Monday, September 30, 2013

Monster Cereals Are Back!

This Fall Target's bringing scary back! Just in time for Halloween, they're releasing ALL the General Mills Nonster Cereals in special retro packaging!

As a graphic designer it's great to see these old-school designs back on the shelves. Makes me feel like a kid again.

Actually I never ate these cereals very often. I've always liked the characters more than I ever liked the actual cereal. Something about the way the marshmallow bits got all slimy when coated with milk was very off-putting to me.

Target didn't just bring back the main triumvirate of Monster Cereals, no-siree! Hold onto something-- they're bringing back two old discontinued favorites: Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy! Can you believe it?

Fruit Brute left store shelves way back in 1982, but it's making its triumphant return this fall! At long last you'll finally be able to accurately recreate your Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction cosplay outfits.

Yummy Mummy's back as well! It hasn't been seen on store shelves since it was discontinued in 1992. Finally you'll be able to relive the night you sat shoveling spoonfuls of Yummy Mummy into your mouth while you watched Marissa Tomei win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for My Cousin Vinny!

I'm glad Target is releasing the original package designs instead of the new over-rendered, faux 3D abominations. Look at those god awful things! Just glancing at them gives me a headache. Only a Philistine would prefer those versions.

These old school retro Monster Cereals are available for a limited time at Target. By the way, for those of you who are wondering, these are just reproductions of the original boxes. They're not thirty year old boxes of cereal that Target found in an abandoned warehouse they acquired in a buyout. At least I don't think they'd try something like that... no, I'm sure it's all brand new. Yes, pretty sure. Reasonably sure. You know what, you might want to check the expiration date, just to be safe.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: The Munsters Action Figures

Diamond Select recently released a wave of figures based on the 1964 TV series The Munsters. 1964? Cheezus, that only took forty nine years! 

The first wave consists of all five members of the Munster family, plus a healthy selection of accessories. A second wave of figures is planned for later this year.

I loved monsters when I was a kid, so naturally I was a huge fan of The Munsters. What kid wouldn't love it? A sitcom starring honest to goodness monsters! What more could a kid ask for?

As soon as I heard the theme song I'd run into the living room, plant myself in front of the TV and eagerly soak it all in. All activity in the house had to stop while the show was on, less you risk a shushing by me. I'm surprised by parents indulged me so.

So what's up with all these toy companies just now releasing figures from shows that aired in the 1960s? Mattel just came out with a Batman TV show line, forty some years after the fact. Timely!

Supposedly there are two versions of each figure: the Select versions shown here, which each come with a piece of Herman's electric easy chair as a bonus, and a regular retail version without the extra pieces. I've never seen these figures in a regular store (which isn't surprising, considering they're based on a half-century old TV show), so I can't confirm this.

First up is Herman, the patriarch of the Munster family, as played by Fred Gwynne. Naturally he's the tallest of the figures, clocking in around 8.25."

Among his accessories is his enormous lunchbox, which sadly doesn't open. 

Did you know that in addition to being an actor, Fred Gwynne was also an artist and writer? He wrote and illustrated a series of fun kid's books back in the 1970s. His books were generally about puns and include The King Who Rained, A Little Pigeon Toad and A Chocolate Moose For Dinner. 

I kind of wish they'd have gone with a less glossy paint for his suit. Not very many people wear high-gloss clothing in real life. It's not quite as shiny in person though; the flash added some extra highlights.

Sculpting-wise, these figures are more stylized than realistic; just short of cartoonish. That's fine, as the show was pretty much a live-action cartoon anyway. This is a pretty decent likeness of Herman, and features his typical sweet, unassuming smile. The likeness looks much better in person. It looks even more like Gwynne when the eyes are in shadow under the prominent brow. The camera flash deleted the shadow.

Diamond Select actually went to the effort of sculpting Herman's shirt to look like real fabric! Well done, guys!

When Frankenstein premiered way back in 1931, Universal Studios had the foresight to copyright the Monster's ground breaking makeup (designed by Jack Pierce). Universal knew that since the Frankenstein story was in the public domain, other studios were free to make their own adaptations, but the copyright prevented them from copying Boris Karloff's iconic look.

Luckily for The Munsters, the series was owned by Universal so they could use Pierce's Monster makeup for Herman.

The figure's skin color isn't quite as bluish in person as it appears here. It's more of a light or sea green.

One thing I always wondered about the Frankenstein monster-- why did he have a flat head? I get that Dr. Frankenstein sawed off the top of the Monster's skull in order to replace the brain, but why would that flatten it out? Then one day it occurred to me that maybe that's not the top of his skull. Maybe the Doctor replaced it with a flat steel plate and fastened it down with those clamps you see. I don't know if that's the official explanation or not, but that's what I'm going with until I find out otherwise. 

