Snack Shack: Ritz Munchables & Town House Flipsides

I believe I’ve mentioned my love for Mr. Phipp’s Pretzel Chips, a snack that took the saltiness of a pretzel and put it together with a chip. The disappeared a while ago never to return again. Recently, though, I’ve seen a resurgence of pretzel and cracker combinations that have piqued my interest.

While at the grocery store a few weeks back, I saw this box of Ritz Munchables. I thought they were just the regular pretzel/cracker combo, but instead I got the cheesy sour cream and onion flavor. I didn’t really look at the weird half and half box so I got a surprise when I opened the box and tasted the cracker.

They were pretty good, but I don’t think I would get the flavored versions again. If I want that kind of flavor, I’ll go for chips or something. In my mind, combining the goodness of buttery Ritz crackers and pretzels, is good enough, you don’t need to add extra flavors on top of that. Note, they didn’t taste bad, but I would have been satisfied with the bare bones Munchable instead of this enhanced version.

What I wanted from the Munchables, Town House’s FlipSides totally delivered. The crackers are nice and buttery, but not too much and the pretzel side is good and salty. Really, it’s two great tastes that taste great together. I killed this whole box in just a few days, because I kept them near my work area which was probably a good idea. They’re also good while drinking and playing video games.

So, if you’re not satisfied with just pretzels or crackers, give FlipSides a try and if you think to yourself “I need more flava!” hit up the flavored Munchables. I will say that, while an okay substitute for actual pretzels neither of these are better, in my opinion that some really good pretzels, but they’re an interesting thing to try every now and then and would probably be great for parties.

Best Of The Best: HERO

Like with movies, I’ve been reading mostly newer trades (stuff I haven’t read before), but after getting most of the issues of HERO bound recently, I decided to sit down with that book and read it all in one sitting. Damn, is this a good book.

Written by Will Pfeifer and drawn by a series of artists including Kano, Patrick Gleason, Leonard Kirk and Dale Eaglesham, HERO doesn’t so much follow a character, but an object. In this case it’s the “H Dial” an old device from DC comics where the gimmick was that it would change the user into a random hero, sometimes suggested by the readers themselves. Over the course of the series, the device lands in the hands of many different characters and they use it as they see fit, kind of like that show Gun that was on ABC in 1997. Sometimes they use it to turn into a superhero only to discover that’s not as easy as it seems, sometimes to become a mega powered master criminal and sometimes to impress the kids at school. Like 100 Bullets, though, the gimmick eventually leads into a larger story with many of the characters coming back in the last few issues.

But the important thing about this comic, which ran for 22 issues between 2003 and 2005, is that it never felt like a gimmick. Pfeifer had this incredible ability to introduce us to brand new characters every few issues and give us something to like in each of them. Whether it’s the business man who wants to fly or the dudes who just want to make a super-powered Jackass, these characters all felt interesting in one way or another.

You might remember there being a lot of hype about this book when it first came out because Geoff Johns offered a moneyback guarantee if anyone bought the book and didn’t like it. He talks about that in the forward of the first and sadly only trade. Johns brings up the point that Pfeifer seemed to be getting at with the series which is that every comic book fan has thought about having these awesome powers, but how hard have we really through about what we would do with them if we did in fact have them. I think in the real world you’d have a lot more people doing what these characters did with the H dial and far fewer taking the Superman and Batman route. It’s interesting that, while firmly set in the DCU HERO never had any guest stars, but the whole point of the series kind of shines a spotlight on what those other heroes do day in and day out. Basically, it’s not easy being Superman.

I could get into an arc by arc breakdown of why this is such a good book. Every artist absolutely nails their arcs and the series actually has a very satisfying conclusion, though not necessarily a happy one for everyone involved. I liked how everyone who had the H dial earlier in the series came back. I first heard about this book when I interned at Wizard. I read all the issues then and even bought a copy of HERO from Pfeifer at the 2003 Mid Ohio Con. I went on to get the rest of the issues here and there and thank goodness I did because it doesn’t look like there’s any plans for DC to collect this story anytime soon. HERO introduced me to some of my favorite artists like Gleason, Kano and Eaglesham (my buddy Rickey owns the splash page of the woman who’s all cubed up and I’m super jealous of that fact). Plus it drew my attention to Pfeifer whose work I thoroughly enjoyed on Aquaman, another run that got cut short too soon.

