26th Jan2018

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/26/18

by Will

 

HarassmentWatch(TM)

I thought we’d get through a week with no sexual assault updates and allegations. I thought wrong.

  • Eric Ardnt – the WWE wrestler known as “Enzo Amore” was released from his contract AND his Cruiserweight title this week when a woman came forward, saying that he had raped her in a Phoenix hotel back in October. At first WWE suspended him, due to a supposed “zero tolerance” policy regarding sexual assault, but they fired him later the same day. Word on the street is that Ardnt knew an investigation was ongoing, but didn’t warn WWE officials about it. So, it seems more like he was punished for keeping it a secret than for actually doing it. After all, it’s bad for business…
  • Casey Affleck – Casey Affleck was accused of sexual harassment a couple of years ago, but nothing came from it. When the #MeToo movement started up, there were rumblings again about his misconduct. Last year he won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea, and tradition dictates that he present the Best Actress award at this year’s ceremony. Well, with the heat on him for negative reasons, he’s told the Academy that he won’t be attending or presenting, for fear of taking attention away from the films and the winners.
  • Larry Nassar Update – After the testimonies of over 140 women, the former Team USA Gymnastics doctor’s trial ended with him being sentenced to up to 175 years in prison – a sentence to begin AFTER completion of his 60-year sentence for possession of child pornography…

Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week. There were some surprises: Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, which is an honor that’s not typically bestowed to comic book movies. Get Out scored 3 nominations: Best Director (Jordan Peele), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Kaluuya), and Best Picture. The biggest surprise to many, however, was the nomination of Boss Baby for Best Animated Feature Film. The film was maligned when it was announced (I added to some of that because I was sure it was gonna bomb), and it went on to make $500 million. A lot of folks felt the nomination should’ve gone to something like The LEGO Batman Movie. Just as I had to pour water on some of y’all for the Wonder Woman nomination “snub”, I feel the need to do that here, too.

As much as I enjoyed most of LEGO Batman, it lacks a strong 3rd act. At some point it devolves into a weird LEGO Dimensions team-up movie and I can’t even remember how it ends. Meanwhile, I haven’t even seen Boss Baby straight through, even though I’ve watched 3/4 of it about 37 times (my daughter LOVES it), and I feel like I had a more enjoyable experience with it, even while consuming it in disjointed chunks. It’s cute, clever, and pretty well done. I felt like LEGO Batman was a “less is more” character, so while a Batman fan, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy about this particular iteration having the entire spotlight on him for a feature length film. I know a lot of y’all are cool and/or childless, so you wouldn’t be caught dead watching Boss Baby, but I’m here to tell you that it’s better than you think it is. Plus, let’s not ignore the fact that Ferdinand‘s on that list. Forget Boss Baby. LEGO Batman actually lost the nomination to John Cena as a talking bull, so think on that!

Everything old is new again, as two popular 80s properties are coming back to television. First up, not one to be left out of the reboot spree, CBS announced that Murphy Brown will return for a 13-episode run. I watched Murphy Brown pretty religiously (up until Miles left, and Lily Tomlin’s quirky ass was brought onboard). I remember all the Murphy Brown controversies: the child out of wedlock, the cancer, the medical marijuana, etc. My problem with the Murphy Brown announcement is that you just know it was greenlit the minute the whole “The Conners are Trump supporters now on Roseanne” news hit. And I don’t need the liberal counterpoint. You just KNOW Hillary’s gonna guest star on it. I mean, she did Broad City! I know Murphy will have a ton to say about the state of the world, but I’m not sure I’m in the mood to hear it right now. Maybe when this whole circus is over, but not while we’re still in the thick of it.

Meanwhile, Disney is reviving Muppet Babies, with a new Muppet along for the ride. Summer is a purple penguin who’s artistic. That means she likes art, not that she’s on the spectrum. Anyway, it seems like she’s replacing Skeeter, who reportedly won’t be a regular on the series. They said that they wanted another girl to help balance things out. The computer animated incarnation will premiere in March on Disney Junior.

In other TV news, comedian Mo’Nique’s is trying to get Black people to boycott Netflix because they only offered her $500,000 for a comedy special, which pales in comparison to what Dave Chappelle and Amy Schumer got for their specials. She claims the streaming network is racist and sexist for giving her such a “lowball” offer. Um, Mo’Nique, you ain’t relevant, baby. You should’ve taken that $500K and used it as a springboard for brighter things in the future. The Original Queens of Comedy came out SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO almost to the day. Sure, you won an Oscar for Precious, but that was NINE YEARS AGO. Everyone in Hollywood says you’re hard to work with, which is why you’re falling back on stand up. I can’t boycott Netflix ’cause there’s too much on there I wanna watch. Go start some beef with Hulu. I don’t have an account with them, so I’ll be right there with you in spirit. Anyway, Wanda Sykes popped up to thank Mo’Nique, because she said that Netflix offered her even less than $500K. Um, I love you, Wanda, but your current job is the voice of of a gargoyle on Disney Channel’s Vampirina. I’m pretty sure they just offered what they thought you’d take…

