Saturday, March 31, 2012

New Pepsi Next!

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Are you guys ready for the 2012 Summer Season? I think its time that we start cranking out articles while the weather is still nice and before we hit those long, hot July days. The ones filled with thunderstorms at night and overran with insects during the day. I hate that time of year. Sitting here at the end of an exceptionally warm March and heading into what looks to be a beautiful April... well it seems like as good of time as any to try and enjoy all the little things that make summer an interesting season.

Such as all of the strange new flavors of soda that get unleashed right around this time of year. I am not quite sure what it is about the summer months but it makes all the beverage companies lose there shit and start releasing weird limited edition flavors of everyone's favorite drinks. These here-today-gone-tomorrow flavors rarely last more than a couple of months so it is best to enjoy them while you can.

2011 kicked off with the glorious return of Mountain Dew: Pitch Black. A drink that was less about the flavor and more so the idea that it was originally sort of the unofficial soft drink of Halloween. It is going to be hard to top the re-release of the cult classic Pitch Black so this year Pepsi has decided to go in an entirely different direction. A new flavor of an old classic, Pepsi Next!

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It might not be quite as earth-shattering awesome as Pitch Black's surprise appearance early last summer but as you will soon see, Pepsi Next is a strong contender for sticking around all year and falling into a regular drinking rotation. I sound like an alcoholic when I say it like that.

First things first, however. Let's talk a little bit about the bottle. I promise not to spend four thousand paragraphs detailing my love for the thing. Maybe. The first point of interest that I would like to bring up is how stupid it sounds when I say that something as simple as a new flavor of soda can convey feelings that summer time is officially right around the corner. But I dare you to look at that photo of Pepsi Next sitting outside amongst those freshly sprouted plants and tell me otherwise. It looks like summer!

The most obvious thing that stands out on this bottle is the aqua blue theme that scales from light to dark. Pepsi is always sold in blue cans or bottles but this is somehow different. Its deeper and richer than the normal Pepsi blue. That white swish mark that transcends the length of the bottle is a nice finishing touch that helps tie everything together and make for one nifty looking design. Bonus points for re-using the black twist cap from last years Pitch Black release.

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Now onto the important part of Pepsi Next. The taste.  Pepsi sums it up in one important phrase, "Real Cola Taste" ... and just to make sure you understand what that means they've underlined it in yellow. To quote Bad Boys II, shit just got real.

When it comes to soft drinks I have to make a bit of an admission, I am strictly a Coke kind of guy. Sure I enjoy Mountain Dew as much as the next but I would much rather pick up a classic can of Coca Cola. As far as Pepsi goes, I generally avoid it like the plague. It has far to much of a sugary / syrup taste to it. I will pick up an RC Cola long before I will even think of grabbing a Pepsi. RC Cola!

Pepsi Next lacks that sugary rush that I typically associate with the brand and replaces it with a toned down flavor that packs more of a cola "bite" to it. In essence, it tastes like Pepsi's version of Coca Cola. I love it. Nothing will ever drive me away from drinking Coke but Pepsi Next makes for for a really strong case to occasionally switch to it.

I am sure that some will try to claim that Pepsi is attempting to copy Coca Cola with this flavor and some will even go so far as to say the design of the bottle, with that white swoosh mark closely resembles the look of a Coke can. But that is sort of what Pepsi has been all along, a Coke alternative. And this alternative just so happens to taste a bit more like the soda that inspired it in the first place. As for the bottles looking close to one another, last time I checked Coke was red and Pepsi is blue and nobody owns a trademark on curved white lines.

Next time you are at the store, be sure to pick up a can of Pepsi Next and give it a shot. It really is a well flavored and well designed soda. Besides, who knows if this stuff will be around by this time next year. This might be your only opportunity to drink Pepsi that kind of sort of tastes like Coca Cola.... but in a good way!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!

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I was at Target this past weekend and could not help but notice how much of an extra emphasis the stores are putting on Easter this year. It was a serious upgrade from past years, which typically only see a single isle set up haphazardly near the middle of the store. For 2012 they had an impressively large section dedicated to chocolate bunnies and egg dying kits. We are talking near Christmas level floor space, I've never seen this much umph put behind the holiday before.

As I approached this freshly set up section my heart raced with anticipation. I probably looked all to excited to the parents who were so very clearly getting a head start on this Easter thing for there children. Giving me plenty of 'what the fuck you doing here' looks along the way. Clearly I was out of my element and the elderly ladies and mothers pushing shopping carts full of screaming children were not so subtly telling me so. I had forgotten that while showing this level of excitement may be acceptable during Santa's Season, it may strike others as a tad out of place that a single 25 year old male rummaging around bins full of children's Easter cartoons and digging through shelves of candy... carefully inspecting each box and occasionally mumbling 'oh that looks interesting' to myself.

I wanted to bust out my camera phone and document this experience but better judgement kicked in and I didn't. Judging from the reactions given to me by everyone around, I was already on the verge of being labeled a child predator and a camera phone would most definitely have sealed the deal.

All of this was probably for the best, turns out Easter doesn't really have a lot of things associated with it. And while Targets over elaborate Easter section was an interesting idea, I question if we really need an entire isle with five-trillion different brands of Easter egg dye, and seven more isles filled to the brim with nothing but packages of M&Ms and peeps. With only the occasional cheap toy tossed in for a little variety.

Except of course for that bin full of DVDs. Amongst all the Easter 'specials' that nobody really cares about was a few copies of 'It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown'. Being a big fan of the Peanuts Gang there was no way I was leaving without a copy of this cartoon in hand.

