It’s pretty obvious from my review of Transformers: Dark of the Moon that I wasn’t really thrilled by the film. It’s no surprise that I wasn’t that eager to pick up many of the toys.

Coming off of two movies already, we’ve gotten enough figures of the main bots to feed that mechanized sandworm for a year. The solicitations for the new line weren’t promising any different. As of this writing, there are already two dozen figures of Bumblebee announced/shelved, many of them re-decos of old toys:

Marvel Universe Doc Samson

It looks as if Hasbro has plumbed the depths of Marvel's character catalog and has finally decided to let some of the B-list guys run around. I don't know what it is about geeks and obscurity, but you won't find a forum board out there that doesn't have some nerd expressing his love for a character that has appeared in a single panel of an exclusive book with a limited run that was only available on the first day of an out-of-the-way convention that was closed around lunch due to a bomb scare.

Ok, maybe not THAT obscure, but you get the picture.

True Heroes Sentry Outpost

One of the reasons that Toys ‘R’ Us Philippines (TRU) really hasn’t distinguished itself from SM’s Toy Kingdom (TK), is that they don’t maximize their biggest asset; exclusives. Both TRU and TK source their product from the same local distributors, so whatever you see in one will likely be in the other. The only difference in their stock lists is chain exclusives; TRU, being an international brand, has access to toys from top toy manufacturers like Hasbro that can only be sold in their stores. The G.I. Joe Benchpress and Snow Serpent figures were two such figures, as was the green G1 version of the Legends Class Devastator.

Anakin Skywalker (Season Three Outfit)

Star Wars: Clone Wars has quickly become my favorite toyline. Say what you want about Lucas' politics, talents, or storytelling abilities, but the man knows how to merchandise! The movies, the comics, the books, the cartoons, and the toys are a cash cow that poops out millions of dollars a second.

I've got about two dozen figures or so now, but I'd been holding off getting an Anakin Skywalker because I wasn't really satisfied with those that have come out. It doesn't help that the young Darth Vader is probably the least likable character in all of geek fiction. He's a whiny, petulant brat with way too much power and the uncanny ability to score hot chicks with no apparent redeeming qualities.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

I’m not entirely sure I like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

My first reaction after watching was that it was satisfactory, and I came out of the theatre happy having seen it. It’s now been about 5 hours and I find myself questioning whether it really was as well made as I thought. After all, the last movie I watched on the big screen was Transformers: Dark of the Moon and after that, even Uwe Boll looks good.

Ok, maybe not Uwe Boll.

I admit that David Yates has been my favorite Potter director by far. His second try, 2009's The Half-Blood Prince, was the first time I really liked a Harry Potter film; Yates and team set up a world that actually felt fantastical. It was something I felt that the previous directors never captured, despite their other contributions to the franchise. I was worried that it was a one off, since Part 1 of The Deathly Hallows didn’t really feel that awesome, it being about two and a half hours of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint sitting in a tent being screaming profanities at each other (ok, there weren’t any profanities. I wish there had been. Brits have the coolest swear words). That and the pseudo-nude scene that was straight out of slash fiction.

I think what bothered me about the film was that though the director obviously wanted to focus on Harry and his tasks of hunting down the remaining horcruxes, there were still scenes of other characters thrown in. For instance, the scene where Molly Weasley battles Bellatrix. In the book, it’s fleshed out rather well, but there’s no space for it to get much resonance here. Likewise the beat where Neville gets his spotlight, beheading Voldy’s pet snake. Both pop up rather abruptly and there isn’t much lead in to any of it, nor is there time to ruminate on either.

Neither are the deaths of the supporting characters given their fair share of screen time. You don’t really see Fred, Remus or Tonks get hit, and the camera doesn’t really linger on their bodies, or the survivors’ reactions long. It’s all very cursory. The ending (if you’re reading this review and you haven’t read the books, do it now you silly idiot) where Harry tells his son about his namesakes seems to have been cut down too short as well. I just don’t feel it when Radcliffe says that Severus was one of the bravest men he ever knew (I cried when I read that in the book).

And I guess that’s what bugs me about the film. The best character in the entire series has always been Snape. I love how he’s the most detestable snot for most of it, but behind his snarky, douche bag behavior, there have always been hints that the dude’s a deep cover agent. He’s like the cop who has to do the worst sort of things to get the hard core criminals to trust him and goes a little nuts because of it.

