15th Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

01st Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

31st Mar2016

The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: Enterprise

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

28th Mar2016

The Most Underrated Television Theme Songs: Webster

by Will

I’m not sure if this is gonna become a regular thing around here, but I’m kinda tired of just being “The West Week Ever Guy”, and I felt the need to stretch my legs a bit. Anyway, when driving, showering, etc, I tend to have random TV theme songs just jump into my head. As I’ve said before, TV raised me, so a lot of these songs hold a special place in my heart. Also, a lot of them simply don’t get enough credit in the world of pop culture. So, we’re gonna take a look at a few of these gems.

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Today, I had the theme song for Webster to pop into my head, and now I can’t get it out. Not familiar with the show? Well, did you ever watch Diff’rent Strokes? It’s basically the Great Value version of that show. Rich White folks adopting Black kids. Man, that was like an 80s yuppie’s dream, wasn’t it? Anyway, the show starred former NFL player Alex Karras and his real life wife Susan Clark as an upper-middle class couple that ends up taking in the Black child of one of Alex’s former teammates. But that’s not what the show was originally about. No, it was supposed to be a romantic comedy, called Another Ballgame, about the relationship between former jock Karras and socialite Clark, but ABC saw little Emmanuel Lewis is a Burger King commercial and became determined to put him in a show. So, they retooled the show, against Karras and Clark’s wishes (their production company was attached to the show), and shoved Lewis into the show as precocious little Webster. Oh, and they also changed the name of the show to Then Came You. If you listen to the theme, it’s right there in front of you. But ABC wasn’t done flexing their muscles. They wanted everyone to know the show was about Webster so, against Karras and Clark’s wishes AGAIN, they changed the name of the show to simply Webster.

All of that is kind of why I love this theme song, as it’s almost like someone didn’t get the memo from the network. First off, it’s just great 80s cheese. And, technically, the song isn’t even really about a kid who magically comes into their lives. Sure, it could be interpreted that way, but it’s really just about having your life blindsided by new love. It’s kinda like how Creed songs are about relationships, but really about God. The song still heavily references Then Came You, and the visuals focus on “Ma’am and George”, with Webster shoved in at the end.  It’s the perfect metaphor for what was going on behind the scenes.

These days, most folks only remember the show for its odd link to Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it lasted an impressive 6 seasons and 150 episodes (God, I love a nice round number like that!). Karras passed away in 2012, and Emmanuel Lewis hasn’t really been seen publicly since The Surreal Life. In today’s reboot happy culture, I’m kinda surprised this hasn’t been redone. I mean, I wouldn’t call it Webster, but I would replicate the concept under a different name – ya know, like how Step By Step was just The Brady Bunch: The Next Generation. It’d be about a couple of gentrifiers who somehow take in an inner city kid. Give me a call, Hollywood. Meanwhile, I’m gonna go listen to this theme song about 80 more times before the day is over.

05th Feb2016

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

by Will

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

patti pie

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

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

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

peak tv

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

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

Black

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

This Week In Black History

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

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

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

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

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

usf

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

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

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

06th Jan2016

West YEAR Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2015

by Will

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2015 was quite the year in pop culture. Adele broke all the records, Charlie Sheen got the HIV, Steve Harvey pissed off Colombia, and Star Wars came along and broke all the records that Adele didn’t touch. And some stuff happened in between all that, too. The Netflix series Daredevil, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Master of None wowed audiences,  Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary, and Marvel released a bunch of movies. Things were also pretty exciting here on the blog, too. power-rangers-legendary-battle-e1421106185742

I guest-posted over at The Robot’s Pajamas ranking the current star power of several Power Rangers alums

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I wrote about the best, and most underrated, pop album of 2014

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And because I can’t get enough Power Rangers, I wrote about Red Ranger turned Murderer, Ricardo Medina Jr

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To celebrate the release of their documentary, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of, I made a list of the best Backstreet Boys songs that you’ve never heard

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I got in a Twitter fight with American Idol season 1 alum, Justin Guarini

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In one of my most popular posts of the year, I had some controversial thoughts about Batgirl

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Thrift Justice: Yard Sale Edition made a lone appearance this year

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I got on the radar of Andre, The Black Nerd

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Bob Ross and his happy little trees

I attended DC’s Awesome Con for the first time, and got some cool cosplay pictures

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I had some random thoughts about some random comics

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I got my first Cease & Desist order AND I got killed in a comic book!

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My biggest post of the year explored the racial implications of Jurassic World

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I recorded a “backdoor pilot” for a podcast that’ll probably never get off the ground

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I got retweeted by adult film star Ryan Driller

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I defended Fant4stic Four

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I got my first verified celebrity follower on Twitter

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I applied to be on a game show

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I made my 3rd trip to Retro Con and took lots of cool toy pics

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I participated in a summer swap of nerd swag

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I went to New York Comic Con on a quest to see how much free swag I could get

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I got caught talking about a Jeopardy contestants boob’s on Twitter, and then we became besties

I’ve never considered myself a “movie guy”, but this year saw me watching 78 films. That’s GOT to be some kind of record for me. No, I’m not going to rank them, because I’m not enough of a cinephile, but I will list them so that you can see that I was all over the place when it came to what I watched:

  1. Obvious Child
  2. Live. Die. Repeat
  3. Wish I Was Here
  4. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
  5. Non-Stop
  6. The Skeleton Twins
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
  8. Man of Steel
  9. A Million Ways To Die In The West
  10. The Chernobyl Diaries
  11. Backstreet Boys: Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of
  12. The Purge
  13. Bad Words
  14. Dredd
  15. Gravity
  16. A.C.O.D. (Adult Children of Divorce)
  17. Wet Hot American Summer
  18. After Earth
  19. Cloverfield
  20. The Marine
  21. Tammy
  22. Behind The Candelabra
  23. Choke
  24. St. Elmo’s Fire
  25. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
  26. Tron
  27. The Purge: Anarchy
  28. The Babadook
  29. The Signal
  30. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  31. St. Vincent
  32. Top Five
  33. Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
  34. The Wedding Ringer
  35. Seeking Asian Female
  36. Southern Rites
  37. Two Night Stand
  38. The Great Bikini Bowling Bash
  39. Kung Fury
  40. This Is Where I Leave You
  41. The Watch
  42. Hot Girls Wanted
  43. Jersey Boys
  44. John Wick
  45. Whiplash
  46. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
  47. The Duff
  48. Shopgirl
  49. Horrible Bosses 2
  50. Inside Llewyn Davis
  51. 2 Guns
  52. Toy Story 3
  53. Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
  54. Ant-Man
  55. Lavalantula
  56. Fant4stic Four
  57. Snowpiercer
  58. Spice World
  59. Fury
  60. Frozen (2010)
  61. The Inbetweeners 2
  62. Pitch Perfect 2
  63. Mad Max: Fury Road
  64. Dreamgirls
  65. Spy
  66. Vacation
  67. Get Hard
  68. Miss Congeniality
  69. Bernie
  70. The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar
  71. Chaos on the Bridge
  72. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
  73. Here Comes the Boom
  74. Unfinished Business
  75. Dope
  76. Attack the Block
  77. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  78. I Smile Back

All of these were reviewed on the site, so just plug them into the search field up on the right to see what I thought about any particular one of them.

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West Week Ever Recipients of 2015 (with commentary)

1/9/15 – Agent Carter

In hindsight, this deserved to have the WWE even more by the end of its run than it did this week. It was a strong premiere, but I was still at a place where I didn’t feel the character could carry her own show. By the end of the 8-week run, I was a True Believer. I guess I just saw a lot of potential in that pilot.

1/16/15 – Empire

This show brought back the sudsy primetime soap, and was SO good for that first season. I definitely feel like it deserved the WWE at the time, but I don’t know if it’ll ever return to the dramatic highs of that first season.

1/23/15 – Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars

This was based purely on speculation, as the West Week Ever was essentially given to an *announcement*. The miniseries hadn’t even begun, and this was based on what was promised in the aftermath: A new Marvel Universe, the destruction of the Ultimate Universe, and the Miles Morales Spider-Man making the move to the mainstream “616” universe. All of this had the makings of something huge. As of this writing, the much-delayed miniseries STILL hasn’t finished, even though the regular Marvel books have relaunched and carried on with their business. From what we can tell, not much has changed in the regular universe, while Secret Wars as a miniseries has been something of a disappointment (with several tie-in miniseries that showed a lot of promise). The surest shot Secret Wars ever had of having the West Week Ever was by receiving it before the first issue even launched. Nothing about the actual mini has been worthy of the WWE.

