10th Feb2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/10/17

by Will

Last night, my friend Mike and I went to check out The Lego Batman Movie. Seeing as how we were the only two people in the theater, I’m not quite sure what its weekend box office is gonna look like. I bet John Wick: Chapter 2 takes #1, since that’s where everyone seemed to be heading. Anyway, I LOVED the film. First up, it considers EVERYTHING canon. If you saw it onscreen, then it happened in that universe. The whole thing is kind of surreal, as the movie focuses on Batman’s loner status, while also confronting his complicated relationship with The Joker. On the Batman Beyond cartoon, there’s an episode where old Bruce Wayne and his protege, Terry McGinnis, go to a Batman-themed musical. Bruce can’t get over how goofy the whole thing seems, but I feel like this film is the movie version of that musical. It doesn’t have the camp of the ’66 show, but it’s a movie that never really takes itself seriously. I loved the liberties they took, like making Jim and Barbara Gordon people of color (voiced by Hector Elizondo and Rosario Dawson). It doesn’t hurt the story any, while bringing some diversity to the Lego world. I also liked how it tied in concepts from The Lego Movie, such as the fact that Batman is a Master Builder. I’m not going to spoil the movie for you, but I feel like it’s strong until the middle of the second act, at which point it switches from a Lego Batman movie to a Lego Dimensions movie. Trust me, you’ll understand when you see it, and I think you’ll agree that the story gets a bit weaker at that point. In any case, I can’t wait for it to hit Blu Ray, so I can rewatch it a thousand times to catch all the Easter eggs.

This week, we got a trailer for a new season of Arrow. Wait, what? That was actually for Iron Fist? Huh. Yeah, I was really underwhelmed by that trailer. Finn Jones doesn’t seem like a great actor, there’s not a lot of Kung Fu on display, and it seems like it’s more focused on corporate takeover, as Danny Rand tries to reclaim his family’s business. Since it’s a Netflix Marvel show, there’s also Rosario Dawson and another damn hallway fight. I welcome the former, but I’m SO over the latter. I’ll get around to watching it, but the days of me binge-watching a Marvel season the weekend of its release are long gone. Considering I still need to watch Daredevil season 2 and Luke Cage, I’ll be lucky to get around to it in 2017. That said, I know a lot of y’all will binge it that day, and will tell me if it sucks or not.

In other TV news, it’s rumored that NBC wants to spin Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update segment into a weekly 30-minute show. I guess they looked at John Oliver and Samantha Bee, and realized they might be leaving money on the table. Still, Jost and Che as “polarizing”, at best, and I’m not sure if that segment has the legs to air 30 minutes every week, in the same format. Plus, would it also remain a part of SNL, or would it be excised completely? I think this would’ve been a good idea in an election year, as there’s just so much news to cover, but now that all that is behind us, I’m just not sure this is going to work. And then what happens? If it does leave SNL, would it come crawling back next season, with its tail between its legs? The difference between Last Week Tonight/Full Frontal and Weekend Update is that those cable shows are actually smart, with smart hosts. Plus, they can get away with a bit more because cable. Weekend Update has gotten a lot more biting since Trump was elected, but is it too little, too late? Are the SNL writers up to the task of this project? I just feel like it’s a bad idea that will dilute the Weekend Update and SNL brands.

It was also announced that Viacom will be rebranding Spike TV as the Paramount Network. In my lifetime, I don’t think I’ve witnessed a network go through as many format changes as that one. As far back as I can remember, it was The Nashville Network. Then, to appeal to a wider audience, it became The National Network. Then, to appeal to dudebros, it became Spike TV. Now, I don’t even know who they’re targeting. I also don’t know why they chose this particular name. It’s like they have short memories or something. After all, there’s already been a Paramount Network. Sure, most of us referred to it as UPN and not the United Paramount Network, but that’s what those letters stood for. And it was the definition of “failed experiment”. Sure, it hobbled along for about 10 years, but its legacy is basically Star Trek: Voyager, America’s Next Top Model and Girlfriends. Outside of that, it gave us such critical darlings as Shasta McNasty, Homeboys In Outer Space, and The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer. Hey, let’s see how many shitty (that means all of them) UPN shows I can list without looking them up: DiResta, Legend, Platypus Man, Hitz, Good News, SparksDilbert, Marker, The Watcher, The Sentinel…yeah,that’s enough to make my point, which is you probably don’t remember any of these. UPN did NOTHING for the Paramount brand, and its effects are still being felt 11 years after its demise. So why, WHY would Viacom want to go down this road again? Anyway, the early plans for the rebranding call for the network to be a warehouse for hit Viacom programming from their other networks. It’s basically just gonna be the Now That’s What I Call Viacom Channel, posting the highlights from MTV, Nick, Nick Jr, etc. In fact, there are no concrete plans for the future of other Viacom networks, such as VH1, CMT, and TVLand, but reports say that there’s no immediate push to shut them down.

It was also rumored that there are already talks of an American Idol revival, but this time on NBC. Now, keep in mind the show just ended its run on Fox last year. The idea is that The Voice would be reduced to one cycle a year, and then they would slot Idol in one of its old slots. I feel like NBC sees the value in that show in that it actually creates household names – something The Voice has failed to do after 11 seasons. The focus is too much on the judges, and the winners have gone nowhere. Quick, name a winner of The Voice without looking it up. Hell, I watched the first season, and I can’t even remember that guy (I looked it up: Javier Colon. Who? Right). So, there’s definitely something to be gained from acquiring the franchise. That said, though, I also feel like a network only gets one of those shows. Fox had Idol, NBC had The Voice, ABC had Rising Star, and CBS had some show that got canceled that I forgot. Fox hurt Idol by double-dipping and picking up The X-Factor. That show never caught on in the US, and it hurt the Fox singing competition brand. If NBC picks up Idol, it’s going to do the same to The Voice. I mean, how much longer does America want to see Blake Shelton and Adam Levine bicker at each other? Sure, there’s a new dynamic now that Blake and Gwen Stefani are dating and both judges, but unless the show breaks them up, I don’t know how engaging that’s gonna be. And Miley Cyrus as a coach? Now, let me say that Bangerz was a great album. I’ve written about how awesome it was. But I don’t think Miley is established enough as a singer to be coaching anyone. She’s more known for her antics than her music. Then again, Paula Abdul was a has been, judging the talent of tomorrow, but that was intrinsic to the formula. Ultimately, America chose the Idol, and the show brought in established stars as coaches. The Voice has an unnecessary layer. They have talented judges, but then they also have the coaches, and then America. As Idol showed us, ANYBODY cane a judge, which is going to be an important thing for NBC to remember once it comes to for contracts to be renegotiated. Anyway, I think Idol needs to rest a few more years before they dust it off. It was once a powerhouse, but television AND music changed over time. Let the industry figure out its next steps before trying to reenter it.

