13th Oct2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 10/13/17

by Will

I’ve really been slipping on the movie front this year, especially when it comes to seeing things in theaters. So, to celebrate our anniversary, the wife and I went to see The Mountain Between Us. It stars Idris Elba and Kate Winslet as two strangers who have to depend on each other to survive in the wilderness after their plane crashes.

While this sounds like a “chick flick”, it was totally my idea for us to see it (she wanted to see Battle of the Sexes). I’m so glad I chose it, because it’s really good. I mean who else but Idris could look even better as he’s dying in the cold? I want to have his babies! And I really liked Winslet’s character, too. This is the kind of movie where I keep a running tally of all the moments where I would’ve have died. I have no upper body strength and I know nothing about the outdoors. I’d be a goner! There are a few nitpicks here and there, and the epilogue is a tad too long, but it’s definitely worth seeing once. I’ll probably never watch it again, but I’m glad I saw it.

We got a new Justice League trailer. Yippee. While I commend them for not blowing important plot points, this thing just fell flat for me. Like, it clearly has quips and one-liners, but is there an actual story there? People always go to the “Well, Marvel movies have quips” defense, but those movies also have a plot.  I mean, folks are gonna love Aquaman and Flash, but what’s everyone doing here? I still can’t get over the fact that Steppenwolf is the villain. Like I’ve said before, this is like having a Ninja Turtles movie with Bebop as the Big Bad. I think the real detriment to the film’s marketing is the fact they have to sidestep that Superman’s going to return, while the merchandising has already spoiled this plot point. At this point, they should just lean into it, as I’m sure there’s a good percentage of movie we haven’t seen yet because the footage is Superman heavy.

I guess I’m just hard to impress this week, as this trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi did nothing for me, either. I think my biggest problem with Star Wars right now is fandom speculation. “Who are Rey’s parents?” is a popular refrain. I often wonder if it even matters. Like, I’d much rather find out Finn is somehow the illegitimate son of Lando Calrissian than find out Rey’s just another Skywalker/Kenobi. I’m sure I’ll see this movie, but it’s got a very Middle Film of a Trilogy vibe to it, as it will probably pose more questions than it answers, building up to Episode IX.

So, at New York Comic Con last weekend, Marvel had a string of public relations disasters, but the biggest probably concerned their partnership with Northrop Grumman.

If you live outside the Beltway, then you probably know Northrop Grumman as a defense contractor. Sure, they build weapons for war, but their entire scope requires more nuance than the “gunrunners!” label the woke Twitterati were giving them. They also built the Apollo Lunar Module, and provide communications equipment to various parties.

 

The partnership involved a comic book that was created for the event, called Avengers Featuring N.G.E.N. (Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus), as well as a panel where they were going to introduce STEM to new audiences. Now, the panel sounds kinda iffy to me, but I’ve seen tons of panels for dumber shit than this. On Twitter there was an outcry that Grumman was using this as a recruitment tool to get kids to want to buy into the military-industrial complex. I’m pretty sure, from the kids’ point of view, they just wanted some free shit. It really wasn’t that deep. I asked on Twitter how this was any different from the Avengers comics that are printed for the armed forces, and distributed at the PX. A friend replied that, while we may not agree with what soldiers do, they’re fulfilling a noble mission. To that, I ask “Where do you think they got the tech for said noble mission?” He said that they were war profiteers, but I point out that General Electric is a war profiteer. Hell, General Mills is more than likely a war profiteer.

My point is that there’s much more to companies like Grumman than the boogeyman stuff people choose to fixate on. As I said, to describe what they do requires more nuance than buzzwords and hashtags. I guess I’m more sensitive to this because of where I live, and the folks that I know. I’m not trying to play the “But some of my closest friends are Northrop Grumman employees!” card, but some of them are. There are a ton of Grumman analysts who wish they were as cool as gunrunners! Anyway, Marvel felt the heat, cancelled the panel, and decided not to distribute the comics (which are now collectors items – way to go, protesters!). Sometimes I think people just wanna find something to get upset about, and this felt like one of those times.

Speaking of Marvel, we got a new trailer for Hulu’s Runaways series that debuts next month. I like the Skins vibe that I get from the trailer, but I’m not loving the characters’ looks. They look like they’re starring in The Descendants 3. That said, I almost kind of wish the show was doing its own thing instead of an adaptation. What I mean by that is that if you’ve read the first year’s worth of comics, then you already know the big reveal. It’s pretty major, on a Keyser Söze level, so I don’t see how I can really go into this to be surprised. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle. It’s definitely not intriguing enough to make me sign up for Hulu, but I am curious.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • My heart is sad, as Bravo has cancelled Jill Kargman’s Odd Mom Out after 3 seasons.
  • The world found out Harvey Weinstein did a lot of bad shit, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Andy Cohen will replace Kathy Griffin as Anderson’s Cooper’s New Years Eve co-host. I can’t wait to hear all the clueless grandmas say stuff like “They should be with their wives!”
  • Gabrielle Union’s Being Mary Jane has been cancelled at BET, and will wrap up with a TV movie next year.
  • Reportedly Ta-Nehisi Coates will be writing a solo Storm comic, which should last just long enough to eke out 2 trade paperback collections. Seriously, this series doesn’t have a chance.
  • There’s a reboot of The WB series Roswell in development, which will have an immigration focus. So, they’re aliens who are aliens?
  • Raven’s Home has been renewed for a second season at Disney Channel
  • Psych: The Movie will premiere Thursday, December 7th on USA Network.
  • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 5 will return on Friday, December 1st with a 2-hour premiere.
  • Matt Ryan can’t seem to walk away from Constantine, as he will voice the character in an animated series for that CW Seed that nobody watches…
  • Channing Tatum’s Gambit film will hit theaters on February 14th, 2019. Uh-huh. Sure it will.
  • Sylvester Stallone announced that he will direct and produce Creed 2. I’d rather have Coogler back, but Stallone did do a good job directing Rocky Balboa, so I’m hopeful.
  • AOL announced that Instant Messenger will be discontinued on December 15th. Time to change that away message to “See you in Hell!” Or better yet, “I regret nothing!”
  • NBC is developing a series based on Blue Crush, which was Kate Bosworth’s 2002 surfer movie. Remember Kate Bosworth? Somebody should probably check on her.
  • SEAL Team has received a full season order from CBS.
  • Tyrese is mad at The Rock because he feels that his 2019 Fast spinoff bumping Fast 9 to 2020 is a selfish move on The Rock’s part.
  • After 455 episodes over 20 seasons, the Russian version of Everybody Loves Raymond (called Vironiny) has been recognized by Guinness as the longest-running adaptation of a TV series.
  • Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige recently said that the 4th Avengers film will tie up the story that began in 2008’s Iron Man. Without going into detail, he said that it would provide a satisfying end to that continuous story, leading fans to believe a cinematic reboot might be on the way.
  • Reports indicate that Victor Garber will leave Legends of Tomorrow this season due to other work commitments.
  • Apparently Batman: The Animated Series will be released on Blu-ray next year, and all I can ask is “Why?” I mean, I highly doubt that show will benefit from an HD conversion.

Nothing had the West Week Ever, unless you’re a news outlet that printed a ton of stories on Harvey Weinstein. And even then, you’re probably one of the organizations that helped cover it up for so long. So, nobody gets a cookie. Try harder next week, America!

06th Oct2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

15th Sep2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

After getting some blowback, he doubled down with this:

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

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

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

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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


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

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

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

08th Sep2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 9/8/17

by Will

So, we’re back after a holiday weekend and an extended break for the site. Long story short, I broke the site while updating some plugins, so it wasn’t really in a good place for a new post to go up last week. Everything seems to be better now, though, so let’s take her for a spin!

Well, since we last met, there has been some kerfuffle about race-based casting in Hollywood. Last time, I mentioned how British actor/rapper Ed Skrein had been cast as the Japanese Ben Daimio in Hellboy: Rise of the Blood Queen. After about a week of folks commenting on the whitewashing of the character, Skrein did something nobody really expected: he bowed out of the role. He released the following statement:

CLASS ACT. Seriously. He didn’t have to do this, but he realized it would be best for the character, the movie, and his image to decline the role. Now we’ll have to see if Lionsgate just goes and casts another White guy.

