Thursday, June 21, 2018

God Didn't Make Rambo...



...I made him.


Yup, I finally got myself a Colonel Trautman figure from the 1986 Coleco line to stand proudly next to my Rambo figure.

I love how the toy line basically said, "To heck with the animated series," and went with movie renditions of Trautman (and Rambo).

I also like all the awesome details and accessories packed in with this bad boy;



I admittedly could have and should have looked for one in better condition in terms of the paint application on the hands, but in my defense I didn't notice this when buying it.


The detail in the arm patches is so awesome!



The man would honestly be weighted down running into battle with all of this gear!


Turn the crank on the backpack to thread the looped bullet belt through the weapon with a clicking machine gun sound!


There was a downside to buying this particular figure. That would be that he also had a fully decked out Rambo with it and he was not interested in splitting the two up. So as Nute Gunaray would say...

 Now there are two of them!

If anyone is interested in the Rambo figure holding the RPG at an angle, he's up for trade or sale. I ended up paying $60.00 for the pair (Rambo and Trautman) and would sell him for down the middle, $30.00. He has all of his accessories and unlike Trautman has zero paint flaking or wear. But, as I mentioned, we can also work out a fair trade if you've got something I'm looking for; 80's CD's, complete and mint(ish) condition Cobra figures between 1983 and 1987, or complete Robocop and or ED-260 from Kenner. Hit me up with a comment if you're interested.

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Painted Memories: Guess Your Weight




Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Retro Spins: Steve Winwood - Back In The High Life



Steve Winwood
Back in the High Life
1986

Steve Winwood was no stranger to the music scene having been a part of major acts such as Traffic, Eric Clapton and more before as early as 1967. In 1977 Winwood released his first (self titled) debut. Unfortunately his career, while moderately successful, sputtered along for his first three albums.

After a four year hiatus, in June of 1986 Winwood released what would become his most popular album to date - Back in the High Life. The hit Higher Love charted the same month the album was released and worked its way all the way up to the number one spot by August of that same year. Though it started dropping down the charts immediately thereafter, it was joined in September of that same year by Freedom Spills, the second single from the album. Freedom would make it to the number twenty spot before beginning its decent back off the charts.

However, in February of the following year, another song from the album hit the charts - Finer Things. Though it made its way to the top ten by April of 1987, the song never reached number one and by May began its decent off the charts. This wouldn't be the last hit for Winwood from the album. Also in May of '87, the album title song, Back in the High Life stepped onto the charts making it all the way to number thirteen before slowly dropping off.

This heightened popularity for Winwood helped out his prior albums too as in October of 1987 the song Valerie (from his 1982 album Talking Back to the Night) debuted on the charts at number seventy-seven. It climbed all the way to number nine until it began fall from the charts through early 1988. It would be joined by the title track of the album, Talking Back to the Night and then by a song from Winwood's follow up album, Roll with It.

With so many hits from the album and a resurgence of interest in his prior work you would think the record as a whole would be amazing. Sadly, this isn't the case. The tempo stays relatively the same and the hits are really the only tracks to stand out. In fact, as I was listening to one of the songs - which at this point I don't even remember the title of - I found myself saying, "This is the kind of music I would expect to hear in a movie about a bar or while physically sitting at a bar." I probably can't explain what that means, but feel you would know what I mean if you experienced the album for yourself.

I'm actually kind of sad to say that no new tunes made it to my IPOD to join the songs which were already there; Higher Love, Back in the High Life and The Finer Things.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Three Musketeers (JusToys)



The Three Musketeers
JusToys
1993

Disney has always had a problem when it comes to producing blockbuster films. It seems they often think having big name actors attached is enough to turn a lifeless script into a hit. Sure, it may fill theater seats, but without a solid story they are often short lived and quickly forgotten.

The Three Musketeers just so happens to fall under all of this. Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Suttherland, Chris O'Donnell, Tim Curry and Rebecca De Mornay couldn't bring enough star power to the film to save it from the sinking ship it resulted in being. At a budget of $30,000,000.00 the return of a mere $53,898,845.00 resonated with the words box office failure.

 Aramis*Athos

The short lived film had an even shorter lived toy line which was produced in bendable figure fashion from JusToys in 1993. About the only thing going for this line is that one can complete a set of the Musketeers if they truly desired to...Unfortunately, not many people did (or do).

 D'Artagnan*Porthos

The figures were quickly shuffled to clearance bins where they continued to remain in stock even at the mere price of ninety-nine cents (or less). Stores couldn't give these things away.

Richeliieu*Cardback

These days the figures fair much better on secondary markets than they originally did on toy shelves. On average you can expect to pay about $10.00 for each one (mint on card). That's not a bad return on a line that was originally shunned to clearance bins.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Painted Memories: 88 Miles Per Hour!




Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

MotU Evil Horde



A nod to Brother Midnight... 


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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Retro Spins: Mr. Mister - Welcome To The Real World



Mr. Mister
Welcome to the Real World
1985

Mr. Mister failed to draw much attention in 1984 when they released their first album, I Wear the Face. However, their follow up Welcome to the Real World released in November of 1985 changed all of that.

