23rd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/23/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

So I started a new job last week, and it has drastically changed my life. I used to roll into work whenever I wanted, blog, tweet, the works! Now everything is blocked and they are kicking my ass. I feel like I’m gradually losing my grasp on pop culture, but I’m doing my best to hang on. So, let’s see if I’ve still got it, huh?

I had no time to watch movies this week because in the world of television it was PREMIERE WEEK! New shows! Returning shows! Bad shows! Good shows!

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On Monday, I caught Kevin Can Wait on CBS. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not the cool kid thing to do, but I actually really liked The King of Queens, and I think I’m the only person, besides Adam Sandler, still championing James’s career. In the show, James is a retired cop who’s trying to get used to civilian life. It follows the fat schlub/hot wife sitcom formula, with Childrens Hospital‘s Erinn Hayes as his wife. In the pilot, James meets his daughter’s effeminate fiance and can’t deal. Oh, and there’s a role for his real life brother, Gary Valentine, who happens to be in most Kevin James productions. At the end of the day, it’s serviceable, but not great. It’s basically Kevin James starring in Last Man Standing. Swap out James for Tim Allen, and this easily could’ve been a spec script for that show. There’s not a lot on Monday nights, so I might stick with it, but I won’t enjoy it. It might end up like Rules of Engagement: not very good, but kinda manages to be decent background noise for 7 seasons.

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Tuesday night gave us the return of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which had been heavily promoted because they were introducing the latest incarnation of Marvel antihero Ghost Rider. This version, with the alter ego of Robbie Reyes, drives a supercharged Charger powered by the Spirit of Vengeance. So, he’s really more like Ghost Driver than Ghost Rider. Ah, semantics. A lot of folks thought it was a great episode. I, however, did not. I actually loved the Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider in the comics, but seeing him onscreen did nothing to energize a show as weak as Agents. I just don’t think that he fits tonally. They spent all this time facing Inhumans and now they’re fighting demons? I guess they’ve got to diversify their portfolio, but it just seems like a leap to me. I also hate the whole “We’ve gotta eventually get the band back together” vibe of the season, since they’ve been scattered across the organization. Some folks online remarked that it felt like an entirely new show, but I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Based on the ratings, which were about 1.5 million viewers lower than last season’s premiere, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the final season. Still, the show has way outlasted my initial projections.

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Wednesday brought 2 delightful new treats: Lethal Weapon and Designated Survivor. Now, I have a confession to make: I’ve never seen Lethal Weapon. In fact, I think I’ve only seen the 4th one. That’s the one from that week Jet Li was famous, right? Yeah, DVDs were just hitting the scene, and my freshman year roommate bought it. So, I’ve seen that one. Never seen the original recipe, though. So, I can’t tell if they nailed the characters or not in the TV adaptation. What I will say is that I loved what they did with them. In my mind, this show was just Fastlane: 15 Years Later. If you’re not familiar, Fastlane was a one-hour action comedy on Fox back in 2002, created by McG of the Charlie’s Angels reboot fame. Starring Bill Bellamy and Peter Facinelli as undercover cops who took orders from Tiffani-Amber Theissen, it was hot women, fast cars, and a hot soundtrack. It was the Foxiest Fox show of the early ’00s. It only lasted one season, and I loved the HELL out of it. I have the whole show on both legal and illegal DVDs. I loved it that much. Anyway, if they had been allowed to age naturally, I feel like they would’ve evolved into Damon Wayans’s Murtaugh and Clayne Crawford’s Riggs. Anyway, Murtaugh’s coming back on the job following a heart attack and he’s paired with recently widowed Riggs, who clearly has a deathwish. Can they get along? Will hilarity ensue? Well, you’ll have to tune in to see, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I watched. I will be back next week.

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Next, ABC gave us Kiefer Sutherland in Designated Survivor. Basically, during the State of the Union, one cabinet member is designated to stay behind in case something drastic happens. Well, it does, as the Capitol blows up (Man, between BvS and this show, Hollywood REALLY hates the Capitol this year), killing EVERYONE. So Kiefer, who had just that morning been fired as the head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, finds himself thrust into the role of President of the United States. Nobody thinks he’s qualified for the job, Kiefer included. Meanwhile, there are a few subplots. Who is FBI agent Maggie Q looking for in the rubble? Why is Kiefer’s son selling drugs in da clurb? Was this whole thing orchestrated by some unseen force? It’s funny to watch because we spent 8 years getting to know Kiefer as Impossible White Man Jack Bauer. There was nothing he couldn’t do, so it’s kinda strange to watch him be such a pussy. Right now, I’m pretending that Jack has amnesia and that he’ll regain his memory and skills by season’s end. There are glimpses of Jack that sneak out, such as Kiefer’s confrontation with the Iranian (?) leader who seems to be trying to take advantage of the situation. He threatened the dude, and it was like Jack was back with us in the flesh. But it was not to be, as he returned to his meek self following the meeting. Still, it’s a suspenseful hour, and Kiefer has been the king of TV suspense for the past 15 years, so I’m all in for this.

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Finally, last night gave us the premiere of Pitch on Fox, focusing on Ginny Baker, who will be the first woman to play major league baseball. In the series, Baker gets called up from the minors to start for the Padres and she BOMBS. Meanwhile, we get flashbacks to how she came to be where she is. Her discovery of baseball, her refining her skills – all while her overbearing father was behind her. Apparently his major league dreams flamed out and, when he saw that his son wasn’t going to follow in his footsteps, he focused on his more talented daughter. It’s funny to me that after 30 years, there’s still something that could be considered a “Fox show”. Like, it’s an ingredient that can’t be shaken. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but there are some projects that would only work on Fox, and this is one of them. It was a good hour, and it ended with quite the twist (seriously, between this and NBC’s This Is Us, it appears that weird twists are en vogue this season), but I don’t know how long it could last. If they went into it as a Done In One, I could really embrace it. But if they’re trying to build a franchise out of this show, I just don’t think there’s much there. Still, I enjoyed Mark-Paul Gosselaar acting like the asshole we always knew Zack Morris would grow up to be. I’ve got nothing else going on Thursdays at 9, so I’ll stick with it for now.

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In movie news, we got our first glimpse of the Power Rangers movie Zords in these new character posters. I have no clue what I’m looking at. Seriously, are they even still dinosaurs? I can make out the Mastodon’s tusks and that’s about it. The rest is just so…”Bayformers”. It was also announced that Bill Hader would be voicing Zordon’s assistant Alpha 5. Wow, this movie is the surprise that keeps on surprising. The trailer will debut next month at New York Comic-Con.

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Speaking of Power Rangers, the Yellow Ranger was mysteriously recast for Power Rangers Ninja Steel. Though the entire cast was introduced last month at Power Morphicon, it appears that Chantz Simpson (that CAN’T be his real name!) has left the production. His role has been recast with Nico Greetham. I find this casting interesting because a lot of folks had pointed out that this would be the first season without a single White member of the team. It was basically the Diversity Rangers, which was unprecedented. But with the casting of Greetham, we’ve got a White guy again. I wonder if there was some pressure for them to do that. Anyway, this follows a long tradition of recast Yellow Rangers, as it happened in Mighty Morphin (Trini was originally Latina), it happened in Lost Galaxy, and it supposedly happened in RPM.