I don’t know about you, but I grew up with women, which meant I did a tour of duty with soap operas. I started with Days of Our Lives back in the late 80s, then shifted to The Young and the Restless, and then shifted back to Days in the 00s. And besides Victor Newman, there is no soap villain quite as diabolical as Stefano DiMera. Well, the actor who portrayed him, Joseph Mascolo, died back in December, but his final filmed episode aired yesterday.  Although Mascolo had been battling Alzheimers for the past few years, he had portrayed the character for around 30 years. For some reason (I haven’t watched in a while), he was in prison (he’s killed/led to the death of a lot of folks. But they typically come back after contract negotiations), and at the end of the episode, he escapes! What a beautiful ending, knowing that he will be forever “in the wind”, as they can’t really catch him again unless they recast him. Seeing as how the rumor is Days is coming to an end this year, they won’t even have time to do that, with scripts written about 6 months in advance. So, here’s a toast to one of the greatest villains to ever grace the television set. You will be missed, you evil son of a bitch.

Let’s get a little controversial, shall we? This week, comedian George Lopez got in hot water for kicking a woman out of one of his shows when she objected to a racially-charged joke he told. Basically he said, “There are only two rules in the Latino family: Don’t marry somebody black and don’t park in front of our house.” Apparently, a woman gave him the finger after that joke, to which he began to tell her to “sit [her] fucking ass down or get the fuck out.” Now, comedians are on his side because they say he was just shutting down a heckler. Meanwhile, the general public is on her side because they’re offended by the joke, and don’t see why he had to kick her out for objecting. Here’s my take: First of all, he’s told variations of this joke for years. He used to joke about how his grandmother wouldn’t even want President Obama in her house. If you’re familiar with his material, then his joke the other night shouldn’t surprise you. Now, for the folks offended by the joke: was he wrong? All I know is my own life experience. I dated a Cuban, and as polite and Ivy League-educated as I could be, I was still the Black guy who could only illicit grunts from her father. And I don’t know anyone named Esmeralda Jenkins or Manuela Johnson. Growing up where I did, Black guys didn’t get Latinas or Asian girls. Those girls’ families weren’t gonna stand for that! So, this is one of those jokes that’s grounded in truth. It might rub some folks the wrong way, but it’s not necessarily untrue. Where I stand, I don’t think he really did anything wrong. After all, that’s how comedians handle folks who they feel are interrupting their show, and the joke itself was par for the Lopez course. I wouldn’t say it was “haha funny”, but it wasn’t wrong.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • An animated series based on the Castlevania video game is coming to Netflix later this year. Hopefully it will star gay Simon Belmont from Captain N: The Game Master.
  • Kate McKinnon will voice Ms. Frizzle in Netflix’s reboot of The Magic School Bus
  • Speaking of Netflix, Love, The OA, and Trollhunters have all been renewed by the streaming service.
  • Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, announced that she’s retiring after her next album is released.
  • After 25 years over covering the Olympics, Bob Costas announced he’s handing the reins over to Mike Tirico
  • Entertainment newsmagazine show The Insider has been canceled after 13 seasons.
  • Formerly of USA’s Satisfaction, Blair Redford has been cast as the first mutant in Fox’s X-Men TV series
  • Not to be outdone by Beyoncé, it was announced that George and Amal Clooney are expecting twins. Those Hollywood In Vitro clinics are working overtime these days!
  • Speaking of babies, Jason Statham proved he’s the Transporter of Sperm, as he announced he’s expecting a baby with girlfriend Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

I don’t like Tom Brady. Don’t like a thing about him. I find it odd that you can be suspended for cheating AND win the Super Bowl in the same damn season. That said, that was a Hell of a comeback during Sunday’s Super Bowl LI. Somehow, the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead, allowing the New England Patriots to mount an amazing comeback and win their 5th Super Bowl title. It was the first Super Bowl to go into overtime. There was Edelman’s amazing catch. Some are calling it the most exciting game of football ever. But in the end there can only be one winner, and that was the Patriots. So, with that in mind, the New England Patriots had the West Week Ever.

03rd Feb2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 2/3/17

by Will

I saw my first movie of 2017 in the form of M. Night Shyamalan’s Split. A lot of people feel like Shyamalan’s coming off a string of bombs, but I’ve enjoyed the projects he’s been involved with, including Wayward Pines and After Earth. Still, this movie seems to be the one bringing all the boys back to the yard, and for good reason. I really enjoyed it, and feel like I need to watch it again just to catch certain things. If you’re not familiar, three teenage girls are kidnapped by James McAvoy, who suffers from dissociative identity disorders and has multiple personalities running around in his head. You never quite know which identity is in the driver’s seat, and over time you come to realize why, exactly, he kidnapped those particular girls. I don’t know if the movie had that patented Shyamalanian twist ending, but the very end of the movie did make my jaw drop. I’m not going to spoil it here, but I definitely think you should check out this film.

In movie news, it was announced that Ben Affleck is out of the director’s chair for The Batman. Reports say that he didn’t think he could handle being in front of and behind the camera on such a film, but it could be that Warner Bros got a bit gun shy after the box office failure of his recent release, Live By Night, which he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in. It only made $19 million on a budget of $65 million. As far as rumors go, there’s also talk that he may bow out of the film entirely, which would make for quite the awkward press tour for this fall’s Justice League. I kinda don’t think this movie is ever gonna happen. Even if it does, my level of excitement is basically at Star Trek Discovery level, which isn’t very high.

We got out final post for the upcoming Power Rangers film. It’s…something. It’s a serviceable poster, but I’m still not sold on the Bayformers zords. This poster not only showcases them, but also serves to point out their visual weaknesses. They’re just colored beasts, but there’s no real Wow Factor to them. I’m hoping they translate better onscreen, but right now it just looks like a Photoshopped CGI mess.

