02nd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Since I basically took off the month of November I guess this has got to be good, huh? Recently, some online friends were discussing taking breaks from blogging, and one of them said that you don’t need to offer an explanation as to where you’ve been. After all, the world doesn’t revolve around your blog, so it’s kind of egotistical to think anyone cares where you’ve been. I get that, but I don’t really agree with it. When people come to expect something regularly, you do kind of owe them an explanation as to why you broke your “promise”, so to speak. Plainly put, something inside me is broken. Yeah, I’m basically stealing Selena Gomez’s speech from the American Music Awards, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

When I started West Week Ever, it was to celebrate the week that was in pop culture. But can you honestly cite anything that had a great week over the past month? And I’m not even really going to delve into the political landscape of things. I’ll save that for a podcast, where it’ll be harder for someone to cut and paste my words without context. No, nothing had the West Week Ever for the past few weeks. I try to go by the whole “The show must go on” mentality, but I just couldn’t do it. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t go into these posts to be negative, but sometimes that’s what comes out. I couldn’t be positive lately, though, and I saw no reason to put that off on you. I wanted Fantastic Beasts to fail. I want Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s cancellation to be announced. I guess I’m one of those men who wants to watch the world burn. But I’m back in the saddle, trying to fight the good fight. Sometimes you’ve just got to take a step back and look at things, so that’s where I’ve been. So, ready to talk about pop culture? Let’s go!

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Seeing as how I usually enjoy the CW DC show crossovers, I’m sure some folks probably figured this year’s “Heroes vs Aliens” featuring the Dominators would get the West Week Ever this week. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I really didn’t care much for this year’s crossover. To start, I always thought it was a bit of heavy lifting by spreading it across 4 shows. The Berlanti Dilution Effect is full force on this one. Oh, you’ve never heard of the Berlanti Dilution Effect? It’s probably because I just named it. Basically, whenever the Berlantiverse adds a new show, it dilutes the quality of the preexisting shows, as everyone just seems spread too thin. Folks loved Arrow until The Flash came along. All of a sudden, it was the new hit show, while Arrow’s quality dropped. Then, last season, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow were introduced, while fans felt Flash’s quality dropped, and Arrow was damn near unwatchable. Fans seem to love Supergirl, while Legends is just kinda off to the side, not bad, but not great. Well, since Supergirl is the new kid on the block, I felt like she could’ve sat on the bench for this year’s crossover. This year should’ve just been Flash/Arrow/Legends, as they at least occupy the same universe. Adding Supergirl was just overstuffing the thing, and her addition didn’t really add much to things.

I also had another issue with the crossover: I don’t think Team Arrow should be fighting aliens. They’re too street-level for that. Now, they’ve dipped their toe into the supernatural with Damien Darhk and Ragman, but I’ve also felt those were creative missteps for the series. They should only be concentrating on street level threats, as something extraterrestrial is out of their wheelhouse. Plus, it’s no secret that Arrow is basically TV Batman, as a lot of Batman’s rogues and tropes have been added to the show. I don’t think Green Arrow should be fighting aliens as much as I actually don’t like Batman as a member of the Justice League. Bear with me a minute here. Prior to the New 52, about 10 years ago, the Bat books were united in the fact that they approached Batman as urban legend. He has more power as a mysterious being, whispered about amongst thugs and criminals than he does as a guy fighting next to Superman in broad daylight. I’m fine if Batman lends his support from the Watchtower, but he shouldn’t be a public face of the Justice League, as he really shouldn’t “exist” as far as the Man on the Street is concerned. I feel the same about the Green Arrow. That hero loses his clout if he’s seen running around with Flash and Supergirl, fighting aliens. He needs to stick to what he does best.