Recently I’ve been talking a lot about country music on here, but that’s really because it’s the only music I keep up with these days. I can’t tell you anything about the pop charts, but I can name Maren Morris’s latest song (“80s Mercedes”) and I listen to Bobby Bones every morning. I’ve always loved pop, but I’ve also always loved country. When I was a baby, I used to have WMZQ playing next to my crib and it stuck with me. In fact, my migration to pop was a slow one. It started with soft rock, “at work radio”, and then made its way to boybands and Britney. But it wasn’t always like that. When I started dating Lindsay, the country came roaring back, as that’s pretty much all she listened to. For a while, I could juggle the pop and the country, but lately it’s pretty much all country these days. Anyway, this is a long intro for me to say that I’ve got a LOT of thoughts on “Forever Country”, the mash-up song released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Country Music Association.

The video for “Forever Country” was released this week, and it’s a medley of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”, and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”. The song is sung by 30 of country’s hottest stars, like Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, and more. I also appreciated that they included Darius Rucker and Charley Pride to add some diversity. There are, however, some glaring omissions: Where’s Kenny Rogers? Where’s GARTH?! That last one is even more odd, as Garth’s wife Trisha is present on the track. I thought maybe it was a scheduling conflict, but I’ve read that he’s against the platforms where the song will be released, such as YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify (his songs aren’t on any of those services). I’ve got a confession to make: I’ve never really liked Garth, so it’s not a huge loss to me. I missed the Garth Brooks era the same way I missed the WWE Attitude Era. By that point, I was knee deep in Ace of Base. The only reason I even know “Friends in Low Places” is because drunk White people love to sing it once “Don’t Stop Believin'” goes off. But if you’re tackling the biggest stars of the past 50 years, you’ve GOTTA have Garth. It’s just incomplete without him.

Now, the video itself is a frenetic mess. It moves too quickly. There’s not enough focus on each contributor. It honestly makes me dizzy. Plus, it’s obvious it was just some green screen thrown together for whenever the artists were free to come in and film their parts. I mean, there’s no way Blake and Miranda were in the same room together. So, I like the idea of the song, especially since it allows Dolly to reclaim her song; it always kinda bothered me that everyone thought of it as a Whitney Houston song, but Dolly cashed all those royalty checks, so I’m sure she’s cool with it. They do a good job mixing the three songs, and it’s not something treacly like “We Are The World” or “Let The Music Heal Your Soul”. The video could’ve been a lot better, though.

Things You Might’ve Missed This Week

  • Season THIRTY-THREE of Survivor premiered. You did this, America. You only have yourselves to blame.
  • Brangelina powered down into its divided forms of “Brad” and “Angelina”, as Jolie filed for divorce from Pitt.
  • 80s heart throb Corey Feldman had an emotional breakdown after the internet had a field day with his performance on The Today Show.
  • On Empire, they killed off the White girl. Poor Rhonda never really had a chance.
  • The Big Bang Theory kicked off what is likely its final season. And the “real nerds” rejoiced.
  • Buckle up, Puddin’ – Margot Robbie will host the season premiere of Saturday Night Live on October 1st
  • Two of my recent favorites – Better Late Than Never and Odd Mom Out – scored renewals this week. (Thanks for the tip, @jrwells82!)
  • CBS’s The Case of JonBenet Ramsey proposed that her older brother was her killer, and it was covered up by the parents

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So, I don’t talk about her on here, mainly because I basically have to beg her to read this thing, but today we’re gonna talk about my wife.

When we first met, I was much skinnier and used to run. The running started in college, when my friend Eric and I used to take midnight jogs to Wegmans (What? It was Ithaca and nothing else was open). I kept running even when I came home, but it decreased somewhat. I had an ex who did marathons (though you wouldn’t know it to look at her. Bada-bing!), and I would run with her to help her train. After awhile, though, the running tapered off. I met Lindsay and she was the type of person who would only run if being chased, and even then it was a crapshoot.

So, fast forward 8 years later. I have gained…some pounds, and now Lindsay runs. She started about a year ago, just starting out with a Couch to 5K program. She had done one in the past, as we ran the Color in Motion 5K Run some years ago. Still, she hadn’t really stuck with it after that, so she was giving it another shot. Well, Couch to 5K turned into actual 5Ks, and then 10Ks, and then 10 milers. She gets up every morning at a time when I’m usually going to bed (we’re on two completely different schedules), and goes for her runs. She’s only missed running due to illness. Other than that, she forces herself to get up and puts in the work. Well, last Sunday, after months of training, she ran (and completed) her first half marathon! This from a woman who would’ve probably let her attacker overtake her just a mere year ago. This my long drawn out way to say that I’m proud of her, and watching her complete that half was the most impressive thing I witnessed this week. So, with that in mind, Lindsay West had the West Week Ever.

16th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

She put the “her” in “hurt

She put the “y” in “try”

She put the “S-O-B” in “sober”

She put the “hang” in “hangover”

She put the “ex” in “sex”

She put the “low” in “blow”

She put a big “F-U” in my “future”

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14th Sep2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

09th Sep2016

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

by Will

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WWE Edit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

02nd Sep2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/2/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

It’s a holiday weekend and y’all never read this thing when that happens, so let’s keep it short and sweet today, shall we?

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In comic news, the Diamond Retailer Summit is currently happening, so some news is trickling out of there. In the Marvel camp, they revealed a Monsters Unleashed series. Whatever. They’d been teasing something called MU for weeks, first revealing Cullen Bunn was involved and then slowly revealed artists, such as Leinil Yu, Adam Kubert, and Greg Land. Well, today it was announced it was this monster shit. I know some people are into all that, but I’m not one of them, nor do I feel like such an announcement deserved all that fanfare. It’s making me think that Marvel’s cried “Wolf!” one too many times. It’s also odd to me that a monster series is coming out in January instead of October. Also, they announced that the follow-up to Death of X and Inhumans vs X-Men would be called ResurreXion. Yeah, you read that right. I’ll bet someone in Marvel’s marketing department got an erecXion when they came up with that one.

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Meanwhile, DC announced their first major Rebirth crossover in the form of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. I can’t help but feel like this would’ve been better timed to coincide with the release of the film, but maybe its release will bolster the Blu Ray sales, while getting folks primed for Justice League. In the story, Batman decides to take down Amanda Waller’s Task Force X – much like *SPOILER ALERT* Batfleck threatened to do in the post-credits sequence of Suicide Squad. And like all comic book fights, I’m sure they’ll be forced to team up against a greater threat. Anyway, it’s expected that a new Justice League of America series will spin out of this event.

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Speaking of Batfleck, this week Ben Affleck “leaked” some footage of Deathstroke the Terminator. Originally a Teen Titans villain, it seems that Mr. Stroke has been promoted to the big leagues. At first, it was believed this might be Justice League footage, but now the word on the street is that Deathstroke will be the main villain of Affleck’s standalone Batman movie. Oh, and it’s rumored that Joe Manganiello will be playing Deathstroke. Not really excited about it at the moment, but I probably will be as we learn more.

