16th Jun2017

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

by Will

 

Hot on the heels of the poster reveal last Friday, we got a teaser trailer for Black Panther during the NBA Finals. And it did very little for me. Yeah, I know. Every other Black person I know is, as they say, “hype” for this movie, but I just have never cared about Black Panther as a character. And I know comic book movies require suspension of disbelief, but Michael B. Jordan plays a villain named KILLMONGER! That’s probably the comic bookiest name I’ve ever been forced to take seriously. It certainly looks colorful, and it’s gonna make all the monies, but I’m gonna need to see more before I get too excited.

Let’s talk about Black Panther for a minute, though, as I think people are conflating his comic book success with his appearances in all other media. At the moment, there are currently 3 Black Panther comics on the stands: 1) Black Panther, 2) World of Wakanda, and 3) Black Panther & The Crew. Also at this moment, the latter two have already been canceled. I’ve seen people online saying that Marvel should rethink their stance, considering all the views the trailer has racked up in its week online (22.6 million as I write this). I get what they’re trying to say, but it’s a faulty argument. Their assumption is that people are clamoring for all the Black Panther they can get, when it’s really just this one movie to which they’re looking forward.

When the Black Panther comic was relaunched last year, written by author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the first issue sold over 250,000 copies, which was a rare feat for 2016. Now, however, the book sells about 1/9 of that amount, and is still decreasing. Ya see, Coates was hot shit because of an article on reparations that he wrote for The Atlantic. Why someone thought that would translate into a successful stint writing comics is beyond me. Marvel struck while the iron was hot, though, and they were able to ride the Coates wave, but anyone who’s actually read the comic knows that he’s more about political drama than superhero action. People came to the table to see what he’d offer, but over time they’ve realized they’re not picking up what he’s putting down. Still, Marvel gave him yet another series, Black Panther & The Crew, which probably should’ve been called Black Panther and His Negrotastic Pals. I bought the first issue, but the book was canceled before I even had  the chance to read it, so womp womp. It could be argued that Coates wasn’t the right choice for the book, but I think a better explanation is that Marvel blew their wad too soon. They should’ve been launching these spinoffs in the wake of the trailer, not cancelling them. Still, the damage is already done, so it’s not like they can let them tread water until the movie is released. If anything, they’re gonna have to cancel and relaunch if they want to capitalize on movie buzz. The ship, however, has sailed for the books currently on the market because this trailer is not going to serve as the shot in the arm that some folks seem to believe it to be.

Fox has got the ball rolling on X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the follow-up to the disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse. It will be directed by Simon Kinberg, who has no directing experience by the way, and is slated to be released November 2nd, 2018. And the gang’s all here, with Fassbender, Lawrence, and McAvoy are all coming back. If you remember, they tried to act like they were on the fence about returning after Apocalypse, but I guess they love money too much. Meanwhile, they’re saying that Jessica Chastain is being pursued to play alien Shi’ar Empress Lilandra, who lets Xavier bone her every couple of years. Did I mention that Kinberg wrote X-Men: The Last Stand? Ya know, the LAST time they did the Dark Phoenix storyline?! THE ONE EVERYBODY HATED?! So they’re basically giving him do-over! Everything about this sounds terrible, but we’ll probably get another cool Quicksilver sequence out of it, this time set to La Bouche’s “Be My Lover” or some other disposable 90s pop song.

Normally, I’m all about those stories where they “get the band back together”, so I was definitely surprised when this video hit the Internet this week. I miss the age of the $20 million comedy, where Hollywood was cranking these things out monthly in the mid ’00s. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was one of my favorites, so I had high hopes for this thing, whatever it was supposed to be. Still, 13 years have passed since the movie, and this “return to the well” felt just as stale as Zoolander 2. Its saving grace is the fact that it’s only 4 minutes long (which still, somehow, feel like an eternity). I don’t even know where to start with this thing. The unfunniness of Stiller? The weak delivery from Christine Taylor? Or the fact that I don’t have a clue as to what the Hell Omaze is? Apparently it raises money for non-profits, but it’s far from a household name. I don’t know if this is the bold step Omaze needed to take to make a name for themselves. “Hey, look – we’re making a mini sequel to a 13 year old movie that didn’t need a sequel!” This thing seems dead on arrival, and I’d love to somehow be able to track the success/failure of this marketing initiative. Ugh, so much potential, squandered.

Bachelor in Paradise had its production suspended this week after accounts of “misconduct” began to surface. According to varying reports, Corinne Olympios from the most recent season of The Bachelor was involved in some pretty “heavy petting”, as your grandma would call it, with DeMario Jackson from season 13 of The Bachelorette. From what I heard, they were both drunk and tried to have sex. DeMario, unfortunately, couldn’t…”ready his soldier for battle”, so he “went downtown” instead. Corinne’s friend, who’s a producer on the show, told her that it’d look bad for her to be getting serviced on camera like that. A lot of other contestants reportedly witnessed the event, and said that the two were even seen canoodling together later that night. Then, Corinne started saying that she couldn’t remember the events of the night, and that she had never given consent for what happened. So now both sides are lawyered up, blaming the other for character assassination and worse. Oh, by the way, if you’re not familiar with Bachelor In Paradise, it’s a spinoff where the contestants are encouraged to get drunk and try to fuck. So…mission accomplished?

The format of the show was just asking for a controversy like this, and I’m amazed that it took this long for something like this to hit the Bachelor franchise. I don’t know anything about DeMario, but the one season of The Bachelor that I watched featured Corinne as the villain of the season. She was constantly boasting of her sexual prowess, saying things like “My ‘vagine’ is platinum.” Her tactic to win the show was to throw herself at The Bachelor early and often. Now, some folks are gonna interpret this as me saying she “deserved” this. If this was sexual assault, nobody deserves something like that. All I’m saying is that she was strategic in using sex to get what she wanted, and quick to cower when it didn’t work out as planned. Bachelor Nick Viall rebuffed all of her advances last season, and she’d end up pouting in her room, or taking a nap during the rose ceremony. She was notoriously immature yet manipulative. Word on the street was that she was up for her own show, but this little episode might’ve jeopardized the chances of that.

The most interesting part of this whole thing is that THEY HAVE THE TAPE! LET’S GO TO THE DAMN TAPE! How damning is that tape that it hasn’t been released yet? The production is most likely over for good, as the contestants have been sent home. The future of the show is in jeopardy because of this ordeal as there doesn’t really seem to be any coming back from this. The reality show fuck house actually turned into a fuck house. I guess their plan worked a little too well. If the show does come back, this is a watershed moment for dating shows, as nothing will be the same after this. Remember how talk shows changed when the Jenny Jones Murder took place? After that, they all became more staged, and Jerry Springer thrived in its wake. Now you can’t trust anything you see during daytime, while a show like Donahue couldn’t exist in the current climate. They’re gonna have to treat future iterations of The Bachelor with kid gloves, which isn’t what people come to see. When folks watch these shows, they wanna see if the contestants are gonna hook up. Now, they realize that standards and practices won’t allow that to be shown, but they still wanna see as much as the network will allow them to see. All these years after Joe Millionaire aired on Fox, folks don’t remember it for its janky premise (poor guy pretends to be a millionaire in order to find love from a pool of gold diggers), but rather for the scene of “Joe” (Evan Marriott) and contestant Sarah Kozer in the woods with some intense slurping on the audio. Lewd, yes, but boundary-pushing for 2003 and everyone was talking about it. The goal of these shows is to produce something to dominate the conversation for a while and, in that case, this whole thing has been a success. Still, there are serious matters at hand that need to be addressed, as folks are losing jobs (DeMario got fired for the allegations), and could also end up in jail.

After something like a year in teases, we finally have our release date for the DuckTales reboot: Aug 12th. The show will premiere on DisneyXD as an hour-long “mini movie”, and then be rebroadcast for the next 24 hours on the channel. Then,  the series will officially premiere on September 23rd, with 2 new episodes. As you saw above, we also got the new credit sequence and theme song. Some of the old fuddy duddies have taken issue with the remixed theme, but I love it. The most surprising thing to me is the new jacked Mrs. Beakley, but I figure there’ll be an in-series explanation for all that.

In the world of toys, Hasbro unveiled the full Netflix wave of Marvel Legends figures, and they look so great. In the beginning, I was scared these were gonna turn out to be exclusive to a particular retailer, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We already knew about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Punisher, but the wave is rounded out by Elektra, as well as comic versions of Blade and Bullseye. As an added surprise, there’s a Build A Figure in the form of Man-Thing. That character means nothing to me, but I’ll be buying the whole wave, so someone give me a shout if you wanna buy Man-Thing off me. That’s right, I’m offering my Man-Thing in exchange for money. I think that might be illegal…

Song of the Week

This week’s song is Morgan Wallen’s “The Way I Talk”, mainly because I completely identify with it. If you’ve ever spoken with me, the first question people tend to ask is “Where are you from? You sound SOUTHERN!” Also, I spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to figure out if that actually was a sample from Spacehog’s “In The Meantime” at the beginning (verdict: inconclusive).

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CMT is seriously considering reviving Tim Allen’s canceled ABC sitcom, Last Man Standing. They already air the reruns, so it seems like a natural fit.
  • An Injustice 2 eSports tournament will air on TBS in October. We’re really trying to make “eSports” a thing, huh?
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been renewed for a 4th season at Netflix. One of these days I’ll finally finish seasons 2 and 3…
  • Aisha Tyler announced yesterday that she will be leaving The Talk at the end of the season, due to her current commitments on Criminal Minds, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and Archer. Plus, she’ll be directing an upcoming film. Yeah, that’s probably enough jobs for one person.
  • Someone named Anthony Padilla is leaving something called Smosh. Apparently it’s a thing on the YouTubes. If you’ve got a tween, they can probably explain whatever this means.
  • In an update to something I mentioned last week, Sony has revised their plans to sell clean versions of their movies. Since it was found that the plan violated union contracts, now Sony will only offer clean versions of movies that have been approved by the director.
  • ABC has renewed “Toy Shark Tank”, AKA The Toy Box, for a second season.
  • I took a trip down memory lane to talk about the old Toy Biz Customer Service hotline.
  • In a baffling move, Amazon is buying Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. I haven’t been as confused about a business deal since K-Mart bought Sears.

When I first started West Week Ever, I came up with a No Death Policy. Even though I get kinda negative on here, I still want it to be a positive place. I have a bit of an odd history with death, as I became acquainted with it at an early age, so I like to stay away from all that. Plus, there’s that problem where if you mention one death, you’ve gotta mention ALL the deaths, and ain’t nobody got time for that – especially if that death didn’t really mean anything to me. Still, when I created this feature, I always knew there would be at least 2 important exceptions. I wasn’t looking forward to them, but given their age and health, I knew it would be something I’d have to tackle eventually. Sadly, one of those deaths occurred last Saturday.

