vrijdag 27 februari 2015

Jurassic Park III: Pack Raptor

Year of release: 2002

Description: this creature stands in a very active position, like it’s ready to jump on its prey. When it’s mint in box, the figure stands with its tail high in the air and its body pointed at the ground, except for its head which looks upwards. Its body is also slightly panned to the right, especially its arms, as if bracing itself for the jump. Unfortunately this is the only position in which this sculpt looks good; in other poses it looks just damned silly, as if being shot or having a seizure of sorts. Also, its head and feet are oversized and, most peculiar, its lower jaw is longer than its upper jaw, as if someone cut of the tip of his skull.
The figure sports a predominantly grey paint job with darker tones of grey mixed in. Other that that it’s got black stripes on its legs and head, and one big stripe all the way from its nose over its back to the tail. On either side of this stripe a smaller blue stripe is found, running from the nose to the base of the tail. These stripes are adorned with orange dots, as are these Raptors facial ridges and “feathers” at the back of the head. The creature’s belly is coloured in a lighter tone of grey, its eyes are orange and its claws are black. A black JP III logo can be found on its left leg, just next to the necessary (according to Hasbro it seems) dino damage wound.
This wound is all red with one white button in the middle, activating a hissing sound. The other sound can be made by pressing the button on its throat: this sound is a typical Raptor attack shriek. Pushing this button also causes the mouth to open, as if making a biting move.

Analysis: this is a very lame sculpt. The jump posture makes it very hard to make the creature look good in other positions, and thus greatly hinders playability. You might as well leave it mint in box if you got it new, because that’s the only way it looks cool. The figure can hardly stand, unless you have it be supported by its left arm, or you bend the legs back far enough, making its posture look ridiculous. His face is also damned ugly, like it’s deformed or something. And its feet are just way too large. The paint job isn’t very special either: the grey is just dull, even though the colours on the head and back added a nice touch to it. That one little piece of bone sticking out of the wound is very odd, it would have looked better if it was just painted red.
Other downsides are the action features and accompanying sounds. The biting action is the same as with the Wave 1 Rex and Spino, and in this case it also doesn’t look very convincing. The mouth can’t open very far and the button is located at a rather inconvenient spot. The pain growl is activated by the button in yet another stupid dino damage wound which can’t be covered up, so that the Raptor has to go through life with its flank hanging open and its insides exposed. The sounds are unfortunately the same as the ones the Wave 1 Alpha Raptor made, though the sound quality is better. When looking at this figure it’s obvious the JP III Wave 2 dinosaurs provided more of the same instead of offering some originality.

Playability: extremely limited. As commented above, the figure was designed to look cool only when it’s in a jumping posture. Therefore the head, tail and limbs are in a particularly odd position. Though the limbs are poseable they don’t make the figure look better in other poses. The biting action doesn’t add much either, nor does the wound. Even the sounds don’t provide anything new, since they’re the same as the earlier electronic Raptor model’s. Also, if you want the electronics to be kept in working order, you shouldn’t play too rough with it.

Realism: fortunately none of the JP III Raptors looked like this, otherwise people would really have complained about JP III’s lesser dinosaur effects. Though the Raptors assumed similar positions when about to jump on someone, they at least looked good in other poses as well. They also didn’t sport this somewhat monotonous paint job. Still, this figure is recognizable as a Velociraptor, mostly because of the sounds and the head (lower jaw excluded in comparison). The figure is far from paleontologically correct: compared to the human figures it’s way oversized. Also, its upper jaw is too long, its feet too big, and the sickle like claw on the toe is stuck far too much on the side of the foot.

Repaint: fortunately this figure never got repainted, though a repaint was considered for the JP III Camo-Xtreme line (the Tropical/Swamp Raptor).

