Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
October 6, 2015Posted by on
Tonight was the premiere of The Flash’s second season, and the CW was really promoting it like no other. And I cannot blame them. The Flash was a runaway hit for the CW with critics and audiences last year. No wonder they are giving it all the pomp and circumstance they can muster.
But why was this show so popular? Obviously, I watched it (I’m a fan of the Flash), and the leading reason why The Flash has caught on is that it is a lot of fun. It is a show with relatable characters that you actually like. It has the hook of a superhero (which, like it or not, are really popular nowadays), but it adds in healthy doses of humor, romance, adventure, and heart. The show is light and breezy making it good for families, but with just enough edge. It makes for a pleasurable viewing experience.
And, on a personal note, last season had an underlying them of father/son relationships. Seriously! Barry had three father figures on the show, and each brought something different to the table. While I have always appreciated of a father/son dynamic in storytelling, having lost my father just before the show premiered last October, this element of The Flash spoke to me.
Because all of the above worked within the show, The Flash was really able to embrace its comic book origins. The Flash and the extended elements of that character’s world are incredibly goofy, but the show managed to incorporate it onto the show. The writers and producers didn’t shy away from it at all. They were even able to pull off a giant, telepathic gorilla. While I find that other comic book based shows and movies tend to downplay the more fantastic elements so it can better connect to viewers easily, The Flash says “Pfft….more gorilla” to that.
The writers are smart. They knew they had to have characters that worked and storylines that resonated with viewers. They did. That’s how they can get away with the fantastical.
I know it sounds like I am fawning over it (and I suppose I am), but don’t mistake my tone. The show is good and a lot of fun, but it is far from perfect. Some of the plot points are suspect (illegally imprisoning the villains without any due process and none of our heroes care) and a couple of characters here and there can be trying at times or perplexing added at times (tell me, what was the point of character-actor Chase Masterson’s guest spot), but everything else really worked with the show, so that stuff really didn’t bother me.
The Flash isn’t going to win any non-technical awards. This isn’t Game of Thrones or Mad Men. But, it isn’t trying to be. And, unlike those shows which can be dour and depressing, The Flash is a ton of fun and a breath of fresh air. I am looking forward to the second season. Here’s hoping it maintains its momentum!
October 5, 2015Posted by on
Welcome to the first episode of the All-New Culture Cast. Hosts Nick and Kyle have an in-depth conversation about this summer’s biggest film, Jurassic World (now out on home media)! Come join them as they run around in high-heels and discuss dinosaurs past and present.
Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.
We are not quite on iTunes yet. So stay tuned for updates on that!
October 2, 2015Posted by on
I have to say, I am loving the titles of these volumes so far. So unique and very Star Wars-y sounding.
In this second volume, Ania and Jao Assam can’t let go of their obsession over Darth Wredd and his plot to slowly make his way to control the galaxy. The two head out after him and become renegades in the process as the Galactic Triumvirate doesn’t see Wredd as a pressing threat. Ania and Jao eventually stumble upon a Sith plot to enslave the remaining Mon Calamari around their destroyed planet, Dac.
As you can imagine, the story is all over the place. They go from planet to planet before they eventually get to the main plot of this volume. I am a bit conflicted over this. On one hand, it read as a bit of a mess in one setting. If it was a movie, it would feel incredibly disjointed as if the filmmakers didn’t know what to settle on. On the other, I do wonder if this read better as single issues, where each “mini-story” that built up to the adventure on Dac. I can really see that as a more satisfying experience, especially since that is how this was originally intended to be read.
Wredd is a character that is still difficult to pin down. It’s neat that he is trying to kill off the other Sith in order to avoid competition, but what is he striving for? We hardly see him this time around (which is fine), and it turns out that Ania and Jao’s adventure to take down Darth Luft, their main nemesis this time around, was part of his plot.
I guess it could be said that many of these characters are difficult to pin down. Ania is barely a character. I don’t get any depth from her and we should since she is the series protagonist. I do like Jao. He at least has something to work with as he is an Imperial Knight who is doing his duty by abandoning deserting and tracking down Wredd. I guess what I am saying here is that I need more out of these characters for me to really connect with them and ultimately care about what they are doing. Right now, I really don’t.
