Friday, April 27, 2012

Marvel's The Avengers Movie Review 2012

Where is your usual toy review? Not here because in this entry you are going to be treated to a movie review. It does however have a figure line on the shelves. Marvel's The Avengers movie doesn't come out until May 4th 2012 but I was treated to an advance screening the other night. It was both written and directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire slayer, Firefly tv series) and has in all respects has set the bar for all superhero movies from here on out. Scratch that. The Avengers has redefined the 'superhero movie' into something greater because that until now that term has generally denoted a single individual in which a movie is based around. Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Green Lantern, Blade. But here we have many, some who were the star of their own movies and some who were secondary characters in them.

No one character is the star of the Avengers. This is not Thor 2, Iron Man 3, or Black Widow 1. The lens is drawn back to show them as a group but each character is still profoundly explored by Whedon to an even deeper extent than in their own title films. Whedon has done the remarkable here and created a movie where no actor shines brightest and each role is an integral one. Leave one of the superheros out and the whole movie would collapse. There is no filler here, no last minute additions or studio exec ideas thrown in. What you see is a group of individuals brought together in a time of crisis and discovering how to work not just as a team, but as friends.

You heard me say superheroes right? Some of the internet trolls have already jumped on the but-no-super-powers bandwagon. How can Black Widow, a regular human female (tho top of her class assassin/spy) and expert marksman Hawkeye who can probably only bench what the average body builder can, be thrown into the mix with the likes of lightning-wielding Thor and repulsor-ray blasting Iron Man? Easily, because they are Avengers. Whedon reaches into the comic books and pulls from it the characters as you remember reading them. He doesn't add any bells and whistles that weren't there before. You don't get 'altered powers' to fit a movie-verse style. What worked in the comics works here and perfectly.

That being said Avengers pulls no punches. There is no 'Cloud-lactus' instead of a giant purple man wearing a giant purple helmet. I'm looking at you, Fox Studios. No attempt is made to ease the audience into understanding who or what is going on because the fans are watching. From the very beginning you are hurled into outer space amidst razor-edged floating asteroids with beings conversing there. How are they not floating off? Is there a forcefield dome around them with air? Well this is the Marvel Universe and that is exactly what happens in the comics. We took the leap into Marvel's unexplained cosmic forces with Thor and Captain America. Now you had better learn to swim.

Back to the characters without 'powers' Black Widow and Hawkeye. They have their own special abilities that make them part of the team. Combat abilities that suddenly become very clear and very deadly. Black Widow doesn't need a mystical hammer to kill you, she just needs to get behind you. Hawkeye doesn't need to slam his fists into cars or throw buildings to win, he just needs a single arrow and you will not be walking away from the fight. These perfectly matched character traits are apparent in all the superheros from Captain America to the Hulk.

Ah yes, the Hulk. He is a fan favorite to many. But this is not the hulk from either previous films. This is not Ang's or Norton's Hulk. This is Comic Avengers Hulk as if Whedon has peeled him up from the page and placed him on film..and he will be everyone's favorite. Having a different Hulk required a different Banner this time around, not a decision made lightly. Mark Ruffalo's David Banner is as perfect as can be and as the Hulk he is as much of an actor as his real-life actors. I will spoil one thing for you because it needs to be. We have been lied to, Hawkeye never shoots him with a gas arrow as mentioned in interviews. Hulk is not a mindless beast or a tool. Because that's not what the Avengers need. They need a teammate and this is Comic Hulk through and through.

You're also going to laugh throughout this movie and laugh hard. Whedon brings his quirky charm through the midst of battles and downtime. From Hulk's schoolyard-style grudges to Captain America's naivety of modern life, it's the humor that adds a special sparkle to the Avengers and creates the movie's truly most memorable scenes, one in particular. I know this because leaving the theater I continually overhead people talking about the exact scene which brought a smile to my face. People are going to talk and they are already comparing Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises to The Avengers. They're choosing sides and arguing which is better. But a comparison implies that two things have similar aspects to be compared, that they are in the same league as each other.

The Avengers is not a superhero movie. It is not a summer action flick. It is not a dark and gritty origin rewrite. No, the Avengers is the first glimpse of a comic book universe that you remember reading about and writes a whole new tale for you. Whedon takes the best of each character and weaves an incredible story in your mind that brightens the dulling comic page memories of Hulk fighting on city streets, of Captain America teaming up with Iron Man, and you will be shown that the God of Thunder is truly a force to be reckoned with. Make sure you sit through the first half of the eye-candy credits, before the scrolling full credits. You will be treated to something that opens up frightening new possibilities for our heroes. That being said, GO SEE THE AVENGERS!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Starcraft II Series 2 Terran Marine Tychus Findlay figure review

Hopefully you're familiar with Starcraft a sci-fi based 'tower defense' style game. Tychus Findlay is one of the Terran Marines in the game and pretty much a main character as he's seen in the promos, trailers, and box art. But even if you have never played the game you're going to appreciate this figure. First noteworthy point, it's a fully articulated figure by DC Unlimited ( DC Direct's video game brand). That alone raises an eyebrow.