Overall rating: 3/10. This is a very crappy figure. I recommend it only to completists like myself who collect them all. To other people I would say: none of the JP III Raptor figures are really good, but the others are way better than this one. Like all Wave 2 dinosaurs, it’s somewhat rarer than the Wave 1 electronic figures (in some territories even quite hard to find), but in this case that’s no loss.

woensdag 25 februari 2015

Oscars 2015: The Results

And so this year's Oscars have come and gone. I doubt anyone would have expected it would go down the way it did. There's been a few surprises, to say the least. Who could have foreseen the definite favorite Boyhood would be left almost entirely out in the cold, with the second choices of most, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, cutting up the pie between them for the most part? I sure didn't, which means my predictions of last month took quite a beating. Just when you think you understand the Academy, they go out of their way to turn the tables on you.

So let's compare my notes with hard reality, shall we?

Best Film:
First Choice: incorrect. Not so obvious apparently. While everybody had Boyhood on their mind, the Academy instead opted for a more off-beat candiate, seemingly applauding its criticism on the American movie industry and its satirical overtones. And thus, Birdman flew off with Best Picture.
Second choice: also incorrect. Of course the movie I preferred didn't win this category, what was I thinking?!

Best Actor:
First Choice: correct.

Best Actress:
First Choice: correct.

Best Supporting Actor: 
First Choice: correct.

Best Supporting Actress:
First Choice: correct.

And then the Academy goes and picks exactly the folks everybody anticipated would win, while for the other major categories they picked the less obvious candidates. Which means everybody is thrown off-guard even more by predictability's comeback in this whole circus. Good for me, as I at least got some categories correct.

Best Director:
First Choice: incorrect.
Second choice: correct. As is exemplary for American society, this show is usually a duel between two clear favorites, with one of them winning Best Picture and the other Best Director. Not so this year: Birdman got both. You'd think a 12-year project that got so much acclaim would qualify for Best Achievement in Directing, but apparently you'd be wrong.

Best Screenplay:
First Choice: correct. Say what you will about Birdman's execution, the script is for the most part top-notch, while Boyhood's is more of on-the-fly work and required less scripting. In that the Academy agrees with me, or vice versa.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
First Choice: incorrect.
Second choice: also incorrect. The straightforward narrative of The Imitation Game seemed to appeal the most to the Academy voters.

Best Animated Film:
First Choice: incorrect.
Second choice: incorrect. This one makes me mad. Laika is severely overdue in terms of winning Oscars. The tremendous craftsmanship displayed in The Box Trolls was nothing short of extraordinary, even though the story wasn't always that inspired. However, the same is true of Big Hero 6, but - apart from the terrific job they did on Baymax - its animation wasn't nearly as compelling. It seems the old styles of animation, be it hand drawn or stop motion, have fallen out of favor with the Academy. For shame. This is definitely the worst mistake of this year's Oscars.

Best Foreign Film:
First Choice: incorrect. Could it be the Academy swayed for Putin's condemnation of this movie critiquing the many flaws of his authoritarian regime? Is there a political game being played behind the curtains here, mayhaps? Or did the Academy simply not care about the film's statement, so the visual art of Ida was picked over poignant ideological content?
Second choice: correct.

Best Cinematography:
First Choice: incorrect. Seriously? A movie which suggests it delivers one giant long take but contains so many not so subtly hidden cuts is picked over a movie which displays its love for cinematography and its long history in almost every shot? Shenanigans!
Second choice: incorrect.

Best Editing: 
First Choice: incorrect.
Second choice: incorrect.

Best Production Design:
First Choice: correct. Well duh...

Best Costume Design:
First Choice: correct. See Best Production Design for details.

Best Hair and Make-up:
First Choice: correct. In case you didn't realize it, Tilda Swinton doesn't actually look like she's in her nineties, that's all make-up.

Best Score:
First Choice: correct. Alexandre Desplat finally gets his due.

Best Song:
First Choice: correct. And so the Academy avoids the discomfort of race riots that might otherwise have erupted across America, because Selma already got snubbed hard. Rap instead gets acknowledged by the Academy, which ought to cool them brothas down a bit.

Best Sound Mixing:
First Choice: incorrect.
Second choice: correct.

Best Sound Editing: 
First Choice: incorrect.
Second choice: incorrect.

