Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year Gone

Well, another year has passed us by, bringing us ever closer to 2012. What is the significance of 2012? Why, it is the year the world is to end, which is the first time it's done so since 2000.

But we are not here to mourn the planet Earth: no, this is a celebration, a reflection. So let us remember a year in toys, in action figures and die cast cars. The Clearance Bin has just been updated with such a retrospective, The Best of The Bin: 2008, an ambitious title for a site that's been around for less than six months.

We wish our readers a Happy New Year. And, if the thought of trudging through yet another year has you feeling glum, take heart: you only have three more to go.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis the Season

We in The Middle Room adore Christmas, and it is with all sincerity that we send our best wishes. But wishes, of course, are cheap: we've no illusions that our readers are so easily placated.

So we offer content, as well.

First, we would like to draw your attention to a review at the Clearance Bin looking at the 1966 TV Series Batmobile.

But that is far from all. In consultation with The Clearance Bin, we've also put together a collection of images - digital Christmas Cards, if you like - celebrating the season. We have dubbed this selection an "Uncanny X-Mas," and we wish nothing less for you and your loved ones.

Finally, we'd like to share what's become something of a holiday tradition here in The Middle Room: a comic about a secret agent penguin which was created by some guy named "Erin Snyder" a few years back.

We do hope you enjoy.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Toy Review: DCIH Raven

When a toy review is posted at The Clearance Bin, we feel it's our duty to inform you. Such is now the case. If you are interested in the new line of DC Infinite Heroes figures, you may find these observations on the three and three-quarter inch Raven of interest.

Further, we have it on good authority that a holiday special is forthcoming. Readers are encouraged to return on Christmas Eve for more information.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Slow Start

Sometimes a transition is easy, other times it is not. This, sadly, is the latter. A review of Wilton Cake Pillars has been posted on The Clearance Bin.

And now onto other matters....

It is not our intent to belabor this point, but an abiding need to vindicate ourselves and others who have taken a stand compels us to return to a subject we thought we'd left behind.

But with the end of the year upon us, it is common for critics and reviewers to offer their "10 best" lists.

We in The Middle Room feel no obligation to participate in such trifles. After all, we provided a retrospective of the summer releases, and have traveled to the theater only a handful of times since.

Nevertheless, we find some amusement from time to time perusing those of professional critics. It warms our heart, we should add, to see Wall-E, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man placing on so many lists. Wall-E, in particular, is being recognized by many as the best film of the year.

But it is not the number one spot which caught our attention and made us applaud Richard Corliss. Rather it is his pick for the NINTH best that garnered our attention.

Yes, Time magazine has officially recognized the brilliance of the movie Speed Racer, the single most underrated film of the year.

We in The Middle Room have celebrated the picture since its opening, and we are delighted that Time agrees with our assessment. While we'd have placed Speed Racer higher than the ninth spot, we delighted to read Corliss's article.

When Speed Racer was released, those of us who recognized its brilliance were marginalized and ignored. The majority of critics, failing to understand what they were witnessing, dismissed the film.

But time has passed and a resistance has formed. Many of those who missed the film in its theatrical debut have discovered it on DVD.

A resistance is forming, slower than we might have liked, bust surely. It will take time, but Speed Racer may yet get its due.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Requiem for a Toy Store

It is a sad day in The Middle Room and beyond it, too. If buildings had tear ducts, we suspect every mall in America would shed a tear.

After a long and painful battle with financial troubles, KB Toys has finally succumbed to unfavorable market conditions. On December 11, 2008, KB Toys slipped into bankruptcy. An analysis of the sales revealed that there was no hope - the retail chain would never recover. A decision was made to pull the plug: all KB Toy Stores are now set to close after liquidating their inventory.

It is with a heavy heart that we dedicate today's toy review in memory of KB.

Rather than dwell on the tragedy, we thought we would share our memories of KB Toys. Many times we have stepped into a mall in hopes there was a KB within. We have visited KB Toy Works whenever we've had the chance; delighted in their discount prices and aisles of forgotten toys.

Yes, a stop in a KB Toys or a Toy Works was like a trip through time: their shelves housing action figures and play sets from years past. Toys R Us and Walmart may be better locations for finding new releases, but KB... ah, a visit to KB was like a visit home.

