Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mego Spider-Man Swings Back into Action with Diamond Select and EMCE Toys

For a company that went out of business back in the '80s, Mego has never been more popular among toy aficionados than it is now. Its classic 8-inch action figures, which are known for multiple points of articulation, well-sculpted heads and cloth suits, have found their way past classic Mego collectors and customization hobbyists and into many contemporary licensing campaigns. At this moment, Mego style action figures can be purchased from popular franchises such as Doctor Who, The Big Bang Theory, The Twilight Zone, Six Million Dollar Man, The Venture Bros. and the original Battlestar Galactica. DC Comics has been particular active in releasing Mego versions of their superhero characters, both as re-releases of the original Mego DC figures from the '70s and new figures through EMCE Toys' Retro-Action line. In contrast, Marvel Comics hasn’t been doing anything to hop on the Mego bandwagon ... until now.

Pre-orders are currently being taken for the Spider-Man Limited Edition Retro Action Figure Set, which is being released by Diamond Select Toys and EMCE Toys in October of this year. Not only does the set include a spot-on replica of Mego's original Spider-Man figure from the '70s, but it also comes with different costumes, accessories and interchangeable heads and hands so the figure can be dressed up as a '60s era Peter Parker and a slightly different version of a Mego Spider-Man action figure. Click below to for more details and to see more pictures of this deluxe figure set.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fatal Frame Aims to Haunt the Wii U

Tecmo Koei recently announced that it is working with Nintendo to develop the next entry in the Fatal Frame survival horror video game series (a.k.a. Project Zero) for the Wii U. Even though the game's title and release date have not been specified yet, the game's development will coincide with the development of other Fatal Frame projects, including a live-action film.

For a series that started back in 2001 on the PlayStation 2, Fatal Frame eventually transitioned to the Wii in 2008 with Fatal Frame IV: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse and a Wii-specific remake of Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly in 2012. (You can read my review of Crimson Butterfly here.) Wii’s motion controls fit perfectly with Fatal Frame's style of "spirit photography" game play, and the second screen within the Wii U's game pad should provide gamers with a very frightening and immersive experience. Multi-screen gaming is what the Wii U is made for, and I hope that the new Fatal Frame sequel will encourage developers to create more titles that creatively utilize this capability.

Unfortunately, the announcement of a new Fatal Frame title for a Nintendo system is no guarantee that it will be distributed outside of Japan. Crimson Butterfly was released in Japan and Europe, and Lunar Eclipse was exclusive to Japan; neither of the games made it to the United States. Copies of both can be found on sale on eBay, although the prices can be very steep--the cheapest price I saw for Lunar Eclipse was $70. I'm hoping that Nintendo has seen the errors of its past ways and will make the Wii U Fatal Frame available everywhere, but only time will tell.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Marvel Movies vs. DC Movies - No Contest!

Editor’s note: I posted this article on the MoviePilot site earlier today—check it out here.

With the recent release of Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's become very clear what Marvel is aiming to do with its new multimedia properties. It wants to do for movies and TV what it has already done for decades in comics: set up multiple characters with their own story lines within the same fictional universe, and then orchestrate large events through crossover stories that resonate within the individual story lines. Comic book fans who are familiar with Marvel know all about these mega-events, the ones that are centered in stand-alone miniseries and extend into multiple, individual comic book titles; now, Marvel is doing the same thing to a set of movies and TV shows. That’s why the events of Winter Soldier impact the narrative direction of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, and why Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie are going to impact the story of the next Avengers movie.

Of course, Marvel has a universe of characters big enough to launch a series of interconnected movies and TV shows and it has done so amazingly well with the support of its latest owner Disney. So why isn't Marvel's most likely rival, DC Comics, doing the same thing through the support of its owner, Warner Brothers? Click below to see four reasons why DC is already out of the running in the latest effort by media companies to dominate the superhero box office charts.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Get Your Virtual Feet Wet in Vertigo Games' World of Diving

I've got to hand it to some video game developers. Just when you think that video games have become little more than a series of beat 'em up, shoot 'em up and blow 'em up excursions (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course), someone comes along and uses the available technology to create something beautiful, elegant and mesmerizing. In this case, it's World of Diving by Vertigo Games. Check out the gorgeous teaser trailer in the video window below.

At its core, World of Diving is a scuba diving simulator for the PC, Mac, and the Oculus Rift virtual reality system. Players can swim through a virtual ocean alone or with friends, find and interact with different kinds of marine life, and explore submerged ship wreckage. This game follows in the footsteps of Endless Ocean and Endless Ocean: Blue World, two diving simulators that were developed by Arika for the Wii. Even though World of Diving is not a sequel to the Endless Ocean games, I'm glad that someone is taking what Arika started and pushing it into the latest generation of video game technology.

