zondag 18 september 2016

Jurassic Park 2009: Dino Battlers: Velociraptor VS Tyrannosaurus Rex



Year of release: 2009

Description: the T-Rex stands in an active posture, its head curved to the left and its arms stretched out as if attacking something. The tip of the tail is bent, pointing upwards and to the left. It has small pads on its feet to give it extra support, though it still tends to fall over at times. Its predominant colour is dark grey, which covers all of its body except for its underside (lower jaw, throat, belly, inner parts of the upper arms and legs and most of the lower part of the tail) which is coloured greenish beige instead. On the neck, back, upper legs and first half of the tail, green stripes are found, most of them forming triangular patterns, resembling lightning, or cardiographs. An additional pair of green stripes runs over the eyes (blue with black pupils) on the figure's face. The Rex's teeth are white, while the tongue and inside of the mouth are red. Its claws and the pads on the feet are not painted differently. It carries a white JP logo on each upper leg.
The Velociraptor stands in a stalking posture, its right arm and leg stretched outward and its head raised upwards with its mouth open, as if it means to jump on something. The tail is raised upwards and bent at the tip. Its underside (lower jaw, throat, belly and most of the lower part of the tail) is coloured beige, while this colour also runs over the flanks, the hind parts of both arms and legs and on the face around the eyes (cat like, yellow with black pupils). The rest of the creature's body is light red, while dark red stripes run over the back and tail. The Raptor's teeth are white, while the tongue and inside of the mouth are red. The claws on the feet are painted black, though those on the hands remain unpainted. The Raptor sports a white JP logo on each upper leg.



Analysis: we wanted original paint jobs, it seems we got them... Both dinosaurs look positively festive, as if they're on a night out for a prehistoric carnival. Whether that's a good thing is up for everyone to decide for themselves, but at least it's imaginative. Granted, it does feel kinda odd for two vicious carnivores like these, since it makes them stand out a lot and would hinder their attempts at seizing prey. This two-pack has a kind of Chaos Effect feel to it, weird and colourful. Maybe Hasbro went for more colour to attract the kiddies, since most collectors won't think much about these bizarre paint jobs. Plus, this is just more of the same, two sculpts that we're really tired of seeing repainted by now, getting yet another makeover, as if Hasbro is trying to find an ultimate colour and paint scheme for these sculpts (this would not be it for sure). Original colouring not withstanding, unfortunately some of the details are still off: the Rex's claws and pads should have been painted, and the same goes for the claws on the Raptor's fingers, though the latter at least got those big claws on its feet painted differently this time.
Rex VS Raptor, who would win? Under normal circumstances a Velociraptor would never fight a T-Rex, but these figures are more or less the same size. Though the Raptor is more agile and has those nasty sickle shaped claws on its feet, you can't compare that to a bulldozing, bulky heavyweight like this little T-Rex, so that would be your best bet. It's a tight match though.

Repaint: yes. The T-Rex originally came with the Military General for the JP III line and has already been repainted over a dozen times for Camo-Xtreme, JPD2 and JPD3 and would be used several times again for this toy line. This Raptor sculpt was paired with Alan Grant for the JP III line and has also been repainted many times for Camo-Xtreme, JPD2 and JPD3, and would also be featured in various JP 2009 sets.

Overall rating: 4/10. Imaginative and funky, but rather silly new paint jobs. Otherwise there's just nothing of particular interest in this set, unless you don't own either one of these sculpts yet (if ever!). This set is not rare and can still be found with little effort. Since this set was a Toys'R'Us exclusive that could change some day, but probably not for the next decade.

vrijdag 9 september 2016

Jurassic Park 2009: Dino Battlers: Spinosaurus VS Velociraptor




Year of release: 2009

Description: the Velociraptor stands in a stalking posture, its right arm and leg stretched outward and its head raised upwards with its mouth open, as if it means to jump on something. The tail is raised upwards and bent at the tip. All of this creature's body is coloured orange, except for its underside (lower jaw, throat, belly, most of the lower part of the tail, underside of the arms and fingers and inner parts of the legs and feet) which is beige instead. A large part of the face around the eyes on either side of the Raptor's head is also beige. On its back, the Raptor features six yellowish beige (a different shade of beige than mentioned before) stripes, with smaller yellow stripes of the same shape in the centre of each of these stripes. The figure has yellow eye sockets, housing cat like orange eyes with black pupils. It has white teeth and a red inside of the mouth, as well as black claws on the feet (but not on the fingers). A white JP logo is found on each upper leg.
The Spinosaurus is positioned in a crouching move, its right arm resting on the ground, possibly stalking potential prey. Its left arm is raised upwards and its mouth is opened wide. It's a very green figure, this colour being found on all of the body, except for its underside (lower jaw, throat, belly, most of the lower part of the tail, inner parts of the arms and legs) which is coloured dark beige. The upper jaw and face, the feet and the sail are coloured dark green with the tip of the tail and three stripes running around the tail full circle sporting the same colour. On both flanks it carries a few beige spots. The figure has small yellow eyes with black pupils. It also has white teeth and a red inside of the mouth and tongue. The claws on both hands and feet are not painted. A white JP logo is found on each upper leg.



