My Toy Line Of The Year

There were a hell of a lot of great toys that came out this year. I got to see far more than my fair share of them while I worked at ToyFare, but I have to say that my absolute favorite line this year was Mattel’s DC Universe Classics followed very closely by their Masters Of The Universe Classics. Being a gigantic DC fanboy, the DCUC line plays right to my heart (and my wallet) by offering up iconic versions of classics characters, awesome B-, C-, D- and Z-list characters and Collect and Connect figures that make me want to get every single figure they put out. This line, along with Hasbro’s Mighty Muggs, was one of the few I spent my own money on. Just wait until you see what they’ve got coming out in 2010 (and by that, I mean check out the February issue of ToyFare in which I got to talk to Mattel’s Scott Neitlich about their awesome plans for celebrating DC’s diamond anniversary.

As I mentioned Mattel’s Masters Of The Universe Classics also blew me away, as did their Ghostbusters figures. I was also really impressed by how good Hasbro’s 3 3/4-inch Marvel Universe figures turned out. Oh, and, as usual, Diamond Select Toys’ MiniMates kicked ass (especially the Ghostbusters ones). plus, DC Direct DOMINATED with their Green Lantern figures which are now morphing into the ridiculously cool Blackest Night waves. Overall, I think everyone really came at 2009 with their very best and it was a great year from NECA, Mezco (those 3 3/4 inch horror figures were SICK!), Sideshow, Bowen, Gentle Giant, Shocker and everyone else. Hopefully 2010 will be just as rad, and from what I’ve seen, it absolutely will be.

Four Movies I’m Looking Forward To In 2010

There’s a lot going on what with it being New Year’s Eve and partying to be done tonight, so I figured I’d do a quick post about some movies I’m looking forward to coming out next month.

Youth In Revolt January 8th
I haven’t read the book, but I can easily relate to a meek kid who wants to change into someone more suave. Plus, the cast is chockablock full of goodness. I don’t think I’ll see it in theaters, but I’m looking forward to the rental.

Daybreakers January 8th
Remember the good ol’ days when vampires were scary? Me too, but only vaguely. I like to think that the vampires that took over the world in Daybreakers used the cute ones from Twilight to lure the humans in and then sent in these ugly bruisers. Hopefully I’ll get to the theater for this one.

The Book Of Eli January 15th
I’m a big fan of post apocalyptic movies and I like Denzel Washington, so this one looks pretty good though I’m still not quite sure what it’s about.

Legion January 22nd
The trailer running on TV with the old lady turning into a demon freaks me out every time (just a little). I feel like I’ve read tons of comics with this kind of angel-sent-to-Earth-to-fight-evil premise, but not many movies and especially not many with this kind of cast and this level of special effects.

Custom Corner: JLU Batman Of Zur-En-Arrh

After checking out a ton of customs lately and actually editing almost every Customizing 101 that has appeared in ToyFare over the past two years (not counting the last few months obviously), I figured it was finally time I gave this whole thing a shot for myself. I have zero experience and haven’t painted anything since…maybe ever. I want to do a Guy Gardner Warrior custom out of a big burly WWE figure, but I want to get better at this whole painting thing a little bit more, so I took an extra Batman JLU figure (of course, I forgot to take a picture of him still together so I had to borrow this one from CollectorsQuest) and turned him into a pretty rough version of The Batman Of Zur-En-Arrh. Hit the jump for the full (read: long) post. Continue reading Custom Corner: JLU Batman Of Zur-En-Arrh

Casting Internets

First of all, do yourself a favor and head over to GeekWeek, the brand new site by big time Hollywood dude (and all around good guy) Jeff Katz. It covers comics, movies, TV, toys, tech, MMA, wrestling, gossip, video games, sports and women (and not in a super creepy way). And guess what? I’m writing for him! Dig around in the toy section and you’ll find some fun posts I’ve done over the last few days.

