Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Big Halloween Pickup!

Halloween Decorations
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A couple months back one of my friends moved out of state. Not being able to take everything with him, a few items had to be left back home and (more or less) be put into storage. Among them was this big stack of Halloween Decorations.

When the time finally came to ship back the rest of what he really needed, it was sort of decided that all his old Halloween props simply wasn't worth boxing up and moving across the continental United States.

If you put two and two together you can probably figure out which direction this is all heading. When asked if I would like to have what was left over, I wasted no time with my answer... a resounding yes. Of course I would take whatever he had. I was helping out a friend and getting free Halloween Decorations at the same time. That's almost the very definition of a win-win situation.

A few days later when the horrific pile of goodies arrived in my garage I literally had no idea what to expect. It was one gigantic overfilled container that had been (not so carefully) packed with someone elses Halloween display. Let's take a closer look at what was living inside:

Halloween Decorations
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Once everything was untangled and spread out on my garage floor you can really see how good of a haul this was. A few items got slightly damaged from being mishandled during the move but only one was ruined to the point that I had to discard it. Everything else was in surprisingly good shape and easily repairable.  Here is a quick rundown of all the items pictured above:
  • -- Two large tombstones and four small tombstones (with wooden stakes)
  • -- Two drop cords, power stake, and two colored light bulbs
  • -- One small bottle of fog juice
  • -- One of those changing 'horror portraits'
  • -- Four skulls
  • -- Two large severed heads
  • -- Two gargoyle statues
  • -- Two small severed heads
  • -- One bag of misc. sized bones
  • -- One white winged hanging prop
  • -- One black hanging prop (with crossed arms)
And a few other miscellaneous things mixed in for good measure. Those two arms are from the one prop that got almost entirely destroyed. I saved them, thinking that I might find a use someplace down the line. You can never have to many skeleton zombie arms.

Getting all these items today was a great way to start off the eventual 2013 Halloween Season. It takes a lot of time, dedication, and unfortunately money to put up a display the size that I typically do. Anytime someone donates old leftover props, it really helps. Most of everything you see here will work its way into this years display. And I'm super excited to start to figure out exactly what it is that will define this years setup.

Now I just got to find a use for those skeleton zombie arms!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Found 'Frosty's Winter Wonderland' !

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Today I found "Frosty's Winter Wonderland" on DVD and there was absolutely no way I was going home without it planted firmly in hand.

And of all days to find a cartoon with the word winter in the title, it would be the first real 'summer' day of the year. One in which the temperature topped out at 75.

For the first time in forever you could walk outside without the need for seventeen long sleeve shirts and three winter jackets.

And yet Frosty ties in perfectly with the slight change in direction that I have in mind for this website. I've been doing some thinking... some serious thinking and came to the conclusion that just because I've previously limited the holiday festivities to the months of October through December doesn't mean that is how things have to stay.

So after much deliberation I've decided that I'll be writing more Halloween and Christmas content throughout the entire year. Folks, its what I do and what I do best. So why not indulge in the good stuff year round?

I've always wanted to visit a blog that is specific to the holidays, only with new content posted year long. And I could never find one that seemed to fit the bill for what I had in mind So why not create it myself? This is exactly what I am going to do.

I can make this work but only if I follow one very important rule. Moderation. I'm not going to go hit everyone in the face with Christmas or Halloween as soon as you click on this blog. As a matter of fact, 90% of the content that I typically post won't change at all. And there will still be the massive end of the year countdowns leading up to everyone's favorite seasons.

What you will be seeing are smaller, bite sized posts like this one. The search for the holidays is sort of like a huge scavenger hunt. One with little pieces and parts spread out all over the place. If you know where to look you can find those fragments, regardless of what month the calendar says it is.

It is during this hunt that I located this copy of  "Frosty's Winter Wonderland" on DVD. Sitting in a big dump bin full of used Nintendo Wii titles at a local grocery store. I'm confident that this movie is leftover from the 2012 Holiday Season as I remember this specific store having a big display with these classic cartoons on it.

