17th Jun2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/17/16

by Will

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On the movie front, I watched a lot of Lego specials this week. First up was Lego DC Comics: Batman Be-Leaguered, featuring the Justice League trying to recruit the Caped Crusader. Now, my first issue is that I never saw the preceding movie, Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite. So, I was unaware that there was a different portrayal of Lego Batman out there. I was expecting the same depiction that we got in The Lego Movie. So, I was majorly disappointed when this wasn’t that guy. The biggest issue, however, was that it’s really just a 22-minute commercial designed to sell toys. I mean, most children’s cartoons are that, but this was just brazen about it. All of the vehicles showcased in the special are existing Lego sets, and the only thing missing from the show was having the Lego set number flash onscreen whenever a set appeared. It was the most toyetic thing I’ve seen in the past 20 years. The animation just felt like cut scenes from the Lego Batman games. And to make matters worse, it’s just a poorly written show. It’s got none of the heart of The Lego Movie, and in the end *SPOILER ALERT* it turns out that Bat Mite was the “villain” behind everything. You can’t take anything seriously when Bat Mite is involved. It was just a big waste of time.

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Next up, I watched Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom. THIS is what I wanted. I don’t watch the Lego TV shows, like Chima and Ninjago, so I have no idea of their quality, but this actually reminded me of The Lego Movie. They actually took advantage of the fact that the world was made of bricks, so when a car exploded, it reverted to a pile of bricks. That kind of detail is what was missing in Be-Leaguered. Anyway, the movie is basically an arms race to see who can get Martian Manhunter on their side to tip the scales in the battle between the Justice League and the newly formed Legion of Doom. Also, the movie focuses on Cyborg, as he struggles to fit in as the rookie of the team. He’s young and optimistic, so he pretty much serves as the Emmitt of the movie. Plus, it really made me appreciate Cyborg as a character. I have been vocal in my opposition to his promotion to the Justice League in the New 52 DC Universe. I felt that he was more important and effective as the big brother of the Teen Titans than he has ever been as the junior member of the Justice League. This movie, however, really made me root for him, and I kinda wanna seek out Justice League comics that focus on his role as the new kid on the block. It also didn’t hurt that Cyborg was voiced by Khary Payton, who also voices him on Teen Titans/Teen Titans Go! Of course there were some toyetic aspects (like the Batman vs Gorilla Grodd Lego set was on display), but I felt they were more spread out as this special had more time to work with, clocking in at 72 minutes. Anyway, this was really entertaining, and I’d definitely recommend it.

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Girl Meets World came back about a week ago, and now the gang’s in high school. If I thought this show got heavyhanded last season, I had no clue what I’d be in for this year. First off, it pisses me off that Zay isn’t a regular cast member now, considering he’s one of “the gang”. Anyway, the focus of the premiere was that the kids were supposedly “kings” in middle school, but are nobodies in the big world of high school. I’m not so sure they were kings. I mean, Riley’s dad was their teacher and they pretty much got away with anything. Riley’s dad is still their teacher, but they’re all in a new environment. The oddest part, though, is that they’ve got these 30 year olds playing high school students, who are determined to make Riley and her friends learn their place in the new pecking order. Now, I’m used to older people playing high school students, but this is just absurd. One dude looks like Jason Segel’s less successful younger brother. Meanwhile, I’m starting to feel like the show should actually focus on Riley’s little brother Augie, and his friend Ava. Her parents are going through a divorce, and Augie’s her support system. They’re probably the best actors on this show, and I find that situation more compelling than the whole “High school is scary” plotline. Anyway, I’m gonna try to stick with this show, but I really miss the zaniness of iCarly.

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In Marvel news, it was reported that Donald Glover has joined the cast of Spider-Man: Homecoming. Of course, since the #DonaldGloverforSpiderman social media campaign, everyone wants him to be Miles Morales. There’s no way 32-year old Glover is gonna play Morales on the big screen. There’s been a lot of misinformation surrounding the casting of this movie, as a few weeks ago, folks were saying that Michael Barbieri had been cast as Ganke – who happens to be Miles’ best friend. Of course, that’s been debunked by the director, but it didn’t stop of from getting a few weeks worth of “Why is Ganke white?/Why is Ganke in this movie?” tweets. People are gonna speculate all they want, but it doesn’t change the fact that Glover will probably just be playing something like “Mike, the Pizza Delivery Guy”. Or “Jack, Who Works In I.T.”