Over at The Fwoosh, it’s New Custom Tuesday which means I will be posting two of my favorite figures from the post. First up is the 3 3/4-inch Daniel Craig James Bond by Industrial and the Slash figure made out of NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle parts by The BeasT. Follow the link above and also scope out the Odin and Amadeus Cho figures. There’s even a Dazzler!

Also, check out The Smoking Gun who called out TMZ on their JFK-on-a-yacht-with-naked-women “exclusive” photo they “unearthed” that turned out to really be a photo shoot from Playboy full of actors and not Presidents. It’s a great read and I’m sure I’m not the only one glad that someone is taking the rumor-mongers to task.

And finally, the gang over at /Film have photos from Josh Radnor’s upcoming movie called happythankyoumoreplease which he is also directing. As a big How I Met Your Mother fan, I’m looking forward to this movie which is about six New Yorkers who “negotiate love, friendship, and gratitude at a time when they’re too old to be precocious and not ready to be adults.” Sounds interesting enough to rent! Hit the link for more details and the photos.

Happy Belated Anniversary Xbox 360, It’s Been A Helluva Year

I’m a little late on this post, but it’s been a year since I got my Xbox 360 for Christmas last year and I don’t think there’s a device that’s become more of an integral part of my life since my new phone. The sad thing is that I haven’t really burned through as many games as I would have expected. I am definitely a slow gamer and still have the three used games I picked up when I first decided to bulk up my to-play stack (Madden ’08, Call Of Duty 3 and The Orange Box). Plus, I don’t think I’ve played the Lego Indiana Jones/Kung-Fu Panda game since a few days after Christmas. I will say that I’m pretty close to finishing COD3 finally, which puts me square in the middle of 2007, yeah me.

I figured I’d look back at the list of games I’ve played and reviewed on here, plus a few more I tried and quit. The first 360 game I played and reviewed over on the ToyFare blog which I don’t think is even around anymore is Skate 2. This is actually the game I probably play the most, especially when I’m really frustrated with whatever shooting/killing game I’m working on and just want to hurl a dude on a board through the air. Skate 3 is coming out next year and hopefully I’ll get that eventually. This is a good one to just play whenever, even though I think I’ve finished most of the missions.

Next up were my reviews for Peggle and Portal, two games I really enjoyed but don’t really play anymore. Portal still blows my mind when I think of it. Have there been anymore levels or anything released online? I should probably get those. Meanwhile, Peggle was a downloadable game I really appreciated. I actually do play it every now and then when I want to play something kind of relaxing. I finished all the levels, so it’s not super fun to go through again, but I have had some fun playing people online who don’t murder me.

There was a time in here when I played a lot of games I either didn’t like or didn’t both writing reviews about. The first was Lost Planet, which someone gave me at Wizard. It was an alright game, but just didn’t grab me, plus there was a giant sandworm-like monster in the snow that I couldn’t kill, frustrated the hell out of me and I quit. Then there was Assassin’s Creed, which I can’t understand why people like. It takes forever to get into the story and the fighting mechanics are just boring. I really don’t get the fascination with this one. Yeah, it looks good, but who cares? I also gave up on Dead Rising because I got screwed over in a save position and just didn’t feel like doing the whole game over again. I am excited for the second one though. Haha, I also played a game called Onechanbara, which was like a PS2 game where you play a hot chick killing zombies. It was super fun, but I got to a motorcycle level I couldn’t get past and lost all interest.

Then I took on FEAR 2, which freaked me out more than it probably should have. I definitely traded that one in when I was done. The next game review I have on here is from two months later when I played–and loved–Batman: Arkham Asylum, but I feel like I must have been playing something else during that time. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I was pretty busy at that time and I also borrowed Ghostbusters from Justin, and couldn’t get past the first freaking level and gave it back to him. I was also intermittently playing COD3 and Halo 3 with my buddies from back home. I also picked up Stranglehold, the Jet Li game and thought it was pretty boring, so gave up on that one. Oh and Guitar Hero 3, which I’m up to medium now, but am only any good at when I’m a few beers deep.

