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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

League Assignment: Patriotic Pop Culture!

This Week's Assignment from the League: Patriotic pop culture. What movie, TV show, comic book, etc. makes you want to stand up and salute Old Glory?

A wide range of things pop into mind when considering patriotism and pop-culture considering a ton of our culture was pin-pointedly designed to inspire patriotism.  Look into things like the Creel Committee, the WPA, the American Imperialist League, the VFW, Boy Scouts of America,  hell, even Extreme Makeover Home Edition. ..all of them were convieved solely to create a totally patriotic environment conducive to producing a well-rounded citizenry.  (My thesis was on the ebb and flow of war-time propaganda, can't you tell?)   As a (typically critical) history teacher, I often am a skeptical bastard when it comes to buying into propaganda spewed forth from any government to keep its bewildered herds of mouth-breathers in line... however, I am not made of stone and I do take breaks for things like Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth to watch "Gettysburg" and have a hot dog.   I absolutely love militaria and reading about strategy and geopolitics. Quite honestly, when I read about CIA sponsored anti-Soviet mind-control, Napalm and the H-Bomb, the adult in me shudders with disgust but the perpetual adolescent in me is thinking, "heh heh...cool."

I'd buy that for a dollar!
That said, it would only make sense that the first thing I thought of regarding pop culture and the American way with a touch of jaded futility was Snake Plissken...no wait, wrong week.  That's right. Solid Snake!  They look alike, sue me.  That's right, our very own one-man army who takes down Walking Nuclear Battle Tanks like he's eating some corn flakes.  Snake is just an epitomizing powerhouse of total American bad-assery.  He is a lone wolf, chicks dig him, weapons expert, master survivalist, enemies respect him, his dad is named Big Boss for Christ's sake!   Name any other person who goes alone into enemy territory with nothing but a pack of smokes by their side?  Also, he rocks a cardboard box like nobody's business.  The whole time he's just a battle-hardened moody prick who doesn't even like the side he fights for but gets the job done just the same.  Now THAT is American for you!

Comin' atcha!

He's voiced by David Hayter, possibly providing the best voice-over to any character ever besides the talents of Frank Welker.  The music in the series is dramatic as hell and seems only fitting of the most dramatic Tom Clancy adaptation all the while making you sense the urgency and think to yourself, "I have to stop these terrorists!!!"  In fact, why hasn't Metal Gear been made into a movie?  I mean, they made "Broken Arrow" but we don't get graced with a C.G. "Metal Gear: Rex" in 3-D??? Granted,  the games themselves want to be movies and a non-Kojima film could only fail...Imagine Michael Bay's Metal Gear...oi.   (It would be about Joseph Snake, [played by Channing Tatum...he's popular now] an ex-cop, racecar driver (tons of racing scenes ineffectual to the plot) who is fighting against business executives of Metal Gear Industries with their private, faceless, black armor clad army of some people...or something to that effect)

Kirby + Solid Snake = too much awesome
Memes are just delightful

Anyway, Snake's pretty much the American James Bond as he fights a veritable rouges' gallery of terrorists be it FoxHound or his father taking on Cobra Unit, has the tech helper of Moneypenny in Otacon.  Colonel Campbell reminds me a ton of Colonel Trautman from Rambo as well.  Come to think of it, Snake has the Rambo thing down pat....holy hell, Snake essentially is Bond, Rambo, John McClane and Commando all wrapped into one.  His original design from the NES cart was noneother than Kyle Reese of Terminator fame and his face in MGSolid was modeled after Christopher Walken from the Deer Hunter...You see??? Take any awesome hero from your upbringing and Solid Snake is simply a stone's throw away.  The Kevin Bacon of ass kickers, if you will. As for instilling patriotism and making you feel like your saving America, The Metal Gear series does all of this pretty well too, I mean Raiden doesn't come close to Solid but he does take on Solidus right under Old Glory at Wall Street.  Between Big Boss and Solid Snake, they save Alaska, stop an all out Nuclear War numerous times,  win the Distinguished Service Cross, take on an evil twin (and wins),  rescue the girl (or Otacon) and look great in tactical camo.  His cynicism only makes him more of a realistic, strong yet flawed character...which is parallel in what it means to be a real American hero.

