23rd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/23/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

So I started a new job last week, and it has drastically changed my life. I used to roll into work whenever I wanted, blog, tweet, the works! Now everything is blocked and they are kicking my ass. I feel like I’m gradually losing my grasp on pop culture, but I’m doing my best to hang on. So, let’s see if I’ve still got it, huh?

I had no time to watch movies this week because in the world of television it was PREMIERE WEEK! New shows! Returning shows! Bad shows! Good shows!

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On Monday, I caught Kevin Can Wait on CBS. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the cool kid thing to do, but I actually really liked The King of Queens, and I think I’m the only person, besides Adam Sandler, still championing James’s career. In the show, James is a retired cop who’s trying to get used to civilian life. It follows the fat schlub/hot wife sitcom formula, with Childrens Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes as his wife. In the pilot, James meets his daughter’s effeminate fiance and can’t deal. Oh, and there’s a role for his real life brother, Gary Valentine, who happens to be in most Kevin James productions. At the end of the day, it’s serviceable, but not great. It’s basically Kevin James starring in Last Man Standing. Swap out James for Tim Allen, and this easily could’ve been a spec script for that show. There’s not a lot on Monday nights, so I might stick with it, but I won’t enjoy it. It might end up like Rules of Engagement: not very good, but kinda manages to be decent background noise for 7 seasons.

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Tuesday night gave us the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had been heavily promoted because they were introducing the latest incarnation of Marvel antihero Ghost Rider. This version, with the alter ego of Robbie Reyes, drives a supercharged Charger powered by the Spirit of Vengeance. So, he’s really more like Ghost Driver than Ghost Rider. Ah, semantics. A lot of folks thought it was a great episode. I, however, did not. I actually loved the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider in the comics, but seeing him onscreen did nothing to energize a show as weak as Agents. I just don’t think that he fits tonally. They spent all this time facing Inhumans and now they’re fighting demons? I guess they’ve got to diversify their portfolio, but it just seems like a leap to me. I also hate the whole “We’ve gotta eventually get the band back together” vibe of the season, since they’ve been scattered across the organization. Some folks online remarked that it felt like an entirely new show, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Based on the ratings, which were about 1.5 million viewers lower than last season’s premiere, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the final season. Still, the show has way outlasted my initial projections.

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Wednesday brought 2 delightful new treats: Lethal Weapon and Designated Survivor. Now, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen Lethal Weapon. In fact, I think I’ve only seen the 4th one. That’s the one from that week Jet Li was famous, right? Yeah, DVDs were just hitting the scene, and my freshman year roommate bought it. So, I’ve seen that one. Never seen the original recipe, though. So, I can’t tell if they nailed the characters or not in the TV adaptation. What I will say is that I loved what they did with them. In my mind, this show was just Fastlane: 15 Years Later. If you’re not familiar, Fastlane was a one-hour action comedy on Fox back in 2002, created by McG of the Charlie’s Angels reboot fame. Starring Bill Bellamy and Peter Facinelli as undercover cops who took orders from Tiffani-Amber Theissen, it was hot women, fast cars, and a hot soundtrack. It was the Foxiest Fox show of the early ’00s. It only lasted one season, and I loved the HELL out of it. I have the whole show on both legal and illegal DVDs. I loved it that much. Anyway, if they had been allowed to age naturally, I feel like they would’ve evolved into Damon Wayans’s Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford’s Riggs. Anyway, Murtaugh’s coming back on the job following a heart attack and he’s paired with recently widowed Riggs, who clearly has a deathwish. Can they get along? Will hilarity ensue? Well, you’ll have to tune in to see, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I watched. I will be back next week.

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Next, ABC gave us Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. Basically, during the State of the Union, one cabinet member is designated to stay behind in case something drastic happens. Well, it does, as the Capitol blows up (Man, between BvS and this show, Hollywood REALLY hates the Capitol this year), killing EVERYONE. So Kiefer, who had just that morning been fired as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, finds himself thrust into the role of President of the United States. Nobody thinks he’s qualified for the job, Kiefer included. Meanwhile, there are a few subplots. Who is FBI agent Maggie Q looking for in the rubble? Why is Kiefer’s son selling drugs in da clurb? Was this whole thing orchestrated by some unseen force? It’s funny to watch because we spent 8 years getting to know Kiefer as Impossible White Man Jack Bauer. There was nothing he couldn’t do, so it’s kinda strange to watch him be such a pussy. Right now, I’m pretending that Jack has amnesia and that he’ll regain his memory and skills by season’s end. There are glimpses of Jack that sneak out, such as Kiefer’s confrontation with the Iranian (?) leader who seems to be trying to take advantage of the situation. He threatened the dude, and it was like Jack was back with us in the flesh. But it was not to be, as he returned to his meek self following the meeting. Still, it’s a suspenseful hour, and Kiefer has been the king of TV suspense for the past 15 years, so I’m all in for this.

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Finally, last night gave us the premiere of Pitch on Fox, focusing on Ginny Baker, who will be the first woman to play major league baseball. In the series, Baker gets called up from the minors to start for the Padres and she BOMBS. Meanwhile, we get flashbacks to how she came to be where she is. Her discovery of baseball, her refining her skills – all while her overbearing father was behind her. Apparently his major league dreams flamed out and, when he saw that his son wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps, he focused on his more talented daughter. It’s funny to me that after 30 years, there’s still something that could be considered a “Fox show”. Like, it’s an ingredient that can’t be shaken. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but there are some projects that would only work on Fox, and this is one of them. It was a good hour, and it ended with quite the twist (seriously, between this and NBC’s This Is Us, it appears that weird twists are en vogue this season), but I don’t know how long it could last. If they went into it as a Done In One, I could really embrace it. But if they’re trying to build a franchise out of this show, I just don’t think there’s much there. Still, I enjoyed Mark-Paul Gosselaar acting like the asshole we always knew Zack Morris would grow up to be. I’ve got nothing else going on Thursdays at 9, so I’ll stick with it for now.

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In movie news, we got our first glimpse of the Power Rangers movie Zords in these new character posters. I have no clue what I’m looking at. Seriously, are they even still dinosaurs? I can make out the Mastodon’s tusks and that’s about it. The rest is just so…”Bayformers”. It was also announced that Bill Hader would be voicing Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5. Wow, this movie is the surprise that keeps on surprising. The trailer will debut next month at New York Comic-Con.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, the Yellow Ranger was mysteriously recast for Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Though the entire cast was introduced last month at Power Morphicon, it appears that Chantz Simpson (that CAN’T be his real name!) has left the production. His role has been recast with Nico Greetham. I find this casting interesting because a lot of folks had pointed out that this would be the first season without a single White member of the team. It was basically the Diversity Rangers, which was unprecedented. But with the casting of Greetham, we’ve got a White guy again. I wonder if there was some pressure for them to do that. Anyway, this follows a long tradition of recast Yellow Rangers, as it happened in Mighty Morphin (Trini was originally Latina), it happened in Lost Galaxy, and it supposedly happened in RPM.

Recently I’ve been talking a lot about country music on here, but that’s really because it’s the only music I keep up with these days. I can’t tell you anything about the pop charts, but I can name Maren Morris’s latest song (“80s Mercedes”) and I listen to Bobby Bones every morning. I’ve always loved pop, but I’ve also always loved country. When I was a baby, I used to have WMZQ playing next to my crib and it stuck with me. In fact, my migration to pop was a slow one. It started with soft rock, “at work radio”, and then made its way to boybands and Britney. But it wasn’t always like that. When I started dating Lindsay, the country came roaring back, as that’s pretty much all she listened to. For a while, I could juggle the pop and the country, but lately it’s pretty much all country these days. Anyway, this is a long intro for me to say that I’ve got a LOT of thoughts on “Forever Country”, the mash-up song released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association.

The video for “Forever Country” was released this week, and it’s a medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”, and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. The song is sung by 30 of country’s hottest stars, like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and more. I also appreciated that they included Darius Rucker and Charley Pride to add some diversity. There are, however, some glaring omissions: Where’s Kenny Rogers? Where’s GARTH?! That last one is even more odd, as Garth’s wife Trisha is present on the track. I thought maybe it was a scheduling conflict, but I’ve read that he’s against the platforms where the song will be released, such as YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify (his songs aren’t on any of those services). I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve never really liked Garth, so it’s not a huge loss to me. I missed the Garth Brooks era the same way I missed the WWE Attitude Era. By that point, I was knee deep in Ace of Base. The only reason I even know “Friends in Low Places” is because drunk White people love to sing it once “Don’t Stop Believin'” goes off. But if you’re tackling the biggest stars of the past 50 years, you’ve GOTTA have Garth. It’s just incomplete without him.

Now, the video itself is a frenetic mess. It moves too quickly. There’s not enough focus on each contributor. It honestly makes me dizzy. Plus, it’s obvious it was just some green screen thrown together for whenever the artists were free to come in and film their parts. I mean, there’s no way Blake and Miranda were in the same room together. So, I like the idea of the song, especially since it allows Dolly to reclaim her song; it always kinda bothered me that everyone thought of it as a Whitney Houston song, but Dolly cashed all those royalty checks, so I’m sure she’s cool with it. They do a good job mixing the three songs, and it’s not something treacly like “We Are The World” or “Let The Music Heal Your Soul”. The video could’ve been a lot better, though.

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

  • Season THIRTY-THREE of Survivor premiered. You did this, America. You only have yourselves to blame.
  • Brangelina powered down into its divided forms of “Brad” and “Angelina”, as Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt.
  • 80s heart throb Corey Feldman had an emotional breakdown after the internet had a field day with his performance on The Today Show.
  • On Empire, they killed off the White girl. Poor Rhonda never really had a chance.
  • The Big Bang Theory kicked off what is likely its final season. And the “real nerds” rejoiced.
  • Buckle up, Puddin’ – Margot Robbie will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on October 1st
  • Two of my recent favorites – Better Late Than Never and Odd Mom Out – scored renewals this week. (Thanks for the tip, @jrwells82!)
  • CBS’s The Case of JonBenet Ramsey proposed that her older brother was her killer, and it was covered up by the parents

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So, I don’t talk about her on here, mainly because I basically have to beg her to read this thing, but today we’re gonna talk about my wife.

