Terminator: Salvation

Theatrical poster for Terminator: Salvation

Originally posted at http://slangards.i.ph/ on 05/28/09

When I heard about another Terminator film being done I was apprehensive. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines wasn’t worthy of the the series, which started with the original in 1984 and continued with Judgement Day in 1991. Considering how director James Cameron pushed the envelope on both of those movies in terms of action, drama, and special effects, the third installment was a poor substitute. I mean why would Skynet go from a hulk like Arnold, to a bad-ass metamorph like Robert Patrick, to a crappy girl Terminator who can remote control cars? I fail to see the logic in that progression.

Likewise, while I watch Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, it’s not wowing me. All melodrama, very little action, and if you watch The Big Bang Theory, you’re probably familiar with Sheldon and Leonard’s debate about Summer Glau’s character. “T-800 > T-1000 > Nubile Teenage Killer Robot” does not really compute. Hmm… Nubile Teenage Killer Robot. NTKR? The only thing the series really has going for it are Glau, Headey, and Jacobsen. And their hotness is overpowered by the suck of that 90210 guy and Shirley Manson.

Fraulein Revoltech Yoko (TV Version)

Originally posted at http://slangards.i.ph/ on 05/27/09

I don’t buy very many anime figures. Mostly because I’m not a fan of a lot of the TV series these toys are often based on. Japanese storytelling sensibilities are the complete opposite of Western storytelling, and as a kid who spent most of his Elementary school days in the library, wading through aliterations to Japanese mytho-historical figures can be tedious. Compound that with either overly exuberant fan-subs with often vague allusions to Japanese pop-culture or barely intelligible translations from Chinese pirates who downloaded the mpeg from a Pakistani, who copied it from some Russian who recieved it via email from his Pinoy Multiply contact, who got it through torrent from some geek in his basement in Arkansas who burned it from the original courtesy of a Japanese friend.

It’s just too much trouble.

Fraulein Revoltech: Yoko (Movie Version)

Originally posted at http://slangards.i.ph/ on 05/27/09

What’s better than one redhead in a bikini and hot pants? Two redheads in bikinis and hot pants with really big guns!

Having already bought the TV Version of Yoko, I couldn’t resist getting the second, more “mature” Kaiyodo release. Apparently, this version is supposed to be Yoko after several years. She’s grown into her role (whatever that is - I really need to watch this series) and filled out her - ahem. Well, you know. Just look at the pics.

Aerial Rivals & Team Leaders

Originally posted at http://slangards.i.ph/ on 05/21/09

Here’s another review of another Target exclusive boxset, the Transformers Universe Legends Class 5-Packs; Aerial Rivals and Special Team Leaders.

For those of you who aren’t giant Transformer geeks, Hasbro started classifying their Transformer toys by complexity, size and price when the Cybertron line came out. They had classes before then (back in G1 days it was limited to the small, medium, and not-so-large bots), but since 2005’s toys, they’ve been pretty standardized. They had the “Legend” at $3, “Scout” at $7, “Deluxe” at $10, “Voyager” at $20, “Ultra” at $25, “Leader” at $35, and “Supreme” at $45 (values are approximate and vary quite alot).

Battle Beneath the Streets

Originally posted at slangards.i.ph at 05/20/09

There’s this blogger that makes a living off being online. Alot of people say this must be a dream job, just sitting back, writing about shit, going places, meeting people, but the reality is, he puts a hell of a lot of work into marketing himself online. The dude needs to be everywhere and needs to maintain an online presence at all times. He is a member of every social network out there and quite a few forum boards in related hobbies. He has an email list, micro-blogging accounts, and contacts up the wazoo. All of this he has to keep track of and keep updated so that traffic to his blog is constant.

Hasbro is a lot like that. Toy molds cost money. Lots of it. They want to make the most of any one mold. Repaints is one way of doing that, but there are others as well. One would be re-issues. Another is the “exclusive” release. The one I particularly enjoy is the boxset.

Masterpiece Ultra Magnus

 Originally posted at slangards.i.ph on May 19, 2009

For most collectors, there’s a trend toward more and more expensive things. For kids who collect Hot Wheels, there are RCs when they hit the big time, and then once they’re filthy rich, real cars. For guys who collect action figures, the push is usually towards the 1/6th scale, and then, high-end statues. For Transformers geeks, we have the Masterpiece line.

