transformers

VIDEO: FansToys Terminus Giganticus (Pack A)

Balancing a music collection with a toy collection is expensive, but they do have a lot in common.  For example, both feature “holy grail” items that you simply must have.  In 2017, the holy grail category was won by toys for the first time.  Behold!  Enjoy the video at bottom.

Key points:

* Terminus Giganticus is FansToys’ version of a Masterpiece class Omega Supreme action figure, to fit seamlessly with your official Transformers Masterpiece collection.
* Fucking huge.
* Comes in two packs: Pack A (September 2017) and Pack B (November 2017).
* Thanks to Madhaus Toys (facebook.com/madhaus.collectibles) for the pre-order!

References:

* For more information on third party toys:  Getting More Tale #570: Third Party
* Incredibly galleries  from TFCon:  Getting More Tale #578: TFCon 2017

Video:

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#578: TFCon 2017

GETTING MORE TALE #578: TFCon 2017

Hold onto your scraplets, I have literally a shat-ton of photos from Toronto TFCon 2017!

I’ve never been to TFCon before.  Buddy Jason has been trying to get me to go for years.  This is the first time the planets aligned and I went with Jay with two goals:

  1. Pick out a gift for myself from my mother-in-law (who is awesome that way).
  2. Pick out something smaller for myself.

Jay picked me up around 7:00 am and we hit the road.  We discussed strategies and vendors and I quickly realized that this was going to be epic.

I’ll let the massive photo gallery here speak for itself.  For official and third party figures, I have never seen anything like it before.

The goodie bag you get for paying your $35 entrance fee was kind of crap.  It had some flavoured water and a Schick razor.  The TFCon bag itself will get more use than the Schick.

One of the coolest figures was the Con exclusive from OcularMax. Diaclone Paris Dakar Rally Terraegis is a mouthful, but it’s the yellow truck in the gallery below. Look at the detailed deco. Those aren’t stickers!

They also had prototypes of forthcoming third party figures.  One of these was the giant FansToys Omega Supreme (mentioned earlier here).  Another was a really sharp looking pair of jets for a new Masterpiece Aerialbots set.

The items I purchased were:

  1. Takara Titans Return Wheelie from the fine folks at TF Source! – $25 Canadian.  A real winner.
  2. Transformers Collectors Club Impactor – $120 Canadian.  Cheapest I’ve seen.
  3. Third party company FansToys Phoenix – an homage to G1 Skyfire in Masterpiece scale.  From The Chosen Prime.

I just found a new annual pilgrimage.  Thanks Jay — can’t wait for next year!

 

#570: Third Party

By request of J from Resurrection Songs.  If you are familiar with the concept of bootleg CDs, then the idea of third party toys should be easy to assimilate.  For the purpose of this story, I’m going to be speaking only about third party Transformers toys, as they are the only ones in my collection.

GETTING MORE TALE #570: Third Party

What is a third party toy?  Simply put, it is an unauthorized toy designed to look like another toy, without infringing on any copyrights.  Third party toys are big business today.  These independently produced collectibles have limited runs and when they’re out, eBay prices can be prohibitive.  One of the reasons the prices get so high is that third party toys often exceed the quality of the official ones.  They cater to hard core fans looking for specific features and homages.  Stuff that officially produced toys ignore in favour of mass production, safety features and mass appeal.

Third party toys are not to be confused with “KO” or knock-offs.  KO toys originating from China or Korea are complete reproductions of official toys.  Therefore, you can buy a KO of the original Optimus Prime from 1984.  It will come in a KO of the original box with a KO sticker sheet and instructions too.  It’ll be made of die cast and plastic just like the original, and these toys are getting better all the time.  It used to be they would be made with cheap plastic and fall apart immediately.  That happened to me, when I ordered a KO of 1985’s Devastator figure.  First time out of the box, and one of the figures broke.  One part was too tight, the other part was too fragile, and snap.  They are of much higher quality now, and the bonus is that you can get a “brand new” toy of something you always wanted but never had.

