May 27, 2020

Star Wars Black Series Probe Droid

Continuing the 40th anniversary celebration of The Empire Strikes Back, and the 43rd of Star Wars from Monday, here's the recently released Black Series Probe Droid.

Click to order on Amazon
The probe droid is one of my favorite droids in all of Star Wars so I was thrilled to find this on a recent trip to Target. But then I had a moment of sticker shock and didn't pick it up right away. I wasn't expecting to pay $10 more than the usual 6" scale Black Series figure.

By my next trip back, I had thought it over. Despite being a huge Star Wars fan, my collecting has been scaled back to almost nothing and this is one of my favorite things in my favorite movie. So I took heed of some wise words: Treat Yo'Self.


And I'm so glad I did! It is totally worth every penny!

Aside from the larger box, I can see where that extra $10 went to with this figure: its size and detail. Having it sitting around, I feel like I have a prop replica instead of an "action figure." Probe droids aren't known for their fashion sense, so it doesn't come with many accessories except a clear pole and a snowy base to plug it into.


The head turns 360°and I'd be lying if I said the little kid in me secretly wanted it to make a clicking noise like the old Kenner droid figures. The longer legs have three joints, while the shorter ones just two. I am loving the silver weathering they used to give it that "used" look.


In addition to paint weathering, they also dirtied it up a little.


Another thing that would have been cool to have would be an extendable antenna but given how thin they are, I can see where that would be hard to do. This front on angle is kind of odd, I feel like he's being fancy and extending an arm to say "How do you do?"

If you're on the fence about picking this up, definitely do it. You won't regret it. I don't think this will be one you can wait on to go on clearance.

Not having a Chewbacca or Hoth Han figure (not to mention snow) I couldn't recreate the scene from Empire Strikes Back so I had to work with what I have.

May 21, 2020

Happy 40th Empire Strikes Back

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, I wanted to reminisce a little about the greatest sci-fi adventure.


I grew up watching Creature Double Feature on Saturday afternoons and while there was a good mix of Godzilla flicks in there, I think ESB was the first real sequel I saw that continued the adventures of another movie. I"m not 100% sure but I think the first time I saw a trailer was in front of Moonraker (also my first Bond). If it had to so with outer space, I wanted to see it! I can't even convey to you the sense of how much 9 year old me was blown away by the trailer! Not only seeing the characters I loved coming back but all the new stuff. I didn't even know the name AT-AT yet but they were damn cool!


The Music
While the Star Wars main theme is certainly iconic, there's no denying that the Imperial March has become "the Star Wars song". Even people that aren't familiar with Star Wars (who ARE these people?) know it just like everyone knows the Jaws theme. Another reason I love the soundtrack is that the March's influence is felt in other tracks. When CDs first came out, this was the first one I bought. It was also the first CD I played in my first brand new car.

The Places
Okay, Dagobah doesn't bring much to the table aside from Yoda. Hoth is pretty much an ice cube but I love just about everything there from cold weather outfits to Probe droids. The Battle of Hoth is one of the best sequences in all of Star Wars. But Bespin? Out of all the locations in all the movies, that's the place I'd move to if I could. You know, when it's not under Imperial occupation.


The Characters
There were only a handful of new main characters but they make up for quantity with quality. It would take a few more years for me to fully appreciate Yoda's wisdom. I remember turning to my dad and asking him what "That is why you fail." meant. Lando was kinda cool but also a bit on the shady side.


Boba. Fett. So much hype for him even before the movie from his animated appearance in the Holiday Special to the mail away figure and articles like the one here. Imperial Shocktrooper that wiped out the Jedi? Bounty Hunter? Who was this guy and what's with the cool armor?


The Toys
OMG the toys! That mail away Boba Fett before the movie even came out was everything! Even though I had the AT-AT, it was always the smaller vehicles like Slave I or the Cloud Car that captured my imagination (again going back to Bespin). The new mini-rigs gave us a peek at what might be just off screen. I still wish we'd gotten a Kenner Carbon Freeze Chamber playset.

I remember having to go to a toy store in another state to get the Yoda figure after he was released. Sure it was probably easy enough to find down the road but when you're a kid, you had to have it!

The Fast Food Tie-Ins
Fellow fan Richard Woloski over at Skywalking Through Neverland has a great piece up spotlighting the Burger King and Burger Chef Empire promo items which is sure to give you some warm fuzzies.

The Speculation
Who was the other Yoda mentioned? Couldn't be Han, right? Leia? I dunno. A character in the next movie?

Wait, what? Vader's gotta be pulling Luke's leg, right? There's no way he's really his father, that's insane! This was the talk of the playground for the next three years.
Kids today will never understand.

Feel free to share your Empire memories in the comments!

I've also shared some Empire poster magazines over the years.

ESB #1

May 13, 2020

Dark Ride: A Book Review

Today we're visiting an abandoned amusement park in Dark Ride: A Novel of Horror & Suspense by Ian Rob Wright.