When we first met, I was much skinnier and used to run. The running started in college, when my friend Eric and I used to take midnight jogs to Wegmans (What? It was Ithaca and nothing else was open). I kept running even when I came home, but it decreased somewhat. I had an ex who did marathons (though you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Bada-bing!), and I would run with her to help her train. After awhile, though, the running tapered off. I met Lindsay and she was the type of person who would only run if being chased, and even then it was a crapshoot.

So, fast forward 8 years later. I have gained…some pounds, and now Lindsay runs. She started about a year ago, just starting out with a Couch to 5K program. She had done one in the past, as we ran the Color in Motion 5K Run some years ago. Still, she hadn’t really stuck with it after that, so she was giving it another shot. Well, Couch to 5K turned into actual 5Ks, and then 10Ks, and then 10 milers. She gets up every morning at a time when I’m usually going to bed (we’re on two completely different schedules), and goes for her runs. She’s only missed running due to illness. Other than that, she forces herself to get up and puts in the work. Well, last Sunday, after months of training, she ran (and completed) her first half marathon! This from a woman who would’ve probably let her attacker overtake her just a mere year ago. This my long drawn out way to say that I’m proud of her, and watching her complete that half was the most impressive thing I witnessed this week. So, with that in mind, Lindsay West had the West Week Ever.

16th Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/16/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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I didn’t really watch anything this week, but I did kick things off by checking out Monday Night Raw, live in Baltimore. Here’s my recap of the event. No, don’t act like you already read it. I track these things! Go ahead – I’ll wait.

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Well, this could be called The Week of Delays, as two pretty big projects just got shuffled down the release schedule. First up, Marvel’s Civil War II is now running so late that the final issue isn’t set to hit stores until December 28th, 2016. Yup, their “summer event” will now be cleaning up after Santa’s reindeer. This shit is getting out of hand. A similar thing happened with Secret Wars, where the final issue shipped after all the All New, All Different Marvel titles that were meant to spin out of the event started hitting shelves. It really took the wind out of that story’s sails. It was like, “Guess Doom doesn’t die since he’s now co-starring in Invincible Iron Man.” In that situation, another issue was added late in the process just like they did here. The writers always spin it as “I came up with a better ending, and Marvel was so gracious to allow me to write the best story that I can.” Well, why couldn’t you plot that shit out better in the beginning? It’s funny books, not rocket science. A lot of folks act like we should just shut up and let them write the best story that they can, but we all know that’s not it. Nothing ever ends with Marvel. It’s all just set up for the Next Big Thing. Marvel is 4-color blue balls. With DC, at least shit is wrapped up til the next Crisis. With Marvel, however, you end up just letting one event feed into the next, with little to no payoff. It’s the print equivalent of watching this gif :

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SPOILER ALERT: HE NEVER BREAKS THE FUCKING GLASS! BREAK THE FUCKING GLASS, MARVEL!

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Elsewhere in the world of failed deadlines, it was announced that Star Trek Discovery is delayed until May 2017 on CBS All Access. It’s not really a surprise, seeing as how it’s September and they haven’t even announced a cast yet. It’s just one more way CBS/Paramount screwed the pooch when it came to Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. I was talking to some friends online this week about Trek‘s 25th anniversary. They actually *cared* back then. I remember that Star Trek was EVERYWHERE, and the movies were being played at the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space. In fact, that’s how I first saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. There were trading cards, WITH HOLOGRAMS! Sure, that’s all very 90s, but where’s my Star Trek mobile game (no, Star Trek Online doesn’t count)? Where’s my Star Trek cross-promotion with Pokemon Go or Angry Birds or some shit? Instead, we’ve just got some weird Quicken Loans commercials. Anyway, it’s probably a smarter move to wait til May because then the show won’t have to compete with the regular broadcast networks. If it premieres during May sweeps, then the rest of the series will roll out over the summer, competing against less prestigious summer series. So, it might be a smart TV decision, even if it rubs fans the wrong way. In the meantime, as a consolation prize, the streaming spinoff of The Good Wife will now debut in February, which is earlier than its originally planned premiere. Whatever.

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Speaking of TV, this was the kickoff of syndication week in most markets. That’s when your local CW’s evening schedule gets shuffled so you get one less episode of Mike & Molly but one more episode of something, like, Anger Management. I used to LOVE this week, as I grew up watching syndicated TV. Everything I watched came on five days a week, which is how I ended up watching every episode of most of those shows. Something odd happened this week, however: nothing changed. It’s no secret that TV shows aren’t lasting as long these days. It used to be that 5 seasons or 100 episodes would get you to syndication. Then they lowered it to 80 episodes. Then Community went into syndication in its third season. The model got desperate, so it took what it could get. Anyway, on my local CW affiliate, nothing changed. Wait, one thing changed: The Bill Cunningham Show ceased production, and it’s been replaced by The Robert Irvine Show, sandwiched between two episodes of Maury. Other than that, though, no new shows, no new timeslots, same old shit. I actually do the math in my head to figure out when these things should be hitting. By all reasoning, New Girl should’ve hit syndication this fall. Sure, it’s syndicated on basic cable, but I’m talking about free TV here. Meanwhile, as episode orders have decreased, it’s getting harder for shows to hit that magic number. Take The Carmichael Show, for example. It will have to air for TEN YEARS in order to get enough episodes for the “classic” 5 days a week syndication model. Now, it could do into weekend syndication, which would require fewer episodes. Maybe airing late Saturday night opposite SNL or something. Still, as a TV guy, this sort of stuff both intrigues and worries me. There aren’t a lot of evergreen syndicated hits. Sure, Friends and Seinfeld are still airing to this day, but do you really think Modern Family or The Middle have that kind of staying power?

One of my favorite songs at the moment is Blake Shelton’s “She’s Got A Way With Words”. Rumored to be about his ex wife, Miranda Lambert, it features some clever wordplay about how he feels about her. The chorus goes:

She put the “her” in “hurt

She put the “y” in “try”

She put the “S-O-B” in “sober”

She put the “hang” in “hangover”

She put the “ex” in “sex”

She put the “low” in “blow”

She put a big “F-U” in my “future”

Yeah, she’s got a way, she’s got a way with words

Well, I knew that country music was full of a bunch of conservative prudes, so I was surprised that last line about “F-U” made it into the song. So, imagine my surprise as I’m singing along the other day, and discover there’s a new radio edit. They’ve replaced that stanza with “She put the ‘S-O-L’ in ‘solo’.” What the fuck? I Googled the song to see if anyone else was talking about it, but there’s no outrage. I even tweeted at Blake himself, asking why he let his label release that neutered thing. Why aren’t more people mad about this?! Stupid Clear Channel. I mean iHeart Media. Ugh!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • 12 year old Grace VanderWaal won America’s Got Talent by singing with her ukulele. America lost their mind over her, like she’s the next Jewel, but I think she’s a cubic zirconia
  • Timbaland got fired as the musical supervisor for Empire, to be replaced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins and Ester Dean. So, they’re basically going from the sound of 2008 to the sound of 2000. Whoever’s at fault here, I wonder if it’s too late to ‘pologize…
  • As a surprise to no one who saw the post credits scene in X-Men: Apocalypse, Mr. Sinister will be the villain of Wolverine 3 (Why isn’t it actually called Wolverin3?) Anyway, there’s absolutely no way they can screw that up. Nope, nada, no way
  • Saturday Night Live hired SEVEN new writers and three new featured players for the upcoming 42nd season, which premieres October 1st. Don’t get too happy. Kyle Mooney’s still there.

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  • Zack Snyder revealed the Tactical Batsuit from Justice League. Is it supposed to look like Nite Owl from Watchmen? This is where I feel like Mattel got involved and said “Help us sell some shit!”

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  • Do you see this shit? This isn’t fan-made! This is something Marvel officially released. Do you see Ghost Rider up there in the corner? Scowling Coulson? And Daisy/Skye as the Not Black Widow? I can’t take anything seriously on this teaser poster for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – which premieres next Tuesday in its new timeslot.

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  • Lady Gaga announced that her next album would be released on October 21st, and would be called Joanne – which is her middle name, as well as the name of her aunt. I dunno, y’all, but I’m expecting to be disappointed by this one

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So, for the past four weeks, I’ve actually been watching a certain reality show with my mom. Since y’all are cool and hip, I’m sure you’ve never heard of it, but I’m ’bout to give ya some schoolin’! The show is called Better Late Than Never, and it’s an NBC show that follows four senior citizens as they travel through Asia. It’s an American remake of the South Korean show Grandpas Over Flowers. These are no ordinary senior citizens, however. Nope, they’re Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, Bill Shatner, boxing great and grill mogul George Foreman, and NFL legend Terry Bradshaw. To round out the group is 30 year old comedian Jeff Dye, who kind of acts like a chaperone for the guys. Sure, they’re all rich, but the point of the trip was for them to basically backpack so they could get the true cultural experience.

Throughout the trip, you really get to know the guys, and in a lot of ways, you feel for them. For example, Shatner’s 84 years old, but he said that the older he gets, the more he feels death approaching, and the more he is afraid of dying. Here’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk who’s afraid of the grim reaper. After all he’s done and seen, wouldn’t necessarily expect that. I mean, at least I wouldn’t. I really saw a vulnerability in Shatner here, and while everyone who’s worked with him seem to have horror stories, he really seemed to gel well with the rest of the guys.

The show is basically a travelogue as seen through the eyes of some grumpy old men. But they also know how to have some fun. Bradshaw will jump at anything that involves singing and/or karaoke, as he’s actually released several albums. Winkler approached everything wide-eyed, with a positive attitude. Foreman was shy, but had an inner child he was dying to let out. They ate exotic foods, like chicken vagina and live octopus. They participated in a water festival in Thailand, and robot fights in Japan. They stayed in a luxurious hotel in Hong Kong (so, they kinda broke the rules on this one, but Shatner said he didn’t know if he would ever see Hong Kong again, so he’d like to know that he did it the “right” way). Now that I think of it, I keep coming back to Shatner. I hope he’s OK. While he seemed to truly enjoy the experience, there was a sort of pall hanging over him. He’s a man searching for something, and I hope he finds it.

Anyway, it’s a great binge, as it’s only 4 one-hour episodes, and they’re all On Demand now. The season (series?) finale aired this week, and I really hope it gets a second season. Sure, they could switch up the cast, but these guys have great chemistry. And I think a Europe is the prime location for a second season. Anyway, it was fun watching The Fonz ride an elephant, and George Foreman knocking out Captain Kirk, and Terry Bradshaw get a tattoo for his birthday. Oh, and then the whole gang starred in a music video with K-Pop sensation Girls’ Generation. Despite their age, they all discovered that they’re still kids at heart, and that you’re never too old to experience new things. It’s a really fun show, and it’s fun for the whole family! Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed all four weeks of the show, so that’s why Better Late Than Never had the West Week Ever.