 In the books, you got that feeling more clearly, as Rowling lays it out and foreshadows, while painting Harry’s dad as kind of a dick before he started going out with Lily. In the films, however, it’s all left until the third act of the final chapter and then just kind of blurted out (albeit in an excellent montage scene where Alan Rickman gets to really let go).  Snape’s redemption is explained, but it doesn’t have the same punch since there’s no real time for the audience to grasp how much the dude went through.

I probably should have re-watched all the other movies before watching the last one. I’ve got a feeling I just missed or forgot some of the pieces in the previous films. It’s been 10 years since the start of this movie series after all.

And don’t’ get me wrong. There’s a lot to like about this one. Yates’ team of people does have a better grasp on pacing and dialogue than Michael Bay’s.  While Bay's SFX shots are always ALWAYS the center of attention in his movies (action for the sake of spectacle), David Yates and friends have used their SFX sequences to fill in the atmosphere of the wizarding world and evoke emotions. Instead of squandering them willy-nilly, they've used them to support the story.

There’s a great little piece where McGonagall and the rest of the Professors and the Order members are setting the defenses up. A shield is thrown up around the Hogwarts campus. When the deatheater’s initial volley of spells smashes against that shield, it feels as harrowing as the arrows scene in 300. Another of my favorite scenes is Potter’s escape from Gringotts riding a Ukrainian ironbelly. While the dragon doesn’t look exactly as I pictured it while reading the book (isn’t it supposed to look metallic?), the shot of it climbing out the top of the wizarding bank to the rooftops of Diagon Alley is just awesome.

I’ve heard that some feel that Harry Potter is the Star Wars of this generation and I’m hard pressed to disagree. I can see myself giving the books to my future kids, sitting on the couch with popcorn watching these films as a family. I am curious to see if Rowling can sustain the interest in the franchise moving forward, though. Lucas merchandised like crazy, expanding the Galaxy Far, Far Away year by year. But the wizarding world isn’t as wide, and Rowling set a built-in termination date on her story by setting it in a school. We can’t follow Harry into the future. Kids don’t want stories about boring adults. There won’t be prequels for the same reason and any stories about the other characters won’t really have the same weight on the canon of the franchise because it’s always been centered on Harry.

Then again, we all know that Lucas probably should have quit when he was ahead, so maybe it’s not so bad that Harry’s story ends here. It’s not a bad send off after all.


Originally posted at on Dec 3, '08

Simply the worst. Ever. Nothing any of you can say will sway me from this conclusion.

The one star is for the Cullens' house. I would LOVE to live in that house. (The one star is also there cause I can't give this movie zero stars apparently).

I'm going to watch Linklater's Before Sunrise to wash this from my brain.

Undertow with Waterlog

The other toy in the last two figure wave of Power Core Combiners was Undertow, a Decepticon who turns into a kind of Cybertronian catamaran. I've already gone over Salvage with Bombburst so just visit that review if you'd like to go over the packaging again.

Like most triple-changers, Undertow has to sacrifice one form for the sake of design and that’s his vehicle mode. It’s a pretty poor looking kind of boat, with his legs basically going up in front of his chest and his arms pinning to his sides.At least it’s not a rehash of another figure like most of the Power Core Combiner series has been.


Undertow’s little buddy is Waterlog, another new figure. The minicon is cast mostly in translucent green plastic with some nice tan bits thrown in. Again, as a triple-changer, Waterlog sacrifices the look of one mode for the sake of others. In this case, the weapon is the crap mode; it looks like a small spaceship with its wings folded, which is what it essentially is.

The spaceship mode is pretty good looking and it fits on that 5mm peg on top of Undertow’s vehicle mode. At the very least it doesn’t have a problem with the loose legs flailing about like some of the other minicons in the line. The robot mode is my favorite though. Three words: tiny neck joint!

Like his Power Core partner, I really dig Undertow’s robot mode the most. The boat mode is kind of a turn off. With the exception of the Voyager Class Seaspray, I’ve never really liked boat Transformers. I might be a man-child, but sitting naked in a tub of water with a toy boat shouting “Man overboard!” or “Torpedo off the port bow!” puts one a little too low on the geek hierarchy for my tastes. Pulling out Leader Class Optimus Prime and an air horn is about where I draw the line.

Anyway, Undertow’s articulation is just as good as Salvage’s, with ball joints up the wazoo. I love how his pontoons form his legs and feet. So deliciously chunky!

If you decide not to use Waterlog as a weapon, Undertow still has a Vulcan cannon mounted on a swivel joint on each arm. Personally, I like these better than the spaceship gun. These things look absolutely vicious and more than make up for the rinky-dink minicon weapon. And best thing is that they can be used in his vehicle mode as well.

