Sunday, 30 October 2016

Grossery Gang: Crusty Chocolate Bar

Company: Moose Toys
Year: 2016

Moose Toys have been around since 1985, producing all manner of novelties and kid’s toys. When I was a kid in the mid-90s, they were probably best known for their wide variety of Yo-Yos (which came in a whole array of shapes, sizes and scents) and the Amazing Live Sea Monkeys.

To be honest, they weren’t a huge brand when I was a kid. They pumped out a lot of product, but while it sold respectably, very little of it seemed to capture the childhood zeitgeist. Until a few years ago, when they hit it REALLY big with a couple of blind-bagged toylines – Trash Pack and Shopkins, which helped take the company to a whole new level of success.  

The Trash Pack brand has been off the market for a year or so, but it’s now returned with a sequel/reboot series in the form of Grossery Gang. Taking the concept of cutesy, anthropomorphic garbage and applying it to food instead, Grossery Gang’s key conceit isn’t departing radically from the original theme, but I think this is a good case of releasing a new product that still maintains a good understanding of what made the original so popular.  

Grossery Gang are sold in a whole variety of different blind-boxed formats (the cereal box is especially cool) but I suppose you would call the Crusty Chocolate Bar this the entry level or booster pack format. Each Crusty Chocolate Bar sells for 3 or 4 bucks, and features two Grossery Gang characters. It’s a good pricepoint in comparison to other blind-boxed/bagged formats like Lego Minifigures, and the packaging itself is great.

After opening the wrapper -- which looks better than most real chocolate bars -- you’ll be treated to a moulded plastic chocolate bar that features the Grossery Gang logo, and some insects crawling over the surface. Viewed from a distance, it also looks a lot like a poo, which I’m sure at least partially intentional. There’s also a checklist, which is designed to look like a supermarket receipt. There are tons of different designs, each of which appears to be made in two different colourways. Rarity is ranked as Common, Rare, Ultra-Rare, Special Edition and Limited Edition. Some of them look similar to previous Trash pack designs, but I don’t think they’re straight reuse – more like reinventions of prior concepts.

Inside, the two characters ("Grosserys") are individually wrapped – I got a Rot Hot Chili (ultra-rare) and Fungus Fries (common). You’ll see that Rot Hot looks kind of fuzzy in the pic below, but it’s not out of focus; he’s got a fuzzy finish to appear mouldy. He’s also cast in a harder plastic than Fungus Fries, who is very soft and squishy like a pencil topper. I assume that most other Grosserys are cast in the softer plastic, but will have to update once I've picked up some more. 

Trash Pack kind of passed me by, but it always looked like great fun – I’m sure I would have bought an obscene amount of them if they’d been round when I was a little kid. Grossery Gang serves as a nice reboot to the line, and a great jumping on point for those new to the brand. Highly recommended for kid and adult collectors alike.     

Monday, 24 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Freddy Krueger (Syringe Fingers)

Year: 2016

Freddy Krueger – in a world of mute murderers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Leatherface, he stands out as one of the most distinctive villains from the slasher era. I mean, Pinhead has a bit to say for himself, but he's distinctly the process. 

More than 30 years after his cinematic debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street, he’s still incredibly popular. He may not have had a film in the cinemas for a while, but the plethora of Freddy merch littering the shelves suggests that there’s still a substantial fanbase out there. Will we see Robert Englund play him again? Probably not, but the character lives on nonetheless. 

Unlike Jason, Freddy's basic costume really hasn't changed a whole lot over the years, but he does sometimes find himself in kill-specific get-ups from time to time. So t
his Mystery Mini is based on a very specific scene in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors. In the dream world, Freddy encounters Taryn, who’s dressed like she’s some kind of enemy in Double Dragon. Was the 80s the raddest decade of the 20th century? Most signs point to yes. Anyway, Taryn used to be some kind of drug addict, so Freddy turns his fingers into syringes and injects her with some kind of blue substance – presumably heroin, but it’s never actually specified in the film – and she shuffles off this mortal coil.

This figure replicates the effect nicely enough – each of his fingers and claws is a blue syringe, topped with a silver spike. The sculptors have also done a nice job of adding little details to a fairly simple design, such as ragged edges and dirty stains on the pants and jumper. Good job Funko! 

Given that the Mystery Minis format has been a little more experimental than the POPs, it would be nice if we eventually got some of the human characters -- at least a Nancy! Taryn's design would be particularly good for this format too, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.     

