Wednesday, December 31, 2014

MY Top Ten Movies of 2014

Ah...the year has gone by so quickly. For some of you, it might already be gone. It's still 2014 over here though, so I should still have time to make this list of my favorite movies from 2014.

2014 was a great year for movies. There were some amazing films that will likely never be forgotten. However, please remember that, as a casual viewer, I haven't seen every movie that came out this year, and I missed out on a couple of good ones (Whiplash, Birdman, just to name a few). During 2014's final moments, let's begin with:

10. Chef

This God did it make me hungry. Jon Favreau's passion piece was an excellent feel-good movie with a chef who, after a caustic review, decides to start a food truck. This film showed the beautiful formation of a bond between Carl Casper and his son, and some moments of the film would make any viewer's heart melt. Couple the family themes with camera shots that are basically foodporn and a wonderful performance by Jon Favreau himself and you've got yourself a well done (ha ha) movie. Seriously man, I want to try those cubanos.

9. Boyhood
So, this movie was shot over the course of 12 years. A grand experiment in filmmaking, but that's not the reason why this movie is on this list. Yes, Ethan Hawke and the rest of the cast deliver splendid performances, but more importantly, this movie was the most realistic portrayal of life I have ever seen in film. By the end of this movie, Richard Linklater made me feel as if I had just absorbed memories of another person's life, and I was motivated to just start living. If you're a younger viewer, this movie was a glimpse into the future. If you're an adult, I'm sure this movie felt like reliving a life gone by, and that is the beauty of this film. 

8. How to Train Your Dragon 2

Short disclaimer: Big Hero 6 is not on this list. I saw Big Hero 6, loved it, but didn't think it should be in the Top Ten. This movie, though? Holy crap. The visuals were simply stunning (Dude, that dragon totally just spun into a flaming wheel of death!) and the characters were as engaging as ever. The comedy in the film was also well placed, and the movie had its fair share of touching moments. All in all, this movie was bold, and enjoyable to boot. 

7. Guardians of the Galaxy

In the words of Rocket Raccoon, "Oooooooh yeah". I was incredibly excited for this movie, and it did not disappoint. Great performances by entire cast, good action, and the most hilarious talking raccoon/tree duo to date. Sure, I wish Ronan could've been a more interesting villain, but that probably would've taken away from the time with the rest of the Guardians. How much did I love this movie? Well, I'm still listening to Awesome Mix, Vol. 1, so there. 

6. The Imitation Game

I went into this movie expecting a great performance by Benedict Cumberbatch and a decently interesting biopic. What I got was the fascinating tale of Alan Turing, a person who I knew nothing about previously, and his struggle to crack a German code, but also to form relationships and survive in a society that made him an outcast in different ways. Keira Knightley had wonderful chemistry with Cumberbatch, and the rest of the codebreakers were all intriguing characters, especially Hugh. I had no idea what direction this film would go in, and boy was this movie a ride. Tense at some parts, clever at others, and sprinkled with emotion, this film is one that will have everyone Googling "Alan Turing". 

5. Interstellar

Here's a film that caused quite a bit of controversy (especially over the ending). However, in my personal opinion, this film was fantastic. It might not have been as intriguing as The Prestige or The Dark Knight, but Christopher Nolan's bold steps and reverence for science are obvious. The visuals were simply astounding, as were the performances by McConaughey and Hathaway. The film had some incredibly emotional moments with regards to family, and the rest of the narrative is filled with tension. This movie worked for me on so many levels, combining my love for family themes and my curiosity towards astronomy and black holes. A great science fiction film with a lot of emphasis on the science, in my opinion. 

4. X-Men: Days of Future Past

After watching this movie the first time, I actually went back and watched the first three X-Men movies and First Class. Of course, even though I hadn't seen any of the previous films, this movie by itself was simply astounding. What started off as an interesting premise also gave birth to a dramatic sequences with Xavier and Magneto, focused action scenes, and the unforgettable scene with Quicksilver. You know which one I'm talking about. Days of Future Past finally made me excited about the "other" MCU, and with a great film like this under its belt, I can only be that much more excited for Apocalypse

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

APES. TOGETHER. STRONG. That quote may not have actually been in the movie (if it was, I think Koba said it), but it accurately sums up just how I felt about it. The CGI was incredibly realistic, and Matt Reeves definitely had some wonderfully creative action scenes (Dude, is that an ape, with machine guns, on a TANK?). More than that though, Andy Serkis gave an amazing performance as Caesar, and the entire movie was so tense and well constructed that I was on the edge of my seat, my spine electrified, the entire movie. This is, for sure, the Empire Strikes Back of the Apes franchise, and it's just as good. 