The single Broken Wings entered the charts in September of that same year, two months before the album even went on sale. Not only did the song reach number one by December of that same year, but it was joined on the charts by the albums second single, Kyrie. Merry Christmas Mr. Mister!

The two songs remained on the charts into 1986 where in January they passed each other as Kyrie continued its way up and Broken Wings was on its way out. Kyrie became Mr. Misters second number one hit by March of 1986 while Broken Wings fell off the charts.

Kyrie would be joined on the charts by the third single from the album Is It Love in March of '86 and much like Broken Wings and Kyrie, the two passed each other heading in opposite directions by April (Kyrie heading off the charts with Is It Love heading up them). Unfortunately for Is It Love, it would only reach the number eight spot before beginning its decent down the charts where it would disappear completely by June.

As a whole album, Welcome to the Real World is pretty good. In fact, I added a total of five (out of the ten) songs from it to my IPOD. Yes, Kyrie and Broken Wings are obviously two that made their way to it as were Is It Love, Black / White and Uniform of Youth.

Definitely a good treat for the ears.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

TikiMon (Mezco)



TikiMon
Mezco
2003

TikiMon! Yet another oddball entry from Mezco during its heydays of the new Millennium. There is honestly little to say about this line as even packaging really gives no insight as to what the overall premise is. "Full of fun and Polynesian Pop!" is really all you'll find on the back regarding the series.

The back of the package also showcases all the figures from series one (AKA the only series), but even then beyond telling you the character's names and what accessories each one comes with there is no concepts shared behind the line.

 Bomboo*Indo*Kali

For further information we actually had to seek out other websites in an effort to uncover the mystery. What we found was Toynk.com who seem to still have an abundance of stock on hand. On their site, they note the following about the line;

"Where is TikiMon Island? Basically in the middle of nowhere. Until now no human has ever seen a TikiMon which is good because they're usually getting into trouble."

Still not very insightful, but we're further then we were.

 Monsoon*Ungowa

Each figure stands approximately six inches high and comes packed in with its own unique accessories such as surfboards, shields and even parachutes. Each figure also features six points of articulation.

Prior to the line dissipating into thin air, Mezco produced two San Diego Comic Con exclusives. Unfortunately, since the figures were packaged in a blue non-see through package collectors were essentially blind bag buying and hoping for the best.


Ungowa (2004 SDCC Exclusive)

The line is definitely unique and has a cool factor to it. Unfortunately, it's the lack of any real premise behind it which gives it the "meh" factor. The world of toys isn't just about sculpting something that looks cool. It's about creating characters people want to learn about and collect as a result of that expanded interest from knowing about them. When you just throw a line out on the market and give it little to no thought, you end up with little to no reception.

Think of how much cooler these guys would be with an animated series behind them?

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Friday, June 8, 2018

With Apologies to Commentors



So apparently my e-mail account has stopped informing me when there were comments on my site, so I essentially haven't (until today) posted anyone's comments or responded - Because I didn't think there were any.

Sorry about that!

I found a ton of comments awaiting moderation when I clicked the dashboard through Blogger and have posted all the non-spam related ones and will respond soon.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Painted Memories: It's Only Forever





Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Retro Spins: Run DMC - Raising Hell



Run DMC
Raising Hell
1986

Rap music and me are like grease and water. They just don't go together. I'm not big on heavy bass driven beats nor songs with a bunch of cursing and nonsensical lyrics behind it. So for me, it was odd I found myself listening to Run DMC's May 1986 album, Raising Hell. I had bought the album for one song - Walk This Way with Aerosmith and quite honestly I had no intentions of listening to anything other than that.

Well, let me tell you, I'm glad I did. Mind you, I'm no better enlightened in the world for having done so, nor will I be rushing out to buy up a bunch of 80's rap music albums. However, I can say there were some songs on there which stood out for me. I can also say as a whole the album flows rather nicely from track to track to keep you mentally invested.

It is unfortunately for the fact that the album flows so well that I honestly didn't pick up on too many tracks which stood out as singles which I wanted to add to my IPOD. I of course already had Walk This Way added to my shuffle list and added It's Tricky, Raising Hell and You Be Illin'.

The fact that I enjoyed the album did intrigue me enough to look up some 80's rap artists and along with that I found an interesting read on the Golden Age of Hip Hop on Wikipedia. Again, I'm not going to rush out and grab a bunch of rap albums, but I can say with all honesty I was entertained listening to this album. I can also appreciate how it helped to pave the way for rap music as a genre.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Vintage Star Wars Board Games



Vintage Star Wars Board Games
Kenner, Toltoys and Parker Brothers
1978 - 1995

Ah, who doesn't love a good board game? Set up for twenty minutes, play for five, repack for another ten minutes, and repeat. So time consuming.

Okay, so we're not really big board game fans here at The Toy Box, but we do have to admit there is some charm to be found in the display factor of the games - Especially a lot of the ones from the 70's and 80's. Board games are like books. All they have is the cover and back blurb to hook you. As for what's between both covers, only dropping your cash will truly answer that question.

We all know the story about how Kenner really didn't have a lot of product ready for Christmas in 1978. We all know they sold an Early Bird kit of figures - AKA an empty box - Just to start selling something. However, action figures were only the tip of the iceberg for the company. They released numerous toys for the brand - Some of which included board games.