Wheelman was another game that I worked on for a long time and eventually finished. I had a good time playing it and skipped most of the ancillary stuff, but had a fun time with the whole game. The last stack of games I grabbed from Game Stop was Gears Of War, Crackdown and Bioshock. I started with GOW, which I just finished before Christmas and had a great time playing. That last level sure was a bitch though and I didn’t even realize I finally beat that big bastard when I finally did. I was a little surprised at how short the game was, but still liked it. I think I’d rather play a short game and actually be done with it so I can move on. Right now I’m playing Crackdown which reminds me a lot of one of my favorite games of all time the PS2 Spider-Man 2 game, so that’s fun. I did get Left 4 Dead 2 and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 for Christmas which I’ll be starting soon. Oh, plus I’ve still got Dark Sector which I’ve been working through, but got bored with and probably won’t get back to (it’s pretty boring and the mechanics aren’t so great) and Mini Ninjas which I just haven’t gotten around to yet.

The one thing I would like to start doing is actually playing some of these games online with folks. Not just blasting the hell out of each other. Anyone want to play L4D2 or MUA2? Let me know and I’ll pass you my gamertag.

Roseanne Comics Cavalcade: Death Of Superman T-Shirt

Hey, I actually remember which episode this one was taken from! It’s called “It’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays” and it’s a Christmas episode in which everyone gets snowed in in various places. Darlene’s at David’s house, where they have a fight, yet still exchange Christmas presents (Darlene gives David some art supplies, David gives Darlene an original animation cell of unspecified origins). Anyway, the big comic reference in this one is, obviously, David’s Death Of Superman T-shirt. Being the comic book event that got me into reading comics on a regular basis, I’ve got a soft spot for The Death Of Superman and probably geeked out when I saw this back in 1992. You can order your own online, just give it a Google and you can choose from all kinds of variations (no yellow in the shield, more blood, etc.).

The Box: Creatures On The Loose #35, Defenders #59, E-Man #10 & Fantastic Four #207

Hey gang, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these The Box posts and that’s because I had to move the boxes into our storage unit down the road and, well, I’m somewhat lazy. And, to be honest, these four comics I’ll be talking about aren’t from those boxes anyway, but a shoebox full of comics the in-laws gave me for Christmas this year, which was obviously much appreciated. Yesterday I put the comics in alphabetical order, as I’m want to do, grabbed a stack and gave them a read through. The shoebox is mostly late 70s Marvel with a few DC books and some Modern Comics comics thrown in. I’ll be honest, I’m not familiar with that company, but they did some Judo Master comics, so I found them interesting. I’ll spread the comics out over a few posts. For the most part I found these books fun, though some of them dragged. Let’s jump right in though, shall well.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #35 (Marvel)
Written by David Kraft, drawn by George Perez
Working at Wizard, I learned about a lot of comic characters I otherwise probably wouldn’t know anything about. Take Man-Wolf for instance, who stars in this issue. Did you know that, when he’s in a place called the Other Realm, he becomes a guy called Stargod who is a telepath? That’s nuts! So, when I saw this issue of him fighting a red armored guy on the cover, I was sold. Stargod’s not in this issue, mind you, but it was still a fun romp as Hate Monger, in the armor for some reason, captures Man-Wolf and brings him back to his lair only to have Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. show up to save the day. There’s also some stuff with Man-Wolf’s dad J. Jonah Jameson fending off claims that his son is Man-Wolf. I had a pretty good idea of what was going on even though this 1975 comic didn’t have a recap page. And, I guess it did it’s job because I want to read more issues of Creatures On The Loose and some more Man-Wolf stuff. Oh, also, as you might have noticed George Perez penciled this issue, which, according to Comic Book Database’s entry on the artist, was only his sixth issue ever. Don’t expect to open this issue and see Teen Titans or Avengers-level Perez as he’s just cutting his teeth, but there’s a page when the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang comes busting in where you can really see Perez’s style shining through.

