Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"LOST" episode 100

Since it's tough coming up with regular, inspired writing, and since I wear my geek cred on my sleeve, I figure it's time to begin discussing regularly scheduled programming, such as the bewildering episodic adventure known as "LOST"

Daniel Pictures, Images and Photos

"LOST" celebrated it's milestone 100th episode tonight (SPOILER) by killing off it's most bewildering character, Daniel Faraday. Not to worry, Faraday got a great sendoff with some terrific insight into his history and how he became entangled in the mystery of the island. Add to that the culmination of a seasons worth of subplot (LaFluor/ 70's Dharma Initiative) and "LOST" fans have something to talk about at the water cooler tomorrow. You guys are still doing that, right?

I wasn't one who took to the season four recruits so quickly. These characters are hampered by a surmounting mythology and unresolved plot points concerning established characters the audience has already invested so much time in. Factor in Hollywood realities such as Richard Alpert disappearing to star in "Cane" for a season and "LOST" becomes a disjointed mess. However, starting with the previous Miles-centric episode, these also-ran, johnny come lately characters are starting to become truly fleshed out, often times after their on-screen demise. Now that it's here, I'm not sure I needed Faraday's background any sooner. And that's the magic of "LOST," the thing that keeps new viewers from tuning in while loyal viewers are afraid to quit; the convoluted storytelling. After Locke returned from the grave, is there anyone out there who thinks we've seen the last of Faraday? Even after his mom put a bullet in his chest? I didn't think so.

Eventually, I warmed up to Faraday's antics and spacey mannerisms, to the point were I cheered when he climbed out of the submarine. Not bad considering the guys circumstances within the storytelling structure. I was pretty sure he was a linchpin character, and he might still be, but I can't say how, and so the program continues to live up to it's name. At the very least, Faraday will return in an all-essential clip show episode. Let's face it, it's not called "LOST" because there are survivors stuck on an island; the name of the show is derived from the effect it has on its audience.

In general, I find my enthusiasm for "LOST" has in no way diminished. Sometimes I can't tell what's been said due to crunching chips and salsa, or maybe it's a gripping episode and I've quaffed one too many Iron City pounders and yelled at the tube during an important bit of dialogue. One way or the other, I am not 100% up to date on what's happening at any giving stopping point, but that's cool. The show is so rich in detail that a second viewing (fifteen years from now) is almost necessary. Hopefully, before it's finished it's run, "LOST" will cover the important points while allowing religious viewership the opportunity to savor the program's intricacies. In other words, I hope the show can maintain it's rhythm while the writers sort everything out. After a sagging first half of the season, volume five is shaping up, so let's keep our fingers crossed.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Here He Comes...!"

Wow, Mattel has issued forth a SECOND WAVE OF SPEED RACER HOT WHEELS! (Cheering) Now fans of the Watchowski's brilliant 2007 masterpiece (all 23 of us) can relive the excitement of the rally race with these funky new toys.

This latest (and most likely, lastest) assortment of cars is a mix of repaints and new sculpts, featuring four new vehicles from the dastardly rally race in the second act of the film. This includes:

Snake Oiler's street car

Thor-Axine (viking)

Delila (diamond sucking/ drug analogy femme)

and finally, Taejo Togokahn (double crossing Asian racer)

As expected, these toys are nicely detailed and roll smoothly as only Hot Wheels do, but the unique factor these toys possess are the high impact plastic bodies. Initially, this turned me off, as I would have preferred a solid piece of die-cast metal. I bought one anyhow, and after rolling down some track onto a hard surface I realized the choice in materials accurately recreated the "Car Fu" stylings of the film upon impact. These things don't just bounce, they practically dance. As a true brillaint stroke, these cars feature a die-cast bottom plate, adding enough weight to land the car right side up 90% of the time. Somebody at Mattel would've received an award if not for the film's lack of success, so there is something inexplicable about this new assortment of toys. I think it's pretty great to be able to include these notable characters in my Speed Racer Hot Wheels collection, and I'm surprised and appreciative. Having a vehicle for Taejo is especially great, considering the character actually has a story arc that kids will enjoy exploring through play.

Desert Rally repaints

Of the repaints, I zeroed in on the Mach 5 and Racer X with sand detail, from the afore mentioned rally, and left the others for later. The light brown under spray impressed me by contrasting nicely with the iconic designs of both the Mach 5 and X's Shooting Star, while the rest of these toys merely represent the massive surplus that did not sell. Although I can't blame Mattel for "Race Wrecked Grey Ghost" (several cars return as "Race Wrecked", featuring a black under spray to indicate engine burnout,)I can hold out until they show up for even less than a dollar, because that's the rub here people; you can't get these at retail.

I stumbled upon these guys while looking for batteries in a dollar store. The batteries were dead, but who cares when you've uncovered a favorite toy unexpectedly. The experience was a little like the dreams I have of walking into a dusty old variety store and finding a pile of Kenner Star Wars figures at 1980 prices, only not nearly as orgasmic. Snake Oiler's street car has been seen at Target in a two-pack with the Mach 5, but even that went straight to the clearance aisle. When a movie tanks, you don't expect additional merchandise. Just one more reason to love crazy Mattel.

You cannot deny "Speed Racer" the movie was a real dog for everyone involved. This is good in a way because now they can't tarnish the film experience by making a less than stellar sequel. On the other hand it's bad because fans want to own miniature versions of the cool cars presented therein, and that's not supposed to happen much when nobody sees the movie. Mattel will never again make so much ancillary merchandise for a new movie, no matter how big the marketing push, therefore, one has to wonder what the philosophy behind releasing another assortment could be. It would seem that we are so far down along the pipeline that these toys could have been canceled. Maybe Mattel is gunning for some of that stimulus package. When they tell congress it's to make up for all the Speed Racer toys they'll surely get some.

However it happened, if you have kids and need a cheap quality toy (die-cast and chunky ABS) that will be loved, or maybe you're older and just happen to love Speed Racer, Mattel Hot Wheels Speed Racer are the thing. After all, it's going to be a long time before we see anymore Mach 5s at Wal-Mart.