Today we'll look at several (if not all) of the Star Wars branded games released throughout the Trilogy.


STAR WARS

Kenner produced three games for Star Wars, each with its own theme, but yet same outcome where the player was required to eventually destroy the Death Star.

ESCAPE FROM DEATH STAR GAME

Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca are trapped in the Death Star Trash Compactor. It's your challenge to help them escape to the freedom of the Rebel Base.

R2-D2 spins out your moves, but you must decide what passage ways to follow. The safe way in the long way, and time is running out. You must turn off the tractor beam and pick up a pair of secret plans. Will you take short cuts that risk encounters with the Force? You will if you're daring, and could be the first to board the Millennium Falcon, fight your way through TIE Fighters, and reach the rebel base to win!

DESTROY DEATH STAR GAME

You command a squadron of three X-Wing fighters and try to drop your proton torpedoes down the exhaust shaft of the Death Star before it can destroy Yavin IV! The spinner dictates movements and determines the results of the battles.

Watch out for Darth Vader! He can pop up to cause trouble, but don't worry. The Millennium Falcon is coming to the rescue!

ADVENTURES OF R2-D2 GAME

Experience the adventures of R2-D2, the true hero of the Rebellion!

Players take turns spinning and moving R2-D2 to the next colored circle along the adventure path. Watch out for the purple adventure circles that send you backwards, and try to get the to white adventure circles to move forward.

The first one to return to the Rebel Base on Yavin IV after destroying the Death Star wins!

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

Kenner jumped straight into The Empire Strikes back with two new games, which oddly enough played in a very similar manner.

YODA THE JEDI MASTER GAME

Be the first player to become a Jedi Knight, defeat the Dark Side of the Force and win!

Travel to the Dagobah System where Yoda, the ancient Jedi Master, will teach you the ways of the Force. Acquire Jedi merit as you successfully accomplish the difficult tasks and trials Yoda sets for your training.

Once you've obtained sufficient merit as a Jedi, enter the Jedi Knight circle and out-spin the Dark Side of the Force to win!

HOTH ICE PLANET ADVENTURE GAME

Be the first player to acquire sufficient Force to battle and defeat Darth Vader!

Spin to pilot your Millennium Falcon around Hoth. There are incidents along the way, and battles for Force Cards with Imperial villains.

Plan your strategy in wagering Force cards and spinner against Boba Fett, Stormtroopers, Probots and AT-AT's. Once you have enough Force, you can enter the center of the board and challenge Darth Vader! The first player to master the Force and successfully out-spin Darth Vader wins!


RETURN OF THE JEDI

When Return of the Jedi rolled around the board games shifted from Kenner's hands to Parker Brothers. The company produced two games in correlation with the film.

BATTLE AT SARLACC'S PIT GAME

Your favorite Star Wars heroes need your help!

Luke Skwaylker, Princess Leia Organan, Han Solo and Chewbacca are being held captive by the evil Jabba the Hutt! They're on his Sail Barge, high above the dangerous sandpit where the monster Sarlacc lives.

To escape, you must defeat the Gamorrean Guards and the Powerful Nikto and Boba Fett by pushing them overboard into Sarlacc's waiting jaws. Collect Jedi points for each guard you defeat. Then try to overpower Jabba the Hutt.

The one with the most Jedi points at the end of the game is the winner!

WICKET THE EWOK GAME

In this enchanting game, you can join the tiny Wicket the Ewok as he looks for his favorite food. Romp through the forest of Endor with Wicket and his friends Kneesaa, Paploo and Latara as they collect berries, nuts, pears, mushrooms and wild honey too!

You'll travel on shaggy ponies and in rickety wagons. You'll even swing on hang-gliders. All this adventure is yours as you try to be the first Ewok home with all finve kinds of food!

HONORABLE MENTIONS

The end of the Trilogy didn't mark the end of Star Wars board games. With the resurgence of Star Wars in the late 1990's (though we personally didn't know it ever went away), so too came a big influence of new toys and merchandise.

The honorable mentions below are far from everything which was released, but rather just a couple of our personal favorites.

THE INTERACTIVE VIDEO BOARD GAME

Though most kids these days would look at their parents oddly if they whipped out a board game which also encompassed the now defunct VHS cassette, in the 90's this was the ultimate advancement in board game technology. A traditional cardboard game with a high tech video to accompany it. The Star Wars Interactive Video Game was certainly not the last to utilize this style of play. It was however one of the very last (VHS wise anyway).

The biggest charm to this game wasn't actually the game itself, but rather the VHS cassette which featured not only original footage from the first film, but also scenes which had been cut from the film. The cassette alone is worth getting if you're a collector of Star Wars home video.

ESCAPE THE DEATH STAR ACTION FIGURE GAME

Star Wars action figures were everywhere in the late 1990's, and big money for Kenner once again. Parker Brothers and Kenner teamed up to develop an all new Escape the Death Star game, this time incorporating two exclusive action figures as opposed to traditional game pieces.

For action figure collectors this was a must have at the time, and no, not for the game itself. The figures also came with several accessories such as blasters and lightsabers.

This wouldn't be the only game released during this time to incorporate actual action figures.

