’t trust them, then who can we trust?

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I don’t like to talk about race. Hell, I don’t like to even think about it. Call me naive but it boggles my mind that there’s a disparity between people based on the color of their skin! I mean, that’s so asinine, but it’s been going on since before I was born, and will probably continue after I’m gone. As I sit here, with my White wife and halfy baby (What? Don’t like “halfy”? Would “zebra cake” be better?), I tend to feel isolated from some stuff, while other times race is very obvious to me. I’ve had folks tell me I only got into Cornell because I was Black. I’ve had an ex-girlfriend’s grandfather proceed to wash his hands in front of me after shaking mine. I’ve had a racist call me a “nigger” MANY times and challenge me to a fight at a traffic light. I’ve had some “in your face” kinds of stuff, but I try to carry on. Still,  I’m tired. I’m tired and scared.

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I like to drive around a lot. I drive just to waste gas. Sure, it’s usually for a toy hunt or something, but at the end of the day, I’m just wasting gas. I drive at all times of day or night. Why? Because I’m weird. But now I’m scared. Last night, after the news of the Philando Castile murder at the hands of police, I was at my mother’s house because I go over there every week to take her trash and recyclables to the curb. Well, I tend to also fall asleep when I’m there, waking up around 2 or so in the morning. And for the first time, I was scared to go home. I didn’t want to drive the 10 minutes home, risking my life in the process. I mean, here I am, driving my wife’s car, in the middle of the night. I could hear the pundits now “Why was he out that late?” and “Well, why was he in someone else’s car?” Do White people have to premeditately justify their murders? For all I know, maybe they do. Maybe it’s the fault of the “media”. All I do know is that I ain’t hearing about Conner and Troy getting shot by police, and when they do something wrong, I’m told of all their accolades and shown pictures of them in prep school blazers. I often think about which picture they’d use or which social media post will be taken out of context should I end up dead. That’s not how life’s supposed to be, right? Or is this just the sign of the times?

I’m so glad I don’t have a son right now. Like, really glad. I mean, I’d always wanted “one of each”, but I honestly don’t know how to raise a son in this world. I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, hoping I would get some sort of insight on how that process goes. Sadly, he hadn’t really figured it out either. Sure, I’ve got a daughter but, at the moment, society just sees her as something to eventually fuck but not to kill. Yay?

I don’t want to live like this anymore. People say “Black Lives Matter”, and they’re immediately met with “All Lives Matter”. If that were true, we wouldn’t have had to drill it down to just Black people. I don’t doubt there’s shit you don’t wanna deal with while being White. You probably feel like we ask for too much, and other -isms are constantly trying to change your way of life. I can understand that. But can’t we just agree that Blacks don’t deserve to be MURDERED? BY THE FUCKING POLICE? Can’t we just do that?

What really scares me is how many of my White friends get silent on the matter. It’s like we’re cool until the shit goes down. I tend to live online, so I have a lot of friends that others would just consider “friends”. What I mean is that I don’t see these people often (in some cases we’ve never met), but I actually consider them important in my life. But what’s going to happen when/if something happens to me? Will they join the chorus of “Well, he shouldn’t have done X”? Really? You’ve known me on here for how many years, and you think I’d start shit with a cop? And that’s the problem: a lot of folks aren’t doing ANYTHING confrontational. They’re complying and cooperative, and they’re STILL getting killed. But to the All Lives Matter crowd, surely I had to have done something wrong, right?

We DESERVE to live and be protected. Our kids DESERVE to live and be protected. I DESERVE to live and be protected. But who’s watching out for us?

So, I guess you came here for some pop culture stuff, and “the show must go on”, so let’s get to it.

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In comic news, Marvel announced that recently introduced character Riri Williams will be replacing Tony Stark as Iron Man at the end of Civil War 2. The character is a 15 year old accepted to MIT who manages to build her own War Machine armor. Oh, and she’s Black. So, you can guess where the comments sections went on this one.

The Invincible Iron Man comic is currently written by Brian Michael Bendis, whose writing I enjoy despite the fact that he was a douchenozzle to me one time. I do have a problem, however, as Bendis will be writing Riri, as well as Miles Morales. This means that two up and coming Black Marvel characters will be written by the same White guy. Now, I’m not saying that Black characters have to be written by people of color. I think everyone has experiences that can influence how they approach different characters (All Writers Matter. Heh). That said, it does occur to me that both characters are basically in their formative years, as both are around the same age. Adolescence is a challenging time, and when you add in minority identity development, it becomes even more complex. I think I’d feel better if a character who’s not quite sure where he/she fits into the world was written by someone who has known how it felt to not really know where they fit into the world. G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim, writes Ms. Marvel, and it seems like such a natural fit. Even though a convert, she has an understanding of what Kamala Khan’s life must be like. One day, however, some writer will come along who isn’t Muslim, but by then the groundwork will have been laid. I think I want a writer of color to lay the groundwork, and for Bendis to come along later. But she’s his creation, and he’s earned his place with Marvel, so I don’t see that happening.

