Monday, 30 January 2017

Predators Series 16: Ghost Predator

Company: NECA
Year: 2016

NB: This review was written BEFORE the Spiked Tail Predator that was published in December

Well, it’s been quite a while since I reviewed any NECA Predators here at the LBC. The last one I bought was the Elder Predator v2, which was released back as part of series 12. Cool as he was, I don’t think I ever got to reviewing him on here – which means the last one I looked at was the ¼-scale City Hunter, all the way back in early 2015!

Series 13-15 weren’t bad, by any means, but I didn’t buy any of them. Series 13 continued the Kenner-style Predators, while 14 and 15 focused on the first Aliens vs Predator film. The toys looked good (if a little too similar to one another) but my aversion to the movie itself really kind of put me off. I’m hanging out for an updated Wolf Predator from AvP: Requiem; nothing has been confirmed, but I think it’s a reasonably safe bet to show up sometime next year.  

So today we look at the Ghost Predator, who seems to be based on the Renegade Predator from the old Kenner series. Back then, he was probably the truest to the “real” look of the Predator from the movies in comparison to his gaudier companions. NECA has retained this comparative realism, which I enjoy, but they’ve really played up his pale look, giving him a nice semi-albino look.

Now, NECA’s Predator line has been built on the back of reuse. While that’s brought us some very creative action figures, it has also been a source of frustration for some – in series 16, Ghost Predator is clearly the one who’s had the least spent on him in terms of new tooling. But with the AvP Predators came newly sculpted base bodies for NECA to use, as well as increased articulation. Ghost Predator benefits from this immensely, with swivel biceps and double elbows now being incorporated into the design, as well as a balljointish thing in the chest – a proper ab-crunch would be good, but it would probably also ruin the aesthetics of the figure.

My main criticism of the design is that Ghost is a victim NECA’s current trick of simply not painting the netting to indicate that a character is not wearing netting – the sculpting is still present, but the paint is not. I feel somewhat churlish complaining about it, given the other positive features of the toy, but I think it should be noted nonetheless. The only bare body NECA seems to have for Predators is the old Super Predator body, which was pretty mediocre; perhaps we’ll see one eventually though.
Still, enough about the bad and onto the good. Netting aside, the paintwork is excellent. Check your sample in-store, but they look to have had a good run on this figure. The tiger-stripe lines and cheetah spots contrast nicely with the pale skin – they seem to have shifted back to a moulding process similar to the one they used to give Dutch his distinctive skin tones. This is very welcome, as it gives a more naturalistic look to the figure, in contrast to the heavily painted AvP figures which looked much more overtly toyish.  

Unlike his original figure, Ghost doesn’t get a gun. But he’s got some very cool accessories; a smart disc, a machete, a spear and a removeable mask. All accessories we’ve seen before, but rarely together. The spear won’t quite fit into the left, gripping hand, but it can be balanced in the more open right hand if you’re careful. 

The mask is very well sculpted, and could easily pass for something out of the films. It’s slightly too big in proportion to the head; for a long time NECA shied away from making removable masks for their Predator figures, and this is exactly why. But he still looks fantastic with the mask on or off anyway; it does tie in with the reality that a Predator is a mask in a mask, and there heads have always looked slightly large on-screen.  

Series 16 was heavily delayed. It was originally meant to come out around July, but it hit stores shelves in Sydney in December 2016 – a few weeks behind the US. Nonetheless, it looks to have been worth the wait. Ghost Predator is an excellent design, Spiked Tail Predator was flawed but still looks great….and the glow-in-the-dark Stalker Predator has now arrived too. So overall, I'd say it's been a very successful series.

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: Alex (A Clockwork Orange)

With its weird blend of a dystopian future, Russian slang, unusual fashion and unsettling violence, A Clockwork Orange is a film that may not exactly be horror – but is still shockingly dark at points, while being very, very funny in others. So today we take a look at Funko’s take on the lead character from the movie – Alex.

Cutesy as they are, the Horror Classics line is not really aimed at kids. Some of you are no doubt saying “duh”, but the addition of Alex to the line has really reminded me of that. Though he’s technically an anti-hero, Alex is considerably more perverse than most of the villains that have appeared in the line so far. 

