17th Nov2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/17/17

by Will

I’m a different man than I was 12 hours ago. You see, back then I was dreading sitting in a movie theater for two hours to see a movie I had no real interest in seeing. “But this is America, Will! You didn’t HAVE to see the movie!” Well, you’re right about that. Still, as a geek and all that, I saw it as my “civic duty”, so to speak, to give the film a fair shake. That movie was Justice League. Now, it being 12 hours later, I can admit that I was wrong. I really enjoyed that film. I don’t consider myself enough of a student of film to say it was “good”, but I likes what I likes, and I likes Justice League.

What’s the film about? Well, Batman knows something big is coming, so he puts together a team to face whatever it is. That’s really all you need to know. Most of your Justice League favorites are here, including Aquaman, Wonder Woman, and The Flash. I really didn’t want to like Jason Momoa as Aquaman, but I thoroughly enjoyed his take on Arthur Curry. Wonder Woman is still Wonder Woman. If you enjoyed her movie, you’ll like her here, though she’s in smaller doses. I even came around to accepting Cyborg as a valuable member of the team (I’ve long argued that he means more as the Big Brother of the Teen Titans than he does as the “diversity hire” of the Justice League). The real star of the show, however, is Ezra Miller as The Flash. I’ve never seen Barry Allen depicted in such a way, but I may even prefer his portrayal to that of Grant Gustin. The audience basically sees the whole “joining a superteam” process through his eyes, and his excitement is infectious. Forget whatever reviewers and Rotten Tomatoes are saying, and go see this movie for yourself.

Potential Spoilery Thoughts (read AFTER you’ve seen the film)

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  • When the movie started, I was like “Why is Batman beating up Tony Danza? Wait, is that Matt LeBlanc? Oh, that’s just some nobody.”
  • While I enjoy Ben Affleck as Vigilante Who Dresses Like A Bat, I still don’t see him as BATMAN. I’ve been a Batman fan for over 30 years, and nothing about Affleck is like any incarnation of Batman with which I am familiar. Ya know how comic publisher Dynamite Entertainment always gets the rights to some old character that looks familiar, but is still kinda obscure, like the Black Bat? That’s how I feel about Batfleck. He’s like Public Domain Batman.
  • Speaking of Batman, they really drive home the fact that he’s been Batman for 20 years. For some reason, in a movie about super people resurrecting an alien savior from the dead to fight a space giant, the least believable part of it for me is that Batman has been in action for 20 years. With the bumps and trauma he sustains in that job, it’s about a 10 year career at best. The comic even tackled this recently. The human body just can’t take that much. Yes, I know I’m overthinking it.
  • Can I revisit the point that nothing about Batfleck feels like Batman except the fact that he has an Alfred and everything has a bat motif? I mean, the idea to resurrect Superman comes from Batman, which is a very un-Batman thing to suggest. I mean, he was scared of aliens just a movie ago, and now he wants to play with the forces of death just because he feels guilty? Hell, he even apologizes to Wonder Woman for pushing her about Steve Trevor. BATMAN DOESN’T APOLOGIZE BECAUSE HE NEVER THINKS HE’S WRONG. Maybe he’s softened in his 20 year career, since he’s clearly killed all of his rogues gallery by this point.
  • I didn’t appreciate Danny Elfman using the Batman Theme. Sure, it’s his composition, but it felt like “borrowed legitimacy”. Like, they felt they needed to use it just convince us that Affleck was Batman – maybe even the same Batman who was in the Burton movies. Nolan never felt the need to do that. It felt cheap.
  • Did Bruce Wayne kill that entire fishing village? I mean, Aquaman is pretty loud about how dude dresses like a bat, and calls him by name publicly. The only way to cover that secret would be to kill that town full of nobodies.
  • Speaking of nobodies, that fucking Russian family! How did they not die? And there’s even a point where the little girl finds some bug spray. Was she going to use it on the Parademons? Was she going to make an aerosol flame thrower? Who knows, because they never follow up on it!
  • What happened to Superman’s clothes in the Kryptonian matrix? He goes into it in a suit, and emerges shirtless and in pajama pants.
  • Wonder Woman can deflect machine gun fire? I can accept handguns, rifles, even shotguns, but I refuse to believe she’s fast enough to deflect every round from a machine gun. Also, the depiction of her speed looked wonky. Oh, and that bomb wasn’t clear enough to have not still blown up a building or two.
  • For someone who grew up among humans, I still never get that impression from Superman. He always comes across as someone who just got here, and is just trying to fit in (and doing a stilted job of doing so).
  • Steppenwolf? Really? That’s like having a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and having Bebop as the main villain.
  • Maybe I’m just too used to the MCU killing all its villains, but the League didn’t *technically* defeat Steppenwolf. I mean, I guess they turned his own forces against him, so he could “live to fight another day”, but I’m still not entirely convinced they could’ve beaten him.
  • That second after credits scene? WOW.
  • I’m really tired of the patented Zack Snyder Act III, where everything becomes a bronzed music video clearly filmed on a soundstage. It’s where Wonder Woman fell apart for me, and I feel like it was weak here, as well.
  • Kinda fucked up how Superman and the Justice League managed to destroy that memorial to everyone who died when Superman fucked up Metropolis back in Man of Steel.
  • How is the general public going to react to this? I mean, Superman is BACK FROM THE DEAD. This is not something that’s commonplace in that universe. Shit, it doesn’t even happen in the MCU. If you thought some folks feared Superman before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!
  • The Flying Fox is never called by that name in the film. That was just a cute name created to sell toys.

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End of Spoilery Thoughts

It was a BIG week for HarassmentWatch (TM) to the point where we’re just gonna have to cover this shit with bulletpoints:

  • Oh my! George Takei was accused of groping a male model who had passed out in his home in 1981. Of course, Takei denied the allegation, and everyone seems to have forgotten about it by now
  • Richard Dreyfuss reportedly pulled his penis out in front of a writer back in the 80s. He blamed it on “It was the 80s, I was on drugs!” and everyone pretty much seems to have moved on. Smooth move, Mr. Holland.
  • Tom Sizemore was dropped from a film, as reports surfaced that he had inappropriate contact with an 11 year old girl on the set of 2003’s Born Killers
  • Still on the ropes from last week’s reveal, Louis C.K. was dropped by his manager, and was fired from The Secret Life of Pets 2.
  • Gossip Girl star Ed Westwick is being accused of sexual assault by 3 women, resulting in the BBC placing several of his upcoming projects on hold.
  • One Tree Hill/The Royals creator Mark Schwan has been suspended from the latter show, following reports that he routinely harassed women on the OTH set, as well as at his current job.
  • Co-showrunner for Supergirl and The Flash, Andrew Kreisberg, has been suspended by Warner Bros following reports of inappropriate behavior. I’ll bet somebody’s wishing Flashpoint was a real thing right about now.
  • Actress Ellen Page added more evidence to the Brett Ratner allegations following a Facebook post that she made. At the moment, 45 women have accounts of harassment by Ratner
  • CSI Miami star Eva LaRue reported that she had been sexually harassed by Steven Seagal.
  • ER star Anthony Edwards came forward that he had been molested by Masters of the Universe director/Captain Power creator Gary Goddard. Goddard denied this through a spokesperson.
  • We’re circling back to Jeffrey Tambor this week, as his costar on Transparent, Trace Lysette, alleges that he was sexually inappropriate with her on the set of the show. She wants the show to move on without him or his character. He’s saying he must’ve “misread signals”.
  • There’s a report that Sylvester Stallone sexually assaulted a 16 year old fan back in 1986. Everybody knows he was busy making Cobra in 1986! No, this isn’t a funny matter, and he’s currently denying that it happened.
  • DC Comics FINALLY fired serial harasser and Superman group editor Eddie Berganza following years of reports of his inappropriate behavior.
  • Finally, Senator Al Franken found himself in a pickle when former model/radio host Leann Tweeden revealed that he had groped her and forced her to kiss him on a USO tour. He confirmed the allegations and issued an apology as many on The Hill are calling for an ethics review.

There was a lot of fervor in the Power Rangers community, as the latest action figures in the Legacy Collection were sighted at a Walmart. Here’s some backstory: Bandai of America has the license for Power Rangers toys, and most of these are designed for children. The Legacy Collection, however, is their attempt to target the same adult collectors that are into Marvel Legends and DC Universe Multiverse lines. The Legacy Collection figures even co-opted the Build A Figure gimmick made famous by Marvel Legends. At this year’s conventions, fans were shown a prototype for Zeo Gold that looked like the figure on the left. See all that sexy, shiny gold? Well, as the figure is now hitting stores, it looks like the figure on the right. See any gold? Nope. Instead, they went with a drab, “Kraft Macaroni & Cheese” yellow. And fans are PISSED. I haven’t seen grown men this upset about a type of paint in, well, ever. Sure, it’s disappointing, but I know I’ll still probably buy it. I love the design of that suit, gold or dark yellow. Meanwhile, these guys are trying to get on Bandai’s radar to express their displeasure. They’re gonna mess around and there won’t be a Legacy Collection anymore. For some, that’s probably what they want anyway. Then they can fool themselves and say “We won”.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Blake Shelton was named The Sexiest Man Alive by People Magazine, prompting the Internet to ask “Did every other man die?”
  • Amazon struck a deal to produce a multi-season Lord of the Rings TV series that nobody seems to want
  • It’s not a good year for military dramas, as NBC’s The Brave and The CW‘s Valor will not receive orders for additional episodes after they air their original 13. Both networks claim the shows were always meant to tell a 13-episode story, but that shit’s clearly cancelled.
  • John Wick creator Derek Kolstad is developing a TV series for Hulu based on the Hitman franchise.
  • They should change the name of the show to Dharma & Dead, as Jenna Elfman joins the cast of Fear The Walking Dead
  • Steve Harvey will replace Pitbull as the host of Fox’s New Year’s Eve programming. What better way to close out 2017 than with a serial womanizer?
  • Rapper/Actress Eve will officially replace Aisha Tyler as a host of The Talk
  • Reports are coming out that Bobby Suits and the chick who dates Prince Harry will exit Suits next season. Can you tell I’ve never seen the show before?
  • StartUp has been renewed for a 3rd season by Crackle. In other news, Crackle is apparently still a thing.
  • NBCUniversal announced they’ll be shutting down the horror channel Chiller on New Years Day
  • J. Scott Campbell’s Danger Girl comic is being developed into a TV series. Ya know, I think I liked that idea better when it was called Charlie’s Angels. Or Cleopatra 2525. Or She Spies. Or Tomb Raider. Or Relic Hunter. What I’m saying is those are basically the properties he “borrowed” from when he created that series
  • The It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia guys are developing Cool Kids, which is a multicamera sitcom set in a retirement home, starring Vicki Lawrence, David Allen Grier, Leslie Jordan, and Martin Mull.
  • “Miss Golden Globes” will now be known as the “Golden Globes Ambassador”, with The Rock’s daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, filling the role for the next ceremony.
  • After talks fell apart between Disney and 21st Century Fox, there are now reports that Comcast is looking to buy Fox. This deal would not includes The Fox Broadcasting Company, local stations, Fox News Channel, or Fox Sports, as Comcast already owns NBC. Then again, recent laws just changed which might affect the parameters of this deal…
  • Mark Millar revealed that a new Kick-Ass comic will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the character, and introduce a new person to take on the mantel of Kick-Ass: a Black single mother who’s former military. Should be interesting…