I’m not a fan of any of the Commander modes save for Bombshock and Steamhammer, but this one has an something going for it that the others don't.That awesome head:

Instead of a regular robot head, the gestalt Undertow gets a retro diving helmet! Totally gorgeous looking. It's too bad the rest of him looks like crap with over-sized thighs and non-existent shoulders. Those Vulcan chain guns are still available in this mode though, so that's a plus.

If I had to pick one, I'd say Salvage was the better buy, despite being a recolor. He's just better designed all around, with three decent modes. Undertow has only got the one good one (robot). If he had a better Commander mode, and some water themed drones, he might have scored higher in my eyes. As it is, I'd have passed on this if it wasn't in the 50% bin.

Of course, Undertow has already disappeared from Toy Kingdom shelves while Salvage is still hanging around. What do I know?

Salvage with Bombburst

I feel kind of bad for Hasbro.

They tried something new with the Transformers: Power Core Combiner line but they just took too long to get it working. Without any supporting media to pull in interest, the toys were the only draw for kids. They needed to pop on the shelf, and make an immediate impression on the buyer once they opened it. That wasn’t the case. Their first few attempts were ugly, especially the scout teams that combined to form gestalt robots. Those 5-packs were awful, even Grimstone and the Dinobots. It wasn’t until I got Steamhammer and the Constructicons that I finally could start to appreciate the line and see some potential.

By that time however, the whole line had already hit the bargain bin. When the last line of Power Core 2-packs came out, they were already priced at the same Php 350.00 point as the previous waves. That’s sad, because both Salvage with Bombburst and Undertow with Waterlog are decent toys.

Salvage is just a repaint of Mudslinger (from the Destructicons 5-Pack) and Bombburst a repaint of Chainclaw (from the Icepick 2-Pack). There isn’t much to say about either of them aside from they’re both really gnarly.

The packaging for the 2-Pack Power Core Combiners is your basic plastic bubble with an interior tray to hold the toy in place, and a printed card to lock them in. The “minicon” (a 2” Transformer that becomes his weapon) is housed in a separate, blue-colored tray. I figure it’s to highlight the accessory, although how successful the attempt was is arguable.


Bombburst (the minicon) is an awesome toy. The base mold is easily the best of the Power Core Combiner weapons since it looks decent in all three modes; robot, gun, and missile launcher. Now that I’ve got both him and Chainclaw, my standard Transformers with standard 5mm holes can dual wield!

Salvage is pretty sweet too, though I still don’t like the look of his Commander form (the one he takes to accommodate the scout limbs that come in the 5-Packs). It’s got huge “ears” that just make him look goofy. If you want to get him in this mode, however, you'll need to buy a few of those 5-Packs to get the drones that act as his feet and hands.

His robot form is also kind of goofy-looking with a god-awful looking “hat”.

He is however, nicely articulated (with mostly ball joints), and looks like a proper bruiser bot. I love the way his wheels hang right out there, screaming at you to call it kibble, so that he might shove one of them down your throat. The radiator for a chest is a nice touch, too. The big, killer boots are also chunktastic.

His vehicle mode is a monster truck built from some kind of car. I don’t think it’s meant to be anything from real life. Just look awesome. The wheels roll freely and Bombburst pegs onto the top on one of those minicon mounts.

You can also swing his Commander head out from underneath his hood and get something that looks like a robo-bull on wheels. No idea what you can do with it, though. Maybe a pet for Optimus Prime?

I never picked up Mudslinger because of the awful looking limbs/drones, but Salvage, as a standalone figure with a wicked accessory is an awesome buy at 50% off. He's still available at Toy Kingdom in Megamall, and many other branches, so go out and find one for yourself.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NECA)

Originally posted at on Oct 13, 2008

NECA offerings have been getting better and better lately. Their Player Select line went from mini-statue types with the useless NECA-joint, to toys that balanced sculpt and articulation to create really beautiful toys. The first one I saw was the Kratos figures; nice, textured with functional articulation and chock-filled with accessories. Then came the Altair figure that shared the great sculpting (though not the accessories and limited articulation). The Raziel figure 1-upped both by keeping the great sculpting and adding even cleaner joints and unbelievable paint apps.

Now with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle line, NECA seems to be cementing their place in the toy manufacturer's pantheon as the team to beat when it comes to high quality action figures. The new line is years ahead of the old turtle line; the one based on the cartoon with cheesy gimmicks and standard 5-point articulation. These babies are instead based on the original Eastman & Laird comics, so the uninitiated might have trouble telling our heroes apart. The original comics were in black and white, but on the covers all 4 of the turtles had the same color masks; red.

