22nd Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/22/16

by Will

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On the movie front this week, all I watched was The Night Before. In case you forgot about it, it’s the film where Det. Robin John Blake, Falcon, and Green Hornet have a crazy adventure on Christmas Eve because of some weed they got from General Zod. Yeah, I’m a comic book kid, so that’s the lens through which I saw this movie, at least at the beginning. Once that wore off, I took it for what it was, which was a laugh riot. I know Seth Rogen is polarizing, kinda like Will Ferrell, but I thought this movie was hilarious.

I’d never seen Anthony Mackie in anything not a Marvel movie, so it was nice to see he’s got comedic chops. Rogen delivered what you’d expect from him (including the obligatory cameo from his bromantic partner, James Franco), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good as the straight man. When they were in college, Gordon-Levitt’s parents were killed by a drunk driver at Christmas, so his friends, Mackie and Rogen, start a tradition where they hang out every Christmas as his new family. Well, fourteen years have passed, and things have changed. Rogen is married with a baby on the way, Mackie is a successful NFL player, while Gordon-Levitt is just sort of coasting through life, with a dead end job and a recently failed relationship. With everything changing, Mackie & Rogen decide that this is going to be the last Christmas they uphold their tradition, but aren’t quite sure if Gordon-Levitt can handle it. Meanwhile, they score invitations to The Nutcracker Ball, which is this insane Christmas party they heard about years ago and always wanted to check out. Throw in some drugs, Ilana Glazer, some dick pics, and subtle Home Alone references, and you’ve got yourself The Night Before. Again, I really enjoyed this movie, even though The Nutcracker Ball was something of a disappointment. I mean, it had been built up as this sort of tribute to Bacchus, but all it ended up being was a bar party with a Miley Cyrus cameo. Anyway, I can totally see making this a part of my Christmas movie rotation.

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In movie news, they’re already talking about Star Trek 4 set in the Kelvin Timeline. Now, the fact that they want to continue the franchise isn’t much of a surprise, but it is interesting considering there is basically no hype for Star Trek Beyond, which officially opens today. I mean, this is the movie opening during the Star Trek franchise’s 50th anniversary, and nobody seems to care about this thing unless they’re already a Trekkie/Trekker. The movie doesn’t seem to be tracking that well for the average theatergoer. Anyway, they’re saying that Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role of Captain Kirk’s father from the 2009 film, albeit with more screen time this go ’round. On the one hand, I get it, but on the other I don’t. Sure, he’s Thor and he just had a turn in Ghostbusters, but Hemsworth is far from a “bankable star”. Blackhat bombed, The Huntsman: Winter’s War bombed. He’s one more bomb away from being the next Jai Courtney. It’s not unusual for a studio to get a jump on planning a sequel, but I really think they’re going to be disappointed by this weekend’s Beyond box office, making them rethink plans for the next one.

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In other movie news, it’s being reported that the finale of the Divergent film series will skip theaters entirely, and be reformatted into a TV series. The Divergent Series: Ascendant was supposed to open in theaters next summer, but the box office reaction to the last film, Allegiant, wasn’t so positive. At this point, it’s not even clear if the film’s cast would be included in this TV adaptation, or if there would be a new cast entirely. Franchise star Shailene Woodley said that she doesn’t know what’s going on. I have no clue what this franchise is about, as I’m not a 14 year old girl. Since it’s based on a young adult novel, I take it to be about a strong, courageous young girl who will lead them all. Only they’re not hungry in this one, right? I dunno, man. Anyway, this is the second time in recent months that a film sequel was reported to be retooled for television, as Kevin Smith said the same thing was happening with the sequel to Mallrats. I know the television landscape is changing, but this still feels like something of a vote of no confidence.

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In Power Rangers news, we got our first look at the Rangers in their suits, with retractable visors. I’m just really not feeling the look of these things. I get that they’re going more “alien” with the designs, but that doesn’t work for me. The thing with Sentai is that you can really only deviate so much from certain tropes before things start looking like Chinese knockoffs that you find in an airport gift shop. I think there’s a certain level of camp inherent to the brand that this movie isn’t really embracing. Instead of Power Rangers, it’s starting to just look like Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills with a bigger budget. Some folks still can’t get over the molded breasts on the female Rangers’ suits, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet. While somewhat distracting, I feel like there are bigger potential issues with this film right now.