1/30/15 – Fant4stic Four trailer

The trailer had me interested in the film – something that a lot of people couldn’t say because they were already pissed about reports of “Hacker DOOM” and other stuff. It was clearly a slow week for entertainment, but I really did like what I saw. More about Fant4stic Four later…

2/6/15 – Jimmy Fallon’s Saved By The Bell reunion

This is the kind of thing that West Week Ever is all about: those potential “flash in the pan” moments that embody a particular moment in time. Looking back, I’d like to think I chose things that made some sort of cultural impact, but at times it’s the small moments that also matter. Jimmy Fallon had been trying to do a Saved By The Bell reunion since his days hosting Late Night. He didn’t pull it off, but managed to do it for the cast of California Dreams instead. I loved that reunion and I loved this one, too. Fallon’s at just the right age where his nostalgia is my nostalgia, and as an unabashed fan of all things TNBC, this was certainly my favorite moment of that week.

2/13/15 – N/A

Sometimes nothing has the West Week Ever. This was one of those weeks.

2/20/15 – Saturday Night Live

This was the week after the 40th anniversary aired, and I definitely feel like it was deserving of the WWE. It was a great special, in a vain that you rarely see anymore. It was great to see all of those old faces return to the studio, including Eddie Murphy who hadn’t returned to SNL since his days as a cast member.

2/27/15 – Parks & Recreation

I didn’t love Parks & Rec in the beginning. I’ve often said that it was the show least deserving of a second season that I’d ever seen. That first season is HORRIBLE. After some cast shakeups and some creative tinkering, the show finally found its footing. While it never really hit the acclaim of its “brother” The Office, it certainly ended a lot stronger than that show did. I didn’t appreciate how NBC burned the show off during its final season, and I feel like that broadcasting decision caused a lot of folks to miss out on those episodes. Luckily, the season is coming to Netflix later this month, so hopefully they’ll get to see what I saw in the show. Those final eps had a lot of heart, and the characters all end up in a great place. This one totally deserved the WWE.

3/13/15 – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

This one was tricky due to the “Here’s everything at once” nature of Netflix. Timing was on its side, though, as this was the best thing that happened that week I finally consumed the series. This was not only one of the bright spots of 2015 television, but as a Tina Fey project, it’s cemented its influence on popular culture. I’ll bet NBC is still kicking themselves for cancelling this thing before it even went to air, but more folks saw it online than would’ve seen it on NBC in the midst of its death throes.

3/20/15 – Community

Did it deserve the WWE at this time? I’m not sure. It was more a testament to its triumphant return from cancellation, as well as it was helping to launch the Yahoo Screen platform (which has just been shut down, as of this past Monday). We didn’t know much about what the season would bring as, unlike Netflix’s full-season dump, Yahoo Screen debuted new episodes every Tuesday.

3/27/15 – Evelyn West

I had a daughter that week. It was pretty cool.

4/3/15 – Going Clear

I love anything about Scientology, so this was right up my alley. The documentary premiered that week, so it was definitely the standout of what was essentially a slow week for news.

4/10/15 – Daredevil

The Netflix series got the WWE based on my watching the pilot alone. Sure, it was a great pilot to a great series, but here’s something to consider: that thing came out 3 AM EST Friday morning. This means that, had I not watched the episode, nothing would’ve gotten the WWE that week. Sometimes, it really is about being in the right place at the right time.

4/17/10 – Daredevil

I had finally finished the series, and was truly impressed by everything I’d seen. To me, this is the WWE that the series definitely *deserved*, while the previous week’s honor was really just me trying to make sure that something had the West Week Ever. That’s not to say that it was a bad pilot, but I feel a lot better about this week because the whole thing was a quality series, and it just means more to me that it maintained its quality across all 13 episodes. So, last week’s WWE for Daredevil was a bit of a fluke, while this is the one that “matters”.

4/24/15 – Iceman

This one is tricky. When it happened, it was definitely a hot topic that week. To me, however, it was a cop-out. Instead of them revealing that the “regular” Iceman was gay, Marvel instead said that it was teenaged, time-displaced, possibly from an alternate timeline Iceman. It was too much of Marvel trying to have its cake and eat it, too. So, imagine my surprise when Uncanny X-Men #600 came out months later, revealing that regular 616 Iceman is also gay, and that he hadn’t acknowledged it because he had enough of his plate, being persecuted for being a mutant and all. To me, that would’ve been a MUCH more important story to tell, but it got lost in the Secret Wars delay shuffle.

5/1/15 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

It was a big movie. In hindsight, was it a good movie? People seem to have differing opinions. At that point in time, though, it had a big opening and a lot of eyes on it, so I think it totally deserved the WWE.

5/8/15 – The New Hamburglar

This was quite the failed marketing push. It seemed like McDonalds was on to something, but this thing disappeared quicker than the Halloween Whopper that was turning everyone’s shit green. This hasn’t been a strong year for McDonalds, as they’re just throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. This year saw the return of The Hamburglar, mozzarella sticks added to the menu, and even mac & cheese added in the Ohio test market. I think this was the victim of public backlash, as folks joked that the new Hamburglar looked kinda like a pedophile. Seems like McDonalds got antsy and canned the whole campaign. Out of everything on 2015’s WWE list, this was probably the biggest fail.

5/15/15 – Major Broadcast Networks

This one may feel like a cop-out, but it was warranted. This was the week of the Spring network upfronts, where we learned what was cancelled, what was renewed, and what new shows were coming in the Fall. This is always an exciting time for television, and I lost a few “friends” that week (ABC’s Forever, for instance).

5/22/15 – David Letterman

Never really been a Letterman fan, but the man was an institution. This was all about giving credit where it was due, and he deserved that WWE honor.

5/29/15 – Kung Fury

This was another example of a slow news week. If you read my thoughts on Kung Fury, I wasn’t actually a fan. I mean, I enjoyed it, but 90% of the “movie” (the thing is THIRTY minutes long!) was given away in the trailer. Seriously, the only thing in the movie that wasn’t in the trailer was the sentient arcade machine. I really expected more. I think I gave the WWE to the *idea* of the project rather than the actual finished product.

6/5/15 – Community

This was the WWE that Community truly earned. The season had concluded, and it was pretty obvious that the show wasn’t coming back. Sort of like Two and a Half Men, Community persevered whenever something happened that shouldn’t ended it.  It lost Chevy Chase, Yvette Nicole Brown and Donald Glover, got cancelled by NBC, and got picked up by Yahoo for an untested platform. All of these should’ve spelled the end. To me, however, the Yahoo episodes turned out to be some of my favorites of the entire series.

6/12/15 – N/A

Not even a cop-out choice could save this week.

6/19/15 – Jurassic World

Universal had a great year, and Jurassic World was its crowning achievement. I also gave it the WWE because of what JW had done for me. After all, my post, The Price of Admission: The Socioeconomic and Racial Implications of Jurassic World, was my most popular post in years.

6/26/15 – N/A

I swear, I TRY to give something the WWE every week, but sometimes the world just doesn’t cooperate.

7/17/15 – Go Set A Watchman

This choice was kind of a betrayal of what I stand for. Typically, the WWE had to have had some sort of impact on me. I haven’t read this book, nor am I even that big of a fan of To Kill A Mockingbird. I mean, I understand its place in popular culture, and another book in the franchise seemed like a “sure thing”, right? Well, I’ve heard nothing but negative stuff about this book, and it has had the cultural impact of Joey.

7/24/15 – Ant-Man

Loved it, and it was probably a stronger movie than Age of Ultron. I’m a Marvel fanboy, though, so this shouldn’t come as a shock. For that point in time, it totally deserved the WWE.

7/31/15 – Rick and Morty

As much as I enjoy the show, this originally got the WWE because it was a slow week, and the second season premiere had aired that week. In hindsight, though, this was the beginning of what would turn out to be an incredible season. To cap it off, when I went to New York Comic Con later in the year, Rick and Morty cosplay was EVERYWHERE, proving to me that the show had made a bigger cultural impact that I had realized. Totally deserving of the WWE – I just didn’t know it yet.

8/7/15 – Deadpool trailer

The little superhero movie that could. This movie, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist. It’s based on a one-note appearance from the universally panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine, so it’s amazing it got made. Sure, Ryan Reynolds is the perfect choice for the role, but he’s also been box office poison for the past few years. This trailer, however, captured everything a Deadpool movie should be. I still don’t know if it needs to be rated R, as they’re cutting out a portion of potential audience members, but it seems to be everything Deadpool fans would want. The movie’s not out yet, and I still have my doubts, but I think they crafted a good trailer.

