How I got into collecting Hot Wheels

I wish I could tell you it is for my love of cars. While I do appreciate cars in all their glory, I am not a self described car person if that makes sense. But I love Hot Wheels.

It started out of necessity. I have a toy buying addiction. When I was living in a trailer house, that I owned at the time, I worked for a TV station and was making good enough money to buy toys all the time. But then payday would go and the broke would set it. I still had an itch to buy more toys. One day while I was in the dollar store I saw a display of Matchbox cars. I bought a 5 pack to have a few. It was only $5 so it scratched the itch but didn’t break the bank.

Pretty soon I found myself buying more Matchbox cars every payday. I would use them to fill out the toy lines I was collecting. I had a lot of action figures, Barbie stuff and Care Bears. But I needed more. So I kept buying Matchbox cars. Pretty soon I had bought the entire line. There were no new cars for me to buy. That is when I switched to Hot Wheels. They are made by the same company, are same size, same scale and similar materials. I figured why not?

It didn’t take long for me to build up a massive Hot Wheels collection. I set a goal of filling a single tote with nothing but die cast cars. Now I stick mostly to Hot Wheels and Matchbox but I occasionally stray into others like John Deere or Punch Buggy lines from time to time. They have to be the same scale as Matchbox cars though. I don’t buy any other scale.

What I like about die cast cars is they are cheap. I can satisfy my toy fix and only have to spend a buck and change on a toy car. It has been a godsend for managing my addiction. I don’t always have $15-$20 to buy a new action figure and my Barbie collecting is on hold until I can afford that doll house. Or find a Ken doll with clothes lol.

I could spend time talking about my personal history with automobiles but I’d rather focus on the toys instead. I like the designs. They put a lot of effort into these inexpensive little pieces of die cast and plastic cars. I just really enjoy getting a brand new car I don’t already own. I do have a few duplicates as I buy so many it is bound to happen but by and large I try to stick to originals. This can be a challenge as they only produce so many new cars a year. My collection is still growing despite the financial limitations of my current situation. But it’s okay. I found it is satisfying to pick up a new Hot Wheels or Matchbox car from time to time.

The Netflix Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a worthy successor to one of the greatest horror franchises of all time

There are only a handful of horror movies so terrifying I can’t bring myself to rewatch them no matter how much I might try to talk myself into it. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen. While not too scary to not rewatch at all, it is gruesome enough to savor my viewings so not to become spoiled. It is surely a classic.

That is not the case with the Netflix sequel. This movie demanded immediate reviewings from myself upon completion of the first watch. I watched it four times in one day. I am likely to enter it into my horror canon. But does it hold up or was it just the shock of it all?

The plot is paper thin as to be expected. Hell there is barely a plot to the original as it is. These movies are not known for their award-winning story-telling but for their shock value. It’s all about the gore baby. We all know the original kept the kills to a minimalist approach. Many were shown off camera only implied. The gore was left up to the imagination of the viewer. Its immediate sequels threw caution to the wind and doubled down on the gore. The Netflix film carries on that tradition of delivering the gore fans have come to expect.

I was trying to keep a running tally of the body count. By the time Leatherface gets to the bus I lost count. That is exactly what I wanted from this movie. My first viewing I expected the silent girl with the gunshot wound would be the final girl. I didn’t expect the magnitude of the violence this film would show me. I was quite impressed. If shock value is the bread and butter of these films then this one is a 4 course meal.

The acting is sub par as expected. The characters barely convey the emotions they are meant to demonstrate. You kind of have to fill in the blanks with your imagination. They demonstrate terror well enough but you could see multiple examples of the actors trying not to laugh on camera. I wouldn’t expect anyone finding themselves with a role in this film to take it too seriously. But who cares about acting as long as the girls can scream am I right?

The movie is a decent enough flick. I found myself wanting to see it over and over again to study it. I was enamored by the kills. It’s rare for a slasher to go all out with the kills. Often you get through the main course of teenagers and leave the adults alone. This was a rare example where everybody was fair game.

