Sunday, 25 September 2016

POP! Movies -- Freddy Krueger

Series: POP! Movies
Company: Funko
Year: 2011

Freddy Krueger – in a world of mute murderers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Leatherface, he stands out as one of the most distinctive villains from the slasher era. I mean, Pinhead has a bit to say for himself, but he's distinctly less...amusing...in the process. 

More than 30 years after his cinematic debut in A Nightmare on Elm Street, he’s still incredibly popular. He may not have had a film in the cinemas for a while, but the plethora of Freddy merch littering the shelves suggests that there’s still a substantial fanbase out there. Will we see Robert Englund play him again? Probably not, but the character lives on nonetheless.   

Though this figure was released under the Nightmare on Elm Street banner, this is not Freddy from the first film. His appearance has remained pretty consistent over the years, but has undergone a few subtle adjustments over the years. I would guess that this is based on the third or fourth film, based on reference images online. Maybe Freddy Vs Jason? Others more familiar with the character will have to make that call.

Considering how early this figure came in Funko’s run of POPs, it’s surprising how excellent it looks. The fedora also appears to be a solid piece, which gives the whole thing a nice weight. The paint could definitely be better, but the main area you’ll notice an issue is the left hand, which is a totally different colour to his scarred face. Perhaps it’s a more realistic take on burns damage, but it looks weird and incongruous in this format.

As a side note, the box depicts Freddy with painted eyebrows, but while the sculpt includes them, they’ve been left unpainted. I think was a better decision, as the “real” Freddy doesn’t have any. Also, pick your figure carefully in-store – the claws on his right hand are frequently a bit warped. It’s probably fixable with the hot water and ice trick, but I haven’t tried it myself.   

Freddy isn't the only horror villain with large claws.
There is a variant available too – a glow-in-dark one. Though I was fortunate enough to stumble on the Jason Voorhees variant in the wild, I suspect you’ll have a tougher time tracking down the Freddy one, unless of course you’re willing to pay crazy eBay prices. There's also been a syringe-fingers version of the character to -- this is apparently from a scene the third film. It's an interesting take, but not really as iconic as some of his other looks. 


Of all of the big horror villains, I’m probably the least familiar with Freddy Krueger. I’ve seen the first and second Nightmare on Elm Street films, Freddy Vs Jason and the 2010 remake – but with the possible exception of Freddy vs Jason, none of them are really representative of the popular image of the character as the sinister wise-cracking sadist. Nonetheless, the first film is a slasher classic, and indeed much better than some of its peers and predecessors. I’m sure I’ll get to the other films eventually, but in the interim still Freddy deserves his spot on my horror shelf. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

POP! Movies – Leatherface

Series: POP! Movies
Company: Funko

Year: 2011/2012?

More than forty years after its release, there’s not a lot left to be said about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, so here’s the basic recap: it was wildly controversial on release, marketed as being based on a true story and served as a granddaddy to the whole slasher film genre. Since then, there’s been several more movies in the series, spanning sequels, prequels and remakes. Their quality has varied wildly, as might be expected – but the fact that you’re reading this article suggests that you’re probably familiar with a lot of this stuff anyway.

Today we’re looking at the POP of the series’ most iconic villain, Leatherface. Leatherface and his freakish Sawyer family were inspired by the macabre real-life antics of Ed Gein, a man from Wisconsin whose crimes horrified America when they were discovered in the mid-1950s. Known as a bit of an odd fellow and loner, it turned out he was far more sinister than anyone would have expected – his hobbies included grave robbing, murder and making various items out of body parts, including masks*.

Leatherface wears three different masks in the film, but the POP depicts his “Killing Mask”, which is probably the most iconic. It seems he didn’t do a great job tanning it, though – there’s big gaps around the eyes and mouth, and the whole thing has a shrivelled, yellow look. It’s a stark contrast to the other two masks he wears, which were more naturalistic and as a result somewhat more disconcerting when they appear onscreen.

His outfit is basically a butcher’s one – yellow apron, collared shirt and a black tie – though instead of some knives, he’s carrying a yellow chainsaw. Gunnar Hansen, who portrayed Leatherface in the film, was a big guy, and the chainsaw looks almost comically small in some scenes – Funko has replicated this effect quite nicely here, without it looking weird, as can sometimes happen when they try and merge their stylised look with real-world proportions.

Now there is a variant available too – a bloody version, rather than a glow-in-dark one. It does look cool, but it’ll set you back a pretty penny. My suggestion would be to simply buy a regular one and add your own “blood” with paint if you find it necessary.