THE DEFENDERS #59 (Marvel)
Written by David A. Kraft, drawn by Ed Hannigan & Dan Green
Like the other issue of Defenders I read in a previous The Box, I wasn’t all too interested in this one. The main plot of the book involves Valkyrie, Hulk and Devil Slayer going to Dr. Strange and asking him for help to stop some demon people from doing…something bad. Then, all of a sudden, the story cuts to Hellcat and Nighthawk working their way through some death machines. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really read much of this comic as it was proven fairly early to me that it was going to be long, overly wordy, boring and confusing. Unlike the Man-Wolf issue, this Defenders issue didn’t recap things in a way that was interesting enough to keep me focused on what was happening. Plus, the scenes with the heroes talking to Dr. Strange just seemed way too long and uninteresting. Then, the jump to the other teammates just seemed to come out of nowhere and by then, I was bored and was just looking at the cool deathtraps, which this issue is lousy with (in a good way). As it is, there’s some fights, references to other characters I’m not familiar with and then Dr. Strange dies. Or at least a bearded man tells the Defenders as such nonchalantly at the very end. I think one thing that makes Defenders comics hard for me to follow is that I have no idea why they’re a team or what their purpose is. Anyone know?

E-MAN #10 (Modern Comics)
Written by Nicola Cuti, drawn by Joe Staton
Reading this 1975 issue of E-Man, The Energy Man was an interesting experience because he is a character I knew nothing about heading into this reading experience. That’s a fairly rare occasion because it seems like I’ve at least read about most of the major (and minor) comic book characters out there. What I gathered from this issue is that E-Man was an energy being from another planet who came to earth and eventually took on human shape and became a kind of superhero and shacked up with a woman named Nova. I only know any of that because this issue was a flashback and told me most of the origin stuff. It was an interesting issue overall because it featured E-Man trying to communicate with a blond woman in the forest who loved reading fantasy books. Eventually, someone saw her talking to him as he was playing genie and wanted to kill her as a witch. E-Man came to her defense and ten all of a sudden, she flipped the script and wanted to kill her attackers. As it turned out, the girl was actually mentally unbalanced and had what sounds like bipolar disorder. I thought that was an interesting twist from a comic I didn’t expect much out of, especially because of the cartoony art by Staton. I’d be interested in checking out more E-Man issues, does anyone know about him?

FANTASTIC FOUR #207 (Marvel)
Written by Marv Wolfman, drawn by Sal Buscema & Joe Sinnott
Here’s the deal with this issue of Fantastic Four. The Fantastic Four aren’t in it. Also, Johnny Storm is away at college, but it’s a college run by mind-controlling super-villain The Monocle. So, you’ve got the Human Torch flying around doing bad things and it’s up to Spider-Man to stop his old friend from doing too much damage. Oh, also, Peter Parker is now working for a different paper and trying to dig up some dirt on the place. This was another fairly straightforward and fairly boring story to slog through. Maybe I’ve read too many comics in my day, but this kind of thing just felt very been-there, done-that and thus wasn’t that interesting. Really it had me wondering what the status of the FF was at this time. Where is the rest of the team? Why would Reed, the smartest man in the world, not know that this college is being run by a super-villain? Why would anyone trust a man who wears a monocle and isn’t British? These are all questions I was left asking. It looks like the next issue will be more interesting as someone has captured Medusa of the Inhumans!!! Maybe I’ll stumble across that one at some point…or not, whatever.

Quick Movie Review: The Mechanic (1972)

