Christmas Tradition Update!

Remember last year when I decided that making Ninjabread Cookies was going to be my new Christmas tradition? Well, I visited Five Below again not too long ago (and multiple times since then, actually) and discovered they had a new cookie kit from the geniuses behind Ninjabread.

Walking Gingerdead cookies.

That's right. Fucking zombie cookies.
Someone somewhere decided that a clever play on words for Christmas treats is "Walking Gingerdead" and blessed the world with zombie cookies for the rest of time.

That man deserves an award.

Five dollars later and I was at home anxiously awaiting a day when I would have time to make some fucking zombie cookies. This past Sunday was that day.

Just like the Ninjabread, the Walking Gingerdead kit comes with almost everything you'll need; you just need to supply butter, honey, powdered sugar and water. After mixing up the dough, you just use the supplied cookie cutters to make the shapes. Nine to eleven minutes in the oven, you have fresh zombie cookies as such:

Then comes the fun/tedious part: decorating! Unlike the ninjas, however, I was tapped for ideas on how to make zombies interesting. I had to enlist the help of Mrs. Idiot as I was growing bored quickly and running out of ideas.

Batch 1: Boring as fuck
It took us some time but we managed to get them all decorated and ready to eat. In fact, a couple of them didn't quite make it (because they got eaten).

Yes, I tried to make a Santa-Zombie. It looks like shit.
As you can see I'm just repeating themes...
Mrs. Idiot came up with the "Brains" one. That's why I love her.
Even though I didn't have as much fun with Walking Gingerdead as I did the Ninjabread cookies, I will still say that this kit was a rousing success. At the very least future batches of gingerbread flavored cookies will have multiple options now that I have a set of zombie cookie cutters available to me.


No more zombie-themed if that's what you were hoping for. More baking is what I mean.

I didn't want to end this post without showing you the shoddy peanut butter fudge and the Oreo Cookie Balls that I made.

Here's the fudge...

It looks even worse in this terrible photograph...
You can see the stripe where the sugar separated making the fudge brittle and gritty. It still tastes pretty good despite the texture and was pretty easy to make. If I do this again (which I likely won't) I'll probably use less sugar and not refrigerate it so quickly. That should help.

Now the Oreo Cookie Balls...

Man, I can't wait to put these balls in my mouth.
This recipe is literally crushed Oreo cookies mixed with cream cheese and dipped in white chocolate. It was Mrs. Idiot's idea to spruce them up with holiday sprinkles to make them more relevant for our Christmas trips. These came out awesome and if it wasn't for the fact that I am watching what I eat and we have to see so much family this week, I likely could have eaten them all. So in a way I'm glad it's Christmas.

This guy's here just because I like him.


That Time I Dreamed Stephen Amell was my BFF

Dreams are weird. Let me rephrase that: my dreams are weird. Granted, I tend to understand where most of them stem from. For example, the recurring dream I have where everything I look at is blurry and nothing I do fixes it manifests from my fear of going blind while my dreams about living in a city of buildings spewing industrial waste and a forest of mushrooms grows up all around me clearly manifests from the "What The Fuck" centers of my brain. But last night I had a strange dream and I just can't figure it out.

A dream where I became best friends with Arrow's Stephen Amell.

This guy.
It started simply enough. I was at a party with the Arrow cast (why I was allowed to attend such a party is never made clear) when I come upon David "Diggle" Ramsey and Colton "Roy Harper" Haynes discussing their dissatisfaction with the snack selection. I point to a plate of Salsa Con Queso (yes, a plate; what animal puts Salsa Con Queso on a plate instead of a bowl is beyond me) and say "I'd kill my mother to get more of that. But I mean like a 'lifetime supply' more. I wouldn't hurt my mother for that little bit."

Tostitos® Salsa Con Queso: So good,
you'll mata your mamá for más.
We have a small laugh at my wittiness when I realize someone behind me is cracking up. I turn to find Stephen Amell listening in on the conversation. He seemed to like the cut of my jib as we spent the rest of the party shooting the shit and having a good time.

That's when the montage started because apparently I dream in '80s movie tropes. Anyway, Stephen and my friendship develops and he takes me on a tour of the Arrow set and teaches me how to use the salmon ladder. We also get some friendly ribbing from Katie "Laurel Lance" Cassidy about our budding bro-mance.

