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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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WWE Edit

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)

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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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WWE Edit

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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youre dead

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?

Noto Supes

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.

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

27th May2016

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

by Will

 

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apocalypse

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

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

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

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

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

cap and bucky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

Links I Loved

Ranking the Megazords – The Robot’s Pajamas

The Case Against Dan DiDio – The Savage Critics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

20th May2016

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

by Will

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ladykillers

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

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

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

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

1893

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29th Apr2016

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

by Will

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

wonder man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

18th Mar2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

POH

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

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

MDOT-Crowded

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

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

apocalypse

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

lobo

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

dead 7

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

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

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

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

longshot

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

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