I resisted as long as I could, but I too gave into the Dark Side. Thanks to a fellow collector, I was able to score a Takara-Tomy MP-02 reissue at a fair price of about p5000. Nowadays, these guys fetch about P6000. MP-01 (Optimus Prime) can go as high as P10-12000. You can see how being a collector of this line can really ruin your credit standing.

Unfortunately, owning a hulking metal replica of a Generation One Transformer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Of the two “Masterpiece” toys I purchased at the same time, this was the one that disappointed. It’s not that it’s bad. Far from it. It is possibly the most faithful reproduction of Prime from the original cartoons that has ever been released. Both vehicle and robot modes are dead accurate portrayals of the Autobot leader (or in this case, his “brother”), but there’s something lacking. It took me awhile to figure it out, but I finally put my finger on it.

He’s not FUN.

Yes, he looks good. Yes, he’s got die-cast metal up the wazoo. Yes, he’s got a lot of cool gadgetry and gear. But he’s not fun at all.

The main reason is that all that metal… well, it’s heavy. It makes him a bitch to set in any position for any length of time. Though he’s got very poseble feet and legs to give him a nice footprint, the joints are too weak to hold the prodigious weight of his boots. You don’t want to display him in any dynamic poses because he will wait for you to leave the room, then promptly fall down and split into tiny little pieces. Not good.

Secondly, because his chest is made of die-cast parts, there are no solid locks on it. The panels are supposed to snap to the plastic wheel wells, but the metal and plastic parts don’t match up perfectly, which means every time he bends over (or falls), he flashes you. If they had been cast in plastic, I’m sure a ratchet could have been included somewhere, or at the very least some kind of snap-lock.

I know a lot you collectors out there love die cast, and I’m sure you have your reasons, but let’s face it, it was left behind because of the limits of the material. And this is my review, so *raspberry*.

There are still a lot of great things about this toy, many of them good enough to justify his purchase if you’re more an open and display guy than a pose and play guy. He’s got two guns, something you just don’t see these days. One is a black version of Optimus Prime’s rifle. It’s really nice, but Magnus had his own rifle that was very nice too. I figure Takara-Tomy got lazy. The gun features a nifty green reflective lens in the barrel and if you look directly at it it looks like he’s about to blow your head off.

The other gun is a replica of Megatron’s rifle form. the silencer, scope and stock all detach, so you can have Magnus as Bond with his Walther if you wanted.

Problem with both of them is that they don’t fit snugly in his hand. Like his posing problems, the accessories tend to fall out right after you turn around to get your camera. Talk about aggravating.

He also comes with an energon axe (that thankfully fits) and a small matrix that fits in his chest.

The matrix lights up if you fit it into his chest cavity, which is a nice touch. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a cardboard trailer to display him with. With a little glue, some tape, and a nice collection of swear words, you can make your very own car carrier in about half a day. You’ll need to be careful with the thing. The cardboard is soft as paper and folds at the slightest pressure. Nice touch or no, I’d rather they included workable armor that differentiated him from the MP-01. Some hard-working fans have tried to create add-on armor for the MP-02, but none of the custom jobs I’ve seen are particularly good.

He does have a few other good qualities. His fingers are individually articulated, He has really great detail all around (check out those hydraulics!), and he has a movable mouth guard if you want to make him “talk”. The biggest rant about the MP line is scale. Because the Primes are so huge, they’re out of scale with everyone else. Or everyone else is out of scale with them. Depends on who you ask I guess. There is also a concern about the re-issued figures. If you’ll look closely, the hoods over the headlights are on backwards. I didn’t even noticed until someone told me that ALL the re-issues had the same problem.

If you want to spend P5000 on a nice Magnus figure, I suggest you find a Classics base figure and the Fans Project City Commander armor set. It’ll cost you the same and be a lot more enjoyable. I’d only recommend this one to collectors who are more into statues and display figures than they are into action figures.

Autobot Salvage

Originally posted at slangards.i.ph on 05/13/09

I’m not looking forward to Michael Bay’s new Transformers movie. He took my favorite toy line as a kid and made it something vapid and insipid. Instead of robot explorers discovering Earth and befriending humans, we got posturing CG contructions and an annoying human “lead”. His movie was devoid of any of the indelible imagery of the 1986 animated film.

Ok, ok. I’ll give him Megan Fox.