I've not decided when exactly I will watch this one. I think I'll save it for later on this summer, perhaps on one of those long hot July days. That sounds like the perfect time to indulge in a little Winter Wonderland!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Christmas with Ben Franklin in April

Holiday 2013
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See that photo off to the left? I took it a couple days ago with my cell phone. No, your eyes do not deceive you, that is indeed a Christmas Section standing proud and true on April 24th. Not a clearance sign in sight.

And there is a reason for that. It's technically not leftover from last season. It's a holiday isle that sits out year round. And its in my favorite store in the entire world.

Tucked away in a small town about thirty minutes drive from house lives this fine establishment. A Ben Franklin retail store.

Perhaps you've heard of them. The used to be quite popular years back but with the explosion of larger retail chains, finding a functioning Ben Franklin that's still in business has became increasingly harder.

It's a shame to because these old stores have quite a charm to them. One that you cannot find in the massive isles of Wal-Mart. I've always been fond of this particular store due to how seemingly random the entire place is.

They have a long standing habit of never really removing its seasonal items. Instead a bunch of stuff just gets moved to the back of the store and put on this shelf. This same shelf. Been this way for literally as long as I can remember.

For someone who really enjoys the holidays, having this one spot that I can visit any time of year and find a little slice of December waiting... it's bliss. All the major areas are covered. Snowmen. Trees. Trains. Wreaths. Santa Claus. It is all here. Even if 90% of it is crap that I'd never actually purchase, the idea of such a place existing is what makes it so special.

As we move on with the 2013 Summer Season, I just want you guys to know that someplace in the back of my mind is this very isle. Knowing that in a few short months it'll be time to push it back into the forefront. I'm already excited!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Summer Toys: Growing Dinosaur Egg!

It's been a while since I last wrote an article and for this I apologize. I hate leaving you guys hanging for extended periods of time. I know how often I refresh websites I frequent, waiting for new content to arrive. I'd hate to subject the four people who visit this one to that same sort of torture.

And judging by the fact that the main page is still filled with Christmas content, I'd say you guys have been tormented long enough. It's way past due for some new content and with Summer right around the corner I can think of no better time than now to cover the magic Growing Dinosaur Egg!

Summer Toys
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Yes my friends its once again that time of year in which all those crappy Summer Toys return to store shelves. I love this time of year. Wonderfully bad and almost always generic toys that spring up for a couple months at the start of summer. Nobody wants any of this stuff but every kid always ends up with a toybox half filled with broken pieces and parts from these neglected wonders.

I've always viewed Summer Toys as the strange offshoot of the Christmas Season. These isles tend to shoot up in close to the same area that previously housed gingerbread men and reindeer. Flip the color schemes on these packages and basically everything instantly turns into 'stocking stuffer' material. It gives me an opportunity here in April to talk about items that would loosely qualify as Christmas a few short months back.

Growing Dinosaur Egg. I feel like you guys already know the routine for this one. Fill a bucket with water. Toss in the egg and let it sit overnight while you hum the theme to Jurassic Park. When you wake up the next morning you have some great big squishy toy that you'll spend thirty seconds looking at then toss directly into the trash.

I've covered items like this in the past, specifically this blood hand from a couple Halloween's back. The idea of doing yet another 'growing item' post was almost enough to make me skip this one.

Summer Toys!
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Until I really sat down and thought about it. It's a dinosaur that hatches out of an egg. In the words of the late Huell Howser, that's amazing. And an opportunity that I would regret passing up.

See here is my main beef with this kind of novelty toy. Nine times out of ten you know exactly what you are getting before you ever take it out of the box. Whatever the small item looks like, just imagine that only four times the size and covered in a disgusting slime.

The genius of the Growing Dinosaur Egg lies in that plastic, dissolving egg. Specifically what lies under it. Of which I literally have no idea. Perhaps its a Tyrannosaurs Rex. If we are lucky it could be a Velociraptor. There is no way to know until the damn thing hatches.

Cut to three days later, real time and the results look a little something like this:

Summer Toys!
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Fantastic! If I do say so myself. The damn thing actually did hatch out of the egg. I assumed it would dissolve in the water, sort of like those Trashbag Bunch toys of yesteryear. Nope. Motherfucker stayed solid for a good day and a half before the green guy up above started to slowly poke his nose out of the top of the egg. Don't believe me? I documented this shit like it was an actual dinosaur egg hatching in my living room.