I'm fascinated with how World of Diving aims to be an exploration experience that's rooted in the real world, as opposed to a hyper-violent military campaign or a magical quest into a world of fantasy. Appealing to gamers' desire for high-octane action is the most obvious way to generate profit, but I think it would be a waste of potential if video game developer didn't use modern high-definition technology to create immersive experiences that encourage players to marvel at the detail of well-crafted virtual environments and explore them in depth. Then again, I've always been intrigued by video games that are willing to recreate and put a unique spin on mundane environments and situations, such as island resorts (Go Vacation) and adolescence (Bully: Scholarship Edition).

That said, with such impressive graphics and game play provided in World of Diving, why hasn't anyone developed a deep sea survival horror game yet? At the very least, one could be made based on Jaws, a blockbuster franchise that has yet to see one worthwhile video game adaptation. (Jaws Unleashed had some fun ideas, but it was largely mediocre. The rest of the Jaws games were even worse.) I think that being stuck underwater with a 25-foot long monster shark would make for a terrifying video game experience, so why hasn't anyone made one by now?

Just when you thought it was safe to play video games ....

Monday, April 7, 2014

Watch the Shield Fight S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Make mine Marvel!

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel's latest release in its line of interconnected, live-action superhero movies and TV shows, is both a top-notch action film and a prime example of a multimedia franchise at its peak, hitting all the right dramatic beats like clockwork and rewarding fans for their devotion to an enormous, fantasy-filled universe.

It's hard to write about Winter Soldier without sounding hyperbolic, but what it achieves as a stand-alone movie, as a sequel within a series, and as a key piece within an expanding, multi-threaded franchise is a wonder to behold and something that will impress fans of action and fantasy films. Sure, Avengers was an amazing film too, but Winter Soldier brings into focus what Marvel has in mind in the long run for its movie and TV properties and believe me, it's a glorious thing. Read on for my complete spoiler-free review.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Dubious Adventures of Self-Proclaimed Psychics: The Conjuring (2013) and Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)

The conflict between faith and evidence has served the horror genre extremely well for as long as there has been a horror genre. As a plot device, it allows characters to examine their own beliefs, assumptions and insecurities while at the same time allowing the monster in the story (a ghost, a mythical creature, a psychopath, etc.) to amass a sizable body count before the final act. At the end of such narratives, skepticism usually falls away and the surviving characters become true believers in whatever terrifying impossibility has entered their lives. Yet what happens when the true believers in a horror story have a shoddy history of telling the truth about even the most mundane events?

In this post, I'll look at two movies that assume the perspective of self-professed psychics: The Conjuring (2013) and Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964). The Conjuring has been hyped as being based on a true story, while Séance is a morality play about the complex relationship between personal belief and truth; as such, both films may share similar ideas, but they are extremely different in how they depict subjective encounters with the supernatural. Read on for my comparison, with minor spoilers.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Don't Hassle the 12-Foot David Hasselhoff

As a horror movie fan who grew up during the '70s and '80s, I've lost track of how many hours I've spent gawking at pictures of mechanical sharks from Jaws and its three sequels. It still amazes me how much artistry and ingenuity went into the creation of such a memorable and frightening sea monster. Of course, all of those hours that I spent with Jaws and its subsequent franchise couldn't prepare me for this:

Farewell and adieu to you, fair Baywatch ladies ....

Above is a picture of a 12-foot long prop of David Hasselhoff (a.k.a. "The Hoff") that was created for The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie back in 2004, where Hasselhoff appears as himself to help SpongeBob and his buddy Patrick return to Bikini Bottom. (You can watch parts of the scene here.) It's a hilariously absurd bit and Hasselhoff was a good sport just to do it, but it's weird to think that the film crew had to make such a large version of him just to get certain shots. I suppose it paid off, but it also kind of feels like a ripoff. We Jaws fans can't get a single monster shark movie to include practical shark effects anymore, yet a movie about a talking cartoon sponge got a super-sized practical Hasselhoff effect. What gives?

Bruce, the mechanical shark ... 

... and David, the mechanical Hoff.

Photos of this giant Hasselhoff prop surfaced as part of a charity auction that will consist of items from his career. I have no idea who would bid on this thing; then again, maybe Universal Studios should get it, add a dorsal fin and moving mouth parts, and then use it in the famous Universal studio tour ride whenever the mechanical shark from the Jaws segment has to be taken down for repairs.

Right now in an alternate universe, Steven Spielberg is telling anecdotes about how
the mechanical Hoff kept breaking down during a movie shoot, so he had to keep the Hoff
off screen as much as possible and let the audiences use their imaginations instead.