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Showing posts from 2017

Machine Robo's Bike Robo Gets a DX Upgrade

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If I've learned anything from observing the transforming Japanese robot collector community over the last few years, it's this: ANY transforming robot character can be redesigned and rescaled many, many times over.

Last year, Action Toys began releasing vintage Machine Robo MR-600 figures as they appeared in the ‘80s anime series, Machine Robo: Revenge of Chronos. These figures are between four and five inches tall and, thanks to advancements in toy production technology since the '80s, their small sizes can accommodate intricate features and more complex transformation configurations than figures from the original Machine Robo line. The original MR-600 figures were known for their simple yet sturdy designs, which made them suited for rigorous play; the new, more complex figures are obviously aimed at the collectors market, those who are looking for more screen-accurate representations of their favorite Machine Robo 'bots.


Four figures from the Action Toys' Machine…

Coming Soon for Alien Fans: AR Xenomorphs and Weyland-Yutani Blueprints

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Even though 20th Century Fox was not pleased with the box office performance of last summer's Alien: Covenant, this franchise’s many lines of merchandise seem to be moving along just fine. Home video sales for Covenant are good, NECA is selling action figures that are based on Xenomorph designs from Capcom's 1994 Aliens vs. Predator arcade game, and Eaglemoss has added Xenomorph designs from Kenner's Aliens toy line from the '90s to its ongoing series of collectible Alien franchise replicas. Furthermore, two reference books are coming out that look like must-haves for die-hard Alien fans like me: The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual by Owen Williams, which is being published by Carlton Books, and Alien: The Blueprints by Graham Langridge, which is being published by Titan Books.

Scheduled for release this November in the U.S., the official description of the The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual is that it was written for “new recruits of…

The Future at a Discount: Five Below's VR Headset

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Pioneering cyberpunk author William Gibson once said, "The future is already here--it's just not evenly distributed." That quote ran through my head when I saw a virtual reality (VR) headset for sale for $5 at my local Five Below store. That's even cheaper than a Google Cardboard kit, which costs around $10.

This "VR Lesnse2 Virtual Reality Viewer" headset is nothing more than a plastic shell with a pair of adjustable lenses and elastic head straps; the user has to provide all of the necessary hardware and software. Nevertheless, I had to laugh at how frequently VR is hyped as cutting-edge technology, and yet here it is on sale for $5 in the year 2017 at a local discount store. To be fair, this isn't the first time VR has been used as a sales gimmick to move cheap and lackluster products, although at least this headset provides the option of adding the necessary technology so that some satisfying VR can actually happen.




Snide remarks about cost aside, t…

A Look at Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures

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As someone who grew up during the '80s, I am all too familiar with cartoons that have been created for the sole purpose of selling a toy line. Sure, an occasional episode of these cartoons rose above the standard of a 30-minute toy commercial to actually tell a compelling story, but those were frequently the exception to the rule. Times have changed since then, and just because a cartoon has an explicitly commercial purpose does not mean that it is without entertainment value. Such is the case with Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, which currently airs on the Disney XD channel.

I heard about The Freemaker Adventures while I was browsing around some Star Wars fan sites. Given how other Lego-based media (the video games, TV shows and movies) have shown an impressive degree of wit and creativity, I decided to check this show out to see if it amounted to something more than a means to advertise a new line of licensed Lego Star Wars merchandise. I was pleasantly surprised--The …

Summer Blockbusters, Superhero Franchises, and Media Monopolies

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With the summer blockbuster season 2017 tucked away, many articles have been circulating about how this was the lowest-grossing season since 2006. Naturally, these articles include speculation over why this happened, everything from audiences being sick of "gimmicks" such as 3D to superhero movie fatigue. I think that these speculations (which don't have any hard data to back them up, of course) overlook some very key details about the current state of filmmaking, why superhero movies aren't going anywhere, and how the current state of summer blockbuster movies reflect the current state of Hollywood, which is dominated by a handful of powerful media mega-monopolies.

One thing I've noticed that is consistently missing from 2017 summer blockbuster commentary is information about the ongoing rise of high-definition, on-demand video technology. These days, just about any device that has an internet connection and a screen (i.e., HD TVs, smartphones, and touchscreen ta…

Nintendo vs. Virtual Reality

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Nintendo earned its popularity over the years by its willingness to experiment with new forms of video gaming. In fact, the popularity of its latest console Switch, a home/portable console hybrid, is a great example of this strategy in action. However, it looks like Nintendo won't be doing anything with virtual reality (VR) any time soon.

This news comes as a surprise to many Nintendo fans, but recent comments made by Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime at Variety's Entertainment and Tech Summit strongly indicate that Nintendo won't be going virtual with the Switch. In his comments, Fils-Aime said that the "problem with VR is that there aren't a lot of experiences that are truly fun."

