Sunday, December 31, 2017

12 Blogs of Christmas Day Seven: Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas

The last holiday movie I plan on writing about this year is Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. And while I support being inclusive of all holidays and not assuming everyone celebrates Christmas—heck, we don’t celebrate a Christian Christmas, so much as we like the music and decorations and trappings, and like being nice to people—I’ve made no secret that these blogs are very much about Christmas things. And I’m not replacing Christmas with “holidays,” because all the things I have picked are very definitely about Christmas. Well, all of them except this one, because this truly is a  holiday (or holidays) movie.

My favorite holidays are the Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas corridor. I like the dark moodiness of Halloween, plus candy. I like the cozy autumness of Thanksgiving, plus turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and sweet potatoes and pies and EATING. I like lighting the Hanukkah candles and celebrating that part of my heritage. And I like decorating the Christmas tree and exchanging presents with my wife and family and listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas TV shows and movies and reading books and comics and all the holiday eating. So a movie connecting Halloween and Christmas was always going to be right up my alley.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

12 Blogs of Christmas Day Six: The Muppet Christmas Carol

Another favorite holiday movie is The Muppet Christmas Carol. If memory serves, this was the first Muppet movie to be released since Jim Henson’s passing, and the first major role for Steve Whitmire as Henson’s replacement as Kermit the Frog. As a lifelong Muppet fan, I was excited, but also probably a little concerned that it wouldn’t live up to Muppet films of the past. 

(Oh, who am I kidding? I love the Muppets, and I love A Christmas Carol. I probably didn’t have any anxiety about this at all.)

Friday, December 29, 2017

12 Blogs of Christmas Day Five: Arthur Christmas

A somewhat recent Christmas movie favorite is Arthur Christmas, released in 2011. As soon as I saw the Aardman Entertainment logo on the screen during the first teaser, I knew I was going to see it. (My wife was less impressed, which is understandable, considering it’s not a particularly engaging teaser. Once she saw the first full trailer, however, she was on board.)

(Spoilers, and that first trailer, after the jump.)

Thursday, December 28, 2017

12 Blogs of Christmas Day Four: The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffman

An annual Christmas favorite is the Nutcracker ballet. However, another favorite for me is reading the Nutcracker novel by E.T.A. Hoffman, written in 1816. 

The first part of the story will be very familiar to anyone who has seen the ballet, with Herr Drosselmeyer attending the Stahlbaum family Christmas party. He displays some works of clockwork genius, but the prize gift is a beautiful nutcracker. The nutcracker ends up in the hands of Marie (Clara in the ballet), is broken by her brother Fritz, and repaired by Drosselmeyer, using one of Marie's ribbons.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

12 Blogs of Christmas Day Three: The Box of Delights by John Masefield

For the third day of Christmas, I want to talk about one of my favorite Christmas books: The Box of Delights by John Masefield. I was actually introduced to the story through the BBC TV adaptation, which aired on PBS, on the sadly-missed Wonderworks series, which aired in December of 1984. As a young Doctor Who fan, I was excited to see that the part of Cole Hawlings was played by former Doctor Who Patrick Troughton. The show was great, and I was pleased to rediscover it a number of years ago. I was even more pleased to discover it is available in its entirety on YouTube. Since the book isn’t heavily illustrated, I’ll share the episodes of the series here to break up the text a bit.

(Spoilers after the jump. Spoilers from a book written in 1935, so sorry if that’s upsetting.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

12 Blogs of Christmas Day Two: The Christmas Toy

While Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas is our favorite Jim Henson Muppet Christmas special, The Christmas Toy is a close second. This is produced by Jim Henson, but not directed by him, since, when it was produced in 1986, the Muppets were much bigger business, and presumably Henson was busy with other things. It’s still a great TV special. I remember loving it on its original broadcast, and that love hasn’t faded a bit in the intervening years.

(Spoilers after the jump. Although, again, this special is 21 years old, long past the spoiler statute of limitations.)

Monday, December 25, 2017

12 Blogs of Christmas Day One: Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas

Merry Christmas! Welcome to the first of my 12 Blogs of Christmas, running every day from Christmas Day to the Epiphany (that’s the way it works; look it up). Every day, I will be talking about something that particularly means Christmas to me.