Power Coins

We also got our first look at the movie power coins, which some folks are jokingly calling “cookie morphers”. I HATE these things. They’re so nondescript. It’s been pointed out that the green coin is in Rita’s staff, furthering the rumors of her connection to the Rangers, but I think they could’ve done something more here. Maybe they weren’t going to be standard “coins”, like we’re used to seeing, but they could’ve been something that looks better than flattened rock with some color dashed on it. They’re clearly not making this movie for fans, but for the general public. After all, most PR fans I know are saying they’re “cautiously optimistic”, but nobody is just jumping at what they’ve seen so far. That’s the smart play – make it for the man on the street. But just don’t expect the fans to automatically glom onto something that doesn’t feel right.

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

  • It was a big week for Hollywood breakups, as Diane Kruger and Joshua Jackson broke up after 10 years together, while Lady Gaga and Taylor Kinney called off their engagement after 5 years together.

Ducktales

    • We got our first look at the character designs for the DuckTales reboot heading to DisneyXD next year. I don’t hate them, but they’ll take some getting used to. LOVE the new Webby, though.
    • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, I’m sure someone will be saddened by the announcement that MTV’s Teen Wolf will be ending after season 6.
    • Apparently Mattel has snatched the Jurassic Park toy license away from Hasbro. I’m sure all that Jurassic World shit that went to clearance didn’t help Hasbro’s cause.
    • Speaking of Mattel, what should come as a surprise to no one, Matty Collector is gone. The Masters of the Universe Classics line will be fulfilled by Super7 going forward, while Matty Collector has opened up “The Vault” to clear out all MOTUC product.

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  • In Pokémon GO, I took over my first gym! I promptly lost it about an hour later…

  • Chris Piers (@chrispiers) is at it again with the Comic Tropes, this time examining the tropes of Frank Miller.
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Ya know what? I think Ghostbusters had the West Week Ever. Sure, nobody really talked about it after Monday, as the attention turned to the online harassment of film costar Leslie Jones (poor thing!), and then to the Republican National Convention. We ain’t got time for politics on here, so the RNC certainly didn’t have the West Week Ever. No, Ghostbusters opened to a respectable $46 million, making it a record for both Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy (it beat the $39 million debut of their collaboration The Heat). It did not, however, beat The Secret Life of Pets, nor does it seem like it’ll be released in China, where movies go to make back their budgets and then some. Still, it did well enough for Sony that they’re already discussing a sequel and, while it wasn’t a $100 million blockbuster, the “haters” didn’t win, as the film did find an audience. So, with all of that in mind, and the sheer fact that nothing else great has happened so far this week, Ghostbusters had the West Week Ever.

01st Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/1/16

by Will

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In the world of movies, Lindsay and I watched Big Hero 6. It’s been on the DVR for, like, a year, so it felt like it was finally time to climb that mountain. I’m honestly not sure what took so long as, on paper, it’s my cup of tea. I mean, it’s an animated Marvel/Disney collaboration. That should be a no-brainer. If you haven’t seen it, Hiro Hamada is a teen prodigy who has graduated high school by the age of 13. Instead of using those smarts constructively, however, he spends his time competing in illegal robot fights. That all changes, though, when Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, takes him to his college to show him the inventions he and his friends have been working on. At that moment, Hiro decides he MUST get into that school. And then some other stuff happens that I don’t want to spoil for you. If you know your Disney movies, you can probably figure it out. It just hit me: ya know why I never really wanted to see this film? It’s for that reason right there. The trailers couldn’t really get into the plot because it would spoil the stuff I can’t tell you about. So, they just showed this kid with a lovable marshmallow-looking robot in a police station, and that’s really all you have to go on. That robot is Baymax, who’s Tadashi’s crowning achievement. He’s a health bot that activates whenever someone says “Ow!’ Anyway, some stuff happens and everyone becomes a superhero. I really liked this movie. I mean really liked it. That said, the ending is kind of funny to me because I feel like Baymax would’ve saved more lives in his original capacity as a health bot than as a superhero, but what do I know? At least it sets things up for further adventures, which we’ll see in the Big Hero 6 TV series that premieres on Disney XD next year.

