16th Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/16/17

by Will

 

Hot on the heels of the poster reveal last Friday, we got a teaser trailer for Black Panther during the NBA Finals. And it did very little for me. Yeah, I know. Every other Black person I know is, as they say, “hype” for this movie, but I just have never cared about Black Panther as a character. And I know comic book movies require suspension of disbelief, but Michael B. Jordan plays a villain named KILLMONGER! That’s probably the comic bookiest name I’ve ever been forced to take seriously. It certainly looks colorful, and it’s gonna make all the monies, but I’m gonna need to see more before I get too excited.

Let’s talk about Black Panther for a minute, though, as I think people are conflating his comic book success with his appearances in all other media. At the moment, there are currently 3 Black Panther comics on the stands: 1) Black Panther, 2) World of Wakanda, and 3) Black Panther & The Crew. Also at this moment, the latter two have already been canceled. I’ve seen people online saying that Marvel should rethink their stance, considering all the views the trailer has racked up in its week online (22.6 million as I write this). I get what they’re trying to say, but it’s a faulty argument. Their assumption is that people are clamoring for all the Black Panther they can get, when it’s really just this one movie to which they’re looking forward.

When the Black Panther comic was relaunched last year, written by author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the first issue sold over 250,000 copies, which was a rare feat for 2016. Now, however, the book sells about 1/9 of that amount, and is still decreasing. Ya see, Coates was hot shit because of an article on reparations that he wrote for The Atlantic. Why someone thought that would translate into a successful stint writing comics is beyond me. Marvel struck while the iron was hot, though, and they were able to ride the Coates wave, but anyone who’s actually read the comic knows that he’s more about political drama than superhero action. People came to the table to see what he’d offer, but over time they’ve realized they’re not picking up what he’s putting down. Still, Marvel gave him yet another series, Black Panther & The Crew, which probably should’ve been called Black Panther and His Negrotastic Pals. I bought the first issue, but the book was canceled before I even had  the chance to read it, so womp womp. It could be argued that Coates wasn’t the right choice for the book, but I think a better explanation is that Marvel blew their wad too soon. They should’ve been launching these spinoffs in the wake of the trailer, not cancelling them. Still, the damage is already done, so it’s not like they can let them tread water until the movie is released. If anything, they’re gonna have to cancel and relaunch if they want to capitalize on movie buzz. The ship, however, has sailed for the books currently on the market because this trailer is not going to serve as the shot in the arm that some folks seem to believe it to be.

Fox has got the ball rolling on X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the follow-up to the disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse. It will be directed by Simon Kinberg, who has no directing experience by the way, and is slated to be released November 2nd, 2018. And the gang’s all here, with Fassbender, Lawrence, and McAvoy are all coming back. If you remember, they tried to act like they were on the fence about returning after Apocalypse, but I guess they love money too much. Meanwhile, they’re saying that Jessica Chastain is being pursued to play alien Shi’ar Empress Lilandra, who lets Xavier bone her every couple of years. Did I mention that Kinberg wrote X-Men: The Last Stand? Ya know, the LAST time they did the Dark Phoenix storyline?! THE ONE EVERYBODY HATED?! So they’re basically giving him do-over! Everything about this sounds terrible, but we’ll probably get another cool Quicksilver sequence out of it, this time set to La Bouche’s “Be My Lover” or some other disposable 90s pop song.

Normally, I’m all about those stories where they “get the band back together”, so I was definitely surprised when this video hit the Internet this week. I miss the age of the $20 million comedy, where Hollywood was cranking these things out monthly in the mid ’00s. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was one of my favorites, so I had high hopes for this thing, whatever it was supposed to be. Still, 13 years have passed since the movie, and this “return to the well” felt just as stale as Zoolander 2. Its saving grace is the fact that it’s only 4 minutes long (which still, somehow, feel like an eternity). I don’t even know where to start with this thing. The unfunniness of Stiller? The weak delivery from Christine Taylor? Or the fact that I don’t have a clue as to what the Hell Omaze is? Apparently it raises money for non-profits, but it’s far from a household name. I don’t know if this is the bold step Omaze needed to take to make a name for themselves. “Hey, look – we’re making a mini sequel to a 13 year old movie that didn’t need a sequel!” This thing seems dead on arrival, and I’d love to somehow be able to track the success/failure of this marketing initiative. Ugh, so much potential, squandered.

Bachelor in Paradise had its production suspended this week after accounts of “misconduct” began to surface. According to varying reports, Corinne Olympios from the most recent season of The Bachelor was involved in some pretty “heavy petting”, as your grandma would call it, with DeMario Jackson from season 13 of The Bachelorette. From what I heard, they were both drunk and tried to have sex. DeMario, unfortunately, couldn’t…”ready his soldier for battle”, so he “went downtown” instead. Corinne’s friend, who’s a producer on the show, told her that it’d look bad for her to be getting serviced on camera like that. A lot of other contestants reportedly witnessed the event, and said that the two were even seen canoodling together later that night. Then, Corinne started saying that she couldn’t remember the events of the night, and that she had never given consent for what happened. So now both sides are lawyered up, blaming the other for character assassination and worse. Oh, by the way, if you’re not familiar with Bachelor In Paradise, it’s a spinoff where the contestants are encouraged to get drunk and try to fuck. So…mission accomplished?

The format of the show was just asking for a controversy like this, and I’m amazed that it took this long for something like this to hit the Bachelor franchise. I don’t know anything about DeMario, but the one season of The Bachelor that I watched featured Corinne as the villain of the season. She was constantly boasting of her sexual prowess, saying things like “My ‘vagine’ is platinum.” Her tactic to win the show was to throw herself at The Bachelor early and often. Now, some folks are gonna interpret this as me saying she “deserved” this. If this was sexual assault, nobody deserves something like that. All I’m saying is that she was strategic in using sex to get what she wanted, and quick to cower when it didn’t work out as planned. Bachelor Nick Viall rebuffed all of her advances last season, and she’d end up pouting in her room, or taking a nap during the rose ceremony. She was notoriously immature yet manipulative. Word on the street was that she was up for her own show, but this little episode might’ve jeopardized the chances of that.

The most interesting part of this whole thing is that THEY HAVE THE TAPE! LET’S GO TO THE DAMN TAPE! How damning is that tape that it hasn’t been released yet? The production is most likely over for good, as the contestants have been sent home. The future of the show is in jeopardy because of this ordeal as there doesn’t really seem to be any coming back from this. The reality show fuck house actually turned into a fuck house. I guess their plan worked a little too well. If the show does come back, this is a watershed moment for dating shows, as nothing will be the same after this. Remember how talk shows changed when the Jenny Jones Murder took place? After that, they all became more staged, and Jerry Springer thrived in its wake. Now you can’t trust anything you see during daytime, while a show like Donahue couldn’t exist in the current climate. They’re gonna have to treat future iterations of The Bachelor with kid gloves, which isn’t what people come to see. When folks watch these shows, they wanna see if the contestants are gonna hook up. Now, they realize that standards and practices won’t allow that to be shown, but they still wanna see as much as the network will allow them to see. All these years after Joe Millionaire aired on Fox, folks don’t remember it for its janky premise (poor guy pretends to be a millionaire in order to find love from a pool of gold diggers), but rather for the scene of “Joe” (Evan Marriott) and contestant Sarah Kozer in the woods with some intense slurping on the audio. Lewd, yes, but boundary-pushing for 2003 and everyone was talking about it. The goal of these shows is to produce something to dominate the conversation for a while and, in that case, this whole thing has been a success. Still, there are serious matters at hand that need to be addressed, as folks are losing jobs (DeMario got fired for the allegations), and could also end up in jail.

After something like a year in teases, we finally have our release date for the DuckTales reboot: Aug 12th. The show will premiere on DisneyXD as an hour-long “mini movie”, and then be rebroadcast for the next 24 hours on the channel. Then,  the series will officially premiere on September 23rd, with 2 new episodes. As you saw above, we also got the new credit sequence and theme song. Some of the old fuddy duddies have taken issue with the remixed theme, but I love it. The most surprising thing to me is the new jacked Mrs. Beakley, but I figure there’ll be an in-series explanation for all that.