Herman's quite well articulated for a bulky figure like this. He has a ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders and elbows, unusual double articulation in his wrists, and waist, hip, mid-thigh, knee and ankle joints.

He can even stand on one foot, a rare feat (no pun intended) in the world of action figures. Here he is checking his shoe for gum.

One thing I noticed about these figures-- they're heavy! Surprisingly heavy. Good, solid, stay-where-they're-put-and-won't-topple-to-the-floor heavy. Heavy is good! It makes me feel like I'm getting my money's worth. 

Next we have Lily Munster, Herman's long suffering wife.

They did an amazing paint job on Lily's funeral gown; the subtle purple highlights add depth and visual interest and make it look like it's folding and draping like real fabric.They even sculpted some texture in the black bands tied around her waist!

Lily's quite well articulated, but unfortunately much of it's hindered by the sculpt. She has a ball jointed head, but its movement's restricted quite a bit by her long hair (which hangs down nearly to her knees). She has what may be ball jointed shoulders, but I'm not quite sure. They kind of look like ball joints, but don't move like them. She has pin elbow joints, and mid forearm joints. No wrist joints for some reason. Maybe that would have made her wrists too bulky? 

She has an unusual ball jointed waist (that allows it to twist and bend forward) and has hip, mid thigh, knee and ankle joints. Unfortunately all the  articulation below her waist is completely useless as her less are enclosed inside her rubbery plastic gown. Why they went to all the trouble to add all that articulation when it can't ever be utilized, I have no idea.

It's a pretty good likeness of Yvonne DeCarlo; especially in the eyes and lips. 

Lily comes with a grandfather clock accessory, complete with the wisecracking raven that lives inside (see below for a pic of all the accessories).

Herman, Lily and Grandpa all sported pale green makeup like this on the show. I always wondered about that. Why go to all the trouble of painting them green when the series was filmed in black and white? Maybe they did color tests and found that green looked best on film, who knows?

Next is Grandpa Munster, as played by veteran actor Al Lewis. 

Even though everyone always calls him Grandpa Munster, that's not his real name. He's Lily's father after all, so his family name couldn't be the same as Herman's. According to Grandpa, his name is actually Sam Dracula (!).

The Munsters was the second time Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis worked together on a TV series. They both starred in 1961's Car 54 Where Are You? (which you should try and track down, as it's a surprisingly funny show!). 

It's a decent sculpt of Grandpa; I can definitely see Al Lewis in there. Oddly enough in the pilot episode, Lewis' makeup included a long prosthetic nose. If ever there was a man who didn't need a fake nose, it was Al Lewis.

There's quite a bit of detail in Grandpa's sculpt, especially in his tuxedo. You can't quite see it here, but they even added a fabric texture to his vest!

The dark green wash they used to bring out the detail in his face looks harsher here in extreme closeup; again this isn't as evident and obvious in person.

Grandpa wins the prize in the accessories department, as he comes with a table, a test tube rack, five flasks, a stand with large globe and three books (see below for a pic of all the accessories).

Grandpa came with a piece of clear plastic tubing so you could attach his pet bat Igor to his back to simulate flight. Unfortunately the tubing was way too short-- when I attached it  Igor was hidden behind Grandpa's head. So I used one of the numerous wire twist ties in the package to fashion my own crude, but effective bat-holder.

What's up with Grandpa's left hand, you ask? I don't know. Maybe it's supposed to be like an "Aha!" or "Eureka!" kind of pose. It's taking all my strength to not suggest it's a "Pull my finger" pose. Damn, I just mentioned it!

Grandpa comes with two right hands, one in a grasping position so he can hold his various test tubes and whatnot, and one hand holding his cigar. I'm happy but very surprised that they included the cigar hand. It's very rare to see a smoking toy these days; the Million Moms have seen to that. Because as we all know, if a kid sees a toy of a vampire smoking a cigar, they'll run right out and take up the habit, amirite?

Next up is Marilyn, the Munster's niece, as played by Beverly Owen and Pat Priest.

Owen originated the role, but left after just fourteen episodes and was replaced by Priest for the rest of the run.

Marilyn was Lily's sister's daughter, and even though she was appeared to be a striking beauty to the audience, the Munster family saw her as "plain" and feared she'd never land a husband.

Marilyn has all the same articulation as her Aunt Lily, with the addition of an ab crunch joint. In fact she's got quite an impressive six pack going on there! Why would they sculpt a woman's stomach like that?

The ab crunch joint, while not really necessary, is fairly well integrated into the sculpt and doesn't stand out quite as bad as those of the figures in the recent Batman TV series line. See Mattel? It's possible to ad that joint without it looking so obvious.