And on that note, paint is a bit of a mixed bag. His face and hair are well executed, but you’ll want to check carefully to make sure there’s not a ton of slop around the actual chainsaw. A minor nit is that the tie should have a white stripe on it to be screen-accurate, but its absence isn’t the end of the world. Additionally, it’s not unusual for the chainsaw to be warped in the box; you can probably straighten it with the hot water and ice trick though.

So overall? Well, I’m not the world’s biggest Texas Chain Saw Massacre fan. The years and thousands of movies that have followed in its wake have defanged it somewhat – modern audiences watching it are just as likely to be bored as they are to be frightened or disgusted. However, it still has its share of disconcerting moments, and I can appreciate its importance to horror history. Leatherface is a bona fide horror icon, and thus he’s a worthy addition to my rapidly expanding horror POP shelf. He’s well-executed (ha!) and should please fans of the character.  

*Ed Gein also served as a loose inspiration for Buffalo Bill from Silent of the Lambs, Norman Bates from Psycho and numerous others. Slayer wrote a song about him on their Seasons in the Abyss album too, called – appropriately enough – "Dead Skin Mask".  

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Lego Minifigures Series 16 (Part 1 of 4)

Well, rather tragically I never actually finished reviewing Series 15 -- I will have to get to that at some point, because it was an excellent series -- and I skipped the Disney minifigs entirely.

But here we are now, already in September and series 16 now hitting shelves in Sydney. I have mixed feelings about this series; everything from 12-15 was excellent, and while this certainly isn't a bad series, I'm a little less enthused about it. I felt similarly about series 10 though, and in hindsight that was a really good release. But let's kick things off!

Cute Little Devil

Following on from the Monsters theme of Series 14, the Cute Little Devil could easily be the younger brother of Skeleton Guy from that series. He's carrying a trick or treat basket in the shape of a jack o' lantern, and carrying a devil-appropriate pitchfork. It's a good nod to the movie Problem Child, which I remember enjoying as a kid but has probably not aged all that well. Still, maybe we can hope for a pseudo-Bow Tie Killer in the next series too.




Spooky Boy

Here's the Emo boy companion to the Spooky Girl released back in series 12 in 2014. His design matches her well but he looks like a total sad case in contrast to her cool and reserved demeanour. Also, I've long loathed the stylings of bands like My Chemical Romance and The Used, so that's a big strike against him from my perspective. Still, the print on his pants could be repurposed for some kind of metal or punk custom figure.




Spy 

Though I'm not super-enamoured with the other two figures I've mentioned, this is probably my least favourite figure in the series. Not the concept; I like the idea of a spy figure, and the print on the body is good -- but the execution of the goggles is off; they attach directly to his hairpiece, but in a weird way that doesn't actually lock in properly. Still, he's quite distinctive in that he's carrying a somewhat-realistic gun.





Mariachi

Strumming up a storm, the Mariachi is easily the most fun minifigure in this review. He's a great concept, and lends himself to buying multiples -- that way you can have a whole serenade thing going on for one of your minfigure couples. Maybe even the Spooky Boy and Spooky Girl, though I don't think they'd really go for that sort of style.







Well, that's part 1 done -- look out for parts 2 through 4 coming soon!

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

POP! Rocks – Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead

Series: POP! Rocks
Company: Funko
Year: 2016

Lemmy Kilmister was a genuine rock icon who drank hard, took obscene amounts of drugs and who even Ozzy “I snorted a line of ants in front of Mötley Crüe” Osbourne couldn’t keep up with. He worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, played in Hawkwind, appeared on The Young Ones, had ridiculously huge facial warts and perhaps most impressively, stayed a relevant force in music until he was 70. He was a much-loved and admired figure across rock, punk and metal – and remains so, but he shuffled off this mortal coil late in 2015.

Now in spite of my admiration for the man, I’ll freely confess that I am not the world’s foremost expert on Motörhead. I’m a very Greatest Hits kind of fan – Ace of Spades, Killed By Death, Bomber, Hellraiser – among many others, are all great hard rock/metal songs. But you’ll need to look elsewhere for indepth assessments of their albums. Today, we’re going to take a look at Funko’s tribute to the man.

It’s a pretty faithful to his look – a warts and all rendition, one might even say. Pardon me for a moment while I pat myself on the back for that one. Ahem. But yeah, he’s dressed in pretty standard Lemmy gear – long sleeved shirt with the sleeves rolled up, Motörhead t-shirt beneath. Iron Crosses on his cowboy boots (somewhat controversially, Lemmy was a big collector of WWII and Nazi paraphernalia, though did not share their ideology). An Ace of Spades tattoo is visible on his left arm (not pictured) and his right arm has some kind of eagle design – apparently it was done by the Kat Von D!