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Meanwhile, in DC TV news, it was reported that Nick Zano is joining the Legends of Tomorrow team as Dr. Nate Heywood, the grandson of Commander Steel of the Justice Society of America. In the comic, Heywood becomes Citizen Steel, so it’s pretty likely he’ll don some sort of heroic identity here, as well. The biggest news, however, is that Teen Wolf’s Tyler Hoechlin has been cast as Superman on Supergirl. That casting was FAST! I don’t watch the show, so I don’t really care, but it seems like that’s the sort of thing that has to be earned. You don’t just play your Superman card in season 2. That must’ve been a requirement for renewal: Superman MUST show up or no season 2. Anyway, folks seem to like the show, so I hope his arrival doesn’t derail it.

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In comic news, we finally got character sketches from the new M.A.S.K. series, as we got quite the surprise: Matt Trakker is Black now! And of course, some people were pissed off about this. Look, I also grew up with a Matt Trakker who looked like a cartoon John Tesh, but that appearance didn’t have any impact on his character. Changing him here isn’t going to make him any less Matt Trakker, even if they do seem to be going to a more diverse, Fast and the Furious-esque team makeup. To me, Duke from G.I. Joe and Matt Trakker were kinda the same person, so at least this will make them visibly different. All I know is that I’m now a Hell of a lot more interested in checking it out than I was before. Yay, representation!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Orphan Black has been renewed for a fifth, and final, season. One day, I’ll actually start watching that show.
  • Kevin Smith has reported that Mallrats 2 will no longer be a movie, but will instead be a 10-episode television series. Since the move from movie to show, there is no news on casting or potential networks.
  • After Hulkamania ran wild on it in the courtroom, Gawker Media has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
  • Larry David is coming back for a 9th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I really hope it doesn’t focus on David’s renewed career portraying Bernie Sanders, but it probably will.
  • John Stamos has joined Scream Queens as a series regular. I swear, that man works like he’s got several secret, illegitimate children to support.
  • Wilmer Valderrama has joined the cast of NCIS. Yeah, I don’t even know what to make of that.
  • Helen Mirren has entered the “Fuck It” stage of her career, by reportedly signing on to star in Fast 8.

MAD TV New Cast

  • This is the cast of The CW’s MadTV revival. Take a close look, as you might be looking at the next Key & Peele. Then again, you also might be looking at the next Artie Lange.

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There’s a culture war going on in America, and the Broadway show Hamilton is at the forefront of it. Rich people have seen it, while poor people are clamoring to do so. It’s kinda like health insurance in that respect. The work of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show focuses on founding father Alexander Hamilton’s life, from immigrant to duel casualty.

Now, I’ve been known to be something of a “hater” at times. Sometimes justified, sometimes not. So, I was not onboard this show. I mean, it was kinda deplorable to see folks obsessed over a show they’ll probably never see. Sure, the soundtrack went platinum, but that’s as close as many folks will ever get to Hamilton. Still, this week was all about Hamilton, as the show picked up 11 of the 16 awards it was nominated for at the 70th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday. So, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and fired up the soundtrack on Spotify. And I LOVED it. Now, let me say that it didn’t move me as much as I was moved by Ragtime or Les Miz, but it’s a good soundtrack. A lot of repeating themes, but they’re strong and catchy, so it’s not much of a bad thing. A lot of people know I was an a cappella kid, but many don’t realize that I started as a theatre kid. So, I know my way around a Broadway soundtrack. Certain songs just stay with you, though, like the opening number “Alexander Hamilton” and “My Shot”. My favorites are probably “It’s Quiet Uptown” and the finale “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”. The latter is a sentiment that I think about often: who’s going to tell your story and what will they say? In my case, I hope they say “Yeah, he meant well.” Anyway, I’ll probably never see the show, but I still got the music, and that’s good enough for me (especially since Miranda is leaving the Broadway production on July 9th, so anything after that will be like a “second printing” to me anyway). So, for its 11 Tony wins, and for cracking my hard exterior, Hamilton had the West Week Ever.

10th Jun2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

03rd Jun2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

27th May2016

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

 

06th May2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

29th Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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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.