Some humbling roots, Mr. Snake.
Speaking of Snakes...Branded in the 80's is talking about Cooooobraaaaa!

Shezcrafti said what we were all thinking.

Ivan Drago don't have shit on Flashlights are something to eat!

Brother Midnight is talking about Team America sans the World Police.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekly round up! Transformers, Exo-Squad, Minimates / up-and-coming announcements!

It was a pretty eventful week with tons of new finds and toy related news and releases to speak of.
Also, I was able to score a few nice items to add to the ever-growing toy room so let's jump right in.

I was able to find some killer Exo-Squad E-frames and figures for 9 dollars a piece and for the most part they are pretty complete and functional which is no easy feat. Usually when you look for these guys on-line they are mainly a shell with no extras. I was able to grab Alec DeLeon with his Field Communication E-Frame and General Typhonius in his High-Speed Stealth E-Frame. Both are really good, well articulated figures to add to my Sean Napier figure. Alec came near complete with only two small red missiles missing (he even has his super easy to lose power cell) Typhonius wasn't so lucky as he was missing his one projectile, two purple side missiles, two weapons and cell but his frame was in good condition despite two snapped hand controls (I wish I asked more about him after thinking about it) Nonetheless, on a glance-over basis, he looks good for display purposes and I could always gradually find his parts the hard way.

DeLeon is the real show-stopper. He was the figure I wanted most as a kid but for some reason just didn't pick up. I only had the Napier and J.T. Marsh frames (why did I sell him? Stupid move) I love his green mech design with bullet chain, radar dish, Gatling gun, rotating transmitter and orange see through cockpit harness system. Also DeLeon had the headband and goggles look going on which was, in my opinion, bad ass. (Why I also loved my AT-ST driver and Low-Light figures) Exo Squad was such an innovative show and really portrayed an admirable effort at emulating the Japanese Space Operas but giving American audiences a slice of the Macross universe. Unfortunately, it didn't last because American children are stupid just like FireFly didn't last because American adults are stupid. Added bonus of this purchase was that the E-bay seller lived 20 minutes from me so my wife and I took a drive up the mountain to meet him at his ice-cream store...I got figures, the wife got ice cream...win-win. :)

Earlier in the week I found this little Transformers Universe Armada figure "Makeshift." Not an Armada collector at all but he was 2 bucks and a 4 year old figure so I jumped at him. Cool little minibot to put with my other Generations/Classics figures. I also like his Shockwave looking head as well.

About 6 weeks ago I started looking at Mini-Mates figures.. I've been building my Battle Beasts and giving more shelf space to my McDonalds Happy Meal guys so I am paying a lot more attention to the Diamond Select series. Also, it's just nice to be into some toy lines you actually can find in stores even though these guys are pretty much best accessible through BigBadToyStore. (just like everything) I just picked up the Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 set of Deadpool vs. Dante. Great set with 3 swords, 4 pistols and two well detailed, super articulated figures. Deadpool is one of my favorite Marvel characters and they did a great job with him. Dante has some great detailing on the face and coat as well. They look good with my Sentinel and Ryu set. Can't wait to get some of the newer Battle Beasts up there next to them later this year!

Last up where some G1 Transformers, I was able to find the Ricochet and Boomer Targetmasters to accompany the QuickMix figure I scored a few months back making him my first completed Targetmaster. These little guys are greatly detailed and have nice paint work on both of their legs, arms and faces, they connect to the sides of the Cement Mixer, Quickmix in alt more and can either stand alone as separate robots or be used as weapons for the bigger autobot or, better yet, combine to fore a double barreled gun! Great addition to my set...Quickmix needed quite a bit of cleaning when I got him (for a buck) and I also had him fitted with some brand new repro labels from Reprolabels.com along with his counterpart LandFill. They look great.