When I was growing up, there were few things I looked forward to as much as the 1966 Batman series, weekday afternoons on Fox 5. While I’d gotten the Super Powers Batman and Batmobile toys when I was around 4, I really didn’t know anything about Batman until I was introduced to that show. Hell, I remember how I used to think Batman could fly. I mean, he had a cape! All people with capes fly, right? Anyway, like any kid, I was mesmerized by the POW! ZAP! BIFF! of the fight sequences. I was on the edge of my seat for the end of episode cliffhanger. I’d tie a sheet around my neck, and shadow box along with the Dynamic Duo as they fought King Tut’s goons. I also had a next door neighbor, Brian, who was a few years younger than me (he was 7 when I was 11, as I remember him thinking that was cool), and he worshipped the ground I walked on. He’d come over, and we’d be Batman and Robin, fighting invisible goons with gadgets I’d made from Construx and jump ropes. My concept of Batman was formed by Adam West and Burt Ward, walking up the side of buildings with their Bat Ropes.

As I grew up, I was introduced to other depictions of the Caped Crusader. I started reading comics in ’92, around the time that the classic Batman: The Animated Series debuted. Those versions of Batman were totally different than what I’d grown up knowing. The environment wasn’t as campy, the world was a darker place, and Batman wasn’t doing the Batusi. Over the years, I’ve had even more versions of Batman that I’ve compared to West’s rendition, but I’ve come to appreciate him even more. While the world around him was wacky, West’s Bruce Wayne/Batman was solid. He was smart, calculating, and always knew more than the folks around him. Can you imagine a “Tower of Babel” storyline (the classic JLA story where Batman takes down the rest of the Justice League using contingency plans he’d set up for all of them), starring West’s Batman? I can, and it would be AMAZING.

It seems life wasn’t too shabby for West offscreen, either. According to several stories, he was quite the hit with the ladies, and even had an 8-woman orgy with Riddler Frank Gorshin. ZOWIE! While he never really achieved mega success with anything else, he still established himself as a cult superstar, with his turn in Conan O’Brien’s failed pilot Lookwell, as well as his role as Mayor West on Family Guy, which introduced him to a new generation of fans. Other actors who portrayed Batman went on to other things. For Clooney, Kilmer, and Bale, the role is just another notch on the IMDB profile, but West WAS Batman. With the exception of probably Kevin Conroy, no one else has been so closely identified with the role as Adam West. At the end of the day, he’s the Batman that I always come back to, and the one to which I compare all newcomers. Adam West, born William West Anderson (hey, look at that!), was MY Batman and I think we were all lucky to have him. No, he didn’t have the West Week Ever. I don’t think that’s enough of an honor to indicate what he meant to me. So, with that in mind, Adam West is the inaugural inductee to the West Week Ever Hall of Fame. Farewell, old chum.

13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

09th Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/9/17

by Will

 

In an interesting shake-up over at CBS, Erinn Hayes has been let go from her role as wife to Kevin James in Kevin Can Wait. They say that the show is going in a new direction, which necessitated the firing. But here’s where it gets interesting. Leah Remini, who played James’s wife on King of Queens, popped up in the season finale as James’ former cop partner. Well, just before announcing Hayes’s departure, CBS announced that Remini would be joining the show next season as a series regular. Now, if you’ve never seen Kevin Can Wait, Kevin James plays a former NYC cop who tries to figure out how to adjust to his recent retirement. Based on the season finale, though, it seems like James’s character might be coming out of retirement. It’s just a strange move, seeing as how the show ended the season as the #1 new comedy on network TV – hardly a situation that necessitated a retooling of the show. Part of what critics praised was Hayes’s portrayal of James’s wife of 20 years. How do you just gloss over that relationship? I mean, they’ve gotta kill her off, but unless you do a time jump, you’ve gotta slog through all the grief stuff, which doesn’t lend itself well to a multicam comedy. And if they’re gonna fast track a relationship between James and Remini, will the audience accept it? It really feels like they blew a sure thing and, if they wanted to recreate The King of Queens, thy should’ve just revived The King of Queens! I’ve said that online since Kevin was announced!

Speaking of Remini, I’m starting to think she’s a Scientology double agent. Bear with me here: Scientology is a well-connected organization in Hollywood that allegedly has the power to ruin your career with the information that they have on their members. If you ever leave the church, you’re pretty much done. Just look at the list of former Scientologists. On that list, Remini and Jeffrey Tambor are the one ones who even have a semblance of a steady career right now, and Tambor kinda skirted the issue by saying he never really joined the church. Remini, however, joined up as a child, and was a HUGE booster of the church. Then, in 2013, she turned on the church – not for its negative views on homosexuality (which is why Crash director Paul Haggis left) or its alleged illegal activities. No, she left because she got her feelings hurt after leadership clapped back at her. At Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes, Remini asked why church leader David Miscavige’s wife wasn’t in attendance, and they basically told her she didn’t have clearance for that info (formal speak for “Nunyo Biznazz”). She didn’t trust that answer, and went further to file a missing persons report on Mrs. Miscavige. Then, she made it her mission to publicly discredit Miscavige, criticizing his leadership, citing reports of abuse in the Sea Org, and more. She went straight to the TOP with her blame game, yet NOTHING has happened to her. In fact, it’s probably rejuvenated her career. She got a successful show on A&E called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, where she’s basically telling all their secrets. When the show debuted, the church issued a statement attacking her. Yet, she’s working more now than she was before. So, there’s two things happening here: either Scientology isn’t as powerful and litigious as we’ve been led to believe OR they’re in on it. It’s yin and yang. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. While Scientology has its critics, it never really had an enemy before. Why not create one where they could control the narrative? It’s like learning that Captain America has secretly been Hydra the whole time. Long story short, I’m not entirely convinced she’s left the church, especially over something as trivial as what’s reported to have started the whole thing. And she’s laughing all the way to the bank.

In other TV news, Tia and Tamera Mowry (yeah, they got married and have new hyphenated last names, but I ain’t got time for all that) are trying to get a Sister, Sister revival off the ground. And I don’t know anyone who wants this. If you were cool back in the 90s you probably never watched Sister, Sister, where a set of adopted twins didn’t realize they were twins until a chance meeting in a department store, a la The Parent Trap. Then they all move in together. It was the definition of “mediocre”, yet once ABC canceled it, it gained a new life over on The WB. The most memorable thing about it was that Marques “Batman” Houston, of the R&B group Immature/IMx, played their annoying neighbor Roger (kinda like a watered down Steve Urkel), and they’d constantly yell “Go home, Roger!” at him. Other than that, it was just a bunch of zany, mistaken identity twin shit – stuff that I’d hope adult Tia and Tamera had outgrown by now. What’s the story to tell? They both get divorced, and move in together with their kids? Sorry, Kate & Allie, Getting By, and the upcoming Raven’s Home have already covered that old chestnut. Are they single in the city, doing the same twin shit? Not interested. I don’t have a lot of faith in this one getting picked up, though, because they’re far behind where they need to be. Right now, they say they’re looking for a show runner to guide the project, but then they’d have to find a network. Sister, Sister was NO Full House, so I doubt Netflix would be interested. If anything, the only place I’d put it right now would probably be Freeform, even though the twins are slightly older than the target demo of that channel. Let this just be a lesson that not everything needs to be revived.

In other television news, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has cast Tala Ashe as Muslim “hacktivist” Zari Adrianna Tomaz for season 3. She’s a computer whiz from 2030, so basically the team’s got their own Oracle/Felicity now – not that they really need it, with Gideon and all. Anyway, in comics Tomaz is actually an Egyptian who uses the Amulet of Isis to transform into the hero Isis. Before the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe, Isis was an important character in the weekly series 52, as she was in a relationship with Black Adam, and her brother, Osiris, was eaten by Sobek. Oh, and she had a cheesy TV show in the 70s. None of that’s gonna be in the Legends, I’m sure. Given the current political climate, and how loaded the name “Isis” is right now, I doubt they’ll actually ever call her that onscreen, either.

Song of the Week

Today I give you “Vampires”, by The Midnight. My pal and thrifting partner, “Special Forces”, and I decided that this is the official theme song for Thrift Justice should it ever become a real show. Synthwave AND saxophone?! I wanna direct Skinemax movies just so I can score them with this entire album. So sexy. Right now, Thrift Justice is a USA drama circa 1990, and I ain’t got no problems with that!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland will guest star on Freeform’s Shadowhunters, which kinda sounds like a step back
  • Speaking of Freeform, they’ve ordered a pilot for an American adaptation of UK hit Misfits. The network is a good home for something like this, but I’m still pissed over the American adaptation of Skins, so…
  • Rudy Huxtable herself, Keshia Knight Pulliam, escorted TV dad Bill Cosby to the first day of his rape trial. Whatever. Call me when Lisa Bonet shows up.
  • In next level pettiness, Taylor Swift put her entire catalog back on Spotify at midnight – at the very moment Katy Perry released her album “Witness”
  • According to Dan Aykroyd, Paul Feig blew his chance at a Ghostbusters sequel because he overran his budget on unnecessary reshoots. Sony refuted the figures Aykroyd presented, saying the estimates were off by about NINETY percent. Woo!
  • Jennifer Connelly will join Daveed Diggs in TNT’s Snowpiercer pilot, playing the person who makes the daily announcements on the train. Exciting!
  • Tom Cruise revealed that the title of the Top Gun sequel will be Top Gun: Maverick. I wonder if John McCain has any feelings about that. Coherent feelings, not ramblings about the Diamondbacks…
  • Speaking of Cruise, his The Mummy reboot opens today, and reviewers have called it “the worst Tom Cruise movie ever”. Wow.
  • Singer/actress/sister of Ray J Brandy was found unconscious on a Delta flight, and the doctor who came to her rescue was reportedly Kim Kardashian’s uncle! Considering Ray J put that family on the map, I figure it’s time the Kardashians did something to return the favor.
  • Gotham stars Morena Baccarin and Ben McKenzie got married. Knowing that show, it’ll probably revealed that they’re Bruce’s real parents or some shit. It’s not like it pays attention to any of the rest of the lore, so why not?
  • Fox canceled 24 Legacy after a low-rated single season, but they’re still committed to the 24 brand. They’re reportedly developing an anthology series to take the show back to its real-time roots
  • Like Peter denied Jesus, Jerry Seinfeld denied THREE requests for a hug from Kesha. I don’t blame him!
  • In one of the strangest deals I’ve ever heard of, Epix has inked a deal to stream its content directly to 2018 Honda Odyssey  minivans
  • Sony will begin selling clean versions of some of their hit movies. If you’ve ever accidentally bought a clean version of an album from Walmart, you can see why this decision might anger some folks
  • Hank Williams Jr is back singing the opening to Monday Night Football for the first time since 2011. I guess all his rowdy friends will be over after they finish burning a few more crosses…
  • George and Amal Clooney welcomed twins Ella and Alexander
  • Former Power Rangers director/producer/fight coordinator Koichi Sakamoto will direct the upcoming Ultraman Geed series, focusing on the son of the evil Ultraman Belial. Yeah, those words mean something to someone out there.
  • Newcomer Blu Hunt has been cast as Danielle Moonstar in the upcoming New Mutants spinoff of the X-Men films.
  • A live action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is being developed, and my heart weeps. As one of the few anime series I’ve watched, and loved, I kinda hope this dies in development hell
  • Hackers released 8 stolen episodes of ABC’s upcoming game show, Funderdome, and nobody cared.
  • Donald Glover will be retiring her Childish Gambino hip hop persona after his next album.

  • We got our first poster for the Black Panther film.