In the world of toys, Hasbro unveiled the full Netflix wave of Marvel Legends figures, and they look so great. In the beginning, I was scared these were gonna turn out to be exclusive to a particular retailer, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. We already knew about Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Punisher, but the wave is rounded out by Elektra, as well as comic versions of Blade and Bullseye. As an added surprise, there’s a Build A Figure in the form of Man-Thing. That character means nothing to me, but I’ll be buying the whole wave, so someone give me a shout if you wanna buy Man-Thing off me. That’s right, I’m offering my Man-Thing in exchange for money. I think that might be illegal…

Song of the Week

This week’s song is Morgan Wallen’s “The Way I Talk”, mainly because I completely identify with it. If you’ve ever spoken with me, the first question people tend to ask is “Where are you from? You sound SOUTHERN!” Also, I spent more time than I’d like to admit trying to figure out if that actually was a sample from Spacehog’s “In The Meantime” at the beginning (verdict: inconclusive).

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • CMT is seriously considering reviving Tim Allen’s canceled ABC sitcom, Last Man Standing. They already air the reruns, so it seems like a natural fit.
  • An Injustice 2 eSports tournament will air on TBS in October. We’re really trying to make “eSports” a thing, huh?
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has been renewed for a 4th season at Netflix. One of these days I’ll finally finish seasons 2 and 3…
  • Aisha Tyler announced yesterday that she will be leaving The Talk at the end of the season, due to her current commitments on Criminal Minds, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, and Archer. Plus, she’ll be directing an upcoming film. Yeah, that’s probably enough jobs for one person.
  • Someone named Anthony Padilla is leaving something called Smosh. Apparently it’s a thing on the YouTubes. If you’ve got a tween, they can probably explain whatever this means.
  • In an update to something I mentioned last week, Sony has revised their plans to sell clean versions of their movies. Since it was found that the plan violated union contracts, now Sony will only offer clean versions of movies that have been approved by the director.
  • ABC has renewed “Toy Shark Tank”, AKA The Toy Box, for a second season.
  • I took a trip down memory lane to talk about the old Toy Biz Customer Service hotline.
  • In a baffling move, Amazon is buying Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. I haven’t been as confused about a business deal since K-Mart bought Sears.

When I first started West Week Ever, I came up with a No Death Policy. Even though I get kinda negative on here, I still want it to be a positive place. I have a bit of an odd history with death, as I became acquainted with it at an early age, so I like to stay away from all that. Plus, there’s that problem where if you mention one death, you’ve gotta mention ALL the deaths, and ain’t nobody got time for that – especially if that death didn’t really mean anything to me. Still, when I created this feature, I always knew there would be at least 2 important exceptions. I wasn’t looking forward to them, but given their age and health, I knew it would be something I’d have to tackle eventually. Sadly, one of those deaths occurred last Saturday.

When I was growing up, there were few things I looked forward to as much as the 1966 Batman series, weekday afternoons on Fox 5. While I’d gotten the Super Powers Batman and Batmobile toys when I was around 4, I really didn’t know anything about Batman until I was introduced to that show. Hell, I remember how I used to think Batman could fly. I mean, he had a cape! All people with capes fly, right? Anyway, like any kid, I was mesmerized by the POW! ZAP! BIFF! of the fight sequences. I was on the edge of my seat for the end of episode cliffhanger. I’d tie a sheet around my neck, and shadow box along with the Dynamic Duo as they fought King Tut’s goons. I also had a next door neighbor, Brian, who was a few years younger than me (he was 7 when I was 11, as I remember him thinking that was cool), and he worshipped the ground I walked on. He’d come over, and we’d be Batman and Robin, fighting invisible goons with gadgets I’d made from Construx and jump ropes. My concept of Batman was formed by Adam West and Burt Ward, walking up the side of buildings with their Bat Ropes.

As I grew up, I was introduced to other depictions of the Caped Crusader. I started reading comics in ’92, around the time that the classic Batman: The Animated Series debuted. Those versions of Batman were totally different than what I’d grown up knowing. The environment wasn’t as campy, the world was a darker place, and Batman wasn’t doing the Batusi. Over the years, I’ve had even more versions of Batman that I’ve compared to West’s rendition, but I’ve come to appreciate him even more. While the world around him was wacky, West’s Bruce Wayne/Batman was solid. He was smart, calculating, and always knew more than the folks around him. Can you imagine a “Tower of Babel” storyline (the classic JLA story where Batman takes down the rest of the Justice League using contingency plans he’d set up for all of them), starring West’s Batman? I can, and it would be AMAZING.

It seems life wasn’t too shabby for West offscreen, either. According to several stories, he was quite the hit with the ladies, and even had an 8-woman orgy with Riddler Frank Gorshin. ZOWIE! While he never really achieved mega success with anything else, he still established himself as a cult superstar, with his turn in Conan O’Brien’s failed pilot Lookwell, as well as his role as Mayor West on Family Guy, which introduced him to a new generation of fans. Other actors who portrayed Batman went on to other things. For Clooney, Kilmer, and Bale, the role is just another notch on the IMDB profile, but West WAS Batman. With the exception of probably Kevin Conroy, no one else has been so closely identified with the role as Adam West. At the end of the day, he’s the Batman that I always come back to, and the one to which I compare all newcomers. Adam West, born William West Anderson (hey, look at that!), was MY Batman and I think we were all lucky to have him. No, he didn’t have the West Week Ever. I don’t think that’s enough of an honor to indicate what he meant to me. So, with that in mind, Adam West is the inaugural inductee to the West Week Ever Hall of Fame. Farewell, old chum.

13th Jun2017

Toy Biz Hotline Bling: I Used To Call You On My Wall Phone

by Will

If you’ve been to this site before, you were probably brought here for my weekly pop culture news review, West Week Ever, that I post every Friday. It didn’t always used to be like that, though. No, I used to write about anything that popped into my mind, as you’ll see in my archives. Over my time online, however, I’ve found that anything I can do, a lot of other folks can do better. When it comes to the nostalgia game, no one does it better than Matt over at Dinosaur Dracula. So, imagine my surprise when something popped into my head that he hadn’t covered yet! That’s right, kids – today we’re gonna talk about the Toy Biz Hotline.

A few days ago, I saw that a Facebook friend had shared the video for a Knight Rider hotline where you’d call and K.I.T.T. would tell you a story. Considering William Daniels actually respects himself, it was more likely the chance to hear a randomization of pre-recorded dialogue from a K.I.T.T. impersonator. One of the perks of calling the hotline, however, was that you’d receive a free “Wuppie”, which is basically a cotton ball with googly eyes and feet. You’d be surprised how many hotlines used the promise of a Wuppie to lure kids into calling.

If you’re a youngin’, then let me educate ya on something: the 80s were chock full of these hotlines, mainly because we didn’t have the Internet yet and unscrupulous business folks learned how to monetize that thing hanging on your wall in the kitchen. To put it in 2017 terms, 900 numbers were the “in app purchases” of the 1980s. While they were required to tell kids to get their parents’ permission, these hotlines were designed to trick kids into racking up high phone bills – ya know, so they could talk to Santa and get a toy cotton ball.

While we were obsessed with our phones in a different way than we are today, I can assure you that not everything was designed to make a dollar. Before you could tweet your displeasure at a company account, you used to have to call them. That’s right, you had to be indignant and ask an employee, “What’s the number for corporate?!” Remember, you couldn’t Google that shit yet. If they weren’t too busy using that slide thingy to process a credit card transaction, they would take out a Lisa Frank pen and write down a number for you. If you were lucky, that number would connect you to a phone system that MIGHT eventually lead to a real person on the other end. Basically, customer service was handled solely by phone. Some companies, instead of just waiting around for complaints, decided to be proactive with their customer service hotlines. That’s what brings us to Toy Biz.

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/x-men-toy-biz.html

“But what’s a Toy Biz, Uncle Will?” Well, back in the late 80s/early 90s, all comic book-based action figures briefly came from the same company! I’ll let you catch your breath there for a minute, as I know that’s a crazy notion in today’s competitive world. Not only did Toy Biz land the license for 1989’s Batman (for which they produced an assortment of a whopping THREE figures), but they also handled DC Comics Super Heroes, based on Kenner’s old Super Powers molds. Then, shifting into the 90s, they dropped DC in favor of the Marvel license when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter bought the company. We initially got a Marvel Super Heroes series, but their real claim to fame was the 8,000 X-Men figures they would go on to produce. I’ve always said that nobody mines a property quite like Playmates, but Toy Biz was a close second.