09th Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/9/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Welcome to the 1,000th post at WilliamBruceWest.com! Well, technically, I hit 1,000 posts years ago, but when I switched over from Blogger to WordPress, I deleted several hundred posts. So, this is post 1,000 for version 2.0 of the site. Anyway, if this were a comic book, it’d have a holographic cover and it would feature a reprint of my first issue in the back. But it’s not a comic book, so you’re just gonna get some ramblings and some pictures I stole from bigger websites. You’re lucky I even wrote anything considering how few of you read last week’s post. I’ve really gotta stop writing on holiday weekends!

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Speaking of holiday weekends, last week some friends and I took in the Baltimore Comic Con. It was pretty much what you’d expect from the show. It wasn’t the best BCC, but it was made better by the company I kept.

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I will say, however, one thing stood out to me. You see, WWE Hall of Famer Sunny (AKA Tammy Sytch) was a guest on behalf of MCW Wrestling. Now, let’s talk a bit about Sunny, shall we? In her heydey (circa 1994), she was the valet of the Bodydonnas, a fitness-themed duo of heels. That didn’t last long, but her Bodydonnas partner, Chris Candido, was also her boyfriend, so she went wherever he went. They next went to ECW, which is where Sunny’s drug problems really started to surface. After leaving there, they ended up in WCW – also leaving once her drug problems arose again. Candido died in 2005, and then the shit really hit the fan. On top of the drugs, she ended up posing nude for the adult site, Wrestling Vixxxens, which she later said she regretted. Well, she must not have regretted it too much, as last January, she signed with Vivid Entertainment and released Sunny Side Up: In Through The Backdoor – full-fledged porn-o-graphic moving picture! She was even trying to sell her Hall of Fame ring. Rough times…

OK, so let’s fast forward to last Saturday. She was sitting at a table, charging the “Virgil standard” of $20 per picture. Now, she doesn’t look anywhere near as good as she did in 1994. I mean, who does? Still, she’s kept it fairly tight, considering all her life’s been through. But it was weird watching guys have her take pictures with their sons, like it was some sort of rite of passage or something. I mean, we’re not talking about Trish Stratus here, as Sunny never really did anything notable in the ring. She was basically known for being hot and doing porn. And somehow that got her into the WWE Hall of Fame. Anyway, the whole thing was just weird to me.

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In movies, I watched Independence Day: Resurgence with my buddy Keith after the con. If you’ve been hiding under a rock, it’s 20 years after the first movie, and the aliens are back for revenge. Apparently, the mothership from the first movie sent off a distress signal that has finally been picked up by an alien queen. Man, that movie should’ve been called Nepotism Day. I say that because EVERYONE already knew EVERYONE. I’m not even talking about the characters from the first movie who have returned. Even the new characters somehow know everyone else. There are no introductions in this movie. It’s basically, “Hey, it’s been awhile.” Will Smith’s character got killed off on the movie’s promotional website, so his son takes the lead in this installment. Somehow, though, he already knows President Whitmore’s daughter (who was recast because they didn’t feel Mae Whitman was “Hollywood Hot” enough) AND new movie hero Liam Hemsworth. He also knows the new President (Sela Ward), while Hemsworth somehow knows Jeff Goldblum’s David Levinson. None of this is really explained. We’re basically expected to just accept that they all met each other over the past 20 years. In fact, the only character that is even somewhat introduced is Angelababy’s Lt Lao, who was clearly crammed in for the lucrative Chinese marketplace.

Another thing is that the deaths are meaningless. In the first movie, when the world capitals and landmarks were destroyed, you kinda felt something (possibly because we hadn’t seen anything like that before). This time around, though, instead of a destructive laser beam, the aliens basically use gravity to pick up one side of the planet (people, cars, buildings) and drop it on the other side of the planet. Visually, it was…interesting, but it felt empty. The movie requires a LOT of suspension of disbelief. The worst part, though, is how it ends in a Super Mario Bros-esque fashion, setting up a sequel that will never come, based on the box office results of this installment.

There’s a subplot of the movie that focuses on Not John Oliver and an African warlord. You see, the Africans fought a ground war against the aliens for the next ten years after the first movie. That would’ve been a MUCH better movie than what we got. Hell, this movie would’ve been better had it just focused on Not John Oliver and the warlord, killing aliens. They were, by far, the most interesting part of the film. If you didn’t see this movie, you definitely didn’t miss anything.

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Speaking of space stuff, Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary this week. The franchise has had a profound impact on my life, but I find myself speechless when it comes to any kind of tribute. I’ve often referred to myself as a “retired Trekkie”, but it’s all still in my heart. Still, I couldn’t let the occasion pass without at least mentioning it. To get my thoughts on the franchise, check out my most recent podcast appearance with the guys over at Nerd Lunch, and check out this classic post from the archives, where I wonder why anyone would want to join Starfleet.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It was confirmed that Joe Manganiello will play Deathstroke in Ben Affleck’s solo Batman film
  • Greg Berlanti’s Black Lightning has been picked up for a pilot at Fox, which sucks because there’s no way Fox is gonna play ball with The CW for a crossover.
  • Lil Wayne may have retired from hip hop over Twitter. I hope that means he’s going to devote all his free time to pouring champagne on phones.
  • Shailene Woodley said she’s not interested in doing Divergent as a TV show, which is probably music to the ears of the folks financing the thing
  • This week saw the Comedy Central Roast of Rob Lowe, which actually just featured everyone ganging up on Ann Coulter
  • MTV announced Wonderland, a September 15th-premiering live music show. I tend to hate when people cite the whole “Remember when MTV used to play videos?”, but it is strange that this is “news” considering this is what they should be doing.

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  • Freddie Prinze Jr and Rachael Leigh Cook hung out, and apparently this WASN’T taken in the unemployment line. Good for them!
  • Lady Gaga finally released her new single “Perfect Illusion”. The only illusion here is that she thought this was a worthy comeback song.

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One thing took me by surprise this week. When I first heard of FX’s Atlanta, I had no interest in it whatsoever. My first thought was “Oh, Donald Glover’s being weird again.” After all, this is the dude who left Community and then had a mini breakdown as to whether or not he’d made the right choice. This was the dude who desperately wanted to be taken seriously as rapper Childish Gambino, despite the terrible name. This is the guy who, in recent years, always looks like he needs a sink and a washcloth. So, what could Donald Glover possibly have to offer that I would want? Well, it turns out he had something I didn’t even know I needed.

Created by, and starring, Glover Atlanta is about Earnest Marks who’s a Princeton dropout who just can’t seem to catch a break. He’s moved back home to Atlanta, but he’s got no money, he has a baby daughter, and he’s in a pseudo-relationship with the girl’s mother, though she’s starting to see other people. He really doesn’t think his ship is gonna come in until he finds out that his cousin is an up and coming rapper named Paper Boi. “Earn” decides that he’s going to manage his cousin, which will change both of their lives. Of course, nothing like that is going to go smoothly. Earn and Paper Boi get involved in a shooting, and Earn finds himself in lockup while Paper Boi starts to question whether he’s as “of the streets” as his music portrays him to be.

It was such an engaging hour, and it left me begging for more. If I could binge the whole season right now, that’s exactly what I’d be doing. I mean, there’s a mystical aspect to it, while there’s also this anxious sadness that I haven’t felt since Breaking Bad. It’s like you know something bad is coming (I feel it involves Paper Boi getting shot), but you kinda just want it to hurry up and get it over with. Sure, Mr. Robot causes anxiety, but it’s wrapped up in so much mindfuckery that it never really settles. Here, though, the suspense is palpable. You want the characters to win, but you also know it’s not going to be an easy road. Plus, at the end of the day what, exactly, would “winning” look like? I look forward to seeing all of this play out, and that’s why Atlanta had the West Week Ever.

02nd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

It’s a holiday weekend and y’all never read this thing when that happens, so let’s keep it short and sweet today, shall we?

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In comic news, the Diamond Retailer Summit is currently happening, so some news is trickling out of there. In the Marvel camp, they revealed a Monsters Unleashed series. Whatever. They’d been teasing something called MU for weeks, first revealing Cullen Bunn was involved and then slowly revealed artists, such as Leinil Yu, Adam Kubert, and Greg Land. Well, today it was announced it was this monster shit. I know some people are into all that, but I’m not one of them, nor do I feel like such an announcement deserved all that fanfare. It’s making me think that Marvel’s cried “Wolf!” one too many times. It’s also odd to me that a monster series is coming out in January instead of October. Also, they announced that the follow-up to Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men would be called ResurreXion. Yeah, you read that right. I’ll bet someone in Marvel’s marketing department got an erecXion when they came up with that one.

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Meanwhile, DC announced their first major Rebirth crossover in the form of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. I can’t help but feel like this would’ve been better timed to coincide with the release of the film, but maybe its release will bolster the Blu Ray sales, while getting folks primed for Justice League. In the story, Batman decides to take down Amanda Waller’s Task Force X – much like *SPOILER ALERT* Batfleck threatened to do in the post-credits sequence of Suicide Squad. And like all comic book fights, I’m sure they’ll be forced to team up against a greater threat. Anyway, it’s expected that a new Justice League of America series will spin out of this event.

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Speaking of Batfleck, this week Ben Affleck “leaked” some footage of Deathstroke the Terminator. Originally a Teen Titans villain, it seems that Mr. Stroke has been promoted to the big leagues. At first, it was believed this might be Justice League footage, but now the word on the street is that Deathstroke will be the main villain of Affleck’s standalone Batman movie. Oh, and it’s rumored that Joe Manganiello will be playing Deathstroke. Not really excited about it at the moment, but I probably will be as we learn more.