Her ankles look a bit wonky here and are way too thick for an attractive young woman like Marilyn. I suppose it's a matter of engineering and they just couldn't make them any smaller (for the record, if you peek under Lily's dress she has the same thick ankles. What? Like you weren't thinking of looking under her dress).

Marilyn comes in a two pack with her nephew Eddie Munster. There are two accessories in the pack, but they're both seem like they'd be much more appropriate for Eddie, so poor Marilyn comes up short in that department.

Her sculpt is a reasonable facsimile of Marilyn; maybe they were going for some kind of morph between Beverly Owen and Pat Priest? Her left eye looks like it's slightly higher than her right, as if the stamping machine wasn't quite lined up right. Maybe that's not a mistake-- maybe that's the way Pat Priest's eyes really looked (like Shannon Doherty's)?

Bear in mind that you're seeing these figures here much bigger than their actual size. All these little flaws aren't noticeable in person, especially if you have eyes like mine.

Last up is Eddie Munster, as played by Butch Patrick.

Naturally Eddie's a bit shorter than the other figures, which is as it should be since he's a boy. He seems a little too tall to my eyes though, but that's a minor quibble. 

Eddie has a ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders, pin elbow joints and wrist articulation. He turns at the waist and has hip, mid thigh, knee and ankle articulation.

It's an OK likeness to Eddie I suppose, but doesn't seem quite as good as the other family members. Again it does look better in person than in this closeup.

There's a ton of detail in Eddie's Lord Fauntleroy costume. They even sculpted fabric detail in his knee socks! Excellent! 

The action figure kind of looks like it's wearing novelty Billy Bob Teeth. At first I thought it was just a case of bad sculpting, but believe it or not, that's how Eddie's teeth really looked on the show! I think what we're looking at are werewolf fangs on either side of his giant kid front baby teeth. Blame Butch Patrick, not Diamond Select.

Eddie comes with two accessories: his ever-present Woof Woof stuffed toy and a collar for his pet spot.

Woof Woof sports a surprising amount of detail, especially since he's only about two inches high. Sadly he won't stand up here, and I had to stick putty to the bottom of his foot to get him to stand long enough to snap a photo.

I wanted a Woof Woof like that so badly when I was a kid...

As promised, here's a shot of the various accessories that come with the figures. The grandfather clock (with raven) comes with Lily, the studded dog collar (which I just noticed is upside down!) comes with Eddie, and everything else comes with Grandpa.

Speaking of the giant dog collar, supposedly each figure in Series 2 will come with a piece to build the Munster's famous staircase that houses Eddie's pet dragon Spot lives under. Cool!

As an incentive to buy all five figures, each one came with a bonus piece. When assembled, the pieces form Herman's electric easy chair.

The chair's very well detailed and sculpted with a ton of simulated wood and metal details. It even includes little fake leather arm and leg straps!

Best of all Herman can actually sit in the chair. Amazing! You wouldn't believe how many times I've bought an action figure that comes with a chair but can't actually sit in it.

All in all not a bad set. Decent likenesses and articulation, plus tons of accessories. If you're a fan of the series I highly recommend them!

Bring on Series Two!

It Came From The Video Store: The Watch

The Watch was directed by Akiva Schaffer and written by Jared Stern, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Schaffer is a member of The Lonely Island comedy group and directed many of their short films such as Lazy Sunday. Rogen and Goldberg have co-written many high profile comedies including Pineapple Express and Superbad. One would think that with a pedigree like that the finished product would have been better, but I guess you can't hit one out of the park every time at bat.

Very similar in tone and feel to the recent The World's End. Actually I guess it's the other way around, since The Watch came first.

The film was originally titled Neighborhood Watch, but it came out shortly after the Trayvon Martin shooting so the studio hurriedly changed the name, lest anyone be offended. Which makes perfect sense, because a film about an alien plot to take over Earth is just way too similar to a real life racially charged shooting.

They needn't have bothered changing the name for sensitivity's sake. The only people who'll be offended by this film are fans of good comedy.

It's not the worst film I've ever seen, but it's definitely bland. The script is bland, the four leads are bland, the aliens are bland… everything about it seems like it was halfheartedly executed with the least amount of effort possible. Worst of all there are few if any laughs.

Lastly, the DVD proudly proclaims it's a ruder, cruder and lewder unrated version. I have no idea what content was added, but whatever it was it didn't help.


The Plot:
Evan Trautwig (Ben Stiller) is an uptight manager of a Costco in Glenview, Ohio. When one of his security guards is brutally murdered, he takes it upon himself to form a Neighborhood Watch.