This was probably the first toy line to teach me about waves, meaning that the toys were released in batches at a specific time.  Most toys don’t include an “evergreen” line of toys that you can always find on shelves at any time. They used to differentiate the multiple iterations of a character by Roman numeral. So, “Wolverine” eventually gave way to “Wolverine XVII”. For example, if Wolverine II came out in September of 1994, then you’re probably not gonna be able to find him on shelves in October of 1995, because Wolverine III will be out by then. How would you know which figures were supposed to be in stores, without your parents wasting all their gas driving around? That’s where the Toy Biz hotline came in.

 

Listed on the cardbacks of all Toy Biz figures was a hotline that you could call that served as Toy Biz’s customer service line: 1-800-634-7539. While I guess you could call them to let them know your Colossus had two left legs, that’s not why people called it. No, the hotline had a prerecorded message where an emotionless male voice rattled off the names of the figures in the latest wave, in many cases mispronouncing them because they couldn’t give two shits about what they were actually saying. So, you’d get them just putting two words together, like “Omega Red”, but you’d also get mistakes like them calling the X-Men villain “Mag-NET-o”, instead of “Mag-NEAT-o”. I can’t speak for other folks, but I didn’t care! My best friend, Brett, and I used to call that number ALL THE TIME. It was the centerpiece of our sleepovers. It was like “So, should we call the number?” as if we were discussing digging out one of our dad’s old Playboy stash.

From what I could gather, it seemed like the message was updated about every 6 months or so. As the Toy Biz catalog increased, the message got longer. There was the X-Force subset, and the Hulk series, the Fantastic Four series, and more. If you wanted to, you could just listen to the dude drone on for a good 30 minutes. I have to admit, though, that once Power Rangers mania hit, I left Toy Biz in the past. So, I missed the evolution of the basic figures into the dynamic, articulated sculpting of the Marvel Legends that soon dominated Toy Biz’s offerings.

The hotline also had an answering machine portion, where you could ask questions about the toys. You were told to leave your name, number, and address, and they would get back to you. To date, I don’t know a single person who ever heard back from them. According to this article, it doesn’t seem like anyone heard back from them.

Since most of Toy Biz’s output was Marvel figures, it made all the sense in the world for them to change the name to Marvel Toys in 2007 – only to give up the Marvel license to Hasbro later that year.

So, we were left with a Marvel toy company that couldn’t make Marvel toys, and the company circled the drain as it cranked out Lord of the Rings and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling figures. The hotline remained a fixture on Marvel Toys packaging through the release of 2007’s Legendary Comic Book Heroes line. By this point, they had established a website, but were still advertising the number as the best way to reach them. In 2008, with no fanfare, the Marvel Toys website was taken down, signaling the end of the hotline and the company itself. Nowadays the number belongs to a DirecTV promotions department.

Despite what the ladies of LiveLinks would have you believe, the age of the interactive hotline is over. The Internet came along with its promises of instant gratification and all the correct AND fake news that you could want. Still, there was something quaint about the “personalized” experience of calling a hotline. Sure, we knew the messages were prerecorded, but that didn’t matter to us. When calling that hotline, we felt like we were getting insider information. We could go back and tell the news to our friends who lacked phone privileges. “Wolverine VII? Yeah, he’s not out yet, but Black Tom Cassidy is. Oh, you don’t know who that is? Well, I can’t help you there.” The Toy Biz hotline: Building fandom snobs before the Internet.

So, am I alone in remembering this? Do any of y’all have fond memories of dialing up this number? Share your memories in the comments!

24th Mar2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/24/17

by Will

What did I just watch? So much to unpack…

I wasn’t going to post this week because, outside of the 2-year renewal for The Big Bang Theory, nothing really happened. Then I walked out of Power Rangers, and I had to do something with my thoughts.

I think I liked it? I’m not even sure. I’ll say that I think I know Power Rangers, and whatever that was was NOT Power Rangers. When we first learned that Lionsgate was going to produce the film, I was worried that they would do to the franchise what they do to everything: make it an angsty young adult adaptation. After all, they gave us The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, and The Divergent Series. And I think it’s safe to say that Lionsgate “Lionsgated” all over this film. Like, the Ranger stuff is almost an afterthought. It’s really just an angsty film about 5 teens who don’t really fit in until they find each other. I’ve watched enough Degrassi and Skins to know this formula. The whole “My friends are my family” routine. I half expected Drake to show up in his wheelchair.

Who’s this movie for? It’s definitely not for the current audience of the TV show, which is fine because they have the show, so they don’t necessarily need the movie. That said, it’s kinda weird to think there’s a Power Rangers movie out there that you probably shouldn’t take your 8 year old to see. I don’t say that based on the content, either; I just feel an 8 year old would be bored to tears by 80% of this movie. Ultimately, it’s for that Lionsgate audience: teenagers. But are teens too cool for school to even go see this film? The trailers want to make you think it’s nonstop superhero action, and nothing could be further from the truth. I think if that audience actually gets into the theater, they’ll enjoy the film, but I’m not sure it’s been effectively marketed to them.

The reason I say it’s not Power Rangers is because the basic premise of the whole enterprise, from the beginning, was that five teenagers with attitude were recruited to save the Earth from evil space aliens. The catch, however, is that the teens have NEVER had attitude. They’ve been goody two shoes since Day One. Even when they’re not initially good, we eventually find out they’ve got hearts of gold. In this film, these teens definitely have attitude which, in some ways, might make it the most true Power Rangers incarnation yet. The question, though, is whether this is what we want. In a lot of ways, the movie made me appreciate the show more, for all its cheesy faults and camp.

I’m kind of all over the place right now, so here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

  • If there’s a sequel, I hope it’s just a day in the life of Billy. I loved that character. LOVED him. Hell, I even loved Zack. The rest? Whatever.
  • Zordon’s an asshole. Like, he served no purpose other than the fact that the mythos calls for a Zordon. He doesn’t impart any wisdom, doesn’t teach them how to use their powers, nothing. He’s just another disappointed father figure to a group whose cup runneth over with disappointed parental units.
  • How much did Krispy Kreme pay in order to figure into the plot as much as they did?
  • It really is The Breakfast Club Gets Powers
  • There’s some pretty heavy stuff here: Kim’s wrapped up in a revenge porn scheme, Jason’s a delinquent, Trini’s got her whole identity stuff going on, Billy’s on the spectrum, and Zack’s got a dying mom. That’s five whole episodes of Skins crammed into one movie.
  • When you get down to it, I found the characters interesting enough that I would’ve watched a movie about them without all the “gotta morph in order to save the world” stuff tacked on. Instead of giving me The Breakfast Club Gets Powers, just give me a reboot of The Breakfast Club
  • Bandai’s shifty, ’cause they’re selling a movie morpher that doesn’t even exist.
  • Cheap ass Saban gave us 15 seconds of the same damn theme from 22 years ago? He couldn’t even re-record it?
  • Wasn’t really buying Elizabeth Banks as Rita, especially during the final battle.
  • The beginning of the film seemed almost like it took visual cues from that Power/Rangers fan film from a few years back
  • Nice Mariner Bay/Reefside Easter egg
  • I don’t get Goldar here. He’s apparently just a bigger Putty, but made out of gold, though he doesn’t seem as mindless. But what is he? Just a controlled automaton? Loyal pet? They clearly have history, but nothing we saw in the movie’s opening flashback.
  • Not a fan of the barely discernible Bayformers Zords
  • Didn’t hate the suits as much as I thought I would, but it would’ve been nice to see more of them…
  • When the Rangers FINALLY morph and fight the Putties, my kingdom for a Mighty RAW song in that sequence! “Combat”, “5-4-1”, “We Need A Hero”, anything. I know those were cheesy songs from the show, but I really wanted to get into a mindset that Kanye’s “Power” didn’t accomplish.
  • As toyetic property, the goal is to make the audience want to go out and buy the toys after seeing the film. For me, the movie didn’t succeed on that level. And I’m not even sure the typical toy audience (kids, not grown-ups with disposable income) are even the target audience for this film.
  • Kinda interesting that they changed Angel Grove from picturesque coastal city to podunk fishing town from which folks can’t wait to escape

Again, I really wanted to love this movie, despite going in with low expectations. I can honestly say that it’s in my Top 3 of Power Rangers films. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not what I would’ve wanted in a Power Rangers film. I plan to see it again with my friends Brandon and John, so maybe I’ll feel differently after repeat viewings. It’s funny – for years, I’ve recommended Power Rangers RPM to folks because it was “the Power Rangers we always wanted”. It was more mature than the previous incarnations, in part because Disney was basically done with the franchise and wasn’t paying attention. I’ve come to realize, however, that there’s a cap to how mature I wanted the show to actually get. If you’ve never seen RPM, the series begins with the annihilation of 99% of the world’s population by a rogue computer virus, with the survivors taking refuge in a domed city. The stakes were higher, which I liked, but I never really wanted to know more about the goings on in the lives of the Rangers themselves. I wanted their world to grow up, but didn’t necessarily want them to grow up with it. I still wanted my technicolored battles in the middle of the desert/quarry/”abandoned warehouse district”. This film, while making the Rangers grow up, doesn’t really place them in a believable world for the Ranger parts of the movie. The concept doesn’t feel completely fleshed out, Maybe this can be dealt with in a sequel, where more worldbuilding can take place.

So, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. I just don’t know how I feel about it, really. I’m not going to say it was bad, because I actually enjoyed most of the movie. I just don’t know if there was a seamless combination between the teen drama and the world saving. I know enough about Ranger fandom to know too many people would love to jump down my throat for not just loving it, but as I said in the beginning, there’s just so much to unpack here.

In other Power Rangers news, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Traci Lee for NBC News, regarding the history of diversity in the Power Rangers franchise. Oddly enough, a lot of what I found fault with in the show was rectified by the movie. In any case, I really love how the article came out, so check it out if you haven’t done so yet.

Oh, and nothing had the West Week Ever. As the Nina Simone sang, “It be’s that way sometimes.”

10th Feb2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

23rd Dec2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

09th Dec2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 12/9/16

by Will

 

 

In Marvel news, we got a new teaser trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Why are there so many teasers these days? We already got a short teaser that actually TEASED. Sure, this was only about 2 minutes long, but back in my day, that was the trailer! Anyway, enough old man ranting from me. It looks good. I love Baby Groot because he reminds me of my toddler. Other than that, I’ve got no real thoughts on it one way or another. I guess I’m looking forward to it? I mean, it’s not marked on my calendar like Logan, but I’ll get excited once it’s closer.

In movie news, it was announced that Amy Schumer was cast as Barbie in an upcoming live-action movie. Yup, that Barbie. And the universe laughed and laughed! Look, I’m probably being more cruel than I need to be, but there’s a reason for it: I discovered last week that she had blocked me on Twitter. Now, I can’t remember ever saying anything disparaging about her, and I say a lot of shit about a lot of people. I certainly don’t remember saying anything block-worthy. So, I’m a little butthurt about that, even though if I were a Black Twitter star, I’d put “Blocked by @amyschumer” in my Twitter bio like some sort of trifling badge of honor. I just don’t get this casting other than the fact that she’s blonde. It also doesn’t help that the movie is reportedly rated PG, so she can’t bring her typical brand of comedy to the mix. Wrong body type, wrong personality. Couldn’t they just put Amy Adams in a blonde wig? Isla Fisher? Is Heidi Klum too old? Katherine Heigl? This casting just seems uninspired. Schumer looks like Barbie after a lot of bad decisions – kinda like how Chelsea Handler looks like someone rode her hard and put her away wet. It’s more a case of Sony and Mattel trying to capitalize on her rising fame than actually trying to cast someone right for the role.

Also, the teaser trailer for The Rock’s Baywatch adaptation was released yesterday. As a lifelong Baywatch fan, I was already a lock for seeing it, but it seems like they’re using the 21 Jump Street formula, so now I’m definitely all-in. It’s basically “What if Ryan Lochte joined the Baywatch team?” I love everyone involved, from The Rock to Zac Efron to Alexandra Daddario. I can’t wait for Memorial Day weekend!

In the world of toys, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that the hot toys of the season are Hatchimals. Basically, it’s a real life Tamagotchi, as you buy an egg that eventually hatches into some electronic Furby-esque toy. They retail for about $70, but they’re being listed on the secondary market from $100-200. Earlier this week, I posted this article about author Sara Gruen who saw the popularity of the toy as an opportunity to raise money for a man serving a life sentence whom she feels has been wrongly accused of a crime. She won’t go into too much detail because there’s a documentary in the works about the whole thing, but she had contributed over $150,000 of her own money to his legal fees, and felt that reselling the popular toy might help put a dent in her debt (She fucking this dude? If I were her husband, I’d be asking a LOT of questions!). Anyway, she didn’t have any clue what she was doing, so she thought it was a good idea to pay 2X retail for 156 Hatchimals, putting her in about $20,000 of additional debt. She had the harebrained scheme to charge FOUR times retail to parents desperately searching for the toy in time for Christmas. OK, let’s look at where she went wrong.

To some, I might be considered a scalper. I, however, think of myself as more of a Collectibles Reallocation Specialist. I try to keep up with what’s hot and, if I come across any, I resell them at a premium. It sounds bad, but I did this to pay for my wedding and never really looked back. If you keep your finger on the pulse, and don’t risk too much money, you can do alright with it. The way I see it, you’re paying a premium for accelerated access. Most of the stuff I sell will become plentiful given time, but the desire to be the first person to post about it online/give your kid something to brag about at Show & Tell drives folks to pay crazy prices for things they could’ve waited on. I’m not a complete dick, though. Kids are my weak spot. You tell me it’s the only thing your kid wants for his birthday, and I cave. So, I’m pretty much just targeting adults because they’ve got the disposable income.

Anyway, I’ve monitored the Hatchimals thing, and considered picking one up if I ran across it. A friend of mine from college is looking for one for his daughter, and so far they’ve struck out. It feels really good to be that last minute Christmas Savior. Not Jesus, but something a few notches below Jesus, like Peter or Moses. Here’s how I would’ve played this whole thing. I would’ve bought 3 Hatchimals. One for my friend, one to definitely sell, and one to sit on. If the selling one went quickly, then the one I was sitting on would go in the chamber. And that’s it. It’s too close to Christmas to really move that many because your avenues are limited. If you were truly enterprising, I’d even say to buy a case. I’m not sure of the case quantity, but it’s probably about 6-8 in a case. With Craigslist, you could move that in time. Here’s where she messed up: she paid $140 for something that cost $70. There’s already no meat on that bone. Had she bought them at retail, she could’ve doubled her money. With what people have been willing to pay, that would’ve been a fine plan. But you NEVER pay more than retail in arbitrage! So, her plan was dead on arrival, mainly because too many people know the market. If the retail price of Hatchimals fluctuated, you’d have some wiggle room, but the MSRP is $69.99, and everyone knows it, so how do you expect someone to fork over a car payment of $280.00?

Remember how I said there were limited avenues? That’s because Amazon bans toy sellers during the holiday season unless they’re having their orders fulfilled by Amazon. Hell, I’ve been selling on Amazon for 4 years, and I still can’t sell during Christmas. So, that wasn’t gonna be an option for her. Then, she went to eBay, but they’re already onto the Hatchimal racket, so they’re now limiting people from listing more than one a week. At this rate, she can sell about 5 before Christmas (based on when she started), and the day after Christmas the other 151 are gonna be worthless because A) the big day is gone and/or B) stock will catch up with demand. She’s NEVER going to make her money back, so she needs to make peace with that now. If she doesn’t want to sit on these things, she needs to start charging MSRP and accept the fact that she’s going to lose half her investment. As we get closer to Christmas, she could even charge about $80-100, but she still has them listed on her site for the recently reduced price of $189. Plainly put, you’re not gonna make the kind of money she needs with TOYS, especially alone and without a distribution network. She would’ve been better off if she’d bought a house from a sheriff’s sale and flipped it. There have since been updates that she received death threats from people who feel like she’s responsible for ruining their kids’ Christmas, which is a bit extreme. Right now, rest in comfort with the fact that she’s in tremendous debt and a horrible businesswoman. She doesn’t need your death threats.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • NBC aired Hairspray Live, or as I affectionately called it Kristin Chenoweth’s Titties Live. Anyway, nobody watched it compared to the other recent live play adaptations.

  • It was announced that Mariah Carey will host YouTube Red’s The Keys of Christmas special. Based on the poster, it should be called Mariah Carey’s Titties Wish You A Merry Christmas, featuring DJ Khaled and Some Dude
  • Reportedly Beyonce’s recording of “Daddy Lessons” with the Dixie Chicks was rejected by the Grammy Country Music Committee. They’ll rue this day when she summons the Phoenix Force to destroy their lives.
  • Candace Cameron Bure is leaving The View, as it has gotten too hectic filming in NYC, while filming Fuller House in LA.
  • Disney released a new teaser for the DuckTales reboot, announcing that it would debut on DisneyXD next summer.
  • The trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming was released last night. It was OK. With the exception of Tony Stark, I didn’t see anything we haven’t seen before. I just hate how every time the franchise reboots, everyone’s like “They finally got it right!” Chill. They got it right in the past, too.