15th Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

08th Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/8/16

by Will

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First up, I watched Dead 7 last Friday night. If y’all remember, it’s the zombie western starring former boyband members. Written by Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter, it also starred Howie Dorough (BSB), AJ McLean (BSB), Joey Fatone (*NSYNC), Chris Kirkpatrick (*NSYNC), and Jeff Timmons (98 Degrees). This movie was a MESS. Now, I do have a confession to make: I forgot it was coming on until some folks tweeted me about it, so I missed the first 25 minutes. So, once I turned it on, I was LOST! I don’t know why people were zombies or “copperheads”, I’m still not clear why copperhead teeth are used as currency, and I don’t get why they were so hellbent on killing MadTV‘s Debra Wilson. All I know is that the acting was HORRIBLE (UPDATE: After writing this, I went back and watched the first half hour. Yup, still lost). This being an Asylum film, I expected something “so bad it’s good”, like the tongue in cheek Sharknado franchise. Instead, they played this pretty straight, which was to its detriment. Sure, Fatone’s Whiskey Joe was basically comic relief, but he really didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the movie. The best part of the movie was the end, where everyone was dead except Nick Carter’s wife (What? You weren’t gonna watch it!). So, hopefully that means they can’t try to make a sequel. At the end of the day, it just felt like a bad April Fool’s joke. Still, we did get a decent collaboration track out of it:

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Next up, I watched the DC Animated feature Justice League vs Teen Titans and I must say that it’s my favorite DC “vs” movie that I’ve seen this year. Basically a sequel to both Batman: Bad Blood and Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, it brings together the Batman and Justice League goings on of the DC Animated Original Movie universe. Fresh off the events of Bad Blood, Batman feels Damian needs to learn to be a team player, so he has Nightwing take him to join the Teen Titans. In this incarnation, the team is Raven, Beast Boy, and Blue Beetle, mentored by Starfire. Of course, Damian doesn’t really take to being on a team, but when Raven’s father Trigon possesses members of the Justice League, the team comes together. I didn’t like this as much as I did the Batman films, as I don’t know much about the DCAO Justice League, never having seen War or Throne of Atlantis. I don’t know much about that incarnation of the team, so I don’t care that much about them. I’m invested in the development of Damian, and it was great to see something of a crush develop between him and Raven (something we haven’t seen before), so I probably would’ve liked it more had it just been a Teen Titans movie.  I did like how they managed to get Cyborg on the team even though he’s technically a Justice Leaguer. To be honest, I fell asleep on it, but that’s probably because I was really tired. The same thing happened when I watched Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. So, I had to watch it twice. Still, that might’ve been one time too many. It’s not bad, but it’s certainly not as exciting or action packed as the other Damian-centric Batman animated films. There’s also a post-credits stinger that makes me interested in what’s coming next. It’s not the best DC animated movie, but there are worse ways to kill 80 minutes.

pacific rim

In other areas of nerddom, I finally watched Pacific Rim. My pal Keith came to town and insisted we watch it when he saw it had been on my DVR for the past year. Overall, I liked it a lot. I do have some questions, though. For example, why do they all keep saying “nucular”? I can’t trust my protection in the hands of someone who gets that wrong. Also, did they really think a WALL was gonna stop the Kaiju? The same Kaiju who routinely fuck up buildings made of WALLS?! Was Trump behind that plan? And something about Jaegers seems inefficient. I’m not sure if it’s the walking mechanism or what, but it seems like the pilots expend way too much energy to get those things going. Also, do you think the Chinese Jaeger was modified with the 3rd arm once a set of triplets was chosen to pilot it OR did they seek out a set of triplets to pilot their 3-armed Jaeger? Hated the post-credits scene, but overall, I really enjoyed the film. It’s something of a shame that a sequel is off the table for now, but maybe it’ll end up like Independence Day where we get a sequel in 20 years.

wynonna earp

On TV, I watched the premiere of Wynonna Earp on Syfy and BOY was I disappointed! To be honest, I didn’t even know they were making a show until I saw the commercial during Dead 7. Though I’m familiar with the comic of the same name, the development of this show really flew under the radar. Anyway, starring Canadian actress Melanie Scrofano, it’s about a rebellious chick who happens to be a descendant of legendary sheriff Wyatt Earp. She returns home when her uncle dies under mysterious circumstances, and has to retrieve Earp’s gun which, legend has it, can kill demons or something. The show was VERY Canadian – like, it’s not the kind of thing that deserves a prime timeslot, but would’ve been just fine as a Saturday afternoon syndicated series in the late 90s. While I grew to love Krysten Ritter’s portrayal of Jessica Jones, Scrofano’s Earp is closer to what I had in mind for the look and feel of that character. So, she’s basically Jessica Jones in a shitty vampire show. Or better yet, it’s Witchblade with a mystical pistol. Either way, I don’t think I’ll be tuning in again.