8/14/15 – Fant4stic Four

This movie isn’t as bad as your neckbeard friend keeps telling you it is. Most of the people running their mouths about it didn’t even see it. They checked out after the reveal of Black Johnny Storm and the rumor that Doom was just a message board troll instead of a sorcerer. I defended this movie because I think it’s worth checking out, if only to make up your own mind about it. I maintain that it’s 2/3rds a strong movie, while the final 1/3 is clearly a movie “made by committee”. It wasn’t even necessarily a slow news week. I just really thought that Fant4stic Four was deserving of more positive attention.

8/21/15 – Rte 29 Batman, Leonard B. Robinson

This one was a big departure. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve got a “No Death” policy for WWE. I don’t talk about deaths because if you talk about one, you’ve gotta talk about them ALL. And a ton of them just don’t mean that much to me. So, it’s easier to just keep things a death-free zone. That said, Rte 29 Batman was something of a local hero, who donated his time and money to visiting sick kids in the hospital dressed as Batman. He was killed returning from one of these trips, when he was hit by a car on the side of the road. I’ve often wondered why some rich guy hasn’t tried to be Batman, and here was one who had. Sure, he didn’t fight crime, but he wanted to make things better for kids. That’s the kind of thing that’s worth talking about.

8/28/15 – Aqua Teen Hunger Force

I loved Aqua Teen, and it was something of an Adult Swim institution. It was on for 15 years, so I don’t see it leaving the air anytime soon, but its ending was definitely something worth noting. Nobody ever seems to talk about it, so I wonder if it’s a show that wore out its welcome, or if it’s just not the kind of thing folks discuss at the watercooler. After all, most Adult Swim shows seem like stoner fare, so maybe there’s some 420 subreddit out there mourning its cancellation.

9/4/15 – Force Friday

Now that the movie’s out, it’s hard to remember that this was A BIG DEAL! The Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys were being released, giving us the first glimpse of the characters from the hotly anticipated film. I know I was at a midnight Toys “R” Us opening just to get the figures. So many questions: Who was the Black kid? Why did Kylo Ren’s lightsaber have a laser hilt? And who was this badass known as “Captain Phasma”? Sure, all of these questions have now been answered, but this was the beginning of the merchandising onslaught brought on by The Force Awakens. Totally deserving of the WWE.

9/18/15 – Ahmed Mohamed, the Clock Boy

Muslim kid made a clock, but folks thought it was a bomb. Big news story. I actually tend not to get “real world” topical, but it was just one of those weeks. In hindsight, this wasn’t “pop culture” enough for the WWE. Sure, he got a lot of notoriety and offers, but where’s he now? He’s seeking $15 million in damages. That’s not a happy ending. Nah, I wanted him to get a show on Nickelodeon or some shit. THAT’s what gets ya the WWE. I flew a little too close to the CNN sun on this one.

9/25/15 – Pope Francis

The Pope came to the US, and it was Beatlemania all over again. It probably would’ve helped if he had done the talk show circuit or something, but everyone had Pope on the brain. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s skilled at saying exactly what you want to hear. You want to know if the dinosaurs went to Heaven? Pope Francis will not only tell you they did, but he’ll also name some dinosaur species you’ve never even heard of. ‘Cause he’s got connections like that. So yeah, I think he deserved the WWE.

10/2/15 – Power Rangers

If this site had a subtitle, it’d probably be “Amateur Power Rangers fansite”. I maintain just enough of a connection to the franchise to know what’s going on, but I’m not so engrossed that I haven’t experienced the touch of a woman. Was that mean? Check out Rangerboard sometime, and then get back to me. Anyway, the franchise was celebrating its 800th episode, so it sure as Hell deserved the WWE. How many shows reach that kind of episode count? And it’s a 22 year old franchise that’s still going strong.

10/9/15 – New York Comic Con

It was convention weekend. The show hadn’t really gotten started yet, but I had high hopes. In fact, it’s pretty funny that NYCC got the WWE when SDCC did not. I think I gave it to NYCC because I was actually going to that show, and I had hoped to meet up with a bunch of Twitter friends that weekend. That, sadly, did not happen. So, this WWE was given out in the hopes of “what might’ve been, but was not to be”.

10/16/15 – The Nerd Lunch Podcast

As a five-time guest, and member of the Nerd Lunch Army, this totally deserved the WWE. So many podcasts come and go, but they don’t all have staying power. 200 episodes is nothing to sneeze at, and I always have a great time on that show.

10/23/15 – Back to the Future Day

This is one of those picks “for the fans”. I don’t really have a special place in my heart for Back to the Future. I haven’t seen the movies in a long time, so that could have something to do with it. Everyone and their bookie was losing their mind over Back to the Future Day, however, so I couldn’t let the week go by without acknowledging it. The wrong date had been faked on memes for years, so it was a pretty important event that the real day was finally upon us. As something that could only really happen once, and the fact that it resulted in mostly positive things, I think BTTF Day deserved the WWE.

10/30/15 – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

This was based on a particular episode that aired that week, which I found to be incredible television. It’s amazing how far the show has come from that terrible first season, and I wanted to find some sort of way to give it its due. There was no better time than this week, which finally revealed what happened to Simmons on the alien world Maveth. Watch the episode and you’ll agree with me.

11/6/15 – Star Trek

This choice was due to the announcement that there would be a new Trek television series in 2017. That’s the end of the good news. There are too many caveats. It’s only going to air on CBS All Access, which is the CBS subscription service. Plus, the folks behind it are the same folks behind the NuTrek movies. After seeing the trailer for Star Trek Beyond a few weeks later, my enthusiasm for this project waned. Still, it was big news in the geek world, though the jury is still out on its execution.

11/13/15 – Master of None

The Aziz Ansari Netflix show kinda became a critical darling, and I was just bandwagoning. I enjoyed it immensely, but I don’t think I really changed the world here. If you were gonna watch it, you were going to before I chimed in. If you were not gonna watch it, I sure as Hell didn’t convince you to do so. Since the dust has settled, there’s been some controversy surrounding some of the race stuff in the show, but I still think it was a great season. This was truly the best thing in pop culture that week.

11/20/15 – Adele

She broke every sales record out there, and she delivered the kind of stuff you expect from her. This was a bit of a reach, as I don’t think my readership shares my musical taste. I like pop. I make no bones about that. Still, whenever I do music posts, they tend to fall on deaf ears, as I don’t have a high 14 year old readership. So, this is one of those WWEs where most of my readers couldn’t give a shit, but I definitely think she earned it.

11/27/15 – Captain America: Civil War trailer

Just when we were catching our breath from Ultron and Ant-Man, the Marvel hype machine cranked back up with this one. It was like a poorly kept secret show or something. Everyone knew Evans and Downey were going to be on Kimmel, and everyone knew why, yet everyone pretended to play dumb. And when it went live, it did what Marvel trailers do: it got you excited for the next chapter in their grand plan.

12/4/15 – The Flash/Arrow “Heroes Join Forces” crossover

Last year’s Flash/Arrow crossover also got the WWE, so I guess it’s a tradition now. The Flash was stronger than Arrow, but it was still entertaining television. DC should just hand their movies over to Greg Berlanti, but that’s another discussion for another time.

12/11/15 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows trailer

They finally seem to be making a movie based on that 30 year old cartoon that grown men love! I don’t know why grownups can’t just let go of stuff so that a new generation can enjoy it. I didn’t hate the last TMNT movie, and I know kids seemed to like it. Still, this sequel seems to be incorporating a lot of things that adult fans will love, especially Shredder’s goons Rocksteady and Bebop. It made me giddy to see them, but it really got me thinking about the legacy of franchises. Maybe there’s a post in there somewhere.

12/17/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Um, the premiere of the next installment of a franchise that some fans have been waiting 30 years to see (if they ignore the prequels)? Yeah, this was a no-brainer.

12/23/15 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

See above, and then add in the fact that it made a shit ton of money in a week’s time.

12/31/15 – Hoverboards

While these things popped up on Vines and YouTube back in the summer, they were atop the want lists of all the “normal” folks come Christmas time. And they became infamous. Charging them caused fires to break out, they were banned from most public places, and most retailers refused to sell them. Which only made people want them MORE. It’s somewhat unorthodox to give the WWE to a *thing* rather than a franchise or person, but this seemed fitting.