"You guys are so gay for each other."
Also, I accompany Stephen to an awards show where an intrepid photographer takes a picture of him putting me in a half-headlock as we laugh about a joke only the two of us get. Which may have validated Dream-Katie-Cassidy's accusations.

"...seriously. So, so gay."
At this point, most sane people would have woken up but if you scroll down you'll see another two paragraphs of this so clearly I don't fall into this camp. The next part of the dream takes place a few years later. I go to Stephen's house (which, since I've never seen his house, my brain substituted with a stylized version of a middle-school-friend's house which doesn't seem to fit as this house had a very rustic look but I imagine Stephen to be more into a modern ambiance but I digress and also should probably seek professional help) to find that his wife has left on a Girl's Day Out leaving him to watch his daughter. He didn't realize that his wife already had plans when he told me to come over and didn't want to disappoint her but after a long night of shooting the fatigue was evident on his face so he asked me to look after his daughter for a little bit while he catches a nap for an hour.

I say sure, no problem and he goes into the other room while me and the tyke watch cartoons for a bit. Normally, his daughter is well tempered but today she was very finicky and the cartoons only satisfied her for so long. I then tried to teach her how to play a video game (oddly a Guardians of the Galaxy game). But again, her heart wasn't in it so she tosses the controller and walks away. I calmly explain to her (because again, she's usually a very well-behaved child and just seems to be fussy today) that it's not nice to throw things because you could break something or hurt someone. That's when Stephen comes back into the room. I apologize for reprimanding his daughter as I didn't want to step on his toes but he said it was OK and that he couldn't fall asleep and heard the whole thing anyway.

That's about the time that I woke up which was a good thing as I probably may have slipped into madness if it went on any longer.

Sooo... Does anyone want to tell me what it all means?


Bad-Ass Pumpkin Line-Up 2014

It's that time of year again: Halloween! The time when "Pumpkin Spice" and "Candy Corn" flavored-everything hits the stores and amazing pumpkin carvings start coming out of the woodwork. One of my favorite parts of being a blogger is that I have a reason to search out these awesome designs and share them with you. In fact, my Bad-Ass Pumpkin Line-Up feature is probably the only reason I haven't gotten rid of this blog completely.

So without further ado, let's take a look at this year's entries!

Krang/ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
I've had this one sitting in my Tumblr queue since just after the 2013 edition of BAPLU went live. I found it a little too late to include it then but wanted it to highlight this year's entry. Why? Well, look at it. It's a pumpkin/watermelon hybrid, making it a marvel of artistic design. Seriously, this pumpkin raises the bar for carvers everywhere.

By Mike V Design

Twenty fourteen marks the year that I watched Joss Whedon's Firefly and Serenity for the first time and despite nearly losing my geek cred for taking so long to do so, I absolutely fell in love with it. The the point of obsession. So of course it would be lax of me to not try and find a few Firefly pumpkins to include.

Luckily, the internet didn't let me down. Not only did I find a sweet pumpkin featuring the Serenity, but there's also one of River Tam, the kick-ass heroine played by Summer Glau. In addition, the Fireflyfans.net forum thread also includes stencils so you can make these pumpkins yourself. Shiny! (It had to be done.)

By Joh Wee

By Akaaria

Cameron / Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Alex Wer is no stranger to this list; I've included a few of his designs in past entries. He came up in my search for Firefly carvings, even though what he has listed as River Tam on his website is clearly not River. It is, however, another character played by Summer Glau: Cameron from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. And the likeness on this design is so damn impressive, it deserved to be included. So enjoy!

By Alex Wer/ The Pumpkin Geek

Two classic Batman villains, right here. Not your typical pumpkin carving, these are more like "pumpkin sculptures". You can tell a lot of time, patience, and talent went in to creating these and holy hell did it ever pay off! I would kill to have something like this sit on my stoop during October, but then shed a tear when it got all moldy and squishy and I would have to throw it away. Either way, these are friggin' amazing!

(Supposedly there was a time-lapse video of the artist creating these but sadly, that has since disappeared. I hope it pops up again somewhere as I'd love to watch it.)

