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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween post! Video games, Star Wars and GI Joe!

Many pirates, ninjas, and pirate-ninjas in class today.
This Halloween has indeed been a strange one.  At my school, I witnessed my kids go from an instantaneous flux of excited to bummed out to blown away as some arrived in costume after our two days off from the flood hysteria in Northeast PA (Scranton area got relatively nothing...especially nothing worth cancelling two days of school over, God bless those who are still dealing with this terrible situation) to find that Halloween in school for today was cancelled (awwwwwwwww) and then were told that costume day was pushed to Friday with an early dismissal..."Wait...what's that??? Two Halloweens??? SWEEEET!!!!"  It was very fun to watch. 

This was coming into school while still high on the fumes from the  news of Lucasfilm being acquired by Disney which could only mean great things...Episode VII, new story with Lucas only consulting, the possibility of a Star Wars TV show a la Avengers and the upocming Joss Whedon written S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series (which has solidified my belief that Disney has a golden touch), an OTC cartoon, Indiana Jones being resurrected in a not horrible digital monkey sorta way...cannot wait. Only bummer is I hope this doesn't kill the Clone Wars (which it might..at least their stay on Cartoon Network) and I hope Disney's less than humorous legal division doesn't put the axe on Redlettermedia guys. 

On top of that amazing mind blowing news, I apparently am the last person in the world to see that Kre-O is releasing GI Joe building sets!!!  I'm not sold on the whole series but I need to get my hands on a Trubble-Bubble and a F.A.N.G. chopper.

I have especially been getting into the All Hallow's Eve spirit through the joys of video games.  I took advantage of the XBox Live Halloween special and downloaded Resident Evil IV HD....God, that opening past is amazing...I was on the edge of the couch as those villagers stalk you from room to room of the village...the awkwardness of the controls really heighten the tension and make you all the more frantic.  Between playing that I resurrected the amazing creepy and atmospheric game Dead Space and pretty much gave myself a panic attack the last three nights, especially on Monday when the 50 mph winds were raging outside my dark living room.  If you want to be frozen in terror, play that game on anything above easy...even medium gives you an impossibly tense scenario. 

Beyond any of these games if you want to scare the bejeezus out of yourself, download and play Amnesia: the Dark Descent.  For a game that is obviously technologically limited, it shines in doing what it is made to do...give the helpless player an enveloping sense of dread and fear while the mostly unseen creatures lumber in the dark and hunt you.  You owe it to yourself to give this game a download and start freaking yourself and your digitized character out.

Anyway, hope you all had a great Halloween!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Toy Review: GI Joe: Cobra F.A.N.G. gyro-copter

When the name "Cobra" comes up, a few faces instantly pop into mind.  Destro, Baroness, Storm-Shadow, Zartan or Cobra Commander himself.  When it comes to Cobra's vehicles, besides the HISS tank, an instant visual of a certain helicopter comes right up.  The one-manned Fully Armed Negator Gyrocopter or FANG for short, was the staple Cobra air-assault vehicle pre-dating the Rattler by a year in the toy line.  You probably would be hard pressed to watch any early episode without a F.A.N.G. making an appearance or two as they served as basic cannon-fodder for the superior armored and maneuverable Dragonfly Chopper on the Joe side.

This hovering mass-produced menace hit the toy shelves in 1983 at a measly 3.18 retail price!  I swear, if I wasn't 1 year old, I'd have a fleet of these things!  Often you could have your blue clad troopers or Cobra Commander or Major Bludd flying these.  (I especially remember Bludd flying around in a FANG constantly) and it had a very neat backpack hook mold into the seat to securely fit your Joe figure into place as you banked and soared this vehicle through the air. 

It was basic as basic could be with grey and black molding however the detailing wasn't lost on the panelling, the engine and detachable rotor blades.  It included 4 nice long missiles which attached to the landing racks and had one big Cobra inscribed Bomb on the underbelly.  The steering stick moved but seemed really stiff so I could imagine being an easily broken piece along with the red cage housing the rear engine which, if you look on the aftermarket, is almost always missing on loose versions of this vehicle.  Even mine has a partially glued on on the backside.  Interestingly enough, this vehicle besides it's later models of Fang II, Fang III and 2008 remake, it was also originally molded as a Joe Vehicle in UK called the SAS Hawk along with included pilot "Blades" (a repaint of Tripwire) under the Palitoy lable, Brazil's Estrella line released it as a Joe vehicle called Helicóptero De Ataque and Inda's Funskool line released their own F.A.N.G. as well as a blue version of it for the Rescue Squad line. simply titled "Helicopter".