2. Captain America; The Winter Soldier

Holy. Crap. Not only did this film flip the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe upside-down, but it had some of the greatest fight choreography I have ever seen. The scenes with Bucky and Cap were just so focused and well shot that I could not help but gasp. The film also had some great characters, including the new Anthony Mackie as Falcon, making it one of the best Marvel movies ever made. The plot had so much tension, likened to a political thriller, which made the film incredibly fun to watch. Also, me being a nerd, I couldn't help but love the introduction of Arnim Zola and THAT AFTER CREDITS SCENE. 

Wait, there's a movie that topped Cap 2? Say what, you may ask. Well, this last one is more of a personal choice, and it has become my favorite movie of all time. The next one is: 

1. The LEGO Movie

There are three things I absolutely love: smart humor, nerdy references, and LEGOs. I've played with LEGOs since I was a little kid and have never stopped since. Phil Lord and Chris Miller had so much reverence for the little plastic bricks (evident in the numbering used when the Master Builders build, or even when that one guy yelled "cheese slopes!"), and they brought with them a witty sense of humor. The movie also had a stellar cast, with Chris Pratt nailing the voice of Emmet and Will Arnett possibly being the greatest Batman in film history. Beyond the characters, visuals, and bricks though, this movie also had a very powerful message that everyone is truly special, a theme that resonated with  me as I watched the unremarkable builder dude become the greatest Master Builder in history. Oh, and there's a spaceship. SPACESHIP!

That's my list, and right before 2014 ends, too. There are some highly anticipated films coming out next year, especially a little AWAKENING. J.J. Abrams, don't let me down now, buddy. Regardless, see you in the new year!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Terminator: Genisys (GENESIS) Trailer Thoughts!

Look, I get that this movie is trying to be a "reimagining" of the first two Terminator movies, but the "reimagining" of the word GENESIS still rubs me the wrong way.

In case you didn't know, the new trailer for Terminator: Genisys was released today after the poster a couple days ago and those god-awful promotional pictures.

The trailer can be found here, and here are my thoughts:

  • GOOD: They're really trying to emulate the originals, ignoring anything that may have come by since then (Salvation? I have no idea what you're talking about). This, like Jurassic World, is a smart move to try to save the dying franchise. 
  • BAD: They're REALLY trying to be the originals, shoehorning in iconic lines from the Terminator movies as cheap one-liners that just come off as desperate. 
  • GOOD: The future! Endoskeletons are as cool as ever, and there is some Droideka looking thing, making the future look quite awesome. John Connor is great as well, with dude-from-Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Jason Clarke) no longer having to compete with Andy Serkis for screentime. 
  • GOOD: Arnold is back as the T-800! There was some controversy over the fact that old Arnold would be coming back after a lot of years off, but he's great as the T-800, both young and old. Plus, the movie promises a showdown between the "old" T-800 and the young T-800! How cool is that!
  • BAD: Some dude named Kyle is sent back as a quasi T-800! Seriously, this protagonist does absolutely nothing for me, judging from the trailer. He's kinda bland, but hopefully he's better in the actual movie than the trailer. 
  • Not particularly good or bad, but the scene from the trailer marks the millionth time the Golden Gate Bridge has been featured in an action movie. From being traveled on by apes to being attacked by kaiju, what hasn't happened on Golden Gate Bridge lately?
  • Arnold's hair is really white, almost unnaturally white in the last helicopter scene of the trailer. This is line with pictures, but it was striking nonetheless. 
The years have not been kind to the T-800
Overall, a decent trailer. It definitely has me excited (Arnold vs. Arnold! The T-1000!), but with some reservations as well. Could this be the movie to save the franchise? It has the potential to. But first, it doesn't matter how many times you spell it Genisys. It's genesis. GENESIS.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NECA Portal 2 Atlas and P-Body Review

It's somehow fitting that it took so long for this review to come out, just like these figures.

A while back NECA revealed prototypes for the duo of portal gun wielding robots that would follow after their great Chell figure. It took a couple years, but eventually they released them as part of a limited shipment. Were they worth the wait? Read on and find out!

The packaging for both these figures is long gone. They come in standard NECA clamshells with the Portal 2 logo. Boring. To the figures!

Atlas was the one I bought first, as he is the one I like playing as. The sculpt on this figure is simply fantastic. There are black pistons throughout the figure that actually work (as in, go in and out), and the paint brings out the details in the sculpt. While there is no shading, Atlas doesn't need it for the clean, white look of the Portal bots. Everything looks just as it did in the game, and NECA even said that they used 3D renders from Valve for both these figures.

