San Diego Classic Film Calendar

Thursday, January 12, 2017

First Batch of TCMFF Films/SpecialGuest Drop

Yesterday, TCM finally announced the first batch of films and special guests for the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF), April 6 to 9, 2017. For what it's worth, these are my top 5 of what's been announced so far. I've been down this road often enough to know that anything I say here should be taken with a grain of salt. With 22  films announced, this would account for roughly a quarter of the films being shown. By the time the final schedule drops a few weeks out from the festival, it's likely that only one or two of these films will still make my top 5, but it is kind of fun to speculate, so here we go.

5. Palm Beach Story – Although not my favorite of the Preston Sturges film, it is still very good and bound to be even better on the big screen with an audience at TCMFF.

4. Beyond the Mouse: The 1930s Cartoons of Ub Iwerks – The historical presentations at TCMFF are usually spectacular, and I expect no less here. I'm a huge fan of cartoons. I grew up on a combination of Warner Brothers and Fleischer Studios cartoons everyday after school as a kid. This is a natural for me.

3. Speedy – This might have slipped under the radar. Yes, I do love silent comedies, and Speedy is of the best, but what really makes it for me is a live accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra, which will include junk percussion (I assume this means banging on pots and pans or similar) and musical saws. Bound to be a hoot.

2. Arsenic and Old Lace – This is one of my favorite comedies and one my favorite Cary Grant movies. Also, I have never seen it on the big screen. That makes for a winning combination in my book.

1. Born Yesterday  – Again, one of my favorites and have never seen on the big screen. Even though I've seen it 30 times, I still laugh my butt off at it. Add to that a TCMFF audience and, hopefully, a vintage theater, and we're in store for a real treat.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Year That Was

2016 is over, and thank God for that. I was going to title this, Screw You, 2016, but something made me decide to go a different way. It was a rough year for celebrities. I'm not going even going to try to recount all of them, just the ones that hit the hardest for me. Also, I tend not to get real bent out of shape when a celebrity in their 80s or 90s dies. I figure that we should be happy that they were blessed with a long life. It's when they are younger that it gets me.

We weren't even two weeks into the year when the first big one hit. On January 10, David Bowie died, two days after his 69th birthday. This one was tough for me. Most rock stars burn hot and then fade away. A handful burn so hot that the flame never goes out, and they just keep going. The Rolling Stones are a great example of this. Others reinvent themselves. ZZ Top reinvented themselves in the 1980s and sold way more records with music that couldn't hold a candle to their earlier work as a rock blues band in the 1970s. To their credit though, they are still going strong. I have one of the later albums, La Futura (2012) and it's every bit as good as anything they did in the 70s. 

As rock stars go, David Bowie was unique. He was cutting edge, from the start and continued that way throughout his career. He was constantly evolving. In the 1980s, when he released, Let's Dance. He wasn't reinventing himself. That's where he just happened to be, in the center of it all. 

My wife and I go to a Goth dance club. They play a lot of music that most people reading this will not have heard of, bands like Covenant, VNV Nation, and Assemblage 23. A lot of the time, they have two rooms. In the back room they tend to do a mix of older tracks from bands I just mentioned, but mix in 1980s stuff, mostly bands like The Cure, Depeche Mode, and New Order. 

A couple of days before David Bowie died, we were at the club, and the last song before we left was, Fame, Bowie's first number 1 single. There it was a 40-year-old song, played in a club filled with people most whom hadn't been born when it was originally released in 1975, yet it sounded every bit as cutting edge as anything they played that night.

Less than a week after David Bowie passed away, Alan Rickman died, also at 69. As a classic movie person, I don't complain when people call newer work, classic. Well, I might if it's only five or ten years old. And I will definitely argue that something is not classic, because I don't think it's good enough to be called a classic. Alan Rickman's first big film role was Die Hard, a film that is now almost 30 years old. I have no problem calling Die Hard a classic, both in age and quality. Like Bowie, Rickman was too young to die. Then again there are no guarantees in life. We would like to think that everyone lives to their 80s or 90s. The truth is many die much much younger.

Fast forward to April, when Prince died at  only 57. In some ways, Prince was a lot like Bowie in that he was always evolving. As a result, his music always seem fresh and interesting and edgy. He was definitely too young to leave us at 57. My favorite thing said about Prince after he died came from Dave Grohl, drummer from Nirvana and lead singer/guitarist from the Foo Fighters. Someone asked Grohl if he thought Prince was better guitarist than he was. It was a total bullshit question, designed to get Grohl to take a shot at an older musician, who was pretty much universally respect, after his death. Dave Grohl, class act that he is, said he thought Prince was a better drummer than he was.