While I can understand Nintendo's reluctance to invest in VR, this news still baffles me because the company's strategies in recent years would suggest otherwise. The Nintendo 3DS has both stereoscopic gaming capabilities and augmented reality (AR) games, whil…

From Shark City Ozark: The Limited Edition Jaws 2 Bruce Bust

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When it comes to high quality Jaws collectibles, no one else does it like Shark City Ozark (SCO).

In a time where just about every popular franchise has licensed its name out various companies for the production of detailed collectibles, SCO rose to the occasion for the woefully underserved Jaws fan community by releasing a series of amazing mechanical shark replicas. Not only did these replicas meticulously capture the intricacies of the mechanical sharks used in the first movie, but SCO has also produced replicas of the sharks from the threesequels with the same amount of outstanding quality.

The latest line of SCO's Jaws collectibles is a series of limited edition 1:6 scale busts of the mechanical sharks. Its newest entry in is a reference to the electrifying ending of Jaws 2: the "Cable-Chomping Scarface Bruce" bust.

As the name suggests, this Jaws 2 bust includes an underwater power cable that can be put in its mouth to give it a sort of "action pose", or …

The Last Jedi Toys: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

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Disney recently unveiled many of the toys that it plans to release in conjunction with the next Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, which is scheduled to arrive at the box office in December. None of these toys give away any major plot details for the next chapter in the blockbuster space opera, but they do include new interactive entertainment products ... as well as reminders of Disney's reluctance to move too far away from the original trilogy.

The Good: Of the many Last Jedi toys that have been previewed so far, two interactive toys instantly caught my attention: Sphero's remote control R2-D2 and Lenovo's Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, an augmented reality (AR) lightsaber kit.

Sphero's initial contribution to licensed Star Wars merchandise was a remote control BB-8, which was released for The Force Awakens back in 2015. The new Last Jedi RC toys include R2-D2 and another BB droid named BB-9E, but it's the R2 toy that impresses me the most. Of the many, many electronic…

Great Moments in Mystery Box Storytelling: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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Back in 2007, director J.J. Abrams gave a TED talk where he praised what he called "mystery box" storytelling. To him, a mystery box of a narrative represent hope, potential, and infinite possibility (his words). In the years since his talk, geeks have used Abrams' own words against him whenever he used an element of mystery to buttress weak stories (as he did in Lost, Super 8, his Star Trek movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, etc.).

There's nothing wrong with using a bit of mystery to stir an audience's imagination and keep them engaged in a story; likewise, storytellers don't necessary have to answer all of the questions that they raise in order to tell satisfying stories. On the other hand, explicitly building a narrative around questions that are either never answered or only provide lackluster resolutions provides more frustration than entertainment, something that I don't think Abrams understands yet.

Still, you have to cut Abrams some slack. One …

The Re-release of Terminator 2: A Judgment Day for 3D Movies?

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This weekend, theaters across the country will be showing a remastered 3D re-release of Terminator 2 (1991). T2 director and co-writer James Cameron oversaw the post-production 3D conversion process, which he did previously for another one of his films, Titanic (original 2D release in 1997, 3D re-release in 2012). In a way, this 3D conversion closes a particular circle within the Terminator franchise: For the longest time, the only 3D Terminator movie was the one included in “Terminator 2 3D: Battle Across Time”, an attraction at the Universal Studios theme parks. Now, over two decades later, we finally have the actual feature-length T2 movie in 3D.

Unfortunately, American fans of 3D movies and T2 better be ready to see this film in the theaters while it’s there. According to several sites I’ve been to online, the 3D Blu-ray for T2 will not be made available in the U.S. when it’s released on home video in October. The 3D Blu-ray will be sold in other markets, but the only versions of…

Clothes (and Heads) Come Off in Stripper Horror Film Peelers (2016)

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Given low-budget horror films' long-standing relationship with exploitation filmmaking, it's no surprise that there's a subgenre horror movies that take place in strip clubs. From goremeister Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Gore Gore Girls (1972) to the more recent Strippers vs. Werewolves (2012), strippers have appeared frequently in smaller-budgeted horror flicks as a way to efficiently maximize their titillation appeal to potential audiences. After all, why go to the trouble of writing and shooting scenes to justify nudity when a film can just take place in a location where nudity is expected? (Curiously, there isn't a horror movie subgenre involving nudist communities. Go figure.)

One of the latest entries into the stripper horror movie subgenre is Peelers (2016), the second horror film directed by SevĂ© Schelenz. The film takes place on the closing night of a strip club, when four workers from a local mine show up to celebrate something they discovered a few hours e…