29th Apr2016

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

by Will

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Rachel-Feinstein

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

wonder man

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

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

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

apocalypse

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

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

Rita

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

Becky

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

22nd Apr2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 4/22/16

by Will

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trainwreck

I finally caught the comedic hit Trainwreck, and I thought it was…decent. Written by and starring Amy Schumer, Amy knows how to screw, but she doesn’t know how to love (that really should’ve been the tagline). Raised by her father to believe that monogamy isn’t realistic, adult Amy tries to avoid any sort of commitment or intimacy in her relationships. That is, until she meets a particular sports doctor, played by Bill Hader. Since last summer, I’ve heard how laugh-out-loud funny this film was, but I’m not sure I saw the same movie. It has some great moments, especially any scenes containing John Cena and Lebron James (who’s a surprisingly good actor for an athlete. Those guys are usually wooden onscreen). Directed by Judd Apatow, it follows several Apatow tropes, in that it’s slightly too long, and the message is basically “Grow the fuck up!” I don’t really see what it is about Hader’s character that makes Amy think he’s The One. He’s a nice enough guy, but he’s not charismatic or all that interesting. He’s a bit of a square, so when Amy chooses him, it’s almost like she’s settling. I wasn’t fully paying attention, though, so I’ll probably watch it again to see if I’m being unfair. At the moment, though, I don’t really get the hype behind the movie, other than the fact that it was written by a popular female comedian whose star is on the rise. Outside of that, it’s a pretty formulaic, by the numbers romcom.

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On HBO, I caught the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill drama Confirmation. Focusing mainly on Thomas’ confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, it followed all the parties involved after Anita Hill came forward with allegations that Thomas had been sexually inappropriate with her ten years prior. I think everyone went into the film with their biases intact, but even though I believe Hill, I felt the movie was really skewed towards Thomas. The entire time, he maintained that these were baseless allegations, and there were scenes where it felt like he was to be seen as the victim here. One thing I did learn was that Thomas’ wife looks like a Shoney’s night manager – ya know, the kind who won’t accept your coupons? Yeah, that one. Anyway, when women come forward with these sorts of allegations, there are people who don’t believe them, and that was definitely covered here. Also, Joe Biden, portrayed by Greg Kinnear, didn’t come away from the film looking like the best guy. In the end, as anyone who knows history already knows, Thomas was confirmed, though the damage to his reputation had been done. 25 years later, and he’s still sitting pretty on the Supreme Court, while Hill is a footnote in American history. So, who really won here? The movie seems to imply that Hill won by coming forward, and opening the doors for more women in Congress and other high ranking positions. It seems like a last minute Hail Mary play, however, by a film that didn’t feel like it was on her side for most of the time. I’d love to know how other folks felt who watched it.

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On TV, I finally finished Fuller House, and I LOVED it. Sure, critics hated it, but the original wasn’t really beloved by critics, either. There were times I tried to watch it stoically, and then felt a smile creep across my face. Sure, it’s cheesy, but it’s a type of humor that’s missing from most modern sitcoms (especially considering most modern sitcoms are single cam, with a faux documentary being filmed). I loved seeing the old cast, I love the new kids, I love the crazy love triangle. To me, season 2 can’t come fast enough.

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This week also saw the season finales of two shows about hipster girls in NYC. First up, Girls wrapped up its fifth season, and I thoroughly enjoyed the two episodes that capped off the season. I tend to like Hannah the least of all of the titular girls on the show, but I really kinda felt for her in the finale. I started to really understand where she’s coming from, and didn’t hate her guts. She’s just a twenty-something, trying to do the best that she can. In the past, I thought she represented this sort of dangerous, arrested development. She wasn’t an adult, but rather just a big girl (which could be said for most twenty-somethings). The problem, though, was that she was OK with that. She never really seemed to be aspiring to anything greater. She was just a quitter at everything she tried, because she didn’t like the rules or whatever. The season ended with her in a different sort of place, though, so I’m interested to see where she goes in the sixth, and final, season of the show.