Outside of t-shirts, A Clockwork Orange has not really been heavily merchandised, so it’s interesting to see Alex show up in this format. The figure replicates all the core elements of the costume – the bowler hat, the false eyelash, the bob haircut and the weird codpiece. I’d forgotten about the eyes on the sleeve cuffs, but looking back at stills from the film, they are quite prominent.  

Alex is a good addition to the line, meshing well with his companions in the series. I wouldn't class him as essential, but that's mostly because although I enjoyed the film I wouldn't call myself a devotee. But I would be remiss to not to note that there are also POPs of Alex available. One of them depicts him in this outfit, and the other (apparently somewhat rarer one) depicts him wearing the same outfit, but with the addition of a suspiciously phallic mask. I’ll probably pass on them myself, but they’ll be must-buys for fans of the film. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

POP! Games: Nemesis (Resident Evil)

The Resident Evil series is a huge name in horror, both in and out of gaming circles. It helped push zombies back into the horror mainstream and (initially at least) was a great twist on puzzle-based and action/adventure games.

The movies, though? Well, I liked Apocalypse...

Nonetheless, Nemesis here is one of the big bads in the series, making his debut in 1999’s Resident Evil 3 – which I’ve never actually played, but I’m assured it’s a rad game. Looking impressively disgusting with a Cenobite-meets-paramilitary design, he was an instant hit with fans. Since his debut, he’s been featured in a number of other Capcom games in cameo roles, and also spawned a variety of merchandise. He also appeared in the aforementioned Resident Evil: Apocalypse, though more as a tragic figure than an outright villain.

The sculpting on this figure is excellent. Nemesis’ body is relatively plain, as (in this form at least) he’s pretty much wearing an overcoat, and the only details that are really undersold are the parasite vein things around his neck. They’re still present, but due to the format they’re nowhere near as big as they are on the real character model. His face though – disgusting. I remember his look creeping me out a lot as a teenager, and it’s lost virtually none of its power in the ensuing years. Well done to the sculptor for making him cutesy and totally repellent at the same time. If my wife didn’t like Rat Fink, she’s going to hate Nemesis. Actually, he'd probably be a good base to make a custom Chatterer from Hellraiser, too. 

My main gripe is (perhaps unsurprisingly) to do with the paint. The application is reasonably neat, but I feel like his skintone, teeth and exposed muscle all look a little too light in colour and a little too flat. This could be fixed in any number of ways, but personally I’d go for a wash over the flesh, repainting the exposed muscle a darker red and then adding some gloss to it. Of course, like every other Funko POP I’ve ever dreamed of touching up or repainting, I’m very unlikely to ever do it.

(Also, when purchasing be sure to inspect the bazooka. It’s cast in a much softer plastic, and so it can be a little prone to bending.)

Nemesis is great for fans of the Resident Evil series and for wider horror fans alike. The whole series seems to have been selling quite well in Australia, which bodes well for more Resident Evil POPs in the future – and here’s to hoping we’ll finally get Silent Hill ones soon too.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Funko Mystery Minis Horror Classics Series 3: The Grady Twins (The Shining)

Remember a few months ago when I reviewed Regan and mentioned that if ever there was a movie that suffered for being influential, it was The Exorcist? Well, I still stand by that statement. But if I had to add another horror film to that list, I would definitely add The Shining.

Now don’t get me wrong, The Shining is a very good film…if perhaps a wee bit on the long side. But I would be quite happy to never, ever see someone paying “tribute” or doing a “hilarious” parody of it ever again. We’ve seen the kid cycling around, we’ve seen “Here’s Johnny” and above all we’ve seen the creepy twins again and again. No need for any more, pls.

But nonetheless, the Grady Twins are one of the defining images of the film, and so it’s only fitting that they got their own Mystery Mini from Funko. The first thing I noticed was that – perhaps somewhat surprisingly – they aren’t just mirror images of one another. Though they’re clearly twins, one is slightly taller than the other, and their heads are also a slightly different size. This is accurate to the girls who played the Twins in the film, but if Funko hadn’t bothered then I doubt anyone would have complained. It’s an impressive bit of detail in a stylised format, though.

