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Star Wars The Force Awakens 3.75-inch Vehicle First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter
Star Wars The Force Awakens 3.75-inch Vehicle First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter
Offered by Family Fun Store
Price: $37.70
33 used & new from $32.80

4.0 out of 5 stars I gotta say I'm impressed overall., January 30, 2016
Remembering the Star Wars toys I had when I was a kid sometimes I feel for the kids today with some toys out there with questionable quality and lack of imagination. The concern is more with the fact Star Wars is now a part of Disney, and Disney's line of toys have a haphazard level of quality in them as well. Now my son just had a birthday, and this new TIE Fighter is now his. I get a chance to see for myself how the old toys hold up. To be blunt they don't quite measure up, but they do go a long way in retaining my faith that my son will still get good toys.

For anybody who has seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens the TIE fighter is the main small attack ship used by The First Order. This particular TIE Fighter is an advanced model with turreted guns, hyperdrive and more powerful weapons and shields. So your kid gets to play with the big guns with this one. The toy is easy to put together and features a rotating turret and antennae, removable solar panels/wings and launching missiles. You get a good detailed toy with a rigid plastic molding for the cockpit with a softer and more pliable plastic for the solar panels. The solar panels can detach using two buttons near the cockpit. The forward laser cannons also act as missiles that shoot one at a time using a single red button (nice touch).

The rotating gun turret on the bottom isn't all that poseable and with the plastic for the turret being a soft bendable plastic I'm as bit disappointed that this turret will end up looking all out of shape after extended use. The antennae near the top of the cockpit is the same soft plastic, but raising and lowering it is very easy and won't really be any trouble. The cockpit itself can hold two figures as they sit side-by-side. It's not exactly how it was in the movie, but your child does have the chance to play closer to the film considering the scale of the ship is considerably less for the figures they are made for. Also some figures will have a problem sitting side by side as the figure's arms will definitely start getting in the way.,

I did say the detail was impressive even if the scale isn't. You see lots of little details on this TIE Fighter that gives some models a run for their money. While the inside cockpit isn't quite the same as on the larger and much more expensive Black Series TIE Fighter toy it does have a decent amount of detail with control panels next to the seats and both the forward and back windshields are a tinted clear plastic (another nice touch).

So it's a bit smaller than I remember the original TIE Fighter toys were decades ago, and the solar panels aren't a rigid plastic. Still there is a great amount of detail molded onto the ship and it has a wider array of features than I remember. No lights and sounds like the old toys, but that also means no need for batteries. If you child loves the new Star Wars movie and loves the spaceships this is really a pretty decent toy that won't take up as much space as the old toys did and will give them lots of hours of fun play.

Despicable Me Bob The Spinning Minion Toy
Despicable Me Bob The Spinning Minion Toy
Price: $11.77
27 used & new from $7.89

4.0 out of 5 stars More fun as a soundboard that spins. Different sounds than other Minion Spin Toys, January 19, 2016
So yeah on the outside it looks like it's just a light up spinning top that does Minions songs and noises. However for my son it is deceptively more. It works just as described. You apply the to handle/banana to the head, turn until it clicks, then push the button on the handle and watch Stuart spin and light up with varying pattens of spinning light. He generally sings and says funny things throughout the entire spin, which is a cool feat. However the really fun of this toy is what more it does. You push the button on the front and Stuart will sound off various "minion" sounds heard from the movies. There is enough variations when doing this to make this qualify as a soundboard (and is actually better than any Minions sound pad I have seen sold so far).

So originally by son got the Stuart Spinning Minion and loves it. Then he received this Bob one as well. At first I thought "okay... now we essentially have two of the same toy" and left it at that. However what I found out is Bob has a totally different sound set than my kid's other spinning toy. So now we have double the sounds. Interestingly enough when we put them together we can actually get a decent conversation going between the two by taking turns pushing the buttons of the two spinners. So if your kid loves having one there is something to the old adage "two is better than one."

Love an Adventure
Love an Adventure
21 used & new from $0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Italo Disco and 80's Rock meet up with Post Punk-New Wave and start jamming, January 11, 2016
This review is from: Love an Adventure (Audio CD)
Pseudo Echo was an Australian band that hit big internationally with their remake of a disco classic Funky Town. What you have here is the International re-release of their third album, Love and Adventure, which now includes Funky Town on the song list. The best way to describe the music on this album is that it's a heavy handed mesh of synth pop and rock blended into a new wave style that is in your face grinning the entire time. This makes for music that stands out in a crowd, It also dates it horribly.

