This Week In Pop Culture (8/04/17)
8/04/2017: ESPN And NBC Are Fulfilling Our Dreams (Minus The Good Parts)
Despite how great the finale of a TV show may be, we inevitably want more. Deep down, we dream of a new season of Breaking Bad in which Cyborg Bryan Cranston returns to make mecha meth and get even more revenge on those kids that made fun of his son in the clothing store in Season 1. We long to see what happened to the cast of Friends, as they inevitably kicked Phoebe out of the group when her interest in a multilevel marketing scheme became too intense. And another season of Frasier that mostly deals with Kelsey Grammer enduring hilariously timely Tinder mishaps? We yearn for this.
"What's wrong?" our spouses ask, seeing us awake in bed.
"KELSEY GRAMMER TINDER MISHAPS" we reply.
There is a note on the dresser the next day. They're gone.
Luckily, NBC and ESPN have heard our cries, and have begun their own deliberation on how to appease us. Their consensus so far? Terribly misguided and/or outdated attempts to feed the nostalgia beast before it consumes us all. There have been talks of reviving The Office, because remember how great that was? Well, before James Spader made shit weird? They might bring it back! Except probably without any of the original cast, and while probably dealing with a different company in a different location. So not so much The Office as An Office.
The deal here is that audiences are supposedly so hungry to relive the glory days of 2009 and so unwilling to be absorbed by modern content that they'll fight to the death over the scraps of anything that you label The Office. NBC is also mulling over 30 Rock, which also might involve a totally different 30 Rock. Except 30 Rock is not just the name of a show, but also a location. Maybe it'll take place on different floors of the building? And it'll most certainly involve a scene wherein Kenneth makes a guest appearance and winks at the camera to remind us that no matter how much we cling to the cliffs of our delightful past, death will always have its hands firmly gripped around our ankles.
Meanwhile, like the dad who wants to remind you that "IS NIIIIICE!!!! MY WAIIIIFFFFFEEEE!" because he just caught Borat on DVD, ESPN is launching a special day of "ESPN8: The Ocho." Remember The Ocho, from that one joke in a Vince Vaughn comedy that was made 13 years ago? ESPN really hopes you do, and they also hope that you don't mind that lovably doltish commentator Pepper Brooks, as played by Jason Bateman, isn't going to make an appearance to take part in festivities that are over a decade too late. So it's just a lot of weird sports. But it's The Ocho, which you've always wanted, right? You left Dodgeball desiring it, regardless of how little it was related to the film Dodgeball, and you held that desire in your heart all the way to 2017. And now we're getting it! We're finally getting it, guys. We can let go.
We can be free.
8/03/2017: How 'Death Wish' Could Avoid All Controversy With One Change
By Ian Fortey
The new Death Wish trailer is out, and everyone loves it! Just kidding. The enthusiasm of "Yay Bruce Willis!" has been heavily tempered by "Wait, is this a movie about a guy just shooting whoever he wants in Chicago?" Needless to say, people are wrinkling their noses at the turd that this is. But the turd may have smelled more like roses if Eli Roth and crew had just changed a single element: the costume.
Midway through the trailer, AC/DC's badass party anthem "Back In Black" starts blasting, as we're treated to a montage of Willis' super smooth scalp being lit up by muzzle flare. "You get a bullet, you get a bullet, every damn person in Illinois gets a bullet!" POW! BANG! ZWOK! And then it hits you: Why the hell isn't he wearing a mask?
If you put a fun costume on Bruce Willis, this immediately goes from unsavory act of racially tinged public terror to kickass superhero movie. Isn't this essentially The Punisher? Or Batman? Bringing right to the wrongs the police won't (or legally can't) address. We eat this shit up with a spoon; it's justice unfettered by things like the justice system! To demonstrate my point, take the part of the trailer in which Bruce Willis makes a terrible dad joke right before brutally murdering some dude. Now imagine him wearing a cool skull costume, and his name is Deathwish. Now, just before he removes the carjack keeping 1,000 tons of murder steel off this hapless mechanic, the quippy joke "I'm not going to kill you, Jack is" becomes witty banter and not the ravings of a terrifying murderous lunatic! Then with a flip of his cape he could joke, "Too bad you didn't work at a feather pillow shop," and we'd lap that crap right up!
The question you're forced to ask when you realize Bruce Wayne ... I mean, Bruce Willis ... isn't a superhero here is "How cool is it to let any random old man start shooting whoever he thinks needs to be shot?" In real life, this is why we don't tolerate vigilantes. That shit is scary as hell. Imagine Bruce Wayne going away to Ninja Academy and coming home and then, instead of dressing up as a bat, he just has Alfred drive him to the poor part of town where, in a very posh $6,000 suit, he beats the ever-loving shit out of a couple of meth heads. Not a superhero; just a rich man beating up the downtrodden because he feels like there isn't enough justice in the world.
You need that cartoony element. You need a dude in spandex dancing to "Back In Black," or the Batmobile, or Bruce Willis giggling like your bloodthirsty uncle to his therapist about how he's getting out and meeting new people, because the reality of letting hyped-up old dudes with god complexes shoot whoever the hell they want is objectively terrible.
8/02/2017: When JAY-Z And Beyonce Play Fantasy Sports, It's For Real
By Luis Prada
If the rumors are true, Beyonce wants to buy the Houston Rockets basketball team, which makes sense for a couple of reasons. One, she's from Houston, and two, buying NBA teams is a cheat code rich people use to get richer -- something she already knows, since her husband, JAY-Z, already did exactly that when he bought a stake in his hometown team, the Brooklyn Nets. They were then (and still are) the worst team in the NBA, but he later sold them for the second-highest price of any team sale in the history of the sport after a conflict of interest arose with his ownership of a sports talent agency.
