Thursday, 29 December 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Imhotep the Mummy

Just over two years ago, I reviewed the Mummy Funko POP – as we’re looking at the Mystery Mini today, I’ll take my intro from that article.

Boris Karloff – a horror legend if ever there was one. Almost 50 years after his death, the image of him as Frankenstein’s Monster continues to dominate popular culture. Universal must be making more on merchandise than they ever did on the movie itself, going off the sheer amount of stuff that’s been produced in the decades that have followed.

But Frankenstein’s Monster wasn’t the only role Karloff was famous for – another was Imhotep, the titular character of the Mummy. Released in 1932 to cash in on the craze for all things Egyptian following the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb, The Mummy was an immediate hit. Imhotep never achieved quite the same iconic status as Frankenstein’s Monster, but he remains an important part of the movie monster pantheon. The character also got a revival of sorts in 1999, when a remake (or re-envisioning or reboot, whatever you’d prefer to call it) of The Mummy was released, and became a tremendous hit. 

The original is not a perfect film, but it evokes a dark mood that still manages to unsettle to this day. Almost as importantly, Boris Karloff’s makeup as the titular character in his coffin still holds up quite well – just look at the comparison here with a real mummy.  

Recap done. So how does the Mystery Mini stack up to the POP?

Well, like the POP, Imhotep has the issue that his design is not as interesting as some of his Universal Monsters contemporaries. For most of the movie he’s a guy in a fez with an eerily wrinkled face, and he’s only actually in his burial wrappings for a short period at the beginning of the movie. In this format, it translates to him being in off-white wrappings, while his face is grey, the only real colour coming from his bronze-gold scarab ring. The underlying sculpt is very good though, with lots of detail in the bandages, and brings the character’s features to the Mystery Mini format quite well.

As with the POP Funko would have been better investing in a dark brown or black wash to go over the bandages. This would have brought out the sculpted details much more, and also made him pop more visually. Additionally, they could have gone for a green-grey look to the flesh as well, as here.

The end result is an imperfect but still enjoyable figure. The Mummy is quite under-merchandised in comparison to some of his Universal brethren – though that may change on the back of the 2017 remake – and sometimes as a result you just have to accept that you will be getting a good piece of merchandise as opposed to a great one.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Wacky Wobbler – Rat Fink


Company: Funko
Year: 2000/2005

These days, Funko are far and away best-known for their distinctive POP! range of vinyl toys, which they’ve been pumping out to great success since around 2010. But before that particular cash-cow made its way into the paddock, Funko was founded as primarily a bobblehead company – one that was intentionally retro in its outlook. The company’s first ever toy was a bobblehead of the Big Boy restaurant mascot (who’s probably best known to Australian readers via his Simpsons parody, Lard Lad).

The next few years saw Funko enjoy a reasonable level of success, though they weren’t making waves in the same way as some of their designer toy contemporaries like kidrobot. The emphasis was primarily on retro mascots released under the Wacky Wobbler banner*, like Big Boy, Count Chocula, Tony the Tiger…and the subject of today’s review, Rat Fink!

Now Rat Fink is one of those characters that virtually everyone recognises, but unless they’re of a particular age, they rarely know his name. Drawn by the now sadly departed Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Rat Fink emerged out of the Kustom Kulture hot rod scene during the 1960s, an ugly (but endearing) anti-Mickey Mouse. He’s adorned countless t-shirts since, and spawned his fair share of associated merchandise – not to mention the considerable influence that Roth’s art has had on various underground art scenes.
      
Rat Fink is typically depicted in a sketchy-looking hot rod, one hand clutching at an impossibly-angled gearstick – but here he’s travelling on foot. At a guess, the figure is based on this art, though if there’s someone out there who knows better, please mention it in the comments below. The sculpt is solid, rendering Roth’s art nicely in slightly simplified 3D. He’s technically a bobblegut rather than a bobblehead, but we won’t bandy semantics here.

There were a huge amount of Rat Fink Wacky Wobblers produced. The one reviewed here is the most common colour and mould, but there were a few different moulds and dozens of different colours produced as well. Many of them were limited edition or convention exclusives; for a more comprehensive list, check out Pop Price Guide. Personally I’d be quite keen to get my hands on a glow version of any of them, but a quick look at eBay seems to suggest that virtually all of the figures go for pretty silly money these days. This version has a copyright date of 2005, but it seems that it was originally released around 2000 -- as you can see in the pic, Ed Roth contributed some notes to the back of the box, and he passed away in 2001.

And on that note, how’s the paint? Pretty ordinary. It’s never been one of Funko’s strong points, and the additional detail in the sculpt certainly highlights its inadequacies. But considering they’d only been a company for a few years at this point, it’s acceptable, if not ideal.

Overall? Rat Fink is a cool piece of Funko history, and quite fun in his own right. I found him at a shop in Surry Hills and paid a little more than he probably cost at retail back in the day, but certainly not an outrageous price – if you want one, I’d suggest you do the same. My wife described him as “disgusting” and didn’t really want to look directly at him, which means that Funko pretty much got it right. He’s accompanying all of my horror POPs at the moment, which is probably the best place for him. Now I just hope we get an update of him in POP form – maybe as a POP ride? C’mon Funko! 


*Funko’s Wacky Wobblers line still exists, though in a greatly reduced capacity. It’s nowhere near as comprehensive as their POP! range, and now tends to focus more on comics and movies. But for aficionados, NECA also produces some bobbleheads in a very similar style. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Funko POP! Heroes – Power Girl

Company: Funko
Year: 2016

Power Girl! My main familiarity with her comes from the Superman/Batman series that ran from the early noughties through to the New 52 reboot. She turned up there reasonably regularly as a supporting character, never quite breaking through to the mainstream appeal of some of her contemporaries but nonetheless retaining a cult fanbase in the process.

Still, for the purposes of this review, all you need to know is that she’s an alternate dimension, gender-swapped Superman. She hangs out with the Justice Society, too. Pretty lazy backstory, but that’s all you needed in the 1970s.