 IN CLOSING

Star Wars games are still readily in production these days. However, most of them are iterations of already well established games such as Risk, Monopoly, chess and more. It's sad in a way that many board company developers don't put much thought into originality these days, but we suppose the general idea is to have low development costs with high retail prices. No easier way to do this than just repaint a game which already exists.

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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Painted Memories: I Am A Real American!




Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Retro Spins: White Lion - Big Game



White Lion
Big Game
1989

White Lion hit the scene in 1985, but didn't personally land on my radar until their June 1987 album Pride. Even so, I'm not taking a look at that album today, but rather their follow up to Pride, Big Game. Seeing the theme here with their albums?

The track Little Fighter was the first to chart from Big Game in June of 1989. Unfortunately, because it was in the mid 90's (number wise), it fell off the charts by the following week. White Lion wouldn't see another hit chart until September of that same year when Radar Love entered the charts. Once again this was short lived, and by the following week it too fell off the charts.

Though the album failed to find strong singles on the chart, I can say honestly it's not bad. I did take notice that White Lion has a tendency to sing a lot of songs about child abuse and in general children in bad situations. While these songs could be considered tender in nature, it doesn't make for very inspiring songs. In fact, it kind of brings you down. Fortunately these songs don't overshadow the album and you're able to find enjoyable spots.

I actually ended up transferring four of the eleven tracks over to my IPOD when it was all said and done; Goin' Home Tonight, Little Fighter, Don't Say It's Over and of course, Radar Love. Not a bad handful of songs.

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Solo Pre-Orders Already?



They don't even let movies get out of the theaters anymore, do they? Target and Best Buy have already posted their pre-orders for Solo: A Star Wars Story and boy are there a ton of different versions.

Target has a total of five different version listed for sale; none of which includes a standard or packed in DVD version. From them you can get;

2 Blu-Ray and Digital Code Combo Pack for $22.99 

4K / UHD + 2 Blu-Ray + Digital Code Combo Pack for $29.99

Target Exclusive 4K / UHD + 2 Blu-Ray + Digital Code Combo Pack with 40 Page Booklet for $32.99

Target Exclusive 2 Blu-Ray and Digital Code Combo Pack with Exclusive Millennium Falcon for $32.99

Target Exclusive 4K / UHD + 2 Blu-Ray + Digital code Combo Pack with Exclusive Millennium Falcon for $42.99

Shifting over to Best Buy you can get three different offerings (for now). It's interesting that they have a Blu-Ray / DVD combo listed and even more so interesting that there is no mention of a digital version packed in with this set. Then again, none of their versions make note of digital versions of the film, so perhaps this was just an oversight.

Blu-Ray / DVD Combo for $24.99.

4K Ultra HD + Blu-Ray Combo Pack for $29.99

Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook 4K Ultra HD + Blu-Ray Combo Pack for $34.99

Walmart has yet to make a peep about any form of exclusive. For those of you who remember my write up on that release, you know that the retail chain never bothered to announce what their exclusive version was, nor post it on their website - Even after release. Once again we may be playing it by ear. If they have an exclusive there are two speculations from this blogger what it may be; 1) a cut out of L3-37 or 2) Multiple changeable covers. If it is the latter, then hopefully much like the prior released Walmart exclusive it will contain a Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Code Combo Pack.

No word from Disney either as to what their stores will be offering. It is however safe to assume they will stick with their norm of lithographs - A set of four to be exact. What will be interesting to see is if they release a Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Code Combo Pack through their exclusive Disney Movie Club - Much like they did The Last Jedi. Boy was that a beast to track down through secondary markets. As much as I like collecting Star Wars, I don't exactly want to sign up for any clubs just to get it. It was bad enough when I was paying for a Costco membership back in the day to get the long box versions.

Well, there you have it (for now). Solo is on the horizon for home video and digital release. As for when that day is, well, that hasn't been announced yet. I speculate sometime in September. However, I'd be happy to be wrong with that guess if it's actually sooner. Hopefully it won't be later.

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Madballs (Star Comics)



Madballs
Star Comics
1986 - 1988

Who would have thought grotesque rubber balls would become icons of the 80's and spawn not only a (very difficult to find) toy line, but also a cartoon and comic book series? The series followed in the footsteps of Topps' Garbage Pail Kids and Wacky Packages. By this we mean went straight for the disgusting (awesome) niche.

This translated well into the realm of comic books where each character could be utilized to limitless potential - And Star Comics did just that...for ten issues.


Technically the series began as a three issue mini series. However, Star (Marvel) deemed it popular enough to continue for (at least) another seven issues. Fans of the series should also look to Marvel UK who published one annual.


Madballs
Lion Forge Comics
2016

As is the case with most 80's properties, an attempt was made to cash in on nostalgia when Lion Forge Comics produced an all new series in 2016. This didn't last long though and was cancelled after just four issues.


Well, that wraps up this year's Free Comic Book month salute. We'll see you next week where we return to the world of toys. What will it be? Meh....Probably something Star Wars related.

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo Movie and Soundtrack Review (Non-Spoiler and Spoiler)





I took the opportunity of the three day weekend to track down the soundtrack for Solo as well as head to my local Regal Cinema to take in a viewing of the film. First, let's me delve into the movie.