Evan only manages to recruit three other members: construction worker Bob (Vince Vaugn), high school dropout and cop wannabe Franklin (Jonah Hill) and British divorcee Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade). Unfortunately for Evan the others only see the Watch as an excuse to drink beer and hang out.

During a stakeout the Watch discovers an actual extraterrestrial. They theorize the aliens are killing people and wearing their skins in order to pass as human. Unfortunately they realize the authorities will never believe them.

Eventually Jamarcus reveals that he's an alien but is siding with humanity after experiencing our culture. He tells the Watch that his fellow aliens are building a transmitter under Evan's Costco (of course) which will signal a fleet that will land on Earth and destroy it.

The Watch then has to defeat the aliens and destroy the transmitter in order to save the Earth.

• Hmm… honestly I got nothing.

Oh, I know! I wish my city had a Costco. I've heard good things about them.

• I've never been a fan of Vince Vaughn and absolutely do not understand his popularity, but that said I will admit that he gives his all in this film. He seems like he's practically spraining a hamstring trying to wring what little funny there is out of the script. Unfortunately he just doesn't have enough material to work with.

• The main actors in the film all play the same type of characters they've played many, many times before. Ben Stiller plays an uptight control freak, Vince Vaughn plays an annoying man child and Johan Hill plays his typical borderline psychotic weirdo. No one brings anything new to the table.

Richard Ayoade fares the worst of the group. If you're a fan of his work as Moss on The IT Crowd, prepare to be massively disappointed here. 
He's given very little to do and seems like he's in a completely different film. He spends the majority of the movie just standing motionless and looking genuinely puzzled as to why he's there. Hopefully he'll be given a chance to show off his talent in a better movie soon.

Will Forte is also in the film and plays a cop exactly the way you'd expect him to play one in a Saturday Night Live sketch.

The only standout in the entire cast is Billy Cruddup, who plays Evan's creepy neighbor Paul, who may or may not be an alien. Unfortunately he's in the movie for about five minutes total.

• The aliens are about as unmemorable as the cast. Their design looks like a hundred other aliens you've seen in films in the past twenty years.

The Watch must have set the record for all-time most product placements within a single movie. There's Durex condoms, brand name beer galore… hell, a good chunk of the movie's even set inside the cavernous space of a Costco.

• Evan and his wife Abby are having marital problems, stemming from the fact that he's keeping his sterility a secret from her as well as spending all his free time with the Neighborhood Watch. Their marriage seems on the brink of disaster until Abby finds out there are actual aliens in their neighborhood. Suddenly all is well and their marriage is stronger than ever.

In a similar vein, Bob's struggling with raising a rebellious and promiscuous teenaged daughter who constantly sneaks out of the house and parties all night. She instantly drops the slutty act and becomes becomes the perfect daughter again after finding out her boyfriend is an alien bent on our destruction.

OK, I don't expect a lot of realistic drama in a sci-fi action comedy like this, but these half-hearted resolutions seem a little too simplistic.

• In the third act Jamarcus reveals that he's actually an alien and is wearing human skin as a disguise.

How exactly does this work? How long could an alien wear a human's skin before it started to rot and fall apart? Will Jamarcus have to periodically kill and skin another human in order to continue passing for one of us? Will the Neighborhood Watch look the other way as he does so? Or will he eventually just drop the disguise and hide out in his natural form? Apparently it's none of our business, as this is ever touched upon.

• After Jamarcus reveals he's an alien, he says his race goes around the galaxy invading planets, destroying them and then moving on. No stealing our water or gold or other natural resources? They don't even want our women? They destroy other planets just because? What kind of a plan is that?

• One more thing about Jamarcus-- he betrays his own people and sides with humanity after a sexual encounter at Paul's orgy. What are the odds that a human's junk would be compatible with an alien's? Or that a sexual act that brings pleasure to a human would work on an alien as well? Especially since Jamarcus reveals that his race's brain is located in the crotch.

I give The Watch a very meh C-.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm Not Saying Image Comics Is Miking The Popularity Of The Walking Dead, But...

OK, I'm not saying Image Comics and Robert Kirkman are taking advantage of The Walking Dead's current popularity and milking it for everything it's worth, but...

This exists. Yep, it's a reprint of the first trade paperback of The Walking Dead comic, en espanol. Yep, at long, long last, the first six issues of everyone's favorite award winning zombie comic book has been translated into Spanish. Timely too, considering the English version was first published in 2006.

Ehh, why not? Who knows, maybe this isn't the blatant cash grab it appears to be at first glance. Maybe the Latino community felt left out of the zombie craze and requested, nay demanded a comic book they could actually read. Maybe Image and Kirkman have the right idea after all. But maybe they didn't take it far enough!