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In TV news, it’s reported that Marvel is shopping around a comedy based on the New Warriors – but featuring Squirrel Girl. Now, this bothers me because Squirrel Girl was never in the New Warriors. Sure, I can understand creative liberties, but it seems like Marvel’s just desperate to create a Squirrel Girl vehicle and this is what they’ve come up with. First off, I don’t know if I like the Superhero Comedy genre for television. I think they should wait and see how DC’s Powerless (which looks horrid) does on NBC. Second, I’ve never really understood the whole Squirrel Girl thing. I get that she’s cutesy and all, but I’ve yet to read a comic where I’m like, “Wow! That Squirrel Girl!” Lately there’s been this movement to get Anna Kendrick cast as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, that’s nice and all, but I think that casting’s wrong. And there’s no way Kendrick is gonna do TV at this stage of her career. No, I think The Middle‘s Eden Sher is a much better choice. It was reported that she was having meetings with Marvel years ago, trying to figure out ways to get her into the MCU. Sadly, I think that ship might’ve sailed, as nobody expected The Middle to still be on at this point. At the moment, though, I’m hoping this project ends up with the same fate as Marvel’s Most Wanted.

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Meanwhile, in DC television world, Greg Berlanti is developing a Black Lightning show with the creators of Girlfriends/The Game, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. I’m all for the Berlantiverse becoming more robust, but I always feel like the older shows suffer when he introduces a new one. I’d much rather they try to make Legends of Tomorrow a better show, and maybe add the character over there first. Black Lightning is an inner city teacher who has lightning powers, hailing from an age when all Black heroes had to have “Black” in their name. If this show gets off the ground, I’m sure it’ll end up being called something like Lightning. The funny thing is that he’s supposedly shopping it around to networks, like we all don’t already know it’s gonna end up on The CW.

 

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You know what really grinds my gears? Country radio (yes, some of us still listen to the radio) does this thing where they play a new single from an album, and then they ask listeners to call in and tell them what they thought of the song. Supposedly, if the response is predominantly negative, the song won’t be played anymore. Um, THAT’S NOT HOW THE INDUSTRY WORKS! If a song has been released as an official single, they pretty much HAVE to play it. Radio doesn’t have the power to make or break an artist anymore. There are people selling albums and touring who’ve never even been on the radio. The days of “If I spin your record, it’ll make you a star” are over. So I guess I wish country stations would cut the shit and stop making the audience think they have some power they don’t really have.

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Another thing I don’t like? An Adult Swim show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace. I’ve tweeted before about how I don’t really like the show, but last week I found I’d attracted the wrong attention: fans of the show. Now, first let me explain who’s behind it: Million Dollar Extreme is a sketch comedy group comprised of Sam Hyde, Charls Carroll, and Nick Rochefort who specialize in making you uncomfortable. Just Google Sam Hyde. I’ll wait. Especially look up his TED Talk. Basically they’ve made a name for themselves as part of the alt-right movement that despises political correctness. So, they go completely in the opposite direction. They do shit in blackface, they mock the handicapped. It’s pretty bad. So, last week, I tweeted this to a friend:

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And then I went to sleep. When I woke up, a bunch of their fans had sarcastically favorited the tweet, and were replying to us, saying stuff like “Yeah, but you’ll watch it and LIKE it”. I looked at these folks’ profiles, and they are NOT nice people. I thought I was gonna end up doxxed or something. Anyway, bottom line: don’t watch World Peace.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Image Comics will reportedly relocate from Berkeley, CA to Portland, OR
  • Netflix announced a second season of the show you’re all raving about, That’s Still So Raven. No, I kid. You’re getting more Stranger Things.
  • Jon Favreau will reprise his Happy Hogan role from the Iron Man movies in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, someone’s bound to be upset that Grimm will end after its next, abbreviated season
  • Pretty Little Liars will also end after its next season. Unless, you know, they’re lying about that…
  • The next season of Dancing with the Stars will feature Vanilla Ice, Babyface, Gov Rick Perry, Amber Rose and more. Still no word on which *stars* will be on the show
  • Chris Brown almost got killed by a SWAT team after pulling a gun on some chick who tried to steal his jewelry.
  • Disney Interactive shut down the Marvel: Avengers Alliance mobile game, which won’t be playable by the end of the month
  • Britney Spears released her 3rd “comeback” album, Glory. I’ve heard it, and I don’t think she’s back yet
  • Alison Brie and Marc Maron have been cast as the leads in Netflix’s series GLOW, based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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So, the only thing I really watched this week was the BBC Are You Being Served? special. Sure, it was a UK thing, but luckily I was able to find it on YouTube. I grew up watching the original show, so this was something that I HAD to see.

If you’re not familiar with it, Are You Being Served? was a Britcom set in a high end department store called Grace Brothers. The show particularly focused on the employees of the Men’s and Ladies’ departments, including Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe, and Captain Peacock. It had a very rigid class structure, where everyone was supposed to know their place and follow a certain chain of command. Captain Peacock was the snobbish “floor walker”, who kept everyone in line. Mr. Humphries was the butt of gay jokes because he was effeminate and lived with his mother. And Mrs. Slocombe was always talking about her pussy (Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s her cat!). The show ran for 13 years, but only has 70 episodes because, well, England. Once it ended, they even tried to “Golden Palace” it by moving the cast to a manor in which their pensions had been invested.

Anyway, in a celebration of British comedy, The BBC “revived” several shows by casting current actors in one-episode specials. This was especially necessary for AYBS?, seeing as how the entire cast is dead now (well, except for Mr. Spooner, but nobody gives a shit about him). Surprisingly, I didn’t know a single actor they cast in this thing. I always joke that there are only about 11 British actors, but I guess there are only 11 who’ve crossed over the pond. None of them, however, made it to this special. I felt the casting for everyone was pretty spot-on, though, especially Mr. Grainger and Mrs. Slocombe. I did, however, feel like they overdid it with Mr. Humphries. While he was effeminate in the original show, there was always a question of “Is he or isn’t he?” but here they just pretty much played him as humorously gay, which sort of took something away from the character.

When the episode starts, a young Black man named Richard Conway shows up for his first day as a member of the Men’s department staff. One thing I’m always curious about is race relations in other countries. While the episode was set in 1988, I was surprised that they never once referred to or joked about his race. Is this just not done in the UK? Or was it felt like that wasn’t the kind of humor you would expect from AYBS? I’d really love to know more about how they came to that decision, because an American show would’ve been ALL ABOUT the fact that he was this Black guy in a prim and proper establishment. It’d be called Homeboy In Knickers, and would air on UPN after Shasta McNasty.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it felt like a genuine “lost” episode of the show. It completely retconned the spinoff Grace & Favour, and it did some clever tinkering to get Mr. Grainger back in the mix. Basically 3 years have passed since the final episode, but things are pretty much like you remember them. There’s a Downton Abbey aspect to the show where it’s mired in class humor in a world that’s quickly changing. The crux of the episode is that the new Mr. Grace is determined to drag the store into the 20th century. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d actually love to see more of it. From what I’ve read, the special wasn’t well-received by the Brits, but I couldn’t have really asked for more. It didn’t swing for the fences by killing a major character, nor did it go for shock value. It tried to give you more of what you loved about the original show, and in that respect, I think it succeeded. That’s why the Are You Being Served? one-off special had the West Week Ever.

 

26th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/26/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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On the movie front, I watched one good movie and one very bad movie. Let’s start with the bad news first. Called The Day, it’s a 2011 film about 5 friends in a post-apocalyptic landscape who find refuge in a farmhouse, but have to defend it from cannibals. Basically, it’s like someone read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and said “Hey, I could do that.” I actually missed the first 20 minutes of the movie, but that’s when my pal Wikipedia came in handy. I didn’t miss anything of substance, and it was pretty easy to pick up at the point when I joined. It starred Shannyn Sossamon, who I fell in love with in 40 Days and 40 Nights before she fell into whatever hole she was in until Wayward Pines last season. It also starred former Iceman, Shawn Ashmore, who clearly spent the earlier part of this decade doing low-budget suspense films (like Frozen). Part of what I hated about it was its lack of color. Like, it wasn’t quite black and white, but it was devoid of a color palette. It’s like they filmed it and then ran it through the Willow Instagram filter. I know they were trying to set a tone, but it just didn’t work for me. And all the characters sucked at life. We’re supposed to think they’ve become a “family” since whatever catastrophic event happened, but it never really made much sense. I know they’d probably seen some real shit together, but I wasn’t buying their forced bond. Anyway, this kind of movie progressed the only way that a movie like this could: most of them die. What? You weren’t gonna watch it. Hell, when it was released in theaters, it only screened in 12 theaters and made about $20,000. NOBODY saw this movie. To be fair, it seems like it was made for the international market, as it opened in Russia first. Then, it was distributed in associated with WWE Studios over here. That’s a true mark of quality right there! Anyway, the special effects aren’t too spectacular, there’s no gratuitous nudity, and it’s just not very good. You can skip this one.

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Now for the one that I loved. I’ve been putting off watching Kingsman: The Secret Service for the better part of a year. I even bought it when it went on sale, but never watched it. I knew it’d be my kind of movie, but I just never got around to watching it. Even recorded it on the DVR, despite already owning it, because I’m lazy and thought I’d be more likely to watch it if I didn’t have to fumble with a disc. Then, last night, I ended up watching it as it randomly came on Cinemax. Now, I know writer Mark Millar has his critics, but I’ve typically liked his output. I was a fan of The Ultimates, I was a fan of Kick-Ass before they ran that franchise into the ground, and I’ve basically enjoyed all the other stuff he put out under the Marvel ICON imprint, like Superior and Nemesis. The Secret Service, however, didn’t really grab me when it originally came out in comic form. I bought the first issue, and it just felt too British, for lack of a better description. I think I ended up selling that comic in a longbox with a bunch of other junk and never looked back. So, imagine my surprise when they announced it would be adapted into a film. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an independent British spy organization tasked with testing new recruits to fill a recent vacancy in their ranks. Colin Firth spends almost 2 hours wearing the Hell out of everything he puts on, while trying to train a young chav named “Eggsy” to be a Kingsman agent. And it does follow the trend of being very British, as the villain, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the quintessential Ugly American. I mean, he even feeds Firth McDonalds at what’s supposed to be a fancy dinner party. Imagine if Spike Lee had Bill Gates money, and you’ve basically got Jackson’s character. Oh, and add in a lisp that seems to come and go. I really don’t remember that obnoxious lisp from the trailers, so I wonder if they added it in post-production. Anyway, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a bit formulaic and predictable at points, but there are certain parts that make it worth the price of admission. Two words: church scene. It has to be seen to be believed. Only Millar could end a comic book movie on an anal sex joke, but I was actually grinning when the movie ended. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I am totally looking forward to Kingsman: The Golden Circle next year.

