Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Crayola Encourages Budding Kaiju Fans Through Its Create 2 Destroy Toy Line

Imagine this holiday shopping scenario: You're a life-long fan of giant monster movies and want to foster an appreciation of such entertainment in the next generation of geeks--your kids, your nieces and nephews, or both. However, you think that they're too young to grasp the finer points of such giant monster mashes such as Godzilla, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe and Pacific Rim, so you have no idea what to get them for Christmas. Well, never fear because Crayola has got your back this year with its Create 2 Destroy line of playsets.

The Create 2 Destroy playsets aren't strictly kaiju merchandise, but they might as well be because half of the playsets involve giant monsters trashing a city, a shopping mall, and a suburban community. These playsets make up the Dino Destruction sub-series, where kids use Morphix (Crayola's answer to Play-Doh) to mold cars, buildings and trees that the included dinosaurs can stomp with their feet and crush with their jaws. Some of the dinosaurs have spring-loaded tails that kids can use as catapults to launch Morphix-molded boulders into nearby targets.

The other Create 2 Destroy sub-series, Fortress Invasion, are designed to have kids build fortresses, castles and walls with the goal of knocking them down by using the included catapults. While these playsets don't include any monsters, adult fans of King Kong can buy their kids a Dino Destruction playset and a Fortress Invasion playset that so they can imagine dinosaurs tearing through the enormous protective wall on Skull Island. This is the kind of stuff that brings geek families closer together during the holiday season!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Painting Giant Robot Model Kits Anime Style

I love detailed miniature replicas of monsters, robots and spaceships from my favorite horror and sci-fi franchises, but the ability to competently assemble model kits of such replicas has always eluded me. I particularly admire those who can paint kits of robots, spaceships and other machines in a way that makes them look used (exposed to the elements, battle damage, etc.). In fact, I frequently regarded this kind of modeling skill as a remarkable achievement ... and then I saw this:

Yes, this really is a photo of a plastic model kit.

From what I read on Kotaku, a talented model builder in Japan has painted a Valkyrie kit from the Super Dimension Fortress Macross anime series (which is known to some as Robotech) in a cel shading style that makes the model appear as if it was pulled directly out of the Macross cartoon.

This makes sense, actually--since the Valkyrie design was originally intended for animation, why not paint a Valkyrie model kit like it was part of a cartoon? The picture below provides an overview of how each piece of the kit was painted to achieve the comprehensive anime look.

Click here to see the article about this kit on Kotaku. Click here to see the original Japanese post of this kit, which features many more pictures of the finished product.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Alien Franchise Update: Reboots, Sequels, and a Prequel Sequel

As a horror and sci-fi nerd, I do what I can to keep my franchise scorecard up to date. Right now, Star Wars and the superhero universes of DC and Marvel are currently developing a selection of movie and TV releases, while many other franchises are stuck in some form of reboot--either making another reboot sequel (Star Trek), preparing to release a reboot (RoboCop), or starting pre-production of a reboot (Terminator). I've also been keeping current with developments in the Alien franchise, which has a number of projects in development but only one movie in the works. Read on for more details about what 20th Century Fox has in store for the horror franchise where no one can hear you scream.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Shogun Warrior-Sized Bender Challenges You to Bite His Colossal Metal Ass

Good news, everyone! Futurama may be officially cancelled (for now), but its merchandising license lives on in a variety of collectibles. This month, Toynami is releasing a limited edition Shogun Warrior version of Bender that's 24-inches tall and includes spring-loaded arms for fist-firing action. I'm not sure if this version of Bender has any other features, so I don't know if this chest panel opens or how many points of articulation he has. Nevertheless, if you're willing to pay the $150 price for this collectible item, you can have Bender pick fights with other Shogun Warrior robots and terrorize 6-inch scale Futurama action figures.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Network Television was Better Off with Better Off Ted

I have to give Netflix credit: Because of its wide selection of television titles, it’s a great resource for me to find high-quality but short-lived series that somehow escaped my attention when they were originally aired. (This is a welcome change from most television syndication arrangements, where only popular shows are aired repeatedly on channels other than the one that originally aired them.) In fact, it was thanks to Netflix that I found Better Off Ted, a wickedly intelligent satire of corporate culture that aired for two 13 episode seasons on ABC from 2009 to 2010.