The best way to describe the style is a mix of Euro-synth pop, hard rock and new wave. Imagine metallic synth bases, straight dance beats from a power kit, power chords from a distorted guitar, fat brassy synth leads and chords with pop styled vocals. It's like hearing Phil Spectre's wall of sound if it was invented in the 80's. Lots of high energy.

Here is the problem. I'll admit this album has been sitting in my collection a while and I haven't really pulled it out in a very long time. However my memory is pretty distinct on this one. Every single song has that same vibe. The same sounding instruments. The same vocal stylings. The same music theory. To me it felt like having ten tracks of pretty much the same kind of song. Also the music style is so in your face it has become quite grating to listen to. Songs I did like back in the 80's were of course Funky Town and Destination Unknown.

Amazon's previews are a decent start if you want to hear what I'm talking about, but they don't exactly give you the full story. I don't fault Pseudo Echo for their music style, nor do I begrudge their success. It's just I feel the music is past its time, and really wasn't made to be classics.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
by Pablo Hidalgo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.99
66 used & new from $8.90

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a bad resource for a new Star Wars era, January 7, 2016
Of all of science fiction there are two franchises that have dominated the print media with guidebooks, dictionaries, technical guides and scores of other references to sate your appetite to know more about the fantastic universes they built on screen. Star Wars and Star Trek. No doubt the books will keep on coming, and with the latest Star Wars movie dominating the theaters it's only natural some books would come out as well. This visual guide, like many that have come before, offer in depth information on all sorts of things from the new Star Wars movie. While you get some neat info it does feel light compared a few of the other SW Visual Dictionaries that were made previously. Still considering the current price it would be foolish not to get this book.

The book touches on a lot of subjects like characters, vehicles, weapons, planets and so forth. Some of the more relevant topics get a couple paragraphs that are part overview and part useful information while others may just give you single sentence that may or may not be insightful. That's kind of the way this book feels like a mixed bag of obvious and obscure. I believe this is because they released the book the day the movie went out to theaters. I'm betting there was a fear of letting out any spoilers, so anything that may have gave away the movie too much was omitted. It's a shame, but I saw this before with the Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith Visual Dictionary. So in a way it's no real surprise, but it is a shame that this book is a bit shorthanded.

Still the current price point seems to reflect this limitation for under $15 the book gives plenty of good info for those you interested in what makes the new TIE Fighters so special, or were wondering about Kylo Ren's light saber design. But if you are thinking this book will answer most of your movie questions it won't happen. There is hardly anything on subjects like the Starkiller Base or what Han Solo has been doing all this time. Like I said before it's a mixed bag.

Also consider this book is in the Children's Film Book category, so it's written with the youngsters in mind (not too bad, but if you're used to reading good books you'll notice a little dumbing down). If you are a Star Wars fan and love these sorts of books you really have two choices. Get the book now and enjoy what you do get from it or wait years down the road when a trilogy of new Star Wars movies have been out a while and they eventually decide to pool the three visual dictionaries they made for them together and decide to add some additional information in that particular volume. At this price I went ahead and got it now.

Roland JU-06 Sound Module
Roland JU-06 Sound Module
3 used & new from $299.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Classic Juno 106 Synth is back.... almost, January 7, 2016
This review is from: Roland JU-06 Sound Module
Roland is bringing back some of their classic signature synths in a series called the Roland Boutique. They announce it as a limited edition series, but I am confident they intent to sell as much as they can. Of the three synths in the series this one I believe holds the highest distinction (some will argue the JP-08 holds that title) as it emulates the venerable Juno 106, an extremely popular analog synthesizer used by legendary electronic artist like Vangelis, Vince Clark, The Pet Shop Boys, The Chemical Brothers, BT, and dozens of others. Now you get a chance to own a really close emulation of the venerable synth along with the familiar control panel and some expanded features.

Roland uses their proprietary Analog Circuit Behavior technology to simulate the variances of the transistors and voltage controlled circuits of the original Roland Juno 106 to create an authentic analog sounding virtual synth. Like the other Roland Boutique synths you get a sturdy metal top frame and professionally tuned sliders and controls set on a backlit panel with two ribbon controllers for pitch bend and modulation (plus you can audition sounds using a ribbon slider). Just about all of the controls from the original synth are here. Every parameter slider and switch are present along with the patch buttons. The only thing really missing is the key transpose and patch load/save buttons. As an added perk the high pass filter on the JU-06 is a variable slider instead of the static four settings levels on the original Juno. An additional bonus that wasn't on the Juno 106 is the inclusion of a versatile 16 step sequencer.