This volume still has the problem of jump cutting from one scene to another without much of a transition. It isn’t as bad as the previous volume, but it is getting better. I am also not sold on the art by Brian Albert Thies in this volume. It feels a bit scratchy and unfinished. Then again, I can also see myself growing to like it over time. It has that kind of quality for me.
Outcasts of the Broken Ring is an improvement over the first volume. I want to continue on and see where this will lead. Hopefully, the momentum will continue into something really special.
How does taking out Darth Luft help Wredd with his plot? Was it just because it is one less rival to worry about or is it something more?
Why do the Galactic Triumvirate not care about Wredd? He seems like a real-enough threat. Can’t they spare at least one or two Imperial Knights to investigate him or at least share the information with the Jedi who might be interested?
I wonder how Empress Fel will feel that Admiral Stazi took her Knights to take down a threat that she openly opposed it?
October 1, 2015Posted by on
John Oliver, the British comedian/political satirist, is beloved on the internet. And I don’t quite understand why. Clips from his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, are constantly shared on social media platforms and folks just can’t stop talking about how great and insightful he is.
But, is he?
Oliver got his start in the U.S. on Comedy Central’s Daily Show under Jon Stewart’s tenure. He appeared in multiple segments over the years as the “Senior British Correspondent”, and, in a very fortuitous move for his career, guest hosted the show for multiple weeks in 2013. His hosting proved to be so popular with viewers and critics that there were rumblings that other networks started to pursue him for their own late night talk shows, specifically as a replacement for Craig Ferguson. Others felt that he was the heir-apparent for the Daily Show when Stewart eventually retired. All of that changed when Oliver accepted an offer to anchor his own show in the aforementioned Last Week Tonight.
Over this past summer, I was able to catch a good handful of episodes of Oliver’s show (usually following after VEEP). And, I don’t quite get the appeal. And I certainly don’t get his influence.
Part of my irritation with Oliver is in his delivery. He is constantly smug and arrogant in his explanation and humor. The type of person who thinks his joke is funnier than it actually is and starts to giggle while telling it. He has a bit of a holier-than-thou attitude towards anything he thinks is beneath him. For example, one episode this past summer had Oliver drinking a Bud Light Lime and eating a McDonald’s hamburger as some sort of punishment/trade-off deal if someone did something or other. Now, I realize that beer and hamburgers are far from healthy, but he made such a production out of it, the supposed gag didn’t land. It came off more as “I’m better than you”.
I think a lot of his smugness would play better if he was trying to play a character in the vein of Stephen Colbert in The Colbert Report. As if Oliver would play the role of an upper class Brit who feels he is better than us lowly Americans while completely oblivious to his own shortcomings. But he doesn’t, and his humor doesn’t work for me because of it.
But, delivery is one thing, and it is incredibly subjective. So, that aside, I still don’t get his supposed influence. According to Wikipedia (the source of all truth), Oliver has “been credited with helping influence U.S. legislation, regulations, court rulings, and other aspects of American culture”. This perplexes me.
Many episodes of Last Week Tonight feature one subject in which Oliver humorously analyzes it to the point show how misguided or what inherent problems it has. A very straight-forward approach which, I am sure, is part of the reason he’s gained many viewers. But, there is really nothing new that he is covering that hasn’t been covered by a lot of other political journalists. He really doesn’t bring any new perspective that hasn’t been hashed before. In many ways, Oliver is the Dane Cook of political satirists. He is entertaining, but just because you throw in a couple of F-bombs and pop culture references doesn’t make your material any less vanilla.
And that is where my confusion lies. How has he transcended where others haven’t. His segments are no more complex or enlightening than a high school political science report. But, perhaps that is the point? Maybe because he dumb downs his material that everyday Joes can understand it and be pushed into doing something about it?
