Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Total Trash Tuesday: Leprechaun: Origins (2014) and Candy Corn Pebbles

There are few things that go as well together as junk food and bad movies. Apologies to PB&J, and so sorry to put you down, Hall & Oates, but it's true. The one-two combo of unhealthy snacks and trashy cinema is a devastatingly sublime thing; and it's a staple of my, uh, lifestyle. Still, no matter how much I enjoy it, or maybe because of, well, you might mistake me for a masochist, what with the absolute shit that I subject myself to.

Today, our inaugural Total Trash Tuesday, perfectly illustrates the type of garbage that I regularly feed my body, my mind, and my soul. 


Leprechaun: Origins (2014) is billed as being the seventh film in the series; something of a reboot to the classic franchise featuring Warwick Davis as a murderous, wise-cracking leprechaun. Produced by WWE Studios, and yes, that would the pro-wrestling company that brought the world Hulk Hogan and a villainous dentist known as Isaac Yankem, it "stars" one of the company's former superstars, Dylan "Hornswoggle" Postl, as the titular mythological creature.

Titles aside, there is nothing here that resembles the franchise of old; gone is any dark humor, the charm and, yeah, the silliness that permeates the decade-long series. Viewers are left with a quartet of college-aged Americans backpacking across Ireland, a bland collection of twenty-somethings on a crash-course with an ancient evil that sorta' looks like a reject from The Hobbit.

Look, I may joke about the villainous creature's appearance, but there's some real serious flaws that need to be addressed. The main problem that the film faces is how damn mediocre it is. I get that film-snobs may decry the original Leprechaun (1993) and the five sequels it spawned, but they're frequently fun and always bordering on completely bizarre. Here, another decade later, and the team behind Origins seem to take several steps back, delivering a sub-par slasher that features every hackneyed trope you'd expect in a horror film.

The film's Final Girl fumbles with keys. She trips or falls nearly a half dozen times. Her more promiscuous best-friend even utters the phrase "cabin in the woods" without the slightest bit of irony.

Its complete lack of originality or unique identity are doubly unfortunate, because otherwise, it's a competently made feature. Despite a few missteps, and an obnoxiously overused Leprechaun-vision, director Zach Lipovsky knows what he's doing. And the four young actors are all, I don't know, serviceable. Both facts only further frustrate me as a viewer; realizing that with a bit of creativity, a fresh idea, the people responsible for Origins could have made a really solid flick.

Better luck next time, I guess.


Infinitely more surprising, while I wandered the aisles at my local Target, was discovering that Post had released a limited-edition cereal for the Halloween season. All the attention being heaped upon General Mill's trio of terrifying monsters, it appears that Fred and Barney's popular offspring, Pebbles and Bam-Bam, were being overlooked. Gone the Fruity and Cocoa varieties of Pebbles cereal, replaced by a candy corn flavor.

The idea of a candy corn cereal sounds awfully unappealing; pretty damn gross, actually, even with Halloween staring us in the face. Thankfully, it's the last thing you'll think of when you finally muster up the courage to pour yourself a bowl. The cereal's scent, subtly sweet, is the first thing that will hit you. It's pleasant, a faint marshmallow-y, and will not remind you of falling leaves or pumpkins at all. The same goes for the taste; it's a vague, almost bland sweetness that barely resembles candy corn. Fantastic box graphics aside, this could easily stand-in for a Christmas or Fourth of July-themed Pebbles cereal.

Like the film I watched while I half-heartedly finished my bowl, I'd mark these down as nothing special.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Wonderful World of Toys: Day 666

Hello again, boils and ghouls, and welcome to the final Wonderful Week of Toys entry, the nail in the coffin that's come a little too late. Ah, but with every end, there's a new beginning, isn't there?  As we usher out seven days of assorted action figures and plastic dinosaurs, we look to the weeks ahead. They're all gloom-and-doom, hollowed-out pumpkins and hollowed-out skulls. All Hallow's Eve is closer than you think.

Who better to lead us down this pathway of monsters and mayhem than our good friend, The Crypt Keeper?

I've mentioned before that the popularity of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brought about a strange age of animated series and toy-lines based on peculiar properties. Suddenly, we lived in a world where hyper-violent, R-rated flicks like Robocop (1987) and Predator (1987) could spawn series of action figures meant for children ages seven-plus. Everything was this odd mixture of terrifying and silly, all these brightly-colored nightmares clogging the pegs at your local Bradlees or Kay Bee Toys.