Normally I don't cover packaging but this one is special. It's collector friendly meaning you can put the figure back in, with some twiste-tie work. The box walls are strong, almost shipping-class strong and there's glossy logos that stand out on the excellent matte graphics. Keep it in case you ever want to sell the figure. Thychus is a big figure standing at 9" and weighs quite a bit. The box as big and sturdy as it is was a good idea.

Sculpting for this Terran Marine is nothing short of extraordinary. Pistons, armor plating, hoses, rivets, exhaust ports, it's all been rendered in perfect detail. Fold up the visor and you're treated to an amazingly realistic human face staring back at you. Tychus' hands and feet are particularly well rendered. I like the handles on the back of the shoulder pads, presumably to help the occupant load himself into the armor.

Paint work for the armor and human head inside are downright amazing. There's scratches, scuffing, dirt covered feet, each hose is detailed, and there's danger striping on sections. Neat additions like the scribbled words 'suck it down' and the ace of spades on the shoulder add personality to the figure, crisp and cleanly applied. The two-tone metallic visor looks great and so does Tychus' human face with glossy eyes and scarring.

Now let's address the elephant in the room. This is DC Direct we're talking about, a company known for producing unposable plastic statues. Well not here. It's like they took every joint never given to their figures and stuffed them into one big ball of articulation. He literally has Marvel Legends style articulation with the exception of ankle rockers. Shoulder pads move, biceps/hips swivel, toes move, even the fingers on his right hand are articulated. Unfortunately you can't move his inner head without needle-nose pliers, your fingers aren't going to fit inside the visor space.

Range of articulation is surprisingly good. He can walk, step, aim, twist, and do just about anything  aside from Spiderman flying kicks. This is a giant armored suit, not an acrobat's leotard. His gun is quite well designed and painted. It's hollow and light enough he can aim it with one hand. It's his only accessory but looks amazing. I can see a lot of Hulk Buster Iron Man and Warhammer 40K customs based on this figure.

I wasn't expecting much from these figures and I hear the other figure in this series Sarah Kerrigan didn't fare nearly as well as Tychus in articulation or paint, doomed to be another plastic statue. This is angering a lot of DC Direct fans. Here you see what they are actually capable with Findlay, an amazing figure in every aspect. Yet they are holding back even in the same series.

The verdict? If you're into power armor, space marines, giant robots, or just sci-fi in general, buy this figure immediately. I can't imagine it sitting around for very long on the shelf. Our sponsors Big Bad Toy Store and Past Generation Toys have both Tychus and Sarah Kerrigan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Marvel Legends 2012 series 2 Thunderball, Dark Wolverine, Drax figure review

Finding the Hasbro 2012 Marvel Legends series 2 is kinda tough so the reviews will be split up a bit. Here we review Thunderball from Marvel's Wrecking Crew, Dark Wolverine (Wolvie's son Dakken) and Drax. Each figure comes with a piece of Arnim Zola build-a-figure and a Tales of Arnim Zola pamphlet which describes his various exploits with other heroes/villains. Spiderman is the only one without a BAF piece and there's 3 variants in the line.

Thunderball is huge, a partial remold of Hulkling/Crossbones with a new chest, head, upper legs, and hands. There's tons of articulation in this guy and his neck/ab crunch really let him swing his wrecking ball in nice poses. He can look straight up without bending his abs either, just his neck. Paint apps are very clean and his yellow is shaded with orange but the green is solid. He comes with a nicely sculpted wrecking ball which is all new and not a reuse from the Hasbro Absorbing Man.

Sculpting is great for Piledriver as well but I remember him with bootcuffs like Captain America has. His lower legs have striations in them that don't quite match up to his smooth upper thighs but it's a minor quibble. Another muscular fellow is Drax who shares a Steve Rogers/Nick Fury body with new head, forearms, and lower legs. His sculpt is very nice and matches the source material in the comics well, not being super-buff as he once was.

Drax's paint apps are nice with clean tattoos and dark muscle shading tho it doesn't quite match up on his lower arms as it seems they were painted at a different time. He has the same articulation as Rogers but loses the lower calf swivels. Drax's organic-looking knives store in the back of his belt which is removable. A small gripe is that from the back you can see the two peg-points on his shoulders where Roger's webgear glues to.

Dakken, or 'Dark Wolverine' as they call him is unmasked and has his two claws popped. There's a masked variant but seems much harder to find. DW shares the Constrictor body with new hands, head, and lower legs. His folded-down Wolverine mask in the back looks neat and is removable if you pop his head off. Paint apps are clean with shading all over his tan sections, his tattoo very well done.

Dakken's articulation is better with the addition of toes and ankle rockers. He has spinning-meat forearms but that's a small price to pay for hinged wrists which any clawed superhero needs. A couple notes, the variant of Thunderball is Piledriver, Big Time Spiderman in green and black is also in a white/black Future Foundation suit, and there's Madam Masque/Madam Hydra. Tracking these down seems to be much harder than the first wave.

