Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Friday, December 9, 2016

Kung Fu and The Flash

In this age of Netflix, streaming, YouTube and dozen other video download applications it’s hard to find anyone who appreciates classic TV shows and the impact they had on society at the time they aired.

I’ve often stated before that I am a child of the 1960s.  I was born in the early 1950s, spent most of my youth and teenage years in the 1960s and fully matured as a man in the 1970s and 1980s/1990s.

I admit I am a man of my time.  I was practically raised on TV and many of its characters became heroes and idols, they influenced me as I grew up.

The range of TV programs I enjoyed encompassed every genre from Westerns to Dramas.
The 1950s/1960s TV series taught me the meaning of being a man: tough, resilient, resourceful and yet kind, gentle and compassionate. 

The 1970s brought new changes as I embraced the new tide of TV series that challenged my pre-conceived notions about justice, social responsibilities and what it meant to be a part of a larger whole.

The 1980s television shows reinforced much of what I had learned in the previous decades while still encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone and explore new frontiers.

If all goes as planned I will be reviewing several classic TV shows in a series of reviews as DVD collections become available.  Here are two what I hope will be a larger selection of reviews. 

In 1972 I was 19 years old and in my second year of community college.  Like many young people of that day I had began to question the validity of societal norms, traditions and values.

The Viet Nam War was still in full swing, Nixon was in the White House, Women’s rights had come to the forefront, racial equality was a hot topic and the young ‘Me Generation--Baby Boomers’ were shaking things up with their music, lifestyles and general disregard for authority.

I began to explore.  I never took drugs or drank or smoked but I did examine, although I did not participate in Eastern mysticism or alternate lifestyles but I did look for the meaning of life.

The country was in a time of change and turmoil and I, and my generation, were in the middle of it.

Ironically a generation that rejected commercialism and the ‘Man’ were being manipulated by both.

Manufacturers and businesses recognized a good thing when they saw it and began catering to a new generation of ‘drop-outs’.

One TV network: ABC, green lighted an unusual TV show unlike anything seen at the time.  As I mentioned earlier Eastern mysticism and religions were huge with young people.  The martial arts saw a huge upswing of popularity.

What better way to cater to young people than to incorporated Eastern philosophy and martial arts into one TV program?

In 1972 Kung Fu, starring David Carradine as Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine, a White/Asian half-breed raised as monk took the airwaves by storm.

The story of his turbulent life was first introduced as a TV movie, and then a TV series that lasted three seasons.  Twenty years later would reprise his role, albeit as Caine's grandson bearing his same name.

In the series Caine is on the run for a crime he committed in China.  Traveling to the United States he kept on the movie while looking for his father and half-brother. 

During his journeys he encountered various social injustices, mete out Eastern witticisms and proceeded to kick behind when the need arose.

Warner Bros. has collected all three seasons on DVD Collections that follow the saga of Caine as he searched for justice, not only for himself, but others as well.  Kung Fu made Carradine a star.

For a slice of the 1970s be sure to pick up all three seasons.  Extras include featurettes on the cast and crew, a look at the series, a commentary by David Carradine and much more. 

When the 1990s arrived Ronald Reagan was no longer President and his predecessor George Bush Sr. failed to maintain the bullish, the-buck-stops-here attitude Reagan deployed over his eight years as the Chief Executive.

Materialism and the acquisition of wealth was the mainstay.

Prosperity blanketed the U.S. and people were content.

U.S.S.R. Communism had floundered and fallen.  People were feeling good and it showed in their attitudes and pursuits.

Nowhere else did society’s attitude display itself more than on TV.   Shows were resplendent in their flaunting of wealth and fame and yet, many of the new series started to take a dark turn and examine the hidden shady comers of society.

TV was becoming more sophisticated.  With the advent of bigger budgets, new technology, the advent of computers and the birth of computer-generated effects, TV shows became more daring.

Superhero shows are incredibly popular today.  It seems like almost all the networks and cable have some kind of superhero show or a derivative of one.

One of the most popular superhero shows is The Flash.

But did you know it was not the first Flash TV series?

Coincidentally the man who played The Flash in the 1990’s version of the series now plays the father of the new Flash and his doppelganger, the original Golden Age Flash: Jay Garrick.

Many of the villains seen in the new series were first introduced in the old series.  In fact much of the inspiration for new series is derived for the first.