The Shining is quite an enigmatic film, and one of the few ghost films that I like. Perhaps this is because of its ambiguity; in the original novel, the horrors are definitely real – but in Kubrick’s take on the story, you can’t be quite sure. This is my roundabout and clumsy way of saying that these figures are good, but they work due to their larger context, not due to their base design. At face value they’re simply two kids in old-fashioned dresses – but when you’ve seen the film, they’re something else entirely. They’re fun, but as I noted in the Jack Torrance review, it would be good to get a Danny Torrance too. Maybe in series 4?   

Friday, 20 January 2017

Boon Reviews: bootLEGO Deadpool/Deathstroke

Boon returns with another bootLEGO review -- once again, we don't condone piracy here at the LBC.

After the colossal success of the silver screen adaptation of Deadpool it’s little surprise we find ourselves graced with another perfect commemoration in imitation LEGO. This particular iteration carries no obvious company name,  perhaps in a canny piece of misdirection against the impending cease and desist orders from Fox, Marvel and LEGO themselves.

The box (which was dinged at the top, incidentally) is well-designed, with consistent graphics on all faces. The lone piece of obvious plagiarism  is the wordmark from the movie marketing being used in three separate places.

This particular model, which I was fortunate enough to find cowering behind a dozen or more unlicensed blind bag Minions figurines, is the first in the set of 6 according, to the back face of the box model NO.1289-1. Contrary to most Western attempts at logic, the 1289-1 figure is not in fact the Classic Red suited Merc with a Mouth, but is in fact an almost pitch perfect rendition of DC Comics antagonist Deathstroke the Terminator, detailed in an all black medium gloss finish. In another crack piece of legal maneuvering the design team at mystery incorporated have changed out the traditional orange coloring on Deathstroke’s mask for a fetching shade of yellow, seemingly in line with the Silver Age X-Men Uniforms.... But this isn’t fooling anyone. This is 100% DC’s Deathstroke, which  is oddly fitting as Deadpool began life as something of an ersatz Deathstroke. Deadpool  is merely another  in a long and quite obvious line of DC and Marvel’s borderline plagiarism from one another.  .

Why borrow from Deathstroke, though? Well, while he wasn’t more widely known among the general public until his appearances on Arrow, Deathstroke was actually quite popular among comics readers for most of the 1980s, thanks to his prominence in Teen Titans. So it’s not really surprising that Deadpool popped up as an analogue/parody in the early 90s -- what’s more impressive is that subsequent writers and artists have made him a strong character who’s long since evolved beyond his origins.

The kit itself comes in a single clear polybag within the box. Oddly, the legs, torso and head are preassembled with the arms and hands being separate. The torso comes printed front and back, there’s front print on the legs and a single face detail printed on the head. Plugging the hands into the arms is simple, and the fit is snug with enough movement for reasonably accurate posing, should you wish your Deadpool/Deathstroke figure to wield his dual pistols gangland style (more on those down the page).

The display base supplied with the kit is a 4x4 baseplate with a single row of pegs along the rear edge. The smooth front portion of the base is emblazoned with an ‘X’ lettermark logo, ‘World’ and the instruction to ‘collect them all’, but lacking any further clues to whom we owe our great thanks for the blessing that is this kit.

The accessory pieces that come with 1289-1 are worth the cost of purchase alone. The pistols are an accurate replication of the twin barrel pistol originally released  in 2011, albeit with some additional mold lines, and casting tabs. If these are in fact a common occurrence, a touch up with a hobby knife or nail file ought to knock those off fairly effectively.

The twin katanas supplied are copies of the type 2 minifigure katana, but for some reason the two in my kit are supplied having been cast in two different types, or mixtures of plastics. One is a milky yellow color and the other a translucent shade of the same yellow. Which of the two finishes was intended may never be known, as the only other clues in the box art show the Katanas in black. Wacky color choices aside, these would make excellent additions to your stockpile of tiny plastic armaments should this kit find its way into your wider LEGO collection.

Deadpool 1289-1 is an improvement over Space Batman, having quite reasonable build quality but without the glaring component printing issue that all but ruined Space Batman as a display figure. The plastics are decent quality, without the brittleness one can often encounter  with cheaply manufactured toys. On the whole, the kit is a successful off-brand rendition of a character who is still relatively under-merchandised in spite of his rising popularity, and is likely to remain that way until Deathstroke shows up in the next inevitable trainwreck DC/Warner Bros foists upon us.