So, how’s the POP? Well, pretty good. I believe Power Girl’s outfit has changed a few times over the years, but this would be the only one anyone would be able to pick out of a police lineup – white leotard, blue boots + gloves, red half-cape and belt. All of it virtually unchanged since her very first appearance, 40 years ago. Her hair fluctuates in length from time to time, but it’s always quite short in comparison to say, Zatanna or Wonder Woman.

Paint is adequate, but not amazing. And to be fair, I think you could apply that description to the POP itself. Maybe it’s just the fact that her costume – which is quite distinctive on the printed page – isn’t quite as vibrant when it’s rendered in 3D form.

Overall? I bought her on sale and she’s fine – but though Power Girl is a character who I like well enough, and it’s always good to get more of DC’s female cast members, there’s something that keeps it from being a truly excellent POP. She’s good, rather than great.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

POP! Games – Call of Duty Spaceland Zombie

Series: POP! Games
Year: 2016

The Call of Duty games are fun and all, but I’m years behind on them. I think the last one I bought was Black Ops 2, maybe? Long time ago now. Nonetheless, this particular piece of CoD merchandise jumped out at me – not because of my interest in the game, but because he is perfect as a Deadite to go with Ash from Army of Darkness!

This guy is gross, on par with Funko’s Walking Dead figures – a range he’d fit in with quite well. His face looks almost like it’s melting, and he’s leaking blood out of his eyes…which is quite an effective (if disgusting) rendering of the decomposition process that “real” zombies would likely go through. There’s been quite a bit of attention paid to sculpting; in life, this guy looks to have been some kind of frat boy on vacation, dressed in some very Abercrombie & Fitch-esque clothes. That said, I can’t find a reference image from the game that seems to match this particular character. If you have one, mention it in the comments below.

Overall, this detail is great, but does seem slightly strange; apparently this obscure character gets a bigger tooling and paint budget from Funko than some of the world’s biggest superheroes. I can’t imagine it’s selling in anywhere near the same numbers!  

This guy was exclusive to Target in the US, but over here you can get him from Popcultcha or – if you’re lucky, EB Games. Thanks to the success of The Walking Dead (among others), there is now a total plethora of zombie merchandise on the market. As with any trend, it’s a mixed bag; some of it’s fantastic, other stuff is total garbage. This is one of the good ones -- if you’re a zombie fan in any way shape or form, Spaceland Zombie here is a very sound investment. 


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Predators Series 16 – Spiked Tail Predator

Company: NECA
Year: 2016

In the 1990s, Kenner was a ubiquitous brand in the world of action figures. Though they’re probably best remembered for their Star Wars and Super Powers toys, they also produced figures based on delightfully child-friendly movies such as Aliens, RoboCop and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
I had quite a few Kenner figures as a youth in the 1990s (mostly Star Wars: The Power of the Force), and though many were pretty ordinary but today’s standards, they were fantastic at the time. Sadly, Kenner is no more – bought out by Hasbro some years ago, the brand has long since been absorbed into its parent company, the licenses it once held divvied up among other companies. But its legacy still lives on today, in some small part, every time an adult movie like The Dark Knight Rises or Van Helsing gets a toyline intended for children. But it’s rarely as off the wall as it was back then…I don’t think so many people see ultra-violent movies as potential kid’s cartoons, and that’s probably for the best.

So, why mention Kenner in a NECA review? Well, series 16 of NECA’s Predator line is yet another tribute to those often wild and wacky days of toy manufacturing – specifically, a modern update of some more of Kenner’s Predator range. So today we look at the Spiked Tail Predator; we’ll be looking at his two series-mates very soon.

I guess if you had to sum up Spiked Tail’s aesthetic very briefly, you’d say “Steampunk Predator”. Fortunately this is not as terrible as it sounds. The original Kenner toy was very heavily armoured and cyborg-esque, but also kind of plain, with the unusual helmet/facemask combo and odd colour the main selling points. In a line that seemed to have two ugly toys for every good one, Spiked Tail stands out as being almost aggressively unmemorable.

But NECA have outdone themselves with this update. It’s clear that the bulk of this series’ tooling budget went on this guy; though not all of his accoutrements are new tooling, most of them are. As a result, he has a nice, chunky feel to him – though I’m definitely putting him on a stand, as that gigantic dreadlock ponytail thing does leave him a little unbalanced.

Once the mask is on and the gun is mounted (either on his back or on his left arm) he looks fantastic, a wonderfully futuristic take on the hunter. In spite of him shifting well away from the more traditional Predator look, he still manages to feel somewhat plausible once the mask goes on. Maybe not so much as his seriesmate Ghost, but you could see a more muted version of this design making it into a future Predator movie.  

Now lest you fear that I gush too much, there are some problems:
  • The armour really hinders the articulation all over the body – given some time you can work with it, but straight out of the box you’re probably going to keep him in fairly vanilla poses.
  • The gun falls off the backmount quite easily
  • The mask doesn’t quite stay on his face as it should
  • His left forearm popped off when I tried to plug the gun in (though could be popped back on)
  • Paint is a little thick on his armour and bionic hand
  • The “pistons” on his left leg weren’t glued on properly when he came out of the box, and thus don’t sit quite correctly.
None of these are dealbreakers in and of themselves…but when you consider that these figures are now selling for $49.95AUD a pop it does leave a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth.
  
Interestingly, the copy on the back also gives us a bit of a taste of some potential future Preds, with mention of the Lasershot and R’Zor Predators. Lasershot was a previously released Kenner design that looked a bit like a modified Scarab/Nightstorm Predator. It sounds okay…but the mention of R’Zor is particularly intriguing. Information online is scarce, but it seems that he was a cancelled figure that was actually a human marine disguised as a Predator. Some sample figures did make it out into the wild, but they’re definitely few and far between. NECA already has a lot of tooling from the Marines in the Aliens range, so I’m hoping we do eventually get this figure in some kind of official form.  

