27th May2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/27/16

by Will

 

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apocalypse

So, the main movie that I watched this week was X-Men: Apocalypse. Where to even begin with this film? When I reviewed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I tried to be diplomatic. I never said that was a *bad* movie, but I simply said that it didn’t work for me. I can’t do that here, though. This was a bad movie. At the end of the day, it suffers from a failure to launch. It never feels like it builds to anything worthwhile. It has a decent 1st act, but an almost non-existent 2nd act, finished off with a rushed 3rd act.

I’ve already mentioned that I’m tired of the Erik-Charles-Raven Show, and this is just more of that. The other characters are never fleshed out, and just serve as window dressing for that trio. They are their comic counterparts in name only. Psylocke? Useless. Storm? Really doesn’t improve much on the Halle Berry incarnation, but that’s not the actress’s fault. She did the best she could with what she had. I’ve never seen Game of Thrones (outside of a supercut of all the sex scenes from the first 4 seasons), but I don’t know what it was about Sophie Turner that made Fox think she was the one to play Jean Grey. Sure, Famke Janssen was no Oscar winner, but she at least had a personality. Oscar Isaac is wasted as Apocalypse, as that character could’ve been played by almost anyone. He brought nothing to that role. Apocalypse’s motives aren’t all that clear to anyone unfamiliar with the character. Someone on Twitter mentioned that Hive on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. actually did Apocalypse BETTER than the actual Apocalypse did in this film, and I can’t disagree. Hive had a purpose, he had his own kind of “horsemen”, and he capably swayed the Inhumans to his cause. Apocalypse just goes around giving folks makeovers and amping up their power levels, but there’s no real indication as to WHY. Quicksilver’s great, and I’d watch a whole spin-off about him, even though that sounds like a terrible idea on paper.

Plus, where’s the “world that fears and hates them”? Since the events of Days of Future Past, where Mystique saved the President, the public seems to actually appreciate mutants. That’s not how that’s supposed to work. They should be terrified at the display of power they witnessed in DC. I mean, Nightcrawler walks through a mall, with no image inducer, and no one bats an eye!

It’s surprising to me that this was directed by Bryan Singer, because it felt like it was made by a first-time director with no familiarity with the characters. This is Singer’s 4th time at bat with this franchise, and he fails colossally. It’s funny because the film even makes a joke about how the 3rd movie is always the worst. There was a lot riding on this film, as it’s basically the 3rd movie in a second trilogy. Unless you’re a hardcore X-Men fan, you can skip this. In fact, you probably should just skip this.

soder

Whew! So, what did I like this week? Well, I caught the Comedy Central stand-up special Dan Soder: Not Special. Formerly of MTV2’s Guy Code, I’m a big fan of Soder, as he’s the co-host of my favorite radio show, The Bonfire, on Comedy Central Radio. He had a great bit about how he used to think he was possessed by the Devil. It wasn’t a gut buster, but it was more of what I’ve come to expect from him. I enjoy listening to him and Big Jay Oakerson every Monday and Wednesday evening, and this was like a nice bonus episode of that. If you’re looking for a laugh, definitely check it out.

cap and bucky

To say it’s been quite a week for Captain America would be quite the understatement. When the week started, #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend started trending on social media, as fans began to “ship” Captain America and Bucky. If you’re not familiar with shipping, it’s when fans desire that certain characters enter into a relationship. From how they were portrayed in Captain America: Civil War, some folks think there’s something between Steve and James that’s a bit more intense than mere friendship. Of course, everyone took a side in the matter. Even I was like, “No, that would change the character too much because he’s been depicted in relationships with women.” I’m all for representation when it makes sense, but this seemed like it was changing a character just for the sake of change. Why make Cap gay when there are actual gay Marvel characters who “get no shine”, as the young kids say? Then I read this. My pal Pete wrote a powerful piece on representation, and what a gay Cap would mean to him. And something happened that rarely happens: my mind was changed by something I read on the Internet. At the end of the day, I hate change. That’s something that I have to deal with, but I guess I can’t stand in the way of progress. I can understand what it would mean to LGBT folks to have a symbol like Cap on their side. And it doesn’t change anything he stands for. In fact, he would now stand for MORE. If he is gay, though, he can do a LOT better than Bucky! Anyway, I was dealing with my newfound enlightenment and then Wednesday morning happened.

