Tuesday, 29 December 2015

POP! Movies -- Godzilla

Company: Funko
Series: POP! Movies

Year: 2015

Few movie monsters are as iconic as Godzilla. Debuting in the 1954 Japanese film ゴジラ(Gojira), he has since gone on to star in dozens of movies, becoming emblematic of an entire genre of films – and in some ways, of Japan – in the process.

There have been countless items of Godzilla merchandise released over the decades; Funko is just the latest in a long line of licensors to take a crack at him. They’ve done so in two styles – a Mystery Mini, which I’ll hopefully take a look at in the next few days, and a 6” Funko POP which is the subject of today’s review.  

As you might expect, a character that’s existed for seven decades has had some changes in appearance over the years. The differences – with the exception of the American versions from 1998 and 2014 – are not always obvious to my eyes. They largely seem to be oriented keeping his look fresh and moving with the special effects technology of the day, rather than allowing it to be limited to a 1950s. That said, judging by the box art, this POP does appear to be based on Godzilla’s first incarnation. The back of the box depicts him picking a train up from the ground; it obviously looks a little dated to modern eyes, but would have been undeniably impressive in its heyday. Perhaps most importantly, it gives a great sense of just how big this guy is!   

There are currently four versions of this POP doing the rounds. Two of them are convention exclusives – the Ghost (i.e. glow in the dark) and Black & White versions. A few of these have shown up in some Australian retailers, like Zing. But they seem to have long since sold out, so expect to pay an extortionate price on eBay for them.
There’s also a Burning Godzilla, who I believe is based on a scene from one of the 1980s films, and the plain regular version which we’re looking at here today. Curiously, the Burning Godzilla seems to cost substantially more than the regular version. It doesn’t seem to be an exclusive, and I believe it’s exactly the same sculpt, so I’m not sure on the rationale behind this. Limited edition, sign of impending price rise or simple aberration? Hopefully the third option.    

There are still relatively few 6” POPs doing the rounds, so they are always an interesting novelty. This is one of only two I own, the other being ThanosSculpting, if not 100% accurate to the 1954 incarnation of the character (and let’s be honest, it’s not meant to be), is quite impressive. He’s got a very avocado-esque look to his skin, both in texture and colour. The face is rendered in cutesy fashion while still having a hint of looming menace, reinforced by his chubby little hands with chubby little talons. It captures the essence of Godzilla’s pseudo-dinosaur look quite well. Anyone who’s vaguely familiar with the character should recognise who this is meant to be, and find it appropriately endearing. The main shame is that Funko didn’t include some kind of city skyline in the box for him to lurk over/totally destroy.

Paint is mostly fine, but there’s still room for improvement. The gums and teeth are a little sloppy, giving a somewhat Joker-esque look to his mouth. The silver spines on his back are the main area likely to be problematic. Painted silver, coverage can be a bit uneven and the green shows through a little too much. Of course, you can’t check his back in the box; you can only check the face.   

Unusually, Godzilla is totally static – he doesn’t even have the token neck articulation. Any potential movement is blocked by a large back spine, glued in right where head meets neck. This isn’t a big drama for me – after all, though I would disagree with OAFE’s assessment that POPs are not toys, they’re certainly not action figures and I don’t buy them with that expectation.    

Godzilla is a good POP, not simply because he’s an awesome character, but also because he’s a good entry level POP. Nowadays there are so many different POPs available across so many different licenses (which is a good problem to have, mind you) it can be difficult to know where to start! Godzilla is a fun POP for those who are fans of the franchise – but you don’t need to be a diehard fan of the character to justify picking him up either.

Overall? Godzilla comes highly recommended if you can find him – the usual retailers I frequent either seem to have not got him or just sold out crazy fast. But don’t pay silly money on the aftermarket, because he’s a big enough that he’ll hopefully get a wider release/re-release in the near future.    

