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.

 

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.

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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.

22nd Jul2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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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.

Daddy Kirk

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.

divergent

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.

ranger movie suits

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

Power Coins

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

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

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

Ducktales

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

PokeGym

  • 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.

15th Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/15/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

First off, I just want to thank everyone for the support last week. Between your comments, your emails, you sharing the post, etc, it really meant a lot to me. These are scary times, and I just had to get it out there that I’m scared, too. Plus, blogging’s cheaper than therapy! Anyway, I was amazed that it resounded with so many folks, and if you’re out there scared, too, at least you know you’re not alone. We’ll all get through this together. So, this week we’re back to business as usual.

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On the movie front, the only thing I saw this week was Southpaw. I try not to spoil things on here, in case you wanna see it for yourself, but I’m going to have to go all out on this one. Originally developed as a starring vehicle for Eminem, Jake Gyllenhaal stepped in when Em decided he wanted to focus on his music. Anyway, Gyllenhaal plays Billy Hope (the great White hope, get it?), a former kid from the system, who’s now the world boxing champion. His record is 43 & 0, but he’s challenged by up and comer Miguel Escobar, who’s pretty convinced he can beat Hope. He keeps taunting him in public situations, and Hope wants the fight, but his manager, 50 Cent, won’t let him fight Escobar because he secretly believes Escobar would win, and that’s just not good for business. Meanwhile, Hope’s rock is his wife, Maureen, played by Rachel McAdams. They met in the orphanage when they were 12 and have been together ever since. So, one night, they go to a charity dinner, and as they’re leaving, there’s Escobar with his taunting again. Hope’s got a short fuse, so a fight breaks out, and in the ensuing chaos, one of Escobar’s entourage member’s gun goes off, killing Maureen. And that’s when Hope just goes to shit. Remember Rocky V, when Rocky came home to find out he’d lost everything? This is basically that, but times 10.

Hope loses all his money, his crew, his title, and then they take his daughter away and put her in the very system he and Maureen had escaped from. Before she died Maureen told him that it would all dry up, and all he’d have left is her and their daughter. That his entourage wouldn’t stick around, and she was basically right. So, Hope has to get his life right so he can get his daughter back, and he seeks out Forest Whitaker to train him. Remember how Adonis Creed basically ran down Rocky until he agreed to train him? This was like that, but sadder. Forest doesn’t want to do it, and has his own shit going on, trying to keep kids off the street. Anyway, Hope gets a job in the gym, cleaning bathrooms or whatever, and then trains when he’s not working. He gets to a point where he’s invited to fight in a local charity fight, which he ends up winning. All of a sudden, here’s 50 Cent (who’s now repping Escobar), who says he can get Hope’s suspension lifted if he’d be willing to face Escobar in a “Revenge Match”. He’s got 6 weeks to get his shit together, and then they fight. And it’s a close one. But of course Hope wins, and gets his daughter back. And everyone lives happily ever after. But wait!

First off, I have to believe there’s a director’s cut out there somewhere that fills in a lot of the holes in this movie. For instance, they completely DROP the whole thing about Maureen getting murdered. Like, there’s no investigation or anything. Escobar helps his boys smuggle the gun out of the benefit, but nothing ever becomes of that. It’s just gone. Meanwhile, the only Black dude in Hope’s entourage also had a gun, which he had drawn at the moment of the shooting. The cops end up taking him down, assuming he was the shooter. Nothing ever happens with that. The last we see of him, the cops are holding him down. Did he get released? Is he doing time for a murder he didn’t commit? Did Hope even try to help his boy out?

Next, Hope knew his boys weren’t shit. They disappeared the minute things went south. Maureen told him that was going to happen. Yet, when he makes his comeback in the Revenge Match, they’re right back in his corner. Like, he totally took them back, even though they weren’t there when he needed them most. You’d think he would’ve replaced that entourage with Forest and the guys at that gym, but the old gang is right back there, cheering in his corner. That’s not how that’s supposed to work. That’s like if the other reindeer went right back to treating Rudolph like shit on December 26th.

Also, I don’t feel like Hope should’ve won. I think it should’ve been close, but if you’re gonna steal that much from the Rocky franchise motif, then you’ve gotta let the dude lose, but still learn something from the experience. It’s wrapped up in too nice of a bow that he wins, especially since he was gonna get a payout either way – which would’ve been enough to start a new life with his daughter.