When I was tweeting about this development, I got the above question on Sarahah. I answered on Twitter, saying that they’re not the same thing. The only reason folks wanted a White Johnny Storm was because *he’d always been White*. However, there’s nothing inherently White about Johnny Storm. He’s a cocky, showboating ladies man, who’s not too responsible but is always there for his friends and family. Oh, and he sets himself on fire. That’s pretty much all you need to be true to who Johnny Storm is. Notice how I didn’t mention race anywhere. It doesn’t matter in that case. When you have a character where their race is inherent to who they are, then it’s imperative that you cast that race for the role.

As a counterpoint, folks ask “Well, then should Marvel have cast Idris Elba and Tessa Thompson in the Thor movies?” Honestly? No. There’s colorblind casting that makes sense and then there’s colorblind casting with ulterior motives. Representation is good onscreen, but when you’re dealing with Norse mythology, it’s kind of hard to really justify Elba and Thompson as Heimdall and Valkyrie, respectively. You can make the argument that there aren’t enough diverse characters in superhero films, so exceptions are made from time to time. There’s no shortage of roles for White actors, but there are fewer opportunities for minorities unless we make the films ourselves. Still, if I can acknowledge that Skrein’s casting was the wrong call, I also have to do the same for the Thor franchise.

In another interesting bit of casting, Disney’s live action Aladdin has created an original character, Prince Anders, just to cast Billy Magnussen in the role. Now, on paper, Aladdin is a diversity dream, but it’s almost like someone in Hollywood was like, “We can’t put this movie out without a White guy featured in it.” Right now, the cast stands with newcomer Mena Massoud as Aladdin, Power Rangers‘ Naomi Scott as Jasmine, Marwan Kenzari as Jafar, and Will Smith as the Genie. While details are scarce, it seems Anders might compete with Aladdin for Jasmine’s affection.

In other movie news, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow is out as the director of Star Wars: Episode IX. This highly publicized dismissal comes just months after Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from the Han Solo film. Plus, don’t forget that Fant4astic Four director Josh Trank was fired from a planned Star Wars spinoff before production even began on it. There’s a joke on Twitter that there are now more Directors Fired from Star Wars than there are Directors of Star Wars. Now the race is on to find a replacement, who will probably come as a shock to fans. After all, did you ever think Ron Howard would direct a Star Wars film? I just hope they don’t give it to someone like Joss Whedon. I mean, the Rey character is the kind of archetype he gravitates towards, but he’s just really not as good as his reputation would lead you to believe. Plus, since the recent hit job published by his ex-wife, I think Whedon will be keeping a low profile for the foreseeable future.

In TV news, DC has filled out the cast for the Titans series coming to its upcoming streaming service. Australian actor Brenton Thwaites will portray team leader Nightwing, while Alan Ritchson and Minka Kelly have been cast as Hawk & Dove. If you remember, Ritchson played Aquaman on Smallville, so this is his second time at bat as a DC superhero. Looking at that photo above, it seems like Kelly would’ve made a better Starfire, but what do I know? Right now, they’re saying that Hawk & Dove will only be recurring characters for the first season, with an option to become series regulars for the second season. If they take off, there are even preliminary plans to spin them off into their own series down the road. This all just seems so…unsubstantial. I mean, we barely know anything about this DC streaming service, and this series certainly isn’t enough to make me want to subscribe to another service. The fact that Young Justice (a show that I never watched) will be on the service does nothing for me. While some folks might think an original series is a major coup for Warner Bros as they launch the service, I still think of Titans as the show that TNT passed on. TNT. It’s not like they have an embarrassment of riches right now on their schedule to justify turning away a quality show. So, that makes me think it’s just not up to par.

Speaking of Titans, Arrow has cast Liam Hall as Slade Wilson’s son, Joe. In the comics, Joseph is also known as the Titan Jericho. It seems Arrow‘s going a different way with him, however, as Joe Wilson will be a mercenary much like his father. This season of Arrow, also, will reportedly begin with a time jump. I guess they don’t want to have to film all those folks getting off that island.

In other TV news, ABC has reached out to country star Luke Bryan to join Katy Perry as a judge on their reboot of American Idol. The problem, however, is that their money is running low. Reportedly they started out with a talent budget of $40 million. Perry is getting $25 million, while Ryan Seacrest is getting $10 million to host. So, with cash dwindling, ABC has decided to lean on its corporate owner, Disney, to offer perks to potential talent. These perks include production deals, as well as licensing and merchandising deals for Disney properties. So, you might be standing in line for the Luke Bryan Rollercoaster (which is also the name of one of his biggest hits) the next time you’re at a Disney park.

On Twitter this week, I had my most popular tweet of all time. I’m still pissed at the new ratio, where you only get a fraction of the retweets that you get Likes. Somehow, I got over 700 Likes on this tweet, but only 200 retweets (someone actually UN-retweeted it, or they were a bot that was deleted, so I’m back down to 199). Still, look at these stats:

Yeah, I know a lot of y’all have had more popular tweets, but this is new for me, so don’t take this away from me!

Song of the Week

Last time, I gave you the lyric video, but it seems that Taylor wasted no time in releasing the official video for “Look What You Made Me Do”, as it debuted 2 nights later during the MTV Video Music Awards. A lot of folks think she’s stealing from Beyoncé in parts of this video, but I don’t really know what to make of it. She seems to want us to think she’s changed. After all, the Old Taylor is “dead”. This sort of personality change gimmick rarely turns out well, though, so it’ll be interesting to see if her upcoming album Reputation is more of what we’re used to, or more of whatever this is. This could be her Chris Gaines album or it could be her “I’m A Slave 4 U”, which pretty much cemented the sexpot Britney image. My problem is that I think I’m incapable of seeing Taylor Swift as sexy. She’s more like your best friend’s little sister who matures over the summer, catching you by surprise, but you still remember when she used to wear those sneakers that light up with every step.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Two to beam up to the altar, as former Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress Terry Farrell is engaged to son of Spock, Adam Nimoy
  • SyFy went on the offensive, cancelling Blood Drive, Dark Matter, and Killjoys (after it runs another 2 seasons). I’ve never seen any of these shows, and had only heard of 2 of them prior to this announcement. Way to promote things other than Sharknado, SyFy!
  • Speaking of cancellations, Amazon has cancelled Christina Ricci’s Z: The Beginning of Everything, reversing its prior decision to produce a second season.
  • And the cancellations kept coming, as TNT cancelled their sexy young Shakespeare drama, Will, after one season.
  • Though I could never get into Veep, I know it has its fans – who are probably upset that it was announced it will end after season 7.
  • CBS announced that the US edition of Big Brother would have a celebrity edition that will air during Winter 2018. Way to catch up to 2001 England, CBS!
  • The BBC announced that the Doctor Who spinoff Class has been cancelled after one season.
  • There are reports that Drew Goddard will write and direct an X-Force movie starring Cable and Deadpool that will never actually be made…
  • Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to qualify for the American Ninja Warrior finals, has signed with the WWE.
  • Alf Clausen, composer for The Simpsons for the past 27 years, was dismissed due to rumored financial concerns, but producers later promised he will “continue to have an ongoing role with the show”.
  • An all-female Lord of the Flies film was announced, and the folks on social media were NOT having it.
  • Toys “R” Us is reportedly looking into possibly filing for bankruptcy as it struggles to compete with big box and online retailers
  • ABC announced the next Bachelor, and fans are outraged because they don’t even remember him from his last appearance in the franchise in 2012. He’s so insignificant that I’m not even gonna Google his name to write it here.
  • Jamie Foxx and Katie Holmes have seemingly gone public with their relationship, as they were spotted holding hands while walking on the beach. They’ve been rumored to be a couple for years, but there are reports that Tom Cruise put a stipulation in their divorce that Katie couldn’t go public with a relationship for five years following the split.

Had I written a post last week, I probably would’ve given the West Week Ever to Ed Skrein. That said, I didn’t, so I couldn’t. This week, however, is a different story. While nothing truly amazing happened this week, we did celebrate the anniversary of a property near and dear to my heart, Batman: The Animated Series.

Premiering September 5th, 1992, Batman: The Animated Series came along and was like nothing else on television at the time. It had the action for kids, but it had writing that appealed to adults. It even aired in primetime for a stint – something that was only done for “adult” animated shows like The Simpsons up to that point.