Better Off Ted is a half-hour sitcom that takes place in the offices of Veridian Dynamics, a monolithic mega-corporation that engages in all sorts of odd and amoral activities to increase worker productivity and maximize profits, often at the expense of everyone and everything else. The characters consist of the titular Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington), a single father who heads Veridian’s research and development department; Ted’s intimidating, hyper-competitive boss Veronica Palmer (Portia de Rossi); and Ted’s underlings, product tester Linda Zwordling (Andrea Anders) and product development scientists Phil Myman (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem Hewitt (Malcolm Barrett).

While the interplay among the characters provide the plots for the episodes, most of the jokes in Better Off Ted are targeted directly at the behavior of modern-day corporations and their approach to people and science--or, as Lem puts it in one episode, “the place science goes to bend over and grab its ankles”. Throughout the series, various Veridian products become the subject of absurd and dark humor, such as its revolutionary cure for baldness (that is also a parasite) and a sound device that can deliver messages straight into a person’s brain (and can also cause uncontrollable, explosive vomiting when set at high frequencies). In a way, Veridian is less openly violent but just as misanthropic as Omni Consumer Products, the devious military-industrial conglomerate in Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop. Indeed, notorious mad scientists such as Frankenstein, Jekyll and Moreau would feel right at home in the laboratories of Veridian Dynamics.

I love Better Off Ted and if you love comedy that is smart, sinister and strange, then you should check it out too.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

After Nearly Three Decades, Blockbuster Goes Bust

I'm sure you heard the news by now that Blockbuster, the one-time reigning champ of the home video rental business, is finally closing for good. After winding down for years with increased competition from rivals such as Netflix and Redbox, all Blockbuster stores will be closed as of January 2014.

During the heyday of home video rentals, I didn't have access to a Blockbuster store. The nearest one was almost an hour away, so my VHS rental choices were limited to the local video stores in the town where I lived. What this meant for me--and as I'm sure it meant for others who lived in remote rural locations--is that Blockbuster represented the best of VHS rental selections. The video stores nearest to me were able to keep up with the high-profile theatrical releases of the 80s and 90s and they introduced me to low-budget curiosities such as Equinox and The Flesh Eaters, but their overall selections of films from the 1930s up to the 70s were extremely poor. Thus, if I wanted to familiarize myself with the works of noted horror film talents such as Ray Harryhausen, Val Lewton and Vincent Price, I would have to go to Blockbuster.

The closing of Blockbuster represents the end of one form of film distribution and its inherent limitations, so I'm kind of glad to see it go. Newer services such as Netflix, Redbox or Hulu have their limitations as well and I've noticed that some films that aren't being carried by those services can sometimes be found on YouTube (particularly foreign horror movies and American made-for-TV horror films). Nevertheless, digital distribution through the Internet and formats such as DVD and Blu-ray have made life so much easier for film buffs--particularly horror film fans such as me.

Regardless, I can't let this kind of milestone that's so closely attached to the VHS format go without celebrating one of the most memorable aspects of VHS rentals: the colorful and gaudy box cover artwork. Click below to see a selection of VHS cover art that I pulled from sources such as VHS Collector and VHS Wasteland.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kenner's Imperial Troop Transporter Gets Lego-ized

As I mentioned in a previous post, the upcoming Star Wars: Rebels animated series will incorporate some of Kenner's classic Star Wars toy designs as part of the series' selection of vehicles and weaponry, such as Kenner's Imperial Troop Transporter toy. Thus, it makes sense for avid Lego hobbyist BaronSat (a.k.a. Eric Druon) to make a Lego version of the Troop Transporter that's in scale with official Lego Star Wars minifigs. Check it out:

BaronSat's Lego Imperial Troop Transporter (above) and Kenner's original toy (below). 

Click below to see more pictures of BaronSat's Lego version of the Imperial Troop Transporter, along with a new Lego Hoth playset that he recently produced that draw inspiration from Kenner's short-lived Star Wars Micro Collection line.