After watching Breakout a while back, I added every single Charles Bronson movie available on Netflix’s instant watch. One such movie is The Mechanic, which I knew absolutely nothing about and had a great time watching it. I’m guessing the popularity of James Bond movies helped get this flick made. Or maybe the 70s were just filled with movies like these. I guess I should explain. See, Bronson plays a hitman who works for an organization which sends him packages of information on his victims. Early in the movie, he gets a package with the picture of his friend Big Harry who he succeeds in killing. Soon after, he takes on Harry’s son played by Jan-Michael Vincent to train as a mechanic (a.k.a. hitman) for the organization. It’s kind of like Bangkok Dangerous, with an older killer taking someone under his wing and explaining how to do what they do, but, you know, not incredibly lame and boring. Not only do we get treated to some really fun training sessions first with Bronson alone in his cool 70s pad (with full-on knife throwing and a secret wall where he puts all the information on his hits) and later with him and Vincent. And don’t worry, just because it’s got a PG rating doesn’t mean this movie is lame. I would have thought it would be and R or PG-13 (though that rating didn’t exist back then) because of all the deaths (and there are a lot). Now I’m going to jump into SPOILER TERRITORY. I really, liked how this movie ended. After being given a mission that would take him to Italy, Bronson went home to discover that Vincent had actually been given a case file with him in it (so Vincent was assigned to kill Bronson). Knowing this, he prepared himself and the two of them went off and did the mission in style (this is a great couple of sequences). Anyway, at the end, after completing the mission in Italy, Vincent poisons Bronson and heads back to Bronson’s place. Bronson figured this would happen, so he rigged a stress ball that he always used to explode if moved by anyone aside from him and killed Vincent. I liked how bleak the ending was with both killers getting killed. There’s an interesting tone to the movie as it just kind of sits back and lets events unfold without getting judgmental about what’s happening on screen. It also balances really dark moments like when Vincent takes Bronson to this girl’s house where she has threatened to, and then does, slit her wrists right in front of them. Then, you’ve got later scenes with the two kicking ass and taking names. If you need further prodding to check this movie out, it’s directed by Michael Winner who also directed Death Wish 1-3, all classics in their own right. Oh, plus, Jason Statham is working on a remake, so you might as well check this out, so you can bitch about how different they are.

My Favorite Albums Of 2009

I usually don’t go in for these end of the year/decade top ten lists. Mostly because I rarely agree with them and also because I have such a crappy memory that I can’t remember what all I’ve read or seen or watched in a year, so it would involve a lot more research than I want to put in. However, it’s pretty easy with records because I’ve got everything in my iPod and can easily look at what came out in 2009. Or at least, that was the theory, apparently a good deal of records still don’t have the year published, which is annoying. I also found a lot of the records I thought came out in 2009 actually came out in 2008, SO this is my a list of my favorite records that I bought in 2009, with some 2008 ones thrown in. They’re in no particular order, so here we go.

I first heard Cage The Elephant on the Opie and Anthony Show before the dumb New York station dropped them and switched to a pop format. I think I went out and picked up the record that day and it’s been in heavy rotation ever since. This record is just a plain old, great rock and roll record that doesn’t let up from beginning to end. I like the two guitar attack and the gyrating jerkiness of the entire thing. It’s rare that I buy a record that can keep me pumped up for throughout it’s entirety, yet CTE sure does that. “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” may have been the big breakout song, but I like “In One Ear” even better and here it is in video form.

Jay-Z’s latest record held kind of a special place in my heart. See, it came out right before I got let go from Wizard in September. I was really looking forward to it, as I mentioned back in August, and it turned into this kind of Holy Grail for me because I didn’t want to spend any extra money until I had a new job or at least some steady freelance coming in. Well, finally, a few weeks ago, I deemed myself succesful enough to pick this bad boy up and it’s pretty great. I must admit that I haven’t taken the time to really absorb the whole thing because I just got it and don’t listen to as much music as I used to, but the singles alone make this record with the purchase. My favorite track is still “D.O.A.”

I first heard K’Naan in those mini-videos that MTV does between the end of a show before a commercial and the actual commercial. I heard enough snipets to know I’d be into this hip hop record from this Somalian artist. Aside from sporting some jams that are impossible to keep still during, I was also excited to hear some rhymes from a guy who came from a whole different way of life. I know he moved out of Somalia and to Canada when he was pretty young, but hearing him rap about fending off armed thugs and real life pirates put a lot of American posturing into context. Even when he slows things down, I still found myeslf engaged thanks to his insightful lyrics and smooth delivery. You can do a lot worse than picking this record up for your collection. I like every song on the record, but if I had one to add to a mix tape it would have to be the song he did with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine called “Bang Bang.”