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In comic news, it was revealed that when Riri Williams takes over for Tony Stark following Civil War II, her hero name will be Ironheart. I don’t hate it. It works. It’s a lot better than how Pepper Potts was called Rescue when she had armor. What’s odd to me is how the comic will still be called The Invincible Iron Man, even though Iron Man ain’t in it. I know it’s a name that recognizable, but even a subtitle could’ve worked. They couldn’t call it The Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart? Just kind of odd that it’s a solo book where the title doesn’t refer to the title character. Anyway, there was some #rabblerabble, as my friend Tim likes to say, this week about her codename because it’s also the name of an Japanese Iron Man porn parody. I’m sure, however, this was merely coincidence.

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In comic movie news, it was announced that director Doug Liman would be jumping from one comic book movie in order to helm another. Previously attached to Channing Tatum’s doomed Gambit film, Liman is now slated to direct DC’s Dark Universe, focusing on the characters of Justice League Dark. This was surprising to me because I didn’t even think this was still on DC’s schedule, seeing as how they went ahead and made the upcoming Justice League Dark animated film. I mean, Assault On Arkham didn’t keep them from making Suicide Squad, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Still, the team is comprised of a bunch of characters who are hardly household names, including John Constantine (star of a mid ’00s cult film and a shortlived TV series), Zatanna, Deadman, and Etrigan The Demon. I always kinda hated that they even adopted the Justice League name, as it wasn’t really appropriate for them. It was DC’s attempt to “Avengerize” their lineup. You see, in the early ’00s, basically every group of Marvel characters were Avengers. There were the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, the Secret Avengers, Avengers Initiative, etc.  It helped boost sales because the Avengers name held some clout, but being used so much also kinda devalued the brand. DC did the same after the New 52 with Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League of America, etc. But I guess a book with Justice League in the title will sell better than something called Shadowpact.

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In other movie news, it appears that the international take of Ghostbusters will be about $220 million. Now, this might sound like a decent amount of money, but as someone on Twitter pointed out, that’s less money than Adam Sandler’s Pixels made. It’s really a shame because I wanted that movie to succeed. No, I still haven’t seen it, but I trust Paul Feig and I love whenever he and McCarthy work together. I still say it would’ve succeeded if they simply hadn’t called it Ghostbusters. They could’ve called it Ghosted or something like that, and sure folks would’ve made comparisons to the original Ghostbusters, but it wouldn’t have been co-opting an established brand that clearly a lot of people had strong feelings about. The release of this movie should be a case study in marketing courses across the country.

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a pretty strict “no death” policy for this column. The way I see it, if I talk about one, I’ve got to talk about them all. And they all don’t mean something to me. This week, however, we lost someone who meant a lot to my formative years. Boyband impresario/Ponzi scheme architect Lou Pearlman died in prison from a heart infection.

A cousin of Art Garfunkel, Pearlman had been in prison since 2008, serving a 25 year sentence for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in US history. Before all that, however, he had a knack for discovering talent. After New Kids On The Block chartered his planes, he looked at that business model and thought, “I could do that”. So, he opened up a pop boot camp in Florida called Trans Continental Studios, and he started churning out boybands like a well-oiled machine. He gave us household names the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. He gave us LFO, who spent a whole summer telling the world about how Chinese food made them sick. He gave us O-Town, whose first single was a vivid description of which stars showed up in their wet dreams. He also helped put Britney on the map, as he signed Innosense, the girl group she was in before she went solo. On the flip side, he also gave us Aaron Carter’s career. Welp, you can’t win all the time.

Anyway, Lou made his money by screwing over his most successful acts. He was contractually the 6th Backstreet Boy, and he took 1/6th of everything they made. So they sued him. He was skimming money off *NSYNC. So they sued him. Hell, he was even cheating Aaron Carter. And he sued him. My favorite scene in the original Making The Band (yes, it existed on ABC before Diddy took it over on MTV) was when O-Town were about to sign their contracts, and the news broke about *NSYNC suing Lou for cheating them out of money. I know reality TV’s fake, but that was some damn good editing.

Plus, there were the sexual allegations. He was a man who was surrounded by hot boys 24/7, meanwhile he had a ten-year relationship with a nurse that was never consummated. It’s been alluded to that the Carter boys experienced some things, while LFO’s Rich Cronin reported that he was in therapy for a lot of what he experienced. I used to know a producer for Making The Band, and she told me that the reason Ikaika quit O-Town was because of his resemblance to BSB’s Kevin Richardson, and that Lou was making advances toward him because of it. Can I get sued for saying that? “Slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel” (Thank you, Spider-Man).

Anyway, all of that is to say that Lou was probably a pretty bad dude. I didn’t even get into the Ponzi shit, which is way over my head. I only know boyband rosters and hit singles. If you want financial news, go to Bloomberg. Lou definitely did some shitty, shitty things in his life, but he almost singlehandedly propped up the pop music industry from about 1996 to 2000. That’s got to count for something, right? I mean, we still laud Woody Allen and Roman Polanski films. Lou Pearlman was probably a sexual predator, but damn it did he know talent when he saw it. This week saw a lot of strained tributes from his former charges. Most of the reactions were basically “He was a scumbag, but I owe my career to him.” My favorite tweet came from O-Town’s Jacob Underwood, who said “Hard to describe what I’m feeling.. He was always nice to me, even when he was stealing from me. RIP.”

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Lou made tens of millions of dollars off the artists he cheated, and that should’ve been enough. But he had to go down the Ponzi route so he could get more. He was brought down by greed, and he died in prison because of it. None of the sexual stuff had been substantiated, so had he just stuck to the music business, we’d be morning a creepy dude who did a lot for music. Instead, we’re left with the death of a man who defrauded investors of almost $300 million, and that was only a fraction of his adult life. Lou Pearlman. A conflicting figure. A legacy of pop.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Gawker was sold at auction to Univision for a reported $135 million. It will now be known as SuperGawkerGigante.com
  • Former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne revealed that she was bisexual in a tweet, after being photographed kissing a girl
  • Apparently there’s a Max Steel movie coming, despite the recent failed revival of the toy line. I’ve got to hand it to the producers, though. I didn’t give a shit about this movie until the trailer wasn’t available in the US, and now it’s all I can think about.
  • Earlier this week, it was reported that Netflix was interested in producing a third season of the Young Justice cartoon. A fan site reported that writer Peter David had been approached about reviving the show, but it was later revealed that he was misquoted.
  • It was reported that Connie Britton may have a reduced role in the CMT revival of Nashville. Welp, there goes any chance of me ever watching that.
  • Soccer player Hope Solo was suspended for 6 months after calling Sweden a bunch of “cowards” after the US lost to them in the Olympics. So, she can’t play soccer for 6 months. Ya know, during the period of the calendar year when very little soccer was gonna be played anyway. Whatever…
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dethroned Robert Downey Jr as the highest paid actor this year, making $64.5 million. He’s still not the former wrestler to make the most money this year, though. Not even close, brother.
  • KFC gave away over 3,000 bottles of fried chicken scented sunscreen. Yes, you read that correctly.
  • Last week’s West Week Ever recipient, Ryan Lochte, is in talks to join the next season of Dancing with the Stars


Ya know, nothing major happened this week, but the one thing that did stand out was the English trailer for Guardians. Now, the original trailer came out months ago, and everyone online was like “Hur, hur. Crazy Russians.” I’ll tell ya what – this thing looks awesome as shit to me. And I’ll bet it’s even better than Dawn of Justice, mainly because these characters probably aren’t betraying some 75-year legacy. A werebear with a gatling gun? An invisible hot chick? A dude with crazy electro whips – THAT CAN BRING DOWN BUILDINGS?!!! Sign me the fuck up! Now, don’t get me wrong. The English overdub is terrible. It’s like something someone made in their bedroom, but at least we have an idea of what the movie’s about now. And I fear all the best stuff might be in the trailer. Still, if I get a chance to see this thing, I’m doing it, and I think you should, too. For delighting all my senses in a mere 2 and a half minutes, the Guardians trailer had the West Week Ever.

 

12th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/12/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

*Varnell Hill voice* “DID YOU MISS ME?!”

Yeah, very few people are gonna get that reference, but I did take a week off to recharge the batteries, so I hope somebody noticed.

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So I watched Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, and I think it’s time to declare this franchise dead. It was cute in the beginning, in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way, but it has simply overstayed its welcome. When I reviewed the last installment, I mentioned how it lost most of its spark halfway through, and I just wanted it to end. Well, I felt that way from minute one of this one.

First off, it’s set five years after the last one and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember a single thing that happened in the last one. All I remembered was that they pulled a “Jason Todd” and let the audience decide if Tara Reid lived or died. Other than that, I couldn’t remember how many kids Finn was supposed to have, I couldn’t remember if this sexy sidekick was the same sexy sidekick from the past movies – it was a mess. And the movie doesn’t do a good job of catching you up because it’s stringing along the drama of the “Did Tara Reid survive?” mystery. Turns out Finn’s son is now coming home from deployment, and he’s got a new, Black wife in tow. I emphasize her race because it kinda becomes important down the road. They’re meeting in Las Vegas for a family reunion when the first Sharknado in 5 years hits. You see, In Living Color‘s Tommy Davidson plays an Elon Musk analogue who has created these towers that prevent tornadoes from forming. Because of them, there haven’t been any Sharknadoes since the events of the last movie. For some reason, though, the Vegas tower failed, and we ended up with the first Sharknado in years. And luckily, Finn Shepard and family were there to fight them off.

Meanwhile the Sharknado then goes on to become an Oilnado and then a Firenado and a Nukenado. Yeah, they blew their wad on potential spinoffs all in this one movie. And then my brain just stopped processing what it was seeing. I only made sense of bits and pieces after that point. Tara Reid did live, but only because her dad, played by Gary Busey, had turned her into a cyborg. Oh, and it’s clear that Busey and Reid were never in the same room during their scenes, so I wonder what that was all about. Then Davidson blows up the Grand Canyon in an attempt to curb the Sharknado. Yeah, I really don’t think the US Government would just be cool with Elon Musk blowing up the Grand Canyon, but what do I know? Then, as they all retreat back to Finn’s farm, Black wife (I don’t think she even had a name) gets killed by a shark and NOBODY notices! Her own fucking husband doesn’t even mention her ever again in the film. It’s almost like they added her in post-production, and then just said “Fuck it!” Like, it’s amazing how he NEVER stops to wonder what happened to her, nor does any other member of the cast. Then, Tommy Davidson jumps out of a plane in a squirrel suit, so he can do something on a cliff to stop the Sharknado, but then the cliff falls into the ocean. Oh, and then Finn fights the Sharknado in a really shitty mech suit, but ends up being eaten by a shark. And the oldest son gets eaten by a shark. And the sexy cousin gets eaten by a shark. But wait! The youngest kid – all of five years old – pulls a tiny chainsaw out of a stone, King Arthur style, and uses it to cut into all the sharks and save his family. So, at the end of the day, the only people who actually died were Black wife and Black Tommy Davidson. Fuck this movie. Oh, and there’s a weird cameo by Steve Guttenburg to remind you that Lavalantula is still a thing and that, yes, they take place in the same universe. It must’ve been messed up with editing, as he gives them a car, named Christine, that is built up to be this amazing thing, which they then abandon while being chased by a ball of twine covered in sharks. Again, fuck this movie.

