West Week Ever: Pop Culture In Review – 3/15/24

Ya know, after I published last week’s post, I had a really good weekend. I got appreciated by my boss at work, went to Awesome Con, ran into a former classmate I’ve known my whole life (Hi, Erika!), and I got to hang out with good people. It was the kind of weekend where I knew Life was gonna make me pay for it. And I wasn’t wrong! If you read my West YEAR Ever post earlier this week, then you know “personal stories” are on the menu for 2024, so buckle up! Ya see, I’ve been hoarse for over a month, with a weird pain in my throat when I cough. I’m losing my voice, and making it through the day mainlining Vick’s VapoCOOL drops to sort of numb my throat. I went to the ENT yesterday, only to discover it’s not post-nasal drip, as I’d assumed. If you’ve ever watched Pitch Perfect, then you’ll be familiar with what I have developed – the worst thing a collegiate a Cappella singer can get: vocal nodes. Not sure how, as I don’t sing anymore. Haven’t done karaoke in a decade. Got rejected by both of the adult groups I could find. So, no singing. I do, however, have a Last Call reunion up at Cornell next month, but I guess that’s off the table now. Can’t sing when ya can’t even speak. The lesson here, kids, is to never enjoy yourself! Anyway, on with the show!

This was about to be another week with nothing new watched, until I saw a post from someone on social media yesterday. I follow a guy who goes by “Televisionary” on various sites (just do a search), who’s something of a TV historian. I tend to discover – and rediscover – a lot of shows because of him. Well, while scrolling, I noticed he mentioned he’d recently watched a CBS TV movie from 1994, called Without Warning. The thumbnail showed that Star Trek‘s Q himself, John de Lancie, was in the movie, so I became quite curious. I was never much of a TV movie guy, unless it was a one-off thing, like Knight Rider 2000, so this wasn’t on my radar at the time. Also, I have a strong aversion to depictions of mass casualty events, dating back to around this era, which probably would have kept me from watching it even had I known about it.

If you’re not familiar, Without Warning (also known as July 13th) had a unique framing device, in that the whole movie is told through news reports, in an almost “found footage” format. Its legacy is that it was probably the first time since War of the Worlds where the audience wasn’t sure if what they were watching was real, which resulted in complaints to the network. The movie starts out showing a sudsy Movie of the Week, starring Loni Anderson. She’s in bed with her lover, and they’re both about to be killed by a 3rd party when a Special News Bulletin breaks in. In the bulletin, it’s reported that 3 separate earthquakes, registering over 8 on the Richter scale, were felt across the world. Shortly afterward, it’s added that these earthquakes were actually triggered by impact sites, where 3 meteors crashed in seemingly unpopulated areas of the globe. And then we’re off to the races! The movie moves at a brisk pace, as the 24-hour news cycle is still somewhat in its infancy at this point, and the story continues to develop quickly. Rather soon, it becomes a debate on whether these were natural occurrences or were they evidence of intelligent life. The scientific community is pretty anti-alien in the beginning, while there are fringe members of the community who are basically saying, “Wake up! This is happening!”

There are 2 things that really amp up the “realism”, though. First off, the pacing doesn’t let up. The movie doesn’t spend time checking in with the reporters’ families at home, and there’s no footage of the family dog scampering away from light shooting across the sky. We only see what’s being broadcast on the “news”, so nothing else factors in to weigh things down. The other important part is that the cast is a mix of character actors AND actual journalists. Like, I feel their credentials should have been revoked for participating in a thing like this. The main anchor was Sander Vanocur, playing himself, who happened to be a well-known journalist in the world of politics. Sure, his co-anchor was Malcolm in the Middle‘s Jane Kaczmarek and de Lancie was a news correspondent, but there were other actual journalists featured onscreen. This what confused the audience so much, as surely these journalists wouldn’t jeopardize their credibility for a work of fiction, right?

The thing that struck me was how it played out pretty much like you’d expect it to in reality. The US Government mounts a nuclear response, and I’m sure you can imagine how things go downhill from there. Now, I hate apocalyptic subject matter, as the world is too crazy, and I hate having to think about that stuff. I always remember how the ships in Independence Day were 15 miles in diameter, and I used to try to figure out how many miles outside of DC we lived, “just in case”. I’m too spoiled by modern conveniences. I have no desire to “rebuild society” or kill my food or anything like that. So, I’ve reached the point in my life where I’m basically like, “Well, I hope it’s quick, and I don’t suffer.” Then, I remember I’m a father now, reminding me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and I certainly don’t wanna deal with that! Dark, right? Anyway, I was intrigued by this film because Televisionary mentioned that Kaczmarek gives an emotional portrayal that really sells the ending. And he wasn’t wrong. I think I almost cried!