I could very well be wrong, and I’m willing to admit that, but I just feel like Bendis has a monopoly on the young, cool Black characters at Marvel right now. He’s already created Riri, so it’s got that Bendis stamp on it, but maybe pass it off to David Walker or one of the few others that exist but I’m clearly forgetting. And where are the Black women writers? This would be a great book for them, as they’d bring different experiences to Riri. Anyway, I’ll be buying the book, as I like where it’s been going, but I won’t stop wondering what might’ve been.

In TV news, it was announced yesterday morning that Uncle Buck was cancelled by ABC. It’s not all that surprising because the show was clearly experiencing a Summer Burn Off, but I can’t help but feel that it might’ve had a shot at another season had it been named something else. At the end of the day, the nostalgia folks don’t like to have their properties co-opted, no matter how 3rd-tier they might be. We’re already seeing this with the upcoming Ghostbusters film, but I’m also reminded of the race-flipped Honeymooners that NOBODY went to see. And then they come along and do this to Uncle Buck. I think part of the issue is that White people had no real desire to see a race-flipped Uncle Buck because John Candy. Meanwhile, Black people don’t really have any affinity for the Uncle Buck “brand”. To us, John Candy was, and will always be, the dude from Cool Runnings. So, there really wasn’t an audience clamoring for it packaged this way. Had it been named any other thing, maybe it would’ve had a chance? Then again, it costarred James Lesure, who’s basically the Black Ted McGinley. Farewell, Uncle Buck. We hardly knew ye.

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In movie news, it was announced that John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu will be the Star Trek franchise’s first gay character in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. Sulu will also have a husband and a daughter. It’s reported that writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin made the decision as a nod to original Sulu actor George Takei who’s become quite the LGBT activist over the years. Now, I’ve got the same questions I had when Marvel did this with Iceman. If the Kelvin Timeline Sulu is gay, does that mean the “regular” timeline Sulu is also gay? I mean, we already met his daughter in Star Trek Generations, but we never got into his sexuality. I guess I’ll let the fanfic kids work that out. Anyway, in an interesting development, Takei has said that he’s actually disappointed in the move, as it’s not what Trek creator Gene Roddenberry originally intended. Reportedly, when Takei learned that Pegg and Lin wanted to reveal that Sulu was gay, he pleaded with them to create a new character instead. I get what he’s saying, but I’m pretty sure that very little of the Kelvin Timeline is what Roddenberry originally intended, so I think they get a pass here. Still, I’m not the This Is OK police, so it doesn’t really matter what I think.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix has signed a deal to exclusively stream CW shows 8 days after the season finale airs.
  • Comic publisher Valiant racked up 50 Harvey Awards nominations, making some wonder if the system is broken. At the moment, nominations are voted on by comic industry professionals, but it seems odd that a company that hasn’t had an Eisner Award (basically the Oscars of comics) nomination in the past 2 years would rate so high at the Harveys. I tried to start the #HarveysSoValiant hashtag in protest, but it didn’t take.
  • BeFunky CollageTRHMTTMy pals over at The Robot’s Pajamas were kind enough to let me write about about the hottest moms on the shows that your kids love. I’m equal parts proud and ashamed of this post, so please validate me by checking it out!

  • Speaking of Robot’s PJs, Chris is at it again with a new Comics Tropes video. This time, he celebrates America by checking out a vintage Captain America comic, and setting off some kick ass fireworks!

I don’t write much about wrestling these days, and I really don’t write about TNA wrestling. If you don’t know much about wrestling, there are basically two big companies: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Total Nonstop Action (TNA) – they’re the Marvel and DC of pro wrestling. Just like with comics, there’s a market share disparity, as WWE is everywhere, while TNA changes networks more than its fans change their underwear (ooh, sick burn!). TNA is really unstable, with reports of its demise surfacing on an almost weekly basis. Still, when you’re not the big dog in the yard, you can make some interesting creative decisions. And that’s exactly what they’ve done with the war between Matt and Jeff Hardy.

If you were a fan of WWE back during the early ’00s, then you know Matt & Jeff better as the Hardy Boyz or Team Xtreme (with Lita). They were highflyers who loved to jump off shit. They were basically backyard wrestlers who’d finally made it to the big time. And they were AWESOME. I loved Team Xtreme and all their moves, like the Twist of Fate and the 450° splash. Then life happened. Matt was dating Lita, Lita was having an affair with another wrestler named Edge, and then the whole thing became part of the ongoing TV storyline. The Hardys kinda fell from grace, but eventually resurfaced at TNA.