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Then, I watched Keanu. God, was that a disappointment. Colloquially known as “The Key & Peele Movie”, it stars the comedy duo as cousins who get wrapped up in the drug trade while trying to get back the cat that had been stolen from one of them. But it’s so much more involved than that. You see, the cat originally belonged to a Mexican drug lord, but it escaped when said drug lord was killed by The Allentown Boys (assassins also played by Key & Peele). The cat, then, ends up on the doorstep of Rell (Peele), who takes him in and names him “Keanu”. After a guy’s night with his cousin Clarence (Key), Rell returns home to find that Keanu’s been stolen. So, they set out to find Keanu, and somehow end up in the drug trade because the local gangsters think they’re the Allentown Boys. Meanwhile, the Allentown Boys are trying to track down the guys who’ve been pretending to be them. I guess? There’s no real motivation behind the Allentown Boys. They’re just these supernatural killing machines. The whole movie’s just doing too much. And it’s nowhere near as funny as what you’d come to expect from Key & Peele. It has its moments, but then there’s a lot of weird stuff going on, like how the movie is really just one big George Michael music video. As much as it pains me to say it, I do not recommend this movie.

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On the stand-up comedy front, I caught Deon Cole: Cole Blooded Seminar, which premiered Saturday on Comedy Central. If you’ve seen him on Black-ish or Angie Tribeca, then you know that Cole is HILARIOUS. A former writer for Conan, he’s clearly a funny guy, but I feel like his strengths are outside of stand-up. To say that I prefer his acting doesn’t mean he’s a bad comic, though, and he’s got some funny bits in this special. His writing credits give him crossover appeal, but don’t expect something like you’d get from W. Kamau Bell or someone like that. He’s definitely a Black Comic, and that’s what you get here. Cole actually took over the Comedy Central Radio Drive Home on Friday, where he played some of his favorite stand-up acts. His influences range from Earthquake and Corey Holcomb to Steven Wright and Ellen DeGeneres. He’s got eclectic taste, and that comes across in his stand-up. Anyway, tl;dr it’s definitely worth checking out.

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In comics news, Marvel spoke to Fast Company about an upcoming publishing initiative called “Divided We Stand”. Based on the promo art above, it appears to be The Old Farts vs The Young Upstarts. I really hope it’s not some generational disagreement, like Gen X vs Millennials. It’s also been pointed out that the “old” grouping tends to be less diverse than the “new” grouping. According to Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, everyone featured in the teaser images is there with a purpose, be it an upcoming solo book or an integral role in an established book. I’m reminded of one of the last storylines in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, called “Divided We Fall”. While most folks had checked out of those books by that point, there was some really daring storytelling going on, as Captain America was elected President of the United States, mutants were placed on a reservation, and an actual Civil War broke out, with part of the country wanting to secede. It was hastily wrapped up, as Marvel had to get the universe ready for Ultimate End to coincide with Secret Wars, but if this even comes close to what that was, we might be in for an interesting ride. Anyway, the article stresses that the art doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a storyline coming, pitting both groups against each other. After all, we’re just getting into Civil War II, so it’s not like they could go back to that well so soon. But this could be an indication as to how they’re handling the Marvel brand for the foreseeable future. It’s worth noting that there are some important characters missing, like Tony Stark, Peter Parker, or Sam Wilson. Peter might be busy with the whole “Clone Conspiracy” storyline, but I am curious about Tony and Sam. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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In toy news, we’re getting another series of LEGO DC Super Heroes Mighty Micros, coming in January 2017. The sets will be on display later this month at San Diego Comic-Con. It seems kind of interesting that Wonder Woman would come with Doomsday, but I guess they’re trying to capitalize on that pairing from Dawn of Justice (which seems to be the only scene that everyone unanimously enjoyed). As a big fan of the Mighty Micros line, I can’t wait for these, but I still with they came with regular minifigures; instead of the normal legs, they use the stubby Hobbit legs that don’t have leg joints. I’m not sure if this decision was based on a licensing agreement or what, but I’d like to be able to get regular DC minifigures without having to buy big ass expensive sets to get them. Anyway, here’s hoping we also get another series of the Marvel Mighty Micros, as well.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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    • We got a new promo image for the CW’s DC lineup this fall. Kinda hate how Supergirl is the focal point, seeing as how this is all “The House That Arrow Built”, but I understand why. Plus, it’s just better symmetry to have her in the middle instead of Ollie.
    • Wreck-It Ralph 2 was announced, with a release date of March 9th, 2018. One of these days, I’ll finally get around to watching the first one. Fun fact: Brave made more money domestically, yet this is the one that gets the sequel!
    • Captain America: Civil War will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray on September 13th.
    • Preacher has been renewed for a second season on AMC. Quite the feat, considering it was on against Game of Thrones.
    • Backstreet Boys hinted that they might be in the studio with country duo Florida Georgia Line. This is kinda funny, seeing as how FGL have recently started singing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” at their shows.
    • The J.J. Abrams Star Trek universe has officially been named the Kelvin Timeline, based on the fact that Kirk’s dad commands the U.S.S. Kelvin at the beginning of the first movie. In the real world, Henry Kelvin was Abrams’ grandfather, and has been incorporated into several Abrams projects as Easter eggs.

