Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Safari So Far This Year

It's been 2 to 3 months since I last reviewed any Safari Ltd. figures and since that time they've managed to put out a plethora of products preferred by purchasers of plastic playthings.

For the wild animals appreciator comes a wide selection of primal plastic playthings. Part deer, part horse, part zebra and who knows what else comes the Okapi: a four-legged herbivore with a face and figure only a mother could love.  It may look strange but Safari Ltd. artists capture its likeness perfectly. 

Longhorn or shorthorn Rhinoceros fans are sure to get a thrill from Safari Ltd.'s Indian Rhino and White Rhino.  They may look complacent but you don't want to upset these heavily armored, four-legged animal tanks.

The Llama looks like a cross between a camel and a sheep.  It's beautiful fur is used for a variety of clothing items.  Just be sure not to get in a spitting contest with one.  You'll lose! The American Badger is a squat, gray fur with black accents, clawing machine that is best left alone.  There's a reason for the term "to badger' someone.  It may look cute and cuddly with its pointed ears, fuzzy face and attractive fur, but, never mess with a Bobcat.

And you think you have rodent problems?!  Check out the Capybara: an oversize, sub-nose, and deep brown, rodent of gigantic size. Meep! Meep! The Greater Roadrunner is a fast on its feet bird with a crest atop its head, colorful plumage and long strait tail.  The Life Cycle Of A Honey Bee bubble packed set includes an egg, larva, pupa and fully developed Honeybee with stripped torso and translucent wings.  Pretty sweet. Honeybee?  Honey? Sweet? Get it?

Three domestic animals you need to check out all come from the Equine family.  The Donkey and Donkey Foal are colored a deep brown with off-white muzzles and eye patches and pure white underbelly.  They're so cute!  Of a similar color scheme is the Appaloosa Mare with its long black tail, short mane and oversize white spot on its flank. 

If prehistoric animals are your thing then Safari Ltd. has a quintet of mighty thunder lizards to satisfy your dinosaur desires.

The T-rex is as ferocious as they come with it large open maw, sharp teeth and claws and huge hind legs.  Equally impressive is the knobby hide Carnotaurus with a huge serpentine tail, powerful jaws, horned eye protrusions, long hind legs and miniscule front legs.  Its hide coloration is a beautiful blend of browns, greens, tans and an off-red muzzle.

It may be small, but it's ferocious.  The long claw Guanlong looks like all teeth and claws on legs and shows hints of bird.  The Edmontosaurus consists of multi-tints of tan hide, a long tail, three-toe legs and a comical snout.  Similar in appearance is the Miragaia but with a longer body and large spikes the length of its body and tail. 

On the mythological side is the serpent body Medusa with snakes for her hair. The Cyclops is all muscle and meanness.  He's dressed in leg sandals, breechcloth, leather belt with gold buckle and gauntlets and brandishes a huge mallet.  Don't try to stare down this one eye monstrosity. 
Three heads are better than one.  In the case of the Fire Dragon, three heads only make it meaner.  This stunning tri-head dragon is painted in fire oranges and reds with bony head protrusions, tri-horns, a long tail, short, powerful claws and teeth and with the capability to spit fire as seen by the middle head. 

If you have dinosaurs you need prehistoric plants and the Cyrad fits the bill.  A predecessor of the palm tree its heavy trunk and short fronds make it perfect fodder for the herbivores and study enough to withstand their pummeling.  My dogs went crazy when they encountered the Snapper Flamingo.  Pull the trigger and its pink head snaps open and close.

All of Safari Ltd.'s figures are well crafted, nicely sculpted, expertly painted and detailed and a whole lot of fun to play with or display.  

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Vault #1


A research team searches a strange undersea cavern located close to Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. They believe there is a hidden treasure cache located deep within its stygian depths.

Part treasure hunters and archeologists the team hopes to obtain untold wealth and make history.


With the help of an entrepreneur and his undersea robot they plan to uncover the treasure and secrets the undersea pit holds.


And they do just that; a treasure trove is found, along with encrypted artifacts and a mysterious entrance in the rocks.


