22nd Jul2016

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

by Will

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On the movie front this week, all I watched was The Night Before. In case you forgot about it, it’s the film where Det. Robin John Blake, Falcon, and Green Hornet have a crazy adventure on Christmas Eve because of some weed they got from General Zod. Yeah, I’m a comic book kid, so that’s the lens through which I saw this movie, at least at the beginning. Once that wore off, I took it for what it was, which was a laugh riot. I know Seth Rogen is polarizing, kinda like Will Ferrell, but I thought this movie was hilarious.

I’d never seen Anthony Mackie in anything not a Marvel movie, so it was nice to see he’s got comedic chops. Rogen delivered what you’d expect from him (including the obligatory cameo from his bromantic partner, James Franco), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was good as the straight man. When they were in college, Gordon-Levitt’s parents were killed by a drunk driver at Christmas, so his friends, Mackie and Rogen, start a tradition where they hang out every Christmas as his new family. Well, fourteen years have passed, and things have changed. Rogen is married with a baby on the way, Mackie is a successful NFL player, while Gordon-Levitt is just sort of coasting through life, with a dead end job and a recently failed relationship. With everything changing, Mackie & Rogen decide that this is going to be the last Christmas they uphold their tradition, but aren’t quite sure if Gordon-Levitt can handle it. Meanwhile, they score invitations to The Nutcracker Ball, which is this insane Christmas party they heard about years ago and always wanted to check out. Throw in some drugs, Ilana Glazer, some dick pics, and subtle Home Alone references, and you’ve got yourself The Night Before. Again, I really enjoyed this movie, even though The Nutcracker Ball was something of a disappointment. I mean, it had been built up as this sort of tribute to Bacchus, but all it ended up being was a bar party with a Miley Cyrus cameo. Anyway, I can totally see making this a part of my Christmas movie rotation.

Daddy Kirk

In movie news, they’re already talking about Star Trek 4 set in the Kelvin Timeline. Now, the fact that they want to continue the franchise isn’t much of a surprise, but it is interesting considering there is basically no hype for Star Trek Beyond, which officially opens today. I mean, this is the movie opening during the Star Trek franchise’s 50th anniversary, and nobody seems to care about this thing unless they’re already a Trekkie/Trekker. The movie doesn’t seem to be tracking that well for the average theatergoer. Anyway, they’re saying that Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role of Captain Kirk’s father from the 2009 film, albeit with more screen time this go ’round. On the one hand, I get it, but on the other I don’t. Sure, he’s Thor and he just had a turn in Ghostbusters, but Hemsworth is far from a “bankable star”. Blackhat bombed, The Huntsman: Winter’s War bombed. He’s one more bomb away from being the next Jai Courtney. It’s not unusual for a studio to get a jump on planning a sequel, but I really think they’re going to be disappointed by this weekend’s Beyond box office, making them rethink plans for the next one.

divergent

In other movie news, it’s being reported that the finale of the Divergent film series will skip theaters entirely, and be reformatted into a TV series. The Divergent Series: Ascendant was supposed to open in theaters next summer, but the box office reaction to the last film, Allegiant, wasn’t so positive. At this point, it’s not even clear if the film’s cast would be included in this TV adaptation, or if there would be a new cast entirely. Franchise star Shailene Woodley said that she doesn’t know what’s going on. I have no clue what this franchise is about, as I’m not a 14 year old girl. Since it’s based on a young adult novel, I take it to be about a strong, courageous young girl who will lead them all. Only they’re not hungry in this one, right? I dunno, man. Anyway, this is the second time in recent months that a film sequel was reported to be retooled for television, as Kevin Smith said the same thing was happening with the sequel to Mallrats. I know the television landscape is changing, but this still feels like something of a vote of no confidence.

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

Power Coins

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

 

Things You Might Have Missed This Week 

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

Ducktales

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

PokeGym

  • In Pokémon GO, I took over my first gym! I promptly lost it about an hour later…

  • Chris Piers (@chrispiers) is at it again with the Comic Tropes, this time examining the tropes of Frank Miller.
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Ya know what? I think Ghostbusters had the West Week Ever. Sure, nobody really talked about it after Monday, as the attention turned to the online harassment of film costar Leslie Jones (poor thing!), and then to the Republican National Convention. We ain’t got time for politics on here, so the RNC certainly didn’t have the West Week Ever. No, Ghostbusters opened to a respectable $46 million, making it a record for both Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy (it beat the $39 million debut of their collaboration The Heat). It did not, however, beat The Secret Life of Pets, nor does it seem like it’ll be released in China, where movies go to make back their budgets and then some. Still, it did well enough for Sony that they’re already discussing a sequel and, while it wasn’t a $100 million blockbuster, the “haters” didn’t win, as the film did find an audience. So, with all of that in mind, and the sheer fact that nothing else great has happened so far this week, Ghostbusters had the West Week Ever.