  • We got our first teaser trailer for the Deadpool sequel.
  • Black Lightning will premiere Tuesday, January 16th at 9 PM on The CW – pitting it against This Is Us. And Blackish. Why is The CW trying to tear our community apart?!
  • Taraji P. Henson will star in What Men Want, inspired by the Mel Gibson film What Women Want. The movie will reportedly only be 10 minutes long, as she will learn the answer is “Pussy and sandwiches”.
  • Hasbro’s trying to buy Mattel again. HasTel sounds like a bad wireless cell phone provider, while MatBro sounds like a dude who lives in his van near the beach. Either way, I’ll believe it when I see it.
  • FXX renewed one of my favorite shows, You’re The Worst, for a fifth and final season.
  • James Franco is reportedly attached to star in a Multiple Man spinoff of the X-Men franchise. When you think about it, a guy with different personalities is exactly in Franco’s wheelhouse. It’s the kind of role he’d naturally take. I just don’t expect it to be a superhero movie; just like New Mutants is a horror movie, I expect this to be a run of the mill thriller.

I’m not even gonna beat around the bush this week. I’m late on getting this up, and a choice must be made. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Justice League has the West Week Ever. Go see that shit!

10th Nov2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/10/17

by Will

A new post on a holiday weekend? What madness is this?! Yeah, I typically skip out on holiday weekends ’cause folks aren’t at work, meaning they’re not bored enough to read this post. Still, too much happened this week for me to ignore, so I HAD to write something. The hits just kept coming this week, so let’s take a closer look at the week that was in popular culture!

It was a big week in HarassmentWatch, as we got a whole slew of new allegations. One of the bigger accusations is that Charlie Sheen sexually assaulted a 12 year old Corey Haim on the set of Lucas, back in 1986. This jibes with what Other Corey, Corey Feldman, has been saying for years: Hollywood is full of pedophiles who prey on the young. This accusation, however, comes from a friend of Haim’s, while Sheen and Haim’s own mother deny anything happened. Never one to miss an opportunity, Dr. Oz appears to have beaten Dr. Phil to the punch, as Haim’s mom will be on the show today to talk about this.

Meanwhile, personal assistants had their moment in the spotlight, as two came forward with allegations of sexual harassment from their bosses. First up, Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner was accused of asking a former assistant/writer to let him see her naked. After winning an Emmy together, he told her that she “owed” it to him. She was then fired the next season, and given a list of ways she had “fallen short” of expectations. Then, Transparent/Arrested Development/The Ropers star Jeffrey Tambor was accused of making lewd comments to, and groping, his former transgender assistant. Amazon is currently investigating the matter – Ya know, ’cause the police are busy or some shit… Worry not, ’cause Amazon is on the case!

Finally, the hits keep coming for Kevin Spacey, as Netflix has severed ties with the actor, leading to reports that his character will be killed off House of Cards for its final season. While Spacey is “suspended” from House of Cards, Netflix released as statement that they would not be involved with the show if Spacey continued to be involved with it. So, bye bye, Spacey. They also don’t plan to move forward with Gore, a film produced by and starring Spacey, which is currently in post-production. But it didn’t stop there! Spacey’s publicist and his talent agency have cut ties with him. The final nail in the coffin, however, came when Ridley Scott announced that he would reshoot Spacey’s scenes from All The Money In The World with actor Christopher Plummer in Spacey’s former role as J. Paul Getty. Oh, and did I mention that the film is scheduled to be released NEXT MONTH, and they intend to keep the release date?! That’s some SERIOUS damage control.

The biggest harassment bombshell of the week, though, came yesterday when rumors about comedian Louis C.K. were finally confirmed by 5 female comedians in a story by The New York Times. According to the women, Louis C.K.’s sexual quirk was a familiar one amongst the harasser crowd: he liked to masturbate in front of them. Later on Twitter, Sarah Silverman’s sister, Laura, said that had masturbated in front of her “about 20 times”. Well, the empire began to crumble immediately, as the premiere of his movie I Love You, Daddy was cancelled mere hours before it was scheduled to happen. Plus, his appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert was also cancelled. Later, HBO released a statement that they would be removing Louis C.K.’s content from their On Demand services, while he would also be removed from their upcoming Night of Too Many Stars: America Unites for Autism Programs special. Meanwhile, FX is currently investigating the allegations, as he is an executive producer on their shows Better Things, Baskets, and Louie. After refusing to comment, a representative later said that Louis C.K. would release a statement “in the coming days”. Let’s all say it together: Keep it in your pants, Hollywood!

In movie news, there was about an hour of joy on Monday when reports surfaced that Disney was interested in buying 21st Century Fox. Of course comic fans rejoiced because this meant that the X-Men and Fantastic Four film rights would be back “at home” with Marvel under the Disney umbrella. Fan art started to fly across timelines, depicting the supposed “future” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Everywhere you turned, you were poked in the eye by another speculation boner. While a lot of folks think the sole reason for the acquisition was to acquire those remaining Marvel film rights, Disney had other ideas. You see, they need more content for their upcoming streaming service, and they realize a film library like Fox’s would sweeten the pot. Meanwhile, Fox was looking to scale down its business model, so it seemed mutually beneficial. Fox would’ve kept Fox News and Fox Sports, but Disney would’ve wound up with Fox’s cable networks, like NatGeo, and would’ve acquired any Fox-produced shows, like The Simpsons, regardless of if they aired on Fox or not (Disney couldn’t get the Fox TV network, as they already own ABC, and can’t legally own two networks). Plus, Disney would be able to distribute the first 2 Star Wars trilogies, which currently live at Fox. Oh, and Disney would get Avatar, if anyone cares. Anyway, after about an hour, reports surfaced that talks between the networks have reportedly stalled, but don’t count it out yet. As the entertainment distribution model continues to become more complex, look for the old guard to look for new ways to survive.

In comic news, DC Comics pulled off a MAJOR coup by poaching writer Brian Michael Bendis from Marvel. Yes, the same Bendis who helped create the Ultimate Universe, Miles Morales, and Jessica Jones. The same Bendis who filled the Avengers with marquee characters instead of B-listers, and put a spotlight on street-level characters like Luke Cage and Daredevil. The same Bendis who was part of the Marvel Brain Trust that guided the early phases of the MCU. The man was so “Marvel” that if you cut him open, his blood cells would scream out in unison “Excelsior!” So, is this indicative of problems over at Marvel? Or was he just ready for a change? Or a little of column A and a little of column B? In a way, it’s not a big deal, as creators jump back and forth between Marvel and DC all the time. When there are only 2 games in town, it’s basically like wrestlers going from WWE to TNA (don’t come to me with that high school gymnasium Ring of Honor shit!) So, I unless he dies tomorrow, Bendis will one day return to Marvel. But for now, he’s DC’s and the possibilities are endless. Sadly, they’ll probably waste him by putting him on a Justice League book instead of letting him work his magic on a character like Renee Montoya. I just can’t imagine his “children” without him. Does this mean we’ll get a writer of color on Miles’s or Riri’s book now? Or a woman writer on Jessica Jones? It’s so strange to see him walk away from the company he’s been associated with for the past 17 years. Sure, I’ve had my issues with the man in the past, but I’m very eager to see what comes from this DC deal.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Juno herself, Ellen Page, has been cast to star in Amazon’s adaptation of Gerard Way’s comic The Umbrella Academy
  • ABC’s edition of American Idol will premiere Sunday, March 11th, 2018
  • Funko, maker of those little Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Pop! figures, had the worst initial public offering in 17 years. Shares started at $12 and dropped to $7 by the end of the day.
  • After the box office failure of The Mummy, Universal is seemingly giving up on it’s connected Dark Universe, as architects Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan have left the project
  • Asher Angel, from Disney Channel’s Andi Mack, has been cast as Billy Batson in the Shazam movie

  • We got our first look at Jodie Whittaker as The Doctor, which looks like a modern take on Mork & Mindy
  • Smallville star Allison Mack has reportedly left acting, and is now second in command of a secret sex slave cult. I am not making this up. That’s hot.
  • Following their recent acquisition of the Millarworld comic imprint, Netflix announced their first comic will be called Magic Order. The series will focus on five magical families who must Zzzzz… Pass.
  • It was JCVD vs JDF last weekend, as Jean-Claude Van Damme tried to start some shit with former Power Ranger Jason David Frank at a comic convention in Mexico. Apparently, JCVD was still pissed at JDF for an exchange of words between them that happened TWENTY-TWO YEARS AGO!
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson will craft an entirely new, Skywalker-less Star Wars trilogy. Ya know, until they fire him.
  • Disney announced their streaming service, launching in 2019, will include a series based on Monsters, Inc., a live action Star Wars series, and a High School Musical series. Oh, and a new Marvel series, so let your speculation boners fly!

So, have ya seen Thor: Ragnarok yet? Can we finally talk about it? Actually, I don’t really have anything to say that I didn’t say last week. No spoilers, no nitpicks, nothing. I LOVED it! Such a fun movie. It’s a shame it took them 3 movies (and some group appearances) to finally figure out what tone they want to take with the character. I will say it borrowed from the Guardians of the Galaxy comedic formula, but it totally works here. I didn’t really take to Thor as a dour god, but I like him as a smartass hero who sometimes gets his ass handed to him. Valkyrie was awesome, The Grandmaster was Goldblum at his Goldblumest, and who doesn’t love Korg? The film has already passed $500 million in the worldwide box office, so I think it’s a success. Anyway, I’m saying that Thor: Ragnarok had the West Week Ever.