Much like any of the new Disney Star Wars films I went in with zero hopes and little expectation of a payoff. To my joy and much like Rogue One, I found Solo to be far more entertaining than any of the resent episodic installments of Star Wars. Plus I got two great cups from the concession stand - They were out of the popcorn bucket...Dang.

Non-Spoiler Review

The film starts off a little rocky with some failed attempts at humor and an eye-rolling moment of Han Solo getting his name, but quickly picks up momentum from there. Viewers are treated to a ton of action and of course the fan service most people expected.

It's true, Alden Ehrenreich is no Harrison Ford. Then again, for the most part he doesn't try to be. He takes the somewhat look of the character he brings to the screen and proceeds to make the character his own. Personally, this helped to make the character believable from the get go because we didn't just have a man impersonating Han Solo. However, with that said, I do have to say hats off to Donald Glover who not only pulls off a believable look of Lando, but also the mannerisms. So perhaps with that said there was room for Ehrenereich to do a little impersonating.

Much like another reviewer said, Solo's main offering is nothing short of what most Star Wars fanatics haven't already read in various backstories for the main characters - or on Wookiepedia. However, there are some tidbits to be found here which will leave fans giggling with joy.

The movie is not only the first to really give a nod to George Lucas's Prequels, but also builds up to a sequel while setting the stage for the rumored future Kenobi movie. If I had one disappointment it was that it wraps up too quickly. While the movie takes its time getting to the end, the epilogue more so ends up feeling like a blink and you'll miss it moment. Still, the film was incredibly enjoyable and leaves me eager to take in a second (and beyond) viewing. I will most likely be making my way back to a local theater very soon.

Spoiler Review

Solo begins like any other Star Wars film, with the iconic A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away... It then deviates from the normal course and gives up a little backstory of sorts via on screen text which fades in and out with each paragraph. It's as if the Kasdan's initial intent was to give us an opening crawl, but were denied this honor bestowed only to the Episodes.

From there we immediately meet Han who is steeling a speeder and racing through the streets of Corellia to a destination we yet to know. After parking the speeder and running through a series of tunnels we meet one of the new characters and Han's love interest, Qi'Ra - Who also serves as the MacGuffin for Han's every decision.

After another escape sequence, the two are separated from each other, but only as a result of Qi'Ra being captured. This leads to the whole aforementioned MacGuffin - Han swearing to come back for her. As Han is still being chased, he goes for his only available option - Entering an Imperial recruitment center and signing up.

When asked his name by the recruiter, he responds with, "Han." When asked his clan, he responds he has nobody. This leads to the recruiter punching his name in as (queue eye rolls) Han Solo.

We then immediately cut to a war zone where Han is a boots to the ground soldier. During the battle he meets up with three more of our new characters - Who are disguised as Imperials to complete a job. Han is in tune with this and quickly picks up on the fact that Beckett, Val and Rio. When Han tries to blackmail his way onto the crew he finds the tables turned on him and ends up being led to the pit of "The Beast" as punishment for treason to the Empire.

"The Beast" of course ends up being Chewbacca who after another cringe worthy moment of Han speaking in gargling grunts (aka Chewbacca's native tongue of Shyriiwook) works with him to get free. They make a b-line back to the Beckett and his pals who are escaping at that moment with a ship. At the moment of seeing them, Beckett decides to take them with him - Convenient.

This leads the crew to their first job - A train heist for coaxium - a rare and expensive hyperfuel. While all starts out going well, the heist quickly goes bad when a band of marauders led by Enfys Nest arrive to try and take the fuel for themselves (or so we believe at the time). This leads to the death of Val and Rio and the loss of the shipment as it explodes into a mountain.

Beckett, Han and Chewie resolve to plead their case to the man they were working for, Vision, er...Dryden Vos. It is during this scene we find Qi'Ra has gotten off of Corellia and now "works for" Vos. The trio hatch a plan to recover pure coaxium from the spice mines of Kessel and are sent with Qi'Ra to do so.

However, they first need a ship which leads them to Lando. After a short scene of Han playing cards against his new frenemy, Lando wins the final hand, which includes a wager of his own personal ship, by cheating. Despite this, Qi'Ra and Beckett get him and L3, Lando's droid to join the crew and fly them to Kessel.

The crew head out aboard the Millennium Falcon and make their way to Kessel where their plan to steal the coaxium kicks off. Our senses are pummeled with more action, explosions and a robot coup. We then loss (sort of) another character in this battle - L3.

The coaxium is in hand, but there's only one problem. It must be kept at a low temperature or it will explode. As Lando tends to his dead friend / droid, Han and eventually Chewie take the helm of the Falcon and plot their course out of Kessel. Unfortunately, this is short lived by an Imperial blockade. With a change of direction and an improvised plan, Han and Chewie head for the maw. The outcome is of course the play out of the infamous Kessel run in 12 parsecs (or 14 if you're Rey...and a dolt).

The Falcon lands on Savareen, a planet known for being able to process coaxium into hyperfuel and begin the process as they wait for Dryden Vos to arrive. However, Enfys Nest is also there. While we sit back in our seats awaiting yet another shoot out, we instead end up with the two working together to instead give the fuel to the Rebellion.