When I reviewed Nightstorm Predator almost three years ago, I noted that I probably would have hated it back as a kid, and noted that the Kenner Aliens and Predator lines typified some of the worst trends in 1990s action figures – namely, a thin basis in source material, garish colours, little to no resemblance to the “real” character/s and ultimately quite gimmicky. But now, as then, sometimes something will grab me. I was going to pass on this guy when I first saw the promo images, but in person he really popped off the shelf. And so I decided I had to own the whole series, instead of just going for the glow-in-the-dark Stalker Predator.  

So overall? Cool update of a pretty bland design, but it’s somewhat flawed in execution. I’m still glad I made the purchase, but if this was my first experience of the line I’d be less than impressed.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

POP! Movies: Pinhead (Glow in the Dark)

Company: Funko
Year: 2016

I’ve been in a Hellraiser kind of mood of late – I rewatched the first one over Halloween, and finally saw the second one a few weeks later. But the third film is the first one I actually watched, back in 2005; it was where Pinhead first made the transition from minor antagonist to main character and focal point of the series. It’s a pretty terrible film, but it has its share of memorable moments, primarily thanks to Doug Bradley doing a great turn in the role.

Now, as I said in my previous Pinhead review, Funko have been smart – officially, this figurine is licensed from Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth. The costume differences between this and the first film are pretty minor to a layman like me, and I’m sure the costs involved were a fraction of those for licensing the original film.

And it's a good variation on a previous release; I’m almost certain it’s the same head sculpt that was used on the previous Pinhead pop, though the cuts in his face do seem much “softer”. This is probably the result of it being cast in glow in the dark plastic, and the lack of paint and wash. The arms are now folded across the chest, rather than extended, and the Lament Configuration is nowhere to be seen.  The lower half of the body looks to be identical, probably using the original prototype or sculpt as a base. It’s distinct, but not miles away from the original; for me, the glow was the main differentiation.

Paint is not as tight as the previous version, but I didn’t look very closely at the options I had in the store; I was just too excited to come across it in the wild! The glow itself is quite bright too, displaying as a luminous green on the head and also the hands.
Considering that the Hellraiser films have many visually interesting characters/villains, it’s a bit of a shame that we haven’t seen more figures released in the line. I can appreciate that some characters are not as retailer friendly as others – skinless Frank and Julia would likely elicit a protest similar to the whole Breaking Bad/Toys R Us fiasco – but I hope that we’ll at least get some of the other Cenobites sometime in the near future. Butterball, despite being my least favourite design in the actual film, seems like he’d lend himself nicely to the format -- and this custom Chatterer is quite impressive.  

This new version of Pinhead originally saw release alongside new versions of Beetlejuice, Jason and Alex (A Clockwork Orange) as Hot Topic exclusives, randomised in mystery boxes. Fortunately, in Australia they’ve been released in much easier-to-obtain form single form, though I suspect they will end up vaulted much sooner than their regular counterparts. Though not an essential purchase if you have the existing Pinhead figure, it’s still distinct enough to be worth considering. As aterrible tragic for all things that glow, I simply had to have it; I probably would have skipped it otherwise, but a good use of glow will push me over the line every time. 


Saturday, 3 December 2016

Transformers Generations: Titans Return – Galvatron (Voyager Class)



Company: Hasbro
Year: 2016

Sigh…I’ve been putting this review for a while, because generally I try and write positive reviews rather than negative ones. But in for a penny, in for a pound. Today we look at Galvatron from Titans Return.

Galvatron first appeared in Transformers: The Movie, way back in 1986. After Megatron came close to being killed during battle with the Autobots, he was taken away by Unicron and reformatted into GALVATRON, complete with a new voice from Leonard Nimoy.

Now the original Galvatron toy was somewhat unusual; most of the original Transformers toys were repurposed from a couple of different Japanese toylines – Diaclone and Microchange. But by 1986, Hasbro had burned through a lot of the designs from both these lines that worked with the Transformers concept and were starting to branch out with a few of their own designs. Galvatron was one of the first cabs off the ranks, as Hasbro had essentially planned to kill off a bunch of characters who were being discontinued in the next year’s range of toys – including Optimus Prime. That’s quite a story unto itself, of course…

I’ll start by saying that Galvatron is not a bad toy, but I’ll be keeping it fairly short. Refer to the points below:
  •  Considering I recently bought the quite similar-looking Cyclonus, I can’t help but think he wasn’t quite worth the price of admission.
  • The Titan Master function is a great concept, but it’s hindered by the execution of the head’s faceplate – you can’t turn his head, which is just kind of…silly in this day and age.
  • The alt modes are a chore to transform. The gun/cannon mode looks good, particularly as a tribute to the original toy, but the jet is a really mixed bag. It looks cool on the box and I love the concept, but I don’t it just doesn’t translate in physical form. The whole thing screams of computer design combined with improperly tested protos.
  •  There are a few known production issues with the toy – read about them here.
  • Overall? Cool bot mode, but given my time again I would’ve saved my $$$. Here’s hoping he gets a better toy in years to come.

  



Album Review -- Arctic Thunder vs Hardwired...to Self Destruct

In 2002, I was 17 and listening to all the metal I could get my hands on. But my ambitions far outstripped my budget, so I used to scour the second-hand stores near my home, and every now and then I’d find a few gems.

One of them was Darkthrone’s first album – Soulside Journey. It was $5, and the Duncan Fegrado cover art intrigued me. I took it home, popped it in the CD player, and things were never the same again. Though it’s never garnered the acclaim of their later, explicitly black metal works, it resonated closely with me. The sheer heaviness – and darkness – was a sound I had been looking for, though I didn’t consciously recognise it at the time. And around the same time, I was also getting acquainted with Metallica’s earlier (and best) years. Master of Puppets rapidly became one of my favourites, and remains so to this day. In tandem, these two albums were profoundly influential on me, an embarrassingly angsty teenager – though not emo, never emo – coming off a profoundly unpleasant year.

Flash forward to 2016 and Darkthrone are releasing their sixteenth studio album – Arctic Thunder. Metallica, just over a month later, released their tenth – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct. Having returned to metal in 2015 after a couple of years off, both were essential purchases. 