Paintwork isn’t perfect, but it’s better than the Funko average. The tampoing of the tattoos and t-shirt design are particularly nice, and a good sign that Funko has stepped their game up there too.  This is important, because details like his Rickenbacker bass would look terrible if Funko hadn’t stepped up their game since their early days.   

So overall? This is a good POP. Metal fans the world over owe Lemmy a huge debt, whether directly or via the bands he’s influenced. It’s a weird way of paying tribute, granted – but a fun one nonetheless. And now that Funko’s released Ozzy and Lemmy, there’s a few more metal legend POPs I’d like to see them release – starting with Ronnie James Dio. If Funko could get onto that, that’d be great.

Motörhead actually appeared on the Hellraiser III soundtrack, so there's a nice bit of crossover for you. 




Sunday, 28 August 2016

Transformers Generations: Titans Return – Hardhead

Company: Hasbro
Year: 2016

Titans Return is trickling out in dribs and drabs across Sydney, and I am almost as excited as Big Kev used to be. I’ve already taken a look at Crashbash and Terri-Bull – and I plan to look at Galvatron in the next…ooh…week…?

Though I’m DECEPTICONS 4 LYFE™, Hardhead has such a cool design I couldn’t pass him up. Hopefully though, there will eventually be a Decepticon version released, preferably in some kind of purple, black and grey colour scheme. 

Hardhead isn’t a character I’d ever heard of before, but he was an original Headmaster back in 1987, paired with his partner Duros – now known as Furos, presumably due to trademark reasons. He’s primarily green and grey, though has black treads and a couple of yellow bits here and there. While the concept of transforming from a masked robot through into some kind of Cybertronian tank isn’t really new, this figure is an example of how the Titan Masters concept really shines. Hardhead’s head – Furos – pops off, turning into a fun little robot of its own. Furos can then be stored in the cockpit of the tank, giving it a little driver. Or alternatively, part of his cannon pops opens and he can be placed in there as a gunman. It’s such a small thing, but it’s immediately elevates it several notches above just about any other tank Transformer out there

As we know, correct scale is virtually non-existent for Transformers – but I like to think of the Titan Masters being around human size. This works quite well with Hardhead, and I’ll probably keep it as my yardstick for future reviews too.  



Hardhead’s transformation is that rare blend of easy and memorable, while not being dull. He has a couple of tell-tale signs of being designed by computer rather than by hand, but overall it’s a much smoother process than I have had with a larger Transformer in quite a while. Were that they were all so well-engineered.

Articulation is also excellent – a (detachable) ball-jointed head, ball-jointed shoulders, double-hinged elbows, cut wrists, ball-jointed hips, cut thighs, swivel-hinged knees (due to the transformation mechanism). If there was one thing missing that I’d like to see included, it would be a waist joint – but that’s just the nature of the figure’s transformation, and I can live without it. Even better, he’s still easy to keep standing – he doesn’t have that whole vibe of being able to be blown over in a stiff breeze which plagues some of Hasbro’s more heavily articulated figures.  



In vehicle mode, the tank’s treads are moulded rather than moveable, but they have been equipped with some discreet miniature wheels so they can be rolled along the ground. Additionally, there’s a few spots on the treads where other Titan Masters can be attached – you can up to six ready for action once you factor in the two cockpits. My only other Titan Masters are Decepticons, so they will not be taking Hardhead up on the offer -- but it's nice to know what the issues are head.

Hardhead has the rare distinction of being a Transformer that has equally cool bot and alt modes, something few have managed to achieve in the 30+ year history of the brand. Irrespective of your allegiances, he is a truly must-own toy. Highly recommended by the Lupine Book Club.



Friday, 26 August 2016

Transformers Generations: Titans Return – Terri-Bull

Company: Hasbro
Year: 2016

So after buying Crashbash, I got pretty excited and went back to Hobbyco the next day, with plans for picking up another Titan Master figure. The only other Decepticon Titan Master released so far is the subject of today’s review – Terri-Bull.

Back in the 1980s, he was known as Horri-Bull, and was a Headmaster who transformed into a bull. Here he’s been reimagined into a small head who rides a miniature tank, which in turn can be transformed to a jet. Not the most faithful interpretation of the character, but hey, times change. It would've been nice to see a bull Transformer, but I assume the moulding vs the reuse potential wouldn't necessarily cost out. Such are the economics of modern toys, I guess...  

But what’s more annoying for me is that the colours of the promotional images vs the actual figure are incredibly inaccurate. Hasbro has been using renders for a while now, and that’s okay in theory, it’s sometimes a little…misleading. This is one of those times. What’s rendered as gold on the package is more akin to some kind of unpleasant beigey-orange. That may not sound like a big deal, but it makes the whole thing look much more toy-ish, and the colour scheme isn’t anywhere near as appealing. You'll also notice that mine has a chip on his faceplate, though there's no way to be able to tell this when he's in the packaging, Good luck!  