It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a great movie either. Gyllenhaal does a Hell of a job with what he’s got to work with, but there’s not a whole lot there. Hope isn’t terribly likable, but you’re to root for him because he made it out of the system and he really loves his wife. But he’s not the lovable, semi-retarded pugilist that Rocky was. Do I recommend it? Yeah, sure. But since I just told you the whole thing, I doubt you’ll want to spend the 2 hours on it.

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On TV, Mr Robot came back for season 2 this week. About 5 minutes into the episode, I was quickly reminded of the anxiety that the last season put me through. I really don’t know if I’ve got it in me to stick with this show. I’m already tired of the whole Christian Slater is actually Elliot, but he’s really his dad who lives in his head, and is probably also that Tyrell Wellick dude. The premiere picks up where last season left off, right after the big fsociety hack sent the world into a financial crisis. For one thing, I kinda expected more chaos. Sure, some folks’ mortgage payments have disappeared, but it seems like life is pretty much carrying on as usual. I kinda expected a dystopia like we saw in Dark Angel after the EMP went off. No cars, everyone riding bicycles, people dressed in rags. Nope, pretty much business as usual. Maybe future episodes will delve deeper into how the world has been affected, but I just didn’t feel it – even when they had cleverly edited President Obama into the whole thing. I already bailed on Wayward Pines because I didn’t feel like it needed a second season. I don’t want to have to do that here.

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In comic news, Marvel released Civil War II #3 this week, which featured the death of a HUGE character. I dunno, man. I haven’t even bought it yet. Yeah, I know who died, but I haven’t been this uninterested in a comic death in a long time. There was a local midnight opening for the book, and usually I’m all about that, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I’m about 3 months behind on Marvel books, so it wouldn’t have made much sense to me anyway. Wanna know what happened? Highlight this text: Hawkeye kills Bruce Banner before he can Hulk out and kill a bunch of people.

Now, this leads me to ask several questions, but I’m sure they’ll all be answered OR ignored in upcoming issues. I’m just sick of death having NO meaning in comics. I know it has basically become a trope at this point, but if they’re going to do this, I wish they’d at least acknowledge it in story. For example, in X-Factor, there was a long-running background story where Siryn was waiting for her father, Banshee, to return from the dead. After all, every other fallen comrade she’d had had returned, so why not him? And characters kept trying to convince her he was really gone, but she wasn’t buying it. And then he came back. Sure, it wasn’t a straight road, but he came back in some not-dead form. I’d kinda like more of that. You know, I’m not stupid. I’d actually be fine with a storyline that says “Wolverine is in a coma, and we don’t know if he’ll wake up.” We know he will, because that’s like printing money, but at least we know that he’ll be back in action when they need him most. I don’t need *DEATH* to be this storytelling device to get your point across. Shit, tell me that Superman went to Europe to find himself, and these 4 guys are gonna take his place. You don’t have to keep playing the Death Card, comic publishers. This stunt is really on its last legs. Sure, it gives the mainstream media something to talk about for a day, but actual comic fans are tired. There is next to no goodwill left when it comes to this.

marvel now

Speaking of Marvel, they released a catalog of their Marvel NOW! 2016 books, and there were some surprises. First of all, a few books that basically JUST launched are being relaunched. These include The Ultimates, Hawkeye, Nova, Invincible Iron Man and Captain Marvel. I swear, for a character they claim to want to push into the limelight, Marvel makes it really hard to follow Captain Marvel’s series. They launch, end, relaunch, then get collected in random formats. I seriously hope they get this straightened out before her movie comes out. Anyway, there are some interesting moves, as there’s no more flagship Amazing Spider-Man. Instead, we get Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, seemingly picking up where the Secret Wars miniseries left off, and The Clone Conspiracy, which it turns out is its own series and not just the name of a storyline. So, it looks like ASM is going on hiatus for a bit – a series that has already been relaunched twice in the past 2 years. Also, Marvel really seems to love stoking the fires of the “Marvel hates the X-Men because they don’t own the film rights” conspiracy, as all the X-Books are missing except for the newly launching Death of X series. No more All-New Wolverine, Old Man Logan, Extraordinary X-Men, All-New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, Yo Mama’s X-Men. All gone. These are probably just another case of a temporary hiatus, as they don’t want Death of X to be overshadowed as the “event” they’re purporting it to be. I really don’t know what Marvel is doing here. They tend to only think of the short term instead of playing the long game. Sure, these things get them some attention but, just like the death thing, fans are getting tired of these practices. And to look at some of these upcoming books – SlapstickSolo? I feel like the 90s are upon us again, and that doesn’t bode well for the business side of things.