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In TV news, it’s reported that Marvel is shopping around a comedy based on the New Warriors – but featuring Squirrel Girl. Now, this bothers me because Squirrel Girl was never in the New Warriors. Sure, I can understand creative liberties, but it seems like Marvel’s just desperate to create a Squirrel Girl vehicle and this is what they’ve come up with. First off, I don’t know if I like the Superhero Comedy genre for television. I think they should wait and see how DC’s Powerless (which looks horrid) does on NBC. Second, I’ve never really understood the whole Squirrel Girl thing. I get that she’s cutesy and all, but I’ve yet to read a comic where I’m like, “Wow! That Squirrel Girl!” Lately there’s been this movement to get Anna Kendrick cast as the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yeah, that’s nice and all, but I think that casting’s wrong. And there’s no way Kendrick is gonna do TV at this stage of her career. No, I think The Middle‘s Eden Sher is a much better choice. It was reported that she was having meetings with Marvel years ago, trying to figure out ways to get her into the MCU. Sadly, I think that ship might’ve sailed, as nobody expected The Middle to still be on at this point. At the moment, though, I’m hoping this project ends up with the same fate as Marvel’s Most Wanted.

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Meanwhile, in DC television world, Greg Berlanti is developing a Black Lightning show with the creators of Girlfriends/The Game, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil. I’m all for the Berlantiverse becoming more robust, but I always feel like the older shows suffer when he introduces a new one. I’d much rather they try to make Legends of Tomorrow a better show, and maybe add the character over there first. Black Lightning is an inner city teacher who has lightning powers, hailing from an age when all Black heroes had to have “Black” in their name. If this show gets off the ground, I’m sure it’ll end up being called something like Lightning. The funny thing is that he’s supposedly shopping it around to networks, like we all don’t already know it’s gonna end up on The CW.

 

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You know what really grinds my gears? Country radio (yes, some of us still listen to the radio) does this thing where they play a new single from an album, and then they ask listeners to call in and tell them what they thought of the song. Supposedly, if the response is predominantly negative, the song won’t be played anymore. Um, THAT’S NOT HOW THE INDUSTRY WORKS! If a song has been released as an official single, they pretty much HAVE to play it. Radio doesn’t have the power to make or break an artist anymore. There are people selling albums and touring who’ve never even been on the radio. The days of “If I spin your record, it’ll make you a star” are over. So I guess I wish country stations would cut the shit and stop making the audience think they have some power they don’t really have.

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Another thing I don’t like? An Adult Swim show called Million Dollar Extreme Presents: World Peace. I’ve tweeted before about how I don’t really like the show, but last week I found I’d attracted the wrong attention: fans of the show. Now, first let me explain who’s behind it: Million Dollar Extreme is a sketch comedy group comprised of Sam Hyde, Charls Carroll, and Nick Rochefort who specialize in making you uncomfortable. Just Google Sam Hyde. I’ll wait. Especially look up his TED Talk. Basically they’ve made a name for themselves as part of the alt-right movement that despises political correctness. So, they go completely in the opposite direction. They do shit in blackface, they mock the handicapped. It’s pretty bad. So, last week, I tweeted this to a friend:

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And then I went to sleep. When I woke up, a bunch of their fans had sarcastically favorited the tweet, and were replying to us, saying stuff like “Yeah, but you’ll watch it and LIKE it”. I looked at these folks’ profiles, and they are NOT nice people. I thought I was gonna end up doxxed or something. Anyway, bottom line: don’t watch World Peace.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Image Comics will reportedly relocate from Berkeley, CA to Portland, OR
  • Netflix announced a second season of the show you’re all raving about, That’s Still So Raven. No, I kid. You’re getting more Stranger Things.
  • Jon Favreau will reprise his Happy Hogan role from the Iron Man movies in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Though I don’t know anyone who watches it, someone’s bound to be upset that Grimm will end after its next, abbreviated season
  • Pretty Little Liars will also end after its next season. Unless, you know, they’re lying about that…
  • The next season of Dancing with the Stars will feature Vanilla Ice, Babyface, Gov Rick Perry, Amber Rose and more. Still no word on which *stars* will be on the show
  • Chris Brown almost got killed by a SWAT team after pulling a gun on some chick who tried to steal his jewelry.
  • Disney Interactive shut down the Marvel: Avengers Alliance mobile game, which won’t be playable by the end of the month
  • Britney Spears released her 3rd “comeback” album, Glory. I’ve heard it, and I don’t think she’s back yet
  • Alison Brie and Marc Maron have been cast as the leads in Netflix’s series GLOW, based on the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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So, the only thing I really watched this week was the BBC Are You Being Served? special. Sure, it was a UK thing, but luckily I was able to find it on YouTube. I grew up watching the original show, so this was something that I HAD to see.

If you’re not familiar with it, Are You Being Served? was a Britcom set in a high end department store called Grace Brothers. The show particularly focused on the employees of the Men’s and Ladies’ departments, including Mr. Humphries, Mrs. Slocombe, and Captain Peacock. It had a very rigid class structure, where everyone was supposed to know their place and follow a certain chain of command. Captain Peacock was the snobbish “floor walker”, who kept everyone in line. Mr. Humphries was the butt of gay jokes because he was effeminate and lived with his mother. And Mrs. Slocombe was always talking about her pussy (Get your mind out of the gutter! It’s her cat!). The show ran for 13 years, but only has 70 episodes because, well, England. Once it ended, they even tried to “Golden Palace” it by moving the cast to a manor in which their pensions had been invested.

Anyway, in a celebration of British comedy, The BBC “revived” several shows by casting current actors in one-episode specials. This was especially necessary for AYBS?, seeing as how the entire cast is dead now (well, except for Mr. Spooner, but nobody gives a shit about him). Surprisingly, I didn’t know a single actor they cast in this thing. I always joke that there are only about 11 British actors, but I guess there are only 11 who’ve crossed over the pond. None of them, however, made it to this special. I felt the casting for everyone was pretty spot-on, though, especially Mr. Grainger and Mrs. Slocombe. I did, however, feel like they overdid it with Mr. Humphries. While he was effeminate in the original show, there was always a question of “Is he or isn’t he?” but here they just pretty much played him as humorously gay, which sort of took something away from the character.

When the episode starts, a young Black man named Richard Conway shows up for his first day as a member of the Men’s department staff. One thing I’m always curious about is race relations in other countries. While the episode was set in 1988, I was surprised that they never once referred to or joked about his race. Is this just not done in the UK? Or was it felt like that wasn’t the kind of humor you would expect from AYBS? I’d really love to know more about how they came to that decision, because an American show would’ve been ALL ABOUT the fact that he was this Black guy in a prim and proper establishment. It’d be called Homeboy In Knickers, and would air on UPN after Shasta McNasty.

Anyway, at the end of the day, it felt like a genuine “lost” episode of the show. It completely retconned the spinoff Grace & Favour, and it did some clever tinkering to get Mr. Grainger back in the mix. Basically 3 years have passed since the final episode, but things are pretty much like you remember them. There’s a Downton Abbey aspect to the show where it’s mired in class humor in a world that’s quickly changing. The crux of the episode is that the new Mr. Grace is determined to drag the store into the 20th century. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d actually love to see more of it. From what I’ve read, the special wasn’t well-received by the Brits, but I couldn’t have really asked for more. It didn’t swing for the fences by killing a major character, nor did it go for shock value. It tried to give you more of what you loved about the original show, and in that respect, I think it succeeded. That’s why the Are You Being Served? one-off special had the West Week Ever.

