Monday, March 31, 2014

My Hotwheels DeLorean DMC-12 Review!

This is the story of how I ended up with three DeLorean Hot Wheels cars and five entirely out of season Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark chocolate bars over the course of a single day.

I was out last week doing a bit of shopping and not-so-secretly hunting in the back corners of every store for remnants of the Christmas Season. Of which I ended up finding a surprisingly large amount of crap tucked away in the back corner of a rouge Hallmark store.

More on that in a minute.

Hotwheels Back to the Future
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The real star of today's show are these red Hotwheels DeLorean DMC-12's that I picked up at Wal-Mart! I am a huge DeLorean enthusiast, and while that love stems from obvious places it goes much deeper than Mr. Fusion replicas. I actually legitimately love the real DMC-12 and not just the one Marty McFly drove around in the movies.

I've known about the Hotwheels DeLorean for quite a while now, and while I could have very easily purchased one off from Amazon... the thrill is in the hunt. I'd rather find one out in the wild, even if it takes six months to do so.

Seriously, I been looking for this car since around Thanksgiving time. Digging through every rack in every store and always coming up short. Until now. Near the back of the Wal-Mart that I shop at is this big isle of clearance toys. Stuff leftover from the Holidays, no doubt.

In it was a big floor fixture with four different bins overflowing with Hotwheels cars. I didn't really feel like rummaging around in it but as I walked by couldn't help but flip over one car to see what was hiding  under.

What are the chances that the very first package I touched just so happened to be a red DeLorean DMC-12! The very same car that I've spent so long trying to find. Finally sitting right in front of me.

I danced a small jig in the middle of the isle with excitement.

Hotwheels Back to the Future
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Hotwheels released this car in two different variations, red and the traditional silver. I am really after the silver DeLorean but the red car was on my mental list of stuff to eventually find too. And I was not going to pass up the opportunity to finally own one. Even if it was the lesser of the two color options.

It was at this point in my journey that I turned into "that guy" standing around digging through a pile of Hotwheels cars. Because clearly if they had a red DeLorean than a silver DeLorean must exist someplace else within this pile.

Sadly it did not.

I did however keep finding red ones. After looking for seemingly forever for this one specific car, I kept finding them here. I'd move a few cars around and suddenly find another. Then another. And another. Until I had a stack of seven of the bastards.

Eventually I settled upon purchasing three of them. Because fuck logic in situations such as these!

A few things about this car drive me nuts. For starters DeLorean's never came  factory red. Or any color for that matter. Every car came manufactured with the DeLorean's iconic stainless steel finish. You could paint them if you wanted, and some folks have. But they never actually came from DMC that way.

Hotwheels Back to the Future
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Secondly, I've never seen a DeLorean with racing stripes along its side. Let alone the strange one Hotwheels chose to put on the hood. I get that Hotwheels tends to gussy up the look of all its cars to make them more appealing for children, but dorky looking racing stripes have no business being on a DMC-12 DeLorean like this!

I am also not a fan of the big chromed out wheels they stuck on it but alas at least those slightly resemble the look of factory DeLorean rims. Just in a much larger and shinier fashion.

What I have the most problems with is how as soon as its taken out of the package, its tough to tell what kind of car this even is. It doesn't really look like a proper DeLorean DMC-12. Just a few cool little details sprinkled over top the vague outline of the car, like the gas flap compartment on the hood and the overall low profile and shape of the car.

Everything else seems like it was pieced together out of extra bits and parts that Hotwheels already had laying around until they got something that looked similar to a DeLorean, than simply called it close enough and sent it into production.

If I sound like I am being overly critical of a .97 cent replica of a car most people probably only vaguely recognize, it's because I am. But only because I love the real automobile so much that I hate seeing it misrepresented. In any form.

Overall, I still recommend picking it up. If you are a DeLorean collector like myself it doesn't take much convincing to purchase anything with the DMC logo on it. Let alone a Hotwheels replica. It's close enough to looking like the actual car that unless you know the real deal inside out, most people will recognize it as the car from Back to the Future. Even if this specific version is red!

Now about those chocolate bars. This post turned out to be considerably longer than I thought. So I'll save the second half of this story for later on in the week.