To make matters a little more confusing, there are now even KOs of third party figures, and a current popular trend is oversized KOs.  The theory is that bigger is better!  The waters are murky indeed!

There is a certain amount of caution and “buyer beware” to be exercised with third party toys.  Especially with new startup companies, the quality and design can leave a lot to be desired.  One company, Keith’s Fantasy Club (KFC) had early products that were beyond shite.  They initially focused on cassette-bots:  robots that transformed into microcassettes.  I bought one that fell apart out of the box.  Now KFC have worked out the bugs and produce some of the heaviest, highest quality third party toys on the market.  I recently received their “Opticlones”, an original toy based on Transformers Generation 1 Reflector.  This is a set of three robots that combine into a camera.  He has a lot of metal, intricate transformation and dead-on accurate looks to the original cartoon character.  The figure is in “MP” or Masterpiece scale.  He is designed to fit right in with the official Masterpiece Megatron, Optimus Prime, Soundwave and the rest of the line.  Often, third party toys will be designed to interact with the official ones.  Reflector comes with a little miniature version of his camera self that can be held by the official Soundwave.

The early days of third party toys was like the wild wild west, you really had to do your research.  Fortunately, Youtube reviewers like Peaugh made some decisions easy.  A company called Fansproject put out a two-figure add-on kit to go with the official Revenge of the Fallen Bruticus figure, a combiner made of five robots.  Fansproject’s kit flat-out replaced two of the robots with much better ones.  It improved the overall figure greatly by supplying new hands, feet and guns.  Ingeniously, all the numerous accessories had a part in play in all three modes:  robots, vehicles, and combined robot.  Each part was perfectly integrated, and significantly boosted the firepower of the toy.

Bruticus before and after

This was wish fulfillment for fans!  The intricate parts were above and beyond the official Hasbro versions.  There was a new head too, with neck articulation.  Guns could combine into larger guns, parts unfolded into missile launchers…it was great stuff and Fansproject have consistently been on the top of the heap.

One of the reasons companies like Fansproject have lasted so long is that they continually cater to the demands of fans who feel the official products are missing something.  For just about every major Hasbro and Takara release, there is an add-on kit available from a third party company.  New heads are common, because fans are picky enough to want their figure to look like a specific iteration.  Transformers have a 33 year history and characters have undergone many versions.

Often there are multiple third party add-on kits to choose from.  Dr. Wu is one that I have bought from frequently.  Dr. Wu tends to focus on small add-ons, like guns and additional weapons that are missing from the official toy.  If Hasbro and Takara could only release toys that fulfill wishes from the fans from the start, third party companies like Dr. Wu wouldn’t be necessary.  Either due to cost or a desire to have toys less “weaponized”, Hasbro and Takara often omit weapons and accessories that the characters have traditionally wielded.  Enter Dr. Wu and a slew of others.

Even the sticker company Reprolabels/Toyhax have entered the weapons black market.  Reprolabels/Toyhax used to focus strictly on stickers, either to restore or enhance your Transformers.  Now they are including plastic weapons that, once again, Hasbro and Takara have omitted from classic characters.  Toyhax were the only major third party sticker company on the market, and now they’ve gone even further by adding solid add-ons too.  Any serious Transformers fan should visit and make at least one purchase from Toyhax.

Maketoys’ Battle Tanker is a kit to provide weapons and a trailer for Hasbro’s G2 Prime figure, as well as new waist and head.

Similar to add-on kits are upgrade kits.  These require partial disassembly of  your figure to outright replace major components.  This is often done to add articulation, especially in the hands.  Beelzeboss is a third party that sells a very complex kit for the official Combiner Wars Optimus Prime figure.  It’s a hairy process, involving tiny screws, pulling out small metal pins, and replacing entire waist and leg pieces in exchange for new ones.  The upgrade adds height and completely changes the appearance of Prime.  If you’re up to the task, it looks incredible.  Other upgrades are simpler.  A lot of modern Transformers have ball joints and it’s easy to pop off a head and replace it with a third party one that has light-up eyes.