Delving further they find a hidden chamber containing a large stone, rectangular sarcophagus. Taking it aboard they x-ray it and are shocked by what they see inside.


The Vault #1 expertly taunts readers as to what they might expect. The story cleverly and meticulously introduces the key players and lays the groundwork to what promises to be a real shocker.


Writer Sam Sarkar, artist Garrie Gastonny and colorist Sakti Yuwono have done a stellar job of bringing true suspense and horror to comic books that few can match. Image Comics presents issue one of a 3-part series that promises to shock and surprise readers.

American Outlaw

I've heard it said that the true sign of a Country Western singer is their ability to convey their own feelings through their songs.  It's also been said that a Country Music artist has to live the life they sing about.  If both of those statements are true then Michael Mandella is a true Country Western singer.

Michael has the unique ability to translate his thoughts and emotions to song-be it someone else's music and lyrics or his own.  The reason he does is so well is his life has been a roller coaster of highs and lows.

Michael never knew his biological father and his stepfather was a cruel man to both he and his mother.  Fortunately he had loving and giving grandparents and a mom, who despite her own pain and suffering, taught him the value of family, faith and friendship.

His talent was spotted at a young age and it looked as if his life was meant for success until a tragic accident left his two of his band members dead and Michael severely burned and injured.  And yet he never gave up even though he struggled with drug abuse. 

Now completely clean, healthy and strong, he is set for the next phase of his career. Reuniting with his surviving band members he has re-ignited his career and wows audiences wherever he goes.

Part Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks and a mix of other contemporary and classic country music performers, Michael incorporates classic and modern Country Music with a smattering of other music genres.  Regardless of what song he sings, Michael pours out his soul and is unafraid to share his feelings.

A talented singer, songwriter and guitarist, Michael lets all of his talents shine through in his latest CD release: American Outlaw released by Cold Steel Records.    

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Repsol Honda RS250RW"2007 WGP250"

Scaled at 1:12, Hasegawa Hobby Kits' new Repsol Honda RS250RW "2007 WGP250" motorcycle model kit is a crotch rocket with some serious attitude.


With its white, deep yellow and red paint scheme and solid yellow wheels the bullet-shaped cycle burns up the racetrack like an aerodynamic missile.


This Limited Edition, two-wheel, tornado model recreates the famous six out of seven winner of the All Japan Racing Championship held in 2005 as driven by Shuhei Aoyama.


The Repsol Honda RS250RW went on to win various races with other drivers and continues to amaze motorcycle-racing fans each year.


Five part trees make up the model kit including a separate bag containing tubing. Rubber wheels fit snuggly over the customized wheels. Parts detach easily from the part trees with minimal flashing and once painted assemble easily and snuggly with no gaps or mismatched surfaces.


Full assembly instructions are included along with paint instructions. The decals slip easily off the single decal sheet once wet and application is a snap using the comprehensive instructions.


Once completed the model is ready for display on its custom stand.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ultimate, Simon, Sniper And Encounters


Mill Creek Entertainment just released a quartet of DVD collections covering everything from a TV show to alternate dimensions.


Back in the 1980s Thursday nights were my favorite time of the week. My all-time favorite TV show, Magnum P.I., was followed by, my then, second favorite TV series, Simon & Simon.


The show centered on the unlikely duo of vastly different brothers, A.J. and Rick, who operated a detective agency. Their unusual and sometimes questionable detective skills always landed them in trouble, which they always managed to get out of at the last moment. Mill Creek presents the Best Of Season Three of Simon & Simon with a selection of the top 10 episodes from that season.


For pure fun, with a little danger and intrigue thrown in, don't miss this very special collection of Simon & Simon episodes.


For the youngsters (and I admit for some of us oldsters) comes a delightful collection of video shorts that explore Boats, Ships, Cars, Construction, Fire Engines, Trucks, Buildings, Dinosaurs, Horses and Old McDonald's in a fun, exciting and educational way that makes learning a delight. What kid, or a kid at heart, doesn't love looking and learning about such things?