I hope you guys are ready for out of season peppermint chocolate bars. Because it was a long and strange journey that lead me to finding a box of them!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lay's Chicken & Waffle Flavored Chips!

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Despite the thirty degree, raining and still sometimes snowy weather that is occupying most of the Midwest... summer is in fact coming. Eventually. I know this because the Summer Season is the only time of year in which something as outrageous as Lay's Chicken & Waffle Flavored Chips could ever hit the market.

Take that Santa Claus!

For reasons that I cannot possibly fathom these potato chips exist. And while not particularly good... this is totally one of those things that you absolutely must track down and try for yourself.

Strangely reminiscent of those old Jones Soda Holiday Packs, you know the ones that sold bottles of soda flavored like Mashed Potatoes and Green Bean Casserole. It's basically that exact same concept, applied to chip form.

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I do not buy into the notion that any of the brain-trust at Lay's actually believe this is legitimately a good idea. Chicken & Waffle chips exist simply because they can and because they are are so friggin' strange of a concept that you basically have to purchase a bag.

Each chip has this strange sort of sickly color to them. Darker and blotchier than you'd expect with far more crunch than I typically associate with Lay's. This combination almost reminds me of leaving a bowl of traditional potato chips out to fester in the sun for twelve hours on a hot, humid picnic in July.

And the smell is something else entirely, too. It's maple syrup... but not really. I don't even begin to know how to properly describe what they smell like but I'd imagine if you gave a gigantic super computer all the ingredients to make up "maple syrup" and told it to come up with a flavor, this would be the end result.

It has this weird artificial quality to it that is so tough to pinpoint. And I don't know where exactly the chicken flavor fits into this equation but I've no doubt that occasionally while eating them, you stumble into a bit of chip that tastes like chicken.

Or some sort of artificial chicken substitute covered in artificial maple syrup.

And yet they are strangely munchable. I've had them sitting on a plate next to me this entire time and despite the fact that I don't need to eat all of them... I keep tossing one down every so often.

Lay's Chicken & Waffle Flavored Chips defy all logic. They look weird. Taste pretty bad. And are not something I ever want to eat again, but I still highly recommend tracking a bag down and experiencing this bizarre concoction for yourself!

Friday, March 14, 2014

M.A.R.S. Heroes Revisited!

Score! I've finally found the figure I was looking for! It only took a little over a year worth of hunting, but FROSTY from the M.A.R.S. Heroes set is finally in my possession.

And in case you are in need of a refresher, M.A.R.S. Heroes is a line of generic Transformers like robots that feature removable body parts, allowing you to mix and match bits and pieces to craft your own creations.

Originally I wrote about them as part of the 2012 Christmas Countdown and due to the slightly obscure nature of the product, I figured that would be the first and only time I would ever write about them.

Pacific Rim Robots
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Turns out our paths would cross once again. And this time I'd end up with the one figure in the series that I really wanted, Frosty. The eight year old in me could not be happier. Finding the chaser figure in any series is a big deal. Even if that series is a kind of crappy Transformers knockoff line!

As I stated in my recent review of Hasbro's Red Skull figure, some toys are best left in the blister package. Not only does it increase the value of the figure, but more often than not they tend to look better displayed that way.

Not these guys. Fuck that package. M.A.R.S. Heroes are clearly meant to be opened. Meant to be played with. Even if that inevitably means losing all of the accessories and half the body pieces within a week... so be it. That is the price you must pay to see these guys live up to there fullest potential.

Pacific Rim Robots
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Here is the star of the show and clear cut leader of the pack, Frosty. To the immediate left is Darkbeat and off over to the right is Blaster. All white figures are a tough thing to pull off, especially lower end ones. If its not done just right it'll simply look like an unpainted mess.

Through either blind luck or pure determination the designers of this set managed to pull off the white paint scheme. And in the process actually crafted something pretty cool.

It may be tough to tell from that specific photo but Frosty and all the other robots actually have a lot of minor detail carved into them. And they are all highly flexible too.

Yea, you'll sometimes have issues with getting a specific socket to stay connected and occasionally a foot will fall off. But ultimately the price is so low I honestly cannot fault any of the figures.

Pacific Rim Robots
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Here is the full set of M.A.R.S. Heroes toys. Have to wonder how many actually own all six of them? I somehow doubt to many people are M.A.R.S. Heroes competitions... which is actually a bit of a shame.