03rd Nov2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 11/3/17

by Will

 

So, I saw Thor: Ragnarok, but I know many of you haven’t, so no spoilers. All I’ll say is I LOVED it! I might talk more about it next week, but for now, some non-spoilery thoughts:

  • Easily the best of the Thor films, which I know isn’t saying that much…
  • It deftly plays with the world that has already been established by the MCU, while maintaining its own voice. I don’t know if you could understand the film never having seen the other stuff, but it’s a much richer experience if you have.
  • Tim Hiddleston wears the Hell out of a suit
  • This was the “moviest” MCU film to date. Some folks might think I mean “cinematic”, but I don’t. That’s not what I’m trying to convey. I didn’t grow up watching action movies like Predator or Die Hard, but I’ve seen the Big Trouble In Little China/Buckaroo Banzai/Remo Williams triad more times than I can count (thanks, Fox 5!). A few weeks ago I shared the 80s homage trailer that Nerdist did for this film, and they really hit the nail on the head. This totally feels like the kind of thing I’d watch on a Saturday afternoon, 30 years ago. And that’s really part of its charm.
  • No one else could’ve played Goldblum’s part. Maybe, just maybe Lithgow, but I doubt it.
  • I didn’t expect to see Rita Repulsa in TWO movies this year, yet here we are.

In Hollywood news, the sexual assault allegations runneth over, as the week began with some reports about everyone’s favorite actor, Kevin Spacey. Apparently he tried to force himself on Rent/Star Trek: Discovery actor Anthony Rapp back when Rapp was only 14. When confronted, Spacey said that he didn’t remember the incident, but apologized for Rapp having to carry that with him all these years. And, oh yeah, he’s gay. Yeah, he “broke glass in case of emergency” and finally came out of the closet to deflect the whole situation. And people were PISSED. The biggest problem with what he did is that it conflates homosexuality with child sexual abuse, which is a problematic correlation that some people make. Also, Spacey isn’t really owning up to it, rather taking the “It was years ago, and I was drunk” excuse. Now, taking a page from every other celebrity who ends up in the shit, he’s announced that he’s getting “treatment”. Meanwhile, Netflix announced that the next season of House of Cards would be its last. Now, this decision had already been made but production has reportedly been stalled, as more allegations of harassment are coming from the set of the show.

But it didn’t end there. Oh, no it did not! Next up, director Brett Ratner and actor Jeremy Piven were accused of sexual harassment. And water is wet. Seriously, no one is surprised by these two guys being called to the carpet. Ratner reportedly did the old director chestnut of having actresses, such as Olivia Munn, watch him masturbate, while Piven reportedly harassed a woman on the Entourage set, which I’m sure was littered with roofies and spent cans of Axe body spray. Bringing up the rear, however, was a surprise: Dustin Hoffman. Rain Man’s was out there harassing a 17 year old back in 91!

Meanwhile, there’s reportedly “overwhelming evidence” that Danny Masterson from That 70s Show sexually assaulted 4 women back in the early 2000s. However, Scientology lawyers are so powerful (Masterson’s a Xenu follower) that the case has stalled. “Overwhelming evidence” and “stalled case” really don’t seem to go together, yet here we are. While Netflix was reportedly “deeply troubled” by the Spacey allegations, they’ve yet to say anything about Masterson, whose series The Ranch they carry. Keep it in your pants, Hollywood!

In movie news, Chuck star Zachary Levi has been cast as Captain Marvel. I mean Shazam. I mean…what the Hell are they gonna call him? Some folks call him “The Big Red Cheese”, so that works for me. Not to be confused with the Marvel character/film starring Brie Larson, this is the 40s hero who kinda resembles Superman – so much so that DC sued Fawcett Comics for the similarities. Later on, DC would just add the character and his extended family to the DC Universe. I love Zachary Levi, but this does nothing for me. My first thought was “What kind of workout plan are they gonna put him on?” I mean, Chris Pratt did it, so I’m sure he can, too, but the announcement just falls flat for me.

The biggest point of contention is that, supposedly, he’ll one day go toe to toe with his arch enemy, Black Adam – who will be played by Dwyane Johnson. Maybe. You see, Johnson signed on when DC was originally going to give Black Adam his own film – foolish since he’s the villain, so it’d be hard to find an actor with the “gravitas” to go head to head with him in the hero role. Levi is NOT that guy. Recent reports, however, seem to indicate Johnson is too busy for the Shazam movie, so now former Sinestro Mark Strong is up for the role of Dr Sivana as the villain of the film. I’m more interested in this now that the DCEU wants to downplay a shared universe, but that’s still saying very little.

In TV news, you may not believe this, but there’s a Marvel show without a home. Yes, Inhumans is able to stink up the airwaves for an hour a week, but there’s another Marvel property that can’t get that time. It appears Freeform couldn’t find a slot for New Warriors, so the show is being shopped around. Starring everyone’s favorite AT&T girl, Milana Vayntrub. Instead of just outright cancelling it, Marvel seems pleased with the show and doesn’t want to sit on it for another season. The problem, though, is that some reports are now saying that Marvel is no longer allowed to license any new series to non-Disney outlets. This means that the Netflix shows could continue, but don’t look for any new characters to join the Netflix universe. As many networks as Disney owns, there really isn’t one that stands out as the perfect home for the series. It should probably just go to Hulu with Runaways but, like I said, that may not be possible anymore.

In other TV news, the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was announced: Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We also got a look at the new voice talent, with The Vampire Diaries’ Kat Graham will voice April O’Neil, Ballers‘ Omar Williams as Raph, Parks & Rec‘s Ben Schwartz as Leo, Silicon Valley‘s Josh Brener as Don, and You’re The Worst‘s Brandon Mychal Smith is Mikey. I have two problems here, though: Leonardo is now considered the “coolest” Turtle, and Raph, being the oldest, is now the leader. Yeah, I think I’m gonna pass. That’s not saying a lot, as I kinda fell off the recent show pretty early on. I enjoyed it, but it was just another show that I had to keep up with, and I got tired. This show, returning to 2D animation, will have 26 episodes and premiere in 2018.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • The Orville scored an early season 2 renewal at Fox
  • Speaking of Fox, they’re looking into rebooting the 24 franchise again, this time with the focus on a female attorney racing the clock to save her client from the death penalty. I think the 24 concept can work if they move it away from CTU – an agency whose ineptitude should’ve caused it to be mothballed years ago.
  • Jordan Peele is rebooting The Twilight Zone at CBS All Access
  • Gotham is just burning through Poison Ivy actresses, as Peyton List has just been cast as the character – the 3rd actress to play Ivy since the series launched.
  • Chantal Thuy has been cast as Outsiders member Grace Choi in The CW’s Black Lightning series.
  • When the writers tried to unionize, billionaire owner of DNAinfo and Gothamist shut down all the sites, including DCist
  • Beyoncé has been cast as Nala in Disney’s live action adaptation of The Lion King
  • Still angry at The Rock for delaying Fast 9, Tyrese has vowed that he won’t be in it if The Rock is still in it. While folks thought Tyrese was having a breakdown, it turns out he’s going broke fighting his ex-wife in court for custody of their daughter.
  • Folks had a field day mocking Papa Johns Pizza when its CEO complained that the NFL protests were hurting his business.
  • Major League Baseball sent a weak ass message by suspending Houston Astros player Yuli Gurriel for games played NEXT SEASON for a racist gesture he made during the World Series against Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish
  • CBS effectively cancelled the Bobby Moynihan/John Larroquette series Me, Myself, and I by pulling it from the schedule after 6 low-rated episodes.
  • Because the shark hasn’t nearly been turbo boosted over with an animated Halloween special, David S. Pumpkins will also be getting a Funko Pop figure. Here’s my problem with Pumpkins: I keep thinking of the lowly SNL staff writer who’s not seeing a dime from any of this.
  • During a year when it’s been publishing some surprisingly hard-hitting journalism, Teen Vogue announced they were discontinuing their print edition.
  • Some heroic Twitter employee took it upon him/herself to keep our President from embarrassing himself for 11 minutes by taking down his account. The account has since been restored, but for a mere 11 minutes, we were at peace.

  • There was a Sabrina, The Teenage Witch reunion at Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con. Half the people there weren’t even important to the show. Black dude? One season. Redhead? She just popped on when Clueless got cancelled. David Lascher? What 90s show DIDN’T he appear on?
  • At the London Comic-Con, Hasbro revealed that the Build A Figure for the Black Panther movie wave of Marvel Legends will be Okoye, who is the leader of the Dora Milaje. I was hoping it’d be one I could skip, but I’m all-in on movie Legends, so…

“Have you seen Stranger Things 2? Have you seen Stranger Things 2? Have you seen Stranger Things 2?” That was the common Earth greeting from the past week. You weren’t shit unless you were bingeing that series at some point over the past 7 days. The first season was a hit, and I’ve yet to see any complaints about this one. Super Mario Odyssey has also gotten some good press, but it got the WWE last week. No, I haven’t seen Stranger Things 2. Hell, I haven’t even seen Stranger Things. I know, I know. At the end of the day, it’s not really my cup of tea, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it at some point. Still, I know a hit when I see one, so that’s why Stranger Things 2 had the West Week Ever.

27th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/27/17

by Will

Work is killing me right now, so I had to take a week off. As we return to our regularly scheduled program, I thought we’d take a closer look at what I’ve been up to in the world of pop culture.

Two weekends ago, my buddy @classickmateria and I journeyed up to Oaks, PA for Retro Con. I believe this was the 5th year of the show, and I’ve been to four of them. If you’ve never heard of Retro Con, they describe themselves as ” a pop culture and memorabilia show catering to anything considered ‘retro’, especially the 80’s! Transformers, Star Wars, GI Joe, Ghostbusters, He-man, classic video games, etc..”

After attending for 4 years, I have mixed feelings on the show itself. I’ve been to SDCC, so I’m a bit of a con snob. As a convention, it’s a shitty show. It has never really deserved to be a 2-day affair except for the fact that it’s located in the middle of nowhere, so you’ve got to find a way to justify the travel. On the other hand, it’s a great meetup spot for Twitter friends. I see more folks at Retro Con than I see in any other place throughout the year, and this year didn’t disappoint. At some point during the day, I spent time with @RD80s, @LamarRevenger, @Jordamus_Prime, @3BlackGeeks, and @DeeTheBlackGeek. These regional shows are great for putting faces to screennames, so that’s pretty much what I look forward to when I go.