I have officially joined the Bourgeoisie! That’s right, kids – I’ve seen Hamilton. Before you get all excited for me, I didn’t actually go to Broadway and see the show. No, some intrepid soul decided to post a near perfect copy of the show on YouTube, which ended up being snatched down yesterday. Sure, it may lack the “theatre experience”, but if you’ve seen ticket prices AND know of the lack of availability for tickets to the show, then you realize this experience was just as good. In fact, based on the vantage point of the person who filmed it, it’s actually better than what you’d probably be able to afford. I mean, these were GOOD seats. I can imagine someone sneaking their phone in the show like Rerun when he was taping that Doobie Bros concert. Before I get into my thoughts on the show, however, let’s take a trip down memory lane for a minute, shall we?

Back when I was at Cornell, I was really obsessed with secret societies. There was one in particular that every Cornellian wanted to get into, and I made it a side project to get on their radar so I could be tapped. Well, senior year came, and the tap never did. I later found out that I’d been nominated for entry, but I guess I didn’t make the cut. Let me just say this: it was not an honor just to be nominated! Fast forward to some time later, when I was up there for an alumni function, and a friend of mine who had been tapped volunteered to give me a tour of their secret lair (apparently the society was OK with folks using their status to impress friends/troll for impressionable pussy). Tucked away in a Gothic tower, the meeting space he was allowed to show consisted of a stone room with a wooden table in the middle. No, nothing fancy like a Justice League table. This thing looked like it had been picked up off the side of the road. It looked like a Biblical jail or something. Needless to say, I was not impressed. Now, all of this isn’t to say that Hamilton disappointed me like that stone room did, but it is to point out that there’s power in mystery. Hamilton has the reputation that it does because people want to see it but can’t, which only makes them want to see it more. I can’t help but wonder if this YouTube leak was part of an alt-right revenge plot in conjunction with that whole Pence matter a few weeks back. They wanted folks to boycott the show, but seeing as how the vast majority of the population couldn’t get tickets anyway, I guess they decided the best revenge was to kill the mystique around the show, and disseminate it to the masses.

The mystique of not being able to see it certainly helps propel the Hamilton legend forward. I mean, as I was watching it, I spent the first 20 minutes vacillating between “I can’t believe I’m finally watching this!” and “Please, God – Don’t let YouTube snatch this down before I finish watching it!” I didn’t really get into the play until around the point of the song “You’ll Be Back”. I wonder if that’s the same way people feel in the actual audience these days, taken aback by the fact that they’re ACTUALLY seeing Hamilton.

First of all, let’s deal with the pros. It’s really good. I mean, really good. Way better than it has any right to be. On paper, it’s a lame idea from that teacher you used to have who tried to hard to look “cool” to his students. You know the one: “No, ‘Mr. Smith’ was my father. You guys can call me Mark. Anyway, today we’re going to discuss our founding fathers through the medium of rap!” Seriously, it sounds like a trainwreck waiting to happen. But Miranda pulls it off, amazingly so.

Next up is the music. It’s great and it gets in your head and won’t leave. Even before you know the words, you’ll still be humming the melodies. That’s, like, the main goal of any musical composition: for it to make a lasting mark, have an impact. Hamilton certainly succeeds here.

Finally, my favorite character is a foppish King George III played by Jonathan Groff. If you’ve heard the soundtrack, then you already know his songs are funny, but his portrayal is just so great. It has to be seen to get the full effect.

Now for the cons. A friend of mine online pointed out that he didn’t care if he never saw the show, as the whole thing is on the album, and he’s right. A lot of musicals are dialogue-dialogue-BREAK INTO SONG-dialogue, but this entire play is sung or rapped. There’s nothing that isn’t on the soundtrack. That’s good for those who’ll never see the show, but it seems like you’re almost losing out by attending the play, as it has nothing more to offer other than the “Experience!”

I hate to disappoint the lot of you, but this really isn’t a show that needs to be SEEN. It’s not a visually stunning show. I can’t decide if the choreography is understated or just lazy, but I was somewhat unimpressed. By this point, you already know what Lin-Manuel Miranda looks like, so if you just play the soundtrack, close your eyes, and picture him in Colonial Williamsburg, you’ve got the gist of the imagery. The only thing I actually enjoyed seeing was Groff’s King George dancing along in the background of songs.

At the end of the day, it’s an amazing feat of theatre, and I’m glad I saw it. I’m also glad I didn’t have to sell a kidney in order to do so. Considering that the rap approach to Hamilton has made theatre interesting to those who may not typically care for the medium, it’s shame that the show hasn’t been made more accessible. I mean, I understand the idea of wanting to remain the hot girl of the Great White Way, but there are a lot of folks who’d really appreciate it who aren’t going to get to see it. Last time I checked, the YouTube file had already been viewed over 300,000 times. That’s almost better than the ratings for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (I kid, but they’re not much different!). Clearly there is an interested audience out there who simply can’t afford to see the show. Sure, they throw scraps to the proletariat, like the PBS special and The Hamilton Mixtape, but there is a clear class divide between those who can see the show and those who can’t. I think that’s part of the problem I’ve had with the Hamilton phenomenon: it takes the hip hop vehicle and uses it to entertain an audience outside the typical socioeconomic status that actually created hip hop. I don’t quite want to call it “cultural appropriation”, but it’s close. It’s a relatable story about life and legacy, and I think a lot of people would get something out of it. Anyway, if you ever get the chance to see the show, be it online or live, then definitely don’t miss out on the opportunity. Just don’t take out a second mortgage on your house or anything in order to do so. It just ain’t THAT deep.

Meanwhile, all the Hamiltonians were sitting by their iTunes last Thursday night, realizing they’d received volume 1 of The Hamilton Mixtape. Featuring covers and songs inspired by the show, fans are eating it up. I’ve only heard a few of the songs that leaked early, such as Kelly Clarkson’s version of “It’s Quiet Uptown”. I felt she took an emotional ballad and turned it into an overproduced mess that lacks nuance or dynamics. I can only hope the rest of the album is better than that example. Still, like I said, as with all thing Hamilton, fans are loving it. There was no better week to be a Hamilton fan, and that’s why they had the West Week Ever.

26th Oct2016

Comical Thoughts – IDW Presents A Revolution You Can Skip

by Will

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For some time now, IDW has been the comic home of Hasbro’s biggest properties, including G.I. Joe and Transformers. They recently added MicronautsRom: SpaceKnight and UK import Action Man to the mix. So, it seems like as good a time as any to gather them all under the same umbrella in a shared universe. The mechanism for doing this is the miniseries Revolution, which will also result in a long awaited M.A.S.K. spinoff series. While this all might sound good on paper, the execution of it has been horrible. The story runs in a 5-issue miniseries, combined with various one-shots for each property involved. So far, the first 3 issues have been released, as well as the one-shots for Rom, M.A.S.K., and Micronauts. By this point, I feel justified in saying that the story is confusing, ugly, and not well planned. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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In the first issue, we learn that the Transformers depend on a mineral called Ore-13, which has recently become unstable and is exploding. The new Action Man is investigating a stockpile of it in Mt Olympus, where he discovers former G.I. Joe member Big Ben who’s not long for the world. Big Ben tells him that he was running a mission when he was ambushed by some Joes. He doesn’t know why his former teammates would attack him, but he managed to grab one of their dog tags before the rest of his crew was slaughtered. He says it seems like they were after the Ore-13, but Action Man is snatched away before the mountain explodes with Big Ben and the rest of the Ore-13. Well, apparently, the Transformers recently proclaimed that Earth would be joining the Cybertronian community, and the humans aren’t too pleased about that, as they see the Transfomers establishing themselves as our overlords. Enter G.I. Joe, who decide to attack the Transformers during a humanitarian mission. Things are pretty much at a stalemate until Rom the SpaceKnight comes out of nowhere and kills 4 Joes, including team founder Joe Colton. Since Rom looks more Cybertronian than human, the Joes assume he’s on the Transformers’ side. So, they take this as a declaration of war. We also get a back-story from Revolution #0, which introduces M.A.S.K.’s Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. They actually do something clever here by saying that he was a member of the original Action Team with Joe Colton. It appears he’s actually got Transformer Blitzwing in captivity, who he’s harvesting for parts and technology.