Though there’s a disparity in the number of releases between the two bands, I’d say that’s not so surprising. Darkthrone haven’t played live since the very early days of their career, whereas Metallica are seemingly on a constant tour. Not to say that both bands don’t have other responsibilities (both Nocturno Culto and Fenriz still have day jobs, for starters), but I’d imagine this is at least part of the reason why. So with that aside, let’s take a look at both albums in more detail. 

DARKTHRONE -- ARCTIC THUNDER

I haven’t really kept up with Darkthrone’s albums over the years. I listened to the first four albums a lot back in the day, but then I kind of lost track. Most of their albums were a real pain in the ass to find in Sydney for a long time, which is at least part of the reason…and I was never really on-board with a lot of their lyrical themes, which probably played a big part too. Through friends, I knew they’d gone kind of “punk” for a few years there, but the tracks I heard here and there were a lot more Discharge than Good Charlotte.

So to cut this long story short, Arctic Thunder was kind of a fresh experience for me. I’d say it still borrows its share of stuff from punk bands like Amebix, but I’ve read others describe it as a big move away from their “punk” albums, so go figure. It’s pretty raw in terms of production, but not that “turn up the treble to 11 and use the shittiest mic/amp combo you can” kvlt aesthetic that has featured so prominently in black metal.  In spite of being a two-man project, the album really does have a band feel about it; I don’t know for certain, but I strongly suspect that most the instruments were recorded at least partially live to preserve that feel.

Nocturno Culto is back to performing vocals on all of the songs, which is a good thing. His pipes have held up well over the years, and he’s shifted back to more of a roar than a shriek. My main criticism is that I think that the producer has smashed the echo button a few too many times. It can be a really great technique, but it gets a little too much outage on this occasion, featuring on almost every track. Nonetheless, it’s a minor quibble; when the tracks are listened to in isolation, it’s not as problematic.   

And for someone who allegedly doesn’t practice very often, Fenriz is crushing it on the drums. It’s not Pete Sandoval-style blasting or anything, but it works really well within the context of the songs. He has never been one to big-note himself, but he certainly has impressive chops.   

Best song: Boreal Fiends

METALLICA -- HARDWIRED...TO SELF-DESTRUCT

As you might expect, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct is a much more polished affair than Darkthrone’s album. This is not necessarily to its advantage; while I know that we’re never going to go back to that mid-range “scooped” engineering we heard on Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets, I think it’s definitely over-produced. Tracks like “Hardwired” could definitely have benefitted from a bit more grit, a little less finesse and a slightly rougher style of vocals. And the album as a whole could have benefitted from the songs being shortened, and not being split across two discs. Double albums are generally warning signs of trouble, and this is no exception. The best songs could have been fit onto one disc, and the other pretty easily discarded. Additionally, I have never been on the “bash Lars” bandwagon, but I will say I think his drumming is lacking here. The production on them is good, but there’s something just…off about them that I can’t quite pinpoint. They feel intrusive, as opposed to an integrated part of or driving force behind the songs.

Nonetheless, there are good points. Hetfield sounds more fired up than he has in years, and I still think he’s a good frontman, even if the material he’s working with is rarely as good as it could be. Kirk Hammett also turns in some good solos, and I think we can be safely confident that the days of “Hardrocktallica” are safely behind us.    

Best track: Atlas, Rise!

VERDICT

As someone who is adamantly not a fan of the post-…And Justice for All Metallica, and has memories of St. Anger and the painfully embarrassing Some Kind of Monster documentary still looming large in my memory, this new album was a pleasant surprise. Of course, “not being as shitty as St. Anger” should be at minimum a default mode, not an aspiration. It’s overproduced and overlong, but it’s enjoyable enough to have on in the background. Metallica don’t have much to prove in terms of commercial or artistic success, and that’s part of the problem. But team them with the right producer – perhaps one more removed from their present-day commercial concerns – and they could do great things again.  

Darkthrone, on the other hand…well, at this stage in their career, they’ve certainly settled into something of a comfortable groove. As with Metallica, they don’t really have anything to prove artistically. And though some of their albums have sold quite well (in comparison to other extreme metal bands) they’ve always been quite happy to give the middle finger to more corporate considerations. What distinguishes them is a willingness to explore new territory. Not that they’re experimental, per se; more that they have used their reputation and experience to do what they want. If you happen to enjoy it, good for you – if not, then they won’t be losing any sleep over it. 

Hardwired…to Self Destruct is enjoyable -- and it's definitely pleasing to hear Metallica sound re-energised -- but Arctic Thunder genuinely rocks. I can already tell you now which one is going to sound better in ten years. 


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Regan (The Exorcist)

Horror’s mainstream appeal varies pretty wildly from decade to decade, but there seems to be at least one big breakout hit every decade. The 1970s had a few, but I’d argue that the one that stands above the others for sheer cultural impact was The Exorcist. Ushering in a whole standard in special effects, it was a huge hit -- and it still really disturbs people to this day, too. Ask your parents which movie freaked them out when they were young, and you can virtually guarantee that the answer is The Exorcist, irrespective of how old they were when it was released.

Regan goes through multiple stages of possession (and makeup) during the film. She starts out looking like a normal 12-year-old girl, then begins to look worse and worse as the demon Pazuzu exerts greater control over her. This Mini depicts Regan in full-blown possessed mode – her face is green and has slashes across it, while vomit stains her nightgown. Given that they could have reused much of the sculpt, it’s almost surprising that they didn’t also do a “plain” Regan, though I guess we may see that in a future series of Horror Classics.

I’ve only watched the film once or twice myself; I did enjoy it, but found it a little long. If I’d seen it on first release, I think I would have found it terrifying – but if ever there was a movie that suffered for being influential, it’s The Exorcist. Even at age 19, I’d already seen it parodied dozens of times in other media, read books on special effects that explained how virtually every shot in the movie was executed and heard all the stories about its “cursed” production. For the most part, the ability to outright shock had been lost, though it certainly still evokes an eerie atmosphere. Your own mileage may vary, of course. But good does ultimately triumph over evil, which places it into a bit of a contrast with many of the films it influenced, where the villain arguably is the hero (Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street et al).