So, here we are. The moment you’ve all been waiting for: what had the West YEAR Ever? Well, looking back over the nominees, it’s looking like our finalists are the multiple WWE recipients Daredevil, Community, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The interesting thing here is how their “reign” kinda divided up the calendar year. Daredevil was great, but folks were basically done talking about it by Summer. Sure, some sites foolishly tried to do weekly recaps of the episodes, but seeing as how everyone binged that thing, nobody gave a shit about those. Community was around from Spring to Summer, but the season kinda flew under the radar for anyone but the most die hard fans. And once Summer ended, the ramp up to The Force Awakens began. So, what I’m saying is that nobody really carried the year on their shoulders – not like Taylor Swift did last year, or Breaking Bad the year before that. So, this is where I get to use my veto power (’cause it’s my site and all) and award a winner.

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To me, Evelyn West had the West Year Ever. Let me explain. I know some of y’all are “child free” and/or don’t give a shit about my kid, but she really changed my life. It’s not every day that you have your first kid, and stuff really does change. No, I’m not going to get into the mushy stuff. I’m talking practical stuff, like all your stuff goes off to a storage unit, and you’re on bottle-making duty every night. But oddly, you don’t really care. This is probably the worst way to describe a human being, but I sometimes refer to her as “my favorite toy”. She’s just so fascinating, and sometimes I have trouble fathoming that she’s a living, breathing thing. I just like to watch her crawl around and get into stuff she shouldn’t be touching. Plus, we’ve already instilled in her a love of superheroes, so she’s already on the right pop culture track. The clincher, though, is that she was born at the end of March, and has been here ever since. So, that’s more dominance of the calendar year than any of the other options I listed. Sure, you may have been looking forward to The Force Awakens, but I was looking forward to things like her crawling or learning to blow raspberries (which she does with precision). So, in a few days, West Week Ever will be back to normal, and something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the honor. And I don’t plan to have any kids this year, so I can pretty much guarantee that something in the mainstream pop culture world will get the 2016 West Year Ever honor, too. But for now, you’re just gonna have to bear with me, as my daughter pretty much had the West Year Ever in 2015. But if that’s not good enough for you, then you can tell your friends that it was Star Wars. It’s not like they won’t believe you.

17th Dec2015

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/17/15

by Will

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Your weekly dose of pop culture is coming at ya a day early this week, since I know a lot of you are getting offline this evening so you don’t run into any Star Wars spoilers. Tomorrow’s probably gonna be a ghost town on here, so I thought I’d get the post in early this week. But I promise there are NO Star Wars spoilers below!

DopeThis week, I checked out the film Dope. I’d heard good things about the movie, but I don’t get to the theater too much, so I was gonna wait until it came out on Redbox or something. Anyway, if you haven’t seen it, it’s kinda like a Black version of the 1999 film Go. Now, don’t ask me how to explain how I got to that comparison, but I think it’s apt. It’s about high school senior Malcolm and his best friends as they get wrapped up in a messy situation with some drugs. It’s about so much more than that, though. On the heels of the “blerd” movement, it deals a lot with identity and what it means to not be “Black enough”. Malcolm and his friends are in a punk band called Awreeoh (pronounced Oreo), and they idolize 90s hip hop culture. They don’t really fit in with the rest of the kids their age, so they’ve kinda bonded over being outsiders. It’s really fast paced, and doesn’t follow standard chronology. I really enjoyed it, and I think you should check it out if you get the chance.

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Since everyone knows that Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out this week, I figured I should get acquainted with the work of star John Boyega. For years, I’d been hearing about how great Attack the Block was, so it was finally time for me to check it out. The biggest problem was that I couldn’t really find it streaming anywhere, so I had to resort to…alternative means. Anyway, Boyega stars as the leader of a teenage gang that has set up shop in the projects of South London. One celebratory night, the neighborhood becomes the site of an alien invasion. Once Boyega’s character kills one of the aliens, he and his friends become targets for the rest of the aliens that have landed. While it’s comedic sci fi, it’s got some horror aspects to it. Part of it feels like a Black Goonies (nobody steal that idea!), but there’s also another story being told about the socioeconomic state of a lot of London youth. When the gang teams up with the White woman they had mugged earlier in the movie, they’re shocked to learn that she lives in their building. There’s quite a notion of “Why do YOU live HERE?” Boyega’s slow to boil, but once he gets going, he’s a commanding presence and a good leader. The version I was watching had subtitles turned on, and boy was I glad because it was hard keeping up with the slang AND the accents. Still, it’s a really good movie that I highly recommend.

star trek beyond

The Star Trek Beyond teaser trailer was released this week and, while NuTrek has given us some decent action movies, it has never really understood that that is NOT what Star Trek is about. I understand that it’s just a teaser, but you have to remember that this is *marketing* and, at the moment, they’re marketing it as a high adrenaline Fast and the Furious in Space action movie. That’s not what Star Trek is. Even if that movie turns out to be a completely different animal, the way they’re portraying it is not something a typical Star Trek fan would gravitate towards. That’s been my biggest issue with NuTrek – it acts like it’s ashamed of its own built-in fanbase. Instead of realizing the nice, pretty girl in front of it, it longs for the mega hot cheerleader who has to be tricked into dating it. If you want some Star Trek goodness that won’t disappoint, check out the Deep Space Nine drill down over on this week’s episode of the Nerd Lunch Podcast.

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Speaking of space movies, the trailer was released for Independence Day: Resurgence, and it looks good. In fact, I’m probably more intrigued by it than I was for Star Trek Beyond. Everyone’s back except Will Smith and Mae Whitman. At least Whitman’s character still exists (they recast her, with some folks assuming the studio was looking for a more “conventionally pretty” actress. Not my words!), while Smith’s Colonel Hiller was killed off on a website. Seriously, if you go to http://www.warof1996.com, which is the official viral site for the movie, there’s an entry on the interactive timeline that reveals Hiller was killed in 2007 while test piloting one of the new alien hybrid ships. Seeing how there probably wasn’t a body, I guess Smith could still come back in a third movie. “Look, he was actually teleported to the mothership before the explosion!” But I don’t know if that would work in the world already established by the rest of the franchise.

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In other movie news, toymaker Hasbro has announced a deal with Paramount to create a shared cinematic universe with their some of their biggest properties from the 80s, including G.I. Joe, ROM, M.A.S.K., Visionairies, and Micronauts. I really don’t know how this is going to work. On the one hand, I could see Joe and M.A.S.K. working together, and I could see ROM and Micronauts working together. But all under the same umbrella, in the same universe? I dunno, man. Everybody’s in love with the idea of the “shared cinematic universe”, but very few understand just how hard it is to pull off. Marvel’s never should’ve worked, and it should be seen as the exception rather than the norm. Sure, this will probably mean more toys for beloved properties, and I’m sure the folks over at IDW Publishing (the comics license holder for most Hasbro properties) are experiencing raging boners over this news, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

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There’s a rumor that James Gunn is looking at Kurt Russell to play Star-Lord’s father in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Right now, though, it’s just a rumor, so nothing to see here…

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Across the aisle, we got new character posters for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. They’re decent, but they’re not exactly “taking me from 6 to 12”, if you know what I mean…

Meanwhile, the trailer for something called Knight Rider Heroes surfaced this week, and nobody knows what it is. Based on the URL of http://www.KnightRiderHeroesMovie.com, it appears to be a movie, but it looks more like it’s on the fan film side of things. To its credit, they got Hasselhoff involved, but that dude will pretty much do anything. It’s equal parts cool AND depressing to see Michael Knight 30 years removed from the original series. He’s still wearing that belt and that jacket? He just looks like an out of fashion old man. At least when he showed up in Knight Rider (2008), his look had been modernized somewhat. This dude, however, just looks like a man out of time. Like he’s just been wearing the same thing, and driving the same car since 1986. And if this movie revolves around assembling a team of Knight Riders, it’s already been done. It was called Team Knight Rider, and it desperately needs a DVD release!

ghostbusters reboot

Finally for movies, the first official image was released for Ghostbusters. I know folks hate the idea of this film, but I’m really looking forward to it. It’s got a cast filled with folks that I love, and the original GB isn’t this sacred cow to me that it is for a lot of folks. If you ask me, this movie can’t get here fast enough. Definitely one of my most anticipated of 2016.