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In the second issue, it’s the Transformers vs Rom, as they’re pissed at him for “blowing up their spot”. They had formed something of an uneasy alliance with the humans, and Rom’s actions had just undone that by murdering those Joes. Rom, however, insists that he murdered no humans. Rom tells them that he is hunting the Dire Wraiths, who have managed to infiltrate world governments. Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the M.A.S.K. team, and the new Black Matt Trakker. Aileron and Kup face off against the M.A.S.K. team, whose vehicles were built using Cybertronian technology, resulting in Kup being captured. Trakker, however, has second thoughts about what they’ve done when he realizes the Transformers are sentient, and more than mere machines. At the end, we find out that Micronauts’ Baron Karza is behind the unstable Ore-13, as he’s been stealing it via a transdimensional space bridge in order to save the Microspace. Um, OK.

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The third issue brings a whole bunch of confusing Micronauts stuff, ’cause I know nothing about that franchise. It seems like the “heroes” of that world have formed an uneasy alliance with the villain Karza in order to save their universe. It’s Optimus Prime vs Rom because Rom’s mission is to defeat the Dire Wraiths, while Prime insists that Earth must be their primary concern. At the end of the day, Prime determines that, while Earth is important, the Microspace must also be preserved. Meanwhile, the autopsy results are in and the Joes realize their fallen friends weren’t human after all. Since they don’t know who they can trust, Scarlett puts in a call to “somebody we haven’t talked to in a while.” I think we all know who she means. Karza does some shit. Rom does some shit. And the issue ends with an entrance by Snake-Eyes.

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Revolution M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand #1 is the only one-shot I’ve bought from the series. It introduces us to the rest of the M.A.S.K. team, as we watch as they’re recruited and how they handle basic training. We also get hints that some of them aren’t as virtuous as they should be, yet those personalities align with team leader Miles “Mayhem” Manheim. Nothing here is original. Some recruits die in training, as “collateral damage”. The team is tasked with an impossible rescue mission. You’ve seen all of this before. Yet, it’s a serviceable introduction to the team and franchise. That said, I think all of this could’ve been possible without it taking place within the clunky Revolution storyline, as nothing in the special ties into present events – it’s a prequel story.

So, what are my problems with the series? Well, first of all, it’s a terrible jumping-on point for new readers. There’s WAY too much backstory with the Transformers and G.I. Joe books for this to go smoothly. Now, IDW did release a The Road to Revolution discount trade paperback with 5 stories that they felt were crucial to making the story a richer experience, but there shouldn’t have been required reading. A successful crossover like this should be accessible to all. To give you an idea of the problems here, IDW has had the Transformers license for ELEVEN YEARS. They’ve had the G.I. Joe license for EIGHT YEARS. In that span of time, the G.I. Joe comic has been rebooted four times, while most of the early Transformers comics were just a series of miniseries. I was IDW’s Diamond brand manager at the time of the early Transformers books, and even I didn’t really know what was going on. For folks with a cursory knowledge of the brands, this series opens with a ton of questions: Why’s Soundwave with the good guys? Where’s Bumblebee? Why is Scarlett the team leader? Where’s Flint and Duke and the Joes people care about? What about Cobra?

Something like this seems like it would be better served by a reboot of the existing brands instead of trying to get them to mesh with the newcomers. It doesn’t feel like they’re bringing their truest, core representations to the party. G.I. Joe isn’t just the military, as it’s used here. Their primary mission was to fight Cobra. Without Cobra, what are they? Here, they’re a shoot first, ask questions later sort of organization, which doesn’t really line up with what we’ve known them to be. If they’d been the least bit diplomatic, then this whole battle wouldn’t have even taken place. Like, why is Scarlett so pissed? And Snake-Eyes is a lot less cool/mysterious when he’s TEXTING! What happened before this miniseries to make her like this? As a new-ish reader, I can’t help but feel that I’m missing a lot. This miniseries might be a rich experience for those who’ve been following the series recently, but it’s just not a fulfilling experience for casual readers.

Another problem is that it seems actual story is taking place in the one-shots, which isn’t how these things are done. One-shots in an “event series” are supplemental material, stories going at the periphery of the action. Here, though, you open up Revolution #3, and Rom is suddenly just chilling with the Transformers like the events of the past issue never happened, and there’s an editor’s note of “See Rom : Revolution #1.” NO! That’s not how you do this. Major team shifts, side switches, etc don’t happen in the one-shots. You leave the meat and potatoes for the main series.

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Finally, the art’s just ugly. I’m not sure if IDW has a stable of “exclusive” artists, but you’d want the best on something this high profile. They do a capable job of handling the tech, such as the Transformers and the M.A.S.K. vehicles, but the humans are rough and inconsistent from panel to panel. They also look a bit cartoony for the subject matter. I realize all of these properties are toylines, but they’re being introduced in a story with some pretty high stakes. Imagine if Marvel’s Civil War had been drawn by an Archie artist. That’s what you’ve got here.

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After saying all that, I’ll probably stick with it since there are only 2 core issues left. That said, it hasn’t been an enjoyable experience. If this had just been a one-off thing, I’d probably give it a pass. It’s not, though. This miniseries is meant to set up the future of the Hasbro properties at IDW, and that just doesn’t seem like a good thing at this point. This series is a mess, so it doesn’t make me too optimistic about the future. If you’re a die-hard Transformers or Joe fan, I guess you’ve got to read it, but if you’ve just got casual interest, this is a revolution you can skip.

 

21st Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/21/16

by Will

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On TV, I caught the HBO series Insecure. Everyone’s talking about Westworld, but nobody’s really talking about this. Created by and starring Issa Rae of Awkward Black Girl fame, it follows a young Black woman who’s trying to find her way in an unfulfilling job and a dead-end relationship. It’s a cute show, but I could see myself getting bored with it the same way I got bored with the Awkward Black Girl webseries. According to the ratings, the show’s not doing all that well on HBO, with fewer than a half million people tuning in. Rae’s had this development deal with HBO for years, but I can’t help but think this show would do better on another network. In fact, it would be the PERFECT companion for Atlanta over on FX. Both Rae and Glover have been thrown into that “You aren’t Black enough/Why do you talk White?” camp at some point in their careers, yet now they’re some of the leading voices of the Black Millennial. Hell, the show might even do better on Starz, scheduled after Power. What I’m saying is that Sarah Jessica Parker’s Divorce is NOT the right lead-in for the show, as I’m sure Insecure isn’t retaining much of that audience.

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In TV news, it was reported that Jason Segel is down for a How I Met Your Mother reunion. THIS is what’s known as a “slow news day”. I mean, the show basically JUST ended. Yes, I realize it’s been 3 years, but that’s still too early for us to be wondering where those characters ended up. I mean, I just got done being mad about that finale. I’m not ready to deal with Ted Mosby’s shit again this soon. Give it some time to settle. Maybe wait until you’ve got an idea that’s legen…wait for it… As for some HIMYM trivia, did you ever realize that Marshall and Lily don’t kiss that often? Apparently, Allyson Hannigan couldn’t stand Segel’s smoker breath, so she asked that they not kiss too much. I never realized that, but now I’ll be looking for it.

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In comics news, it was reported that Justice League/Mighty Morphin Power Rangers would be launching as a miniseries next year. Personally, I think this is a horrible idea. I think it boils down to the fact that I have never really seen the Power Rangers as “superheroes”. They’re more like “global peacekeepers”, which makes them more like galaxy cops. Then again, the Green Lanterns are space cops and they’re considered superheroes, so what do I know? Hell, Batman just teamed up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles so it’s not like these crossovers have to “make sense”. Someone on Twitter pointed out that it’s really more of a cash grab since both have movies coming out next year. Adult Rangers fans, God bless ‘em, are happy about the news because it sort of lends some legitimacy to the Power Rangers brand. Justice League fans, however, are pretty much in “WTF?” mode. Morbid curiosity dictates that I check out the first issue, but I can’t say I’m excited for this. I’m not even cautiously optimistic about it.