One of our annual Christmas traditions is watching the early Jim Henson special, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. Produced 40 years ago, based on the book by Lillian and Russell Hoban, this hour-long special oozes charm. It tells the story of Emmet Otter and his mother, together since Pa Otter passed away, scraping by on the income from Ma taking in laundry and Emmet doing odd jobs using his father’s tool set. 

(Spoilers after the jump. But seriously, it’s 40 years old. I think the spoiler statute of limitations has expired.)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve and I'm Back!

So, as I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs, I’ve been having a lot of trouble staying cheerful and happy this year. It just feels like we’re in the middle—or, worse, just at the beginning—of a period where people are feeling way too comfortable being nasty to each other and treating the world like crap. So I haven’t had the energy to blog about the things I enjoy, For that matter, I’ve been having trouble feeling that enjoyment from things that would usually make me happy, because the darkness of the world is overwhelming all my joy.

I want to change that. I want to find ways to feel happier and more optimistic. Part of that is doing what I can to make the world a better place, which, admittedly isn’t that much. But if all I can do is call my congresspeople and tell them I want them to stop passing laws that hurt people, because even that stresses me out, then that’s what I’m going to do.

Another thing I can do is make a conscious effort to let things make me happy. Tomorrow is Christmas. After tomorrow, Doctor Who will be played by a woman, and that’s exciting. This time next month, I will have gone to Disneyland to celebrate my wife’s birthday, and that’s exciting. Six months from now, if all goes according to plan, I will have driven a real train, and that’s exciting. So many positive things I have to look forward to, and I need to embrace them.

I’m going to try to get back in the habit of blogging weekly again, too. I don’t know how successful that will be; maybe biweekly is a more realistic goal. I think I stopped enjoying it because I was putting too much pressure on myself. For example, I still really want to promote the Catalyst Prime line of comics, because they’re great, and a fantastic example of diversity in a world that seems to loudly wish it was all white male. But I was having trouble finding the time to write about their new comics every week, and so it started feeling like a burden and a failure rather than a joy. I need to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

I’m going to try to start things off with a bang. Starting tomorrow, I’m hoping to post 12 shorter blogs in a row, for the 12 Days of Christmas. (Yes, the 12 days start on Christmas and end on the Epiphany. Look it up.) I’m going to write about things that make me happy during this holiday season. They’re almost all Christmas-related, which I suppose isn’t very inclusive. However, none of them are particularly Christian, which reflects the way my wife and I view Christmas. We are Strict Decorationists. 

Please check out my blog starting tomorrow, to find out about some of my holiday favorites!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: October Marvel Collector Corps

November brings with it a new movie from Marvel: Thor: Ragnarok! Along with it comes a new Marvel Collector Corps box from Funko. The theme? Thor: Ragnarok! Dismissed as coincidence! Let’s take a look and see what we got.

For starters, this box is physically small than many of the recent boxes from Marvel (or, indeed, any of the Funko subscriptions). It can barely contain one cat!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: Loot Crate Marvel Gear+Goods for October

I don’t blog about it enough—because sometimes I just feel like opening up a box without photographing every single item—but I really enjoy Loot Crate’s Marvel Gear+Goods box. This month’s box, featuring the Defenders, was pretty cool, and I was able to actually photograph everything, so let me show you what I got!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: October Funko Disney Treasures

First, apologies for not posting anything last week. I was sick the whole weekend, and pretty much all this week. But, tired of just sitting around reading comics, I decided it was time for another Funko subscription box unboxing! This time around, it’s the new Disney Treasures box! This month’s theme—appropriate for the Halloween season—is Haunted Forest. As usual, Funko had revealed one of the items, but the rest were a complete mystery. Would there be an item from Nightmare Before Christmas? Haunted Mansion? Join Gizmo and me, and find out.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: September Star Wars Smugglers Bounty

Apologies for not posting last week; I was feeling pretty stressed and pressured. However, I’m back on the blogging horse. This week, it’s time for this month’s Funko Star Wars Smugglers Bounty unboxing!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Catalyst Prime for August: Incidentals #1, Noble #4, Accell #3, and Superb #2