Some years passed, and I became more of a fair weather wrestling fan, so I missed a LOT of stuff. Anyway, recently Matt Hardy adopted this new persona with a janky accent and this streak in his hair. He became obsessed with defeating his brother, Jeff. Matt referred to Jeff as “Brother Nero” and made it his mission to take him out. What’s funny about the whole thing is that the storyline very much adheres to cartoon guidelines from the 80s. Like, did Matt want to KILL Jeff? Not sure. But I do know that he wanted to “delete” him, whatever that means. So, this week on TNA Impact Wrestling, we finally saw The Final Deletion. It’s so great, guys! It’s like Sharknado in a So Bad It’s Good kind of way. It felt like porn without the sex, which can be quite entertaining due to the bad acting and production values. I posted the “director’s cut” of the whole saga above, and I implore you to take the 17 minutes and check it out. Everything is great, from Matt Hardy’s weird persona, to the hapless gardener, to the drones, to the chaos of the battlefield. It’s just…I mean, if this is what TNA is gonna do every week, I will happily turn in my WWE fan card. Three hours of RAW and two hours of Smackdown are too much WWE anyway. After watching that video, I hope you will agree with me that The Final Deletion had the West Week Ever.

10th Jun2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/10/16

by Will

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The only movie I watched this week was the world premiere of You’re F#@k’n Dead. Written and directed by my good friend, Jay Spence, it’s an homage to grindhouse cinema, with a hint of the supernatural. It follows brash Lexi, and her naive sister, Beth, as they end up in a strange town that isn’t quite what it seems. When they find out the true nature of the town, they find themselves in a fight for their lives. The film premiered Sunday night as the closing headliner at the DC International Fantastic Film Showcase at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. Though I was a fan of Death Proof, I’d generally say this wouldn’t normally be my type of movie. That said, I really enjoyed it. It was great to see the fruition of my friend’s 4 years of hard work, and I’m really impressed by the finished product. It will be on DVD/Blu-Ray soon, but here’s the red band trailer, and if you want to know more, check out youredeadthemovie.com.

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In TV news, the former “Can You Hear Me Now?” Verizon Guy now works for Sprint. Huh. I guess some people might see this as a “heel turn”, but I couldn’t care less. I’ve got this weird thing where commercials don’t work on me. Like, if I see a commercial for something, it doesn’t make me want that item. Hell, commercials barely even register with me unless someone points one out to me. So, it’s odd to me that Sprint thinks getting this relic of a pitchman on their side is going to translate into people defecting from Verizon. I mean, if I remember correctly, people hated that guy ’cause he was annoying. If anything, I feel like this would drive more customers to Verizon from Sprint. But what do I know?

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There was also a lot of news in the world of DC Entertainment television. First off, it was announced that Superman would be appearing in season 2 of Supergirl, and casting is underway. A lot of folks are lobbying for Smallville‘s Tom Welling to get the part, but I really don’t want that to happen. I know Smallville had its fans, and it lasted 10 years, but I don’t think its quality is on par with the current Berlantiverse shows, so I’d rather forget it than have some unofficial link to it. Plus, I feel like Welling left the role before he could fall victim to the Superman Curse. He probably avoided it because he never put on the suit. Anyway, Superman will be joined by other DC characters, such as Snapper Carr and Detective Maggie Sawyer. Meanwhile, it’s rumored that Calista Flockhart’s Cat Grant might be bumped to recurring character status.

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Meanwhile, it was reported that Legends of Tomorrow would be adding Vixen to the cast next season, but there’s a catch – it won’t be the same character that has been portrayed by Megalyn Echikunwoke on both Arrow and the Vixen animated series. Mari McCabe is a Detroit hero who derives her powers from an animal totem. So, it appears this new character will be a Vixen, but not the Vixen, as Echikunwoke will still be voicing her version of the character in the animated series (her film commitments are keeping her from joining Legends of Tomorrow). I’m not usually one to bark up this tree, but I hope the new Vixen is also a person of color. I mean, we have so few heroes, it’d kinda suck to lose one. Plus, with the departure of Hawkgirl, the team could use the diversity in the form of a woman of color. The character was popular, with some folks saying she deserves her own show, but I say “hold onto your horses” on that one. Let’s let the character grow and develop before putting that weight on her shoulders.