I don’t know. Despite my negative-sounding critique, I don’t hate the guy. He can be funny and entertaining at times. I just don’t don’t understand the love he gets from the internet and how people claim he is some sort of revolutionary in the world of politics. Perhaps I never will.
September 29, 2015Posted by on
After many months of planning and setting down groundwork (and one weekend of slapping it all together), we are finally ready to announce an brand new podcast show coming to The Culture Cast! Get ready for Monday, October 5th for the world-premiere of the All-New Culture Cast!
Yes, we were really clever with that title. You will be able to join Kyle (aka the Gorehound) and me every episode where we will discuss movies, TV shows, and other interesting elements of popular culture. We do this, because there is a clear lack of amount of it already on the internet.
We already have several episodes in the can and hope to release a new episode two-to-three times a month. Each release will be on a Monday night. While we are casting a large net when it comes to our topics, a focus will be place on movies. However, we won’t be discussing films that are either just-released or still in theaters. We are going to strive to discuss things that you, the listeners, will be able to get either on DVD or through streaming.
Now, you might wonder what happened to The Culture Cast with Zack and Nick. Our last episode was waaaay back in March 2014. While we were, at first, on an indefinite hiatus, we have since decided to close that show down. Sadly, many of our old episodes have been deleted off of the server and are inaccessible. I am trying to recover them, but I currently only have the files to about half. My intent is to eventually re-upload them at a later date. More info on that as it develops.
Before you ask, unfortunately, Zack has effectively retired from podcasting, so he will not be joining us on this new show. I’ll still try to get him to do an occasional guest spot, but don’t hold your breath on that one. But don’t worry! He is still writing articles here on the blog!
So, that’s the update! Be tuned in here next Monday, October 5th for the launch of the All-New Culture Cast! It is going to be great!
September 25, 2015Posted by on
Though the original Star Wars: Legacy series came to a close, the people in charge at Dark Horse Comics felt there was more story tell in this time period. Enter a sequel series (which is less of a sequel and more of a spin-off). Two years have passed since the end of War, and the galaxy is united under a somewhat fragile triumvirate of the Jedi, the Empire, and the Galactic Alliance. Though the Sith are still out there, things are relatively stable in the galaxy.
But this being Star Wars, we can’t have any of that. We find a new group of characters to follow in Legacy II being led by Ania Solo, a descendent of the original trilogy’s Han Solo. Clearly series creators Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman are taking some cues from the first Legacy series.
Legacy II has a lot of good and bad. I like how it is not trying to repeat the steps of the first series in a story sense. While the galaxy is threatened, it is less of “we need to overthrow the oppressive government”. Instead, we have an outside threat trying to burrow itself in to take over.
Yes, we have a new Sith bad guy as our primary nemesis, but the execution of his character is very different from what came before. He wants to rule the galaxy, but he is a total wild card in that he doesn’t necessarily ally himself with the Sith.
On that end, it seems to work. Where it struggles is that our new heroes are kind of boring. We have Ania who follows in a similar path of Han Solo in being an essential nobody who is forced into the galactic spotlight unexpectedly. That is okay, but there isn’t anything interesting about her. She’s a total screw-up, yet people continually want to work with her and/or trust her. That is fine, but she’s never really accountable for her screw-ups. Towards the climax, she doubts herself and her abilities, but she is given a pep-talk on how she is related to Han Solo, so that’ll, somehow, make her great.
That doesn’t wash with me, but I blame the writing. More on that below.
The rest of the characters are just dull or unmemorable. We have two forgettable Imperial Knights, Ania’s whiny Mon Calamari friend Sauk, and AG-37, a droid who inexplicitly Ania for no real reason whatsoever. I don’t know. Maybe there is room to grow, but I’m just having trouble connecting with these characters. When I was reading this, there were times I actively didn’t care what happened to them. At all.
But all of this I attribute to the writing. Nothing here is subtle. I feel that Bechko and Hardman are trying too hard to make this a pure action spectacle. There is nothing wrong with that, but the action really serves no major purpose. One thing just leads into another without any time to decompress. Enhancing this problem is that we just jump from scene to scene without much of a transition. The narrative flow is just clunky.