In TV news, Marvel announced the cast for the upcoming Runaways series on Hulu. I’ve gotta say I kinda forgot about this, and I’m surprised it’s actually happening. I’d name the stars, but you’ve never heard of any of them. They all seem to look the part, except for Molly Haynes – a young White girl who’s now Molly Hernandez, a teenage Latina. I have no problem with the ethnicity switch, but I do have issues with her being aged up, as part of Molly’s charm is that she’s a sweet girl who’s about 11 years old. I don’t want her to lose that aspect of her personality. Oh, and she’s a mutant, which they’ll probably have to change and say she’s an Inhuman now or some shit. I don’t have Hulu, don’t plan to get Hulu, nor does this news make me want Hulu, but it’s still nice to see the Marvel Universe expanding. Maybe I’ll change my tune about the show once we’re closer to its release.

 

Speaking of Marvel TV, they announced the cast for Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger series, and it was neither of the folks I mentioned last week. Instead of Debby Ryan, Dagger will be played by former Disney Channel star Olivia Holt. Meanwhile, Cloak will be played by Aubrey Joseph, from The Night Of. If I remember correctly, Cloak & Dagger are an interracial couple of runaways who take an experimental drug and get powers? I’m too lazy to look it up, so somebody correct me if I’m wrong.  If there are strong ties to the MCU, I might give it a chance. Then again, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has basically shown us the limits of how much they can tie into the MCU, so I’m not optimistic. I don’t really mess with Freeform, as I’m not a 14 year old White girl, but maybe this won’t suck. Maybe.

Peter Capaldi announced that this will be his last season starring in Doctor Who. What is it about that show that they can’t keep an actor more than 3 seasons? It’s an interesting little franchise, and there’s no real American equivalent to it. If you’re an up and coming actor, it’s a great stepping stone, but if you’re established, it’s a nice way to be a part of an institution. That said, why is the role such a revolving door? Are the working conditions grueling? Bad pay? Annoying fanboys? Sure, the story allows for steady recasting, what with the regenerations and all, but just because they’re there doesn’t mean they have to burn through them. Anyway, folks are saying that this would be a great time for the franchise to cast a person of color or a woman in the role of The Doctor. Right now, folks are rallying behing Agent Carter‘s Hayley Atwell and The I.T. Crowd‘s Richard Ayoade. I’d be fine with either of those, and that would actually make me finally check out the show.

In other TV news, it was announced that OWN has picked up a House of Payne spinoff, called The Paynes. Let me school ya a little about television. About ten years ago, a new creature popped onto the scene called a 10/90 deal. Basically, a show would get a 10-episode test run, and if the ratings were good, they’d get an order for 90 additional episodes, instantly taking them directly into syndication. With the exception of Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management and Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet?, the only other shows to successfully navigate this model were the Tyler Perry sitcoms House of Payne, For Better or Worse, and Meet The Browns. The model has since been retired, as too many shows failed after the initial 10-episode order, but Perry is basically king of the 10/90. It’s probably because he works the shit out of his casts. I mean, House of Payne filmed 254 episodes in 8 seasons. Anyway, I was a big fan of House of Payne because it was ALWAYS on, especially on former UPN stations that were then being branded as MyNetworkTV stations. The show is about the Payne family, led by patriarch and retired firefighter Curtis Payne and his wife Ella. It dealt with all sorts of hot button issues, but it stressed the importance of family. I’m a harsh critic of series finales, but the series finale of House of Payne is one of the worst episodes of television I’ve ever seen (I feel like they didn’t know they were getting canceled), so I’m glad the show is coming back in some form to somewhat redeem itself. So far, it’s been greenlit for 38 episodes, but it’s not clear as to who will be showing up besides Curtis and Ella. It’s set in Florida, where the Paynes are trying to enjoy their retirement until a real estate deal goes wrong. Yeah, I’ll watch it.

I’m the furthest thing from a foodie, as I eat like a 5 year old: if it looks “yucky”, I won’t eat it. So, I eat a lot of fast food. And I’m fat. Anyway, I tried the Grand Mac this week, as I have been lusting over it ever since I learned of its existence. If you don’t have it where you live, the Grand Mac is a bigger Big Mac. I thought it was just a Big Mac with thicker Quarter Pounder patties, but I was wrong. Turns out it clocks in around 1/3 of a pound, and the patties aren’t thicker, but wider in diameter. It’s a LOT of burger, and I ain’t no bitch. It was a nice excursion, but I’m not sure I can handle a Grand Mac on a regular basis. For now, they’re saying it’s only for a limited time, but maybe it’ll stick around like that Bacon Clubhouse that nobody seems to like. At the same time, they also introduced the Mac Jr, which I’d like to go on record and say that I created this sandwich. Of course, I simply called it The Mac, but I tweeted it to the McDonalds Twitter account a few years back, after they retired the Mac Snack Wraps. It’s a Big Mac with one patty, and a standard bun instead of the usual triple decker format. I remember they sent me some kind of dismissive reply, but now, here they are, selling my damn sandwich. I want my credit, McDonalds!

 

If you’re “woke”, then you realize that it’s currently Black History Month. Now, if you’ve followed me online for the past few years, you know that I used to tweet funny faux facts (well, I guess they’re “Alternative Facts” now) every day for the whole month. Well, last year I kinda had my Dave Chappelle moment, as I noticed some folks retweeting them who were laughing at me and not with me. You know the type. We call them “deplorables” now. Anyway, it was kinda eye opening for me, so I’m taking the year off. Don’t get me wrong – there are a few of those that were comedy gold, and I’ll probably tweet them as they pop up, but I’m not doing the full-on campaign this year. I think it needs to be rebranded.

Last night, I had the honor of joining The Kliqnation’s Comic Book Chronicles for their 200th episode. They are definitely my favorite comics podcast (Hell, they’re the only comic podcast I even care to listen to these days), and I’m really proud of them for doing the good work week in and week out for all these years. I remember their first episode like it was yesterday. Anyway, we had a great time discussing the latest releases of the past 2 weeks, so check it out!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

  • Tamron Hall left NBC this week, after it was announced that her hour of The Today Show with Al Roker would be eliminated to make room for Megyn Kelly.
  • The Oxygen network will rebrand itself as a crime destination channel for women. So, if you ever wanted to know how to get away with killing your husband, Oxygen’s got you covered.
  • Sharknado 5 was announced, with Ian Ziering and Tara Reid returning. This installment will feature them fighting sharks across Europe. Personally, I think this franchise is beyond done, but I know I’ll watch it.
  • The seventh seal is broken, as Queen Beyoncé announced she’s expecting twins.
  • The Get Down‘s Yahya Abdul-Mateen II has been cast as Black Manta in the Aquaman film, while Nicole Kidman is being eyed to play Aquaman’s mother. Ooh, she’s entered that phase of her career…
  • Fox has passed on producing the Black Lightning pilot, so now the show is being shopped to The CW to join the other Berlantiverse series.