Though Beckett says he wants no part of this, he actually ends up betraying everyone and working with Vos, giving him all the details of the plan - This is of course after a little sequel bait where he tells Han to come look for him on Tatooine to be part of a job for a big gangster (Star Wars fans know what that's all about). Han is one step ahead of him though. While everyone expects the coaxium is outside of Vos's ship with Nest, he actually brought it inside. Enfys Nest's group ambush Vos's men outside the ship and wipe them out.

Seeing an alternative, and being the only man in the room with a gun in his hands, Beckett forces Chewie to carry the coaxium out for him leaving Vos, Qi-Ra and Han in the ship. After a fight sequence, Qi-Ra ends up killing Vos and tells Han to go after Beckett and Chewie - Which he does.

This is where we get a fantastic nod to the Prequels as well as a great bit more of sequel bait. Darth Maul is alive and the head of Crimson Dawn. Qi-Ra blames the death of Vos on Beckett and is summoned to Maul's side. Maul is once again played by Ray Park and voiced by Sam Witwer. It's a fun Star Wars geek out moment and a confusing one at the same time since last we saw Maul (in film) was getting cut in half.

Back outside, Han confronts Beckett who starts lecturing Han. Rather than stand there and listen to it, Han does what all true fans of Star Wars have come to expect - He shoots first...While Beckett is in mid sentence. While Han believes all has worked out, in the distance the ship, now piloted by Qi'Ra takes off and leaves the planet.

Han and Chewie bring the hyperfuel back to Enfys Nest who takes it on behalf of the Rebellion. She also urges Han to come with them - Which he declines. Nest encourages him maybe one day he'll change his mind...Foreshadowing.

We now cut to Han and Chewie meeting up with Lando mid card game. In a hugging maneuver, Han relieves Lando of the card in his "cheating device" on his wrist (unbeknownst to Lando) and sits down to play Sabacc once again. Without his ability to cheat, Lando looses the hand to Han which includes the Millennium Falcon which Lando bet. The two fly off, the credits roll.

Solo was a great movie, but the most exciting thing I took away from it was Darth Maul appearing as the head of Crimson Dawn. This not only adds a potential for a sequel, but also paves the way for the Kenobi film. With Maul still on the loose there is a potential for him to appear in that film where we may finally get a well deserved rematch between the two - As opposed to the twenty second stare down and two second fight from the animated series, Rebels.

Let's also look at that potential for a sequel. Obviously the job for the big gangster on Tatooine is none other than Jabba the Hutt. While we of course know the outcome of that job, it would be fun to see it all unfold on screen. Why not? If they can take one sentence from the open scrawl of Episode IV and turn it into a two hour movie then why not this aspect for a sequel? I also wouldn't mind seeing a Lando film which leads up to him winning Bespin.

END SPOILERS

The Soundtrack

I drove to three stores and walked to two before I finally was able to put my hands on a copy of the soundtrack to Solo. When I finally did come across it in a Barnes and Noble it was the one and only copy the store had gotten. What the heck? Do stores really not stock CD's anymore? Target didn't have it. Walmart didn't have it. Best Buy didn't have it (two locations).

Because I listened to the soundtrack prior to seeing the film I unfortunately was not able to place the cuts to its respective film sequence. This was a bit of a downer as I always like to sit back and visualize the scenes for tracks from any soundtrack.

Overall, it honestly wasn't that good. Production wise and sound, sure, those had it where it counts. However, queues from track two, "Meet Han" continue to get reworked and overall worked into every single track from that point on. I literally felt like I was listening to the same song twenty times over and over and over. It was mind numbing.

One of the greatest aspects of John William's Star Wars score is that each song transports you to a particular planet, location or character theme. Each one is a different piece and stands out as its own special track. It's only when we get action or battle scenes that themes start to reoccur, but at the same time remain appropriate to the characters on screen.

With Solo you just don't get that. Han seems to be the only character with a distinctive theme and the end result as mentioned above is the same music over and over. It was really disappointing - Especially after all the effort I put into finding it.

I hate to say it, but I honestly would not recommend this soundtrack to anyone unless you are a die hard Star Wars fan who has to have it. There are no stand out tracks to take away from this album. The only songs I actually ended up liking were those which took from William's original scores.

So there you have it. My long winded two cents of not only the film but the soundtrack. Take from it what you will.

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Painted Memories: Lowest Point Nothing




Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Retro Spins: Men At Work - Business As Usual



Men At Work
Business As Usual
1981

Men At Works Business As Usual (November 1981) took a little time before it charted in July of 1982 with Who Can It Be Now which worked its way up to the number two spot until starting to slip in November of that same year. However, at this point, the group had a second hit make its way to the chart - Down Under, which would become its most popular song of all time. The song would make it to the number one spot by January of 1983 where it would stay for a few consecutive weeks before starting to fall slightly before taking the number one spot again in February. The track would continue to drop through the remainder of the year, but be joined at the same time by the follow up album's single, Overkill.

When I turned on the album I immediately had a thought. Business As Usual was like listening to an Oingo Boingo album with the absence of the charm, quirkiness, fun and range of Danny Elfman's lyrics and his multi-range vocals. It wasn't terrible by any means. Unfortunately, its greatest weakness is that it's just okay.