SDCC_Thundercats

In toy news, Mattel made an interesting decision. According to Action Figure Insider, they’ve decided to offer up their San Diego Comic-Con exclusives online via the Matty Collector site instead of selling them at the show. Now, of course some fans are excited about this, but it just leads me to wonder what exactly is going on over at Mattel. A couple of years ago, I mentioned how Scott “ToyGuru” Neitlich had left the company to go work for Jakks Pacific, making those 31″ figures that nobody buys from Walmart (apparently, he just got hired by Jada Toys, working on those metal Funko Pop wannabes that nobody buys from Target). Anyway, since he left, Matty Collector, and the Mattel output as a whole, has just been a disappointment. There have been rumors that nobody’s steering the ship over there. Now comes this SDCC news. There’s usually a big to-do, with a booth and a lottery to get the chance to buy the exclusives. Instead, folks who have preordered the toys can still pick them up at the show, but they’ve got to go to the Marriott next door to the con to get them, like a seedy drug deal. Anyway, the sale begins July 18th, and you can buy the following items:

Barbie® Amazon Princess Wonder Woman™ Doll ($80)

DC Comics™ Multiverse Wonder Woman™ Figure + Invisible Jet ($15)

Ever After High® Cedar Wood® SDCC 2016 Exclusive Marionette Doll ($30)

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe® She-Ra® ($75)

Hot Wheels® Star Trek™: ’64 Buick Riviera & Spock 1:64 Figure ($20)

Monster High® Ghostbusters Frankie Stein® Doll ($25)

Thomas & Friends™/DC Super Friends™ MINIS ($19.99)

ThunderCats™ WilyKit & WilyKat™ 2-Pack ($60)

Rangers

In Power Rangers movie news, Lionsgate released these character posters yesterday. I swear, this movie is shaping up to be something I’d have no interest in seeing if it weren’t named Power Rangers. Some folks have said that they like the David Bowie vibe to these, but it’s just not Power Rangers to me. This is gonna be your typical Lionsgate young adult novel adaptation, without the necessary camp that’s inherent to the franchise. I know things have to evolve, but I just don’t know if this is the direction I’d have taken things.

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Nintendo announced the upcoming release of the NES Classic Mini. Scheduled to hit stores in November (just before Christmas. Smart!), the tiny console will come loaded with 30 original NES games, including Super Mario Bros 1-3, Pac-Man, The Legend of Zelda and more. The system will retail for $60, but doesn’t contain physical media, so there aren’t going to be any more games than the 30 that come with it. Some fans are disappointed by this, as they’d like to be able to play their old games on modern televisions (the NES Mini will have HDMI outputs). It’s a cute idea and all, but it seems just like the Atari and Sega versions that hit stores years ago. It’s hardly a new concept, but Nintendo has brand loyalty, so I know some nostalgia gamers will be all over this. If I find it on sale or something, I might bite, too.

My buddy Chris is at it again – this time he’s got a friend with him, and they’re checking out the tropes of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic. And then they actually have to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles In Time. Check it out!

Beyond-Star-Trek-Beyond

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining the Nerd Lunch guys to talk about Star Trek. We discussed where it’s been, where it is now, and where we think it’s going. Enterprise, TNG, Kelvin Timeline – it’s all there! I even say some controversial stuff about The Beatles. You know you want to check it out!

PG

Pokémon GO. Pokémon Mother Effing GO. Where do I even begin? This game has taken the country by storm. It just hit North America on July 6th, and has already surpassed Twitter in amount of daily users. You’re either playing the game or complaining about others playing the game. Either way, it has somehow entered your world in the past week. There are no divisions when it comes to this thing, as it’s crossing all social and color lines. It’s like that episode of The Next Generation, “The Game”, where Wesley Crusher and Ashley Judd have to break the crew’s addiction to virtual reality. To paraphrase Usher, “We’ve got it bad”.