As a comparison, this is the movie that Don’t Look Up! wanted to be, if only Adam McKay hadn’t been so goddamned cynical. I liked the film when I watched it, but I’ve soured on it over time, as I realize there aren’t very many likable characters in it. It’s all over the place, and it seemed like McKay was just trying to see how many big names he could shove into the story. It’s got Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep! It’s a veritable Who’s Who, but it’s wants to be so cute and “tongue in cheek”, when it’s actually as clumsy and reckless as a bull in a China shop. While that movie was his allegory on how climate change is being handled, it ends and you’re just like “Wow, sucks for them.” The ending of Without Warning, however, is so much more powerful. The final line is chilling, and you just sort of have to sit with what you just witnessed, as it’s the first time the breakneck pace lets up. When audiences originally watched this, they had the benefit of commercial breaks, where they could collect themselves and regroup. Apparently, CBS also ran several disclaimers during these breaks, to assure the viewers that what they were watching was fiction. I, however, watched it on YouTube. There were no breaks – not even to try to convince me to order some ED pills from hims! So, it was a lot to take in, but I also think that was to its advantage. If you’ve got nothing going on one Saturday afternoon, I definitely recommend checking it out.

Trailer Park

The Crow (Theaters, Coming Soon)

First off, HOW IS THIS NOT A RED BAND TRAILER?! We had an agreement! You put up the red screen so we know what we’re in for! Anyway, this isn’t for me. Honestly, I never loved the original, and really only feel like it holds its place in pop culture history simply because of the death of Brandon Lee. Had he lived, he’d currently be the second lead on CSI: Toronto or whatever, and some podcast would be like “Remember when he was in The Crow?” I never read the comic growing up and, let’s be honest, nobody did. This is one of those properties where there was that one guy who loved to interject “Did you know it was a comic book?” any time the movie was brought up. I always felt that fans of The Crow were dudes who’d had sexual intercourse, but hadn’t ever finished. So, they had the social cred that tended to come with no longer being virgins, but when you really analyzed it, you began to wonder: “Did they even accomplish anything?” I’ve probably just insulted two of you, so let’s just move on, shall we?

Will Around The Web

“Wild card, bitches!” That’s right – I was invited back to Wizards: The Podcast Guide To Comics for yet another Wild Card episode. If you’ve never experienced one of those, it’s where the hosts forego the script, and instead just see where the conversation takes them. I’m always nervous on these, as the ability to go off script is both seductive and terrifying for me. If these things were live, I’d probably get canceled. Sounds fun, right? Check it out here, or wherever find podcasts are sold.

Things You Might Have Missed This Week

  • It’s funny how much I write about The Big Bang Theory universe, given how much folks claim to hate those shows. Anyway, last week’s Young Sheldon presented a major retcon, as the show decided that Sheldon’s father did NOT, in fact, have an affair. Seeing as how much of Sheldon’s adult relationships were shaped by his discovery of his father’s infidelity, is this a branching timeline? Are we now in the Young Sheldon Kelvinverse?
  • Road House director Doug Liman did, in fact, attend the SXSW premiere of the film, having previously announced he would be boycotting it in response to Amazon/MGM not giving the film a theatrical release.
  • It was reported that Matt Reeves’s The Batman Part II is now delayed until 2026. Take your time, boys. I’m in no rush to return to that corner of the DC film universe.
  • Neve Campbell will return for Scream 7, which isn’t as exciting when you realize the studio clearly backed up the Brinks truck after they botched handling the Melissa Barrera scandal, as well as Jenna Ortega’s subsequent departure from the film.
  • Street Sharks figures are coming back, which I’m sure is “Jawsome” news to somebody…
  • The Wrestler Formerly Known as Sasha Banks (and she’s Snoop Dogg’s cousin!) made her All Elite Wrestling debut this week, performing as Mercedes Moné.
  • Fifteen months after it was canceled by TNT, it was announced that AMC will air the already-filmed fourth season of Snowpiercer in 2025.
  • The next Venom film will be called Venom: The Last Dance, with an October 25th release date.
  • Determined to go down in history as the most reviled figure in the Power Rangers franchise (and one of those actors straight up stabbed a guy to death with a sword!), original Red Ranger Austin St. John went on voice actor Jim Cummings’s Toon’d In podcast, where he revealed he was creating a clothing line with quotes from famous “warriors” emblazoned on the clothes – including Adolf Hitler, whom St. John called “a demon on steroids”, but respected that “he had some pretty good one-liners”.