Although The Exorcist may not be my favourite horror film, it’s a definite horror classic, unquestionably well-made and well-polished. Regan is very deserving of Mystery Mini from Funko. Regan is packed at a 1/24 ratio, so you may have a trickier time tracking her down.

It's not easy being green

Friday, 11 November 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Jason Voorhees

We looked at Freddy a couple of weeks ago, so now it’s time to take a squiz at his most famous foe – Jason Voorhees, of Friday the 13th fame.

This is actually the second time Jason has had a Mystery Mini, with his first coming back in Series 1. While that was more of a generic Jason – though arguably from Freddy Vs Jason – this new one is based on his look in Friday the 13th Part 7: The New Blood. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve seen the film, but I remember it being (like virtually all the films in the series) a bit of a mixed bag. There was a psychic teenage girl who he battles, and probably could have made a decent ongoing foe for Jason, similar to Tommy Jarvis from Parts 4-6. But the series has never been known for its coherent storyline, and so she disappeared as quickly as she’d arrived.

By this point, Jason was a heavily decayed and monstrous corpse, having now been resurrected numerous times. He actually looks pretty great, with the exposed bones, rotting clothes and beat-up mask… at least until his mask breaks off at the end, and he suddenly looks like a cross between the Cryptkeeper and a Muppet. Gross, but more at the silly end of the spectrum, rather than frightening.

Fortunately, this Mini replicates his masked look, turning a gory design into something surprisingly cutesy. Part of the iconic hockey mask is broken away, revealing how much his flesh has decayed around his mouth. Bones poke through many surfaces, where the clothing and skin alike have rotted away. Unusually, he’s armed with an axe rather than his signature machete. I’m sure he hacks into someone with it at some point during the film, but I honestly don’t remember.




Packed at a 1/24 ratio, this is not a definitive Jason, so it’s a little less essential – but it’s a very cool look for him nonetheless. Post Freddy vs Jason and the 2009 remake, these later films in the series are often a bit overlooked when it comes to merchandising of the character. NECA have given it a red-hot go, but it’s nice to see other companies step up and take their turn too. 

Transformers: Titans Return – Highbrow

Company: Hasbro
Year: 2016

 So I know I don’t normally have a lot to do with the Autobots, but every now and then one will slip through the net. But this week, Target stuffed up the pricing in their weekly catalogue, and the Deluxe Titans Return figures were reduced to only $15AUD a pop, which is an absolute steal!
At that price, I decided I should pick up Highbrow. I’ll take Decepticons in virtually any alt-mode, but for the Autobots they tend to have to be airborne vehicles. Plus, somewhere in my cupboard I have the Kre-O version of this guy, and since I was particularly fond of that Kre-O I thought it was time to get the “real” version of him.

Highbrow’s bot mode is awesome – the sunglasses-style design for faces is my second favourite after faceplates, and he stands very well. Colour scheme pops nicely on the shelf, and he manoeuvres easily into cool poses.  The lack of waist articulation is a slight downer, but a necessary element due to his transformation style. Xort, his Titan Master companion, is similarly cool in design. Rocking a semi-inverted Highbrow colour scheme, he’s very fun to look at. But on the downside, his joints are a little floppy – when removing the head, don’t be surprised if his legs and arms swing around a little. 

The vehicle mode isn’t quite as strong; it’s tandem rotor helicopter that wouldn’t look out of place in some mid-90s anime. While not a bad design in and of itself, the colours come across as very toy-ish (curiously, much more than they do in bot mode) and that is a little distracting. Still, it’s nice sculpting and the transformation doesn’t feel too forced or awkward, unlike some recent figures I’ve looked at.   

Now, TFWiki notes that there’s two known issues with this toy – the plug for the head doesn’t click in properly on some, and the legs are loose on others. The example I own is one of the former, but the good news is that you can kind of see it in the package. If he looks like his head isn’t clicked in properly, then you’re likely looking at one of them. The head is a little loose on mine, but nothing too severe. He just looks like he has an unusually long neck from certain angles.  
  

Overall? The vehicle mode isn’t as strong as bot mode, but it’s still a very fun toy. And considering the fairly nominal amount I paid for it, I’m extremely satisfied.  

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Transformers Generations: Titans Return – Mindwipe

Company: Hasbro
Year: 2016

So, another week at the LBC, and another Titans Return review. I thought Combiner Wars was incredibly fun, but I feel like it’s been blown out of the water by this year’s releases. Tonnes of original sculpts, cool articulation, good updates to characters that haven’t been produced in years…what more do you want from a Transformers line?

So today we come to Mindwipe, and his little Titan Master buddy Vorath. As with many Transformers, I’m not really familiar with Mindwipe’s background but a quick glance at TFWiki suggests that he’s a next-level Edgelord in a faction that’s already mighty loaded with Edgelords. He’s a skilled hypnotist, and also spends a lot of time trying – though apparently unsuccessfully – to become the Transformers version of a necromancer. His alt-mode is a bat, which gives him a tenuous kind of vampire/goth connection. I get the impression he would have enjoyed The Misfits.

His bot mode is genuinely great, one of the best figures I’ve seen in quite some time. As I’ve noted numerous times, black and purple are my favourite Decepticon colours, which of course instantly gives him roughly 1000219702130932 extra cool points – though I think the design is a nice one, nonetheless.

Transformation is intuitive for the most part, though the placement of certain tabs makes it quite obvious that it was computer-designed.  And the alt-mode…well, it’s not bad, but it is kind of weird. I think it’s to do with the design of the head – it’s a little too busy in comparison to his bot mode, with lots of greebles decorating the surface. Additionally, the head is cast in a much softer plastic, which just seems strange. However, the jaw is articulated, which is a definite bonus. While in alt-mode, Vorath is stored in the chest, which is a nice Megazord-esque touch.  

Vorath himself is okay, but not amazing. He looks somewhat like a colour-swapped Apeface, and I think that a paint app on the face would have definitely enhanced his look a little. Still, these mini Titan Masters are always great fun.


