Thursday, February 27, 2014

Behold the 8-Bit Apocalypse in Pixels (2010)

When Tron hit the theaters back in 1982, it didn't become the overnight sensation that Disney had hoped it would be. Nevertheless, it led to some other movies, TV series, cartoons and comic books play with the concept of people becoming trapped inside of computers or things emerging from computers and into our real world. (See the Videoman episodes of the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends cartoon and the short-lived TV series Automan.) What I didn't know until a few hours ago is that French filmmaker Patrick Jean did a delightful short about this idea back in 2010 called Pixels, where characters from classic video games emerge from an old TV set to attack New York. It's a brilliantly bizarre short, and you can see it for yourself in the window below.

The good news is that Pixels is being adapted by Sony into a feature-length film that's set for release in 2016. The bad news is that the film will feature Adam Sandler as the star. (You can read a story about this over at The Wrap here.) I've never been a fan of Sandler's style of humor and something as strange and absurd as Pixels appears to me to be out of his comedic range. Even though Chris Columbus is scheduled to direct, maybe Sandler can bring in animator Genndy Tartakovsky to consult. He directed Sandler in Hotel Transylvania and Pixels is so close in concept and style to Tartakovsky's previous work that it can only benefit from his involvement.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

RIP Harold Ramis (1944 - 2014), Pioneer of the Supernatural Slob Comedy

With the recent passing of Harold Ramis, the actor/director/writer who was involved with some of the best comedy films from the '70s through the '90s, I've noticed that much attention has been devoted to one particular entry in Ramis' oeuvre‎: the 1984 classic Ghostbusters. I was lucky enough to have seen Ghostbusters when it first arrived in theaters and the pop culture sensation it created, so I’m not surprised that it features prominently in every Ramis obit piece I've read. Nevertheless, while Ramis' passing is a significant loss for comedy movie fans, watching the public reaction to it provides a chance to reflect on how even the most unlikely talents can wind up creating a franchise that's beloved by fans around the world and across several generations.

Ramis found fame with a string of hit comedies that were released during the late '70s and early '80s: Animal House (1978), Meatballs (1979), Caddyshack (1980) and Stripes (1981). Such comedies were known as “slob comedies”, rude and raunchy flicks with gross-out humor, nudity and jabs at snobby rich people. (When I was growing up, these films were the R-rated forbidden fruit that some of my prepubescent classmates would brag about seeing--first through cable TV, then later through VHS rentals--with all the naughty parts left intact.) As with most Hollywood hits, Ramis' early films spawned a handful of sequels and inspired countless imitations; yet when he teamed up with Dan Aykroyd to create Ghostbusters, he unwittingly stepped into the world of geeky franchise creation.

A set of Mego-inspired Ghostbusters action figures.

When looking at the Ghostbusters franchise as a whole, it’s astonishing how durable it has been over the years. Even though the film's only direct sequel isn't as fondly remembered as the original, that didn't hinder the popularity of Ghostbuster cartoons, comic books, toys and video games. Ghostbusters wasn't the first horror-themed comedy movie and it certainly wasn't the last, but few (if any) have attained the same level of popularity and longevity. It could be that the success of the Ghostbusters was heavily contingent upon when it was made, and that Ramis and Aykroyd's decision to apply the style of slob comedy to special effects-driven apocalyptic horror was the precise formula for success during a decade that is known for such spectacle-driven blockbusters such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Thanks for all the laughs, Mr. Ramis. If I ever find myself carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on my back, I’ll make it a point to never cross the streams.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sesame Street Fighter, Brought to You by the Letters K and O

I've played many different kinds of video games over the years, but I rarely spent time with fighting games such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. This was due to my inability to mash fight move buttons fast enough and in the right sequence, because this particular lack of skill predictably led to my virtual butt being kicked within seconds. Thankfully, someone over at decided to show mercy on mashing-deficient gamers such as me and created a wickedly funny game that anyone who can type can play: Sesame Street Fighter!

This game is exactly what its title suggests: It's a mash-up of characters and theme music from Sesame Street and Street Fighter put into a fighting game. However, instead of beating your opponent by hitting the right combinations of fight move buttons, you just have to type a series of words fast enough and victory is yours. In Sesame Street Fighter, you get to see 'roided-up muppets beat the felt out of each other while sharpening your typing skills. Now that's Muppetational!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ten Recommended NECA Predator Action Figures

NECA's assortment of Predator figures.

Of all of the companies that have held the merchandising license for the Predator franchise, NECA has obviously taken the greatest advantage of it. For years, it has produced figures based on creature designs from across the entire franchise--the movies, a fan film, ‘90s era Kenner Predator toys, and so on--and there looks to be no end in sight. At the recent Toy Fair that was held last weekend in New York City, NECA provided a look at Predator Series 12 and 13 figures that it will release later this year. These figures include more updated versions of Kenner toy designs and two figures based on Dark Horse Comics' Predator: Bad Blood miniseries that was published in 1993.

Nevertheless, many of the NECA Predator figures share the same production approach that Mattel used when it made He-Man figures back in '80s--namely, to use the same body sculpts but add different head sculpts, plastic types, paint schemes and accessories to maintain the release of new figures while keeping production costs low. Thus, for the NECA figures that are based on Predator characters from the movies, many of them have several variations: with mask, without mask, open mouth, closed mouth, cloaked, partially cloaked, and "battle damaged".