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Funko Mystery Minis: An American Werewolf in London (Horror Classics Series 2)

I only watched An American Werewolf in London a couple of months ago, around Halloween. But given my penchant for all things Lupine (pls refer to the name of the blog), it should come as no shock that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was quite different to my expectations. Though quite gory, violent and disturbing in parts, it’s actually quite a funny film. Yet it doesn’t really move into Evil Dead territory; it manages to retain a lot of poignancy, particularly with the tragic ending.

John Landis really got it right with this one, and I can’t help but think that it would have a difficult time getting made today. Hollywood and filmmaking have always been heavily influenced by the prospect of making money; I’m not going to try and pretend that there was some golden era in the 1970s/80s where everyone was just making art for art’s sake. But it does seem like studios were a little more confident to let a movie find an audience over time, rather than freaking out and yanking them from circulation just because it didn’t make thirteen trillion dollars in the first weekend.*

Of course the titular Werewolf (sometimes called the “Kessler Wolf”) is the biggest star of the film. You don’t really get a good look at the fully transformed beast until right at the end of the film, but the David Naughton’s transformation has rightly gone down in cinema legend.  

This is not a bad thing. Seeing any villain too much tends to reduce its effectiveness, and impressive as the creature design itself is, seeing too much of a (presumably) limited puppet could have done more harm than good to the film. As it is, it retains its B-movie sensibilities without ever getting too camp – that subway scene is genuinely frightening. And when he escapes the cinema, it’s brutal (confident in calling that one NSFW).  

So, naturally Funko has decided to turn this violent supernatural beast into a cutesy collectible. It’s actually kind of difficult to find reference photos of the Kessler Wolf from the film – there are a few collectibles and replicas out there, but a lot of them look a little off to me. This can probably be attributed to a couple of factors; there are usually at least two or three different puppets of a monster on a film like this. This provides the filmmaker with different options for long shots, close-ups, stunts, and simply to allow for wear and tear. All of these can have subtle – or sometimes drastic – differences between them, which in turn means that there isn’t always a definitive version to refer to when it comes time to make merchandise. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is a classic case in point – the main suit is different from film to film…then you have the underwater suit…plus the mask that was used to generate the breathing effect in the first film. But there are lots of films like that. It’s compounded by the fact that people didn’t anticipate that someone would still care about the film decades later, so reference photos may be in short supply or simply non-existent. Not to mention that the suits and puppets themselves tend to succumb to age pretty quickly.
But on the whole, this figure isn’t a bad likeness considering its stylised nature. I think the face should probably be a bit lighter, but its somewhat generic nature means it also serves as a good werewolf sculpt for anyone who wants to mix and match with a compatible series of Mystery Minis –  like Funko’s Walking Dead Mystery Minis. Let’s see you crossbow your way out of that one, Daryl!!!

This figure, like Cthulhu, is packed at a 1/24 ratio. He’s an absolute pain in the bum to find – in trying, I drew three Eds (I must be the only person in the world who didn’t like Shaun of the Dead) and three Cthulhus, two of which were the glowing variant (more on that another time). So I can’t offer any grand insights into how to find him. I ended up caving and ordering him on eBay for slightly more than I would have liked to paid, but not a totally outrageous amount either.
Overall, he’s a fun figure, and probably the figure I wanted most from this series after Cthulhu. Just don’t let his apparent rarity trick you into paying a fortune – with the film’s 35th anniversary next year, I’m hoping NECA or someone will pick up the license and do an exceptional take on him.

*Things are not quite that simple, of course – back then the idea of a blockbuster was still pretty new, having been pioneered by films like Jaws and Star Wars only a few years before. You only had one or two of those films a year, whereas now there are a HUGE amount competing for attention and dollars. In 2015 alone, we’ve had Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Furious 7, Jurassic World, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed! This doesn’t even include outrageously high grossing films that we might not consider traditional blockbuster films, like Fifty Shades of Grey or Magic Mike: XXL. See how a more…ah…offbeat film like An American Werewolf in London might have some issues standing out in a crowd like that? Back in 1981, it only had Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman II to compete with – on that front, anyway.  

Likewise, thanks to increased instances of downloading and piracy, it’s harder for films to recoup costs – or continue to generate revenue – on home media. Plenty of now-famous day cult films were seen by about three people in cinemas, but eventually found their audience on VHS or DVD. Not to say that can’t happen now, just that it’s more difficult.        

