Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Retro Spins: Nena - Nena



Nene
Nena
1983

Nena? More like Nein. Nein Danke if I'm being polite.

It baffles me how songs not sung in a native tongue can become so popular that not only do they find a large audience outside of their countries, but in the case of Nena, can even shoot all the way up to number one on the charts. To piggyback on the popularity of their hit, 99 Luftballons, the band even translated the song to English. Get this, it wasn't as popular as the original German version.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of the German version myself and have it in a steady rotation of my 80's shuffle. Much like the majority, I too prefer this version over the English translated one. However, the rest of the album, Nena's self titled 1983 debut, I just can't get behind. Because I don't know what's being said on the album I really can't get into it. Perhaps it would be different if there were catchy riffs, a great beat or even high energy to the tracks. Unfortunately, that doesn't exist.

Falco proved in 1985 that it was possible to not only find success in the USA, but become more than a one hit wonder. It's because of this I was really hoping to find something else on Nena's album that would stand out of the bunch and prove to be an equal if not greater track than their one hit wonder. Never found that song.

The album as a whole turned in to very ignored background noise and quite frankly I lost so much interest in it that when 99 Luftballons played I didn't pay much attention.

I wish I could say more, but the album is just a dud for me. Like I said, if I spoke German I may have found something more to this, but I don't. So I didn't.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Speclatron (S & T Sales)



Speclatron
S & T Sales
1984

I don't normally talk about knock-off's here at The Toy Box, but these ones caught my eye, and I felt really inclined to try and track them down - Which was not easy.

The line is relatively unknown to many collectors. However, with that said, the most commonly known figure from it is Dethlor. Though they are clearly knock-off's of He-Man, what makes them so unique compared to all the other impersonators is their clear chests filled with liquid and glitter.

 Hero*Venum*Kandar*Dethlor

A common flaw among the figures, is they are prone to dry up of all their liquid. Additionally, their clear chests commonly discolor to a deep brown making them, well, not so clear anymore.

 Adak*Deemin

Though there are only six carded figures and three multipacks of figures / beasts, finding any of them is a quite challenging. These things are scarce in the wild, and even more so brutal is their prices. Loose figures can sell anywhere from $300.00 to $1,000.00. Meanwhile, carded figures range between $750.00 and $2,000.00. All of this, of course, depends on which character it is, and how complete it is (if loose).

 Midas and Thor*Deemin and Devilcat*Venuma and Devilcat

There's no doubt these figures would make a fantastic addition to every Masters of the Universe collector out there. Unfortunately, there just aren't enough to go around.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Order Of Battle: Pee-Wee's Playhouse



This will be an ongoing post of my vintage Pee-Wee's Playhouse toys, as I obtain them. 

Pee-Wee Herman
Obtained: July 6, 2019
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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Retro Spins: Toto - IV



Toto
IV
1982

I've been stuck in the wash, rinse, repeat of so many 80's artists these days that quite frankly I've forgotten just how good some of them are. I've also forgotten just how many great songs came from some of them that while they don't necessarily get repeated airplay these days, they did back in the day.

Toto is one of those bands that has always confused me. There are so many "lead" singers in the group that I honestly have no clue who is singing what. It also doesn't help that people come and go and come back and go again from album to album. Despite this though, it doesn't detract for me in any major way.

When I sat down to listed to Toto IV, I heard a few great songs I'd forgotten about; Make Believe, I Won't Hold You Back and Lovers in the Night. Of course, I also heard the albums front runner hits, Rosanna and Africa. Granted that's only half the songs from the album. Sadly, the other five really didn't do it for me. They were okay, but meh...Not really noteworthy.

Hearing this album actually prompted me to look a little closer at Toto. The reason being that the only albums I own from them are their 1978 self titled debut, IV (1982) and The Seventh One (1988) - I'm not being lazy, that's really the titles here. I may have to pick up Hydra (1979) for the song 99 and Fahrenheit (1986) for I'll Be Over You. I don't appear to know any songs from any of their other albums.

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Monday, July 8, 2019

Thundercats, Ho!



I said in my post the other day how much I really wanted one, and then as if the planets all aligned, I got one!

Thunder!


Thunder!


Thunder!


Thundercats!


Ho!!!