If you're a Predator fan with a limited budget, how do you go about choosing which NECA figures to get if so many of them are similar? As a fellow cash-strapped fan, here are ten recommendations that I have for what represents the best that NECA has to offer in its Predator line (so far). Click below to see the figure list.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Universal Studio Monster Action Figures: Remco vs. ReAction

A few days ago, I did a post about how Funko and Super 7 are expanding their ReAction line of 3 and 3/4th-inch Kenner-style action figures this year to include a number of popular movie and TV franchises. I paid particular attention to the ReAction's planned set of Universal Studio monsters, monsters that were previously available in as a similar series of figures that were released by Remco in the early '80s as part of its Mini Monster line. Since my post, preview pictures of the ReAction Universal Studio monster figures have been released on Entertainment Earth, so I've provided some comparison pictures so you can see how the new figure designs compare to their Remco predecessors. Click below to see the comparisons.

Friday, February 14, 2014

RoboCop vs. Inept Franchise Management

With the remake of RoboCop arriving in theaters this week, I've read plenty of complaints from both fans and film critics alike about whether the PG-13 remake of Paul Verhoeven's 1987 R-rated classic will be a less satisfying film. While I understand such concerns, I can’t be completely put off by the new version of Verhoeven's original film. I've paid attention to the RoboCop franchise since its beginning and noticed that it has been kicked in its figurative teeth many, many times during its history, so much so that an updated, big-budget remake is far from the worst thing that has happened to this beleaguered series. Read on for my retrospective of the RoboCop franchise's many low points.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Funko and Super 7 Go Retro with New ReAction Action Figures

The power of nostalgia strikes again! Back in 2012, toy companies Funko and Super 7 teamed up to finish what Kenner started back in the '70s by producing a line of 3 and 3/4-inch action figures based on the movie Alien. This partnership marked the beginning of the ReAction line of action figures, one that later expanded to include similar-sized action figures based on the Six Million Dollar Man TV series.

I'm guessing that these ReAction figures must have been a success, because that would explain the recent announcement by Funko and Super 7 to produce even more ReAction figures based on characters from Back to the Future, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Escape From New York, Firefly, Goonies, Nightmare Before Christmas, Predator, Pulp Fiction, The Terminator and other popular films and TV shows from the '80s and '90s. These figures are currently available for pre-order over at Entertainment Earth.

I find it amusing that even after the arrival of highly detailed yet reasonably priced action figures from companies such as McFarlane Toys and NECA, fans and collectors are still willing to spend money on even less detailed action figures that have a design aesthetic similar to Kenner's during the late '70s and early '80s. On the other hand, I have no room to judge--after all, the expanding ReAction line will also include figures based on classic Universal Studios monsters, figures that I'm assuming will appear similar to the 3 and 3/4-inch Universal Studio monster figures that Remco released during the early '80s.

Remco's Universal Monster action figures.

Even though I never collected any of Remco's Universal Monster figures, I eyed them with great curiosity and fascination back in the day when I was just discovering classic monster movies. Remco's line had Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, the Phantom of the Opera and the Creature from the Black Lagoon; the ReAction line will have the same set of characters along with the Invisible Man. Thus, while I prefer to collect figures that have greater detail, such as Diamond Select's line of classic monster figures, there's a part of me that wants to spend a chunk of change on ReAction figures so that I can have classic Universal Monsters rub elbows with more contemporary horror icons such as the Alien, Predator, a T-800 endoskeleton, and slashers such as Micheal Meyers and Freddy Krueger.

Check out the ReAction Figures and More blog for updates about additions to the ReAction line of figures.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Lego Update: Ghostbusters and Star Wars

With its first theatrically released movie debuting in a few days and more licensed merchandise on its way, Lego is doing extremely well for itself. Here’s an update on two geek-centric licenses that Lego has in its ample portfolio:

Ghostbusters: While a third Ghostbusters movie remains stuck in development hell, Lego is moving ahead with its first Ghostbusters Ectomobile kit in honor of the first movie’s 30th anniversary. The kit was designed by Brent Waller as part of Lego’s CUUSOO project, a project that allows fans to submit their own designs to Lego for possible release. The kit will include minifigs of all four Ghostbusters and the ghost Slimer. Waller’s original design included flashing lights and working sirens, although it hasn’t been determined if these features will be part of the official kit. The kit will be released later this year.

Another Lego fan, Alex Jones (a.k.a. Orion Pax), also designed a playset based on the Ghostbusters’ firehouse headquarters. Although this playset is not scheduled at this time be a Lego-licensed Ghostbusters kit, you can click here to see the incredible amount of detail that Jones put into his brick-based recreation of Ghostbusters HQ.

Busting ghosts, Lego style.

Star Wars: As part of its ever-expanding line of Star Wars kits, Lego has been providing previews for its summer 2014 line of new licensed kits. While most of these kits are based on vehicles and locations from the original trilogy, two are based on vehicles from the upcoming Star Wars: Rebels animated series: The Ghost and Phantom. According to details that have been released about Rebels, the Ghost is a ship that will serve a similar purpose in the series as the Millennium Falcon did in the original trilogy--namely, as the ship the heroes use to go on missions and transport cargo that’s crucial to the Rebel Alliance.

The Phantom looks to be a smaller vehicle than the Ghost, with a smaller crew and lesser transportation capabilities. It looks like a Y-Wing fighter that has been stripped down and repurposed to function as a shuttle.