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The news cycle was supposed to belong to DC (we’ll get to that later), but Marvel just couldn’t let someone else have the spotlight. For the past couple of years in the comics, Steve Rogers has been depowered and advanced to his rightful age. Well, recently, he regained his Super Soldier Serum and returned to his normal self, reclaiming the mantle of Captain America, while still allowing Sam Wilson to ALSO be Captain America (yeah, that’s not gonna be confusing!). The first issue of his new series, Steve Rogers: Captain America was released Wednesday morning, with a major twist on the final page: Steve says “Hail, Hydra”, revealing that he is, and apparently always has been, an agent for his supposed greatest enemy. AND PEOPLE LOST THEIR SHIT!

It got to the point where the former Captain America writer, Ed Brubaker, was getting hassled, while the current writer, Nick Spencer, started receiving death threats. The Internet was basically divided into two camps: A) “Apparently you’ve never read a comic before, ’cause nothing’s ever permanent in comics” and B) “How dare Marvel invoke Nazis, considering they were actual bad people, and Captain America was the creation of two Jewish creators?” And both sides have their merits.

winter soldier

This storyline won’t matter in 2020, but maybe some new, cool supporting character will come out of it, like how we got the Winter Soldier a few years back during another storyline that could be considered a “gimmick”. I’ve always said that the current marketplace of licensing and lunchboxes kinda prevents major changes from happening to major characters, but some good can still come out of these stories.

At the same time, Nazis have been kinda neutered so much in pop culture that it’s easy to forget that these folks did some pretty fucked up shit. We live in a Call of Duty world, where you can log on and kill Nazis to your heart’s content, but that doesn’t change actual history. Just because the concept is toothless today doesn’t mean that it didn’t once carry some major weight. So, I can kinda see some folks getting offended by that. However, Cap’s been fighting Nazis for 75 years. Wasn’t it equally offensive that this comic book character was depicted fighting a real life foe that was out there eradicating people? I mean, if you’re really offended by the Nazi thing, then it seems like Cap just isn’t the right property for you. Nor is Call of Duty. Nor is The Producers. I get it. Nazis off limits.

Personally, I believe that we should wait and see where the story is going. I mean, it’s kinda hard to write it off from the first issue. If it wasn’t your cup of tea, that’s fine, too. Everything can’t appeal to everyone. I know people look to him as a symbol, and can’t understand why he would side with his enemies, but there’s clearly something bigger at play. And it doesn’t behoove anyone to waste outrage at this point in the game.

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Speaking of outrage, folks were up in arms in the toy community about a San Diego Comic-Con exclusive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figure release. Created by NECA, there are 8 figures, split across 2 sets, designed after the classic TMNT video game. Based on the licensing rights, however, NECA is only allowed to sell these sets at SDCC; these will not be available in stores or at any other convention. Since not everyone can make it to the convention, fans are lamenting the fact that their only chance to get the figures will be by paying a markup on eBay. Or, as they’ve been saying, “The Scalp-Ors Win”. Maybe I feel this way because I’m not the biggest TMNT fan these days, but I kinda like that they’re exclusive to the con. Sure, it sucks for completists, but these things supposedly exist to make attending the con feel that much more special. It sorta takes away from the whole exclusivity when the items are sold on company sites a few weeks after the show. If I paid over $1,000 for an experience ($245 just for show admission), you better damn well believe I want to get something special out of it. And the way I see it, whatever fans end up paying on eBay is gonna seem like a steal compared to what it would actually cost to go to SDCC and get the figures themselves. All is not lost! Right now, NECA’s saying that these figures will be released in no other form, but it seems odd that they’d go to the trouble of new tooling for something that won’t hit mass market. Just doesn’t seem practical. Maybe they’re just saying this to hype up the exclusivity of the convention sets. I guess time will tell. Whatever. I feel like the fans who REALLY want the sets will find a way – even if they have to sell a kidney to do so.