Why not a Mandarin version? China's an awakening giant with well over a billion potential readers. Of course it may need altered a bit to fit the culture...

Why stop there? Oy vey iz mir, it wouldn't be kosher to leave out our friends of the Jewish persuasion. You'll be more than a little verklempt when you read these terrifying translated tales of the undead. 

Hey Image Comics-- don't forget to print the book so it reads right to left!

For the past few months Pope Francis has been doing his best to drag the Catholic church kicking and screaming into the 20th Century (yes, I meant to say 20th), but so far he hasn't made known his stance on zombies. So go ahead and simultaneously enjoy and feel guilty about reading this special Catholic version of the book!

Hate mail commencing in 3, 2, 1...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It Came From The Cineplex: Insidious Chapter 2

Insidious Chapter 2 was directed by James Wan, who also directed the first film. It was co-written by Wan and Leigh Whannell.

The film continues the story that began in Insidious, but unlike most sequels it didn't feel like a rehash of the original. The first film concentrated on the Lambert's young son and his supernatural adventures, while Insidious Chapter 2 shifts the focus to Josh Lambert, the father.

To be honest I couldn't remember if I'd even seen the first movie or not. I've seen so many similar films in the past couple of years, such as The Haunting In Connecticut, Dark Skies, The Possession and Sinister. After a while they all blend together. I finally googled Insidious and vaguely remembered a couple of plot points.

Thank the gods old and new that I refreshed my memory before I saw Chapter 2, or I'd have had no idea what the hell was going on. 

Unlike most movies these days, this one has a fairly intricate plot and actually rewards the audience for paying attention. Unfortunately it's just not scary. At all. As my pal KW Monster said, the scariest part of the whole movie was the shrieking title card at the beginning and end.

Made for a mere $5 million, it's grossed over $65 million so far and is on track to hit the $100 million mark. Look for Insidious Chapter 3, 4 and on through 10 any day now.


The Plot:
A full-fledged plot synopsis would take at least twenty five paragraphs, but I'll do my best. 

Let's recap the first film to get everyone up to speed, shall we? Josh and Renai Lambert move into a new home. Unknown to them their son Dalton begins astrally projecting his mind into the afterlife, leaving his physical body comatose in the real world. The constant coming and going of his spirit allows the undead to tag along with him. One particularly evil entity comes through and latches onto Josh, possessing him. This Evil Josh kills Elise Rainier, a paranormal investigator who suspects the truth about him.

Chapter 2 picks up right where the first film left off. Evil Josh manages to wriggle out of a murder charge, but Renai (and the police) still suspect something's wrong with him. Renai notices the supernatural occurrences are starting up again.

Josh's mother Lorraine and Elise's assistants Specs and Tucker investigate the strange events. They discover that Josh is being possessed by the ghost of Parker Crane, a deceased transvestite serial killer who murdered victims while dressed as a bride (!). The real Josh's soul is trapped somewhere in the afterlife. 

Evil Josh realizes Renai knows the truth about him and attempts to kill her. Dalton uses his astral projecting superpower to enter the afterlife and rescue his father Josh. They meet up, and with the help of the ghost of Elise, are able to evict the ghost of Parker Crane from Josh's body.

• In 1986 Young Elise videotapes an interview with Young Josh. During this interview he turns to his right, says, "I'll show you" and then gets up and points at a door which mysteriously opens by itself. The onlookers, including Young Elise, are mystified by this incident.

In the present day Josh astral projects himself back to this 1986 interview and asks his younger self where to find the demon's memories. We then realize that Young Josh was actually answering his older self and Current Josh was the one who (invisibly) opened the door.

It's a neat and well-done little bit of ghostly time travel. Unfortunately it's marred by Old Elise having an "Aha!" moment and stating, "So THAT'S what that was about!" She might as well have looked into the camera and said "Did you get all that, audience?"

• Speaking of Elise, the film comes to life (see what I did there?) whenever she's onscreen. Veteran actress Lin Shaye (Snakes On A Plane, There's Something About Mary and many more) does a great job as Elise I'm glad they figured out a way to bring her back despite the fact that she died in the previous film. Expect to see her again when Chapter 3 rolls around in a couple of years.

Lindsay Seim plays Young Elise and also does a great job. Seim's voice sounded exactly like Shaye's. I wonder... just a good impression, or did Shaye dub the voice?

• As the film opens, the police suspect Josh of killing Elise. The two were were sitting alone at the Lambert's kitchen table the last time Elise was seen alive, so it seems like a pretty open and shut case to me.

Later the police call Renai and tell her that the scratch marks on Elise's neck don't match Josh's hands or fingers or prints or some such nonsense, and he's off the hook. What kind of police procedure is that? 