What is Pokémon GO? I had a friend ask me that on Facebook, and I tried to explain it the best that I could. I won’t go over that here, as I’m sure you all know how it works by now. There are little things about the game I find interesting, however. It’s funny to me that most of the gyms are churches, so we’re basically battling tiny demons for the right to possess churches. And then we force evolution on them to make them more powerful so they can take over even more churches. If you’re an Evangelical preacher, I just wrote Sunday’s sermon for you. You’re welcome. They say that the game is actually causing an increase in folks visiting houses of worship, but I’m sure they’re just grabbing Pokéballs and then it’s “Seacrest out!” The Episcopal Diocese of Washington actually sent an email yesterday, instructing parishes as to how they could encourage “Poké Pilgrims” and welcome them to their congregations. Look for more stuff like this, as corporations and the like decide they want to get in on the action. These are the glory days of GO, y’all. We’ll look back on these days when we’re drinking Pokémon GO Slurpees at the local 7-11.

I never thought I’d play the game. I was prepared to be a hater like I tend to be, but then I downloaded it on a whim. I was hooked instantly. I haven’t been this into a computer game since Farmville, and I lost a lot of Facebook friends over that (Sorry for all the requests! The game made it look like you were actually playing). Since Monday, I’ve caught 144 Pokémon and I got spoiled because I won my very first gym battle. Conservatives LOVE to say “Pokémon GO has achieved what Michelle Obama spent years trying to do.” No, not really. I drive to Pokéstops. Is that cheating? Maybe, but when there’s a dearth of Pokéstops nearby, you do what you gotta do. Anyway, I’m still a fat ass, so nice try, conservatives. There’s something unsettling, though, about slowly cruising by a park after dark so you can get more Pokéballs – especially in today’s political climate. Please, Lord, don’t let me get killed over some tiny computer demons! I mean, folks are getting robbed, they’re walking off cliffs. It’s chaos out there, but it’s also really fun.

I’ve noticed a glitch in the game. I mean, it’s new and really popular, so it’s bound to be buggy. My issue is that I try to play on the sly when I’m in public. I’m still kinda ashamed to be playing it, when all the folks around me are 13 year old boys. There was a group of teens hanging outside the Korean church (the local gym), and I was scared to go down there because they were just that right age to be unmercifully vicious. Anyway, the game seems to hate sunlight. I can’t tell you how many Pokémon I’ve tried to catch while on the move outside, only for the Pokémon to pop out of the ball and I have to recatch it.  Multiple times. It has something to do with the game not properly syncing with the servers (which are regularly down for the count), but I have the most trouble with this on sunny days. Anyone else experience this?

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. You’d have to be a fool not to realize that Pokémon GO had the West Week Ever.

 

 

03rd Jun2016

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

by Will

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

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

larson marvel

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

Famuyiwa

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

revolution

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

hellboy

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

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

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

Diggs

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

Spears

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

June

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

Valene

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

pr movie

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

ecto cooler

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

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

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

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

08th Apr2016

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

by Will

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dead 7

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

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

pacific rim

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

wynonna earp

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

the-walking-dead-negan

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

arrow season 4

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

Tmnt_tdt

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

BP_1

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

Alfre Woodard

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

Cloak-and-Dagger

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

Wonder-Woman-Movie

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

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

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

Jenni Konner

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

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

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

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

30th Mar2016

Just Imagine Stan Lee Wrote the Worst Batman Story Ever Published

by Will

justimagine batman

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

Stan-Lee

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

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

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

JISL Batman

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

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

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

uslan

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

18th Mar2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

POH

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

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

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

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

apocalypse

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

lobo

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

dead 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

11th Mar2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

the crouches

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

Scalped

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

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

hulk

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

05th Feb2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/5/16

by Will

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After all that I watched last week during the blizzard, I didn’t really watch too much this week. The one movie that I watched was The Hundred Foot Journey. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about an Indian family that moves to France to open a restaurant that happens to be directly across the street from a renowned Michelin-starred restaurant. In the beginning, the two restaurants go to war against each other. It’s something of a culture clash between the citizens and the immigrants. After a while, though, they find common ground in the form of the eldest son of the Indian family, who turns out to be a gifted chef. It’s the kind of movie that you don’t have to pay a ton of attention to, and still understand what’s going on. The head of the French restaurant is played by Helen Mirren, so you know this is seen as some classy shit. It was produced by Stephen Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey, and it’s just the kind of story that Oprah would’ve featured in her book club. I’d wanted to see the movie ever since I first saw the trailer, as it looked cute, and it didn’t disappoint. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that most of my readership would jump at, but if you get the chance, give it a shot.

patti pie

While I didn’t watch a ton, I did eat a lot. I don’t have the most refined palette, so I tend to stay away from food reviews. That said, I experienced two different foods that I felt deserved the blog treatment. First up was the Patti Labelle Sweet Potato Pie.

