Best Action Sequence Ever?

So I know folks have been watching this blog daily, asking themselves “Where is Jason, and when will he blog again?” Well, folks, the answer is simple: I’ve been scouring the Earth for you, looking for quality Bollywood clips to post.

And brother, do I have a clip for you! Featuring the International star Chiru (known around these parts for his “Indian Thriller”) this scene contains the craziest, most jeep-flipping, horse-skidding*, glass-shattering action you’ve ever seen. They just don’t make them like they used to. Enjoy!

*Animals were most definitely harmed during the filming of this movie. Sweet Jesus, the horse sequences just make me cringe.
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Harry Steele. I always knew some day you’d come walking through my door…

secret-of-the-incas-smSo Hot Toys unveiled its new Indiana Jones figure at their 10th Anniversary showcase last year and it got me thinking: who would have thought 10 years ago that we would have so many Indiana Jones toys to choose from? Back then all you could find were the old Kenner figures and the extremely hard to find Toys McCoy versions. Now we have an embarrassment of riches, with figures and accessories in all scales, the ability to recreate Jones’ actual wardrobe, and more paraphernalia than you could crack a whip at. But one piece of Indiana Jones lore has remained relatively hard to find: The Secret of the Incas!

What exactly *is* The Secret of the Incas, you ask? Well, while Raiders of the Lost Ark had many influences in its development, the one most often cited as the key film is this 1954 movie starring Charleton Heston as Harry Steele, a rogue Soldier of Fortune searching for a lost artifact that will bring him “fortune and glory”. While can detail all the similarities far better than I can, suffice it to say that Steele dresses and acts more than a bit like our favorite archaeologist.

incas08_f_improf_252x1711In recent years this lost gem has become easier to view with poor copies on youtube and ebay, but for some reason Paramount has kept it pretty well hidden from tv showings or any home video/dvd releases. So imagine my surprise to stumble across it ready for instant viewing on Netflix’s streaming service in pretty good quality! Now, is this a great film? No. Not even close. But it is fairly interesting, if only for two reasons: one, it introduced the world to the Peruvian Soprano, Yma Sumac (whose voice should be familiar to fans of the Big Lebowski), and it was surprisingly filmed almost entirely on location! If you’ve ever been interested in Cuzco, Peru or the fabled Machu Picchu ruins, you get to see them in lingering detail in this movie. And it sure feels a lot more exotic than the sets in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull…

So go check it out if you’ve got Netflix, because they shift what’s available in their Instant Viewing section frequently, so there’s no telling how long before this curiosity will be put back into its crate in that endless warehouse.

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Goodbye, Atlantis.

The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, March 1979

Or, what the Space Shuttle means to me. On Thursday, July 21 2011,  US Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the final time, returning from the last mission that the shuttle program will fly for the United States.  The program and the shuttles themselves have been retired, cast aside due to a national lack of enthusiasm and a casualty of the ludicrous economic battles that pass for governance these days. But none of that matters to me when I think of the Space Shuttle.

First and foremost, to me it remains the last exciting moment of the US Space program that really touched people when I was growing up. Sure, the Mars rover and the various interstellar missions of the past 20 years have been interesting, but the Space Shuttle program was a continuance of that bright, shining age when it really looked as if science fiction was becoming science reality. It was totally conceivable that by the year 2000 we might have (small) colonies on the moon, or a floating city in space to replace Skylab.

In 1979 my dad was still in the Air Force and working at Kelly AFB in San Antonio when it was announced that the newly christened Shuttle Columbia, the first shuttle to go into space, would be stopping at Kelly overnight to refuel on it’s way to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I was already excited about the shuttle, having seen the promos for the new James Bond movie, Moonraker, that was coming out that summer. So when dad woke me at 6am so we could drive across town to Kelly Field and watch it take off the news morning (on the back of a 747) I was beyond excited. I, of course loved Star Wars, and Buck Rogers, but this was REAL. I remember there were a lot of people who showed up to watch what was basically a big plane sit on a runaway, in an event that was closed to the public.

Afterwards, we went to a hobby shop where he bought me a small toy Space Shuttle. I remember keeping it sitting on my desk for quite some time, enamored by it’s unique shape and markings. Unlike previous spacecraft, the shuttle was a sleek, cool looking vehicle. I think it’s no coincidence that so many movies worked in the actual shuttle design instead of aping Star Wars when dealing with “non-fighter” craft. Unfortunately, we know how the rest of the story goes: I saw the Challenger disaster happen live on tv in my 11th grade art class. I remember how horrified and distraught my teachers were that one of their own was on that ship. And the Columbia herself came to rest back in Texas in 2003 in another horrific accident, although I was living in California by then.

But with all that, when I think of the Space Shuttle my mind always goes back to that little toy one my dad bought me, and the long gone hobby shop where it was purchased. You can still find hobby shops, where you can buy model planes and trains, but they are becoming few and far between. Like Borders bookstores that are closing for good this month, and Circuit City, And Linen’s & Things, and all the mom & pop bookstores and variety stores before them, we are left with just one or two big box stores for each category now. The era of stores that catered to specialty items exist online, but it’s not the same. There is something to be said for riding your bike to the hobby shop for a model, then to the variety store (Winns? TG&Y?) for some action figures, then on to the drugstore for trading cards and a soda, ending up at the neighborhood used bookstore where the owner has a little side room filled with old comics and pulp paperbacks to leaf through. But those days are gone, and they’re not coming back. And now I fear the days of excitement over space exploration are joining them on the shelf marked “nostalgia”.