The problem with Retro Con is that it’s not really a convention, but rather a toy show. If you’re wondering what the difference is, it’s that a convention is more of an experience. There are guests, and panels, and a certain sort of ambiance to the venue. A toy show is usually in a place that’s not too fancy, where dealers set up their WWE folding tables and pile them high with dusty old toys. The fact that the venue looks like a really big high school gymnasium, and the WWE tables runneth over, this was a toy show. Sure, they try to have panels and guests, but it’s nothing to really write home about. This year, the marquee guests were Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz from The A-Team. Meanwhile, they also had voice actors Rob Paulsen and the dude who played Destro on G.I. Joe. My friends checked out some of the Q&A sessions, but I really preferred to spend my time digging through the nostalgia.

Here’s my haul from the show. With the exception of one item, I didn’t pay more than $5 for anything, so I was pretty proud of myself. Let’s take a closer look at what I got, shall we?

I collect movie-based Marvel Legends…who am I kidding? It started at movie-based, and then I added X-Men, and then I added Spider-Man, and now I basically collect them all. Now, this J. Jonah Jameson isn’t technically a Legend, but he’s the right scale, and he does a little angry dance when you push the lever on his back. So, he had to come home with me. Next up is who I affectionately refer to as “Obama Superman”. Technically, he’s Earth-23 Superman, who’s Black and also happens to be the President of the United States, who happened to debut while Obama was in office. I always kinda wanted this figure, but never wanted to pay retail for him. Little did I realize he would continue to the Black Hero Shrine I was unwittingly constructing that day. Also in this batch is The Rookie from Mattel’s Ghostbusters line. If you’re a toy guy, and haven’t been hiding under a rock, you know that the original 4 Ghostbusters have started popping up at Five Below stores. These things were originally $20 a piece, and now you can buy the team for that price. Still, The Rookie is an interesting character to me because he’s from the video game, and he has gone on to star in the comics. With the exception of Louis and Janine, he’s the only additional Ghostbuster added to the team in over 30 years. To me, he’s a Must Have, so I didn’t mind paying $10 for him complete.

This Nightwing came from a 2 for $5 table. I still don’t know what the catch was, considering this figure still goes for about $30 online. It’s the precursor to Mattel’s DC Universe Classics line, so the articulation is slightly limited. I already have the figure, but I wasn’t about to leave it behind for $2.50, so I snatched him up immediately.

To round out that Nightwing purchase, I HAD to have this doll of Black Space Jesus himself, Commander Benjamin Sisko. I have always loved Deep Space Nine, and my recent rewatch of the show has made me appreciate Sisko so much more than I did in the past. My kids are gonna need some kind of characters in fiction to look to (#RepresentationMatters), so I might create a Black Hero Toy Shrine with him and Obama Superman and Winston from Ghostbusters as a modern-day Black Jesus presentation in the living room.

I always wanted this Alex Ross DC Mythology book, but never felt like dropping $75 on it when it was first out in stores. At $5, though? It wasn’t even a question!

Finally, I really wanted a last minute deal to close the show out on. After all, I swear by the fact that dealers don’t want to take that shit home, so Sunday afternoon is when you can strike the best deals. The show closed at 4, and folks were walking to their cars. Some dealers had already packed up and left hours earlier, but the folks who were there to make money stayed put. Jordan and I did another lap around the floor, and he told me about a Castle Grayskull he’d seen but didn’t have any room for. And the kicker? The guy was going to let him have it for $5! I HAD to have it. We found the dealer, and I thought he’d try to jack up the price on me, but he said he’d offered it to Jordan for $5 so he’d honor that deal for me. SOLD!

I’m not even a Masters of the Universe guy, but I know not to leave behind a 200X Castle Grayskull when it’s only gonna cost me one figure in cash. It needs to be cleaned up a little, and it’s missing some small parts, but the electronics still work and it’s a great display piece. I’ve already got it up on some local sale sites and apps, so hopefully I won’t even own it by the time you read this. What? I ain’t got no room for this thing!

In comic news, something interesting happened to me a few weeks back. You see, I was on Twitter talking smack, as I’m wont to do, about DC’s latest event, Dark Knights: Metal. I’ve been kinda anti-writer Scott Snyder because he blocked me on Twitter a few months back, and I was butthurt about it. I figured he had seen me talking trash about his Batman run at some point and time, and didn’t like what he read.

Anyway, later that night, I get an email from…Scott Snyder. Apparently he had been doing a Twitter search for folks talking about the series, and he had come across my Tweet (odd, seeing as how I’m blocked). He thanked me for taking a chance on the series even though I hadn’t been a fan of his Batman run. Well, I was so taken aback by this that I HAD to write him back. I won’t print the emails ’cause I didn’t ask his permission or anything, but basically I told him how I had been butthurt about the blocking, and that while I wasn’t exactly a “fan” of his run, I had still bought every issue of it. I also took the opportunity to tell him how I felt his Batman “danced between the raindrops of continuity”, so it never felt like he was moving the character forward.

In any case, it was a long, rambling response, but he wrote back and apologized for the block. He said that it had probably been an accident, as he would’ve tried talking to me instead of just outright blocking if he’d read I hadn’t liked his run. He said he’d have to digest the rest later. I never heard from him again, but I’m unblocked! Now to get Amy Schumer to do the same…

In TV news, I am officially retiring from the Heroes & Icons All Star Trek programming block. If you remember, I told you a few months back of how I’d discovered the digital subchannel Heroes & Icons, and how they showed all 5 Star Trek series every night. When I first started, The Next Generation and Voyager were in their 7th and final seasons. After watching their finales, I hung on for the end of Deep Space Nine, as it’s my favorite in the franchise. When that was over, I told myself I’d finish out Enterprise because my friend Brandon swore that it was better than I thought it would be. And he was right.

Sunday night was the airing of “These Are The Voyages…”, which is the series finale of Enterprise. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a HUGE slap in the face to the Enterprise cast and fans, as it’s framed as a holodeck sequence aboard The Next Generation‘s Enterprise-D during that whole Pegasus incident with Riker. So, technically, the Enterprise crew doesn’t even appear in the episode, but rather their holographic representations do. Enterprise‘s producers once said that they wanted to give a love letter to the fans, as they knew it would mark the end of Star Trek‘s continuous 17-year run on television. Over time, however, they’ve even come to realize their hearts might’ve been in the right place, but the execution was not. In the end, Enterprise was a much better series than people claim, and it was never treated well. Hell, it didn’t even get the requisite 2-hour series finale that all the other Trek spinoffs got. Nope, they crammed 4 years’ worth of character development into one hour and a senseless death.

Anyway, I don’t retire out of anger. Not entirely. I retire because I’ve done what I set out to do. I revisited old friends, and gained a new appreciation for new ones. I’ll still check in from time to time, but it’s no longer “destination television” for me, as I accomplished what I wanted to do. When I say it’s not entirely in anger, I refer to the motley crew of fans I met while livetweeting the show. You see, Heroes & Icons set up the #AllStarTrek hashtag to use while tweeting along with the show. While doing so, I was constantly reprimanded by fans who had co-opted the hashtag. “Don’t tweet spoilers!” Um, Deep Space Nine ended TWENTY-SIX YEARS AGO. “Watch the language, as there might be children present.” It’s midnight! Put those little fuckers to bed! While there were a couple of nice people, I just came across a bunch of miserable folks who refer to themselves as “Captain” and other fake ranks I’m sure they don’t hold down at the gas company or wherever the fuck they work in real life. So, no, I won’t miss them. So, thanks for the memories, Heroes & Icons. It was nice to revisit the 24th (and 22nd) centuries for a bit, and I know where to find ya when I need ya. Oh, and new Trek ranking: DS9>TNG>Enterprise>Voyager>TOS. FIGHT ME!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We got this amazing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine reunion pic. Oh Lord, what happened to Leeta?
  • Netflix’s The Punisher will premiere November 17th – the same day that Justice League hits theaters. Marvel actually did DC a favor, because the only thing that’s gonna make Justice League look like a ray of sunshine is the goddamn Punisher…
  • Speaking of DC, they apparently want Gareth Evans to direct a Deathstroke movie.  Yup, the company that owns Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and friggin’ Booster Gold, thinks the world is clamoring for a Deathstroke movie.
  • Star Trek: Discovery has been renewed for a second season on CBS All Access. I have to admit I was wrong because I swore a second season wouldn’t end up on that streaming service. That’s still not enough to get me to subscribe.
  • The Han Solo Star Wars movie will be called Solo. It has no “wow factor”, but it works.
  • We basically got our first cancellation of the fall TV season, as ABC’s Ten Days In The Valley will be given a Saturday night burn-off.
  • Ryan Potter of Supah Ninjas/Big Hero 6 fame has been cast as Beast Boy in the live action Titans series
  • Speaking of Big Hero 6, Big Hero 6 The Series will debut November 20th, with a one-hour TV “movie”, Baymax Returns, which will air simultaneously on Disney Channel and Disney XD
  • And speaking of Disney Channel, Andi Mack is a series where a teenage girl finds out her sister is actually her mom. Well, to keep pushing that envelope, the show will feature the coming out of one of her best friends.
  • A Magnum P.I. reboot is being developed at CBS. $20 says they change the character to a Latina in a wheelchair…
  • I thought America got its fill of Jane Lynch from Glee/Celebrity Game Night, but apparently a daytime talk show is being developed for her for Fall 2018. This will be the 21st century’s The Marsha Warfield Show.
  • The Night Shift, which was basically the RC Cola to ER‘s Coke, has been cancelled by NBC after 4 seasons.
  • The former Joan Rivers vehicle, Fashion Police, has been cancelled by E! after 22 years.
  • Somewhere, your great grandfather is really happy that CBS is looking into reviving Name That Tune.
  • Chelsea Handler’s Chelsea has been cancelled at Netflix, yet she’s spinning it as a personal decision so that she can become more educated about politics. OK, Chelsea.
  • The Loud House creator Chris Savino was fired by Nickelodeon after sexual harassment allegations. I kinda hated this show, but it hurt me to the core when the same thing happened to the creator of Clarence. Keep it in your pants, animation dudes!
  • Because America has a short memory, Justin Timberlake will be hosting the halftime show at Super Bowl LII. Of course everyone’s wondering if we’ll get an *NSYNC reunion, but I’m more curious to know if it’ll mark the return of Janet Jackson’s nipple.
  • Zoo was cancelled by CBS after 3 seasons. I’m really amazed it lasted that long.
  • I don’t know anyone who watches it, but Preacher has been renewed for season 3 at AMC
  • There’s a live action Dora the Explorer movie being developed, with Michael Bay producing. Dora will now be a 19 year old whose exotic dancing career takes her around the world.
  • The Goldbergs aired its 100th episode this week. Between besmirching Star Trek, and the fact that Adam basically looks 20 now, I think I’m over that show. It’s kinda like how I dropped Fresh Off the Boat when I remembered that Eddie Huang grows up to be an asshole.
  • Ben “Director Krennic” Mendelsohn is in talks to be the main villain in the Captain Marvel movie. Heh, I just realized it’s probably gonna be called Marvel’s Captain Marvel.
  • Fresh off having all her footage cut out of Justice League, Kiersey Clemons will be joining the cast of TBS’s Angie Tribeca next season.
  • Vincent D’Onofrio will return as Wilson Fisk in Daredevil season 3
  • Bill O’Reilly reportedly paid a $32 million settlement for sexual harassment allegations. Remember, kids – nobody ever dropped that kind of coin for something they didn’t do…
  • Hot off the cancellation of Being Mary Jane, it’s reported that Gabrielle Union will star in a TV spinoff of Bad Boys, reprising her character from the second movie. One day I’ll get around to watching those movies…
  • Sex and the City 3 won’t happen because of Kim Cattral, who admitted the women were never friends, but hopes that the movie will go ahead, with her character recast with a Black or Hispanic actress.