Warner Bros. has compiled the complete, original ‘The Flash’ TV series into 22-episode collection starring John Wesley Shipp. 

Although somewhat dated by today’s standards the original ‘The Flash’ TV series is notable for its visual and physical special effects and adherence to its comic book namesake.


 Here’s an interesting fact.  Mark Hamill played the Trickster in the original TV series and recently reprised his role in the new series.

It’s a light-hearted and loads of fun TV series to watch that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Another interesting fact: Dave Stevens—the creator of The Rocketeer, designed the first Flash’s costume.

Both Kung Fu and The Flash are interesting reflections of the times in which they were aired.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tatsuta and Thunderbolt

In past model kit reviews I generally wrote about model kits from a strictly product information point of view.  That’s important but actually ‘building’ a model is far more important.

I’d like to talk about how I’ve gone about building Hasegawa Hobby Kits’ 1/72 Scale A-10C Thunderbolt II "104th Fighter Squadron" Limited Edition model kit.

While it would be easy to show the product box or a completed model all nice and painted and detailed I prefer to talk about how I went about assembling the model.

After opening the box I spread out the part trees and larger pieces on a floor mat.  I prefer a floor mat because it is heavy enough to held model pieces and sturdy enough so that I can move the entire model assembly if necessary.

Trust me, there is nothing worse than having a model spread out on a floor or table and your spouse insisting that you move it for more necessary things like vacuuming and sitting down for a meal.

Once I’ve familiarized myself with the instruction sheet I checked to make sure all the pieces for the model were present.  I needn’t worried about it since Hasegawa Hobby Kits’ quality control insures its model kits are packaged complete.

Once I made sure all pieces were present I followed the detailed instructions and began assembling my aircraft (in this case) model kit as instructed.

A special note: Some model makers prefer to paint pieces prior to assembly, others after a model is completed.  I prefer a little of both, depending on the model kit.

Using an X-acto Knife or small scissors I trimmed off any excess flashing from the model pieces, carefully making sure I didn’t damage any parts.

Smaller pieces usually require tweezers and snips from small trimming scissors or a special trimming tool.

Gluing the parts together can be tedious.  Be sure to use minimal glue and let it spread on model piece edges.  You don’t want any glue oozing over the edges and damaging the pieces.  Should you experience any oozing wipe it away quickly with a non-porous material.  Tissue and cloth tend to absorb the glue and can spread it over surfaces.

When gluing large pieces together I often use tape or small rubber bands to hold pieces together until they dry.  Be especially careful when assembling clear pieces such as windshields.  If glue gets on those pieces it is nearly impossible to clean off.

When building a model of any scale or skill level be sure to take your time, don’t rush things.
Once assembled and completely dry meticulously begin painting on one color at a time.  Use soft easy strokes and cover whatever surface requires paint evenly and smoothly.  Again be careful of using too much paint creating sloppy edges and runs.

Once painted decal applications requires a steady hand and tweezers.  Prepare the decals, detach one decal at a time from the decal sheet(s) and gingerly apply it to the model’s surface. Allow it to dry and proceed to the next decal.

If you follow the assembly instructions, proceed slowly and meticulously your model will turn out perfectly.

I discovered assembling the A-10C Thunderbolt II "104th Fighter Squadron" Limited Edition model kit to be a lot of fun and I felt a deep sense of accomplishment as I assembled it.  I still have a few more things to do on the model but so far everything is going as planned.

The A-10C Thunderbolt II "104th Fighter Squadron" aircraft is known for its many firsts.  First to be added to the Maryland Air National Guards’ 175th Fighter Wing.  First to be converted and updated 40 years later and the first to fly into combat.

After looking over this impressive aircraft with its huge twin engines, impressive fire power and twin tail wings it’s easy to see that its speed, maneuverability and sheer presence make it a classic.

For a model best suited to the seven seas be sure to pick up one of Hasegawa Hobby Kits 1/700 Scale Japanese Navy Cruiser Tatsuta "Super Details" Limited Edition model kit.

Known as the Iron lance of the Imperial Japanese Navy the Tatsuta saw plenty of action during WWII but was eventually was sunk by US forces.  Fast, long and thin the Tatsuta was part of the Tenryu class of Japanese destroyers/cruisers.  Unfortunately speed and maneuverability were achieved by lightning its armament.