15th Jul2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

08th Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/8/16

by Will

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I really thought about skipping this week. I mean, a lot of y’all missed last week’s post (based on my stats), so it’d be “new to you”! The main reason I thought about skipping is that I just didn’t know if I could do this. I’ve always liked when, after a tragedy, late night comedy shows would “break kayfabe” and actually address the matter at hand. It’s funny because I recently tweeted that folks needed to stay in their lanes. For example, if you’re a retro pop culture blogger, it’s kinda jarring when you start screaming “BENGHAZI!” Well, I’m gonna veer out of my lane for a bit. You might hate it, or you might agree with it. At the end of the day I still got your click. No, this needs to be said.

There’s something wrong in this country. Honestly, there’s a lot wrong with this world, but I’m trying to localize it somewhat. It strikes me as odd that in the same week we celebrate “freedom” and “independence”, a lot of people out there are still in danger. They’re being hunted. When these police shootings really started booming, it was always argued that “Well, he did X to deserve this.” As none of us were there, we don’t know WHAT happened, but I find it hard to believe that he needed to be KILLED. The part that really gets to me is that this is being done by the people who are supposed to be protecting us. I mean, if we can’t trust them, then who can we trust?

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I don’t like to talk about race. Hell, I don’t like to even think about it. Call me naive but it boggles my mind that there’s a disparity between people based on the color of their skin! I mean, that’s so asinine, but it’s been going on since before I was born, and will probably continue after I’m gone. As I sit here, with my White wife and halfy baby (What? Don’t like “halfy”? Would “zebra cake” be better?), I tend to feel isolated from some stuff, while other times race is very obvious to me. I’ve had folks tell me I only got into Cornell because I was Black. I’ve had an ex-girlfriend’s grandfather proceed to wash his hands in front of me after shaking mine. I’ve had a racist call me a “nigger” MANY times and challenge me to a fight at a traffic light. I’ve had some “in your face” kinds of stuff, but I try to carry on. Still,  I’m tired. I’m tired and scared.

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I like to drive around a lot. I drive just to waste gas. Sure, it’s usually for a toy hunt or something, but at the end of the day, I’m just wasting gas. I drive at all times of day or night. Why? Because I’m weird. But now I’m scared. Last night, after the news of the Philando Castile murder at the hands of police, I was at my mother’s house because I go over there every week to take her trash and recyclables to the curb. Well, I tend to also fall asleep when I’m there, waking up around 2 or so in the morning. And for the first time, I was scared to go home. I didn’t want to drive the 10 minutes home, risking my life in the process. I mean, here I am, driving my wife’s car, in the middle of the night. I could hear the pundits now “Why was he out that late?” and “Well, why was he in someone else’s car?” Do White people have to premeditately justify their murders? For all I know, maybe they do. Maybe it’s the fault of the “media”. All I do know is that I ain’t hearing about Conner and Troy getting shot by police, and when they do something wrong, I’m told of all their accolades and shown pictures of them in prep school blazers. I often think about which picture they’d use or which social media post will be taken out of context should I end up dead. That’s not how life’s supposed to be, right? Or is this just the sign of the times?

I’m so glad I don’t have a son right now. Like, really glad. I mean, I’d always wanted “one of each”, but I honestly don’t know how to raise a son in this world. I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, hoping I would get some sort of insight on how that process goes. Sadly, he hadn’t really figured it out either. Sure, I’ve got a daughter but, at the moment, society just sees her as something to eventually fuck but not to kill. Yay?

I don’t want to live like this anymore. People say “Black Lives Matter”, and they’re immediately met with “All Lives Matter”. If that were true, we wouldn’t have had to drill it down to just Black people. I don’t doubt there’s shit you don’t wanna deal with while being White. You probably feel like we ask for too much, and other -isms are constantly trying to change your way of life. I can understand that. But can’t we just agree that Blacks don’t deserve to be MURDERED? BY THE FUCKING POLICE? Can’t we just do that?