Pretty lights

Atlas also features two LEDs: one in his body and one in the Portal gun. The only complaint I can find about them is that the LEDs probably hiked up the price a little ($24.99 each at TRU for these guys), which was the reason for my disappointment when I discovered:
THE ARTICULATION. Or lack thereof. Maybe it's just the design of these guys but Atlas is severely lacking in the articulation department. His shoulders seem like they are on a balljoint, but the central piston is actually glued in place, resulting in mine snapping off when I tried to move it. The legs, like the shoulders, are also on a series of pistons that renders the hips useless.  He has a hinge at the elbows and knees, and his head rotates 360 degrees. Atlas's wrists and thumbs are on balljoints, however, meaning he can hold his Portal gun relatively well (it is a little tough to get under the fingers though). 

Need a hand? 

All in all, Atlas is a pretty good display piece, but the horrid articulation won't satisfy anyone looking for an "action" figure.
"So why can't you move again?"

So after buying the rather disappointing Atlas, why did I buy P-Body, especially at that premium? Well, I had to complete the duo, and Atlas looked nice on the shelf...

Sculpt and paintwise, P-Body is just as good as Atlas. Mine as a couple scratches from the factory, but that's a QC issue. He looks like he just jumped out of Portal 2, and that's not a bad thing. At all.

He also has nice LEDs in the Portal gun and his eye. Props to NECA for actually getting the colors of the lights right!

"But how's the articulation?" you ask, "Is P-Body a shiny, nonarticulated turd like Atlas?" Well, P-Body's anthropomorphic design lends itself better to articulation than Atlas, resulting in a slightly better figure. P-Body has swivels at the shoulders, hinged knees, elbows, ankles, and torso and balljoints in the wrists and thumbs. This results in more posing options, but the lack of hips still seriously limits these figures. It might be the design of the character, but I'd forgive some inaccuracies if they were able to work more articulation in somewhere.

I can pose!
Side note, the molds for the three Portal guns (Atlas's, P-Body's, and Chell's) are the same, and the only differences between the three are the paint and the LEDs. Nevertheless, the ASHPD still looks great.

So, Atlas and P-Body are both rather mediocre figures. Great sculpt, paint, and light-up feature, but sorely lacking articulation. They look very good together on the shelf as display pieces though, so if you're a hardcore Portal fan, I'd say go for it. Sadly, if you've been spoiled by NECA's recent offerings or superarticulated Japanese figures, you're in for a disappointment.

The Portal guns are still fun to mess with, though. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

NECA 1979 Alien "Big Chap" Review

NECA has been one of the best toy companies as of late, with its interaction with the fans, great figures, and even some cool licenses. I haven't picked up many of their figures, but when I saw the classic 1979 Alien I just had to pick it up.

I don't have a picture of the packaging, but it's just a standard NECA clamshell with a new "Alien" logo. But enough about that, on to the figure!

While NECA has released an Alien Warrior in Series 1, this figure is an all-new sculpt and apparently shares no parts with the Aliens version (I don't actually own the figure, so take NECA's word for it). The sculpt is fantastic, with great little details all throughout the body and especially the head, which has some great detail in the neck area. Moreover, the hands have six fingers (unlike the Aliens versions, which have talonlike fingers) and the feet are more humanlike as well. 

The paint work is simple, but it works very well. The fingertips and toes are painted silver, but there is a little bleeding on my sample. Throughout the figure there is a light grey/brown shading that brings out all the sculpted detail nicely. 
One thing of note is the dome. I've seen various samples ranging from a clear dome to a completely opaque dome for the head. I prefer it a little translucent so you can see the creepy skull underneath, but I'm sure you can find a head based on your preferred look. While we're talking about the head, you can also pull out the inner mouth, which has some sculpted detail and is painted in a cream color. Mine was stuck out of the packaging, but it's just a QC issue and it eventually worked with enough pulling. 
The articulation is good, but there are a couple flaws. First, the joints: there is a balljoint in the head, balljoints and swivels in the shoulders, hinges at the elbows, and a wrist swivel/hinge. The Alien has a great diaphragm joint with a good range of motion, balljointed and swivel thighs, double jointed knees, toe hinges, ankle swivels, and a bendy tail. Yes, ankle swivels, not rockers. This makes the figure harder to pose in wide stances and also creates balancing issues. Additionally, I wish there had been double jointed elbows. The Alien Warrior has double jointed elbows, but sadly this classic one does not. Another minor gripe is that the left knee on my sample has gotten more and more loose, but again, QC issue. You can also remove one of the back spines so that head can move farther back, but this creates a gaping hole in his upper back and you can usually just move the head around it anyway.