Summer Toys!
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This photograph was taken someplace in the middle of the whole 'hatching' phase. See what I mean, it really did slowly break through the egg.

My only regret is that I was at work when the shell broke in half. I should have used a vacation day. In Jurassic Park John Hammond was present for the birth of every dinosaur and damn it I should have been here for the birth of mine!

In terms of Summer Toys, I think we are off to a hot start. Growing Dinosaur Egg is everything that I had hoped for and so much more. I've got lots more toys to cover but lord knows if they will live up to expectations set forth by this one.

It was also the exact shot in the arm that I needed to get back into writing again. Sometime I just need something kinda stupid and a little corny to get back into the swing of things. This was my thing. I'm officially ready to start scouring every inch of every store for bizarre items that I can classify as Summer!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Circle of Life

It's funny how things work. I have a small story to tell and by the time its done you'll see pictures of what I got in the mail today. Trust me, it will be worth it. Now where to start...

Like all good tales this one begins a long time ago, many versions of Internet Explorer ago. I was in my middle school years and the internet was still in the pre-google dominated period of time. Through some bit of happenstance, Ask Jeeves directed me to a destination that would soon become my home away from home. X-Entertainment

No-place near as pornographic as the title would make it seem. X-E was the destination for someone like me. Its pages filled with tributes to everything from Ecto Cooler to (my personal favorite article) The Worst Arcade in America.

In some strange sort of way, I actually grew up reading that website. It got my through the rough middle school years and then the 'actually not so bad' of time known as High School.

X-Entertainment was the driving force that motivated me to start my own blog. Years ago I hosted a very poorly designed site over on (anyone remember them?) in which I wrote horribly constructed pieces simply to make my friends laugh. It was a lot of foul language and random encounters in Yahoo Chat but someplace deep in that old site of mine was the seeds that eventually turned into The Astro Lounge.

Eventually the internet would twist and transform beyond the constructs of the old X-Entertainment website and Matt, the websites creator would shift gears towards a new slice of the internet. Dinosaur Dracula.

His new place was every bit as good as the old one and in many ways better. I love refreshing the pages over on DD and waiting for new material to arise. So when I seen the chance to own a piece of merchandise from Dinosaur Dracula. I knew that I had to have it.

It also helped that said item is a sealed Mumm-Ra figure from 1985.

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 Arriving in the mail today, this my friends truly is the circle of life at work. The website that originally inspired me to blog in the first place has now sent me a package in the mail... which I am now writing about.

That's pretty amazing.

I promise to take good care of Mumm-Ra for ya, Matt. He has a new home, high on top of one of the (many) shelves that I own. Looking pretty good sitting amongst all my other junk. Mumm-Ra also earns bonus points for reminding me of Halloween Season every time I look at him.

So if by some off chance you happen to read this article. Thanks for the years of hard work. And double thanks for letting me own this awesome piece of Thundercats history !

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Evil Dead [2013] Review

Evil Dead
In the land of watered down horror movie remakes, Evil Dead Reigns supreme.
Evil Dead fans rejoice. This is the film we have been waiting for years to see. And I am pleased to report that it is every bit as good and in some ways perhaps even better than we dreamed.

The film follows a group of five friends to an isolated cabin in the woods where they find a mysterious Book of the Dead, the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis. Upon reading its passages, they accidentally unleash an ancient evil force hellbent on ruling earth and destroying everyone in the process.

Sound familiar? It should. Evil Dead 2013 features an almost identical plot as the original 1981 flick. The only slight change in formula comes from the reason why the characters end up at the cabin.

Evil Dead Poster
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One of the female protagonists is trying to kick a heroin addiction, her friends decided that taking her deep into the woods would be the best place to do so. It works but only if you don't really think about it that much. Clearly all the filmmakers were looking for is a passable alternative to 'five friends go out for a weekend of drinking and parting in the woods' that often plagues this genera of film. A trend that was ironically enough, started by the original Evil Dead flick.