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In the world of comics, Marvel officially announced Civil War II. Piggybacking off the upcoming Captain America: Civil War movie, nothing’s really known about this miniseries at the moment. The creative team has been revealed as Brian Michael Bendis writing, with David Marquez on the art. While I’m enjoying their current run on Invincible Iron Man, I’m not sure I’ve forgiven Bendis yet. He’s usually capable with these events, but I just hate to see them going back to the Civil War well, especially so soon after their “soft reboot”. I mean, the post-Secret Wars Marvel Universe is still being solidified, and we’re already about to enter another “Whose Side Are You On?” situation? The timing just doesn’t seem right, other than the fact that Marvel’s got a movie with that name coming out at the same time, that loosely appears to deal with a Superhuman Registration Act. This has “cash grab” written all over it, but maybe it’ll sound more interesting once more details are revealed.

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In the world of TV, CBS has reportedly canceled Mike & Molly following the upcoming 6th season. It’s a bit sad, as I actually enjoy that show, as schizophrenic as it can be. Seriously, the show is only 6 years old, but has changed direction about 3 times. The first 2 seasons are about a couple that meets in Overeaters Anonymous and fall in love while trying to lose weight. The third season is about their quest to have a baby, and the weight loss journey goes out the window. In the fourth season, Molly quits her job and decides to become a writer, and the show kinda pushes Billy Gardell’s Mike into the background as Melissa McCarthy’s star was on the rise. To be honest, I’m surprised she’s still on a network show, seeing as how her movie career is doing well. She’s said to be heartbroken over the end of the show, however, as no one can really explain why CBS decided to pull the plug. It seems that everyone except Gardell had six-year deals, and CBS isn’t really open to discussions about another season (mainly because they don’t own the show), so Warner Bros (the producing studio) doesn’t want to renew deals with cast members. Now, CBS could just be waiting til the last minute to renew, but it could possibly hurt its relationship with Chuck Lorre, who’s been the force behind CBS’s most popular sitcoms. Anyway, the show made it to syndication, which is “the dream”, but it would’ve been nice if was getting a proper sendoff.


In the world of music, my favorite Spice Girl, Melanie C (“Sporty Spice”), stopped by BBC Radio to perform a stripped down version of one of the best songs off the SpiceWorld album: “Too Much”. Click above to check it out.

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Meanwhile in America, Michael Jackson’s Thriller became the first album to sell 30 million copies in the US, making it 30x Platinum. To put that in perspective, that’s like if everyone in the state of Texas owned a copy. EVERYONE. Even the babies. And a couple of copies for some of the superfans. That is INSANE!

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Who are we kidding here? I’m not gonna insult your intelligence by pretending that Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t having the West Week Ever. The thing isn’t even officially in theaters yet (at least for the general public), but it stands to be one of the biggest releases EVER. I promised no spoilers, and I stand by that. Plus, I won’t even be seeing the movie until Saturday morning, so I couldn’t spoil it if I wanted to. Still, nothing came close to Star Wars this week, as the franchise was popping up everywhere from car commercials to bags of oranges. The early reviews are in, and it’s 95% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. For the folks who ignore the existence of the prequels, this movie was 30 years in the making and has a lot to prove. I’m not worried, though, as I think it’ll be great. So, for probably breaking every release record known to man, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had the West Week Ever.

04th Dec2015

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/4/15

by Will

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First up this week, I watched the film Bernie. You’ve probably never seen it, as it was a smaller black comedy, but Jack Black stars as Bernie Tiede, an effeminate funeral director who befriends Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine), the meanest and richest woman in the town of Carthage, TX. The movie surrounds the townsfolks’ reactions when it’s revealed that Tiede killed Nugent and kept her death a secret from everyone. It’s based on a true story that happened back in 1996, and Tiede was actually released on bond earlier this year. The movie is interspersed with town gossip from both performers and actual residents of Carthage, and they really help make the film what it is. I’m used to Black in goofy roles, but he was really great here. I highly recommend this movie.

Next up, I’ve got a bone to pick with Disney Channel. You see, a one-hour special is NOT an “Original Disney Channel Movie”. That is merely a SPECIAL. Anyway, I caught The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar, which is basically the pilot for an upcoming animated series. Returning us to the world of The Lion King, Simba’s now an old fuddy duddy (voiced by Rob Lowe, of all people) with 2 kids, Kion and Kiara. Since Kiara’s older, she’s being groomed to be the future Queen of the Pride Lands, while Kion is kind of the screw up. So, imagine everyone’s surprise when it turns out that Kion has The Roar, which is a power that draws upon the spirits of the ancestor lions. The prophecy is that the person with The Roar would be the leader of The Lion Guard, which is an assemblage of lions that are responsible for protecting the Pride Lands. Unfortunately, the last one to possess the power was Simba’s uncle Scar, the last leader of the Guard who went on to destroy the other members. When the Hyenas catch wind of Kion’s new power, they see him as a threat and decide to attack before he had assembled his team. Which just makes him assemble his team faster.

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Where to begin with this story? First of all, it’s not very good. It feels like a cash grab, as Disney returns to one of its deepest wells. In some ways, it could be seen as an anniversary project, but in that case it should’ve come out in 2014. The animation is basic and not very detailed. Part of me was sad that carefree Simba grew up to essentially be his father. I know he has responsibilities as King of the Pride Lands, but it felt like he really hadn’t retained much of his time with Timon and Pumbaa. He’s all business. Speaking of Timon and Pumbaa, they show up because their nephew, Bunga, is a honey badger who’s also Kion’s best friend. Bunga is probably the brightest spot of an otherwise mediocre story. In an #AllLionsMatter twist, Simba gets pissed at Kion for recruiting non-lions to The Lion Guard. They somehow managed to get James Earl Jones back for a cameo, but it just felt wasted. And the whole thing about The Roar seems to come out of nowhere. I mean, a big part of The Lion King focused on Simba trying to find his roar. Once he did, he never became the leader of the Lion Guard. And at that time, Scar no longer had the position because he lost the power after killing the rest of the Guard. So, it would’ve been ripe for Simba to take over. But of course this never happened because this was NEVER PART OF THE ORIGINALLY INTENDED STORY. It’s just a retcon. Also, the special has about 4 forgettable songs that don’t even deserve to be part of The Lion King canon. I guess you could say it introduces The Lion King to a new generation, but the whole Power Rangers of the Pride Lands angle doesn’t work for me.

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On Netflix, I caught Chaos On the Bridge, which is a documentary that covers the first 3 turbulent seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s a documentary that basically supports my longest held belief about The Next Generation: the show didn’t get good until creator Gene Roddenberry died. It’s a terrible thing to say, but the evidence pretty much supports it, combined with the fact that Roddenberry was physically in no shape to be running a show. In a nice little Trek twist, the film was written and directed by Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. My biggest problem is that, at 59 minutes, it felt rushed. It also didn’t help that it’s filmed in this music video/motion comic kind of format that makes it feel like the whole thing is simply the trailer for a much longer movie we never get to see. Some of the things I already knew (TNG was slated for Fox before it got syndicated, Diana Muldaur never really clicked), but some stuff was new (they basically fired Gates McFadden for being uppity, Roddenberry had a mistress). It was interesting that the various Star Treks were indicative of where Roddenberry was in his life. During the original series, he wanted to be the ladies man who captained the ship, while he wanted to be the wise, old sage during the TNG era. He had delved into the study of secular humanism and, unlike most sci fi, he felt that things would actually get better for humanity as time went on. In his mind, by the 24th century, humans would have eliminated all conflict, which was a BITCH for the writers, as drama is fueled by conflict. It was really interesting to hear how this was received behind the scenes, and how writers found ways around it. If you’re a fan of the TNG-era Trek, I highly recommend this documentary. If I had one complaint, I only wish it were longer.

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In TV news, Adult Swim announced that Samurai Jack would be returning to the airwaves in 2016. I’ve only seen one episode, and didn’t really understand it. Still, people I respect rave over it so maybe I’ll give it another shot one of these days.

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Meanwhile on TV, FX announced that You’re The Worst has been renewed for a third season. This show features one of my favorite TV relationships, so I’m really happy about this news. If you’ve never seen the show, it’s about struggling writer Jimmy and hot mess Gretchen who have a one night stand after a wedding. Even though they’re both not “relationship people”, they still feel like they’re a good match for each other, so they try to make it work. This season’s been particularly dark, as Gretchen’s dealing with severe depression and basically pushing Jimmy into the arms of another woman. Oh, and it’s a comedy. Anyway, I highly recommend it.