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In movie news, it was announced that the main villain in Aquaman will be Black Manta. Congratulations, DC – you chose the only villain he has to headline his movie. As I joked on Twitter, in the sequel, Aquaman will face an oil spill. There will be no third movie, as he will have vanquished all of his foes. Meanwhile, Aquaman star Jason Momoa is being eyed to star in the reboot of The Crow. My problem with this is that Momoa keeps taking on these franchise reboot roles (like Conan The Barbarian) when his star power isn’t strong enough for a franchise to rest on his shoulders. Now, it’s not like The Crow is gonna break the bank anyway, but it just doesn’t seem like a good fit.

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Ghostbusters is expected to take an estimated $70 million loss, putting any sequel plans in jeopardy. The fact that it didn’t open in China REALLY hurt it. I mean, China saved Warcraft. Imagine what it could’ve done here. Sure, it would’ve been renamed to something like Lady Ghost Killers, but the money would’ve been great.

Killam and Pharoah

There was quite the shakeup at Saturday Night Live this week, as it was announced that 6-year veterans Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah wouldn’t be returning for season 42. At first, I figured this was just a case of the actors wanting to move on to other things, but then it was revealed that Killam’s contract simply wasn’t renewed. Huh? Really, Lorne?! I mean, I get the thing with Pharoah – he’s a great impressionist, though the show struggled to find any way to use them. Sure, he did Ben Carson, but that impression made no sense, plus it’ll be obsolete very soon. Killam, though, is quite the utility player. I’d say he’s basically the male Kristen Wiig, but I don’t think anyone hates him the way that some hated Wiig. His departure will be a huge blow to the show. However, when God closes a door, He opens a window – one for Jon Rudnistsky to jump out of! The featured player will also not be returning next season, and I can’t say that I’m too disappointed. He brought very little to the show during his freshman season, and he just had too much of a guido bro vibe to him for me to be able to take a shine to him.

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We got a full trailer for the Luke Cage Netflix series. *Yawn* It’s funny – it’s the new “cool kid” thing to say you’re tired of the Marvel movie formula, but the minute you say that about the Netflix shows, suddenly you’ve gone too far. Well, I’m tired of the Netflix shows. Ooh, it’s gritty. Ooh, there’s another fight in a hallway. I LOVED Daredevil season 1 and, though it took me a few months to get through, I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Jones. That said, I still haven’t seen Daredevil season 2, and I’m not really in any rush (after all, I’ve still got 2 seasons of Bojack Horseman and one of Kimmy Schmidt to finish). So, just add Luke Cage to the pile of “I’ll get to it”, but I don’t plan to binge on it when it hits Netflix on September 20th.

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Not to be outdone by Marvel, DC had a bunch of TV news during The CW’s presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour. First off, we got our first look at the new Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow. Also, it was reported that Sarah Grey has been cast as Stargirl on the show, while Friday Night Lights alum Grey Damon has been cast as Mirror Master on The Flash. They also announced Freedom Fighters: The Ray, which is an animated series that will debut on The CW Seed streaming platform. He will be the first ever gay superhero to lead a series and, like with Vixen, the plan is for him to eventually cross over into the live action shows, with the voice actor portraying him. Finally, it was announced that Dolph Lundgren will play the Big Bad in Oliver’s flashbacks this season, as it documents his time with the Bratva. Also, this will be the final season of Ollie’s flashbacks, as the show will catch up to real time.

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We also got some news about Star Trek: Discovery. It turns out the show will be set ten years prior to Kirk’s mission, and is set in the prime (Shatner) timeline. The lead will be a female, who may not be entirely human, but also won’t be a captain. The show might also feature Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson (played by Winona Rider in 2009’s Star Trek), as producer Bryan Fuller is fascinated by the character. There will be robots and a gay character, and the main cast will consist of about seven characters. As we already knew, it won’t be episodic in nature, but rather a tight 13-episode story unfolding throughout the season. Finally, the ship’s design is based on Ralph McQuarrie’s illustrations from an abandoned 70s Star Trek film called Planet of the Titans.

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Over on Twitter, I had my most popular tweet in years, which resulted from casually flipping through Olympics coverage. Sure, I know a lot of y’all have gone viral, so this is nothing to you, but let me have this!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Despite getting a logo and James Bobin as director, Jonah Hill is now saying that the Men in Black/21 Jump Street crossover, MIB 23, will probably never happen.
  • Criminal Minds star Thomas Gibson has been suspended for a couple of episodes for kicking a writer onset. I bet he didn’t pull that kind of shit on Dharma & Greg!
  • As the writing was on the wall when costar Nicole Byer got her MTV show, Loosely Exactly Nicole, Fox has officially cancelled The Lonely Island’s Party Over Here sketch show.

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  • We got our first look at the cast for The BBC’s Are You Being Served? one-off anniversary special. It looks like a group of friends dressed up for a costume party and the one Black guy had to be Mr. Lucas. For some reason, though, the special actually calls him a “Mr. Lucas-like character” named Mr. Conway. The special will air in September, and we’ll have to pirate it over here.

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  • We got another fake-out *NSYNC reunion, as the guys reunited for JC Chasez’s 40th birthday. I still hate that JC’s solo album tanked. He’s a better singer than JT, but he never seemed comfortable in the spotlight, and lacked JT’s charisma. Oh, what might have been…
  • Though I’m sure you’ve never seen it, Powers has been cancelled by Playstation Network after 2 seasons.
  • To beef up the CBS All Access portal, a “special edition” of Big Brother will stream on the site later this Fall. The network insists, however, that this shouldn’t be considered season 19 of the show.
  • If you’re just dying for news on Spider-Man: Homecoming, some dude named Michael Chernus has been cast as The Tinkerer. Yeah, whatever.
  • VH1 is developing Martha and Snoop’s Dinner Party, which is exactly what it sounds like: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg hosting dinner parties for their celebrity friends
  • Arianna Huffington will step down as editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. I wonder if it’ll change its name. Ya know, ’cause that worked so well for Topless Robot…
  • Apparently Vin Diesel and The Rock got into it on the set of Fast 8. It was probably an argument over which one of them was more racially ambiguous.
  • According to reports, Donald Glover is the frontrunner to play young Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo film. I dunno, but I don’t think Glover has the swagger of a young Billy Dee Williams.

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So, I vowed not to see Suicide Squad in theaters. I said I was done with the DC Cinematic Universe until Justice League. Well, last night I saw Suicide Squad. I even paid for it. And ya know what? I really liked it. It’s not amazing, but it’s an enjoyable popcorn flick. I don’t know what movie everyone else saw, ’cause a lot of folks were just dying to issue their hot takes about how DC has failed again. If you compare them to Marvel, sure they’ve got a ways to go. But I thought it was a lot better than Dawn of Justice, and I was pleasantly surprised by it considering I did not go into it with an open mind.

First of all, let’s get the Marvel comparison out of the way. It’s unfortunate that DC has to be compared to Marvel, but we do it with the comics, so we’re gonna do it with the movies. There’s something to remember, though: not all Marvel is created equal. There’s Marvel Studios Marvel, which can give you a gem like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but can also give you a dud like Thor: The Dark World. Then, there’s Fox Marvel, which can give you something as great as X2: X-Men United, but can also turn around and give you Elektra (No, I’m not going to use Fantastic Four as an example because, as weak as they may be, I actually liked those movies). With the world building that Marvel Studios has done, however, it means the best Fox movie still only lines up to a mediocre Marvel Studios film. There’s a certain tone and use of budget that tends to go into a Marvel Studios film. Take Ant-Man for example. While a Marvel Studios film, it really didn’t feel on that level. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it and watch it every time it comes on Starz, but tonally it feels like a really strong Fox Marvel movie. So that’s kinda where Suicide Squad is. No, it’s not a Marvel Studios film, but it could hold its own as a decent Fox Marvel film and I think that says a lot. For one thing, I think we got too used to the Nolanverse, so we expect that from DC all the time. The aesthetic of this film is somewhere between Burton and Schumacher. Once you embrace that, you’re in for an entertaining ride.

What’s it about? Well, in light of Superman’s death in Dawn of Justice, the government realizes that they need something to be able to handle metahuman threats. Enter Amanda Waller, the director of ARGUS, who decides to form Task Force X – a team comprised of the worst of the worst bad guys. They’ll be sent on missions from which not all of them will return, but in exchange for their service, they get time knocked off their prison sentences. For their first mission, the team consists of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Katana, Diablo, Killer Croc, and Slipknot, led by uber soldier Rick Flagg. They think they’re being tasked to extract a hostage from a terrorist attack, but they find out they’re in for more than they bargained for.

No, the movie’s not perfect by any means. I could’ve completely done without Killer Croc and even Katana. Rick Flagg has a “midcard wrestler who’ll never get a shot at the title” vibe to him. And, as someone on Twitter pointed out, this was Enchantress most of the time:

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There’s no real way the Squad could’ve handled a threat like they did in the film, but whatever. It’s a movie, so I’ll go with it. I just felt like it was too “otherworldly” to be something they could handle. And the third act has a decidedly Ghostbusters (1984) feel to it, effects-wise, which seemed kinda cheesy in 2016.