Also, I was able to score Huffer for 4 dollars/Free Shipping. This little Big Mouth Minibot was a great find with shiny chrome, practically new stickers and smooth, sturdy transformations. Nice little guy to add to the set who looks brand new. Couldn't believe he wasn't a re-issue.

Here is my latest wrap of toy headlines from around the camp-fire.

TOY HUNTERS is coming back on August 15 for 8 episodes, woot woot!

Transformers Masterpiece Collection is releasing some confirmed major fan favorites like Soundwave with Laserbeak (who can hold three cassettes!), Red Alert, and SideSwipe...I'm also hearing scuttlebutt about a cassette set and a minibot set. If you ever needed to hit the lottery, right?

There are a ton more photos floating around the interwebs of Beast Saga figures beyond the initial 12 or so we saw on BBTS preorder list.  Thanks a bunch to Battle Beasts News!  I will do nothing short of flying to Japan to get my hands on this collection.

ビーストサーガ カエルの人...ビーストサーガ ワニの人 ...

ビーストサーガ ウルフェン... ビーストサーガ ゴリラキャ...

Toys R Us is putting out exclusive Star Wars: Vintage Collection vehicle packs like Return of the Jedi packed AT-AT walker, Slave-1 and Speeder bike with tri-pod cannon and scout figure...no word of prices or pics but the speeder is supposedly marketing for 20 bucks which sounds like a great deal especially since it's going to be totally movie accurate in design, function and articulation. These are gonna be extremely limited at 30,000 pieces and hopefully by September...we'll be rid of those God-awful Phantom Menace figures.
Lego is making the most epic haunted house you could ever imagine...two words: Zombie Chef.  Seriously, if any of you knew me as a child...you'd understand why this sets a bit of a big deal for me.

This video is old news but watch it again...you know you want to.  Sheer Lego awesome sauce.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review Time! Three Lego Lord of the RIngs Sets: Gandalf, Shelob and Uruk-Hai

Holy hell, I could barely believe my eyes as I was traversing my local Wal-mart after work last week in my near daily quest for the last three waves of Star Wars Vintage Collection figs and was disappointedly walking back to the food aisles but when I noticed something...in the discount aisle....a bunch of newer Lego sets?  What brand is this?  LEGO LORD OF THE RINGS?!?!?!? ARE YOU FREAKIN KIDDING ME?  Granted, I know these aren't rare items but it was something I vaguely heard about months ago, said to myself "cool" and moved on.  It was just such a nice treat to see a fully stocked anything in Wal-mart, let along such an awesome set of products.   I picked two sets (Gandalf Arrives and Shelob Attacks) and my wife got me a third on Sunday. (Uruk-Hai Army)  These are such amazingly cool sets, I really think I'm about to get back in the Lego Pool considering the mother of all Haunted House sets is slated to release this September.  Just thinking of all the times I pretended to play Lord of the Rings with my castle sets as a kid and finally being able to do so just blows my mind...kind of weird that Lego is so far behind the trilogy unless this is to whet our appetites and bring the franchise back into kids minds before the Lego Lord of the Rings video game is released soon and The Hobbit is released this Christmas.  I gotta tell you; if I needed shelf space before, I desperately need it now since we have Weathertop, the Orc Forge, Helm's Deep and Moria still to contend with!
Out of the Box "Gandalf Arrives"

Out of the box "Shelob Attacks"

Out of the box "Uruk-Hai Army"

Castle System, eat your heart out... this new line seems to take all of the cool elements which have evolved over time and is culminating into a great utilization of accessories, minifigs and innovative construction.   The character designs are spot on, we have multiple facial expressions and custom painted bricks to make these sets all the more authentic...I will say they still don't hold a candle to the fan made sets  shown here (even though those sets, if released at retail, would probably fetch more than the Death Star) but who cares?  LOTR is still LOTR!