broad city

Meanwhile, Broad City wrapped up its third season with the girls taking a Birthright trip to Israel. I never thought I’d say this, but out of the two female-centric Millennial shows on cable, I think I enjoyed Girls more than I enjoyed Broad City this year. It used to be that Broad City was kinda quirky, but it still boiled down to the friendship between Abbi and Ilana. This season, though, Ilana turned into a cartoon character, and her “lesbianic” undertones toward Abbi got cranked up to 11. In the past, it was implied that Ilana had a crush on Abbi, but this year she wanted to be her full on wife, getting threatened whenever a dude came into the picture who might affect what they have. Ilana went from a delightful character to an annoyance for me. I figure we’ve probably only got another 2 or so seasons of Broad City left, as the girls’ other projects, like Time Traveling Bong, are getting off the ground. Here’s hoping they make the most of the time they’ve got left.

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In movie news, there are talks that New Line is trying to acquire the rights to Three’s Company. Right now, the writers of He’s Just Not That Into You are attached, so this thing will probably be TURRIBLE. If you’re not familiar with it, Three’s Company was an ABC hit that ran from 1977-1984, starring John Ritter as an aspiring chef who lives with two girls. Since that was frowned up during that era, they told the landlord that he was gay so that he’d be OK with the living arrangement. It’s one of my favorite TV shows, but this sounds like a bad idea. I do, however, think it’d work as a rebooted television series, which I wrote about a few years ago. Here’s hoping this reboot talk gets me some website hits!

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In other movie news, it was reported that author Michael Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) and comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man) have joined the writers room for Hasbro’s shared cinematic universe. Damn, talk about a waste of talent! These guys are the real deal, and they’re being used to figure out how G.I. Joe is gonna mesh with ROM: The Space Knight?! Hasbro must’ve REALLY backed up a Brink’s truck.

I can’t wait for The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc – the founder of McDonald’s. Though, the story isn’t so cut and dried, as this movie explores. After all, Kroc was just a milkshake machine salesman, while the McDonald brothers created the brand. And then Kroc stole it from them by franchising it. As a lifelong fat kid, McDonald’s means a lot to me, so this is basically my The Social Network.

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In TV drama, it was announced that Michael Strahan would be leaving Live! with Kelly and Michael and joining Good Morning America full time. This seems like a network decision, as both shows are owned by Disney and they wanted more for Strahan, but Kelly Ripa is PISSED! She feels like Strahan betrayed her, and she’s now refusing to show up for work until he’s gone. This is going to be somewhat hard, as he’s not scheduled to leave until September. *Looks at calendar* It’s now APRIL. I feel like the lawyers are gonna get involved before this goes on too long, but I imagine it’s going to get uglier before it gets better. I feel like this is a great opportunity, though, because they can now just hire Neil Patrick Harris to be Kelly’s cohost. The word on the street is that he was one of the favorites for the job the last time that it was available, but he was still doing How I Met Your Mother, and couldn’t do that commute. Now that HIMYM has ended, and Best Time Ever got canceled, the timing is perfect.

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In Power Rangers news, we got our first look at Elizabeth Banks as villain Rita Repulsa. I’m not so sure about this. On the one hand, it looks like a combination of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers henchwoman Scorpina, mixed with Power Rangers Turbo villain Divatox. I can see those influences. And the green color kinda makes sense as to why she’ll be so obsessed with the Green Ranger once he’s inevitably introduced. Still, it’s odd to me that there are no callbacks to the original design. No pointy boobs, no headdress, nothing. She’s just Generic Space Villainess. If anything, it just makes me nervous about what the Ranger suits are gonna look like. To me, it’s pretty risky because if you deviate too much from the pattern, then they look like those bootleg action figures you’ve been finding in dollar stores for the past 20 years. I get this is something of a “reboot”, but there still needs to be ties to the original property, for both casual and hardcore fans. Is it enough that it’s a bunch of teens fighting an evil space alien? It might as well be Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills: The Movie. Or Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad: The Movie. There are things that make Power Rangers special, and I’m not seeing them yet in what we’ve seen from this adaptation.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Season 2 of Mr. Robot premieres July 13th on USA
  • Carrie-Anne Moss is joining season 2 of AMC’s HUMANS
  • After 30 years, Dr. Drew Pinsky is leaving the Loveline radio show. It’s unclear if the show will continue with a new host
  • Robert Downey Jr. will appear as Iron Man in Spider-Man: Homecoming