At this point, there are now so many quality third party companies out there fighting for our dollars, that choosing one version to go with can be daunting.  KFC doesn’t have the only version of an MP-scale Reflector out there.  Another fine company called Fans Toys also have one.  Ultimately I preferred KFC’s version of the camera mode, which tipped the scales.  For other characters, especially combiners made of multiple robots, there are many versions, most great.  Choosing one might depend on which one is biggest, or fits in better with your collection.  Youtube reviews are essential.  Benscollectibles is one of the best.  Emgo316 “The freakin’ geek himself”, Peaugh, Balmatrix, Optibotimus, and many more can be counted on for their prompt and thorough reviews.  Another benefit to these reviews is to master the transformation process.  These companies are based out of Asia, and the instructions have no English.  You have to rely on sometimes vague pictures.  Some third party toys are so complex that, like a Rubik’s cube, it’s easy to just give up in frustration.  Maketoys’ Wardog (aka G1 Warpath) is the most difficult toy I own.  These guys will guide you through transforming it.

You might ask yourself, “What if there is a quality issue?  What do I do?”  Most of these companies are very good about providing replacement pieces.  X-Transbots Apollyon is their version of a Masterpiece Megatron.  The heavy battery-powered fusion cannon on his right arm is quite heavy, and the right arm droops.  It won’t hold up.  So X-Transbots provided a tighter replacement piece for the shoulder ball joint.  It’s easy to install, and they began including these replacement shoulders right in the box.  This is one example.

Apollyon on dispaly with official, third party and knock-offs.  Can you tell?

Where can you get third party toys?  Online of course, but I am lucky enough to have a store in town that sells them.  B&K Collectibles in Cambridge is my go-to guy dealer.  If Big Dan doesn’t have it, Big Bad Toy Store and TF Source will.  Now, there are even crowdfunded third party toys!  My buddy Jason just received his Ocular Max Kojin project, one such crowdfunded toy.  There were incentives offered including discounts and free bonus figures, and I regret not jumping on board myself.  (I didn’t because I was waiting for the official Takara version, and now…well, that might have been a mistake.)

Ocular Max Kojin

My biggest third party purchase is happening this summer.  A favourite company, Fans Toys, is releasing their massive version of as Masterpiece scale G1 Omega Supreme.  It is called Aegis Sentinel and is so huge that it is being sold in two separate parts.  Sentinel A is the tank and track component, and it will be available in June.  Sentinel B is out in August, and will have the rocket and base components.  Together, Aegis Sentinel will combine into a 21 1/2″ robot behemoth.   This is a beast that will look amazing in proper scale with Optimus Prime and cohorts.  The official Prime is already a large figure at 9″.  It’s going to be quite cool to have the giant Autobot in proper scale with Optimus!

Then all I have to do is slap some Autobot logo stickers on him, courtesy of Toyhax.  Hasbro/Takara will never release a full sized Masterpiece Omega Supreme figure.  Fortunately the fearless Fans Toys will.  Based on their Iron Dibots line, I know that my Omega will be heavy, strong and very impressive looking.

If you’d like to know more, check out the Youtube reviews of some of the fine folks above, and browse the third party section of Big Bad Toy Store or TF Source.  Even if you never buy a third party transforming robot, you have to admit they’re pretty damn nifty.