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Rejected! May The Mini-Force Be With You

So it took quite a bit longer than I planned on to get back to another installment of my unproduced Star Wars gems. But here at last is the untold story of the promotion that you never got to see, and what a doozy it is! A couple of caveats right off the bat: I did not actually have anything to do with this promotion. It was developed and presented by another marketing agency in the wake of the Star Wars Trilogy re-release in 1997 as a possible idea to launch the Prequels, in specific Episode I.  So most of this is strictly going from my memory of how it was explained to me. And the bag illustration at right is just something I whipped up based on what it might have looked like. Cool?

Read More at Action Figure Insider…

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OK, so I’ve been pretty lax on introducing my millions of readers to much needed Bollywood glory. But maybe the long wait for a new clip has been worth it.

I’m not exactly sure how they did it, but I think Bollywood (Russia? Azerbaijan) somehow was able to film Michael Bay’s actual dreams. This is everything he wishes he could do in real life, but just can’t muster that much awesome in one container. Be prepared for your mind to explode! (And they even throw in a Wilhelm Scream!)

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The Best Kept Secret.

So there was that thing back a few years ago where we found out all about the plans for the final years of the Super Powers Collection including concept art for many possible figures. And that other thing, where some extension plans for the original Kenner Star Wars line showed up in a found presentation. Or the ill-fated Mattel Wonder Woman and the Star Riders? And how about when it was revealed that there was another Raiders of the Lost Ark assortment to be made in Hasbro’s Indiana Jones line (OK, that one still hurts).

You’d think we would have heard all about toys that never made it into production by now. You’d think that with so many collectors and so much time having passed, there are no surprises left any more from the golden days of action figures (1970s & 1980s).

Well, partner, you’d be wrong. That’s right, true believer! Mattel’s toy line of Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars lives again!

Read the Rest at Action Figure  Insider…

Posted in Collecting, Comics, Nostalgia, Toys | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Biggest News of Comic Con 2010

Here’s the thing: San Diego Comic Con is no longer about comics. Yes, I know this is not news. Many, many, many people have pointed out what a shame it is that movie, tv, and toys have taken over the con in the past decade. I am not necessarily one of those people: I enjoy the con more for the broader scope and the inclusion of hollywood. I especially like that SDCC has replaced Toy Fair as the place to celebrate collectors and unveil new toys for the year (although I really wish companies could figure out how to keep a lid on news better so there were more genuine surprises).

But at its core, SDCC was and is about comics and comic culture. That’s what drives the train. So when huge news breaks, it is a tad disappointing that the major outlets like USA Today, Entertainment Weekly,  and CNN that are covering the con do not highlight it in an appropriate manner (kudos to TIME for recognizing the significance of the news, though). What news is this, you ask? Well the biggest news of the con is this: Fantagraphics will be publishing the Complete Floyd Gottfredson run of Mickey Mouse comic strips, starting in May 2011. This is huge.

Fantagraphics has spent over two years negotiating with Disney over these reprints. And while Carl Barks’ and his Ducks comics are well-known and revered, a much smaller group of people is aware of the seminal work done by Gottfredson on Mickey Mouse. These strips are pretty much the last of the “greats” to be reprinted, in what is now the Golden Age for classic comic strip reprints. What is big about this news is that these strips have NEVER been reprinted uncut before, and many of them not at all. Think about that: for 70 years, Disney has let some of the best work featuring their flagship character go unseen. Can you imagine if Marvel had never reprinted the Ditko Spider-Man issues, except in compilations? Sure, many individual stories have been chopped up into comics over the years, but these stories were heavily edited, rewritten, and relettered.

While it remains to be seen if Disney can bring themselves to go through with a hands-off policy, Fantagraphics has the best shot ever to not only show these strips as they were originally seen (and from all accounts, Disney keeps excellent copies of everything in their morgue, so they’ll look better than anyone has seen them) but do so in a great presentation, judging by their treatment of Peanuts and Popeye among others. I’m just hoping that Disney sees that these are of historical value and let’s Fantagraphics reprint EVERYTHING, warts and all.

Now where are those Gottfredson Mouse & Friends toys?!?

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Fat or Foul?

So the news hit today that a county in California has banned fast food toys in some fashion. As someone who designed these toys for many years I’m of two minds on the subject.

3721569730_55835967ba.jpgFirst and foremost, it’s not really the government’s job to police what you are allowed to purchase if it is not harmful. Yes, childhood obesity is a pretty bad thing, and is even worse for our future than it is today (see: Wall-E). But I’d much rather see them crack down on the way things are cooked, the ingredients in them, and the choices being offered first. I do applaud that they at least try to make this make sense, and only take away toys from kids’ meals that exceed a certain calorie/fat level. But the sad fact is that pretty much all of them exceed that level.

What makes me not hate this altogether is that I think by leaning so heavily on licenses you are de facto bribing the kids to eat at your restaurant. Fast food places learned in the 1980s that kids are the one who make the decision where to eat in the family, and they saw that by dangling the best toy property in front of those kids they’ll win the battle. Dave Thomas never liked that Wendy’s had toys, because he wanted the food to stand on its own feet. But he was realistic enough to know that he couldn’t compete with McDonald’s and Burger King without them.

I think it you went back to having non-licensed toys that are once again just something to keep kids quiet and not used as a traffic builder/profit center it might make the licenses last a bit longer in the retail toy world instead of burning out so quick, and let creativity and craftsmanship rise in the fast food toys without having the license as a crutch. And maybe then parents and kids would pick the place to eat at that had the best food and not the coolest superhero of the month.

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