Now, for the crossover itself. I skipped the Supergirl episode because I really have no desire to get into that show, and the pertinent parts of the crossover were repeated in the next night’s Flash episode. Flash was just a little too cutesy for me, as everyone got acquainted, learning each other’s names and power sets, but they didn’t seem to be taking the threat seriously. Sure, there was some Flash stuff going on that didn’t make a ton of sense to folks, like me, who are still basically on season one of the show. They did a pretty good job, though, explaining Flashpoint and how it had affected things. They even threw in some development for the Legends crew, following up on Professor Stein’s visions. Outside of that, though, most of that episode was fluff. I mean, aliens KILL the president, and even it’s kinda treated as an afterthought. Then we got to the Arrow episode which was one big dream sequence. Sadly, this was also the show’s 100th episode, so I felt bad that it was “squandered” on a crossover. And of course I didn’t like the episode, as it featured all the non-metas on a friggin’ spaceship, IN SPACE! The Legends finale was just more of the same. Kara acting too cutesy, Team Arrow being USELESS against aliens, and there were too many characters without a use for most of them. There was just WAY too much going on, with a threat that wasn’t entirely credible, vanquished in a manner that also wasn’t too credible. I realize I’ve gotta suspend disbelief a bit, but COME ON! And the episode ends with a private press conference with Green Arrow, front and center, meeting the new goddamn President! THE PRESIDENT SHOULD NOT BE PUBLICLY ASSOCIATING WITH A VIGILANTE! It’s like Flashpoint has got them living in Trump’s America or some shit! Anyway, there was a pretty clever Brandon Routh/Superman Returns joke near the end, so I’ll give them credit for that one.

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In television news, it was announced that the long-gestating Inhumans film had been demoted to a television series to debut on ABC in 2017. In fact, the first 2 episodes will debut in IMAX in theaters. This whole thing is laughable to me, but not surprising if you understand the nuances of Marvel. The Inhumans were a pet project of Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter, as Marvel didn’t have the film rights to the X-Men, so he saw the Inhumans as plug and play “freaks with powers” that Marvel Studios could exploit. And he basically forced this idea on Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige, who really wanted nothing to do with the project. That’s why it was put on Marvel’s film schedule, but kept getting shuffled further and further into the future. Well, after the somewhat ugly divorce between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television last year, Marvel Studios now reports directly to Disney, while Marvel Television is still under the Marvel umbrella. This also dissolved the “brain trust” of comic pros who had given input on the movies up to that point. So, this means there’s even less hope of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever truly aligning with the movies, but it also allowed Feige to get The Inhumans off his plate and pass the buck on to the TV division.

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Anyway, the show is supposed to focus on the Inhuman royal family, such as Black Bolt and Medusa, and I can’t think of anything I’d rather see less of. That franchise has never interested me, and the idea of it on a TV budget isn’t too impressive, either. In its defense, the season will only be 8 episodes long, so they can hopefully apply 22 episodes worth of budget to those 8 episodes. The unofficial cancellation of Conviction, however, has me hoping Marvel might start conversations with Hayley Atwell to bring Agent Carter back for one more season. Adding Ghost Rider to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might’ve been a creative shot in the arm for the show, but it hasn’t moved the needle much in terms of ratings. So, the idea of a 5th season isn’t a guarantee at this point, despite the fact that ABC/Disney own the show. If it were up to me, I’d opt for more Agent Carter as a companion show to Inhumans and say adios to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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In other TV news, three cast members were announced for Star Trek Discovery. Most people are gonna say Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh, but I’m gonna say Supercop 2’s Michelle Yeoh has been cast as Captain Georgiou of the starship Shenzhou. Meanwhile, Anthony Rapp of Rent fame will portray the Discovery’s science officer Lt. Stamets. Motion capture veteran Doug Jones will play science officer Lt. Saru, who will be a member of an alien species new to the Trek franchise. And none of these announcements do anything for me. Where’s the obligatory former Benson cast member? Plus, people mistakenly took the news of Yeoh’s casting to mean that she’s the lead, but she’s not, as it was already announced that the lead would not be a captain, and would be a member of the Discovery crew. So, Yeoh is really just more of a high profile guest star. Still, for a show that’s supposed to debut in May (formerly January), they sure seem to be dragging their feet with this casting process.