Best Visual Effects:
First Choice: incorrect. The Academy once again fails to grasp the true pioneering that the FX industry is undergoing thanks to motion capture. Insanity triumphs as the visually rather dull Interstellar is picked against reason over Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. When the mo-capped apes truly take over the FX business in the coming years, the Academy members will be the first against the wall, mark my words.
Second choice: also incorrect. The Academy also doesn't like talking trees and raccoons. Bunch of speciesists...

Best Documentary: 
First Choice: incorrect.
Second choice: incorrect. And then the Academy suddenly embraces progressive thinking and social pioneering by picking a movie about Edward Snowden. You really can't get the hang of these people, can you?

Finaly tally

Correct: 10
Second choice correct: 3
Incorrect: 11
Oh my, I'm getting worse at this. More wrongs and less rights here compared to both last year and the previous one. But then, this year showed just how much of a guessing game these final Oscar results are, much more strongly than the last few years. The Academy is a fickle thing, and occasionally they need to reaffirm that fact. Too bad films so deservedly of a win, like The Box Trolls and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, are sacrificed to make that statement ring true.

zondag 22 februari 2015

Today's News: Aquaman won't settle for a Razzie

The slow week continues with only minor bits of news, in anticipation of the big Oscar bang no doubt:

Catan gaat bioscopen koloniseren

I've heard worse ideas for adaptations of games, board or video. Though most of either still fail to deliver decent movies, it's hard to deny. But at least Settlers of Catan seems to have more cinematic ingredients from which a proper movie can be distilled than the likes of Ouija or Tetris. You've got an enticing historical look, the potential of a sweeping plot of heroism and rivalry against insurmountable odds and the force of nature, plus dramatic elements like knights and bandits to spice things up a little. And of course, there's somewhat of a franchise potential, too. If the movie does become a success, there's the likes of expansion sets (Seafarers) or variations on the theme (Prehistory, or even more outlandish takes like Starfarers) to explore. And these days, every studio is aching to find franchises. Settlers of Catan might prove to become a solid movie. I just hope they don't throw in a silly random element that might alienate audiences from the original premise of the beloved game itself. Remember the response when Battleship felt the need to include aliens in the plot? I'd say Settlers of Catan has enough material going for it to do without such extra obstacles.

Jason Momoa's Aquaman onthuld

Now that shows like The Big Bang Theory have made a little too much fun of DC's King of the Seven Seas usual appearance and abilities, it comes as no surprise Aquaman needed a different, tougher look to overcome such popcultural bias. Casting Jason Momoa was a right choice in that regard, since you wouldn't want to get into a conflict with him about his style of dressing, it might be bad for your health. So no orange shirt, no green pants, and no riding sea beasts as a mode of transportation. You get a darker, grittier Aquaman, a regal appearance that screams 'don't screw with me!'. Basically it ends up looking like Khal Drogo with a Poseidonic motif, trident and fishy scales and all. It works I suppose, though it's not particularly coulourful or inspired. As for the meaning of the mysterious tagline 'Unite the Seven', beats me. I'm not into DC's comics enough to care to unravel its intentions. I'm a Marvel guy. I'll wait and see what exactly Momoa's Aquaman will be up to when he does his thing in theaters.

Winnaars Razzies bekendgemaakt

It appears the Razzies have found a new filmmaker to victimize. Though Michael Bay still won his fair share of awards, as is usual, it was Kirk Cameron that took most of the beating for his apparently dismal Saving Christmas, which was fortunately spared a Dutch release. I've never heard of the movie or the actor behind it, but when I see this flick on IMDb's Bottom Top 100 on the number 1 spot with a rating of 1.5, I get the picture. Okay, so there might be some hating hype surrounding the project that I don't know the details of. I'm not into Christmas themed films anyway, so I'll refrain from checking this one out. I've seen enough of these Razzie nominated movies for one year. I had to sit through both TMNT and the latest Trannies flick, which was quite enough of a borefest for me. Other than that, there's no real surprises among the winners here. Obviously Ben Affleck redeemed himself in the eyes of the Golden Raspberry Award Foundation, as he has already done so in the eyes of everybody else. Who knows, maybe Kirk Cameron will do the same some day, as the Razzies find somebody new to pick on.