Not off to a good start, but I’m in it to see where this series goes. Given that the Disney acquirement of Star Wars kind of forced this series to end early, I am curious if a complete story will be eventually be told. Or if the plot threads begun here will be left dangling at the end. Perhaps I’ll be singing a different tune and will want to see more of these characters and their adventures by the time I finish.
Given Star Wars lore and Ania’s family line, what is her connection to Cade Skywalker? Shouldn’t they be distant cousins? And to Empress Fel for that matter? Maybe I’ll just settle for what her bloodline connection to Han is.
And if she is related to Han and Leia, does she have Force abilities?
How did she get separated from the Solo clan?
Is Darth Wredd part of the One Sith? His master? What he even around during Darth Krayt’s rule?
September 23, 2015Posted by on
Remember Heroes, the 2006-2010 show about ordinary people discovering they have superpowers? Well, NBC hopes you do as the network plans to relaunch the show later this week as Heroes Reborn. This is, of course, the latest in a new trend to resurrect once-popular shows for a one-off season for a ratings grab. The new series plans to incorporate new and returning characters for a superhero mystery which will span 13 episodes.
While it might be hard to remember, the original Heroes was an incredibly popular show when it first premiered, both in ratings and with critics. However, Heroes didn’t really leave much of a legacy as the internet has largely shunned the show since it left airwaves five years ago (which is partly why some are confused on why NBC is trying to bring it back). What happened to it? Why isn’t it remembered fondly? Where did things go wrong?
Heroes was one of the many shows that tapped into the weekly episodic television formula made popular by Lost. Unlike many of those type of shows, Heroes quickly caught on with viewers and had lasting power. With fun, relatable characters and an engaging mystery plot, it is easy to see why that first season was a huge hit.
When the second season began, the show ran into some trouble. The original premise for Heroes was that it was supposed to be more of an anthology-style show, in that each season would deal with a new group of “heroes” and a new story separate from what came before (but set in the same fictional world). An ambitious idea (and one that is only now getting some traction in television with shows like American Horror Story) and seemed safe given the high concept that Heroes was.
However, Heroes proved to be a bigger hit than expected and, from the outside looking in, NBC nor the show’s producers knew how to handle it. Abandoned were the original plans, and the adventures of Bennett, Hiro, Sylar, and the rest were continued. On the surface, that makes sense. Audiences like these characters – why get rid of them? But in hindsight, many of their stories were finished and really didn’t need to continue.
They didn’t do that. While the second season started off strong, the quickly declined as the story began to come apart and characters would start to make out-of-character and questionable decisions. Not helping matters either was the 2007 writer’s strike. What was planned for the majority of season two was cut down and reformatted dramatically (only eleven episodes). Largely outside of the writers’ hands, some plot lines were completely abandoned (remember how Peter’s girlfriend was trapped in the alternate future?), others dragged on too long (Hiro in ancient Japan), and the ending of the season was completely rewritten. The second season on the whole was a bit of a mess because of the strike.
Now, one would think that the show might course correct itself during the third season. Nope. If anything, things got worse. I should interject here that I actually liked parts of season three, but I am not blind to its faults. The mythology of the show became overcomplicated, and suddenly, every main character’s families were connected to one another from long before. Other characters, such as Nathan, were no longer the same characters; the show reformatted them to fit the plot (when it should be the other way around).
The stories they were trying to tell were not bad in theory, but its execution was incredibly disappointing. If there was any evidence that the show should have stuck to its original plan by having a new cast each year, it was this.
As I write this, I do wonder how much of this was contractual. I keep thinking about Ali Larter’s time on the show. They killed her character, but brought the actress back as her previously unknown twin (a fact that was so inconsequential, you’d wonder why they even bothered with it in the first place).
Heroes were bleeding viewers by the end of that third season. No one cared anymore. It miraculously got a shortened fourth season, which had a lot of promise. Though the show centered too much on fan-favorite Sylar, there was a back-to-basics approach to the fourth season. It still suffered from some of the out-of-character moments from before (Hiro wanting to “save” Charlie, despite just realizing his time travel was selfish prior to this), but there was an improvement.