If you happen across this, or any other of this line of figures, shoot us a pic of your kit and your thoughts on it.

Monday, 9 January 2017

POP! Marvel – She-Hulk (Glow in the Dark)

Company: Funko
Year: 2017

NB: This is mostly a rework of my earlier She-Hulk POP review, with some updated notes.

2016 was an interesting time to be a She-Hulk fan, as *SPOILER ALERT* she was apparently killed 
off in Issue 1 of Civil War II.  In news that shocked no-one, it turns out that it wasn’t a real death at all, and now she’s headlining her own series, called simply Hulk.

Debuting in 1980 as Hulk’s angry female cousin, She-Hulk has been an Avenger, a member of the Fantastic Four and quite successful in her own right, too. She’s never attained A-lister status, but she’s carved out her own little niche in the Marvel Universe -- and to be honest, I find her a lot more endearing than the Incredible Hulk. Marvel’s female characters have been gaining an increased prominence over the last few years, thanks to reinventions (like Ms Marvel becoming Captain Marvel) and new additions (such as Spider-Gwen), so it’s good to see some of that goodwill overflow to She-Hulk too. Time will tell how long this new title will last, but unfortunately in recent years poor ol’ She-Hulk has not fared well in her solo titles. 

This is a re-release of the same She-Hulk we saw a few months ago, but now she glows in the dark. Most of the other characters from this wave are still easily available, and it was a good one: Spider-Gwen, Captain Marvel, (comics)Dr Strange, Dr Octopus and (comics) Falcon. I’m not partial to all of these characters, but the designs look pretty great on all of them.  

Glow version on left, original on right
This particular costume isn't her first one, but most of them have been some kind of leotard or swimsuit in the purple/white colour scheme, so it slots in well with most incarnations of the character. However, she first adopted this particular one after leaving the Fantastic Four and rejoining the Avengers – it’s quite similar to the one from her FF days, bar the colour.  

I mentioned in my original review that buying a She-Hulk POP would leave you with a trade-off – how visible the mould line on the chin is, vs how sloppily the costume is painted. This is still an issue to some degree, but given the overall “softer” look of the glow in the dark plastic, the mould line is hidden more effectively – and the paint does seem to be neater than the first release.

Given that I was correct in guessing that there would be a glow She-Hulk, I still suspect we could see a few variants further down the line – a Fantastic Four She-Hulk, and maybe some purple/white paint variations.

As with the first version, She-Hulk has a great colour scheme that stands out nicely on the superheroes shelf. The green is a little more muted than the original, but to the casual observer this will be the main difference between the two. And the glow feature itself? Funko has had a mixed bag with plenty of its prior releases, but this one glows nice and brightly. So I prefer this version of the two, but either is a good choice.   

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Boon Reviews: (boot)Lego Space Batman

Today the Lupine Book Club presents a special guest review from Boon, longtime friend to the site. He takes a look at the bootLego version of Space Batman, who originally appeared in the Green Lantern vs. Sinestro Lego set. Editor's note: Please note that the Lupine Book Club does not condone copyright infringement -- all opinions are the author's own.

I think we all remember the pivotal scene in the worldwide blockbuster Avengers: Age of Ultron when Space Batman saved us all from an age of subjugation under an evil robotic overlord. And what better way to to commemorate and celebrate that life-changing moment than with a Chinese imitation LEGO set?

Manufactured by the 'LELE' corporation and part of the 'Wang World' line of collectable figures, this “deluxe” figure comes with a host of additional action and display accessories. First among them is a bounce clip gift, which allows the user to plug in their miniaturised hero effigy and dramatically launch them into action.

The figure itself is supplied as a plain set of white legs with grey pelvis joint section, a front and back printed torso, plain white arms, grey hands, a white head with a single face print and a helmet/cowl unit that doesn't quite fit right. It sits too high on the facial printing to have the eye visor piece show through the eye holes of the cowl, which is unfortunate.

Space Batman is supplied with two options for his cape, a spreadeagled, full-flight version and a more discreet flowing cloak style. Both are attached to his person by way of the simple but effective flight propulsion unit or 'jet-pack'.