The movie leaves me with plenty of questions none of which I will examine here. What I will say is that I was quite entertained with this movie. It was well enough acted for a slasher film. The plot at least made enough sense to justify the bloodbath. The kills were the main draw and they certainly delivered on the goods here. All in all if you are looking for a bloodbath this is your movie. If you are looking for a love letter to the original film this might leave you wanting more. While it does a good enough job hearkening back to the classic original it does stand mostly on its own. It draws inspiration from the original but it leaves its own mark on the horror ethos.

I wanna say this was the most fun watching a horror movie I have had all year. After the disappointing affair that was the Hulu Hellraiser debacle I went into this hesitant to find anything I would enjoy out of it. Instead I discovered an instant classic I will revisit quite regularly. In fact I imaging this will become my regular fix for all things Texas Chainsaw.

4 out of 5 stars.

Comparing Diablo 3 to Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance

I play a lot of video games. Especially role playing games. I prefer western-style D&D-inspired games the most. I don’t mind a good JRPG from time to time but I prefer western style the most. Mostly things like Elder Scrolls, D&D itself, Diablo and Fable, among others. Of course I prefer single player games. I don’t care for MMOs too much.

Recently I been putting a lot of time into a couple different games. The first is Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance and Diablo 3 both on PS4. The two games have many similarities but there are some notable differences. For starters Baldur’s Gate has a more true to form combat system based on the table top role playing game. This is limiting in a video game capacity as it requires the player to save and rest frequently as combat is not a big part of D&D table top game play. It is meant to be nuked at low levels. I am also playing a spell caster which severely limits my combat prowess. Still the game is generous with the save points.

Diablo on the other hand has a more video game friendly combat system. I am also playing a spell caster there but you earn powerful spells quickly and your first level spells are far more useful than first level spells in the D&D game. Baldur’s Gate is also based on the 3rd edition D&D ruleset so while it is combat heavy compared to previous editions, it still has limitations in that regard.

As far as the story goes so far D&D is your standard fair. You start in a tavern and make your way into the sewers/first dungeon. From there you fight monsters one at a time if you want to live very long. It requires a lot of hit and dodge tactics followed by running away from combat to get your health brought back up. The game does provide a few easy to obtain health potions but the difficulty ramps up quite quickly. By the time you get to the first area in the dungeon you will find yourself hovering around that save point after each combat encounter. Perhaps this is the sort of game best experienced as a fighter-type character rather than a magic user. I find the game balance incredibly lacking. The game is meant to be played with a fighter class character not a magic user. This is a problem.

Diablo has a much smoother story to get into. It starts off immediately with an attack by undead zombies. It throws you into the action right off the bat. The story unfolds as you go on your adventure. The cutscenes are a little less cinematic in Diablo compared to Dark Alliance but they do the trick. They at least have voice acting as do the cut scenes in the D&D game.

I haven’t gotten far in Dark Alliance to have a strong opinion on the story itself. So far it seems pretty basic D&D. What I can tell you right off the bat is the controls are pretty easy to use. However there are limitations. I have a bow and a ton of arrows I can’t use as a magic user. This is disheartening as the game keeps dolling them out like candy on Halloween. My only spell is Burning Hands. A useful spell in close quarters combat one-on-one but useless for ranged attacks. My first hurdle came as a group of monsters with bows and arrows attacked me from head on. I had to drink several health potions and jump over some boxes in order to fight them. It took several deaths before I figured out the pattern. In table top D&D you get one shot and once you are dead you are game over make a new character. The fact the game offers save states is helpful, especially as they appear to be spaced out evenly. That helps.