However, it was too little, too late and the show was cancelled. Viewers had completely checked out and what was once appointment viewing became a shell of itself. I think back on this show, personally, and feel that it was such a high quality product during its first season and by the end, it was middling and unremarkable. Maybe the novelty was done and with the quality not there, what was the point?
Heroes Reborn, airing this Thursday, looks like it wants to redeem the show’s past mistakes. Going with a mostly brand-new cast, there seems to be a real effort here that will take the show back to its 2006 roots. Will it succeed? I have no idea, but I kind of hope so. Heroes was such an enjoyable show, and it can be again. Perhaps five years removed from the first run has given creator Tim Kring a new perspective on the show and where it can go. I guess we’ll find out.
September 22, 2015Posted by on
I went into Horrible Bosses 2 was absolute dirt-level expectations. The original was the 2011 summer comedy for me, and I hold it in pretty high esteem of being a genuinely funny movie. When I got word that this follow-up was dreadful (only a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes), my potential enthuasium for the film dissolved and I was in no hurry to see it anytime soon if ever. However, a few weeks back, HBO was showing it. I thought to myself, “Why not?” and sat down to watch it.
And I found that I actually liked it.
I am a little perplexed by the awful reviews. While this movie is not going to be breaking new ground, it works as a comedy with legitimate funny bits stemming primarily from the trio of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis. The film has the same tone as the original, so it can be argued that Horrible Bosses 2 is more of the same, but I can’t complain. I was entertained by it and I had some very good belly laughs.
Not everything works, obviously. The inclusion of Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, and Kevin Spacey is a kind of forced, and I don’t think the movie needed them necessarily. Christoph Waltz was an inspired choice for the main antagonist, but he is painfully (and surprisingly) under-utilized (there are long stretches in the film that he is off-screen).
On the flip-side, you have the new addition of Chris Pine, who is absolutely hilarious playing Waltz’s smarmy, arrogant, frat-boy-type son. Why doesn’t Pine get more work and more mainstream of an actor? Especially in comedies. He’s great!
So, I dunno. I enjoyed Horrible Bosses 2. Was it as good as the first? No. Sequels rarely are. Was it entertaining? Yes. Granted, it was really more of the same, but I’m glad I saw it.
September 7, 2015Posted by on
After years of languishing in development hell, last August Fox finally released their Fantastic Four reboot. Directed by would-be wunderkind Josh Trank and starring Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Toby Kebbell, Kate Mara, and Jamie Bell, the film was meant to re-launch the Fantastic Four into a brand-new film franchise for 20th Century Fox, joining their successful X-Men film relaunch. The mega-budgeted production flopped at the box office, however, drawing in only 26.2 million dollars on opening weekend, or roughly half of what the previous Fantastic Four origin film, from 2005, did on its opening weekend. Thus far the film has grossed around 160 million dollars worldwide against a budget of 120 million, making it a huge money loser for Fox, who could take a write-off of up to 100 million dollars or more on the project. So, what exactly went wrong?
In 2012, director Josh Trank’s found-footage sci-fi film Chronicle debuted to healthy box office and positive critical acclaim, establishing Trank, along with the likes of Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, as one of the up-and-coming and in-demand young Hollywood directors. By July 2012, Trank would be tapped to direct the Fantastic Four reboot and his name would eventually be in contention for directing a Star Wars spin-off film as well. However, seemingly years of bad press and negative buzz surrounded his Fantastic Four project, so much so that Disney preemptively dropped Trank from their short-list of Star Wars directors and Fox allegedly pulled the reigns of control away from him in the Fantastic Four editing room. Producers Simon Kinberg and Hutch Parker allegedly re-wrote much of the film’s script, including a change to the ending.