As we look around The Middle Room we see memento after memento purchased at KB Toys. The Ghost In The Shell figure from McFarlane Toys: that we found at a KB in western Massachusetts for less than two dollars. In a Toy Works on the east side of the same state, we found three of our Kingdom Come action figures. The Pigs In Space play set was found at a Toy Works in New Hampshire - for twelve dollars, including First Mate Piggy. We bought a Wolverine action figure at a KB Toys located in Maryland. And right here in New York, we found a pair of "What's Opera, Doc?" figures, produced by DC Direct and being sold for six dollars each.

Truly, we could go on. Whenever we've sought out collectible figures, no matter where we were, KB was there for us, waiting in a mall or nestled in an outlet village. We have many fond memories of KB, and it is these we should cling to in our time of grief.

In times like these, we need to remind ourselves that it is not the building that matters, nor the sign in the front. What truly matters is what's inside, and that, dear reader, is the assortment of toys and games.

And these, we know, are now in a better place:


KB Toys/KB Toy Works
1922 - 2008/2009

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Toy Review: Brainiac

Sure, his significance in the new DC Universe is somewhat lessened with the return of his organic alter ego, but there will always be a place in our cold, mechanical hearts for the robotic version of Brainiac.

In this same digitized spirit, we are pleased to present a review of DC Direct's Crisis on Infinite Earths Brainiac over at The Clearance Bin. Have a look and let us know if it does not compute.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Disturbing Trend

Before we begin, we would like to state clearly that we've nothing against the British. Their contributions to geek culture cannot be understated, and we have nothing but admiration for what they've given us. From the trigger-happy, drunken womanizing of James Bond to the disease-ridden aliens of War of the Worlds, the British have a long history of developing characters and stories beloved by geeks everywhere.

But a recent trend has disturbed us deeply. In July we alerted our readers to a frightening instance of a religious organization from the United Kingdom slandering the Black Canary, an American super-heroine.

At the time, we assumed this would be an isolated incident. We are disheartened to report that we were wrong. The Redcoats, it seems, are up to their old tricks again. And this time, the British are acting through official, legal channels.

It is unclear why the Batmobile was in London - indeed, it is our sincere opinion that the Dark Knight's secrets should remain unknown - but whatever the reason, the Caped Crusader was in England, where he was issued a parking ticket.

This development is nothing short of stunning. First of all, Batman and the British police (or "bobbies") share a common philosophy, fighting crime without the use of a firearm (it is, after all, the weapon of the enemy; a coward's weapon, one might say).

So why then the animosity? Are the Brits still angry that Batman has taken the title of "World's Greatest Detective" from their beloved Sherlock Holmes?

No, we think the truth is somewhat more distressing. When the incident with Black Canary occurred, we drew your attention to a doll representing Electra, a far better example of what the religious organization was trying to express, but one they conveniently omitted.

At the time, we assumed this was an oversight. In light of this recent development, we must now amend this assumption. We now have reason to believe that the United Kingdom has instituted a systemic program of intimidation and slander against the heroes of the DC Universe.

Why? At this stage, it is impossible to say for certain. But we suspect that the reason ties to the fact that DC Comics contains few recognizable heroes from England. Sure, there's John Constantine, but even he was changed into an American for the mediocre movie.

This may seem paranoid, but ask yourself this: why is it always a DC character targeted by the British? Why wasn't the Spider-Mobile ticketed? We have our theories....

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Toy Review: Bugs

We have a very special review over at The Clearance Bin. Today, we review bugs. Toy bugs that is. We are looking at a scorpion AND a tarantula. That's right: you get reviews of two bugs, because we felt that one was simply not enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Toy Review: DC Direct Ra's al Ghul

In the interest of furthering the science of the study of toys... no, that just isn't right. What we do at The Clearance Bin transcends this. It is, perhaps, a philosophy of science of the study of toys, if not bordering on a sort of theology.

We have turned this endeavor once again to a plastic representation of a printed character; in this case to Ra's al Ghul, Batman villain extraordinaire.

You can view our review here, though it pains us to use so trivial a term.