By Andy Bergholtz

By Andy Bergholtz

Parks and Recreation
I've recently started watching Parks and Rec and it's quickly become one of my favorite shows on TV. Just a shame I got into it so late. So when I stumbled across the Tom Haverford pumpkin, and by extension the Ron Swanson one, both by Loren Solomon, they had to go in. Even if only for the phrase "Trick or Treat Yo Self!" Classic.

By Loren Solomon

By Loren Solomon

I used to love House M.D. But even though the show is over, it's influence on pop culture remains. Here we have a sweet black-and-photo photo of a Hugh Laurie carving referencing the series' running gag.

Found on LowDownBlog.com

That's it for this year! We'll see you in about 12 months for the 2015 edition of Bad-Ass Pumpkin Line-Up! And if you're looking for more bad-ass pumpkins, check out our previous entries. They'll be sure to inspire you and get your creative carving juices flowing. (Or ruin your desire to make a killer pumpkin with how awesome they are. Really, it could go either way.)



Review: Arrow, Season 3 Premiere

It's almost universally acknowledged that Arrow is the best super hero television show on right now, if not ever and a lot of that has to do with its second season. The showrunners created an excellent antagonist in the form of Slade Wilson and only compounded that with the "trinity of evil" with Brother Blood and Isabel Rochev. But can they maintain the momentum into the third season? Most of what we've seen in press releases and teaser trailers leads most to believe that they can. However, a less than remarkable season premiere may prove otherwise.

That's not to say "less than remarkable" means it was bad. For the most part, the episode, "The Calm", gives fans a chance to catch up on what the characters have been doing during the hiatus. Starling City is trying to rebuild after the havoc wreaked by Slade's Mirakuru powered army while Oliver is still broke and no longer in control of his company, Queen Consolidated. However, there are some bright spots on the horizon. Detective Lance has been promoted to Captain and issues a statement pardoning the Arrow, actually thanking him for his help. Diggle and his ex-wife, Lyla, are about to expect their first child. And Felicity is working with the Queen Consolidated board to give Oliver the chance to argue his case for being in control again.

But more than this, "The Calm" offered fans what they've been clamoring for for two years: Oliver and Felicity getting together. While I don't like the idea (seriously, Oliver has already slept with most of the primary ensemble; Felicity would just be another notch in his belt), I can see that I am in the minority on this. And at least their "date" made for a good scene, allowing Oliver to open up about his feelings and his fear of relationships. So at least we can see where he's coming from with his hesitance to get closer to Felicity.

We also got introduced to a new character, Ray Palmer. Comic fans know who Ray is and what he could mean for the series but all we've seen is that he's a scientist/industrialist who is also vying for control of Queen Consolidated. He's basically a more likable, less pretty version of Isabel Rochev. (Don't get me wrong; Brandon Routh is a pretty guy but let's face it, he's no Summer Glau.)

Fans also got the chance to see Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) slip into his Arsenal persona. Though he's never addressed as such, he's fully suited and acting as Oliver's partner in the field, which I thought was a little quick. Granted, most of season 2 set up his eventual rise into the role, and months have passed since he's proven himself in battle in the last season finale, but to see him already in action was sudden for me. What I did like was his uncertainty. For a guy as cocky as Roy, seeing the doubt creep into his face as key points at least helped to strengthen his character, which was sorely needed.

It was a laid back episode, without a doubt, as evidenced by the title itself, "The Calm". The plot itself was formulaic in the way it reintroduced a legacy character into the mix but at least the action and stunts held true to what fans expect from the series. As far as season premieres go, I was pretty bored with this one.

Right up until the last minute.

No, I won't spoil it but I will say that the final minute of the episode is what made sitting through the rest of it worthwhile. That one minute, hopefully, will set the theme for the entire season. That one minute could have changed the course of the show. And because of that one minute, I cannot wait to see next week's episode.


TV Review: Girl Meets World

Anyone that grew up in the 80s and 90s knows about the ABC lineup of programming called TGIF, short for "Thank Goodness It's Funny". Consisting of nostalgic shows like Full House and Perfect Strangers, TGIF enjoyed more than two years of popularity before being phased out in 2000. One popular show from this block was Boy Meets World, a coming-of-age tale of young Cory Matthews who experiences all of the ups and downs of life from middle school to marriage with the aid of his friends. Airing during many people's impressionable years, the show is remembered fondly. So fondly that it's made a resurgence in the form of a spin-off, Girl Meets World which premiered on the Disney Channel just last night.