This news is about 3 months old, but seeing as how 90% of my readership is White, this’ll be new to you! Anyway, R&B singer Patti Labelle (she also played Dwayne Wayne’s mom on A Different World) released a line of sweet potato pies exclusively at Walmart in September. The pies sold well enough until a YouTuber named James Wright Chanel posted the above review of the pies. Well, that review went viral, and the pies started flying off the shelves. They were THE hot item over the Thanksgiving season, and I hadn’t been able to find one until last Friday night. I love a good sweet potato pie, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. The pies are sold at room temperature, so that’s how I wanted to first taste it. After taking a bite, it was…OK. There HAD to be more to this thing, right? I mean, the big guy was singing and everything. I remembered that I like my sweet potato pie cold, so I refrigerated it overnight, and took another shot the next day. And it was…just OK. I’ve had some awesome sweet potato pie in my life. My mom’s friend makes amazing pies. That said, this was not as good as those. It’s good, but it’s not great. The pie’s texture is sort of “lazy”, for lack of a better word. It’s not firm like I like it, and refrigerating it didn’t do much to firm it up. If this made that dude sing, I’ve had some pie that would make his heart explode. I really don’t know what all the fuss was about, but good on James for getting his 15 minutes out of it.

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Next up, I tried KFC’s Nashville Hot Chicken Tenders. Let me start by saying that I hate KFC. I love fast food, but KFC is typically some garbage. I haven’t liked any of their gimmicks since the Rotisserie Gold arrival in the early 90s. Most people just laugh at their output, like when we get things like the Double Down. So imagine my surprise when some of my Twitter friends started raving over this Nashville Hot recipe that KFC just debuted. They started out using it on the regular chicken, but then they introduced the tenders. I’m lazy and hate dealing with bones, so tenders were the way into my heart. My clogged, clogged heart. There aren’t too many KFCs in these parts (they tend to get shut down a lot), so we happened to be near one on Sunday and decided to take the plunge. First, the presentation. They come served in a black plastic tray that makes you think they came right out of the microwave. They’re garnished with pickle chips, and are served with cole slaw (we replaced that with wedges) and a biscuit. So, how did they taste? TERRIBLE. You bastards lied to me! Seriously, if that’s indicative of a real Nashville recipe, then they can just go and leave the Union right now. The sauce is thin. I mean THIN. It’s reddish and stains everything – napkins, skin, whatever. But it’s so thin that you’d think it’s just grease. There’s no body to it. It’s hot, but it’s not flavorful. And, again, the sauce gets everywhere. Lindsay looked like a ravenous vampire when she was done. It was the least satisfying meal I’ve ever had. It was a combination KFC/Taco Bell, and I wanted to cleanse my palette with some tacos, but I was already full from the tenders.

peak tv

Part of why I didn’t watch much TV this week is because there’s just too much TV. Some folks have wondered if we’ve reached “peak television”, and I think it might be true. I used to know when all my favorite shows came on. Now, I’m considering making a Google Doc just to track them all. I remember that I missed shows days after they’ve aired. And these aren’t shows I just watch casually; they’re things that I actually consider favorites. At the moment, though, I just have too many favorites. At the same time, I’m not afraid to dump a show that I don’t like. In the past, I watched a lot of stuff that I hated. I wasn’t even “hate-watching” those shows, either. I didn’t really like them, but they were on and I had nothing better to do. When Fox debuted Cooper Barrett and Bordertown, I finally realized that there are too many shows and life’s too short to waste on something you don’t like.

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In the toy world, there’s a rumor going around that Hasbro and Mattel are in talks for a merger. He-Man and G.I. Joe under the same roof? This is an ’80s kid’s wet dream! Too bad Hasbro doesn’t really care about Joe anymore, and Mattel sells He-Man figures to grown-ups for $30 a pop. This could be a dream or a nightmare. It’d be interesting to see if the Marvel and DC licenses would remain under this shared roof. Would they become HasTel or MatBro? Or even worse, HasMat? While surprising, this isn’t the first time there’s been talk of a merger, as Mattel made an offer on Hasbro 20 years ago.

Black

On the comic front, I never pledge Kickstarters because I’ve heard too many horror stories. Still, when I saw Black, I knew that I had to be a backer. The tagline for the graphic novel reads “In a world that already fears and hates them – what if only Black people had superpowers?” That’s basically as much as I know about the story, but it was enough to make me want to know more. It’ll no doubt be controversial, but the art looks great and I’m really anxious to see where the story goes.