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I also caught the final 5 minutes of The Walking Dead. Now, let me be clear: I don’t watch the show, and I quit reading the comic at #50. To me, something like that needs an endgame, and interviews with creator Robert Kirkman made it clear that the thing is gonna run as long as he feels like it, with no real blueprint in mind. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Still, somebody was supposed to die, and I’m a sucker for those kinds of season finales. So, I turned off Girls and tuned into the end of the episode. Evil villain Negan was due to kill someone important, and I needed to see if he chose the same character he chose in the comics. I was kinda hoping he’d kill that Boondock Saints dude ’cause maybe he’ll stop being able to charge $300 for a picture at shitty comic cons. Well, the episode ended up not telling us who died. Nope, viewers have to wait until October to find out. And they lost their shit! I kinda thought it was funny, as it harkens back to the days of “Who Shot JR?” but viewers seem to feel like they’re owed something. Look, when a show cuts its teeth on dragging shit out (Glenn under the dumpster), then it doesn’t care about you. It’s doing what it’s doing for the sake of drama. I’m curious to see what the ratings will be like for the season premiere. Will they go up because folks want to find out who died, or will they go down because folks feel betrayed by the finale? I’m not gonna watch, ’cause I don’t care, and I’m sure someone will spoil it on Twitter so it’s not like I won’t be “in the know”.

arrow season 4

Arrow tugged at the heartstrings this week by killing off a main cast member (don’t worry – I’m not gonna spoil who it was). This season has really been aimless, and the death didn’t really help things. We knew that one was coming, due to the flash forward cemetery scene from the season premiere. The funny thing, though, is that the writers basically backed themselves into a corner. They knew that someone would die, but they hadn’t decided exactly who would die by the time the season began. They were just going to let the story dictate who would meet their fate. Well, lucky for them, drama erupted behind the scenes. According to rumors (I could’ve said “sources”, but who are we kidding?), this actor reportedly had some disagreements with star, Stephen Amell – which is supposedly the real reason Colton Haynes left the show. So, how long can Arrow survive if Amell is this difficult to work with? The show’s already been renewed for season 5, but they’re really going to need to work hard to return it to the quality that it once had. I never really liked the character who died, so I don’t think it’s gonna hurt the show much. In fact, it might be the first step on the road to making things better. Only time will tell.

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I also caught “Tran Dimensional Turtles”, which was an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon where the current incarnation of the team meets the original 80s team. It was…interesting. I haven’t watched the show since the first season, so I didn’t know all the stuff about Earth being devoured by a black hole or something and that the Turtles are now space faring. The whole episode featured the different teams bouncing between 2D and 3D, but the trick got old fast. Apparently, 80s Krang is the cousin of the Kraang Subprime from the new series – who wears Irma’s head on a pike? I’ve clearly missed a lot. Anyway, I liked this idea better when the 4Kids Turtles show did it as “Turtles Forever”.  Something this monumental needs to take place outside a standard 22 minute episode, and this should’ve been a bigger event.

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In the comic world, Black Panther #1 hit stores on Wednesday to rave reviews and critical acclaim. Written by noted author Ta-Nehisi Coates, with art by Brian Stelfreeze, the book focused on a king without a people. T’Challa, king of the African nation of Wakanda, and Black Panther to the hero set, is trying to unify his people after a string of disasters nearly tore the nation apart. A supernatural force, however, seems to be amplifying the citizens’ feelings of hate and fear, making T’Challa’s job much harder. I…didn’t enjoy this book. Let me say that I was initially looking for a quick, fun read and this was the wrong choice. I really didn’t know what was going on half the time. I think I need to give it another shot, but it didn’t immediately grab me. They do a decent enough job explaining all of the plights that Wakanda had experienced recently, but I still felt like I needed to come into the story with some prerequisite reading of which I was unaware. I actually recently read Coates’s Between the World and Me, so I’m familiar with his style, but I don’t know if I’m a fan yet. For this one, I may just wait for the trade. If I read it at all.