 

26th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/26/16

by Will

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WWE Edit

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On the movie front, I watched one good movie and one very bad movie. Let’s start with the bad news first. Called The Day, it’s a 2011 film about 5 friends in a post-apocalyptic landscape who find refuge in a farmhouse, but have to defend it from cannibals. Basically, it’s like someone read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and said “Hey, I could do that.” I actually missed the first 20 minutes of the movie, but that’s when my pal Wikipedia came in handy. I didn’t miss anything of substance, and it was pretty easy to pick up at the point when I joined. It starred Shannyn Sossamon, who I fell in love with in 40 Days and 40 Nights before she fell into whatever hole she was in until Wayward Pines last season. It also starred former Iceman, Shawn Ashmore, who clearly spent the earlier part of this decade doing low-budget suspense films (like Frozen). Part of what I hated about it was its lack of color. Like, it wasn’t quite black and white, but it was devoid of a color palette. It’s like they filmed it and then ran it through the Willow Instagram filter. I know they were trying to set a tone, but it just didn’t work for me. And all the characters sucked at life. We’re supposed to think they’ve become a “family” since whatever catastrophic event happened, but it never really made much sense. I know they’d probably seen some real shit together, but I wasn’t buying their forced bond. Anyway, this kind of movie progressed the only way that a movie like this could: most of them die. What? You weren’t gonna watch it. Hell, when it was released in theaters, it only screened in 12 theaters and made about $20,000. NOBODY saw this movie. To be fair, it seems like it was made for the international market, as it opened in Russia first. Then, it was distributed in associated with WWE Studios over here. That’s a true mark of quality right there! Anyway, the special effects aren’t too spectacular, there’s no gratuitous nudity, and it’s just not very good. You can skip this one.

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Now for the one that I loved. I’ve been putting off watching Kingsman: The Secret Service for the better part of a year. I even bought it when it went on sale, but never watched it. I knew it’d be my kind of movie, but I just never got around to watching it. Even recorded it on the DVR, despite already owning it, because I’m lazy and thought I’d be more likely to watch it if I didn’t have to fumble with a disc. Then, last night, I ended up watching it as it randomly came on Cinemax. Now, I know writer Mark Millar has his critics, but I’ve typically liked his output. I was a fan of The Ultimates, I was a fan of Kick-Ass before they ran that franchise into the ground, and I’ve basically enjoyed all the other stuff he put out under the Marvel ICON imprint, like Superior and Nemesis. The Secret Service, however, didn’t really grab me when it originally came out in comic form. I bought the first issue, and it just felt too British, for lack of a better description. I think I ended up selling that comic in a longbox with a bunch of other junk and never looked back. So, imagine my surprise when they announced it would be adapted into a film. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an independent British spy organization tasked with testing new recruits to fill a recent vacancy in their ranks. Colin Firth spends almost 2 hours wearing the Hell out of everything he puts on, while trying to train a young chav named “Eggsy” to be a Kingsman agent. And it does follow the trend of being very British, as the villain, played by Samuel L. Jackson, is the quintessential Ugly American. I mean, he even feeds Firth McDonalds at what’s supposed to be a fancy dinner party. Imagine if Spike Lee had Bill Gates money, and you’ve basically got Jackson’s character. Oh, and add in a lisp that seems to come and go. I really don’t remember that obnoxious lisp from the trailers, so I wonder if they added it in post-production. Anyway, I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a bit formulaic and predictable at points, but there are certain parts that make it worth the price of admission. Two words: church scene. It has to be seen to be believed. Only Millar could end a comic book movie on an anal sex joke, but I was actually grinning when the movie ended. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I am totally looking forward to Kingsman: The Golden Circle next year.

ironheart

In comic news, it was revealed that when Riri Williams takes over for Tony Stark following Civil War II, her hero name will be Ironheart. I don’t hate it. It works. It’s a lot better than how Pepper Potts was called Rescue when she had armor. What’s odd to me is how the comic will still be called The Invincible Iron Man, even though Iron Man ain’t in it. I know it’s a name that recognizable, but even a subtitle could’ve worked. They couldn’t call it The Invincible Iron Man: Ironheart? Just kind of odd that it’s a solo book where the title doesn’t refer to the title character. Anyway, there was some #rabblerabble, as my friend Tim likes to say, this week about her codename because it’s also the name of an Japanese Iron Man porn parody. I’m sure, however, this was merely coincidence.

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In comic movie news, it was announced that director Doug Liman would be jumping from one comic book movie in order to helm another. Previously attached to Channing Tatum’s doomed Gambit film, Liman is now slated to direct DC’s Dark Universe, focusing on the characters of Justice League Dark. This was surprising to me because I didn’t even think this was still on DC’s schedule, seeing as how they went ahead and made the upcoming Justice League Dark animated film. I mean, Assault On Arkham didn’t keep them from making Suicide Squad, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. Still, the team is comprised of a bunch of characters who are hardly household names, including John Constantine (star of a mid ’00s cult film and a shortlived TV series), Zatanna, Deadman, and Etrigan The Demon. I always kinda hated that they even adopted the Justice League name, as it wasn’t really appropriate for them. It was DC’s attempt to “Avengerize” their lineup. You see, in the early ’00s, basically every group of Marvel characters were Avengers. There were the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, the Secret Avengers, Avengers Initiative, etc.  It helped boost sales because the Avengers name held some clout, but being used so much also kinda devalued the brand. DC did the same after the New 52 with Justice League, Justice League Dark, Justice League of America, etc. But I guess a book with Justice League in the title will sell better than something called Shadowpact.

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In other movie news, it appears that the international take of Ghostbusters will be about $220 million. Now, this might sound like a decent amount of money, but as someone on Twitter pointed out, that’s less money than Adam Sandler’s Pixels made. It’s really a shame because I wanted that movie to succeed. No, I still haven’t seen it, but I trust Paul Feig and I love whenever he and McCarthy work together. I still say it would’ve succeeded if they simply hadn’t called it Ghostbusters. They could’ve called it Ghosted or something like that, and sure folks would’ve made comparisons to the original Ghostbusters, but it wouldn’t have been co-opting an established brand that clearly a lot of people had strong feelings about. The release of this movie should be a case study in marketing courses across the country.

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I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a pretty strict “no death” policy for this column. The way I see it, if I talk about one, I’ve got to talk about them all. And they all don’t mean something to me. This week, however, we lost someone who meant a lot to my formative years. Boyband impresario/Ponzi scheme architect Lou Pearlman died in prison from a heart infection.

A cousin of Art Garfunkel, Pearlman had been in prison since 2008, serving a 25 year sentence for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in US history. Before all that, however, he had a knack for discovering talent. After New Kids On The Block chartered his planes, he looked at that business model and thought, “I could do that”. So, he opened up a pop boot camp in Florida called Trans Continental Studios, and he started churning out boybands like a well-oiled machine. He gave us household names the Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC. He gave us LFO, who spent a whole summer telling the world about how Chinese food made them sick. He gave us O-Town, whose first single was a vivid description of which stars showed up in their wet dreams. He also helped put Britney on the map, as he signed Innosense, the girl group she was in before she went solo. On the flip side, he also gave us Aaron Carter’s career. Welp, you can’t win all the time.