Standing together in one big hero pose like that totally reinforces my beliefs that this set is freaking outstanding! It is literally amazing that they are so cheaply made and yet every figure is just oozing with personality and flavor.

I really just dig the fact that every robot is different from one another. This one is green. That one is blue. Another is white. And none of them look like one another yet everything is cohesive enough that when standing side by side they all totally come from the same universe. It's outstanding that some set basically nobody has ever heard of managed to hit all the right notes like that!

And while I still don't know how well they'd stand up to a ten year old's toy box, I do know that I will proudly display these on a shelf. Because they are far to awesome to hide away in a plastic tub someplace!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Break In Case of (Holiday) Emergency!

Chances are if you go back and rewatch one of your favorite disaster films or movie about the zombie apocalypse you'll no doubt come across a scene in which a main character busts out a survival kit to help even the odds against whatever disaster is currently unfolding.

I've always been strangely fascinated with real survival kits. Something about freeze dried food with insanely long shelf lives, coupled with waterproof matches, neatly packaged thermal blankets, and all the other odd little trinkets tucked inside just peaks my interest in a weird little way.

I never want to be thrust into a situation in which I actually have to use one but I somehow love the idea of having one around all the time.

Keeping the concept of the survival kit in mind, I wanted to apply those fundamentals towards something I could unpack this summer and bring about a little Christmas Cheer for when the temperatures start to rise and the evenings fill with mosquitoes and stretch on for all of eternity.

This is my Holiday Survival Kit!

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Put together from bits and pieces of leftover Christmas items that I picked up after the end of the 2013 holiday season, it contains a hodgepodge of seasonal goodies.

Individually these items might not seem like much right now, with the holidays still just fresh enough in everyone's to know that when November finally arrives it is going to bring so many more bigger and exciting items to place around the Christmas Tree!

But together... together they become something special. When wrapped up and semi-forgotten about for a couple months everything here transforms from holiday leftovers to savior of the summer season!

I figure we can take a deeper look into the Holiday Survival Kit when I decide to open it back up later on this summer. Until then, I wanted to make a brief to-do out of one of the items I picked up. Actually the very last item that I picked up.

I'm weird and always feel a strange attachment towards the last items that I buy for any specific holiday season, especially when its Christmas. Knowing that it'll be almost a full calendar year before I get to do so again. So let's take a look at the "Home for the Holidays" Yankee Candle.

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I found this candle at a local gift shop that's tucked into the back of a small pharmacy about a week or so ago. I could, and probably should, write a feature article on this place. Like most small time stores it's a mixture of new product sitting side by side with various novelties that haven't been touched since the late 1980's.

And it has a fantastic habit of never really removing any of its seasonal items. Some of the larger items get moved off the sales floor but smaller trinkits like this. They'll just get left out until someone purchases them or enough time has lapsed for them to come back into season.

I absolutely love pharmacy gift shops!

"Home for the Holidays" wasn't the only brand of candle I had to pick from. Everything you'd expect to see was still present, despite the fact that it is the beginning of March.

I could have went for the traditional pine tree or frosted berry candle but I wanted something special. Something undeniably festive. And this specific candle smells exactly like you are standing in the middle of a Hobby Lobby two weeks before Christmas Eve.

I know its a strange analogy but stick with me for a minute.

Most stores tend to have this weirdly appealing scent to them that happens right around the holiday season. It seems to be created when you combine five isles worth of other holiday items and let it fester for six weeks and.... boom, you get the "Home for the Holidays" Yankee Candle.

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Here is one last look at my Holiday Survival Kit. All wrapped up and ready to be packed away until the time is just right. Look for part two of this article sometime this summer!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Avengers Cheese Nips! Plus Red Skull Hasbro Figure!

For reasons that I am not going to argue with, Nabisco has unleashed a whole host of Avengers related snack foods! I found a big display set up at my local grocery store featuring everything from Avengers Graham Crackers to... Avengers Cheese Nips.

... I am positive it had more junk on it than just those two items but as I sit here typing this up I simply cannot recall whatever else was crammed onto that shelf. Perhaps I should have taken the time to snap a proper photograph. Live and learn.