The show is also responsible for producing the greatest Batman in history: Kevin Conroy. He may not look like a superhero, and you probably wouldn’t even recognize him on the street, but you’d never mistake that voice. That commanding presence is something that men from Keaton to Bale have struggled with for the past nearly 30 years. When you hear Conroy speak, you KNOW that’s Batman.

Plus, piggybacking on the Tim Burton movies, it helped to change public opinion of Batman, which had come to see him as “silly” due to the Adam West portrayal in the 60s. Finally, folks were seeing not only what Batman was capable of, but what the comics characters were capable of in other media if handled by the right people.

I wish I could tell you my all-time favorite episode of the series, but it’s hard because there are so many good ones. There’s “Almost Got ‘Im”, where Batman’s rogues play a late night poker game, sharing tales of how they almost defeated their common foe. There’s “Beware the Gray Ghost”, where Batman gets to meet his childhood idol, actor Simon Trent, who portrayed the hero The Gray Ghost (voiced by 60s Batman Adam West). Or there’s the “Robin’s Reckoning” 2-parter, where we get Robin’s origin story as he tracks down the man who killed his family.

While this is a controversial opinion, as many fans had left the show by then, but I’d even argue that the show got better when it was revived as The New Batman Adventures. Sure, some folks couldn’t get over the new character designs, but there are so many incredible episodes from that iteration, as well. “Over the Edge”, where we find out what would happen if Gordon found out, in the worst possible way, that Bruce Wayne was Batman. “Old Wounds”, where we find out why, exactly, Dick Grayson quit being Robin. Or “Love is a Croc”, which is a VERY twisted and mature half hour of television.

All told, we got over 100 episodes of the show, which merely served as the cornerstone of an even larger DC Animated Universe. Over the next few years, we would get Superman: The Animated Series, which would, then lead to Justice League, and then Justice League Unlimited. Plus, there are the ancillary shows, like Batman Beyond and Static Shock. A 14-year entertainment franchise was birthed from this one little show.

I guess by this point you can tell that I really love this show, and it makes me feel old as Hell to know that it was 25 years ago that I was watching it on Fox Kids. All of this is to say that, in commemoration of its 25th anniversary, Batman: The Animated Series had the West Week Ever.

28th Jul2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 7/28/17

by Will

One of the best discoveries I’ve made has been the digital subchannel Heroes & Icons. If you’re a cord cutter, then get yourself an antenna and check this thing out. My favorite aspect of it, however, is the fact that it runs a 5-hour Star Trek block six nights a week. Star Trek at 8, Star Trek: The Next Generation at 9, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine at 10, Star Trek: Voyager at 11, and Enterprise at 12. Sunday through Friday. And on Sundays they actually kick things off with Star Trek: The Animated Series at 7. I’ve pretty much watched nothing but Star Trek for the past 2 weeks. I’ve been reacquainted with favorite episodes, like TNG‘s “Chain of Command” and DS9‘s “Far Beyond the Stars”. I’ve discovered some hidden gems, like TOS‘s ” The Cloud Minders”. I’ve even discovered that I don’t hate Voyager or Enterprise as much as I thought I did.

I don’t talk about this too much, but the first 12 years or so of my life were comprised of pretty much NOTHING but Star Trek. From 1987-94, my favorite show on television was The Next Generation. When DS9 debuted, I expected it to continue my love affair, but it felt too preachy with its Space Holocaust allegory. It was in the later seasons, once the Dominion War began, that it actually ensconced itself as my favorite iteration of the franchise. By the time Voyager debuted, I had discovered comics, and they became my new mistress. While I watched about 4 hours of TNG a day in high school (Channel 20 REALLY loved playing TNG), my heart didn’t have room in it for a new Trek, so I “No time for love, Dr. Jones”‘ed Captain Janeway and her crew. Enterprise debuted when I was in college, and  I was simply too busy worried about other shit to watch Captain Quantum Leap and his crew. Plus, due to some kind of contractual fallout, Ithaca didn’t get UPN. So, since the finale of DS9, my Trekkerdom lay dormant.

But when I say “I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know”, that’s primarily about Star Trek. I had several editions of the Star Trek Encyclopedia, I had the Technical Manual, the Technical Journal, the Star Trek Chronology. All of it. I’ve got the figures, and the role play toys. I even created my own uniform for Halloween back in the 90s. I was all Trek, 24/7, and you couldn’t tell me shit. Over time, though, that trivia got overwritten by X-Men 1st appearance notations and the names of TNBC actresses. What I’m saying, though, is that Heroes & Icons brought it all rushing back. It’s like I’m 15 again, blowing the evening watching Star Trek episodes I’ve already seen hundreds of times already. It’s also given me new perspectives on things that completely went over my head when I was younger. For example, Sisko is the Bajorans’ Space Jesus, and that’s pretty heavy. Even he doesn’t believe it, but in the end, yup it turns out he’s Space Jesus. I’ve also got thoughts on the current state of the franchise, too.

At SDCC, we got the above trailer for Star Trek: Discovery, which will air in North America on CBS All Access (yes, Dean, I know you’ll say All Anal Access because it sucks that we have to subscribe to another service just to watch this thing). I had no interest in this show because everything I heard about it didn’t sound like Star Trek. Now, though, the more they try to sell it as a bunch of new ideas, the more it just sounds like DS9. It’s gonna be Trek with interpersonal conflict. Great. I can get down with that. Its aesthetic seems more like late-era Stargate than Trek, though – especially those Klingon designs. There are certain things, though, that still feel like they miss the mark.

Take for example the fact that the show will feature the first same-sex couple on a Star Trek series, played by Rent‘s Anthony Rapp and My So Called Life‘s Wilson Cruz. Yeah, I get that representation is important, but it bothers me that this is being done in a prequel series, set before the events of the original Star Trek. With the exception of Enterprise, this is the series that takes place the closest to our timeline, so it’s really not much of a leap to think that same-sex couples exist. Ya know what would’ve meant more to me (as a straight, cis male who really doesn’t have a dog in the race but is still opinionated)? If the show had actually been a post-Dominion War, sequel series to TNG/DS9/Voyager, and it featured a same-sex couple. Science fiction tends to go 2 ways: it’s either dystopian or it’s about HOPE. As it stands, from what we’ve seen, same-sex couples are pretty much nonexistent in the 24th century. Yeah, I’m sure they exist, but we never saw them. It seems like it would be a testament to how enduring they are to see them that far in the future as opposed to just a couple of hundred years from now, when Discovery is set.

I could also be politicizing this for my own agenda, as I really want to know what happened after the war ended. Sure, there are books and stuff, but those things aren’t canon. I feel there are so many stories to tell from that era, and I’d love to see the franchise move forward instead of dance between the raindrops of continuity in the past. It feels like they’re stalling, which is how it felt with Enterprise and even the Kelvin movies. Someone, somewhere out there has got to have a great idea as to how to move the franchise forward and I hope CBS/Paramount finds them sooner rather than later.

SDCC Bullet Points

The bulk of San Diego Comic Con took place over the weekend, and here’s some stuff that debuted:

  • Michelle Pfeiffer is Hank Pym’s lost wife, Janet Van Dyne, in Ant-Man and The Wasp
  • The Captain Marvel film will be set in the 90s, and introduce the Skrulls to the MCU. Oh, and Nick Fury will have 2 eyes

  • We got this trailer for Ready Player One, which was hella polarizing. It seems a lot of folks hated the book on which it’s based. If you ask me, it just looks like a cinematic version of this commercial:

  • Comic creator Frank Miller, of 300 and Sin City fame, is writing a Superman: Year One story with art from John Romita Jr. Nothing about that sentence makes me want to open my wallet.

  • We got a new trailer for X-Men spinoff, The Gifted. I’m actually surprised they used established mutants like Polaris and Thunderbird. And is that actually Fenris?! I want to like this, but it just looks so…Fox.

  • We got a new trailer for The Defenders on Netflix. I get that this is the culmination of all the Marvel Netflix shows, but it didn’t do much for me since I’ve only seen 2 out of 5 seasons so far. There’s no way I’ll get caught up by this premiere date, but I’m sure it’ll mean more to me once I’m up to date. Kinda tired of the hallway fight trope, though.

