Popular Culture Collectibles Reviews

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rory, Journal And Vortex



Just when I think that Underground Toys/Character Option,LTD. can’t improve their Doctor Who action figures/playsets/accessories along comes a new set of merchandise that proves me wrong.

This time around three new items up the ante when it comes to quality and ingenuity.
The Doctor Who action figures have always been some of the best produced.  All feature full-articulation, tight paint and color application, scaled to fit accessories and boxes and bubble packs that make viewing the pieces easy.  Colorful photos or art let the consumer see what they are paying for.

The new Rory Williams figure is one of the best I’ve seen.  Highly detailed, the figure looks just like Rory (no easy feat because Rory is not the kind of character that has overly exaggerated features). The face sculpt is finely crafted right down to the white of its eyes. The hairline and facial skin are very distinct, the hands are correctly proportioned and look natural in their poses and the ‘weight’ and ‘balance’ of the figure are not forced.

The figure comes dressed in a red flannel shirt, a blue, padded vest, grey pants and brown shoes.  While others may think that it is a plain figure, I disagree. Taking an ordinary person and successfully duplicating them in action figure form is far more difficult than creating a wild alien creature or a heavily armed or decorated figure. The subtlety of the figure speaks volumes about the craftsmanship put into it.

The 9th doctor started the new series of Doctor Who episodes and stories.  He introduced not only a new Sonic Screwdriver but also something called the Vortex Manipulator. The craftsmen at Underground Toys/Character Option, LTD. have faithfully and accurately reproduced both in a new accessory set that Doctor Who fans are sure to enjoy.

The leather-like wristband Vortex manipulator features a functionally wrist band on which rests a wide leather-like section in two pieces.  The underside wraps on the wrist while the upper piece (riveted in place by four brass fasteners) holds the flip case Vortex Manipulator. Both the Manipulator and Sonic Screwdriver feature blue LED lights and appear exactly as they do in the TV series.

The Sonic Screwdriver is sculpted in a faux cracked texture with both ends ending it a device trimmed in silver.

The Journal Of Impossible Things contains 78 printed pages along with 22 blank pages that Doctor Who fans can fill out on their own.  The leather-like Journal fits easily into a jacket pocket and is held in place by a strap.  Colorful illustrations are liberally sprinkled throughout the Journal as are notes written by the various Doctors.  Included with the Journal is a duplicate of the Master’s Ring complete with a Time Vortex decoration.

Delve through the Journal’s pages and discover some the secrets the Doctor keeps within.  Place the Ring on your finger and imagine the power of The Master-but be careful; the Ring’s evil emanations may go to your head!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Massive Black Volume Two


I was born 35 years too early.  I studied graphic design, painting, drawing, etc. at the University Of Miami which I graduated from in 1977.  

Star Wars came out that year, special effects were just starting to show their potential in movies, computer animation was only a dream, personal computers did not exist. 
Photoshop and other programs had yet to be conceptualized, print was king-but photo and art reproduction was lackluster at best and imagination was frowned upon in the work-a-day world of commercial art.

Ad agencies handled the bulk of media advertising and TV, print and outdoor advertising seemed content to produce 'safe' advertising for products.  

If an individual or company dared to step over the 'acceptable' norm of advertising or design they were met with skepticism, ridicule and suspicion.  I was taught to 'take it safe' and stick with traditional design principles.

All work was done by hand, pasted up on boards, spec'd for printers and after what seemed like forever would finally see print. Corporations ran the show and individual expression was frowned upon.  Opportunities to excel were few.

With the introduction of affordable computers, design programs, video games and vastly improved imaginative advertising for movie, music and other forms of mass entertainment, things began to change.

Creativity was, and is, encouraged.  More high-quality artwork created primarily on computer is everywhere.  Artists can now design and redesign characters, vehicles, etc. on computer and relatively easily change costumes, lighting, hues, effects and so forth.

Movies, TV, online, print and social networks all have intertwined and changed the way we see commercial art.

Graphic designers have now become proficient in computer technology, hardware, software and programming.  More than just designers, the new generation of graphic designers have become experts at human anatomy, clothing, vehicles, landscapes, lighting, shading and so forth.

Having said all that I am extremely impressed by Ballistic Publishing's new book chronicling the artwork of Massive Black: a topnotch design house that employs some of the most talented artists in the world.

Massive Black Volume Two contains concept and finished art from projects completed between 2008 and 2012. Every conceivable type of work is showcased from video game to movie character, vehicle and environment concepts.

Stunning art is showcased on each page and as I flipped through the book the art just kept getting better and better.  Talk about a visual overload!  It is truly and astounding collection of art complemented with informative text tidbits and notes.  

The deluxe softbound book is wrapped in a solid white cover with a varnished Massive Black logo on its cover.  A solid white slipcase protects the book which makes for a clean, eye-pleasing design.

Everything about this book screams first class from its exterior to its breath-taking interior art. 
As I stated earlier, I was born 35 years too early.  I wish I had had such technology and freedom available to me as a young professional.  