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We also got our first look at character designs for Justice League Action, the new DC animated series coming to Cartoon Network. Based on a presentation at the Kre8tif Conference in Malaysia, the show will include characters like Firestorm, Mr. Terrific, Lobo, Blue Beetle, Big Barda, and Harley Quinn (back in her jester costume). Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are coming back, so I guess reports of their retirement had been premature. I don’t love the character designs, but it’s clear this show is geared towards the younger set. The show will consist of 11-minute episodes, like most current Cartoon Network shows, and no premiere date has been announced yet.

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In video game and toy news, the sets for LEGO Dimensions Year 2 were revealed, and they are amazing. LEGO Mr. T!!! Not only will there be an A-Team set, but there will also be sets for The LEGO Batman Movie, Sonic The Hedgehog, Knight Rider (!), The Goonies, Mission Impossible and more. I will most definitely be getting the A-Team and Knight Rider sets.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows underperformed over the weekend, only taking in $35 million, despite positive word of mouth
  • John Boyega has been cast as the lead in Pacific Rim 2, which will be directed by Steven S. DeKnight (Daredevil on Netflix)
  • The Injustice 2 video game was announced for a 2017 release. I love the first one, even though I’m not that good at it.

    • Comedy Central announced that Rob Lowe would be the guest at their next roast. Look for a lot of jokes about his sex tape with that underage girl. Oh, you didn’t know about that?
    • It was reported that Mel Gibson is working on a sequel to The Passion of the Christ. The timing is perfect, as Jim Caviezel is gonna need work soon.
    • My pal, Chris Piers, got DRUNK X-Amining the comic tropes of Chris Claremont’s X-Men run. If you’re an X-Men fan, this is a MUST WATCH!

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I’d have to say that Awesome Con stole the week. Kicking off last Friday, the show set up at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in downtown DC, and ran through Sunday. I decided to check it out with my good pal Classick Materia of CSPN Media. We had a great time walking up and down aisles, meeting our favorite comic creators, and chowing down on convention center burrito bowls. Most of the experience was covered on the latest episode of the Classick Team-Up Podcast, so be sure to check that out. Still, there were a few things that didn’t make it into the podcast.

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Classick and I got split up at one point, and I found myself at the Aftershock Comics table in front of writer Paul Jenkins. If you’re not familiar with him, he wrote Wolverine: Origin back in 2001 that finally revealed the character’s history. He also co-created Marvel character The Sentry. Anyway, as I walked up to his table, he was scanning the side of a juice box with his phone. He noticed me, and immediately went into infomercial mode, telling me about this great new app that’s been helping him lose weight. Turns out it was My Fitness Pal, which I’ve already been using for the past 6 months. I told him this, but he glossed right over it, as he demonstrated how easy it was to simply scan the barcode and have the app input all of the nutritional information. He told me that he’d cut out sugar and bread, and that the weight was just falling off. He said that it’s not just about what you eat, but also when you eat it. He was like a born again Christian with this thing! We never even talked about his comics. He signed my copy of Replica that I had coincidentally purchased from a dollar box earlier in the day, and sent me on my way. Great guy, but such an odd experience.

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Next up, I met Tom King, who’s currently writing The Sheriff of Babylon, as well as starting on the Batman title. As I went up to his table, I told him that I was a big fan, and he said that he recognized me. I didn’t think we had met, but then remembered I had met him at NYCC last year. Still, there’s no way he remembered me, and I’m sure he says this to all the boys. Anyway, the con had been selling an exclusive cover of Batman: Rebirth #1, but it was the same cover as the normal book, only it had “Awesome Con” on it – for TWENTY dollars. Fuck that noise! I went back to the Big Planet Comics booth, and picked up a copy of the regular edition for $3. I promptly went back over to King, and had him sign it. I also told him that I enjoy The Sheriff of Babylon although I have no clue what the Hell is going on. Like, the characters are interesting and compelling, but I’m totally lost on the plot. I mean, I couldn’t even really explain it to you, except for the fact that it’s set in post-Saddam Iraq. He laughed and said that he had just been thinking about possibly including a recap in an upcoming issue, just to make sure everyone was on the same page with the story. I told him I was looking forward to his Batman run, and went on my way. Really nice guy!

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While walking around, Classick and I started talking about Doctor Who, trying to figure out what the appeal is about that franchise. He said that it was the scarves. I said it was the dildos. Sure, they may call it a “sonic screwdriver”, but I wasn’t born yesterday! That’s a fancy space dildo. So, as we laughed about this, an idea hatched in my head. I’d like to introduce you to my new Tumblr, Scarves and Dildos: The Magical World of Doctor Who.

Anyway, for more tales of our time at the con, check out the podcast. In any case, I think the show set the tone for the week, and that’s why Awesome Con had the West Week Ever.

03rd Jun2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valene

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

ecto cooler

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

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

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

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

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