Sunday, July 19, 2015

It Came From the Five-Dollar Bin: Transform and Roll Out

I've got a big post that I'm working on that ties directly into the latest episode of Eclectic Mayhem. For those of you not already in the know, that would be the podcast I started up with Derek [Goodwill Hunting 4 Geeks], Miss M [Diary of a Dorkette], and Jason Roberts [Nerdy Life of Mine] a few months back. The related post has turned into a much larger project than I was originally anticipating, and I figured I'd do a smaller one in the meantime, so the blog doesn't have another large gap between content.


My local comic shop has been a boon when it comes to finding great deals; everything from the dollar-bin comics to cheap trades, mystery grab-boxes and tons of carded action figures at low, low prices. One of my favorite spots to peruse is a large box tucked aside near their wall of toys and collectibles. It's just a large, generic cardboard box with a printed out sign that exclaims, "Five Dollar Blow-Out!". Or, well, something like that. The long and short of it is the fact that everything within that box is only five dollars.

I thought it might be nice to start doing a semi-regular feature where I highlight some of the stupid, sorta'-cheap items that I pick up from the aforementioned box. So, let's take a quick look at today's five-dollar find.

The Loyal Subjects is an art toy company that focuses primarily on releasing 3-inch, vinyl figures from preexisting, licensed properties like G.I.Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Transformers. I don't normally collect their stuff, mostly because I'm not really into modern-era collectibles, even when they represent an iconic brand from my childhood. I will occasionally make an exception, particularly if I can get a solid deal on them. When I noticed a couple of their Transformers Series 2 Blind Box sitting there, for a measly five bucks, there was no way I was gonna pass on one of 'em.

Each wave contains an equal amount of Autobots and Decepticons; Series 2 features four characters from each faction. I was really hoping to unwrap one of the bad guys, since I've always preferred the conniving Decepticons to their heroic Cybertronian peers, but after glancing at the package, I would have been satisfied with any one of the eight figures.

Or so I thought.

Ah, Sideswipe.

He wasn't quite the one I wanted least [that honor belonged to Mirage], but when the other Autobots in the wave included a Dinobot and Prowl, well, I feel a little gypped. Plus, despite Sideswipe actually being a pretty cool character within the G1 Transformers continuity, it's his Generation 2 aesthetic that I love the most. Something about him in jet black, with ridiculous neon green decals, it just reves my engine more than his traditional red n' black color-scheme.

Oh well.

I shouldn't complain, because normally the Series 2 Blind Box retail for twice what I paid for him. It just doesn't feel like Sideswipe will find a permanent home in my collection, though.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

He Wants You... Dead: Uncle Sam (1997)

Happy Fourth of July, all.

I'm sure most of you are out and about, enjoying fireworks and barbecues and spending time with family, but some of us have mixed up priorities. Some of us like to spend our Independence Days watching nearly twenty-year old horror films with murderous patriotic icons. Actually, I'm pretty sure that it's just me and maybe a deranged ex-video store clerk hellbent on recreating the perfect summers of yesteryear. And even that ex-video store employee might be me, too.

I'd never seen Uncle Sam (1997) before today, but I do remember it vividly from my days working at Video Showplace in the late '90s. I can still picture it sitting on the shelf, its lenticular cover beckoning, practically commanding that I go over and check it out immediately. Quietly telling me to ignore the thousands of other tapes that surrounded us. To take it home and watch it repeatedly, never-ending, until the day I die.

Obviously, that didn't happen.

My appreciation for the horror genre was still in its infancy, and I had bigger and better films to embrace before giving Uncle Sam a chance. If I had paid attention to the talents involved in the movie, however, it's possible I wouldn't have waited nearly two decades to finally watch it. The director, William Lustig, is perhaps best known for the cult-classic Maniac (1980), as well as his later films, Vigilante (1983) and the original Maniac Cop (1988). And the film's writer, a regular collaborator of Lustig's, is none other than the great Larry Cohen. I've become a huge admirer of Cohen over the years, especially his work on Q, The Winged Serpent (1982) and The Stuff (1985).

Plus, the cast includes a who's who of fantastic character actors, including Isaac Hayes, P.J Soles, and Robert Forster.

Based on the crew assembled, you might think that Uncle Sam is some under-appreciated classic, perhaps lost in the shuffle of a post-Scream world of meta-horror, simply waiting to be rediscovered. Unfortunately, that isn't quite the case. I'm not suggesting that it's a bad film; it's definitely worth watching, regardless of its reputation on sites like IMDB or Letterboxd. The material isn't anything ground-breaking, but the combined abilities of genre stalwarts in Cohen and Lustig definitely raise the film higher than many of its peers from that particular era of direct-to-video slashers.

The premise is a fairly basic one-- after Sgt. Sam Harper (David Fralick) is killed by "friendly-fire" during a mission in Kuwait, his body is returned to his hometown for a proper, heroic burial. Through some unknown means, the recently deceased soldier rises from the grave to seek revenge on those that he deems unpatriotic. What starts as punishing the corrupt and immoral, however, quickly transforms into a murderous rampage that will spare no-one. It's revealed over the course of the film that Sam wasn't the all-American hero that his nephew, Jodi (Christopher Ogden), believed him to be, but instead an abusive, kill-crazy maniac. Jodi must work with his Aunt Louise (Anne Tremko) and a former sergeant, Jed Crowley (Isaac Hayes), to finally put Uncle Sam to rest.

I doubt watching this film will become a yearly tradition, but I certainly won't hesitate to see it again from time-to-time.