Last week I gave my opinions and feelings on the movie. This week, I’m just gonna stick to the facts:

  • 92% on Rotten Tomatoes
  • $103 million opening weekend domestic box office
  • $220 million opening weekend global box office
  • Third highest opening for a DC film
  • Most successful female-directed film
  • Mot expensive female-directed film, with a budget of $150 million
  • Most tweeted about movie of 2017, with 2.19 million tweets
  • Won Best In Show and Best Fantasy/Adventure at the Golden Trailer Awards
  • Last Saturday, Wonder Woman Day was celebrated at comic shops around the world

You’ve seen it by now, right? RIGHT?! Then, what are you waiting for? For these reasons, and more, Wonder Woman once again had the West Week Ever.

02nd Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/2/17

by Will

Whoo boy! This is gonna be a controversial one this week, but I’ve got some stuff to get off my chest.

First up, there was controversy surrounding the new Wonder Woman film (in theaters now!). Theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced women-only screenings for the film, where proceeds would go to women’s charities, including Planned Parenthood. Originally planned to be 5 screenings at the Austin and Brooklyn locations, tickets sold out instantly and more screenings were added. According to Alamo, the screenings were meant to be a celebration of “Girl Power”, and were only open to those who identified as women. Now, this isn’t the first time Alamo has done special screenings, as they have screenings for active military members, as well as for children with special sensory needs.  I’ve also heard other explanations, like the screenings give women a safe space to watch the film without having it mansplained to them the entire time. But, of course, the social media shitstorm started. A lot of folks who might be considered Men’s Rights Activists felt that this was discrimination, and that they should retaliate with all-male screenings of the next Star Wars movie.

As Twitter was dead over the holiday weekend, I tweeted that the backlash to the screening was stupid, but the screening itself is also kinda stupid. Now, hear me out: I see both sides of the issue here. Alamo wanted to make a fun exclusive event to celebrate the release of a movie starring a female superhero. That doesn’t happen every day, so it was a cause to celebrate. I’m not “butthurt” over the idea. That said, Alamo had to know they’d get this kind of reaction, as this kind of thing is somewhat of a slippery slope. “How is it a slippery slope, Will?” So glad you asked! Let’s, for a moment, propose a different kind of screening. Let’s say it was a Black Only screening of Get Out. I mean, it had a similar pedigree in that it was a Black horror/suspense film from a Black director – something that also doesn’t happen every day. You’d better believe people would have a problem with that! Sure, it could be spun as a celebration “for the culture”, meant to foster community and whatnot, but White people would shit ALL the bricks! So, as this has been great publicity for both Wonder Woman and Alamo Drafthouse, they knew exactly what they were doing when they set out to do this. In the long run, this isn’t gonna hurt Alamo or Wonder Woman one bit, but let’s not act like this was some kind of altruistic celebration of sisterhood. This was Shrewd Marketing 101.

See? I toldja this would be a controversial one, and I’m just getting started!

Let’s visit the world where Hollywood and politics intersect. You see, comedienne Kathy Griffin posted a photo of herself holding what was meant to be Donald Trump’s severed head. AND PEOPLE LOST THEIR MINDS! Trump, himself, even took time off from golfing and nudging his way to the front of photo ops to tweet about it, saying that it had affected his 11 year-old son, Barron, who apparently thought the photo was real. The backlash was strong against Griffin, who apologized hours later, but still ending up losing her Squatty Potty endorsement, as well as her CNN New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper. A lot of people seem to be in agreement of the backlash, but I’m gonna take a different approach: I don’t think the photo was that bad.

There are so many things to unpack here, so bear with me as I try to navigate through all of it. Societies have a history of burning politicians in effigy as a form of protest so, while extreme, how is this any different? Had she actually decapitated the man, and was brandishing his severed head on social media as some sort of trophy, that would’ve been too far. Like it or not, this was “art”, and you don’t really get to judge art. It can make you uncomfortable but at least it triggered some sort of opinion or emotion, which means it did its job.

I also feel like this is a situation where folks are more upset by the messenger than the message. Kathy Griffin isn’t taken seriously. We’ve put her in this box along with Andy Dick and several other unpredictable, slightly unstable comedians who at one time did a stint on an NBC sitcom. We don’t expect anything “deep” from her, because we’ve already written her off. She knows this, as she’s in on the joke. I mean, her reality series was called My Life On The D-List, so she knows she’s not a top-tier celebrity. Still, she has a team behind her, as everyone in Hollywood does, and they all decided that this was something she was going to do. Maybe she felt it’d just blow over because of her lessened celebrity status, or maybe it’s doing just what she thought it would. A friend and I were talking about it the other night, and he’s the one who made me realize it was the messenger we were blaming here. After all, if Samantha Bee had done this, liberals would be creaming their jeans about how daring and smart it was. Why? Because that’s what people expect of her. Griffin made the simple mistake of veering out of her lane, and that’s how we got to where we are now.

Now, let’s look at the photographer, Tyler Shields, whose work tends to push boundaries like this. For him, this was just another Tuesday photoshoot, and this isn’t the first time that Griffin has worked with him. I mean, just look at some of his work above. He likes weird shit, but again, it’s art and we don’t really get to police it.

Meanwhile, there’s the whole thing about Barron thinking the photo was real. That poor, poor boy. To quote Hank Hill, “That boy ain’t right”, and the family either refuses to acknowledge it or is dealing with it in secret. On the one hand, I guess I have to commend the fact that we’ve “grown” to the point of saying “Kids are off limits”, but I find it convenient that we’re adopting that stance now. Where was that when comedians were calling little Chelsea Clinton a “dog” every chance they got? Where was that when Sasha and Malia had to see the stuff folks said about them and their family? It’s a shame that Barron doesn’t know the difference between a photo and reality but, as one Tweeter put it, it wouldn’t be an issue if Donald actually lived with his son. But I digress. I think this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion to dominate the news cycle. After all, last weekend it was looking like Jared Kushner was in the hot seat, and then next thing you know, it’s Kathy Griffin this, and covfefe that.

Where to next? Oh yeah, remember Mary Kay Letourneau? She was one of the first stories of teachers sleeping with their students to hit the news. Back in the late 90s, Letourneau fell in love with her student, 12 year old Vili Fualaau, and ended up getting impregnate by him. She was convicted of child rape, served 3 months in jail, and THEN got caught having sex with Fualaau in her car just two weeks after her release. And she got pregnant again. She served 6 years that time, but married Fualaau when she got out. And they lived happily ever after…until May 9th of this year, when Fualaau filed for legal separation from Letourneau. Now 33, perhaps Letourneau simply got too old for him at 55. But the plot thickens! Yesterday, that bastion of journalistic integrity, The New York Post, reported that the separation was really just something of a scam. You see, Fualaau wants to get a license to sell pot, but he knows they’ll do a background check before granting it to him, and it wouldn’t look good to be married to a registered sex offender. He claims they’re still in love and this is just a business arrangement. So, while he awaits his pot license, he’s working as a DJ in Washington state. Too bad she couldn’t fuck some ambition into him all those years ago! Fun fact: one of Letourneau’s brothers is a foreign policy adviser to the president. He’s clearly been doing a heck of a job lately!

Still here? OK, then let’s talk about some pop culture stuff. Someone at NBC must’ve read my Upfronts post, as they just announced changes that perfectly mirror my suggestions. This Is Us will no longer be moving to Thursday, and will stay put on Tuesday nights. Meanwhile, the comedies planned for Tuesday, Superstore and The Good Place, are moving to Thursday to join Will & Grace and Great News for a 2-hour comedy block. This is how it alway should’ve been, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on at NBC. From the cancellation/uncancellation of Timeless to this new schedule scramble, it makes you wonder who’s at the wheel over there. Still, I think these are smart moves, so hopefully they’ll work out in the long run.

The hardest working man in Hollywood, Ryan Seacrest, is developing a new show. Best.Cover.Ever. will air on YouTube and will feature people singing cover songs, vying for the chance to sing a duet with the original artist of the song they sang. Hosted by Ludacris, the show will feature Demi Lovato, Jason Derulo, and Backstreet Boys to start out. Contestants are asked to upload videos of covers of “Trumpets”, “Confident”, and “As Long As You Love Me”. The artists will each choose two finalists, who will be the contestants actually featured on the show. The winner gets to duet with the original artist for an exclusive YouTube performance. It’s an interesting concept, and it requires a partnership with a streaming service to work, but I’m still not sure it’s going to be successful. I’m also surprised that it’s not on YouTube Red, where they can charge for it. After all, nobody really talks about the offerings on YouTube Red, but this is the kind of thing that could get folks talking and maybe boost subscriptions. I’m a sucker for “As Long As You Love Me”, so I’ll be keeping tabs on this just to see how it fares.

Major news in the world of pop music this morning, as will.i.am confirmed that Fergie has left the Black Eyed Peas to focus on her solo career. The news isn’t exactly a surprise, as last week it was announced that she was leaving the band’s label, Interscope, to start her own label, Duchess Music, over at BMG. It’s still a pretty big deal, though, as she’s been with the band for the past 15 years. Still, I feel like their time has come and gone. They showed up, gave the world a suitable soundtrack replacement for Jock Jams, and left their mark. However, will.i.am says they’re still together, recording new music to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. To be honest, I thought they were gonna be done in 2008, when they released The E.N.D., but it proved successful enough, with the hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling”, that they just kept trucking along. Now there are rumors swirling that Nicole Scherzinger might replace Fergie in the group, which would be her third time in a group, after Eden’s Crush and The Pussycat Dolls. I swear, Scherzinger must have a tail or something, because there’s some sort of defect that’s preventing a label from being able to package her as a solo act. Always a bridesmaid…Anyway, let’s pour one out for The Duchess and her tenure with Your Grandma’s Favorite Rap Group.

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings recently said that he felt Netflix should be canceling more shows. In his mind, they have too many hits, which results in creators taking fewer chances and not “swinging for the fences”. The successful shows are basically taking real estate from potential new hits. Now, it being the internet, there’s no “real estate”, per se, but it’s still marketing dollars, bandwidth, etc. It used to be that you could count on a Netflix series getting at least 2 seasons, but they just killed that with the cancellation of The Get Down after its first season. Yesterday, they followed the trend and canceled the sci fi series Sense8 after its second season just debuted last month. If the axe is swinging, I’m worried about the shows that aren’t generating a ton of buzz right now, like F is for Family and the adaptation of Dear White People. Kind of a weird problem to have, though: too much success might be making them complacent. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the Marvel shows, as well as the Netflix perennials like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

There was a scary moment last weekend at Phoenix Comicon, when police arrested a man who reportedly had three handguns, a shotgun, knives, pepper spray, and throwing stars, and had a reminder on his phone that said “Kill JDF.” That’s right, folks – his plan was to kill the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Jason David Frank, as well as some police officers. Sidebar: can you imagine being so absentminded that you need to set a phone reminder to make sure you remember to murder your target?! Anyway, the reason police were able to capture 31 year old Mathew Sterling was because he had told his plan to some chick on social media, who then tipped off the police. Anyway, JDF continued with the convention as if nothing had happened, claiming that he wasn’t going to let fear govern his life. Meanwhile, the convention cracked down on prop weapons and banned them from the show. In fact, if you were getting your Saba or Dragon Dagger swords signed by JDF that weekend, he was posting on social media that you would have to leave them in their boxes. This has caused other conventions to look at their own weapons policies, so look for some changes coming up on the con circuit.

