Saturday, 8 July 2017

POP! Movies: Chucky (Child’s Play 2)

There’s always a suspension of disbelief involved for any slasher villain, but a killer who transfers his soul into a doll via voodoo ritual? Yeah, right. But the first Child’s Play film is actually far more unsettling than you might expect, with some genuine scares and a great villain. I wouldn’t put Chucky in quite the same circles as Freddy, Jason or Pinhead – but he’s certainly not far below. So given the esteem the films are held in by horror fans, it’s no real surprise that sooner or later we got a POP of Chucky.

This is the Child’s Play 2 version of Chucky, who looks a little rougher round the edges than he did in the first film. I assume they went with this look for a couple of different reasons; the license is probably more easily acquirable/cheaper than the first film (as with Hellraiser vs Hellraiser III). Additionally, Chucky spends most of the first film looking fairly plain, so the scars on his face here add some nice additional detail. It’s a good decision – who would want a POP version of what’s essentially a “My Buddy” doll?

Originally released back in 2014, he’s sculpted to be a little smaller than his horror contemporaries. He’s still bigger than he would be in “real” life but one must forgive the limitations of the format. Additionally, this was around the time Funko stepped up their paint game quite a bit, so he’s better rendered than many of his contemporaries. It’s certainly not perfect but Funko are still to be commended for doing an impressively neat job with so many apps in play – just look at his sleeves! 

There are two other POPs of Chucky available. The first is simply a bloody version of this one; you can pay the premium for it if you want, but making a custom would be easy enough. The other is based on his appearance in Bride of Chucky – it uses the same body, but a different head sculpt. Both are good choices, but not being hugely familiar with the series I thought I’d opt for this one.

While not as great as some of the other horror-related POPs Funko have done, Chucky is still a solid addition to the collection. With Cult of Chucky due out this year, there’s bound to be a revival of interest in the character – who knows, we may even see a third take on Chucky hitting shelves in the near future. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

POP! Rocks – Jimi Hendrix (Monterey Pop Festival)

I listen to a lot of heavy metal, and a good chunk of what makes up the genre today wouldn’t exist if weren’t for one James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix – a guitarist extraordinaire who ended up dying tragically young. His story is too lengthy to recount in full here, so let’s just say that music was never quite the sameafter he hit the scene.

This POP depicts Jimi at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Rock n’ Roll was already used to wild characters, but Jimi really turned things up to 11 when he decided to end his set by setting his guitar on fire. It doesn’t seem so outrageous these days – particularly in a post-G.G. Allin world – but it was near-unprecedented at the time. It’s easy enough to find photos of the event online, and this POP replicates his meditative position quite nicely.    

In the States, this is an FYE exclusive, but it’s just a regular release in Australia. From the store I went to, they seem to have come out here in about equal numbers. Both this and the Woodstock POP are great choices, and I would have been quite happy with either – but you don’t see a flaming guitar every day, so it seemed the logical choice.

Jimi kind of got a POP a few years ago, in the form of the Purple Haze figure. I mean, it’s not technically him…but it’s definitely him. I can’t find an exact release date for it, but I assume it was 2011 or 2012. And it sells for absolutely silly money these days (no doubt in part due to its legally dubious nature) so these new and official versions are much appreciated.

After being relatively dormant for a few years, the POP! Rocks range is expanding quite a bit this year. We’ve just had these two versions of Hendrix, Joey Ramone, Justin Bieber and Guns N’ Roses in 2017, while Metallica arrive later this year. I’ll be taking a hard pass plenty of those, but it’s good to see Funko looking at the range again. Maybe we’ll even get a Little Richard one of these days! 

Jimi is an essential buy for any rock fan. His career was terribly short, but even more than 45 years after his death, his influence can still be felt everywhere.  

Did you know that years before Motörhead, Lemmy was actually Jimi's roadie for a while? 

Monday, 26 June 2017

POP! Games: Tyrant – Glow in the Dark (Resident Evil)

As I said in my last review, I don’t really collect video game-based POPs…yet here I am reviewing my second one in just over a week! But the Resident Evil figures definitely fall under my guidelines for horror, and hopefully by purchasing them it will also encourage Funko to finally make a Silent Hill line too. So today we take a closer look at the Tyrant, one of two 6” figures in the line.

The Resident Evil games have always been good at providing the player with novel and freakish takes on zombies, and the Tyrant is no exception. His ghostly white skin, exposed internal organs and gigantic claw are quite a few steps removed from the Night of the Living Dead, but there’s no doubt that this is some kind of undead monster.