Still, there was a lot to like. LOVED Margot Robbie’s Harley, which was surprising since I feel a little of that character goes a long way. With the cosplay onslaught, we’re living in the middle of Harlegeddon, yet I still didn’t get tired of seeing Robbie’s portrayal onscreen. I felt she nailed that character. I even liked My Chemical Romance Joker. It’s the first time that I was actually scared of him, and believed that he was a crazy fuck who could do something like kill a Robin. I’m gonna level with ya: Jack Nicholson never did anything for me. I know, I know. He’s supposed to be the cinematic gold standard, but I was too young, and I’d been raised on Cesar Romero. Say what you will about how corny Batman ’66 was, there was still something kinda menacing about Romero that I never quite saw in Nicholson. He had crazy eyes! Ledger came close to approximating what I felt I had read in the comics, but Leto kinda did right by me. Plus, if you’ve been reading comics lately, then *spoiler alert* you know that there are apparently three Jokers. Yeah, whatever. Anyway, I feel like Leto earned his spot as one of the three. I was picking up what he was putting down. Will Smith was spectacular, and I say that as a guy who’s not necessarily a Will Smith fan. I kinda cheered in my heart when he died in I Am Legend. That’s where I stand on The Fresh Prince, so I was equally surprised by his performance. But the true standout, though, HAS to be Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Ho Lee Shit! I grew up with “stout” Amanda Waller, so I wasn’t too happy when they hotted her up in The New 52. When she appeared on Arrow, again, she was the svelte Amanda Waller. No, I needed someone who could convincingly be referred to as “The Wall”. In my mind, Marsha Warfield was always the perfect person to play Waller (has anyone seen her lately? Someone should probably check in on her!). Then Davis came along and showed me there were other options. No, she doesn’t have the weight, but she’s hella imposing, and such an amazing character. I’d watch 2 hours of just her, but there’s no way they could sell that, so they had to give us Suicide Squad instead. Whatever. I’ll take it. She is cold blooded, and I loved every minute she was onscreen.

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Can we talk about something, though? It’s going back to the Marvel/DC comparisons. I’ve come to realize that I don’t want world building from the DC movies. I’d kinda like them to all be standalone. My biggest issue with Dawn of Justice was that I felt that, tonally, it was the wrong cornerstone on which to build a cinematic universe. As a movie on its own, though, it was more serviceable. In this movie, I would’ve been completely fine if some rando had been playing Batman instead of Affleck. Having Affleck there did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t want their movies connected because I don’t need another Marvel. I’ve got a Marvel. What I need is a DC. Sure, they think they’re doing something different by basically starting with the Justice League and branching out, but it’s still a shared universe, and I don’t think that’s playing to their strengths. If I want a shared DC Universe, I’ll just stick with watching their TV shows.

Despite all the “haters” and poor word of mouth, the movie still managed to pull in $160 million over its first five days in the US. Still, I think it’s made DC a bit more gun shy about developing projects with other characters, as they instead announced that Man of Steel 2 is now in active development. Folks claim they’re tired of always getting Batman and Superman stuff, but when given something different, they say they don’t want it. Or, in this case, they say they don’t want it, but they go see it anyway. Like I did. Anyway, I can admit when I’m wrong, and I feel like I was wrong about this movie. Sure, it’s not gonna win any awards other than, maybe, an MTV Movie Award, but it’s still pretty entertaining. If you’re on the fence, give it a shot and decide for yourself. In any case, the movie’s box office broke a bunch of records, so I’m saying Suicide Squad had the West Week Ever.

29th Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/29/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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The Equalizer is what Rod from The Black Guy Who Tips Podcast would call “An Impossible White Man” movie. That’s when a (usually) White male protagonist gets away with a whole lot of crazy, death-defying shit that no one should be able to survive. There’s a caveat, though, that this doesn’t only apply to White males, despite its name. For example, ScarJo’s Lucy could be considered an Impossible White Man role. It’s more about branding than accuracy. Anyway, in The Equalizer, Denzel Washington plays a former black ops dude who’s trying to live a quiet life working at a Home Depot (they don’t call it Home Depot, but I know one when I see it!). He lives a meticulous, almost OCD life, dining at the same diner, bringing his own teabags, and placing his utensils in a certain manner. Another regular at the diner, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, happens to be a Russian prostitute, and when she gets roughed up by her pimp, Denzel comes out of retirement to exact revenge – not just on her pimp, but on the whole Russian organized crime establishment! The crazy thing to me is that the mob didn’t even kill Moretz – they just beat her up, yet Denzel proceeds to leave a trail of bodies for a girl he barely even knows. The action in it is insane, so I’ve got to hand it to Denzel, who’s no spring chicken. Anyway, it’s definitely worth checking out, even though they’re apparently making a totally unnecessary sequel.

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I’ve wanted to see The Bronze since the moment I first heard of it. It stars, and was written by, Melissa Rauch, who you wouldn’t know as Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory because I’m sure you’re too cool to watch that show. Anyway, Rauch plays Hope Ann Greggory, a foulmouthed Bronze medalist gymnast from the 2004 Rome Olympics who is still milking what’s left of her fame in her small town of Amherst, Ohio. She became a hometown darling for winning the medal despite being injured, Kerri Strug style. Now, 12 years later, she’s got no job, still lives with her postal worker father, and steals money from his mailbag. She cruises around town, blasting hip hop while going to the mall to pressure folks into giving her free stuff. Long story short, her life is going nowhere. Meanwhile, Maggie, a young promising local gymnast is headed to Nationals, and she just may make the town forget all about Hope. Feeling threatened, Hope wants nothing to do with Maggie. That is until Hope’s former coach commits suicide. In her suicide note, she promises Hope $500,000 if she’ll agree to coach Maggie all the way up to the championships. Suddenly Hope has a purpose, even if it’s just so she can get that money. At first, Hope tries to sabotage Maggie until former beau/rival Winter Soldier Sebastian Stan comes along and tries to steal her away from Hope so that he can coach her. Hope gets no money if this happens, so she decides to take the training seriously and actually train Maggie for success. I won’t spoil the ending for ya, but I’d highly recommend watching it if only so you can see that crazy ass gymnastic sex scene between Rauch and Stan. Trust me when I say you’ve never seen anything like it. While it may not have been as bust-a-gut hilarious as I thought it would be (it is kinda dark after all), I still really enjoyed it and felt it could easily become a quotable cult hit. My favorite lines include “Absence makes the dick grow harder. You better not have gotten any clit jizz in my car!” and “This is what I wear. THIS IS WHAT HEROES WEAR!” Anyway, if you ever get the chance to watch this, check it out.

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I love The Lonely Island. I love their albums, I love their digital shorts, and I love their movies. Though it bombed in theaters, Hot Rod is hi-larious, so I had nothing but high hopes for Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. In the film, the Lonely Island guys were once a boyband called StyleBoyz. Eventually, they had a disagreement that caused them to break up, and Andy Samberg’s Conner4Real became a Justin Bieber-esque solo artist. His debut album was called Thriller, Also and it sold 4 million copies. Now, as the movie starts, it’s on the eve of the release of his second album, CONNquest. He partners with a company called Aquaspin that’s going to package his album with their home appliances, so his music will be coming out of refrigerators, microwaves, etc. Well, this plan fails miserably, as some folks even see it as a violation of privacy. His album tanks, and the film follows Conner as he deals with all of that. At the end of the day, it feels like a REALLY long SNL Digital Short, and it’s completely built on its cameos. Like, it’s sort of amazing how many music stars they got to agree to be in this movie – some of whom I didn’t even know had a sense of humor, like Nas. And if you follow The Lonely Island, then you already know some of the cameos you’re gonna get (hint: “Dick in a Box” and “Jack Sparrow”). While I didn’t laugh as much as I did at Hot Rod, it was still pretty funny, and I think I got exactly what I was expecting. Also, I’ve given him some shit online for taking terrible TV roles (all of his shows get cancelled), but Tim Meadows playing a parody of boyband manager Johnny Wright is probably my favorite Meadows role since The Ladies Man. Oh, and look for the brief cameo by original Black Ranger Walter Emmanuel Jones! Anyway, I definitely recommend this movie.

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So I saw Batman: The Killing Joke in the theater on Monday as part of a Fathom Event. There had been a lot of controversy surrounding the movie, as it’s based on a controversial story. If you’ve never read it, The Joker cripples and sexually assaults Barbara Gordon and then shows the pictures to her father in an attempt to drive him insane. To further the controversy, however, in order to pad out the story to a feature-length movie, the writers added some additional material – including a scene where Batgirl and Batman have sex on a rooftop. A lot of folks took issue with this because they believe that Batman serves as a father figure to the other members of the Bat Family. I actually disagree somewhat. I think he’s a father figure to Robins, but Batgirl is a different story. Plus, there’s already a precedent for a relationship between the two, as this was established in The Animated Series/Batman Beyond continuity. In fact, it was the relationship between Bruce and Barbara that drove Dick away, causing him to establish the Nightwing identity. Further along, in Batman Beyond 2.0, the comic that is set in this continuity, Barbara becomes pregnant by Bruce, but loses the baby after an attack. So, as you can see, Bat Banging happens.

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Anyway, the first 25 minutes feel like a tacked on “This is why you should care about Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, so when we cripple her, it’ll matter to you” prologue. It honestly does feel like a lost episode of The Animated Series, even though it’s a slightly different animation style. It’s got the same voice actors, and even the Batmobile from The New Batman Adventures. It’s generally an unspoken rule that every artist/designer does their own take on the Batmobile, so it’s almost like they went out of their way to make it feel familiar. An up and coming mobster takes a shine to Batgirl and makes her chase him around the city. Meanwhile, Batman isn’t treating her like an equal partner, so she’s actually welcoming the attention from the mobster. It all culminates in that rooftop sex scene, which then results in her deciding to hang up the cape and cowl. Again, it’s a good “lost” episode, but it’s almost superfluous to what’s to come in the rest of the movie. The writers probably felt like the prologue would strengthen Batgirl’s character, but it actually does the opposite. She comes off as an annoying single gal from a romantic comedy who can’t understand why Batman won’t see the potential in her. She even comes with her own stereotypical gay best friend, to whom she complains about the lack of attention from Batman.