I know it’s not easy to pick up HERO. You’ve got to hunt down an out of print (I assume) trade plus a bunch of issues, but I bet they’re not too expensive. Maybe add them to your shopping list this con season and see what you can come up with. I’m not about to lay down a moneyback guarantee like Johns did (he said in that forward, which was written in 2003, that no one ever took him up on that, I wonder if it still holds true), but I highly HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone even remotely interested in superhero comics. Even if you’re a Marvel zombie, I wager you’d like this book. Heck, even if you’re not a superhero fan and prefer more real world-based comics because you think no one would really act like superheroes do in mainstream comics, then this is the book for you because it basically says just that.

That’s the end of the actual review. Now I just want to briefly talk about the reading experience I had with my bound comics. There were 16 issues not collected in the first trade, so I was a little worried about losing text balloons and art to the gutter (the space where the staples go). I mainly figured this would happen in the middle, but the only place I had even the remotest amount of trouble was in the first and last few issues. And even then, I just had to stretch the book open a little bit more and I had no problem. I’m also currently reading a stack of single issues about the same size and I can easily say that I prefer having everything all in one convenient space. I recommend getting comics bound like I recommend HERO, all the way.

Taylor Swift Meets The Ghostbusters

Anyone else see this Sony Cyber-shot commercial starring Taylor Swift? Aside from being a pretty rad-looking camera (panoramic’s back Jack!) the commercial also briefly features the Ecto-1, the Wheel of Fortune and…a bear being pulled in a cart? Anyone recognize him? He’s in the bottom left of the image.

Roseanne Comics Cavalcade: The Psycho

At first I thought the Psycho poster over Roseanne’s right shoulder was an early promo image for Dan Brereton’s rad series The Nocturnals, but it turns out it was actually a three issue mini series that he drew/painted with someone named Hudnall for DC which actually preceded The Nocturnals. Crazy right? Anyway, here’s an image of the poster not taken with a cell phone camera:I’m a big fan of Brereton’s. He’s one of the rare artists whose art I wasn’t familiar with until I went to a comic convention as a kid and met him. He did a rad Harley Quinn sketch for me and even suggested I get a second sketchbook to maximize my sketch potential. He was super nice and that spurred me on to check out Nocturnals, Giantkiller and Batman: Thrillkiller. Now I wanna track these issues down and check them out.

News Of The Day: You Can STILL Buy New DeLoreans?!

This morning before heading to the coffee shop to bang out what turned out to be a surprisingly efficient round of freelance work, I turned the TV on and watched a show I’ve never checked out before: Modern Marvels. Usually this show focuses on technology and industry which I’m not really interested in, but today’s was about 80s technology. It talked about things like the Rubicks cube, Atari and Beta Max (we had that when I was a kid), but the most interesting thing I learned from the episode is that you can still buy new-ish DeLoreans. See, when the original company shut down, another company bought all their parts and stock and will put them together now for the tune of $57,500. I know that’s a lot of money, but hot damn, it’s the Back To The Future car!  Here’s the video from Modern Marvels:

Best Of The Best: Grandma’s Boy (2006)

It’s been a while since I did one of these Best Of The Best posts because I’ve been watching and reading mostly newer stuff that I haven’t seen before and Best Of The Best is reserved for movies, comics, books and eventually records that I truly love. So, in the hierarchy of UnitedMonkee there’s good, great, awesome and then BOTB. And Grandma’s Boy is easily BOTB material even though it’s a relatively new movie.

I was one of the few people that actually went to the theaters to see this movie with some friends. I don’t mean that to sound like I’ve got street cred or anything (I’m not saying I knew Pavement before they got mildly popular), I just mean that the movie didn’t do very well because most people didn’t see it until it came out on DVD. At the time I was a research assistant at Wizard and basically living the dream. I got to work in comics with some rad people. Sure there was bullshit going on, but who cares?

I don’t remember why we went to see GB, actually. It might have appealed to some of my weed loving friends or maybe someone was a big fan of Adam Sandler’s friends, but whatever the reason, we went to the Palisades Mall, got some 2-for-1 beers at Chilis and then stumbled over to the theater for 94 minutes of hilarity.