I wasn’t originally going to pick up Mindwipe, but a friend talked me into it. Though I’m a bit ambivalent towards his alt-mode, his bot mode is fantastic, and worth the price of admission on that basis alone. Highly recommended for fellow members of the Decepticon nation.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Grossery Gang: Crusty Chocolate Bar

Company: Moose Toys
Year: 2016

Moose Toys have been around since 1985, producing all manner of novelties and kid’s toys. When I was a kid in the mid-90s, they were probably best known for their wide variety of Yo-Yos (which came in a whole array of shapes, sizes and scents) and the Amazing Live Sea Monkeys.

To be honest, they weren’t a huge brand when I was a kid. They pumped out a lot of product, but while it sold respectably, very little of it seemed to capture the childhood zeitgeist. Until a few years ago, when they hit it REALLY big with a couple of blind-bagged toylines – Trash Pack and Shopkins, which helped take the company to a whole new level of success.  

The Trash Pack brand has been off the market for a year or so, but it’s now returned with a sequel/reboot series in the form of Grossery Gang. Taking the concept of cutesy, anthropomorphic garbage and applying it to food instead, Grossery Gang’s key conceit isn’t departing radically from the original theme, but I think this is a good case of releasing a new product that still maintains a good understanding of what made the original so popular.  

Grossery Gang are sold in a whole variety of different blind-boxed formats (the cereal box is especially cool) but I suppose you would call the Crusty Chocolate Bar this the entry level or booster pack format. Each Crusty Chocolate Bar sells for 3 or 4 bucks, and features two Grossery Gang characters. It’s a good pricepoint in comparison to other blind-boxed/bagged formats like Lego Minifigures, and the packaging itself is great.


After opening the wrapper -- which looks better than most real chocolate bars -- you’ll be treated to a moulded plastic chocolate bar that features the Grossery Gang logo, and some insects crawling over the surface. Viewed from a distance, it also looks a lot like a poo, which I’m sure at least partially intentional. There’s also a checklist, which is designed to look like a supermarket receipt. There are tons of different designs, each of which appears to be made in two different colourways. Rarity is ranked as Common, Rare, Ultra-Rare, Special Edition and Limited Edition. Some of them look similar to previous Trash pack designs, but I don’t think they’re straight reuse – more like reinventions of prior concepts.



Inside, the two characters ("Grosserys") are individually wrapped – I got a Rot Hot Chili (ultra-rare) and Fungus Fries (common). You’ll see that Rot Hot looks kind of fuzzy in the pic below, but it’s not out of focus; he’s got a fuzzy finish to appear mouldy. He’s also cast in a harder plastic than Fungus Fries, who is very soft and squishy like a pencil topper. I assume that most other Grosserys are cast in the softer plastic, but will have to update once I've picked up some more. 


Trash Pack kind of passed me by, but it always looked like great fun – I’m sure I would have bought an obscene amount of them if they’d been round when I was a little kid. Grossery Gang serves as a nice reboot to the line, and a great jumping on point for those new to the brand. Highly recommended for kid and adult collectors alike.     

Monday, 24 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Freddy Krueger (Syringe Fingers)

Year: 2016

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. 

Unlike Jason, Freddy's basic costume really hasn't changed a whole lot over the years, but he does sometimes find himself in kill-specific get-ups from time to time. So t
his Mystery Mini is based on a very specific scene in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors. In the dream world, Freddy encounters Taryn, who’s dressed like she’s some kind of enemy in Double Dragon. Was the 80s the raddest decade of the 20th century? Most signs point to yes. Anyway, Taryn used to be some kind of drug addict, so Freddy turns his fingers into syringes and injects her with some kind of blue substance – presumably heroin, but it’s never actually specified in the film – and she shuffles off this mortal coil.

This figure replicates the effect nicely enough – each of his fingers and claws is a blue syringe, topped with a silver spike. The sculptors have also done a nice job of adding little details to a fairly simple design, such as ragged edges and dirty stains on the pants and jumper. Good job Funko! 

Given that the Mystery Minis format has been a little more experimental than the POPs, it would be nice if we eventually got some of the human characters -- at least a Nancy! Taryn's design would be particularly good for this format too, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see.     


Overall, this take on Freddy is a cool, unusual version of an iconic horror villain – but he’s packed at a 1/72 ratio, which means you may well have a pain of a time trying to track him down. On that basis, he’s fun for those who missed the regular Freddy in Series 1, but certainly not essential. 

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: The Wolf Man

Year: 2016

I saw the 2010 version of The Wolfman some years ago, but it was actually only a few weeks ago that I actually saw the 1941 original The Wolf Man. Its reputation precedes it, of course – I read a ton of books on special effects as a kid, and the Wolf Man featured prominently in virtually all of them.

The original film isn’t really a horror movie in the sense you might think of in this day and age. It’s not terribly scary, but it is quite depressing. A man falls victim to a curse through no real fault of his own, has minimal control over his subsequent behaviour and ends up getting killed. Most werewolf films since have followed some variation of this theme – at least until Dog Soldiers. And though I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as The Mummy and Creature From The Black Lagoon, it’s still very well-made and it’s great to see where a lot of modern werewolf lore originated. 

So let’s take a look at the figure!

Now, I think we all know that Lon Chaney Jr didn’t look much like a wolf in the original movie. He was some kind of hybrid form; stuck somewhere between man and beast. Thematically it worked well in the movie, but this figure…well, it’s certainly not a bad one. I quite like it, actually. But the stylised nature of Mystery Minis has rendered him looking a bit more like a weremonkey than a werewolf. Take away the black on the nose and you’ll see what I mean.

Nonetheless, it’s always nice to have another Universal Monster on the shelf. I think this is an occasion where the original POP outdoes the Mystery Mini take, but it’s still well worth your time and money. You shouldn’t have too much trouble finding him, as he’s packed at a 1/6 ratio – so there are two in every case. 