Analysis: Hasbro yet again went for a very colourful set of new paint jobs in this two-pack, but again failed to deliver on making these paint jobs look actually good, except maybe for kids who like their dinosaurs overly brightly coloured. Both paint schemes are otherwise not very inspired. In fact, the Spinosaurus' paint job is very similar to the green paint job of its Camo-Xtreme Swamp predecessor, making it a poor copy of that particular release. Both figures lack a sense of detailing, as illustrated by the lack of painted claws (except for those on the Raptor's feet, but in this case the small claws on the back of the feet have been neglected). It is good to see the alternative Spinosaurus sculpt used for a change (though of course a new sculpt would have made us much happier!), since we haven't seen it since JPD2. The same can't be said for this Raptor sculpt, which has overstayed its welcome for far too long.
The Raptor, which in normal circumstances would be more or less in perfect scale with Hasbro's human figures (though not in the standard JP situation where Velociraptors are hugely oversized), is lucky he's about equal size as the Spinosaurus. In reality any Spinosaurus would just bite the Raptor in half, being considerably taller. In a fight between these particular two dinosaurs, the Raptor with its lethal sickle shaped claws would probably win the day. The Spinosaurus already seems to have fallen to its knees accordingly.

Repaint: yes. The Spinosaurus originally came with the Military Diver for the JP III line (Wave 2) and has been repainted before a few times for Camo-Xtreme and JPD2 and would be used twice for this toy line. The Velociraptor sculpt was paired with Alan Grant for the JP III line (Wave 1 instead) and has been repainted many times for Camo-Xtreme, JPD2 and JPD3 and would also be featured in various JP 2009 sets. 
 
Overall rating: 3/10. Funky use of colours here, but these new paint schemes aren't particularly imaginative or appealing. Besides, there's just nothing of particular interest in this set, unless you don't own either one of these sculpts yet. This set is not rare and can still be found with little effort. Since this two-pack was a Toys'R'Us exclusive that could change some day, but probably not for the next few years.

vrijdag 26 augustus 2016

Jurassic Park 2009: Dino Battlers: Spinosaurus VS Tyrannosaurus Rex



Year of release: 2009

Description: the small Spinosaurus figure stands in a walking posture, with its left leg posed forward and the left arm raised, its mouth opened as if roaring and the end of the tail bent pointing to the right. It sports a typical three-way paint job. Its underside (throat, belly and most of the lower part of the tail) is painted greenish beige. Most of the head, the sides of the neck and tail, the flanks, the tip of the tail and the limbs are coloured brown. The back of the head, neck, back, sail and most of the upper part of the tail is painted green. It features several greenish beige stripes on the head, neck, back (including the sail) and tail. The claws on the hands and feet are not painted. The inside of the mouth is painted red, while the creature carries white teeth and has small red eyes with black pupils. The Spinosaurus carries a white JP logo on both upper legs.
The T-Rex stands in an active posture, its head curved to the left and its arms outstretched as if attacking something. The tip of the tail is bent pointing upwards and to the left. It has small pads on its feet to give it extra support. Its predominant colour is grey, which is found not only on all of its underside (lower jaw, throat, belly, limbs, lower part and tip of the tail) but also on most of its back and on the upper legs. The rest of the body (the rest of the head, the neck, the flanks and the rest of the tail) is orange. It features several dark grey stripes and spots on its head (around the eyes), the back, the forearms, the lower legs and the front half of the tail. The claws on the hands and feet are not painted, nor are the pads under the feet. The tongue and inside of the mouth is painted red, while the creature carries white teeth and has small green eyes with black pupils. The Tyrannosaurus carries a white JP logo on each upper leg.