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I’m not really one for Lifetime Christmas movies, but ’tis the season and all that. Well, imagine my surprise that the Winslows are coming back in The Flight Before Christmas. Airing tomorrow night, Reginald VelJohnson and Jo Marie Payton of Family Matters fame will be reunited in a Christmas movie starring Mayim Bialik (that’s not weird to anyone else? Was Kellie Martin busy?). Anyway, Bialik plays one of two travelers who end up stranded in Montana when their flight is diverted. And I take it they fall in love, or discover the true meaning of Christmas or some shit. Yeah, I won’t be watching this, but I look forward to someone making GIFs of all of the Winslow scenes.

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In comic news, we saw preview art this week for Ta-Nehisi Coates’s upcoming Black Panther run, and I am NOT digging it. I’m somewhat familiar with the work of artist Brian Stelfreeze, as I even have a Batman sketch from him. That said, I was expecting something a little slicker, a little more stylized. I’m hoping these are just sketchbook doodles, and that the finished product will have more Wow Factor. In regards to the story arc, part of me wonders why Coates is even wasting his time on this. I mean, on paper, he’s the smartest person to work for Marvel in a long time. He won the National Book Award for nonfiction. He won the MacArthur Genius Grant. Why is THIS guy writing something like Black Panther?

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Speaking of Black Panther, there was quite the controversy this week as Entertainment Weekly revealed their Captain America: Civil War cover. While Black Panther is featured prominently between Captain America and Iron Man, his appearance is notable for 2 other reasons: 1) he’s not unmasked like the other two (EW said that was Disney’s call) and 2) the word “Meow” is written next to him. They went on to say that he that he “has claws that a Real Housewife would envy.” A lot of people took offense to this joke, as it seemed like they were trying to emasculate one of the few marquee Black superheroes. I was busy while the controversy was blazing across Twitter, so it was basically over by the time I learned about it. At the end of the day, I think it was just someone trying to be cute, but I can see where folks were coming from. EW Senior Writer Anthony Breznican was really receptive to the online criticism, and he seemed glad that people had pointed it out. I think they’ll be hesitant to do this kind of thing in the future.

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So I guess we’ve gotta talk about that Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer, huh? First off, during this week’s Gotham, viewers were treated to a 30-second tease of the movie. Featuring Batman in a trenchcoat, being unmasked by Superman, the snippet did nothing to excite me about this movie. Then, Wednesday night, Ben Affleck went on Jimmy Kimmel Live (seriously, how is Kimmel getting all of these exclusives?!) and brought the full trailer with him. You’ve already seen it, so I’m not gonna go and post it here.

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To me, it was the trailer equivalent of Fant4stic Four: The first 2/3 were serviceable, and then it just went off the rails. I was fine with the footage of Clark and Bruce. I’m now more intrigued about Affleck’s portrayal of Wayne. In fact, I’m more interested in his Wayne than in his Batman. And then the fighting started. OK, whatever. It’s a common comic book trope: when heroes first meet, they have to fight ’cause of “misunderstanding” or whatever (Imagine how many fights would’ve occurred on Three’s Company if they had thrown down at the hint of every misunderstanding. It would’ve been a bloodbath! But I digress…). We knew they’d fight, so the trailer shows them fighting. I get it. Then Wonder Woman shows up, and we see the very minute they STOP fighting! Um, wasn’t that the point of getting us to see the movie? You wanted us to want to see the end of the fight? Welp, we’ve seen it. But then the biggest slap in the face happens: the movie features Superman foe Doomsday.

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Even if you don’t read comics, if you were in alive in 1992, you know that Superman “died”, and he was killed by Doomsday. I don’t need the guy who FUCKING KILLED SUPERMAN to be in Henry Cavill’s SECOND appearance as Superman. Pace that shit out! It’s like they couldn’t fucking wait to use Doomsday and, frankly, the DC Cinematic Universe hasn’t *earned* that yet. That’s a development for the Justice League movie or something – not movie #2 when you’re still world-building. BUILD the world before you start tearing it down. The inclusion of Doomsday in this movie is just such a fan service kick to the balls to me. It’s not needed, and it’s just one more unnecessary aspect to an already crowded movie. They already had me, and then they pushed too hard. As I said on Twitter, I was on board with the trailer until Doomsday showed up. It’s like getting ready to have sex with a hot girl and then her penis is bigger than yours. Think about that for a minute.

Goldberg

In social media, I had another exchange with a Hollywood type. Rather, instead of an “exchange”, Adam F. Goldberg, creator of The Goldbergs, decided to reply to a tweet I posted back in October. Kinda weird he decided to even acknowledge it, two months later – especially since I didn’t even tag him in it. I swear, these people need to quit it with the TweetDeck filters and go about doing their jobs. I didn’t even reply, as I didn’t feel like his reply warranted it. And it does still bother me they won’t commit to a year. That 70s Show never seemed to have that problem!

RecurrentEventsLogo

On the podcasting front, I had the pleasure of joining the Recurrent Events Podcast again last night. We discussed Ecto-Cooler, Gremlins 3, Rambo and more. Be sure to check it out here.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

Pamela Anderson Playboy

-After asking her sons’ permission, Pamela Anderson will grace the cover of the final “adult” issue of Playboy. No, really.

-MTV has decided that the post-Millennial generation will be known as the “Founders”. That’s some sci fi level shit right there. They’re gonna kill us all, aren’t they?

-Coldplay will play the halftime show for Super Bowl 50. I can’t figure out if this is better or worse than Bruno Mars’s rumored return to the halftime show.

-DJ Earworm released the 2015 “50 Shades of Pop” edition of his annual United State of Pop mashup, and I only recognize about 3 songs. I’m officially an old man.

Links I Loved

We Were a Nielsen Family — Here’s What It Was Like – Vulture

Ten 80s Cartoon Characters Who Are Impossible to Christmas Shop For – UnderScoopFire

Star Wars The Force Awakens Countdown T-Shirt Challenge Day 3 – The Robot’s Pajamas

Sunset. – Team Hellions

Wrestler Executes Devastating Finishing Move with His Penis – SB Nation

Flarrow Crossover

This week saw the premiere of “Heroes Join Forces”, the 2015 iteration of the annual crossover between The Flash and Arrow. The 2-night event featured the debut of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, reincarnated Egyptian lovers on the run from the immortal Vandal Savage. Executive producer Greg Berlanti said that the goal of the event was to make the episode of The Flash feel more like an Arrow episode and vice versa. On that count, I think they delivered. The crossover started with Team Flash making the trip to Star City to get protection for their friend Kendra who’s been targeted by Savage. Kendra doesn’t seem to understand why she’s a target, and Barry Allen doesn’t feel like he can offer the protection that she needs. They all get attacked by Savage, Hawkman appears and tries to remind Kendra of their past together, and Oliver discovers a secret from his past. And that’s just part one! The next night, it’s Arrow‘s turn, as everyone gets together to devise a plan to take Savage down once and for all. Oh, and Barry does some time traveling. If you couldn’t tell from my brief synopsis, part one was clearly the strongest of the 2 episodes, but it was a great crossover that laid more of the groundwork for the upcoming DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (premiering January 21st!).

I was late to the Arrow bandwagon, but it’s now one of my favorite shows. Meanwhile, I’m still technically on season one of The Flash, so there was a lot going on that went over my head. That said, I still felt like more happened on The Flash than on Arrow over the course of the 2 nights. I skipped out on Smallville before they started introducing every DC hero and their mom, so it’s kinda of novel to me to see this DC team get formed. At this point, we already have Green Arrow, Black Canary, The Flash, The Atom, The Hawks, and Firestorm in continuity. Not to mention John Constantine and the other folks slated for Legends. Plus, there have been a LOT of hints of Hal Jordan, so it’s only a matter of time before he joins the party. I really like what Berlanti is building here, and this crossover just got me more excited for Legends of Tomorrow, so “Heroes Join Forces” had the West Week Ever.

06th Nov2015

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/6/15

by Will

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dreamgirls

When it comes to movies, the only thing I watched this week was Dreamgirls. Sure, it came out in 2006, but I’d never gotten around to seeing it. To be honest, I had absolutely zero interest in watching it when Lindsay put it on, but I quickly got into it. If you’re not familiar, it’s an adaptation of the Broadway fictitious account of the rise and fall of a Supremes-esque girl group called The Dreams. And it was really, really good. I tend not to like Beyonce’s acting, but I thought she did well in her role as Not Diana Ross. And Jennifer Hudson is incredible. If you’re like me, and know your Broadway songs, then I’m sure you’ve heard “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” – THE song that the story is known for. And Eddie Murphy redeems himself from his “Party All The Time” days with some great singing in the film. In all, I highly recommend it.

