Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spirit of the Holidays

Christmas in July, inverted, becomes July in Christmas. And there is a sense that Black Friday is a mirror image of the Fourth of July: a celebration of the fundamentals of our economy, the basis of our entire civilization.

For those of you who have yet to complete your shopping, we've just posted a review of a Santa Clause action figure, pictured above, in The Clearance Bin. And, should you become curious as to how we arrive at a specific score, you can read all about it in the article explaining our Methodology, also just published.

Yes, another Black Friday has come and gone. We in The Middle Room marked the occasion by setting our alarms bright and early for 4:45 AM, climbing out of bed, crawling to our computers, and buying discounted DVDs from Amazon before they ran out.

This, we should add, has several advantages over the more traditional activities:

1. Easier commute.
2. One can return to bed immediately after concluding one's purchases.
3. No one needs to die.

The third point is one of particular significance this year, as the body count, while thankfully remaining in the single digits, was higher than one would have expected. Two shoppers shot each other dead at a Toys R Us in California, while closer to home a Walmart employee in Long Island, NY was trampled to death by impatient shoppers immediately after opening the store.

While it warms our hearts to see so many embracing the true spirit of Christmas, we sincerely hope that in the future consumers can express their love of capitalism in a manner less reminiscent of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

On the other hand, it is an exceptional film.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Toy Review: Blackfire

We have published a review of the villainous Blackfire over at The Clearance Bin. If you have a moment, take a look.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

100th Post Spectacular

It is our assumption that our readers, in an effort to better acquaint themselves with the content of our discussions, not to mention to further the study of those patterns that guide our choice of topics, construct mathematical models and search for numerological significance therein.

If we are correct, then there is little point in mentioning that this is the hundredth post of The Middle Room. Indeed, to spend such time on the subject strikes us as superfluous. We almost decided to forgo celebrating the occasion at all, but in the end it was decided that should we abstain from posting about the event, said event might never come to pass (we can't very well focus on an insignificant subject for our 100th post, after all).

So, consider this our centennial, a milestone passed on our twisting path through the world of the geek.

And to mark the occasion, we've also posted on The Clearance Bin: an article on the nature of materialism awaits your consideration, as does a review of a six-pack of Halloween cauldrons found on clearance at a Toys R Us.

These represent no great numerical importance to The Clearance Bin, though, so there is little profit in dwelling on the subject.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Toy Review: DCUC Wonder Woman

For fans of DC Comics, we've posted a review of Mattel's DC Universe Classics Wonder Woman in The Clearance Bin.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

From start to finish, Quantum of Solace was a restrained non-stop thrill ride, an introspective action film.

This contradiction defined almost everything right and wrong about the film.

Bond went through the entire picture in something of a daze, more numb than hurt following the events of Casino Royale. This did not, however, prevent him from traveling to exotic lands and painting them red with the blood of his foes.

Nor should it have: this is 007, after all. And we found ourselves fundamentally impressed that Bond didn't seem to want revenge as much as he wanted to want revenge, or, barring that, anything. He was cold and empty, in something of a rut, and it wasn't until the end that he started to regain feeling. With only a few exceptions, he seemed to be killing out of indifference rather than spite.

Let no one suggest it wasn't a brave directorial choice, and the library of 007 films is richer for it.

But there was a price to be paid. There is a sense of vertigo one experiences while trying to comprehend the setting. For the most part, this movie is deeply grounded in our world and the human psyche, so when elements reminiscent of Roger Moore's Bond appear - and they do in spades - it is dizzying to say the least.

Further, the action scenes were by and large over the top and empty. There was little excitement to be found, even when they seemed to be trying for it. The scene where Bond leaps from a plane is a perfect example: it was heavily CG'd, very fast paced, and ultimately dull. The moment was reminiscent of Schwarzenegger's Eraser, but not as much fun.

Fortunately, there were plenty of moments which made up for this. The scene in the opera house, for instance, was fantastic; one of the best Bond moments of all time, in fact, and entirely nonviolent. Well, until it turned violent, but that was less intriguing.

Likewise, the movie's conclusion was near-perfect. While the action-heavy desert hotel fight was perhaps a bit zanier than we needed, what came next was far more to our liking. We need to choose our words carefully here, in case there are readers who've yet to see the picture, but Bond's moment with Camille - the movie's primary "Bond girl" - at the end succinctly defined the difference between this version of the character and all earlier incarnations.

This is the 22nd Bond movie by most accounts. We could actually inflate that number by adding in Never Say Never Again, the 1967 version of Casino Royale, and The Rock (John Mason indeed), but there seems little reason to complicate matters further. If your favorite of the first 21 Bond films were a five star picture, we feel Quantum of Solace is deserving of a relative three and a half stars. It almost pulls four, but the opening credits just didn't impress us.