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I guess, looking back on the week, Harriet Tubman was cock of the walk. Who’da thunk an abolitionist would be making news in 2016? Anyway, it was announced that Tubman will soon adorn the $20 bill, moving Andrew Jackson to the back of the bill. Originally, the plan was to remove Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill, but the popularity of the Broadway (and Pulitzer prize winning) show, Hamilton, stopped that plan in its tracks. Now, Millennials will be even more insufferable about that show, AND tickets will be even harder to get, but I digress…According to history, Jackson was a bad man, sending the Native Americans off on the Trail of Tears. Why? Because he wanted their land for plantations. Way to go, dude! Anyway, the idea of putting a woman on some paper American currency gained steam last year when a young girl named Sofia sent a letter to President Obama urging him to do so. Well, this week, little Sofia got a birthday surprise when it was announced that the design will be made public in 2020. Tubman will be the first Black person on American currency, and the first woman in over a century. So, in light of this development, Harriet Tubman had the West Week Ever.

15th Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

doctor strange

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

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

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

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

08th Apr2016

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

by Will

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dead 7

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

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

pacific rim

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

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

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

arrow season 4

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

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

BP_1

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

Alfre Woodard

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

Cloak-and-Dagger

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

Wonder-Woman-Movie

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

Rogue-One-A-Star-Wars-Story-logo

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

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

Jenni Konner

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

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

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

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

01st Apr2016

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

by Will

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

mtv spring break

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

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

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

rebirth

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

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

suicidesquad

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

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

31st Mar2016

The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: Enterprise

by Will

Enterprise Title Card

Yup, in wrapping up Spring Break Week here at WilliamBruceWest.com, I had to go controversial with my last post. You see, I’m something of a retired Star Trek fan. I kinda reject the labels of the fandom, as I never saw myself as a “Trekkie” or Trekker”. Still, I grew up obsessed with the franchise and, thanks to the beauty of syndication, I’ve seen every episode of The Original Series to Deep Space Nine more times than I can count. I bailed when Voyager came along because, well, it was Voyager. I couldn’t even make it through the pilot, “Caretaker”. The ship can land on planets. Big whoop. Ya wanna fight about it? Anyway, I discovered CDs, got hardcore into comics, and I found Captain Janeway ushering me out of the fandom. I still watched the movies, but I checked out on Trek television and never looked back. Sadly, this also meant that I missed out on Enterprise.

I discovered Enterprise after its run had completed and it was briefly in syndication. While I don’t love the show as much as my favorite installment of the franchise, DS9, I do feel that it was misunderstood during its original run. In many respects, Enterprise was ahead of its time, as it was a younger, sexier, minimal technobabble Trek – pretty much exactly what folks loved about the JJ Abrams cinematic interpretation of the franchise. It was set in 2151, so it was closer to “our time”, while giving us a glimpse at the formation of the United Federation of Planets. It still handled a lot of classic Trek aspects, like the Mirror Universe and the genetic evolution of the Klingons. Being a prequel, though, it was not loved by many fans. The most controversial aspect, however, had to do with its branding.

First of all, Enterprise was the first series in the franchise to not have Star Trek in its name. At least, at first. I think they were trying to prove that they were doing something different with the brand, but they eventually caved to criticism. During the third season, the show was rebranded as Star Trek: Enterprise, believing that it might bring in anyone who didn’t realize that the show had been a Star Trek show all along (after all, ratings were never all that stellar, so I guess they figured it wouldn’t hurt).