Still, with the great sculpting, you can tell them apart with little effort. Leonardo looks determined and focused, Donatello is the serious one, Michealangelo is the goofy party animal, and Rafael looks like a mean bastard. If you can't get that down, try remembering the cartoon lyrics. "Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines. Rafael is cool but crude (gimme a break!). Michelangelo is a party dude!"

Aside from differentiating the guys with unique head molds, NECA and The Four Horsemen really did a job on the rest of their bodies as well. The turtles' skin isn't just smooth plastic; it's got a nice, rough texture to it. Every wrinkle is sculpted into the bodies, with comic-like pointillism to add dimension. Even the knots on their masks are present and the ends are sculpted like they are moving in wind.

Another great thing that distinguishes these toys from the mass market counterparts made by Hasbro or Mattel is the construction. You'd think that they would make the torso and shell in one mold as a piece, but no! Their torsos are all made of three pieces, the body, the chest plate, and the shell, all held together by their belts. Don't worry, it's all sturdily put together and glued in place, but there's enough space between the pieces to appreciate the effort. You can see the wrinkles under their arms going back into the shell!

That brings us to paint apps, which are quite frankly, perfect. These are pretty high end action figures, so you'd expect them to be well done, but like the Raziel figures, NECA's gone above and beyond. Each wrinkle and cross-hatch is filled with a cut line that makes it feel as if these figures have stepped right out of the page. There is no slop between colors, even in the mask and eye areas. Colors are nice, considering there's no variation in them. Skin looks like skin, shell like shell, and leather like leather. Plus the chosen paints aren't cheap glossy ones. They're all in a matte finish that photographs great!

Articulation wise, this series gets another 5 out of 5 stars. Here's a list: Ball joint at base of skull, ball joint at base of neck, ball joint at shoulder, peg joint on upper arm, pin at elbow, peg/pin at wrist, cut joint at waist, ball at hip, peg on thigh, double pin knee joint (oh yeah!), and finally, a pin and hinge joint at the ankle. Whew! That's about 25 points of articulation if I'm not mistaken. Not the most we've seen, but all of it is FUNCTIONAL. These turtles can get into a many great ninja positions, including high kicks, without falling over.

Last up is accessories, and again, NECA comes out swinging. All the turtles come with their signature weapons; swords, sais, nunchaku, and bo staff. You won't believe the work that went into these things. Don's staff breaks into two so that you can slide the slim part into his hands instead of trying to cram the big ends into the gap. Mike's nunchucks have actual, tiny aluminum chains and not crappy plastic or ropes. Raph's sai will fit in several different ways, with extra space between his fingers for to spin it round. Leo's swords are kinda boring in comparison, but they're well designed and he's got nice detailed scabbards on his back to make up for them. You need to be careful with Leo's swords though; the plastic used can break if you push it in the wrong direction while trying to pose him (don't ask). The weapons also fit into the turtles' belts:

Raph and Mikey also come with 3 throwing daggers and shuriken respectively (they're really small; I've already lost one of the shuriken), and Don has a canister of ooze (the can is probably the only place I saw sloppy painting the whole kit and caboodle). In addition to that, each of them comes with an extra set of hands with ninja crampons tied to the palms that can be switched with their gripping hands. And in addition to that, they all come with a turtle version of themselves before the mutation! How cool is that?

And if you're lucky enough to find the single packs or the exclusive SDCC box set, you'll also find that each figure has it's own little stand that's molded to look like part of a street scene. Donny and Mikey have the street parts, with molded manhole and dirt and wood bits. Raph has a sidewalk piece that includes a street lamp, and Leo has one with a gray fire hydrant. All of these piece together, so if you have a good background painting, you got yourself a great little diorama. Even better, if they finally come out with wave 2 with the Foot clan baddies, they'll also have street pieces that you can link up for. Fight scene anyone?

There is also a variant set available that is in pure black and white, just like the comics. While purists might like these versions, I find them kind of bland. Turtles are green, doi.

The only problems I found may just be bad luck. On Raph's extra hand, the crampons were already coming off out of the box. Easily fixed and not really noticeable. The peg joints in Raph's and Leo's left arms and their right legs are paint-locked. Again easily fixed. There's also the easily broken material of the weapons, but if you're careful, it shouldn't be a problem.