Anyway, Lou made his money by screwing over his most successful acts. He was contractually the 6th Backstreet Boy, and he took 1/6th of everything they made. So they sued him. He was skimming money off *NSYNC. So they sued him. Hell, he was even cheating Aaron Carter. And he sued him. My favorite scene in the original Making The Band (yes, it existed on ABC before Diddy took it over on MTV) was when O-Town were about to sign their contracts, and the news broke about *NSYNC suing Lou for cheating them out of money. I know reality TV’s fake, but that was some damn good editing.

Plus, there were the sexual allegations. He was a man who was surrounded by hot boys 24/7, meanwhile he had a ten-year relationship with a nurse that was never consummated. It’s been alluded to that the Carter boys experienced some things, while LFO’s Rich Cronin reported that he was in therapy for a lot of what he experienced. I used to know a producer for Making The Band, and she told me that the reason Ikaika quit O-Town was because of his resemblance to BSB’s Kevin Richardson, and that Lou was making advances toward him because of it. Can I get sued for saying that? “Slander is spoken. In print, it’s libel” (Thank you, Spider-Man).

Anyway, all of that is to say that Lou was probably a pretty bad dude. I didn’t even get into the Ponzi shit, which is way over my head. I only know boyband rosters and hit singles. If you want financial news, go to Bloomberg. Lou definitely did some shitty, shitty things in his life, but he almost singlehandedly propped up the pop music industry from about 1996 to 2000. That’s got to count for something, right? I mean, we still laud Woody Allen and Roman Polanski films. Lou Pearlman was probably a sexual predator, but damn it did he know talent when he saw it. This week saw a lot of strained tributes from his former charges. Most of the reactions were basically “He was a scumbag, but I owe my career to him.” My favorite tweet came from O-Town’s Jacob Underwood, who said “Hard to describe what I’m feeling.. He was always nice to me, even when he was stealing from me. RIP.”

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Lou made tens of millions of dollars off the artists he cheated, and that should’ve been enough. But he had to go down the Ponzi route so he could get more. He was brought down by greed, and he died in prison because of it. None of the sexual stuff had been substantiated, so had he just stuck to the music business, we’d be morning a creepy dude who did a lot for music. Instead, we’re left with the death of a man who defrauded investors of almost $300 million, and that was only a fraction of his adult life. Lou Pearlman. A conflicting figure. A legacy of pop.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Gawker was sold at auction to Univision for a reported $135 million. It will now be known as SuperGawkerGigante.com
  • Former Disney Channel star Bella Thorne revealed that she was bisexual in a tweet, after being photographed kissing a girl
  • Apparently there’s a Max Steel movie coming, despite the recent failed revival of the toy line. I’ve got to hand it to the producers, though. I didn’t give a shit about this movie until the trailer wasn’t available in the US, and now it’s all I can think about.
  • Earlier this week, it was reported that Netflix was interested in producing a third season of the Young Justice cartoon. A fan site reported that writer Peter David had been approached about reviving the show, but it was later revealed that he was misquoted.
  • It was reported that Connie Britton may have a reduced role in the CMT revival of Nashville. Welp, there goes any chance of me ever watching that.
  • Soccer player Hope Solo was suspended for 6 months after calling Sweden a bunch of “cowards” after the US lost to them in the Olympics. So, she can’t play soccer for 6 months. Ya know, during the period of the calendar year when very little soccer was gonna be played anyway. Whatever…
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson dethroned Robert Downey Jr as the highest paid actor this year, making $64.5 million. He’s still not the former wrestler to make the most money this year, though. Not even close, brother.
  • KFC gave away over 3,000 bottles of fried chicken scented sunscreen. Yes, you read that correctly.
  • Last week’s West Week Ever recipient, Ryan Lochte, is in talks to join the next season of Dancing with the Stars


Ya know, nothing major happened this week, but the one thing that did stand out was the English trailer for Guardians. Now, the original trailer came out months ago, and everyone online was like “Hur, hur. Crazy Russians.” I’ll tell ya what – this thing looks awesome as shit to me. And I’ll bet it’s even better than Dawn of Justice, mainly because these characters probably aren’t betraying some 75-year legacy. A werebear with a gatling gun? An invisible hot chick? A dude with crazy electro whips – THAT CAN BRING DOWN BUILDINGS?!!! Sign me the fuck up! Now, don’t get me wrong. The English overdub is terrible. It’s like something someone made in their bedroom, but at least we have an idea of what the movie’s about now. And I fear all the best stuff might be in the trailer. Still, if I get a chance to see this thing, I’m doing it, and I think you should, too. For delighting all my senses in a mere 2 and a half minutes, the Guardians trailer had the West Week Ever.

 

19th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/19/16

by Will

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We got our first look at the poster for Spider-Man: Homecoming and it’s whatever. This was seen at a Las Vegas trade show, so it was probably just thrown together for the show. I doubt this is the one-sheet you’ll see in theaters. It gives ya a good view of the suit, but it just doesn’t get me excited, ya know? Meanwhile, it’s being reported that Zendaya is actually playing Spider-Man’s sometimes girlfriend/sometimes later wife, Mary Jane Watson. Now, originally they said Zendaya’s character’s name was “Michelle”, but it seems that was all a ruse. So, with Zendaya being biracial, we got the typical online reaction: “That ain’t mah MJ!” I get it. I hate change, too. That said, I really like Zendaya, but I don’t necessarily see her as Mary Jane. Whatever, though. I didn’t see Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, and I was wrong about that. So, I’ll give it a shot. I’m just kinda Spider-Manned out. I feel about Spider-Man the way some folks feel about Batman. We’ve had 5 movies in 14 years, and two different actors playing him. While a lot of folks are saying “They’re finally getting him right!”, I felt like they’d gotten him right before. I loved the Tobey Maguire movies. And I enjoyed the Andrew Garfield movies. So, I’ll probably like this one, too. But am I “hype” for it, as the young kids would say? Not at all.

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In Marvel TV news, it was reported that a Runaways series is in development at Hulu, from the folks behind Gossip Girl and The O.C. Now, Runaways isn’t exactly a household name, as it featured all original characters – teenagers whose parents were some of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. We’d never heard of these villains, though, ’cause they didn’t live in New York City like every other character in the Marvel Universe. Well, once the teens realize just how evil their parents are, they run away. Oh, and one of them is a traitor. I LOVED the series, and it put writer Brian K. Vaughan on the map, who went on to do Y: The Last Man and Saga. The first few years of the book are pretty engaging. Then Joss Whedon came along and wrote, probably, the most forgettable comics of his career. Next, Terry Moore of Strangers In Paradise fame came along and took over the book. And that’s when I kinda lost track of it. So, here’s hoping the TV show news will result in a return of the comic series, as I’ve come to miss those kids. As for the show itself? Well, I’ll just have to wait and see. If you asked me “Who’d be the best team to adapt Runaways“, my first answer would not have been “The Gossip Girl creators”. Still, that show handled big mysteries, and this series is full of them, so maybe they’re the right ones for the job.


In DC news, we got a surprise trailer this week for Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. It’s a straight-to-DVD animated film set in the 1966 Batman world. It features the voice talent of the show’s original stars Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar – ya know, all the ones who aren’t dead. I guess that’s cool. Again, ever since the DVD rights got cleared up, we have had Batman ’66 overload. I’m glad to keep these folks working, but it’s not something I’m especially jazzed about. Not sure what it is. Maybe it’s the animation style? This movie looks closer to the animation that we get in your standard DC Universe Animated Original Movies, when I think I’d rather have something that mimicked the look of the animation in the opening credits of the show. Anyway, the movie hits digital on October 11th, and on Blu-Ray November 1st.