  • Legends of Tomorrow is such a fun show. It started kinda dry, but got so much better last year. It reminds me of a syndicated Saturday afternoon show, but in a good way.

  • This Justice League trailer did very little for me. It’s like, sure, Wonder Woman’s cool, but we JUST saw her. Aquaman seems cool, but he’s not really “Aquaman”. I’ll see it, but I ain’t looking forward to it. No, for me, November belongs to:

  • An elementary school friend and her husband did a Saga cosplay and KILLED IT!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • We’ll have to wait a bit longer for our annual dose of Abbi and Ilana, as Comedy Central has moved the Broad City season 4 premiere from August 23rd to September 13th
  • A few months ago, it was reported that Amy Schumer would be starring in a Barbie movie. Well, I made fun of that, she blocked me on Twitter, and then eventually dropped out of the role. Now they’re reporting that Anne Hathaway is up for the role, which is somehow more bewildering than the Schumer choice…
  • Justin Bieber cancelled the rest of his Purpose world tour because he was “committing his life to Christ”. This pissed off his crew, as they were left without jobs. He, then, proceeded to run over a paparazzo with his truck while leaving church. I swear, you can’t make this shit up!
  • Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has replaced Bill Gates as the richest man in the world.
  • Beginning September 29th, Hulu will begin streaming the Warner Bros shows that comprised ABC’s TGIF lineup, including Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, Full House, Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, and Step By Step. Meanwhile, Netflix is feverishly developing Perfecter Strangers, Family Still Matters, Chillin’ With Mr. Cooper, and Step By Step By Step.
  • I haven’t seen a non-country music video in years, but apparently they still make them, as Katy Perry will host the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards
  • Speaking of the VMAs, following the lead of the MTV Movie Awards, they’re doing away with the gendered categories Best Male/Best Female Artist, to be replaced by Artist of the Year. Also, in a bit of pandering,  they’ve created the Best Fight Against the System, for those artists who have called for folks to #RESIST and all that.
  • Though I felt its farcical nature wore a bit thin during its first season, TBS’s Angie Tribeca has been renewed for season 4.
  • Smallville‘s Tom Welling is joining Fox’s Lucifer and *yawn* that’s really all there is to say about that.
  • Netflix has ordered 20 episodes of the animated series Disenchantment from The Simpsons creator Matt Groening. It will features the voices of Nat Faxon, Eric Andre, and Abbi Jacobson. Apparently it’s about elves and trolls and shit. Not really my bag, baby.
  • Person of Interest‘s Michael Emerson has been cast in a mysterious role for Arrow‘s 6th season. So, he’s probably Deathstroke’s accountant or something.
  • Because SyFy just doesn’t care anymore, and because they need something to air between Sharknados, Wynonna Earp has been renewed for a 3rd season.
  • The Wonder Woman sequel has a release date of December 13th, 2019
  • Apple discontinued the iPod Nano and Shuffle models, as they are the last remaining models that cannot run iOS apps.
  • Current Superman Henry Cavill grew a mustache for his role in Mission Impossible 37: Mission Harder, which will have to be digitally removed for Justice League reshoots. Ya know, the movie where he’s supposed to be dead, but is actually the worst kept secret in Hollywood.
  • Lionel Richie and Charlie Puth are in talks to join ABC’s American Idol reboot as judges. Yeah, that’s funny. Unless they’re coaching the contestants on how to get caught cheating while dancing on the ceiling, I’m not sure what Richie’s old ass brings to the table. And Puth is simply too new to be judging anybody.
  • New James Bond film in 2019. Nobody knows who’s playing him or directing the thing, but it’s coming. Yesiree, Bob!
  • Since they’re handing out cinematic universes like chicken samples at a food court, the John Wick universe will be expanded by the female-focused film, Ballerina.
  • Michael Phelps raced a CGI shark and people felt betrayed. He’s the friggin’ son of Poseidon! He can’t race ACTUAL sharks! There would be civil unrest beneath the surface!

With DC being the political capital of the country, it’s hard for a news person to stand out because the place is crawling with them. That wasn’t true, however, for Jim Vance. Everyone knew him and the man was an institution. Coming to NBC4 in 1969, he was one of the first Black anchors in a major news market. He anchored for over 4 decades, ingraining himself into the families of those who watched him.

When I was a toddler, I was really into the local news (I’ve always said I’m regressing as I get older), and I could name every anchor on every local newscast. And this was a golden age of DC news. You had the great Glenn Brenner, you had Maury Povich before he became a talk show host, and you had Vance. There was something about him that made him seem like your aunt’s cool boyfriend. He was an old man with a hoop earring. We used to laugh about it, but secretly I was hating because I knew I’d never be able to pull that off at his age. He rode motorcycles and laughed inappropriately at news stories he found funny. He was a guy who made you glad to watch the news, especially as the cries of Fake News! grew louder.

Back in May, Vance announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer, and it advanced rather quickly. He passed away last Saturday morning, and the announcement touched all corners of the DC area (no, I’m not calling it the DMV!). It was touching to see all of the tributes to him on the local stations, from those who were colleagues and competitors. Last Saturday night, News4 spent the entire 11 PM news talking about Vance and what he meant to DC. This might sound crazy, but it was so refreshing to watch the news without a single drop of actual news being reported. No Trump b.s., no local murders, not even a weather report. Just 30 minutes about a man who we basically grew up with in our homes. I always kinda took him for granted because you just expected he would be there every evening, but I’ve certainly missed him since he’s gone. I know he won’t mean much to those of you outside the DC viewing area, but believe me when I say that everybody here knew who Jim Vance was, and we’re all going to miss him in one way or another. For that reason, Jim Vance had the West Life Ever.

 

16th Jun2017

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

by Will

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of the Week

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

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

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

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

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

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

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

13th Jun2017

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

by Will

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

09th Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/9/17

by Will

 

In an interesting shake-up over at CBS, Erinn Hayes has been let go from her role as wife to Kevin James in Kevin Can Wait. They say that the show is going in a new direction, which necessitated the firing. But here’s where it gets interesting. Leah Remini, who played James’s wife on King of Queens, popped up in the season finale as James’ former cop partner. Well, just before announcing Hayes’s departure, CBS announced that Remini would be joining the show next season as a series regular. Now, if you’ve never seen Kevin Can Wait, Kevin James plays a former NYC cop who tries to figure out how to adjust to his recent retirement. Based on the season finale, though, it seems like James’s character might be coming out of retirement. It’s just a strange move, seeing as how the show ended the season as the #1 new comedy on network TV – hardly a situation that necessitated a retooling of the show. Part of what critics praised was Hayes’s portrayal of James’s wife of 20 years. How do you just gloss over that relationship? I mean, they’ve gotta kill her off, but unless you do a time jump, you’ve gotta slog through all the grief stuff, which doesn’t lend itself well to a multicam comedy. And if they’re gonna fast track a relationship between James and Remini, will the audience accept it? It really feels like they blew a sure thing and, if they wanted to recreate The King of Queens, thy should’ve just revived The King of Queens! I’ve said that online since Kevin was announced!

Speaking of Remini, I’m starting to think she’s a Scientology double agent. Bear with me here: Scientology is a well-connected organization in Hollywood that allegedly has the power to ruin your career with the information that they have on their members. If you ever leave the church, you’re pretty much done. Just look at the list of former Scientologists. On that list, Remini and Jeffrey Tambor are the one ones who even have a semblance of a steady career right now, and Tambor kinda skirted the issue by saying he never really joined the church. Remini, however, joined up as a child, and was a HUGE booster of the church. Then, in 2013, she turned on the church – not for its negative views on homosexuality (which is why Crash director Paul Haggis left) or its alleged illegal activities. No, she left because she got her feelings hurt after leadership clapped back at her. At Tom Cruise’s wedding to Katie Holmes, Remini asked why church leader David Miscavige’s wife wasn’t in attendance, and they basically told her she didn’t have clearance for that info (formal speak for “Nunyo Biznazz”). She didn’t trust that answer, and went further to file a missing persons report on Mrs. Miscavige. Then, she made it her mission to publicly discredit Miscavige, criticizing his leadership, citing reports of abuse in the Sea Org, and more. She went straight to the TOP with her blame game, yet NOTHING has happened to her. In fact, it’s probably rejuvenated her career. She got a successful show on A&E called Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath, where she’s basically telling all their secrets. When the show debuted, the church issued a statement attacking her. Yet, she’s working more now than she was before. So, there’s two things happening here: either Scientology isn’t as powerful and litigious as we’ve been led to believe OR they’re in on it. It’s yin and yang. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. While Scientology has its critics, it never really had an enemy before. Why not create one where they could control the narrative? It’s like learning that Captain America has secretly been Hydra the whole time. Long story short, I’m not entirely convinced she’s left the church, especially over something as trivial as what’s reported to have started the whole thing. And she’s laughing all the way to the bank.