This little tabletop synth uses a single micro USB connector to handle power, MIDI and 24bit 44.1kHz stereo audio outputs to connect to your DA using drivers provided on the Roland website (why they don't include a disc with the drivers is beyond me). This same driver can also back up or load your saved patches onto your PC for quick change outs. If you are on the road no problem. This baby can be powered by standard batteries and has a semi-decent mini-speaker for sound.

So how does it sound? I have heard the JU-6 and Juno 106 back to back and I will say it's a close call, but not all patches are a 100% match in sounding exactly like the original. The percussive patches are very, very close. Organ and piano sounds are pretty close, but I notice subtle tonal differences. Most important (at least in my opinion) are the strings, which are what made the 106 famous. The signature string sounds are really good with some of them 100% spot on! I do notice a few of the JU-06 string patches don't quite sound as "big" as the original. This may not make much of a difference for some of you. Especially after adding the patches to an ensemble arrangement. If I didn't hear them back to back I would likely not notice the differences at all. Still if I were you I would preview the sounds yourself just to be sure.

One other thing to consider. The JU-06 has only four voice polyphony, which is less than the original Juno 106's six voice. That limitation can make a difference for some musicians. One solution is you can pair two JU-06 synths together and get a superior eight voice polyphony. Also if you must have a keyboard Roland does offer the K-25M as a pretty slick two octave keyboard that attaches perfectly to a Roland Boutique synth.

It's not an absolutely perfect emulation of the Juno 106, but it is extremely close. Closer to it than anything else you can find out there. If you long for those glory analog days I'm betting this baby will deliver. Just keep in mind the polyphony issue.

Roland JX-03 Sound Module
Roland JX-03 Sound Module
4 used & new from $288.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Really good emulation of a beloved synth, January 7, 2016
This review is from: Roland JX-03 Sound Module
Roland has a very long pedigree of innovative electronic musical instruments that span from the 70s to this day. My friend has the Roland JX-3P synthesizer that was made back in 1983 and I absolutely loved it back then. Great warm sounds and easy to program. These days if you want to get one you'll be lucky to get a good model at $500. Thankfully Roland decided to reach back to their roots and recreate some of their more popular analog synthesizers as the Roland Boutique series of tabletop modules with lots of extra features at a very attractive price.

The JX-03 is essentially a software synth with a cool backlit interface. Roland uses their Analog Circuit Behaviour technology to emulate all the minute variances the JX-3P had that made the sounds signature to that synth. They claim you are getting the exact same sound as the original, and they are close but not 100% there. The JX-03 sports the exact same patches as on a stock JX-3P, which made doing a side by side comparison pretty easy. The sounds that were important to me, mainly the synth strings and basses, were really really good. Organ patches sound pretty spot on. Synth brass sounds were variable from being spot on to a bit off. The flute and other light instruments were pretty noticeably different. They didn't sound bad. Just not like the JX-3P. The wet bass was identical, and for me that's good (recorded a song back in the 80's that really need that subtle variances of the real thing). So if you really scrutinize every single patch you are going to find differences, however there really is enough here to say this is a great emulation to the classic synth.

If any of you were owners of the classic JX-3P you know that even though programming is easy enough on the stock keyboard, having the PG-200 expansion made it much better. Luckily getting the JX-03 means also getting all of the knobs and switches from the PG-200 right there with you, and then some. There are additional programming parameters on the JX-03 that weren't present on the synth it's emulating that give you an expanded sonic palate without sacrificing the classic sound. You get twice the oscillator range (parametric style) and wave forms (and an additional pink noise oscillator), twice the cross modulation options and twice the LFO waves. These are some additional parameters that will your patches some fresh color and texture.

This is a four voice synth, which is a downgrade from the original 6 voices you got on the JX-3P. That knocks off a few points for me. You do have the option to chain to JX-03's together to get eight voice polyphony, but that kinda kills the special price point. You also have a 16 step sequencer that works very much like the original along with some enhanced step-sequencing features like note hold and mute. The sequencer holds 16 patterns.

The whole thing is well built with a metal top that definitely is gig-worthy. The knobs and switches have a pro feel to them with a really smooth and deliberate response. Instead of a pitch bend and modulation wheel the all of the Boutique synths sport two ribbon controllers to handle those functions and can be used to preview sounds. I also heard they can be used with your sequencing, but never tried it. There is a full array of connectors including MIDI In and Out, 1/4" Stereo Out, 1/8" Phones, 1/8" Audio Input, and a MicroUSB plug that can handle power for the synth as well as MIDI and digital audio out to your PC. A free driver by Roland will make the USB plug a full 24 bit, 44.1kHz digital stereo output straight to your DAW. You can also use that free software to backup patches and change patch sets on the fly. The stock unit doesn't have a keyboard, but you can attach the optional two octave K-25m keyboard to it.