Wednesday, 19 October 2016

POP! Television: Teen Titans Go! – Raven as Wonder Woman

Year: 2016

 Teen Titans Go! seems to have gotten a very…mixed reception. Though it’s something of an informal sequel to the very well-received 2003 Teen Titans TV series, it’s very different in tone. I haven’t ever seen an episode of either, so I’ll decline to comment on that controversy – but I did read quite a bit of the 1980s Teen Titans comic series when I was a teen myself.

I had mixed feelings about it. Robin headed up the team, and I’ve always hated Robin, particularly in his pre-pants era. But it had great art, and it was very well-written – all of the characters had distinct personalities, and it introduced the world to Deathstroke the Terminator. In hindsight, it was way better than I ever realised at the time.  

Nonetheless, Raven was always one of the cooler characters among the Titans. In those earlier days her backstory wasn’t quite as fleshed out as it is today; over time, she’s kind of become DC’s answer to Jean Grey. While they’re very distinct in execution, but you can definitely see some common threads – insanely powerful teenage girl, possession by some sort of ridiculously powerful entity, a death and eventual resurrection…I think you can see where this is going.   

Her standard look has remained reasonably consistent through the years; a hood and cloak masking her features. Sometimes she wears a jumpsuit, sometimes a dress and sometimes a leotard, but it’s virtually always some variation on these themes. The new series has kind of turned her into a more traditional goth/crust punk type, but we’ll see how long that lasts. However, originally she was quite strange-looking under the hood, with an oversized forehead and a pronounced widow’s peak. This was a deliberate move by then-artist George Perez to slowly change her features as part of a storyline, but more recent interpretations have tended to keep her a little more conventionally pretty.   

But back to the review – this POP! is apparently based on an episode where the Teen Titans visit the Hall of Justice to use the pool, but end up having to fight Darkseid. Each of the Titans “becomes” a member of the Justice League – Robin becomes Batman, Cyborg becomes Green Lantern, etc. You can see the full “cast” on the pic of the back of the box.

I like the POP design much more than I like the actual animation model, which is quite a rare thing. The blank eyes match Raven’s character quite well, and the proportions are strangely less distorted than the cartoon. Paint is fine; it could be a little tighter in spots, but it’s certainly not bad.    

With Raven’s new solo series just launched back in September, it’s an ideal time to pick up this figure. I don’t plan to pick up any of the other figures in the run, but it’s good to see the Teen Titans back on shelves – the original POPs released a few years ago are all discontinued and go for silly money these days. For myself, I’ve purchased it more out of my Wonder Woman fandom, but it’s definitely a fun variant. Hopefully we get a comic-based POP of Raven (and the rest of the Teen Titans) in the near future. 


Monday, 17 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Jack Torrance (The Shining)

My parents – in hindsight – were not especially strict, particularly in comparison to some of my friends. But like all parents, they wanted to instil a certain set of values into me – and as such, most horror-related material was treated with a deep suspicion. 

And few names were more synonymous with horror than STEPHEN KING. Back in the 1990s, he was arguably at the height of his commercial (if not creative) powers. Bookstores were stuffed with his wares, and video stores seemed to overflow with filmic adaptations of his works. Being a keen reader from a young age, I was naturally very curious about him – but parental authority steered me away from him until I was a teenager. Probably wisely, in hindsight, though it was frustrating at the time.

In the long term, the parental admonition against horror didn’t work. What did I do as soon as I was old enough? Went out and read a ton of Stephen King books, and watched scores of horror films. I love both to this day -- and one of the best adaptations of King's work is The Shining, from Stanley Kubrick.

Stephen King was not thrilled with this adaptation. Having subsequently read the novel, I can kind of understand why, as it deviates from the source material on many important points. But I enjoyed it myself; the pace was probably just a little too slow for my tastes, but it was definitely bizarre and memorable. And its influence has been undeniable – every TV show on the planet of every genre seems to want to do some kind of tribute to scene with the twins at one point or another. 

This Mystery Mini does a reasonable job of replicating Jack Nicholson’s Here's Johnny look in the film -- the check shirt, red jacket, jeans, maniacal expression, and of course the axe. It doesn’t look like Jack Nicholson specifically, but that’s just the nature of the aesthetic –and at a glance, he could fit in reasonably well with the humans from the Walking Dead Mystery Minis too. My only real criticism is related to the hair. Jack Nicholson has never gone totally bald, but even by the time of The Shining it was looking pretty thin – though again, this is probably just a side-effect of the aesthetic.

Overall? Jack Torrance isn’t my favourite figure in the series, but there isn’t a ton of merch for The Shining out there. Given that we also got the Twins in this series, I assume we’ll get Danny soon too – viewed in combination, that would be a fun set.    


Friday, 14 October 2016

Transformers Generations: Titans Return – Apeface

Company: Hasbro
Year: 2016

Titans Return continues to throw up more awesome toys, and today we take a look at another awesome Decepticon* – Apeface!

Black and purple Decepticons are my favourite. And as with all the Titan Masters, there’s four modes – the head, the Titan Master on his own, robot mode (in this case, a gorilla-bot) and combined vehicle mode (a jet). All of them work reasonably well, and it’s actually a bit of a shame that we’re not seeing this guy in deluxe size. In jet mode, he looks like a mini-Skywarp, which means I’m 99% guaranteed to love it. 

My only real criticism is that he doesn’t stand quite right in his gorilla-bot mode, but you can fudge the effect well enough. And this brings us to the most important question of all – in light of this year’s most popular meme, should we be calling this guy Harambot?


*Autobots can get in the bin 


 

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

POP! Heroes (NYCC 2016 Exclusive) – Classic Batgirl

Batgirl occupies a strange place in the DC canon. Though she’s extremely high profile from a merchandising perspective, the classic character that you tend to think of when the word “Batgirl”is said didn’t really exist for 20+ years. Instead, Barbara Gordon was occupying the role of Oracle after the events of The Killing Joke, back in the late 1980s.