Sure there were plenty of others between the deaths of David Bowie/Alan Rickman and Prince and more still by the end of the year. My point here was not to do a comprehensive list, but to talk about certain deaths that were important to me and maybe reflect on the nature of life and death at time of year when you tend to reflect on the nature of life and death.

December seemed to be really rough, among others, we lost the following:

  • Alan Thicke – The death of the TV dad didn't really affect me. I mention it mostly because he died in December and was arguably the first in a wave of celebrity deaths. Coincidentally, he was also 69.
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor – Again, this didn't affect me. I was more surprised to learn that she was still alive. Right after, I heard I found out she had been on life support for the last five years, not much of a life if you ask me.
  • George Michael  – Died on Christmas day, he was only 53, a year younger than me. Just a few days before that I had been trying to learn how to play, "Careless Whisper" on ukulele. Great song, great talent, taken way too soon. At this point, I'm thinking 2016 is being kind of a dick.
  • Carrie Fisher – Died December 27, she was only 60. I'm not a huge Star Wars fan, but she was good in the films. I posted a picture of her from The Blues Brothers, as Jake's bomb-, rocket-launcher-, and gun-toting ex-girlfriend. 
  • Debbie Reynolds (Carrie Fisher's mother) – Died the next day of a stroke. My wife said that if our daughter died before her, she would probably have a stroke too. Debbie Reynolds was a massive talent and had a great career. My favorite role of hers was as the backward country girl opposite tax collector Tony Randall in the 1959 comedy, The Mating Game.
These last two confirmed my suspicions that 2016 was just sticking it in and breaking it off.

Finally, today, January 2, I saw something that gave me a little perspective. I was on IMDB, trying to see if any classic movie people had a birthday today, none to speak of, at least none in the first two pages of 50 names each. I decided to see if any had died on this day. On January 2, 1963, both Dick Powell and Jack Carson died, both died of cancer on the same day. Dick Powell was 58, and Jack Carson was only 52.

People dying before their time is nothing new, and apparently, neither is celebrities dying in clusters. I've never been real big on New Year's resolutions, but if nothing else the one thing that 2016 has taught me, it's that we need appreciate the people around us, while they are still around, whether it's friends and family or the celebrities we admire. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

What a Character Blogathon – David Wayne

This post is an entry in the What a Character Blogathon hosted by Paula at Paula's Cinema Club, Aurora at Once Upon a Screen, and Kellee at Outspoken and Freckled.

David Wayne is best known as a character actor with a career spanning five decades. Often, he was cast in supporting roles as the likable second banana. Wayne's first major success came in 1947 winning a Tony for Finian's Rainbow. The next year, he joined the newly formed Actors Studio in New York. 

His first major film role role was the friend/neighbor of married couple lawyers Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in Adam's Rib (1948). David Wayne plays a Kip Lurie a singer/songwriter who incessantly flirts with Katharine Hepburn, much to the chagrin of Spencer Tracy. He even writes a love song to her. Throughout the film, Wayne stays close in hopes of luring Hepburn away from Tracy. When the couple has marital issues as a result of a being on opposite sides of a vicious but very funny legal battle, Wayne is there to pick up the pieces. Despite this being only his second major film role, David Wayne easily holds his own with screen giants, Hepburn and Tracy. His character is both charming and conniving. It led to numerous other roles for Wayne as a likable cad.

In 1953, David Wayne played Freddie Denmark, the owner of the apartment that Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall sublet in How to Marry a Millionaire. He plays a businessman on the run from the IRS, due to his financial adviser, stealing his money and leaving him holding the bag with the government. Despite not being the best looking man in the cast, his charm  and wit are enough to win him the affections of Marilyn Monroe. 

In The Tender Trap, David Wayne plays Frank Sinatra's life-long friend, who comes to visit Sinatra in New York because he is bored with his suburban life, and wife and kids, back in Indianapolis. Sinatra is quite the playboy, and Wayne is looking to play the field. He ends up falling for one of Sinatra's castoffs, Celeste Holm. In Holm, he sees all of the excitement missing in his marriage. Ultimately Holm convinces him that the excitement he desires her would eventually dwindle if they got together and lived as man and wife. He realizes that he really does love his wife back in Indianapolis and returns to them. Again, he plays the role with wit and charm and makes you overlook the fact that he is a cheating husband on the make.