The Roland JX-03 is an impressive little synth that gives me a lot to love. The sounds range from pretty close to uncanny in comparison to the synth its emulating. The lack of polyphony is a let down, especially in this day and age. Still this synth gives you a lot of additional features unheard of on the original. If you want a compact and versatile classic synth this baby really does the trick.

Despicable Me Stuart The Spinning Minion Toy
Despicable Me Stuart The Spinning Minion Toy
Price: $16.99
17 used & new from $13.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than meets the eye., January 5, 2016
So yeah on the outside it looks like it's just a light up spinning top that does Minions songs and noises. However for my son it is deceptively more. It works just as described. You apply the to handle/banana to the head, turn until it clicks, then push the button on the handle and watch Stuart spin and light up with varying pattens of spinning light. He generally sings and says funny things throughout the entire spin, which is a cool feat. However the really fun of this toy is what more it does. You push the button on the front and Stuart will sound off various "minion" sounds heard from the movies. There is enough variations when doing this to make this qualify as a soundboard (and is actually better than any Minions sound pad I have seen sold so far).

So if your kid loves Minions, but is not into spinning tops this is a great buy. At the current price of about $5 it's an absolute steal for what you get here. .

Fisher-Price Imaginext SpongeBob SquarePants Glove World
Fisher-Price Imaginext SpongeBob SquarePants Glove World
Offered by The Super Savers
Price: $26.99
16 used & new from $19.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun with flaws., January 5, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Fisher-Price is known for making quality toys that kids can enjoy a long time. You get a variety of attractions on this playset that my son love playing through (especially the roller coaster). While I think this SpongeBob amusement park has all the activity I would expect from an Imaginext toy I can't help but feel it falls short of what I normally see. More on that later. It is important to know that you are still getting lots of potential fun with this playset.

Lets start with what makes Glove World fun to play. You have four different amusement park style attractions for your kids to enjoy playing in. Roller coaster, ferris wheel, tunnel of love and elevated carousel. There is also some fun house mirrors good enough for a few laughs, but hardly a real attraction. The biggest draw is the roller coaster, but the other attractions have their appeal. Here is the breakdown:

Fiery Fist of Pain Roller Coaster - Technically you use a hand crank to lift the roller coaster car into place on the biggest incline then gravity takes it the rest of the way down. However there is nothing wrong with just moving the car with your hands at any portion of the ride. There are some "obstacles" you can more towards the car along the way, however they seem more a distraction that would just get in the way of the car from moving along the track. One of the obstacles is a dart gun, which is always fun, and you can

Tunnel of Glove - A boat ride powered by one of the platforms that you put a figure on and turn (technically you don't need the figure to turn it and make the action happen. The boat pushes into some doors and to an exit. May sound boring, but it's a boat moving along the play set just by the power of little hands so it's good in my book.

Glove World Ferris Wheel - Free floating seats that move along by turning a crank. Of course the faster you turn the crank the faster the ferris wheel moves. Some kids will get into throwing their figures out of the cars that way.

Spinning Carousel - This looks like those rides that raise you up off the ground and you just hang there while you spin around. Again powered by a little platform for the figures, and again the faster you turn the faster the carousel spins.

All this is well and good, but it's not all happy times with this play set. You get two exclusive SpongeBob figures (SpongeBob and Patrick) complete with Glove World hats handheld accessories like a glove balloon and cotton candy (I hope that's what it's supposed to be. Could be Crabby Patties for all I know). The figures look great and all, but they are definitely not built to accommodate the play set they were put on. Although the two figures have movable hands and legs they really don't fit the rides. SpongBob has a hard time getting under the belt on the roller coaster, and tips over the ferris wheel seat by his uneven wright. Patrick doesn't seem to fit in anything other than the boat ride. My thought is you try your luck with other Imaginext figures (or any toys that can fit into the rides) and you will have a good time.

The toy itself is a solid build with a thick plastic that is not so rigid as to crack under some pressure. Aside from the figures getting in the way the attractions seem to work without a hitch. I would be hard pressed to make this your kid's first Imaginext toy due to it not being as well designed in the playability with the included figures. However give your kid a chance to try it out at your local toy store (almost all of the rides can be interacted with in the packaging) and see if they love it and go from there.