With the exception of hits such as Who Can It Be Now, Down Under and Be Good Johnny its remaining songs really aren't all that catchy or memorable. Quite honestly too many of them sound the same as well. I couldn't tell you which was which and I literally just finished listening to it.

I'm not ready to give up on this one. I think I'm going to give it a couple more days and listen to it again to see if any of the songs (other than the obvious hits) pop out and stay in my head for more than two seconds.

Men At Work - TBD.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

The Centurions: Power Xtreme (DC Comics)



The Centurions: Power Xtreme
DC Comics
1987

I honestly don't remember much about the Centurions. I watched a few episodes here and there as a kid, but it definitely wasn't one of those, "Gotta get home and watch the next episode," type things. In fact, as a kid I only had one of the toys - Ace McCloud and the only thing I really remember about that was it had a ton of holes in it to attach accessories I kept losing.

Well, despite its lackluster appeal to me personally, I won't deny it was probably a fun toy line and cartoon for many others. It too, like so many toy lines before or after it, also spawned its own comic book series.


DC Comics produced a four issue mini series to test the waters (so to speak) to see if there would be further interest in the series to shift it to a monthly title - Such as the company had done numerous times with toy related titles. Sadly, this would be as far as the series would go...

The Centurions: Power Xtreme
London Editions Magazines
1987 - 1988

...That is unless you lived in the UK. Much like the Thundercats comics from Star, popularity was much larger in the UK for the Centurions - Well, a little bit more anyway. Enough to garner ten additional books between 1987 and 1988.


To date, these have been the last of the comic books published to feature the characters. In fact, beyond fans, there seems to be very little rumblings in the world of the Centurions these days. That's a shame. If done correctly, there is certainly enough interesting concepts around the property which could be re-visioned and revitalized into a worthwhile reboot. You know, just don't let Michael Bay do it.


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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Made A Couple Birthday Cakes



When I'm not collecting toys or CD's, I like to spend my time baking cakes and cupcakes for people. Here are a couple birthday cakes I recently made...

The bottom layer of this one is a butter cake with fresh strawberries baked into the top. The second layer is a vanilla cheesecake with more strawberries baked into the top.

The layers are separated by whipped cream which also coats the entire cake. Rainbow sprinkles surround the entire sides of the cake and it's topped with hand dipped chocolate covered strawberries.

I made this cake for a co-worker / friend who I've known for about eight years now. She celebrated her birthday in April and was happy as can be with this cake.

She shared a little with her mom and mom's boyfriend, then promptly ate the rest by herself....Would it help if I said she was pregnant?

This second cake was actually for my friend's (mentioned above) mom who celebrated her birthday just this weekend. I'm eagerly awaiting feedback as to what she thought of it. 

Her mom is a big chocolate fan, so I went all out in that regard. Both layers of this cake are triple chocolate fudge. The layers are separated by a thick layer of strawberry whipped cream which contain both fresh strawberries for texture and pure strawberry extract to drive home the flavor.

Surrounding the cake is a generous layer of chocolate ganache. This not only holds everything together, but stuffs the open area around the perimeter of the layers to securely hold them up.

The cake is "decorated" with a little whipped cream around the bottom and top with a nice pillow of it in the dead center. Along the perimeter of the top are fresh cut strawberries.

I'm eager to hear what her and her mom thought of the cake.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Painted Memories: A New Hope




Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In All Things The Universe Is Balance





For every cause there is an effect. For every action a reaction. Harmony. Chaos. They both work in conjunction with each other to form a balance in the universe. There is no better way to analyze this basic principal than by the GIF below.



At a glance, this appears to be nothing short of a boy walking outside to dump a pot of water on someone's head. Or possibly it's a depantsing joke gone wrong. Look closer. Are either of these really what is going on?

Let's look at all the players involved in an event which is about to go completely wrong for almost everyone involved.
 

Player 1: Stander
Player 2: Faller
Player 3: Spiller
Player 4: Hitter
Player 5: Dog

The events which unfold all result from the actions of Player 1 who in turn causes a massive reaction. This all begins as Player 1 stands up from a bench to pet Player 5, the dog.

In doing so, Player 2 who is on the other end of the bench falls to the ground as the side of the bench where Player 1 was sitting flips upwards from the sudden loss of balanced weight.

At this time Player 3 just so happens to be walking outside with a pot of water. As Player 2 falls towards the ground, he instinctively grabs for anything he can to stop his downward momentum. This just so happens to be the shorts of Player 3. In addition to this, the bench which is now flipping upward hits the pot from Player 3's hands causing it to spill all over Player 4.

In an attempt to save his pants, Player 3 abandons the pot which completes spilling all over Player 4. Player 4 now reacts to the sudden dowsing by way of grabbing the pot and smacking Player 3 over the head with it.

Player 5 backs away avoiding the situation entirely.

The universe has completed its circle. Either that or this was an incredibly well choreographed stunt.

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Source

Star Wars Trailers, and Why I Find Them Useless



Star Wars fans in general seem to go gaga over every little two second snippet they can see of an upcoming Star Wars film. They gush over all the details in that brief moment, speculate about what it's about and hypothesize the internet up with rumor after rumor all based on nothing short of speculation. Which leads me to the conclusion that Star Wars trailers are pretty useless.

