Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nightmares from a Haunted Dream House

We hold Halloween in high esteem here in The Middle Room: it is a day of profound significance to us. As such, we felt it important to mark the occasion. Working in consultation with The Clearance Bin, we've put together a collection of horrors, a kind of digital haunted house full of images 16% more horrific and 22% less Euclidean than any in the Necronomicon.

So, if you believe yourself brave, feel free to peruse our collection of....

Nightmares from a Haunted Dream House

But consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Toy Review: DCUC Solomon Grundy

In our continuing quest to educate and inform you, our reader, about the action figures available from your local purveyor of oddities, we've put together a review of a figure we were forced to put together as well: Solomon Grundy, born on a Monday (or so we've heard).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ebay: Warnings and Advice

We haven't been bothering to notify you, our reader, of every article and column we've placed on The Clearance Bin for the simple reason that we wanted to leave a bit of mystery to the site. Were every last addition mapped out and described here in detail, the excitement of The Clearance Bin would no doubt be lessened.

However, a recent addition to our series for new collectors struck us as something that may be of particular interest to visitors of The Middle Room.

You see, we've only just posted a discussion of Ebay, and it occurred to us that many of those accessing The Middle Room were doing so online.

The connection could not be ignored.

Therefore, we invite you to peruse the article and skim our advice for shopping Ebay, which, we are told, exists likewise on the internet.

You may also have some interest in the previous articles in the series - though it seems far less certain, as they deal all but exclusively with the actual world (a subject, we suspect, our readers have less interest in). Nonetheless, here are some links for those of you who are curious:

Starting a Collection, Part 1: The Value of Clearance
Starting a Collection, Part 2: Choosing Toys
Starting a Collection, Part 3: A Field Guide

And, of course, Starting a Collection, Part 4: Deadly Waters

Monday, October 27, 2008

Politics Bleeds into the Geek

Well, it was only a matter of time. Here in The Middle Room we have remained mostly silent on the subject of politics, because politics (for the most part) has steered clear of us.

But it was not to last.

Barack Obama has invoked us, as so we must comment. For those of you who haven't heard, Obama recently compared the relationship between John McCain and George Bush to that between Robin and Batman.

We must admit to finding the comparison a bit baffling for a variety of reasons. The first and most obvious is that finding parallels between Bush and Batman would be trying: Bush simply isn't a heroic figure. On the other hand, similarities may exist between Bush and the persona Batman projects - that of a disturbed millionaire playboy with issues living up to his father's legacy.

But in the case of Batman this is merely a disguise used to misdirect suspicions. There is little evidence that Bush is living a secret life battling the criminal element in Crawford, Texas (though that may explain why he spends so little time in Washington).

What truly confuses us, however, is the lack of specificity: which Robin is Obama referring to?

Dick Grayson is the obvious candidate: he's the original and best known version. However, he's a capable leader, ready to take up the mantle of Batman should the need ever arise. While lacking some of his mentor's abilities, he is less disturbed and obsessed. It is hard to understand the connection, unless he was complimenting his rival.

Jason Todd might make the most sense: he was the least stable and least popular of the Robins, after all. What's more, he served the shortest term, which could be viewed as a veiled reference to McCain's age and the possibility he may be replaced by a different Robin (in this case, Palin). A similar innuendo could be drawn from Tim Drake, who briefly had to give up the mantle of Robin at his father's demand. In that situation, Stephanie Brown took over, with disastrous results.

While we continue to support Obama, we in The Middle Room question the wisdom of comparing Bush or McCain to Batman or any of his protege. Especially when he could have said that McCain is to Bush as The Riddler is to The Joker. That one has some merit.

Toy Review: SHS Sentinel and Wolverine

We've posted a review of the Marvel Super Hero Squad Mega Pack Sentinel and Wolverine over at The Clearance Bin.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Toy Review: Deathstroke

We've posted a review of Deathstroke in The Clearance Bin, for those of you interested.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Introducing: From The Workshop

We've introduced a new column in The Clearance Bin providing advice to toy collectors looking to enter the world of customization. Head on over for the first installment of our new column: From The Workshop, Part 1: Rescue Me, penned by Lindsay of The Blue Fairy's Workshop.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Toy Review: Sinestro

We've just posted our review of the DC Universe Classic Sinestro figure on The Clearance Bin.