What really scares me is how many of my White friends get silent on the matter. It’s like we’re cool until the shit goes down. I tend to live online, so I have a lot of friends that others would just consider “friends”. What I mean is that I don’t see these people often (in some cases we’ve never met), but I actually consider them important in my life. But what’s going to happen when/if something happens to me? Will they join the chorus of “Well, he shouldn’t have done X”? Really? You’ve known me on here for how many years, and you think I’d start shit with a cop? And that’s the problem: a lot of folks aren’t doing ANYTHING confrontational. They’re complying and cooperative, and they’re STILL getting killed. But to the All Lives Matter crowd, surely I had to have done something wrong, right?

We DESERVE to live and be protected. Our kids DESERVE to live and be protected. I DESERVE to live and be protected. But who’s watching out for us?

So, I guess you came here for some pop culture stuff, and “the show must go on”, so let’s get to it.

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In comic news, Marvel announced that recently introduced character Riri Williams will be replacing Tony Stark as Iron Man at the end of Civil War 2. The character is a 15 year old accepted to MIT who manages to build her own War Machine armor. Oh, and she’s Black. So, you can guess where the comments sections went on this one.

The Invincible Iron Man comic is currently written by Brian Michael Bendis, whose writing I enjoy despite the fact that he was a douchenozzle to me one time. I do have a problem, however, as Bendis will be writing Riri, as well as Miles Morales. This means that two up and coming Black Marvel characters will be written by the same White guy. Now, I’m not saying that Black characters have to be written by people of color. I think everyone has experiences that can influence how they approach different characters (All Writers Matter. Heh). That said, it does occur to me that both characters are basically in their formative years, as both are around the same age. Adolescence is a challenging time, and when you add in minority identity development, it becomes even more complex. I think I’d feel better if a character who’s not quite sure where he/she fits into the world was written by someone who has known how it felt to not really know where they fit into the world. G. Willow Wilson, a Muslim, writes Ms. Marvel, and it seems like such a natural fit. Even though a convert, she has an understanding of what Kamala Khan’s life must be like. One day, however, some writer will come along who isn’t Muslim, but by then the groundwork will have been laid. I think I want a writer of color to lay the groundwork, and for Bendis to come along later. But she’s his creation, and he’s earned his place with Marvel, so I don’t see that happening.

I could very well be wrong, and I’m willing to admit that, but I just feel like Bendis has a monopoly on the young, cool Black characters at Marvel right now. He’s already created Riri, so it’s got that Bendis stamp on it, but maybe pass it off to David Walker or one of the few others that exist but I’m clearly forgetting. And where are the Black women writers? This would be a great book for them, as they’d bring different experiences to Riri. Anyway, I’ll be buying the book, as I like where it’s been going, but I won’t stop wondering what might’ve been.

In TV news, it was announced yesterday morning that Uncle Buck was cancelled by ABC. It’s not all that surprising because the show was clearly experiencing a Summer Burn Off, but I can’t help but feel that it might’ve had a shot at another season had it been named something else. At the end of the day, the nostalgia folks don’t like to have their properties co-opted, no matter how 3rd-tier they might be. We’re already seeing this with the upcoming Ghostbusters film, but I’m also reminded of the race-flipped Honeymooners that NOBODY went to see. And then they come along and do this to Uncle Buck. I think part of the issue is that White people had no real desire to see a race-flipped Uncle Buck because John Candy. Meanwhile, Black people don’t really have any affinity for the Uncle Buck “brand”. To us, John Candy was, and will always be, the dude from Cool Runnings. So, there really wasn’t an audience clamoring for it packaged this way. Had it been named any other thing, maybe it would’ve had a chance? Then again, it costarred James Lesure, who’s basically the Black Ted McGinley. Farewell, Uncle Buck. We hardly knew ye.

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In movie news, it was announced that John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu will be the Star Trek franchise’s first gay character in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond. Sulu will also have a husband and a daughter. It’s reported that writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin made the decision as a nod to original Sulu actor George Takei who’s become quite the LGBT activist over the years. Now, I’ve got the same questions I had when Marvel did this with Iceman. If the Kelvin Timeline Sulu is gay, does that mean the “regular” timeline Sulu is also gay? I mean, we already met his daughter in Star Trek Generations, but we never got into his sexuality. I guess I’ll let the fanfic kids work that out. Anyway, in an interesting development, Takei has said that he’s actually disappointed in the move, as it’s not what Trek creator Gene Roddenberry originally intended. Reportedly, when Takei learned that Pegg and Lin wanted to reveal that Sulu was gay, he pleaded with them to create a new character instead. I get what he’s saying, but I’m pretty sure that very little of the Kelvin Timeline is what Roddenberry originally intended, so I think they get a pass here. Still, I’m not the This Is OK police, so it doesn’t really matter what I think.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix has signed a deal to exclusively stream CW shows 8 days after the season finale airs.
  • Comic publisher Valiant racked up 50 Harvey Awards nominations, making some wonder if the system is broken. At the moment, nominations are voted on by comic industry professionals, but it seems odd that a company that hasn’t had an Eisner Award (basically the Oscars of comics) nomination in the past 2 years would rate so high at the Harveys. I tried to start the #HarveysSoValiant hashtag in protest, but it didn’t take.
  • BeFunky CollageTRHMTTMy pals over at The Robot’s Pajamas were kind enough to let me write about about the hottest moms on the shows that your kids love. I’m equal parts proud and ashamed of this post, so please validate me by checking it out!