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These days, I’m only an occasional wrestling fan in that I don’t watch any of the shows or PPVs, but I still keep track of who’s in and who’s out. Everyone’s injured and the fans hate Roman Reigns. That about sums it up, right? Anyway, this week the WWE announced that their TV show SmackDown would be moving to Tuesdays, and switching to a live format (for the past 16 years, the majority of the episodes were pre-taped). The reason for this is because WWE is going back to a “brand extension” model. Used in the past, but abandoned in 2011, the brand extension involves a wrestler draft, determining which wrestlers will end up on Raw and which ones will end up on SmackDown. Seeing as how Raw has been the flagship since about 1997, that’s where you really want to be. SmackDown, though originally created to be “The Rock’s Show”, has settled into an existence as the mousy little sister in the company. If you ask me, however, SmackDown has outlived its usefulness.

When SmackDown debuted, what made it special was that it was 2 hours of wrestling programming on broadcast television. Originally airing on UPN, it provided a free alternative to the pay cable Raw. Since the end of the syndicated WWF Superstars and WWF Challenge, there was a void of broadcast wrestling that needed to be filled. And SmackDown filled this void  for 11 years, even past the merger of UPN and The WB, eventually landing on Fox’s short-lived MyNetworkTV. At its peak, it was the #1 program in Spanish-speaking households. Sure, the major stuff happened on Raw, but you still got recaps and some action on SmackDown. Then, after failing to really fit into MyNetworkTV’s plans, the show ended up on Syfy. This meant that both of WWE’s major shows were now on cable, with nothing being provided to those broadcast TV fans (with the exception of the severely short-lived WWE Saturday Morning Slam on The CW). Like the MyNetworkTV move, the move to Syfy made little sense, and the show was eventually moved to USA Network – the same network that serves as the home of Raw. So, what makes SmackDown special now? It also doesn’t help that WWE now has a streaming network for its programming. The popular NXT program, featuring up and coming developmental talent, is solely on the WWE Network, yet SmackDown is presenting a not-as-good-as-Raw product on USA. Why not swap them? Everyone knows SmackDown is the lesser-than, so give its USA timeslot to NXT, differentiating the offerings on USA. That still doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of WWE programming on broadcast TV.

I know a lot of folks have cable, but everyone doesn’t have cable – especially in the world of cord-cutting. What I propose is that WWE bring back WWE A.M. Raw, which was a Raw recap show that used to air late Saturday night/Sunday morning. It was an abridged version of that week’s Raw, focusing on the highlights. I say WWE should package that and sell it to CW affiliates to air on Saturday mornings/early afternoon – similar to when WWF Superstars used to air. It’s just editing existing footage, so there aren’t too many production costs involved, and I feel like there sorely needs to be wrestling on “UHF” channels like back in the old days. Sure, television is changing, but it wouldn’t hurt for WWE to have all their bases covered: cable, broadcast, and streaming.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • In a conference call, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer announced that they may make up to seven Power Rangers films. Oy vey!
  • In other Power Rangers news, the new logo debuted for the upcoming Power Rangers Ninja Steel. I don’t know why these “reveals” are a big deal, seeing as how they’ve been using the same Power Rangers font since Zeo. The only thing that changes is the subtitle, and this one looks like bad Photoshop
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  • HBO insiders are implying that there probably won’t be a third season of True Detective. I missed the second season, but the first gave us a naked Alexandra Daddario, and for that I will always be grateful.
  • A new Star Trek Beyond trailer came out. It didn’t suck.
  • Michael Keaton has reportedly signed on to be the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Most reports are saying he’s playing the Vulture, though I saw one mentioning Norman Osborn. I’d prefer Osborn.
  • Marvel announced that Creed‘s Tessa Thompson will be portraying Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, and the Internet DIDN’T lose its collective mind! Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, and Cate Blanchett have also joined the cast
  • Amazon’s Man in the High Castle‘s production has been halted, as showrunner Frank Spotnitz suddenly left the project. It is NOT a good week for Nazis!
  • FX announced that The Americans will end after two more seasons. I really need to catch up on the show.
  • It’s rumored that Rob Lowe may be replacing Michael Strahan on Live! With Kelly and…I wanted NPH, but I don’t hate this idea.
  • Digital comics platform Comixology introduced Comixology Unlimited, which offers a limited “all you can read” service for non-Marvel and DC comics, at $5.99 a month. It’s unclear, however, how creators will be compensated. Right now, it seems like they’re just getting “exposure”.