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The biannual Power Rangers convention, Power Morphicon, was held in Pasadena last weekend, and a few interesting things came out of the show. For one thing, we were introduced to the cast of the next incarnation of the show, Power Rangers Ninja Steel. There are a few notable things about this cast. First of all, the Ninja Steel Blue Ranger will be played by Peter Sudarso, who happens to be the real life brother of Yoshi Sudarso, who plays the current Dino Super Charge Blue Ranger. This is a first for the franchise. Another first for the franchise, this is the first time the team doesn’t have a single Caucasian on it. If you want diversity, this team’s got it in spades! #RepresentationMatters

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Now for the gossip portion of our evening! So, Robert Griffin III is quite the controversial figure in these parts. He was drafted in 2012 as the starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins, with folks believing he was the Second Coming. Well, when you put a guy on a pedestal, he’s bound to disappoint you. He was released in March and snatched up by the Cleveland Browns. Now, I don’t care anything about sports. If anything we’re a Broncos household because Lindsay cares, and she’s from Denver. No, the only reason RGIII was ever on my radar was because of his college sweetheart, Rebecca. Plainly put, she had big bazooms. Anyway, the two got married in 2013, and even had a kid last year. Well, as the story goes, RGIII met a young hot thing from Estonia over Instagram 7 months after the baby was born. Grete Sadeiko is a track and field star at Florida State University, and she’s RGIII’s new boo – so much so that he, foolishly, got her name tattooed on his arm. Oh, and he blindsided Rebecca with a request for a divorce.  If he had been half this interesting when he was still playing here, it might’ve gotten me to care about the Redskins!

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In the world of comedy, there was a bunch of drama involving comedians Amy Schumer and Kurt Metzger. First of all, I’m actually a big fan of Metzger, and I listen to his Race Wars Podcast weekly. That said, I feel like sometimes he’s just trying to see how far he can go and still keep his job. You see, Metzger was a writer and producer on Inside Amy Schumer, but this week he went on a Facebook rant about rape that got him in hot water. Long story short, someone in the NY comedy community had been accused of rape, but Metzger felt that the person was being tried in the court of public opinion instead of any actual proof or evidence being presented. He’s even said himself that his retorts went too far because he let his ego get in the way, but at the end of the day attention was diverted from the fact that there could be a sexual predator in the comic scene and was now focused on what a terrible person Metzger was. People started tweeting at Amy Schumer, asking if she knew what her employee had been saying. Schumer responded by blocking these people, for whatever reason. Finally, she came out and denounced Metzger’s statements, saying that she was disappointed and didn’t share his sentiments. She later tweeted that Metzger doesn’t work for her show anymore, leading folks to think he had been fired. It revealed a bigger truth, however – Inside Amy Schumer is actually going on hiatus for an indefinite amount of time so that Schumer can work on other projects. Yeah, the last time something went on an indefinite hiatus, Justin Timberlake became a solo star. Anyway, not only has this hurt Schumer’s brand, but now a group of Redditors have organized to give fake 1-star reviews to her new book, The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. I think this is gonna get worse before it gets better, but will it do more damage to Metzger or Schumer?

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This is the tweet that keeps on giving. Though it’s starting to taper off, it got RTed last weekend, giving it a bit of a resurgence. So far, it’s had over 20,000 impressions. Again, just let me have this.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Though I could’ve sworn it was confirmed months ago, this week it was reported that Cyborg will costar with Ezra Miller in the movie verison of The Flash
  • It was rumored that Punisher’s ally Microchip will be a supporting character when his Netflix series debuts
  • Caitlin Jenner’s reality show, I Am Cait, might as well be called I Am Cancelled, as the show’s being put out to pasture after two seasons.
  • Speaking of cancellations, last night saw the final episode of Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show on Comedy Central.
  • After 13 years, Robert Kirkman’s comic Invincible will be ending next year with issue #144. This reminds me that I really need to catch up on Invincible
  • WWE stars Alberto Del Rio, Paige, and Eva Marie were all suspended for 30 days after violating the WWE Wellness Policy

https://www.instagram.com/p/BIis9E1BJvm/ Screengrab of Ryan Lochte's Instagram post of his new hairdo 7/31/16 Source: Ryan Lochte/Instagram

US Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte and his elite group of swim bros created a shitty lie to cover up a pretty lame infraction. You see, Sunday morning they claimed they had been robbed at gunpoint after leaving a club in Rio. Their stories, however, weren’t lining up and the Brazilian police wanted answers. They weren’t going to stand for the swimmers besmirching the protection they had provided during the games. Around Wednesday, things started moving really quickly, as the passports of the swimmers were seized, and two of them were taken off their plane. But there was a twist – Lochte was already back in the US! At the end of the day, it seems like they actually vandalized a gas station in a confrontation with a guard, yet they PAID FOR THE DAMAGE. So, why lie about a situation you’ve already smoothed over? The other guys are saying it was all Lochte’s idea, while he’s probably chilling in a Titled Kilt somewhere, laughing his ass off.  For whatever reason he did it, he seemingly got away with it. We’ve underestimated him all these years, but what if Lochte is a criminal mastermind? Or what if he’s just a dumb guy who did a stupid thing? The world may never truly know. And that’s why Ryan Lochte had the West Week Ever.

12th Aug2016

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 8/12/16

by Will

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*Varnell Hill voice* “DID YOU MISS ME?!”

Yeah, very few people are gonna get that reference, but I did take a week off to recharge the batteries, so I hope somebody noticed.

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So I watched Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, and I think it’s time to declare this franchise dead. It was cute in the beginning, in that “so bad it’s good” kind of way, but it has simply overstayed its welcome. When I reviewed the last installment, I mentioned how it lost most of its spark halfway through, and I just wanted it to end. Well, I felt that way from minute one of this one.

First off, it’s set five years after the last one and, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember a single thing that happened in the last one. All I remembered was that they pulled a “Jason Todd” and let the audience decide if Tara Reid lived or died. Other than that, I couldn’t remember how many kids Finn was supposed to have, I couldn’t remember if this sexy sidekick was the same sexy sidekick from the past movies – it was a mess. And the movie doesn’t do a good job of catching you up because it’s stringing along the drama of the “Did Tara Reid survive?” mystery. Turns out Finn’s son is now coming home from deployment, and he’s got a new, Black wife in tow. I emphasize her race because it kinda becomes important down the road. They’re meeting in Las Vegas for a family reunion when the first Sharknado in 5 years hits. You see, In Living Color‘s Tommy Davidson plays an Elon Musk analogue who has created these towers that prevent tornadoes from forming. Because of them, there haven’t been any Sharknadoes since the events of the last movie. For some reason, though, the Vegas tower failed, and we ended up with the first Sharknado in years. And luckily, Finn Shepard and family were there to fight them off.