  • Speaking of Robot’s PJs, Chris is at it again with a new Comics Tropes video. This time, he celebrates America by checking out a vintage Captain America comic, and setting off some kick ass fireworks!

I don’t write much about wrestling these days, and I really don’t write about TNA wrestling. If you don’t know much about wrestling, there are basically two big companies: World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Total Nonstop Action (TNA) – they’re the Marvel and DC of pro wrestling. Just like with comics, there’s a market share disparity, as WWE is everywhere, while TNA changes networks more than its fans change their underwear (ooh, sick burn!). TNA is really unstable, with reports of its demise surfacing on an almost weekly basis. Still, when you’re not the big dog in the yard, you can make some interesting creative decisions. And that’s exactly what they’ve done with the war between Matt and Jeff Hardy.

If you were a fan of WWE back during the early ’00s, then you know Matt & Jeff better as the Hardy Boyz or Team Xtreme (with Lita). They were highflyers who loved to jump off shit. They were basically backyard wrestlers who’d finally made it to the big time. And they were AWESOME. I loved Team Xtreme and all their moves, like the Twist of Fate and the 450° splash. Then life happened. Matt was dating Lita, Lita was having an affair with another wrestler named Edge, and then the whole thing became part of the ongoing TV storyline. The Hardys kinda fell from grace, but eventually resurfaced at TNA.

Some years passed, and I became more of a fair weather wrestling fan, so I missed a LOT of stuff. Anyway, recently Matt Hardy adopted this new persona with a janky accent and this streak in his hair. He became obsessed with defeating his brother, Jeff. Matt referred to Jeff as “Brother Nero” and made it his mission to take him out. What’s funny about the whole thing is that the storyline very much adheres to cartoon guidelines from the 80s. Like, did Matt want to KILL Jeff? Not sure. But I do know that he wanted to “delete” him, whatever that means. So, this week on TNA Impact Wrestling, we finally saw The Final Deletion. It’s so great, guys! It’s like Sharknado in a So Bad It’s Good kind of way. It felt like porn without the sex, which can be quite entertaining due to the bad acting and production values. I posted the “director’s cut” of the whole saga above, and I implore you to take the 17 minutes and check it out. Everything is great, from Matt Hardy’s weird persona, to the hapless gardener, to the drones, to the chaos of the battlefield. It’s just…I mean, if this is what TNA is gonna do every week, I will happily turn in my WWE fan card. Three hours of RAW and two hours of Smackdown are too much WWE anyway. After watching that video, I hope you will agree with me that The Final Deletion had the West Week Ever.

01st Jul2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/1/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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In the world of movies, Lindsay and I watched Big Hero 6. It’s been on the DVR for, like, a year, so it felt like it was finally time to climb that mountain. I’m honestly not sure what took so long as, on paper, it’s my cup of tea. I mean, it’s an animated Marvel/Disney collaboration. That should be a no-brainer. If you haven’t seen it, Hiro Hamada is a teen prodigy who has graduated high school by the age of 13. Instead of using those smarts constructively, however, he spends his time competing in illegal robot fights. That all changes, though, when Hiro’s brother, Tadashi, takes him to his college to show him the inventions he and his friends have been working on. At that moment, Hiro decides he MUST get into that school. And then some other stuff happens that I don’t want to spoil for you. If you know your Disney movies, you can probably figure it out. It just hit me: ya know why I never really wanted to see this film? It’s for that reason right there. The trailers couldn’t really get into the plot because it would spoil the stuff I can’t tell you about. So, they just showed this kid with a lovable marshmallow-looking robot in a police station, and that’s really all you have to go on. That robot is Baymax, who’s Tadashi’s crowning achievement. He’s a health bot that activates whenever someone says “Ow!’ Anyway, some stuff happens and everyone becomes a superhero. I really liked this movie. I mean really liked it. That said, the ending is kind of funny to me because I feel like Baymax would’ve saved more lives in his original capacity as a health bot than as a superhero, but what do I know? At least it sets things up for further adventures, which we’ll see in the Big Hero 6 TV series that premieres on Disney XD next year.