Overall, this take on Freddy is a cool, unusual version of an iconic horror villain – but he’s packed at a 1/72 ratio, which means you may well have a pain of a time trying to track him down. On that basis, he’s fun for those who missed the regular Freddy in Series 1, but certainly not essential. 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: The Wolf Man

Year: 2016

I saw the 2010 version of The Wolfman some years ago, but it was actually only a few weeks ago that I actually saw the 1941 original The Wolf Man. Its reputation precedes it, of course – I read a ton of books on special effects as a kid, and the Wolf Man featured prominently in virtually all of them.

The original film isn’t really a horror movie in the sense you might think of in this day and age. It’s not terribly scary, but it is quite depressing. A man falls victim to a curse through no real fault of his own, has minimal control over his subsequent behaviour and ends up getting killed. Most werewolf films since have followed some variation of this theme – at least until Dog Soldiers. And though I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Mummy and Creature From The Black Lagoon, it’s still very well-made and it’s great to see where a lot of modern werewolf lore originated. 

So let’s take a look at the figure!

Now, I think we all know that Lon Chaney Jr didn’t look much like a wolf in the original movie. He was some kind of hybrid form; stuck somewhere between man and beast. Thematically it worked well in the movie, but this figure…well, it’s certainly not a bad one. I quite like it, actually. But the stylised nature of Mystery Minis has rendered him looking a bit more like a weremonkey than a werewolf. Take away the black on the nose and you’ll see what I mean.

Nonetheless, it’s always nice to have another Universal Monster on the shelf. I think this is an occasion where the original POP outdoes the Mystery Mini take, but it’s still well worth your time and money. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding him, as he’s packed at a 1/6 ratio – so there are two in every case. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

POP! Television: Teen Titans Go! – Raven as Wonder Woman

Year: 2016

 Teen Titans Go! seems to have gotten a very…mixed reception. Though it’s something of an informal sequel to the very well-received 2003 Teen Titans TV series, it’s very different in tone. I haven’t ever seen an episode of either, so I’ll decline to comment on that controversy – but I did read quite a bit of the 1980s Teen Titans comic series when I was a teen myself.

I had mixed feelings about it. Robin headed up the team, and I’ve always hated Robin, particularly in his pre-pants era. But it had great art, and it was very well-written – all of the characters had distinct personalities, and it introduced the world to Deathstroke the Terminator. In hindsight, it was way better than I ever realised at the time.  

Nonetheless, Raven was always one of the cooler characters among the Titans. In those earlier days her backstory wasn’t quite as fleshed out as it is today; over time, she’s kind of become DC’s answer to Jean Grey. While they’re very distinct in execution, but you can definitely see some common threads – insanely powerful teenage girl, possession by some sort of ridiculously powerful entity, a death and eventual resurrection…I think you can see where this is going.   

Her standard look has remained reasonably consistent through the years; a hood and cloak masking her features. Sometimes she wears a jumpsuit, sometimes a dress and sometimes a leotard, but it’s virtually always some variation on these themes. The new series has kind of turned her into a more traditional goth/crust punk type, but we’ll see how long that lasts. However, originally she was quite strange-looking under the hood, with an oversized forehead and a pronounced widow’s peak. This was a deliberate move by then-artist George Perez to slowly change her features as part of a storyline, but more recent interpretations have tended to keep her a little more conventionally pretty.   

But back to the review – this POP! is apparently based on an episode where the Teen Titans visit the Hall of Justice to use the pool, but end up having to fight Darkseid. Each of the Titans “becomes” a member of the Justice League – Robin becomes Batman, Cyborg becomes Green Lantern, etc. You can see the full “cast” on the pic of the back of the box.

I like the POP design much more than I like the actual animation model, which is quite a rare thing. The blank eyes match Raven’s character quite well, and the proportions are strangely less distorted than the cartoon. Paint is fine; it could be a little tighter in spots, but it’s certainly not bad.    

With Raven’s new solo series just launched back in September, it’s an ideal time to pick up this figure. I don’t plan to pick up any of the other figures in the run, but it’s good to see the Teen Titans back on shelves – the original POPs released a few years ago are all discontinued and go for silly money these days. For myself, I’ve purchased it more out of my Wonder Woman fandom, but it’s definitely a fun variant. Hopefully we get a comic-based POP of Raven (and the rest of the Teen Titans) in the near future. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Jack Torrance (The Shining)

My parents – in hindsight – were not especially strict, particularly in comparison to some of my friends. But like all parents, they wanted to instil a certain set of values into me – and as such, most horror-related material was treated with a deep suspicion. 