No podcast appearances this week, but I did want to share some shows with you. First up, the No Topic Required Podcast is back up and running. They sort of took a break after episode #100, but it seems like Zack and Adam are back in the saddle. As the title suggests, there’s no specific topic for the podcast, but they cover everything from video games to movies to comic/toy controversies. I’ve been on a few times with them, and always have a great time. If you’re looking for a new show, check them out!

Also, one of my favorite discoveries is the Positively Nerdy Podcast. I can be kinda ornery on here, but I really do want the best from things. Ryan looks at all that’s good in geek culture, and he records so many different shows that he’s a podcasting machine! If you like comic reviews, he’s got them. If you like movies, he’s got the review show Ryan and Leah: At The Movies. If you want a quick listen, he’s got Nerdy Nuggets. He’s a great guy, and I really like everything he puts out. If you’re looking for the non-cynical side of fandom, I highly recommend that you check out Positively Nerdy.

Links I Loved

Ranking the Megazords – The Robot’s Pajamas

The Case Against Dan DiDio – The Savage Critics

How I Used Lies About a Cartoon to Prove History Is Meaningless on the Internet – Geek

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Despite the Captain America hubbub, I really believe the comic news cycle belonged to DC Comics and DC Universe: Rebirth #1. I’ve been covering the lead-up on this site, but we finally got to see what it’s all about. Released midnight Wednesday, the comic sets the DC Universe on a new path, to recapture something that it had lost: hope. As many DC fans will tell you, the New 52 reboot drove away a lot of long-time readers, and it created a universe that was bleak and somewhat hopeless. Basically, it was a Zack Snyder movie in print. So, this was an attempt to win back those old fans.

Where to begin? Well, (and in case you didn’t know, this part’s gonna contain mad spoilers, but nothing you haven’t already seen spoiled by the mainstream media), the story focuses on original Kid Flash, Wally West, as he’s unhinged in time. We haven’t seen this character since the 2011 Flashpoint event that spawned the New 52, so it was the welcome return of a fan favorite hero. Wally visits several characters, like Batman and the original Johnny Thunder, in an attempt to warn them that some outside force has been influencing the timeline, resulting in a loss of memories and a 10-year span of time. He’s unable to reach any of them, and is continually sucked back into the Speed Force – the energy pool from which all DC speedsters draw their powers. Finally, he reaches out to his former mentor, Barry Allen/The Flash, who eventually remembers Wally and helps to rescue him from the Speed Force. Over the course of the story, we find out more tidbits and revelations. Apparently, there have been THREE different Jokers, which seems odd ’cause wouldn’t Harley realize she’s obsessing over three different dudes? Wonder Woman has a twin brother. Jackson Hyde/Kaladur’ahm/Aqualad made his post-Flashpoint debut. And, to the joy of many, Ted Kord made his post-Flashpoint debut as a mentor to Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes. And to cap it off, we got a doozy of an ending: Dr, Manhattan, of the classic 80s comic Watchmen, was revealed to be the force that had altered the DC Universe’s timeline. Huh.