Negative buzz also surrounded the casting of the film, primarily in the casting of Michael B. Jordan, an African-American actor, in the role of Johnny Storm, a Caucasian character in the comic book. I am one of those so-called progressives who does not give a shit about the skin color of an actor playing a comic book character, but the casting was met with disdain across the internet nonetheless. Michael B. Jordan is a talented and charismatic actor with quite the filmography, but apparently this wasn’t good enough for internet neckbeard xenophobes, so a huge deal was made out of it. The supporting cast, made up of eccentric actors like Miles Teller (best known for indie productions) and Toby Kebbell (best known for providing the motion-capture for the villain in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) wasn’t met with much acclaim either.
Additionally, a story eventually broke out regarding director Josh Trank’s rental house in Louisiana during filming. Apparently, Trank’s dogs caused around $100,000 in damages to the house, and Fox was not happy about Trank’s bizarre behavior during filming in general. It was this rumor that led directly to Trank’s removal from the Star Wars spin-off. A lack of communication between Trank and the producers led to continued upheaval. Producers on the film eventually ordered expensive and extensive re-shoots, and the film was re-edited significantly without Trank’s approval or involvement. One day before Fantastic Four’s theatrical release, Trank released a controversial message regarding the film to his Twitter account, where he claimed he had a vision for a much better film and implied producer interference meant no one would ever be able to see it.
As we know, Fantastic Four flopped on release. The film scored an atrocious 9% on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes, and a dreadful 27 on Metacritic. Online reaction was universally toxic, with many enjoying significant schadenfreude over the failure of the production on message boards and social media across the internet. And now, just about six weeks after the film debuted in theaters, it seems it has already been forgotten, wiped from our memories and erased permanently from moviegoers’ minds forever. Where Trank’s career goes from here is anyone’s guess, but it’s likely he’ll never be handed the keys to a mega-budget franchise film ever again. Funny how Trevorrow ended up with one of the biggest films of all time and his contemporary Trank ended up with the year’s most notorious flop.
August 20, 2015Posted by on
After the seemingly random success of Sharknado in 2013, the sequels were sure to come. I’d like to say that this movie has increased the popularity of B-movie creature features (one of the gorehound’s favorite genres) but it appears to be the only one to take off with such success. Unfortunately, nothing new is pulled in this entry and it’s the same old shit as the previous entries and nothing really different. Nothing really delivers and it’s trying too much to be like sharknado when it’s nothing more than prime time disappointment.
The story takes the gang up in through another shark-filled tornado, bringing nothing new to the game. They go through space and all over the place. The ending was disappointing because it basically tells us to only think about one thing, does Tara Reid live or die. Leave us with either a solid ending, and not a singular focus. I don’t mind Tara Reid’s role and it’s not as awful as everyone is saying it is. Everyone’s role was awful.
This movie offers some entertainment, albeit, completely commercial entertainment. Most characters are re-occurring but there are a lot of cameos which contribute to the entertainment. Honestly, every 5-10 minutes there is another cameo: Jerry Springer, a bunch of sports stars, WWE’s Chris Jericho, and even some UK pop stars. It keeps you looking and wondering where the next big corporation threw in their lot.
The movie is obviously crock full of shit… but the question is, is it entertaining enough to spend an hour thirty of your prime time television on? Yes, celebrity cameos, fun CGI, and cultural references are worth while. Unfortunately, it’s just another damn sharknado, but this time, every big company has placed their name in here in some way or another. The sponsors are unrelenting and ridiculous.
The only noteworthy thing to mention is Finley (Ian Ziering), the main protagonist. I would like to see him get some legit cult recognition in some sci-fi or horror movies. After sticking through three movies and his run in 90210, it’d be nice for him to breakthrough into some more gorehound-minded flicks. Of course, he is certain to be typecasted as that sharknado guy but that never stopped Englund from jumping into a shipload of movies.
Love the opening credits. Love the custom soundtrack. There really isn’t much else innovative or unique to write. It’s still a 3/5 but I’m never going to watch it again. Should you? No. Will you? I hope not. There’s much better entertainment out there and unless you want a movie full of old cultural references and cameos, this isn’t for you.