Aside from being a genuinely fun and hilarious movie with a solid cast (excepting maybe star Allen Covert) that includes Doris Roberts, Nick Swardson, Jonah Hill, Linda Cardellini (from Freaks & Geeks), Joel Moore (of Dodgeball and Hatchet fame), Kevin Nealon, Peter Dante and Shirley Knight (Partridge Family) with cameos by David Spade and Rob Schneider, though curiously not Sandler himself, this movie holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of how fun working with rad people can be. I know that sounds lame and sentimental, but Brainasium really does remind me of Wizard in a lot of ways. It sure as hell didn’t look as awesome as their place, but there’s a lot to relate to.

The idea behind the movie is that Allen Covert gets kicked out of his place and starts living with his grandma, played by Roberts and her roommates, one of which is Jones. He works as a video game tester and their newest game is running a little behind so boss Nealon hires Cardellini to come in and make sure everything’s on track. From there we meet the interesting, hilarious and seriously weird characters who work in that environment. Sure many of them are over the top, like Moore and some are just sort of there like Hill, but they all make this awesome tapestry of funny that keeps chugging a long, keeping me laughing the whole time.

I get that this one’s not for everyone. There’s a lot of weed humor, plus it’s definitely kind of a dumb comedy, but it holds a special place in my heart and makes me laugh every time. Like earlier today when I popped it in and was both saying lines as they happened (“I’m thinking of getting metal legs.”) and still being surprised here and there (I always forget Hill’s in this movie). So, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend it, though I worry that it might have been too hyped up (and yes, I realized I’m actually adding to that hype). Go out, check it out and enjoy!

So Fresh & So Meat Episode 4

After yesterday’s rant about how disappointing this week’s TV has been, I was definitely looking forward to tonight’s brand new episode of Fresh Meat II and it proved to be pretty great, though not in the traditional sense. Here’s the full run down!

*I can’t remember the last time one of these challenges has gone the way I wanted it to.

*Wes, Ev and Landon seems to have things pretty well figured out.

*Ah, Theresa’s angry at Kenny for telling Wes she went after Kenny first. This is interesting because her partner is Ryan who is a possible vote for Kenny.

*Haha, Danny’s getting all pissed because Pete called him on stealing the potatoes he just spent a ton of time making. Danny’s a nut. Now, he’s just picking fights with everyone, including throwing food at Wes.

*Now Danny’s yelling at Brandon, who’s not about to back down. Danny goes to go to sleep, then comes back and pushes Brandon, who pushes back, accidentally knocking Wes down. Wes looks pretty hurt, but Brandon’s still trying to go after Danny. Wes jumps up and straddles Brandon, holding him like he’s a baby.

*Wow, Kenny, calling someone hopeless and pathetic for following someone else is amazingly hilarious.

*Aww, they’re literally hugging and making up.

*I like that Wes considers this whole thing his job. That’s smart.

*The challenge is called King of the Wall. There’s a floating platform 30 yard away from land. They’ve got to climb a climbing wall with these rock-like protrusions.

*Kenny, it would actually be smarter for you to go in second or third because it’s only going to get wetter.

*Ev fell into the water but they still do it in under a minute. Landon basically shoves Carley up the thing, but they do well.

*CJ and Sydney just barely lose to Ev and Luke. Damn, Danny and Sandy came out of nowhere to get 57 seconds. Wes is shoving Mandi up too. Pretty funny. Oh shit, they got 53 seconds.

*Katelynn and Brandon blow it. Well, Katelynn really. She keeps sliding in. Her helmet keeps sliding. She slides down, hits every rock and gets pretty hurt.

*Ryan got to the top and almost fell back down the whole thing, but bounced back.

*Jenn and Noor do the ass-pushing method, but come in pretty late. Now it’s up to Jilian and Pete who just do okay.

*Finally, Kenny and Laurel are up. They race up that thing in 36 seconds, killing everyone else. It helps when you don’t have to push or drag your partner up.

*Katelynn goes to the hospital.

*Haha, now Ev’s trying to manipulate thing. She wants Kenny to think that they’re going to vote Ryan in, thinking that Kenny will let Ryan choose. Ryan’s in on it and chooses CJ and Sydney. Kenny okays it.

*So, the idea is that Kenny and Laurel will choose CJ and Sydney, then, everyone else will really vote for Jilian and Pete. Ryan just wants to get paid, yo! And he said if they save him this time, he’ll vote in their favor from here on out.

*Katelynn comes back with crutches.