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Then, I watched Keanu. God, was that a disappointment. Colloquially known as “The Key & Peele Movie”, it stars the comedy duo as cousins who get wrapped up in the drug trade while trying to get back the cat that had been stolen from one of them. But it’s so much more involved than that. You see, the cat originally belonged to a Mexican drug lord, but it escaped when said drug lord was killed by The Allentown Boys (assassins also played by Key & Peele). The cat, then, ends up on the doorstep of Rell (Peele), who takes him in and names him “Keanu”. After a guy’s night with his cousin Clarence (Key), Rell returns home to find that Keanu’s been stolen. So, they set out to find Keanu, and somehow end up in the drug trade because the local gangsters think they’re the Allentown Boys. Meanwhile, the Allentown Boys are trying to track down the guys who’ve been pretending to be them. I guess? There’s no real motivation behind the Allentown Boys. They’re just these supernatural killing machines. The whole movie’s just doing too much. And it’s nowhere near as funny as what you’d come to expect from Key & Peele. It has its moments, but then there’s a lot of weird stuff going on, like how the movie is really just one big George Michael music video. As much as it pains me to say it, I do not recommend this movie.

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On the stand-up comedy front, I caught Deon Cole: Cole Blooded Seminar, which premiered Saturday on Comedy Central. If you’ve seen him on Black-ish or Angie Tribeca, then you know that Cole is HILARIOUS. A former writer for Conan, he’s clearly a funny guy, but I feel like his strengths are outside of stand-up. To say that I prefer his acting doesn’t mean he’s a bad comic, though, and he’s got some funny bits in this special. His writing credits give him crossover appeal, but don’t expect something like you’d get from W. Kamau Bell or someone like that. He’s definitely a Black Comic, and that’s what you get here. Cole actually took over the Comedy Central Radio Drive Home on Friday, where he played some of his favorite stand-up acts. His influences range from Earthquake and Corey Holcomb to Steven Wright and Ellen DeGeneres. He’s got eclectic taste, and that comes across in his stand-up. Anyway, tl;dr it’s definitely worth checking out.

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In comics news, Marvel spoke to Fast Company about an upcoming publishing initiative called “Divided We Stand”. Based on the promo art above, it appears to be The Old Farts vs The Young Upstarts. I really hope it’s not some generational disagreement, like Gen X vs Millennials. It’s also been pointed out that the “old” grouping tends to be less diverse than the “new” grouping. According to Editor-In-Chief Axel Alonso, everyone featured in the teaser images is there with a purpose, be it an upcoming solo book or an integral role in an established book. I’m reminded of one of the last storylines in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, called “Divided We Fall”. While most folks had checked out of those books by that point, there was some really daring storytelling going on, as Captain America was elected President of the United States, mutants were placed on a reservation, and an actual Civil War broke out, with part of the country wanting to secede. It was hastily wrapped up, as Marvel had to get the universe ready for Ultimate End to coincide with Secret Wars, but if this even comes close to what that was, we might be in for an interesting ride. Anyway, the article stresses that the art doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a storyline coming, pitting both groups against each other. After all, we’re just getting into Civil War II, so it’s not like they could go back to that well so soon. But this could be an indication as to how they’re handling the Marvel brand for the foreseeable future. It’s worth noting that there are some important characters missing, like Tony Stark, Peter Parker, or Sam Wilson. Peter might be busy with the whole “Clone Conspiracy” storyline, but I am curious about Tony and Sam. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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In toy news, we’re getting another series of LEGO DC Super Heroes Mighty Micros, coming in January 2017. The sets will be on display later this month at San Diego Comic-Con. It seems kind of interesting that Wonder Woman would come with Doomsday, but I guess they’re trying to capitalize on that pairing from Dawn of Justice (which seems to be the only scene that everyone unanimously enjoyed). As a big fan of the Mighty Micros line, I can’t wait for these, but I still with they came with regular minifigures; instead of the normal legs, they use the stubby Hobbit legs that don’t have leg joints. I’m not sure if this decision was based on a licensing agreement or what, but I’d like to be able to get regular DC minifigures without having to buy big ass expensive sets to get them. Anyway, here’s hoping we also get another series of the Marvel Mighty Micros, as well.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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    • We got a new promo image for the CW’s DC lineup this fall. Kinda hate how Supergirl is the focal point, seeing as how this is all “The House That Arrow Built”, but I understand why. Plus, it’s just better symmetry to have her in the middle instead of Ollie.
    • Wreck-It Ralph 2 was announced, with a release date of March 9th, 2018. One of these days, I’ll finally get around to watching the first one. Fun fact: Brave made more money domestically, yet this is the one that gets the sequel!
    • Captain America: Civil War will be released on DVD/Blu-Ray on September 13th.
    • Preacher has been renewed for a second season on AMC. Quite the feat, considering it was on against Game of Thrones.
    • Backstreet Boys hinted that they might be in the studio with country duo Florida Georgia Line. This is kinda funny, seeing as how FGL have recently started singing “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” at their shows.
    • The J.J. Abrams Star Trek universe has officially been named the Kelvin Timeline, based on the fact that Kirk’s dad commands the U.S.S. Kelvin at the beginning of the first movie. In the real world, Henry Kelvin was Abrams’ grandfather, and has been incorporated into several Abrams projects as Easter eggs.