In comic news, Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott announced that he’s leaving the book after a 10-year run as the head writer. His final issue will be #801, and he will be moving over to the Iron Man series. He said that this has been the plan for about 4 years or so, and that he always wanted to break the record for Most Spider-Man Books By One Writer, which is currently held by Brian Michael Bendis. He said that he never saw Bendis leaving, so that was a number that kept moving and was always out of reach. When Bendis announced his departure, however, Slott saw it as his chance. He says he’s still about 18-20 issues shy of reaching the goal, even when #801 hits, so he might come back one day down the road to do an arc or two just to hit that magic number.

A lot of fans are rejoicing at the news, while I’m not sure how to feel. I know many fans didn’t like Slott’s take on Spider-Man, but I haven’t read enough of his run to have formed an opinion. Full disclosure: I own every issue of Amazing Spider-Man from the past 17 years, but the past 5 years are in my To Read pile. For those of you familiar with the series, I’m at “Spider Island”. Nope, haven’t even gotten to Superior Spider-Man yet, where Doc Ock takes over Peter’s body. So, needless to say, I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Still, it’s an impressive run, even if I was recently saying it was time for him to give a new voice a chance. Well, I guess I got my wish. Now I just hope he doesn’t ruin Iron Man.

Meanwhile over at DC Comics, a play in 3 acts:

What’s funny to me is that this exact scenario was the plot of the pilot for Comedy Central’s new series, Corporate. I mean, the thing just aired a week ago.

It’s not all PR blunders for DC, though. They did announce that Superman’s red trunks return in Action Comics #1000 – which also features the DC Comics debut of Brian Michael Bendis. I’ve got to say that I got used to the Jim Lee New 52 redesign. They made slight tweaks along the way, but I didn’t really miss the red trunks. The be honest, it was more jarring to me to see Batman without his trunks than Superman without his. Still, DC’s trying to get the old fans to come home again, so I guess they felt they needed to do this. The only thing that upsets me is the switcheroo nature of The New 52. They went to all this trouble to reboot everything, and then spent the past 2 years undoing what they’d done with Superman in order to turn him back into the character he was pre-New 52. It reminds me of how Marvel gave Grant Morrison the keys to the X-Men kingdom, only to spend the next 5 years following his run undoing everything he’d built. Some folks will say, “Well, at least you enjoyed reading the comics”, but I counter that with “Yeah, but now I’ve got 7 years of Superman comics that don’t ‘count‘ anymore.” Continuity is important to me as a fan, and a move like this makes me look at the whole New 52 enterprise and just wonder “What’s the point?” Ya know, besides a temporary, unsustainable spike in sales…

In music, we got a new single from Justin Timberlake, called “Supplies”. This is the second song I’ve heard from his upcoming album, Man of the Woods, and I just don’t know what he’s trying to do here. I almost wonder if the song works better without the video to distract you. I mean, the video is almost like he’s homaging Michael Jackson’s “Scream”, then the bridge comes along, and he’s like “Hold up, while I bang this hot girl”. Then it’s right back to the political stuff, almost like he’s saying, “I’m sorry, girl, but racism makes my dick soft”. Part of me thinks he saw that failure of a Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, and was like “Oh, I can make this work”, because there are definitely shades of that project found here. Anyway, I hope these songs get gradually better, or else I’m about to write this album off like I did Taylor Swift’s Reputation.

Then, last night, he released the video for “Say Something”. I swear, this album is just gonna be a collection of sounds. I feel like he just got a mixer, and is releasing his demos as he tests out the effects. At least this one has a melody, and it only took him 3 singles to get here. I hope the radio edit chops off the first 1:16, ’cause after that you’ve got a pretty tight song. The big surprise here is he’s got a feature: breakout, soulful country star Chris Stapleton. It’s an odd pairing, but it works. Can I just say that I hate this new trend of releasing all your songs before the album comes out? I mean, I realize the industry has changed, but I miss the act of finding a surprise gem or possible deep cut on an album, and then later being surprised when it was released as a single. It was validation, like, “”Huzzah! I knew this was a hit, and now it truly is!” Anyway, it’s a 16-track album (and the inevitable Target exclusive edition will scrape together another 3 tracks from demos or something), so there’s still 13 songs we haven’t heard yet. More songs like this, JT!