His most well-known roles tend to be of this type, but if you look a little deeper, he was a very skilled actor capable of powerful performances. In addition to work in film, David Wayne did live theater and television roles throughout his career. On television, he appeared on numerous shows including, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Batman (played the villain the Mad Hatter), Barney Miller, St. Elsewhere, and The Golden Girls, as well as regular roles on Ellery Queen (1975-1976) and House Calls ((1979-1982).

I recently watched his episode of The Twilight Zone "Escape Clause" (season 1, episode 6). Wayne plays a hypochondriac who makes a deal with the devil to become immortal. This is not the good-natured scamp you are used to. Before making the deal, he is petty and paranoid. Afterward, he uses his immortality to stage accidents where he knows won't be hurt to defraud entities such as the subway system with accident claims. It's not a side of him you see often. Naturally, it being The Twilight Zone, it doesn't work out for him.

David Wayne (center left) in The Front Page, with Dick O'Neill (left, partially cut off),
Charles Durning (center, right), and Allen Garfield (right)

In the 1974 Billy Wilder remake of The Front Page, David Wayne plays Bensinger. You may remember the role of Bensinger from His Girl Friday (also a remake of The Front Page (1932)
). The role of Bensinger is largely the same, though it being the 1970s, David Wayne plays the character decidedly gay. Nothing like a 60-ish David Wayne going gay. It was a highlight of a fairly forgettable film. 

I saved the best for last. In one of his few starring film roles, David Wayne plays the child murderer in the 1951 remake of M, Fritz Lang's classic German thriller. Normally, I wouldn't even want to watch a remake of a film as good as M (1931), but I watched more out of curiosity than anything else. The 1951 version holds up surprisingly well. For one thing, being set in 1950s Los Angeles, it feels more real and in certain ways closer and more disturbing. The other more important reason the 1951 film holds up is that David Wayne's performance in the Peter Lorre role is absolutely chilling. The whole way through, you are telling yourself, I can't believe this the same guy from Adam's Rib. If I was an actor, the last thing I would want is to try to reprise a role as good as Peter Lorre's performance in M. How could you live up to it, but here David Wayne does so admirably.

While I was writing this, I thought about something. We tend to think about type-casting as a negative, but type-casting is what makes great character actors, whether that is the curmudgeon, the snarky nurse, the mild-mannered bookworm, or in David Wayne's case, the affable but unscrupulous friend. These actors bring these traits with them and plug them into the roles assigned. David Wayne could play the nice, but self-serving next-door neighbor or childhood friend as well as anyone. Yet, give him something real, a role with teeth, and he could blow you away. David Wayne was a great character actor, but also a great actor, period. You can't ask for much more than that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Book Review – The Garden on Sunset by Martin Turnbull

I stumbled on the The Garden on Sunset by Martin Turnbull while I was trying to pad my Amazon Wish List for Christmas. I'd found a couple of books that I wanted including a collection of anecdotes about old Hollywood. In the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought section about two or three clicks back was a novel that caught my eye, Citizen Hollywood, historical fiction set in Golden Age Hollywood. To be honest, I've never read any historical fiction, ever, but this sounded interesting. 

Turns out Citizen Hollywood was the third book in a series now up to six (Hollywood’s Garden of Allah). I poked around a bit and found the title of the first book. I was in the mood to start something new, so I went out to look for it. I just hoped I'd be able to find the first book. I don't like reading things out of order. There's a good indy bookstore I frequent, Mysterious Galaxy. As the name implies, they specialize in mysteries and science fiction, so I thought I'd try B. Dalton first. They didn't have it, in the three fiction sections I tried. There was no one at the info desk, and the guy who looked like he worked  there seemed to be trying not notice me. I gave up and went to Mysterious Galaxy. They didn't have it either but were happy to order it. I'd just as soon give them my business anyway. It showed up the day before I planned to take the train up to L.A., a good way to jump into a new book.

The Garden on Sunset was a pretty fast read, I got through about a third of it on the train up and back and finished a couple days later. The story centers on the struggles of three characters (what follows is just a little more than what you'd find on the back cover, so don't worry about spoilers):

  • Marcus Adler comes from a small town in Pennsylvania. After his father catches him with his pants down, literally, with another man, he comes to the only place he can think to go, the home of silent film star, Alla Nazamova. She had visited him in the hospital when he was sick as a kid and told him to look her up if he ever came to Hollywood. He arrives to find that her house has been turned into a hotel, the Garden of Allah.
  • Kathryn Massey has recently left home as well, all of 9 blocks away, to get away from her domineering mother. She meets Marcus when she trips over Marcus, tying his shoe, sending the two of them into the pool. They soon meet another new arrival at the Garden of Allah.
  • Gwendolyn Brick is a native of the other Hollywood, the one in Florida. She has come to Hollywood after her mother died, and her brother has joined the Navy. 