Monday, October 20, 2008


This past weekend we had opportunity to visit a new Ikea, located in Brooklyn. We in The Middle Room are no strangers to the hallowed display rooms and expansive chambers of Ikea: this is no less than the fourth Ikea we've visited, by our count. Still, each location is different, each magical in its own right.

As we walked the labyrinthine corridors and connected rooms, each a facet of the whole, like the faces on an icosahedron, we were lost, at times, in the halls, which twist and turn like riddles.

Thanks to wonders of modern technology, into this world of flat-packed furniture we brought music in the form of MP3s. We listened to "Ikea", by Jonathan Coulton, and marveled at the symmetry.

Glowing blue bulbs hung from wires like grapes from a vine. There were lights at the tips of tentacles; as if offering lighting solutions for eldritch horrors.

We surfed the grey expanse of the self-serve furniture section on flat carts, and we navigated the trails with small blue maps, wooden pencils, and flimsy rulers.

We looked through the 'As Is' section, a graveyard of fallen furniture and broken boxes.

We dined in their commons and tasted exotic Swedish cuisine, such as "penne with meatballs" and "apple cake." We drank sparkling "Swedish-style" orange drink, imported from Spain and sweetened with beet sugar. It was, according to the label, a 'light and refreshing' beverage. We happily agree with this assessment.

And we left with arms full of furniture, of cardboard boxes and chair cushions, of clamp-on lights and miniature bulbs, of loose shelves and other wonders.

Such is Ikea, discount Swedish furniture store.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Robin for all Seasons

Today we've something of a double billing. First, we've posted a review of the DC Universe Classics Robin figure over at our sister site, The Clearance Bin. Take a look if you like toys.

And, we ask you, could the timing be better? Clearly not. For recently we screened the fifth and final season of Teen Titans here in The Middle Room. Teen Titans is a show we've always had a turbulent relationship with. While we certainly enjoy aspects of the program, other elements have often left us disappointed.

It should be added that we've seen the rest of the series, and largely held off due to less than favorable reviews on Amazon.

Having viewed the final season, we now understand where the negative reactions were coming from. The fifth season represents a betrayal of sorts, deviating from the status quo set up for the program.

Fortunately, we were getting bored of the status quo. Still, we feel sorry for the fans of show who'd grown accustomed to mediocre programming and were therefore disheartened when confronted with an intelligent, intriguing show instead.

For those of us who would always have preferred more thoughtful, character-driven entertainment, the fifth season proved well worth the time and expense. The cast expanded to include characters occupying nearly every corner of the DCU, including dozens of Teen Titans drawn from years of comics.

There is, however, a final issue we feel we should mention. The last season of Teen Titans failed to rectify our main complaint; namely that the Justice League was nowhere to be seen. The Titans, to us, are defined by the place they occupy in the DC Universe. While they know that one day, should they survive, they're destined to become the world's heroes, they are still children. And they are in the shadows of their mentors.

But, tragically, the Justice League makes no appearance. Most egregiously, Batman is nowhere to be seen. Oddly enough, The Doom Patrol, Beast Boy's original partners, show up in the first two episodes. Why his team is acceptable and not the better known League is beyond our understanding.

But no matter. There is little reason to dwell on a single flaw in so great a season.

Though we do wonder if it the omission of Batman may have paved the way for The Graysons to follow suit....

Toy Review: DCU Classics Green Lantern

We've just posted a review of Green Lantern in The Clearance Bin.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Toy Review: Nightwing

Stop by The Clearance Bin and take a look at Mattel's Nightwing, from Wave 3 of the DC Universe Classics line.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A news story on Ain't It Cool News has elicited conflicting emotions from The Middle Room. Unbreakable is an exceptional film, one we would be all too glad to have a sequel to.