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown actually brings up a fairy interesting question. Which of the Charlie Brown Holiday Specials are classics and which are simply fun distractions? We all know that the Christmas and Halloween specials tend to define the word classic and the Thanksgiving cartoon is a pretty heavy hitter in its own right, but where does something like this Easter special stand within Charlie Brown lore?

Out of the forty five television specials that have been made none of them are really bad... its just that forty four of them have the misfortune of not being 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'. The one holiday special that everybody loves and sets therefore sets the bar extremely high for everything that came after it. 'It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown' is a great cartoon but it is not the same life altering experience as that time Charlie Brown went Christmas Tree shopping and came home with nothing more than a sad little twig tree branch.

But it is filled with plenty of memorable moments and should be a staple of every Easter season. Even if it wins that race simply by default because there aren't that many other good Easter specials. For those of you who have never seen this cartoon, let's change all of that with an extra special look at 'It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown'!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Avengers Mini Muggs!

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It could not feel any more like Summer Time than it does right now. Crazy that its only the middle of March and its 83 and sunny outside. You could fool me into thinking its late July and I should be on my way to some big outdoor grill contest or grand fireworks display. I know that I've gone on in the past about how I don't really like the summer months and while that is true what I mostly mean is I do not enjoy the long hot and humid late summer months. These early ones are always a nice change of pace from the cold and snow. While I don't enjoy everything related to summer I do have to share my love for the Summer Blockbuster season that is literally right around the corner.

Twitter followers (and you can follow me @grindhousecinma) have probably picked up on this by now but I manage a movie theater. Blockbuster season is probably the most important time of year for us. It can literally make or break an entire years worth of revenue in just a couple short months. Especially the small single screen theaters like mine.

This year we have one of the biggest movies, maybe ever, coming out in Marvels 'The Avengers'. Comic book fans already know what to expect but for everyone else this will be your first opportunity to see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, and a bunch of other superheroes together in the same movie. Yes the superhero crossover has been done to death in comics but for these big Hollywood film adaptations this is basically uncharted territory. Generally speaking when it comes to superhero movies Spider-Man has his own film universe that is kept separate from Iron Man, who in turn is kept apart from the Fantastic Four and so on. Seeing these larger than life characters together in the same film is going to be a once and a life time experience and something that fans of the genera have been waiting for.

You can always gauge which movies the studios think are going to make them the most cash based on how much marketing material they put out prior to the films release. This isn't always a perfect indication of how a movie will preform, a great example of that would be 1998's Godzilla, which basically tanked at the box office. Yet for an extended period of time it was impossible to walk into a store and not see those massive green "Size Does Matter" Godzilla logos plastered all over everything. And you know what... its fun. Even if the movie doesn't turn out to be the greatest film ever made the marketing leading up to it can still be a blast. I am one of the rare supports for the 1998 Godzilla flick but even I have to admit that they way the film was marketed was more fun than the movie itself.

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It is still early in the year, but much like Christmas, the Summer Blockbuster season keeps coming earlier ever year. While making a routine Wal-Mart run I couldn't help but notice an entire huge section dedicated to "The Avengers" and this was not your run of the mill comic book character section, this was all very clearly meant to tie into the up and coming film.

After a quick scan of the isle one of the first things I noticed was this Incredible Hulk figure. This is not just a Hulk figure... it is a Hulk figure that looks like Mark Ruffalo! We are very close to entering some scary alternative universe where our favorite comic book characters no longer look like themselves but instead the actors who portray them on film.  A great example of this is even before he was cast as Nick Fury the folks at Marvel were drawing Nick Fury to look like Samuel L. Jackson, which eventually made casting him in the roll all the easier. Now we are at a point in time when nobody even remembers that Fury used to be an old white dude with a full head of hair, everyone thinks of the Samuel L. Jackson version instead.

I almost left with this Incredible Ruffalo figure, because in all honesty it is a really well detailed and sculpted figure but at the last moment decided that I wanted these two Avengers Mini Mugg figures instead. Settling on the idea that they would look better sitting on my computer desk than what Hulk would look left in a package and on the wall someplace.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ultimate Warriors Crazy Comic Book #2

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"... I realized Renegar had finally made a good suggestion. He was making comment to how some of the readers of 'Warrior' may have been somewhat confused by the storytelling and the fact that Warrior is told from two points of view... so let's straighten it out."

The very first page of Warrior #2 wastes no time in acknowledging that nobody understood a damn thing that happened in the first comic book. As a matter of fact it was not until I forced myself to slow down and study each panel meticulously, taking the time to photograph and write a general overview of the book that I sort of started to understand just what the hell was going on.

It was while writing this article, "Ultimate Warrior's Crazy Comic Book!" that I actually started to grasp onto some of the books concepts and strangely enough actually enjoy the comic. It was an interesting journey through the pages of Warrior #1 but somehow through the books convoluted story I started to look beyond what was simply presented in front of me and see that someone, someplace put a lot of hard work into this book. Once I got past what Warrior #1 wasn't and focused on what it was... I really did find enjoyment in what was printed in front of me.

I can only speculate what went on behind the scenes on this comic and we will get to that a little bit later in the article but I will say that in some weird way I feel like I owe it to everyone who worked on this short lived series to continue along with their story and write about the rest of the issues.

Warrior #1 is like a low budget b-movie... but the good kind of b-movie that doesn't really realize its limitations and just swings for the fences anyway. If you have not done so already please take the time to read my first writeup "Ultimate Warrior's Crazy Comic Book!" so that you can get caught up on the story so far. Once you have done so prepare yourself, for the story found within the pages of Warrior #2 is somehow stranger than the first book...