I haven’t really ever been a video game guy. I owned the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and later a Playstation, a Playstation 2, and an XBox 360. But I’d never call myself a “gamer”. Still, I understand that there’s no video game character more revered than Mario. That’s why it’s a big deal whenever a Mario game is released. Well, today saw the release of Super Mario Odyssey, and the review this game is getting are incredible. I don’t own a Nintendo Switch, but now I kinda want one. I love a good Mario game, and it seems like this might be one of the best. I haven’t been online as much lately, but whenever I’ve popped on, I’ve just seen folks overhyped for this game. Sure, Stranger Things season 2 comes out today, but I think this weekend will belong to Mario. It might be a bit early to tell, but I think Super Mario Odyssey is going to have the West Week Ever.

06th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/6/17

by Will

So, I guess I’ve got to start off by talking about Vegas, huh? Ya know, it’s been really hard writing this column in 2017. Like, I’m sure some of y’all are thinking, “Man, Will is slipping” or you’ve put me in the category with The Simpsons where “This isn’t as funny as it used to be.” Sadly, it’s just the state of the world, and all I can do is my best to mine the entertainment news that still manages to trickle out. That said, it is really hard talking about pop culture in 2017.

But anyway, Vegas. Unless you’ve been offworld fighting the Jem’Hadar or whatever, then you already know some dude (not gonna name him ’cause why should I?) shot up the Route 91 Harvest 3-day country music festival, killing 59 people, and injuring over 500, in the deadliest US gun attack in history. And while this was a horrific loss of life, I’m kind of numb to these things now. I mean, sure, you wonder “Is anywhere safe anymore?” but at the same time, this is America, and these sorts of things have become somewhat annual, if not more frequent. After all, this is only the deadliest gun attack since the Pulse shooting in Miami back in June of 2016. It’s saddening and exhausting, yet nothing seems to be changing.

I’m seeing a lot of sentiments, post-Vegas, about how we’re all Americans and should now unite and, basically, “cut the bullshit”. But what does that ultimately mean? I mean, around what ideal are we uniting? It sure as Hell ain’t gun control. Or mental health. There’s no “evil foreigner” trope for us to pursue. If anything, it seems to be a plea to stop protesting and kneeling and all that jazz, because it’s “divisive”. Nah, I’m good. I know these things teach us that life is precious and we shouldn’t waste time on squabbles, but the stuff folks are mad about isn’t menial. And I think it’s gonna take more than a “lone wolf” at a country festival to sweep all the issues under the rug, for the sake of “unity”.

Anyway, as you can imagine, Vegas cast a bit of a pall on pop culture this week, and this wasn’t more evident than with the return of MTV’s TRL.

Members of the N’SYNC pose with Carson Daly at MTV Studios in New York City’s Times Square on January, 26, 2000. (photo by Todd Plitt)

Originally Total Request Live, the video request countdown was a powerhouse on the pop music landscape at the turn of the century. It put Carson Daly on the map, and it was what everyone watched when they came home from school (unless they were watching 106 & Park). You weren’t shit if you didn’t stop by TRL to promote whatever new project you had coming up. It was THE place to be. Then the internet got bigger, and you could watch music videos whenever you want on YouTube (and later Vevo). So, the show packed its shit and left us in 2008.

Feeling a bit of nostalgia, I suppose, Viacom decided to revive the show this year with a team of hosts. With the internet being what it is now, surely it’d be more interactive than the original. What nobody told us, though, is that it wouldn’t have any videos!

Monday’s premiered chugged along, despite having to deal with a national tragedy and experiencing technical difficulties, and didn’t air a single video. Yeah, they still make videos. CMT plays ’em, so at least they’re still viable for country. Taylor Swift and Katy Perry still make them. There are videos out there, yet the show known for its video countdown ain’t got no videos! Exactly WHAT is the audience expected to request? Instead, the show featured live performances from Ed Sheeran and Migos, and displayed some awkward banter between the hosts as they tried to fill out the intermittent silences.

People have said “What’s the point of then showing videos if you can get them online?”, and while that’s true, I’d counter with “Then why bring back the show at all?” Imagine if VH1 revived Pop-Up Video, but didn’t actually do the pop-ups because “folks do that better on YouTube now”? That would be a useless show. And in an age where MTV seems to want to get back into the music business somewhat, and they still host an awards show for music videos you’d think they would see this TRL reboot as a golden opportunity. Anyway, maybe they’re just experiencing first week growing pains, but things certainly don’t look all that great for this incarnation at the moment.

Another way that Vegas affected pop culture is that Netflix pulled their Punisher panel that was planned for this weekend’s New York Comic Con. While some folks are asking “What’s that gonna change?”, I selfishly applaud the decision. I say selfishly because I don’t understand anyone who holds The Punisher as their favorite comic character. At least no one over the age of 13, that is. Why, in this day and age, is he still a thing? Sure, he has his roots in the whole Dirty Harry/Death Wish popularity of decades past, but let’s not forgot that comic are just power fantasies. So who does he appeal to?

If you’re not familiar with The Punisher, Frank Castle was originally a Vietnam vet whose family was murdered because they witnessed a killing in Central Park. He then begins his one-man war on crime. Sure, this was “cool” in the 89s, but now? Do you really wanna give a Vietnam vet with a screw loose a bunch of weapons? Shit, most of y’all wouldn’t even give him a dollar!

In recent years, they’ve tried to make him more “comic booky”, sending him after Hydra and having him somewhat idolize Captain America, but at the end of the day, he’s not a good dude. And it’s not like he does it in a funny way, like Deadpool (and I’ve got thoughts about that, too). He’s so “ripped from the headlines” that I’m surprised there aren’t Punisher copycats running around in the streets.

They say that every character is somebody’s favorite, but if yours is Punisher, not only do I want to know who hurt you, but I’m also afraid of you. We’ve got comic retailers pissed that Iron Man is currently a Black girl, or Captain America was a Black man, but don’t bat an eye that there’s this White dude who’s been on a killing spree since the mid 70s. I just don’t know if we need that character anymore.

Anyway, enough Vegas talk. Over at ABC, they finally locked their judges panel for the American Idol reboot and I’ve got problems with it.

The lineup on the judges panel will be Katy Perry, country star Luke Bryan, and 80s superstar Lionel Richie. And my problem is that these judges are current recording artists, so what’s to keep them from torpedoing the hopes of a contestant that they night see as competition? We already know Katy’s petty from her feud with Taylor Swift, so I wouldn’t put it past her.

When the original Idol aired, the judges were comprised of a producer, a hasbeen, and a pop music magic maker. None of them were active recording artists. The only show that has active recording artists as judges is The Voice, and notice how that show has yet to produce a household name after 13 seasons. Not even in the first season, where all eyes were on this newfangled show to see what it was all about, did the winner become a “star”. That show has always been, and will always be about the judges. You think Blake Shelton is gonna choose someone who might compete with him over a CMA? No the fuck not!

Katy’s experienced a lot of success, but I don’t know if she’s really anyone to be judging singing. Despite the fact that she’s the biggest star on the panel, and making the most money, Katy fills the Paula role, as she’s more of an entertainer than a vocalist. Luke, while he’s paid his dues in the country industry, is still a novice to stardom. Not really sure what advice he has to offer the next generation of stars. And Lionel is just there to fill that Randy Jackson, elder statesman role. If you’ll notice, the panel is missing a Simon. There’s no one there who truly understand the behind the scenes aspect of the industry. How to package an artist, how to match them with the right songs, etc. Katy has been packaged, and Lionel has written songs, but there’s no “godfather” on the panel, which I think will be to the show’s detriment.

In comic news, it was announced at NYCC yesterday that DC would be completely rebooting the “urban” Milestone properties, led by a new Static Shock series from Kyle Baker and Reginald Hudlin.

The minority pockets of comic fandom have been claiming for years that they’d support a Milestone reboot, so now it’s time for them to out their money where their mouth is. Frankly, I don’t believe them. It’s the “woke”, socially conscious thing to say, but when you’re faced with paying $3.99 a month for Static, your attitude is gonna change.

Several companies have tried to fill the void left by the Milestone books, and the only one that has come close to succeeding is Lion Forge’s current Catalyst Prime universe. While it’s still very early to tell where this imprint might go, they’ve delivered a quality product, with known creators, and even their footprint doesn’t seem to be that large. Retailers are ordering conservatively, as they, too, aren’t sure how things will shake our. Sure, Milestone will have DC Comics money behind it, but is DC giving then just enough rope with which to hang themselves? I guess time will tell, but I’m not overly optimistic about their chances. Plus, there have been so many bait & switch Milestone announcements over the years that I’ll believe it when I see the books on shelves.