Alfre Woodard

In Marvel news, it was announced that Alfre Woodard will have a role in Captain America: Civil War, as the mother of a civilian who died during Avengers: Age of Ultron. So, basically she’s playing Miriam Sharpe. In the Civil War comic miniseries, the whole thing was kicked off after The New Warriors inadvertently caused an explosion at a Stamford, CT school, resulting in the deaths of several children. The mother of one of the children, Miriam Sharpe, became the face of the movement to require more regulation for super powered beings. So, it seems like Woodard may be playing the same role here, as I doubt they’d cast her as just a throwaway character. Here’s where things get interesting, though: She’s already been cast as Black Mariah in the Luke Cage Netflix series. So, we’ve got one actress playing two different characters in the MCU. I know the film division isn’t really paying attention to what the TV division is doing, but this is a bit much. Couldn’t they have cast Angela Bassett in one of those roles? They’re basically the same chick (Yes, I know she’s currently Amanda Waller, but my point stands)!

Cloak-and-Dagger

In other Marvel news, it’s reported that a Cloak & Dagger series is being prepared for ABC’s Freeform (formerly ABC Family) network. So far, there’s no script, showrunner, actors, or anything attached, but the show is being developed to focus on a teenage Cloak & Dagger, as they deal with their powers and relationship. Freeform is the perfect place for show like this. I just hope it doesn’t have strong ties to the greater MCU because I really don’t want to have to watch it. I’ve never really been down with Cloak & Dagger, and I pretty much despise everything that comes on that channel. Speaking of Freeform, the same press release announced they have a late night show in development called Later Bitches. $20 says that name doesn’t make it to air.

Wonder-Woman-Movie

In DC news, Warner Bros announced a shift in their DC Cinematic Universe slate, as Wonder Woman has been moved up from June 23rd to June 2nd 2017. They also added two untitled DC films to the schedule for October 5th, 2018 and November 1st, 2019. One of these is probably the standalone Batman film that’s been rumored since before Dawn of Justice even premiered. The shift also bumped Andy Serkis’s The Jungle Book adaptation to 2018, which reminds me that it’s kinda foolish for there to be TWO Jungle Book adaptations released within two years of each other (Disney’s comes out next month). Unless one of these serves as the lead-in to the events of Tale Spin, I’m not interested.

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The Star Wars: Rogue One teaser debuted yesterday. It looked interesting. Female protagonist again. I’m not gonna “raise cane” about it, because representation is good. I am, however, still mad I got “bamboozled” out of my Black Jedi. I remarked that it kinda looks like “The Hunger Games In Space”, and that’s somewhat of the vibe I got from it. It’s not that it’s a young adult dystopia, but I feel like I’ve seen this Jyn character before in other movies. Anyway, I can’t say I’m jazzed about the film ’cause I’m just not a Star Wars person by default, but I might see it. I didn’t initially realize this was a prequel to A New Hope, so it’ll be interesting to see things from that frame of time. Still, it’s another movie with a Death Star. Take that however you will.

Remember Weekend At Bernies? Didn’t you wish Bernie had been used as a machine gun or a jet ski? Well, here’s Swiss Army Man! I can’t believe this is a real movie.

Jenni Konner

In social media, I got a tweet favorited by the co-creator of Girls last Sunday. all I did was tweet a line of dialogue (with an errant comma), so it’s nothing to really write home about.

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So, last night saw the end of an institution, as American Idol signed off for the last time. After 15 seasons, and the creation of a handful of stars, the show is finally taking a rest. I think it’ll be back one day, but America simply isn’t as interested as it once was. After all, they’ve got Blake Shelton and Christina Aguilera spinning around in chairs to worry about. Even if you hate the show, you can’t deny the impact it has had on pop culture, for good or for bad. Kelly Clarkson has sold 25 million albums and won 3 Grammys. Carrie Underwood has sold 65 millions albums and has won 7 Grammys. And even “losers”, like Jennifer Hudson (won an Oscar and a Grammy) and Chris Daughtry (sold over 8 million albums), have done well for themselves. It made Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest (who unleashed the Kardashians on the world) household names, while it rejuvenated the career of Paula Abdul. Idol always struck that balance of making it about the contestants, while still making it about the judges (something The Voice has never pulled off). And there was a time when the Idol name meant something. People bought the CDs, and packed stadiums for the tours. Those days are long gone, but the show helped the music industry at a time when it desperately needed a shot in the arm. It made the consumer feel like she had power in the industry by putting success up to a vote. Sure, shows like Star Search had done this in the past, but that show never had as many eyes on it as American Idol. It was the number one show on television for the coveted 18-49 demographic for 8 consecutive years.

