Hi. My name is Holly Ann, and I’m addicted…

…to LEGO Dimensions.

Addicted, as in, TAKE ALL OF MY MONEY. RIGHT. NOW.

I can’t begin to describe how intensely awesome this game is. Or how purchasing the parts for it feels like selling your soul. Phoebe and Dipper brought it to my house Friday for Family Friday, and I was hooked. Bad. Like a junkie looking for a fix.

First things first. Just what is LEGO Dimensions, and who cares? LEGO Dimensions is a video game originally released in 2015. The plot is super simple. Lord Vortech (voiced by Gary Oldman) and his robot henchman X-PO (voiced by Joel McHale) are searching for Foundation Elements. With these 12 Elements connected, they can basically take over the universe. The 12 Elements are artifacts from different universes (which are different fandoms), such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, Frodo’s One Ring, etc. In a bid to keep the universes from falling under single rule, all of the Elements were scattered.

Everything would have gone according to Lord Vortech’s plan, except Robin, Frodo, and Metalbeard are sucked into a vortex with the Elements. Their friends Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle willingly jump into the vortex to save their friends. They fall out of the vortex on Vorton, where they need to rebuild the generator that allows them to travel to different universes, saving their friends, collecting keystones, and saving the Foundation Elements.

That’s only scratching the surface of the game. The worlds they travel in are varied and hilarious, as are the heroes they work with. There is a franchise for absolutely everyone. Gremlins. The A-Team. Retro Ghostbusters. Modern Ghostbusters. Knight Rider. Jurassic World. The Simpsons. Mission:Impossible. Doctor Who. Back to the Future. Midway Arcade. The Lord of the Rings. That’s listing about half of the franchises included. Other franchises are being added, The Goonies, Beetlejuice, and Teen Titans Go! being the ones I’m looking forward to purchasing. Meh on Power Puff Girls. Although the idea of seeing Stripe tear through their pastel world is very very enticing! Just look at the picture below. The Joker, Stripe, Gizmo, and Harley in Gotham. Don you just know that’s going to be a wild party?!

When I said that this game was ridiculously expensive, I wasn’t kidding! There are several levels of add-ons that can be purchased. I’m going to go into a little detail about each level, starting with the least expensive and ending with the grandaddy. The least expensive are the Fun Packs. They retail for around $11.99 and are usual one character and a vehicle of some sort. Excalibur Batman and the Bionic Steed from The Lego Batman Movie are just one example. As you purchase updates for the vehicle (Bionic Steed in this example), you can also rearrange the LEGO configuration to resemble the new form. My favorite is Crabmeat from Sonic, which turns his airplane into a giant rideable crab. It’s also worth noting that vehicles aren’t character-specific. I absolutely LOVE running Stripe around Middle Earth on Shelob.

Next up are Team Packs. These feature 2 characters and 2 vehicles from a
franchise and will run you about $24.00. I’ve alluded to it several times, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t feature it here. My favorite team pack is from Gremlins. Gizmo and his RC racer are cute, there’s no denying that. But I absolutely love Stripe!

As with any videogame, the characters have certain catchphrases that they use. I can’t get enough of Stripe’s incessant babble. Sometimes as he’s tearing around you hear “Gizmo caca!” straight from the movie. Other times he merely grumbles to himself and laughs. If you leave him standing too long, he pulls out a bucket of popcorn and starts eating. Start moving again, and he discards the empty bucket.

If you want more levels, you can purchase a Level Pack. For around $30 you get a character, two vehicles, and then more levels for the game. For the adults who are playing LEGO Dimensions, there is Mission:Impossible, The Simpsons, Midway Arcade, and Doctor Who. Those aren’t the only Level Packs by a long shot, but they seem to be aimed for the older set. Midway Arcade comes with a stereotypical 80s gamer LEGO piece, the Spy Hunter car, and an arcade machine. This Level Pack promises over 20 classic arcade games.