Speaking of DC, there are reports that they’re backing away from their shared DC Extended Universe films, as they’ll downplay the interconnectedness going forward. While I, for one, applaud this decision, money talks, so the success or failure of Justice League will most likely dictate the future of their film universe. It’s increasingly seeming like the Flash movie will be Flashpoint, which is odd because we’re not even invested enough in the characters yet to go through a universe-changing event like that.

If you’re unfamiliar, Flashpoint was the DC Comics event that changed the DC timeline and resulted in the New 52 relaunch a few years back. Most of the DC heroes started with a clean slate, and the books picked up early in the heroes’ careers. While a Flashpoint movie wouldn’t have to be so drastic, as they haven’t really established much of that universe yet, it is interesting that they would do a soft reboot of the films so soon. My feelings is that they’ll keep what works and throw out what doesn’t. Gal Gadot ain’t going anywhere. And Aquaman is probably safe, too.

I think the biggest wild card is Affleck. It was sort of dumb for them to build a film universe around an older Batman, where the most interesting stuff about him occurred before we even meet him. I know they wanted to go all The Dark Knight Returns with his battle against Superman, and that required an older, more skilled Batman. However, Affleck and the DCEU are like a couple who’s clearly unhappy, but neither is willing to pull the trigger on a break-up. Plus, it doesn’t help that Affleck’s most recent non-DC films have been flops, so he’d be a fool to walk away from a sure thing. The films might not be universally loved, but they do make money.

Anyway, we got some character posters for Justice League this week, which is something I guess. It comes out 2 weeks after Thor: Ragnarok, yet I’ve seen almost no promotion for it, while Thor has had TV spots since late August. In fact, the only time I even remember there’s a Justice League movie coming is when I’m in the toy aisle and see those uninspired basic figures on the pegs. They’re really gonna need to pump up the hype machine in the next few weeks. With the way DC’s acting, I almost feel like they’re ready to take the L and move on to the next phase of their movie-making.

Last weekend I went to TFCon 2017, which was a Transformers convention held locally. While I had a great time finally meeting Twitter pals @briantruitt and @brock626, and catching up with my bud @FakeEyes22, the show itself was meh. Like, I can’t believe that people actually travel for that show. Imagine paying for tickets to a music festival with big name acts, only to get their and they say “Psych! Most of these are cover bands!” That’s TFCon, ’cause about 40% of the “convention floor” (AKA hotel ballroom) was nothing but 3rd party knockoff toys and Reprolabels. After all, why buy a legitimate Optimus Prime when you can buy a $70 “Supreme Leader”? I know that 3rd party stuff is popular amongst Transformers fans, but I didn’t think you could prop up a convention with it, especially since it seemed like Hasbro was starting to crack down on those knockoff peddlers. Anyway, I bought my first 3rd party Transformer, KBBMP 21+ Beetle Wasp , who is really just a large G1 Bumblebee.

Song of the Week

You know why. My a cappella group used to sing this and it was one of my favorite arrangements to sing. I tried to find our version on YouTube, but the one that’s up is the quality of hot garbage, so you get the original instead.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Film sites are teasing that “big star” Kate Winslet is reteaming with James Cameron and joining the Avatar franchise. Sorry, but she hasn’t been a star since 1997.
  • Fast 9 has been given the release date of 4/10/20, while the Fast spin-off starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham now has a release date of 7/26/19.
  • Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter/actress Jill Scott has been cast as the villain Lady Eve in The CW’s Black Lightning. I still feel like they’re dooming this show to fail by not connecting it to the preexisting Arrowverse.
  • OJ Simpson was released from prison last Sunday morning at midnight, after serving a 9-year term. He immediately resumed his hunt for the real killers. Just kidding. He’s reportedly staying on a golf course somewhere.

  • We got a trailer for Syfy’s Happy!, based on the Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson graphic novel of the same name. While this left me with a feeling of “What did I just watch?”, this feels like it’d be more at home on FX than Syfy.
  • It seems like Universal’s Dark Universe is falling apart, after The Bride of Frankenstein just lost its release date. The actors, including Javier Bardem and Angelina Jolie, are on hold until the script can be worked on.
  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley has been upped to series regular for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so expect to see her yo-yoing through space this year.
  • Black superhero series Raising Dion is being developed by, and will co-star, Michael B. Jordan. The show has received a 10-episode order from Netflix.
  • Apparently there’s a Bob’s Burgers movie coming in 2020. Just like the show, I’ll have no direct interest in seeing it, but I’m sure I’ll eventually catch it on FXX one day and enjoy every minute of it.
  • Gore Verbinski, of Pirates of the Caribbean and The Ring fame, will reportedly direct Channing Tatum’s Gambit film spin-off of the X-Men franchise. Man, what kind of blackmail material does Tatum have to keep this movie in production?! I’ll bet it’s some dirt from his days as a stripper!
  • Bruce Willis’s Death Wish reboot has been moved from later this year to March 2nd, 2018. They claim it’s because the Thanksgiving film corridor is crowded, but it’s more likely the fact that a movie about an old White guy shooting up people ain’t so kosher right now. But we’ll have forgotten all about this stuff by March, so it’s cool.
  • The future of Nickelodeon’s Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn is in question, as they ain’t got no Dicky! Actor Mace Coronel (are we sure he’s not a video game character with that name?) abruptly left the show over the summer, and announced his departure on Instagram this week.
  • TNT announced that the upcoming 6th season of Major Crimes would be its last, despite the fact that it’s the highest rated show on the network. This is like when CBS initiated the Rural Purge, where they cancelled all their high-rated “bumpkin” shows because they wanted to change their image.
  • Alyssa Milano is developing her comic series Hacktivist into a TV series for The CW
  • Freshman ABC drama The Good Doctor has scored a full season order after only airing 2 episodes.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog film has jumped from Sony to Paramount, and announced director Tim Miller (Deadpool) will now produce, as Jeff Fowler will be making his theatrical directorial debut on the film.
  • After 15 seasons, Pauley Perrette is leaving NCIS at the end of this season. In other news, NCIS has somehow been on for 15 years…

  • CBS is adding Will Ferrell-produced comedy No Activity to the All Access streaming service, to debut by end of year. However, Tim Meadows just joined the cast as the co-lead, so the show is already cancelled.
  • Larry Wilmore and Viola Davis are developing the comedy Black Don’t Crack for ABC, which sounds like an older Girlfriends reboot
  • Co-head writers Chris Kelly and Sarah Schneider have left Saturday Night Live to work on a pilot for Comedy Central. Kelly also wrote for Broad City, while Schneider wrote for Master of None.

  • We also got a trailer for Hulu’s Future Man from Seth Rogen. It looks funny, but Hulu doesn’t seem like the right home for it, as it feels like a Fox show.
  • Glee‘s Mark Salling issued a plea in his child pornography case. One of the stipulations of sentencing means he’ll have to stay away from events frequented by minors, such as “video arcade facilities”. Here’s hoping he not a pedophile AND a time traveler!

So, this has been a Hell of a week. One great thing about it, though, is that today is my 5-year wedding anniversary. Yup, on October 6th, 2012, I married a girl I met on the Internet, and she hasn’t killed me yet. We’ve actually been together 9 years, but only 5 in the eyes of the District of Columbia. It has certainly been a ride. She got skinnier, I got fatter. We’ve had a kid together, which is pretty cool. Sometimes I feel like said kid gets the attention that I used to get, but I’m not supposed to be jealous of a toddler, right? RIGHT?

Anyway, when things like Vegas happen, you do realize that you’re lucky/blessed to be alive, and you look at the life you’ve built around yourself. I certainly could’ve done a lot worse, and probably not much better. Look, I was a lot better at writing this kind of stuff 9 years ago, when we were both still in the “OMG, you love breathing? I love breathing, too!” phase. Life comes along, and shit gets hard. I’m not even going to lie about that. But it’s a lot easier to handle when you’ve got a good person beside you to deal with it together. So, I think the West Family is having the West Week Ever. I love y’all!

29th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/29/17

by Will

So the week kicked off with me heading to the Baltimore Comic-Con. A tradition of mine for the past 14 years or so, I’ve only missed one in that span of time and, while I was kinda under the weather, I’m a stickler for tradition! How was it? It was OK. It felt sort of smaller this year, but that could just be the result of the odd layout of the place. It wasn’t in the main hall, as there was some sort of waste management convention going on in that space. I honestly think it was called WasteCon. I wanted to sneak in just to see what kind of swag they had to offer. Anyway, you get into the exhibit hall, and the photo ops section split up the main floor from the food court. The publishers were set up closest to the photo ops, while the vendors took up most of the floor. Meanwhile, the smaller press, Artist Alley folks were shoved into the back. It might’ve been the same layout as last year, but something just felt off about it. The way things were jumbled together just kind of overwhelmed me – a feeling I’d have for the rest of the show.

The cosplay was pretty decent, though. I was somewhat disappointed by what I had seen at Awesome Con back in June, and I felt like these costumes were actually creative. I spent most of my time digging through longboxes, though, so I probably missed out on much of the “con experience”. Didn’t get to say “hi” to a lot of my publisher friends. Didn’t really meet any comic writers or artists. Just spent a few hours digging for gold.

I walked away from the show with an epiphany: I’m seriously considering giving up buying comics on a monthly basis. While I enjoy the weekly ritual of going to the comic shop, and grabbing the latest books off the shelf, the money really starts to rack up. Your average comic costs $3.99 today, and that can go up to $9.99 sometimes (looking at you, Deadpool). While my local shop gives you a 10% discount, that only goes so far. At the show, it was clear that the industry has changed, as the majority of the vendors were selling comics for $1 each. And I’m not talking about old, dead stock. Some of those books had just come out last Wednesday. Over the course of the show, I bought about 120 comics to fill in some holes in my collection. And you know how much I paid? $120. Had I bought those books at retail, at minimum they would’ve cost $478.

If you’ve talked to me recently about comics, you know the sort of To Read backlog that I’m dealing with. I buy the books when they hit, but don’t read them for 6 months. I have an unread longbox of Marvel and an unread longbox of DC. Why am I sinking all this money into something that’s just going to sit in a box? If I time the conventions correctly, I can buy everything I need every 6 months or so, and be caught up by the time the next show, and the next batch of $1 boxes hits.