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In comic news, the rosters were revealed for the upcoming X-Men Gold and X-Men Blue series. Now, for fans of the 90s X-Men, those divisions were important because the adventures of the Gold team were featured in Uncanny X-Men, while the exploits of the Blue team were featured in the X-Men cartoon, as well as the “Adjectiveless” X-Men comic. Fans thought this would be a return to those days, but this week’s announcement dashed those hopes. X-Men Blue will focus on the time-displaced original teen X-Men, led by Magneto – a nod back to the 80s New Mutants era when Magneto served as their mentor. Meanwhile, the Gold team will be comprised of Storm, Old Man Logan, Rachel Grey, Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde as leader. In a lot of ways, the current Gold team isn’t too different from the old one, as Storm and Colossus were on that team, while Nightcrawler, Rachel, and Kitty were in Excalibur at the time. I’ll probably grab the Gold book, as it seems the closest to the Extraordinary X-Men team – a book I’m already reading – plus I couldn’t give two shits about that time-displaced team. The Gold team also has the distinction of being written by Arrow co-creator Marc Guggenheim, whose work I like, while the Blue team is written by Cullen Bunn, whose indie leanings have left me somewhat disappointed. The biggest issue with the team division is that it leaves a LOT of mutants on the table without homes. Back in the day, while it could be argued that the Blue team was the more popular of the two, both had heavy hitters on their rosters. The “wealth” was spread evenly, so to speak. That doesn’t seem to be the case here. If anything, the Blue team is just a continuation of All-New X-Men, while the Gold team seems to be taking Extraordinary’s place. But where’s Magik? Beast? Am I missing their fates since I’m not reading Death of X or Inhumans vs X-Men? The whole thing just feels kind of lopsided, without a real “A” team in the mix. The Gold folks are classic characters, but lack a “wow factor”, while the Blue team just still feels like a gimmick all these years later.

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In movie news, we got the concept art of how Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5 may look in the upcoming Power Rangers movie. This is the stuff of nightmares, kids! Why does he have those floodlight eyeballs? Was his scanner not enough? And why do his arms go down to the floor? I hate everything I’ve seen about this film, but I’m hoping it succeeds just so they can hopefully build off of this for the sequel and make something good. Look, I understand the need to update things for a new audience, but this thing seems almost ashamed of its source material. So, that alienates the built-in fan base, while offering almost nothing to entice a new one. I really don’t know what this movie is doing.

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While we’re on the topic of Power Rangers, one aspect of the franchise that’s getting it right is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic series from BOOM! There have been several Power Rangers comics over the past 20 years, and they all sucked. I know because I read the vast majority of them (One day I should write about the terrible Hamilton series where the Rangers and Zords just randomly change in the middle of the story). Anyway, for anyone who’ll listen, I’ve been telling them that the current series is better than it has any right to be. Between it and the Kimberly-centric Power Rangers: Pink spinoff, the creators are really mining the property without telling meaningless stories that “dance between the raindrops of continuity”. For example, we found out that Rita actually approached Zack to wield the green power coin before Tommy even came to town. And we also found out that Zordon reenlisted the help of the original Rangers even after they had officially left the team. But this week was this biggest shocker: in #9 of the comic series, we were introduced to a mysterious Ranger who seems to be drawing both green and white power from the Morphing Grid. Oh, and he’s evil and working with Rita. I used to be the guy who said “If it wasn’t in the show, it didn’t count”, but BOOM! is finding ways to tell interesting compelling stories while still honoring the continuity that we already know. If you’re a comic and Power Rangers fan, you should definitely be reading this series.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The season finale of HBO’s Insecure had many Black males joining #TeamLawrence and #LawrenceHive, sparking quite the divide on Black Twitter
  • Speaking of premium cable channels, Showtime announced that Masters of Sex would not be coming back for a 5th season. I guess they, uh, mastered the sex.
  • Full House creator Jeff Franklin actually purchased the San Francisco house that served as the exterior of the Tanner home
  • Billy Dee Williams will be the voice of Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Lego Batman Movie, reprising his role from 1989’s Batman.
  • Quantico showrunner Josh Safran has said that the show will never feature a Muslim terrorist. That snickering you hear is coming from the producers of 24.
  • While promoting his new book, Saved By The Bell executive producer Peter Engel said that Zack and Kelly “weren’t built to last” and are probably divorced by now.
  • Good girls finish last, as Amazon has decided against a second season for Mad Men clone Good Girls Revolt

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When I first saw the ads for Search Party, I thought “What a dumb idea for a show.” It looked too hipster, and it starred the Great Value Ilana Glazer, Alia Shawkat, who you probably remember as Maeby from Arrested Development. I remembered reading about it, and wondered how exactly they could make a show out of that premise. Well, I can admit when I’m wrong, and BOY was I wrong!