Today we are going to talk briefly about how fantastic these new Avengers Cheese Nips truly are. Then dive into Hasbro's new Red Skull figure from the Marvel Legends line of toys! It's comic book madness here at the Astro Lounge!

Red Skull Hasbro Figure!
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I am not sure why Nabisco chose this specific place in time to start releasing products with Marvel's A-Team of superheroes on them. Age of Ultron, the sequel to 2012's "Avengers" flick does not release until May of 2015. A little over a full year away.

That seems really early to crank up the marketing machine for that film, even if its destined to be one of the biggest box office juggernauts of all time.

Guardians of the Galaxy, the next big picture for Marvel, isn't slated to release until later this summer. But that picture and those characters has virtually nothing to do with the Avengers, save for an inevitable cameo by Tony Stark.

I really think, and this is perhaps why I was so excited when I found these, is that we have finally reached a point in time in which companies as large as Nabisco are perfectly alright with releasing superhero branded products simply because they can and not because they are tying in with some major motion picture release.

Red Skull Hasbro Figure!
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The actual 'Nips have been altered to feature four different designs. You have Iron Man's severed floating head, Hulk's severed floating arm, Captain America's severed floating shield, and a (sadly not severed) but none the less still floating Avengers logo.

Strangely omitted from the group was anything related to Thor. Perhaps Nabisco wanted to avoid any potential controversy by including a character that references himself as a God. Though I would love to see the theoretically written hate mail directed towards a snack food company for that one.

You guys have no idea how jealous I am of elementary school age kids getting to grow up and be completely engulfed in the lore of all my favorite super heroes.

We had some awesome stuff going on back in the 90's, proverbial heavy hitters like the animated X-Men cartoon show on Fox and the accompanying Toy Biz line of action figures.

That was also right around the time that comics started to reinvent themselves and head towards a more darker and mature audience, especially with the emergence of characters like Spawn and the relaunch of Ghost Rider.

But we never had anything as mainstream as Captain America and the Incredible Hulk chilling out together on a box of cheese flavored chip substitutes. It just didn't happen. These characters were just as popular back then but no-place near as socially acceptable as they are now.

It's been really fun seeing the mainstream fully embrace what was once viewed as children's fodder and not much more than that.

Avengers Cheese Nips!
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I ran into this pretty slick looking Red Skull figure at my local K-Mart. I've never been the worlds biggest fan of the character but I really feel like you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would label an ex-Nazi with a skinless red skull for a face as one of there top two or three favorite super villains.  Even if that description is the most badass thing ever conceived.

Still the price was right and I've never been one to turn down... well pretty much anything when it gets turned into toy form. So I am now the proud owner of a four-inch tall Red Skull action figure.

You'll notice I took this guy out of the package. Normally I leave all my stuff sealed but not having much prior attachment to the character I figured I'd go ahead and pop this one open. Besides, it's actually been a while since I've check out what the sculpting techniques are like on these newer figures and I was fairly excited to crack one open for reviewing purposes.

Turns out I was pleasantly surprised with what Hasbro has came up with. This is clearly a low end toy that is destined to get broke into a million pieces by nine out of ten potential owners ... but on the off chance that it ends up into the hands of someone over the age of ten, it's not a bad edition to an office desk or DVD shelf.

Like most cheaper action figures, Red Skull has a few issues standing under his own power. You've sort of got to tilt the upper half of his body forward to shift his center of gravity. It makes him look a bit like he's got arthritis in his lower back. Which is both unfortunate and highly entertaining at the exact same time.

Perhaps my biggest point of contention is the complete lack of shoulder articulation. Hasbro should know better than to commit this sin. Red Skull's arms can either be placed like they are in the photograph or... well that's actually the extent of what you can do with him.

He either points his gun directly at the sky or in a dorky looking 45 degree angle towards the ground. The other arm serves no function other than holding onto the cosmic cube, which is an awesome bonus prop by the way, and don't even attempt to move it out of that position.

Overall I think I kind of like the look of this Red Skull figure when left in the package as opposed to being loose. Either way I am pleased with the figure purchase and look forward to seeing what else Hasbro has planned for this line of figures.

I'd love to see them dive into Guardians of the Galaxy next! C'mon Hasbro... give us a Rocket Raccoon figure!