BTE

In the world of television, Neil Patrick Harris’s Best Time Ever concluded its first season this week. I’ve been covering the show since it started and, while it’s not great, I’d like to see it get a second season. It’s a concept that I think could work with some tweaking. The variety show format needs to be about an hour, but he’s only got about 3o minutes of strong material. If it were up to me, I’d get rid of the Karaoke contest, as well as the opening segment where he awkwardly interacts with a member of the audience. I’d also get rid of Nicole Scherzinger, who doesn’t really bring much to the show. I’d expand the End of the Show Show, and maybe move it earlier in the show to keep the audience engaged. It’s the most awe-inducing part of the show, but it’s a shame that it comes at the end, once the show’s already lost a portion of its audience. In any case, NBC hasn’t decided whether or not there will be another season, but it’s not like they really have anything amazing in development to take its place.

Superstore

Speaking of NBC, while I was watching Undateable Live last week, I saw a commercial for an upcoming sitcom called Superstore. The commercial made me chuckle, but the idea of a comedy set in a Not Walmart just didn’t sound solid to me. So, of course I took to Twitter about it, and I got a reply from one of the writers, Sierra Ornelas. It turns out that a lot of the people behind Superstore actually used to work on Happy Endings. I loved the Hell out of that show, so now I’m excited. She did the impossible: changed someone’s mind via social media. Anyway, NBC announced that Superstore would have a sneak preview airing on November 30th, following The Voice. The show, starring Ugly Betty‘s America Ferrera, will then officially premiere on January 4th – going against Gotham, Supergirl, and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Things already seem questionable for the show, as the episode order has already been cut from 13 episodes to 11, and it’ll be going up against some steep competition.

muppets

In other TV news, The Muppets showrunner, Bob Kushell, has left the show, as it gears up for a midseason reboot. While the premiere was considered a “success”, The Muppets is currently the lowest-rated comedy on ABC and, with the exception of Blood & Oil, is the lowest rated freshman show on the network. I tried watching the first episode, and it put me to sleep. Plus, I’ve just never really been a Muppets fan, so it was never for me. I’ve read everything from “It’s terrible!” to “It’s good, and if you say otherwise, you don’t deserve it!” All I know is that Fresh Off the Boat has risen to become the highest-rated ABC comedy on Tuesday nights. Maybe after they take the show in a new direction, I might give The Muppets another shot.

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Meanwhile in television, Matt Ryan reprised his role as John Constantine on this week’s episode of Arrow. Now, I never gave Constantine a chance when it was airing on NBC last season because I KNEW it’d get cancelled. That said, I really loved what I saw of Ryan this week, and it kinda makes me wish I had watched his series. Here’s hoping that they find a way to shoehorn him into the upcoming Legends of Tomorrow series.

courtesy of comicbook.com

courtesy of comicbook.com

In other superhero news, Buffy‘s Emma Caulfield has been cast as Cameron Chase on Supergirl. Now, I know I said that I wasn’t watching Supergirl, but they’re really trying to bring me in. I’ve loved the Chase character since her first appearance in Detective Comics. She’s an agent for the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO), and knows all of the DCU’s secrets. If they end up making her, like, a member of “Team Supergirl”, I’m gonna have to give in and watch this show. If you haven’t heard of Chase, her whole short-lived series has been collected in trade paperback form.

slave-leia-outfit

There’s a story going around that Disney wants to retire all the Slave Leia merchandise. While some folks are upset about it, I’m kinda fine with it. I’m so tired of that costume. Pop culture has just become oversaturated by it, and it’s just gotten kinda played out. I don’t, however, see the need to officially retire the stuff. Just kinda lay back on the production of it. Less is more, and all that.

In what was probably the strangest news of the week, former boybander Nick Lachey was poised to become a drug kingpin. You see, he’s part owner of a 29-acre marijuana farm in Ohio, and the legalization of marijuana was on Ohio’s ballot. Had the vote passed, Lachey and his partners would’ve made over $1 BILLION, ANNUALLY! They had struck a deal where their farm would be the sole provider of marijuana for the state. Sadly for him, Ohioans struck it down at the polls. So, for now, Justin Timberlake will have to remain the richest boyband alum (unless you count The Beatles, which you SHOULD!).

Tevin Campbell, Pauly Shore, Jenna von Oy – not only are those folks extremely associated with the 90s, but they also happen to be in my favorite Disney film, A Goofy Movie. Designed to be a sequel to the television show Goof Troop, the movie has achieved a cult following over the years. Part of its charm are the songs in the film, performed by fictional R&B star Powerline (Campbell). Well, in a cappella circles, the name “Peter Hollens” carries a lot of weight, so imagine my surprise when I found out he’d arranged a medley of the biggest songs from the movie. Check it out:

 

Links I Loved

NYCC 2015: Best of TMNT (Part 1 of 2) – The Sewer Den

The 5 Worst Bond Girl Names – The Robot’s Pajamas

Please, No One Come Trick-Or-Treating To My House This Year, For I Will Be Masturbating To Pornography – ClickHole

Four Words We Only Knew Because of Sitcom Opening Themes – UnderScoopFire

The True Story Behind ‘Zola,’ The Epic Twitter Story Too Crazy To Be Real – The Washington Post

SummerSwap2015 – Stop 7 – AEIOU…and Sometimes Why

The Actor Who Played Jar Jar Binks Is Not Sorry – Vice

Your Show Is Dead (or the Age of Denial in Broadcast TV) – The Hollywood Reporter

Will’s Other Posts Of The Week

Mail Call Monday – SummerSwap 2015

Will’s Really Late NYCC 2015 Swag Grab Recap

trek

The biggest news this week had to be the fact that Star Trek is coming back. Sure, we’ve had a couple movies recently, but Trek in its truest form is on television. CBS announced that a new Star Trek series would premiere on CBS in January 2017, and then move to their streaming service, CBS All Access. Alex Kurtzman, co-writer of the past 2 Trek movies will executive produce, so it seems like this show will live in the NuTrek timeline.

Here are my issues with this announcement. First off,  you’re gonna have to pay $6 a month to watch this show. No dice, CBS! As folks online have joked, this will probably be the most torrented show in history. Apparently CBS All Access already streams all the past Star Trek series, but I’d never even heard of the service before this announcement. Next, I’m something of a starship snob, in that I find it hard to really care about any ship not named “Enterprise”. I made an exception with DS9, but it took some time. I couldn’t do it with Voyager. Since there’s already an Enterprise in the movies, I doubt they’d allow that ship to be used. So, we’re probably gonna end up with some janky, Excelsior class ship that I don’t care about, filled with people I don’t care about. Yeah, I’m not being very open-minded here.

capt worf

You see, they clearly left the established universe in existence for a reason. They may not be doing anything with it, but the movies don’t affect anything that happens there, and vice versa. If the movies are gonna focus on NuTrek, then let this new show depict what’s going on in the “prime” universe. We never did get to see any real aftermath from the Dominion War. Let’s see that. Hell, I’d probably even rather have that Captain Worf show Michael Dorn’s been trying to make over a series set in NuTrek’s timeline.

At the end of the day, however, new Star Trek can’t be a bad thing. I mean, the show could suck, but we don’t know at this stage of the game. So, I’m going to try to adopt a positive outlook for the sake of my inner Trekker. Seriously, 1994 Will would be bouncing off the walls about this news, but 2015 Will is going to be a bit more reserved. Still, for announcing the first television show in ten years, Star Trek had the West Week Ever.

 

04th Nov2015

Will’s Really Late NYCC 2015 Swag Grab Recap

by Will

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So, it’s been almost a month since New York Comic Con, and here I am finally putting my thoughts to “paper”. I meant to do it sooner, but there really wasn’t much to say at the time. I mean, I always enjoy the chance to go to a comic con. I missed Baltimore in September for the first time in 10 years, due to my sister-in-law’s wedding. So, NYCC was meant to fill that void. Did it? Not really. You see, Baltimore is still a somewhat intimate show, even as it has grown. NYCC is just straight out of control now. Too many people. No me gusta!