A new 5-part documentary looks at The Unseen Warrior; The Sniper. Learn what it takes to become a sniper, the history of snipers thought the various wars, the different types of snipers there are and much more. It takes a special breed of person to become a sniper and this new series looks at the steps necessary to complete in order to qualify.


I don't necessarily believe is such things as ghosts, UFOs and the like but it sure it fun to imagine and speculate about them. Encounters From Another Dimension, a 7 Documentary Set, examines unusual phenomenon ranging from aliens, crop circles, UFOs and more. If you're into the possibility of intelligent life existing in other parts of the universe and that they have visited in the past or are currently on earth, then this is the documentary you have got to have.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Complete Star Trek: The Next Generation Series 1

Although Star Trek disappeared from TV screens as an original series several years ago with Enterprise, the Star Trek fan base still exists stronger than ever.

When Star Trek: The Next Generation first appeared on TV there were mixed reactions from the fans.  Diehard original series fans weren't so sure they could warm up to a new Enterprise crew while others were excited to see Star Trek, in any form, back on TV.

With the success of the Star Trek movies fans were clamoring for more Trek.  While staying true to the original series, TNG soon found its own voice and so was launched a new Star Trek TV series franchise that would soon spawn three other Trek series: Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise.

Rittenhouse Archive (Sci-Fi Hobby) has released a new Star Trek: The Next Generation Trading Cards series that covers the first half of the acclaimed series.  Over 500 images are taken from the first 88 episodes. 

Five Cards come per Pack with 24 Packs per Box.  Each Box is guaranteed to contain four Autograph Cards.  Mine consists of Jeff McCarthy, Dana Sparks, Alan Shearman and William Denis.  Fans should be on the look out for randomly inserted Cut Signature Gene Roddenberry Cards.

Other randomly inserted Bonus Cards include 18 Tribute Cards (I received 4), 13 Alien Cards (3 for me), 9 Enterprise Cards (2), 5 Communicator Pin Cards (zip) and 90 Parallel Base Cards (8).  All of the Bonus Cards are on high-gloss stock while the 90 Regular Base Cards are on matt finish stock.

Special multiple Case purchase incentives and a Collectors Album are also available.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fantasy & Science Fiction #696, July/August

For the months of July and August comes The Magazine Of Fantasy & Science Fiction packed full of sci-fi and fantasy stories from veteran writers and up-and-coming hopefuls.

Be sure and look at the different Department articles such as the book reviews by Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Hand, Paul Di Filippo's Plumage From Pegasus and Curiosities, Films from Lucius Shepard, Science as covered by Paul Doherty and Pat Murphy and Coming Attractions.

Stories include The Ants Of Flanders, Bronsky's Date With Death, The Ramshead Algorithm, The Way It Works Out And All, Less Stately Mansions, Hair, Sir Morgravain Speaks Of Night Dragons And Other Things and Someone Like You. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vinylmation Robots


Too cool! Disney Stores' Vinylmation has a new series coming out called (drum roll please) Vinylmation Robots. Twelve robots make up the 3-inch vinyl set. All are articulated in the arms and head and feature futuristic robot mechanical paint schemes decorating a Mickey vinyl figure.


Here's where the collector fun comes in. Boxes contain one robot each along with a miniature collector's card. But you don't know what robot comes in what box. No cheating though. Open the box and the figure is sealed in a silver bag. My suggestion, either buy a bunch or if you get a duplicate, trade with your friends or other collectors!


My robot is the talkative Communication Bot designed by Disney Store Artist, Oskar Mendez. ComBot is painted in black, gray and yellow with tape reel ears, speaker belly and decorated in all sorts of sound and visual ports and speakers. One hand is open and one is closed, but be careful, he may be listening! Disney does vinyl right. Buy them when they arrive-they're sure to be collector items.

Friday, July 15, 2011

F-4B/N Phantom II

The F-4B/N Phantom II is a supersonic aircraft used by many nations in the free world.  Capable of all-weather flight, it is used not only by the United States in all of its military branches but by other free nations as well.  Capable of air and ground assaults the carrier based aircraft, first produced in 1958, comes equipped with three fuel tanks, standard armament and weapons and carries a crew of two. 