If you can still find this set, don't hesitate. Raph and Donatello are short packed and are extremely hard to find, going for something like P2500.00 on eBay. Leo and Mike have disappeared from Toy Kingdom shelves as well. I got mine on the secondary market from a collector at a pretty good price, considering. All in all, the quality of these figures is worth the premium you pay!

Super Combat Captain America


I’ve said that the Captain America movie line didn’t look as if it was faring well in terms of sell through, and things don’t seem to have improved in the month or so since I wrote my Heroic Age Captain America review. I’m hoping that once the movie hits cinemas on July 22nd (maybe the 20th here in the Philippines since we open movies on Wednesdays) interest in the figures will spike. With three waves out there and the future of Marvel toys in the balance, the brand really needs some help getting going.

Why am I so interested in this line’s success even thought there are so many reported quality control issues with it? Well, aside from the issue about paint, there’s actually very little wrong with the figures themselves. Design, articulation, and construction of the figures are all decent and Hasbro has also done well on accessorizing them. I’d hate for them to get the wrong idea and revert to fielding second rate junk like we saw in the first year or two of Marvel Universe, or flooding the market with yet more Iron Men, Spider-Men or Wolverines.

In light of that, I’m taking a look at the seminal figure in the Captain America movie line, Super Combat Captain America.

The figure may be called “Super Combat Captain America”, but really it’s just the 3.75” plastic rendering of the Chris Evans character in the movie. A comparison between the figure in the plastic bubble and the character portrait on the front of the card will tell you that. The back of the card has all the requisite data about our favorite super soldier, some “also available” shots, and a clean, if rather boring product photo.

This being a period movie, this version of Cap is more like the World War II Captain America that we saw at the SDCC last year than any of the modern versions. Instead of tights, Steve Rogers is sporting pants bloused into heavy boots and what looks to be body armor. As a result, he looks more padded than buff, which is… different. I like it, but your mileage may vary.

The bubble shows off his accessories nicely, with his pistol, his helmet and his INDESTRUCTIBLE COMBAT SHIELD displayed near his head.

First off, I love that we get another Captain America with a removable helmet. The fit isn’t as tight as I’d like (means it’s too easy for me to lose it), but the fact that they bothered to detail his head under it with the wings is just awesome. I’m not sure about the likeness to Evans, but this is 3.75” scale, so there’s not a lot of canvas to work with. Besides, I’ve never been a fan of movie likenesses on toys. There’s always a tendency for them to come out looking completely lifeless. I’ve got to admit that this figure has a little of that blah look going on.

Like most of the Captain America figures, this one suffers from paint issues, and they’re most noticeable in the face area. There is lots of slop where the flesh tones go outside their designated areas and some areas where the brown under coat shows through. The lines between the red and white stripes and the star on his chest are also problem zones. You’re also going to want to make sure you check that “A” on his head. There were many examples that had misaligned letters.

I love the brown color of the leather parts of his costume, though. I wish they’d colored the gray straps on his uniform the same rich shade.

The shield is a thing of beauty. The shield from the Heavy Artillery Captain America (the one that looks like the Captain America from the comics) is nothing compared to this. The thing has got painted straps that WORK, and a silver interior! It's smaller than the one from the Heavy Artillery version, but damned if I care.

Sadly, there's no way for him to sling it on his back like the other Cap figures since the peg that allows it to be plugged into his back is gone.

He's also got that handgun included, and a working holster. But wait! There's more! There's also a strap that goes over the gun's grip to hold it in place. There's no button to hold it down, but the plastic holds its shape well so there's really no need for one.

The gun itself fits in his hand fine, but it is a little on the large size and there are no paint applications to speak of. It's just a boring, translucent gray.

The articulation is less than what we got with the SDCC Captain America, but then that one didn't have to contend with the restrictions of a Marvel movie figure. Since the toy has to mirror the celluloid image, you get a Captain America who looks much chunkier than you'd normally see in a super hero book. The joint work is pretty good, though there's not as much range. I do wish they'd make stands standard with their figures though. It's hard to get these guys to stand when they've got limited ankle movement.

Compared to other Marvel figures, he's still a little on the short side, but next to the other movie line figures, it's all good. I kind of wish I'd gotten one of those 5" Hulks while they were available so I'd have a more complete line up.

Though the figure didn't wow me as much as the SDCC one did, I feel this is a solid effort by Hasbro and worth the Php 500.00 (about $11.00 US) I shelled out for it. I say get it while he's available, because once the movie hits, this one's going to be targeted by many a collector and kid.

Disqus for Joint Junkie