All in all, it's a fine vehicle and a must-have for any Cobra fan.  It's compact, simple and says it so even if you aren't the hugest Joe fan and just want a few odds and ends or a single piece for your desk or shelf, it can fit nicely but still hold its own in the presence department.  It sells relatively cheap on the aftermarket so give it a go if you see it around.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Toy Review: GI Joe Tomahawk Helicopter




I think it's about time to cover another one of my more prominent pieces in my collection...Granted, it's no Fort Max, Technodrome or Terror Dome but this is pretty much as big as I can get both price and space wise and I'm quite content with it.  That's right, you asked for it and you shall receive: The G.I. Joe Tomahawk released by Hasbro for the 5th series of Joe toys.  This was an amazing mainstay for G.I. Joe collectors, fans and kids alike who loved the show.  It was used constantly in the comics and animated series, was a great parallel to the contemporary, real-world CH-46 Sea Knight or CH-47 Chinook and was packed with great features.

This was a greatly sought after toy among my friends as a kid as most of us missed the classic Joe boat and didn't get into this collection until the late 80's and early 90's and most of our toys came from older brothers, uncles and cousins who have since moved on.  I actually remember one brother of a friend of mine having this in a toy/junk box in shambles with no window, guns, seats or blades.  Just a hollowed out shell of a once-great toy.  By the way, this toy was a one-time-only entry into the Joe archives.  It came out in 86 and was off the shelves by 88 (Probably at a discounted price...of the original 12.99 price tag...how did we not all automatically have this toy??? sigh, I dunno.)  There was never a known remake of this toy in any capacity...no Sky Patrol, no Tiger Force, just the original and that was it. 

That separate molding for the exhaust vents is such a great touch!

Tail-Rotor detail

rotating and pivoting gun and camera. (you can see the control sticks in the nose windows)

Easy dropping ramp for cargo or troopers.

This toy just shines attention to detail with expert modeling, amazing detail and hyper-realistic design.  Honestly, it looks as detailed as a 1:32 scale Tamiya model.  It feels as if it could actually fly if it were built to scale.  It has three moving rotors (2 top and one tail) that all work with 5 removable blades on each top rotor.  It has nicely made exhaust ports on the tale and front rotor motor casing that has its' own separate pieces separately inserted that aren't a cheaply molded single piece of plastic.  This adds to what makes the toy great.  In addition, it has a opening cargo door in the back and wind-up tow rope for rescue/hauling missions, a rotating 20mm mini gun and targeting camera on the bottom of the nose, movable pilot and co-pilot sticks, 5 seats for passengers, 2 door guns, 2 side missile pods with 3 small white freefall "dumb" bombs each and 2 heavy duty air-to-ground under the side access doors.  Aesthetically it includes 2 removable rear stabilizers, and sturdy landing gear.  This piece brings the kitchen sink for authenticity and Hasbro didn't miss one single beat in making a spot on likeness to the animated counterpart.

A better view of the paint scheme along with Rock and Roll and Doc.

There's "mic-free" Life Ticket on the right next to Wild Bill, the Joe Dragonfly pilot.

The paint scheme is completely dark grey and desert tan with solid grey pieces for the interior, engines and propellers while the body has a sprayed on camo pattern.  Simple but says it.  No garish neon vomit inducing nightmares, no boring solid colors...a perfect, realistic, paint scheme. In addition to great features, painting and molding, this toy comes packed with its own Joe pilot code named: Lift-Ticket.   He's a simple enough figure and one of the first I ever got long before finding the chopper...22 years to be exact.   He has a nice flight helmet, molded on pistol and holster, flight vest, straps and good painting, I just think he has a goofy kinda look on the face but not as bad as the toothy smile they molded on the Conquest X-30 pilot, Slipstream.  He came with only one accessory which often is the bane to Tomahawk collectors who try to make this item complete.  It's a famously hard to find "mic" piece that hooks into his helmet.  Good luck finding and not paying wayyyyy too much for it.

Joes on the move.
So that sums up my 2nd favorite item in my Joe collection...the first will be coming soon, I promise.  But besides that, I want to let you know this wasn't nearly as nice looking when I scored it (for 30 dollars total btw)...After picking up 2 top blades and 2 white missiles and 1 seat, I had the vehicle together.  It needed some deep cleaning from being in a smoker's house but I got it back to it's original luster with dish soap and floor wax for the canopy. The labels on it were repros from cobrastickers.com (who make amazing, spot-on, high quality, repro labels) and I used YoJoe.com  and Hisstank.com to figure out where each of the tiny, well designed decals went.  THEN, I had the lovely vehicle you see and I love.  Hopefully, you think it looks as good as I do.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

League Assignment: This is Halloween!