Outland: The Novelization
Outland: The Novelization
by Alan Dean Foster
Edition: Paperback
128 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Got caught up in this one, January 5, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have seen the movie and loved it. So the next step for me was reading the book to learn more about the character and world created for the movie. Alan Dean Foster is a well known science fiction novelist, and I feel book is one of his better ones film adaptations. The two are really different animals, which is as it should be. Movies are visceral while books open up thoughts and ideas that aren't visually tangible. From I tell you Outland: The Novelization makes the movie experience even better.

Outland is about a remote mining colony on one of Jupiter's moons (otherwise known at the Outland regions), and a newly seated leader of the local police force that starts to uncover a nefarious operation that is linked to the deaths of several mine workers. Many of you may have heard that Outland is a science fiction version of High Noon, and it essentially is. The new Marshall is isolated within a close knit community that doesn't necessarily trust him. He has to face overwhelming odds on his own... just like the western. Rest to be sure this isn't a carbon copy of High Noon, but the thematic elements are there.

Where the movie seethes with that lunar outpost atmosphere the book takes you deeper into what it's like being so far from a green and open Earth. A fair amount of copy talks about the cramped and artificial surroundings as well as the massive planet Jupiter and how it dominates the skies. You get some insights on the various characters that were only touched upon on the movie. Even though the dialog feels like it's almost word for word from the movie the book lets you go into the minds of the characters, which tells a good deal more. While the movie wasn't exactly an action spectacle this book is even less so. What action scenes there were in the movie don't translate into any kind of suspenseful dialog in the book. I don't see this so much as a bad thing though. Starship Troopers by sci-fi legend Heinlein read the same way, but that hurt the prose. I won't say the novelization is a massive eye opener compared to the movie, but it reads really well and in spite of me already knowing what's going to happen I was drawn to read each paragraph and was still swept up with the story.

I really liked reading this book. I feel like I have a much better understanding of the movie. As for what you should do first it's a tough call. If you don't mind knowing what's going to happen in a movie then reading the book will make you appreciate the little details in the film, even if it spoils it. Maybe if you never seen the movie go ahead and watch it first, then read the book, then watch again. That way you get all the surprises as well as an enlightened second viewing.

Motormax 4-in-1 Dyna City Deluxe Playset
Motormax 4-in-1 Dyna City Deluxe Playset

4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of possibilities., December 28, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I'll be the first to admit the Motormax Dyna City playsets aren't the best quality toys out there. The plastic isn't too sturdy, the interconnects can be difficult for young builders and the buildings themselves aren't really secured tight to their bases. That being said this is one of the few... if not only... playsets that are customizable and fit most Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. That alone tells me to give these toys a solid pass.

The whole concept of Dyna City is you can connect as many different playsets together using the interconnecting roads and ramps to build your own city. This sort of open ended playset building leaves a lot of room for your kid to be creative with how they build their city. It can be everything connected all in a straight line. It could be a city with lots of bridges and upper level roads. It can be a complex web interconnecting all the sets to each other. There are few limitations.... as long as you have enough roads and ramps to connect with.

This particular set collects four different mini-playsets along with some extra roads and ramps to give your kid a chance to get their Dyna City to a good start. This is the smaller of the deluxe playsets, which helps if your budget demands it. The good news is if you plan on getting the larger deluxe playset there won't be any duplicate mini-playsets.... technically. In truth two of the mini-playsets are almost exact clones of other playset with just a change in color and included vehicle. Kind of a sly way to sneak in extra playsets without actually designing new ones. Here is the breakdown of mini-playsets:

Fire Department - This is an exact duplicate of the Police Station playset. It's a routing house with a curved "door" that channels cars from one exit to another and a separate vehicle elevator. This playset technically has three separate interconnecting sections, however one of them you will likely use for the elevator. Also a garage on the lower part for parking vehicles.

Hospital - A single piece set that has an elevator on one end to lift the car to the hospital roof and drive through. The lower section has a drive way at the front of the hospital and parking in back.

Post Office - This is the exact duplicate of the recycling center (or is the recycling center and exact duplicate of the post office?). It is a little bit different than what you see in the picture, but it's slight and not off-putting compared. This one comes with little "packages" that can be placed in a "mail drop" or a section that moves the boxes from one spot and another (best when you have a toy truck to drop the packages onto). There is also a crane to grab packages, and of course lower level parking.

Toll Bridge - This is really just a pretty bridge with a toll gate the large beams in the middle of the bridge aren't really connected and get loose, but it's really only there for appearance.

Aside from the buildings and various ramps, roadways, crossings and turns you also get a mess of additional accessories like road signs, barrels, street lights and traffic lights and so forth. Like I said before Dyna City isn't the best built toy out there, but the potential to connect and create your own set up is too cool to pass up.

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