Thursday, November 27, 2014

New: Gentle Giant's Jumbo Secret Wars Spider-Man Action Figure

Gentle Giant's campaign to enlarge the action figures from yesteryear continues.

This effort began a few years with releasing 12 inch replicas of Kenner's 3 and 3/4 action figures from the original Star Wars trilogy. Now that is has super-sized almost every Kenner Star Wars action figure by now, Gentle Giant has moved on to releasing jumbo versions of the action figures that Mattel released as part of its Marvel Secret Wars line during the mid-80s, starting with Spider-Man in his black symbiote costume. This was the first action figure to feature Spider-Man in something other than his usual red and blue webbed suit.

The original Secret Wars Spider-Man figure by Mattel.

I never purchased any of the Secret Wars figures but I've heard collectors complain about how poorly they were made, particularly how the paint on the figures has a tendency to flake and peel. From what I've read about the '80s toy wars, Mattel bought the rights to produce Marvel superhero figures as a way to compete with Kenner's Super Powers toy line, which was based on DC's universe of superhero characters. Yet because Mattel already had a hit with its He-Man toys, the Secret Wars line only existed to cover kids who were interested in superheroes but not He-Man. It's hard to imagine how a company like Mattel could consider a toy line based on Marvel characters to be a lower priority and thus produce substandard products, but that's exactly what happened with the Secret Wars line. I still don't understand the appeal of jumbo figures but given its reputation as a producer of quality collectibles, Gentle Giant's jumbo Secret Wars Spider-Man figure is probably better-made than the original figure itself.

Click here to place your order for this jumbo trip down Marvel memory lane.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

NRH Collectables Gets “All Banged Up” For Jaws

I just received word from NRH Collectables owner/sculptor Nigel R. Humphreys that the next item in his company’s line of Jaws dioramas is ready for order. Check this out:

The previous diorama from NRH depicted the estuary scene, when Chief Brody's son Mike has a close encounter with a monster shark. This latest release, “All Banged Up!”, is inspired by another memorable moment when Brody and marine biologist Matt Hooper find the battered remains of a boat owned by Amity fisherman, Ben Gardner.

As with its previous releases, NRH has gone out of its way to recreate this shocking Jaws scene. While the main piece with Gardner's severed head peeking out of the boat's hull is impressive unto itself, I'm amused by the inclusion of a shark's tooth and an underwater flashlight--the two items that Hooper drops when Gardner's disembodied noggin pops out to make a postmortem greeting.

Click here to see more pictures of this exciting new diorama and to place your order. Don’t wait--only 100 copies will be made, so get your piece of Jaws history today!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Banality of Evil as a Pseudo Documentary: A Review of Punishment Park (1971)

Visions of dystopias have been a common staple in science fiction films for decades, so much so that they have become their own subgenre. From the earliest examples such as Metropolis (1927) up until recent adaptations of popular young adult novels such as The Hunger Games, bleak and disturbing depictions of our collective future have made regular appearances on the silver screen, so much so that they're rarely regarded with surprise or offense. Yet there's one dystopian film that was met with extreme opposition and disdain upon its release, so much so that it remains obscure to this day: Punishment Park, a 1971 pseudo documentary that was written and directed by Peter Watkins. Read on for my review of this remarkable and frequently overlooked film.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Futurama and Simpsons Crossover: Fox's Final, Belated Backstab?

I know that I'm a bit late to the party on this topic--over a week, in fact--but I thought I would chime in anyway. I stopped watching The Simpsons on a regular basis at around the tenth season 14 years ago (has it really been that long?), and Comedy Central cancelled Futurama last year. Nevertheless, if you have ever been a fan of one or both of these shows, the recent Simpsons episode titled "Simpsorama" which featured characters from Futurama represents a milestone of sorts that should be seen at least once.

The crossover episode, which only ran for a meager 22 minutes, was nothing groundbreaking in terms of plot or character development; instead, it served as more of a statement of how Fox has (mis)treated the animated properties of creator Matt Groening, especially when compared to the hour-long Family Guy episode that involved a crossover with The Simpsons that aired a few weeks earlier.

I don't know how or why both the Family Guy and Futurama crossovers happened within such close proximity to each other, although I suspect that it's part of some kind of bucket list for The Simpsons before it (finally) goes off the air in another year or so. Fox executives were probably demanding the Family Guy crossover to help promote the network's flagging Sunday night "Animation Domination" programming block while the Simpsons production team were demanding a Futurama crossover so that they could work with Groening's other creative property, and the two crossover episodes that finally aired this year were the result of the ensuing compromise. Of course, Futurama got the short end of the stick from Fox ... again. (Remember, Futurama originally aired on Fox until it cancelled the series in 2003.)

For what it's worth, a Futurama/Simpsons crossover already happened over a decade ago--in the comic books. Bongo Comics published a two-part, four-issue crossover miniseries called the Futurama/Simpsons Infinitely Secret Crossover Crisis, and that story made much better usage of the source materials from both series than what finally made it on the air the other week. Unfortunately, both cartoons do their best sight gags through the medium of animation, so the printed page is limited in conveying the full range of Futurama and Simpsons wit. In a just world, the animated crossover would have been an hour long, or maybe as one of the straight-to-DVD Futurama "movies" that were released between 2007 to 2009 before it returned to TV as a weekly series. Instead, what fans got was only what Fox would allow ... again.

I did think that the Futurama/Simpsons episode was funny (the joke about Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics is hysterical), but it still felt disappointing no matter how often it made me laugh. After all, it's hard to be ready for a comedy show when it opens with this depressing, all-too-self-aware tagline:

If The Simpsons and Futurama could be buried in the same grave plot in the cancelled TV show graveyard, "A show out of ideas teams up with a show out of episodes" would be the epitaph on their shared headstone. Groening's contributions to American primetime animated comedy deserve so much better.