American Idol also has personal meaning for me, too. For example, I almost got to audition for the first season, but things got in the way. See, when my a cappella group performed at the ICCA Finals, we were invited to audition the next day. Nobody knew what the show was going to be, so there weren’t lines and folks camping out for auditions like they did in later seasons. They were approaching a cappella groups because they knew those folks had singing experience. The rest of my group, however, was all, “We have finals to study for.” Those guys had no ambition (which is exactly why they’re all successful doctors, lawyers, and engineers, but I digress…)! Later on in college, I was a finalist for Cornell Idol, which was our local campus take on the show. In recent years, I’ve gotten in my fair share of Twitter fights with former contestants, like Justin Guarini and Blake Lewis – not to mention all the grandma fans of Scotty McCreary and Taylor Hicks. You can say that Idol has orbited my extracurricular activities since it began.

Last night, Trent Harmon won the 15th and final season of American Idol and, based on recent years’ winners, you’ll probably never hear from him again. Still, the impact the Idol juggernaut has had can’t be denied. That’s why American Idol had the West Week Ever.

01st Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/1/16

by Will

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Welcome back to a brand new installment of West Week Ever! I’ve got a confession to make, though: I’m tired. Between writing all the Spring Break posts this week, and that fact that today is April Fool’s Day and nobody believes anything they read anyway, I’m gonna keep it short today.

mtv spring break

So, about those Spring Break posts. You may not know what I’m talking about. Remember how MTV used to have special programming during Spring Break? They’d set up in a beach house, and have a week full of special programming. Well, that’s what I tried to do here. Sure, there was no beach house, but I tried to cover some topics that don’t get discussed enough around here: forgotten/maligned television theme songs and bad comic books. In case you missed any of the posts, here’s what you missed:

Monday – The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: Webster
Tuesday – The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: California Dreams
Wednesday – Just Imagine Stan Lee Wrote The Worst Batman Story Ever Published
Thursday – The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: Enterprise

Anyway, I had a lot of fun with those, so let know if you’d like to see any of that kind of stuff return in the future. Now, let’s get on with the pop culture news!

rebirth

In the world of comics, we finally got creative team announcements for DC’s Rebirth initiative. And it’s really nothing to write home about. Outside of the surprise of Scott Snyder getting a new series called All-Star Batman, and Jim Lee handling the art chores on Suicide Squad, the rest of the announcements simply feel like shuffling deck chairs on the Titanic. While DC might have a decent bench of up and comers, they don’t have any marquee names or exclusive creators to “bring all the boys to the yard”, so to speak. Most DC creator announcements can be met with a simple “Who?” There are some bright spots, though. For example, it appears that Terry McGuinness will be returning as Batman Beyond, but it also kinda pisses me off that we’ve wasted the past year or so with the Tim Drake incarnation of the character. David Finch as the Batman artist is pretty cool, but I’m not sure he ever mastered a timely, monthly schedule. There are also some questionable moves being made, though. Why bring back Nightwing when the Grayson book was such a fresh, and popular, take on the character? And why give Bryan Hitch a Justice League book that he’s not drawing, considering nobody really flocks to him for his writing? It all sounds interesting, but it doesn’t sound exciting. This isn’t the shot in the arm that DC Comics desperately needs, and the fan base is getting bored. I fear we’ll be right back here with Super Rebirth or Born Again or something in another year.

In comic movie news, the folks over at MCU Exchange really need to be hired by Marvel. The editing on this Civil War primer is better than most of the trailers we’ve gotten so far for the movie. I won’t say it gets me jazzed for the film, but it does a great job of summarizing everything that brought us to this point. It even ties in Jessica Jones and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – something that Marvel couldn’t be bothered to do themselves. That’s really been bothering me lately: Marvel’s unwillingness to take advantage of their shard universe by sprinkling more references to the movies into the TV shows. Would it kill Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to put a Stark delivery truck in the background of a street scene? Couldn’t they have put Stark/Avengers Tower in the background of a scene of Jessica Jones? It’s the little things that add up to build a much richer universe. This week’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got major points in my book for not only referencing Stark and Sokovia, but for also sneaking in a Daredevil reference. More of that, please!

suicidesquad

In other comic movie news, there are reports that Suicide Squad is filming reshoots to make the film more “fun”. After all, that was a complaint that folks had about Dawn of Justice, but if it doesn’t fit tonally, don’t force it. Reshoots on a film of that caliber aren’t unusual, but folks seem to be falling over themselves trying to explain why these particular reshoots are any different than those for any other blockbuster film.