Analysis: good idea, Hasbro! Let's pack the same two miniature big predator figures together... again! It's only been done a bunch of times before so who will know or care? Of course us JP fans care, but apparently we don't really count when there's the potential of making money off kids around. So we are cursed with yet another crappy set of repaints, once again with totally unappealing paint jobs. The used combination of colours is ugly on both figures, though it's definitely worst on the Rex. Grey and orange are just not meant to be used together as this figure successfully demonstrates. Also, the lack of painted details is appalling. Neither figures have their claws painted and the pads on the Rex's feet are woefully neglected. There's just nothing in this set a collector could want, except to add the set to his/her collection to make it complete.
So, assuming anybody cared, who would win this conflict? The Rex is the likely choice. Not because it is the dinosaur king as some zealous fanboys keep reminding us, but simply because it is a much heavier figure and easily knocks over its opponent.

Repaint: yes. The T-Rex originally came with the Military General for the JP III line and has already been repainted over and over again for Camo-Xtreme, JPD2 and JPD3 and would be used several times again for this toy line. This Spinosaurus sculpt was paired with Amanda Kirby for the JP III line and has likewise been repainted often enough for Camo-Xtreme, JPD2 and JPD3. In JP 2009, this would be its only appearance though.

Overall rating: 2/10. Same old same old. Not very impressive sculpts repainted and packaged together too often already, and these paint jobs aren't great. There's just nothing of particular interest in this set, unless you don't own either one of these sculpts yet. This set is not rare and can still be found rather easily. Since this set was a Toys'R'Us exclusive that might change some day, but probably not for the next decade.


vrijdag 5 augustus 2016

Jurassic Park 2009: Dino Battlers: Triceratops VS Tyrannosaurus Rex



Year of release: 2009

Note: this particular set comes in two variations, both more or less equally common. This review concerns the set with the darker coloured dinosaurs, which is generally regarded to be the original, while the set with the brighter coloured figures is usually seen as 'the variation' of the two.

Description: the T-Rex stands in an aggressive posture, its head curved to the left and its arms stretched out. The tip of the tail is bent pointing upwards and to the left. It has small pads on its feet to give it extra support. While the underside (lower jaw, throat, belly and lower part of the tail) of the Rex is coloured white, the rest of the figure is painted light brown. The creature features two big dark brown stripes on its back, and a third at the base of the tail. Additionally, brown bands are found on the figure's lower legs (two each), arms (one each) and tail (three near the tip). The pads under the feet are painted in this same dark brown colour, as are the claws on both fingers and toes. The tongue and inside of the mouth are coloured red, while the teeth are white and the Rex sports small cat like yellow eyes with black pupils. It has a white JP logo on each upper leg.
The Triceratops appears to stand in a brace-for-impact posture, its head (almost as big as its torso) held low to the ground (and slightly posed to its right), the front legs more or less in the same position, while the left upper leg is stretched backwards. The tail curves to the right. Most of this creature's body, including the head, is painted grey, while its underside (throat, belly and the first half of the lower part of the tail) is light blue instead. On its back and tail the figure sports some vague green spots, while a trio of red spots covers most of the head crest. The beak and the horns (including those on its cheeks) are painted beige. The Trike has small green eyes with black pupils and a white JP logo on each upper leg.


Analysis: Dear Lord, not this T-Rex again! As if we haven't seen this sucker enough in the previous repaint lines, Hasbro thought it a good idea (or they likely just didn't care at all) to present us with this particular sculpt four more times in their JP 2009 line. This is one of them, and compared to some of its more zany repaints out there, its paint job is rather conservative, being a typical brown on top, white below and some dark stripes to complete it all. It's just not a very interesting or imaginative paint job. Also, it's a shame to see the claws on the feet painted in the same colour as the feet pads, since now it looks as if the two have melted together. The Triceratops also isn't a very successful release. After its surprising first appearance in JPD3, the shock of this most recently released sculpt has disappeared and it's now as conventional as the rest of these repaints. Its paint job is rather dull, though it uses much more very different colours than you might think at first glance (grey, blue, red, beige and two different shades of green). But the result just isn't very appealing.
In combat between these two, the Triceratops would probably emerge victorious considering those nasty spikes which it could use to stake the Rex to death. The Rex just isn't much bigger and would have a hard time getting a good bite out of the Trike unless it took it by surprise. Whoever wins, as far as the quality of this two-pack goes, we lose.

Repaint: yes. The T-Rex originally came with the Military General for the JP III line and has already been repainted over and over again for Camo-Xtreme, JPD2 and JPD3 and would be used several times again for this toy line. The Triceratops first popped up in JPD3 for which it was used twice. Its appearance on JP 2009 remained limited to this two-pack.