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There was also some drama in the art camp as J. Scott Campbell came under fire for a variant cover he did for Midtown Comics of upcoming Tony Stark replacement, Riri Williams. The biggest complaint is that he basically sexualized a 15 year old girl. Now, Campbell and I have had our differences – to the point that he’s blocked me on Twitter. Still, I have to give credit where it’s due, and I don’t see anything wrong here. He drew her based on how she’d been previously depicted: same hair, same shirt, same bare midriff, etc. Have you looked at a 15 year old lately? This is how a lot of them look. I see the curvature of the hip, but I’m not seeing Campbell’s version as “sexy”, per se. If anything, I’m more surprised that he drew a convincingly Black face. My biggest complaint about him is that he’s built a career on basically drawing the same female face and only changing the hair. In this case, I would’ve expected him to draw that same face and let the colorist handle the fact that it’s a Black character. No, he actually drew a serviceable Black teenager, so I’ll give him credit there. Some blame has to go to Marvel, as they knew what you get with a Campbell cover, but he’s nowhere near as brazen as, say, Frank Cho. Riri has some big shoes to fill, so Marvel’s going to have to be careful with how they handle her – especially with so many eyes on her debut. Anyway, last night Marvel and Midtown mutually agreed to kill the cover, with Campbell blaming “faux outrage” for the decision.

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In toy news, Hasbro announced the creation of HasCon, which will be their own convention devoted to their brands, to be held in Rhode Island next fall. This had been rumored for some time, but now it’s a real thing. I understand branding and all, but “HasCon” is a terrible name. It’s not something that evokes fun. It sounds like something you’d hear in a disaster situation. “Mr. President, alert HasCon that the virus has gone airborne!” Anyway, some fans are upset because Star Wars and Marvel won’t be represented, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since Hasbro doesn’t own those properties. I still think this could spell a resurgence for G.I. Joe, and maybe we’ll finally get that M.A.S.K. toyline reboot.

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In wrestling news, everyone’s crush, British wrestler Paige, proposed to her boyfriend Alberto Del Rio. This is a dumb, dumb girl. I say “girl” because she’s 24, and I don’t really trust the judgment of anyone under the age of 25 – especially when they jump off shit for a living. The dude’s not even divorced yet, as his wife is claiming that he cheated on her WITH Paige, and then Paige went and did the dumbest thing you can do at her age – got his name tattooed under breast. This is all just a midlife crisis for Del Rio, but I really feel like Paige doesn’t realize how she’s squandering her opportunity with the WWE. Del Rio already left abruptly, and she’s on a suspension for violating the Wellness Policy, as well as claiming she needs neck surgery that WWE doesn’t think she needs. She’s even been removed from Raw’s opening sequence. She is NOT in good standing with WWE, so she should really be focusing on her career instead of this high school, lovey dovey shit. But hey, it’s her life.

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In video game news, Nintendo announced the Nintendo Switch console. The benefit of the system is that you can take the home gaming experience with you, as the console undocks to become portable. The trailer shows people in a lot of public settings where you wouldn’t typically be playing video games anyway. So, it’s like, “thanks but no thanks”. I already think it’s weird when socially awkward folks whip out a DS in the middle of a party or while standing in line, but now they’re gonna have a whole, damn full-fledged console? Anyway, it looks cool in theory, but I don’t plan on buying one. Based on the trailer, it looks like it’s designed to make you anti-social in social environments.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Leo DiCaprio is producing a Captain Planet movie that picks up years after the show, where a washed-up Captain Planet needs the Planeteers more than ever. OK, whatever…
  • The Walking Dead was renewed for season 8, so there’s no end in sight for it or the comic it’s based on
  • CBS granted full season orders to freshman shows Bull, MacGyver, and Kevin Can Wait. They also canceled summer series BrainDead and American Gothic
  • Speaking of CBS, they’re developing popular app Candy Crush into a game show. Personally, I’d rather have a Fruit Ninja show, but I bet Asian groups would lose their shit
  • Max Steel became one of the biggest bombs ever, taking in just over half a million dollars on opening day
  • Billy Bush and NBC parted ways, with Bush receiving a $10 million payout. Man, NBC sure has a funny idea of what “punishment” is…
  • After 30 years, MetLife is dumping Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts characters from its marketing campaign.
  • Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, but won’t answer his phone for them to get it to him.

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Programming Note: If you notice, I never really talk about comics or graphic novels that I’ve read in West Week Ever – mainly because I’ve got separate columns for that. Yup, Adventures West Coast is my graphic novel review column, while Comical Thoughts is where I discuss monthly comics that I’ve read. They’ve been gathering dust for over a year or so, but I dusted off Adventures West Coast this week with my review of Grant Morrison’s Wonder Woman: Earth One Vol 1 (check it out if you missed it the other day). My goal is to have a comic post every Wednesday – either an AWC or a CT post, but I can’t do that if you’re not reading them. So, if you’re interested and like what you see, click and click often. AND SHARE!


The X-Men movies get a bad rap as a franchise. Despite creative high points like X2: X-Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past, fans choose to remember the low points, such as X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. When you break down the 9 movies that comprise the franchise, it’s about a 50/50 when it comes to whether or not they were “good” movies. Then the Marvel Cinematic Universe came along and changed folks’ idea of what a shared comic book universe is supposed to look like. Suddenly, X2 was no longer good enough and Fox needed to “give the X-Men back to Marvel!”

I’ve never thought the situation was that dire when it came to the X-Men movies. I like that there’s some MCU competition out there, as the Fox movies basically have a different tone to them. You actually feel like things are at stake in X-Men movies, not sure if they are going to be able to save the day at the end. The audience loves RDJ and Chris Evans, so you know Cap and Iron Man aren’t ever in any real danger, but Anna Paquin? She could easily die. In Avengers, we never really saw what would happen to Earth if they had failed to defeat the Chitauri, since that would never happen. In Days of Future Past, however, we saw what happens when the X-Men lose, and it ain’t pretty. Well, yesterday we got the trailer for the third and final Wolverine movie, titled Logan, and we see that the future can be bleak in more ways than one.

In the trailer, we see the near future, where mutants aren’t as prevalent, and Logan’s healing factor isn’t working so well anymore. A young girl needs saving, and Professor X, now old and sickly, believes that Logan is the man to do the saving. Set to the Johnny Cash version of “Hurt”, the trailer is evocative of similar media like The Road or The Last of Us. It’s just Wolverine and a young girl trying to survive. Hell, I don’t even know if Professor X is really even there or if he’s just something that Logan sees. I wouldn’t put it past them. What we get, though, is a story that seems like it has weight. It has finality to it. Jackman may come back in future X-Men movies, but this sure doesn’t feel like it. This is it. And the thing at stake is the reputation of the X-Men movie franchise. Following the success of Deadpool, the movie is rated R, so hopefully Wolverine can finally cut loose like we’ve been expecting for the past 17 years. I think this is gonna be good. I think it’s gonna be really good. And that’s why the Logan trailer had the West Week Ever.

07th Oct2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/7/16

by Will

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So, I surprised even myself by going to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. This movie wasn’t even really on my radar, but my friend, Jenn, was in town and she wanted to see it. She knew her husband back home would have no interest in it, but I was a more willing accomplice. This was the first time in a LONG time that I’ve gone into a movie knowing absolutely NOTHING about it. The most I knew was I was pretty sure it was based on a YA novel. Other than that, I didn’t know a thing.

Well, the movie’s about Jacob Portman, who’s really close to the grandfather who used to tell him fantastic tales about the other children at the orphanage where he grew up. Now, about to turn 18, Jacob visits his grandfather only to find him dying in the woods. He tells Jacob to go to the orphanage and that he would learn the truth. Somehow Jacob’s psychiatrist convinces his parents to take him to Wales to visit this orphanage, and that’s when the craziness starts. All those stories that his grandfather had told were true! Those strange kids really lived at the orphanage. There’s a girl who’s lighter than air and has to wear lead shoes so she doesn’t float away. There’s a little girl with a monster mouth in the back of her neck. There’s an invisible boy. There’s a girl who can control plant life. And more! And they’re all cared for by Miss Peregrine, this sexy schoolmarm type (played by Eva Green) who has the power to control time. It turns out they’re all something called Peculiars, and Jacob’s grandfather had been killed by an evil Peculiar. Apparently, there are evil Peculiars who were trying to figure out how to live forever, but the experiment turned them into monsters. The only way to get back to their human form was for them to eat the eyeballs of other Peculiars. Anyway, the evil Peculiars are led by Samuel L. Jackson who hunts down Peculiars for their eyes so he could heal his friends. Yeah, this is some patented Tim Burton freaky shit, and the monsters are nightmare-inducing. Some fool had their baby in the theater, so I can only imagine those future therapy bills.