Once you've concluded your movie accurate re-enactment of Space Batman's expertly choreographed action sequences, you may take advantage of the supplied standard base plate for display purposes. This branded clear plastic base proudly bears the manufacturer name and logo next to the product line word mark so you know exactly who to thank in your frequent in your daily gratitude journals.
In addition to the standard base, you are supplied with the components to assemble a rather dramatic flight arm display. This connects to a rather intricate backpack set up that allows you to display Space Batman to his fullest and most majestic. A precision-engineered balljoint at the foot of this flight stand allows for something in the mind-blowing neighbourhood of 20 degrees of offset angle from vertical.

As a play piece, Space Batman offers plenty of opportunity for imaginative play, with his cape options and jet pack giving him the opportunity for flight play. The build quality is perhaps better than I had expected, the arm joints are firm and hold their position well, as do the hands, which can be an issue in well-loved LEGO figures. The leg joints have similar rigidity in standing poses but become looser in seated positions, which leads Space Batman to adopt a leisurely slouch when not supported by a chair or backrest of some kind.

As a display piece Space Batman's major fault is clearly the ill-fitting cowl, which spoils the entire head aesthetic, and I'm reluctant to think this is a one-off manufacturing fault. Factoring in the princely sum of $2.50AUD, I think this figure is all but a must-buy if you happen across it in your local Dollar/Discount store.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

POP! Movies -- Pennywise the Clown

Company: Funko
Year: 2014

I know it’s been very trendy to hate on clowns lately, particularly after the whole clown sighting thing last year – but I’ll quite happily state that my dislike of clowns extends well back to childhood. I don’t have a phobia of them or anything, I’ve just never associated them with positive feelings. The Joker, John Wayne Gacy, those eerie (and depressing) Pierrot paintings every second house seemed to have displayed in the 80s and 90s…clowns are boring at best and genuine serial killers at worst.  

My larger point is that Stephen King chose quite well when he made the villain of IT a clown, even though they’ve become a heavily overused horror trope. I’m re-reading the novel for the first time in…ooh, maybe a decade or so…and while it has some of the usual shortcomings I associate with his books, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, the IT of the title, is one of his great villains.

Of course, even more people are familiar with the character through the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation, where he was played by Tim Curry. Somewhat disappointingly, I’ve never actually watched the whole thing (like many King adaptations, it was everywhere on VHS, but seemed to disappear in the DVD era), but Tim Curry seems to do the character justice. So today we find ourselves looking at the plastic representation of Pennywise, delivered to us by Funko.

This is Pennywise in his more overtly evil form; while he’s creepy in all his appearances, his face changes slightly when he’s about to commit a murder, teeth becoming pointed and eyes shifting in colour. His hands are also stretched out, presumably to grab one of his victims.

For the benefit of anyone who hasn’t seen the book or watched the film (SPOILERS), Pennywise is not actually a clown. King was really riffing on Lovecraft when he wrote IT, though he dressed it up with plenty of Americana and kid’s adventure story to subvert some of Lovecraft’s usual story structure – rather, the clown is a manifestation of an H.P. Lovecraft-style supernatural/extraterrestrial horror that lurks beneath the city of Derry, Maine. Arriving before the dawn of recorded history, he manifests every 27 years or so, wreaking terrible violence before returning to some kind of slumber. 

More in common than you might have realised

There was probably scope to do at least a couple of different versions of Pennywise -- maybe a “plain” version or one holding balloons – but this one serves as well as any other. With the upcoming 2017 movie of IT, it seems likely that we’ll get one based on that film’s take on the character too.
Overall? He’s a well-designed figure, and though I wouldn’t say I rate him as highly as a number of my other horror-themed POPs, my affection for the novel and Stephen King’s wider works was enough to push me to purchase. If you can find him (he seems to be discontinued) and you’re a fan, he’s a worthwhile investment.  

*For the younger reader of this blog, I think it may be difficult to comprehend just how big a deal Stephen King was when I was a kid. Sure, he’s still an exceedingly famous author, but back then he was a genuine phenomenon. My childhood memory may exaggerate a little, but not too much. A public figure since the 1970s and highly prolific throughout the 1980s, the 1990s saw King’s popularity explode to a whole new level. For a while there, you couldn’t walk into a video store without seeing some new adaptation on the shelves, and had an average bookstore display of his works collapsed on you, you would have likely been killed, given how many books he’d published at that point.