If two people go into a room but only one comes out and the other's dead with their throat torn out, that seems like pretty damning evidence to me, whether their hands fit the marks or not.

Obviously the screenwriters needed to get rid of the whole pesky murder thing so they could tell their little ghost story, but they did so in the most offhanded and unbelievable manner possible.

• Naturally the Lamberts own an iMac. Every family in every movie I've seen in the past  five years owns one, despite the fact that their market share is far, far lower than that of the PC. Someone with more time than I have should start an "iMacs In The Movies" Tumblr.

• Elise's assistants Specs and Tucker are back. They were in the first film and are obviously meant to provide comedy relief. Unfortunately every one of their "humorous" moments thuds to the ground like a sack of wet cement.

• At the end of the film Renai locks herself and the kids in the basement to escape Evil Josh. He begins pounding on the basement door with a sledgehammer, trying to bust it down.

These scenes of Evil Josh trying to break down the door look remarkably like the ones of Jack Torrance doing the same thing in The Shining. I suppose there are only so many ways to film a guy trying to break down a door, but any second I expected him to stick his head through a hole and quip, "Heeeeere's Joshy!"

A decent followup to an OK movie, but unfortunately it's not particularly scary unless you're frightened by dead people hiding under soiled sheets or evil transvestite ghosts. I give it a B-.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Disney's attempt to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the small screen finally premieres!

Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. was created by Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and much more), Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. The pilot episode was written by the trio as well, and was directed by Joss Whedon.


• All in all not a bad start, as first episodes go. It's definitely set in the Marvel Universe, and there was plenty of trademark Joss Whedon humor on display. It felt a bit like CSI: Marvel. Like a police procedural with superhero trappings thrown in now and then. It also felt a lot like the pilot episode of Fringe (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).

Naturally since this is TV the action was a bit more scaled down than in the various Marvel movies. Will that disappoint viewers who tune in expecting to see, you know, actual superheroes? They're gonna have to ramp up the super heroics quite a bit or I'm afraid viewers will become bored and start tuning out.

They'll also need to shake up the formula now and then, because if each week it's "normal citizen gets super powers and S.H.I.E.L.D. has to track them down and capture them before they destroy a city, while making witty comments" it's gonna get old fast.

It was nice to see Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson back from the dead, or whatever happened to him. The rest of the characters seemed pretty weak though. I guess that's to be expected-- you can only squeeze in so much character development in a pilot episode. Hopefully they'll flesh out the team a bit more in subsequent shows.

It would be awesome if Samuel L. Jackson or Robert Downey Jr. made a surprise cameo in an episode, but I wouldn't hold my breath. If it did happen, there's no way it would be a secret. Disney and ABC would promote the ever-living hell out of their appearance every hour on the hour for months prior.

Thoughts (SPOILERS!):

• I liked Agent Coulson's dramatic reveal as he stepped out of the shadows in front of a gobsmacked Agent Ward. "Sorry, that corner was really dark and I couldn't help myself. I think there's a bulb out."

• At the beginning of the episode, unemployed factory worker Mike Peterson sees a building explode. Surprise! Peterson secretly has super strength. He climbs the burning building and rescues a woman, leaping from the top floor to the ground far below while holding her.

Luckily for the woman he was holding the laws of physics weren't paying attention. He landed with enough force to literally crack the pavement beneath his feet, all while holding the woman. Realistically she should have broken in half when he hit the ground.

• I liked all the little nods to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Chitauri communicator from The Avengers, as well as references to Tony Stark, the Hulk, Thor, and Loki. They even offhandedly mentioned Natasha Romonov the Black Widow. 

It's very cool that events in the films influenced the pilot here. It really helps sell the idea that these shows and movies all take place in one big universe, just like they used to do in Marvel Comics. I wonder if the reverse will be true? Will the next Thor movie contain references to this TV series? Doubtful, but who knows?

It's amazing how effortlessly Marvel handles all this crossover stuff. It really does make it seem like all their properties are taking place in the same world. Meanwhile DC and Warner Bros. can't make one decent superhero movie to save their lives.

• A sampling of that patented Whedon dialogue: 
Agent Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Agent Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.

Agent Hill: And what does that mean to you?

Agent Ward: That someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield."
• Nice to see Ron Glass on TV again. Glass is a  native of Evansville, Indiana, my home city. Why, we're practically related!

Also good to see Ming Na Wen as well. Seems like I've been watching her on TV forever. I can remember seeing her on As The World Turns in the 1980s! Can you believe she turns 50 this year? Amazing!

• So it's implied that Agent Coulson actually did die at the hands of Loki in The Avengers. Is the Coulson we're seeing here a clone? Does Nick Fury have a vault full of replacement Coulsons somewhere down in the basement?