Here's the plot from Amazon

'Bright Lights' AJ Starr is a pro wrestler on the rise, and his life is about to change forever. Knowing this, he plans one last party with all of his best friends. The venue? Saxon Hills theme park, abandoned ten years ago after its flagship ride burned down and killed nine innocent people. Some people say the place is haunted, but AJ knows from his time inside the squared circle that fantasy and reality are totally separate things.

Or so he thought.

AJ has no idea how nightmarish things are about to get, and eventually he'll be left wondering whether he brought his friends to Saxon Hills theme park to have fun. 

Or to die.

This was my first read from Wright and I enjoyed it quite a bit. In the Foreward, he explains how wrestling and the Disney parks are things he enjoys and both factor into the story to some degree. Our intro to main character AJ is an entire chapter of a wrestling match. I've never been big into wrestling but thankfully it's a short chapter.

From there, AJ meets up with his friends from high school. There's good friend Ashley who's dating physical trainer, and typical jerk, Greg, wheelchair bound Ben, his sister Tasha, and single friend Samantha. They all hop into a van with some booze to spend the night in an remote, abandoned amusement park for one last night of fun before AJ leaves town. If that setup doesn't sound like an 80s horror movie, I don't know what does!

They get to the park around the 25% mark and there's a lot of relationship drama for the next 25% which was really reminding me of a Friday the 13th movie. Then they start exploring the ride: Frenzy. That's when things start getting weird.

This fictional ride is based around the Germanic god Woden but the whole time I could picture nothing but Epcot's Maelstrom (now home to Frozen Ever After). I think if you've ever been on it, it'll easily jump to mind.

As someone that's been to the Disney parks quite a bit, venturing into a shutdown attraction is both intriguing and creepy to me. I often think how weird it is to be in such a large enclosed space (if that makes sense), add to that navigating by flashlight, the eerie quiet, and creepy animatronic figures and even I'd be a little spooked!

The book is 230 pages and it's a brisk read despite spending the first half hanging out with the characters and seeing them interact like friends do. Once they get into the ride and the horror begins, it goes even quicker. If you're looking for something that reads like an 80s horror movie, I'd definitely recommend Dark Ride!

Through the Kindle app, I can loan the book out for 2 weeks so if you want to check it out, let me know.

Rating: 3.5/5

May 1, 2020

Monthly Media Recap - April 2020

I was going to start the post off with a cool cats and kittens salutation but I figure everyone is probably tired of it by now.


Streaming

Bloodride (Netflix) - This Norwegian horror anthology series is...okay. The thing that hurts it most is that the episodes are only 30 minutes so they don't really have time to develop and/or you can see the ending a mile away. The other thing is the English dubbing is flat in some places and removes any emotion from the dialog. 
My episode rankings: 2-3-1-4-5-6

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix) - I'm still loving this series! I like that it has "short" seasons and they're able to tell an overarching story. I really thought the next to last episode was the season finale while watching it. It would have been amazing if they ended there.

Tiger King (Netflix) - Just when you thought Walmart or "Florida Man" was the weirdest and craziest humanity could get, Joe Exotic says hold my beer. You just cannot look away once you start watching.

Movies

The Descent (2005, Amazon Prime)
Much like The House of the Devil from last month, this one has been on my list and was amazing. The whole claustrophobia thing was worse for me than the creatures. The thought of getting stuck in a tight spot underground or worse, being lost, is something that gets to me. I really enjoyed the story because it was something I wasn't expecting going in.

Rating: 8/10

Onward (2020, Disney+)
I don't know if the general public will enjoy this one as much as someone that's into D&D and the whole fantasy thing. I am one of those someones and having that history really gives this a whole extra level of enjoyment. We all know Pixar is good at giving you the feels and this one does but it's different. I was a little surprised by the ending and was impressed they went the way they did with it.

Rating: 8/10

The folks at my favorite movie review podcast, Now Playing, are doing a viral outbreak retrospective series. Every week, they're reviewing a virus movie from each decade, starting in the 1950s. Since I'm pretty much stuck in the house on weekends, I thought I'd watch along so I could listen to their reviews.


Panic in the Streets (1950) available from the Internet Archive
There's just something about a good noir film that tickles me. It might seem corny but the dialog, the acting style, I just adore it. It's that love of noir that really kept me glued to this one. Although this is about a plague, it's really a basic cops & robbers/detective style story. This is Jack Palance's first film and he is great as the main baddie.

Rating: 7/10


The Satan Bug (1965) available on YouTube
On the other hand, we have this one from director John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape). The plot is very Bond (chasing a wacko who stole a bio-weapon) but the execution is a little bland. In a good Bond flick, I can roll with bad film logic/script but this one just doesn't stay above the fun line for the most part. Huge props to the set designers of the lab in the trailer (it's in the movie too).

Rating: 5/10


The Andromeda Strain (1971)
I've kind of always wanted to see this because it had a cool name, not because I knew anything about it. It's essentially a two hour CSI: Virus Unit because most of it takes place in a lab. The opening scenes sucked me in right away and I was even not bored with all the science although it does lag a bit in places. They do some fun stuff with split screen and 70s "computer graphics".

Rating: 6/10


Month
New: 5  Rewatch: 0

Year to Date
New: 22  Rewatch: 0

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