Focusing on the 12-year-old daughter of Cory and Topanga Matthews, Girl Meets World attempts to introduce the wholesome fun of Boy Meets World to a new generation. Given its Disney Channel roots, it attempts to appeal to a certain demographic, the iCarly/Dog With A Blog/The Suite Life of Zack and Cody crowd, all the while trying to capture the "life lessons" angle of its predecessor. For the most part, it manages to be entertaining with a fairly solid concept, once you get past a few inherent flaws in the execution.

Rowan Blachard plays the role of Riley Matthews. A relative newcomer to acting (not surprising given that she's only 12 years old), Rowan tries to embody the same youthful quirkiness and enthusiasm that Ben Savage gave to his character of Cory 20 years ago. For the most part, it makes her appear awkward and inept; unfortunately I can't tell if that was the end result or not. The real flaw with the approach, however, is that it makes Riley a mini-Cory. Instead of imbuing her with her own personality, they tried to cut a cloth from Cory, taking away from her opportunity to shine.

Riley's best friend is Maya, played by Sabrina Carpenter. With a few additional roles under her belt, Sabrina's character comes off much more natural than Rowan's and at least the pair manage to work well off of each other. Maya is the free-spirit, rebellious, fearless girl who does and says what she wants. Sound familiar? It should because that's the basic description of Cory's childhood best friend, Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong). And at this point, we run into the biggest problem with Girl Meets World; they aren't trying to create new characters. Instead, they are reimagining the characters from Boy. In some cases, this works, such as Maya. But in others, it's downright annoying. Take, for example, Farkle, the class nerd and suck up that proclaims his love for both Riley and Maya and the way they embody two sides of the same coin. Farkel carries himself with a flamboyancy that would make Jack McFarland jealous, leaving viewers to wonder if he wouldn't be more in love with Mr. Matthews instead of his daughter.

"Just Jack...er... Farkle!"
Oh, did I mention that Cory is the new Mr. Feeny? Yes, Riley must endure facing middle school being taught by her father just like Cory had to face middle school taught by his neighbor. This approach flounders hopelessly as you have to wonder if a school board would even place a girl into a class taught by her father. But even this idea is an attempt to ape Boy Meets World. Despite Savage playing Cory, he's attempting to be the role model that Feeny was. And you can see this approach in the class lesson during the pilot episode. "Find a cause you're willing to fight for." Which, of course, strengthens the bond between Riley and Maya over the course of the episode. Meanwhile, the writers completely overlooked a perfect life lesson in a simple line of dialogue Riley proclaims early in the Pilot; she states that she wanted "to be" Maya. Not be like... Be. This, to me, was an even more important plot point, one that could have taught the lessen of the importance of finding oneself and not aspiring to the personality of others. Meanwhile, this gets completely glossed over for the idea of friendship. I won't argue that that's not an important lesson to learn, just one that should take a backseat to being happy with oneself.

But all of this pales in comparison to the show's biggest disappointment: the laugh track. The fact that they included a laugh track is understandable, even if it is slightly insulting. However, it was used far too often, and far too annoyingly. The recorded laughter sounded like it was being played back through an aquarium filled with petroleum jelly, giving it an abrasive echoing timbre. At first I thought it was a problem with my speakers but the rest of the show sounded fine. It almost made the show unwatchable.

By the end of it, Girl Meets World shows promise. It's not your standard Disney Channel fair, putting a group of tweens into insurmountable situations and allowing the hijinks to ensue. Instead, it tries to recreate the tone of 90s sitcoms and does so well enough. Even a few of the throwbacks to Boy Meets World were done cleverly enough, such as naming Riley's school "John Quincey Adams Middle School". If the writers are willing to tone down the caricatures a bit and give the new cast personalities of their own, I could see Girl Meets World being a worthy successor to Boy Meets World.


TV Review: Dominion

One of the great ironies in my life is my affinity for angels. I'm not a religious person yet I'm drawn toward almost anything portraying angels, so much so that my debut novel uses the concept as a central point. So when I heard that the new Syfy show, Dominion, would feature angels prominently, I marked my calendar to check it out.