Currently there are three Story Packs that you can purchase. Story Packs allow you to play through an entire movie. The three current packs are Ghostbusters (2016), The LEGO Batman Movie, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. What you get in each pack varies a little. The LEGO Batman Movie gives you Batgirl and Robin as playable characters, as well as a vehicle and a new LEGO piece to add to the game pad, which looks like the inside of the Batcave. Fantastic Beasts… gives you Newt Scamander as a playable character, Niffler as a playable character, and the Magical Congress of the United States is the game pad add-on. Ghostbusters (2016) features the Chinese restaurant facade where the girls have their office, Abby Yates and the Ecto vehicle. I don’t know if this is true for the other story packs, but finishing the Ghostbusters (2016) story unlocks the other Ghostbusters. When selecting Abby, it’s possible to play as Holtzman, Erin, or Patty. For $40, I think this pack is a pretty good deal. Even if you don’t use the facades on the game pad, they’re still neat to have, and playing through a whole movie instead of a few levels is definitely a plus.

Before you can play though, you need the basics. That’s where the Starter Pack comes in handy. The game is available for XBOX 360, XBOX One, Wii U, PS3, and PS4. No matter what platform you choose, you are looking at around $65.00-$80.00 for the starter pack. Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty competitive price when you consider that most games debut in the $50-$60 range. With the Starter Pack you get the three main playable characters of the game, Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle. Also included is the Batmobile. You also get the game pad (where you place the LEGO pieces to introduce characters and vehicles), the game disc, and a LEGO build of the Vorton vortex, which matches what you see in the game. Basically, you get everything that you see to the left.  

the most expensive packs are almost laughable at this point. They’re called Polybags. As the name suggests, it’s literally a plastic bag. With one figure. But it’s exclusive and therefore expensive. The only place you can really get ahold of them is ebay or amazon.com, and you will pay out the ass. The two characters are Green Arrow and Supergirl. The prices are outrageous. I’ve seen $129.00 for both, $65.00 for Supergirl alone, $35.00 for Green Arrow. It’s literally all over the place based on who is selling and when you check. Green Arrow was apparently a GameStop exclusive when you purchased any pack on Black Friday of 2016.

When I first started purchasing additional content for this game, I nearly shit from the amount of money. Of course, I started purchasing after all the Easter sales had come and gone. The buy one get one free, the half off. Those types of sales. To the best of my ability, I’ve followed Dipper’s recommendations and purchased lots or discounted items off ebay. I also just snagged a plastic snapcase for the figures and their vehicles. In part so I can bring them over when I visit Phoebe and Dipper, and in part because my cat is an asshole. She recently figured out that there was interesting stuff to knock over on my desk and shelves. LEGO is known for small pieces, and quite frankly, I don’t want to lose any.

The main reason I’m not as upset about the prices is that most LEGO sets go for
about $15.00 as a base price anyway. I purchased the Ghost Rider and Hobgoblin set for myself, and it set me back $20.00, and it doesn’t do anything but get assembled and sit. Granted, it’s absolutely insanely cool, but that’s all it does. Because I intend to take it out of the box and build it, it won’t even maintain a collector’s value. Speaking frankly, I don’t give a damn. The set is great, reminds me of Dipper, is horror themed (c’mon, a flaming skeleton on a motorcycle from Hell?!) and makes me happy. The same is to be said of LEGO Dimensions. The pieces are a blast to put together, the game itself is a riot, and the content is varied enough that it appeals to a variety of audiences.

 

Writer’s Notes:

Please forgive my lack of links in this post. With so many buying options from stores like Target, GameStop, and Walmart to online retailers ebay and amazon, it didn’t seem worth it to tag the packs. Not to mention the many varieties available.

Information on the voice actors for the series can be found here. In some cases, recordings from the movie or TV series the lines came from was used. For others, other voice talent was hired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry Whatever-You-Celebrate!

All of the cookies have been baked (and eaten). All of the presents have been opened. All of the boxes have been test-sat by the cat. All of the family visiting has been done. All of the over 120 ornaments on the tree have survived the cat (hurrah!) All of the gifts have been given and received.

All of the cleaning started a few days ago – and I guarantee you’re not done yet.