If you’re not familiar, Search Party kicks off with the disappearance of a young woman. Dory (Shawkat) and her group of Millennial hipster friends kinda knew the girl in college, but they wouldn’t necessarily call her a “friend”. Then, she disappears, and they milk it for all it’s worth. They post updates on social media about how a piece of them is now missing, and they even attend a vigil for her upstate. Meanwhile, Dory is sort of lost in life, and she gloms onto the case with an unexpected fervor. Things really kick into high gear when she randomly sees the missing girl in a Chinese restaurant, yet no one will believe that she really saw her. Like they’ve been doing, Dory’s friends just believe she’s milking the whole thing for attention. Then crazy people come out of the woodwork, a private investigator appears, and a cult is even involved. I never saw any of this coming, but enjoyed every minute of it. It’s like a hipster Nancy Drew.

Airing on TBS, Search Party was sort of burned off at a pace of two episodes a night in Conan’s timeslot all last week. In addition to that, immediately following the premiere on Monday, all the episodes were made available On Demand. So, I can’t figure out if TBS was extremely proud of the show OR if they couldn’t be done with it fast enough. I’m not sure how these tactics helped ratings, but critics seemed to love the show. As some critics pointed out, it’s basically what Girls could’ve been, but wasn’t. The problem with Girls is that is filled with such unsympathetic characters who all suck at life. With Search Party, however, you can kind of relate to those characters and, if not, you at least know someone like them. You understand their insecurities and the ways in which they cope with them. Sure, they kinda suck at life, but they know it, and they want to NOT suck. That can’t be said for Hannah Horvath and her friends.

In many ways, it was a major coup for TBS to get this show. It probably would’ve been more at home on something like Netflix, and probably would’ve gotten more promotion. It’s SO bingeable, and you’re going to want to blow through the 10-episode series in one sitting. It’s that good. I didn’t even see some of the twists coming that it throws at you. And the ending was nothing like you’d expect. Oh, man do I wanna talk about that ending. I don’t know how they’d get a second season out of it, but I’d love to see that cast back together. If it’s just a one and done series, it does the job there, as well. It’s the perfect miniseries. And that’s why Search Party had the West Week Ever.

04th Nov2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/4/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

Earlier this week, I found myself having an impromptu Zac Efronathon, as I watched 2 of his comedies the same night. I used to think he was just some one-note himbo, but I think I really like that dude. He’s a funny guy, and he’s also beautiful (What? I have to give credit where it’s due!).

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Anyway, first up was Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. When I first heard about this movie, I was convinced I’d actually see it in the theater, but that didn’t come to pass. I was really looking forward to it, but was too lazy to actually go see it. Oh well, that’s what DVDs/streaming are for! Zac Efron and Adam Devine play the title characters, who have a reputation for ruining family gatherings. Since they’re known to rile each other up, their father insists that they bring dates to their sister’s destination wedding in Hawaii. It’s their father’s hope that they’ll bring “nice girls” who will keep them in check. Well, not knowing how to find these girls, they post an ad on Craigslist, which gets thousands of replies from folks who just want a free trip to Hawaii. Eventually they end up on The Wendy Williams Show, and their episode is seen by two slackers played by Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick. They decide to pretend they’re nice girls so they can get the trip. And hilarity ensues. As an R-rated raunch comedy, it was about what I expected, though it could’ve been better. Plaza has this weird pseudo-ghetto accent that I’m never really sold on, though I do feel like she manages to do the impossible: outshine Kendrick. None of that Pitch Perfect Kendrick magic is on display here, as she pretty much plays The Dumb One opposite Plaza as The Schemer. I’m still not sure if I’m down with Adam Devine’s whole thing or not. He’s a lot like Eric Andre in that he’s not a bad looking dude, but he goes out of his way to make himself look as annoying/unattractive as possible. I guess it’s good he’s found a niche. I wouldn’t say this movie is worth owning, but it’s definitely worth seeing. And make sure you see the real thing, and don’t wait for it to get neutered on FX.