To be perfectly blunt, the weakest portion of the film can be found right here. Both in this setup and the characters that inhabit it. Not much of an attempt is ever really made at explaining who these people are and what kind of motives drive them to be together. Yea, we are know about the drug addiction thing but beyond that not much is told. The two male characters actually don't even seem to get along and for the life of me, I cannot remember why.

I also don't remember a single character name and couldn't even begin to tell you anything about them other than the sort of vague background information that you pick up from time to time. Even then, that information only seems to be given so it can set you up for some horrific scene later on in the film. One character has a medical background, so you can bet good money on something happening with a surgical needle.

The group of people who went to the movie with me all seemed to be struggling with this aspect of t he film as well.  After the movie was finished, characters were referred to in a sort of tongue-in-cheek manor; "That one guy that sort of looked like a poor mans Johnny Depp" ... "The Mark Sanchez looking dude" ... "The possessed chick". Was about the extent of detail that anyone could muster up to describe the cast.

But make no mistakes about it. Evil Dead is not trying to be any sort of character driven drama piece, like the uber popular Walking Dead television series. Evil Dead is a flat out balls to the wall horror film. One that dishes out the blood by the gallons and doesn't let up until the screen is (literally) raining red. Then for good measures throws another twenty gallons at you, just in case it wasn't subtle enough the first time around.

If you cannot quite remember the name of a character, that's alright... just refer to them whatever way makes the most sense to you and move on. The star of this show is not the people in it but the horrible, horrible set of events that they go through.

By comparison films like Hostel, Saw, and Cabin Fever look like Disney flicks. And yet Evil Dead manages to do something that movies like A Serbian Film or Human Centipede could not, be ultraviolent and yet completely entertaining at the same time. Evil Dead is the supreme king of blood and guts in a land dominated by watered down "PG-13" jump-scare horror cinema. It's not just a welcome breath of fresh air, it is a fucking tidal wave of adrenaline this genera so desperately needed.

How this movie achieved an R-Rating I literally have no idea. Never have I seen the sheer amount of blood and guts tossed around on screen with such playful disregard as I have in Evil Dead. And yet its done in a sort of classy way.

Once scene has a character lick a razor blade, split her tongue in half, then vomit an awful black substance directly into another persons mouth. In another we see a character get stabbed half a dozen times right below the eye with a hypodermic needle. And these are some of the films more grounded elements. You'll witness everything from bodily dismemberment and self mutilation, to being buried alive and (possibly) tree rape.

All the while Evil Dead seems to be enjoying itself so much as a film, in the way it completely disregards the traditional 'less is more' approach to film making. Instead replacing it with a 'more is better... so we are going way the fuck over the top' theory allows everything you see on screen, no matter how horrific, to still be completely enjoyable.

In this regard it reminds me of the old grindhouse style films of the 1960s and 1970s, only Evil Dead gets the benefit of an actual budget and modern special effects. Even though the film boasts no CGI, instead opting to go for all practical or in-camera effects work. These physical effects work tremendously well and help to separate this flick from the ultra slick computer generated look we have all grown accustomed to thanks to movies like Avatar and the shit Michael Bay directs.

Evil Dead
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You'll find plenty of callbacks to the original films and most of their iconic scenes, too. Look closely and you'll spot a certain car that Sam Raimi is famous for sticking into all his films. Shotguns and chainsaws are ever present, as well as the infamous tool-shed.

Twice we witness characters who must self mutilate a hand to survive but neither time does it play out exactly how the audience would expect. This truly is Evil Dead, redefined for a new generation of fans.

Stick around past the end credits and you'll find the ultimate piece of fan service done for long-time Evil Dead fans. I won't spoil the surprise but whatever you just thought of, is probably correct.

All in all, in the land of watered down horror movie remakes, Evil Dead reigns supreme. It takes the original concept and pays it proper homage all the while improving up the formula and coming up with its own spin in all the right places.

If you are a horror movie fan you owe it to yourself to spend the eight bucks to see this film up on the big screen. I give Evil Dead a 4 1/2 out of 5.