woensdag 18 februari 2015

Today's News: Crimson pirate inferno

Slow week for news thus far:

Eerste trailer Crimson Peak

Looks... Del Toroesque. Lavish and baroque, but creepy and grotesque at the same time. Eerie, bbrrr. The plot thus far is not wholly clear, and for a teaser trailer like this it's more about the first impressions rather than the overall narrative. Del Toro usually makes a good first impression and he doesn't disappoint here. I got interested seeing this. Ever since the fantastic Pan's Labyrinth, Del Toro and horror feel like they belong together, especially if there's a good story involved. We've had our fair share of haunted houses in movies over the last decade, most of them pretty dismal (not to mention the horror spoofs hurting the subgenre even more), but with a good director and cast involved, another one surely will do more good than harm. Visually at least this will do the trick; as for the story, ask me again when I actually comprehend what the hell is going on. Which probably won't me until I've seen it for myself.

Cast onthuld voor Dan Browns Inferno

So they're making another one of these puzzle flicks, eh? Shouldn't bother on my account. So far both Dan Brown adaptations for film didn't win me over. I heard the books were good (though that's probably the hype talking), but I never bothered to read them. I'm not about to start now. I love a good mystery, but not if it's wasted on a Hollywood semi-spectacle. I doubt Inferno will be much different from its pair of predecessors, but at least the cast looks interesting, mostly because of its diversity. You've only got five names and you're already spanning three continents (and two of these names co-star in Jurassic World, so that piques my interest to some extent). Good names too, notwithstanding the Hollywood stardom of Hanks. That at least will count for something, if at least they are put to good use. But judging from the previous installments, they probably get lost amidst all the puzzling somewhere.

Plot Pirates of the Caribbean 5 onthuld

In this film's case, the plot is more likely to get lost amidst all the actors. Not that it matters much, since it sounds as formulaic a story as they come, not particularly different from that of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean flicks. You've got your basic pirate threat endangering our pirate protagonists, there's a mystical artefact that can prevent their demise so they set on a course for said object, there's a few love birds ensuring a romantic note that doesn't actually involve the pirate protagonists and there's various random jokes, gags and witty rebuttals shared between the pirate protagonists themselves. Though I'm getting kinda tired of Depp's Jack Sparrow, I'm happy to see Rush is still returning as Barbossa, who I deem to be a superior character. As for the rest of them, sure I'm happy to see a grand actor cast as the new ultimate baddie, but that doesn't mean it'll save the movie from sinking from a narrative perspective. Ian McShane made a great Blackbeard, but On Stranger Tides sure wasn't a great movie. I hope Dead Men Tell No Tales proves different, but I severely doubt it. Apparently, PotC Movies Tell the Same Tales, every time.

maandag 16 februari 2015

Today's Column: will Spider-Man be our new Iron Man?

Told you I'd write that column? Well, here it is:

Wordt Spider-Man de nieuwe Iron Man?

What, another column in only two weeks, you may ask? Well, I had the time available to pen one and there was an opening because the guy who was supposed to deliver one this week didn't do so (for shame!). Plus, my editor recognized this as a current topic that needed to be posted before the news felt too far in the past. So, good for me.