This is Halloween! Halloween! Halloween!

From Cool and Collected...
This week’s topic might duplicate what many of you are already doing for your Halloween countdowns, but I wanted the League to do something Halloweeny this week. Here is your assignment…

This is Halloween! This is Halloween! What are your Halloween traditions?

Nintendo + Halloween =  Amazingness
I must say, I've been kinda lapsed in any super-defined traditions over the past few years...since college, it's pretty much been go to work, come home, go to bed.  Shame because Halloween used to be my ultimate holiday as a kid.  I was obsessed with drawing haunted houses, making my own masks, turning rooms of my house into terrifying tombs of the undead (in July...mom loved coming home from work to her candles burning and the fake cobwebs pulled down from the attic...I was 9, alright?)  I remember being so blown away by the skeletal pipe organ in the Disney haunted house, I had my dad make a fake pipe organ out of old boxes and wrapping paper rolls for the pipes with gold and black spray paint...super awesome! 

Casa de Mr. R, circa 1987

This was before I read "Harold" from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
Now that the wife and I have a baby on the way this January, I cannot wait to get back into the Halloween spirit. (Now that I'm working a daytime hours we have time freed up to do a simple theme costume this year to work baby bump into it. She's wearing a pumpkin shirt and I'm wearing a Pi shirt...get it?)  Even when I sold all of my old Ghostbuster toys this year, I held onto my Proton Pack and Jumpsuit exclusively for the reason to pass it onto the little man as soon as he can wear it and based on toy prices, he will definitely be wearing the most expensive costume in his class :)
Mr. R, thee frog!
Awesome 80's product placement!

My favorite wall art ever!  I drew this scene so many times! Seeing it instantly made me smile!
What a brutally hard game.

I couldn't get enough Halloween decorations.  I loved the cheap-o wall art of vampires, bats, cats, skeletons and haunted house drawings with such amazing details.  I used to draw my own too and made paper plate masks of devils and werewolves.  Ghosts and Goblins and Castlevania were instant must haves for me for video games and I collected any Halloween related books I could find be it puzzle, 3d, activity or story book.   Let's not forget the great Halloween specials: Ghostbusters.(Boogaloo or any Samhain episode will stay in your brain as a kid long after viewing, holy hell) we had Garfield with those pirate ghosts, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (of course), Will Vinton's Claymation Halloween, Disney's Ikabod Crane, any Tree House of Horror and so on.

Good song from my favorite Garfield cartoon.

Even as a 3 year old, my uncle was teaching me the ways of the dark side...
(he's the one who gave me my first Joes and Star Wars figures too)

My parents used to always have a bash at the house during my grade school years where the whole fam would come over.  The trip to Taney's Costume and Novelty shop in our neighborhood was a highlight of the year as we'd stock up with rubber rats and bats along with cool ghost and graveyard ceramic kits my mom would paint.  My mom and me would go to the Pocono's American Candle Shoppe to pick up other cool Halloween stuff (A highlight being a "bat"globe that played the Alfred Hitchcock theme which screamed "classic")

I was a pimpin Count...diggin the cane, ring and flashing bat necklace!

Even in school I was the Halloween kid.  I always went all out for the classroom Halloween party. I did a big chalk mural on the board in the classroom.  I remember in 5th grade, I made a tape of the first season of "Are you Afraid of the Dark?" and we all got to watch it for the afternoon.  Good times.   Not only was Halloween a great time but looking at the pictures, it epitomized so many aspects of what we all come to these blogs about.  It is festooned with pop-culture and saturated with nostalgia.  I'm actually working at my own elementary school now and it was such a mind trip to walk to my parents house through the leaves after work today and really made me miss all that came along with this part of the year.
That's me on the left in the "Ewok" outfit...I dunno...

My college years brought back the Halloween spirit after the long doldrums of everything being "lame" in my superficial high-school years when I thought I knew everything but simply had that confused with really just being terrified of everything.   I really went all out on my costumes plotting annual trips to the Philly "Halloween adventure" super store with my now-wife to find a stupid overpriced costume and then customize it...One of our bests was when I went as Jesus (ironically from a modified Roman Soldier uniform)  and she went as a demon with black wings and all.  We turned some heads and won some contests, successful Halloween all around.    We have since settled a bit but always made a point to at least carve or decorate pumpkins which was the case this year.  She painting an impressive silhouetted night scene and myself having fun with a Sharpie creating my favorite ghost, Boo-Diddley! 