And few names were more synonymous with horror than STEPHEN KING. Back in the 1990s, he was arguably at the height of his commercial (if not creative) powers. Bookstores were stuffed with his wares, and video stores seemed to overflow with filmic adaptations of his works. Being a keen reader from a young age, I was naturally very curious about him – but parental authority steered me away from him until I was a teenager. Probably wisely, in hindsight, though it was frustrating at the time.

In the long term, the parental admonition against horror didn’t work. What did I do as soon as I was old enough? Went out and read a ton of Stephen King books, and watched scores of horror films. I love both to this day -- and one of the best adaptations of King's work is The Shining, from Stanley Kubrick.

Stephen King was not thrilled with this adaptation. Having subsequently read the novel, I can kind of understand why, as it deviates from the source material on many important points. But I enjoyed it myself; the pace was probably just a little too slow for my tastes, but it was definitely bizarre and memorable. And its influence has been undeniable – every TV show on the planet of every genre seems to want to do some kind of tribute to scene with the twins at one point or another. 

This Mystery Mini does a reasonable job of replicating Jack Nicholson’s Here's Johnny look in the film -- the check shirt, red jacket, jeans, maniacal expression, and of course the axe. It doesn’t look like Jack Nicholson specifically, but that’s just the nature of the aesthetic –and at a glance, he could fit in reasonably well with the humans from the Walking Dead Mystery Minis too. My only real criticism is related to the hair. Jack Nicholson has never gone totally bald, but even by the time of The Shining it was looking pretty thin – though again, this is probably just a side-effect of the aesthetic.

Overall? Jack Torrance isn’t my favourite figure in the series, but there isn’t a ton of merch for The Shining out there. Given that we also got the Twins in this series, I assume we’ll get Danny soon too – viewed in combination, that would be a fun set.    

Friday, 14 October 2016

Transformers Generations: Titans Return – Apeface

Company: Hasbro
Year: 2016

Titans Return continues to throw up more awesome toys, and today we take a look at another awesome Decepticon* – Apeface!

Black and purple Decepticons are my favourite. And as with all the Titan Masters, there’s four modes – the head, the Titan Master on his own, robot mode (in this case, a gorilla-bot) and combined vehicle mode (a jet). All of them work reasonably well, and it’s actually a bit of a shame that we’re not seeing this guy in deluxe size. In jet mode, he looks like a mini-Skywarp, which means I’m 99% guaranteed to love it. 

My only real criticism is that he doesn’t stand quite right in his gorilla-bot mode, but you can fudge the effect well enough. And this brings us to the most important question of all – in light of this year’s most popular meme, should we be calling this guy Harambot?

*Autobots can get in the bin 


Tuesday, 11 October 2016

POP! Heroes (NYCC 2016 Exclusive) – Classic Batgirl

Batgirl occupies a strange place in the DC canon. Though she’s extremely high profile from a merchandising perspective, the classic character that you tend to think of when the word “Batgirl”is said didn’t really exist for 20+ years. Instead, Barbara Gordon was occupying the role of Oracle after the events of The Killing Joke, back in the late 1980s.

Nonetheless, merchandise is a power driver…so waaaaay back in 2010 when POPs were first debuting, Batgirl was one of the first DC girls produced. Which is very cool, but she’s no longer in production (though the mould is still being used) and now sells for an obscene amount of money on the aftermarket. So good luck getting hold of one! More recently there’s been a “Batgirl of Burnside” POP produced, which is a great look – but I haven’t read the comics it’s based on, and it’s not really the classic look that I tend to prefer for my POP shelf.  

This costume is based on her original costume, apparently, it’s also quite similar to one of her New 52 costumes, sans armour plating. It’s not really a familiar look to me – by the time I was really old enough to be reading comics, Barbara had been turned into Oracle, so that’s how I’ve kind of always known her. And when I did come across the odd reprint or compilation that featured Batgirl, it was almost inevitably the gray/blue suit. That said, it’s a really stylish look, and makes sense in light of the whole…well, Bat thing.

The paint is adequate, but not perfect. It's reminiscent of Funko's mid-period work -- not totally sloppy, but definitely not amazing, either. Still, it looks decent at a distance. Also, she doesn't stand all that well on her own -- but she does come with a stand, so that's good. In my case, she'll be staying in the box so it becomes a bit of a moot point anyway.   

This POP is an NYCC exclusive, but I had a lot less trouble getting hold of Batgirl than I did any of last year’s SDCC (stupid rare flocked Wolfman!) or NYCC exclusives. Popcultcha’s website didn’t seem to crash, and my local bookstore had plenty of these available. How long they’ll last is anyone’s guess – but in Sydney at least, certain POPs seem to hang round for months afterwards.   