Nobody had a week like Winona Ryder at the Screen Actors Guild Awards last Sunday. Her show, Stranger Things, won Outstanding Performance By An Ensemble In A Drama Series, and Winona’s facial expressions were all over the place. It’s all folks could talk about when they weren’t talking about politics, so I think Winona Ryder had the West Week Ever.

27th Jan2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 1/27/17

by Will

In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, Star Trek Discovery is delayed, and will not make the previously-announced May premiere date. Keep in mind that this is actually the second postponement of the show, as it was originally slated to premiere this month. The fact that they were dragging their feet on casting convinced me that it wouldn’t make the May date, mainly because I didn’t think they could get the effects done in that amount of time. After all, they first announced they’d cast their lead exactly a month ago. Plus, it still seems like they’re trying to figure out how lead Sonequa Martin-Green is going to juggle roles on both Discovery and The Walking Dead. All I know is that the CBS All Access streaming service is basically dead on arrival, as it’s going to need more programming than just The Good Wife‘s spinoff, The Good Fight. The only way to really gain some sort of foothold would be if they took back the Trek shows from Netflix and made All Access the exclusive North American home of Star Trek (Discovery will already be exclusive to Netflix outside the US), but I don’t know if that’s something all parties would go for. Meanwhile, James Frain has been cast as Spock’s father, Sarek, for the series. I don’t know – the longer the show is delayed, the less I find I care about it.

Speaking of Netflix, they have ordered a reboot of early ’00s makeover show Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. Now, I used to love this show, but I also didn’t know any better. If you never saw the show, 5 gay guys would take some straight schlub and give him a lifestyle makeover to make him a better guy all around. Carson was the fashion guy, and he’d teach you to “zhuzh” your sleeves. Kyan was the hair guy, and he’d teach you how to manage your ‘do. Thom was the decorator, who’d make over your living space. Ted, currently the host of Chopped, was the food and wine guy. And Jai…cute, clueless Jai was the “culture” guy. He’d teach you clever ways to open a CD. No, I’m serious. They never really did find a way to use Jai to his fullest potential. Anyway, the whole show is predicated on the assumption that gays are better than straights in every way. They’re better dressers, eaters, groomers, decorators, and…CD openers. And that’s just a raging ball of stereotypes there. It was an interesting time, as the show kind of helped get gays into households that probably wouldn’t have otherwise accepted them, but there was something minstrelsy about the whole thing. I’d like to think we’ve come a long way since 2003, so the idea of this show being rebooted just sounds like a bad idea to me. Plus, they didn’t contact any of the original guys to come back, so it won’t even have a nostalgia factor to it. So far, everything I’ve read about the reboot seems to agree with me that it’s not a good idea, but what do I know? What do y’all think?

Fox has ordered an X-Men TV pilot, with Burn Notice‘s Matt Nix attached as showrunner. Apparently, it will focus on a family on the run and, based on Nix’s past experience, they’ll probably be assisted by a hot chick who could use a sandwich or three.  My biggest problem with the news, however, is that Bryan Singer will reportedly direct the pilot. Yes, he has experience with the X-Men film franchise, but it’s time for new voices. Plus, he shat the bed so badly with X-Men: Apocalypse that I feel like his mutant card should be revoked for a while. He’s been attached to the X-Men franchise for 17 years, but all of his contributions haven’t been great. I’d be fine with him as a consultant or even a producer, but I don’t think he needs to direct this thing. Then again, it’s just a pilot, so maybe it won’t even make it to series. Right now, critics are raving over FX’s Legion, which is loosely tied to the X-Men franchise, so maybe it’ll take center stage and the Nix show will be passed on.

Speaking of Singer’s X-Men franchise, with its wonky continuity, Hugh Jackman has been saying that Logan won’t be set in the common X-Men film timeline that we’re used to. Now, it’s not quite clear how we should take that, seeing as how the films don’t really adhere to a clear timeline, especially after the events of Days of Future Past. At this point, I hardly care. I just want a good movie. I mean, it’s set in the future, and for it to be “in continuity” would effectively be painting themselves into a corner. That’s why futures in comics are always “possible futures” because A) the future (hopefully) isn’t set in stone and B) it’d be bad for storytelling if they set out to say it was THE future. Anyway, we got the final trailer last week, which gave us a much better look at Laura/X-23. I’m really getting excited for March!

And while we’re talking about March movies, we FINALLY got the full trailer for Power Rangers, and it looked pretty good. To a lot of my friends, I’m “The Power Rangers Guy”, so they’re kinda curious to know what I thought about it. Let’s just say I’m cautiously optimistic. There’s a lot to hate in what we’ve seen, and I hated how most of the reveals we got came from the lackluster toyline than from actual footage. Now that we’ve seen footage, however, I think this could be something good. I still don’t think it’s going to beat Beauty and the Beast or anything, but it could turn out to be a pretty good popcorn movie. I like the design of Cranston as Zordon, I liked Bill Hader as Alpha, and the action looked pretty good. Still not sure about Goldar, and I’m actually kinda worried about Elizabeth Banks as Rita. Every time we’ve seen her, she seems to be chewing the shit out of the scenery, in an almost Divatox kind of way. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out.