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Right now, Tim Burton has been getting a lot of flack for the lack of diversity in his films, but I’m not sure it’s really warranted. He tends to be an auteur of “Weird White People” films to the point where I think diversity would be out of place. He’s still the man who gave us Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, and he created a the Sam Jackson role here just so he could work with him, as the novel plays out slightly differently. So, I’m not about to grab my pitchfork just yet. Anyway, Miss Peregrine’s has been described as “Harry Potter meets X-Men“, and I think that’s probably an accurate assessment. If you like either of those properties, then check this out.

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On TV, I finally watched the pilot for MacGyver. I was never a fan of the original, as the only episode I ever saw was the series finale (I used to be a series finale whore; I’d watch the final episode of anything). All I know is that Angus MacGyver worked for the Phoenix Foundation and he could do amazing things with stuff just found lying around. What I remember from the old series finale (and bear with me, as it’s been about 25 years), but MacGyver met the son he never knew he had. So, I was kinda hoping this series would pick up on that thread, and we’d be watching the son’s adventures, also keeping the door open for appearances by Richard Dean Anderson. But that was not to be, as this is a complete reboot. Now, I wondered how amazing MacGyver would seem in a 21st century world, as we live with smartphones and lifehacks, so a lot of what RDA did back in the day wouldn’t seem so spectacular these days. Surprisingly, it still works. I was really worried about this show, as CBS completely threw out the original pilot and most of the supporting cast. It was a concept they were committed to without any real proof that it would work. So far, though, I think it works. It’s your typical, formulaic CBS one-hour procedural. I thought MacGyver was kinda smug with a punchable face (like Lucas Till), but I got used to him over the course of the hour. I’m not sure I’ll watch it every week, as I’d rather watch Shark Tank, but I wouldn’t mind watching it if my TV somehow got stuck on CBS.

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Also on TV, I caught the premiere of Conviction on ABC. Starring Agent Carter herself, Hayley Atwell, it’s about a former First Daughter who’s kind of a fuck up. She gets arrested for cocaine possession, but instead of sending her up the river (jeopardizing her mother’s Senate campaign), she’s offered the job as the head of the Conviction Investigation Unit. They investigate convictions that should probably be overturned, and they do it with such…wait for it…conviction. The supporting cast is serviceable, including Iceman Shawn Ashmore and Deacon’s wife from King of Queens (I know I wasn’t the only one who recognized her!). It was a basic paint-by-numbers legal procedural, with the crew saving the day in the last five minutes. If it aired on CBS, they simply would’ve called it C.I.U. and kept it moving. But I guess ABC wanted to really wanted to go with the bold title, and it works. Still, I’m not sure this is destination television. Every member of the team has a backstory and, while I’d love to see how some of them play out, I’m not sure I’ve got the conviction to stick with this show. Atwell’s cute and all, but she’s not playing Peggy Carter, and I don’t really buy her as an extreme version of Jenna Bush. You know they’re always gonna win, so I don’t really know what the draw is except to find the answers to those backstories.

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I just mentioned Iceman and that reminded me that the poster for the third Wolverine film, now called Logan, debuted this week. Based on the color palette and the child’s hand, it feels almost like they’re trying to evoke something like The Road. It’s been rumored that the film would be based on the “Old Man Logan” storyline, in which an older Wolverine has to cross what’s left of the country, in a world in which the heroes lost. The problem with that, however, is that most of the important characters of that storyline are not characters to which 20th Century Fox has the rights. So, it looks like they’re doing their own take on things. Reportedly, Logan is set in 2024, in a world where mutant births are declining, while the government is training young mutants to be soldiers. Oh, and Wolverine clone X-23 might be the child holding Logan’s hand. Now, while I’d love to see an older Wolverine in a dystopian future, I’m not quite sure such a thing would fit tonally with the rest of the franchise. The problem with the Wolverine films is that they’ve never been great. They don’t take any chances, and they’re serviceable at best. I don’t hate X-Men Origins: Wolverine as much as most, but even The Wolverine played it pretty safe with its Wolverine In Japan story. I’d love for this to be a departure from those movies, but it certainly won’t make for a balanced trilogy. Still, Jackman should go out on a high note, so if this is the way for them to do that, then I’m all for it.

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In other movie news, we got our first look at the Red Ranger’s Power Sword from the upcoming Power Rangers film. It looks like a fancy razor from Gillette or a futuristic writing pen. But a sword, it is not. There will be other movie reveals this weekend at New York Comic Con, including the debut of the trailer. There will also be an exclusive Movie Red Ranger Legacy figure, which looks kinda horrible. I really want to like this movie, but nothing about it has me excited. I know you have to reimagine things to appeal to a new audience, but I feel like they’re losing sight of what Power Rangers is.  This is just starting to look like a team full of Guyvers.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, it was announced that former Green/White/Red/Black/All Time Greatest Ranger, Jason David Frank, will be playing Bloodshot in a webseries based on the Valiant comic properties. It’s not a huge surprise because the guys behind it are Bat In The Sun, who JDF has worked with in the past. In the role of Ninjak will be Arrow‘s Deadshot, Michael Rowe. I knew Valiant was trying to do something live action with their properties, but I thought it would actually be something cinematic. You say “webseries” to me, and it just makes my penis soft. Anyway, JDF will also be at New York Comic Con doing signings to promote the project.

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I can’t really let this week go without talking about the whole Kim Kardashian thing. If you were unaware, Kim was robbed at gunpoint in a Paris hotel by a group disguised as police. She was bound and gagged and put in the bathtub. Obviously frightened, she said that she feared they were going to rape her. In the end, they stole millions of dollars worth of stuff from her, including her $4 million engagement ring. And then the jokes started.

Look, I get it: the Kardashians put themselves in the spotlight, so people feel they’re fair game. Still, this is the kind of occurrence that you shouldn’t wish on ANYONE. Sure, people like to think “Well, who cares? They’re rich and famous simply for being famous.” As radio host Bobby Bones put it, we’re all rich to someone. And don’t give me that whole “They’re famous for being famous thing” because that was pretty much the description of Donald Trump until recently, and look where that got him.

I’ve never really understood Kardashian hate, and I guess I’ve become something of a Kardashian apologist. It takes too much energy to hate someone who really doesn’t even give a shit about you. And people like to slut-shame her about being famous for a sex tape, but from the public’s perspective, Taylor Swift has been with WAY more men than Kim, and nobody says shit about that. And I’ll bet there’s a sex tape of her out there somewhere the same way Jennifer Lawrence can’t seem to stop taking nude selfies that end up getting hacked. At the end of the day, Kim Kardashian is still a person and, contrary to what some folks are saying, didn’t deserve to have that happen to her, nor is it funny. If you’re laughing about that whole ordeal, get your life right. I can’t imagine what she went through, and I hope it doesn’t have any long-term effects on her.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Netflix’s The Punisher announced three new cast members, including Ebon Moss-Bachrach from Girls as Frank Castle’s ally Micro.
  • Speaking of Marvel Netflix shows, it was announced that Iron Fist will debut on 3/17/17. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, muthatruckas!
  • It was also announced that BOOM! will publish an ongoing WWE comic book. So, I figure half the book will be nothing but ads for The Network or Connor’s Cure.
  • Despite the fact that director David Ayer claimed the theatrical cut was his final version, an extended cut of Suicide Squad will be released on Blu-Ray on December 13th – because 10 extra minutes are gonna make folks like that movie (for the record, I already liked it).
  • Alec Baldwin made his debut as Donald Trump on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live. Hosted by Margot Robbie, it was one of the best episodes in YEARS.
  • Based on how they’ve painted him as an emasculated wimp, I would bet money that President Kiefer’s wife eventually has an affair on Designated Survivor – perhaps with her husband’s Chief of Staff. They might save that for season 2

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Luke Cage won the week. The Marvel Netflix series debuted last Friday, and was so popular that it BROKE Netflix. Spinning out of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage focuses on a nigh invulnerable man with bulletproof skin, forced to survive in a world that fears and hates him. Or I guess it does. I haven’t watched it yet. I still need to watch Daredevil season 2 because I wanna watch them in order, so I probably won’t get to Luke Cage til around Christmas. Still, it was on everyone’s lips, and the thinkpieces runneth over. Everyone had something to say about the series, and I feel like it has even stolen the thunder of Marvel’s upcoming Dr. Strange film. Once I watch the series I’ll have more to say, but I think it’s safe to say that Luke Cage had the West Week Ever.

14th Sep2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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