The name would be the least of their problems, however. You see, the Star Trek franchise is known for its Jerry Goldsmith orchestral themes (with the exception of Deep Space Nine, whose theme was composed by Dennis McCarthy), so imagine everyone’s surprise when they went with an adult contemporary song in the form of Russell Watson’s “Where My Heart Will Take Me” (itself a re-recorded version of Rod Stewart’s “Faith of the Heart”). And Trek fans fucking HATED it. They staged petitions and protests to get Paramount to change the theme. Personally, I love the song with one caveat: it HAS to accompany the visuals from the opening credits. On its own, it does come across as some sappy soft rock song, but I feel like it actually builds upon the visuals that depict man’s thirst for exploration. The opening line, “It’s been a long road, getting from there to here”, accompanied by the visuals of everything humanity had to endure to get to space exploration, simply gets me every time. It’s a hopeful, uplifting song. We went from seafaring to warp drives! I don’t even give much of a shit about space in the “real world”, but every time I see those credits with that song, I think “Yeah! We did it!” Plus, I think Enterprise can get away with it, seeing as how it’s closer to our time than it is to Roddenberry’s sterile Trek. I don’t think it’s interchangeable, and it wouldn’t work for, say, The Next Generation, but I feel it’s perfect here.

And if you don’t like the vocals, it works just as well as an instrumental. If you don’t believe me, take a listen:

Still, Paramount kinda listened to the fans, by remixing the song for the 3rd season when they changed the show’s name. If you ask me, however, it was a step backwards. The beat that they added to the song is completely out of place for the message, and it negates from the inspiration of the original recording. There are crescendos that are missing – replaced by electric guitar riffs. THIS is what fans should’ve railed against, but I guess no one was watching by that point.

Music touches different people in different ways. Sure, The Next Generation‘s theme gets me pumped, but the Enterprise theme gets me choked up. Your mileage may vary, but that’s why I feel that the song should get more credit that it has ever received in the fandom.

Speaking of Trek songs, I leave you with the Ending Theme to Star Trek: Generations. Although I hate the phrase, it “gets me right in the feels”. It’s majestic with a haunting interlude. This one doesn’t require the visuals, and you should probably close your eyes ’cause it helps you enjoy the music AND because the images are crap. Let me know what you think in the comments.

30th Mar2016

Just Imagine Stan Lee Wrote the Worst Batman Story Ever Published

by Will

justimagine batman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25th Mar2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/25/16 (“Do You Bleed?” Edition)

by Will

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This week, I decided to tackle the Marvel Netflix series that was on everyone’s lips…4 months ago. In order to catch up so that I could start Daredevil season 2, I finally finished Jessica Jones. If you remember, I had only gotten 3 episodes into the season, when technical difficulties sent me packing. Once everything was resolved, I just didn’t feel like getting back on that horse. Now that I’ve finished the season, however, I’m glad that I did. It truly was a great season, and I loved every minute of it. I’ve been a fan of the Jessica Jones character since the Alias comic debuted, and I’ve followed her development over the years from hard-edged private eye to doting wife and mother. She’s probably one of the rare characters to actually experience *growth* in comics, as she wasn’t looked upon to sell lunchboxes and Underoos, so Marvel let Bendis have a bit more control over her destiny.

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First up, I’ve got to admit that I was wrong. I didn’t like Krysten Ritter’s casting because I felt like the role would’ve been better with someone a bit older, like Yancy Butler. Well, Ritter handled herself well in the role, and by the end of the season, I pretty much believed that she was Jessica. The rest of the cast members were great, too, like Power Rangers RPM‘s own Eka Darville as Malcolm.

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And the world-building was great, as they introduced characters that seamlessly fit into their world, even if you wouldn’t initially think it would work (I’m looking at you, Nuke!). I will say, however, that it really bothers me how Marvel treats the television shows in relation to their films. I mean, they Netflix shows are better at showing links than the ABC shows. At least Netflix refers to “The New York Incident” and “the big green guy”, but that’s about it. Would it KILL them to put Stark Tower in the background of a scene? If there’s a delivery truck driving down a street, couldn’t it have “Stark” plastered along the side? It’s the little things that help to remind us that everything’s connected. Marvel does the shared universe concept like no one else, but they do it a lot better in the comics than in the live action. Oh, and the Netflix series sure do love killing off kindly, old, retirement-ready Black men. What’s that all about?