I believe I’m going to start with the tree. As much as I enjoy the Christmas tree, it’s taking up a prime spot in the living room where the hamster usually resides. (This year he will be joined by the as-yet-not-named gerbil.) Additionally, I think I’m playing with fire – so many shiny objects in reach of the cat. I’m all but begging her to attack it. After the tree comes down, I have to find places for the cookie sheets, baking racks, and other accoutrements of the holiday baking season. Not to mention putting away the new presents. While that’s going on, it’s important to have seasonal movies playing. You may notice a running theme with most of these films – (OMG I’M STUCK IN THE SNOW AND SOMETHING’S AFTER ME) – but just remember, I’m writing to you from snow-covered Buffalo. Without further ado, please allow me to introduce my WINTER HOLIDAY MOVIES!

11. 30 Days of Night (2007)

This vampire-filled flick is great for the holidays! Vampire havok is not so unlike the bloodletting that occurs when shopping for presents. And even though I get along with my in-laws, not everyone does. Some might even go so far as to say that being trapped in Alaska without sun for 30 days might be an improvement…And while you’re at it, remember to skip all the sequels. With or without Melissa George, they’re all pretty much crap.

For added viewing pleasure, I suggest that you go heavy on Oreos and hot cocoa. And blankets. Thick ones. No matter where you live or how warm your house is, you’ll be instantly cold once you start this movie.

 

2. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)1

A group of scientists minding their own business and doing research in Antarctica gets tossed into the middle of one of the scariest battles for survival. It all starts when a Norwegian helicopter follows an escaped dog to their camp, all the while trying to kill the canine. In an attempt to figure out why the Norwegians were trying to kill the dog, Kurt Russell heads off to their campsite. What he finds there (and brings back) begins an epic fight for survival, and the fate of every living thing on our planet. As if that’s not scary enough, apparently by the time The Thing is discovered, the research team has already pretty much had it with each other. Tensions run high, and blood will boil and crawl!
(Stand-out supporting cast include a bat-shit crazy doctor played by none other than Wilford Brimley, and a nearly-unrecognizable Richard Masur.

 

13. The Boogens (1981)

This obscure little gem is perfect for the winter holiday season! An abandoned Colorado silver mine is closed due to a disaster, and it sits vacant for years. It’s finally reopened by a small team of four, and all hell breaks loose. People start coming up missing, and nobody can figure out why. As the movie progresses, the Boogens (these creepy monsters who burrow worse than hamsters) become increasingly bold in their kills. They start to come out more into the open. The Boogens aren’t totally revealed until almost the end – but it’s worth waiting for. Cheesy 80s special effects? Possibly. Creepy as hell? Definitely!

In a nutshell, when the creepy old man with tons of dynamite tells you not to open the abandoned silver mine, you better listen! The Boogens is the tale of what happens when that warning goes unheeded.

4. Gremlins (1984)

Yes, this is a very obvious choice. Zach Galligan receives a Mogwai for Christmas. He (along with spry little Corey Feldman) disobey the cardinal gremlinsrules of owning a Mogwai, and baaaad things happen. In case you’ve forgotten, there are three simple rules: light kills, water is bad, and no food after midnight. Things go well until Galligan begins disobeying the rules. A legion of horrifying gremlins is created from the tiny Mogwai, and they go on a night-long killing spree. Theatres will burn, old ladies will fly, and you’ll be left laughing your ass off. As an aside, this movie scared the shit out of me as a child! The images of them hanging willy-nilly from strings of lights and giggling their way through the streets was too much to take. Then again, I was a child in the 80s, so that might have had something to do with it.

 

5. Dead Snow (2009)

dead snowGood. Lord. The movie is off to a terrifying start, with a group of Nazi zombies chasing a girl through the snowy mountains of Norway. Obviously, they get her because she’s just a vehicle for the zombie reveal (she is dating one of the students that arrives at the cabin, but it’s still a minor plot point). The main course is seven students vacationing at a remote cabin during Easter break. They intend to have a break filled with alcohol, sex, and skiing. What they get is the fight of their young lives. If you’re a movie buff, watch out for hommages to both Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2.  The zombies are supposed to hearken to draug, creatures from ancient Norse mythology. Draug are dead beings that viciously guard graves in the same way that Pharaohs were buried with guards. The guards kept watch of the treasure of the person buried in the grave. That explains the box of gold that appears in the movie, but I can’t tell you more because it would spoil the plot too much!