"Trick or Treat...die"

So really Halloween never died, it just experienced periods of hiatus.  I've always been drawn to it.  Man, I think a reason I liked Donnie Darko as much as I did was because it was centered around Halloween with "Frank" possibly being the coolest costume to graze the screen.  Speaking of movies, this time of year has always required the compulsory viewing on weekends of classics including annual screenings of Blair Witch, Mothman Prophecies, the Ring, Fright Night, The Gate, the Friday the 13th Series, the Ruins, the Shining, Event Horizon, Cujo, It, Christine, Maximum Overdrive and anything else we can spot.

The wifey's pumpkin!

So I'm not sure if this constitutes tradition but it certainly laid out my various experiences with Halloween.  To this great day in October which kicks off the official "Holiday Season", I salute you!

Knock on some doors in the League Neighborhood...

Branded in the 80's is worth it just for the Ecto-Cooler Recipe! (nice photos too)

Monster Cafe speaks of the Monster Cafe!

Dan and Pauline are showing off fond animated memories!

Take a look at some of Geek Til It Hurts' film choices!

That Figures rounds out some more great viewing choices!

Whatever I think of speaks of Halloween Karaoke!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Star Wars Vintage Collection Reviews AT-ST Scout Walker - Ewok Scouts pack - Endor AT-ST Crew pack

I finally amassed and unpacked and shot some photos of these three great K-Mart finds!  I just got around to grabbing the Scout Walker this Sunday and I managed to find the two K-Mart exclusive Endor Return of the Jedi "Special Action Figure Sets" consisting of the Ewok Scouts and the Endor AT-ST Crew.  I must say, K-Mart really surprised me by coming through this well especially in a time when finding newer, worth buying Star Wars material was in sharp decline.

All three of these wonderful Original Trilogy Endor-centric items are must haves for any fan of the Original Trilogy.  However not everything is a home run for me and I will explain. 

First, I'll take on the two figure sets.  The AT-ST crew come in nicely designed miniature boxes with the figures prominently displayed in a forest setting, very similar to the old Kenner displays for vehicles in included collector's booklets.  However I would have liked a throwback picture from the vintage 1982/3 cardback for the driver or any one of the promotional shots of the driver and gunner from the movie to drive home the difference between the two nearly identical figures.  Another thing I noticed upon removing the set from the box was that the harnesses the drivers actually have and the ones depicted on the box are different because the pack-in figures do not have holsters strapped to their included harnesses.  I'm up in the air about how I feel because honestly, I didn't care for the holster look and kind of liked them more how they came holster-free but it was still a discrepancy on the box to point out if you buy this set. 

For the figures themselves, there is relatively very little difference between them with identical body sculpts, accessories and helmets with the only discerning quality being slight differences in the facial molds.  No biggie, they are an army builder and you will need two if you buy the AT-ST Walker which I did.   They also came with pack in standard Imperial blasters which wouldn't have been my gun of choice as I'd prefer the smaller pistol the original Scout Walker Driver had in the Kenner series *shown above on the right* and what you see the pilot holding in the movie when Leia shoots him.   Articulation wise, they are very hard to stand and have very awkward bodies...I just don't know how TVC can nail the stormtroopers but have such a difficult time with the officers and anyone wearing a jumpsuit.   Paint and details are fine with nice touches on the helmet (which is removable with goggles attached *shown above*, yay!)  and the sculpts are very high quality with mimicked cloth folds in the uniform that work well along a separately sculpted harness as shown in the movie and with slightly glossy gloves and boots.

For the Ewoks, I don't have nearly as many issues... For the packaging, my same sentiments preferring a still grab on the back of the box or somewhere. (You will notice they did this on the AT-ST Walker which I will point out)   From the box, it was nice to learn that these two hijacker ewoks were named Wunka (the dark one) and Widdle Warrick (the light one).  They have great application of detailed paint on their fur patterns, their hoods and their weapons (a nice makeshift axe and club) and their articulation and stability is way better than the walker drivers.  I love how even their toes have nice little touches as with the Wicket and Logray Vintage Collection figures.  I might have rathered a little more subtleness on their facial sculpts because they are toothy on a level of borderline creepiness but I even went back and watched their part in the movie and they are making the faces their figures have pretty much the whole time so if Hasbro was looking for "movie accurate", they got it.