There are actually multiple different Tyrants throughout the game series, but this one seems to be based on the T-002 Model, which appears in the original Resident Evil game. It’s been a very long time since I played it, so I have to say I don’t remember it specifically – though it’s easy enough to find screencaps online of course.

POPs are never really built to scale, but making this guy a 6” figure is a lot more “accurate” that plenty of others that we’ve seen in the line. He’s probably a little too big in comparison to Nemesis, but he looks about right next to the average human character. Tyrants are big, terrifying bastards after all, and this guy delivers that scare factor it in spades.

Funko have done an excellent likeness here, bringing in considerable detail but never departing too wildly from the simplistic aesthetic. It’s really quite disgusting, with numerous family members commenting on its unsettling look. And even better, this guy glows in the dark, allowing him to be unsettling by night too!

My main criticism (and boy, have we heard this one before) is that the paint job could be a little tighter. Certainly the paint job is more complex than lots of other POPs, which elevates it above many of its contemporaries – look at the shading on the claws for instance – but it’s still quite fuzzy in parts, especially on the bright red veins.

Still, it’s clear that Funko has put a lot of effort not only into this POP, but the entire line. Capcom has no doubt held them to a fairly high standard, and when taken as a whole I’d say that I feel they’ve delivered a strong final product. An essential buy for Resident Evil fans and a great addition to the shelf for any horror fans.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

POP! Games – Vivec (Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind)

Ah, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I couldn’t even tell you how many hours I put into it back in my sharehousing days. It was an easy way to spend a lot of time without spending a lot of money, and that was very important to me back in those days. It had major flaws (the journal system, the repetitive soundtrack, the overly specific skill trees), but it was my first real introduction to RPG games beyond pen and paper ones, and I will always have a great love for it.

Central to the (admittedly loose) story of Morrowind is Vivec, one of the deities of the titular setting, and the subject of today’s POP review. You can read about him in much more detail here, but all you really need to know is that he was a mortal who became a god – and who may not be quite as benevolent as he first appears. And why’s he getting a POP? Well, The Elder Scrolls Online just released its latest expansion, which is shockingly enough subtitled Morrowind. There are two versions of Vivec available – the glow in the dark one reviewed here, and the “regular” metallic release. Both are good, but the glow one was always going to be the way that I went.

There have been two series of Elder Scrolls Online POPs, and Vivec is definitely the most visually interesting of all of them*. His half-gold, half-blue appearance is incredibly striking, and also alludes to his hermaphroditic nature. And of course, his floating posture is quite distinct among POPs, giving him an appearance something like a Hindu god or goddess.   

By and large, I don’t collect gaming-based POPs. I’ve owned a few over the years, but I’ve pretty much sold or given away all of them by now. Vivec is an exception, due to my fondness for the license and his glowing nature. He’s not essential unless you’re an Elder Scrolls obsessive, but I think he looks great on the shelf nonetheless.  

*The upcoming Dwarven (or Dwemer if we’re being anal) Colossus looks great in illustration form too, but we’re yet to see any “real” pics as yet.  

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

POP! Marvel: Captain Marvel (Masked)

In spite of sharing a name with the company the character is from, Captain Marvel has actually been fairly C-list until the last couple of years. The original iteration of the character was probably most notable as being a superhero who died and actually stayed dead for more than 5 minutes. But thanks to Ms Marvel taking up the title in the comics a few years ago and a Brie Larson-led film on the way in 2019, Captain Marvel’s star is ascendant at the moment. Naturally enough, this has translated into her getting her own Funko POP.

And it’s a nice take on the character, too. The sculpt is something of a throwback to Funko’s simpler days, which keeps it looking consistent on my Marvel shelf. The paint could be tighter, but it’s not a bad rendition on the whole. My only real criticism is that I don’t love the dark blue used…it doesn’t pop (ha) on the shelf in the way I think it should. Maybe a gloss tone would have fixed this?

I actually picked this figure up late last year, and various things have prevented me from reviewing it until now – she was actually released part of the same wave as She-Hulk and Dr Strange. The basic figure was the unmasked version, while this masked version was exclusive to GTS Distribution in the USA. Here in Australia it was just a regular release as far as I could tell; either way, neither version seems to be selling for crazy money or anything. You should have an easy enough time tracking one down if you want it.

Final verdict? I’m pretty neither here nor there on the character at the moment – I’m not familiar enough with her comics – but it matches the current look nicely and the mohawk is a cool distinctive feature. Fun, if non-essential to my collection.   