Stealth & Burning Lockdown

Originally posted at slangards.i.ph on 05/12/09

There are some characters in cartoons that are iconic and only get released once a line. In the usual scheme of things, Optimus Prime is one of those. Once you’ve made an Optimus figure, you’re pretty much done. You can add battle damage, or paint him white, or on the rare occation, maybe paint him white and call him Ultra Magnus, but for the most part, toy manufacturers don’t get a whole lot of re-use from him

Then there are some characters in cartoons that just beg to have extra figures made of them. Take Snake Eyes from GI Joe. He is just one of those characters that Hasbro loves. They don’t have to hire some writer to create a whole ‘nother backstory for some character. They just have to take the old one and slap it on the back of a card. They don’t even need to hire anyone to re-design the toy. They can take the original color, and just paint on a camoflage design and just like that, they’ve filled another spot in the next case assortment.

Soul Reaver's Kain

Originally posted at slangards.i.ph on 05/12/09

Let me get this out of the way right now; This is easily one of the worst action figures I’ve ever bought.
Whew. Glad that’s off my shoulders. Truth to tell I was really exited when I saw this availble on the PTK boards selling for a really sweet price. Sure it was loose, but it had the original packaging (which I promptly threw away). Sure it was one of those “will-not-break-set” sales, but the other figure was the NECA Raziel figure which was really easy to sell (helped largely by my glowing review of it apparently). Considering it’s a pretty obscure character that was never really easy to find here, the price was nothing to complain about and this review is in no way a reflection on the seller (thanks again, dude). I should have known what I was buying.

Star Trek

Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
I've been a trekkie long before I was a SciFi nut. My dad, having been a fan of the original series, watched The Next Generation (TNG) every week when I was growing up and me and my sister would thrill at the exploits of the Federation officers of the Enterprise-D. As a fan brought up on Picard and the NCC-1701-D, I never felt the same way about the crew of the Enterprise as I did about Picard, Riker, and Data. To me they were just some old farts puttering about in some tuna with rockets. The original series (TOS) was really pretty boring to anyone fed on action blockbusters from Scharwarzenneger and Stallone. We wanted stories about Klingons, the Borg, those annoying Ferengi... not episodes about Tribbles.

However, I wasn't introduced to the original cast of characters until my family got a VHS player and we started renting all these great movies to watch at home (yes, enough with the "did they have electricity back then, granpa?" jokes). It was during this time that I first saw "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" and finally, finally got the idea that all the TOS fans had all along. Where Star Trek TNG focused on fun (for a geek anyway) psuedo-science and singular character arcs, Star Trek TOS was all about the holy trinity; Kirk, Spock, and Bones. Their interactions with each other and their reactions to the amazing stimuli around them.

The scene between Kirk and Nimoy when they're asked if they like Italian... classic. Later, I was able to watch the other Star Trek movies, including "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan", where McCoy and Spock get into a heated argument about the ethical dilemma posed by a weapon that can potentially overwrite all life on a world with all new lifeforms. None of these actors have had any real success by themselves (I just saw Sulu as sensei to 3 ninja cheerleaders), but TOGETHER, they work.

So how does the new movie stack up to the old one?

Surprisingly, it's stacks up very well. Great in fact. I mean really, really entertaining. It has all the hallmarks of a great blockbuster action movie (big budget, big explosions, big green breasts, big ships, big name director) so the action junkies are covered. It's a "re-imagining" so you don't need to know 40 years of continuity to understand it, so you youngsters are covered. And us old farts will still enjoy it because it gives long-time fans the nods to characters they know and love as well as a few in-jokes that only we can understand. They give us an excuse to scoff at new fans, don't-you-know?

I don't hide the fact that I detested Michael Bay's Transformers, but I was able to put my distaste for his adaptation into words after seeing J.J. Abrams vision of Star Trek. While both are "re-imaginings", Bay took "Transformers" and did more than modernize it. He emptied out everything fans loved about the characters and caricatured them for his movie. What can you tell me about any of the Autobots other than they turn into cool cars? Did any of you feel devastated when you saw Jazz ripped in half? No. You didn't. Because he was nothing more than a token transforming robot, a big excuse to get you to "ooo" and "ahh". As if Megan Fox wasn't enough to make us do that. Pft.

J.J. Abrahms didn't make the same mistake here. The characters are all there and intact in his adaptation of Star Trek. Bones is still the Grumpy Gus with the atrocious bedside manner (Urban's impression is scary, by the way), Spock is still the emotionless powder keg ready to blow, and Kirk is still the confident, rebellious upstart who belongs in the Captain's chair no matter what he thinks. The others are all there too. Overachieving but sexy-as-hell Uhura, bumbling but eager Checkov, kinda dorky but smooth Sulu (now with kung-fu action!), and the funny Scotsman, Simon Pegg as the ever-loving Scotty. Granted they don't get as much screen time as the other three, but their little bits are just icing on the cake that is this film.