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The rest of the film plays out like the comic you probably know and hate. The sad thing, though, is that Barbara Gordon is nowhere near as important to The Killing Joke as The Killing Joke is to Barbara Gordon. What I mean is that the story changes the character (almost) irreparably, while she contributes very little to the story itself. Her attack is simply a mcguffin used to break her father. It really doesn’t matter that she’s Batgirl, as it’s not like her crippling happened “in the line of duty”. I mean, her attack doesn’t even spur her father OR Batman to action. The story ends on a joke, for God’s sake, which I’ve always felt somewhat belittles what happens to her. There’s no reason to strengthen Batgirl/Barbara as she doesn’t leave the story a hero. Contrary to how it’s been sold over the years, it’s not Barbara Gordon’s story. She’s just collateral damage in a different matter altogether. I mean, Batman tries to reason with the same guy who has killed one partner and maimed another. The story has never made a ton of sense to me, but it’s always lauded because “Alan Moore”. Anyway, if you want to see a faithful adaptation that brings the story “to life”, this was a pretty good adaptation. The new material is unnecessary, but the stuff you’re familiar with is still familiar here. It’s worth seeing, if only for the discussion it’s bound to trigger. If you want to read more of my thoughts on the film, I was invited by the kind folks at Action A Go Go to write a review, so check it out!

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On TV, I caught the lackluster return of MADtv, now airing during prime time on The CW. A Dora parody in 2016? And it really botched the political stuff, which should be left to SNL. Elizabeth Warren as a Def Jam comic? It all just felt so dated. Like, it would’ve been out of place during the original run of the show, let alone the reboot. Their makeup person should be fired. If anyone’s gonna be a breakout star from this incarnation, it’ll probably be Michelle Ortiz. She kicked off the show with a prayer to the dark lord Satan, and then starred in the aforementioned Dora sketch. Will Sasso came back to do his Kenny Rogers impression, which is hella dated. When’s the last time anyone talked about Kenny Rogers? And it was kinda cheap that they used a “classic” sketch with Key & Peele. At this point, the show feels more like a summer burn-off than a promising debut. I know it’s just the first episode, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it got canceled after these 8 episodes, to merely become a footnote on a Wikipedia page.

In TV news, #DontCancelGirlMeetsWorld was trending earlier this week. As the story goes, the cast of Girl Meets World filmed the 3rd season finale this week, and there’s no official word on whether the show will be renewed. Star Rowan Blanchard sounded kinda bleak with the following tweet:

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I don’t really know what the ratings situation is, but I don’t think folks have anything to worry about…yet. You see, I’m fairly certain the show will be back for a 4th season because Disney likes to get as close to 100 episodes as they can. There are already 58 episodes of the show, but they’ve been doing 30-episode seasons lately. So, the good news is that they still have a ways to go. The bad news, however, is that it’ll probably be done after episode 100. Again, Disney doesn’t like to do more than 100 because it’s just not profitable for them after that point. Even Jessie got 98 episodes, and it was nowhere near as beloved as GMW. The thing to point out is that, barring a time jump, we’ll never get to see Riley and the gang graduate. She’ll never get to meet the World to which the show is meant to introduce her. Anyway, according to the pic above, the season appears to be going out with a bang, with a mega reunion of the Boy Meets World cast – including BOTH actresses who played little sister Morgan. I feel like the show gets way too heavyhanded at times, but I’d be sad to see it go. Still, it opened the doors for other revivals, like Fuller House, so who knows what we’ll end up with next. Perfecter Strangers? Just The Eleven of Us?

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In other TV news, it was announced that the new Star Trek series would be called Star Trek: Discovery. The show will air on CBS All Access in the US, and on Netflix everywhere else. Why couldn’t it be on Netflix EVERYWHERE?! I mean, who doesn’t have Netflix? Anyway, the show will be set on the U.S.S. Discovery, NCC-1031, in the prime timeline (not the J.J. Abrams “Kelvin” timeline of the recent movies). I know it’s the future and all (so the holiday probably doesn’t even exist anymore), but someone better make a joke about how it’s basically the “USS Halloween”. Anyway, we were introduced to the ship in a teaser video that debuted at SDCC. I hate the design of this ship. The saucer is fine, but the secondary hull is way too angular. If you know your Trek, it kinda reminds me of an IDIC. As I said on Twitter, it looks like that Star Trek pizza cutter that ThinkGeek’s always trying to get people to buy.

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When it comes to Marvel, I guess I ought to do an SDCC wrap-up. Let’s see…OK, Brie Larson was confirmed as Captain Marvel. Yay? I mean, I have no real opinion on that casting one way or another. Folks seem to like her, so I guess it’s a good choice. I just don’t know that much about Captain Marvel. I was more of a fan before she was promoted to Captain. We also got the full trailer for Luke Cage, as well as teaser trailers for Iron Fist and The Defenders. A friend on Twitter said “You know it’s a Marvel Netflix show when there’s a fight in a hallway”, and that’s exactly how I felt watching the Cage trailer. People like to say the Marvel movies are too formulaic now, but I feel that way about the Netflix shows. I haven’t even touched Daredevil season 2 yet because I’m just sort of tired of their whole gritty thing. We didn’t see enough of Iron Fist to really make an opinion, but at least it didn’t trigger the cries of “He should’ve been Asian!” like I thought it would. I don’t know if folks have moved on from that or if they were just too overwhelmed by all the other SDCC news to even think about it. I know folks don’t like to “count” the Fox stuff, but we got a trailer for the X-Men related show, Legion. It actually looks intriguing, but I’m not sure I’m ready for yet another Marvel show that’s only tangentially related to a movie franchise (looking at you, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).We also got a trippy new Doctor Strange trailer, but that movie’s just not registering for me. I don’t like the magical side of the Marvel Universe, so there’s really nothing to lure me in at this point. I mean, I’ll see it but, as the kids say, I’m not “hype” for it. And there was supposedly some footage of Spider-Man fighting Vulture, but that’s not a sentence that fills me with excitement. I always felt Vulture was, like, a 3rd-tier Spider-Man villain, so I don’t care who’s playing him because it’s going to take a lot of convincing for me to take him seriously. I don’t mean to sound so “meh” about Marvel’s showing, as there was some notable stuff there. I just felt like the presentation was more of the same.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix has ordered a second season of one of my favorite shows of 2015: Scrotal Recall. Since the title is off-putting, however, the show will be renamed Lovesick.
  • The Vampire Diaries will end after season 8. With it and Teen Wolf gone, how will our teenage daughters embrace their desire to bang monsters?!

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  • Speaking of Teen Wolf, we got our first look at Tyler Hoechlin as Superman on Supergirl next season. Yeah, not feeling it. He looks like some dude off Tindr who went to a Halloween party dressed as Superman. He’s not built enough.
  • Ghost Rider Robbie Reyes will be appearing on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. next season. As someone on Twitter said, he’ll probably just be a guy in a leather jacket who has smoke come out of his ears one episode. TV budgets!
  • Thor: Ragnarok will officially incorporate aspects of the Planet Hulk storyline into the movie, with Hulk’s armor on display at SDCC
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Kurt Russell will officially be playing Star-Lord’s dad in the form of Ego The Living Planet
  • Reportedly, a reboot of The Rocketeer is being developed with a Black woman as the title character.
  • Apparently the human stars of Sesame Street have been let go as the show heads in a new direction. I figured Elmo had taken out a hit on them years ago, so I was surprised to learn they were even still around.
  • Viacom announced that VH-1 Classic will be rebranded as MTV Classic on Monday. The network will air 90s programming, like Daria, Beavis & Butthead and, most importantly, music videos!

Links I Loved

The Wedding Crasher of Lincoln, Neb. – The New York Times

I Need To Move: A Pokémon Go Sob Story – The Workprint

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I never thought I’d be saying this, but I think that DC “won” SDCC. They definitely brought their “A” game on all fronts. For the TV shows, we got new trailers showing the effects of “Flashpoint” on the cast of The Flash, while also showing Oliver putting together a new team on Arrow. Speaking of the TV shows, it was announced that Katie Cassidy scored one of those “Berlantiverse” series regular contracts like Wentworth Miller and John Barrowman got. So, even though Laurel’s “dead”, she’ll now be able to pop up wherever she pleases, including The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

On the movie front, they made one final push for Suicide Squad with a “remix” trailer that they showed in Hall H. I hate to say it, but I think they’re wearing me down. I had said I had no plans to see it in the theater, but now I have a morbid curiosity about it. We also got the trailer for The LEGO Batman Movie, which was exactly what I thought I was gonna get when I watched LEGO DC Comics: Batman Beleagured. That movie was a toyetic disappointment, but this looks hilarious. I love Will Arnett’s Batman because he has this comedic douchebaggery to him that just makes everything he does funnier. I can’t wait for that to come out.

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Now for the big boys. I did not like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I still haven’t seen the Ultimate Edition, so maybe I’ll change my mind. Or just lose more hours of my life. Still, that movie soured me on the Zack Snyder DC Cinematic Universe. It made me not want to see Suicide Squad, and it made me fear for what a full scale Justice League movie would entail. Then I saw the footage they revealed at SDCC. The movie’s only been filming for a few weeks, but it already looks really good. Hell, it looks great. I didn’t hate Ezra Miller as Barry Allen as much as I thought I would. I was thoroughly impressed by Cyborg’s appearance onscreen. I liked the humor, as the tone didn’t seem as dark of Dawn of Justice, even though they’re supposedly facing a bigger threat. It was kinda weird seeing Bruce Wayne in the Nick Fury recruitment role, as Batman isn’t exactly a “joiner” unless it’s his own Bat Family. Still, I can buy it, and roll with what they’re trying to do. I am actually looking forward to Justice League, which is not something I could’ve said back in March.

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The true gem of all the trailers, however, was the Wonder Woman trailer. It’s funny – Whenever people talk about the fact there’s a Wonder Woman movie coming, someone tends to always chime in with “It’s about time”. I also roll my eyes at this person because I never really saw the potential of a Wonder Woman film. I’m the guy who points out there are very few “definitive” Wonder Woman comic runs. To me, she hadn’t “earned” a movie, so there was no “about time” about it. Then I saw the trailer from SDCC, and I thought aloud “It’s about time”. I would never call myself a “Wonder Woman fan”, but I’m trying to learn more about her so I can indoctrinate my daughter at an early age, and WW is the gateway drug (kinda like how every early ’00s article about comics said you should introduce your girlfriend to comics by having her read Blankets). I went from casual fan to “OH MY GOD WHERE CAN I BUY TICKETS?!” in the span of that trailer. It’s amazing how we were all against Gadot when she was first cast, and now I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. I did, however, kinda dislike how the lasso was animated, but maybe it’ll look better on the big screen. Anyway, I feel like DC ruled Hall H this year – something that’s usually a notch on Marvel’s belt. For this reason, I think DC Entertainment had the West Week Ever.

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.

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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.

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    • 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.

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