Updates at The Clearance Bin

Just now, for your enlightenment and enjoyment, we have posted the next segment of our ongoing series From The Workshop at The Clearance Bin. Today's installment is entitled, "From The Workshop, Part 2: Kitbashing", and it is of course penned by our very own customizing master, Lindsay.

And, because we were in a generous mood, we did not stop there. Indeed, we have also published a review of Reindeer Games Rudolph, a marvelous toy, and we invite you to take a look.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Squad - Recursion

Today we are considering Marvel's Super Hero, shrunk to miniature size. We've looked at these figures before over in The Clearance Bin, and today we look again. If you've any interest in things awesome, you may want to visit the Bin once more for a closer look at Phoenix and Wolverine as re-imagined by Hasbro.

Yet our discussion is multifaceted. While you peruse our review at The Clearance Bin, be sure to duplicate yourself - as does Madrox, the Multiple Man - so you can stay in The Middle Room and continue to the end of this post.

Our attention was recently drawn to news of comic strips - soon to be collected - based on this same line of toys, which are, of course, based on comics of Marvel characters.

In The Clearance Bin, we've noted before that some two dimensional designs are unsuited for translation to three dimensions. The reverse, sadly, is no less true. The miniaturized figures, each adorable in its own right, loses their charm when flattened. The art leaves us underwhelmed.

It doesn't help that the comic strips are, for the most part, not funny. Okay, we kind of liked this one.

All of this raises an important question, however - one we've yet to see answered: Will there be toys based on these comics?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Toy Review: Lemax Christmas Accessories

Those of you who collect toys may want to stop by The Clearance Bin to check out our review of Lemax Christmas Accessories we bought at half price at our neighborhood Michaels. While you're there, check out the new site: we've improved it to make it easier to navigate.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Blurred Line

The line between science and mad science is often blurred. There are few who would challenge the assertion that it is mad to create a robot a hundred feet tall, armed with missiles and programmed to kill. But what of a similar giant robot armed to the teeth and programmed to love?

Truly, there are shades of gray that must be considered.

So it is with cloning. A team of scientists have come a step closer to resurrecting extinct animals. The applications of this technology are staggering: modern man may finally be able to discover the taste of deep fried dodo, a delicacy lost to the ages.

But there is danger to such technology as well. Earlier this week famed science fiction writer and global-warming skeptic, Michael Crichton (iD&Di: .32) passed away. But his work survives, and it warns us of the dangers that accompany cloning.

But have we not also learned from Spielberg (iD&Di: .47) that cloning is really cool, as well?

Is it mad to clone frozen mice? No. Is it mad to clone dinosaurs, creatures of immense strength and power whose behavior is a mystery to even the greatest scientific minds? Perhaps.

But these researchers aren't talking about dinosaurs: as the article explains, they're merely testing their theories on mice to further our understanding of genetics, life, and science.

And then it's on to the mammoth.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Toy Review: DCUC Batman Beyond

We've just posted a review of a new Batman Beyond action figure. Head on over to The Clearance Bin to check it out.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Bitter Cup of Coffee

Every year geeks gather for Gen Con, the best known D&D convention in the world, for a celebration of gaming. Polyhedral die are cast, we've heard, like grains of sands in the wind.

But it is not all fun and games: geeks know the importance of giving back to the world that has given us so much. As such, there is a charity auction, with the proceeds going to a cause selected every year.

This year was special. In memory of Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D, it was decided the money would go to a organization Gygax had championed, loved, and given to.

That organization is the Christian Children's Fund.

The auction produced a sum of $17,398 dollars for the charity. For an organization normally reduced to soliciting less than a dollar a day at a time - that's a lot of money. It was intended to do a lot of good: after all, this is the charity that has boasted the frugality to provide a child food, water, medicine, and health care for the cost of a cup of coffee a day.

And yet, they refused the money.

Their stated reasons are somewhat unclear, but the subtext of their motivation is easy to grasp: the money could be... tainted.

This is of course ludicrous. The influence the dark powers exercise over Dungeons & Dragons is grossly exaggerated. Satan barely touched that money.

This isn't the first time a religious institution has insulted Gygax: despite our repeated calls, the Vatican has yet to do the right thing and canonize him.

What's more: it seems unlikely that the children who would have benefited were consulted in this decision: seventeen thousand dollars is a lot of money in these troubling economic times.

It's enough to sponsor a single child for more than 60 years or, alternatively, enough to buy 22,023 thirsty children each a cup of coffee. Today.

Gary Gygax must be rolling in his grave.

Anyway, you can read more about this here.