Song of the Week

This week, I give you “You Look Good”, but Lady Antebellum. This is just such a funky song, and could’ve been a contender for Song of the Summer had they waited a bit longer to release it. Anyway, it’s like the 2017 offspring of Santana and Rob Thomas’s “Smooth”. I really dig it, and I think you will, too.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hailee Steinfeld is in talks to star in the Transformers spinoff, Bumblebee
  • After 14 years off the air, MTV is bringing back the MTV Beach House this summer
  • WGN America has canceled slavery drama Underground after 2 seasons
  • There are reports that Steven Spielberg is gearing up for an Animaniacs reboot
  • Fresh off the recently canceled Powerless, Vanessa Hudgens was announced as a judge on the upcoming season of So You Think You Can Dance
  • Scott Pelley is out as the anchor of CBS Evening News, and will return to 60 Minutes in a full-time capacity
  • A Sin City TV series is in the works
  • Universal is reportedly interested in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the role of The Wolfman in their Dark Universe franchise
  • Speaking of Dark Universe, I called it last week: Warner Bros may sue Universal over the Dark Universe title. According to official documents, however, it appears Universal may have had the name first.
  • Charlie Heaton, of Stranger Things fame, is reportedly up for the role of Cannonball in the X-Men spinoff, New Mutants – which is now supposedly going to be a straight horror movie. Um, OK…
  • Speaking of New Mutants, Fox continues to mine Netflix shows, as 13 Reasons Why‘s Henry Zaga has been cast as Sunspot
  • Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor have split after 18 years together
  • The Ludacris-hosted Fear Factor reboot premiered on MTV this week
  • Tiger Woods was arrested for a DUI, even though he had no alcohol in his system and was found passed out in his car. He says it was the result of mixing prescription drugs, but the whole thing sound fishy

  • Sharknado 5: Global Swarming will premiere August 6th on SyFy, guest starring Charo, Fabio, Tony Hawk, and Chris Kattan. This thing is one Ted Lange appearance away from becoming a Love Boat reboot
  • Thanks to an article on Slate, we now know to pronounce the “T” in Gal Gadot’s name.

I had absolutely no desire to see Wonder Woman. While she was my favorite part of of Dawn of Justice, I just wasn’t jazzed about the idea of her starring in a World War I period piece. I mean, we already got that movie, and it was called Captain America: The First Avenger (before you history buffs come out of the woodworks, I know that movie was set in WWII: War Harder). I wasn’t looking forward to DC’s lackluster attempt at a retread of that. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself in the theater on opening night. And then imagine my surprise when the movie ended, and I realized that I LOVED it!

It might be premature to say that Warner Bros has finally righted the DCEU ship, but Wonder Woman is definitely a step in the right direction. My buddy Chad predicted that it would be the new gold standard in comic book movies, and while I don’t think it quite achieves that, it’s definitely the gold standard for the DC Universe. It’s one of the rare comic book movies where I left and didn’t really have any issues with plot holes. It was such a joy to watch, thanks to the acting of Gal Gadot. First of all, she’s so goddamn beautiful that it should be illegal for the camera to be trained on her for prolonged periods of time. Seriously, I thought I was gonna have a seizure like those kids did from that Pokémon episode back in ’99. She does such a great job playing  up Wonder Woman’s sweet naiveté about “Man’s World”, but is also a commanding presence during the battles. It’s funny how when she was cast, we were all saying “She’s too small to be Wonder Woman”, but watching her onscreen, all those doubts slip away.

Now, as much as I loved it, it’s not a perfect film. It deftly straddles the line between “suspension of disbelief” and just plain hokey, but it sort of feels like a 90s comic book movie in that way. And while Patty Jenkins may have directed it, Zack Snyder’s fingerprints are ALL OVER IT (as he co-wrote it with Allan Heinberg). I swear, I think about 60% of it was pure green screen, as I sat there thinking to myself, “This is on a soundstage. That is on a soundstage. Oh, that’s definitely a sound stage.” At points (especially during the final act), it shifts into that “Snydervision” that most of the DCEU movies are in, where it just becomes a copper-tinted music video.

Plus, I’m still not sure about the shared universe nature of the DCEU. While Marvel has almost flawlessly built their world over the course of many films, it just feels so forced with the DC movies. Whereas the MCU feels organic, the DCEU feels copycat. The framing device of the movie is meant to sort of further that idea of a shared universe, but I’m not sure it works. To be honest, I’d probably enjoy it more if I knew nothing about Dawn of Justice or the fact that she’ll pop up in Justice League later this year. She’s strong enough to stand on her own, and the rest of the disappointing DCEU almost taints her.

All that said, it’s really a great cinematic debut for the character, and young girls finally have their own big screen hero. Not to give too much away, but as the film starts, Diana is a wide-eyed little girl, and I could see so much of the audience connecting with that. I thought of my own daughter, and the fact the she now has her own hero. I think that will mean a lot to folks. As far as I’m concerned, scrap Justice League and the rest of the solo films on DC’s slate, and rush Wonder Woman 2 into production stat! For these reasons, Wonder Woman had the West Week Ever.

05th May2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/5/17

by Will

In TV news, we got the first trailer for Marvel’s The Defenders series on Netflix. I dunno, y’all. I’ll be the first person to tell you that I’m behind on these shows. At this point, I’ve only seen Daredevil season 1 and Jessica Jones. No DD S2, no Luke Cage, and no Iron Fist. Sorry, kids, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Daredevil was a worthy bingeing experience, as each episode ended on a cliffhanger that MADE you have to check out the next episode immediately. Jessica Jones, not so much. It took me about 3 months to get through that show. Now, I enjoyed it, but it didn’t demand that I consume it immediately. I’m eager to catch Luke Cage, but I wanna go in order, so that means I’ve got to meet the Punisher and Elektra first in Daredevil season 2. So, even though The Defenders comes out in August, I’ll be lucky if I get to it in 2017. Anyway, I told you all that to make you see that my level of enthusiasm for this probably isn’t as high as yours because I’m so far behind. That said, I thought this trailer looked hokey as Hell. The scene where Murdock comes into Jessica’s interrogation felt like a bad fan film. Shit, the whole thing felt like a bad fan film. Remember when Playstation Network aired that Bendis Powers show? Yeah, it looks like that. Something about the cinematography of it all. And then they had to do another goddamn hallway fight. WE GET IT ALREADY! I just don’t know about this one right now..

In other TV news, there are talks of a Roseanne revival, with ABC and Netflix interested bidding on the project. Laurie Metcalf, Aunt Jackie herself, reported that contracts have been worked out, so now they’re just trying to sell the series. Right now, Roseanne (does she currently have a last name?), John Goodman, and Sara Gilbert would star, while Metcalfe says she’s on board in some capacity. It’ll be interesting to see how they pull this off, ya know with Dan being dead and all. Still, it ended with one of the most maligned series finales in television history, and they’ve got a chance to basically erase it. How many shows can say that? Anyway, I was never a huge Roseanne fan. They were just so poor and depressing. Are they gonna lose the bike shop? Are they gonna lose the loose meat restaurant? Is Fisher gonna stop beating up Jackie? I know their struggles resonated with certain folks, but not me. I actually liked the Lottery Season because I could say “Thank God their lives aren’t such shit anymore!” Anyway, I’d bet money on this happening, so it’s now just a matter of where it’s gonna air. The big question is in which “universe” it will be set. After all, the finale basically laid out that everything since about season 4 of the show had been a lie, since Darlene actually ended up with Mark, Becky was the one with David, Jackie was a lesbian, etc. So, would we get the “true” Roseanne, or just more of what we’re used to? And with Mark dead, and David on The Big Bang Theory, I don’t really expect much from those characters anyway. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I was on my own last weekend, so I took the time to watch TV and catch up comics. Well, I didn’t really watch TV, but it was on in the background. It provided the soundtrack to my comic time. What did I watch? CMT – Country Music Television. Yeah, yeah, you hate country. I don’t care. I grew up on it, so it has a special place in my heart. Anyway, when I saw Brad Paisley’s new video for “Last Time For Everything”, I KNEW I had to share it with y’all. This thing is a love letter to children of the 80s, complete with tracking/tape distortion lines. I don’t wanna spoil anything, so just check it out. Don’t worry – the song’s not about drankin’, or a dead dog, or his wife left him; it’s just a song about appreciating things when you have them because they won’t always be there.

The backdoor pilot for the Black-ish spinoff aired this week. Oh, you don’t know what a “backdoor pilot” is? It’s when an established show gives up one of its episodes to try to launch a new show. Since it already has a built-in audience, it kinda tricks viewers into watching a new show that they otherwise wouldn’t have checked out. Married…with Children had, like, 4 of them. Anyway, in Black-ish, Zoey went off to check out college, made a new best friend, and pissed off the Black Student Union. The whole episode was kinda hokey, but it worked. Chris Parnell was the spineless dean, which is basically every Chris Parnell character these days. And I love how they worked Deon Cole’s Charlie into the plot. If the spinoff gets picked up (I mean, why wouldn’t it?), I hope he gets a bigger role there than he has on Black-ish. If Black-ish is a modern-day Cosby Show, then this is its A Different World. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that, really.

If you like useless gimmick items as much as I do, then make sure you pick up your Frork from McDonalds today. To celebrate the release of their three new Signature Crafted Recipes (Pico Guacamole, Sweet BBQ Bacon, and Maple Bacon Dijon), they’re releasing a utensil that they know nobody needs, but hey, why not? The Frork is basically a fry holder, where the fries act as the tines of the fork. In the infomercial, complete with Anthony Sullivan appearance, they claim the Frork will help you scoop up the toppings that fall off your overflowing sandwich. I swear Anthony Sullivan killed Billy Mays ‘so he’d get ALL that sweet infomercial work. But I digress…If you would like a Frork, check this link to see if one of your local McDonalds locations is giving them out today.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • HBO has hired writers for FOUR potential Game of Thrones spinoffs. So, get ready for Match of Chairs, Bout of Seats, Mother of Dragons and, my personal favorite, Tits & Swords.
  • Warner Bros has pushed back its theatrical animated Scooby-Doo film two years to 2020.
  • Girl Meets World is officially dead, as creator Michael Jacobs was unable to find a new home for the series.
  • While this news is about a month old, FXX has decided against a fourth season of Man Seeking Woman, which wrapped up its 3rd season in March. The season finale was a fitting series finale, so I ain’t mad.
  • Hot on the heels of its premiere, Hulu has renewed The Handmaid’s Tale for a second season.
  • Surprising no one, Fox canceled the freshman drama Pitch, about the first female major league baseball player. Following on their heels, NBC canceled the Wizard of Oz update Emerald City.
  • It was reported that Gabriel Luna’s Ghost Rider will be returning to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the season finale

  • Speaking of Marvel TV, we got our first cast picture from Inhumans. KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

  • We also got our first look at the cast of Marvel’s Runaways on Hulu. They look like the comic, but I still hate that they aged Molly. I like her more as a precocious child to balance them out.
  • A strike by the Writers Guild of America, which would’ve affected all corners of entertainment, was narrowly averted at the 11th hour
  • Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski revealed that they’re engaged. Man, they shit in the company ink! That’s the saying, right?