But... there are concerns. The problem is, of course, the enigmatic M Night Shyamalan (iD&Di: .27), who captured our attention and our praises years ago with The Sixth Sense, the modern classic which, in our estimation, may hold the distinction of being the most-mocked film of the past twenty years.

Yes, The Sixth Sense won our trust, and every film M Night Shyamalan has made since has strained that.

Which isn't to say he hasn't made anything worthwhile. In fact, many of us prefer Unbreakable and Signs to his first movie. We have even heard it claimed there may be fans of his most recent film, though this has yet to be empirically proven (we've yet to meet a single person who even saw The Happening, let alone enjoyed it).

What fascinates us is the polarizing nature of his movies. As much as we love Signs - it's one of our favorite alien invasion movies, in fact - we respect and understand the opinions of those who find the ending ludicrous (perhaps it is our understanding of Martian physiology that allows us to accept these aliens' elemental weakness).

Likewise, we understand why the pacing of Unbreakable frustrates many viewers, even though our experience was entirely positive.

What does escape us, is how anyone could possibly appreciate The Village as anything other than laughably bad. Yet there were positive reviews, most of which stating an understanding of why so many hated the picture.

There can be little debate that Shyamalan's fan base has shrunk with each picture. With each of us it was only a question of when we gave up and turned our backs on this filmmaker. It is a question, incidentally, you will find in our poll to your right.
(Update: Polls, like all mortal things, are fleeting. Do not mourn its absence; it is in a better place).

In addition, there is another phenomenon we've yet to witness: never have we met a person who disliked one Shyamalan picture then enjoyed a later one. It is well documented that once an individual has had one bad experience with this director, there is no hope of reversal.

And this brings us to our concerns with the prospect of Unbreakable II. If current trends continue, it seems mathematically impossible for this to be better than The Happening, let alone a worthy successor to the original.

Unless... it's possible that a sequel could be effectively grandfathered, as if it were created after Unbreakable rather than today. Shyamalan has never crafted a sequel before, so the precise properties are somewhat uncertain. Under this scenario, only those who disliked the original would be unable to enjoy the next installment. As fans of Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense, we would be safe.

Another possibility is that The Happening was so bad that it reversed the law preventing his films from improving. We can't verify the likelihood of this scenario, however, since we didn't see The Happening (it looked, after all, exceedingly horrible).

So there is hope. But that isn't something we can trust: Shyamalan lost our trust with The Village, and we've not paid to see any of his movies since.

Toy Review: Super Hero Squad: Battle for NY

Stop by the Clearance Bin for our review of Marvel Super Hero Squad: Urban Heroes: Battle for New York figures. They're cute.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Toy Review: JLU Question 3 Pack

Head on over to The Clearance Bin for a review of some new Justice League Unlimited figures.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Time Before....

We mentioned, not too long ago, that we intend to watch an episode of Smallville this year. One episode, that is: no more, no less. The reason for our sudden burst of generosity? The episode in question is being written by an excellent writer and features some longstanding DC characters who've yet to be portrayed in live action.

But before we warm too much to the CW, a new project in development has us a bit concerned. If Variety is to be believed, those of you who have always wanted more of Dick Grayson's early years will be overjoyed. Not Robin: Year One, mind you: this appears to be year negative one. Or, if the show is as successful among teens as Smallville, perhaps year negative eight.

Now, we do feel the need to bring up another possibility. It seems to us that we may be misled, that the show's premise may be something of a red herring, and we may instead be treated to Robin's origin, the story of his adoption by Bruce Wayne, and eventual partnership with Batman.

Given our understanding of the CW, we place the odds that this is the case at approximately eight percent.

There is something to the notion that Batman is a better setting than a character; that many of the best Batman stories weren't about Batman at all, but rather about those trying to live in his shadow. A show focusing on his protege could have merit, but there is little evidence anyone at the CW has the foresight to approach this wisely.

If the show does follow a similar model as Robin: Year One (a good read, by the by, for those of you looking for a decent Batman-related book), there could be some hope. Otherwise, it is difficult for us to imagine the CW producing anything of value.