It's a trend that continued on into the early '90s, when you could tune into ABC's Saturday Morning line-up and catch a cartoon based on the macabre HBO-series, Tales From the Crypt. It's a show that both frightened and fascinated me as a pre-teen, so when Nelvana Limited and Warner Bros. teamed up to create a more lighthearted, animated version known as Tales from the Cryptkeeper, which was intended for younger audiences, well, I was there.

I wasn't, however, keen on collecting the toys produced to coincide with the cartoon. On the cusp on being a teenager, I was fine with watching the show on Saturday mornings, but obviously drew a line at owning the action-figures. Odd, I suppose, because nearly two decades later, and I was ecstatic to stumble upon The Crypt Keeper figure at my local thrift shop. There he was, jammed into a bag with a random assortment of Happy Meal toys and a battle-damaged Spider-Man, waiting for me to rescue him from his own nightmare.

I'd be terrified too at the prospect of spending an eternity trapped in a plastic-prison alongside Kung Fu Panda.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Wonderful Week of Toys: Day Six

Remember that monkey-wrench I mentioned a couple days back?

Some of you may know him best as Niddler the monkey-bird from Hanna-Barbera's fantasy-based animated series, The Pirates of Dark Water. Originally airing as a five-part mini-series, and referred to only as Dark Water, the program gained an immediate cult-following. A year later, sixteen additional episodes were produced, and they would air as part of ABC's Saturday morning line-up. Hasbro Toys picked up the license that same year and created several action-figures based on the series.

I have fond memories of the cartoon, but never owned any of the toys when the show was first broadcast back in 1991. When I spotted Niddler, along with a handful of other figures from the line, sitting in a random plastic bin at the flea market this past Sunday, well, I wasn't going to leave him behind.

And yeah, he's a little rough; the paint worn from his beak, and various scuff-marks littering his feathered frame. I still love him though, despite the flaws and imperfections. Maybe even because of them. It's almost like I enjoy the idea that his previous owner actually played with him quite a bit, loved him more than the Batman or Power Ranger figures they had, too. I imagine story-lines where a sidekick like Niddler was able to be the hero, to save the day when no one else could.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Wonderful Week of Toys: Day Five

Oh, the horror.

Oh, that Hook Horror.

I had no idea what I was looking at last week, a late-day visit to my local flea market, and there was this bizarre looking creature sitting in an open cabinet. He was half-buried under a mix of old wrestling figures, just enough visible to catch my eye. Something about the Hook Horror reminded me of those old Thundercats toys, which isn't too far off, considering he was produced by the same company, LJN. However, he doesn't hail from Thundera like Lion-O or Snarf, but instead from, uh, wherever it is that Dungeons & Dragons takes place.

I have no real fondness for the old D&D; never one for role-playing games in my youth. There are vague memories of watching the "classic" Dungeons & Dragons animated-series when it aired on Saturday mornings back in the '80s. But otherwise, I've never been a fan of sword-and-sorcery RPGS, all elves and chaotic-neutral allegiances.

If I'd known that the game was populated by weird, mish-mash monsters like Hook Horror, well, maybe I would have been tempted to give the game a try.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Wonderful Week of Toys: Day Four

We're cutting things close today, due mostly to a lengthy flea-market trip and spending time with friends. The former is going to throw an interesting monkey-bird, er, I mean, monkey-wrench into the planned entries for the remainder of the week and that's okay. More than okay, actually. Just you wait and see.

For today, though, we're heading back to the year 1993. A time where Bill Clinton took over as President of the United States, WWF Monday Night Raw debuted on cable-television, and for some odd reason, troll dolls were a thing again. In an attempt to appeal to pre-teen boys, several toy companies released their own series of action figures loosely based around the concept of Norfin Trolls. One such toy-line [and an accompanying animated series] was known as The Stone Protectors.

Which is precisely where this guy, Chester the Wrestler, originated from. Not only a professional wrestler, Chester also played bass guitar and saxophone in The Rock Detectors, which is possibly the worst band in existence. Actually, maybe second worst, placing just behind Butthole Surfers.

Chester and his glorious, neon-pink mohawk only ended up in my collection because he was sharing space with Thunder Punch He-Man. Yes, this is the guy who also happened to be in that dollar ninety-nine grab-bag I mentioned in our first Toy Week update. Sad to admit, but if I'd stumbled across Chester on his own, I probably would have passed. Now that I have him, I'm even sadder to admit, I actually find that I dig how ridiculous [and awesome!] he is.

I may even keep an eye out for his trollish band-mates.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Wonderful Week of Toys: Day Three

And here's another relic from my childhood that was salvaged from the local thrift shop.

Long before there was Transformers: Rescue Bots, way back in the mid-'80s, Hasbro utilized its recent acquisition, the subsidiary Playskool, to release My First Transformers. A trio of brightly colored vehicles that could, uh, transform into things that sorta' resembled robots in disguise. There was a race-car, a jet, and this guy right here, who was affectionately referred to as Dump Truck.