The trio end up living at the Garden of Allah, a place where Hollywood's elite and wanna-be elite gather for the legendary parties around the pool. The Garden on Sunset covers about a 7-year period from 1927 (the winter before the release of The Jazz Singer) to roughly mid-1934 (people are talking about the Catholic League of Decency, end of the the Pre-Code era, by the end of the book). At first, that seems like a long time for a 300-page book, but all three of them are trying to make it in Hollywood, and almost the entire book is them getting jobs, meeting people, making contacts, and trying to make their way in Tinsel Town.

It's a fun read, as the trio hobnobs with the likes of Tullulah Bankhead, Ramon Navarro, Errol Flynn, and George Cukor. They all are trying make it different ways. Marcus and Kathryn are both writers. After seeing The Jazz Singer and an off-handed remark about Hollywood needing writers if talkies take off, Marcus decides he wants to write pictures. Kathyrn is more into journalism and spends much of the book stalking William Wilkerson, trying to land a job at the newly created trade paper, the Hollywood Reporter. Of the three, Gwendolyn wants to act and has the toughest time, having to navigate the mine field of agents, producers, and talent scouts, most of whom are more interested in getting laid than discovering the next big star. 

Through all of this, the trio finds themselves at places like the Cocoanut Grove, The Brown Derby, a gambling ship, speakeasies, and cattle calls, not to mention the ever-present Garden of Allah parties. I was often tempted to google people they met and things that were happening, but mostly resisted. The couple of times I did succumb, I found what was going on in the book jived with what the Internet was telling me. 

The one thing I found a little weird about the book was that it took you up to, but not including the sex. Characters would start a sex scene and then the next paragraph they were done. You would be like, did I miss something? In a way, I can see why the author did it this way. People are pretty hung up on sex, and considering you have both gay and straight characters, maybe he thought it would be weird to have both gay and straight sex scenes in the same book. 

It's not a big deal to me. I just seemed odd, but not enough to keep me from recommending the book. It did give a you the feel of what it was like to be in Hollywood in its heyday in an entertaining way. I glanced at a couple reviews, and it seems that the other books in the series are good as well, so I ordered the next two. It's a fun read, and I heartily recommend it to anyone into old movies.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Arrival, Best Science Fiction Movie Since Moon

On Monday, I got a chance to see The Arrival in an advanced screening. It is the best science fiction movie, I've seen since Moon. I really hope it does well, but sadly, I have a feeling that modern audiences who are used to being spoon fed dumbed-down plots, will not know how deal with a movie that makes them think. 

I'm not sure how much I can say about the film without giving too much away. In The Arrival, twelve alien ships have landed at various points in the world. Amy Adams is a top linguist, charged by the US military with learning how to communicate with the aliens on the ship that landed in America. She is teamed with Jeremy Renner, a mathematician, who thinks that that the universal nature of science and physics is the key to communicating. Forest Whitaker is the Army colonel in charge of the project. There are good performances by all. 

Since there are twelve ships in different locations, each government takes a slightly different approach to interacting with the aliens. At first the governments involved cooperate and share information, but become suspicious of what others might be learning from "their" aliens. 

The Arrival has a twist ending that I don't even want to hint at. While the aliens are shown, these and the ship interior are pretty much the only special effects in the film. It's not about special effects. It's about the nature of communication. The film really makes you think and as such, it's one of the best new movies I've seen in a long time. Go see it. Just don't expect any running laser gun battles.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Missed My Chance at the Twilight Zone

This actually happened to me this morning. I was buying the Sunday paper. I gave the woman two bills and the rest in change, but I gave her the wrong amount. What I thought was a quarter was a nickel, so she handed it back to me. I dropped the nickel on the counter and handed her a quarter. It turns out the nickel landed on its side. But I didn't think. I picked it up before I could read anyone's mind.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Beginner's Guide to Teapot Racing 2 – Tanks, Perfect Solution, Sort of