After a couple of false starts, I’ve been rethinking how to approach my planned monthly posts about Lion Forge’s Catalyst Prime comics. I was starting to veer too far into (too) lengthy recaps of the various issues, and that’s never been my plan. So, starting this month, I’m just going to talk about what I liked about the comics, and hopefully that will whet your appetites enough to check out the actual issues.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: September DC Legion of Collectors

The new Funko DC Legion of Collectors box arrived earlier this week, just in the nick of time! I have been struggling with a post about the August Catalyst Prime comics from Lion Forge. The comics were great, but my writing was less so. Fortunately, along came Funko to buy me at least another week to work on the Catalyst Prime entry. So let’s dive in!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bob Taylor's Original Ranch House

As I’ve said before, I love prime rib. One of the best places in town I’ve had it is Lawry’s, but that’s all the way down near the Strip. Another of our favorite houses of beef is a great deal closer to home: Bob Taylor’s Original Ranch House. They’ve been around since 1955, and I’ve read that they are the oldest steak house in Las Vegas.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: August Marvel Collector Corps

Time for another Funko subscription box! This time, it’s the August Marvel Collector Corps box, the theme being Avengers First Appearance.

I’ll be honest; I wasn’t sure what “Avengers First Appearance” actually meant. Turns out, it means the first comics appearances of characters who (mostly) would become Avengers.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: August Funko Disney Treasures

Welcome back! This week, we’ll be unboxing the new Funko Disney Treasures subscription box. As always, this bi-monthly box includes at least one Pop!, at least one Disney Parks item, a pin, a patch, and other stuff. All the items are exclusive to the box.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Catalyst Prime for July: Superb #1, Accell #2 and Noble #3

I would like to begin this month’s review of the Catalyst Prime comics from Lion Forge with the first issue of their latest series, Superb. The writers are David F. Walker and Sheena C. Howard. I had enjoyed Walker’s work on both Power Man & Iron Fist and Luke Cage from Marvel. I particularly appreciated how, while both series featured Netflix breakout star Luke Cage, they represented very different tones and styles from the same writer. I am not familiar with Sheena C. Howard’s work; I understand that she is an academic who studies comic books and popular culture (which is what my own educational background is in), and that this is her first comic book.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What's in the Box?!?: July Star Wars Smuggler's Bounty

Time once again for the Funko Star Wars Smugglers Bounty box! This month’s theme is Droids. I’ve always loved the droids from the Star Wars Universe; some of my favorite characters from the movies and shows include BB-8, R2-D2, and Chopper. Artoo even features on the outside of the box. So this was a theme I was particularly excited about.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Drama in My Ears: Big Finish Productions Listened to May-July

While I had the best of intentions of blogging about the audio dramas from Big Finish Productions as I listened to them, it look like I’ve been falling down on the job. Rather than try to remember my reactions to everything I’ve listened to since March (my last Big Finish post, I think), I’m just going to jump back on the bandwagon with stuff I’ve been listening to more recently. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What's In the Box?!?: June Marvel Collector Corps and July DC Legion of Collectors

In this latest Funko subscription box report, we have something of a comics crossover! That’s right; this week I’ll be featuring both the Marvel Collector Corps and DC Legion of Collectors!

Let’s start with the Marvel Collector Corps, which this month features Spider-Man: Homecoming at its theme.

To me, one of the most distinct images of the new movie version of Spider-Man, first seen in Marvel Captain America: Civil War, is his homemade costume. So I’m pleased to see that featured on the box. Plus, it makes it very clear that this box features the movie version, not just a comic version.

Upon opening the box, we see this month’s patch and pin. 

The patch features the new version of the Vulture, masked and goggled. Having seen the movie recently, I was really impressed by Michael Keaton’s portrayal of the Vulture; very down to earth and believable. Much more interesting than the really old man version in the comics.

The pin is based on Spider-Man’s web-shooter hologram from the movies, which in turn evokes the spider-light from the comics.

Lifting the flap, we see the card announcing next month’s theme: First Appearance: Avengers. I’m not quite sure what that even means, so that’s exciting.

As usual, I’ll show the reverse of the card at the end of the unboxing, since it shows all the items in the box.