  • My buddy Chris is at it again with his Comic Tropes video series. This time around, he takes a swing at the tropes of comic writer Brian Michael Bendis, while getting drunk on cider. Check it out!

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It was a great week if you were  a woman and/or person of color in Hollywood, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences sent out 683 invitations to new members. 46 percent of those invites went to women, while 41 percent went to people of color. If you’ll remember, the Academy, which votes on the Oscars, came under fire this year due to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on social media. It was felt that the Academy needed diverse voices, as the films being nominated seemed to represent only a particular segment of the films that were being released. The 683 invites set a record, and they went out to folks like Idris Elba and John Boyega. It’s a funny mix, however. I mean, for every Oscar Isaac and Chadwick Boseman, they also sent invitations to Kate Beckinsale and Marlon Wayans. Tom Hiddleston and Michael B. Jordan? Yup, but you also got Morris Chestnut and Vivica A. Fox. Brie Larson and Rachel McAdams? Sure, but you’re also getting Michelle Rodriguez and Daphne Zuniga. So, if it’s diverse voices that folks wanted, it’s diverse voices they’re gonna get! Still, this initiative seems to move the makeup of the Academy closer to “a jury of one’s own peers”, so maybe the Oscar votes will start to represent what regular people liked instead of being limited to the whims of the stodgy old guard. So, if you were one of the 683 people invited to join the Academy, you’re probably having the West Week Ever.

17th Jun2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

MAD TV New Cast

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

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

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

20th May2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

ghostbusters

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13th May2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/13/16

by Will

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On the movie front, I traveled back to 1988 and finally watched They Live. Yeah, I know it’s something of a cult classic, but I’d never gotten around to seeing the thing in its entirety. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper stars as a drifter who stumbles upon a pair of magic sunglasses that reveal the world has been overrun by aliens. They hide subliminal messages in marketing and advertising, convincing humans to “Obey” and “Consume”. In humanity’s quest to acquire more money and status, we ignore the conquest going on around us. Piper and his reluctant partner, in the form of Keith David, decide to stick it to the aliens and take back the night. Why am I even summarizing this film, when everyone reading this is probably more than familiar with it?  Anyway, I really liked it, but I feel like it was too short. Maybe it’s because we currently live in a 2.5 hour action movie society, and I’m spoiled. It’s probably great that the movie was made when it was, as it would’ve been completely different if made today. We would’ve gotten some drawn out origin of the aliens, and then we would be forced to believe that this manual laborer had the computer skills to hack them and take them down. For this film, all it took was a gun and a satellite dish. And what was up with Meg Foster’s eyes?! Was she blind? I’ve never seen eyes like that in nature before. Anyway, it’s a good 80s romp, but it’s just as poignant today as it was when it was released. Maybe even more so. Anyway, I’m sure there’s some unnecessary 21st century update sitting on some producer’s desk as we speak.