Overall rating: 4/10. Not a very appealing set of paint jobs. The sense of 'newness' experienced for the Triceratops when it first appeared in JPD3 has waned, and by now everybody is really sick of this damn T-Rex. There's just nothing of particular interest in this set, unless you don't own either one of these sculpts yet (which in the Rex's case seems unlikely by now). This set is not rare (in either variation) and can still be found rather easily. Since this set was a Toys'R'Us exclusive that might change some day, but surely not for the next few years or so.

woensdag 3 augustus 2016

Today's Review: Madeliefjes (Sedmikrasky)



Another one up, this one an oldie:

Madeliefjes - recensie

Ideologically, Sedmikrasky still makes sense. More so than ever, in fact. Designed as a feminist act of rebellion against patriarchal political systems, there's a lot to say for it when such systems are on the rise again. Now that so-called strong willed men are elected to office (or otherwise just grabbing such positions for themselves) around the globe, it's no surprise women's rights, hard fought and well earned, are slowly but surely diminished, even in democratic territories. So why not re-release a movie that fought for female independence fifty years back? Maybe because it is dated as heck in all other regards, for one thing.

Sedmikrasky deals with two young women tired of being told what to do by old men and turning the tables on them by questioning everything taken for granted and stopping to adhering to social rules. That sounds pretty hardcore, but the eventual acts of rebellion ultimately prove rather tame. They start by luring cuckolds into dates and humiliating them in public by acting like spoiled brats and messing with their food (a lot!). Soon, things get a bit more serious when they add burglary to their nefarious behavior. Still, that's about it. And all of it is executed in a subversively childish manner, which makes it hard to take seriously fifty years down the road, as we've seen much worse in cinema since. Though we can sympathize with rebels attacking an oppressive system, these two women are mostly just absurdly annoying, making for a good 73 minutes that prove hard to sit through.


What's worse, at least for general audiences, avant-gardist director Very Chytilova applies some mindbogglingly experimental cutting and photography, which makes for a wholly inaccessible movie. Everything is overly stylized, as if filming a dream. What's a modern audience to make of all this weirdness? Movie buffs and art lovers at least will appreciate the constant switching between colour palettes, the abrupt editing and the odd camera angles, not to mention the historical context which makes this film a classic in its own right, a prime example of its tempestuous zeitgeist. But without bearing all that in mind, little remains to provoke thoughts or aspire the latest generation of feminists, aside from good intentions.

woensdag 20 juli 2016

Jurassic Park: Dinosaurs 3: (Ultra) Tyrannosaurus Rex



Year of release: 2005

Description: this larger T-Rex figure measures some 25 centimetres in length and stands just over 15 centimetres tall. This Rex sculpts stands in an attack posture, with its tail bent upwards and its head slightly tilted up. Its legs stand far apart from each other. This Rex is pretty skinny and has little body mass. It’s mostly head, limbs and tail. A very large dino damage would is found on its right flank, showing white ribs and red muscle tissue. The upper piece of exposed rib is actually a button which activates a shrieking roar, as if the creature is in pain. A second roar, more aggressive and imposing, can be made by pulling its right arm down: when doing so the mouth will also open. A third sound, the stomping noise, can be made by having the T-Rex stomp on the ground. The sound quality of all three sounds is not very good, some static is heard as well.
This (Ultra) T-Rex sports a darker paint job than its previous incarnations. Except for its underside (throat, belly and lower part of the tail), which is coloured light grey, all of its body is painted dark grey. The darkest parts of grey are found on the head and back, while the tail and limbs are of a slightly lighter shade of grey. Red stripes run from the neck over the back to the end of the tail, while there are also a few of them on the upper legs. The stripes on the back are more pronounced because the torso section of this sculpt is composed of harder material. The claws on both hands and feet are painted very light grey, almost white. The Tyrannosaurus has a pink tongue and inside of its mouth, as well as small red eyes with black pupils. It carries a white JP logo on each upper leg.