 

6. Dreamcatcher (2003)

Don’t hate. Seriously. I get lots of grief for liking this movie! This movie is pretty good! I mean, how can you hate a Stephen King adaptation that boasts Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Jason Leedreamcatcher

 Timothy Olyphant, Tom Sizemore, and Donnie Wahlberg as its cast?! Our main characters are four friends who reunite in Maine for a much-needed hunting trip. Each friend is experiencing different issues in their life. One is moving closer to suicide, one has premonitions, one is having love trouble, and the last is battling alcoholism.  At first it’s all fun and games, until they are stuck in a blizzard. Then, a stranger wanders into their camp, seemlingly lost in the blizzard. He takes shelter in their camp, and he tells them of strange lights in the sky. The situation deteriorates further, until the friends are pitted against an alien race trying to take over our world. Their only saving grace might be an incident and friendship from their boyhood days, and their close bond.

 

My Childhood Horror Favorites

When Halloween was actually upon us, I began writing this post. It was going great, I was reliving my heyday, and then I got super ridiculously sick. I spent about four weeks battling some kind of upper respiratory infection and wound up on amoxicillin, prednisone, and levoquil. (The last one is known to cure anthrax encounters as well as…wait for it…wait for it…The Plauge. Whoa, damn!) In any event, I wanted to get going on some new posts, but I wanted to show you all this one first. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Feel free to let me know your favorites in the comments section!

Halloween is upon us, and so I thought it would be fitting to revisit some of my favorite horror films from when I was growing up. I want to warn you, there is a really good chance that nobody else holds these movies sacred but me, but that’s cool. I can live with that. Another warning, if I may, by “childhood”, I mean the 90s. Which pretty much means I’m going to subject you to some horrors from the 80s and earlier.

spookiesSPOOKIES (1988)

My first encounter with this gem was on a television network. I was channel surfing for a horror movie, and stumbled upon this creature feature. A house of horrors awaits travelers, who serve as fodder for the myriad creations of the evil sorcerer/necromancer/living dead guy Kreon. Kreon’s sole purpose is to bring his wife back to life, The special effects are pretty terrible, the sets are dark, the acting is less than inspired, but the make-up is pretty good. Be on the lookout for a red-eyed grim reaper, a spider woman, and a plethora of farting mud-men. Altogether, it’s a fun romp, though you’ll have to watch it on YouTube, because it is only available for purchase in Region 2.

HOUSE (1986) & HOUSE II (1987)

houseEven if pressed, I couldn’t tell you which movie I liked better. I had a huge crush on William Katt growing up, but then again, Aztec skulls are pretty interesting too! Both films follow the struggles of the inhabitants of the houses as they battle the various demons, spirits, and curses contained therein. The special effects in both movies are pretty good, considering the time period. In the first movie, William Katt’s zombie Vietnam War buddy’s makeup is pretty convincing, while House II featured a crazy long-dead relative in search of an Aztec skull. (While researching this part of the post, I saw that there is actually a movie called The Horror Show, aka House III, though I’ve never seen it. It was made in 1989, so it certainly follows chronologically. I will let you know if I ever get to see it.)

gremlinsGREMLINS (1984)

This tongue-in-cheek horror film scared me witless as a child! The scenes with the evil gremlin’s hands reaching over desks and through wall vents terrified me. I still have trouble walking by wall vents today, and when I pass a floor vent, I can’t help but stop and search it for a few minutes, just in case. Despite all the funny moments (leg-warmer gremlin anyone?) the movie was still extremely chilling, and the special effects hold up today. When I turned 16 and became a lifeguard at the local town pool, I couldn’t help but think of Gremlins every time I dove or jumped into the deep end. I remembered the way the water bubbled and broiled as the gremlins inside began to multiply. I could only imagine what they looked like climbing out to go and terrorize the little community in the movie. Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, and Cory Feldman steal the show. (No, the sequel is not worth watching.)