In other TV news, Tia and Tamera Mowry (yeah, they got married and have new hyphenated last names, but I ain’t got time for all that) are trying to get a Sister, Sister revival off the ground. And I don’t know anyone who wants this. If you were cool back in the 90s you probably never watched Sister, Sister, where a set of adopted twins didn’t realize they were twins until a chance meeting in a department store, a la The Parent Trap. Then they all move in together. It was the definition of “mediocre”, yet once ABC canceled it, it gained a new life over on The WB. The most memorable thing about it was that Marques “Batman” Houston, of the R&B group Immature/IMx, played their annoying neighbor Roger (kinda like a watered down Steve Urkel), and they’d constantly yell “Go home, Roger!” at him. Other than that, it was just a bunch of zany, mistaken identity twin shit – stuff that I’d hope adult Tia and Tamera had outgrown by now. What’s the story to tell? They both get divorced, and move in together with their kids? Sorry, Kate & Allie, Getting By, and the upcoming Raven’s Home have already covered that old chestnut. Are they single in the city, doing the same twin shit? Not interested. I don’t have a lot of faith in this one getting picked up, though, because they’re far behind where they need to be. Right now, they say they’re looking for a show runner to guide the project, but then they’d have to find a network. Sister, Sister was NO Full House, so I doubt Netflix would be interested. If anything, the only place I’d put it right now would probably be Freeform, even though the twins are slightly older than the target demo of that channel. Let this just be a lesson that not everything needs to be revived.

In other television news, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has cast Tala Ashe as Muslim “hacktivist” Zari Adrianna Tomaz for season 3. She’s a computer whiz from 2030, so basically the team’s got their own Oracle/Felicity now – not that they really need it, with Gideon and all. Anyway, in comics Tomaz is actually an Egyptian who uses the Amulet of Isis to transform into the hero Isis. Before the New 52 reboot of the DC Universe, Isis was an important character in the weekly series 52, as she was in a relationship with Black Adam, and her brother, Osiris, was eaten by Sobek. Oh, and she had a cheesy TV show in the 70s. None of that’s gonna be in the Legends, I’m sure. Given the current political climate, and how loaded the name “Isis” is right now, I doubt they’ll actually ever call her that onscreen, either.

Song of the Week

Today I give you “Vampires”, by The Midnight. My pal and thrifting partner, “Special Forces”, and I decided that this is the official theme song for Thrift Justice should it ever become a real show. Synthwave AND saxophone?! I wanna direct Skinemax movies just so I can score them with this entire album. So sexy. Right now, Thrift Justice is a USA drama circa 1990, and I ain’t got no problems with that!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Modern Family‘s Sarah Hyland will guest star on Freeform’s Shadowhunters, which kinda sounds like a step back
  • Speaking of Freeform, they’ve ordered a pilot for an American adaptation of UK hit Misfits. The network is a good home for something like this, but I’m still pissed over the American adaptation of Skins, so…
  • Rudy Huxtable herself, Keshia Knight Pulliam, escorted TV dad Bill Cosby to the first day of his rape trial. Whatever. Call me when Lisa Bonet shows up.
  • In next level pettiness, Taylor Swift put her entire catalog back on Spotify at midnight – at the very moment Katy Perry released her album “Witness”
  • According to Dan Aykroyd, Paul Feig blew his chance at a Ghostbusters sequel because he overran his budget on unnecessary reshoots. Sony refuted the figures Aykroyd presented, saying the estimates were off by about NINETY percent. Woo!
  • Jennifer Connelly will join Daveed Diggs in TNT’s Snowpiercer pilot, playing the person who makes the daily announcements on the train. Exciting!
  • Tom Cruise revealed that the title of the Top Gun sequel will be Top Gun: Maverick. I wonder if John McCain has any feelings about that. Coherent feelings, not ramblings about the Diamondbacks…
  • Speaking of Cruise, his The Mummy reboot opens today, and reviewers have called it “the worst Tom Cruise movie ever”. Wow.
  • Singer/actress/sister of Ray J Brandy was found unconscious on a Delta flight, and the doctor who came to her rescue was reportedly Kim Kardashian’s uncle! Considering Ray J put that family on the map, I figure it’s time the Kardashians did something to return the favor.
  • Gotham stars Morena Baccarin and Ben McKenzie got married. Knowing that show, it’ll probably revealed that they’re Bruce’s real parents or some shit. It’s not like it pays attention to any of the rest of the lore, so why not?
  • Fox canceled 24 Legacy after a low-rated single season, but they’re still committed to the 24 brand. They’re reportedly developing an anthology series to take the show back to its real-time roots
  • Like Peter denied Jesus, Jerry Seinfeld denied THREE requests for a hug from Kesha. I don’t blame him!
  • In one of the strangest deals I’ve ever heard of, Epix has inked a deal to stream its content directly to 2018 Honda Odyssey  minivans
  • Sony will begin selling clean versions of some of their hit movies. If you’ve ever accidentally bought a clean version of an album from Walmart, you can see why this decision might anger some folks
  • Hank Williams Jr is back singing the opening to Monday Night Football for the first time since 2011. I guess all his rowdy friends will be over after they finish burning a few more crosses…
  • George and Amal Clooney welcomed twins Ella and Alexander
  • Former Power Rangers director/producer/fight coordinator Koichi Sakamoto will direct the upcoming Ultraman Geed series, focusing on the son of the evil Ultraman Belial. Yeah, those words mean something to someone out there.
  • Newcomer Blu Hunt has been cast as Danielle Moonstar in the upcoming New Mutants spinoff of the X-Men films.
  • A live action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is being developed, and my heart weeps. As one of the few anime series I’ve watched, and loved, I kinda hope this dies in development hell
  • Hackers released 8 stolen episodes of ABC’s upcoming game show, Funderdome, and nobody cared.
  • Donald Glover will be retiring her Childish Gambino hip hop persona after his next album.

  • We got our first poster for the Black Panther film.

Last week I gave my opinions and feelings on the movie. This week, I’m just gonna stick to the facts:

  • 92% on Rotten Tomatoes
  • $103 million opening weekend domestic box office
  • $220 million opening weekend global box office
  • Third highest opening for a DC film
  • Most successful female-directed film
  • Mot expensive female-directed film, with a budget of $150 million
  • Most tweeted about movie of 2017, with 2.19 million tweets
  • Won Best In Show and Best Fantasy/Adventure at the Golden Trailer Awards
  • Last Saturday, Wonder Woman Day was celebrated at comic shops around the world

You’ve seen it by now, right? RIGHT?! Then, what are you waiting for? For these reasons, and more, Wonder Woman once again had the West Week Ever.

02nd Jun2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 6/2/17

by Will

Whoo boy! This is gonna be a controversial one this week, but I’ve got some stuff to get off my chest.

First up, there was controversy surrounding the new Wonder Woman film (in theaters now!). Theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced women-only screenings for the film, where proceeds would go to women’s charities, including Planned Parenthood. Originally planned to be 5 screenings at the Austin and Brooklyn locations, tickets sold out instantly and more screenings were added. According to Alamo, the screenings were meant to be a celebration of “Girl Power”, and were only open to those who identified as women. Now, this isn’t the first time Alamo has done special screenings, as they have screenings for active military members, as well as for children with special sensory needs.  I’ve also heard other explanations, like the screenings give women a safe space to watch the film without having it mansplained to them the entire time. But, of course, the social media shitstorm started. A lot of folks who might be considered Men’s Rights Activists felt that this was discrimination, and that they should retaliate with all-male screenings of the next Star Wars movie.