Nonetheless, merchandise is a power driver…so waaaaay back in 2010 when POPs were first debuting, Batgirl was one of the first DC girls produced. Which is very cool, but she’s no longer in production (though the mould is still being used) and now sells for an obscene amount of money on the aftermarket. So good luck getting hold of one! More recently there’s been a “Batgirl of Burnside” POP produced, which is a great look – but I haven’t read the comics it’s based on, and it’s not really the classic look that I tend to prefer for my POP shelf.  

This costume is based on her original costume, apparently, it’s also quite similar to one of her New 52 costumes, sans armour plating. It’s not really a familiar look to me – by the time I was really old enough to be reading comics, Barbara had been turned into Oracle, so that’s how I’ve kind of always known her. And when I did come across the odd reprint or compilation that featured Batgirl, it was almost inevitably the gray/blue suit. That said, it’s a really stylish look, and makes sense in light of the whole…well, Bat thing.

The paint is adequate, but not perfect. It's reminiscent of Funko's mid-period work -- not totally sloppy, but definitely not amazing, either. Still, it looks decent at a distance. Also, she doesn't stand all that well on her own -- but she does come with a stand, so that's good. In my case, she'll be staying in the box so it becomes a bit of a moot point anyway.   

This POP is an NYCC exclusive, but I had a lot less trouble getting hold of Batgirl than I did any of last year’s SDCC (stupid rare flocked Wolfman!) or NYCC exclusives. Popcultcha’s website didn’t seem to crash, and my local bookstore had plenty of these available. How long they’ll last is anyone’s guess – but in Sydney at least, certain POPs seem to hang round for months afterwards.   


That said, if you miss out – don’t panic. Given that the original’s no longer around, I will be very surprised if we don’t get this mould in grey and blue in the near future as a regular release. Which I may also have to pick up…  

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Guest Review: THE BEYOND at The Robot's Pajamas

Since 2014, The Robot's Pajamas has been running Horror Month each October -- the basic theme being that in the lead-up to Halloween, they publish a review of a horror film each day of the month.

Now regular readers might...just might...have noticed that I'm quite fond of horror. So when they put out the call back in 2014, I decided to volunteer my services, and contributed a review of Creature From the Black Lagoon, which you can read here should you feel so inclined. 

I missed 2015, but I've returned for this year with a review of The Beyond -- an weird Italian classic from 1981, recommended for gore aficionados and H.P. Lovecraft fans. It's quite a...different experience. To find out more, just click to read my full review.

Hope you enjoy it -- and have a look around The Robot's PJs site as well. If you like my site, you'll probably love theirs.


Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Elvira

Horror hosts aren’t really a thing over here in Australia, but it seems there was a time where every local TV station in the USA had one of their own. Typically serving as campy gateway figures to introduce audiences to crappy old horror and sci-fi films, in many cases they’re more entertaining than the actual films they were hosting. A handful went on to become international celebrities, like Vampira – though to be fair, a lot of that really had to do with her work with Ed Wood. 

But probably the best-known to horror fans the world over is the subject of today’s review – Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Until I sat down to write this review I’d never watched any of her stuff, but I was familiar with her by reputation. But a couple of YouTube videos confirmed pretty much what I expected – silly comments about the films being shown, bad puns and double entendres. But she does it with more style and panache than many of her host contemporaries; I do plan to check her film, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, out at some point.

Elvira has made the transition to Mystery Mini in a much better form than Slimer. With her signature beehive, high-cut dress and risqué top, there’s no doubt about who this is. They’ve even managed to tatter her sleeves in the sculpt! Additionally, little touches like the detailed eye makeup and fingernails clearly demonstrate that Funko is quite capable of doing good paintwork – it’s just a shame that more of it doesn’t find its way to their POPs.  

Speaking of which, Elvira does have a POP on the way soon too; I’m torn as to whether it will make 
its way into my collection as yet, but it does look well-executed.

Overall, I have no real complaints about Elvira as a figure. My only issue with her lies in her rarity, or lack thereof. She’s a 1/6 figure, which means there’s two of her in each case. I think this is a little excessive, and it’s a bummer that as a result some other figures that might otherwise have been 1/12 – Imhotep, for instance – have been pushed to 1/24. But Funko’s rarity works in mysterious ways; hopefully there will be a better breakdown for series 4.  

Monday, 3 October 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Slimer

Today we take a look at a new release from Funko – Series 3 of the Horror Classics Mystery Minis have hit the shelves, and this time I decided to kind of avoid the whole kerfuffle of searching in-store for individual figures by just ordering a box.

There’s been some interesting choices of characters this time, with the emphasis heavily on classic/retro horror – only Twisty the Clown (American Horror Story: Freak Show) and Patrick Bateman (American Psycho) are from media released in the last twenty years.

But Slimer is possibly the most curious inclusion; Ghostbusters is a horror film, I guess, but something about this doesn’t seem quite right. He didn’t do a whole lot in the original movie, but he was a pretty focal point in the cartoon spin-off, which was very much geared towards kids. I liked it when I was young, but I’m sure it would drive me up the wall these days. Still, I guess it’s cool to see them going for left-of-field choices.

So, basically this is Slimer, but Mystery Minified. You can tell it’s him, but it does feel oddly generic, like a knock-off rather than an official product. Maybe that’s because we’re only seeing him in isolation, rather than with, say, the Librarian Ghost or a Stay Puft Man. Maybe future series will correct this? 

In spite of this somewhat generic feel, Funko have obviously put a lot of care into him. His slimy base is a separate piece, cast in translucent plastic rather than just making him all one colour. The paint apps on his teeth and tongue are nicely executed too. Also, his but is oddly detailed – was the original puppet like that? I can’t remember, but it is oddly fitting for the character.

I was kind of...bummed out...that this figure wasn't better
Overall? Not bad, but I’d be disappointed if I’d picked him out of a blind box solo. The other figures in this series are great, and Slimer suffers by comparison as a result. For my US readers, there is a Hot Topic exclusive version of this series, and the Slimer in that set glows in the dark. It’s a shame they didn’t make this standard, but at least it wasn’t something ridiculous like a 1/72 chase or something. Glow makes everything cooler, and I imagine it’s no exception for this figure.