The biggest TV news of the week was that Ryan Seacrest was announced as Kelly Ripa’s permanent cohost on what will now be called Live with Kelly & Ryan. This bothered me so much! First of all, I was really kinda hoping an underdog, like Fred Savage, would get it. And if they had to go with a media person, they had Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen on the list. But Seacrest?! The dude’s empire is based in LA and, yes, he has an empire. He’s a modern-day Merv Griffin, producing Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Shades of Blue, and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. He also has a daily syndicated radio show, On Air With Ryan Seacrest, as well as hosts the weekly American Top 40 countdown. With all that going on, you’d think he’d stay in LA instead of taking a job from a New Yorker. Instead, iHeartMedia has built a radio station in the ABC Studios building so that he can do his radio show immediately after taping Live. The plan is for him to stay in New York Monday-Thursday to film Live, he’ll pretape Friday’s show on Thursday, and then he’ll spend Friday-Sunday in LA.

But that’s not ALL the Seacrest news this week. You see, talks of an American Idol revival have heated up again. I wrote about it a few weeks ago, when NBC and Fox were both interested in the show – NBC especially because they could, then, reduce The Voice to one cycle a year. Those talks fell through, but now it appears that ABC has gotten into the game, with one stipulation: there’s no Idol without Seacrest, so the show would have to move to New York so he could continue to host. The show’s production company, Fremantle, insists that it stays in LA. ABC wants to announce it during the May upfronts, which occur in two weeks, for a Fall 2018 premiere (yeah, it ain’t gonna be ready by this Fall). So here’s the plan on how that would work: Fremantle wants to air Idol on Sunday nights from LA, where Seacrest would then fly to NYC after the show in order to make it in time to film Live Monday morning. After filming Monday’s Live, he would then fly back to LA for the Idol results show. Once that’s over, he would fly back to NYC in time for Tuesday’s Live. My God! The live portion of Idol is only 10 weeks, but that is a grueling schedule that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. So far, however, it seems that ABC’s plan would be to air Idol on Mondays, to go head to head with The Voice, so this plan wouldn’t work.

Say what you will about Seacrest, but I’ve always admired the dude’s work ethic. He doesn’t seem to know the word “no”, and he’s constantly building his brand. With the exception of the short-lived On Air With Ryan Seacrest TV show (which is conveniently missing from his Wikipedia entry), he doesn’t really fail at anything. I guess hard work and determination really can take you places. I’ll tell ya, back when he was hosting Click and Gladiators 2000, I had NO CLUE he would become as big as he is. He makes me wanna go out and get 3 more jobs. Then again, I wouldn’t have his net worth of $330 million, but it’d be a start. Anyway, for taking all the jobs, while growing in power, Ryan Seacrest had the West Week Ever.

28th Apr2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/28/17

by Will

So the big media news this week was the announcement of the DC Comics streaming service, which will be the home of the long-delayed live action Titans series, as well as the third season of the Young Justice cartoon. Other than that, very little else is known about the service. Most fans suspect that it’ll have the entire DC library, including animated films, older cartoons like Justice League, and live action series not currently on The CW/Fox. That’s a bit ambitious, though.

I’m reminded of how the concept of UPN was introduced to the public, with ads that touted all of the classic television that Paramount had given us over the years: Family Ties, Cheers, Star Trek – did this mean that this new network would become the exclusive home for those shows? No, it instead meant we were to brace ourselves for Love Boat: The Next Wave and Shasta McNasty. I get that same feeling here. DC has a great slate of animated films, and some classic animated series, but I think this might end up the hub for newer, untested properties. Take the Titans show for instance. TNT passed on that thing. TNT! They know drama! Sure, it’s produced by Greg Berlanti, but I feel like if it had any real promise, it wouldn’t be relegated to a digital platform that’s not Hulu or Netflix. Same with Young Justice. Sure, it had a following, and the reasons for its cancellation vary depending on who you ask, but expecting the fans to shell out for yet another streaming service isn’t exactly a gesture of goodwill. I’m not paying CBS to watch Star Trek, and I ain’t paying DC for this until I get some more details. Right now, though, it’s a typical DC announcement, where they rushed to announce before a lot of key aspects were in place.

Speaking of DC, NBC basically cancelled Powerless this week by removing all upcoming episodes from their schedule. It’s not a big surprise, as the entire cast deserved better than that show had to offer. In all honesty, I feel like the ties to the DC Universe actually hurt it. If they wanted to do the whole Workplace Comedy Set In A Comic Universe thing, then it probably would’ve worked better with generic superheroes and villains created just for the show. Sure, they mentioned Batman, and the Wayne family plays a pivotal role (which I also had problems with), but they showed Crimson Fox TWICE. CRIMSON FOX! Just mentioning Superman or Wonder Woman isn’t enough. Hell, they can mention those characters on The Middle and it wouldn’t violate any rights or copyright laws. No, this was a big case of Show, Don’t Tell and the show never really had a strong hand when all the cards were on the table. At least this frees up Ron Funches and Danny Pudi for bigger and better things.

I loved Kingsman: The Secret Service, so I am ALL IN for Kingsman: The Golden Circle. To be honest, I’m probably looking more forward to this than Star Wars Episode 8. Apparently, Kingsman is forced to team up with their American counterpart, Statesman, so it should be interesting to see how the teams play off each other. And I’m really hoping for some extreme American stereotypes. Based on Channing Tatum’s cowboy agent, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

In other movie news, Seth Rogen and Billy Eichner are rumored to be up for the roles of Pumbaa and Timon in Disney’s live action adaptation of The Lion King. I like both of these guys, but I really don’t even know why this movie is being made. I mean, sure, putting The Lion King on something is basically the same as printing money, but the recent debut of  the lackluster The Lion Guard showed that there’s a limit to how much you can mine from the property. I haven’t seen the live action adaptation of The Jungle Book, but I guess this will be like that? I mean, the whole thing is animals. How are they gonna do this? Maybe I’m overthinking it, but it just feels like Disney is out of ideas for the moment.

We got a trilogy, y’all! In a surprise move, M. Night Shyamalan tweeted that Glass would be released on January 18th, 2019, serving as the sequel to both Unbreakable and Split. I really enjoyed both of these movies, and it feels like M’s finally got his groove back, so this should be good.

In news that will only matter to you if you’re a Cornell alum, all-male a cappella group The Cayuga’s Waiters have been kicked off campus for hazing. And let me tell you, this couldn’t have happened to a shittier group of douchebags. When people think of a cappella, they always think of lame kids who probably did show choir in high school. And, in most cases, they’d be correct. The Waiters, however, were cut from different cloth. Originally a subset of the Cornell University Glee Club, they were basically a lewd fraternity that occasionally sang songs. Around 25 years ago, one of them wrote “We Didn’t Go To Harvard”, a parody of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, and they’ve pretty much been coasting on that ever since. Their offstage behavior rivaled that of actual rock stars. For example, they got kicked out of a charity concert when one of their members reportedly peed in the corner of the stage. And while there were a few good guys in that group, the core members were THE WORST. They were basically a singing Duke rape scandal waiting to happen. According to news reports, the hazing included making new members take naked ice baths and having them rub IcyHot on each others’ balls. Considering they got shut down, I’m thinking there was more serious stuff that the paper couldn’t print, like elephant walks or something. Anyway, good riddance to bad rubbish. Bet they wish they’d gone to Harvard now!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Captain America: The First Avenger director Joe Johnston will direct The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
  • Sony has given the Masters of the Universe film a December 18th, 2019 release date, but McG is no longer attached to direct. None of this matters, though, ‘cause this movie is never getting made.
  • Speaking of Sony, they’ve reportedly fired Dr Luke, and I HAVE SO MANY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS! But there’s no way I’m putting them in a blog post, for them to be dissected and taken out of context.
  • One of the former Bachelors killed a dude. Nah, I don’t know his name or care enough to look it up. Bachelors are just as replaceable as Duggar kids. He will be forgotten again soon enough
  • Jeff Goldblum will reportedly return to the land of dinosaurs in the Jurassic World sequel.
  • Riverdale’s Reggie Mantle will be recast prior to season 2, as actor Ross Butler is committed to Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, which is close to being renewed for a second season
  • Star Wars Episode IX’s release date has been revealed as May 23rd, 2019, which shifts the franchise’s releases out of the month of December

  • Darius “Eddie Winslow” McCrary posted the above pic, asking folks if they’d want a Family Matters reunion. Considering they both look like shit here, I’m leaning towards “no”

  • Speaking of TGIF reunions, Perfect Strangers stars Bronson Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker reunited for Chiller Theatre Expo last weekend in New Jersey. Cousin Larry has aged appropriately, but Balki clearly discovered Crossfit/discount mail-order steroids.
  • Jeb Bush and Derek Jeter are in a group trying to buy the Miami Marlins. Hey, it’s better than ending up on Dancing with the Stars!
  • Next fall, Steve Harvey’s TV talk show, Steve Harvey, will move to Los Angeles, and will take on a new format as Steve.
  • With this week’s series finale of Bates Motel, A&E announced they’re abandoning scripted television and moving to a reality show model.

Maybe it’s just the mood I’m in this week, but nothing really had the West Week Ever. Try harder next week, America!

21st Apr2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/21/17

by Will


Star Wars Celebration (I can’t say that without thinking of Dave Chappelle’s Rick James yelling “It’s a celebration, bitches!”) happened in Florida last weekend, and we got our first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Folks seemed to like it alright. I’ve never claimed to be the biggest Star Wars fan, but nothing about this really gave me a Force Boner or anything. That’s probably because Rogue One left such a bad taste in my mouth. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll see it, but it’s not really on my radar.

In other movie “news”, we got the track listing for Awesome Mix Vol 2 from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2., which comes out today. Is it just me, or is it weird that Mama Quill gave Peter mixtapes of all the songs that played while she was banging dudes in Camaros? Come on – she was totally that chick! Anyway, there are no real surprises here, as it seems to be in-line thematically with the first volume. Personally, I’m ecstatic that “Come A Little Bit Closer” will be introduced to a new generation, as I’m a huge fan of Jay and the Americans (check out “Cara Mia” if you’ve never heard it).

This rumor came out a few weeks ago, but it kinda floated under my radar: apparently Warner Bros wants to release 4 Batman-centered films in 2019 to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Detective Comics. This slate would include Nightwing, Gotham City Sirens, the Joss Whedon Batgirl, and the oft-delayed The Batman. Nice idea, but there’s no way this happens. DC just doesn’t have its shit together enough to pull this off. Marvel could do it, but they would’ve been planning it since 2012. It’s already 2017 and they expect to crank out 4 movies in 2 years? Shit ain’t happening.

Bring on the teen angst train, as we’ve got two more comic-based series just dripping with it! First up is Cloak and Dagger on Freeform, which looks like the Freeformiest show that ever Freeformed. It’ll be right at home between the show about the deaf girl and the show about the foster kids. I’ve never been a huge Cloak and Dagger fan, but the series follows teen runaways Tandy Bowen and Tyrone Johnson, who were kidnapped and injected with an experimental drug. The drug left Tandy (Dagger) with “light daggers”, while Tyrone (Cloak) has a mystical cloak that transports people and things to a dark dimension. Oh, and there’s that sweet, sweet interracial love/Jungle Fever aspect to things. Based on the trailer, it’s gonna focus more on the love thing than the power thing, which is understandable since powers are expensive on a weekly TV budget. I haven’t heard if this is actually considered part of the MCU, but it’s nice to see the Roxxon sign at the end, so there are clear ties to the universe itself.