Monday, 12 June 2017

POP! Television – Demogorgon (Stranger Things) Chase Version

Back in February, I had STRANGER WEEK on here to celebrate the release of the Stranger Things Funko POPs, including the Demogorgon. Well, I managed to get hold of the Chase version via a trade last week, so tonight we’re taking a closer look at it.

At the time, I mentioned that the creature design showed influence from a few different sources, including H.P. Lovecraft, Silent Hill and H.R. Giger. I specifically mentioned that it came sans the Freudian sexuality usually associated with any of these influences. Well, you can retract that this time, as this Demogorgon has its face clenched shut…so best to address the elephant in the room. It straight-up looks like a clenched anus.

It's an interesting choice, as you don’t actually see the Demogorgon looking like this too much in the show; it’s primarily depicted with his mouth wide open, with numerous characters falling prey to its fangs over the course of the show. I think that was a wise decision, as it’s much less menacing with the mouth closed, though still disconcerting. I suppose if I'd been in charge of designing the chase versions, maybe I would have suggested a bloody version or something? Or glow. Glow is always a winning choice. But kudos for trying something different.  

As with the original version, the scale is not quite right. Looking at screencaps, the Demogorgon is substantially larger than a human, but nowhere near big enough to warrant a 6” POP. They’ve gone bigger in the past with figures like Cthulhu, but on this occasion I think the reduced scale still works fine. It’s wildly different in style to the other figures in the series – which would ordinarily be a criticism, but makes sense in light of the way the character is depicted on the show.  

Overall, this figure is a good example of a chase. It adds something cool to the collection, but it’s not essential to own in order to consider the collection complete (Eleven’s chase is a bad one for this very reason). Importantly, the regular one is a better overall figure, so people who miss out on the chase aren’t really being deprived of anything. This chase is apparently packed at a 1/6 ratio, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find if you really have to have one, but make sure you don’t pay silly money.

Friday, 9 June 2017

POP! Movies - Nazgûl (The Lord of the Rings)

I like the Lord of the Rings movies, but I don’t really love them. I’ve seen each of them a few times each, and there’s no doubt that they demonstrate a level of quality, attention and care that most blockbusters don’t. But they just never resonated with me in the way that they did for many of my friends*.

I think there’s a few reasons for this. One is that I was already a massive fantasy fan via gaming sources such as Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons and Terry Pratchett (admittedly all highly influenced by Tolkien in one form or another) well before the movies were released, so it didn’t really introduce me to anything I wasn’t already familiar with**.

Of course, plenty of other people who loved them already loved fantasy too. I think for some fans (though not all) seeing the mainstream success of Lord of the Rings was something of a validation of their private interests – which had no doubt been the target of malicious attention in the past by many of those who now sang the praises of the films. But how others feel about my interests has never bothered me all that much, so I guess it didn’t resonate on this front either.  

But I did love the books, and by default that’s meant I have a fondness for certain elements of the movies, and one of them is the Nazgûl. There are nine Ringwraiths in total, but Funko have so far released only two – this subject of today’s review and the Twilight Ringwraith. I hope we get the Witch-King of Angmar eventually, but I doubt we’ll get ever get all nine...though given their similarity in appearance, it might be a little redundant.    

You can read more about their extensive history here, but the tl;dr version is that they were originally nine humans who swore themselves to Sauron’s service, and received magic rings from him in return. But swearing yourself to serve evil is never a good idea, and Sauron’s gifts were poisoned chalices. The Nazgûl were corrupted and turned into shadows of their former selves, eventually adopting the armoured Grim Reaper look.

As with the real costume, the character design is fairly basic; textured and tattered black robe, along with armoured hands and feet. He’s spattered with mud (so I suppose this is from the scene where they’re pursuing the hobbits in The Fellowship of the Ring) and he’s also wielding a battered-looking blade. It’s a great translation of real-world design to POP, mimicking the invisible look of the original via partially hollowed-out head beneath the cowl. Well done!

My only real criticism is that unlike most POPs, the head doesn’t actually turn, though this may be an issue specific to mine. Also, the sword can warp a little in the package, so keep your eye out when purchasing.

Nonetheless, the Nazgûl is an essential buy for Lord of the Rings fans. It’s been a while since there were any new Lord of the Rings POPs, and with the inclusion of characters like Saruman and the Balrog, this is a particularly good series.  

*Conan the Barbarian though? That is essential viewing.
**A few years later I’d experience similar things when 28 Days Later was released – a great film, but not the transformative, this-turned-me-onto-horror experience that it was for plenty of others.