It’s like they’re trying to completely throw away the West Year Ever honor I gave them, as DC Entertainment made some questionable moves. First up, it’s reported that they’re going back to square one on their Flash adaptation, so look for a delay to be announced any day now. Since losing director Rick Famuyiwa, Warner Bros has decided to take the film in a new direction while star Ezra Miller gets ready to film the sequel to Fantastic Beasts. Meanwhile, they announced that The Rock will star in a Black Adam movie, separate from the planned SHAZAM film, in which he’ll portray the villain. From day one, I’ve said that Johnson was a terrible choice for Black Adam because he’s the villain of the story, and there’s no one in Hollywood at the moment who’s charismatic enough to go toe to toe with him and have the audience root for him. Everyone LOVES The Rock, so who’s going to want to see him lose? If anything, he should’ve been cast as Captain Marvel himself, and then some lesser star could bulk up to play Black Adam. Right now, I feel like this movie is going to sit on a shelf until the fates align and Hollywood’s next It Guy reveals himself. Zac Efron? Could he be Captain Marvel? Could he successfully share the screen with Johnson? We’ll soon find out in Baywatch, but I worry that the film is never going to come together due to imbalanced casting.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Scarlett Johansson split from husband of two years, Romain Dauriac. I still haven’t forgiven her for hurting Ryan Reynolds. Then again, I haven’t forgiven him for hurting Alanis Morissette. They all mean so much to me.
  • Speaking of Alanis, her former manager admitted to stealing close to $5 million from the singer
  • Former star of Disney Channel’s Jessie, Debby Ryan, is rumored to have been cast as Dagger in Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger series based on the Marvel characters of the same name. Meanwhile, relative unknown Noah Gray-Cabey is rumored to have been cast as Cloak
  • Miles Morales, and not Peter Parker, will be the focus of the upcoming animated Spider-Man film. Know what would’ve made this news more awesome? If it was live action instead of animated. Oh well…
  • In a move that I’m sure was surprising even to its cast, ABC renewed The Middle for a 9th season. This is a bold move for a show that really seemed like it was packing up about 3 years ago.
  • Speculation abounds, as it was revealed that the next installment in the Star Wars film series is subtitled The Last Jedi
  • Now that SuperMansion is on Adult Swim, nobody is ever watching Crackle again since Jerry Seinfeld just inked a $100 million deal to move his Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee series to Netflix
  • Breakout new series of the season, This Is Us, scored a 2-season renewal from NBC
  • Speaking of NBC, after much back and forth, it was finally confirmed that Will & Grace will be returning with a 10-episode order.

This is going to be something of a “drive-by” West Week Ever. You see, I don’t really want to get political on here, as there’s enough of that online. That said, I think it’s going to be pretty hard not to be political in the near future. All I’m going to say is that I think the biggest pop culture “news” story of the week was the Women’s March on Washington. America Ferrera, ScarJo, and others spoke, while Madonna made a few controversial statements of her own. A lot of folks feel like performers should just perform and not have political views, but I think those people are going to be sorely disappointed for the foreseeable future. Personally, the march was good to me as it brought a lot of cool folks to town – many of whom I haven’t seen in quite some time. I’m not going to get into the particulars of it, as there are other places you can go for the full story. What I do know is that it set a record for Metro ridership, and the crowd dwarfed that of the inauguration that took place just a day prior. So, with that in mind, the Women’s March on Washington, as well as the various “sister marches”, had the West Week Ever.

23rd Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/23/16

by Will

Happy Birthday to me!!! Seriously, I should’ve just taken the week off, since A) it’s my birthday, B) I blew my blogging wad earlier this week, and C) nobody ever reads this thing on holiday weekends. So, brace yourself for the most phoned in West Week Ever you’ve ever seen!

Earlier this week, I posted The Greatest Threat To The Direct Market Comic Retailer IS The Direct Market Comic Retailer. Plainly put, comic retailers are their own worst enemy, but the industry also isn’t helped by the dinosaurs (both retailers and consumers) who refuse to grow with the times. There’s not really much more I can say that I didn’t say in the post, but check it out if you haven’t yet. It’s gotten some great feedback, and I’m pretty proud of it.

Justice League Action finally premiered last Friday as a “special” on Cartoon Network. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my DVR. Look for a review next week. In the meantime, when looking for this image, I found a lot of YouTube clips using the word “FAIL” in regards to the series, so I guess folks aren’t liking it? Or maybe it’s the fact that it’s geared towards younger kids while older folks were probably hoping for a JL show like we had 10 years ago? Like I said, I’ll form an opinion by next week.

In Power Rangers news, Lionsgate continues to fail at properly marketing the film, as the toys keep revealing more than the studio. Earlier this week, a Toys “R” Us commercial online revealed the movie design for Rita’s henchman Goldar, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It’s interesting that he shares similar design aspects to the Megazord, complete with wings and head shape. It just looks like someone poured melting gold on the Megazord. Is that what happened? After all, Rita’s suit is clearly a damaged Green Ranger suit, so is Goldar a damaged zord? Anyway, I’m hoping this is one of those designs that just doesn’t translate well to plastic, but will look better onscreen. Maybe? Hopefully?

I had the pleasure of joining my pal Corey Chapman for the latest episode of The Chap Report, where we discussed a LOT of politics. Like, a lot. If you only like me ranting about toys and comics, you’d probably best skip to halfway into the episode. Otherwise, enjoy as I talk about Russia, Trump, and Rogue One. Check it out here!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The old folks just don’t know when to quit, as we got word that both The Expendables 4 and Sex and the City 3 are happening. I’ve never seen any of The Expendables franchise, while I skipped out on SATC after the first one where we learned Miranda had let her bush become a forest. Poor Steve…
  • Journey, Electric Light Orchestra, Tupac, and some other folks will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yeah, Tupac. I’m just happy about Journey and E.L.O.  Now, let’s just hope former Journey frontman Steve Perry shows up for the ceremony.
  • Seth MacFarlane’s unfortunately unfunny Patrick Stewart vehicle, Blunt Talk, has been canceled by Starz after 2 seasons.
  • Some chick named Camila Cabello left something called Fifth Harmony. I am old, and don’t know what either of those things are. No, I’m kidding. It’s a girl pop group, but I can’t name a single one of their songs. Anyway, the other 4 Harmonies will carry on, but that can only work for so long.
  • Blizzard confirmed that the character Tracer in the video game Overwatch is a lesbian, and a certain corner of fandom lost their shit. No, I’m not gonna say their name because they’re always searching for that kind of thing. Let’s just say it rhymes with Hamerhate.
  • Blac Chyna took her baby and left boyfriend/baby daddy Rob Kardashian. I feel bad for Rob, but that’s what you get for having a baby with a chick whose name makes her sound like a really racist supervillain.
  • The Ghostbusters 101 comic was announced, which will see the original Ghostbusters travel to an alternate dimension to team up with the 2016 “Answer The Call” Girlbusters.

So, I guess it’s pretty obvious that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the belle of the ball this week. I mean, I haven’t seen it, but people I trust saw it and really liked it. I hear there’s so many great characters, like Trixie Bang Bang, Gay Karate Man, and Sass Bot. To be honest, I’m in no real rush to see it. Just like I don’t like my Trek without an Enterprise (with DS9 as the exception), I don’t like my Wars without Skywalkers. I get that this sets up A New Hope and everything, but that just isn’t enough to get my butt in a theater seat right now. Still, it has made $290 million in the US at this point, and that’s nothing to shake a stick at. So, in a week where very little happened, nothing even came close to the status of Rogue One, and that’s why it had the West Week Ever.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kickin’ Kwanzaa, and maybe I’ll see ya again before the new year!