Diablo has more going for it than better combat and a more engaging story. It has well defined dungeons with clear objectives. I am wondering around aimlessly in Dark Alliance not entirely sure what I am supposed to be doing. Diablo is more up front with the lore too. You find scrolls and diary entries left behind by adventurers that came before. This helps flesh out the story as well as the lore. Then there is the weapons/armor upgrades. I come across gold and weapons quite often in Diablo. So much so that I often find myself having to sell items off to clear space in my inventory. So far I haven’t come across a single weapon or armor upgrade in Dark Alliance. In fact I have yet to find a shop where I can browse items to buy. So far the game dropped me into the sewers with no explanation and then threw me to the rats.

I have to admit I enjoy playing each game for its own unique take on the role playing genre. I am enjoying Diablo 3 quite a bit more than Baldur’s Gate so far but I am still getting enjoyment out of both games. I was itching to play some D&D so Dark Alliance scratches that itch nicely. However Diablo 3 is by far the more satisfying role playing game. When I am in need of a D&D fix Diablo is my go-to game right now. While I will continue to explore Dark Alliance I must admit I prefer Diablo 3 much more.

My thoughts on the Hulu Hellraiser reboot

When I heard they were rebooting Hellraiser I set my expectations rather low. I expect a modern retelling of the original story. Instead what we got was a new story with a twist. This movie could have easily just been another sequel it didn’t need to exist as a reboot. The hype surrounding that is what drove me to watch it in the first place. 

Right off the bat it goes for the first kill off screen. That was a bad omen for the film. It shows the chains but it doesn’t really show the body being torn asunder like in the original. The first movie had body parts strewn about like newspapers at a hoarders house. This movie was squeaky clean in comparison. 

Immediately we shift from a rich person trying to unlock the secrets of the puzzle box to a couple having sex. A graphic sex scene that served no purpose other than to be gratuitous. There was sex in the first movie but it drove the plot. It established the main characters. This was nudity for nudity’s sake. 

Next we’re treated to a domestic squabble between an addict sister and her over bearing brother trying to keep her on the straight and narrow. This established the relationship between the brother and sister but that was about it. In what felt like a rush the girl was somehow opening the puzzle box while flying high as a kite on drugs. She thought she was hallucinating so what does she do, throw her self into her boyfriends bed for another unnecessary sex scene. Then following a fight with her brother who finishes the puzzle box he disappears as the cenobites take him to hell presumably. 

The sister spends the rest of the movie trying to solve the mystery of the puzzle box in order to resurrect her brother. One more kill is all we’re treated to before the cenobites make their move. It’s here I realized the movie wasn’t even going to bother showing us any gore. The gore was a big part of the first movie, not to mention the murders that took place. The sister was given a choice, sacrifice herself or offer her friends as tribute to the god. 

Once she discovers the truth she opts to sacrifice her boyfriend who double crossed her  earlier in the movie. Then she choses not to save her brother after all the people she let die, well three if you count her brother. Four kills in total if you don’t count the off screen kill at the beginning which was even more gory, as toned down as it was, than the offscreen kill of the brother who just screamed and left some blood in the sink.

There was one innocent person who died during the course of the film but again they barely showed anything. A quick torture scene, some off camera screams and we move onto the next scene sans gore yet again. 

If you are going to reboot one of the goriest horror movies in Hollywood history the least you could do is serve up some satisfying kills. Instead were treated to what feels more like a murder mystery than a horror film. Off camera kills aside, the story was pretty boring. At one point I was so bored I turned the film off and wrote it off as a failed reboot. I decided I had nothing better to do today so I finished it against my better judgement. By the end of the movie I was so disappointed I knew this was not an instant classic like the original. There was barely any intrigue. The cenobites were hardly scary at all, showing up a couple times in a dream like sequence to further the plot but the rest of the movie they might as well have been props they were used so little. No explanation about demons and angels, no speeches about the depths of pleasure and pain mixed together. No lines about tearing ones soul a part. Nothing of note. This movie should have just been another lame sequel not an attempt at a reboot. 

I hardly feel like wasting my time giving this a proper review but for the sake of my own sanity I will give it 2 out of 5 stars. This was a terrible movie that barely had anything more than token nods to the classic it was supposed to be rebooting. I found nothing positive about this movie. It was trash.