Casting is spot on, as is the acting effort by the cast. Like Lord of the Rings, you can really believe that these fantastic events are part of a real universe. Not only do they convey the iconic personalities of their respective characters, they still manage to make it fresh. I really can't say enough about Karl Urban's portrayal of the abrasive cynic McCoy. Watching him inject things into people with abandon is hilarious. Pine is a gem whose arrogant composure during the Kobayashi Maru excercise (yes, Trek fans, the historic taking of the test!) is just absolute fun to watch. Thankfully, I stopped watching Heroes before this Sylar guy showed up so I don't have to suffer through the associations others go through when they see Quinto's Spock. I just get to enjoy seeing him wail on Kirk. What a hoot.

Storywise, I don't think fans will be dissapointed. I'd say it's part "Star Trek: Generations" (but without Shatner cheesing things up), and part "Star Trek: Nemesis" with a pinch of string theory and alot of summer spectaculariffic scenes. Yes, I had to make up a word for how good they are.

The writers took a few liberties with the main Star Trek continuity (Star Trek's Earth 616, if you will) so that they could write about another one where the Star Fleet Academy is populated by hot Orion Slave Girls in lingerie. A little time-hopping and a token vengeful villian and BOOM! new Star Trek universe. Retcon means never having to say you fucked up, but in this case I think it works, especially since this franchise badly needed the re-launch. The re-worked reality means that Abrams is free to do just about anything he wants for the sequel and not get flamed by the fan boy collective.

Effects... what can I say? Abrams knows his shit. Things look sleek and futuristic (they did away with alot of the retro dials and crap you found on the old set), but sufficiently low tech to diffrentiate it from the TNG timeline. The ships are something. The Romulan mining ship looks like a behemoth porcupine (but a really cool one), while the new Enterprise looks like a souped up roadster (I can imagine Kirk alone on the bridge, after serriptiously looking to see if any people are there, quietly going "vroom, vroom, vroooooom!"). They've gone for the if-the-camera-is-shaking-then-its-gots-to-be-real! look that Battlestar Galactica beat into the ground, but honestly, it doesn't detract from your enjoyment. I would not recommend watching it in an IMAX theatre, though. There's a ridiculous amount of stuff on screen at any given time and trying to keep track of it all on a screen 6 stories high is a real pain.

Aside from the visual effects, there's also a ton of practical stuff, from set design to fight choreography that'll stun you. My jaw dropped at the first look at the bridge. Watching Sulu kick ass 22,500 miles above the surface of Vulcan is awsome. The shipyards, academy, Vulcan, the Ice planet, all of them are great environments. Digital matte paintings or not, they really went all out. The whole thing is pure eye candy for scifi nuts, action junkies, and film geeks alike.

The only real drawback in this whole thing was Eric Bana. It was surprising, since I've got a lot of man love for this guy and have enjoyed every one of his movies to this point (well, I enjoyed this one too actually, but I'm sure you get my drift). The thing is, he doesn't make a very convincing villian. Nero seems kind of like me-has-big-ship-badguy-will-smash! So very boring compared to Khan or Shinzon. Now those bastards were scary! These gangsta Romulans are kind of like an after thought of the movie and don't inspire any real dread in the audience. Sure you're agog at their actions, but the aliens themselves could have been the dude you met yesterday. While that's scary in real life, it doesn't fly in a sci-fi thrill ride.

My opinion, though, is that this is the movie to watch this year. Forget Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, or X-men Origns: Wolverine or G.I. Joe or Watchmen. This is the one to beat in '09 and the studios are gonna be hard pressed to do it. So far, I don't see a contender among any of the movies set for release this year.

Live Long and Prosper, dudes.

NECA's Kratos from God of War

I'm the opposite of what techies term an "early adopter". I don't buy gear till it's been out on the market for months, and usually not even then. I don't know what the next big thing is, and if you asked me who the hot new recording artist are I'd shrug my shoulders. I still use the same Nokia 5110 (which I lovingly refer to as Zombie Phone) that I've had for about a decade. I've superglued the thing together about 5 times now and it's still hanging in there.