16th Dec2016

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

by Will

The biggest news of the week is probably the fact that Star Trek Discovery is finally getting somewhere, as they cast the lead role of the series. Sonequa Martin-Green, most recently of The Walking Dead, has been cast as Lt Commander Shaznay Jenkins. I totally made up that name, but she will be playing a lieutenant commander, as they felt there have been enough Trek properties that focused on captains. Surprisingly enough, she’s still keeping her job on The Walking Dead. Now, I wonder if that’s actually true, or if they just don’t want us thinking too hard about the fact that her character is probably gonna be zombie chow soon. In all honesty, though, it makes sense for her to keep that job, as the Trek gig is supposed to be a one-season story. If there even is a second season, it’s unlikely it would follow the same cast, as that was never the original intention (keep in mind, intentions may have changed now that Bryan Fuller is no longer attached to the show). Still, it’s basically January (which was the original launch month), and they’ve got to put this thing together by May, special effects and all? I totally wouldn’t be surprised if it gets postponed again. I mean, they already missed the 50th anniversary, so they might as well just say “Fuck it” and take their time. Anyway, I wonder how Black they’re gonna take her character. Like, will she be Girl Sisko, or will she be more subdued? I mean, Sisko was In-Tense unless he was playing baseball.

 In WTF? news this week, Wonder Woman was removed as a United Nations Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls – just TWO MONTHS after receiving the honor in the first place. It seems that some folks were upset that a fictional character got the honor when there are real women out there fighting the good fight. Also, they felt that she wasn’t “culturally encompassing” (Too White) and “overtly sexualized” (Too Damn Hot).  Apparently, the UN received a petition with more than 44,000 signatures asking for her removal, from inside and outside the organization. This is a tough one. On the one hand, she is a fictional character, so it probably is a slap in the face to some women out there. But on the other hand, this is what you wanna waste your petition power on? Plus, it should be pointed out that honorary ambassadors tend to be fictional characters, as goodwill ambassador is the role reserved for the living. Former honorary ambassadors include Tinkerbell (honorary ambassador of green) and Winnie the Pooh (honorary ambassador of friendship). The character was chosen due to her roots in feminism, but many felt that she didn’t embody the image that the UN should be putting forth to the world.

In other DC Comics news, there are reports that Margot Robbie is donning the Harley Quinn costume again for a Gotham City Sirens movie, directed by Suicide Squad‘s David Ayer. I actually really liked Robbie’s Harley, so I don’t mind this one bit. I was also a big fan of the Gotham City Sirens comic, which was a buddy team-up between Catwoman, Harley, and Poison Ivy. They weren’t quite villains, but weren’t heroes either. They were almost like a super Golden Girls, lending support to one another. Sadly, though, they’re saying that Megan Fox is lobbying for the role of Poison Ivy, and that’s not a good fit in my opinion. But this is a DC movie, where they’re not known for their smart decisions, so Fox will probably get the part.

I’ve written about how good Boom!’s Power Rangers comics are, and the Kimberly-centric Power Rangers: Pink is no exception. The comic focuses on Kimberly after she leaves the team to go train for the Pan Global Games, with Kat taking her place on the team. Well, when the French village where her parents live is attacked, and the residents are turned into fish monsters, she’s called back into action. The Power Rangers are off-world, so they can’t help her, but Zordon utilizes the Sword of Light from “The Power Transfer” to infuse Kimberly with his own power. As the threat gets more intense, she realizes she needs a team of her own, and she goes and seeks out fellow former Rangers Trini and Zack. They end up with these cool, redesigned almost black ops versions of their MMPR suits. As the story goes on, they recruit 2 French teens to round out the team. At the end of this week’s issue, however, they threw us all for a loop when it was revealed that Trini and Zack are now a couple. Now, I’ve never been a fan of “shipping”, but I guess I always assumed Trini and Billy had an unspoken love, since they were the two smart ones on the team. I can’t even remember Zack interacting with Trini on the show, but somehow this comic makes it seem plausible. I’m really enjoying how these books are playing with continuity, managing to make stories that still “matter” even if they aren’t part of the canon that we’ve come to know.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC announced that their Taken prequel series will premiere February 27th. I’d watch a Taken prequel film, with a digitally de-aged Liam Neeson, but I have no interest in a TV show. There are NO stakes, considering we know he lives to be featured in THREE movies!
  • Taran Killam will assume the role of King George III for Hamilton on Broadway. I think this is PERFECT casting! It’ll be like his Jebediah Atkinson character on comedic steroids.
  • Tarek and Christina El Moussa of HGTV’s Flip or Flop announced their separation, following a crazy incident last May where Tarek flipped out and ran into the woods with a gun. Christina is reportedly now dating one of their contractors. And they still expect the show to continue!
  • Patrick Wilson was cast as Ocean Master in the upcoming Aquaman film. I’d ask “Who?”, but I know who he is. I’m just not impressed.
  • While we still await the first broadcast cancellation of the Fall TV season, Netflix cancelled Marco Polo, and WGN America cancelled Salem. I don’t even know why WGN tried to get into original programming. Manhattan failed, Salem failed, and Underground‘s days are probably numbered, as I’ve never met anyone who’s watched it.
  • R.L. Stine will be writing Marvel’s Man-Thing. Aw shit, son! They gonna get Goosebumps on their Man-Thing?! Better get some cream for that!
  • TBS renewed recent West Week Ever recipient Search Party, as well as Wyatt Cenac’s People of Earth for second seasons.

It ain’t easy being Black in professional wrestling. It’s even harder to be THREE Black guys in professional wrestling. Yet, somehow, New Day has risen above it all, and this week they were heralded as the longest-reigning tag team champions in WWE history. The previous record was 478 days, set by Demolition members Ax and Smash, but that was also a different time. In a lot of ways, that’s what’s so conflicting for me. I mean, what does it really mean to hold a belt over a year in the rigged world of “sports entertainment”. Back when Demolition did it, we still kinda pretended the stuff was real, in an era of gimmicks and ring names. Now, the title is held by Kofi Kingston, Big E Langston and Xavier Woods – all names that would’ve been held by “jobbers” 30 years ago (for y’all not into wrestling, a jobber is the no-name guy who’d get into the ring with someone like Hulk Hogan in order to make Hogan look better. Now they’re referred to as “enhancement talent”. Sounds like the ability to make your penis grow at will or something, but I digress…). So, now that the curtain has been pulled back, and we know how the sausage is made, what does it truly mean for New Day to be the champions?