Beneath the card is this month’s exclusive comic. This time around, it’s the first issue of the new Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man, by Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert. I love Spider-Man, I love Chip Zdarsky, and I love Adam Kubert, but I haven’t read this comic yet. (This box arrived right in the middle of some particularly stressful events that affected our household pretty deeply recently, so I’ve been distracted.) The art looks great, and I’m sure the story is fun. As usual, the cover is an exclusive cover, featuring Pop!-ified versions of the characters.

(I should also mention that I was very happy to receive this box before the Wednesday that this comic was released, otherwise I probably would have bought a copy for myself. For once, good timing.)

This month comes with a T-shirt, which should make fans who never want to see anything besides T-shirts very happy. It’s the school shirt for the Midtown School of Science and Technology, Peter’s school. I wore it to the movie when we saw it.

(Fans will recognize the establishing date of the school, 1962, as the year Spider-Man first appeared.)

This month’s exclusive Pop! features Spider-Man with his underarm web wings. I had picked up some of the other Pops from the movie already, including Tony Stark wearing his kitten T-shirt and Peter in his homemade costume. I think this is the only Pop! I have with him wearing the sleeker costume from the movie.

The final items in the box were a pair of Mystery Minis. While there are a whole bunch of Spider-Man Mystery Minis available, the only way to get characters from this movie are in this box. Each box comes with two, but there were four different ones total, so even box subscribers won’t be able to get a complete set very easily. I received Spider-Man in his homemade costume—which I really like—and the new version of Shocker. The other two possibilities were the Vulture and Spidey in his high-tech suit. I’m not as big a fan of the Mystery Minis as I am the Pint-Size Heroes, but these are still nice.

And here is the card detailing the items in the box.

Moving on to DC Legion of Collectors—the second box we’ve received—this month’s theme is a longtime favorite of mine: Batman: The Animated Series.

The box features a nice, weathered-looking silhouette of the Penguin.

This month’s patch and pin feature two popular villains.

The patch is a nice portrait of the Joker. I’ve always been partial to this design for the character. I just wish I had a better way to display all the cool patches we’ve received, although my wife has some ideas.

The pin is of Catwoman. If I’m honest, I prefer the later design of her from the series, as opposed to this one. Still, this is a nice addition to my collection.

The inside of the box is really nicely designed this month as well.

Once we get past the flap with the pins, we see the card revealing next month’s theme. My box arrived really quickly this month, and for once I had no idea what the next them would be until I opened the box. It’s DC’s Most Wanted, so we’ll be getting lots of villain stuff in September’s box.

The comic is an oldie but a goodie: the first issue of the Batman Adventures, the comic adapting the style of the TV series by Kelley Puckett, Ty Templeton, and Rick Burchett. That series represents one of my favorite post-1980s runs of Batman comics, and I’ve been rereading them recently as DC reprints them in a nice series of comprehensive books. This one has an exclusive Pop! cover.

As soon as I saw what lay beneath the comic, I got excited. My wife was seated so she couldn’t see into the box, so I decided to slowly reveal the items to her, leading up to the one that had me the most excited.

First out of the box was this month’s T-shirt. Since the Marvel and Star Wars boxes come with shirts my size, we decided to subscribe to the DC and Disney boxes with her T-shirt size. This is the first box to come with a T-shirt for her, and it’s a beaut. It’s the Batman Animated Series logo head shot of Batman, only Pop!-ified.

This month’s exclusive Pop! is Mr. Freeze, apparently decided by a fan vote. That’s fine; Mr. Freeze, particularly the version in the animated series, is a really poignant and well-designed character. (If memory serves, this version was actually designed by Mike Mignola.) One area in which I fell this Pop! is particularly successful is in capturing the skin tone for the face.

Look at his widdle Bat-arang!
The last item was something that I was hoping for, but was sure had probably already been produced: a Dorbz Ridez of Batman and the Batmobile from the series. I’m a huge fan of all the iterations of the Batmobile, particularly the one from the 1966 TV series. This one is a close second, and it looks great.

Overall, the stripped-down, deceptively simple design of the Batman animated characters is tailor-made for the Funko line. That show is one of my favorite versions of one of my favorite characters, and I’m glad that this month’s toys lived up to my expectations.

As usual when I do a Funko unboxing, picking a Pop! of the Month would be redundant, so that’s it for this week! See you next week!