Now onto the star of the show.  The Imperial All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) "Scout Walker".   I loved this vehicle ever since my uncle let me borrow his old one to make my own battle of Endor film with my toys as a very young kid.  (It was adorable...I used potted plants for Endor, used my beat up X-Wing and Falcon for the space scenes and played all the parts for the throne room...with no breaks between parts...holy hell)   Anyyyyyway......How I previously said the new Movie Heroes Speeder Bike fixed all the old problems?  Well the same can be said of this beauty.  I will say it's a complete repack of the older Hoth version as well as the Wal-Mart exclusive sans the driver packed into the Wal-Mart one.  The difference here is the nice Vintage Packaging which is a total throwback to the old school Kenner line.  It has a nice action figure diorama scene on the front, features on the back and a great movie still shot on the bottom of the box.  A+ package design, Hasbro! 

I was hesitant about committing to any bigger vehicles but this was one I had to do especially with the Driver and Ewok sets I grabbed.  The legs are spot on and well articulated.  There's a railing on the roof which opens completely or through the hatch only.  The driver section seats two (nice) and has some pretty well detailed decals inside.  The "eye" flap blast-shields open and shut which is my favorite feature and the guns are all nailed with total accuracy.  There is an additional included "action feature" double firing chin gun which (thank God) can be taken off easily and replaced with a movie accurate gun for collectors like myself.  Paint-wise, it looks great with natural looking battle damage, mud on the feet and a super attention-to-detail sculpt in the lets, head and rear engine/fan compartments.  All in all, great vehicle.  My only complaint is how it stands.  It is very difficult to stand in many positions and pretty much the way I'm showing it, is they way you have to keep him due to the legs being so fragile and the head being so top-heavy. Despite my gripes, I love all of these items and really am glad to have modern renditions of such nice old-school items. 

If you are a collector, buy it.  If you are a ROTJ fan, buy it.  If you love vintage toys, buy it.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

League Assignment: Nice Place to Visit...well, I dunno about "nice"

Brian, the helmsman over at C&C shuttled this little beauty over the wire to the leaguesters:

Last week’s assignment was a challenge, so this week’s task will be a bit easier…or will it?

Take a trip to anywhere in pop culturedom. What fictional town, time, or world would you want to visit?

Don't get me wrong, my wife has impeccable tastes.
So where would I visit? My wife off the bat suggested the Enterprise D or even DS9's promenade for the sci-fi in her and Downton Abbey for the Masterpiece in her. All great places to check out but not my immediate cup o tea.  

I immediately kept thinking Halloween themed stuff...guess I'm in an October state of mind.  It rattled around to the Clue Mansion or the Overlook Hotel (probably since I watched both of those movies last night)...or the dreamworld in "the Cell" to poke around the head of a serial killer.

I landed on two particular picks for different reasons. First I chose the Maitland/Deetz house from Beetlejuice...need I say more?  Well, I will.  All I can say is holy hell, here's a place that knows no bounds.  You have the original contemporary, homey but still creepy decor of Adam and Barbra followed up by the avaunt guard nightmare of the Deetz family with living statues, along with black and white checkerboard everything surrounded by a hellscape lining the building only known as "Saturn" complete with Sandworms on the ground floor while your upstairs chalk-drawn doorways serve as portals to the afterlife's waiting room and a seemingly endless set of offices opening to different times, dimensions and complete with a "lost-souls" room.  I would really enjoy taking my time in this place!  For the most part, the locals seem friendly and I gotta be honest, I'm a sucker for miniatures.

My second choice is literally an endless amorphous mess.  If you ever wanted to visit a place that would keep you guessing to no end, look no further than Dark City.   Locked into a walled off hallucinatory world that changes at the will of the "Strangers" who look like a cross between the Gashlycrumbs and the Cenobites from Hellraiser, here is a place where anything is possible.  The buildings shift and morph, the limits churn and meld all to the theme of real-life film noir.  It's always night, time never moves and everyone falls asleep in unison only to awaken as different people.  I wouldn't mind being able to take a stroll to Shell Beach...if only I could find the right train.  "No days off for good behavior!"

Here are some other nice destinations on the nerd route:

Jathneil at Space for Rent takes a sci-fi trip to the Outer Rim.

JoeaDay wants to visit Cobra's Silent Castle...big shock, right? :)

Goodwill Geek was thinking the same thing I was.

Crooked Ninja is finally going to see a real Hover Board!