  • My buddy Chris is at it again with his Comic Tropes video series. This time around, he takes a swing at the tropes of comic writer Brian Michael Bendis, while getting drunk on cider. Check it out!

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It was a great week if you were  a woman and/or person of color in Hollywood, as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences sent out 683 invitations to new members. 46 percent of those invites went to women, while 41 percent went to people of color. If you’ll remember, the Academy, which votes on the Oscars, came under fire this year due to the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag on social media. It was felt that the Academy needed diverse voices, as the films being nominated seemed to represent only a particular segment of the films that were being released. The 683 invites set a record, and they went out to folks like Idris Elba and John Boyega. It’s a funny mix, however. I mean, for every Oscar Isaac and Chadwick Boseman, they also sent invitations to Kate Beckinsale and Marlon Wayans. Tom Hiddleston and Michael B. Jordan? Yup, but you also got Morris Chestnut and Vivica A. Fox. Brie Larson and Rachel McAdams? Sure, but you’re also getting Michelle Rodriguez and Daphne Zuniga. So, if it’s diverse voices that folks wanted, it’s diverse voices they’re gonna get! Still, this initiative seems to move the makeup of the Academy closer to “a jury of one’s own peers”, so maybe the Oscar votes will start to represent what regular people liked instead of being limited to the whims of the stodgy old guard. So, if you were one of the 683 people invited to join the Academy, you’re probably having the West Week Ever.

24th Jun2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/24/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

We’ve got a lot to talk about this week, so let’s get to it, shall we?

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On the movie front, the first thing that I watched was Focus, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Smith plays a con man who takes Robbie under his wing from chump change jobs to the real money jobs. It was entertaining enough, but it just felt like another movie where Will Smith played a version of himself. He never really immerses himself in his roles. Each role is just an alternate timeline version of Will Smith. In this timeline, he wore really nice suits and had an S-Curl. Robbie was fine enough, but I don’t get why she’s the new It Girl. I guess I still need to see The Wolf of Wall Street for that. My problem with heist movies is that my brain doesn’t work fast enough to process what’s going on with the plan. I just blindly accept whatever they’re telling me, and then I end up overanalyzing it once the movie’s over. I’m basically the guy trying to figure out how the magic trick works. Anyway, it was engaging, but it’s also got some twists where you can’t really watch it a second time. Nothing on a “Keyser Soze” level, but I think a second viewing would be affected by what I know now, having already seen it. Anyway, it’s not a bad way to kill an hour and a half.

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Then, Lindsay and I watched The Good Dinosaur with the baby. Since she’s only 14 months old, she kinda watched it while busying herself by climbing on shit. I could think of much better names for this film. For example, it could’ve been called The Dinosaur King, since it’s really just a working class version of The Lion King. Or it could’ve been called Dino Falls, because it sounds like the name of a town, but it’s really because the main character, Arlo the dinosaur, spends a lot of time falling off shit. He falls off cliffs, mountains, etc. It seems like every 10 minutes, he’s getting back up from something, so at least he’s tenacious! Anyway, the story’s about Arlo, the weakest of a dino family, who ends up lost and has to find his way home. On the way, he befriends a caveboy who he initially thought was his enemy. Together, they protect each other in the treacherous environment. It’s got all the Disney tropes you love: dead father, inspirational ghost of dead father, gang of stupid, antagonistic predators. Seriously, the only thing missing was a catchy song or phrase to put on T-shirts (“Hakuna Matata” or “Ohana”, anyone?). Still, even though it’s not considered one of Pixar’s best, and I felt like I’d experienced that story before, I still really enjoyed it. To be honest, I think I liked it more than Inside Out. Maybe it was the hype surrounding that movie, but I just don’t get what you people saw in that film that was so emotional. I was far more touched by the friendship between Arlo and “Spot” than I was about anything going on in Riley’s life. So, you probably didn’t see it when it was in theaters (it was Pixar’s lowest-grossing film), but I think you should definitely check it out now that it’s On Demand and on DVD.