If you are into minute details and have the patience to assemble the Tatsuta you’ll discover details galore from its deck guns to its railing, masts and tower.  The kit features two sets of decals and full photo-etched parts set.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Original Frontier Logs

As a parent I can’t stress enough that it is so important to teach your children how to build things, repair broken items, learn how things work and encourage them to step out and take chances.

Building a good life is much like building any structure.  In order to have a good solid building (or life) it’s important to start with a good foundation and build up from there.

Alex Brands/Ideal/Timeless Toys provides the perfect toy for children to learn about constructing and building.

The Original Frontier Logs Classic Construction 303 Piece Building Set is an excellent product that  introduces children to the inner workings on how to build structures.

Children are given all they need to build a Fort Frontier with walls, connecting buildings and towers. 

Included with the Frontier Logs Set are a variety of long and short real wood logs, roof slates, chimneys, a sign and several Indians and Frontiersmen, along with a horse.  Figures are designed in action poses with weapons at the ready. 

But don’t stop there.  Encourage children to build their own unique creations.  With such a huge collection of building material it’s easy for them to build large homes, storage and equipment structures and small single room dwellings-whatever their hearts desire.

Purchase additional Frontier Logs Sets to expand the possibilities.  Full instructions are included.  Pieces come in a large flip top cardboard box with a handle for easy carrying.

In this age of instant gratification, endless information at your fingertips and specialized products (ad naseum) for every purpose, it’s good to have a good old-fashioned toy that encourages children to use their imaginations and building skills.   

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

TMNT Ninja Superstars Raphael As Sting

When you think about it the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a lot in common with professional wrestlers.  They have to stay in shape, be familiar with many different fighting styles, dress in elaborate costumes and most of all – have an attitude.

Raphael dresses up as his favorite professional wrestler: the one and only Sting.

Raph's face is painted in the distinctive whiteface of Sting along with blacked out eyes and stripes on his face and black lips.

Along with the face decoration Raph wears a long, black, leather jacket clipped at the shoulders, black arm and wrist bands, black trousers, black knee boots, brown belt and a bright red face mask covering his eyes and a red muscle shirt with a black scorpion graphic on its front.

Along with the fully-articulated figure are a wooden fighting staff, a black baseball bat and a garbage can lid shield.

Color application is smooth and seamless with no bleed over or rough edges.  Articulation points are cleverly hidden and incorporated into the figure for ease of positioning and action poses.

Sculpting is a delightful combination of TMNT and wrestling figure and the packaging with its open front clear plastic panel showcases the figure in all of its glory.

The three other Turtles are dressed as: Leonardo as John Cena, Donatello as Undertaker and Michelangelo as Macho Man Randy Savage.

Figures stand approximately six to seven inches tall and are securely fastened to their display boxes in form-fitting plastic shells courtesy of Playmates Toys.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Suicide Squad Extended Cut

Get ready for a superhero team-up movie unlike any you’ve ever seen before.  Bad guys are the good guys and (in some cases) the good guys act like the bad guys.
DC Comics/Warner Bros. present one of the most original movies ever created for the big screen: Suicide Squad.
Headlined by Will Smith as Deadshot and costarring fan favorite characters the Joker and Harley Quinn, the movie also features a bad guy cast that would even make Batman get the shivers.
Superhumans, aliens and supernatural forces can be potential dangers.  Amanda Waller determines to put in place a special, elite force to cope with such potential problems-under the radar.
When a powerful duo of mystical beings threaten to plunge mankind into servitude and reshape the world in their own images, Waller sends in the Suicide Squad to stop them.
Armed and dangerous, the hardened criminals comply with the promise of reduced prison terms, provided they survive.
Should they fail or succeed the government will take no responsibility for their actions and will deny knowledge of the Suicide Squad’s mission.
Each member of the Squad has a small explosive devise implanted in his or her neck.  Should they try to escape—bang!—no more head!
The unlikely comrade-in-arms suddenly find themselves in the thick of things when the situation goes from bad to worse.  Throw in the Joker and the Batman and what was to be a routine, down and dirty takedown suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.
The movie features a powerful soundtrack of popular tunes, often deep and personal exanimations of their characters and their motivations and a visual style that keeps audiences on their toes.  Spectacular physical stunts, mind-blowing special effects and a killer storyline make the Suicide Squad film a winner.
The Extended Cut Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Combo Pack includes scenes not shown in the theatrical release that aid the storyline.
Other extras include several featurettes, a gag reel and more.
Experience a whole new world of extras on Vudu with free code for redeeming the movie digitally for your phone, tablet and other digital device, all courtesy of Warner Bros.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Constantine and SHAZAM!