Aegis Sentinel and the Iron Dibots by Fans Toys

 

 

Gallery: The Lego Cassette Project

Did you watch cartoons in the 1980s?  If you, you probably remember the Transformers.  Think back, and picture the cassettebots.  Remember them?  Soundwave (Decepticon) and Blaster (Autobot) were the cassette recorders, each with an arsenal of cassette mini-robots to back him up.  Using an advanced alien technology called “mass shifting”, these giant robots could shrink down to the size of an actual cassette, thereby enabling them to spy unnoticed on human and robot alike.  As affordable toys, you may have had some yourselves.  The neat thing was these cassettes designed by Japanese company Takara were designed to perfectly mimic the size and shape of actual micro cassettes.  On the TV show and in the pages of the Marvel comic book, they were depicted as standard sized cassette tapes.

cassettes

Third party company Toyhax (also known as Reprolabels) has come up with some fun ways to enhance your cassette-bot toy collection.  Recently they released a set of plastic engines and stickers for the current Buzzsaw and Laserbeak toys in the 2016/2017 Hasbro Titans Return line.  This time they transform into little media players.  Fans always complain that Hasbro toys “don’t look enough” like the original 80s toy they are an homage to.  Toyhax has created the labels and engines to enhance the current toys, and enhance them they do.  The new accessories even enable new modes, like the “Star Trek communicator” see below.

Toyhax have also released a sticker set that enables you to use ordinary Lego bricks to create you own shrunken-down cassette versions of characters both popular and obscure.  All you need  are those small 1×2 flats.  You know the ones I mean?

lego

Don’t have any of those just lying around anymore?  Get this.  You can buy them, picked to order, for just pennies a piece.  You can pick as many of any colour you like.  Mix and match the stickers to get the best looking mini cassettes around, and perfect for your Masterpiece scale figures to hold.

They look great, and it’s a fun little project you can do with very little cost.  They enhance any solid Transformers Masterpiece collection as scale accessories.  See below with Fans Toys’ “Tesla” (aka Perceptor), they look just perfect!

 

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

#349: Christmas Eve [Reblog]

One more reblog for this season.  Here’s an instalment of Getting More Tale (the sequel series to Record Store Tales) about Christmas Eve in the glorious, wonderful period we knew as the 1980s.  Feliz Navidad!

 

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#349: Christmas Eve

So here we are once again, Christmas Eve.  When I was a kid, you were my favourite day of the entire year.   It’s hard not to get excited about you, today in 2014.  Christmas Eve, you were the center of everything, 30 years ago!   Such a short but exciting day.  Inevitably, relatives would start handing us colourfully wrapped boxes, the best ones saved for last.  Then the ritual of steps:  Shake the box.  Give the card a cursory read and give it a toss.  Rip the paper.  Peer inside.  30 years ago, there would have been Star Wars figures inside.  Perhaps my Jabba the Hutt gift set.  An Atari game, possibly.  I wasn’t into music that much until about 1985, when Kiss really opened my eyes.

Around that time, Christmas Eve changed a little bit, but only in a subtle way.  Instead of racing downstairs to play our new Atari games, we would race upstairs to play our new cassette tapes!  Some Helix, Kiss, or Twisted Sister would have been among the music received back then.  We also would have received our fair share of GI Joe and Transformers toys.  I remember the year I got the GI Joe Hovercraft from “Santa”!  Oh boy.  My dad won’t let me forget that one.  I woke up at 1 in the morning to play with it.  Yeah, the parents weren’t overly thrilled to be woken up by the noise at that hour.  I just couldn’t stay asleep!  Having a younger sister meant the whole Santa thing went on longer than its normal sell-by date, but I wasn’t complaining.  It was a lot of fun.

I’m sure tonight won’t be that different.  If I’m lucky, I will receive a CD or two from somebody who loves me.  I won’t race anywhere to go and listen to it right away, but it will be just as appreciated.  After I got older, got a job, and started buying people gifts with my own money, I’ve realized that it’s the giving that is so much more fun.  I cannot wait to see the look on people’s faces, especially when forced to open my elaborately disguised surprises.  That’s what I get a kick out of the most now.

This year, I wish each one of you all the best, and indeed a Merry, Merry Christmas.  Whether you celebrate it or not, have a good day, eh?  Be safe.  Please drink responsibly, and please call a cab if you have been drinking.  But that’s enough serious talk.  I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Christmas videos (still unreleased on CD to this day), and some links to past Christmas posts.  Enjoy!  Ho ho ho!