No regrets though-I get to enjoy the incredible talent of the Massive Black artists and get to encourage young designers to take advantage of the vast array of technology available to them today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nine Times The Exercise



If I didn't know better I'd swear that Lionsgate is trying to tell me something.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and like all Americans I will overeat, wallow in my over-indulgence and promise to go on a diet and (shutter!) exercise.

It seems that Lionsgate has anticipated the holiday gluttony season and has taken the steps necessary to whip we lazy Americans back into shape-at least until next year.

Nine (count them nine!) DVDs have just been released by Lionsgate-all of them pertaining to diet and exercise.  Least you think that you are spared. Every conceivable type of exercise and fitness angle has been covered.  So, you have no excuse-neither do  I.

Fortunately I caught the exercise bug a couple of years ago and I manage to keep my weight down.  Of course turning 60 in one month had nothing to do with it.  If you believe that then I have a pill that will miraculously loose weight and obtain washboard abs.  Right....

Jimmy Pena presents a 30-day body toning system that not only tones your body but strengthens your faith-it even includes weekly devotionals with Pray Fit.

Billy Blanks Jr. takes DVD viewers to Boot Camp with his Dance Party comprised of 30-minute intense workouts.  Boogie and burn calories!

Step Up Revolution Dance Workout takes music and moves to the movies with its Hip-Hop and Latin dance routines.

Who says ballet is for sissies?  Get ready for a Body Blast as Mary Helen Bowers introduces Ballet-Inspired workouts in Ballet Beautiful.

The Biggest Loser lets viewers join the challenge with its Power X-Train and Power Ab Blast.  Cross train and burn fat-it ain't easy folks!

Denise Austin: America's Favorite Fitness Expert offers two exercise and weight reduction DVDs: Shrink Your 5 Fat Zones and Fit In A Flash.  It's head-to-toe fitness for the entire body.

The grandmother of the fitness DVD craze: Jane Fonda, introduces fitness seekers to AM/PM Yoga For Beginners.  Five workouts are included.


So, there you have it.  No excuses! Get out there and exercise.  After pigging out at Thanksgiving or course.


Monday, November 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises



What more can possibly be said about director Christopher Nolan's unique and ground-breaking conclusion to his re-imagineering of the Batman in the final chapter of his Dark Knight Trilogy that has not already be said?

Brilliant, masterful, spectacular, startling, jaw-dropping, unexpected, nerve-shattering....and on and on.

The Dark Knight Rises takes place approximately 10 years after Bruce Wayne hangs up his Batman cape and cowl.  Gotham City is relatively peaceful until the dark, dangerous and mysterious Bane arrives.

His sole purpose is to destroy Gotham for its 'sins'.  His reign of terror effectively isolates Gotham City from the outside world and terror rules the streets.

Bruce Wayne once again dons the Batman mantle and is subsequently defeated, as is his Bruce Wayne alter ego.  From the ashes The Dark Knight Rises and The Caped Crusader must face off against the most cruel and powerful adversary he has ever confronted.

Smart, capable, every bit as smart as the Dark Knight and just as lethal when using his body as a weapon and possessing all sorts of destructive 'toys' Bane is the flip side of the Dark Knight.  Throw in Catwoman and a surprise villain and The Dark Knight Rises makes for a fitting end to a spectacular trilogy that completely redefined Batman for a new generation. 

The Blu-ray/DVD/Ultraviloet Combo Pack from Warner Bros. also contains featurettes about the Batmobile, the final movie in the Dark Knight Trilogy, a Dark Knight Rises app and much, much more!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series


The most prominent memory I have of the original Power Rangers team was how excited my son was when for Christmas he opened up one of his presents and there-miraculously-was a 12-inch White Tiger Power Ranger action figure. If he only knew what his poor mother went through to get it! 

Our son loved the Power Rangers-he had all of the figures, vehicles, playsets and VHS tapes.  He and his best friend Kyle, when they were 9 or 10 years of age, almost wet themselves when I treated them to a live-action Power Rangers Extravaganza performed at the local sport coliseum.

We managed to get sets in the front section and with our trusty, and expensive programs, watched nearly two hours of martial arts and magic mayhem performed live on stage.  
  
Thousands of young kids with their parent were there.  The place was a madhouse!

Shout! Factory and Saban Brands LLC recapture the phenomenon that swept the country with their new Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series, 145 episode, 19 DVD set.
The entire original series is here along with the 10-episode Power Rangers: Alien Rangers series.  Relive the magic that started a brand new live-action phenomenon.

Included with the complete series are some special featurettes about the cast, a Power Rangers Club video, how to become a Ranger, a villain retrospective and much more.
You'll even get to see the Power Rangers Live: The World Tour my son, friend and I enjoyed! "Go! Go! Power Rangers!"