Analysis: the not so impressive Tyrant King of Hasbro returns a third time to do a quick cash grab from kids and collectors alike! At least this time the paint job is totally different, instead of a pale copy of the original JP III Rex like the JPD2 release featured (though it's also not nearly as ingenious or appealing as the Camo-Xtreme Canyon T-Rex's paint scheme). A darker and grittier colour scheme is found on this T-Rex, hinting at its status as a terrifying large carnivore with big nasty pointy teeth. The combination of dark grey (almost black even) and red stripes also makes it look a bit like a possible Camo-Xtreme Lava T-Rex. It's a good paint job, but also a bit too simple: just dark grey with a few small red stripes and a light grey underside. For such a big sculpt, more detailing would have been appreciated.
Aside from the new paint job, this Rex is otherwise no improvement over its JPD2 predecessor. It's still a big but skinny creature standing in an awkward posture that hinders playability, with an unimaginative and ineffective attack feature, and the same old sounds of crappy quality with weak electronics to support them. It still features silly stomping sounds which can only be activated by bashing the figure's feet to the ground, only speeding up the process of the electronics inside dying an all to quick death. Even though JPD3 is a fairly recent toy line, it's quite common for MIB samples to be unable to produce sounds, and it ain't just the batteries being dead. Overall, the new paint job is the only potential worthwhile thing in this set.

Repaint: yes. This is a repaint of the JP III Ultra T-Rex figure. The sculpt has been repainted before for Camo-Xtreme and JPD2.

Overall rating: 5/10. A different and dark paint job for this T-Rex, which suits it well but is a bit bland. The sculpt itself still is quite disappointing for a big figure. Like the other big JPD2/3 electronic dinosaurs, this figure was common a few years back, but, in terms of availability, its numbers are in swift decline. You might still get one for a decent price now, but don't expect this situation to last much longer.

zaterdag 16 juli 2016

Today's Review: The Man Who Knew Infinity



Took a while (vacation will do that), but here's a long overdue review for your approval:

The Man Who Knew Infinity - recensie

Mathematics is generally considered by mainstream audiences as a rather dull topic, but movies about mathematicians often have little trouble finding an audience. There's an odd fascination with the socially awkward minds of geniuses who spend their entire live crunching numbers, or so the success of A Beautiful Mind or more recently The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game has proven. However, with the success of such films, there's a risk of such biopics finding themselves limited to a specific formula. A misunderstood genius+a harsh, unaccepting society+British acting talent=boxoffice success, such a formula might state. Problem is, these geniuses in question were anything but formulaic people so there ought to be a little more to it than generic writing to make modern audiences fully appreciate their work. Case in point, the legendary Srinivasa Ramanujan and the feeble The Man Who Knew Infinity.

The mathematical wonder Ramanujan was born a poor Indian with an uncanny gift for understanding numbers and dreaming up formulas way beyond the comprehension of his social environment in the early 20th Century. It took a while for his talent to be recognized and even longer for it to be put to good academic use, when he finally moved to Cambridge. There he baffled the minds of his fellows in the short years that remained to him. What made this incredible mind tick? The Man Who Knew Infinity unfortunately is more concerned with focusing on the culture of discrimination Ramanujan faced at academia. In the movie, the misunderstood genius spends most of his time being subjected to racist exclusion rather than getting any work done. And so he stays mostly misunderstood to the audience, who can't begin to comprehend just how unusual his formulas were and what grand ramifications they had for the world of mathematics. Ramanujan is just repeatedly stated to be a genius, and that's that.


Dev Patel portrays this specific genius and does an adequate job carrying the movie as such, but his talent is basically wasted as the ongoing victim of racial slurs who just keeps looking miserable and unhappy. As the genre's conventions have it, it's up to the assembled British talent to keep the movie alive beyond that. With Jeremy Irons as Ramanujan's close friend Hardy, the film does have one great card to play in keeping us interested both in Ramanujan's plight and mathematics in general. The movie is as its most interesting when Irons graces the screen, guiding us and the protagonist through the academic world and mathematical lore of the early 1900s and sharing many an intriguing anecdote about both. These scenes make for the film's most interesting moments, which are constantly hindered by Ramanujan facing yet another insult regarding his cultural roots or skin colour. We get it, racism is bad. Unfortunately, more emphasis is put on this particular message than we would care to hear. Suffering is after all a trope of the genre and worked for its predecessors: as Turing struggled with his homosexuality in The Imitation Game and Hawking with his debilitating condition in The Theroy of Everything, so Ramanujan is subjected to the racism of the day.

Which is too bad, since an unusual mind like Ramanujan's didn't deserve to be explored in such a generic period piece as The Man Who Knew Infinity. The movie carefully stays within the boundaries of the genre rather than, like the man it honours, exceeding such boundaries. It drones on endlessly about the poor man's plight rather than making us fully appreciate his work, his field of expertise and his lasting legacy. The Man Who Knew Infinity, sadly, is rather a predictable and dull movie, which hinders general moviegoers to consider mathematics something other than just that exactly. Well, at least Jeremy Irons tried...