NECA's figures are in a 7 inch scale, so the Alien will look good next to NECA's other figures (such as the Predator), but it won't work as well with Marvel Legends. It's also worth noting that when straightened out, the Alien stands around 9 inches tall.

A classic battle with classic figures
All in all, this is a good figure. The sculpt and paint are all top notch and accurate, but the few articulation and QC issues bring down what could have otherwise been a perfect Alien figure. As is though, it is definitely worth buying at the $17-20 pricepoint, and shouldn't be that hard to find. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

LEGO Polybag 30300: The Batman Tumbler Review

 I was going to review more Marvel Legends today, but I stumbled upon this polybag at my local Target. I'm a sucker for mini-Batmobiles, and this Tumbler was no exception.

 The pieces included (which I forgot to photograph) are nothing special. Black pieces, four wheels, and some cheese slopes. The set did include an extra black cheese slope, which I attached to the front.
 This polybag is a decent representation of the Tumbler, but it definitely has its flaws. For some reason, Lego decided to include a grey bar on the back of the car (tank?) that really breaks up the black color scheme of the vehicle.

From the side, you can see there's an ugly gap between the back wheel and the side. There's not much Lego could have done at this scale, but it's still not a pretty sight.

The back has the rocket boosters that Batman used to jump over buildings in Batman Begins. It's one of the distinctive features of this Batmobile, and I'm glad it's represented accurately here.

Here's the Lego Tumbler next to Mattel's Hotwheels Tumbler. Lego's is missing a lot of details in my opinion, but I guess it's not the worst. Lego did attempt to put the gold highlights present on the Mattel Tumbler by using a 2x1 piece, but it doesn't really work.

Compared to last year's Batmobile, this polybag falls short. The one on the right is instantly recognizable, looks good, and had a decent build. The Tumbler, on the other hand, doesn't scream "Tumbler".

Overall, this is a nice little polybag, but not the best. For $3.99 you can't go wrong, and I'm a big enough fan of Nolan's Batman to like the little build. However, in terms of polybag builds this one is really restricted by the piece count and scale, and the end result isn't as good as it could be.

Click here!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Marvel Legends Infinite Series: Amazing Spider-Man Review

With great power comes great responsibility. Although this movie Spider-Man might not be familiar with those words, it still deserves a new suit (and figure). Today we'll be looking at the first entry in the Spider-Man Marvel Legends Infinite Series: Peter Parker himself!

No matter what evil rises, the Amazing Spider-Man will summon the courage to defeat it; for with great power comes great responsibility.

This new Spidey comes in the same Marvel Legends packaging as the Captain America Marvel Legends Infinite Series (That's a mouthful). It's very nice packaging and is becoming the new standard for ML (the next Guardians of the Galaxy wave also uses it as well). Because this is a movie figure the top of the box has the movie's title instead of the generic "Spider-Man" we get on the comic figures. 
If you look closely, you can see the plastic case is upside-down. My mistake. 
But who cares about the (soon to be overused) packaging? Is the figure inside any good?

Short answer: Yes. When the Amazing Spider-Man 2 suit was first revealed, fans were ecstatic at the comic-inspired design in favor of the weird, yellow-eyed suit of the original. Because the suit is very comic-based, it is easy to fudge this movie figure as a classic Spider-Man. This is great news for newer ML fans who don't want to pay ridiculous prices for the old McFarlane Spider-Man from Toybiz. 

Furthermore, this is an all-new sculpt from Hasbro. It has very nice details included sculpted lines for the suit and sculpted musculature in the legs (not very present in the arms, however). The figure also features paint shading in the red areas that complements the sculpt very well, even though some of it is misapplied on the eyes. Another gripe with the paint is that the elbow joints (which are molded in red) are not painted blue to match the arms. This isn't a big deal for me, but it is sure to bug some people, especially at a $20 price point. 

The real flaws with this figure are in the articulation. In print it sounds great: Spidey features balljointed shoulders, hips, and head as well as swivel hinge wrists, double jointed elbows/knees, swivels at the waist, thighs, and calves as well as rocker ankles and new shoulder joints. Oh, the shoulder joints...

This is the main flaw with this figure. Hasbro decided to experiment with a new shoulder joint (for forward and backwards movement), and while it works fine, it looks very strange when pulled all the way forward (or backward) as seen in the picture above. Additionally, while the inside of the joint has sculpted detail, it's still red and breaks up the blue on Spidey's back. 