CRITTERS (1986), CRITTERS 2 (1988), CRITTERS 3 (1991), & CRITTERS 4 (1994)critters

The Critters franchise is populated with a crew of misfit-Tribbles, who run amok wherever they can. Their preferred method of annihilation is to tuck themselves into a ball, roll like hell, and shoot quills that make people fall asleep. The franchise starts out in a quiet rural town, and ends up where most 80s franchises eventually wind up – Space. The sharp-toothed, murdering bastards somehow wind up cryogenically frozen, and wake up in space where they continue their hungry rampage. It’s alright if you can’t help but laugh at the thought of them barreling through a spaceship – you’re not alone! Throughout the series, look for stand-out performances from Dee Wallace, Billy Zane, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angela Bassett, Brad Dourif, and Lin Shaye.

ghouliesGHOULIES (1985), GHOULIES II (1988), GHOULIES III (1991), & GHOULIES IV (1994)

I’ll admit I’ve only seen the first two, and didn’t realize there were two more movies until working on this post tonight. (Incidentally, I’m watching the first one on Netflix, which is what got me thinking about writing this post.) When I was a child, I was focused solely on how crazy the little Ghoulie pack looked, and it amused me that they were coming out of a toilet on the VHS cover. However, in watching it again, I realize I missed 95% of the plot. Apparently there’s attempted child sacrifice, demonic possession, Satanic rituals, attempted murder, dwarven servants, a creepy clown doll, and zombies. Lots of zombies. And a woman who screams like a whistling teakettle. (That list ought to disappoint some deviant web searchers when they find out it’s only a movie review!) The possession special effects are lacking, but the puppetry of the Ghoulies is still fun to watch. Standout cast include Mariska Hargitay, Jason Scott Lee, and Matthew Lillard.

THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988)serpent

Good. Grief. This tale of voodoo, Haitian history, and the search for the elusive tetrodotoxin was extremely memorable. Bill Pullman stars as Wade Davis, the renowned ethnobotanist, in a highly fictionalized version of his search for the secret behind the voodoo powder. The film also delves shallowly into the world of the cruel dictatorship of Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier, who ruled Haiti at that time. The book (of the same name) is an extremely worthwhile read. Even though it’s not a supernatural tale, the rich history contained is both interesting and enlightening.

ArachnophobiaARACHNOPHOBIA (1990)

If I had a penny for every time I made my parents sit through this movie with me, I would have enough money to bail our country out of debt. I literally turned the majority of the early 90s into a spider-infested Hell for my parents, insisting on watching this movie every time it came on TV. Then my parents gave in and bought me the VHS. Basically, a tarantula hitches a ride to America in a coffin, sucking the juices out of the body of the man it killed a few scenes prior, and gets loose. A rampage of epic proportions ensues as the spider’s offspring dominate a small and peaceful town. (Some of the spider animatronics towards the end may look a little silly, but if you’re like me and you hate spiders, it’s the thought that counts. It’s also worth noting that there are enough real spiders in the movie to inspire a healthy dose of terror from any arachnophobe.) It’s up to Jeff Daniels, John Goodman, and Julian Sands to save the day in style.

TREMORS (1990)tremors

This movie also has the distinction of being the first DVD I ever owned. Once again, a favorite that I would coerce my parents into watching with me. Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire have to battle giant underground worms. The idea is that the heroes have to stop the worms before they leave the valley and cause irrevocable damage to he rest of the world. 90s B-movie horror at it’s best! This movie is gross as Hell, and pretty funny as well. Bacon leads a credible cast, and the special effects aren’t bad either! The gore is just explicit enough that you may want to forego anything with tomato sauce immediately before or after watching it.

jawsJAWS (1975)

I wanted to save my ultimate favorite for last. From the moment I first saw JAWS, and continuing today, I have always loved this movie. It inspired in me a lifelong fascination with sharks. It also made sure that I will always look at the ocean with terrified respect. As a child, I would clean my room while listening to the soundtrack, reciting the lines. I watched every movie documentary and behind the scenes, any any other material I could get my hands on. I knew the name of the mechanical shark was Bruce, I knew that the salt water played havoc on all the models, and I knew the name of most of the crew that worked on the film. I used to make up trivia questions (the harbormaster is Frank Silva – don’t believe me? Watch the movie!) The raw simplicity of the story line – three men out to conquer a monster – was enticing. Glimpses of the shark are infrequent, allowing suspense to build, but when it does make its appearance, it is no disappointment! This movie is based on a popular book by Peter Benchley, but I haven’t read it yet. That’s one book I’m not sure that I will ever read, because I’ve come across comparisons online, and I’m not sure if I am ready for the characters I grew up loving like family to turn out so differently.

What are some of your favorite movies?