Showing posts from December, 2012

Chogokin Memories: A Look Back at the Miniature Voltron I Action Figure from Matchbox

Last Christmas, I did a retrospective post about the massive influx of Japanese robot toys that hit U.S. toy stores during the Christmas season of 1984. In the time since that post, I've learned that Japanese robot toys have their own system of taxonomy to classify the toys according to build, features, and material composition. For example, the term "chogokin" specifically refers to Japanese robot toys that were made during the 70s and 80s and featured a significant amount of die-cast metal. Chogokin toys were usually produced in one of two sizes: "ST" (or "standard"), which meant that the toy was around 5 inches high, and "DX" (or "deluxe"), which meant that the toy was much larger than 5 inches in height and came with more complex features.

This post is devoted to one of the ST chogokin toys that I had as a kid: the miniature 6 inch Voltron I action figure, which was released by Matchbox in 1984. There's quite a history rega…

Rebuilding Kenner's Star Wars Micro Collection, Brick by Brick

Toy collecting has become such a popular hobby that some collectors customize toys to appear like characters from popular fantasy, horror and sci-fi franchises. Sometimes, these customizations are done of compensate for the lack of licensed toys made in the likeness of a particular character (or even a particular vehicle), but what happens when a toy is used to recreate a previously released licensed toy?

Meet Eric Druon, a.k.a. BaronSat. BaronSat has produced a series of customized toy kits by using Lego bricks and you can see most of his work on his site, the BaronSat Workshop. He has assembled kits based on characters, settings and vehicles from franchises such as Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, Robotech, Star Trek and Star Wars, and you can even purchase some of these customizations--either as complete kits or as assembly instructions--through BaronSat's site.

Of the many amazing things that BaronSat shares on his site, I think that the most unique are his recreation…

Nerd Rant: Is High-Definition Technology Killing Practical Special Effects?

At the end of this week, theaters across the country will debut The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the long-awaited film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel story for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While the film itself is getting positive reviews, I've noticed that many of the critics have also commented on one of the film's technical aspects--namely, the visual effect has resulted from the film being shot at 48 frames per second (fps) instead of the traditional 24 fps. The film's director, Peter Jackson, chose this new format for the sake of giving his film better image definition; some critics think that Jackson has achieved his goal in spades, while others think that the movie looks much more artificial than had it been shot at the normal frame rate.

In particular, Andrew O'Hehir's made this observation about the 48 fps format when he saw The Hobbit: "(F)or me ... this cinematic innovation apparently meant to create an atmosphere of magic realism mak…

I'll Be Block: The Terminator Buildable Construction Playset

With Lego raking in the cash through licenses such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and superheroes from both DC and Marvel Comics, it's inevitable that Lego's competitors will follow suit. For example, Best-Lock Construction Toys has picked up the Terminator license and has released The Terminator Buildable Construction Playset.

According to the product's description, "Recreate your favorite scenes from the blockbuster The Terminator movies with this superb value building block set, The Terminator Buildable Construction Playset, from Best-Lock Construction Toys. Containing over 1,000 pieces, The Terminator comes to life in block form and features all the essential elements to role play your very own Judgement Day, including; three Aerial Hunter-Killer models and two Tank Hunter-Killer models plus an army of T-800 cyborg figures as well as the iconic Terminator figure and a number of other models and accessories. This block set provides hours of fun for ch…

NECA's Big Red Predator: From Fan Film to Collectible Figure

I'll say this for the Predator franchise: Even though Hollywood doesn't have a clear idea of what to do with it, this creative property sure does produce some fascinating merchandise. Even though it only has produced only three stand-alone movies and two crossover movies during the last quarter century, Predator merchandise has included comic books, novels, video games, and collectibles that range from never-before-seen mask and creature designs to replicas of Predators from both the movies and the comic books. The fourth Predator movie appears to be stuck in development hell, but that hasn't stopped NECA from moving into new Predator merchandising territory.

NECA will be releasing the Big Red Predator figure, the first--and so far only--Predator figure that's based on a fan-made film. This seven-inch figure is based on a Predator that was seen in the 2003 fan film Batman: Dead End. In addition to the bold color scheme of its armor, the figure also comes with interchang…

A Promising Ghost Story Gets Orphaned in The Orphanage (2007)

Did you ever watch a movie that you want to like but you simply can't because it doesn't adhere to its own internal logic? If you do, then you know how I feel about The Orphanage, a 2007 Spanish horror film directed by Juan Antonio Bayona.

The Orphanage is about Laura (Belen Rueda) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) who are renovating an orphanage into a home for special needs children. Laura herself was an orphan at the very same orphanage that she and her husband are restoring and they even have an adopted child of their own, Simon (Roger Princep). A series of mysterious incidents begin to occur as Laura and Carlos prepare the building for new occupants, incidents that culminate with the disappearance of Simon on the very day of the orphanage's reopening. Laura's subsequent search for Simon leads her into the building's forgotten past and the dark secrets that it hides.

As a gothic ghost story, The Orphanage drips with unrealized potential. The cinematography i…

A Look Back at Four Fantastic Giant Robot Games for the SNES

As a long-time fan of giant robot stuff like the Robotech anime series and the Zoids toy line, I'm frequently drawn like a bee to honey to giant robot video games. By "giant robot video games", I'm not talking about any of the Transformers games (where sentient robots fight other sentient robots) or games such as the Super Robot Wars series (where the robots are just pieces that players move around on the board as part of a strategy game). No, I'm talking about games that allow you to control robots that are piloted by people, something along the lines of a Japanese "real robot" anime series. For games of this variety, some of the best were made for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) back in the 1990s. Click below for a list of four SNES games that allowed players to assume control of a big 'bot and lay waste to various digital landscapes and pummel the bejesus out of other robots.