The Street Sweeper Social Club’s record is another one that puts things in a whole different perspective with its mix of hip hop and rap. What else would you expect from the pairing of Rage Against The Machine guitarist Tom Morello and MC Boots Riley (who I honestly hadn’t heard of before). By combining Riley’s highly politically and incindieary lyrics with Morello’s funk-infused rock licks, you get a record that demands to be heard and really listened to. It’s like the Street Sweeper Social Club record is the soundtrack to a revolution that hasn’t really picked up too much steam yet. But don’t be too scared off if you’re not a fan of politically charged lyrics, I think there’s enough on TSSSC for any fan of really well crafted hip hop and rock to enjoy. Just check out this song called “100 Little Curses” for a taste. Just a warning, the lyrics are definitely NSFW.

I’m sure I discovered Estelle when the rest of the world did with the release of her song “American Boy” which featured the now-even-more-notorious Kanye West. It was a pretty hot song that seemed to dominate the airwaves both on the radio and video channels (back when there still were TV airwaves!). I really dug the song and figured I’d give the album a shot and really liked it. It’s more of a modern soul record really than anything else. Yes there’s plenty of hip hop influences on there, but you’ve also got plenty of Motown sneaking through too that makes this a pretty fun record to listen through. It definitely slows down in the middle, which I’m not a huge fan of, but there’s plenty of goodness on there, especially this first track “Just A Touch (Just A Touch)” which apparently features Will.I.Am.

My gigantic crush on Katy Perry’s retro style aside, I’m still a really big fan of this record. Yes, it’s pop radio stuff, but it’s really good, sexy pop radio stuff. To be honest, I’m not really sure when I bought this record. I feel like it was 2009, but it came out in 2008 as did the first big single “I Kissed A Boy.” Ah well, screw it. I think I bought the record after “Hot N Cold” came out (which also appeared as a single in 2008) and was pleasantly surprised with how much I liked listening to it. The record covers a surprising amount of ground from a tomboy turning into a woman to flirtations with lesbianism. Perry at least co-wrote every song on the record and I think she’s got a solid sense of songwriting. It’s too bad Lady Gaga swept in with her weird fashion sense, otherwise Perry’s style would have caught on better. Ah well, here’s the video of her and her band(!) playing “One Of The Boys” live.

Imelda May’s Love Tattoo is another record that came out in 2008 that I didn’t come across until 2009. Heck, I had never even heard of her before until I walked into the Best Buy on 5th Ave. in NYC, saw that it was like $7 and decided to give it a shot based on her retro hotness (are you noticing a partern?). Anyway, this may be my favorite find of the year as Love Tattoo gave me something I’ve been looking for and not finding for a while: a female vocalist with a swing/rockabilly sound who doesn’t get overly soft for most of the record. I had high hopes for Duffy after hearing her first single, but that was all super-sad mellow stuff. I also picked up and loved Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ 100 Days, 100 Nights, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. And I liked Estelle and Katy Perry’s records, but, again, it wasn’t what I had in my mind. Love Tattoo absolutely was. It does get a little soft at times, but May never loses her disctint attitude. She also writes the kind of songs that any man would love to have written about them like this one, called “Big Bad Handsome Man.”

This one’s definitely the saddest entry of the bunch because not only did the drumming/DJ duo of Travis Barker and DJ AM, survive a tragic plane crash in 2008, but DJ AM passed away in August. Well, after the accident Barker and AM got together to play Coachella this year and released the set as a mixtape on their website TRVSDJAM.com. And it really is a thing of genius, even more impressive when you realize it was done live. See, the deal is that AM would spin and mix at the DJ tables while Barker drummed along and added beats. I had listened to their first mix tape, called Fix Your Face and was really excited when this one went up. Unfortuantely, DJ AM passed away only a few months later. If you like what you see in the video below from Coachella then head over to the site and download both mixtapes. RIP DJ AM!