The angst doesn’t end there, though, kids! We also got a trailer for Syfy’s Krypton series (which has since been yanked down) – ya know, the one that nobody asked for. It’s hard for me to get excited about Krypton when very little about that planet has ever seemed appealing. It’s most recently been painted as a cold, stoic, science-based society. And since they don’t have our sun, it means they’re powerless. Here’s what I don’t get about the trailer: the show takes place approximately 200 years prior to Man of Steel (I guess making it the first series to be an official part of the DCEU), but the monologue is of Kal El’s grandfather leaving a message for him. Um, how does he KNOW his grandson’s name is Kal El if he hasn’t been born yet? Anyway, it’s about Grandpa El, who happens to be a sexy, CW-ish twenty something, trying to restore honor to the disgraced House of El. The effects look nice (AKA expensive), but nothing about this show makes me want to see it.

There’s some laughter coming from a different comic-based series, however, in the form of Freeform’s New Warriors. I mentioned it a few weeks ago, but it’s been confirmed that Kevin Biegel of Enlisted/Cougar Town will be the showrunner, and we got a confirmation of the roster. Led by Squirrel Girl (who has never been a New Warrior in the comics, but I won’t harp on that), the team is comprised of Speedball, Night Thrasher, Microbe, Mister Immortal, and Debrii. I’m familiar with career Warriors Speedball and Night Thrasher, but I don’t know anything about the others. Considering Mr. Immortal and Squirrel Girl are Great Lakes Avengers characters, this is something of a hybrid team.

I’m the furthest thing from a foodie, but I love a good dairy-based gimmick drink, and this week featured TWO of them! First up, I’d read online that Burger King had been testing a Froot Loops Shake at certain East Coast locations, with plans to roll it out nationally today. Well, I traveled around until I found one that had it early (well, I didn’t travel too far – it was down the street from my apartment), as I had to see what the fuss was all about. I had heard it described as made from vanilla soft serve, with Froot Loops pieces, topped off with a sweet, syrupy drizzle. Sounds exotic, right? WRONG. Whoever thought of this probably got a bonus for the idea, but it lacks in the execution. It’s basically a vanilla shake with edible confetti in it. From Loops don’t really have a strong fruity flavor to them, so it’s not like it’s rubbing off into the soft serve. And when you do get some Froot Loop chunks through the straw, they just taste like flavorless corn cereal. I didn’t taste any kind of drizzle, and I kept waiting for the WOW to kick in. It never did. I drank this so that you don’t have to and, trust me, you really don’t have to.

Next up was the Starbucks Unicorn Frappuccino. I hadn’t even heard of the thing until Wednesday morning, when everyone and their mom was talking about it. Looking at it, I was reminded of the Birthday Cake Frappuccino that comes out in March (I remember this because it was out at the time Evie was born). I LIVED on those things for the two weeks or so that they were in stores, so I was expecting this to be more of the same. I wasn’t sure what flavor this one was supposed to be, but there were certainly visual similarities. Anyway, after dinner Wednesday night, I snuck off to the corner Starbucks to try it out. You’ve heard of a Butterface, right? Well, this is a Buttertaste. It looks cool and everything, but the taste…THE TASTE! Its marketing emphasizes that it magically changes flavors while you drink it, but I could never really nail down what those flavors were supposed to be. There was a pervasive muskiness to it, making me feel like I’d basically sucked off a real unicorn. Of course, that would be silly – everyone knows you’ve got to buy a unicorn dinner before it lets you do that! Then, near the end, the muskiness gives way to a hyper berry taste, reminiscent of the Blue Raspberry that candy scientists seemed to have discovered in 1992. At no point in the drink was it what I would call “enjoyable”, and even the whipped cream on top was disappointing. As far as I’m concerned, this drink can fuck off back to Narnia where it came from.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News following sexual harassment allegations. See, if he’d told Billy Bush he only grabbed ‘em by the pussy, he’d be President by now!
  • Nintendo officially ended production on the NES Classic, followed by rumors that an SNES Classic is coming later this year
  • Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck were announced as the directors for Captain Marvel. I’ve never seen anything they’ve done (Half Nelson, episodes of Billions, and The Affair), so I’ve got no real opinion right now
  • Speaking of Marvel films, Black Panther wrapped production this week, as Hollywood braces for the return of every living Black actor
  • Will Smith is in talks to take on the classic Robin Williams role of The Genie in Guy Ritchie’s live action Aladdin adaptation. Obviously, Jaden Smith will probably get the role of Aladdin.
  • Stranger Things co-star Shannon Purser came out as bisexual on Twitter. Well, she’s bisexual in real life. She just used Twitter to announce it.
  • Director James Gunn announced that Guardians of the Galaxy 3 would be the final iteration of this lineup of the team
  • Black-ish was sold into off-network syndication, launching in Fall 2018
  • Jane The Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez will voice Carmen Sandiego in a new animated series coming to Netflix
  • Steve Harvey will host a revival of Showtime At the Apollo for Fox
  • Fate of the Furious debuted to $532 million internationally, beating the record-setting $529 million earned by Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  • With its original pilot rejected by Fox a few years ago, Joe Hill’s comic Locke & Key will have a new pilot filmed for Hulu
  • The X-Files has been renewed for a 10-episode 11th season. I couldn’t even make it through the last 6-episode batch they gave us, so I think this is a pass for me.

For the past 6 seasons, I have pretty much hate-watched HBO’s Girls. I hated Lena Dunham’s dumpy, Play-Doh body which was constantly on nude display. I hated all of her character Hannah’s “problems”. I hated her boyfriend Adam. I had convinced myself that I was really just watching, hoping that the characters would eventually be hit by a truck or something. Then, this season came along. Even through all my hate, I had to admit that this was a pretty strong season. From Hannah’s odd interaction with a bestselling author to Marnie finally realizing she sucks at life, there were some great episodes of television to be found in this season of the show. I was also forced to admit things about myself.

First off, I always knew I liked Shoshana because she had enough sense to know that she deserved better than the friends with which she’d found herself. And I definitely missed her once she decided to finally distance herself from them.  I also realized there was much more to the Ray character and, while they didn’t exactly put a bow on it, I’m glad they led us to believe that he had found a happy ending. Even a character as originally unlikable as Elijah had some strong development this season, and he was truly missed in the finale, even though this chapter of his story had come to a close. As I already admitted in my Get Out review, I had to come to terms with my crush on Allison Williams and, by extension, Marnie Michaels. Yeah, she sucked at life, but she seemed like the one out of the four who had Tony Starked her way into that situation; she was the cause of her own problems. Once she began to realize that, the character held more promise. And I realized I hated Jessa because she reminded me too much of girls I’d hooked up with in college: damaged, tattooed, pseudo-junkies who are lucky to still be alive. And I guess Hannah reminded me of girls I’d hooked up with post college. Yeah, I hated a lot about Girls because, I guess, I hated a lot about myself.

This Sunday saw the series finale of the show, and I wasn’t quite sure I was ready for it. After a season that had given us a pregnant Hannah, but also showcased the dissolution of the group’s friendship, I didn’t really know how they could “end” the story. I was further distraught when I read an article last week saying that Jessa and Shosh’s final appearances had been in the penultimate episode that had just aired. While I would miss them in the final half hour, I had to admit that their chapters had also come to a close.

When we get to the finale, there’s a five-month time jump, where Marnie and Hannah are living in a remote house upstate, raising Hannah’s baby, Grover. Yes, that’s what she named him. Anyway, it was 30 minutes about what it means to be happy, but also what it means to be an adult and a parent. I like to think that Hannah finally grew up once she realized that Grover wasn’t another problem that she could simply run away from. The entire episode, she’s freaking out because Grover won’t breastfeed, but in the final seconds he finally takes to her breast. The look on her face is a mix of relief and maturity. It was then that I realized the show had to end at that point, as Hannah was no longer a girl. The entire series had been about millennial drama, as they skirted adulthood, but those times were over. The title Girls no longer applied to Hannah because she was now a Woman, with all the responsibilities that entailed. I used to worry about Hannah, and I sure as Hell worried about Grover when we learned she was pregnant. After Sunday’s finale, though, I think they’re gonna be OK. It was a finale that I had to give some thought to, but it didn’t leave me unfulfilled like Don Draper creating a Coke jingle only to end up hocking tax prep software six months later. For this reason, Girls had the West Week Ever.

12th Apr2017

Comical Thoughts – The One Where Our Hero Read 30 Marvel Comics In One Night

by Will

So, a lot of people have thoughts on the recent remarks that Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso made regarding diversity. Ultimately, he said that retailers and consumers didn’t seem to flock to the diversity push that Marvel was doing in their books. Fans came out in droves to dispute this, saying that there are other reasons that Marvel’s losing sales. Well, I’m not gonna contribute to that conversation – at least, not directly. You see, I’m about 6 months behind on Marvel books, so I’ve missed a lot of this diversity push. I mean, I go to the shop every Wednesday, and I’m buying a TON of books, but there are only so many hours in the week, so I just haven’t had the chance to read all of them. Oddly enough, I’m fairly current with a lot of the DC books I buy, mainly because they seemed to serve as better jumping-on points. I know everything happening in the Superman books and Teen Titans, but I only just read Civil War II, like, two weeks ago. Usually my Friday nights are consumed with me going on toy runs or napping, but the other day I said to myself, “Will, it’s time to read some Marvel.” I had a few thoughts on what I read, so I thought I’d share them here for anyone who’s curious.

First up, I read the full run of The Unbelievable Gwenpool to date. I read #1 when it came out, and then the book just went to the bottom of a large stack. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy that first issue. I mean, it’s written by Christopher Hastings of the hilarious The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, so I already knew that I loved his style. The Gwenpool concept, on the surface, just sounds like a cash grab. Creating a Deadpool series used to be the equivalent of printing money (not so much anymore, looking at the sales for Deadpool and the Mercs for Money). Meanwhile, everyone and their mom seemed to love the idea of Spider-Gwen when she spun out of Spider-Verse. So, it was natural to put peanut butter in your chocolate by mixing the two.

Gwen Poole actually hails from our world, where all of the Marvel characters are just characters in comics books. By some mysterious means, she transports herself into the Marvel Universe, with her wealth of comic knowledge at her disposal. So, she knows everyone’s identities, all their power sets, etc. This is similar to the Deadpool thing where he thinks of himself as a character in a comic book. Once she gets to the MU, she sets herself up as a mercenary even though she’s not necessarily good at killing. She has limited hand to hand skills, and she’s not a great shot. But she’s pretty good at blowing shit up, which is what she does. The funny thing, though, is that they’ve never really explained why she’s a killer. Maybe it’s because she knows none of it is “real”, so it doesn’t matter if she kills somebody or not. After all, they’re just fictional characters to her. Anyway, after a botched mission, she finds herself working for M.O.D.O.K (Mental Organism Designed Only For Killing) and his gang of mercenaries, which includes Captain America foe Batroc The Leaper.