Dominion is based on the 2010 film Legion, in which the archangel Gabriel leads the army of Heaven against humanity only to be fought back by fellow archangel, Michael. I wondered why Syfy would create a show based on a movie that garnered a 20% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but then I remembered that this is the network that brought us Sharknado and Alien Apocalypse with Bruce Campbell, so things started to make sense. The thing is, I kind of enjoyed Legion in a "brainless, post-apocalyptic action movie" sort of way so to discover that Dominion follows its storyline was a plus for me.

The thing about Dominion is it's a trope-fest: post-apocalyptic future, forbidden love, "the chosen one". They even managed to work in a co-ed shower scene a la Starship Troopers and Spider-Man's "With great power comes great responsibility". It's like the writers, one of which is the show's creator Vaun Wilmott, just rifled through a book of overused television plots and worked as many of them into the pilot as possible. Despite that, the show seems to work, meshing all of these different concepts well enough to create an entertaining pilot.

So far, Dominion's weak point seems to be its casting. Christopher Egan plays Alex, one of the show's main characters. Though he's got a few roles under his belt, Egan isn't really a big name actor and doesn't bring a lot of gravitas to the role. He plays the part of a rebellious soldier fed up with his life until a great responsibility falls into his lap. His emotional range falls between angry and sulking. The lowest point, however, is the role of Michael. Played by Paul Bettany in Legion, Dominion's Michael is represented by emo poster-boy Tom Wisdom. Intentionally flat and emotionless, Wisdom is hardly believable as a tough as nails, battle-hardened archangel. Though he pulled off his well-choreographed action scene well enough, Wisdom just doesn't exude the right aura for Michael.

But that's not to say the casting is all bad. Dominion did manage to bring on a couple of acting veterans in the form of Alan Dale and Anthony Head. The two represent the warring political factions that make up the show's subplot and bring a bit of authority to the series. Though Dale was underused in the pilot episode, I do hope that he manages to get a bit of additional screentime going forward. Head, on the other hand, takes center stage as the show seems to really make him the focus. And as expected, Head nails the role of devious politician, even going so far as to suppress his trademarked British accent. (Can you trademark an accent? You should be able to...)

One benefit Dominion has going for it is that it is a spin-off of an established property. This gives it the ability to forego delving into past events and answering questions of "What happened?" as so many other shows are fond of doing and instead focus on what's going to happen. Dominion even has a companion website, www.enterdominion.com, that supports this theory, where fans of the show can read up on the war against angels and humans and learn more about what happened, as well as learning about the different characters and locations. It also manages to give the show a rich history and continuity without having to bog it down with filler week after week.  It's because of this angle, and the pretty strong pilot episode, that I'm willing to give Dominion a chance and at the very least add it to my DVR library.


Movie Review: Maleficent

Since the first screens of Disney's newest movie Maleficent started hitting the internet, the movie looked like it could be something good. Angelina Jolie, as the titular character, exudes enough creepiness on a regular basis that she was a great choice for one of Disney's most infamous villains. But when I announced to the world on Twitter the morning I was to see it and found that the hashtag "#Maleficent Not Good" was pretty popular, I really couldn't understand way. It had the star power, backed by Disney and one of the most beloved stories of all times. Where had it gone wrong?

Disregarding that, the wife and I headed to the theater. As the movie began, we were treated to a fantastically imagined world full of fairies, pixies, and playful water creatures. The story quickly unveils Maleficent's past and her history with a young boy named Stefan. An orphan, Stefan yearns to earn his place into the trust of the kingdom and does so at the cost of his relationship with Maleficent.

In a nutshell, that's the part of the story we don't know, the origins of Maleficent that they didn't show in Sleeping Beauty. The majority of the film, however, focuses on the events that occur during Sleeping Beauty, just from Maleficent's perspective instead of Aurora's.

As I was watching the story unfold, I began to realize the flaw with revealing the origins of a great, evil character. (I'm gonna put a SPOILER WARNING here.) The purpose of an origin is to get a feel for what drives a character's motivations. The starting point of their path to where they eventually find themselves. In this case, we know that Maleficent is an evil witch who placed a curse of the princess to make her fall asleep forever. But what happens when we can understand why she did what she does?