Anyway, now that I’m caught up, I’m ready to dive into Daredevil‘s second season. I’m currently on Spring Break, so I should be done with that in the next day or so. Tune in next week for my thoughts on it.

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So, let’s talk about the elephant in the universe: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I was talking to a friend recently, who said that even saying “I loved it/I hated it” constituted a spoiler. I’m not sure I agree with that, but if you’re of that mindset, you should stop reading now. I mean, I already got your click, so we’re pretty much done here. I promise not to post any story spoilers, but I am gonna tell you what I thought.

Dawn of Justice suffers from the crime of trying to do too much. It wants to introduce Batman, redeem Man of Steel, introduce Wonder Woman, establish Lex Luthor, and set up the Justice League film all at once. And it really only succeeds at one of these. At 2 and a half hours, you’d think they had mastered the pacing to accomplish all this, but you’d be wrong. This is 2-3 movies all crammed into one.

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Ultimately, I don’t feel like Warner Bros understands their own characters. For instance, it seems like they can’t seem to get away from the Christ allegory of Superman. This has been a theme in the films since Superman Returns, and it has never worked. It’s too obvious of a comparison, so when they go there, it just feels hamfisted and lazy. I mean, just look at how he hovers, reaching out to his believers. And if you look closely in some of the debris, you’ll see crucifixes haphazardly made out of detritus. This is not a coincidence, and I feel like there are other facets of Superman, even as an outsider, that don’t take him in the Jesus direction. I really felt like they didn’t have a grasp on the characters during the main fight between the titular heroes. It seemed like the desired effect was for fans to take a side, and to root for the hero of their choosing. I, however, found the whole enterprise made me uncomfortable. If making the audience uneasy was the goal, then the film succeeded. The fight should’ve been amazing, but Out for Blood Batman vs Just Trying to Save a Loved One Superman didn’t work for me. Is this how they want their characters to be seen? As the start of their film initiative, is this how they wanted to introduce this world to the audience?

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I hate to go into the Marvel vs DC aspect of the matter, but it’s got to be done. Like them or hate them, there’s still a sense of humor to Marvel films. Even the darker ones, like The Winter Soldier, still have lighthearted moments. I appreciate that about those films. This world that Snyder has built, however, is just so goddamn bleak. There’s no hope and no humor. In fact, there’s a really bad joke that doesn’t land because it doesn’t fit the tone of the movie at all. Taking a step back from things, I would probably be fine with that if this were a one-off movie. The problem, however, is that this is essentially the foundation of DC’s Cinematic Universe. Everything that comes after will be based on this world, and I HATE that. Why am I to root for any of these characters? Batman isn’t necessarily a Batman we’ve seen before, nor am I sure he’s a character I like (which is hard for me to say, as a die-hard Batman fan). Superman basically deals with his own Benghazi in the movie, and you’ve kinda got to question his motives. Lex Luthor is so over the top that he makes Cesar Romero’s Joker look like Heath Ledger’s Joker. Seriously, Jesse Eisenberg debuted in one of my favorite movies of all time (Roger Dodger), and I know he’s got range, but here it’s like he heard someone say “comic book”, and he decided to go balls to the wall insane. There have been many Lex Luthors over the years: mad scientist, businessman, president of the United States, etc. This is none of those, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing if it felt like he even knew anything about the character whatsoever. At the end of the day, this is not the movie that DC needed. These are trying times for the company, as they’re trying to get their publishing house in order via the Rebirth initiative, at the same time as trying to build a cinematic universe. I don’t, however, feel like they put their best foot forward with this effort.

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Then, Wonder Woman showed up (that’s not a spoiler, as it’s been in every trailer and on every magazine cover). And SHE was a delight. I never really cared much for that character, and I wasn’t supportive of the casting of Gal Gadot, but she stole every scene that she was in. I will say that it goes kinda overboard when she joins the fight, as the movie briefly seems to turn into Sucker Punch (Cue rock music! Flying fighting females!), but you don’t mind because she injects life into some of the most boring scenes. And there are some boring scenes. After all, the thing is almost 3 hours. There were moments I’d look up and think “Man, this fucker’s still going?” The movie succeeds in not only introducing the character as a badass, but also really makes you look forward to her solo film.  Anyway, it pretty much wasn’t even a contest, but Wonder Woman had the West Week Ever.