The Hasegawa Hobby Kits' model is scaled at 1:72 and comes with complete paint and decal instructions for Navy and Marine configurations.  Landing gear can be assembled either up or down and assembly is easy using the detailed instructions.  Eight part trees hold the finely-crafted parts that detach easily with little or no flashing and fit together snuggly when glued. 

A decal sheet is also is included along with a detailed instructions sheet with full paint and decal instructions and a short historical piece about the aircraft.  A full color painting of two F-4B/R Phantom IIs graces the front of the box.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Martian Summer

Join author Andrew Kessler as he recounts his adventures as the first-ever outside observer to be allowed into mission control of the Phoenix Mars Mission.  Having won a special 'nerd lottery' Andrew was thrilled to have the opportunity to see 'mature' space professionals at work.  Yeah, right!

What he discovered as he spent his 'virtual' summer on Mars was political backstabbing, temperamental machinery and a lack of sleep. 

But, the real payoff came when he witnessed never-seen-before sites on Mars, made incredible discoveries and despite their differences of opinions -- real professionals at work.

Through it all the author keeps his wicked sense of humor as he recalls his Martian Summer--Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen And My 90 Days With The Phoenix Mars Mission, published by Pegasus Books LLC.  

Dreams Of The Dead

From Gallery Books comes author Perri O'Shaughnessy's (sisters Mary and Pamela) latest Nina Reilly nail-biting mystery.

Bombarded by personal problems concerning her son and his estranged father, Nina is unprepared for the disaster that walks through her door.

Philip Strong, father of sociopath Jim Strong whom she had to defend against charges of murder and then vanished, contacts her.  It seems he's received a letter from his son who is demanding half of the proceeds from the upcoming sale of his ski resort.  Philip believes the letter to be real, Nina is not convinced.

Then two local women are murdered and Nina starts to question her new client's real motives and the disappearance of his son.

Suddenly Nina's worst fears threaten to resurface and she soon discovers that the dreams of the dead can threaten the living.

Perri O'Shaughnessy delivers a breakneck thriller with so many twists and turns and startling secrets it's almost impossible to put the book down.  No one writes such compelling legal thrillers better than the O'Shaughnessy sisters.

The Secret Of Crickley Hall


I've never been a big 'horror' book reader.  Sure I like Stephen King and a few other authors but I never deliberately search for new horror titles. 

But, something intrigued me by about James Herbert's new novel, The Secret Of Crickley Hall.  It's a haunted house story. But it's not just any old haunted house story.  No, it's far more than that.  It's scary on many levels.

Enter the Caleigh family-nothing remarkable about them-just your average family consisting of a mom, dad and two children: girls.

The father has accepted a job in a remote rural area and rented a rather stark old manor for the summer.  His wife, slowly recovering from the disappearance of her young son almost a year ago, reluctantly agrees to the move, as do the two daughters.

Once in the old Crickley Manor they family begin to witness strange happenings: voice and noises during the night, the appearance of ghosts and disturbing physical encounters with a strange nude ghost wielding a cane.

As the mother delves into the past of the Manor what she discovers is a horrifying tale of death and dementia.  But can the horror be stopped before it envelops and smothers the entire Caleigh family?

The Secret Of Crickley Hall, published by Tor, is chilling horror story that bends and twists the genre so that the reader never knows what to expect.  The real horror of the book is the uncertainty of the outcome that the author cleverly orchestrates and directs.  I was truly scared and yet I could not put the book down.

Intrigue Through Time

Imagine being an Egyptian nobleman who suddenly dies and is buried with all of your treasure. Reawakened in the 21st Century, you must adjust to you new life quickly in order to survive.

Voraciously devouring as much knowledge about your new world as possible you slowly formulate a plan to return to your ancient Egyptian burial place and recover your treasure.


Along the way you immerse yourself in the culture of your new home, ply its many pleasures, including a bevy of lovers, and soon find success few can imagine.


Author Frederick Monderson invites readers along for the ride as he explores the ties between ancient Egypt and modern America through the exploits of his fictional character.