Although the series lasted only one season on TV the Constantine series still played an important role in the DC TV Universe.  Constantine promises to return in an upcoming movie from Warner Bros.
Based on the Vertigo character from DC Comics the series follows the exploits of John Constantine form Britain.
Having sold his soul to the devil Constantine decides to use his mystical and magical powers to fight the forces of evil-reluctantly.
Filled with dry wit, stunning special effects and sure to shock the Constantine Blu-ray Collection shows a darker side to the DC Universe in which Constantine fights to save the innocent-whatever the cost.
The Blu-ray collection also includes several featurettes that DC fans are sure to enjoy from Warner Bros.
Long before the deluge of DC Comics TV series there was another DC character that starred in his own Saturday morning TV series.
Billy Batson as Captain Marvel (SHAZAM!) fought crime, supernatural forces and terrestrial and alien nemesis.
By simply uttering the word, “SHAZAM!” young Billy is magically transformed into the muscular and very adult SHAZAM, dressed in red and yellow.
‘The Big Red Cheese’ as he is affectionately known, possesses the powers of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury.  Along with his mentor sidekick they battle to save the innocent and right wrongs.
All 26 episodes of the series are available on DVD from Warner Bros.

CHOROGrip

I’m not a musician or a singer in a choir, but I am observant.

I’ve noticed when watching either a music or chorus ensemble piece that sometimes, unintentionally, while a musician or singer is performing, sheet music seems to have a mind of its own.
It could be a light breeze, bumping a music stand, music sheets with stiff pages or bad folds or a score of other annoying reasons the musician or singer suddenly finds themselves in a dilemma.
The sheet music or arrangement decides to either close, flip a page or waver between open or close.
I image it is very frustrating, not only for the performer, but the audience as well.
It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
CHOROGrip has the solution-two of them in fact.
The Original CHOROGrip Folder/Binder Strap easily snaps onto a binder. It secures in place with its Velcro grips and not only do you have your pages secure but you also have a handy strap that you can place your hand in for a study, secure grip on a music binder or folder.
The CHOROGrip Ring Adapter allows you to secure music pages using its ring clips that secure the pages so they don’t shift or movie.
Both devices are handy, easy to use and guarantee that your next music performance is not hampered by music sheets that seem to have a mind of their own.
For full instructions as to how each product, visit the CHOROGrip website: http://chorogrip.biz/.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ultra-Tek Snipe

Toy guns and little boys-a match made in heaven.  Oh sure, there are little girls who like toy guns, but let’s face it, predominantly little boys play with toy guns. 

Even in this age of being politically correct masculinity isn’t dead—yet!

A stick or baseball bat.  That’s what I used as a gun substitute when I was a small boy.  I had toy guns of course, three of which were my favorites: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. special, James Bond’s Walther PPK and a bazooka.

When I got older I graduated to a Daisy BB Gun, a pellet gun and a slingshot.

I wish I had available the plethora of toy guns available to kids nowadays.  OK, so they are colored brightly for safety reasons and tend to be a little more ‘kid friendly’, but still, they’re pretty cool.
 
And among the coolest is the Alex Brands/Buzz Bee Toys ‘Air Warrior, Ultra-Tek Snipe rifle.  Talk about cool, and it shoots suction darts up to 72 feet!  Wow!

The heavy-duty Snipe toy rifle has it all: a twist on barrel extension and an eight-cartridge suction dart clip.  Pull back the bolt, a dart loads, push the bolt forward and you’re ready to rumble! Bang! 

If you want to remove the suction dart clip make sure the bolt is pulled back, push the red button on the base of the Snipe rifle by the suction dart cartridge and the cartridge slides out for storage or reload.

Ten suction darts come with the Snipe.  A slide-on black scope snaps into place on the top of the Snipe.  It even had a real cross wire for aiming!

The Snipe has a handgrip for aiming, a snug fit shoulder rifle butt, some pretty cool exterior details making it look like a high-tech, futuristic weapon and features a red barrel extension, red bolt, yellow suction dart clip, gray body and blue highlights on the lower body and handle.