 

18th Mar2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11th Mar2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/11/16

by Will

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First of all, I want to thank y’all for all the shares last week, as we had our best traffic in quite some time. Let’s keep that up! Tell all your friends!

Man, some weeks there’s nothing to talk about, and then some weeks there’s a ton. This week is certainly the latter. Let’s get to it, shall we?

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On the movie front, I caught a documentary called Autism In Love, which focused on 4 folks on the Autism spectrum as they try to find companionship. The youngest guy was probably about 20, and he was being hard on himself because he’d paid a woman just so he could touch her butt. Then, there was a local couple who had met at an autism conference, and the guy was trying to figure out if he wanted them to get married or not. Finally, there was an older guy who’d found love, but his wife had been diagnosed with cancer and was living in a nursing home. It was interesting because it showed that their struggles to find love are just like anyone else’s. In some cases, their condition gets in the way, but most have learned to cope and still find ways to search for happiness. You can currently watch it on the PBS Independent Lens site, so check it out if you’re so inclined.

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Next up, I watched Cop Car, starring Kevin Bacon as a crooked sheriff. When 2 young boys go for a joyride in a police cruiser they find in the woods, Bacon sets out to track them down because he left a body in the trunk. It’s quite the thriller, and it moves fairly quickly. I just stumbled upon it on cable, and didn’t expect much from it, but it’s not bad at all. And the ending leaves you with questions, so watch it so we can discuss it!

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On Facebook, someone in a group mentioned a UK show called Desmond’s, which ran from 1989-1994, and was set in a barbershop. The whole thing kinda fascinated me because you don’t think of Black shows when you think of Britcoms (except for the exceptional Chef!). Plus, there are only 11 articles on Wikipedia about Black Britcoms, so they certainly aren’t common. Anyway, off to YouTube I went to see if I could find any episodes to watch. I couldn’t find the pilot, but I did find the pilot of another Black Britcom called The Crouches. Premiering in 2003, it focused on a working-class Black family, where the father works as a station attendant for the London Underground. In the first episode, the son rebels because he’d asked for a pair of Reeboks, but receives a pair of knock-offs because the family’s money is tight. It’s still funny to me that you can say “shit” and flip someone off on TV in the UK in 2003, yet still can’t do that here (on broadcast TV, at least). It was definitely no Cosby Show, but if I had to come up with an American equivalent, it was probably closer to The Parent’Hood from the WB. Seeing as how there are only 12 episodes (Thank you, shortened British TV seasons!), I’d love to watch the whole series, but they don’t seem to be online anywhere.

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In TV news, it was announced that WGN America has ordered a pilot based on the Vertigo series Scalped. I was a big fan of that comic during its run, and talk of a TV series has been going around for years. I was kinda hoping it would end up at a premium channel, though, as it needs that platform for the sex, violence and language. I’ve been meaning to do an Adventures West Coast review of the series, but it seems like most of my focus is on West Week Ever these days. If you’re not familiar with the series, Scalped follows Dashiell Bad Horse who’s a self-loathing Lakota who’s sent back to the reservation on an undercover mission to take down local crime boss Lincoln Red Crow. I remember not really liking the ending, but it probably won’t matter because nobody watches WGN America. They have some critically acclaimed shows (Salem, Manhattan, Underground), but I never hear anyone talk about those shows other than critics themselves. So, unfortunately, I’m not expecting big things, even though I have more invested in this than the upcoming Preacher adaptation.