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The Efronathon continued with the sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. Now, I have to admit that I remember very little about the first movie, but I didn’t really think the world of Neighbors had a rich continuity to it. Basically, I remembered the airbag gag, and that’s about it. Totally forgot that Dave Franco came out in the last film, which probably would’ve made me less confused by the beginning of this installment. Did you see the first movie? If not, here’s how it went: New parents Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne learn that the Delta Psi Beta fraternity has moved next door to them. They just want a quiet life to raise their newborn, while the frat brothers wanna do what frat brothers do: PARTY. So, a war breaks out between Rogen and the frat, led by Zac Efron. By the end of the film, the college shuts down the house, and it seems like Rogen and Efron are friends. Well, based on the age of Rogen and Byrne’s daughter, this movie takes place roughly two years later. Byrne is expecting their second child, and they’re selling their house to move out to the suburbs. After the sale, however, they enter escrow – meaning that they basically have to cross their fingers that nothing goes wrong for the next 30 days, or the sale won’t go through. Well, everything’s going smoothly until a sorority decides to set up in the old Delta Psi Beta house. And you basically get the same movie as the first, only the guys are replaced with girls. This one, however, kinda has a heavyhanded message about feminism that it’s trying to get across, but I’m not quite sure it sticks the landing. It’s funny, but I’m having trouble accepting that Chloe Grace Moretz has grown up; she’ll always be little Hit Girl to me. I didn’t talk too much about Efron’s role this time around because I don’t wanna give away the whole movie, but he’s just as good here as he was in Mike and Dave. Again, probably not worth owning, but it’s worth checking out.

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Finally, I went to see Doctor Strange last night. For the first time in a long time, a comic book movie didn’t get the West Week Ever. You see, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. I don’t know if it’s the fault of the film, however. At the end of the day, I just don’t like Mystical Marvel or Cosmic Marvel. I’d probably rank this film with the first Thor. Don’t get me wrong – it’s visually stunning, and probably the first Marvel movie that you NEED to see in 3D. At the same time, I felt it was a little on the short side and some extra time could’ve been used for character development. For example, I don’t think we see enough of civilian Stephen Strange, before all the mystical stuff happens. Then, when the mystical stuff does happen, it happens too quickly. We never really see him struggle to master his power. So, it’s definitely got pacing issues. I actually liked Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, despite the whitewashing. The cape, though…I hated the cape. Also, Marvel keeps telling us “It’s all connected”, but they miss golden opportunities to link in the stuff that they claim is difficult to do. I mean, part of it takes place in a hospital in NYC. Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson’s character from the Marvel Netflix shows) also works in a hospital in NYC, so… Still, it’s got some cool Easter eggs if you’re paying close attention, and Strange seems like a cool addition to the MCU. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I needed more of something from this film that I didn’t get. It’s definitely worth seeing, but this isn’t the film that’s gonna sway the crowd that’s never been fans of the Marvel films.

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On the standup front, I caught Pete Davidson: SMD on Comedy Central. By now, you probably know the general bulletpoints for Davidson: he’s the youngest current SNL cast member at 22, he’s a stoner, and his firefighter dad died in 9/11. There have been a lot of really good interviews with him going around lately, like him talking about how he pretty much hates his life, but he’s trying not to blow this great opportunity that’s been given to him. Well, this one-hour special is more of that. To be honest, he’s not ready for an hour yet. He’s a pretty good storyteller, but he could do the same thing in the interviews instead of doing it onstage. It’s almost like the stage is therapy for him, but he just happens to have an audience. He’s not especially charismatic, nor does he work the crowd. Still, it could’ve been a lot worse. It wasn’t a bad special by any means, but it wasn’t especially polished. The production values were pretty low, but I guess they fit his brand, so to speak. If you like what he does on SNL, it’s worth checking out, but it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything.

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On TV, this week saw the season finale of Donald Glover’s exceptional Atlanta, which capped off a near perfect season of television. I really liked how cyclical the whole thing was. The episode, titled “The Jacket”, has Earn retracing his steps from the night before in order to find his jacket. As the episode starts, he wakes up in the aftermath of a party, with the host telling him that he has to leave. The host tells him, “We boys, but we ain’t boys. See, I know you, but at the same time, I don’t know you.” He’s basically saying that no matter how much you think you know a person, you can’t ever fully know what’s going on with them. And that’s proven to us by the final scene of the episode, as we learn we don’t know Earn as well as we thought we did. I’m really looking forward to the next season, which I hope isn’t derailed by filming on the Han Solo film.