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Finally, I watched Sleeping With Other People, starring Jason Sudeikis and Alison Brie. Sudeikis and Brie lost their virginity to each other in college, and then meet up again almost 15 years later at a meeting for love addicts. It seems that neither has been able to have a successful relationship since college, and they sort of become each other’s support system. Meanwhile, everyone around them knows they ought to be together, but they just won’t pull the trigger. It was a funny movie, with a great cast of funny folks. The part that I loved was that many of them had worked together before, so I kept thinking of this as an extension of those other roles. For example, Brie’s character was cheating on her boyfriend with Adam Scott, so I kept thinking of those Smirnoff commercials with the two of them. Or Sudeikis’s business partner is played by Jason Mantzoukas , better known as “Rafi” on The League, and his character is married to Andrea Savage, who played Rafi’s girlfriend on The League. I love little things like that. Anyway, it’s a romantic comedy, so you know how it ends. Plus, Brie must’ve had a no-nudity clause in her contract, as there was a bra-on sex scene, so that was a bummer. Still, everyone’s got great chemistry, and I enjoyed it.

Big Jay Oakerson

On the stand-up comedy front, I was eagerly anticipating Big Jay Oakerson: Live At Webster Hall, which premiered last Friday night on Comedy Central. I’ve recently heard about folks getting too familiar with podcast hosts because they feel like they know them, and that’s exactly how I feel about Big Jay. Seeing as how I listen to him twice a week on The Bonfire, I guess I’m starting to think he’s my friend or something. Crazy, I know, but I do think we’d get along famously. Anyway, for that reason, I was really happy for him that his one-hour special was finally seeing the light of day. It was a great hour, and he’s truly is the master of crowd work. He doesn’t even have to prepare that much material because he just engages the audience, and he’s quick on his feet. It was definitely one of the better specials I’ve seen recently, but I might be biased since I’m a notch away from being a stalker here.

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Then, I caught Quincy Jones: Burning the Light on HBO. No, not that Quincy Jones. If you’re not familiar with Jones, he gained a lot of attention last year when he appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. You see, he’s got terminal cancer, and only has about a year to live. He wanted to spend that time touring and doing comedy. Ellen hooked him up and got HBO to give him a one-hour special. He had some funny bits, but it felt like he was still workshopping some stuff. It wasn’t a tight hour, and his crowd work struggled a bit because of a weird audience. It almost felt like they were there out of charity, as they knew his situation, and would kind of laugh at stuff that wasn’t that funny. I feel like he probably could’ve had a strong half hour on, say, Comedy Central’s The Half Hour, but he’s not ready for a full hour yet. Sadly, time isn’t something that he has a lot of, so I guess he had to strike when the opportunity presented itself. It’s worth a watch, but go in knowing that it’s not going to be the most polished special you’ve seen.

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In DC movie news, the logo was revealed for the Justice League film. In order to curry favor with the press, director Zack Snyder invited basically every major news outlet to a site visit recently. Though the movie is only 30 days into a 100 day shoot, reporters got to tour the set and talk to Ben Affleck. And of course, all of the folks who were invited are now positive about the movie, saying that Ezra Miller’s Flash will be a surprising bright spot of the film. It seems the Snyders basically brought the press to them for their Apology Tour, but everyone’s drinking the Kool-Aid. An interesting tidbit came out of the visit: though originally reported as a two-part film, producer Deborah Snyder said that Justice League is ONE film. So, that now means that DC has an open release date in which they can slot something else. It’s also rumored that The Flash will be more of a team-up movie with Cyborg, making me think that the Cyborg movie might be inching its way off the table.