As you might be able to discern from this overly long piece, I don't believe Spider-Man joining the ranks of Marvel Studios is a bad thing at all. I just know there's a lot of factors to take into account to make it work properly, without getting the feeling the webhead is hogging all the glory from his fellow superheroes (something Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man felt to be doing at times). And I have faith that Marvel will consider all possible angles, while my gut tells me they had it all worked out already, as they're champions in planning their universe thoroughly ahead. That said, I do believe re-introducing the audience to the beloved webslinger in the next Captain America movie is not the smartest move. It feels too much like 'oh, Spider-Man played a pivotal role in the Civil War comics, so let's use him in that screen adaptation to stick closer to the source material and earn points with the fan base' or a similar thought along that line. But this is not necessarily the Spider-Man we've come to know. It won't be Andrew Garfield. It's a new guy, which - unfortunately - does require a bit of an origin story to make it flow seamlessly. And such a story is better suited in his own film, rather than in somebody else's. Even though I recognize audiences have grown tired of Spidey's origin story, which has been retold a little too often in recent years. But you still gotta have it if you're talking about a new Spider-Man. A younger Spider-Man. Might they even consider going a vastly different route and eliminating Peter Parker for the new webhead on the block Miles Morales altogether? Now that's an interesting thought. Though definitely one that would polarize the fan community and make for quite some heavy flame wars all over the web. Whose side are you on? That's inspiration for another column right there.

zaterdag 14 februari 2015

Today's Review: Big Hero 6

Told you there was more where that came from?:

Big Hero 6 - recensie

Well, this movie was totally fun! But I cannot say in all honesty it was any bit original. Much of the story and character development felt formulaic, but that never got in the way of the fun to be had. Especially since it was the Marvel formula. Heck, at times the movie nigh made fun of its own narrative make-up - best example: when the nerdy character exclaims 'ooh, it's an origin story!' - but I doubt much of the audience would care they might have seen most of this stuff before. Especially the target audience of kids won't mind, inexperienced with the inspirational material as they likely are. Interestingly enough, despite being a (successfully Disneyfied) Marvel adaptation adhering to a typical plot routine, the characters differ an awful lot from their comic book counterparts. In fact, the excessively cute articial Baymax, the character that singlehandedly raised this film from a three-star flick to a four-star sensation, looks nothing like the dragonlike droid from the original source. Major characters like Sunfire and Silver Samurai are missing, since Disney doesn't own the rights to those (they're presently part of Fox's X-universe). Thankfully, we're getting a new one in their place, namely the fictional city of San Fransokyo, which immediately suggests the uncanny mix of American and Japanese animation styles present throughout and makes for a wonderful looking backdrop for these characters to have their little adventure in.

But above all else, Baymax makes this movie work. The apparently minimalistically but on closer look brilliantly animated character provides the beating heart of the movie, as a healthcare robot created by the protagonist's deceased older brother, who finds himself ever more transformed into a heavily armoured battlebot by the main character out for revenge, until the emotionless but caring robot reminds him there's more to life than abusing your talents for mindless anger. Plus, he makes for 80 percent of the jokes and they all work. And that's even despite his hilarious attempts at catching a football from the trailer didn't make in into the final cut. Don't expect to be surprised by Big Hero 6, but like Baymax and his ball, just roll with the robot for good times' sake.

donderdag 12 februari 2015

Today's Review: The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

Finally wrote another review. Yes, it's been a while. More to come soon though!

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death - recensie

Not a very inspired sequel to an otherwise effective and stylish predecessor. It wasn't the actors, it wasn't the atmosphere, it wasn't even really the story that made it a rather boring watch devoid of real scares. It was simply the running out of gags, recycling the scare tactics applied in the first film, with nothing new to creep the bejeesus out of us added to the mix. That's usually the curse of these horror sequels: you know what shenanigans the evil portrayed in these films is up to and how it goes around attempting to frighten us, the spectators, while they are doing it. You can change settings, but not the nature and established tricks of the evil itself. Take Jason Voorhees for example: even transplanted to a spaceship in the distant future he was basically up to his same old bloody slashing routines. There's only so much you can do with your typical horror monsters, without inventing a new set of rules, which is often viewed (and not wholly incorrectly so) as a blatant cop-out, illogical in terms of narrative compared to the events of the previous film(s). There's simply not much more to a ticked-off ghost lady with a fetish for driving innocent children to suicide than the first film displayed and this second film regurgitated. Angel of Death certainly has proven the limits of the angry spectre's effectiveness to scare us. No need to prove it again with a third Woman in Black film, I'd say. But if this second movie makes money, that's very likely exactly what will happen.