That said, if you miss out – don’t panic. Given that the original’s no longer around, I will be very surprised if we don’t get this mould in grey and blue in the near future as a regular release. Which I may also have to pick up…  

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Guest Review: THE BEYOND at The Robot's Pajamas

Since 2014, The Robot's Pajamas has been running Horror Month each October -- the basic theme being that in the lead-up to Halloween, they publish a review of a horror film each day of the month.

Now regular readers might...just might...have noticed that I'm quite fond of horror. So when they put out the call back in 2014, I decided to volunteer my services, and contributed a review of Creature From the Black Lagoon, which you can read here should you feel so inclined. 

I missed 2015, but I've returned for this year with a review of The Beyond -- an weird Italian classic from 1981, recommended for gore aficionados and H.P. Lovecraft fans. It's quite a...different experience. To find out more, just click to read my full review.

Hope you enjoy it -- and have a look around The Robot's PJs site as well. If you like my site, you'll probably love theirs.

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Elvira

Horror hosts aren’t really a thing over here in Australia, but it seems there was a time where every local TV station in the USA had one of their own. Typically serving as campy gateway figures to introduce audiences to crappy old horror and sci-fi films, in many cases they’re more entertaining than the actual films they were hosting. A handful went on to become international celebrities, like Vampira – though to be fair, a lot of that really had to do with her work with Ed Wood. 

But probably the best-known to horror fans the world over is the subject of today’s review – Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Until I sat down to write this review I’d never watched any of her stuff, but I was familiar with her by reputation. But a couple of YouTube videos confirmed pretty much what I expected – silly comments about the films being shown, bad puns and double entendres. But she does it with more style and panache than many of her host contemporaries; I do plan to check her film, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, out at some point.

Elvira has made the transition to Mystery Mini in a much better form than Slimer. With her signature beehive, high-cut dress and risqué top, there’s no doubt about who this is. They’ve even managed to tatter her sleeves in the sculpt! Additionally, little touches like the detailed eye makeup and fingernails clearly demonstrate that Funko is quite capable of doing good paintwork – it’s just a shame that more of it doesn’t find its way to their POPs.  

Speaking of which, Elvira does have a POP on the way soon too; I’m torn as to whether it will make 
its way into my collection as yet, but it does look well-executed.

Overall, I have no real complaints about Elvira as a figure. My only issue with her lies in her rarity, or lack thereof. She’s a 1/6 figure, which means there’s two of her in each case. I think this is a little excessive, and it’s a bummer that as a result some other figures that might otherwise have been 1/12 – Imhotep, for instance – have been pushed to 1/24. But Funko’s rarity works in mysterious ways; hopefully there will be a better breakdown for series 4.  

Monday, 3 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Slimer

Today we take a look at a new release from Funko – Series 3 of the Horror Classics Mystery Minis have hit the shelves, and this time I decided to kind of avoid the whole kerfuffle of searching in-store for individual figures by just ordering a box.

There’s been some interesting choices of characters this time, with the emphasis heavily on classic/retro horror – only Twisty the Clown (American Horror Story: Freak Show) and Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) are from media released in the last twenty years.

But Slimer is possibly the most curious inclusion; Ghostbusters is a horror film, I guess, but something about this doesn’t seem quite right. He didn’t do a whole lot in the original movie, but he was a pretty focal point in the cartoon spin-off, which was very much geared towards kids. I liked it when I was young, but I’m sure it would drive me up the wall these days. Still, I guess it’s cool to see them going for left-of-field choices.

So, basically this is Slimer, but Mystery Minified. You can tell it’s him, but it does feel oddly generic, like a knock-off rather than an official product. Maybe that’s because we’re only seeing him in isolation, rather than with, say, the Librarian Ghost or a Stay Puft Man. Maybe future series will correct this? 

In spite of this somewhat generic feel, Funko have obviously put a lot of care into him. His slimy base is a separate piece, cast in translucent plastic rather than just making him all one colour. The paint apps on his teeth and tongue are nicely executed too. Also, his but is oddly detailed – was the original puppet like that? I can’t remember, but it is oddly fitting for the character.

I was kind of...bummed out...that this figure wasn't better
Overall? Not bad, but I’d be disappointed if I’d picked him out of a blind box solo. The other figures in this series are great, and Slimer suffers by comparison as a result. For my US readers, there is a Hot Topic exclusive version of this series, and the Slimer in that set glows in the dark. It’s a shame they didn’t make this standard, but at least it wasn’t something ridiculous like a 1/72 chase or something. Glow makes everything cooler, and I imagine it’s no exception for this figure.