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In music, Beyonce decided she wanted a challenge, so she showed up at the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association Awards. And the kids on social media lost their shit. “She needs to stay in her lane! She’s not country music!” Oh, and she didn’t come alone: she brought country music black sheep The Dixie Chicks along for the ride. She basically showed up to the door and said, “These are my Plus Three”. Now, I’m not the biggest Beyonce fan in the world (frankly, I prefer her Destinty’s Child stuff), but it was kinda cool for her to use her clout to usher the Chicks back into the world of country. After all, not everyone has forgiven them for their jab against W all those years ago. With the exception of an International Artist Achievement Award in 2006, the Dixie Chicks haven’t won a CMA since 2002. I’d have preferred it if they’d done a Beyonce take on a Dixie Chicks song, instead of them serving as the backing band for one of her Lemonade songs, but she’s the Queen. I’ve hit that age where pop music bewilders me, but I know everyone on the country charts. I guess the CMAs have become my Grammys, but I’ve got to say that I was disappointed with about 80% of the live performances, as it seemed like nobody had showed up to soundcheck. Levels were off, tempos were off, folks were pitchy. It was a mess, and didn’t feel like a worthy tribute to the 50th anniversary of that institution.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CBS announced that the CBS All Access spinoff of The Good Wife would be called The Good Fight
  • Johnny Depp not only has a cameo in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, but he’ll also star in the sequel.. This isn’t good news, however, to those in the Amber Heard camp…
  • Since it’s just gonna become a full-on Batman adaptation, it was announced that Ra’s Al Ghul’s other daughter (and mother of Batman’s son) Talia will be appearing on Arrow this season.
  • It was revealed that Taylor Swift wrote “Better Man”, the latest single from country group Little Big Town. It’s not clear if it’s about Calvin Harris or Tom Hiddleston, though.
  • Lindsay Lohan now speaks with a really bad Boris & Natasha accent.
  • John Wick director David Leitch is considered the frontrunner to direct Deadpool 2. Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity with former director Tim Miller, composer Junkie XL is leaving the sequel.
  • Speaking of Tim Miller, he’s reportedly developing a Sonic the Hedgehog movie at Sony
  • DC stays losing, as director Rick Famuyima has left the film adaptation of The Flash, citing “creative differences”
  • The Nerd Lunch Podcast celebrated its 250th episode, and yours truly makes a cameo appearance!
  • We got a new Wonder Woman trailer yesterday, and my pals over at The Robot’s Pajamas have a great frame by frame breakdown.

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I’m not a sports guy, so I don’t really have a ton to say here. After I finished watching the CMAs the other night, I decided to turn on Game 7 of the World Series. I haven’t cared about baseball since about 1992, when I was in the prime of my baseball card collecting career. I did, however, know that the Cubs and the Indians are some of the losingest teams out there, so it was pretty awesome that they had made it this far. Immediately, I was riveted by the game, as I watched everything happen that could happen. Fatigued pitchers, sloppy bunts, and a rain delay. But I stuck it out until 1 AM to see the Cubs break a 108 year “curse”, winning the series. I don’t think anything topped that this week, so that’s why the Chicago Cubs had the West Week Ever.

28th Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/28/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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The only movie I watched this week was a documentary called Meet The Hitlers, which followed the lives of people who have the name “Hitler”. Surprisingly, the Austrian guy is the most likable person featured, while the New Jersey folks are the ones who turn out to be actual Nazis. The Austrian Hitler is a really sweet guy who was abandoned by his parents as a child and now has a lion tattooed on his bald head. Meanwhile, the New Jersey couple made the news because their Shop-Rite store refused to make a birthday cake for their young son, Adolf Hitler. Eventually, the state came and took their kids away. You wanna feel bad for them, ’cause nobody wants their kids taken away, but then you remember “Oh yeah – NAZIS!” Fuck ’em. Anyway, it was a way to kill 80 minutes, but I wouldn’t recommend it or anything. It’s got no real point to it. Part of it is devoted to a writer trying to track down Hitler’s last living relative, while the rest is just these slice of life stories of folks who share the name. It needed to decide what it was going to be, instead of this mish mash of whatever it is.