Published by SuMon Publishers, Intrigue Through Time's new updated version includes photos that serve to intertwine the present and past tightly together.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Archie & Friends #156 And The Archie Babies


Archie Comics has two great titles coming out this month (actually, ALL of Archie titles are great and family friendly).  Archie & Friends #156 finds Archie and his gang storming the Riverdale Comic Con in costume!  See if you can spot all the different comic book and movie characters throughout the book. Sabrina, Josie And The Pussy Cats, That Wilkin Boy and a certain sentient robot are also on hand. 

Everyone is entering the costume contest, but is everyone really in costume?  You'll have to pick up this issue to find out for yourself.

Ever wonder what Archie and his friends were like as babies?  Well, wait no longer as Archie Comics presents its first-ever original graphic novel.  Writer Mike Kunkel (Herobear And The Kid) and artist Art Mawhinney (Baby Looney Tunes and Rugrats) combine their awesome talents to bring The Archie Babies to life.

Learn how all of the Archie gang first met and follow their imaginary adventures and even go on a lion hunt.  What a delightful book.  Kudos to Archie Comics for releasing such a fun and exciting book that comic book fans of all ages can enjoy-even a comic book curmudgeon like myself.

Red Skull Incarnate #1

When I saw the cover of Marvel Comics' Red Skull Incarnate #1 I immediately visualized the Nazi propaganda posters of WWII.  It's a chilling image with the face of the Red Skull overlooking an Allied city being bombed by the Nazi bombers-it's very Baus Haus.
Although Doctor Doom was the first true Marvel Modern Age super villain and is considered the ultimate Marvel bad guy by many I have always had a fondness (if you can call it that) for the Red Skull.

Doctor Doom personifies the sophisticated villain who doesn't see himself as a villain.  On the other hand, the red Skull is pure evil for evil's sake.  But, was he always that way?

There have been a few hints as to the Red Skull's past, most notably that he was handpicked by the Fuhrer himself because he saw in his eyes (even as a bellboy) pure unadulterated hatred.  Little has been explored about his early life as a child-until now.

Writer Greg Pak and artist Mirko Colak, along with colorist Matthew Wilson, delve into the troubled past of the youth who would one day become the most merciless and horrendous villain ever imagined. 

Johann Schmidt was an orphan.  His mother had died in childbirth and he was in the Munich Home For Wayward Boys.  The headmaster was a cruel man who considered Johann a mistake, a vermin and totally worthless.  Life was hard and his life in the Boy's Home made him even harder. 
One day he made his escape and on that day his life would change forever.  For on that day he learned what true hatred was.

Red Skull Incarnate simply tells a story.  No sides are taken.  In it readers witness how circumstances in life can shape a person-sometimes for the good and in the case of Johann-for the bad.  I was surprised that I came away feeling sorry for Johann.  Red Skull Incarnate is a brilliant piece of writing.  When a writer can make me actually feel sympathy for a bad guy it's a rare thing.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Rio

When Blu, a domesticated Macaw, and his master: Moose Lake, Minnesota resident Linda, discover that Blu is not the last of his kind, they immediately fly of to Rio de Janeiro to find Jewel, Blu's female counterpart.

But, like most plans, things go awry when a group of bungling bird smugglers kidnaps Blu and Jewel.  With the help of a city-slicker birds, Jewel and Blu plan their escape. There's only one problem though-Blu never learned how to fly!

Rio follows the madcap adventures of Blu and Jewel as they teach Blue how to fly, avoid the pursuing kidnappers and try to return Blu to his best friend ever-Linda. 

Brought to you by the same animation geniuses behind Ice Age, Rio is filled with memorable characters, stunning visuals, toe tapping and dance enhancing tunes and music that are sure to send your spirit sore.  Hey, it's Rio! What else can you expect?
DVD extras include interviews with the voice actors, the creation of the music sound track and much, much more-from 20th Century Fox.

EA-18G Growler

Hasegawa Hobby Kits' new 1:48 Scale EA-18G Growler is an amazing model kit! No, it's not a scale model of a pesky dog or an old disgruntled neighbor; it's a scale model of a fighter jet that has so much ordinance that it's a wonder it can fly.