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As you know from my past convention reports, I tend to post a lot of cosplay pics from the show, but I just couldn’t do it this time. That’s not to say that there weren’t cool costumes, but it was too overwhelming. For example, I really wanted to take a picture of Black Dick Tracy, because it was a cool costume AND I really wanted to type “Black Dick Tracy”. Welp, I guess I got to accomplish half that. Anyway, my pal Chris Piers gave me a challenge: he wanted me to figure out which property/character was being cosplayed the most at the show. Discounting all the Harleys, Deadpools, and Banes (I no longer even notice them anymore), I’ve got to say that Rick & Morty won hands down. I know the show is great, but I had no idea it had the reach that it does. To see so many folks cosplaying as the duo means that there’s quite a strong fanbase behind the show. Coming in a close second would be Spider-Gwen crossplay. By that, I mean that I saw a lot of dudes wearing Spider-Gwen hoodies. I still don’t know how that character has taken fandom by storm like it has (I’ve got all the issues, but haven’t read them yet). It’s just amazing to see that it’s taken off so quickly.

So, after quickly realizing that taking pics wasn’t gonna be “the look”, as the kids say, I knew that I’d have to come up with some sort of plan. Since conventions are known for their swag (that’s “free stuff”, for the unenlightened), that was gonna be my ticket: I was gonna see how much free stuff I could rack up over the course of the day. That’s not to say that I didn’t buy anything, because I did and we’ll get to that. Still, I wanted to see what I could get for nothing, and I think I made out pretty well.

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Almost 5 minutes into the Javits Center lobby, and I had my first shot at some free stuff. There was a booth set up to promote Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, seeing as how the free wifi at the show was being supplied by “LexCorp”. All you had to do was follow @AlexanderLuthor on Twitter, show them that you followed him, and they gave you a free LexCorp rechargeable power bank. Score! I hadn’t even set foot on the convention floor yet, and I was already getting stuff. The show was starting to look promising.

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The DC Comics booth, for some reason, was also outside the main hall, so I picked up this Dawn of Justice themed LEGO poster.

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The DC booth was also giving out this free comic sponsored by KFC. I remember reading about this before the show, and thinking I wanted a copy, but I completely forgot about it until someone handed me a copy. I was kinda hoping it would tie into the whole Darrell Hammond/Norm MacDonald thing going on with the commercials, but it seems to be its own thing. All I know is that KFC is doing a lot of head scratch-inducing marketing lately.

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Marvel had a booth set up just to promote the upcoming Netflix series Jessica Jones. I got a promo poster with art by Alias artist Michael Gaydos promoting the show. There was also a preview comic, also with art by Gaydos. I also got business cards for Alias Investigations and Nelson & Murdock – Attorneys At Law. Finally, I got a picture and video of myself at the desk of Alias Investigations.

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The Marvel booth was giving away this poster promoting the animated Guardians of the Galaxy series on DisneyXD. I’ve heard absolutely nothing about that show, either good or bad. Has anyone seen it?

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Marvel also gave out this double-sided poster promoting the ABC Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter.

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I got this Groot crown, also designed to promote the Guardians TV series.

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As for comics, Marvel was relying on their FCBD offering, by giving out copies of All-New, All Different Avengers. I took my copy to Artist Alley and got it signed by artist Mahmud Asrar. I also got a free Avengers comic meant to tie in with the Playmation system that just came out. Finally, I got a Secret Wars print by Skottie Young.

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At the ABC Family booth, they were surprisingly not promoting their upcoming name change to Freeform. I guess the banners and stuff had already been printed up by the time the news broke. Anyway, they were giving away this poster tube promoting their shows Stitchers, Pretty Little Liars, and Shadow Hunter. It wasn’t until I got home that I actually looked at the posters and realized they were commissioned by Marvel:

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I really like the Pretty Little Liars one, as it reminds me of Fables. However, I’ve never seen the show, and have no idea what I’d do with it, so back into the tube it went.

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The Dark Horse booth was also relying heavily on their FCBD offerings, but I didn’t get a chance to get Fight Club or the Avatar book when they first came out, so I grabbed them. I also got a Call of Duty: Black Ops III comic, as well as an ashcan for a comic called Rebels. I just liked the poster for Joe Golem: Occult Detective, but it got kinda messed up on the way home, so I chucked it.

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At the Del Rey booth, they not only gave away a Star Wars sampler, but they also gave away a complete novel – Star Wars: Tarkin. I’m never gonna read this thing, but it was a whole book. For free!

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I’d never heard of 451 Media before, but their booth guys were just shoving these into people’s hands. One guy was like “You want me to sign ’em?” I had no clue who he was, but I was like, “Sure”. It turns out this is a media company co-founded by Michael Bay. Each comic has a card in the back that you scan with an app, and it’ll unlock more content. I haven’t tried it yet, but the art in the books is actually pretty good. I’ll get around to reading them one of these days.

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There was a guy handing out the Den of Geek Magazine as you got off the escalator. Meanwhile, I collect convention programs, so I had to grab one of those, as well.

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All they seemed to have at the IDW booth was this Star Trek: Starfleet Academy ashcan comic. I’m not even sure if I like NuTrek, but it was free, so…

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At the Diamond booth, they were giving out this little Cardcaptor Sakura figurines. No interest in that franchise, but again, it was free.

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At the Valiant booth, I got this 2016 Preview book. I’ll talk a bit more about Valiant later.

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The LEGO booth gave away what is probably the thinnest poster I’ve ever held in my hands. I swear, it’s like 1/2 ply. Anyway, it was to promote the upcoming NEXO Knights line.

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Finally, while not exactly free (I bought the comic at a shop before I left for NYCC), I had a nice conversation with writer David Walker, who signed my copy of Cyborg #1. We actually did a podcast together about a year ago, so we talked about that, and it seems like he might want to do it again soon.

So, in all, it wasn’t too bad of a haul. I don’t want a chunk of that stuff, but that wasn’t the point. I really just wanted to see if you could have an enjoyable experience without shelling out a ton of money. I think you can, as I had fun tracking down all the different swag. But I told you in the beginning that I did buy some stuff, so let’s take a quick look at that, shall we?

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If you read last year’s post, you might remember that I met The Cosby Show/Living Single actress Erika Alexander on the convention floor. It turned out that she and her husband, Tony Puryear, had written a book called Concrete Park. Well, I bought the first volume from them last year, and Tony was here selling the second volume. To be honest, I haven’t even read Volume 1 yet, but I always think it’s cooler to buy a book directly from the creator than at a shop, so I picked up Volume 2.

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Somehow, I found myself in the Valiant booth. Let me tell you a little something about me and Valiant. I’ve NEVER taken them seriously as a comic publisher. Back in the early 90s, when they were first getting started, I wanted nothing to do with their books. When their revival started up a couple of years ago, I didn’t think they’d last a year. Their stuff just never seemed interesting to me. Still, while I was in their booth, I was approached by one of their marketing guys, and he was so friendly. He asked me what kind of stuff I liked to read, and then he immediately was able to find a Valiant book comparable to it. Like Batman? Then try Ninjak. That sort of thing. Plus, since it was the last day of the convention, they were running a special: trade paperbacks were $10 each OR you could get 5 for $30. They were basically giving you two for free. I couldn’t pass that up, and he even sold me a copy of Quantum and Woody that had been signed by the creators. So, I went from completely ignoring Valiant to actually being excited about their output. I’m pretty sure I’ll write about those books once I get a chance to sit down and read them.

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Finally, there was a booth that had trade paperbacks for half price, so I got these 6 books for $5 each. I remember wanting to read Freelancers, plus I’d been intrigued by the all-female Ghostbusters story arc when it came out. I loved the first Dr. McNinja collection, so I was glad to find “Timefist”. I grabbed those Axe Cop books because I enjoyed the first collection, but never really wanted to pay $20 each for the other volumes. At $5 each, that’s just a little over what a single issue would cost, so I jumped on it. Then I got home, and found that I actually already had 2 of them. I really need to catalog my collection so this stops happening…

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In all, did I have a good time? Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I originally wanted to go because I thought it would be a great chance to meet up with some of my Twitter friends. Unfortunately, I never made any concrete plans. So, when I sent out the call that morning, it fell upon deaf keyboards. So, it was actually kind of a lonely experience, to be honest *cue sad violin*. I enjoy comic conventions, but NYCC has gotten to be a bit much. It needs a bigger venue, and I’m not sure that even exists in the city at the moment. As it stands, though, this may be my last NYCC. If I go again, it will be with a strict agenda, i.e meeting friends, checking out particular projects, etc. instead of just wandering around, killing time.

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