I also don’t feel like being taken advantage of by publishers. I got into an argument with Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool because of a matter I felt he should be covering but wasn’t. You see, DC recently wrapped up Frank Miller’s third entry into the Dark Knight series, Dark Knight III: The Master Race. This was an 8-issue series, expanded to 9 issues over the course of the series, priced at $5.99 each. So, right there, a $47.92 commitment became a $53.91 commitment. Fine. These were higher end comics, with a thicker stock cover and a mini comic inserted into each issue. So, $5.99. I think it could’ve been done for $4.99, but whatever. So, fast forward to last Wednesday, when the hardcover collection of the series was released for $29.99. Yes, I said HARDCOVER (which is typically priced much higher than a trade paperback). All 9 issues are included, plus the mini comics are included at natural size. You’re basically being punished for being an early adopter if you purchased the series on its pseudo-monthly schedule. Johnston tried to say that it’s commonly understood that collections are cheaper than the individual issues, but I say not by that kind of margin! Single issue buyers, like myself, almost paid TWICE what trade-waiters will pay, and I don’t think that’s the right way of doing business. Again, Johnston tried to say that the thicker cover and inserted mini comic would’ve made production costs higher, but not by that much. People always forget I worked at Diamond in Purchasing. Needless to say, Johnston thought it was a non-story because he had to go dig through some Marvel exec’s dumpster, but I think it’s an important issue. People want to blame stories and SJWs and all that for the demise of the comic industry, but ultimately it’s gonna come down to price. Always follow the money. And I’m going to rethink how I invest mine in this hobby.

Speaking of money, Toys “R” Us doesn’t have any, and they filed for bankruptcy last week. Keep in mind, vultures, that they filed for Chapter 11 protection so don’t start waiting for the going out of business sales any time soon.

I worked for Toys “R” Us off and on for 10 years of my life, so I’ve got some thoughts on the whole matter. Right now, they’ve got to restructure, and I think one thing they need to do is eliminate their in-house brands. Nobody wants Fastlane when you’ve got Hot Wheels for a dollar. It’s kind of hard to compete with that price point. Also, I feel like their footprint is too large. I remember growing up, thinking that I loved Toys “R” Us. Then I started working there, and realized I only loved aisles 6D & 7D – action figures. When I had to work other departments, I was like “What is all this shit?” They need a more concentrated assortment of merchandise, taking up less space. Also, seeing as how they own the Kay Bee rights, they should spin off that brand and resurrect it as “The Toy Store in the Mall”. Of course, malls are dying, so these would mainly be located in town centers which are all the rage in commercial real estate these days. A decent sized Kay Bee had all that you needed, except for larger stuff like bikes and the baby stuff. They can keep Babies “R” Us as it is, as that’s the moneymaker these days, but they should really strive for smaller stores. I’m sure I could rattle off some more suggestions, but nobody’s paying me for my ideas, so I’ll just sit here quietly and see what the professionals come up with.

 

*Climbs up on soapbox* I’m tired of the echo chamber. I’m tired of hearing the same shit, with nothing behind it except opinion and vitriol. What am I talking about? I got into a…discussion in a Facebook group the other day about The Big Bang Theory. Someone posted an article about how the show turned 10 years old and “still sucks”. I said that was a tired hot take because where it “sucks” or not, there are people out there who still like it. I won’t lie – I enjoy the show. It’s no marvel of modern television, but when’s the last time anyone said that about a multi cam sitcom? It’s the single cams that win all the awards. In this day and age, you’re bound to get hate just for having a studio audience. Liking it isn’t a hill for me to die on, but I find it almost obnoxious how people will go out of their way to tell you it sucks. OK, that’s great, but that’s your opinion. “But everyone thinks it sucks!” Everyone you talk to, maybe. We live in a time when opinion is routinely taken as fact and I’m just tired of the implications of that.

Let me learn ya something: this week’s 11th season premiere of The Big Bang Theory had 17 million viewers. I consider myself a student of television, and I can’t help but marvel at a show whose ratings trajectory is so strong after all this time. Find me another show, in the modern era, that has that kind of audience in its ELEVENTH season. It’s unparalleled. “But popularity doesn’t mean it’s good.” What are you looking for? Shakespeare? Some folks enjoy it. Isn’t that enough?

There’s a lot of cultural elitism going around, and it’s from the smallest things like TV shows to the biggest things like politics. When people say, “Oh, The Big Bang Theory is a piece of shit”, OK, that’s their opinion. To take that opinion as fact discounts the opinions of 17 MILLION PEOPLE. That’s when one of you will retort with “Well, the Nielsen system is broken”. Fine, I get it. There’s an excuse from everything.

I liken this situation to American politics. To go online, everyone supposedly hates Trump. Still, for all you’re seeing of that, somebody still voted for him. A lot of somebodies. But when you’re in your echo chamber, you don’t really think about that. It turns into “I can’t believe this! How did this happen?!” I’m not saying to go out and hug a Nazi because that would just be stupid, but just take some time to understand that someone has a different viewpoint than you. I’m not even saying you have to respect it, but at least acknowledge that it’s there.

I’ve done a lot of introspection over the past few weeks, and I’m reminded that I don’t want to review something with “That sucks” or “That’s horrible”, because other folks’ mileage may vary. It’s enough to just say “That wasn’t for me.” It’s times like these when I miss my pal Ryan’s podcast, Positively Nerdy. He would always strive to be positive about the stuff he talked about, and it even broke cynical old me. What do you all have to gain by being so negative about shit? Just let people enjoy what they enjoy, and stop acting like it’s some unexplained anomaly. It actually makes quite a bit of sense if you take the time to really think about it.

They announced a Teen Titans Go movie for next summer, and I’ve seen folks just shit all over it. Why? Because to a lot of folks “It’s the show that replaced Young Justice!” even though those decisions were made independently of each other. I love that show. Like, it honestly brings me joy. I work from home on Wednesdays, and the other day they had both a Neverending Story AND a Goonies homage. If you hate it, that’s fine, but it’s not a piece of shit to me. Also, Cartoon Network is a business. Sure, a lot of you hate that the show is ALWAYS on (I’d even probably hate that if I didn’t like the show), but it’s scheduled like that because it’s highly rated. “Well, those people have no taste!” There you go projecting your opinion on shit.

Anyway, I’m tired of hearing the same arguments and the same sentiments, and I’m going to do my best to broaden my horizons in that regard. *steps off soapbox*

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Billy Bush and his wife of 20 years are calling it quits. Man, if you told me former Z104 DJ Billy Bush would end up the fall guy for a presidential administration, I never would’ve believed you…
  • Looks like Gina Torres finally chose the Red Pill, as she and husband Laurence Fishburne have split up after 14 years of marriage.
  • James Cameron said it took him a week to muster up the courage to ask ex-wife Linda Hamilton to star in the 6th Terminator movie.
  • It’s looking like Marvel has no faith in the Inhumans TV series (which premieres tonight), as it is now being billed as “the complete series” instead of “season one”
  • Rumer Willis is now a series regular on Empire. Huh? I can only assume her mom got her the job when she joined the show. So glad I dropped it a while ago.
  • Apparently the Riverdale folks are developing a reboot of Sabrina The Teenage Witch for The CW. Based on the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic, I doubt it’ll feature hot aunts this time around. PASS!

 

  • This year’s Arrowverse crossover will be a 2-night event called “Crisis on Earth-X”, and we got the promo image for it this week.

  • We also got this promo image for season 5 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., where the team apparently heads to space.
  • After 5 seasons, Chip & Joanna Gaines are walking away from Fixer Upper. Knowing HGTV, they’re fast-tracking Fixer Upper Vegas to fill the void as we speak.
  • A female-led reboot of the 70s series Kung Fu has received a put pilot order at Fox. This means it pretty much HAS to make it to air or the network will be out of a ton of money. Considering there are some seriously messed up racial politics with that show, I’m counting down to the shitstorm.
  • Black-ish creator Kenya Barris will write the script for Coming to America 2. I can only assume Eddie Murphy’s behind on child support or something.
  • The Mist has been cancelled by Spike after one season.
  • Reportedly the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner dynasty, Kylie, is 5 months pregnant, with rapper Travis Scott as the father. As fucked up as it is, I can only marvel at how savvy Kris Jenner is. The original cast members got old and boring, so she orchestrated the dawn of the next generation. If you don’t think Kris had a hand in all this, you don’t know the Kardashians. Kris could’ve been an amazing force as the head of a network or something.
  • The Russo Brothers are adapting Rick Remender’s Deadly Class comic for a pilot at Syfy
  • Amazon is developing Greg Rucka’s comics Lazarus into a television series
  • Former congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a teenage girl. How on the nose is that? His name is “Weiner” and that’s what he was showing to people. Man, people better keep an eye on Senator Robert Scrotum!
  • BoJack Horseman has been renewed for season 5 at Netflix. One day I’ll finally catch up with that show. Never even started season 2…
  • Apparently Danny Elfman will be working the John Williams Superman theme into Justice League. Don’t really know what to make of that right now.

  • The Cartoon Network series OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes kinda confounds me, but it did find it cool that there will be a Captain Planet crossover on the October 9th episode
  • Saturday Night Live has hired new cast members Heidi Gardner, Chris Redd, and Luke Null to fill the void left by departed cast members Bobby Moynihan, Vanessa Bayer, and Sasheer Zamata.

  • I don’t consider myself much of a “movie guy”, but I remember trailers like this, so I thought this was pretty cool.

It was a big week for Star Trek, as Sunday saw the premiere of the long-delayed Star Trek: Discovery. In all, I didn’t hate it. That said, I’m starting to love Enterprise, so I’m not sure what the fanbase would say about that. For now, it feels like Star Trek in name only (like Enterprise), but I’ve only seen one episode. That said, it was a riveting hour, and I’m interesting in learning more about the main character, Michael Burnham.

According to online reports, about 9.6 million people watched the premiere, and CBS All Access had its highest signup day in history. Still, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the first month is free. I don’t think this show has staying power on All Access, especially with little other original programming to support it. It’s a lot like the situation Yahoo found themselves in with Screen. Sure, they got Community, but it was already a low-rated network sitcom, which wasn’t adequately supported by the other original programming on the platform. It folded after a season. I feel that if Discovery gets a second season, I doubt it will be on All Access. Right now, they can say “Well, at least we tried” if it ends up blowing up in their faces. It’d be hilarious if they pull a Supergirl and farm it off to The CW. I guess time will tell.