Meanwhile the Sharknado then goes on to become an Oilnado and then a Firenado and a Nukenado. Yeah, they blew their wad on potential spinoffs all in this one movie. And then my brain just stopped processing what it was seeing. I only made sense of bits and pieces after that point. Tara Reid did live, but only because her dad, played by Gary Busey, had turned her into a cyborg. Oh, and it’s clear that Busey and Reid were never in the same room during their scenes, so I wonder what that was all about. Then Davidson blows up the Grand Canyon in an attempt to curb the Sharknado. Yeah, I really don’t think the US Government would just be cool with Elon Musk blowing up the Grand Canyon, but what do I know? Then, as they all retreat back to Finn’s farm, Black wife (I don’t think she even had a name) gets killed by a shark and NOBODY notices! Her own fucking husband doesn’t even mention her ever again in the film. It’s almost like they added her in post-production, and then just said “Fuck it!” Like, it’s amazing how he NEVER stops to wonder what happened to her, nor does any other member of the cast. Then, Tommy Davidson jumps out of a plane in a squirrel suit, so he can do something on a cliff to stop the Sharknado, but then the cliff falls into the ocean. Oh, and then Finn fights the Sharknado in a really shitty mech suit, but ends up being eaten by a shark. And the oldest son gets eaten by a shark. And the sexy cousin gets eaten by a shark. But wait! The youngest kid – all of five years old – pulls a tiny chainsaw out of a stone, King Arthur style, and uses it to cut into all the sharks and save his family. So, at the end of the day, the only people who actually died were Black wife and Black Tommy Davidson. Fuck this movie. Oh, and there’s a weird cameo by Steve Guttenburg to remind you that Lavalantula is still a thing and that, yes, they take place in the same universe. It must’ve been messed up with editing, as he gives them a car, named Christine, that is built up to be this amazing thing, which they then abandon while being chased by a ball of twine covered in sharks. Again, fuck this movie.

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In movie news, it was announced that the main villain in Aquaman will be Black Manta. Congratulations, DC – you chose the only villain he has to headline his movie. As I joked on Twitter, in the sequel, Aquaman will face an oil spill. There will be no third movie, as he will have vanquished all of his foes. Meanwhile, Aquaman star Jason Momoa is being eyed to star in the reboot of The Crow. My problem with this is that Momoa keeps taking on these franchise reboot roles (like Conan The Barbarian) when his star power isn’t strong enough for a franchise to rest on his shoulders. Now, it’s not like The Crow is gonna break the bank anyway, but it just doesn’t seem like a good fit.

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Ghostbusters is expected to take an estimated $70 million loss, putting any sequel plans in jeopardy. The fact that it didn’t open in China REALLY hurt it. I mean, China saved Warcraft. Imagine what it could’ve done here. Sure, it would’ve been renamed to something like Lady Ghost Killers, but the money would’ve been great.

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There was quite the shakeup at Saturday Night Live this week, as it was announced that 6-year veterans Taran Killam and Jay Pharoah wouldn’t be returning for season 42. At first, I figured this was just a case of the actors wanting to move on to other things, but then it was revealed that Killam’s contract simply wasn’t renewed. Huh? Really, Lorne?! I mean, I get the thing with Pharoah – he’s a great impressionist, though the show struggled to find any way to use them. Sure, he did Ben Carson, but that impression made no sense, plus it’ll be obsolete very soon. Killam, though, is quite the utility player. I’d say he’s basically the male Kristen Wiig, but I don’t think anyone hates him the way that some hated Wiig. His departure will be a huge blow to the show. However, when God closes a door, He opens a window – one for Jon Rudnistsky to jump out of! The featured player will also not be returning next season, and I can’t say that I’m too disappointed. He brought very little to the show during his freshman season, and he just had too much of a guido bro vibe to him for me to be able to take a shine to him.

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We got a full trailer for the Luke Cage Netflix series. *Yawn* It’s funny – it’s the new “cool kid” thing to say you’re tired of the Marvel movie formula, but the minute you say that about the Netflix shows, suddenly you’ve gone too far. Well, I’m tired of the Netflix shows. Ooh, it’s gritty. Ooh, there’s another fight in a hallway. I LOVED Daredevil season 1 and, though it took me a few months to get through, I thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Jones. That said, I still haven’t seen Daredevil season 2, and I’m not really in any rush (after all, I’ve still got 2 seasons of Bojack Horseman and one of Kimmy Schmidt to finish). So, just add Luke Cage to the pile of “I’ll get to it”, but I don’t plan to binge on it when it hits Netflix on September 20th.

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Not to be outdone by Marvel, DC had a bunch of TV news during The CW’s presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour. First off, we got our first look at the new Vixen on Legends of Tomorrow. Also, it was reported that Sarah Grey has been cast as Stargirl on the show, while Friday Night Lights alum Grey Damon has been cast as Mirror Master on The Flash. They also announced Freedom Fighters: The Ray, which is an animated series that will debut on The CW Seed streaming platform. He will be the first ever gay superhero to lead a series and, like with Vixen, the plan is for him to eventually cross over into the live action shows, with the voice actor portraying him. Finally, it was announced that Dolph Lundgren will play the Big Bad in Oliver’s flashbacks this season, as it documents his time with the Bratva. Also, this will be the final season of Ollie’s flashbacks, as the show will catch up to real time.

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We also got some news about Star Trek: Discovery. It turns out the show will be set ten years prior to Kirk’s mission, and is set in the prime (Shatner) timeline. The lead will be a female, who may not be entirely human, but also won’t be a captain. The show might also feature Spock’s mother, Amanda Grayson (played by Winona Rider in 2009’s Star Trek), as producer Bryan Fuller is fascinated by the character. There will be robots and a gay character, and the main cast will consist of about seven characters. As we already knew, it won’t be episodic in nature, but rather a tight 13-episode story unfolding throughout the season. Finally, the ship’s design is based on Ralph McQuarrie’s illustrations from an abandoned 70s Star Trek film called Planet of the Titans.

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Over on Twitter, I had my most popular tweet in years, which resulted from casually flipping through Olympics coverage. Sure, I know a lot of y’all have gone viral, so this is nothing to you, but let me have this!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Despite getting a logo and James Bobin as director, Jonah Hill is now saying that the Men in Black/21 Jump Street crossover, MIB 23, will probably never happen.
  • Criminal Minds star Thomas Gibson has been suspended for a couple of episodes for kicking a writer onset. I bet he didn’t pull that kind of shit on Dharma & Greg!
  • As the writing was on the wall when costar Nicole Byer got her MTV show, Loosely Exactly Nicole, Fox has officially cancelled The Lonely Island’s Party Over Here sketch show.

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  • We got our first look at the cast for The BBC’s Are You Being Served? one-off anniversary special. It looks like a group of friends dressed up for a costume party and the one Black guy had to be Mr. Lucas. For some reason, though, the special actually calls him a “Mr. Lucas-like character” named Mr. Conway. The special will air in September, and we’ll have to pirate it over here.