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Meanwhile, I ran across yet another Kickstarter that piqued my interest. Titled Tuskegee Heirs, in the spirit of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, the tagline reads “Futuristic sci-fi adventure that follows a small squad of young gifted aviators who are forced to become earth’s last line of defense.” The art is very “manga-esque”, which would normally be a turnoff to me, but it’s kinda refreshing seeing that style used for Black characters outside of The Boondocks. I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about an upcoming comic project, so I hope I’m not disappointed. Maybe when these books come in, I’ll dust off my Adventures West Coast feature and review them.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • After the success of Lip Sync Battle, Craig Robinson will host Caraoke Showdown on Spike.
  • Aubrey Plaza has been cast in FX’s X-Men spinoff, Legion
  • Matt LeBlanc is one of the new hosts of The UK’s Top Gear. Here’s hoping this job lasts longer than Joey. Or Top of the Heap.
  • Louis C.K. quietly released a new series, Horace and Pete, on his website. But it looks sad and all the colors are various shades of brown, so I’ll pass.
  • Andy Samberg’s crew, The Lonely Island, are developing Party Over Here with comedian Paul Scheer. The half-hour sketch show will air Saturday nights at 11 on Fox.
  • Gilmore Girls is coming back via Netflix, and apparently no one thought to invite its most famous alum, Melissa McCarthy.

ST-TNG-Theme-Week

My pals over at The Robot’s Pajamas are having Star Trek: The Next Generation Week, so be sure to pop over there and read all the great posts they’ve got!

This Week In Black History

2/1 – Today In Black History: Arnold & Willis Jackson became the first poor black kids adopted by a rich white person

2/2 – Today In Black History, rapper Christopher Wallace graduated to the Men’s department and changed his name from “Husky Smalls”

2/3 – Today in Black History, The Eastland School for Girls admitted Dorothy “Tootie” Ramsey as its first black student

2/4 – Today in Black History, the Fresh King of Bel Air was assassinated. The throne remained empty until a long lost son was found in 1990.

2/5 – Today in Black History, Kunta Kinte is accepted into the space program, and it only costs him his eyesight.

usf

When I’m not blogging about pop culture, I like to guest on podcasts. One of my favorites to guest on has been the UnderScoopFire Podcast. Out of my 52 podcast appearances, 13 of them have been with USF and its Mad Men-centric spinoff, The MadCast.

I remember a few years back, coming across a dude on Twitter named @HowardTheDeck and thinking “Heh, that’s pretty clever.” Turns out dude was a funny guy, so when I found out he had a podcast, I couldn’t wait to hear it. This was a new concept to me, as I really hadn’t given too many shits about the podcast format prior to that. I like my Internet printed. If you’re recording podcasts or making videos, that just seems like it’s gonna take too much time to consume. So, I just stuck to blogs and the like. Anyway, I downloaded USF and immediately fell in love. I dug the whole gang, from Howie to Corey to Tank to Joe. There was even this guy named Googs who really seemed like he didn’t want to be there, but he was cool, too. We all became friends online – these weren’t just “web friends”, but real friends. We’ve shared Christmas cards, and tracked down toys that the others’ kids couldn’t find locally. They’ve allowed me to come on and ramble on about whatever’s on my mind, and I’ve always had a great time doing it.

Well, this week, after 150-ish episodes, the UnderScoopFire Podcast posted its final episode. The show began as a love letter to children of the 80s, covering things like GI Joe and featuring guests like “The Micro Machines Guy”, John Moschitta Jr. Over the past few years or so, the show had undergone some changes. Howie and Googs left, while Tank and Joe were sent deep undercover. We’d hear from Tank every now and then, but I thought Joe got lost out there until I heard his pretaped appearance on the final show. Some episodes were just Corey and this dude named Eclectik (that’s not his government name, but we won’t talk too much about him ’cause he hates me anyway), chatting away. A lot of the time, it felt like we were all flies on the wall for a conversation between those two. Still, they kept the show alive, and I thank them for that. Without USF, I wouldn’t be the reigning What’s The Scoop? Champion for Life, I wouldn’t know how hard it is for 80s celebrities to say the words “Under Scoop Fire” in that order, and I wouldn’t have some of my closest friends. So, with that in mind, it’s bittersweet for me to say that the UnderScoopFire Podcast had the West Week Ever.

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