I never owned Dump Truck before; already at an age where the real Transformers appealed to me more. I did, however, have a younger cousin who did have him. So, despite my love for Soundwave and Grimlock and those pesky Insecticons, there was still something totally appealing about their primary-colored, safe-for-most-ages "little brother". I have pretty fond memories of time spent at my aunt and uncle's, casually transforming Dump Truck back and forth between his two modes.

Here he is in robot-mode, and yeah, he's not nearly as impressive as Optimus Prime or Omega Supreme. Hell, even Bumblebee gives poor Dump Truck a run for his energon cubes. Still, I adore his simplicity and the fact that he shares ties with one of my favorite childhood properties.

Unfortunately, the decal on mine is in rough shape, but I still get a huge kick out of his adorable faction symbol. He's not quite an Autobot, but maybe he'll get there when he's a little older.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Wonderful Week of Toys: Day Two

Oh man, this guy.

He probably doesn't look like much, I know, but he may go down as one of my all-time favorite finds. Released by a Chinese company called Dor Mei sometime in the '80s, this ankylosaurus is an absolute dead-ringer for one that I owned as a child. Like a lot of young boys, I grew up totally obsessed with dinosaurs and giant monsters; a massive fan of King Kong (1933) and the Godzilla series of films. Hell, I even used to rent the British-produced Godzilla knock-off, Gorgo (1961), pretty frequently on VHS.

Despite the overwhelmingly awesome selection of toy-lines available during the decade, one thing that was sorely lacking in the 1980s was a series of legitimate "kaiju" toys. Sure, there were bootlegs galore; dozens of different scaled Godzilla replicas. Some looked pretty authentic, but most were light-years away from the real thing. That didn't bother me at all. I loved my Godzilla knock-off, even despite his outrageous shade of blue.

Likewise, this chipper-looking fella worked perfectly as a stand-in for The Big G's best pal, Anguirus.

When I saw him last week, sitting on a shelf surrounded by beat-up Imaginext Batcaves and broken remote control trucks, I knew that he was coming home with me. I only wish I still had that baby-blue, bootleg Godzilla and a tub full of Legos, so I could recreate those childhood days of devastation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Wonderful Week of Toys: Day One

Is there anybody out there..?

I sure hope so. Not that I'd blame anyone for jumping ship, though, what with the infrequency of posts and the increasingly long periods in-between. Few and far between, man. Close only counts in horse-shoes and hand grenades. Or something like that.

In an attempt to jump-start this dead or dying blog, I'm gonna try my hand at a theme-week; seven straight days of posts that may possibly be mildly amusing and/or the slightest bit interesting. We dream big here at The Trash Pile, kids. Don't you dare ever say otherwise.

You see, and some of you might remember this, we're heading into my absolute favorite time of year. There's already been glimpses of spooky cereals and fun-size Milky Ways, but we're still a little time away from hanging the fake cobwebs and carving pumpkins. The plan is to build up a reserve of scary, thrilling things to post about in October, while still taking time to pay tribute to the non-Halloween trash that happens to come along, too. That's gonna mean more posts, more of my inane ramblings, more more more.

The only problem, the one thing that threatens to derail those plans, is that I obviously lack the ability to stay consistent. To post frequently, to, well, to keep the train rolling, since apparently we're stuck on a locomotive metaphor. I am the worst kind of conductor, it seems, and you're unfortunately along for the ride. As long as you choo-choo-choose to stick around, that is.

So, yes, let's ignore that last bit of bullshit and get going with the first entry in The Wonderful Week of Toys.

Originally released in 1985, smack in the middle of The Masters of the Universe toy-line, is Thunder Punch He-Man. One of the many variations of He-Man created for the line's seven-year run, this particular version featured a backpack that could be loaded with caps, allowing a "thunderous" blast with each punch thrown. Not pictured are his two weapons, his trusty Power Sword and a new-design shield, which were molded in a mustard-gold plastic.

I never owned the Thunder Punch-version as a kid, but I was totally content with the bare-bones original release. This guy pictured above was found in a grab-bag at my local thrift shop a couple weeks back, packed along with another of this week's upcoming highlights. He-Man's pretty battle-worn; you can clearly see where the paint has faded away on his face and hair. He's also lacking his thunder-punching abilities, the backpack gone to Sorceress knows where.

Still, there's something about him that I really enjoy. He's only one of three Masters of the Universe figures I own these days, something I'm hoping to change in my collecting future. It's safe to say, though, that he'll probably end up my default He-Man from here on out.