Some might say that this is a triumph for Blacks in wrestling and, in many ways, it is. I mean, Vinnie Mac doesn’t cotton to minorities too often, so the fact that he hasn’t stripped them of the title either means that there’s nobody in the locker room with the heat to do it, OR he actually believes in them. I’d like to think that he’s caught up with the times and that it’s the latter. Still, when the #BlackExcellence hashtag started circulating earlier this week in regards to New Day, it was proven that many fans aren’t as “progressive” as McMahon. The slurs and insults began to fly! But is anyone surprised? I mean, it’s still 2016, where everything is horrible.

I’ve seen New Day, and I can believe the hype. It’s really hard to hate those guys, as they just bring a certain energy to wrestling that wasn’t there before. I can’t explain the Booty O’s and the unicorn horns or any of that, as I’m a casual wrestling fan these days, but whatever they’re doing is working. I will say this, though: I find the whole “record” thing funny because how is it a streak if you’re not constantly defending your title? For example, I saw them at my first live wrestling experience a few months back, and they lost. But their title wasn’t on the line that night. How convenient. It doesn’t mean much if you can just pick and choose when the title is on the line. At least, that’s not how I would run MY wrestling promotion. I’d have hardcore rules on all the titles, so you could get a chair to the head while standing at a public urinal, and it would all be legal. But I can’t give away ALL of my million dollar ideas!

On top of breaking the streak, this week also saw the release of a beautiful 3-pack of WWE Elite figures of New Day from Mattel. Designed to look like a cereal box of Booty O’s, the whole package is amazing. The figure sculpts are great, and it’s a package so gorgeous that you won’t want to open it.

Yes, everything was coming up Milhouse for New Day this week, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

02nd Dec2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

28th Oct2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

16th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

She put the “her” in “hurt

She put the “y” in “try”

She put the “S-O-B” in “sober”

She put the “hang” in “hangover”

She put the “ex” in “sex”

She put the “low” in “blow”

She put a big “F-U” in my “future”

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14th Sep2016

Ooh Baby I Like It Raw: My First Live Wrestling Experience

by Will

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I suffer from the fact that I belong to too many fandoms. Throughout my life, I’ve found myself “retiring” from some in order to join others. Just as I consider myself a retired Trekkie, the same could be said for my membership in the wrestling fandom. I’ve loved wrestling since I was a kid, but I never really glommed onto it like some folks did. I have the distinction of missing, basically, every important movement in the industry. I didn’t have cable growing up, so I missed the Monday Night Wars. I completely missed the Attitude Era. I’ve never seen John Cena in his prime. No, my wrestling fandom occupied the quieter spaces, such as when The Undertaker became the American Badass or when Too Cool were tearing up the tag team division. Of course, I couldn’t ever be considered a “true” fan, however, because I had never been to a live show. Well, that all changed Monday night as a friend and I made the trek to the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore to attend a taping of WWE Monday Night Raw.

First of all, let me just say that it was a dream come true. I’d always wanted the live WWE experience, but had never really had the chance to attend.  I will say, however, that the WWE cameramen are frickin’ magicians for making such a small area look huge on television. For example, the ring was a lot smaller than I expected it to be, but the biggest surprise was how short the entrance ramp was. On TV, that thing looks to be about 30 feet long, when it’s really about 10. So, when Undertaker makes those long, dramatic entrances, he’s probably moving about as fast as that sloth from the Zootopia trailer.  It’s also odd how quiet the match is since you can’t hear the commentators. Instead, you just hear the ring noises and the chants from the crowd (early on, they tried to get a “CM PUNK!” chant going, but most folks weren’t having it).

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When we first got in, they were filming a match for WWE Superstars, with Darren Young and Neville vs Titus O’Neil and Curtis Axel. I didn’t know who any of those guys were. Well, no, that’s not exactly true. I knew them from the toy aisle. After all, the inability to find a Neville figure kept me from trying to complete the Paul Bearer Build A Figure. And until my friend, John, reminded me, I had completely forgotten that Young had come out as the first openly gay professional wrestler last year. I also didn’t realize that Axel was Mr. Perfect’s son. Seems like he should be playing off that legacy more instead of doing whatever it is his gimmick’s supposed to be.  Anyway, I didn’t even know what was going on because they were playing with my sense of “normalcy”in the WWE. I mean, since Young and O’Neil are both Black, I was sure they were partners in the match. Well, imagine my surprise as I witnessed the Black on Black crime of Young kicking O’Neil in the face! No, these dudes were NOT on the same team. After that, my brain and sense of everything I thought I knew about wrestling were so screwed up that I can’t even tell you who won. It didn’t matter, though, as Raw was hitting in the next 60 seconds.

The show started with a recap of the rise of Kevin Owens. I’m not sure I like that guy. I know he’s risen from the indies, but he looks like the grown up version of every childhood bully. Still, folks seem to like him – especially now that he’s the WWE Universal Champion. Anyway, that would all have to wait for later in the show. No, to kick things off, there would be a Triple Threat Match between Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, and Bayley – the winner of which would face WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte for the title in 2 weeks at Clash of Champions.

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Charlotte is one mannish looking chick, but you haven’t really lived until you’ve done the Flair “Wooo!” with a couple thousand other people.  I get the feeling she really wouldn’t be much without her father’s (Ric Flair) involvement. She’s kinda riding on the coattails of the limo riding son of a gun. Sasha lost the title to Charlotte back at SummerSlam, after a botched slam that looked like it might’ve been career-ending. Instead, Banks showed up on Raw last week, saying that she had some bad news for Charlotte: she would be taking back her title at Clash of Champions. Well, it’s TV, and WWE still has two more weeks to fill, so general manager Mick Foley decided there should be this three-way match between friends Banks and Bayley against Brooke.  Going into it, you knew that Banks would secure her title shot at Clash, but they still had to make it look like it was in jeopardy. This is where it was funny to watch the difference between seeing it live and seeing it on TV. In a real fight, you’d probably just all attack each other at once, but this was a carefully planned ballet. Banks would get knocked out of the ring, and then she’d just chill on the floor for about 10 minutes, DOING NOTHING. I mean, she kinda straightened out her hair and groomed herself, but she was clearly waiting for her cue to come back in the ring. The ladies gave it their all, and I was actually pretty impressed by Dana Brooke. She didn’t have the typical build of a WWE female wrestler, and she seems like she could be a dominating force if they remain committed to developing her. I still don’t get the hype about Bayley, as last night wasn’t too strong a showing from her. Anyway, Banks won like you knew she would, but they’ll probably throw some monkey wrench into things next week.