The jet mode is pretty cool, and it’s good to have another Titan Master figure. So Terri-Bull isn’t from…terrible. But he’s a bit of a poor cousin to his prehistoric friend Crashbash. Fun, but not really essential unless you were a big fan of the character as a kid. Don't worry -- it shouldn't take the sheen of the Titan Masters for you. I've got a really fun one coming up soon...


Thursday, 18 August 2016

Transformers: Titans Return -- Crashbash

In the 4.5 billionish years this planet has existed, dinosaurs have been pretty much the coolest creatures to ever walk God's green earth. Sure, humans weren't around for their heyday -- but ever since that first Megalosaurus bones were discovered back in 1824, they've had a stranglehold on popular culture, showing up in all sorts of bizarro places -- not least of which was Transformers.

Titans Return is pretty much the reintroduction of the Headmasters concept to the Transformers franchise, last seen in the late 1980s. Basically, the theme introduces the concept of Titan Masters – small Transformers who can combine with larger ones to supplement their power by replacing their heads. While it’s an excellent idea for establishing a play pattern, it’s slightly disturbing in storyline terms – two robots bonded together for the indefinite future, the larger stuck in a useless state when the head decides to pop off and move around on its own. I’m sure that’s not quite how it works, but it’s the version of events that sticks in my mind.    
However, as these transforming heads are intentionally designed to be interchangeable with one another, Hasbro has taken the novel step of selling some heads separately, using it to reintroduce some characters who presumably might not have gotten a release in another form. But though a head that transforms into a teensy robot is pretty cool, it's a little thin for a regular release...so each of these figures also comes packed with some kind of vehicle that can also be transformed into a weapon -- which can then be used either by the miniature pilot or by a larger figure. Pretty cool, huh? 
Considering that Hasbro tends to overprice TFs a little, I expected these heads to sell for $15-20 each, but I found this one at Hobbyco for a much more reasonably priced $11.95. This means they'll probably be $9-10 at Big W/Target/Kmart. The first wave offers some good options, but I was naturally enough drawn to Crashbash -- a purple Decepticon t-rex? Had I died and gone to heaven??? After recovering from this  near-death experience, I seized it tightly and knew that I had to buy it. It would go with my bizarro collection of other Decepticons, which currently numbers at somewhere between "waaaaaay more Transformers than I had as a kid" and "why didn't I buy a Thundercracker when I had the chance, aftermarket prices are redonk now".

Now, Crashbash is a character that was released back in the 1980s, though he was then known as "Squeezeplay" and was a kind of crab-person thing. Pretty cool, but the only real resemblance this modern version has to his 1980s incarnation is in the head mode. The T-rex look is a new one. 

And it's awesome!!! Crab people are cool and all, as South Park taught us years ago -- but T-Rex alt mode conquers virtually all other contenders. It's made by combining the Titan Master and the weapon mode together, Ingeniously, the legs become the lower half of the jaw, while the Titan Master's arms become the T-Rex's arms. You can also cheat a gun mode for bigger figures by fiddling with the legs and tail while using the "cannon" as a gun handle, but I haven't included a pic here.  

The Dragon (weapon) mode, by contrast, is neither here nor there -- it looks kind of like some kind of dino-chicken hybrid, and I don't really plan to make much use of it. It's nice to give the Titan Master something to stand on to. 

And head mode? Well, with the purple colour he might look nice on Galvatron. But I think he's going to stay in T-Rex or Titan Master mode most of the time. Though it is cool that the Titan Master's own head is a miniature facsimile of the larger head.

Now, I do have some minor criticisms. First, the promotional render makes this toy look as though it's kind of lavender in colour, but the real toy is much darker, more of a magenta colour. This isn't a problem -- I prefer magenta -- but the increasing reliance on renders in Hasbro's promotional material is giving a less and less accurate impression of what the final toy is actually going to look like. Going back to hardcopies really would be a better option, even if their paint jobs tended to be a little... questionable.  

Secondly, be warned -- the Titan Masters are a bit fragile, so have a spare or two handy if your kid plays rough. I'm quite gentle, and I've already had a couple of white pressure marks appear on him. 

Overall? If this toy had existed when I was a little kid, I have little doubt that it would have been one of my favourites. There's something indisputably awesome about a gigantic chunky figure like Devastator, but I have a lot of love for figures that are near capsule-toy size too. Ideally, I'd build an army of these guys...but I'll probably limit myself to just to or three. I vote that these separately-sold Titan Masters are a big success!