That's what I considered the main drawback of the movie; we start to sympathize with Maleficent given everything she'd gone through. She placed her trust in Stefan and was betrayed by him, in a scene that makes his betrayal reminiscent of a physical sexual rape (which, I have to say, despite it being uncomfortable to watch, was played magnificently by Jolie). So to see all of this unfold, we understand why she wants revenge. Why she placed a curse of Princess Aurora, who happens to be the daughter of the newly crowned King Stefan.

As the movie continues, the audience gets the feeling that the writer and director didn't even bother to watch Sleeping Beauty and just crafted a movie around some key plot points. But the end of the film explicitly says that this is the true story, how events actually happened. And it begins to make sense. Looking at it this way, the portrayal of Maleficent as a tragic heroine who succumbed to her own dark feelings only to find redemption at the end was pulled off well. And Jolie really brought the character to life, despite a few eye-rolling bits of over-acting. She had a knack for the part and managed to embody yet another strong, female character.

Which brings about another point. Maleficent is notable in the sense that two of the movie's main characters are women, with Jolie playing opposite Elle Fanning as Aurora. One of Hollywood's biggest fallacies is that female-driven films don't do well at the box offices. Even though this has been proven false on a number of occasions (such as by the success of the Hunger Games films), to see Maleficent earn $70 million in its opening weekend should be enough to put that untruth to rest. This could open up the doors to a number of female-driven films, such as the long-awaited Wonder Woman movie.

But even Angelina's pronounced cheekbones could not out-creepy the new version of the classic Sleeping Beauty theme song, "Once Upon A Dream". A seminal Disney classic, the newest version is crooned by recent star Lana Del Rey and is one of the scariest songs ever put into a Disney movie. The song itself isn't the problem; Del Rey's rendition is. The song is produced to be quite mellow and almost atonal. Pair that with Del Rey's slow, drawn out lyrics and the song becomes almost bone-chilling. I'm not educated when it comes to making music so I can't really explain why the song gives off such a creepy vibe but it does. I'm just glad that they didn't include it at the beginning of the movie otherwise it would have set a tone that didn't jibe with the film itself. Listen and decide for yourself.

Though I was expecting Maleficent to be a decent but wholly forgettable film along the same vein as Snow White and the Huntsman, I was very pleased with the final product. Jolie's take on the evil witch and Elle Fanning's turn as the innocent princess proved to be a pretty powerful combination. Add to that the latest reimagining of "true love" and you have a film that you're not embarrassed to let your little girl watch. If Disney can continue to make movies along this caliber, the movie theater would be a much better place.


Toy Box Confidential #1: The Real Ghostbusters Proton Pack

It's really difficult to believe that today marks the 30th anniversary of the theatrical release of Ghostbusters. Growing up, I adored everything about Ghostbusters, from the movie to the cartoon, The Real Ghostbusters, to the vast toy line that tied into the animated series. In honor of this, I've decided to start a new feature here at Caution: Idiot At Play, a feature I've been kicking around in my head for a while.

Welcome to Toy Box Confidential!

So what is Toy Box Confidential? Well, it's going to be a look at the toys of the past. Stuff that was popular when I was a kid or things that I coveted but never had. It's basically anything that strikes my fancy when I find the fancy to write about it.

What does this have to do with Ghostbusters? Glad you asked. Our first installment is going to take a look at the Proton Pack, created by Kenner in conjunction with The Real Ghostbusters.

Pictured: Nostalgia
The Proton Pack was released in 1988, making me 8 years old at the time and already 2 years into the run of the animated series. It came with everything a junior Ghostbuser needed to busts ghosts: the Proton Pack itself with adjustable straps, the Nutrona Blaster with removable foam stream, a PKE meter, and a Ghostbusters arm-band and ID card. Unfortunately, the ID card, arm band and foam stream have not survived the test of time but the other pieces of the set are in remarkably good shape, a few dings, tears and missing stickers not withstanding.

Let's look at this beauty piece by piece.