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  • We got another fake-out *NSYNC reunion, as the guys reunited for JC Chasez’s 40th birthday. I still hate that JC’s solo album tanked. He’s a better singer than JT, but he never seemed comfortable in the spotlight, and lacked JT’s charisma. Oh, what might have been…
  • Though I’m sure you’ve never seen it, Powers has been cancelled by Playstation Network after 2 seasons.
  • To beef up the CBS All Access portal, a “special edition” of Big Brother will stream on the site later this Fall. The network insists, however, that this shouldn’t be considered season 19 of the show.
  • If you’re just dying for news on Spider-Man: Homecoming, some dude named Michael Chernus has been cast as The Tinkerer. Yeah, whatever.
  • VH1 is developing Martha and Snoop’s Dinner Party, which is exactly what it sounds like: Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg hosting dinner parties for their celebrity friends
  • Arianna Huffington will step down as editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. I wonder if it’ll change its name. Ya know, ’cause that worked so well for Topless Robot…
  • Apparently Vin Diesel and The Rock got into it on the set of Fast 8. It was probably an argument over which one of them was more racially ambiguous.
  • According to reports, Donald Glover is the frontrunner to play young Lando Calrissian in the young Han Solo film. I dunno, but I don’t think Glover has the swagger of a young Billy Dee Williams.

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So, I vowed not to see Suicide Squad in theaters. I said I was done with the DC Cinematic Universe until Justice League. Well, last night I saw Suicide Squad. I even paid for it. And ya know what? I really liked it. It’s not amazing, but it’s an enjoyable popcorn flick. I don’t know what movie everyone else saw, ’cause a lot of folks were just dying to issue their hot takes about how DC has failed again. If you compare them to Marvel, sure they’ve got a ways to go. But I thought it was a lot better than Dawn of Justice, and I was pleasantly surprised by it considering I did not go into it with an open mind.

First of all, let’s get the Marvel comparison out of the way. It’s unfortunate that DC has to be compared to Marvel, but we do it with the comics, so we’re gonna do it with the movies. There’s something to remember, though: not all Marvel is created equal. There’s Marvel Studios Marvel, which can give you a gem like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but can also give you a dud like Thor: The Dark World. Then, there’s Fox Marvel, which can give you something as great as X2: X-Men United, but can also turn around and give you Elektra (No, I’m not going to use Fantastic Four as an example because, as weak as they may be, I actually liked those movies). With the world building that Marvel Studios has done, however, it means the best Fox movie still only lines up to a mediocre Marvel Studios film. There’s a certain tone and use of budget that tends to go into a Marvel Studios film. Take Ant-Man for example. While a Marvel Studios film, it really didn’t feel on that level. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it and watch it every time it comes on Starz, but tonally it feels like a really strong Fox Marvel movie. So that’s kinda where Suicide Squad is. No, it’s not a Marvel Studios film, but it could hold its own as a decent Fox Marvel film and I think that says a lot. For one thing, I think we got too used to the Nolanverse, so we expect that from DC all the time. The aesthetic of this film is somewhere between Burton and Schumacher. Once you embrace that, you’re in for an entertaining ride.

What’s it about? Well, in light of Superman’s death in Dawn of Justice, the government realizes that they need something to be able to handle metahuman threats. Enter Amanda Waller, the director of ARGUS, who decides to form Task Force X – a team comprised of the worst of the worst bad guys. They’ll be sent on missions from which not all of them will return, but in exchange for their service, they get time knocked off their prison sentences. For their first mission, the team consists of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Katana, Diablo, Killer Croc, and Slipknot, led by uber soldier Rick Flagg. They think they’re being tasked to extract a hostage from a terrorist attack, but they find out they’re in for more than they bargained for.

No, the movie’s not perfect by any means. I could’ve completely done without Killer Croc and even Katana. Rick Flagg has a “midcard wrestler who’ll never get a shot at the title” vibe to him. And, as someone on Twitter pointed out, this was Enchantress most of the time:

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There’s no real way the Squad could’ve handled a threat like they did in the film, but whatever. It’s a movie, so I’ll go with it. I just felt like it was too “otherworldly” to be something they could handle. And the third act has a decidedly Ghostbusters (1984) feel to it, effects-wise, which seemed kinda cheesy in 2016.

Still, there was a lot to like. LOVED Margot Robbie’s Harley, which was surprising since I feel a little of that character goes a long way. With the cosplay onslaught, we’re living in the middle of Harlegeddon, yet I still didn’t get tired of seeing Robbie’s portrayal onscreen. I felt she nailed that character. I even liked My Chemical Romance Joker. It’s the first time that I was actually scared of him, and believed that he was a crazy fuck who could do something like kill a Robin. I’m gonna level with ya: Jack Nicholson never did anything for me. I know, I know. He’s supposed to be the cinematic gold standard, but I was too young, and I’d been raised on Cesar Romero. Say what you will about how corny Batman ’66 was, there was still something kinda menacing about Romero that I never quite saw in Nicholson. He had crazy eyes! Ledger came close to approximating what I felt I had read in the comics, but Leto kinda did right by me. Plus, if you’ve been reading comics lately, then *spoiler alert* you know that there are apparently three Jokers. Yeah, whatever. Anyway, I feel like Leto earned his spot as one of the three. I was picking up what he was putting down. Will Smith was spectacular, and I say that as a guy who’s not necessarily a Will Smith fan. I kinda cheered in my heart when he died in I Am Legend. That’s where I stand on The Fresh Prince, so I was equally surprised by his performance. But the true standout, though, HAS to be Viola Davis as Amanda Waller. Ho Lee Shit! I grew up with “stout” Amanda Waller, so I wasn’t too happy when they hotted her up in The New 52. When she appeared on Arrow, again, she was the svelte Amanda Waller. No, I needed someone who could convincingly be referred to as “The Wall”. In my mind, Marsha Warfield was always the perfect person to play Waller (has anyone seen her lately? Someone should probably check in on her!). Then Davis came along and showed me there were other options. No, she doesn’t have the weight, but she’s hella imposing, and such an amazing character. I’d watch 2 hours of just her, but there’s no way they could sell that, so they had to give us Suicide Squad instead. Whatever. I’ll take it. She is cold blooded, and I loved every minute she was onscreen.

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Can we talk about something, though? It’s going back to the Marvel/DC comparisons. I’ve come to realize that I don’t want world building from the DC movies. I’d kinda like them to all be standalone. My biggest issue with Dawn of Justice was that I felt that, tonally, it was the wrong cornerstone on which to build a cinematic universe. As a movie on its own, though, it was more serviceable. In this movie, I would’ve been completely fine if some rando had been playing Batman instead of Affleck. Having Affleck there did absolutely nothing for me. I don’t want their movies connected because I don’t need another Marvel. I’ve got a Marvel. What I need is a DC. Sure, they think they’re doing something different by basically starting with the Justice League and branching out, but it’s still a shared universe, and I don’t think that’s playing to their strengths. If I want a shared DC Universe, I’ll just stick with watching their TV shows.

Despite all the “haters” and poor word of mouth, the movie still managed to pull in $160 million over its first five days in the US. Still, I think it’s made DC a bit more gun shy about developing projects with other characters, as they instead announced that Man of Steel 2 is now in active development. Folks claim they’re tired of always getting Batman and Superman stuff, but when given something different, they say they don’t want it. Or, in this case, they say they don’t want it, but they go see it anyway. Like I did. Anyway, I can admit when I’m wrong, and I feel like I was wrong about this movie. Sure, it’s not gonna win any awards other than, maybe, an MTV Movie Award, but it’s still pretty entertaining. If you’re on the fence, give it a shot and decide for yourself. In any case, the movie’s box office broke a bunch of records, so I’m saying Suicide Squad had the West Week Ever.

08th Jul2016

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

27th May2016

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

Links I Loved

Ranking the Megazords – The Robot’s Pajamas

The Case Against Dan DiDio – The Savage Critics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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