Anyway, I LOVE THIS BOOK! I’m quick to talk about things I don’t like, so I have to give equal credit to the things that I do like. I love the Gwenpool character, who’s really just a perky teenage girl who likes blowing stuff up. It’s kind of refreshing to meet a female character with an encyclopedic knowledge of comic book trivia, and it’s cool to see how she employs that in her series. I’ve been a big fan of Dr McNinja for years, so I knew Hastings wouldn’t disappoint and he surely didn’t! It’s a fun comic that really gives credence to the slang term “funnybook”. If you’re looking for fun in your comic reading, then definitely check this out. The sales on it aren’t so hot, making it seem like she should’ve been left to do cameos for a while before getting her own series. That said, she’s had 13 issues by now which, sadly, is an achievement in today’s comic landscape. Don’t let them cancel my Gwenpool! Buy this book today!

Next up, I finished the whatever volume it is for Invincible Iron Man. Ya know, the Bendis one, but the one before Civil War II. This series was kind of a waste, as it went nowhere. I’m not sure if plans got derailed because of CWII or what, but it’s odd that so many issues were devoted to one story that just dead ends. Madame Masque is caught stealing items from various Stark facilities, and when Tony goes after her, he finds she’s being chased by a group of cyber ninjas. That’s pretty much it. In the end, he never finds her and never solves that mystery. They do introduce a new cyberhacker Inhuman, though. Yay. Meanwhile, there’s a B-story of Stark trying to convince Mary Jane Watson to be his assistant/life coach. I’ve had my issues with Bendis, but I’ve got to say that this is him at his worst. Sure, there’s snappy dialogue, but not much else.

So, knowing that I needed to plod through my Iron Man backlog, I begrudgingly jumped into International Iron Man. This series made up for everything that was wrong with Invincible Iron Man. My only quibble is that, at 7 issues, it should have been an arc in Invincible Iron Man instead of its own standalone series. In the previous Iron Man series (the one after Superior Iron Man, but before the Bendis Invincible Iron Man), Tony discovered that Howard and Maria Stark were not his birth parents. In this series, Tony sets out to find his real parents, interspersed with flashbacks to the story of his first love, Cassandra, who was the daughter of arms dealers who were also business rivals of his father. Cassandra was in Tony’s life around the time that Howard died, so he finds it odd that she resurfaces, now an arms dealer herself, at the same time he’s searching for his birth parents. He thinks she knows something, but she’s not talking. In the end, Tony finds his mom, Amanda Armstrong, who’s basically Annie Lenox. No, I swear Maleev used Lenox as the model for Armstrong. The last two issues tell the story of Tony’s parents’ love affair, and it’s some damn good writing. This is Bendis at his best. I want an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. arc of just this story (it’s good, but it’s not summer theatrical blockbuster good), but there’s no way they’d cover Stark stuff on TV. At the end, it says that the story will be continued in the next volume of Invincible Iron Man – ya know, the one starring Riri/Ironheart. So, I’m not quite sure how that’s gonna work. Is Amanda Armstrong going to be a supporting character in the book while her son spoiler alert is in a coma in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody? I haven’t read the Riri series yet (it’s in the pile), so don’t tell me what happens. Where Invincible left me disappointed, International proved to me that Bendis understands Tony Stark.

The interesting takeaway I had from the series, however, is that Tony Stark is a result of Nurture and not Nature. I mean, it was always assumed he was a genius because his father was a genius, and it was in his blood. Now that we know his real parents were just undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, it becomes clear that Tony was a product of his environment and upbringing, rather than possessing some inherited genius. I’m curious to see if they’ll do anything with that going forward. Ya know, when he “wakes up”.

Ya can’t love everything, though, and that’s where America comes in. I HATED that comic. I hate the character. I don’t really know where she came from, as I wasn’t reading Young Avengers at that point, but I find her obnoxious to no end. If you’re not familiar, Miss America, AKA America Chavez, is from another dimension where she had two moms who sacrificed themselves to save creation. She has the power to punch star-shaped portals between dimensions, and she’s strong, and fast, and can fly. Basically, she can do everything but project energy. Oh, and she’s a bad ass motherfucker. She can do ALL the things, and that’s kinda why I hate her. This is about to get dicey, so strap in. Ya see, a lot of people are going to say that I don’t like her just because she’s queer. There aren’t a lot of prominent queer characters in comics, so I understand her importance to representation. That said, she’s guilty of what I call the “Queer Eye-ification of Pop Culture”.

Let’s take a trip back to 2003, shall we? Bravo introduced the reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where 5 queer men (don’t say “gay”, because a couple of them were bi) gave schlubs makeovers. Carson changed their clothes, Kyan changed their hair, Ted changed their food, Tom changed their furnishings, and Jay…well, Jay taught them how to open CDs. No, that really happed. The principal underlying theme, however, was basically “Look, queer people are better than you in every single way! They dress better, they cook better, they have better hair, and better décor. What’s wrong with you, straight people? Why do you suck so much?“ For a while, that approach kinda worked. The show was a hit. Then I think folks got tired of the formula. We got it. They were all great at shit, but they stopped being relatable. After all, they were experts, and not just regular guys.

That’s my problem with America. She’s too good. She does it all. What are her weaknesses, her faults, her fears? I didn’t get that from her. Instead, she seems to have this false bravado of being the baddest bitch on the block, and that just doesn’t appeal to me. Is that what queer readers want? Do they want a character who seems to suffer from doing-too-much-itis? Or do they want a relatable character, like a queer Peter Parker who’s an amazing hero, but still has everyday problems? As a cis, straight male, I can’t answer that. I know what I think I would want, and this ain’t it. The market will dictate whether or not I’m wrong. Instead of the whole “Queer people are the awesomest”, maybe the more realistic approach is “Queer people are just like everyone.” I know I’m veering dangerously close to the camp of folks who say things like “Well, why isn’t there a White History Month?” I’m not trying to take anything from queer identity, but the way it’s expressed here contributes to why I don’t like that character. I fear this overcompensation is a trope commonly used as a “foot in the door” technique to get some folks to accept uncomfortable ideas, but I feel it does the queer community a disservice by reinforcing stereotypes/setting up unreal expectations.

Following this thinking leads me to the new Champions comic, which is downright irresponsible in its storytelling. Back during Civil War II, the young members of the Avengers became disenchanted with the elder members because they didn’t feel the team was doing enough to really change the world, instead spending more time in-fighting in the hero community. So, they quit the team before that story even wrapped up. As Champions picks up, Ms. Marvel reaches out to Nova (Sam Alexander – gotta specify, since there are two now) and Spider-Man (Miles Morales – gotta specify since there are two now) to convince them that they should be out doing the stuff that the Avengers refuse to do. They go on a mini recruitment drive, which results in the Hulk (Amadeus Cho – gotta specify since…you get it by now), and Viv Vision joining the team.

Champions is the wrong name for this book. Honestly, it should be the New Warriors, because they are TOTAL social justice warriors. I normally don’t even dip my toe into those labeled waters, but that’s exactly what this book is about. Ms. Marvel has created a team of other teens who do nothing but seek social justice. When older Marvel fans say that they’re tired of the diversity push, I have to believe that this is the book they’re talking about.

I say they’re irresponsible because they tackle concepts that can’t be solved by punching, yet that’s exactly how they try to solve them. They went to the Middle East to stop an extremist Muslim group from killing women who were just trying to learn. They went to a small town to face off against a racist sheriff who bombed the local mosque. Instead of facing villains, all of their “foes” are systemic issues that aren’t easy fixes. Somehow, though, they manage to “fix” things in 22 pages. To use old slang, these kids are cruising for a bruising. There’s a reason the Avengers don’t handle these sorts of things, mainly because they’re old and wise enough to know there are no easy fixes. Racism ain’t Galactus. There’s nothing to punch. The only reason I would stick with the book is that there’s GOT to be a reckoning coming to teach them a lesson. The last time a team of teens was this irresponsible resulted in the destruction of the town of Stamford, Connecticut. I HAVE to believe the Champions exist only to set up some post-Secret Empire event.

The sad thing about all of this is that I like these characters. I’ve been a Miles Morales booster since day one, and I loved Sam Alexander’s Nova from the outset. I was late to the Kamala Khan party, but she’s cool, too. I don’t like how Amadeus Cho’s Hulk is painted as a green Bro in the book, but I’m really behind on his title, so maybe that’s who he is now. And I haven’t read The Visions yet, so I don’t know anything about Viv. All that said, I’d hate to see anything bad happen to any of these guys, but that seems to be the path they’re on. It just seems like such mishandling of some great concepts. From when I was reading Captain America: Sam Wilson, the big takeaway was that there are some things you can’t fight head-on, but it seems like the Champions are gonna have to learn that the hard way.

So, I guess I did have thoughts about Marvel’s diversity after all. Is it killing books? Not necessarily. It’s just not being done well. Feels tokeny. There are a lot of great female-led books right now, like the afore-mentioned Gwenpool and Jessica Jones (which I’ll talk about another time since this has already gotten way longer than I initially expected). But the minority portrayals aren’t that strong. I’ve still got a LOT more to read, though, so maybe it gets better? We’ll just have to see.

07th Apr2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/7/17

by Will

 

So, last night I became the last person in America to see Get Out. As I joked on Twitter, I’m totally getting a divorce now. No, I kid, I kid. Like everyone said, it’s really good, though it may be a tad overrated. Just a tad. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Get Out is the story of Black man Chris Williams who joins his White girlfriend Rose Armitage on a visit to her parents’ home for the weekend. And then crazy shit starts to happen. I can see what the appeal of the film is. I really can. But I’ve got to level with you: this movie hit a little too close to home. Yeah, I know that one Black reader I have is like “That’s what you get for datin’ them White girls!” No, seriously, I probably would’ve ended up just like Chris. First of all, I have a thing for Allison Williams. Even as bitchy, self-centered Marnie on Girls, I still have a thing for her. When her father fell from grace, I just wanted to tell her everything would be all right. So I would’ve taken the bait. In addition to that, I’ve dated that kind of family. Yes, in those cases, you’re dating the whole family. They had the same socioeconomic status as the Armitages, their friends were the same way, with the same weird questions. Sometimes you don’t realize how Black you are until that’s ALL you are to some folks. What some folks saw as just fun entertainment is something that I kinda lived. They’d do weird shit, where I felt like they were testing me. I remember the first time I went to stay for the weekend, they put me in a room with, like, three Rolexes just laying about like they were nothing. No, I don’t think they would’ve killed me, but I can totally see how something like this could happen. Meanwhile, I’m here thinking that I need to get me a friend as good as TSA Rod. I’ve got a lot to unpack from that movie right now. I’d love to have a conversation with Jordan Peele, ’cause that movie came from a place of experience. I wonder if I’d ever see it again, or if it’s like Bamboozled, where it’s just gonna make me hate White people for a while. Naw, I can’t hate y’all. You’re the only ones who read my site!