Also, this week saw the 30th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What better way to celebrate a show that hardline fans said “Wasn’t really Star Trek” than with a new show that hardline fans are saying the same thing? I remember the day TNG premiered. Oh yeah, I’ve been there since the beginning. I remember because my mom’s boyfriend at the time was putting carpet down in our back room. He took me to Kmart and bought me WWF trading cards while he got supplies. He was a hardline TOS fan, and had no desire to watch TNG that evening. I think he finished the job before the show came on, and I watched it wondering “What the heck is this?” After all, I have no real affinity for TOS, but I like getting in on the ground floor of things. Even at a young age, I liked the idea of Star Trek, but didn’t really like the show, if that makes any sense. Anyway, that carpet’s still in that back room, I think that dude may be dead, and now we’ve got a new Star Trek on the air. The circle of LIIIIIFFEEE!

I didn’t love TNG in the beginning, as I argue that it didn’t get good until Roddenberry died. Cruel, I know, but that’s when they took off the kid gloves. I tend to dislike a lot of episodes people love, like “Encounter at Farpoint” and “All Good Things…” Still, the turning point for me was “The Best of Both Worlds Pt I”, which is still the greatest season finale in the history of modern television. After that, there was no looking back for me. Man, 30 years! I feel so old…

Anyway, I think it goes without saying that the Star Trek franchise had the West Week Ever.

 

Programming Note: I used to write about stuff I found at thrift stores. It was called Thrift Justice. It’s back. Check this space on Monday!

15th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/15/17

by Will

In movie news, it was announced that J.J. Abrams would be returning to write and direct Star Wars: Episode IX. This comes on the heels of Colin Trevorrow’s dismissal from the project. If you remember, Abrams was the creative voice behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and many fans seem happy about this decision. I’ve seen some folks say that it’s now the cool thing to say you didn’t like The Force Awakens, but I remember hearing those complaints when the movie first came out. I mean, a lot of people felt he just remade A New Hope, so will this be a remake of The Empire Strikes Back? I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, so I don’t know what I’m talking about. If the fans are happy (and geeks are rarely happy), then that’s enough for me. To accommodate this change in direction, however, the film’s release has been moved from May 2019 to December 2019.

In other movie news, there’s been an interesting development with the new Hellboy movie. Ya see, Hawaii Five-0‘s Daniel Dae Kim has been cast as Ben Daimio, which is the role that was vacated by Ed Skrein. This is good, as it’s an Asian-American character who will now be portrayed by an Asian actor. Done deal, right? Well, now we have to get into the weeds a bit and point out that Daimio is of Japanese descent, while Kim is Korean American. Does it matter? Some might say no. I mean, in Selma, African American Martin Luther King Jr was portrayed by British-Nigerian actor David Oyelowo. That said, if Daimio’s Japanese heritage is important to his character, and you just cast another non-Japanese actor, then it somewhat contributes to the idea that Asians are interchangeable, which doesn’t help matters in their pursuit of fair representation in media. My friend Jenn articles this much better than I can. At the end of the day, does it matter? To someone out there, I’m sure it does.

Oh, and we got a pic of what David Harbour will look like as Hellboy. Not bad!

In TV news, it was announced that ABC will be rebooting 80s cult classic The Greatest American Hero, but with a twist: this time, the show will star an Indian American woman named Meera. She’s described as a 30 year old woman from Cleveland, who enjoys tequila and karaoke. Um, OK. Now, I see what they’re doing here. They want to challenge the notion of what it means to be “American” in this day and age. I see you, ABC. I guess that’s somewhat timely, but people tend to forget that the original show wasn’t exactly a ratings smash. In fact, it barely eked out 3 seasons. It’s probably most notable for its theme song, “Believe It Or Not”. And this also isn’t the first time they’ve tried this idea with a woman, as there’s a pilot for The Greatest American Heroine, where a woman is chosen to take over for William Katt’s character. The pilot never aired, but was reedited into an episode that was added to the syndication package of the show. I don’t see this working in 2018, but ABC apparently has a lot of faith in it, as it’s a “put pilot”, which basically means it’s guaranteed to make it to air or it’s gonna cost ABC a lot of money to pass on it. It’s ABC, though. Just looking at The Mayor coming up this Fall, they clearly don’t have the strongest comedy development department right now.

In comics news, it took 13 years, but Marvel’s finally bringing back Jean Grey. The ORIGINAL Jean Grey. Killed at the end of Grant Morrison’s run of New X-Men, she hasn’t been seen since around 2004, though we all knew this would happen one day. We’ve had a bunch of fake outs, with the character of Hope and the debut of teen Jean Grey from an alternate reality timeline, but this is the real deal. And I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. On the one hand, it’s comics and nobody stays dead. On the other, they left her dead a lot longer than they had to. I’d actually started to think she was gone for good. Silly me! I really do wish death meant more in comics. I’m smart enough to know the character will be back, so I’d prefer they not write like I’m a moron. I’d be willing to accept a concession, like we got recently with Tony Stark. He’s not “dead”, but in some sort of a stasis coma. When they need him again, he’ll pop out of it, right as rain. I’m fine with that. Put more characters into comas! Have them get lost in the timestream, and make them find their way home. But stop “killing” them when you, and everyone else, know it will just be temporary. Anyway, to check out Jean’s grand return, pick up Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey – part of the upcoming Marvel Legacy initiative.

In other comics news, there was a whole kerfuffle regarding the G.I. Joe franchise. You see, IDW Publishing currently has the G.I. Joe license, and they’re publishing a Joe comic written by freelancer Aubrey Sitterson. Well, on the anniversary of that day we’re supposed to never forget, 9/11, Sitterson tweeted this:

 

After getting some blowback, he doubled down with this:

Nice try, Aubrey, but 9/11 affected more than just NYC. Y’all just happen to be the ones who get most of the attention. I’m not one of the guys who gets all choked up in patriotism, though, so if that’s how he feels, whatever.

Well, the Joe fandom didn’t take too kindly to that. And apparently this was just the latest in a long string of what they considered antagonistic behavior from the writer. So, fansites, such as YoJoe.com and GeneralsJoes.com, decided that they were no longer going to cover G.I. Joe comics until something was done with Sitterson. At first it seemed like IDW was standing behind the writer, but they eventually released the following statement:

I’m on the fence on this one. I mean, you vote with your dollars and if you’re unhappy with something, then don’t buy it. That said, I have never been more glad that I no longer identify as a G.I. Joe “fan”. A lot of these guys come just come across as bullies. Sitterson was on his arrogant high horse, but a lot of the response is coming from veterans who are throwing around terms like “Commie” and “Libtard” just because their feelings were hurt by a funnybook writer. Sitterson comes from the wrestling world, so he’s reveling in the role of the “heel”, or the bad guy. This is all a gimmick to him, and the more riled they get, the happier it makes him. It means it’s working. That said, I don’t think he realizes that some of these dudes have a few screws loose. They don’t understand the game, and they don’t care. I really wouldn’t be surprised if he’s getting death threats right now over his opinion.

At the end of the day, G.I. Joe is a dying franchise. You could even say it’s dead, but there’s a small group of +40 year old men who are keeping hope alive. I’ve often said that the franchise needs to take a TMNT-like break, and give folks a chance to actually miss it. Plus, it’s time to give today’s kids their own Joe. Sure, folks are going to argue that kids don’t play with toys anymore but, just like comics, the core audience is going to die, and you’re going to need to replace them somehow. The A Real America Hero era has had a good run, but it’s time for the sun to set on it. No more Duke, no more Snake Eyes. Reboot the fuck out of it! Call of Duty is popular. Make G.I. Joe like that. There are ways to make it viable but the current approaches aren’t working. It’s like porn – there’s ENOUGH porn in the world. There’s really no need to make more. The same with Larry Hama-based Joe stories. There’ve been enough over the past +30 years. It’s time to move on. Sure, this will just piss off the same demographic that’s currently upset with Sitterson, but they’re gonna be dead soon anyway. But who am I to say that? Just another libtard with a website, I suppose…

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • I guess he’s over her humps AND her lady lumps, as Josh Duhamel and Fergie have separated after 8 years of marriage.
  • Watch out, conservatives, as Trevor Noah’s contract with The Daily Show has been renewed through 2022. Meanwhile, HBO has renewed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver through 2020.
  • Matt Bomer’s The Last Tycoon has been cancelled by Amazon after one season.
  • TBS has renewed Wrecked, The Guest Book, and People of Earth
  • John Wick: Chapter 3 will be released May 17th, 2019
  • Nick Blood will be reprising his role of Lance Hunter on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this season. I figure they’ll make some excuse for where Bobbi is, so she can pop up once The Orville gets cancelled.
  • Shaun Sipos will portray DC space hero Adam Strange on Syfy’s Krypton
  • Keke Palmer moves from Scream Queens to MTV’s Scream, as she’ll headline season 3 along with Power Rangers‘ RJ Cyler.
  • ESPN anchor Jemele Hill called the President a White Supremacist on her Twitter account, and the White House insinuated that she should be fired. Ya know, that thing the First Amendment specifically forbids them from doing…
  • Melissa McCarthy is now an Emmy winner, for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Role, for her work on Saturday Night Live last season.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement will be covered by Arrow this season, as well as an upcoming AMC drama, based on the book They Can’t Kill Us All, and adapted by a writer from Into the Badlands. Considering how bad Badlands‘ writing is, I’ve got more faith in the Arrow storyline…
  • It was revealed that Roald Dahl originally meant for the character of Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to be Black, until his agent basically asked “Why?” and said that it wouldn’t be the right move.

  • After nearly 40 years, it was revealed that Mario has nipples, and the internet lost its mind!

  • We got our first taste of the main theme for Star Trek: Discovery, and I don’t hate it. It’s no Enterprise theme, but I like the callbacks to the Original Series theme.


I’m not sure who had the best week this week. I mean, there’s the movie IT, which broke a whole bunch of records, and has made about $180 million. I don’t really care about horror, though, and will probably never see the movie. Still, this was a big deal for the horror community.

There’s adult film star Cory Chase who became something of a household name when Senator Ted Cruz’s personal Twitter account Liked a tweet containing her scene from Moms Bang Teens 20. Cruz has, since, said that it was done by an aide, while his spokesperson tried to insinuate it was a hack. Anyway, Chase was without power due to Hurricane Irma, so she didn’t even realize why she was getting all of this newfound attention. This was a major boon for both Chase and the Reality Kings website.

Horror or Porn? I really can’t decide. So, I’m gonna leave it up to you guys. Tell me: who had the West Week Ever?

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 had the West Life Ever. 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.”

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