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In movie news, it Tim Miller stepped down as the director of Deadpool 2, which is already making fans worry about what’s going to happen with the film. Reportedly, he had creative differences with star Ryan Reynolds and, while reports claim the split is amicable, there are also claims that the two didn’t even speak to each other near the end of production of the first movie. It’s said that Miller really wanted to bring in Kyle Chandler for Cable, but Reynolds actually had casting power, and he really didn’t want Chandler. Later in the week, a petition started circulating to get Quentin Tarantino to direct the film, but I don’t think that’d be a good idea. Considering the way that Fox had no faith in the first film, cutting its budget and whatnot, you’d assume that the strife would’ve come from studio meddling. But it’s just a disagreement between star and director. It’s not like the movie is gonna fall apart, but folks will always wonder What Might’ve Been, just like with Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man.

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In other Marvel news, it was announced that season two of Jessica Jones would only feature women directors. While this may seem groundbreaking to some, Black Twitter was quick to point out that Ava Duvernay’s Queen Sugar did this first. Well, the BBC’s Call The Midwife was actually the first show to do this, so there! Anyway, I get that it is creating opportunity for women directors, but it feels kinda gimmicky. I mean, I didn’t know who directed the first season’s episodes and I liked them just fine. I almost feel like they’re begging a certain type of fan to come out and say “Season two sucked because of the women directors”.

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Speaking of that particular kind of fan, a bunch of them ran writer Chelsea Cain off Twitter this week because of some drama surrounding the Mockingbird comic. Basically, the final issue of the book featured the cover above, and that triggered the Men’s Rights activists, who don’t even seem to realize that the writer has no control over the cover. It’s believed that some of them were just looking for a target for their anger from last week’s Riri Williams cover controversy. If you remember, that ended up with Marvel cancelling the cover, and these folks feel like that was the wrong call. I’m just tired, man. I’m tired of shit like this. Like, I don’t even have any fight in me for something like this. I mean, who has the time or the energy? I’m not going to get too into it here, as I’ve just been hanging out on the periphery, and I can’t muster the desire to delve deeper into it. If you do a search for #IStandWithChelseaCain, you’ll find all you want to know. I just can’t believe that people get like this over funny books. I mean, I’m pretty passionate about them, but not to the point of running someone off social media. Also, I know enough about how the industry works that I know that the writer wouldn’t be the right target for my anger anyway. Nope, you channel that at the editor! I kid, I kid…

In TV, everything old is new again as we got news about 3 potential revivals that are in the works. First off, I have the misfortune of having a toddler who’s in love with a show that just ended production (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse), so I’m hoping she’ll be interested in the revival of The Muppet Babies that’s in the works for Disney Junior in 2018. I hope she can get over the weird CG animation style of the show, which is a lot more unsettling than Clubhouse‘s CG was.

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Meanwhile, Raven-Symone announced that she’s leaving The View to focus on a spinoff of That’s So Raven. Since everyone’s jumping on the Fuller House/Girl Meets World bandwagon, I guess this is as good a time as any. I always felt That’s So Raven was doing too much. If you’ve never seen it, Raven-Symone starred as Raven Baxter, who was your average teenage girl in high school. At least, that’s how I would’ve left it, but Disney had to go the extra mile. No, Raven also got these psychic visions that she couldn’t control. Usually they’d result in her messing up more than saving the day. They led to a lot of misunderstandings, basically making the show a tween Three’s Company. It led to the spinoff Cory In The House, where her little brother and dad move into the White House. Yeah, it wasn’t as successful as the original series. In any case, this new spinoff would focus on Raven as a divorced single mom of two teens – one of whom seems to have inherited her psychic gift. And I’m sure hilarity ensues. I never watched That’s So Raven because I was simply too old. TNBC had already wound down by that point, and I was busy with college. Still, it’s a smart move for these networks to revive shows that folks can watch with their kids, with a tie to something they, themselves, watched when they were kids. I like these Next Generation spinoffs. Keep ’em coming!

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Finally, based on the fan response from that viral video from a few weeks back, NBC is reportedly in early talks with the principal cast of Will & Grace about a revival of the series. Right now, it’s unclear as to how many episodes we’re talking about, as well as when they’d air. As y’all know, I loved that video, so I say “bring it on!”