So what's the verdict? Get the figures. If you collect Marvel Legends it's worth it to hunt these down. Our sponsor Big Bad Toy Store has both sets of variant characters and you can find them at various brick and mortar stores. Beware tho, Toys r Us charges $20 followed by Walmart at $16, but Target has them for $15 if you're lucky. These are flying off the shelf and series 1 only sees Iron Man and Klaw left.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Batman Legacy Arkham City Nightwing action figure review

With DC Universe 6" figures on the way out, shocking as it is, there's still time to snag some new offerings on the shelf. One is the Legacy series with Nightwing and Harly Quinn in the newest assortment, both in their Arkham City designs from the video game. Nightwing as we know is a talented hand-to-hand fighter, Dick Grayson aka Robin the boy wonder all grown up. He comes with a stand, mini poster, and two batons.

Nightwing's sculpt is downright awesome. Each diamond section of kevlar weave is raised and he has these neat sunken in rivets. The raised armor sections are done very well and don't hinder his articulation at the shoulders. Even his gloves are well detailed. The headsculpt unfortunately doesn't match the source material and while nice, has way too long of a face/jaw to be the Nightwing we see in the game.

The paint apps on Nightwing really surprised me. His chest and arm armor is airbrushed blue against dark blue and looks incredible! We're talking statue-quality work on that. There's darker gray shading on his main suit, each rivet is done with zero slop, and his mask/eyes are very detailed. I'd have to say this is the best paint I've seen on any DC 6" figure all year. His boots are even a third shade of grey to the shading used.

Articulation is a step up from Arkham City Batman whom I covered in an earlier review. With the standard DCU style articulation here Nightwing has great range of motion in his shoulders and hips, a good tilt/turn neck, and ab-crunch. He's still a bit restricted in the knee and elbow range, not able to get a good 90 deg angle unless you stretch the plastic or carve a bit away behind the joint with an X-acto knife. But it's still way better than Batman. He can get into all the decent crimefighting poses you need.

Nightwing's accessories include two batons which we've seen before in his DC Universe version, stand with a sticker nameplate, and a mini-poster...which I immediately misplaced. You probably will too as I don't see too many people putting up tiny posters on their walls. I think all of the Legacy figures come with one, though I really miss the build-a-figure part for the $18 we're paying for these now. I suppose the price jump is due to the tie-in video game license but who knows.

So what's the verdict? This is a great figure and if you swap the headsculpt out with the earlier DC Universe Nightwing you'll pretty much have a dead-on version of the AC one. Our sponsor Big Bad Toy Store has both him and Harley online or you can try to hunt him down at Target where he appears to be hitting first. His body mold looks like it would be a great base for a custom superhero with the armored look and kevlar styled suit.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Transformers Prime RID Ratchet action figure review

Now that the First Edition figures are done with the regular Transformers Prime Robots in Disguise figures are coming out. Ratchet is in the newest wave with a new mold of Arcee. He's voiced by Jeffery Combs which you may recognize from the Frighteners and Re-Animator. Ratchet is cast in white plastic with red deco and acts as the Autobot's medic in the show. I like the figure's overall design from the front, from the side it's a little weird.

Ratchet's sculpt is of a well-proportioned bot with broad shoulders. The side view shows hollow sections under his arms, at his backpack, and inside his legs. It's a little jarring at first but not a huge problem. His face sculpt is great as are his hands with individual knuckle bolts. The way his arm panels fold to form the arm works well and for the most past he appears close to the show version.

Paint applications, while applied cleanly, tell a different story. He's missing a ton of them especially the ones on his forearms. However this would have odd bits of red showing on the vehicle that aren't suppose to be there I'm guessing. Feet, shoulders, head, there's missing red everywhere. Some testors Guards Red/Silver and a fine brush should fix that for you. The feet are probably the most distracting.

Articulation is great! He has a waist joint and the automorph head that pops up maintains a full ball joint neck. Ratchet also has double jointed knees and elbows, also full swivel. He's only missing wrist and ankle swivels like Cliffjumper tho it really doesn't detract from his range. His accessories include two scalpels or combat blades if you prefer that can be plugged on various ways in both modes. They're very soft plastic and bend easy.

Transformation is easy enough, mainly folding and stretching of parts. His leg panels do peg in securely by the lowest tab near his ankle. Pull the back of the ambulance down when transforming and his head pops up on a spring. Ratchet's alt-mode is pretty plain, missing the all-important heart rate deco from the side, red roof, and silver rims. It's missing decos like these that detract from the overall appeal of the toy to some collectors. But the ambulance mode pegs together solid and rolls fine.

The verdict? Ratchet is a nicely articulated bot and with a little customization can look really nice in both modes. His eye light-piping is nice and bright, and overall he's worth the purchase. You can snag him at our sponsors Big Bad Toy Store or Past generation Toys along with your regular brick and mortar retailers.