Ted 2

Next up, I watched Ted 2 and I really don’t get why it bombed so hard in theaters. I thought the film was just as hilarious as the first one, though not necessarily as good. In this film, teddy bear Ted and human Tami-Lynn decide to have a baby in order to repair their struggling marriage (’cause THAT works…), but their attempt at adoption fails when the courts decide that Ted is property and not a person. He loses his job, the marriage is annulled, and his credit cards are cancelled, so Ted and his Thunder Buddy, John, set out to prove that Ted is, in fact, human. The movie’s basically like a live action Family Guy, and even reuses a few gags from the show. Maybe America just needs a break from Seth MacFarlane. I mean, first A Million Ways To Die In The West bombed, and then this. MacFarlane just isn’t having a lot of luck at the box office, and the first Ted‘s success is starting to look like a fluke. The film’s got some fun in-jokes and cameos from folks like Michael Dorn, Patrick Warburton, and Nana Visitor. Which reminds me: is Michael Dorn OK? Like, has he been sick? ‘Cause he’s lost a LOT of weight, and not in a good way. Anyway, I think this is the first film to promote New York Comic-Con as a big deal. Sure, there are films that showcase SDCC, but this movie put NYCC on the national stage. Anyway, I feel kinda bad for the MacFarlane empire at the moment. This movie underperformed, and then we got the terrible Bordertown and an unmemorable season of Family Guy (which, conspicuously enough, hasn’t been renewed for next season yet). If you’re a MacFarlane fan, you’ve got to see this film. If not, then you should probably just keep moving.

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I also finally caught Creed. What a great film! Seriously, it was uplifting and inspiring in all the right ways. Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son seeks out Rocky Balboa to train him to become a fighter outside of his father’s shadow. Michael B. Jordan is just so cool, and great in the role. Director and writer Ryan Coogler did a great job capturing the underlying Rocky themes of redemption and perseverance. It was a great “passing the torch” film, and while I’d welcome a Creed sequel, I’m also fine with it being the coda to the Rocky franchise. I’ve got nothing snarky to say. Just see this movie!

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Sadly, I also saw Zoolander 2. I LOVED the first Zoolander, but this movie joins Anchorman 2 in the disappointing “Too Little, Too Late” bin. Seriously, 15 years for a sequel?! The movie is pretty dreadful, and doesn’t really gain any sort of spark until Will Ferrell’s Mugatu reappears halfway into the film. The film kicks off with a break-neck montage to show us what Zoolander’s been up to since 2001. The Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff suffered a structural catastrophe, collapsing into the ocean, killing Zoolander’s wife, Matilda. Derek, then a widower and single parent, has his son taken away from him by Child Protective Services, and he decides to live life as a “hermit crab”. Derek’s brought out of retirement when his son is kidnapped by Mugatu in order to sacrifice him for some mystical fashion ritual. It’s a really crazy plot, but that’s kinda par for the course when it comes to Zoolander films. It’s got a lot of fun cameos, and it features SNL‘s Kyle Mooney in a role where I don’t totally hate him. Like Anchorman 2, it was nice to see the gang back together, but the magic just isn’t there anymore. It had a very lackluster start, but it just barely sticks the landing. You can skip this one.

glaser

On TV, I caught the Comedy Central stand-up special Nikki Glaser: Perfect. She talks a lot about sex. A LOT. It’s not that that’s a bad thing. She does it in a funny, self-deprecating kind of way. The problem, though, is the same problem I had with Tosh’s last special: I didn’t watch it when it premiered, so I’d already heard all the jokes on Comedy Central Radio by the time I got around to watching it. Not Glaser’s fault, by any means.

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In television news, NBC has officially picked up the DC/Warner Bros series Powerless, which stars Vanessa Hudgens as an insurance agent who handles claims after superhero battles. It’s a workplace comedy set in the DC Universe, and is set to showcase some lower-rung DC heroes. NBC had success with The Office, so they’re going back to the well, but this sounds like a terrible show. Also, I feel it’s way too similar to Damage Control, which is the company in the Marvel Universe that handles repairs after superhero battles. Not coincidentally, a Damage Control show has been rumored to be in development at ABC, but DC and NBC beat them to the punch. Anyway, the show also features Danny Pudi and Alan Tudyk. To me, Tudyk is something of a modern-day Ted McGinley, so I’m not sure that bodes well for this series.