The last console I owned was an 8-bit Nintendo system which I had for less 6-months before the 16-bit revolution came around. I wasn't even finished with Super Mario Brothers (*whispers* I never actually finished - shhhh!) and all of a sudden SUPER Nintendo was vying for the the console crown against Sega's Genesis in the fourth great console war. Understandably, I (or rather my parents) wasn't going to fork over another $100 to upgrade to a new system, so I was stuck with Zelda and Ryu Hayabusa until 2008.

Last year, I finally gave in and bought another platform, the PSP. Whoohoo! As ever, I was late to the game, only deciding to do it once I'd seen that it was actually a good value, with a nice library of good games and a lot of playability. I'm very frugal when it comes to things that are NOT toys. It basically took me 3 years to realize what I was missing not having played God of War.

Let's just say that as soon as I started playing I was hooked. You didn't get games like this when I was a kid. I mean it's a guy going up agains huge monsters and legions of soldiers all be his lonesome. It took me awhile to get used to the 3D playing field (once a side-scroller baby, always a side-scroller baby), but it eventually came to me. What I realized is that the games of today are a hell of a lot easier than my day. How many hours did I waste on that idiotic puzzle level in Mario where you had to go up and down this or that pipe to escape, or in Zelda where you had to go North, North, South, South, East, West, etc, etc, etc. before you could find that next labyrinth. Remember Ninja Gaiden and the jumping over crevices? Didn't you just wish you could take a shotgun and some buckshot and blow a hole through those fliers?

Thankfully, God of War was like a lot of games today; fun. They're relatively easy and great to look at, with really engaging stories. We like to say that "they don't make 'em like they used to", and that's true. They make 'em a hell of a lot better now.

The same can be said of toys as well thankfully. Time was we'd have gotten some crappy 5 point articulation 4" figure with accessories that made no sense. What we got instead was a kick-ass figure with decent articulation, an awesome sculpt, and accessories that are frighteningly well done!

Let's start with the packaging. I think I've said it before, but NECA is one of the best when it comes to clamshell packaging. Most people don't like clamshells, but for a collector who wants to be able to open toys, but put them back in the package, they're second only to the box. If you're careful, you can cut around two sides and silde out the plastic tray with out damaging the plastic. Then if you decide to store him, pop him back in. Me, I just toss the whole thing out after I'm done.




The great thing about the NECA Player Select line is that they come with their very own backdrops. There is a small paper insert that acts as a backing in the box, but if you have some board and a few of those black stand things that came with the Toybiz ML's, you've got a nice little display.



Both the regular version and the Golden Fleece version have some nice gear. If you're only going to get one, then I'd suggest the regular version because of the "Flaming Blades of Athena". You'll get the knife version, and a set of two flame arcs that the blades attach to to simulate the moves in the game. Really really cool stuff.




The "Golden Fleece" set has the blades, but not the burning chain arcs. Instead, it comes with the severed head of medusa. It's a bit odd, but he doesn't really hold the head. Instead, you have to switch his hand entirely with one that is sculpted grasping the head already.



Aside from the gear, Kratos also comes with his shorts. Apparently, Boxers weren't the in thing back in the day, so he's stuck with a kilt. It's removable, but I doubt guys will want to display old Whitey in his banana hammock.




Another nice touch is that the heads of the figures are interchangable. If you want him grimacing or if you want him stoic, it's up to you. If you want to flip his head with Raziel, go for it. The same goes for the ball-jointed hands, but they are a bit loose:



As for articulation, Kratos is an improvement on the old NECA toys, but he's below the newer ones like the TMNT line and Ryu Hayabusa. He still has several of the ugly NECA cut joints. His hips in particular are horrendous, little more than angled cut joints that don't work very well. Thigh cuts are there to help, thankfully. Another problem is that the joints are all LOOSE, especially the ankle and wrist joints. Trying to photograph him is a pain, since he falls over every three seconds, or drops his chains. There's an included stand, but trust me, it's worthless.





So the big question... is he worth the p1,200 suggested retail, or the p1,500-2,000 he regularly goes for on eBay? I'd say no, he isn't. His problems standing and holding his weapons really can tick you off. If you're a fan and just really really want a Kratos figure, I'd say go for the regular one. The Flaming Blades really do look good and the head and armor, or all the gimmicks in the three variant releases after that aren't worth the extra cash. I would have liked it better if they had given him some monsters to vanquish or nekkid Greek Godesses to consort with.

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