That ending is important because it’s the first time that the Watchmen characters have been incorporated into the mainstream DC Universe. The story is largely seen as a contributing factor in comics becoming dark and gritty, so it sort of makes sense that in order to find what’s lost, you return to where you last saw it. The happy-go-lucky, “heroic” DC existed prior to Watchmen, prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths. So, this sort of brings everything full circle. But what does it really mean? Are they blaming Alan Moore for the state that DC eventually found itself in? What’s to be gained by reclaiming that story and incorporating it into the mainstream? Alan Moore has notoriously dismissed any association with the story after he was screwed out of ownership. I feel like he wouldn’t necessarily agree with how they’re being used now, as that wasn’t his original intent. Still, they’re technically DC’s toys, so they can do with them as they please.

I went to a midnight release for the book, and couldn’t wait to get home and crack it open. When I was done, all I could say was “huh”. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love. I was really just confused. Why was The Comedian’s button in the Batcave? Like, it’s a great visual, but how would it even get there? And sure, it was great seeing Ted Kord, considering the last time we saw him was pre-Flashpoint, with a bullet in his head. It seems like DC did everything right to cater to those lost fans. They brought back dead/forgotten heroes, they tied the story back to a seminal classic, and it set the stage for things to come. From a lot of the folks I’ve been following online, they love this book. And, to me, that’s a problem.

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The people who are really loving Rebirth #1 are in their 30s and 40s, and they’re saying “This reminds me of the DC I used to read.” That’s great for you, but bad for the industry. I’ve been reading comics for over 20 years, so I know the main tentpoles. The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Crisis on Infinite Earths. I know what those did for the industry, and I know they’re basically revered, But I didn’t see anything about this comic that would necessarily appeal to a NEW reader.

Folks in their 30s and 40s have other priorities. They can’t be depended on to keep this hobby afloat. You need to reach out for NEW blood. Now, it can be argued that DC was trying that when they introduced the New 52 reboot, starting (most) books back at square one. At that point, Batman and Green Lantern were the only books that required prior knowledge in order to fully understand them. But for all their desire to start fresh, DC is consumed by this desire for “legacy”. Chief Creative Officer, and writer of Rebirth, Geoff Johns has said in interviews that this is what Rebirth is all about: regaining a sense of legacy. DC has a rich history, and I can understand the desire to capitalize on that, but they’re so busy reminding us of where they came from, that they don’t spend enough energy figuring out where they’re going.

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Rebirth #1 is nothing but another self-referential circle jerk by DC, tied to a 30 year old story – WHICH, by the way, generated a movie that was polarizing at best. Had the Watchmen film been a huge critical and financial success, then maybe I’d understand this. After all, it was just released 7 years ago, so it would be somewhat fresh in folks’ minds. Instead, this book holds no real meaning to new comic fans. I’m of the argument that Watchmen is very much a “you had to be there” sort of read. I’m sure it was groundbreaking when originally released, and it changed the industry in such a way that a lot of folks only know a comic industry painted by the influence of the book. They have no clue that things don’t HAVE to be dark and gritty. Rebirth seems like an opportunity to introduce that concept to new fans, but instead it’s like DC crawling back to old fans like, “Are you still mad at me?”  If anything, it feels like this move was really just to sell more copies of Watchmen, as now the new fans are gonna go seek out that story in order to try to figure out what they just read, or why that ending should be seen as significant. That’s great for DC’s backlist, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything for its future.