In movie news, it was reported that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are set to produce a film based on the Image comic Invincible. I used to read the series back when I worked at Diamond and got the hardcovers for free, and I really loved it. It follows Mark Grayson, who’s half human and half Viltrumite. His father, who’s full Vultrimite, is the hero known as Omni-Man, and Mark seems to have inherited a lot of his powers. Mark becomes the hero Invincible and a bunch of other stuff happens. Hey, what do you want from me? I only read the first 48 issues, and that was, like, 7 years ago. The thing I like about the series is that Mark is allowed to grow and change. People die and stay dead. In comics, there’s always the approach where they give the semblance of change without actual change, but that’s not how Invincible works. I mean, he’s currently married with a kid, and they haven’t resorted to having the Devil erase it all, unlike some heroes… Anyway, I like the idea of a movie, but I don’t know if Rogen and Goldberg are the guys to do it. After all, they’re the team behind AMC’s Preacher – a show that I’ve yet to really hear anything good about. Mainly, I heard season one was just boring. So, I guess we’ll just have to see what they bring to the table.

In other movie news, Scarlett Johansson’s live action Ghost In The Shell adaptation bombed, and the congregation rejoiced. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the film because it was felt that the main character, played by Johansson, was whitewashed. They felt she should’ve been portrayed by an Asian actress, and even the studio is now saying the movie failed to meet expectations due to the whitewashing controversy. I’m really not educated enough to weigh in on this one. I mean, I’d always heard that Japanese identity politics went a little deeper than we might think, which is why their cartoon characters always have blue hair and shit, but never really look Asian. But again, before I say something uninformed, I’m gonna bow out of this one. For a better understanding of the controversy, check out my friend Jenn’s post on the film.

Speaking of outrage, there was a Pepsi commercial that ruffled some feathers this week. I’d post the video, but Pepsi is trying to scrub all reference to the thing. In it, Kendall Jenner breaks away from a fashion shoot to join a peaceful protest, capping it off by offering a stern looking cop a Pepsi. He accepts, takes a swig, and everyone rejoices. The problem, however, is that the ad was kind of tone deaf. It seemed to trivialize the act of protesting, and to add insult to injury, it installed a pretty White girl as the face of the protest. Now, I saw the thing, and it was hamfisted, but I’m not sure it was worth all the threaded tweets and thinkpieces that it generated. Like, I get why folks didn’t like it, but I’m not sure I’m “woke” enough to see the whole matter. Anyone wanna weigh in on this one?

In television news, Disney Channel officially ordered Raven’s Home to series. Serving as the sequel to That’s So Raven, it features Raven Symone reprising her role as Raven Baxter, only now she’s the divorced mom of twin tweens. She also lives with her best friend, Chelsea, who’s ALSO a divorced single mom. Things start to get crazy, though, when Raven’s kids start to exhibit her psychic powers. See, that was always my thing with that show. Sure, I was too old for it when it was a hit, but I love a good tween TV show. That said, I feel like Raven and her friends could’ve had zany adventures without the whole psychic powers gimmick. I mean, the kids of iCarly didn’t need superpowers in order to be entertaining. The psychic stuff made it too much like a mystical tween Three’s Company which, on paper, sounds perfect, but isn’t that great in execution. Anyway, I just typed all this to justify posting a pic of costar Anneliese Van Der Pol. This whole thing just sounds like Fuller House with powers. I’ve got no nostalgia for the original show, so I doubt I’ll be checking this out.

In other TV news, Freeform has ordered New Warriors to series, featuring fan favorite character Squirrel Girl. I’ve got to admit that I know next to nothing about that character except that she was the nanny to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s daughter, Dani. I know she was a Great Lakes Avenger, but she was never a New Warrior. Still, they’ve been trying to find a vehicle for that character FOREVER, so I guess they finally figured it out. Based on how WB/DC has handled Powerless, I’m not too eager to see another comedy set in a comic book universe. The one bright spot in the whole thing is that Kevin Biegel is rumored to be the showrunner. Not only does he follow me on Twitter, but he’s the creator of the Fox series Enlisted (which I loved), and he co-created Cougar Town. Knowing that, I think the show is in good hands. I still feel weird about being a 35 year old man watching Freeform. It’s like you’re paying for The CW. The news, however, makes me sad that The Middle is still going. If you didn’t know, a few years ago, when it looked like the writing was on that wall for that show, Eden Sher had a meeting with Marvel. While we don’t really know what was discussed, her name was thrown around in the same discussions of Squirrel Girl. With The Middle already renewed for next season, though, that takes her out of the running. Sucks because I think Sher’s perky, Sue Heck personality would be perfect for Squirrel Girl.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Barry Manilow came out as gay, which makes me realize that he’s actually been singing about Man D all these years…
  • Speaking of gay, on Doctor Who it was revealed that The Doctor’s latest female companion, Bill, is gay. I mean, her name is “Bill”, so, surprise?
  • NBC ordered 2 additional episodes of the Will & Grace revival, bringing the total up to 12.
  • Also in the Department of Things We Don’t Need, there are apparently outlines for 14 more Transformers movies


I’ve written about my love of The Undertaker a few times here on the site. Basically, he’s a relic of a bygone era in professional wrestling – an era of kayfabe, when enemies wouldn’t fly on the same planes together, or be seen hanging out together at IHOP. He’s from a time when people had flashy names and in-ring gimmicks to set them apart. The industry has changed a lot since then, but you could always depend on Taker. If I were to be a professional wrestler tomorrow, my in-ring name would be Bruce Williamson. That’s how they do it now. Other business ventures came along, like Total Divas, which even further blurred the lines between real and fake, but you could always depend on Taker.

In recent years, he’s basically been a part-timer. Ever since The Streak was broken, there wasn’t really much need for him to be around. The mystique was kind of gone by that point. But, like clockwork, he still showed up to Wrestlemania and did his job. In my heart, I knew the end was near. I’d always said that, given some advance warning, I’d even try to attend his final show. He means that much to me. Well, I didn’t even get to watch his final appearance, which was last Sunday at Wrestlemania 33. The card looked weak, and I felt I had better shit to do. Little did I realize I’d be missing history in the making. The Undertaker jobbed to Roman Reigns, narrowly missing out on his 100th pay per view victory. While the rumors of retirement had been floating for years, no one was ready for what would happen next. He donned his signature coat, gloves, and hat, and took one last look at the crowd. Then, he removed them, placed them in a pile in the center of the ring, and walked away. He kissed his wife, pretty much breaking character, and proceeded to walk up the ramp, where he was lowered until he disappeared. As the crew dismantled the ring, they refused to move his belongings – a gesture of respect to the man who brought us all nearly 30 years of entertainment. I hate that I wasn’t there, but I especially hate that I didn’t even watch it. Sure, in this technological age we can always find what we’re looking for, but I feel like I let him down. He doesn’t know me, doesn’t give a shit about me, but I know him, and I thank him. So, with that in mind, Mark Calaway, AKA The Undertaker had the West Week Ever.

17th Mar2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/17/17

by Will

 

Well, that was quick! I just discussed it two weeks ago, and Young Sheldon is skipping the pilot stage and has been ordered directly to series by CBS. If you don’t remember, this is the prequel to The Big Bang Theory, focusing on the childhood of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons (who will also be an executive producer on the spinoff). This makes me wonder if the contract talks are falling apart with the principal cast of The Big Bang Theory. I mean, I can’t think of another instance when a show was on the air at the same time as its prequel. Prequel shows are a rare occurrence anyway; at the moment, I can only think of The Carrie Diaries, which premiered after Sex and the City had wrapped. They just don’t coexist with the “mothership” show, so it makes me wonder if CBS’s commitment to this spinoff spells the end for The Big Bang Theory. As I said last time, don’t rejoice too soon, as you’ll still have a Sheldon on your airwaves, even if in child form. Or the show could go out in a Joey-style whimper.

In movie news, desperate for a new hit franchise, Warner Bros is considering rebooting The Matrix, this time starring Michael B. Jordan. Hmm, yeah…This just isn’t necessary. I don’t worship at the altar of The Matrix like some cinephiles, but I can attest to the fact that it was a visual masterpiece regardless of what you thought of the story itself. The world of The Matrix is vast enough that you don’t really need a reboot. You could have additional movies set in the world that’s already been established. I think that’s what more people seem to be in support of, as opposed to a full-on remake. Jordan deserves a franchise, especially since Fant4stic Four didn’t really get off the ground, but I’m not sure if this is The One. Ha! See what I did there? Anyway, the Wachowskis aren’t yet involved, so I don’t even know what’s the point.

The Warner Woes carry over to the DC movies, as it was announced that The Batman is being rewritten from scratch, delaying shooting til 2018. I swear they’re just dragging it out until Affleck can find some way out of the project. If Justice League doesn’t garner some kind of critical acclaim, he’s out. Mark my words. Meanwhile, WB has pushed Aquaman from October 2018 to December 2018. The slot was previously being held by Fox’s Avatar 2, but since Cameron announced the movie wouldn’t be ready by 2018, Warners saw it as an opportunity to pounce. Right now, though, the general thought is that Aquaman is fucked if Disney decides to move the Han Solo film to a holiday release like Rogue One and The Force Awakens had.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Wreck-It Ralph 2 was announced, with a March 9th, 2018 release date. Oddly enough, the porn parody, also named Wreck-It Ralph, is already up to volume 29.
  • To keep up with the times (and lack of content), MTV is rebranding the MTV Movie Awards to the MTV Movie and TV Awards. This thing won’t even exist in 5 years at this rate…
  • The spinoff of legal drama The Good Wife, The Good Fight, has already been renewed for a second season on CBS All-Access. I guess they need something to keep the lights on until Star Trek: Discovery comes along.
  • The CW has renewed The 100 for a fifth season. I know one person who’ll be excited about that. Just one, though.
  • Over on cable, FX has renewed the X-Men-inspired Legion for a second season, while HBO has renewed Pete Holmes’s Crashing
  • For the first time ever, Saturday Night Live will air live nationwide for the final four episodes of the season. No more delay for the West Coast!
  • Aziz Ansari’s hit Netflix series, Master of None, returns May 12th.
  • Director Matthew Vaughn is rumored to be in talks to direct Man of Steel 2. Because the director of Kick Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service is JUST what Superman needs…
  • After Avengers: Infinity War, the Russo Brothers will produce a TV series based on the Valiant Comics series Quantum and Woody
  • Former Power Rangers Wild Force Red Ranger actor Ricardo Medina Jr pleaded guilty to killing his roommate with a samurai sword. I thought he’d swear it was self-defense. Sentencing will occur on March 30th, meaning he can still see the Power Rangers movie!

Every week can’t be Earth-shattering, and this is one of the week’s the proved that. Looking around, the person who had the best week in pop culture had to have been Tyra Banks.

When the week began, it was announced that Tyra would be replacing Nick Cannon as the host of America’s Got Talent. Her selection seemingly came out of nowhere, as reports indicated Marlon Wayans and Brandon Mychal Smith were the frontrunners for the job. This will make her the fourth host of AGT, after Regis Philbin, Jerry Springer, and Cannon.

As the week wrapped up, it was announced that Tyra would be returning as the host/head judge of America’s Next Top Model. She left the show when it ended its run on The CW in 2015. The show was quickly snatched up by VH1, but retooled with Rita Ora taking over as host. Well, yesterday, Viacom released a statement that Banks would be returning, and “Bye, Felicia’d” Ora.

So, it appears America has a new mascot, and thy name is Tyra. For taking over two of the biggest present-day reality TV franchises, that’s enough to earn Tyra Banks the West Week Ever.

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