The entire Snipe rifle, once assembled, is three feet long.  It’s lightweight, easy for a young child to hold (ages six and above) and rugged and durable for plenty of playtime.

Easy-to-follow assembly and how-to-use instructions are on back of the colorful heavy cardboard Snipe package.  The Snipe rifle, barrel extension, scope and extra suction darts are held securely in place with twist wires

Oh to be a young boy again!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Robin To The Rescue!

Robin The Boy Wonder: Dick Grayson, has his story told from the time he is ‘adopted’ by Bruce Wayne, learns about Bruce’s’ secret of being Batman and dons the familiar red, green and yellow suit as Robin.

In this delightful new book from Scholastic Inc. based on the animated film from LEGO, ‘Robin To The Rescue’. Is a fun adventurous tale Level 2 (1st and 2nd Grades) are sure to enjoy.

Full color photos from the film fill the book with simplified text that makes reading the exciting story easy to understand for Level 2 readers.  “Holy fun to read, Batman!”

Bonus stickers are included!

The Flash, Legends and Gotham

If you are a big fan of DC Comics then you are probably aware that DC has a number of TV shows broadcasting that are based on its characters.
Despite what network any particular show broadcasts on there is an underlying continuity and crossover with the other shows.  While some shows are more blatant about their linkage to each other, such as Arrow, The Flash, DC Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl there are hints of continuity with the other shows.
Gotham, I-Zombie and Lucifer (if you pay close attention) offer subtle ‘Easter Eggs’ pertaining to the entire DC Universe.
The Flash TV series was born out of the Arrow TV series when an unexplained ‘Metahuman’ explosion transformed a number of individuals into super-powered beings, Barry Allen (The Flash) being one of them.
The Blu-ray/DVD HD collection from Warner Bros. explores the burgeoning powers of The Flash and its effect on other people and Barry Allen’s home city.
During the First Season Barry hones his abilities, encounters other ‘Metahumans’ who use their powers for bad, teams up other ‘good’ Metahumans and that alternate universe Earth exist.
Along the way he manages to gather other individuals to create a team, starts a blossoming romance and encounters a deadly and dangerous evil doppelganger of himself.
The Season Two Blu-ray/DVD collection delves into the ‘Speed Force’, the origin of the Yellow Flash, Zoom, other alternate Earth heroes and villains and a threat that could destroy our Earth and other alternate versions.
Both Blu-ray/DVD HD Collections examine the many villains (the original Trickster: Mark Hamill returns) and heroes, alternate dimensions and timelines and much more about the Scarlet Speedsters past, present and possible future.
Some new and old familiar faces crop up.  Extras include featurettes about visual effects, gag reels, a crossover event, cast and crew interviews and much more.
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow follows the exploits of time traveler Rip Hunter as he gathers the forces of some of Earth’s mightiest heroes and villains to stop a plot by Vandal Savage, an immortal madman, to rule the Earth.
Along the way the group travels to different eras, manages to congeal as a team and thwart Savage at every turn.
Rip Hunter, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, Firestorm, The Atom, White Canary, Captain Cold and Heat Wave put aside their differences and form a team to save Earth.
Look for lots of action, adventure, betrayals and suspense ramped up in every episode.
Blu-ray/Digital HD extras include Featruettes and a gag reel.
The ‘Gotham’ Blu-ray/Digital HD Second Season Set ‘brings on the bad guys’ as it pits Detective James Gordon and the Gotham City Police Department against a menagerie of villains.
Be there as The Joker, Hugo Strange, The Penguin and other classic Batman villains get their starts.  A new savior raises his head in Gotham but he and his sister have their own nefarious plans involving Arkham Asylum.
Light and dark merge as Gordon discovers that sometimes you have to ‘dance with the devil’ in order to get things done.
Bruce Wayne slowly begins his training to become Batman, discovers some disturbing secrets about his heritage and makes a life-changing sacrifice to save his family and friends.
This is Gotham City as it was meant to be seen: dark, dank and dangerous.
The Second Season explores the genesis of Batman, his villains and supporting cast along with the city he is sworn to protect: Gotham.

Extras include an examination of Bruce Wayne’s butler and protector: Alfred Pennyworth, Gotham Noir Light and more.