LJN's Sword Of Omens is beastly awesome! One of my all time favorite wish list toys. Tracking this thing down has been quite the challenge. Especially in working condition.


As you can see, I even purchased a sword stand to display it on. Both items cost me less than $100.00 combined. You can barely find the sword for under that price - Let alone in working condition with a good "cats" logo on it. This one has its flaws, but hey, it's a toy that was designed to get banged up. It's not going to be pristine unless it's mint in the package.

It's such a simplistic toy when you get down to it, but it's so freaking cool at the same time!



I've added this to my Thundercats Order of Battle post for "quick" reference in the future.

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Rampage Super Stretch (Lanard)



Rampage
Lanard
2018

Classic arcade game meets poor action flick, only to remind everyone how much they love the game.

Rampage was a staple in my NES rotation as a kid. It was one of those games you could play for hours and hours - Because that's literally how long it took to beat. With its fun characters and easy pick and play style, it was one everyone could get into.


The overall design of these stretchable figures is spot on with their arcade counterparts. You can definitely tell it's George, Lizzie and Ralph when looking at the package. I also love the incorporation of the games original banner at the top of the package.


Sadly, the movie didn't necessarily help sell any action figures, and there were quite a few produced. This meant the majority of the Rampage merchandise inevitably got shifted to clearance bins. Granted, this was probably no surprise to any toy collector who walked past their pegs in route to the Marvel Legends or Star Wars sections.


Out of the entire line of toys produced for the film, these three by far stand out as the most intriguing, but even then, I had little to no interest in them. They are cool looking, and definitely iconic. However, as I said at the top, they really only make me want to play the game, not buy the toys.

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Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Art Of Binge Watching



This year, the forth of July presented a unique opportunity for me. Because it fell on a Thursday, my company made the fantastic decision to close not only on the holiday, but also the Friday following, effectively making this a four day weekend.

With the festivities of the birth of our country commencing, I decided I would partake in the celebration in the manner that our forefathers did back when they first announced their independence. I fired up Netflix to settle in for the all new season of Stranger Things.

My honoring of the day screeched to a halt like that of a record player scratching across the vinyl as the music is abruptly interrupted. I, and as I came to found out was not alone, was greeted to the message, "Netflix is having trouble playing this title. Please try again later." This, for me, began at 10:30 AM, and continued until around 4:30 PM when I was finally able to start the show.

Being someone with limited time on my hands to sit in front of the television, I found I was not conditioned for binge watching. After two episodes, I began to feel fatigue. By the end of the third, I needed a time out.

On Friday, I sat down to watch an additional two episodes, and then once again needed a break. Mind you, I didn't turn off the tube and call it a day. Instead, I switched over to Amazon and caught up on one more episode of Mr. Robot, which I'm currently on season two of.

Saturday was a busy one with Timonium, an antique mall, lunch and then The Toy Exchange, so I didn't watch any further episodes. I honestly didn't feel like it when the day was all said and done.

That left me with Sunday to knuckle down and push my way through it. Fortunately, I found out there were only eight episodes in the season (can you even call that a season?) and finished the last two episodes.

Spoilers ahead.

I think Stranger Things may have run its course. Act three really didn't offer anything new. In fact, around episode five, I found myself saying, "This is just more of the same." Need something moved? Call El. Need to open a can? Call El. Need to solve a general problem? Call El.

I felt sorry for actress Millie Bobby Brown. Her dialog is limited, choppy and when not talking, she's furrowing her brow, screaming and / or throwing her arms out. Her character, Eleven, is so one dimensional that at this point it's difficult to invest any emotion into her. Like I said above, need a problem solved, just call El.

The other characters haven't evolved much either since the last time we've seen them. They're taller, older, and the only thing that's changed for them is they're all on the hunt for chicks. That is, except for Will (Noah Schnapp). He is the only character that retains any of his prior personality, and it even becomes a point of contention for the others. I'm talking about how he just wants to play D&D, and go back to how things were, but can't because Mike (Finn Wolfhard) and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin) just want to talk about girls.

Speaking of the character, Mike, what happened to his mouth? Every other word out of it seemed to be, "Sh*t!" In fact, during one episode in particular, between all the characters, the word "sh*t" was used upwards of six to ten times in the span of sixty to ninety seconds. It's as if the writers sat around and said, "How can we drive home the point that these kids have grown up? I know, let's make them say sh*t over and over and over." What is this, South Park?