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But I don’t want to sound like it’s all bad. I am eager to see where things go, and I would also like to see hope restored to the DC Universe. I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed the direction of the New 52, so if we can get back to a pre-Flashpoint tone, I’m all for it. When it comes to DC, though, I’m a ride or die bitch, so I’ll be with them if it succeeds, and I’ll be with them if it fails. I just wonder how many new fans are gonna be right there with me. In any case, it’s rare that DC Comics can dominate the news cycle, and also get folks excited about their product. So, with that in mind, DC Universe: Rebirth #1 had the West Week Ever.

 

20th May2016

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

by Will

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ladykillers

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

cloverfield

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

jerrod

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

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

1893

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

ghostbusters

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06th May2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/6/16

by Will

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I watched quite a few things this week, so let’s get to it!

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I’ve been in a stand-up comedy mood lately, and Comedy Central has been celebrating a month of new specials. First up, I caught Daniel Tosh: People Pleaser. If you’re familiar with Tosh, then you already know what you’re in for. His onstage persona is basically that of an asshole, and he brought that in full force here. It was mostly new material, though he did rework an old joke about Nadya Suleman (“Octomom”) into a joke about the 19 Kids and Counting Duggars. My biggest issue, I guess, is that I didn’t watch it when it premiered, so it was all kinda old for me. You see, I listen to Comedy Central Radio on SiriusXM in the car, and they’ve been playing clips from the special for about a month now (the special actually premiered at the beginning of April), so by the time I got around to watching the whole special I realized that I’d already heard all of the jokes. Even though Tosh’s humor isn’t for everyone, I think he’s a lot better at the Asshole Comic thing than, say, Anthony Jeselnik. If that’s your cup of tea, then check it out.

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Next up, I watched Chris Hardwick: FUNcomfortable. This isn’t a popular opinion amongst the geek set, but I do not like Chris Hardwick. I had no problem with Singled Out/Shipmates game show host Hardwick, but I don’t like Hardwick 2.0 of the Nerdist empire. Something about him just rubs me the wrong way. The folks who listen to his podcasts tell me that his biggest flaw is that he makes everything about himself. I’ve never listened to a Nerdist podcast, so I don’t know about that, but I do know that I just don’t like his vibe. So, if I already knew I didn’t like him, why did I watch his special? Well, Comedy Central Radio had a town hall interview with him, moderated by Wil Wheaton, that aired several times over the weekend. I did a lot of driving, and ended up listening to parts of it 4 different times. And I came to realize that I actually had a lot in common with him, in terms of depression and anxiety. And it was interesting hearing about his alcoholism and how he decided to get sober. I think I didn’t like him because he just seems like he tries too hard, but the interview made me realize why. I kinda felt like I needed to cut the guy a break after that. I’m still not interested in his podcast, but I was willing to give an hour of my time to watch his special. And it was good. I’m glad I watched it. If you’re a fan of all the Nerdist stuff, you’ll probably love it. If you want to know more about Hardwick himself, though, I recommend checking out that town hall interview, which is probably on demand on the SiriusXM site. He seems like he’s in a good place now, and I’m happy for him for that. His comeback story is kind of amazing, going from TV host to producing mogul, so I’ve got to give him credit for what he’s achieved in this second phase of his career.

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On the movie front, I watched The Boss, starring Melissa McCarthy. I already know that there are people predisposed to hating her and her movies, so you should probably just skip to the next paragraph. I, however, happen to be an unabashed fan of her films. I even liked Tammy. So, I was kinda surprised that I was disappointed by this one. In the film, McCarthy plays a Martha Stewart analogue who’s sent to prison for insider trading. Once she gets out, she partners with her former assistant to create a brownie empire. It’s not bad, by any stretch, but it wasn’t hilarious. I loved The Heat. Spy was incredible. This, not so much. It suffered from the fact that the funniest parts were spoiled in the red band trailer. Plus, and I had this same problem with Deadpool, I didn’t really feel like it had to be an R-rated film. Over the years, McCarthy has kinda become the queen of the R-rated comedy, so I guess the studio just said, “Well, let’s make another R-rated comedy for her”. That said, most of the “fucks” seemed forced (like they were just there to justify the rating), as well as all the other material that guaranteed the rating. She implies a tween is a lesbian, Tyler Labine is supposed to perform oral sex on a security guard. All the “edgy” stuff just felt out of place. Don’t get me wrong – I laughed, but it was at stuff I’d already seen in the trailer. Outside of that, the movie didn’t have much more to offer.

