Hot Town, Summer in Sin City…
August 22 seemed forever away when I first spied it as the release date for Sin City 2 in Diamond Select Toys’ 2014 New York Toy Fair booth last February. Now it’s yesterday and the follow-up to Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’ most graphic and novel of graphic novel inspired films is in general release.
Of the tie-in’s previewed by DST last winter, the three Sin City Select Action Figures representing Nancy (Jessica Alba), Hartigan (Bruce Willis) and Marv (Mickey Rourke) have already hit the shelves. Production versions I’ve seen look really good, with the 2005 film’s range of whites, grays and blacks rendered with subtlety over the Jean St. Jean sculpts. These display boxed “Select” models are each supplied with appropriate stands
The action figures will be followed shortly by two Mini-Mates box sets. The first – due momentarily – is the Yellow Bastard Box featuring Nancy, Hartigan, Senator Roark and YB himself. Box set two will arrive in the fall and feature Marv, Wendy, Kevin and Cardinal Roark. This set is based on Miller’s story “The Hard Goodbye.” Both sets include interchangeable parts, accessories, and what looks like a slew of weapons.
If you prefer more color in your collector life, DST will accommodate with a selection of zombie whacking flora and their undead foes based on the insanely popular Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare game from Popcap and EA. The aptly named “bloom and doom” roll out will begin in September and there are a number of standard, specialty store, and Toys “R” Us permutations.
Here’s the breakdown directly from Diamond Select:
Each set of two 5″ scale action figures will include one plant and one zombie[...] The assortment includes:
- Gatling Pea with Scientist Zombie
- Camo Cactus with Foot Soldier Zombie
- Chomper with Engineer Zombie
- Shadow Flower with All-Star Zombie
Additionally, two box sets of Minimates mini-figures will be available in early September, one at Toys “R” Us stores and one at comic shops and specialty stores. Those two sets include:
Toys “R” Us set:
- Foot Soldier Zombie, Scientist Zombie, Chomper, Sunflower, and two Pea Shooters
Comic shop/specialty stores set:
- Engineer Zombie, All-Star Zombie, Cactus, Sunflower, and two Pea Shooters.
The Disney Infinity Toy Box 2.0 Summit will be held on August 16 & 17 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The schedule is listed here, in USA Pacific Time, and you can virtually attend via live streaming.
Questions for the Saturday afternoon panel discussion can be submitted via Twitter using #DisneyInfinity. Use the same hash-tag to vote for your favorite Toy Box 2.0 creations in a competitive showcase/playthrough on Sunday.
What It Is…
As reported earlier the Disney Infinity 2.0 platform will introduce the superheroes of the Marvel Universe into the collector toy/digital game world with some beautiful character sculpts and challenging screen play.
One of Infinity’s strong suits has been the Toy Box environment, a virtual game forge that facilitates the creation of your own worlds to play in. It’s a concept that has been embraced by fans who have submitted “hundreds of thousands of Toy Boxes,” according to John Blackburn VP and General Manager of Avalanche Software. Taking feedback from the “active and vocal” Infinity community, Disney and Avalanche have announced major enhancements to Toy Box’s capabilities.
While free ranging in an environment of your own creation was fun the addition of more structured game play is welcome, as are easier to use creative tools, and the ability to design unique interiors and go inside structures. It’s important to note that all your previous builds will be usable and editable in Toy Box 2.0, as will all game characters, and power discs.
Here is the breakdown of Disney Infinity Toy Box 2.0 features:
Toy Box Tools
Procedural generation of content can now be accessed and harnessed through two primary systems:
• Creators – Tools that the player can place into the world in real-time, and a themed arrangement will be procedurally build that world within minutes.
• Builders – Non-player characters (NPCs) that a player can drop into their Toy Box to build out detailed worlds.
Players can use these pre-built Toy Box Games ranging from battle arenas to race tracks and customize them using the items saved in their personal Toy Boxes.
Toy Box Games
The Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes Starter Pack will feature Toy Box Game discs, which players can use to access standalone game modes including Tower Defense and Dungeon Crawler games that any character from across the Disney Infinity universe can play.
Players can now create their own interior levels where they can build rooms and theme them to their favorite characters. Unlock hundreds of furniture pieces and decorations based on iconic Disney and Marvel properties.
New toys allow players to make more detailed games with beginnings, endings, winners, losers, result screens and virtually any type of game including races, battles, collection-based games, defense games or exploration adventures.
• Challenge Maker – Allows players to create any type of game, including structured games within the Toy Box.
• Toy Box Game Maker – Allows creators to restrict core actions typically available in the Toy Box, such as the use of the magic wand.