With that said, I did enjoy the overall premise of the story surrounding Billy (Darce Montgomery). His personality, as we saw from season two, is the perfect foundation for evolving into the "villain" of the season. I even liked how it took the route of it climaxing in his retribution in a way when he sacrificed himself.

However, with that said, Joyce (Winona Ryder) quickly became the character I hated. With the exception of being Will and Jonathan's (Charlie Heaton) mother, her story arc went nowhere. Her outbursts, which were typically directed towards a man, were out of place and awkward in the few scenes she went off on a tangent. It was as if to be nothing more than a shout out to all the activists out there. "Hey, we know this season is based in 1984, but women are strong." We get it. Thanks. Watch G.I. Joe.

To go to the opposite spectrum, there was the equally cringe worth performance from Jake Busey as an employee at the local newspaper. His character, Bruce, was so obnoxiously pigheaded to Nancy (Natalia Dyer). I found myself rolling my eyes and saying to myself, "Oh, right. It's 1984. Men are all douche bags in the workplace." Honestly, Busey should have been as ashamed to play that character as the writers were to write him that way. Way to throw fuel on the fire, Stranger Things.

What was the goal of this season? To take every character we grew to love over the past two seasons and make them unlikable? I haven't even touched on the cheating and marriage ruining actions of Cara Buono's character, Mrs. Wheeler (aka Mike's mom). While she didn't end up cheating on her husband, the intentions were there, and sorry, that doesn't make her a likeable or respectable character.

Need another obnoxious character to pile on? How about the excessively loud, and stereotypical Erica, aka Lucas's sister, aka Priah Ferguson. Once again, the writers seemed intent on creating a character who was unlikable in her actions, her demeanor and her overall dialog. Oh, but we're supposed to move past that because she ends up being an integral part of the supporting cast.

Mind you, I don't want this to seem like I'm harping on all of the cast in this season. Maya Hawks character, Robin, and Joe Keery's, Steve, seem to steal every scene they're in together. You can tell that a relationship is growing in the whole scenario, and the curveball you get thrown at the end when you find out Robin isn't into men, if you know what I mean, hits you out of nowhere. You want these characters to be together, yet the writers said, "Nope. We aren't going to do the obvious here." The two do, however, remain best of friends at the end, making it all the more fun to watch them because there's no more tension there. Just two people having a good time together.

In the mix of all of this is Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), who seems to be the focal point of the story's advancement. All the plot points of the season start with his character, and come full circle in the end to wrap up where it all began.

Last up was Hopper (David Harbour), who before it was all over, I was saying, "He's going to die." I was leaning this way for a few reasons. One, he was building on a relationship with Joyce, and she seems to go through men like water. Two, you could see it in the dialog that the character's story was coming to an end, what with all the heartfelt emotions between him and Eleven. Three, as an actor, David Harbour seems to be moving on to other things.

Okay, so that's all the characters. Now let's look at the overall story. Like I said above, I like how Billy was used as the main villain in the story. However, again, it was just more of the same. "Thing" takes over human host. Horror ensues. Door gets closed at the end (again), and evil is destroyed...Or is it? Watch the mid credits scene for that. By the way, Hopper may not be dead..."No, not the American," says one Russian to another as they go to pull a prisoner from a cell.

Oh, and Eleven loses her powers...Again. Then out of nowhere, the Byers pack all their stuff, and Joyce, Will, Jonathan and the newly adopted / orphaned Eleven leave town. Everyone's crying. Nobody's happy, and it's a crap ending. It's not a cliff hanger. It's not a happy ending. It's just crap.

Throw in between all of that a plot surrounding the Russians being behind the cause of everything happening. Why the Russians? Because it's 1984. Who else would it be? Cliche much?

Season three could have, and probably should have, been the end of the train tracks for Stranger Things. I can't imagine what the writers could possibly do with a fourth and beyond season. They're already retreading ground between the three seasons they have. What more could they possibly add to to it if they kept going? Do we really need El to get her power's back and once more go toe to toe with the upside down world? Do we really even need to see the upside down world again? Not really.

Look, you eked three seasons out of a show that came out of nowhere and built this massive cult following. Now know when to end it before you run it into the ground.

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