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On “television”, I watched the Netflix series Love, on recommendation from my pal Chris Piers from over at The Robot’s Pajamas. Geeky Gus meets trainwreck Micky in a convenience store after they both get out of bad relationships. Over the course of 10 episodes, we try to find out if two damaged people can truly find love. The show starts Paul Rust (who’s also the co-creator) and Gillian Jacobs (Community), and is produced by Judd Apatow. In true Apatow fashion, the characters occupy this state of arrested development, where they’re in their 30s, but not quite “adults” because they’re just trying to figure their shit out. Gus has always been the nice guy, so he pretty much ends up in the “friend zone” when he meets Micky. Meanwhile, Micky’s a pretty, yet slovenly, woman who’s got an addictive personality. She’s addicted to alcohol, she’s addicted to sex, and she may be addicted to love. So, is Gus what she really needs right now? Can Gus handle a woman like her? Meanwhile, Gus kinda becomes my hero, as in the course of the series he sleeps with both Milana Vayntrub (Lily from the AT&T commercials) and Briga Heelan (Ground Floor, Undateable). It’s a great show, and I ended up watching the majority of the series in one night. I simply couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it!

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In movie news, we got our first look at the new Power Rangers movie suits, thanks to Entertainment Weekly. I don’t…hate them. Seriously, I actually kinda like them. They’ve not been without controversy online, though. First up, people don’t understand why the female Rangers’ breasts are molded into the suits. Or why the female Rangers’ boots have wedged heels. That said, I’m finding that most of the people with the biggest issues with them are folks who checked out of Power Rangers during the Mighty Morphin incarnation. We’re talking about a 20+ year franchise, being judged on its first 3 years. That’s not exactly fair. To me, these suits are a natural progression from the original movie suits from ’95. This is just an ’00s update of what we got back then. People are saying that they look like Iron Man, and I see that, but I think it makes sense. It’s not like they were going to be able to go the spandex route for the big screen, so folks should’ve expected some kind of armored form. The thing I like most, though, is that the Rita suit is starting to make more sense. Hers is clearly a damaged version of their suits, so was she the Green Ranger? They also look reminiscent of Lord Zedd’s design, so will he factor into things, too? You’ll see a lot of hatred about the suits online, but you won’t see any of that from me.

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In TV news, it was revealed this week that Star Trek fans won’t be able to initially bingewatch the new Trek series when it premieres, as the episodes will be released weekly. I understand the reasoning behind this, as CBS probably doesn’t want people signing up for All Access for a month and then leaving once they’re done watching the show. That said, I’ve never been one to keep up with weekly streaming shows. I don’t know what it is about the platform, as I’ll watch weekly shows on “real” TV. Back when Yahoo Screen released Community on a weekly basis, I pretty much just waited til the end of the season and then binged all the episodes I’d missed. That’s probably what I’ll do with this show, if I watch it at all. I love Star Trek, but everything I’m hearing about this show’s distribution makes me sad. Creatively, it sounds like they’ve got a great team on the project (it was also announced this week that it’ll begin filming in Toronto in this fall), but it’s almost like CBS is hellbent on screwing up its distribution. It was also revealed why the show is debuting in 2017, and not this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise. Apparently, during the 2006 split between CBS and Viacom, CBS got the Trek TV rights, while Viacom retained the Trek film rights. As part of that deal, Viacom insisted that the new show couldn’t debut until 6 months after the film premieres, in order to avoid confusion in the marketplace. Now, in a world where DC Comics has a “Batman” show on TV, and batman in films, it’s clear that the audience isn’t that dumb, but I guess Viacom wanted to protect their investment in Star Trek Beyond.