• I saw Stan Lee listed in the credits as some sort of producer. I love Stan, but I'm betting his total involvement in this series consisted of someone saying, "Hey Stan, we're doing a S.H.I.E.L.D. show" and he said, "Sounds good to me!"

• So we think Mike Peterson is a hero, but he turns out to be the villain of the week. True to form for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he's not really bad, he's just misunderstood. Or being used. Just once I'd like to see a villain who's evil because he's just an asshole. Loki comes close, but even he has deep-seating psychological reasons for his villainy.

• So Mike Peterson's not a mutant, he got his superpowers from the Extremis formula. Thanks, Marvel's Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. for reminding me that the awful Iron Man 3 film exists.

• Once the agents figure out who Peterson is and the threat he poses (blowing up himself and anyone nearby), they say they only have two choices: Kill him or let him die. Coulson immediately says, "We need to come up with a third option."

Kudos to the writing team for this line. Hear that, Man Of Steel writers? You don't have to have your hero snap the villain's neck to learn that killing is wrong.

• At the end of the pilot Agent Coulson is tooling around in his beloved car Lola. He pushes a button on the dash and Lola transforms into a flying car, zooming offscreen.

Nick Fury had a flying car very much like this one (except it wasn't bright red) in the comics back in the 1960s.

Next week the Agents face a Code 084, whatever that is.

This Week In Bizarre, Somewhat Puzzling Merchandise

This week, NECA, makers of finely detailed action figures, unveiled a brand new product: DC Comics Leg Lamps!

The lamps are 20" tall and are available in Superman and Batman models. You won't need to win a Major Award to get one of these babies! They're available to order right now for $44.99. 

With one of these lamps in your window you'll be able to proudly proclaim to the world your love of both A Christmas Story and DC Comics at the same time!


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm A Grown Man And I Bought This: Batman Classic TV Series Batman And Robin

It's been nearly five decades since the Batman TV series premiered on ABC in 1966, and toys based on the show are just now starting to trickle out

Several companies have begun releasing Batman action figures in various scales. Mattel's the first out of the gate with their new 6 inch line. Last month they released their first wave of figures, consisting of Batman, The Joker, The Riddler, The Penguin and Surf's Up Batman.

The Julie Newmar version of Catwoman was supposed to be included in the wave, but at the last minute Mattel decided to pull her so they can sell her separately and charge more.

But on to the review at hand, the Batman And Robin Two Pack. Mattel, in their infinite wisdom, decided that Robin would only be available in a special (read expensive) two pack of figures. So if you already bought the Batman figure from the regular line, you've gotta buy another in order to get Robin. Nice of them, eh?

The figures are packaged to resemble the famous "scaling the side of a building" scenes from Batman.

Here's the set out of the box. You could probably display the figures this way, as the inner lining forms a nice backdrop, but that's no fun. Take your figures out of the box! Otherwise you might as just well own a photo of them! 

Here's the Dynamic Duo freed from their packaging prison (which took some doing, let me tell you!).

This is the exact same Batman figure that's sold separately in the regular line, with a couple of exceptions. First of all Mattel finally gave him a Batarang accessory, something the original figure sorely lacked and absolutely should have had.

Right now the Batarang is tied to his hand with a clear rubber band. I'm afraid to untie it for fear he won't be able to hold it on his own. His hands are sculpted to hold something much bigger than the tiny little Batarang.

The second difference is the two wires sewn into each side of his cape, to help pose it. The wires don't work all that well and frankly just get in the way. Robin has the wires in his cape as well.

The wires are so you can pose the capes horizontally as they did on the show. Smart cookie that you are, you no doubt know that whenever Batman and Robin would climb up the side of a building they were very obviously walking horizontally along the floor while the camera was turned 90 degrees. When viewed from the proper angle, it looked (sort of) like they were climbing vertically. To help sell the illusion, Batman and Robin's capes stuck out horizontally with the aid of wires, so they'd appear to be hanging straight down when viewed on TV.

One last thing about the capes-- they both came with an enormous and obnoxious copyright tag sewn into them. Seriously, these tags were an inch wide and a good two and a half inches long. None of the figures in the regular line had these tags, so I'm not sure why they were included in this set. The first thing you'll want to do is cut the ridiculous things off. Be careful though, as you could easily cut into the fabric of the cape if you're not careful.

This is a nicely done Robin figure. His costume is accurate, he has realistic proportions and is actually a bit shorter than the Batman figure, as he should be.

Robin's quite well articulated too. He has a ball jointed head and shoulders, cut bicep, wrist, waist and thigh joints and elbow, knee and ankle joints. Unfortunately he also has that ugly "ab-crunch" joint that plagues the Batman figure.There are better, less obvious ways to include that joint than what they went with here.