Toys “R” Us announced that they’re closing 182 stores, and everyone’s getting a hard-on for the going out of business sales that are bound to result from this. Well, hold your horses, cowboy. I posted this one Twitter, but it bears repeating – I’ve been through a TRU closing, so here’s what happens: the store is taken over by a liquidation company that marks everything UP. The good stuff is returned to the manufacturer or sent to a non-closing store. So, what’s left is marked up stuff you don’t want. Everyone has these visions in their heads of these great sales that are about to take place, but you’re pretty much about to be as disappointed as you have been any other time you walked into a TRU in the past 20 years. So instead of Transformers and Power Rangers, it’s more than likely they’ll dig out some lost cases of the female Ghostbusters or have a ton of The Good Dinosaur toys they never sold. If you’re a reseller who utilizes FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) then it’s a great time to stock up, but there’s not much to offer to the casual shopper/collector. So, happy hunting, but I doubt you’ll find much…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • There are Jurassic Park Funko Pops coming. While I typically wouldn’t care, you can’t NOT love this one of Dr. Ian Malcolm

  • 9 years after the release of the original, we’re apparently getting a sequel to Black Dynamite, based on this teaser released by creator and star Michael Jai White. I hope it washes the taste of that animated series out of my mouth, which just didn’t work tonally for me.
  • It appears the original Barney suit actor now runs a tantric sex workshop. “I love you, you love me” indeed!

  • We got our first look at Brie Larson suited up as Captain Marvel. Some folks aren’t feeling the green uniform, but it works with the source material. She’s also sporting the “Rachel” hairstyle, so this movie’s gonna be 90s to the max!
  • After 8 seasons of putting a bird on it and just generally being weird, Portlandia started its 8th and final season last night.
  • Certain media outlets are reporting that ABC has cancelled Marvel’s Inhumans based on the fact that the network has removed the show from its press site. While that’s probably true, I think I’ll wait til the official announcement at the May upfronts.
  • 90 years after her debut, and 40 years after Mickey got his, Minnie Mouse finally got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • There’s talk of a Mighty Ducks television series, but there’s no script, no stars, and no known home for it (though it’s not like Disney is lacking for TV networks). I’ll talk more about it when the project is further along.

Did anyone have a week quite like WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon? He started the week celebrating 25 years of his flagship wrestling program, WWE Monday Night Raw, and he ended the week reviving one of his greatest failures, the XFL.

First, let’s talk about Raw 25. The anniversary broadcast had been promoted for weeks, with special guests announced on each preceding episode. They were bringing back the likes of The Undertaker, old Divas, and they were even gonna have a reunion of Triple H and Shawn Michaels’ old DeGeneration-X stable. To commemorate the big event, it was held in 2 different venues: the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and the Manhattan Center in Midtown Manhattan. I’m sure folks at both venues thought they were in for an awesome show. They would be proven wrong. You see, all the big stuff happened at the Barclays Center, while the folks in Manhattan seemed to get a lot of the cast off stuff. Barclays got John Cena, while Manhattan got old Scott Hall. It was clear that the Manhattan Center was geared more towards the older fans, but I’m not quite sure they got their money’s worth. Anyway, I’m sure Vince would say it was a success, and it’s pretty impressive he’s kept that show on the air for 25 years.

Yesterday, Vince proved he wasn’t done surprising us this week, as he announced the upcoming return of his football league, the XFL. Scheduled to debut in either January or February of 2020, there are a couple of things that will set this league apart from the dominant NFL. First of all, he plans to keep games to 2 hrs, as he believes this is the longest people can be expected to watch – which is funny, considering he runs a weekly THREE-HOUR wrestling program. Next, there will be no politics on the field, so all players will stand for the national anthem. Finally, he says that none of the players can have arrest records. Muhuhahahahahahaha! Where, pray tell, does he plan to find these professional caliber athletes, with no arrest records, who haven’t already been snatched up by the NFL. He better shut up and load those teams up with convicts. I know that’d get ME to watch! Instead of being the badass leaague that it was during WWE’s Attitude Era, McMahon hopes to present a family friendly game, with simpler rules than the NFL.

I’m confused here. The dominant professional football league in the country is already experiencing a ratings downturn, so I’m not sure competition is what’s needed now. Plus, let’s not forget how colossally the first XFL failed. It barely lasted a season. I mean, it must be nice to have so much money that you can blow MILLIONS reliving your biggest mistake simply due to ego. And I know the television landscape has changed, but he doesn’t even seem to have broadcast partners yet. Back in the day, he at least had NBC and UPN to lean on to broadcast the games. He can’t rely solely on streaming, and he created a separate entity for this venture, so it’s not like he can just throw the games on the WWE Network stream. I dunno, man, but it’s not my job to. It’s not my money, it’s Vince’s. And he has so, so much money to waste.

In any case, based on his dominance in all corners of sports entertainment this week, Vince McMahon had the West Week Ever.

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