Scooby Doo! 13 Spooky Tales


"Scooby Dooby Doo!"  For over four decades that phrase has been the calling card for the most popular canine character ever created for Saturday Morning TV.  Scooby Doo and his Scooby Gang have captured the imaginations and hearts of countless fans from all over the world.  A TV series, comic books, books, movies, toys-you name it-Scooby Doo has conquered it.

Scooby Doo! 13 Spooky Tales: Holiday Chills And Thrills has just been released on DVD from Warner Bros.  With over four hours of fun plus and all-new holiday special this is the ultimate Doo Fest!

Follow Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne as they travel the globe in search of adventure and ghosts, ghoulies and other things that go bump in the night.

The Scooby Gang encounter a snow creature, a sinister snowman and other holiday horrors as they put on a Christmas Pageant, save an old toy store and manage to bump into a Christmas Ghost, Bigfoot and plenty of trouble.

So bring a bowl of Scooby Snacks, fire up the Mystery Machine and get ready to take part in some hilarious holiday hi-jinx!

Previews, December



Here’s a few new items you need to check out in Diamond Previews for December 2012.

Comics
Fairy Quest #1
Garth Ennis; Red Team #1
The Shadow: Year One #1
Guardians Of The Galaxy #1
Nova #1
UncannyX-Mern #1
Fearless Defenders #1
Secret Avengers #1
Justice League Of America #1
Katana #1
Vibe #1
G.I. Joe #1
Snapshot #1

Books And Magazines
Albert Dorne: Master Illustrator HC
Doctor Who Character Compendium HC
Star Trek Visual Dictionary HC

Trading Cards
Star Trek: The Original Series: Heroes & Villains Trading Cards

Toys
Marvel Legends 6-Inch Action Figures
Medal of Honor: Warfighter: Preacher 1/6-Scale Action Figure
Ms. Marvel: Warbird Statue
Star Wars: Darth Maul Spider Statue
Silent Hill 2: Red Pyramid Thing 1/6-Scale Statue
Amazing Spider-Man: Venom Unbound Fine Art Statue
The Dark Knight Trilogy Play Arts
Frankenweenie Plushes
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Play Arts

Games
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Board Game
Magic the Gathering TCG: Gatecrash Expansion
Robinson Crusoe Adventures On The Cursed Island

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Back Issue! #61, December



In this issue of Back Issue!, from Twomorrows Publishing, the oversize Tabloids and Treasure issues so prevalent during the 1970s from both Marvel and DC Comics are examined.

Included are looks at superhero, Biblical, holiday, movie adaptations, fantasy, sci-fi and other genre oversize collections that introduced a new type of comic book story-LARGE!

Classic such as DC Comics Superman versus Muhammad Ali, Superman Versus Batman, The Bible, Oz, Bicentennial, LSH, crossovers and other publishers’ contributions are included.

Look for lots of original pencil pages and there is even a visual index of all the Tabloids and Treasuries created during the Bronze Age of comics.

Fantastic Four #1 And All New X-Men #1




Two new titles for Marvel Comics’ Marvel Now! re-launch/revise/rejuvenate series of releases are shaping up very well if their first issues are any indication. 

In Fantastic Four #1 author Matt Fraction and artist Mark Bagley take the team in a whole new direction.

When Reed discovers that the gamma mutation that gave the Fantastic Four their powers is starting to degrade and will possibly kill them he takes desperate measures.

Not telling the other team members, Reed has surmised that energy from an unknown universe may hold the key to their cure.

Approaching the other FF members and their kids and wards, Reed suggests that everyone take a ‘vacation’ of sorts. The journey will involve exploring new universe, other planets and various time lines-sort of a inter-dimensional family vacation.  Under the guise of a vacation Reed will use the time to try and discover a cure for their degrading condition.  

Since the ship they will be using can traverse time what would be a year to them would only be a couple of days to the outside world.  That’s the beauty of time travel.  They could depart, travel for a year and return the next day in regular time thus avoiding leaving the world defenseless.  Everyone agrees and so the journey begins.

This new storyline has me excited.  For too long the Fantastic Four have been enmeshed in super heroics and somehow lost the ‘fantastic’ in the Fantastic Four.

If handled correctly much of the magic of the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee era may be recaptured.  I plan on sticking around to find out.

A different kind of time travel journey happens in All New X-Men #1.
After the world-shattering events in X-Men Vs…… Cyclops and several other mutants have taken upon themselves to become the ‘saviors’ of the new mutants that are starting to appear all over the world.  In order to save them Cyclops and co-patriots will use any means necessary-even violence.

The X-Men are left in a precarious position of opposing their old team mate.  But how do they do it without causing a conflict between mutants?

Hank McCoy, the Beast, has problems of his own.  His body is starting to mutate again and after testing himself he discovers that this will be his final mutation-one that will kill him.

So he decides to take drastic measures in order to solve the mutant conflict before he dies.  He travels to the past and meets both himself and the original X-Men when they were young.  His mission? Bring them to his present, their future, and have them stop Scott Summers (Cyclops) from starting Mutant genocide.