The first set I grabbed was "Gandalf Arrives" depicting one of the first scenes of Fellowship of the Ring.  It was priced at 10.99 at Walmart and is a nice starter set...Apparently minifigures will be released in solo baggies but not yet...this will be a must for army building because besides Stormtroopers, I would really see a need to get a whole bunch of Orcs, Uruks or Riders of Rohan.  It's a pretty basic set but depicts the scene nicely.  You get a wagon with adjustable sides, fireworks, letter accessory (where the ring was kept), a carrot, Horse (Bill?), Gandalf and Frodo in Shire dress minifigures. There are some nice details like a Dragon firework, wizard's staff and cloth cape for Gandalf. My only real complaint is that the reigns for the horse aren't articulated at the carriage connection so the horse can only go straight ahead... disappointing since Lego had this issue fixed since their earliest cart/wagon sets.

Frodo and Gandalf

Detail of Gandalf's Wagon

I immediately returned after work the next day and picked up "Shelob Attacks" from Return of the King.  This is the slightly bigger LOTR set featuring Samwise, Frodo, Gollum and Shelob.  Also included is a small cave encove for Gollum to hide.  The star of this show is clearly the massive Spider, Shelob.  It is constructed in two portions with a front consisting of head, fangs, legs and torso and a rear connectible piece consisting of her rear portion with a retractable web.  All of the parts are on multi-staged positionability with legs that can be adjusted in three separate areas. The head and maw are both hinged and adjustable as well and the eye piece even illustrated the small detail of Shelob's one missing eye.  The set gives all three minifigs some real nice attention to detail.  Gollum is a totally new sculpt with adjustable arms and a solid body with nice facial features and he gets a nice little fish accessory to boot.  Sam and Frodo come with their elven cloaks, changeable facial features of battle ready and panicked as well as a ring, a sword, Sting, and the light Earendill.  Super cool set for 19.99. 


Gollum's Cave

Gollum in baggie pack

Gollum wish Fish

Samwise and Frodo

Frodo captured!

Sam Captured!

The last and most recent was the Uruk-Hai Army set I receieved on Sunday.  This depicts a small vignette of the Battle of Helm's Deep and is mainly an army builder kit.  It includes 4 Uruk soldiers, an archer of Rohan and Eomer minifigures.  The constructable brick sets are a Ballista siege weapon for the Uruk-Hai and a section of the wall of Helm's Deep for the Rohirrim.   The wall is set up nicely to be made in a broken down, overgrown fashion with green bricks to accentuate moss growth.  It comes with broken battlements, a small arrow slot on the bottom, a small catapult on the second level with three rocks to throw, a battle flag and a torch.  The Ballista comes on four wheels with two launching hook spears, twin side spikes and adjustable balance bow on both sides.  This is also built to fit the ramshackle look of Saruman's forces.

Small Battle of Helm's Deep

Front of the Wall

Rear of the Wall

Front of the Uruk Ballista
Side of the Ballista
 The minifigures are the stars here.  We have 4 Uruks with varied armor and weaponry with a nice spot on Uruk Helmet for 3 of the figures and long tossed hair for the fourth.  Two have black/grey armor along with two Uruk Battle Worn shields, 2 angular swords, 2 long dark grey axes and dual facial expressions for the Uruk's (pissed and more pissed).  The Rohan archer is nicely decked in green and brown with a beaded face and Spartan-esque Helmet and Eomer is amazing with green cape, custom spear and beautifully detailed shield, a silver helmet trimmed in gold leafing, chain mail designs on legs and torso and long sword which fits into his saddle atop his mount.  The coolest feature on this set is the option for interconnnectablity as the sides of the wall section have attachment points to build the wall as long as you want to with additional sets and eventually to the larger Helm's Deep lego set all while building an ever growing imposing Uruk-Hai force!  This set ranges from 29.99 (Wal-Mart) to 34.99 (Toys R Us).
Uruk-Hai Soldiers
Detailing of Rohan Archer
Eomer armed and mounted