In other TV news, Dos Equis has announced that they’re ending the Most Interesting Man in the World ad campaign. And how do they accomplish this? BY SENDING HIM TO MARS! I’m not even kidding. Apparently, space was awaiting him, so now I guess he’s the Most Interesting Man in the Galaxy now? I kinda wish they’d continue to make the commercials, ’cause I’d love to see him on a spaceship, just getting drunk off shitty Mexican beer. Imagine it – the commercials get worse and worse, as he gets drunker; drunken ramblings, like “I BANGED JACKIE KENNEDY WHILE MR ED WATCHED!” Apparently, the move is to attract younger customers, so I guess look for lowriders and bikinis in future ads. Anyway, stay thirsty, Most Interesting Man. Stay thirsty.

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There was a lot of legal stuff going on in the world of pop culture this week. First up, Terry Bollea, AKA Hulk Hogan, is currently suing Gawker Media for releasing his sex tape. Well, he was asked if it was true that he had a 10″ penis, which resulted in him snatching down the curtain of pro wrestling. It turns out that the character, Hulk Hogan, has a 10″ penis, but the performer, Terry Bollea, does not. Yes, this came out in court. So, does this mean he was always lying about his 24″ pythons, too?!

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In other legal drama, “Chumlee”, of Pawn Stars fame, was arrested this week in connection to a sexual assault investigation. Also known as Austin Russell, Chumlee’s house was raided and the cops found firearms and drugs. Chumlee’s prohibited from owning firearms, so that’s a no-no. In fact, they arrested him on NINETEEN drug charges, including possession of weed and meth. Kinda sucks, as he seemed like a sweet, though simpleminded, dude. Not surprised about the weed, but I never really pegged him for a meth head.

Two trailers came out yesterday concerning things that I love. First up, there’s The Lonely Island’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. If you’re not familiar with The Lonely Island, they’re Andy Samberg’s crew – best known for their SNL Digital Shorts. Well, in this film, Samberg appears to be a Justin Bieber-esque popstar in a hilarious takedown of the pop music industry. I love everything The Lonely Island has done, from their album Incredibad to their film Hot Rod. I am ALL IN for this.

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The trailer everyone was waiting for, however, was the final Captain America: Civil War trailer. If anyone was on the fence about this movie before the trailer, I thin they’re definitely chosen a side by now. It’s an exciting trailer, but I had an issue with it: I didn’t need to see Spider-Man. I know it’s to get folks jazzed about the film, and to let folks know “Yes, he’s in here”. After all, the Man on the Street isn’t as plugged into geek media as would like to believe, so I can see why his reveal might’ve been necessary for audience awareness. That said, can you imagine how huge that scene would’ve been had they held it until the film? Like @OAFE said on Twitter, I’d have been fine if we just got the “thwip” of his grabbing Cap’s shield, without getting the full shot of him. The thwip would’ve been more than enough. But here we are. I’m still #TeamIronMan all the way, and this trailer didn’t sway me from that.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Actress/singer Zendaya has been cast as mysterious character “Michelle” in the Spider-Man reboot film
  • Craig Robinson is joining Mr. Robot‘s second season in a recurring role
  • Supergirl has been renewed for a second season on CBS
  • Citing differencs with the studio on the direction the project was taking, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has left the Sandman adaptation.
  • Former J. Jonah Jameson actor, JK Simmons, has been cast as Commissioner Gordon in the Justice League film

Based on Twitter reaction, you’d probably expect that the Civil War trailer had the West Week Ever. That means that you clearly didn’t see Saturday Night Live last weekend. Yeah, I know it’s “cool” to hate the show. “It hasn’t been funny since *fill in year when you were 13*.” I get it. Still, every now and then something incredible happens on there that becomes the watercooler conversation the next week. A lot of folks were sharing the Trump racism sketch, but I actually had problems with that because SNL ignored the racism allegations before asking him to host, but now that it’s happened, they want to be “hip” and “edgy”. Why not call him a racist while you were smiling in his face a few weeks back, huh? But I digress. No, THIS was the best part of last week’s SNL:

That was INCREDIBLE, as my assessment of it got me 33 Likes on Twitter:

It’s a shame that SNL can’t figure out more to do with Pharoah, but I guess they can’t rely on impressions alone. I reviewed his standup special a few months back, and he’s got so much promise. I just wish he had a better showcase for it. In any case, for that amazing riff, Jay Pharoah had the West Week Ever.

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