• Text Creator – Allows builders to write their own text bubbles in the Toy Box. All text is filtered through a safe chat server for friendly writing.
• Creativi-Toys – More than 75 new Creativi-Toys allow players to customize their Toy Boxes even further.
The introductory Toy Box will now be filled with Game Play Hosts who are available to assign missions and answer questions, as needed. Players are free to learn and explore on their own, but can ask a host for help and they’ll even be rewarded with extra goodies once missions are completed.
Updated Online Services
A Newsfeed screen has been added to the main menu, giving the user an overview of the new online services:
• Increased Storage – Storage for locally saved Toy Boxes in a player’s private cloud has increased from 100 to 300 Toy Boxes. Support for downloadable published Toy Boxes has increased from 100 to 100,000 Toy Boxes.
• Like and Search User-Generated Toy Boxes – Players can “like” their favorite published Toy Boxes and find others that are well received. Quickly search through the published Toy Boxes using categories (developer picks, most liked, most downloaded, newest, trending, all Toy Boxes and Disney 1.0), and further refine the search with filters (genre, character required, ability required and Toy Box Games).
• Sharing with Friends – Share Toy Boxes with friends directly using cloud storage.
I’m can’t wait to begin battling as The Mighty Thor against Loki and the Frost Giants on the streets of NYC when the 2.0 Edition launches later this season and I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at building an Asgardian game space with Toy Box 2.0.
Better Late Than Never(land)…
Excuse this late #ToyTuesday edition. Just as I was about to post my feature about the newest update to super the popular Skylanders toy based video game I received an email with important news I know you’ll be excited to hear. Activision has announced its development of fully powered gaming on your TABLET! That’s right Skylanders will soon be available to experience on your mobile tablet device for super convenient take-along game play. Keep reading…
Shut Your Trap…
At the recent Sweet Suite Toy Event, held in conjunction with Blogger Bash in NYC, Activision gave us a look at The Trap Team, their next Skylanders iteration along with the character toys that will inhabit its virtual gamescape. The game heralds the The Trap Masters, heroes returning to Skyland after Kaos’ destruction of CloudCracker Prison frees his contemptible cohorts. As a result of the explosion multi-colored hunks of Traptanium now litter the landscape and can be used to power up for battle with the escapees.
Characters Wildfire, Gear Shift, Snap Shot, Chopper, Torch, Wallop, Food Fight, Krypt King, many armed with awesome translucent weapons, will join the already over 175 figures available for the Skylanders game experience. As before, older game characters move forward into the new environment.
Crystal Blue Persuasion…
Totem like sparkling crystal icons of Traptanium are the media into which the digital villains are pulled and stored, like flys in amber. Freshly captured baddies can be heard squawking in protest of their confinement in the new portal’s cellblock. They can then be brought back into the screen game reversing their powers for heroic deeds. Traps, like the toy characters, have various elemental designations (Water, Fire, Life) and can be collected separately, swapped as needed to achieve various goals. Traps can also be transported to a friend’s house, bringing with you the powerful players you’ve subdued.
In addition to the expanded game play of the Trap Team, Activision has just announced a major move into the world of tablet apps. Offering all the power of its console versions Skylanders Trap Team will be available to tablet users through a hardware starter kit and downloadable app.
Supported Tablets are:
Apple iPad 3rd Generation, iPad 4th Generation, iPad Mini Retina, iPad Air
Kindle Fire HDX (7” & 8.9”)
Google Nexus 7 (2013)
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro (8.4”, 10.1”, 12.2”)
Samsung Galaxy Tab S (8.4”, 10.5”)
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014), Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
“The Skylanders Trap Team Tablet Starter Pack gives fans everything they need for a rich gameplay experience wherever and whenever they want to play. Tablet players will experience the Skylanders Trap Team innovation through a Bluetooth© version of the Traptanium Portal and Bluetooth© controller. They can also play the full game on their tablets using touch controls and two digital Skylanders characters and two digital Traps.”
Developing the Skylanders gaming platform for portable tablet was an Activision stroke of genius. Giving us access on such a wide range of iOS and Android devices, along with same date as console launch (Oct 5, 2014) availability, will surely keep Skylanders a top of the heap gift for the upcoming holiday season.
Hail, Hail Slambovia…
The Grand Slambovians (AKA The Slambovian Circus of Dreams) return with “A Box of Everything,” their first release on Sony/Red River Entertainment. The 14 track album is a remastered, catch-up on what you missed, compilation that includes new 3 tracks. It’s all new to me and I’m really glad to have made it’s acquaintance.