POP! Heroes: White Lantern Flash

I mentioned a while ago that I had at least one more Flash POP to review on here – well, here he is!

First released a year-ish ago in conjunction with White Lantern Superman, I initially passed on this Flash. Of course, now that I’ve got the (glow) versions of Batman and Wonder Woman, I’m incredibly annoyed at myself for not getting the glow Flash and Supes back then – but hey, if that’s the worst thing that happened to me all week, I’m doing pretty well.  

But I was in Geelong a couple of months ago and came across this non-glow version in the Popcultcha store, and thought it was time to take the plunge. So now it’s quite possible that I’ll get White Lantern Supes too, though we’ll have to wait and see… 

This figure uses the same mould as the original Flash, New 52 Flash, New 52 Reverse Flash, Black Flash, Blue Lantern Flash, Reverse-Flash and Black Lantern Reverse-Flash – in other words, the exact same mould as all of the non-TV series Flash POPs. Funko sure is getting th
eir money’s worth from this mould; the only other mould I can think of that they’ve used this much is their original Batman, who is currently available in 3049235804+ different colour schemes (plus chases and retailer variants).  
The concept is good but the execution is lacking. The basic paint is cleanly executed across most areas, but the body is kind of dirty, possibly dropped on the ground at the factory. The tampographs on the other hand, though – they’re not great. The chest one has been stamped on properly, but the belt and wrists are pretty darn sloppy. The black lines are uneven and the silver is pretty sloppy. It’s disappointing – if you want to go ahead with a purchase, make sure you inspect it carefully. I’d be less disappointed if this was the glow version, but from a distance it’s still a striking colour scheme. He’ll look good on the shelf. However, in tandem with the QC problems with White Lantern Wonder Woman, it's made me very hesitant about picking up White Lantern Superman to complete the collection.
For someone who barely reads the Flash outside of his Justice League appearances, I’ve somehow managed to buy the same mould four different times. Batman is my favourite superhero, and I only own two of him! Fortunately, I’m not a big fan of the Black Lantern Reverse-Flash POP that came out just recently, so I’ve saved myself a bit of money there. White Lantern Flash is definitely not an essential purchase, but you may find him an interesting one. And I'd like to see more of the White Lanterns, particularly some of the harder to find moulds, like Green Lantern and Hawkman.  

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Fallout Mystery Minis: Fallout - Grim Reaper's Sprint

Well, once again I've found myself not updating the site in weeks. Lots of easy excuses to throw around -- busy with work, busy with life, Christmas approaching etc etc -- and these have definitely played a part. But I've also just been plain lazy. I love running the LBC, don't get me wrong. I have no intentions of giving it up in the foreseeable future, I've got plenty of stuff I want to write about on here -- but a short break has been a good thing.

But today, I'm back. And we're looking at another of Funko's Fallout Mystery Minis -- Grim Reaper's Sprint.

To give the simple explanation, Grim Reaper's Sprint is one of the perks your character can pick to boost AP if you manage to kill someone/something in VATS mode. The perk has varied in its exact rules and usefulness since its introduction back in Fallout 3, but irrespective of your feelings about its gameplay application, it's definitely one of the coolest Vault Boy illustrations.

He's depicted as a Bergman-esque Death i.e. black cloak, pale white face that's not quite a skull.  But it still manages to be very Fallout; his blue Vault Jumpsuit is visible beneath the robes and his face is full of that signature chipper Vault Boy attitude. In his right hand he holds a scythe, which has been pretty standard issue for Death since at least the Middle Ages. In his left hand he holds a briefcase. The symbolism of the briefcase is probably something incredibly obvious, but it escapes me nonetheless.

Of the four figures I've picked up from the range (one review still to come), this is far and away my favourite. Paint is a little fuzzy in parts, but the distinctive cartoony style of Fallout's in-universe training materials is lends itself particularly well to Funko's Mystery Minis. If this series sells well, hopefully we'll see a second series that tackles even more perks and unique creatures from the Wasteland.