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Toy State Test DriverAs Aerosmith once said, we're "Back in the Saddle" again when it comes to new rides from Toy State (I'm one of their "Test Drivers"). With Spring here, the new models are hitting the streets, and this month brings the first vehicles that Toy State has created in partnership with Mattel under the Hot Wheels brand. One of the most exciting lines to be featured is the "Extreme Action" collection, a subset of three unique Hot Wheels that have been given a larger size, and infused with light, sound, music, and motorized functions. Included in the first wave are SCORPEDO, the SHARK CRUISER, and the iconic STREET CREEPER. The latter just arrived here for review in our State-of-the-Art Toy Testing Facility (our house and neighborhood), and here's the lowdown...

Earlier this year, after the past success of their building sets based on JOHN DEERE and CATERPILLAR, the folks at MEGA BLOKS added JEEP to the mix and combined all three under a new brand, AMERICAN BUILDERS. While these sets are geared toward kids 5+, I'm pretty well-aware that there's quite a few grownups who enjoy these as well, especially if they strike an emotional chord of some kind - and these certainly can. Where nostalgia can be a factor (I played with a lot of John Deere tractors as a boy), adventure is the key on the Jeep note, and my girls and I recently dug into the American Builders Jeep Off-Road Adventure Set, which was sent to Rock Father HQ for review.

It's hard to believe, but it was over a year ago already that MEGA BLOKS announced a partnership with MATTEL to create a series of HOT WHEELS branded building sets (MATTEL recently announced that they've straight-up purchased MEGA Brands). They started rolling out to retailers last Fall, and in that initial wave, we received the first assortment of their Turbo Tubes Build & Collect Vehicles for review here in our State-of-the-Art Toy Testing Facility (our house). Those rides were an immediate hit, so we were pretty excited when a trio of new rides rolled up to Rock Father HQ a few weeks ago, part of the 2014 Spring assortment. Up for review this time: BAD TO THE BLADE (Team Blue), FAST FISH (Team Green), and a new Team Yellow version of TWINDUCTION.

NETFLIX Stream TeamLast month, a mysterious new program appeared parked in the virtual garage over at Netflix. TEAM HOT WHEELS appeared for viewing, but what exactly was this 22-minute episode? With my two car-obsessed girls at my sides, we pressed play and opened the doors to "Larry's Garage" to check out this new adventure, based on Mattel's long-running line of diecast cars... the same ones that we have several hundred of here at Rock Father HQ. The show - focusing on four, go-kart riding kids that transform into TEAM HOT WHEELS to cruise a world lined with bright, orange track - was a ton of fun, but it played like a "pilot episode," and a quick web search came up largely dry. Today, that mystery has been solved.

Friday, March 14 2014 00:01

Film Review: NEED FOR SPEED (DreamWorks)

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Exhilarating, yet at times, unsettling, DreamWorks' NEED FOR SPEED races into theaters this weekend, the latest videogame to make the transition from console to screen, amounting to a film that's more "inspired by" the source material, than any kind of direct adaptation.

I realized something this afternoon as I browsed the press releases coming in from Toy Fair 2014: I never owned any PLAYMOBIL toys. None as a kid, and thus far, none as a parent. Not really sure why, since we've often looked at them while visiting the local Toys "R" Us, but I certainly respect what they do, and have even covered them here on the site in the past. Now comes news that the brand is celebrating it's 40th Anniversary with a massive product launch for 2014. Whether it's the PLAYMOBIL Racers (which I'm highlighting here), or your into animals, dragons, outdoor life, the big city, or mythical landscapes, PLAYMOBIL has something for almost everyone.

The 2014 Chicago Auto Show opened it's doors to the public this weekend (running through February 17th), but on Friday, The Rock Father participated in the media preview to get an early look at hundreds of new offerings and concept vehicles from the world's top automakers. Doing what I do, I'm always torn on how to cover such an event - I run a "family" site, but my personal interests skew toward the... more exciting at times. While my daily drivers here at Rock Father HQ bear the Chevrolet and Scion nameplates, performance, sport and luxury all strike my fancy. What I'm saying is that my inaugural coverage of the Chicago Auto Show is more of a highlight reel of what caught my eye... and that's as simple as it gets. Hopefully I'll get to go in-depth with some of these vehicles, as well as some more family-centric rides as the year rolls on.

Raising a pair of vehicularly-inclined daughters, I tend to find myself in a position to rekindle some of my own childhood interests. Toy cars, racing and yes, even Monster Trucks are a part of that, so when Feld Entertainment and Windy City Kids Guide asked us to check out MONSTER JAM, Addie and I couldn't pass it up. Little Finley sat this one out since she's still a tad too young for it, but Addie and I, along with her friend Richard and my friend, John, headed for Allstate Arena in Rosemont, a familiar location that we typically visit while ice-covered. But last night? It was all about dirt, metal and octane.

#FuelCASOn Friday, February 7, 2014, I'll be heading down to McCormick Place in Chicago to bring you my first-ever coverage of the CHICAGO AUTO SHOW. While this is my first "official" visit as "The Rock Father," I've been attending the CAS for years... first visiting as a small boy in the 1980s, and many times as an adult. While I have some new offerings that I'm really looking forward to checking out, I'm curious what YOU are interested in. Do you have something that you'd like me to bring back info on? Hit me up in the comments and I'll try to make it happen.

Wednesday, February 05 2014 15:14

Review: MEGA BLOKS Barbie Build 'N Play Luxe Camper

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In the year or so since MEGA BLOKS began issuing building sets based on licenses from fellow toymaker, MATTEL, we've seen a lot of great sets that have been centered around those brands, namely, HOT WHEELS and BARBIE. The building category is massive right now, and with kids of all ages spending more and more time assembling these sets, it's always interesting to see where they'll go next. One of the first Spring 2014 sets to emerge pre-Toy Fair combines two of my oldest daughter's greatest loves - dolls and vehicles. The MEGA BLOKS Barbie Build 'N Play Luxe Camper arrived at Rock Father HQ for review, and since it has wheels, it rolls into Rock Father Rides for an early look at this new set. Oddly, this build introduced me to a term that I wasn't familiar with: "Glamping."

I've played a few NEED FOR SPEED games over the years, so the prospect of a big-screen version has always been intriguing, yet puzzling as to how they'd pull it off. On March 14, audiences Nationwide will get the answer, when DreamWorks Pictures' NEED FOR SPEED hits theater screens in RealD, 3D and other large formats. Earlier tonight, a "Big Game" spot hit the airwaves, while an extended look hit the web. Check out both of them below, right here on The Rock Father...

This February, some "Monster" action is headed for Chicagoland when Feld Motorsports brings MONSTER JAM to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont. These roaring, 10,000 pound Monster Trucks will be featured in multiple shows from February 7-9, and as a member of U.S. Family Guide and the Feld Family Ambassador program, I'm able to share with you a discount code worth 30% off tickets! Check out the full details below...

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