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So, here we are, at the end of this week’s post. This is the point at which I usually tell you who had the West Week Ever. Well, despite not liking the film myself, I’d be a fool to not acknowledge that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had the best week. It made a shit ton of money, even though it still “fell short” of some box office expectations. Whatever. I don’t really have much more to say about the movie, though, because I’ve kind of taken myself out of the discussion. I’m not sure if you’ve been on social media over the past week, but the discourse is FAR from civil. On both sides. I’ve seen some critics forge past the bounds of professionalism just to get their jabs in on the movie, but I’ve also seen fans of the movie berate folks for being “not smart enough to understand the movie”. Yeah, well, I got it, but I still didn’t like it (*dusts off Ivy League degree on wall*). So, I’m kinda done talking about it as, like with politics, nobody’s gonna sway anyone to their side – nor should they try. It’s OK for people to have different opinions, and there’s nothing wrong with saying “Ya know, that just wasn’t for me”, without being berated by those who did enjoy it. I never said it was a “bad movie” in my thoughts last week. I just said that I didn’t like it, but there are still people out there who would like to tell me that I’m wrong. How am I wrong in my feeling? Anyway, I had the pleasure of joining The Chap Report this week, where we discussed the film at length. It was nice to be able to talk about it in a non-hostile environment, and I believe I got out everything I needed to say. So, if you really want to know how I felt, complete with story spoilers (which I avoided in last week’s post), take a listen. It is my definitive take on the film, and I see no reason to discuss it further. If anyone asks “What did you think of the film?”, I’m just gonna post the link to the podcast. So, in closing, giving credit where it’s due, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the Marthas of the world had the West Week Ever.

30th Mar2016

Just Imagine Stan Lee Wrote the Worst Batman Story Ever Published

by Will

justimagine batman

With all the talk about Batman v Superman over the past few days, it reminded me that it’s nowhere near the worst story told featuring the Caped Crusader. No, that honor belongs to Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Batman, published in September 2001 – making it the second worst thing to happen to America that month. If you’re unfamiliar with the book, let’s take a step back in time, shall we?

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In 2001, DC Comics thought they had scored a major coup by getting Marvel Chairman Emeritus Stan Lee to agree to reimagine their most iconic characters in the Just Imagine… miniseries. This was pre-social media, but I remember the Wizard Magazine articles losing their shit about “STAN LEE’S GOING TO DC!” It was basically the geek equivalent of when LeBron left Cleveland for Miami. Although, it kinda wasn’t that special in hindsight. You see, Stan has spent the past 20 or so years as something of a whore, and this was really just the beginning of it. He was coming off the disastrous venture known as Stan Lee Media, where his most notable creations were Pam Anderson’s Stripperella and the Backstreet Boys’ The Backstreet Project (whose Burger King Kids Club figures still pop up in thrift stores to this day). Since that company bottomed out (and is actually still being fought over in court to this day), Stan hasn’t said “no” to anything where money was involved. Some projects have held more promise than others but, at the time, the Just Imagine… series was seen as this historic happening that had been 40 years in the making.

The idea for the Just Imagine… series was that it would pair Stan with some of the greatest working comics artists, like Jim Lee and the legendary Joe Kubert. Each comic would be a one-shot story, yet all 13 issues would tell an overarching story when read together. The series kicked off with Just Imagine Stan Lee’s Batman, teaming Stan up with the aforementioned Kubert. The 48-page “prestige format” (square bound) comic is certainly nothing that you’ve ever read before in a Batman comic, but it is something you’ve seen before. You see, that’s the biggest failing of the Just Imagine… series: there are no original ideas. To Stan, the best way to reimagine Batman is to simply combine Luke Cage and Spider-Man, and call it a day.

Wayne Williams (there’s that classic Stan Lee alliteration!) is a young, Black street-smart guy whose policeman father has just been killed. While taking care of his mother, Williams makes an enemy of the local gang leader who, then, frames him for armed robbery. Sent to prison for a crime that he didn’t commit, Williams uses his quest for vengeance as a motivator to hone his body and his mind. Over an undetermined amount of time, Williams’s weight training takes him from scrawny to buff – just in time for him to use his new found strength to thwart a prison riot. Following me so far? Nothing too crazy, right? OK, let’s continue.