The Proton Pack itself was little more than a hollow plastic backpack, the stickers that decorated it mostly modeled after a simplified version of the Proton Packs from the cartoon. Though the toy had its own look, that never stopped me from appreciating it for what it gave me: the opportunity to act, nay, be, a Ghostbuster. I'm sure thousands of other kids, just like me, got that feeling of being a badass every time we strapped it on. After pulling the Pack out of the attic and really looking it over, I can admit that it definitely comes off as a subpar recreation of the Ghostbusters' most trusted equipment but to an eight year old, none of that mattered. The only important thing was being able to strut around the house, kicking open doors and making sure your family lived in a ghost-free environment. The only downfall to the Pack was the tiny nubbin that the hose on the blaster would connect to. It was so small that the hose would fall out every time you made a quick turn or snatched the blaster off the pack to hard. Other than that, the pack held up pretty well and provided hours of enjoyment.

Next we have the Nutrona Blaster, even though no kid on earth ever called it that. What I loved most about this piece was the trigger. When you pulled it, it would release a short whirring noise, which essentially was a poor emulation of the noises the blaster made on TV but again, whatever. It helped to add the the imagination of actually being a Ghostbuster. The trigger on my Nutrona Blaster has been stuck for years so I can't get the same enjoyment from the toy as I once did, but I still remember that sound as clear as day.

I will admit, however, that I hated the foam stream. It was so long and unwieldy that it always got in the way. It would have to stay out when you stored the blaster on the hook attached to the pack and you would have to plug the thing into the end of the blaster every time you wanted to "throw 'em". Every time you made a change like that, you would break the continuity of the imagination. In the end, I usually just left it somewhere to the side or used it to slap my sister when she wasn't suspecting.

The PKE Meter probably was, and still is, my favorite piece from the set, even though it's the most disappointing. It was big enough that it wouldn't get lost or broken but small enough that most kids would be able to carry it around. Though it was decorated with dials on the sides, the only moving parts it had was a spinning antennae and a dial on the front that you could turn. I never really played with the front dial, though, as it was always too tight to turn. But regardless, I would carry that thing around the house and "sweep for valences".

The one thing I didn't like about the PKE Meter was that I always felt it should do more. It was much different from what the Ghostbusters used in both the movies and the cartoon that it felt like a gyp how Kenner replicated it for the toy. I wanted one with the stem in the center and two prongs that rose from each side. Maybe if there was a little trigger on the back of the handle that would send a puff of air through the thing, lifting the prongs. I don't know. I guess I shouldn't complain. At least they made a PKE Meter and included it with the Proton Pack. I had to wait years for a Ghost Trap to be released and never got the chance to own it.

I would have to say, the Proton pack was a must have toy for any Ghostbusters fanatic in the '80s. Though action figures were always popular, some times kids had to break away from playing with figures and let their imaginations run wild. What was so great about the Proton Pack is that it made that possible. Get a group of kids together with their packs and blasters and they would roam the neighborhood seeking out frightful phantoms and ghastly ghouls. What I wouldn't give to go back to that time.

Box art from Ghostbusters Wikia


Movie Review: X-Men: Days of Future Past

It's been a long time since I've been as excited for a movie like I've been for X-Men: Days of Future Past. Which is saying something considering all of the movies I've looked forward to in the past few years, like Amazing Spider-Man 2, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and basically anything with the "Marvel" stamp on it. Maybe X-Men: Days of Future Past really hit me because it was based on one of the most memorable comic book stories of all time? Or just because it's a new X-Men movie and I'm a sucker for the mutants. Either way, I found myself ridiculously happier as May 23rd drew closer. Despite my excitement, I had to wait two addition days before seeing it, opting for a Sunday morning viewing as opposed to Friday night. And with the exception of the movie watching experience (I'll get into that later), the movie was everything I wanted it to be.

As I mention, "Days of Future Past" ranks as one of the greatest storylines in comic books, up there with "The Dark Knight Returns". Written by Chris Claremont in 1981, it was the first story that showed the bleak future that mutant-kind faces, all because of a few bad choices by a few bad people. The film adaptation differs greatly from the comic story but that doesn't make it bad. In fact, the updates managed to give the movie far more depth than the comic book. After all, "Days of Future Past" only spanned two issues while the film had a strong run time of 131 minutes.

