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!  

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Transformers Generations: Combiner Wars – Cyclonus

Company: Hasbro
Year: 2015

Originally debuting in Transformers: The Movie back in 1986, Cyclonus has never quite achieved the fame of some of the A-list characters of the franchise, but that doesn’t mean he’s not pretty awesome in his own right. Controversy still dogs his G1 origins – is he a reformatted version of Skywarp, or Bombshell? 30 years on, no one is really sure. For good reason, more recent continuities have avoided the question altogether by simply making him a separate character. IDW continuity currently has him as a good guy, serving aboard the Lost Light – but here, he’s all villain.

Retooled from the Aerialbot Silverbolt, Cyclonus is (to my eyes) a much better use of the mould, primarily thanks to his purple colour scheme. It’s weird; I don’t like purple all that much in my day-to-day life, but I have a real weakness for purple on Transformers.  

Cyclonus is a little unusual in that he doesn’t have an accompanying wave of bots to serve as his limbs when in his combined Galvatronus form. According to the box, his “official” limbs are Sky Dive, Air Raid, Dragstrip and Breakdown – but his bio also indicates that he can wield hypnotic power to make any compatible bot a potential limb, including Autobots. Personal canons can obviously run wild at this point. Currently I own three compatible bots, so if I ever buy a fourth (and I probably will at some point) I may actually build Galvatronus. Keep an eye on my Instagram (@lupinebookclub).  

The transformation is simple in principle but quite frustrating in execution. DO NOT LOSE YOUR INSTRUCTIONS if you can help it; I had an absolute pain of a time trying to track down some online after mine vanished into the aether. But the transformation essentially amounts to a sort of shellformer, like most of the Aerialbots did -- fold the nosecone up and then fold away the limbs to create the vehicle mode. 

Speaking of which, the vehicle mode is supposed to be some kind of Cybertonian plane, but as it shares a mold with Silverbolt it essentially amounts to a purple Concorde jet. Which is pretty great; Concorde jets were amazing to look at, and it's a shame that they're no longer in service -- the speed at which they could travel between countries was incredible.  

(Side note: in a curious twist, the fins on his on the back of his vehicle mode are actually assembled incorrectly in the box – they’re flipped the opposite way to the original G1 toy. You can pop them off and reattach them easily, but they do look fine in their “incorrect” form – they’ve been corrected for these pictures though.)   

In bot mode, articulation is pretty good – ball-jointed head, swivel shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel-hinged hips, cut thighs and hinged knees. The neck doesn’t have a lot of motion, but his shoulders, biceps and hips are ratcheted, so they’ll stay put – and also keep everything sturdy when in Galvatronus mode.     

Accessories are always kind of ordinary with Transformers these days – the fact that the main toy can transform is really the main draw – and Cyclonus continues that trend. He’s armed with the same weapon as Silverbolt, but this time it’s been cast in a greyish silver. It splits into two pieces – a shield and a gun – but I think it looks a lot better as one long rifle, myself.  

Dubious accessories aside, Cyclonus makes a fine addition to any Transformers collection. As a big ol' purple Decepticon, he was a near essential purchase as soon as I laid eyes on him, and he continues the high standard that the Transformers Generations line has been setting for some years now. He's mostly gone from shop shelves now, but you may still be able to find him kicking around at a Target or Kmart. Recommended.  

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 2: Nosferatu

Nosferatu - B&WCompany: Funko
Series: Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 2
Year: 2015

About a year ago, I reviewed the Funko POP version of Nosferatu. I won’t recount the full backstory behind the character – you can read it here if you want – but suffice to say he started life as a bootleg Dracula, and as a consequence he’s now in the public domain. You can watch the film on YouTube for free, if you've got an hour and a half to spare. And so as far as I understand, if you're really keen, you can go and make your very own Nosferatu merchandise too!  
As with his POP counterpart, he’s based on the 1922 version of the character (rather than the wonderful 1970s Werner Herzog remake). It’s recognisably the sinister Count Orlok, but it’s been run through a heavy Mystery Minis filter -- so your mileage will vary, depending on how much you like that particular aesthetic. I think the POP was a slightly better rendition, but they have captured the thick furry eyebrows nicely and general rat-like demeanour quite well.

Nosferatu Mystery Mini and Funko POP

Paint is simple, but mostly well-executed. He’s got a dirty mark on the back of his head, which isn’t a major drama. But there is a big blob of glue across one of his eyes, which looks to have occurred before the paint app had actually been applied. Presumably this is a bit of a one-off, but it’s a little bit annoying -- Nosferatu here is packed at a 1/24 ratio, so getting another one isn’t exactly easy.

So is he worth tracking down? He’s pretty fun; a good piece of merchandise for a film that’s now more than 90 years old. I’d suggest that the POP is a better investment, but the aesthetic works nicely with the other figures in the Horror Classics Mystery Minis series.   

Nosferatu Mystery Mini and DVD

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