Let's take a recent film as an example. Go ahead and take a moment to watch the trailer if you will.



Watching this trailer, you get a solid understanding of what the movie is about and not only that, it gets points for being flashy and pretty. Sure, you don't know the characters in and out, who the villain is or overall how it will all come together. However, you know the world is pretty much garbage, many people prefer to spend their time in an alternate reality known as the Oasis and the creator of said place has passed away. In his wake he's left an Easter egg somewhere in the "game" and the person who finds it will not only be financially set for a lifetime, but also gain control of the place.

Great! Tells me everything I need to know about the movie to determine whether or not I want to see it.

Then there's Star Wars. Movies guarded in such high esteem secrecy that the trailers tell you little to nothing in the expectation that the name alone will make you see the film.

You can watch any trailer for any of the Star Wars films and walk away with nothing but pretty pictures. Let's look at the trailer for Solo.



Okay. What did you get from that? Someone is putting together a crew for a job. The end. You have no clue what the film is about. What the job is for. Where they're going. What the end goal is. Nothing. In essence this is a poor and pretty useless trailer set to do nothing but appeal to fans who will sit back and speculate non-stop about what they've just seen.

UPDATE - After seeing the film, turns out the trailer was also full of fancy editing - Lies if you will. He wasn't even putting a crew together for a job...

Star Wars wants you to see it because it's Star Wars. Not because it has an appealing story it wants to "sell" to movie goers. I mean at the end of the day it may be a great movie, but based on this trailer if I were to try and sell this movie to someone outside of Star Wars Fan Band Wagon the conversation would go as such.

"Hey you should see the new Solo movie."

"Why? What's it about?"

"It's about someone putting together a crew for a job!"

"What kind of job?"

"I don't know."

"So why should I see it?"

"Because it looks great!"

"What looks great about it?"

"It's got a lot of flashy scenery."

"Okay, but what is the story about?"

"Um.....Someone putting together a crew for a job."

Where are they going? What are they after? What's the end goal? Solo relies to heavily on the concept that people know the entire back story for Han Solo from various books, comics or other Star Wars films. Well what if they've never seen a Star Wars film or read a single piece of Star Wars literature?

A good trailer is one which mixes eye catching visuals to put you on the edge of your seat and a brief synopsis of the story to lay out the expectation in your mind. Without a solid combination of both of these you're left with little to get excited about...Unless you're a raving fan already...Which is who these trailers are clearly made for.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Retro Spins: Philip Bailey: Chinese Wall



Philip Bailey
Chinese Wall
1984

Philip Bailey's Chinese Wall (from October 1984) fires off with a double barrel shotgun blast of delight. The first track Photogenic Memory grabbed me so hard from the start with its catchy drum intro that I had to a buckle a seat belt for the exciting ride I was sure I was in for.

Then track two started...And it went downhill from there. The words boring, annoying and high pitched come to mind with the remainder of the tracks on the album. The only other saving grace to be found is the Phil Collins duet, Easy Lover - Which would hit the charts in November of 1984 and stay on them until March of the following year.

I even gave Walking on the Chinese Wall a second try when I read it charted in a couple weeks after Easy Lover dropped off. Hated it. I mean, hated it. Couldn't turn it off fast enough.

I do have to say I firmly believe Photogenic Memory is far superior to Easy Lover. However, the lesson learned here was that sometimes a greatest hits from Phil Collins can suffice for getting the songs you want which are featured on another artist's studio album.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

M.A.S.K. (DC Comics)



M.A.S.K. (Mini Series)
DC Comics
1985 - 1986

M.A.S.K. was one of the biggest successes for Kenner post their Star Wars franchise years. The toys combined intriguing characters with multi-function vehicles and playsets which provided hours of entertainment for kids. It didn't hurt that the line was backed by a highly popular animated series which lasted for two seasons and encompassed seventy-five episodes.

As was quickly becoming the norm for the era, toy developers were looking for marketing campaigns which allowed them to grab kids attention. Though animation was a great tool for commercials, stringent laws limited the amount of seconds a commercial could feature "cartoon" footage.

To help get around this, several big name toy companies sought out comic books as an alternative source of marketing. Pretty much every toy line from the 80's had a coinciding book through either Marvel, DC or Star Comics.


M.A.S.K. actually began its history in comic pages via three mini comics which were included in the actual packages of the toys. However, in 1985, DC Comics developed a mini series of four issues for comic book racks which ran until early 1986.

M.A.S.K.
DC Comics
1987

The mini series garnered enough popularity that DC Comics launched a monthly series in 1987.


Unfortunately, popularity dropped quickly by readers and the series was cancelled after just nine issues.


IDW attempted to revitalize M.A.S.K. in comic book for in 2011 where Matt Tracker was depicted as a police officer. However, this series never saw publication. Instead in 2016, a re-introduction / re-re-visioning of the series was produced which ran for ten issues through August 2017.

M.A.S.K. was initially slated to be a part of Hasbro's proposed cinematic universe which was in the works. However, the film got lost in the shuffle of flip flop responses from the studio (Paramount) and folks working on it who would one day say it was happening and then the next day retract and say it's not happening. As of April 2018 it is once again on the green light list. We'll see where it goes from there.

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