The highlights of the movie were, without a doubt, the performances of James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence. As Professor X and Mystique, their friendship spanned the previous film X-Men: First Class, and we've seen how Mystique had begun to fall away from Xavier's ideology. In Days of Future Past, Mystique all but goes off the deep end for the sake on mutant-kind. Xavier is forced to come to terms with it and tries to reel her back in. The emotion the pair put into their scenes really adds a feeling of credence to the scenes, even more so than the chemistry McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (Magneto) had in First Class.

Also great was Nicholas Hoult. As Hank McCoy, he at first seems to be relegated to Xavier's handmaiden during a rough patch in his life. However, we see the Beast come to the surface many times over the course of the movie and he adds a great deal of fun to it. It's also nice to see the interactions he has with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) as comic fans are well aware of the friendship the two have.

X-Men: Days of Future Past gives audiences a plethora of brand new mutants. During the future scenes, we see and almost entirely new team of X-Men including Bishop, Sunfire, and Warpath. Though this team does little for the plot of the film, they are awesome to watch on screen. But the one I was looking forward to the most is Blink, the mutant teleporter who became famous during the "Age of Apocalypse". As one of my favorite X-Men, I've been psyched to see her in action ever since she was revealed to be in it. Her powers made for some cool visuals, opening up portals in midair to allow Warpath various vantages from which to attack. Here's hoping the filmmakers decide to introduce her into the true film cannon, maybe during 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, which somehow would seem fitting.

But let's not forget the biggest surprise of the entire movie: Quicksilver. Quicksilver, played by Evan Peters, was widely criticized for his look since the reveal on the Empire Magazine cover, reviled by many of the comic book purists out there. He plays a pivotal part in the movie but sadly, doesn't get a lot of screen time, but that's OK as what time he does have, he really makes the movie a lot of fun. Director Bryan Singer manages to dive into Quicksilver's powers and crafted an in-depth scene that shows audiences what it would be like to have super speed. Hopefully, the success of Quicksilver will mean that we get to see more of him down the road, maybe even alongside his sister, Scarlet Witch. (Not likely, considering their inclusion in Avengers: Age of Ultron but one can hope.)

Strangely, the lowest point of the film was the "villain", Bolivar Trask, played by the talented Peter Dinklage. I didn't find anything particularly bad about how Dinklage portrayed Trask, the inventor of the mutant-hunting Sentinels. In fact, I felt Trask was remarkably underused. He was less of a character and more of a plot-point, used just as an excuse to bring the dystopian, mutant-hating future to fruition. It made sense, in the end, to have Trask be the catalyst as opposed to Senator Kelly, as was the case in the comic story, since it gave them a way to explain the entire Sentinel program without adding an extra 40 minutes to the run time.

Even though I had fun during X-Men: Days of Future Past, I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I should have. This I attribute to the rude asshole sitting behind me talking throughout the entire movie. This guy just would not shut up, feeling the need to dazzle his friend with comic book knowledge, like saying "Bishop" every time he was on screen. He also apparently knew that Quicksilver is Magneto's son in the comics. How do I know that? because when Quicksilver was asking Magneto how he ended up in prison, this guy kept saying "What did you do, Dad? What did you do, Dad?" And the most annoying part was how many times he said "Shut it down" during Quicksilver's iconic scene. It wasn't just Quicksilver that this guy was fascinated with; he also felt the need to laugh during the most poignant scenes in the movie.

Wolverine: I need you to promise me that you will put the X-Men together:
Xavier: I promise.
Douchebag Behind Me: Ha ha ha ha!

I just don't get it. Not to mention the fact that he left before the end of the credits. I mean, who does that in a Marvel movie?

Anyway, despite the interruptions, I really loved X-Men: Days of Future Past, enough to say that it's probably the best in the series. For a movie series that suffered from a lot of continuity problems, Singer and company took the opportunity to fix a few of them, as well as fixing a few of the poor mistakes made by past directors. And even though it had a multitude of mutants, Days of Future Past didn't bog itself down in bad storytelling like X-Men: The Last Stand did. It managed to remain focused on its purpose and follow it through, resulting in one of, if not, the best movies of 2014.

Side note: my wife loved this movie so much that she wants to do a movie marathon when it comes out on 3D BluRay. Win-win for this guy!
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