Winger’s cool traditional / funky version of “Silent Night”!

RECORD STORE TALES:

WHALE

Gallery: “Holy sh*t, jackpot” #2!

A followup to Getting More Tale #477: “Holy sh*t, jackpot, holy sh*t, jackpot…”

IMG_20160807_155347

The crappy Walmart at Stanley Park Mall continues to yield treasure to those looking for it.

My weekend was already filled with some golden toy scores.  I picked up the Transformers Titans Return Galvatron figure at Toys R Us yesterday, and the Star Wars Black Series 6″ droid collection too.  These were small triumphs, but the real treasure awaited me today at Walmart.  On clearance!

HELLO NASTYI’m trying to get at least one of every character in the Star Wars Black Series 6″ figures.  As of today, I’ve done it.  The last one dropped into my arms.  Two weeks ago at that Walmart, it was General Hux.  Today it was the ever elusive Resistance pilot Ello Asty!  I’d never even seen one before.  I was so excited that I fumbled and dropped the box!  Small dent in the bottom left corner is my price, but since the toy was $19.99 on clearance, I’ll suck it up.

I also found a few more Titans Returns figures today to go with Galvatron, but there is no question that Ello Asty is my real jackpot today.  Since Ello Asty’s name was inspired by the Beastie Boys (Hello Nasty, get it?) we’ll leave you with some “Intergalactic” to get back to the subject of music.

Well now don’t you tell me to smile,
You stick around I’ll make it worth your while,
Got numbers beyond what you can dial,
Maybe it’s because I’m so versatile.

 

Blu-ray REVIEW: Transformers (2007)

Old review from the archives dug up for your enjoyment. With all apologies to the regular music readers, I decided to post my reviews of the first three Transformers movies, in reverse order.  That’s the only way I could have saved the best for last!

Click here for Dark of the Moon.
And here for Revenge of the Fallen.


TRANSFORMERS (2007 Paramount)

Directed by Michael Bay

J. from Resurrection Songs requested quite some time ago that I post this review.  I decided that the only way to post my review of this movie, the first of the loathed “Bayverse” Transformers film, was to do it legit.  I wrote up a review for my journal almost 10 years ago that has never been seen by anybody.  Back then, I actually liked the movie, and the first is still the best of the series.  Let’s look at this thing from the perspective of “then”.  Things seemed wide open!  Whatever was wrong with the movie could be fixed in the next one, right?

How wrong we were.  Read on!


PRIME

Date: 2007/07/23

TRANSFORMERS: Not actually much more than meets the eye!

I hate Michael Bay. Period. I hated him when I saw Armageddon, easily the worst excuse for science fiction I’d ever seen. I maintain that anyone seeing that movie is dumber for doing so. It kills brain cells like a shot of Absinthe, straight up. I was predisposed to hating Transformers since Michael Bay directed it, but surprisingly I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it either; it was infinitely flawed. But what I liked in the film, the stuff that they nailed perfectly, was killer.

So what did they mess up so badly that I was cringing? What did they get right? Where did they surprise me?

I am with most people who hated the robots speaking and acting “contemporary”. These are aliens after all, so why Optimus would say “My bad!” when stepping in a flower bed, or why Jazz would talk like Bill Cosby acting hip-hop, I have no idea. Bumblebee “peeing” on John Turturro irked me too. For the record, “peeing” occured twice in this masterpiece of film: Once when Bumblebee unloaded on Turturro’s Agent Simmons, and once when a puppy dog urinated on Ironhide’s foot. (I did like it when he said, “That’s going to rust!” though.) This kind of thing was stupid, juvenile, and out of place even as comedy relief. Granted we’re talking about a movie based on a toy line, but the kids who played with those toys are grown up and have kids of their own now. I would like to think that piss jokes in a science fiction movie are a little passe now. (Although I do own Jackass 1 and Number 2, so call me a hypocrite.)

The storyline was a little weak. The “Allspark” that the Transformers are seeking is nothing more than a McGuffin to drive the plot. Apparently in the hands of Megatron it can do infinite harm, in the hands of the Autobots, it can heal their homeworld of Cybertron. However, in the end, it’s just a box that robots chase each other around for, like a colossal game of Cybertron Football.

The human character of Sam Witwicky as played by Speilberg’s new protege Shia LaBouf was really funny. I don’t know if he had much more dimension than that, though. He’s an awkward teen who wants to get the girl, any girl, but Megan Fox just happens to be available at the right time. When Shia is ready to protect the Allspark with his life (“No sacrifice, no victory!”) it comes a little bit out of left field considering that he rarely showed any motivation beyond getting the girl and staying alive. However, his honest, humourous delivery will make him a star one day. This kid has yet to show what he can do. I am sure he will under Speilberg in Indy 4*. As for Megan “the” Fox, she did little other than live up to her name. She did that very well. However, she didn’t really generate any other feelings in the audience. Lots of gratuitous skin shots.

Bernie Mac had some funny lines, totally over the top. But that’s why they hired a guy like Bernie Mac to play a used car salesman. John Turturro was OK, but you can tell he just phoned in his performance. John Voight, give the man some credit, looked like he was trying. Shame his part was so generic. All the soldiers in the film were pretty much just Michael Bay Soldiers…the same, every film, every time.

The robots had no characters, aside from Optimus and Bumblebee. They could have been fleshed out a lot more, but at least they felt like characters. Megatron was completely wasted, just a really big, mean, bad guy. You couldn’t even tell it was Hugo Weaving voicing him. Peter Cullen did a great job as Optimus, of course. I’m glad about that casting choice.

There were many nods to the past. Most of the characters still transformed into similar forms. Optimus looked amazing. Bumblebee was pefect as a Camaro. Frenzy was no longer a cassette tape, but the basic gist of the robot was the same. Brawl (misnamed “Devastator” in the subtitles…will this be fixed on the DVD version?**) was still a tank. Starscream was no longer an F-15 Eagle, but now a F-22 Raptor…killer update! Scorponok looked amazing in scorpion mode, but had no character to speak of and wasn’t seen in robot mode at all. Shame, that. He was once one of the deepest characters of the old Marvel series.

There was even some dialogue from the past: Optimus says, “One shall live, and one shall fall!”, the same words he said before Megatron killed him in the 1986 Transformers movie. However, twice the words “more than meets the eye” were uttered, making everyone in the audience groan. (It was just as bad as James Cromwell saying, “And you guys are astronauts, on some kind of star trek?” in Star Trek: First Contact.)

There were many nods to the creators. “This is way better than Armageddon!” one character says, with Michael Bay’s penis firmly in mouth. Someone mentioned E.T. in honour of Señor Spielbergo. There were also a small number of original series Star Trek soundbites, since the same dudes who wrote this are also working on Star Trek XI, an original series-era movie.*** (Interestingly, Michael Bay’s cousin Susan is married to Leonard Nimoy.)  Some of these things were cool, some were not.

Michael Bay’s directing, as always, was suck-ass. Just for fun I watched Team America a few days before going to see Transformers. All that stuff that is made fun of in that film was in Transformers, in spades! As soon as we hit the desert in Qatar, there’s a piece of “Arabic” music that sounded right out of Team America. All the slow-mo shots interspersed with high-speed action, all the cheesy dialogue, all those over-dramatic camera angles and lighting effects…Michael Bay threw in the kitchen sink, every trick he knew.

I think the coolest thing about Transformers was that it opens up wide what can happen in 2 and 3 (Peter Cullen, Megan Fox, and Shia LaBouf have signed on for two more). Michael Bay isn’t necessarily doing the sequels, so maybe someone with a lighter hand can take over. Slow things down a bit. Let us actually see the robots. The action was mostly so fast and white-washed with explosions and debris that you couldn’t see the robots.

Speaking of the robots, much has been made of their look: People whine that Optimus shouldn’t have flames, the Megatron should transform into a gun, that Bumblebee should have been a VW Beetle. I say, stop whining. These robots look amazing. I’m sure Megatron will look different in the next film anyway.**^

Speaking of the next film: Storywise, it’s already been said that the Dinobots, Constructicons and Soundwave are potential characters for the sequel, opening up story possibilities big time. I’d like to see Grimlock and Optimus clash over leadership direction a little bit like in the old Marvel series. Megatron and Starscream too…their conflict was hinted at. The ending was left wide open for sequels. (Why did the stupid humans believe that Megatron could be disposed of in such an easy way? Foolhardy!)

So there you go. Go get a Coke and a huge tub of popcorn. Enjoy and most importantly, enjoy discussing afterwards with all your geek and nerd friends like I am.

3/5 stars

Scan_20160424 (5)

*He did not.  

**It was not. Even though Bay introduced the actual character of Devastator in the next film.

***2009’s Star Trek.

**^He did look different, but not any better.

Blu-ray REVIEW: Transformers – Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Old review from the archives dug up for your enjoyment.  Apologies to the regular music readers, I’ve decided to post my reviews for the first three Transformers movies…but in reverse order.  Because fuck these movies.

Click here for Dark of the Moon.


Scan_20160423TRANSFORMERS – Revenge of the Fallen (2009 Paramount)

Directed by Michael Bay

This is a movie to make you say “wow”!  Not because it’s great, or the because the CGI effects are any good (they’re not) — just because Transformers 2 mucks things up even more than the first one did.

For example, the robot dialogue is geared towards kiddies, just like the old cartoon was. Then, mixed in the middle of all that kiddie dialogue, is Megan Fox wearing a tank top, then Megan Fox wearing leather chaps, then Megan Fox stripping off those chaps…just who is this movie for? It’s either geared for kids with no consideration at all for throwing all this sexual imagery at you, or it’s geared for adults (males) and really dumbed down.

All that could be forgivable if this movie had a plot, or characters, or even decent visuals. The effects were so bad; clearly the crew only had so much time and budget to finish. So when you see a robot called “The Doctor” manipulate Sam’s (Shia Labouf) face, it looks like something out of Roger Rabbit, or Star Wars Episode I. When robots are getting blown apart, you see little pieces of junk flying off them, but they don’t look real at all — it looks like little cartoon pieces of junk. Everything looks completely fake, except the explosions. Those look real (because they were real) and there are a lot of them, because BOOM Michael Bay BOOM!

So many opportunities here are squandered. The death of a beloved character has no emotion to it; even the pathetic 1986 cartoon movie had more emotion to the scene in question. The Fallen — one of the all time great Transformers villains — is just another bad guy, not the awe inspiring menace he should be. And don’t get me started on the hip-hop-bots. Why does Devastator have genitalia again? Was that really necessary?  Like the prior film, the humour was awfully juvenile — Sam’s parents are more annoying than ever, especially his mother (who gets high accidentally) and his roommate is one character that either should never have been written, or killed off in Act 2.

There are some minor shining lights in this movie. John Turturro, as Simmons, is better and funnier than before. There are also lots more robots — dozens. I couldn’t keep them straight!

However that is part of Michael Bay’s problem. His design team makes the robots essentially all look the same, particularly the Decepticons. There are a group of “protoform” Decepticons who arrive on Earth. Since they are “protoforms”, they are actually all identical with the exact same design. Budget wise, you can see how using the same animation model for a whole bunch of ‘Cons makes sense.  Visually, it reduced the film to an onscreen mess of flying shit.  Oh sure, there were Constructicons, and Insecticons…so what?   They didn’t do anything important.  The humans, in fact, do all the thinking, talking, leading, and everything else in this movie. The plot only moves forward when the puny humans decide to do something.  That isn’t what the original Marvel series envisioned by Bob Budianski and Simon Furman was about. That isn’t even what the cartoon was about. Transformers is about the robots, and yes, they should have some characterization! If the comic book did, surely they can do it in a multi-million dollar movie. But no; either nobody thought to write interesting characters for classic robots like Sideswipe, Arcee, and Ratchet, or they just didn’t have the time to do them properly. Sad.