This sets up a fascinating opportunity for Beyonce and JAY-Z. Where some best friends or couples can play NBA 2K17 to build and manage a team, create players, and generally have a ball pretending they have any kind of sway over the fate of an entire professional sports franchise and its league at large, these two are so rich that they can do it in real life. Like, that's an option that's not only open to them, but also something they're actively looking into doing.
This can only mean one thing: With their vast financial resources and cultural influence, Beyonce and JAY-Z will soon launch an NBA eugenics lab so they can make a real-life version of the "Create A Player" feature in the NBA2k series. By defying God and all that is sacred, Beyonce and JAY-Z will grow an army of visually horrifying freaks made to look like pro wrestlers, the Monstars from Space Jam, and themselves, with stats that no womb-incubated human will ever match.
May God have mercy on basketball.
8/01/2017: Suicide Squad Or Jungle Cruise? How About Just Giving Up?
By Lydia Bugg
Suicide Squad has lost what was reportedly its top choice for director, Jaume Collet-Serra. Yes, that Jaume Collet-Serra, the auteur who brought us such cinematic classics as Orphan and The Shallows. This must have been such a difficult decision for him.
On one hand, Suicide Squad was widely hated, but on the other hand, the concept of Disney movies based on a ride has produced such classics as The Haunted Mansion and The Country Bears. How is an in-demand director to choose? Flipping a coin made out of pure asbestos? Did someone have his family locked away, refusing to return them unless he picked between directing Suicide Squad 2 or a Jungle Cruise movie? Was he given two glasses of wine, one full of poison, the other also full of poison but paired with the opportunity to work with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (who is expected to star in Jungle Cruise)?
If I were Jaume Collet-Serra, I would look at the writers who are currently working on the scripts for each film. I may be biased, but I think writers are important. Suicide Squad 2 is being penned by the genius who wrote Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Jungle Cruise "went through several drafts by several writers," which is always a good sign.
Suicide Squad 2 will be pulling from some solid source material in the first film, which people called "bad." According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Squad 2 is currently a void in need of filling; it has characters, but no direction or plot." I know how alarmingly existential "a void in need of filling" may sound, but hey, maybe they'll fill it with Jared Leto being wacky.
The Jungle Cruise ride itself is filled with conflict. For those of you who've never been to Disney World to experience this whirlwind, SPOILER ALERT, the plot of the ride is that you're on a boat cruising through the jungle. Will you see exotic animals or won't you? That's the main conflict. Of course, you always do see the animals, because if you didn't, it wouldn't be much of a ride. It would be more like a nautical version of waiting in line for a ride. The movie will surely bring all that tension to the table PLUS The Rock in form-fitting khaki shorts.
I know it may seem like I'm ragging on Jaume Collet-Serra, but honestly, I feel a little bit sorry for him. How depressing do you think that coin toss was for him? It's sad that this is what Hollywood has come to. Welcome to 2017, where the choice isn't between making a small indie script critic's love or a big-budget summer blockbuster that audiences adore; it's Suicide Squad 2 or Jungle Cruise. Turd soup or turd salad, it doesn't matter what you choose -- you're leaving with a turd in your belly.
7/31/2017: Niantic Sucks Butt
By Ian Fortey
Hey kids, have you played Pokemon Go? Chances are you have because, according to statistics, Pokemon Go has 65 million active monthly users, which is insane and somehow probably half as many as the number of people who can't play it properly because Niantic, the company behind the game, is committed on every conceivable level, to buttfucking this game mercilessly.
Niantic is being sued for putting on a failed Pokemon Go Jamboree in Chicago that people flew in from as far away as Japan to attend. Turns out if no one can actually access the game thanks to failed networks, or get the in-game swag they were promised, or do anything other than stand around with a Pokefinger in their Pokeass, it's not a huge load of fun for most. Imagine travelling to Disneyworld and when you get there, a dude in a Mickey suit stands in an empty lot explaining that all the attractions had to be sent out for repairs.
Niantic tried to blame Verizon for the connectivity issues, but not a lot of people are buying it thanks to Niantic's proud, year-long tradition of stumbling ass backward through the management of this game. Despite making a literal billion dollars off of Pokemon Go, everything that could go wrong with it has gone wrong and continues to go wrong because it's entirely possible Niantic developed this game thanks to making a wish on a cursed monkey's paw and the ensuing clusterfuck is their ironic punishment.
From its very launch, Pokemon Go has been a shit show. Slow or completely stalled downloads, failed logins, server overload, the total inability to even download the game and, in some case, a lack of Pokemon. How the fuck do you make a Pokemon game and not include the Pokemon? You know what Pokemon Go without Pokemon is? It's walking through town with your head down, running into shit for no reason.
Every patch and every update Niantic has rolled out has continued to drill the cruel fist of bumblefuckery deep into Pikachu's bowels. Server problems are par for the course when it's not just crashing your phone or sucking your battery dry like it was a milkshake on a balmy day. Four out of five players have stopped playing Pokemon Go yet it's still a gigantic success.
Imagine what this game would be like with a competent company at the helm. If the Pokemon company had the wherewithal to let someone else take over who could provide support and bug fixes that work, a company that could roll out one thing, just any damn thing, without it failing miserably after even a tiny bit of planning to make sure it worked right the first time. It'd be a license to print money. People want to play this game - they love the idea of it and it's clearly proven itself to be brilliant. Like a bar offering $1 shots served from glasses that had a hobo tap each one with the tip of his penis, Niantic has a great product wrapped in terrible service and no clue why it's not working out.
Niantic needs to Pokemon Go fuck themselves and the powers that be can either outsource game management or straight up sell the product to someone with the skills and ability to make the game work. This is already the biggest game ever, why not see what could happen if you knew what the hell you were doing with it?
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