Here's a rear view of Robin. Still not a fan of cloth capes, but whaddya gonna do? If you look closely you'll see two small holes in the fabric of his cape. That's where he was lashed down in the package in his climbing pose. They actually punctured his cape to secure him in the box! Stupid, stupid Mattel!

Be very careful when removing the figure from the package or you could very easily rip the cape to shreds.

Sculpting-wise Robin looks pretty good. I can definitely see Burt Ward in there. The paint job's very well done, especially for a figure of this scale. Remember he's blown up quite a bit here, so any imperfections you see in this photo won't be evident in person.

If you look closely you can see that Robin's legs have a definite grayish cast to them, especially when compared to the flesh tone of his forearms. At first I chalked this up to a painting mistake on Mattel's part (like The Riddler's color-mismatched limbs in the regular line).

But the more I think about it the more I;m convinced that this color difference was intentional. On the TV show Burt Ward wore flesh colored tights as part of his costume (can't have a Robin with hairy legs, after all). I think they deliberately painted the figure's legs a slightly different color to simulate the tights! Well done, Mattel!

Here's the climbing wall and rope accessories. Note that the box says "Use Base On Shelf Or Wall!" Whoever wrote that was a lying liar who lies.

You can indeed hang the base from a wall, but there's absolutely no way to use it vertically on a shelf. In fact I had to prop it up with something just to get this shot.

The only way to use it on a shelf is to lay it down horizontally like this. Is that what the box meant when it said "use base on shelf?" Would it have killed them to have included some kind of stand to hold the wall up vertically, so you could pose the figures like they're actually climbing it? 

The rope fits into the figures' hands OK, but tends to plop out if you look at it too hard. It's also impossible to get rid of the copious slack in the rope too. I kind of wish they'd just skipped the whole wall climbing theme and given us a plain two pack of figures. It'd no doubt have been cheaper that way as well.
I'm also curious as to why the wall isn't just a simple rectangle. Why all the indentions in both sides? Did cutting out those sections in the sides save money on plastic?

Why didn't they make it a rectangle, put both windows on the right side and then have the figures stick to the left side, just like on the show?

Surprisingly the windows actually open up (with quite a bit of fiddling), which is a nice touch. Now you can have your other action figures stick their heads out the windows to recreate the cameos in the climbing scenes from the TV show!

Speaking of the celebrity window cameos: amazingly there were only fourteen of them over the course of the series. It seemed like there were a lot more than that though. Most of the celebrities are still recognizable today, but a few of them you'd only recognize if you were a child of the 1960s. The cameos in order:
• Jerry Lewis as himself.

• Dick Clark as himself.

• Van Williams and Bruce Lee as the Green Hornet and Kato, from The Green Hornet show of course.

• Sammy Davis Jr. as himself.

• Bill Dana as Jose Jimenez from The Bill Dana Show (definitely a product of the 1960s).

• Howard Duff as Sam Stone from the TV show Felony Squad (I'm betting his show needed the ratings boost a cameo on Batman would provide, since it doesn't seem like the type of show a kid would watch).

• Warner Klemperer as Colonel Klink from Hogan's Heroes (no explanation as to why the Colonel appeared to be the same age as he was back in WWII).

• Ted Cassidy as Lurch from The Addams Family.

• Don Ho, perennially popular Hawaiian entertainer.

• Andy Devine as Santa Claus (!).

• Art Linkletter, famous 1960s TV host.

• Edward G. Robinson (who ironically was famous for playing gangsters in the movies).

• Susie Knickerbocker (definitely a product of the 1960s! Apparently she was a gossip columnist and member of the jet set back in the day).

• Cyril Lord as The Carpet King. Who the hell's that, you ask? Good question. Although he sounds like he could be a Bat-villain, he was supposedly a well known businessman who sold expensive carpets in England in the 1960s. William Dozier, producer of Batman, bought a fancy carpet from him and paid him with a cameo on the show! So because William Dozier's wife wanted a Persian rug we had to look at Cyril Lord and act like we knew who he was.
There was only one cameo appeared in Season One (Jerry Lewis). The rest were all from Season Two. There were no cameos in Season Three.

So what's the verdict? Is the set worth buying or should you give it a pass? The figures are fairly well done, but the wall and rope are pretty much wastes of plastic and time. 

But don't let that stop you from buying it. If you're a fan of the TV show or you've already bought the regular line, then definitely buy the set, as this is the only way to get Robin. As I said in my review of the original line, it's taken fifty years to get figures based on the show. You can either buy these or wait another fifty!

Read all about the first wave of Classic Batman figures here.
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter