action figures

#705: Extra Hands

GETTING MORE TALE #705 Extra Hands

Today we discuss perhaps the most controversial subject ever broached on mikeladano.com.  In the past we have fearlessly tackled bands without original members, whiny fanboys, the far right, and the plight of natives.  Now we go where no one has dared.

Readers here may think that my sister Dr. Kathryn and I have lots in common.  We both love music, schnauzers, and Star Wars.  That’s everything, right?  You’d certainly think so.  We disagree more often than we agree.

Some spans are simply too far to bridge.  This is one of them.

Here is the controversy.  Don’t judge until you’ve heard us out.

My sister and I disagree, strongly, when action figures come packaged with extra hands.

Say what?  I’ll explain.

This issue first arose in 2012 when the Star Wars 6″ Black Series was launched.  This was a series aimed at collectors, packaged to display.  Many increased in value quickly.  Each character was numbered.  The larger size (standard Star Wars figures were 3 1/4″) enabled more detail, better facial sculpting and way more articulation.  Some of these figures look like the actual actors for the first time.  Though quite a few are less than perfect (#03 Luke Skywalker has weirdly bright blue eyes) they were, by and large, exactly what nostalgic fans wanted.  Eventually just about every major character was released (though we are still missing a Padme) with lots of the minor ones too (bounty hunters, Jabba’s minions).  Fans were peeved that it took until now to get an original Lando Calrissian figure, while we already had such dubious characters as “Constable Zuvio”, plus about a dozen Rey variations!  From Star Wars ’77 to Solo, most of your favourites are now available in the Black Series line.

The figure that sparked the controversy is #08, the excellent Han Solo in his 1977 getup:  Black vest, white shirt, cool holster and blaster!  The Black Series also occasionally threw in some bonus accessories.  #08 Han has some of the best.  He comes with his regular gun and holster, plus a Stormtrooper’s gun and belt so you can duplicate the look he had when he was running around the Death Star after escaping the trash compactor.  He also comes with an extra set of gloved hands, so you can have Han as he looked when he was fleeing TIE Fighters aboard the Millenium Falcon.  The hands snap in and out easily with no fear of breakage, still maintaining full wrist articulation.  One of the gloved hands has fingers outstretched, as if Han were hitting buttons on the Falcon’s dashboard.

So what’s the problem?

My sister likes to keep her figures sealed.  She displays them around her desk in her music room at home.  I, on the other hand, put my sealed figures in storage, and sometimes buy a second one to open up and display.  #08 Han is one such figure that I opened.  (My sealed one is in a Cantina two-pack with Greedo!)

I’ve displayed Han in all sorts of ways:  With and without vest, with and without Stormtrooper gear, and sometimes with the gloved hands.  Meanwhile my sister’s boxed figure gets quizzical looks when she has friends over.

“Why does Han have two dismembered hands in the box?”

My sister finds the hands to be an eyesore she’d rather do without.  For me, they are just another display option.  I’ll bag up whatever accessories Han isn’t using right now.  (Currently, my #08 Han is put away, while I have “Old Han” from The Force Awakens on display with Chewie.)

To me, a bigger offender is actually R2-D2.  R2 is loaded with accessories (which is good since he’s half the size of a regular figure but still the same price).  R2 is packed with a sensor scope, an antenna, and a Luke lightsaber that he packs in his dome.  There are also blue dome covers for when you want R2 all closed up looking normal.  But he also comes with jetpacks for his legs.  Many fans consider the “flying R2” scenes to be among the worst in the prequel trilogy.  I’d rather pretend it never happened.

“Those are stupid too,” says my sister of the leg rockets.

Han isn’t the only figure in the series with alternate body parts.  Qui-Gon Jinn has a bonus hand doing a Force movement.  Anakin Skywalker came with two heads so you can do him with two looks:  mopey or angry.  My sister considers all of these to be very poor display pieces.

I guess we will never agree on this issue.  I think the extra hands are a bonus.  If her friends can’t figure out that sometimes action figures come with alternate parts, then maybe she needs new friends.

 

 

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VIDEO: Star Wars Black Series random unboxings

Guest directed by: Kathryn Ladano

Gallery: Other Stuff I Collect That Isn’t Music

I collect toys.  Lots of toys.

Gallery: Wilfrid Laurier (Canadian Legends series figure)

Earlier this weekend, a discussion was unfolding in the posting for my Johnny Cash action figure gallery.  I have provided the pertinent text between Aaron and myself:

A:  You know what I want for Christmas? The John A. MacDonald action figure! Yes, it exists. It’s not music-related, but since we’re talking about action figures of our heroes…

M:  At some point in the near future I fully intend to work in my Sir Wilfrid Laurier action figure. I haven’t figured out how yet…but I WILL! In fact I was going to throw it in here as a mind-fuck at the end, but it wasn’t working and wasn’t funny so I axed it at the last minute!

Screw it.  Not music-related?  Wouldn’t be the first time!  This figure, 2006 Nafekh, is from “Series 1” of the Canadian Legends.  “Series 2” never came to be.   (My series 2 would have included Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Terry Fox, and Alexander Graham Bell, if such a thing were ever made.)

Gallery: Johnny Cash figure (Sota toys)

 

This was a gift from Mrs. LeBrain.  Johnny Cash, the Man in Black!  This figure, from 2005, captures a younger, tougher Johnny.  I love the little details like the nylon guitar strings, and the gold dots on his necktie.  Not much articulation here, so this one has some very limited poses.  He does come with a nice, detailed railroad track figure stand.

MOVIE REVIEW: Machete (2010)

In anticipation the of the soon-to-be-released sequel Machete Kills!

“Machete don’t text.”

MACHETE (2010, 20th Century Fox)

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

I really didn’t know what to expect when I bought Machete, sight unseen.  Can you really expand a novelty joke movie trailer into a full length movie?  If so, can you have it remain as funny, as action packed, and creative as that 3 minute spot? Robert Rodriguez answers us, “Yes”!

“They just fucked with the wrong Mexican”

Danny Trejo is awesome as our anti-hero and titular character. An unemployed machete-wielding vigilante, he has been offered a considerable sum of money to assassinate a corrupt senator (Robert DeNiro). However, it’s a double cross! The attempted shooting only boosts the senator’s popularity, thus ensuring his election victory, based on anti-immigrant propaganda.

Machete is not alone. His brother the Padre (Cheech Marin) is a gun-totin’ pot-smokin’ priest with a determination to right some wrongs. Blood, gore, people’s intestines being ripped out and used as a rope…this movie has everything you were hoping for and some things you weren’t. Done in the same campy style as Grindhouse, scratchy film and all, if you’re in on the joke you will love Machete. If you don’t get it, hey that’s cool.  They’re still making Fast & Furious films.

Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Don Johnson, Jeff Fahey, and Steven Segal round out the cast, and they were all clearly having a blast. DeNiro especially seems like he was having a great time camping it up with his cheesiest character yet. And then there’s the most overrated star of all time, Lindsay Lohan. I’m not sure what she’s doing here, except to attract some more viewers who want to see her frolicking around topless.

Blu-ray bonus features are kind of sparse, but there are deleted scenes. There’s also an audience reaction audio track, and I always enjoy those with a film like this.  It gives you the feeling of being there in the theater.  Still, I was hoping for more bonus features, like another one of Robert’s cooking features. They’re fun. Ahh well.

If you are a fan of this genre, and liked movies such as Grindhouse or Black Dynamite, you will love Machete. If you’re looking for glossy Hollywood action, look elsewhere.

5/5 stars

Gallery: Iron Maiden’s EDDIE (2012 Neca figure)

This one goes out to FanFigureZero and his jaw-dropping site.

In downtown Kitchener last night, I dropped in at the great store Lookin’ For Heroes, to pick up the lastest issue (#94) of Transformers Re-Generation One.  Unfortunately I was a week early, but they did have Eddie!  Several different Eddies.  I decided to start yet another Iron Maiden collection!

I already had the old McFarlane figures from a long time ago, but this new series has seven figures in it.  And I plan on getting them all!

MOVIE REVIEW: The Ultimate Cut: Watchmen – The Complete Story (blu-ray)

Hot on the heels of my Man of Steel review, here’s…the Watchmen.

WATCHMEN : The Ultimate Cut – The Complete Story (2009 Warner 4 disc blu-ray set)

Directed by Zack Snyder, 216 minutes 

What’s the greatest comic book movie of all time?  I’ve seen a lot of them. There’s quite a few I haven’t seen as well, but it’s a great topic for discussion.  I always have to put Watchmen on the table when discussing great comic book adaptations.

Watchmen is a complex tale.  Its original comic was ambitious, containing page after page of dense backstory information in the form of documents and faux-magazine articles, all very relevant.  There’s even a parallel story taking place, a comic within a comic, which directly reflects one (or arguably more) of the characters in the main story.  Characters and their psychology are key.  In addition, neither the comic nor the movie are linear.  The story unfolds within different time periods, flashing back and forth, as we learn more about the characters, their motivations, and the world they inhabit.

It is the world they inhabit that was the hook for me.  I’m a sucker for alternate universe stories.  Here’s one that sets us on Earth, 1985, but things have unfolded very differently.  The influence of various superheroes/vigilantes has caused history to unfold very differently.  Specifically, it is the presence of Dr. Manhattan, who puts a swift and decisive end to the Vietnam war, who influences history the most.  In this 1985, Richard Nixon is still president, and masked vigilantes are now outlawed.

The Watchmen are a group of such vigilantes, originally known as the Minutemen.  Some, such as Dr. Manhattan truly are superhuman.  Others, such as Nite Owl and his successor Nite Owl II, are mere mortals with high-tech gadgetry and skill as their allies.  All have retired, some in fame and some in anonymity…all but one.  Rorschach.  He remains active, alone and wanted.

The movie begins as a murder mystery.  Someone has managed to identify and kill Edward Blake — The Comedian, once one of the most dangerous heroes alive.  To overpower and murder Blake would require an individual of tremendous resources.  Who?  And are other former vigilantes also at risk?  Rorschach seems to be the only one who wants to know.

Being a fan of the graphic novel, I was very happy with the way that Zack Snyder captured Watchmen. It was done with love and care. The things that are discarded, I didn’t miss so much. The things that he changed, I understand why it was done.  There’s one layer to the story/mystery that has been discarded, probably to keep this thing under 4 hours!  The things that are reverently exactly the same as the comic made my jaw drop in awe.  The acting performances are what they are, but I have to give special mention to Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach.

WATCHMEN_0006The soundtrack is one of the best in recent memory. Outside of Wes Anderson, I haven’t loved a soundtrack this much in a long time.  It’s awesome from the stunning Bob Dylan classic “The Times They Are A’Changing”, to Nat King Cole, to Simon and Garfunkel, Hendrix and Philip Glass, and probably the weirdest use of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” in movie history.  The soundtrack is where it’s at.  The movie even contains a Village People sighting!  I’ll skip My Chemical Romance.

This Ultimate Cut weaves the comic-within-a-comic, Tales Of The Black Freighter, previously only available on its own, into the main body of Watchmen. These segments are narrated by Gerard Butler.  New live action linking sequences connect the movie to Black Freighter, much like it worked in the graphic novel. People who haven’t read the graphic novel might not understand what “Black Freighter” is doing there, but they should probably start with the less daunting theatrical cut to start with anyway.

WATCHMEN_0003The box set includes four discs, beautifully packaged. Hardly a complaint to be registered. The box is heavy and sturdy. Included is Watchmen: The Motion Comic, packed in its own case, 5 hours long on its own. One disc is the expired digital copy of the theatrical cut (whoop de do) and another disc is loaded with special features. Best of these is Under The Hood, which is based on the graphic novel segments covering Holis Mason.  Mason, the original Nite Owl I, wrote an autobiography called Under the Hood; this film is a faux-documentary on his story. It is presented as a television program from 1975 re-run in 1985, including commercials and scratchy footage. At 35 minutes, this is an absolute must. Other special features include brand new audio commentaries, for those who dare to keep going deeper. This set is just loaded.  Unfortunately I found the sound level inconsistent, I had to turn it up and down frequently.

Having said that, I’m not going to discard my Director’s Cut of Watchmen. Clocking in at almost four hours, watching this version is a commitment. I know that occasionally, I will want to watch the “shorter” version of the film. Since a digital copy of the theatrical (shortest) cut is included here, maybe you won’t feel the need to double-up on Watchmen editions.  For an enriched viewing experience, set aside the four hours one afternoon and enjoy.

4/5 stars

Malin Akerman … Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II

Billy Crudup … Dr. Manhattan / Jon Osterman

Matthew Goode … Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias

Jackie Earle Haley … Rorschach

Jeffrey Dean Morgan … Edward Blake / Comedian

Patrick Wilson … Dan Dreiberg / Nite Owl

Carla Gugino … Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre

Matt Frewer … Moloch