The U.S. Navy Carrier-Borne ECM Aircraft is often referred to as the Super Hornet because of its extra fuel tanks and larger engine.  With its extended wings, airframe modifications and tweaks to its electronic systems and avionics the Growler had its first test flight in 2006 and went into production in 2007. 

The Growler boasts all the latest gadgets: including a tactical jamming system, accident prevention gear, an onboard Vulcan cannon with electronic measures, anti-aircraft missiles and air-to-air weapons.

The Hasegawa Hobby Kits' model comes packaged in large box with a full color illustration of the Growler in flight on the cover.  Inside are full instructions on how to assemble, paint and decal the model, along with a short history of the aircraft.

Parts come attached to 10 part trees and easily detach with little or no flashing.  Assembling the parts is easy as they fit snuggly together with no gaps or mismatched surfaces. 

Paint and decal application instructions allow modelers to match the configuration of the larger aircraft to the smallest detail.  The model may be assembled with the landing gear up or down, the pilot in place or not and the ladder used to enter the aircraft in place or not. 

The Growler is a model maker's model.  It requires a more skilled modeler to assemble it, but the results are well worth the time spent on putting it together.

Sucker Punch

Regardless of your opinion of director Zack Snyder's latest movie, Sucker Punch, may be everyone can agree that the visual look and feel of the movie is phenomenal.
Never before have visual effects been used so effectively in a movie's storyline. Everything from the costumes, fight scenes, scenarios, and computer generated sets, effects, characters and atmosphere synched perfectly with the pounding soundtrack, quick and quirky dialogue and memorable characters.
In Titan Books' and Zack Snyder's new book: The Art Of The Film Sucker Punch, a complete visual chronicle of the film is laid out in full color photos beginning with character and set designs, color and lighting tests, production illustrations, visual effects, fight choreography and all other pre and post production stages are addressed.


It's a visual and imagination-stimulating book that allows readers to delve into the creative mind of one of the most innovative new writer and director to ever assemble a film in decades.






As a designer myself I am stunned and awed at the pure creativity that oozes from both the film and book.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Time Warrior And The Time Monster


I have a serious case of Doctor Whoitus.  Ever since I rediscovered Doctor Who while watching my local PBS station I can't get enough of the Doctor.  I've checked Doctor who DVDs out from the library, watched earlier episodes on You Tube, bought books, read magazines, searched comic books shops for Doctor Who comics and starting collecting Doctor Who toys from Underground Toys.
Recently two new Doctor Who action figure sets have been released and like all of Underground Toys' Doctor Who play sets, each is amazing.  Figure articulation is second to none, sculpting captures the likeness of whatever Doctor Who figure or supporting cast or alien is represented perfectly and paint application on the figures and accessories is clean and crisp with no bleed over or sloppiness.

These are high-class figures and sets and it shows from the packaging with its clean front viewing panel to its color photos and biographical and informative text on the back.
First up from 1972 comes the Master dressed in all black with his sinister slicked back hair and goatee and hawk-like predatory features.  The Master comes with a Tardis disguised as a state-of-the-art Computer Bank and the Crystal of Kronos, the Master's TCE, and the Doctor's time sensor device.

The disguised Tardis looks like a typical computer from the 1970s with twin large tape reels, recessed control panel and large top mounted cooling vent.  The handheld devices match their larger TV versions, right down to their color and configuration.

'The Time Warrior" Collector's Set includes the Third Doctor dressed impeccably in his green jacket, white ruffled shirt, black bowtie and black pants and shoes.   His unkempt gray hair and aged features look just like the real Doctor.

Linx, the Sontaran is also included.  He stands dressed in his black and silver space suit with large oversized helmet that con be placed over his oversize bald head.  He comes with a small hand weapon and equipment belt while the Doctor comes with his Sonic Screwdriver.  Each figure holds their respective items easily.

A multi-faceted Sontaran spacecraft is included with working front hatch and interior seat and controls for Linx.  When displayed, the contents of the Set look like they come right out of the aforementioned episode.