Meet El Guapo, a Teapot Racer made on a tank
roughly the size of a Hot Wheels car
What, you may ask, is Teapot Racing? Simply put, it is mounting a teapot on and Remote Control (RC) vehicle and racing it on an obstacle course. This is the second in a series of posts on Teapot Racing. The last post talked about the difference between Toy-Grade and Hobby-Grade vehicles. In short, you have two basic types of RC vehicle (these also apply to tanks):
  • Toy-Grade –  Toy-Grade RC vehicles are what you find in places like Toys"R"Us, Target, and Walmart. Toy-Grade RC vehicles have the main advantage of being inexpensive. They can also be underpowered, but the better Toy-Grade cars can have the opposite problem, too much power for their own good. The biggest problem with Toy-Grade vehicles is lack of control.
  • Hobby-Grade – Hobby-Grade RC vehicles are what you find in brick-and-mortar and online hobby stores. Hobby-Grade RC vehicles can be extremely expensive, but what you get for that extra money is both power and precise control. Hobby-grade tanks tend to be even more expensive than conventional vehicles and are probably going to be harder to find secondhand.
If you haven't done so, you might want to check out my RC Basics post here.

I was first exposed to Teapot Racing at Gaslight Gathering this year, so I'm not really an expert, but I figured I could share what I learned making my first Teapot Racers. At Gaslight, there were only six cars competing. My car turned in the second fastest time, but also had the dubious distinction of being the only car to drive off the stage. I kind of suck at driving the things. As we were leaving the event, Madame Askew, who officiated mentioned that RC tanks tend to do well in Teapot Racing.

Having done it only once I could immediately see where she was coming from. A big part of the fun of making a teapot racer is making it look the part, but ultimately you are going to need to drive the thing, and driving means navigating the course. You're going to need to navigate two types of obstacle at a minimum:

  • Ramps – Figure on at least two ramps. These will usually be a wide slanted one that you drive up and down and make a U-turn on and two straight ramps of the same height placed end-to-end (up one side and down the other), possibly with a small gap between them that you need to jump.
  • Slalom – These are obstacles placed on the ground that you need to drive between. 
The ramp is probably going to be made of 3/4 inch plywood, which means there is going to a bump where the plywood meets the floor. You're Teapot Racer needs to get up that as well as the slope of the ramp itself. At Gaslight Gathering, the course was set up on the outdoor stage, about 12 feet by 24 feet, I'm guessing. The slalom was four obstacles placed about 30 inches apart and offset by about 6 inches. My Teapot Racer (based on a Toy-Grade RC four wheeler) had to back up and go forward several times to make it. This is also where I drove off the stage, but that is mostly due to me being a doofus driving an RC car. 

In theory, a tank should account for both of these types of obstacle well. Tank tracks climb quite well. In fact, they should be able to drive over just about anything and handle ramps with ease. Also, the way tanks turn is turn is by switching the direction of the tracks on opposite sides of the vehicle.  They should be able to rotate in a circle without moving forward or back, perfect for even the tightest slalom.

In practice, it's a bit more complicated. First off with tanks, you still have the issue with Toy-Grade vs. Hobby-Grade. Now, if Hobby-Grade cars are expensive, Hobby-Grade tanks are real expensive, and because they are so expensive there are less of them around, both in the local hobby store and secondhand. I went to two different hobby shops recently. One specialized in ground vehicles, and they didn't have any tanks. The other carried ground vehicles, planes, helicopters, and drones. They had two tanks that looked like they were barely better than Toy-Grade. The people working couldn't tell you anything about them beyond what was written in the box.

That leaves Toy-Grade tanks. A big problem is that tanks almost always come with other stuff besides what make it go. This one fires airsoft bbs:

This one fires Nerf darts:

This one fires lasers:

This one has a spycam. I think this is real big among the upskirt crowd. I'm sure Donald Trump has dozens of these running around every time he hosts a beauty pageant:

Not to mention construction vehicles:

If you're a hacker, you can buy the tracks and build yourself from this tank chassis:

Finally, this one you can drive in the water and literally turns into a boat. Oddly, this is one of the better options.

There may be cars that have tank controls that would be good options as well. Unfortunately, I haven't found any being made right now, beyond really tiny ones.

What makes tanks so well suited to Teapot Racing? Tank tracks, obviously. But also tank controls, provided they use true tank controls, two up-down joysticks/switches that control the left and right tracks separately. 

  • ↑ – Forward
  • ↓↓ – Reverse
  • [Left track neutral right track up– Turn right
  • [Right track neutral left track up– Turn left
  • ↑↓ – Spin right
  • ↑ – Spin left

Some Toy-Grade tanks have a hybrid controls.