Plot holes big enough to drive a Peterbilt truck through:

1. A bunch of mini-bots attack Sam in his kitchen, requiring Bumblebee to barely save him. Two minutes later, Sam is telling Bee that he’s all grown up and doesn’t need his protection anymore. Then, just 20 minutes later, Sam does need protection and Bee comes to save Sam from a Decepticon Pretender…but doesn’t actually do anything! He lets the Pretender into the car, and then he just plays annoying songs on his radio and sprays the Pretender with lubricant instead of…I dunno…driving off? Seriously.

2. The tomb of the Primes! Woah!  But…as Jetfire explains it, the original Primes sacrificed themselves to create a tomb out of their bodies. Then he continues to exposit, “Only a Prime can defeat the Fallen.” Well, maybe they shouldn’t have sacrificed themselves?

3. The tomb that they sacrificed their bodies to create doesn’t actually do anything. It’s opened with one simple blast.

4. And yes, “Only a Prime can defeat the Fallen,” according to Jetfire.  We are not sure why.  When the two finally clash they just have a normal-type robot brawl. Nothing special here that any other ‘bot couldn’t do, and Prime needed all of Jetfire’s parts (seriously!) to help him do it!

Since people are going to buy this movie no matter what I say, I’ll draw this review to a close.  I have only scratched the surface of the issues with Revenge of the Fallen.  Proceed at your own risk.  This is a turd.

2/5 energon cubes

 

Blu-ray REVIEW: Transformers – Dark of the Moon (2011)

Old review from the archives dug up for your enjoyment.  Apologies to the regular music readers, but I’ve decided to post my reviews for the first three Transformers movies…but in reverse order.  Because fuck these movies.


Scan_20160421TRANSFORMERS – Dark of the Moon (2011 Paramount)

Directed by Michael Bay

As I sat there finishing the third Transformers movie, I thought to myself, “Does Michael Bay ever take himself seriously?” I mean, the dialogue here is so juvenile and stupid, the characters are more one-dimensional than ever (how is that even possible?), and every inch of film is so stupidly overblown, it’s beyond ridiculous. It’s like giving very expensive movie making equipment to a child with a Bart Simpson streak.  Welcome to the Bay-verse, where one can walk away from a flaming car wreck with no injuries, and no idea what the hell the story is!

The plot, such as it is, revolves around the discovery of Sentinel Prime (voice of Leonard Nimoy and Autobot mentor to Optimus) on our moon by Neil Armstrong and the crew of the Apollo 11. Sentinel has something (yet another “McGuffin” in this series – a generic object that the protagonists and antagonists seek) that can save Cybertron (again). But there’s more than meets the eye and things are not always what they seem! Funny though how Earth always seems to be the epicentre of all Transformers plots and schemes.  Are we a magnet for alien assholes?

Though it is the worst of the first three in the series, Dark of the Moon was a marginal improvement in some minor ways.  Many of the most annoying characters (Sam’s annoying parents, the hip-hop-bots) are toned down in movie #3.  The plot is still a confounding mess in a universe that defies all logic and physics.  It’s all there to support a massive end battle that takes up almost half of the movie. Is that battle spectacular to watch? Oh, sure, I guess so.  Can it hold your attention? No. After about half of the end battle had transpired, I was begging for this movie to please just fucking end.

I have to say though, Rosie Huntington-Whitely is an upgrade over Megan Fox. Something about British accents. Bad British acting always trumps bad American acting.  The cast is rounding out by Frances McDormand (also wasted here), John Malkovich (criminally wasted), Patrick Dempsey (meh) and of course John Turturro who always should have more screen time.

A thudding end to a disappointing trilogy.

1.5/5 stars

Oh, and by the by — no special features!  On the Blu-ray!  You suck, Bay!