You know, the week didn’t start out so well for Marvel’s X-Men brand, as it was reported that the creator and showrunner for the upcoming X-Men ’97 cartoon, Beau DeMayo, had been fired by Disney. While there’s been no official reason given, rumors range from him creating a harassing work environment to Disney must have found out about his OnlyFans account. Still, it seems they had completed production on 2 seasons, so if there’s any change in quality, we won’t notice until a potential 3rd season. Just not the kind of thing you want to hear on the eve of the show’s premiere!

Things started looking up yesterday, however, as Marvel held the X-Men: From The Ashes panel at SXSW. First, though, we’ve got to back up a bit. You see, writer Jonathan Hickman took over the X-Men franchise back in 2019, serving as something of a showrunner for the comic line. In House of X/Powers of X, he introduced sweeping changes, like nothing we’d ever seen from the titles. Instead of fighting for acceptance in a world that hates and fears them, the mutants moved to the island nation of Krakoa, where they set up their own rules and way of life. We’re talking throuples, and official resurrection protocols to bring back their dead, and enemies becoming allies. While it was exciting to many, it just didn’t do it for me. It was just a bridge too far. I already dealt with a status quo shift back when Grant Morrison came aboard New X-Men in 2001. Didn’t love that, and I didn’t love this. It also didn’t help that, for whatever reason (nothing’s been officially confirmed), Hickman walked away from the project at around the halfway point. Some have said that he wanted a shorter, contained epic, while Marvel liked what they saw and wanted him to prolong it. He reportedly disagreed, so they brought on writer Kieron Gillen to steer the ship for the second half. So, part of me wondered if Gillen was even following a roadmap left behind by Hickman, or if he was just freestyling it. It was similar to how Tony S. Daniel picked up Morrison’s baton over on the Batman books prior to The New 52.

I couldn’t even get through House of X/Powers of X, as each page left me asking, “What is even going on here?” I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop: maybe it’s a dream sequence, or maybe this is an alternate timeline. None of that ever happened, though, and it just got weirder and weirder. I’ve got friends who have enjoyed everything over the past 5 years, but I simply said “Call me when they’re back at the mansion in Westchester, paying baseball.” For those not in the know, the traditional setting for the series was Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which took in mutants and was located in Westchester, New York. And a familiar trope from the “classic” era of the franchise was that the team members always engaged in a friendly game of baseball following some traumatic fight or event. It’s basically something like “Sorry your dad got murdered by aliens, Cyclops, but you’re next in the batting order.” You knew that baseball was their “therapy”. It was how they processed what they’d been through, and allowed them to sort of “reset” so they were ready for the next threat. To me, Baseball in Westchester is the core of X-Men. They weren’t that team once Hickman got going, so I didn’t feel like they were The X-Men. That said, The Fall of X is upon us, signaling the end of the Krakoa Era, and a return to the franchise that I recognize.

So, at SXSW yesterday, Marvel unveiled the three new “flagship” books coming out of The Fall of X, as well as the creative teams attached. Gail Simone and David Marquez will handle Uncanny X-Men, which focuses on Gambit & Rogue moving to New Orleans, bringing Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Jubilee with them. This is the book for those looking for superheroics from the team. Next up, Jed MacKay and Ryan Stegman are on X-Men (which I’m going to go back to calling “Adjectiveless X-Men“), where Cyclops assembles a motley crew to fight for the “destiny and philosophy of the mutant species”. Yeah, I’ll probably skip that one, but I’m sure someone will like it. Finally, you’ve got Exceptional X-Men, where Kitty Pryde (I refuse to call her “Kate”) leads a new team of young mutants. So, it’s basically the New Mutants/Generation X book. I feel like there’s at least a kernel of a great idea in all of them, but I know Uncanny is going to be a guaranteed monthly buy from me. I just hope I don’t have to have too much prerequisite Krakoa Era knowledge to enjoy it.

As exciting as those announcements were, they also teased some other titles coming from this relaunch, including Phoenix, X-Factor, Storm, NYX, X-Force, and Wolverine. Out of the six mentioned, I’m most excited for X-Factor and NYX. I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a take on X-Factor, whether it was when they were basically the Uncle Tom Strike Force, or when they worked for the government, or even when they had the detective agency. So, I look forward to what this incarnation brings. Meanwhile, the original NYX miniseries gave us the character of Laura Kinney, aka X-23. I loved that first mini, which also introduced a new mutant named Kiden Nixon, whom I found really interesting. I never read the sequel, NYX: No Way Home, so considering I haven’t seen Kiden mentioned since, I’m just gonna assume she died in that one. So, I’m eager to see what this new volume holds!

If you can’t tell, X-Men is my comic sweet spot. It was one of the first comics I discovered, some 30 years ago, and it meant a lot to me. I might not always love what they’re doing over there, but it’s nice to check in once and a while, and learn that you can go home again. So, for that reason, X-Men had the West Week Ever.