As Twitter was dead over the holiday weekend, I tweeted that the backlash to the screening was stupid, but the screening itself is also kinda stupid. Now, hear me out: I see both sides of the issue here. Alamo wanted to make a fun exclusive event to celebrate the release of a movie starring a female superhero. That doesn’t happen every day, so it was a cause to celebrate. I’m not “butthurt” over the idea. That said, Alamo had to know they’d get this kind of reaction, as this kind of thing is somewhat of a slippery slope. “How is it a slippery slope, Will?” So glad you asked! Let’s, for a moment, propose a different kind of screening. Let’s say it was a Black Only screening of Get Out. I mean, it had a similar pedigree in that it was a Black horror/suspense film from a Black director – something that also doesn’t happen every day. You’d better believe people would have a problem with that! Sure, it could be spun as a celebration “for the culture”, meant to foster community and whatnot, but White people would shit ALL the bricks! So, as this has been great publicity for both Wonder Woman and Alamo Drafthouse, they knew exactly what they were doing when they set out to do this. In the long run, this isn’t gonna hurt Alamo or Wonder Woman one bit, but let’s not act like this was some kind of altruistic celebration of sisterhood. This was Shrewd Marketing 101.

See? I toldja this would be a controversial one, and I’m just getting started!

Let’s visit the world where Hollywood and politics intersect. You see, comedienne Kathy Griffin posted a photo of herself holding what was meant to be Donald Trump’s severed head. AND PEOPLE LOST THEIR MINDS! Trump, himself, even took time off from golfing and nudging his way to the front of photo ops to tweet about it, saying that it had affected his 11 year-old son, Barron, who apparently thought the photo was real. The backlash was strong against Griffin, who apologized hours later, but still ending up losing her Squatty Potty endorsement, as well as her CNN New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper. A lot of people seem to be in agreement of the backlash, but I’m gonna take a different approach: I don’t think the photo was that bad.

There are so many things to unpack here, so bear with me as I try to navigate through all of it. Societies have a history of burning politicians in effigy as a form of protest so, while extreme, how is this any different? Had she actually decapitated the man, and was brandishing his severed head on social media as some sort of trophy, that would’ve been too far. Like it or not, this was “art”, and you don’t really get to judge art. It can make you uncomfortable but at least it triggered some sort of opinion or emotion, which means it did its job.

I also feel like this is a situation where folks are more upset by the messenger than the message. Kathy Griffin isn’t taken seriously. We’ve put her in this box along with Andy Dick and several other unpredictable, slightly unstable comedians who at one time did a stint on an NBC sitcom. We don’t expect anything “deep” from her, because we’ve already written her off. She knows this, as she’s in on the joke. I mean, her reality series was called My Life On The D-List, so she knows she’s not a top-tier celebrity. Still, she has a team behind her, as everyone in Hollywood does, and they all decided that this was something she was going to do. Maybe she felt it’d just blow over because of her lessened celebrity status, or maybe it’s doing just what she thought it would. A friend and I were talking about it the other night, and he’s the one who made me realize it was the messenger we were blaming here. After all, if Samantha Bee had done this, liberals would be creaming their jeans about how daring and smart it was. Why? Because that’s what people expect of her. Griffin made the simple mistake of veering out of her lane, and that’s how we got to where we are now.

Now, let’s look at the photographer, Tyler Shields, whose work tends to push boundaries like this. For him, this was just another Tuesday photoshoot, and this isn’t the first time that Griffin has worked with him. I mean, just look at some of his work above. He likes weird shit, but again, it’s art and we don’t really get to police it.

Meanwhile, there’s the whole thing about Barron thinking the photo was real. That poor, poor boy. To quote Hank Hill, “That boy ain’t right”, and the family either refuses to acknowledge it or is dealing with it in secret. On the one hand, I guess I have to commend the fact that we’ve “grown” to the point of saying “Kids are off limits”, but I find it convenient that we’re adopting that stance now. Where was that when comedians were calling little Chelsea Clinton a “dog” every chance they got? Where was that when Sasha and Malia had to see the stuff folks said about them and their family? It’s a shame that Barron doesn’t know the difference between a photo and reality but, as one Tweeter put it, it wouldn’t be an issue if Donald actually lived with his son. But I digress. I think this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion to dominate the news cycle. After all, last weekend it was looking like Jared Kushner was in the hot seat, and then next thing you know, it’s Kathy Griffin this, and covfefe that.

Where to next? Oh yeah, remember Mary Kay Letourneau? She was one of the first stories of teachers sleeping with their students to hit the news. Back in the late 90s, Letourneau fell in love with her student, 12 year old Vili Fualaau, and ended up getting impregnate by him. She was convicted of child rape, served 3 months in jail, and THEN got caught having sex with Fualaau in her car just two weeks after her release. And she got pregnant again. She served 6 years that time, but married Fualaau when she got out. And they lived happily ever after…until May 9th of this year, when Fualaau filed for legal separation from Letourneau. Now 33, perhaps Letourneau simply got too old for him at 55. But the plot thickens! Yesterday, that bastion of journalistic integrity, The New York Post, reported that the separation was really just something of a scam. You see, Fualaau wants to get a license to sell pot, but he knows they’ll do a background check before granting it to him, and it wouldn’t look good to be married to a registered sex offender. He claims they’re still in love and this is just a business arrangement. So, while he awaits his pot license, he’s working as a DJ in Washington state. Too bad she couldn’t fuck some ambition into him all those years ago! Fun fact: one of Letourneau’s brothers is a foreign policy adviser to the president. He’s clearly been doing a heck of a job lately!

Still here? OK, then let’s talk about some pop culture stuff. Someone at NBC must’ve read my Upfronts post, as they just announced changes that perfectly mirror my suggestions. This Is Us will no longer be moving to Thursday, and will stay put on Tuesday nights. Meanwhile, the comedies planned for Tuesday, Superstore and The Good Place, are moving to Thursday to join Will & Grace and Great News for a 2-hour comedy block. This is how it alway should’ve been, and I’m not quite sure what’s going on at NBC. From the cancellation/uncancellation of Timeless to this new schedule scramble, it makes you wonder who’s at the wheel over there. Still, I think these are smart moves, so hopefully they’ll work out in the long run.

The hardest working man in Hollywood, Ryan Seacrest, is developing a new show. Best.Cover.Ever. will air on YouTube and will feature people singing cover songs, vying for the chance to sing a duet with the original artist of the song they sang. Hosted by Ludacris, the show will feature Demi Lovato, Jason Derulo, and Backstreet Boys to start out. Contestants are asked to upload videos of covers of “Trumpets”, “Confident”, and “As Long As You Love Me”. The artists will each choose two finalists, who will be the contestants actually featured on the show. The winner gets to duet with the original artist for an exclusive YouTube performance. It’s an interesting concept, and it requires a partnership with a streaming service to work, but I’m still not sure it’s going to be successful. I’m also surprised that it’s not on YouTube Red, where they can charge for it. After all, nobody really talks about the offerings on YouTube Red, but this is the kind of thing that could get folks talking and maybe boost subscriptions. I’m a sucker for “As Long As You Love Me”, so I’ll be keeping tabs on this just to see how it fares.

Major news in the world of pop music this morning, as will.i.am confirmed that Fergie has left the Black Eyed Peas to focus on her solo career. The news isn’t exactly a surprise, as last week it was announced that she was leaving the band’s label, Interscope, to start her own label, Duchess Music, over at BMG. It’s still a pretty big deal, though, as she’s been with the band for the past 15 years. Still, I feel like their time has come and gone. They showed up, gave the world a suitable soundtrack replacement for Jock Jams, and left their mark. However, will.i.am says they’re still together, recording new music to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a band. To be honest, I thought they were gonna be done in 2008, when they released The E.N.D., but it proved successful enough, with the hits “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling”, that they just kept trucking along. Now there are rumors swirling that Nicole Scherzinger might replace Fergie in the group, which would be her third time in a group, after Eden’s Crush and The Pussycat Dolls. I swear, Scherzinger must have a tail or something, because there’s some sort of defect that’s preventing a label from being able to package her as a solo act. Always a bridesmaid…Anyway, let’s pour one out for The Duchess and her tenure with Your Grandma’s Favorite Rap Group.