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In Power Rangers movie news, a PR alum comes home as Bryan Cranston has been cast as the Rangers’ mentor, Zordon. Cranston voiced a few of the monsters of the day back during the Mighty Morphin days. I wouldn’t call this a casting “coup”, but it really does come out of nowhere. Meanwhile, Lionsgate released the teaser poster for the film, and it’s the most Lionsgatey thing that Lionsgate ever Lionsgated. If you’re not familiar with Lionsgate’s output, their highest grossing movies are angsty young adult novel adaptations, like Divergent and The Hunger Games. And that seems to be the tone they’re going for here, which I was afraid of. It looks like the poster for a show that would air on The CW or Freeform. Yeah, I see the lightning bolt in the stars, but that’s not doing it for me. There’s gonna be problems marketing this film, as PR typically isn’t for the YA set, while this doesn’t look like something kids want to see. I know it’s just a teaser, but I’ll be interested to see how they handle the marketing going forward. Right now, this just looks like the back cover of an Abercrombie catalog…

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In Star Trek news, CBS/Paramount has issued official guidelines for fan film productions going forward. Ever since the drama with the Anaxar fan film, resulting in a lawsuit from CBS/Paramount, folks have wondered how fan films would be handled in the future. Well, now they know. And some folks are up in arms about the guidelines, but I’ve seen some pretty dreadful Trek fan films, and I know that CBS/Paramount are just trying to protect their IP. There are some interesting rules here, though. For example, no one who has ever appeared on Star Trek can be in your fan production, as it must be cast entirely with amateurs. So, no more Walter Koenig and Tim Russ cameos. And you can’t have Star Trek in your title, but you MUST include a subtitle that says “A Star Trek Fan Production”. And if there are commercially-available costumes or props, you can’t use bootleg versions, but must use the store-bought equivalent. So, no more homemade Starfleet costumes. These rules are really going to shackle the hands of fan film producers, but I think abiding by them will result in a higher quality product. I guess time will tell.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott released “Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid)”. Ray Parker Jr’s career is rolling over in its grave!
  • It was revealed that season 3 of The Flash will loosely adapt the Flashpoint storyline from the comics
  • Sony revealed plans for the animated Ghostbusters: Ecto Force. The show will focus on a team of Ghostbusters in the year 2050. Yeah, not quite sure why they need a time jump, but it is what it is. It just has shades of Stargate Infinity and it makes me sad.
  • FX has renewed Archer for 3 more seasons, which is surprising since that show seemed to be winding down. One of these days, I’ll actually watch past season 1.

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      • The Ben 10 reboot will debut on Cartoon Network in North America in 2017, while Playmates now has the toy license. As you can tell from the art, this version seems to be targeting a slightly younger audience than the last show.
      • Jamie Chung has been cast as Valerie Vale for next season on Gotham. Apparently, shes Vicki’s aunt. This fucking show…
      • Former Wonder Woman star Lynda Carter has been cast as the President in the next season of Supergirl. And that’s STILL not enough to make me interested in that show.
      • After already renewing the show for a second season, HBO decided to cancel the low-rated Vinyl.
      • Maisie Richardson-Sellers has been cast as Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow, where she will play the grandmother of current Vixen Mari McCabe, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke
      • Comic writer Mark Millar announced ongoing series for Hit-Girl, as well as Kick-Ass: The New Girl. The latter will feature a young Black woman taking on the mantle of Kick-Ass. One day, I’ll actually get around to reading the finale of the last guy who wore the suit.

  • My pal Chris Piers is at it again with the Comic Tropes videos. This time, he tackles polarizing artist Rob Liefeld and an increasingly hot assortment of peppers. Check it out!

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This week, each day brought us more casting news about Spider-Man: Homecoming. At first, we learned comedian Hannibal Buress had joined the film. Then, Abraham Attah, from Beasts of No Nation, joined the cast. Then Bokeem Woodbine. Then Laura Harrier. And then Garcelle Beauvais. I joked on Twitter that the casting mandate for this movie is clearly “Get all the Blacks who aren’t already in that Black Panther movie!” So, if you’re a working Black actor in Hollywood, you probably had the West Week Ever. And if you didn’t, just sit by your phone. The call is coming!

 

27th May2016

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

by Will

 

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apocalypse

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

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

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

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

soder

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

cap and bucky

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

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

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

winter soldier

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

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

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

TMNT1-1300x

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

SmackDown_2--9a7892a871eb29e1e31a596eadf097b6

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

Links I Loved

Ranking the Megazords – The Robot’s Pajamas

The Case Against Dan DiDio – The Savage Critics

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

DC-Comics-Rebirth (1)

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

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

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

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

DC-Rebirth-Splash

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

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

watchmen1

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

rebirth

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

 

20th May2016

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

by Will

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ladykillers

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

cloverfield

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

jerrod

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

bargatze

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

1893

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

ghostbusters

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

chap report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

06th May2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

prangers

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

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

Supergirl

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

15th Apr2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

mad-tv-logo

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

trek 2017

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

spider-man homecoming

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

doctor strange

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

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

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

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

01st Apr2016

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

by Will

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

mtv spring break

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

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

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

rebirth

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

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

suicidesquad

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

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

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