RIP Shows

There was a LOT of TV news last night, as the culling began in preparation for the network upfronts next week. On the ABC front, Marvel’s Agent Carter has been cancelled, as well as 8-season stalwart Castle. Meanwhile, the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. spin-off Marvel’s Most Wanted will not be going ahead at the network. The Muppets has also been canceled after a lackluster first season that required a midseason retooling. Musical Galavant has also been canceled after 2 seasons. In a somewhat surprising move, ABC also canceled the cult favorite Nashville, as well as freshman drama The Family. Over at Fox, Second Chance has been canceled, meaning it won’t be getting, well, a second chance. As a dagger through my heart, Fox also canceled comedies The Grinder and Grandfathered. I kinda bailed on the former (even though I really enjoyed it), but I really felt the latter had grown into something special, with a lot of heart. Oh well, I guess it means Stamos will be more of a presence in season 2 of Fuller House now. Seth MacFarlane’s Bordertown also got the axe. Meanwhile, it’s official, as Supergirl will be moving to The CW in the fall. The Archie series Riverdale has been ordered to series, while Containment has been canceled. Also, NBC has ordered Chicago Justice to series, therefore basically handing their network to Dick Wolf.

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If you watched last night’s Legends of Tomorrow, then you’ll understand why Wentworth Miller won’t be a series regular next season. Instead, he’s entered into an interesting deal with Warner Bros TV that essentially makes him a regular in the “Berlantiverse”, not tied to one particular show. His talents will primarily be spread across Flash and Legends next year, but he could even appear on Arrow or Supergirl. I guess WB realized they had something special on their hands with that character and, while I’m sad to see he won’t be part of the Waverider crew next year, I am glad to see it’s not the end of the road for Leonard Snart.


On the music front, Justin Timberlake released his first song since 2013 last Friday. Called “Can’t Stop The Feeling”, it’s from the soundtrack to the upcoming DreamWorks animated film Trolls. It’s already being called “the song of the summer”, but it’s only May so let’s not get carried away. Still, any chance to see Ron Funches and Anna Kendrick dance (for different reasons, of course!), is a good thing. It’s a fun little ditty, so check it out.

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In the world of video games, Disney Infinity has been discontinued, and Disney is exiting the game publishing industry. Reportedly, they’re taking a $147 million loss, which is surprising considering the platform featured Star Wars and Marvel characters in addition to Disney ones. I mean, if you can’t make money with Marvel and Star Wars right now, you’re doing business wrong. Anyway, I never trusted any of those “figurine switcheroo” games because they just seem like cash grabs. Skylanders seemed kinda groundbreaking, but then we ended up with Infinity, LEGO Dimensions, and amiibo – not to mention Hasbro’s own failed Playmation platform. Are they in the game industry or the collectible figure industry? Because it doesn’t seem like you can successfully be in both for long.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was reported that Alden Ehrenreich has been cast as Han Solo in the Star Wars character’s solo film. Never heard of him, but good for him!
  • Ben Affleck was named an executive producer on the Justice League film, amid rumors that Zack Snyder and Warner Bros are currently fighting over the project.
  • Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne split up after 33 years together, after Sharon allegedly caught Ozzy having an affair with a celebrity hairstylist
  • Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham admitted that her mic was never on during Spice Girls performances
  • The Superman prequel Krypton has been ordered to pilot at SyFy. Seriously, though – who gives a shit about Krypton?
  • After 30 years with the company, Steve Lombardi, also know as the Brooklyn Brawler, was released by WWE.
  • Gentlemen, start your engines! Topanga’s back on the market! Danielle Fishel has divorced her husband after 2 years of marriage
  • Chris Evans is reportedly dating Jenny Slate. I’m not sure which one I’m more jealous of!
  • CSI: Cyber was cancelled by CBS, ending the CSI franchise for the foreseeable future

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I had the pleasure of joining @TimDogg98, @ClassickMateria, @Agent_70, @Roddykat, and @blackastronaut1 for a special treasury edition of The Comic Book Chronicles, as we discussed Captain America: Civil War. It was a fun chat, so be sure to check it out.