JISL Batman

This is when the story just stops working for me, as each development is more outlandish than the next. While in prison, Williams befriends a bat who comes to visit his cell night after night for crumbs and food scraps. Williams keeps telling the bat that he’s his best and only friend, kinda like that movie/Michael Jackson song “Ben” about that rat. Well, when he’s pardoned for stopping the prison riot, Williams leaves prison with the bat as his pet. As a free man, Williams realizes that he’s going to need to make some money, and one night while watching pro wrestling, he decides that will be his ticket to success (sound familiar?). After all, he’d beaten up a few toughs in prison, and he had also learned to sew, so he’d be able to make his own costume. So, while he admitted that wrestling was “a phony crock”, he proceeds to make his career by ACTUALLY BEATING THE SHIT OUT OF WRESTLERS as, you guessed it, “Batman”! And nobody calls him on it! He gets in the ring, and attacks these performers, and the crowd just eats it up. He starts on the local indie circuit, but eventually works his way up to the point where he’s the most popular wrestler in the world – all to build a financial foundation to use in his quest for revenge. Since he never unmasks, nobody knows who he truly is, which allows him to just get more and more mysterious and popular. Can you imagine if Rey Mysterio Jr was only wrestling so that he could finance his quest for revenge? Well, this is that, only Williams basically has the career of Hulk Hogan, The Rock, and John Cena put together.

While Williams was in prison, however, he did have one friend: a former physicist named Frederick Grant, who had been imprisoned for sabotaging the equipment of a former employer who was poisoning a water supply. After Williams saved him from a prison bully, Grant was the one who originally encouraged him to hone his body and mind. So, once he’s made his nut on the wrestling circuit, Williams seeks out the released Grant, and asks him to be his partner. Anyway, in the time that Williams was in prison, the gang leader who framed him, Handz Horgum (there’s that alliteration again), has risen in the ranks from local tough to crime boss. He controls all the crime in Los Angeles, so Williams plans his attack. He gets Grant to beef up his armor, giving him the “powers” of a bat, like night vision and the ability to soar on wind currents. Williams starts beating up local toughs, working his way up to Horgum. So, here we have the world’s greatest wrestler, initiating a war on crime in the middle of Los Angeles, and nobody bats an eye. The news isn’t like, “Hey, John Cena just put a gang in traction today.” Anyway, he eventually catches up to Handz, kicks him off the top of a building, and then steals his girl. Yes, the “hero” kills the crime boss and starts scheming on how he can put Handz’s girl on his payroll just to keep her close.

Given only 48 pages, there’s only so much space with which Stan had to work. That said, I have some major problems with the story – namely that nothing Batman does is *heroic*.  It’s a quest for revenge and not justice. I can’t say it’s “justice” because his heart isn’t really in the right place. Sure, he’d be ridding the streets of a pretty bad guy, but his reasons are pretty selfish. He doesn’t think of all the lives he’d be saving by taking Handz off the street, or how it’s even the “right thing to do”. No, Williams is only pissed that Handz caused him to lose all that time in prison, and that his mother died before he could clear his name. At no point does he ever have a change of heart that “Hey, this hero thing is a good idea.” For intents and purposes, he could pretty much quit after killing Handz because that was always the endgame. In fact, when the story ends, you’re led to believe that he’ll continue fighting, as he mentions hiring Handz’s girl as the secretary for his whole “operation”, but there’s no indication as to why he’d keep going. After all, at no point in the story did he ever think of anyone but himself. It would make more sense if he just returned to the ring, and continued to rack up wrestling money. I kept waiting for the *superhero* to show up, and that never happens.

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Well, I’ve clearly given more thought to this whole enterprise than it seems Stan did when he “wrote” it. I put that in quotes, because I wonder how much contribution he truly had to the story. After all, the credits list Batman film producer Michael Uslan as the one who was responsible for the plot of the story. That was surprising to me because, as the guy who’s written an autobiography called The Boy Who Loved Batman, you’d think Uslan would’ve delivered something with more respect for the character. Sure, this is a different take on things, and I’m not expecting Bruce Wayne here, but you’d still think Batman would be a little more heroic here. I don’t necessarily need him to inspire, as that’s more Superman’s bag. No, Batman operates out of the shadows, to rid the streets of crime and make the city a better place. Stan’s Batman operates out in the open, and his goal is only to get payback. But the major crime is how Stan basically just repurposed old ideas into something that came off like a polished turd. It’s kinda like if you submitted old homework to fulfill a new assignment, and still only managed to get a C. So, whenever you feel like you’ve experienced the worst Batman story ever, just imagine what Stan Lee’s Batman would look like, and you’ll instantly feel much better.

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