  • Forward and Reverse on the same control
  • Left and Right on the same control
On the surface this might seem simpler, but it could be problematic. If you have the ability to move one track at a time, that might make it easier to turn just a little because only the track on the one side is doing anything (the other track is doing nothing). But if the turn control always does both tracks in opposite directions, that could make it harder to turn only slightly. For example, say the tank has a powerful motor, this means that spin would be spin in circles way fast, making it next to impossible to spin just a quarter or and eighth of a turn.

Want a demo. The Teapot Racer at beginning of this post can show what I'm talking about. It is surprisingly fast for its size. Control. Not so much. It's just too powerful for it's own good.

I really wasn't being serious with this. I was mostly wanted to get proof of concept, that I could carve something that looked like a teapot out of Styrofoam (this was my second attempt). This brings me to another issue with tanks, tank tracks fall off, especially on Toy-Grade tanks. Aside from the above, being overpowered, it throws off the tracks on just about any surface but tile, hardwood, and similar surfaces.

What follows is a cross section of is currently available and my best guess as to how I think it would perform (1 to 5 stars) based online reviews and videos. This is far from an exhaustive list. There are a ton of tanks out there. The biggest issue I have is finding a review or video of the model you're looking at. I've provided links for ordering and videos of what they look like in action:

  • GoolRC 777-215 Tank-7 Mini RC Tiger Tank R/C Toy with 49MHz Transmitter  – This is what I used for the mini Teapot Racer above. Its big problem is lack of control and throwing off its tracks. I give it two stars, mostly because it is cute. It probably deserves just one star. **

  • iPlay RC Battling Tanks -Set of 2 Full Size Infrared Radio Remote Control Battle Tanks - RC Tanks – This comes as a set of two tanks that work out to about $20 apiece. They just seem to be slow and underpowered to me. Plus as a set of two, if they don't work out well, you have two worthless tanks instead of one. I'll give this two stars as a much more realistic option over the GoolRC Mini Tiger above. **

  • Tamiya Remote Controller Kit 2 – This is the same chassis as the build your own above but sold as a kit with a grabber arm. There should be a cheaper version without the arm, but I couldn't find it when writing this when I know I found it a couple of weeks ago. You could build without the arm. No idea how well it runs on non-smooth surfaces. It does seem pretty underpowered to me. Also a wired remote seems lame to me. I'll give it two and a half stars because it should be easy to attach a teapot to, provided it's built without the grabber arm. ** 1/2

  • Tamiya Remote Control Rescue Crawler – This probably deserves two stars, but the extra tank tracks are way cool. Still, I have no idea how you would attach a teapot, because the arms would get in the way. Again, drawbacks are it doesn't seem very powerful and it has a wired remote. The super cool design pushes it up a notch. ***

On the last two, you may run across a number tank chassis kits, with or without motors. The big problem is getting a remote control to talk to a tank chassis.

Finally, I'm going to do three more, which I think are the best options:
  • Sided armored off-road crawler All-terrain four-wheel drive high-speed remote control toy car with lights, Blue – At $30, this is my personal top pick, but this may be my own bias, because it is the only one beside the tiny Tiger tank above that I have actually driven. The small flat design should be relatively easy to build a platform on for your teapot. It's not super fast or powerful. On the racer I'm making, I'm doing my best to keep the weight down with a tiny aluminum teapot and balsa wood platform, so the lack of power should be less of a problem. It is fairly easy to control, and it doesn't seem to have enough power to throw the tracks off. ****

  • New Bright 1:14 Race Car Fast Forward Green - Badzilla – This also appears to be the same thing as a New Bright Trak Attak, that I found at Walmart in store for about the same price. This is a lot faster than the Side armored off-road  crawler. I think it does have a tendency to throw off the tracks, but I think you have to push it real hard, so I don't think that is going to be an issue. I'm giving it the same four stars as the Side armored one because the body might be an issue when you get down to attaching the teapot. It should have enough power that weight would be less of a concern. ****

  • Air Hogs, Thunder Trax RC Vehicle, 2.4 GHZ – This might be your best bet. I think that Air Hogs is one of the top names in Toy-Grade RC. This one is fast, has plenty of power, and you can drive it into the water, where it turns into a boat, kind of a useless on a Teapot Racer, but still. This is the most expensive of these last three and you should be able to find them anywhere. I saw one in Target yesterday for $65. Also this is likely to be cheaper come Black Friday. It doesn't have true tank controls, but still seems to be fairly precise. Not sure how you would attach a teapot, but it has the power to carry it. I read a number of reviews and no one mentioned throwing the tracks. This should rock and roll, just wish it wasn't a boat. **** 1/2