*Kenny votes in CJ and Sydney. Well played Ev. I see this coming down between Ev and Wes in the end.

*Now, Ev flips the script and votes in Katelynn and Brandon. Wah wah.

*Haha, good point Brandon, if you’re partner’s too injured you might as well party tonight and not show up tomorrow.

*But now Sydney’s saying they should show up and at least let CJ and Sydney see what the exile is like. Katelynn’s cool with it.

*Ryan’s trying to smooth things over between Wes and Theresa. Now they’re okay again and Wes is waxing romantic.

*Haha, so Brandon gets toasted and walks around the house mostly naked and drunk. Well played sir. Haha, dude even has a few beers before heading to the exile.

*So, they all show up to the exile, Brandon’s drunk and hungover, Katelynn’s on crutches and TJ’s asking them if they’re good to go. There’s only 8 minutes left, so unless this exile involves land mines and Sydney or CJ make  a misstep, we’ll be watching a sped up version of the finale with the inevitable meet up back at the house.

*Hmm, after the commercial they just cut to CJ and Sydney coming home. From what they’re saying, it sounds like they got stopped after Katelynn and Brandon stopped.

*Haha, what really happened is that Brandon got DQed for drinking ahead of time!

*I wonder why they decided to lie. Ah, as CJ explain, it puts them a few rungs higher on the ladder.

*Now, back at the house, CJ’s getting grilled by Wes and he’s flat out lying.

*CJ and Landon are talking now about how they’re not real sure about Wes and that alliance, even potentially talking about starting an alliance of their own, wondering if anyone would join them. The problem with such a big alliance is that, at some point, it has to fall apart or get pared down.

A Crummy TV Week

Blarg. After not having new episodes of How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory on Monday, I was pretty bummed to find out that Lost was a rerun tonight. What’s the deal? Then the missus watched tonight’s Glee which I kind of sort of hated. It seems like the writers haven’t gotten over their flare for ridiculous storylines. I can’t be the only one who got completely freaked out by Kurt’s attempt to put his dad and Finn’s mom together on the off chance that they move in together which would put him in the same house and potentially room as Finn? I’m sure some folks will tell me that I’m reading into the show too much, which may be, but I like my fiction to make logical sense. Go figure.

It was a big night tonight for Mike O’Malley who appeared on Glee as Kurt’s dad and Parenthood. I haven’t talked much about Parenthood, but I’ve been really digging that show, even though it wasn’t nearly as much of a comedy as I figured it would be considering it was by the guys who put one of my all time favorite shows together Arrested Development. Tonight’s episode was another good one that once again gave me the willies when it comes to my potential future as a parent.

Anyway, I’m watching the 9 by Design episode that first ran at 10:00 tonight. I’ve been digging that show a lot so far. Plus, Fresh Meat II and the Thursday comedies look to be new this week, so that will help, but I’m still bummed out by the lack of new Big Bang Theory episodes over the past month. We’ve had, what, one maybe two new episodes on all of April? Unacceptable!

Toy Commercial Tuesday: Karate Kid

Anyone else remember this line of Karate Kid figures? I have some of the random ninjas, not Daniel or Mr. Miyagi. I’m guessing they came with the rad Karate Kid playset I had as a kid (and still have at my parents’ house) that I never knew the origin of until the last few years when I saw ads for it on the back of comics from the 80s. That’s one childhood mystery solved! Anyway, I love these old toy commercials that show kids both talking about the characters/figures like they’re real people and also controlling their actions at the same time. I’m sure that’s a deep rooted commentary on society or some such, but just look at how well those figures kick ass! I can’t say for sure I used this exact commercial, but I used a lot of commercials like this when I put together my list of greatest action features list for ToyFare. That was a super fun list to put together and was only helped by YouTube!

UnitedMonkee On Wikipedia!

Holy sweet Christmas. I was checking out my WordPress stats which are nowhere near as cool as my beloved and much-missed Google Analytics (one of the downsides of switching from Blogspot to WordPress) when I discovered that my post about the Saturday Night Live-themed T-Mobile commercial is actually referenced on Wikipedia’s page about T-Mobile. How wild is that? I’ve been referenced on Wikipedia before, mostly for my ToyFare write-ups, but this is the first time that I know of that has gotten a mention. It’s footnote #31 there. In case it doesn’t last, I snapped a few screen grabs for posterity:

I promise, I won’t let it go to my head.