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings recently said that he felt Netflix should be canceling more shows. In his mind, they have too many hits, which results in creators taking fewer chances and not “swinging for the fences”. The successful shows are basically taking real estate from potential new hits. Now, it being the internet, there’s no “real estate”, per se, but it’s still marketing dollars, bandwidth, etc. It used to be that you could count on a Netflix series getting at least 2 seasons, but they just killed that with the cancellation of The Get Down after its first season. Yesterday, they followed the trend and canceled the sci fi series Sense8 after its second season just debuted last month. If the axe is swinging, I’m worried about the shows that aren’t generating a ton of buzz right now, like F is for Family and the adaptation of Dear White People. Kind of a weird problem to have, though: too much success might be making them complacent. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects the Marvel shows, as well as the Netflix perennials like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

There was a scary moment last weekend at Phoenix Comicon, when police arrested a man who reportedly had three handguns, a shotgun, knives, pepper spray, and throwing stars, and had a reminder on his phone that said “Kill JDF.” That’s right, folks – his plan was to kill the Greatest Power Ranger of All Time, Jason David Frank, as well as some police officers. Sidebar: can you imagine being so absentminded that you need to set a phone reminder to make sure you remember to murder your target?! Anyway, the reason police were able to capture 31 year old Mathew Sterling was because he had told his plan to some chick on social media, who then tipped off the police. Anyway, JDF continued with the convention as if nothing had happened, claiming that he wasn’t going to let fear govern his life. Meanwhile, the convention cracked down on prop weapons and banned them from the show. In fact, if you were getting your Saba or Dragon Dagger swords signed by JDF that weekend, he was posting on social media that you would have to leave them in their boxes. This has caused other conventions to look at their own weapons policies, so look for some changes coming up on the con circuit.

Song of the Week

This week, I give you “You Look Good”, but Lady Antebellum. This is just such a funky song, and could’ve been a contender for Song of the Summer had they waited a bit longer to release it. Anyway, it’s like the 2017 offspring of Santana and Rob Thomas’s “Smooth”. I really dig it, and I think you will, too.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Hailee Steinfeld is in talks to star in the Transformers spinoff, Bumblebee
  • After 14 years off the air, MTV is bringing back the MTV Beach House this summer
  • WGN America has canceled slavery drama Underground after 2 seasons
  • There are reports that Steven Spielberg is gearing up for an Animaniacs reboot
  • Fresh off the recently canceled Powerless, Vanessa Hudgens was announced as a judge on the upcoming season of So You Think You Can Dance
  • Scott Pelley is out as the anchor of CBS Evening News, and will return to 60 Minutes in a full-time capacity
  • A Sin City TV series is in the works
  • Universal is reportedly interested in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for the role of The Wolfman in their Dark Universe franchise
  • Speaking of Dark Universe, I called it last week: Warner Bros may sue Universal over the Dark Universe title. According to official documents, however, it appears Universal may have had the name first.
  • Charlie Heaton, of Stranger Things fame, is reportedly up for the role of Cannonball in the X-Men spinoff, New Mutants – which is now supposedly going to be a straight horror movie. Um, OK…
  • Speaking of New Mutants, Fox continues to mine Netflix shows, as 13 Reasons Why‘s Henry Zaga has been cast as Sunspot
  • Ben Stiller and Christine Taylor have split after 18 years together
  • The Ludacris-hosted Fear Factor reboot premiered on MTV this week
  • Tiger Woods was arrested for a DUI, even though he had no alcohol in his system and was found passed out in his car. He says it was the result of mixing prescription drugs, but the whole thing sound fishy

  • Sharknado 5: Global Swarming will premiere August 6th on SyFy, guest starring Charo, Fabio, Tony Hawk, and Chris Kattan. This thing is one Ted Lange appearance away from becoming a Love Boat reboot
  • Thanks to an article on Slate, we now know to pronounce the “T” in Gal Gadot’s name.

I had absolutely no desire to see Wonder Woman. While she was my favorite part of of Dawn of Justice, I just wasn’t jazzed about the idea of her starring in a World War I period piece. I mean, we already got that movie, and it was called Captain America: The First Avenger (before you history buffs come out of the woodworks, I know that movie was set in WWII: War Harder). I wasn’t looking forward to DC’s lackluster attempt at a retread of that. So, imagine my surprise when I found myself in the theater on opening night. And then imagine my surprise when the movie ended, and I realized that I LOVED it!

It might be premature to say that Warner Bros has finally righted the DCEU ship, but Wonder Woman is definitely a step in the right direction. My buddy Chad predicted that it would be the new gold standard in comic book movies, and while I don’t think it quite achieves that, it’s definitely the gold standard for the DC Universe. It’s one of the rare comic book movies where I left and didn’t really have any issues with plot holes. It was such a joy to watch, thanks to the acting of Gal Gadot. First of all, she’s so goddamn beautiful that it should be illegal for the camera to be trained on her for prolonged periods of time. Seriously, I thought I was gonna have a seizure like those kids did from that Pokémon episode back in ’99. She does such a great job playing  up Wonder Woman’s sweet naiveté about “Man’s World”, but is also a commanding presence during the battles. It’s funny how when she was cast, we were all saying “She’s too small to be Wonder Woman”, but watching her onscreen, all those doubts slip away.

Now, as much as I loved it, it’s not a perfect film. It deftly straddles the line between “suspension of disbelief” and just plain hokey, but it sort of feels like a 90s comic book movie in that way. And while Patty Jenkins may have directed it, Zack Snyder’s fingerprints are ALL OVER IT (as he co-wrote it with Allan Heinberg). I swear, I think about 60% of it was pure green screen, as I sat there thinking to myself, “This is on a soundstage. That is on a soundstage. Oh, that’s definitely a sound stage.” At points (especially during the final act), it shifts into that “Snydervision” that most of the DCEU movies are in, where it just becomes a copper-tinted music video.

Plus, I’m still not sure about the shared universe nature of the DCEU. While Marvel has almost flawlessly built their world over the course of many films, it just feels so forced with the DC movies. Whereas the MCU feels organic, the DCEU feels copycat. The framing device of the movie is meant to sort of further that idea of a shared universe, but I’m not sure it works. To be honest, I’d probably enjoy it more if I knew nothing about Dawn of Justice or the fact that she’ll pop up in Justice League later this year. She’s strong enough to stand on her own, and the rest of the disappointing DCEU almost taints her.

All that said, it’s really a great cinematic debut for the character, and young girls finally have their own big screen hero. Not to give too much away, but as the film starts, Diana is a wide-eyed little girl, and I could see so much of the audience connecting with that. I thought of my own daughter, and the fact the she now has her own hero. I think that will mean a lot to folks. As far as I’m concerned, scrap Justice League and the rest of the solo films on DC’s slate, and rush Wonder Woman 2 into production stat! For these reasons, Wonder Woman had the West Week Ever.

26th May2017

West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 5/26/17

by Will

Here we are, on the verge of a 3-day weekend, which means nobody’s gonna read this thing. Still, “the show must go on”…

Well, the week was filled with spider news, as last Friday Sony announced that Tom Hardy will star in a Venom film. If you’re not “in the know”, Venom is a Spider-Man villain comprised of an alien symbiote suit and Peter Parker’s professional rival, Eddie Brock. Sadly, the film’s not meant to cross over with Spider-Man: Homecoming or any bit of Tom Holland’s portrayal. I’m starting to think Sony’s deal with Marvel Studios is actually a bad thing, as it seems like Spidey’s addition to the MCU is to the detriment of his expanded universe to which Sony still owns the rights. I don’t really care about a Venom without a Spider-Man. To add to that, yesterday, Sony announced a film starring Spider-Man supporting cast members Silver Sable and Black Cat, to be directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball). I really don’t think there’s much to say about these characters without the possibility of a Spider-Man cameo. I get where Sony’s coming from; they have all these characters, so they might as well do something with them. That said, earlier talks made it sound like they were building their own Spider-Man-centric film universe, but since the MCU deal went through, Spider-Man no longer seems to be part of the equation.

Meanwhile, the Licensing Expo was this week, and we got our first look at the poster for the animated Spider-Man movie, starring Miles Morales. Apparently it was created by a child. Maybe a Make-A-Wish kid? Seriously, that thing is terrible.