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It’s currently the #1 movie in the WORLD. It opened in the US to $179 million last weekend. It introduced the man on the street to Black Panther. It’s loved by almost everyone. And I’ve gotten 2 podcast appearances out of the whole thing. I won’t get into story beats, as not everyone’s seen it, plus I’ve already discussed it ad nauseam on the aforementioned podcasts. So, I think it’s fair to say that, for the second week in a row, Captain America: Civil War 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.

spider-man homecoming

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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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.

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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”.

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

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

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

Alfre Woodard

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

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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.

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

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

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

Jenni Konner

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

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

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

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

01st Apr2016

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

by Will

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

mtv spring break

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

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

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

rebirth

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

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

suicidesquad

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

Batman-v-Superman-Dawn-of-Justice-Trailer-2

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.

29th Mar2016

The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: California Dreams

by Will

californiadreams

Back in 1992, two shows premiered about beautiful people forming bands. One show aired on NBC Saturday mornings (California Dreams), while the other aired during primetime on Fox (The Heights). The Heights went on to have a number one single on the Billboard Hot 100, but then got canceled a week later. Meanwhile, California Dreams went on to enjoy 4 more seasons on the air, but never achieved the mainstream musical success that I felt it could’ve had. But first, let’s backtrack.

If you were too cool for school, then you probably didn’t watch NBC’s live action Saturday morning fare. After all, some folks think that Saved by the Bell killed Saturday morning cartoons (it didn’t; cable did that), while others simply didn’t like the hokey nature of the show. Well, after Saved by the Bell‘s success, executive producer Peter Engel was at it again with California Dreams. As it could pretty much be described as “Saved by the Bell with music”, I like to call it “Saved by the Bell if the Zack Attack didn’t suck” (C’mon, “Friends Forever” was some garbage and you know it!). Set in Southern California, the show initially focused on siblings Matt and Jenny Garrison, and their garage band, the California Dreams. During the first season, it was more of a family ensemble show, but NBC was all about the pretty teens, so they had the producers get rid of that family aspect when the second season rolled around. From that point on, the focus was on the band, its members, and their struggles to hit it big. Oh and, since they were high school students, there was plenty of homework and dating drama.

This might be sacrilege to some, but I’ve always loved California Dreams more than Saved by the Bell. Most of the “Engelverse” reused storylines, so they were basically telling the same stories, but I liked that you got an original song with most episodes of Dreams. Plus, I had a huge crush on Heidi Noelle Lenhart (the brunette). Based on when the show hit, it was a sound that was so indicative of the era. When it comes to California Dreams songs, they’re pretty much just Wilson Phillips songs. Now, personally, this was a point in my life when I was listening to country, so I didn’t really know this sort of stuff got airplay. Had I known, I would’ve been all over pop radio at the time. Still, there’s something sugary sweet about their sound. It’s soothing to me, and it doesn’t really carry much of a message. Sometimes you just wanna kick back and not think, and the Dreams excelled at that kind of song. Whether it was “Castles on Quicksand” or “Rain”, it was hard to be disappointed by a California Dreams song. That said, I think their best song is the theme song to the show. Even listening to it now, it takes me back to a better time.  For me, the early 90s were perfect. No bills, no puberty, no worries. Just close your eyes and listen:

Those harmonies! Smooth like butter. Most folks can rattle off “When I wake up in the morning, and the alarm gives out a warning…”, but they don’t know about this. I hear something like Wilson Phillips’ “The Dream Is Still Alive”, and wonder how that got airplay and the Dreams didn’t (that’s a “real world” California Dreams song if I’ve ever heard one). Was that just something the producers didn’t pursue with the show? They must not have, as you’ve never heard a California Dreams song on the radio and I think that’s a shame. With all of the throwaway pop groups of the 90s, like The Party, there was certainly a place on the radio for the California Dreams. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Oh, and that other group I mentioned – their song didn’t suck, either. I actually really dig “How Do You Talk To An Angel”, so I’ll leave you with that, as something of a “bonus track”.

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