Peter needs to fatten up

The figure continues to sacrifice sculpt for articulation in the hips, which come out looking too bulky for the skinny Spider-Man body. Speaking of skinny Spider-Man bodies, this figure's torso is very flat and thin. I wouldn't mind very much, but it prevents the ab crunch from going down very far, resulting in "crouching" poses that look like this: 

I can't touch my toes...
In the accessories department, Spidey comes with two different sets of hands (thwipping and fisted) for various poses. These are great and allow for some variety, since Hasbro generally doesn't put finger articulation on their ML figures.  The figure also comes packed with the BAF piece of Green Goblin. While I have no intention of completing this BAF, the flame effect should prove useful for some displays. 
Need a hand?

Spidey is on the shorter side at about 6 inches tall. That's a good height if you keep in mind Peter is only a teenager and shouldn't tower over full grown-men (or cyborgs). 

The Karate Spider
Overall, this figure is a good addition to any ML collection. This is a great classic Spider-Man, despite it being a movie figure and a great alternative to the McFarlane Spidey. While it has its flaws, I haven't been able to put it down for the past week, the sign of any good figure. 

Guess who's next up to be reviewed...

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The LEGO Movie Collectible Minifigures: Bad Cop and Larry the Barista Review

While Marvel Legends have been scarce, I saw the new LEGO Movie CMF's at Target the other day and couldn't help but pick up a few.

This is the closest to "Mint in Box" I could get
The new LEGO Movie figures come in very nice blue bags that show off some of the figures in the series. Interestingly, this is the second time a LEGO Collectible Minifigures series has been themed (the first was the Olympic-themed CMF's) and supposedly LEGO is planning a Simpsons-themed series of minifigures as well.

 Out of the two packs I bought, I was able to get Larry the Barista and the Scribble Faced Bad Cop. I did use the "bag feeling" technique for these, but I never intended to get the Bad Cop (more on that later).

Larry the Barista

 Clearly the star of The LEGO Movie, Larry the Barista was featured in the first trailer giving overpriced AWESOME overpriced coffee to everyone. Larry has a new hairpiece which I like a lot, and he has a printed apron with his nametag saying "LARRY".

One annoying thing about the printing is that the torso print doesn't extend all the way so there's a white line between the bottom of the apron and the top. Another flaw that Larry has is that his crotch piece is lighter than the actual brown of the apron, so it stands out. However, these are just nitpicks and don't bother me TOO much, and I still love the figure. 
 My favorite part about Larry is his lone accessory: the new coffee cup! It's a new mold that has a printed coffee mug on it. This is a great little piece, and I can see people buying multiple Larry's to fill their LEGO cities with Baristas selling these neat coffee cups.
Emmet decided to try a new hairstyle

Scribble-Faced Bad Cop
*I'm not actually sure if this figure is called "Scribble-Faced", but I'll call it that to distinguish it from the other Bad Cop figure.

Bad Cop is the Liam Neeson-voiced character that apparently has split personalities. I never intended to get this figure; in fact, I wanted the Hardhat Emmet. Since both figures have helmets and come with 1x2 flat bricks, it's easy to get them mixed up when feeling packs, and that's how I ended up with Bad Cop instead of a happy Emmet. And I have to say, I'm not disappointed at all!

 Bad Cop doesn't have the most interesting torso printing (he has no leg printing!), but he does come with a very cool alternate face. Unlike the minifigure in the Bad Cop's Pursuit set (which has a smiling, "Good Cop" face), this CMF version has a creepy scribbled face. I haven't seen the movie yet, so I don't know how relevant this is but it's a very interesting print, to say the least.

While Bad Cop has no back printing, he does have a new helmet piece that is unique to his minifigure. It's a nice piece, but if you have a lot of LEGO cops lying around you won't necessarily NEED this one. 

The figure has two accessories: a printed smartphone piece and a pair of handcuffs. The handcuffs are nothing special, just standard LEGO handcuffs, but the smartphone piece is very nice. Maybe Bad Cop has Flappy Bird installed (it would explain his bad mood).

"Take him to the Melting Chamber!"
Overall, Bad Cop is a nice figure of a relatively important character in the LEGO Movie, but if you aren't a fan of the movie then he's a generic cop with a new helmet and a smartphone.

Overall, these figures are pretty good. They continue the LEGO Collectible Minifigure trend of having good printing and sweet new parts. Even if you aren't a fan of the movie, these are worth picking up. Just be careful when you're feeling for the ones you want!