Supergirl

In other CBS TV news, it’s really coming down to the wire on Supergirl‘s renewal, as CBS is scheduled to announce their fall schedule at the network upfronts in two weeks. Apparently, the show costs about $3 million per episode, and the network really wants to cut down that license fee. CBS doesn’t feel that the ratings justify the amount they’re paying to Warner Bros to air the show. So, now the rumor of the show moving to sister network The CW is picking up steam. The pro of the move means that the show would be on the same network as the other Berlantiverse shows Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow. The con, however, is that The CW doesn’t pay high licensing fees, so that means some budget cuts would probably have to happen. For example, Calista Flockhart probably makes a nice piece of change on that show, so she’d probably be out. That’s just my speculation, though. In any case, CBS needs to make a deal quickly.

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Over on NBC, Natalie Morales is out at the New York offices of The Today Show, and is moving out west to be the West Coast anchor of the show. She’ll also be the new host of Access Hollywood and Access Hollywood Live. Meanwhile, current Access Hollywood host Billy Bush is headed to New York to join The Today Show. This switcheroo is the beginning of some more ongoing structural changes coming to The Today Show over the next few months.

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In comics news, USA Today announced that IDW Publishing will be releasing a comic based on the 80s cartoon M.A.S.K. Following the members of Mobile Armored Strike Kommand as they fight the evil agents of Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem (V.E.N.O.M.), it was basically G.I. Joe with transforming vehicles, and enjoyed a cartoon series and toyline. Since IDW seems to be in Hasbro’s good graces, having published years of G.I. Joe and Transformers comics, it makes sense that this series would end up there. Writer Brandon Easton and artist Tony Vargas are reportedly “putting a Fast and Furious spin” on the property. I’m not sure what to think about that. From what the creators say in the interview, it doesn’t really sound like M.A.S.K. Plus, I think fellow kids of the 80s would rather have a M.A.S.K. toyline than a comic, but maybe that will come from Hasbro’s Cinematic Universe.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The Russo Bros revealed that Avengers: Infinity War Parts 1 & 2 would be renamed before their release, as they’re both 2 very different movies.
  • Batman: The Killing Joke will be released digitally on July 23rd, followed by the Blu-Ray and DVD on August 2nd
  • sharknado-4-posterSharknado: The 4th Awakens will premiere July 31st, featuring appearances by Baywatch‘s Alexandra Paul, David Faustino, Dog the Bounty Hunter, and Stacey Dash.
  • The Flash film lost its director when Seth Grahame-Smith stepped down. Now there are rumblings that James Wan might leave his directing post on Aquaman.
  • Hulu renewed The Mindy Project for a 5th season
  • Netflix announced a spinoff series for The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal

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The other night, I had the pleasure of joining Classick, and CJ from 3 Black Geeks, to do a Civil War preshow podcast. It was a great time where we talked about recent comic book movies, as the recent deaths of some celebrities. You should definitely check it out here.

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I saw it last night, and I can say that Captain America: Civil War definitely had the West Week Ever. If you want to know why, then go see the film. I’m not gonna spoil anything here. Let’s just say that I went in Team Iron Man, and I left Team Iron Man. I’d love to know how you felt after you saw it. Sure, there are some similarities to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, so folks are gonna make some comparisons, but I’m not gonna do that here. I’m not sure if I’m ready to say it was the greatest comic book movie of all time, but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute. Seriously, go see this movie this weekend!

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.

trek 2017

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

spider-man homecoming

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

doctor strange

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

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

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

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

01st Apr2016

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

by Will

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

mtv spring break

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

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

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

rebirth

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

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

suicidesquad

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

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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

Enterprise Title Card

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

webster

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.

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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.

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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.

thriller

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.

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