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Earlier this week, I posted a review of IDW’s Revolution event that you should check out if you haven’t already. Long story short, it’s not a very good effort on IDW’s part, but you’ll have to read the post in order to find out why.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Donald Glover was officially cast as a young Lando Calrissian in the Han Solo…solo movie
  • Cartoon Network renewed We Bare Bears for a 3rd season
  • ABC’s Notorious is the first unofficial cancellation of the fall season, as its episode order was cut to 10.
  • Twitter’s killing off Vine, as they couldn’t figure out how to monetize 6 second increments
  • God Particle was revealed as the next film in the Cloverfield universe. The goal is to release a Cloverfield movie ever year
  • Deciding he had too much on his plate, Bryan Fuller stepped down as showrunner of Star Trek Discovery. Considering they haven’t even announced a cast, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another delay.

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I haven’t seen folks fret over a season finale so much since “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” When Negan showed up in last season’s finale of The Walking Dead, he was determined to make his mark by offing a fan favorite character. This was to show that he meant business! Grrr! Well, the show returned this week, and he killed not just one, but TWO fan favorite characters, and people LOST. THEIR. SHIT. It sparked a discussion as to whether the show had gone too far. I don’t watch the series, but I tuned in to see who died, and I can’t remember seeing that kind of gore before on television (I’m not a horror guy, so maybe it was tame by those standards?). Some folks have even said that the gore was bordering on pornographic, while others have sworn off the show because it killed off one of the only bastions of hope in that universe. I don’t know whose side I’m on, really.

I used to read The Walking Dead in comic form. I wasn’t a monthly reader, but I had those hardcover editions that they’d put out every 12 issues. I immediately found myself engrossed in that world, and really started to care about the characters. Then I got to issue #48, which is where The Governor killed a character I’d really started to feel for. But it wasn’t just a death. He decapitates the character with a samurai sword. And it’s not one swift blow, so he had to hack at it until the head finally falls off. And at that moment, I thought “Fuck this book!” I stopped reading at that point because I had simply had enough. A few years later, #100 hit the stands, and I flipped through it because I’ve been trained that big round number comic issues usually have something special in them. Instead of them finding a cure for the zombies, or a cache of Twinkies from before the world went to shit, writer Robert Kirkman killed off another character that I’d grown to love back when I was still reading the book. In fact, the events of #100 are what was depicted onscreen last Sunday night. And at that moment, “Fuck this book!” crept up in me again. And I never looked back. That was over 4 years ago, and I haven’t been the least bit curious about what’s going on with Rick and the gang. That’s why Sunday didn’t really surprise me because I already knew it was coming. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how graphic it would be.

I’ve never had the least bit of interest in the television series, as that’s just not a world I want to see. It’s the same reason I read The Road, but didn’t watch The Road. When reading, you can kinda control the visuals and whatnot in your imagination, but for it to just be onscreen is sometimes too much for certain subject matter. There’s nothing positive in The Walking Dead. People say that the character that was killed was the last glimmer of hope in that world, but it still never paid off. Ya know why? Because there IS no hope in that world! There’s no endgame. It’s not like they’re gonna find a cure and everything is gonna go back to normal. They’re not gonna travel back in time and stop the zombies. That’s why I never understood the purpose of Fear The Walking Dead – you’re just seeing the lead up to the apocalypse. Those characters don’t win. Hell, they probably all end up dead before the events of The Walking Dead. I wish I could find the article so I could cite it, but I once read an interview with Kirkman where he said that he doesn’t really put much thought into who he’s going to kill off because he feels that, in an actual zombie apocalypse, the deaths would be pretty random, so he wants to adhere to that. That might sound impressive, but it also leads back to what I said above: there’s no endgame. He’s pretty much just going to write this thing until he gets tired. Superman doesn’t have to have an endgame. Spider-Man doesn’t have to have an endgame. The Walking Dead, though, can’t just meander for 50 years. It needs some sort of order that I don’t believe it has. And I, for one, am not willing to wallow in the muck waiting for that day to come.

Based on the thinkpieces I’ve read this week, a lot of people feel the same way that I do, only it’s in regards to the show and not the comic. But, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”, so the fact that people are talking is exactly what AMC, Kirkman, Image, and everyone wanted. Whether you loved it or hated it, chances are you were watching and you had some thoughts about it. And that’s why The Walking Dead had the West Week Ever.

02nd Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

suicide-squad

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:

leo dancing

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.

cw heroes

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

The-Night-Before-2015-Poster

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.

southpaw_tw

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.

Mr.-Robot-Key-Art

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!

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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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The-Intern-new-poster

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alfre Woodard

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

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.

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

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

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

Jenni Konner

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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