Next up, Bo Dallas went up against some dude who must’ve won a contest or something. I figure he was from a local promotion, like MCW, but he was clearly a nobody meant to job this match. I don’t know much about Dallas other than what I learn on TMZ, but the crowd didn’t seem to like him. There were lots of chants of “Let’s go, Jobber!” Anyway, I think the match was probably about the same length as CM Punk’s UFC debut the other night.

Next up, there was a Best of Seven Series between Cesaro and Sheamus. I didn’t really know who I was rooting for in this match, as I’ve never really liked Sheamus, but Cesaro looks like the dude who’s banging your recently divorced mom. The problem with the match, however, was that they went into it with a record of 3-1, in Sheamus’s favor. So, there are 7 matches, 4 of which had already been fought, so simple math and logic dictated that Cesaro HAD to win just to keep the series interesting. That said, considering this was match 5 of the series, both of them were just kind of phoning it in. I’m sure match 7 will knock it out of the park, but this match just felt like they were going through the motions. And, of course, Cesaro won.

Then, we had Alicia Fox vs. Nia Jax. Fox seems ghetto fabulous with her weave, while Jax is really just built like someone’s fat mom. She’s kinda like if Chyna and Luna Vachon were spliced together. Before coming out, Jax was talking about how she planned to beat on Fox, and GOD did she deliver. She swung her around by her hair, slamming her into the barricades. Finally, she speared Fox through a barricade and basically left her for dead.  A bunch of officials came out to check on Fox, but Jax eventually got tired of waiting around and simply walked back up the ramp to the backstage area. After about 5 minutes, the officials were able to help Fox up and walk her to the back.

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Next up, we had the New Day. I’d heard so much about them that I was glad to actually see them live. They’re interesting to me, though. They straddle a very thin line between entertaining geeks and Sambo caricatures for the modern age.  They started out by talking a lot of trash about Gallows and Anderson’s performance last week. Well, of course, Gallows and Anderson came out, and they had a non-title bout. I really thought New Day were going to pull this one off, but since they didn’t stand to lose their tag team titles, I guess all bets were off. They got manhandled! I was begging Kofi Kingston to make a tag, but he just couldn’t get back to his side of the ring. It was kinda sad to see the once boisterous trio have their asses handed to them like that.

The next bout was WWE jingoism at its best. Out came Jinder Mahal, who was a brown dude talking about how he’d found “inner peace”. I know my WWE enough to know that we’re supposed to hate the brown foreign guy – ESPECIALLY the day after 9/11. As my friend was wondering who would end up fighting Mahal, out ran Jack Swagger. That’s a name I hadn’t heard in years, as I really thought he’d been released or something. Apparently he’s got some patriotic “We The People” gimmick now. Well, this triggered chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd, as everyone was boosting Swagger as the hero. Well, let me remind you that it was September 12th and not the 11th. Had this match happened at Backlash the night before, then Swagger would HAD to have won. But it’s September 12th, baby – back to business as usual. Despite having found peace, Mahal thoroughly beat up Swagger.

Next up, we had Enzo and Big Cass going up against the Shining Stars. While I’d heard of the former, I’d never heard of the latter. Again, based on WWE’s history, it was kinda obvious which way this was gonna go. Were folks gonna root for the fun guidos from Jersey or the brown guys from Puerto Rico? I was amazed, though, by the pop that Enzo and Big Cass got. They were truly…electrifying. The crowd knew every word to every part of their promo, and you can’t teach that! I was telling John that I felt Enzo was really just an evolution of Scotty 2 Hotty, but Too Cool never got anywhere near the amount of adoration from the crowd as these guys did. Still, the Shining Stars cheated and got the win.

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Finally, it was time for the main event: Universal Champion Kevin Owens vs Roman Reigns. Owens was already slated to defend his title against Seth Rollins at Clash of Champions, but if Reigns managed to win, the there would be a Triple Threat title match at Clash. Now, I’d heard that Reigns is kind of a polarizing figure in the world of wrestling, but it was completely different thing to experience it live. He was booed just as much as he was cheered.  The crowd broke out into the opposing chants of “Let’s go, Roman!/Roman sucks!” As I said earlier, I’m still not sure I’m sold on Owens yet. After all, I never watched NXT, and I barely ever watch Raw anymore (3 hours of wrestling is too much damn wrestling on a weekly basis. Especially now that SmackDown Live means there are 5 hrs of wrestling on TV in a 24 hr span of time), so I don’t know much about the guy. I just don’t like his look. Still, Owens is pretty good on the mic, so that was entertaining. When it comes to wrestling, though, his moves just seem sort of sloppy to me – especially the Cannonball. Anyway, both guys gave as well as they got, and it was a decent match. Before the match, however, Mick Foley warned Seth Rollins not to interrupt the match, so I spent most of the time watching the backstage area, waiting for the Rollins run-in. And I wasn’t disappointed! Rollins ran in to disrupt the match, and he was quickly followed by Foley and some officials. They led Rollins out, at which point Foley surprised everyone by saying “Restart the match!” And this is when things got GOOD. What had merely been a decent match then became a great match, as both were fighting like they had something to prove. And the near-pins were incredible. There was a point at which you could tell that they were both even surprised the match was still going. And then Rusev ran out. While Reigns was distracted by Rusev’s appearance,  Owens came up behind him and got the pin for the win. Meanwhile, Rusev’s valet (and wife) Lana came out with his US Championship belt, and just stood there, pointing, as Rusev beat the shit out of Reigns. I had no complaints about that at all. After the live broadcast ended, the crowd broke into a chant of “Thank you, Rusev!”, which prompted him to find a mic and yell back “I don’t need your support!” Meanwhile, Reigns took his sweet time getting up, and slowly made his way out of the ring and up the ramp.

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In all, it was a great show. Had this been the last Raw before Clash of Champions, I’m interested enough that I’d probably watch the PPV. Knowing, however, that they still have another week to screw things up makes it less of a “must see” thing for me. I will say that I was disappointed that Stephanie McMahon and Triple H weren’t there, but apparently Stephanie was in Singapore speaking at a conference (kayfabe?). I thoroughly enjoyed my first Raw experience and I’m dying to go again. It might have been my first time, but it certainly won’t be my last.

 

09th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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