Formed in Sleepy Hollow, New York (why am I not surprised) in the late 1990’s, The Slambovians are a ragamuffin band that reminds me of expanding/contracting familial collectives like Daevid Allen’s Gong. The festival circuit in the US and UK has been their stomping grounds and they’ve built a grass roots following of fans and friends and extraterrestrial hillbilly pirates.
Heaven and Hellbound Train…
The first track to catch my attention for repeated play was the slide guitar driven party of a tune with the smile inducing title “Trans-Slambovian Bi-Polar Express.” No it’s not about former members of Savatage moving to Sevastopol.
The exuberant romp begins with open tuned acoustic guitar licks that would be at home on The Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet, until the mix quickly ramps up to rumble on rails laid parallel to Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited.” Like an amusement park thrill ride based on Dante’s Divine Comedy lead singer and songwriter Joziah Longo leads us through dreamscapes both “safe from harm” and hellish in nature. We awake in our own world, “it’s logic wearing thin” only to seek return passage – “let’s make it end and let’s begin.”
Based on current trends this tune, with it’s railroad metaphor, melodic lead guitar work, and rollicking drum pattern, could easily be as at home on the Country Music Charts as it will certainly be in rotation on college and Americana friendly stations.
The richly layered production by guitarist Sharkey McEwen and “the circus” perfectly accentuates the band’s multi-instrument nature and continues to reveal little sonic gems on repeat listens.
While clearly aware of and well versed in musical styles that came before them, The Grand Slambovians also have an iconoclastic side that allows for cheeky recombinant experiments. New track “A Very Unusual Head” is a Bowiesque British Music Hall ditty that appears to be a rumination on the autopsy of Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man.
For mix-tape makers, any of “A Box of Everything” will fit nicely in playlists with the newest Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Old School Robyn Hitchcock/Soft Boys, Blackfield, The Waterboys, World Party, or their progenitors Syd Barrett, Pink Floyd, psychedelic era Beatles and Stones, and (you guessed it) Rolling Thunder Revue era Dylan.
When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the antics of the made-for-TV musical foursome, The Monkees. Each week Davy, Peter, Mike and Micky sang and played their way into our hearts. With hits like Pleasant Valley Sunday, Last Train the Clarksville, I’m a Believer and Daydream Believer, written by some of the era’s best known songwriters (Carole King, Neil Diamond, Boyce & Hart), the music group (comprised of young actors and musicians) rocketed to fame. Some of my fondest memories can be traced back to those early days watching, and singing along with, The Monkees.
Long after The Monkees ended their TV series and the band broke up, we still enjoy their hits. I’ve been fortunate enough to see one particular Monkee three times now.
Micky and Friends…
Micky Dolenz is always a treat. Whether he is performing with The Monkees (as in the reunion tour I had the good fortune to see two years ago), or on his own, he never fails to entertain. Last week, I saw Micky on stage with his own band, which includes his sister Gemma ‘Coco’ Dolenz (vocals, percussion), Wayne Avers (guitar, vocals), Dave Alexander (keyboards, vocals), John Billings (bass), Aviva Maloney (saxophone, keyboards, vocals), and Rich Dart (drums).
Fun and self-effacing, the energetic 69-year-old Dolenz (in his trademark hat and vest) performed two sets (mostly Monkees hits) and sounded very much as I remembered him. Although I was disappointed he couldn’t play guitar (not drums like we were used to seeing in the TV series) on Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze this time around due to a wrist injury (Supposedly in a tussle with 19 Somali pirates he had to fend off with a cocktail olive sword!?!? I wonder if Tom Hanks was around for that?), that didn’t stop him from giving his all. From Mary Mary, to Steppin’ Stone, to Words (one of my favorites), the hits kept on coming, with the crowd singing right along for emphasis.
Long-time singing partner, sister Coco, had the spotlight a few times herself, surprising and delighting the crowd with Different Drum (made popular by Linda Ronstadt and written by fellow Monkee, Mike Nesmith) and Jefferson Airplane’s White Rabbit.
For me, the enjoyment of a fellow Whovian in the audience (dressed as David Tennant’s 10th Doctor), complete with Sonic Screwdriver, just added to my entertainment and amusement. All roads lead back to Doctor Who for me, but I digress…
It’s hard for me to set aside nostalgia and sentimentality and why should I? A good time was certainly had by all. And for fans, both old and young, Micky Dolenz and Friends kept us singing and dancing in our seats all night long.
If you get a chance to catch them in a city near you, I urge you to see Micky and his band. You won’t be disappointed. Many thanks to BB King Blues Club (my first time there and hopefully not my last) for the opportunity to cover the show.