It wasn’t all bad Spider News, however, as we got the third trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming. They’re basically giving away the movie at this point, but I’m still a guaranteed butt in a seat. A lot of people are having issues with it, but I kinda like that this is basically Iron Man 4. I really didn’t need a new Spider-Man, so throwing Tony Stark in there is a good way to get me interested. I mean, I liked Tobey Maguire. I liked Andrew Garfield. I’m sure I’ll like Holland, but I’m kinda tired of the Spider-Man revolving door. Now that he’s tied into the MCU, I hope the Holland casting sticks. Then again, we’ve had three Hulks already, so…

This poster, however, is horrendous, but endearingly so. I mean, it’s really bad Photoshop, but I still kinda like it. It’s busier than Times Square at rush hour, but I love it in all its ugliness. It looks like it should be airbrushed on a denim jacket at the mall.

Across the aisle, things aren’t going so well for the DC movie slate, either. First up, Doug Liman has dropped out of directing the Justice League Dark film due to his commitment to Lionsgate’s adaptation of the young adult series Chaos Walking. In case you didn’t know, Justice League Dark would focus on the more mystical DC Comics characters, like John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman and others, battling supernatural threats – ya know, like the kind the Suicide Squad had no business fighting. I’ve got no interest in this, but that’s ’cause I don’t really like magic. If they manage to get Swamp Thing into the movie, though, I think it’ll increase its appeal. Right now, though, they’re just a bunch of magical nobodies coasting on the Justice League name which might not even hold any power if that movie fails this Fall.

In sadder news, Zack Snyder bowed out of Justice League post-production work to spend time with his family as they grieve the loss of his daughter, Autumn, to suicide. It was revealed that Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the film, which now has fans cautiously optimistic. Just last week, there were reports that there had been so many reshoots that the film was basically a different movie from what was originally shot. It’s possible, however, that these reshoots were part of Whedon’s plan. It’s really unfortunate what the Snyder family is going through, and it’s deplorable that some folks are making jokes about the situation.

In other movie news, it was revealed that Tom Cruise’s upcoming film, The Mummy, will kick off a Universal Monsters cinematic universe called Dark Universe. I bet they stayed up real late to think of that one! Anyway, Russell Crowe will portray Dr. Jekyll (who also appears in The Mummy), Javier Bardem will play Frankenstein’s monster, and Johnny Depp will play The Invisible Man. The next film in the franchise will be The Bride of Frankenstein, to be released on Valentine’s Day of 2019. Ya know what’s funny? DC’s Justice League Dark film was also going to be called Dark Universe. Somebody’s gonna have to lawyer up!

In TV news, it was reported that Hamilton scribe and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, will voice Fenton Crackshell-Cabrera AKA Gizmoduck in the upcoming DuckTales reboot. Cabrera? Really? He’s even brown now to go along with the name change. I know some folks are gonna have an issue with this. Hell, I even kinda have an issue with it. But if they’re gonna inject some diversity into Duckburg, I guess I’d rather them do this than, say, Launchpad McQuack-Jenkins.

While we knew that Bobby Moynihan was leaving Saturday Night Live, just hours before the season finale it was revealed that Vanessa Bayer would also be leaving. Then, Monday morning, it was reported that Sasheer Zamata would also be leaving the show. I’m really gonna miss Vanessa, as she definitely grew on me. Her characters have this adorable aloofness to them that I’ve come to enjoy. She’s got a big future playing the best friend in romantic comedies ahead of her. Sasheer was simply underutilized. She was always in the background of sketches, or only had a line or two. I hear that she really shined in the writers room, coming up with sketches like Black Jeopardy. I feel like SNL will merely be a footnote on her resume, as she goes on to bigger things, like Noël Wells and Jenny Slate.

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining some of my favorite people on the Nerd Lunch podcast, where discussed some of the greatest pop culture deaths. Nobody was safe, from Santa Claus to Michael Knight! And I finally got to join my pal Vincent (@RobotsPJs) on a podcast, which has been years in the making. We had a great time, and I think you’ll have a great time listening to it, so check it out!

Song of the Week

This week, I’ve got “It Ain’t My Fault”, by Brothers Osborne. Not only are they local boys, but I love the fact that this song/video has layers. Read the title and then watch the video. They’re trying to tell us something – the same kind of thing that sank the Dixie Chicks all those years ago. My how times have changed!

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • Fresh off playing nurse Claire Temple in the Marvel Netflix shows, Rosario Dawson is in talks to play Dr. Cecilia Reyes in the X-Men spinoff film New Mutants. Just go to medical school already, Rosario!
  • Twin Peaks made its triumphant return for those of you who are fans. Based on the ratings, that’s not many of you…
  • The Get Down was canceled by Netflix after one season.
  • Chicago Justice was canceled by NBC after one season.
  • The Ben 10 reboot was renewed for a second season at Cartoon Network.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants was renewed for season 12 at Nickelodeon, taking it through its 20th anniversary.
  • Trial & Error was renewed for a second season at NBC.
  • The Black-ish spinoff, College-ish, received a 13-episode order on Freeform.
  • TruTV’s Impractical Jokers will enter national weekday strip syndication this Fall.
  • The bodies haven’t even gone cold and they’re already announcing a reboot of the Resident Evil franchise, this time produced by James Wan (Saw).
  • Tom Holland has been cast as young Nathan Drake in the film adaptation of the Uncharted video game.
  • In the realm of musical sequels that no one asked for, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! will be released July 20th, 2018.
  • Elizabeth Banks is producing a Charlie’s Angels reboot, scheduled to be released June 7th, 2019.
  • Tom Cruise announced that a Top Gun sequel is planned to begin filming next year. Fat Val Kilmer is waiting by the phone.
  • TJ Miller is leaving HBO’s Silicon Valley at the end of the season.

  • Surprising no one who’s been paying attention, Power Rangers continues the trend of just adding “Super” to the title of its latest incarnation’s second season with Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel
  • The Boss Baby 2 is a-coming, March 26th, 2021.
  • Sophia Bush is leaving Chicago P.D. after last night’s season finale


In the UK, there’s an annual event called Red Nose Day, where they’ve been raising money to end child poverty for nearly 30 years. Launched by the nonprofit Comic Relief, the event has since raised over $1 billion globally. The event came to the US in 2015, where you can buy a red nose at Walgreens for a dollar, with the proceeds going to the charity. One of the co-founders of Comic Relief happens to be Richard Curtis – writer and director of one of my favorite movies, Love Actually. Now, a lot of people hate the film because it gave way to Garry Marshall imitations like Valentine’s Day and New Years Eve. You know, those schlocky romantic comedies with an ensemble cast where all the storylines converge at some point. I don’t care, ’cause I happened to like those movies, too, but I especially like Love Actually.

Well, to celebrate this year’s Red Nose Day, Curtis reunited most of the cast of Love Actually to give us a 15-minute sequel to the film, called Red Nose Day Actually. We get to catch up on the characters 13 years later, and I have to say that I was smiling the entire time. It was great seeing those characters again, from Bill Nighy’s Billy Mack to Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister. I could’ve done without Rowan Atkinson’s meticulous shopkeeper, but it was even sorta nice seeing him again, too. You feel old as shit, though, when you see little Sam, who’s now 26 years old. I think his segment made me the happiest of all. Or maybe it was seeing Jamie and Aurelia and their kids. Or maybe it was seeing Martine McCutcheon again (why doesn’t she get more work stateside?!). I don’t know. I loved the whole damn thing.

The special originally aired in the UK in March for their Red Nose Day, but they’ve gone to great pains to keep it off the internet. Yesterday was the US’s Red Nose Day, and a new version of the short aired last night on NBC. Ya know, they should really have everyone celebrate on the same day worldwide, but what do I know? Anyway, I actually missed the NBC version because of things, but I was intrepid enough to find the UK version online. This morning, however, NBC posted it on their website so I was able to compare and contrast. The only real difference is that the UK version cut out the Laura Linney update, with Patrick Dempsey as her husband. It was a nice aside, but I guess British audiences don’t know who Dempsey is, so they didn’t miss out on much. Anyway, I wish more movies would give us short reunion updates, maybe on anniversary edition Blu Rays or something. It was nice to get just a taste of what everyone’s been up to, without them being burdened by a full film that would be more than likely fall short of the original. If you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go watch this thing a few more times, but it’s safe to say that Red Nose Day Actually had the West Week Ever.

Pages:1234567...14»