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Review – Marvel Legends – Juggernaut Wave – Deadpool

I’m a little torn on Deadpool here.  He’s a pretty great figure.  Not the perfect Deadpool necessarily due to a few minor design issue but he’s solid.  He also comes with a ton of accessories and no Build-a-Figure piece for Juggernaut.  Which is why I’m torn.  What Deadpool represents is essentially what I wish we got from Marvel Legends as a line.  Dump the dumb BAF aspects, load up more accessories, alternate heads, weapons, effect parts, alternate hands.

Yeah, it’s a dumb reason to dislike a figure, it’s more that I dislike the concept he is presenting, because it’s what I want from every figure.  How much cooler would Havok be with a screaming head and an energy blast that strapped to his chest somehow.  How much better would that boring Phoenix be with a flaming base and fire ball parts to strap on to for dynamic attack poses?  How about a nice Ice base for Iceman to thrown down on?  Is Deadpool representative of what we could have without BAF bits?

Enough talk about non Deadpool things though, that’s sort of tangential to the main topic here, and not totally some weirdly meta thing for a Deadpool related review.  Also, referencing that it’s a review within a review isn’t meta and 4th-wall-ish either.

Deadpool has one really great thing going for him, his accessories.  He has so many accessories that a few of them seem really pointless and dumb and out of place next to the others.  The swords, the pistols, the knife, all have nice built in storage on Deadpool, which is great.  The rocket Launcher could even peg onto his back.  The alternative head makes sense, Deadpool with and without mask.  The Taco’s fun.  Then there are the two screw silver guns, they look ugly, they don’t really fit too well with the theme of everything else, personally, and they just don’t even need to be there.

Which just exacerbates my previous frustration, not only does he get a mess of accessories, he has extra mostly useless crappy accessories!

Honestly Deadpool only really has two real flaws.  One, he has this goofy pinky finger sticking out hand.  This problem could have easily have been fixed with a spare, normal hand, maybe in place of one of his useless extra guns.  But it didn’t happen, it’s kind of really weird.

Then there is the part where he’s crazy hard to find, because, well, Deadpool.  He had a super popular movie, he doesn’t have the saddle of a BAF piece and he’s a really good figure all around.

Review – Transformers – Generations – Brainstorm

If you’ve been keeping track, you might have noticed that I’ve gone through all of the original 7 Headmaster’s remakes from Titan’s Returns.  You might have been expecting the last review here to cover Titan’s Return Brainstorm.  Well, you’d be almost correct.  The thing is, I have Generations Brainstorm already, and I don’t really need Titan’s Return Brainstorm, so instead, you’re getting Generations Brainstorm.

If you follow some of the recent lines just before Combiner Wars, it kind of felt like Hasbro was exploring and experimenting with ideas for future lines.  We got Scoop with his Trigger masters, and the Minicon combiner team, and Brainstorm here, the first Headmaster in years, I believe since Transformers Energon with it’s Omega Supreme and Minicon head.  Before that was Armada Sideways with his swappable headmasters.

As our first modern Headmaster, Brainstorm is pretty good.  There were some early reports about issues with the neck joint on the Headmaster and body, but rumor has it that problem was fixed.  He even fakes the classic power level gimmick with a flip down panel inside his chest that activates when the Headmaster is attached.

The Headmaster itself is a little iffy though, the arms are large chunks with the arm bits painted on in the appropriate areas.    He looks nice for the most part for such a small figure though.  He works well with his little cockpit in space ship mode.

The new headmasters though aren’t compatible at all.  There is a size difference for starters, which breaks the port set up.  In the broader sense though, I like the size difference here just because it makes for some nice variety from “All Deluxe scale”.  I also am not huge on swapping the heads between bodies, so I don’t really mind that there is a lack of compatibility.

So I’m not saying the Titans Return Brainstorm is bad, he’s based on one of the better molds in the line, but I just really like this version of Brainstorm from a few years earlier in Generations.

Review – Movie – Speed Racer (2008)

The original Speed Racer anime series from the late 60s is one of the earliest Anime shows to be brought to the US.  Originally titles Mach GoGoGo in Japan, Speed Racer follows the exploits of Speed Racer (literally first name/last name) and his friends as they participate in races and adventures using the Mach 5 Super car.  Stylistically, especially at the time, it was quite unique, with it’s unique Japanese animation style and look.  Though live action adaptations of animated features don’t always work well, Speed Racer does it’s best to replicate the intense colorful style of the anime, and anime in general.

Fortunately for the movie, it’s the one thing that it succeeds at, and succeeds at very well.  The visuals of this entire film, from start to finish, are pretty incredible.  A lot of what makes it work where a lot of cartoon to live action fails is that it completely embraces it’s origin and never looks back.  There’s no out of place realism to the way the cars move and literally glide around the track, there’s no punches pulled on the stunts or action.  Even during the downtime off the track the sets are colorful and full of detail that’s both dense and simple at the same time, keeping with the base styling you’d likely see in an anime series.

Everything just meshes together to keep everything believable within he context of the fantastical race obsessed world presented to the viewer.  There are also a lot of interesting Transitions used almost constantly throughout the film that help push this effect even farther.  Overlays of announcers, and crowd watchers and other drivers sweep across the screen giving everything loads of atmosphere.

Visuals don’t really make a movie though, even a really pretty movie isn’t worth watching without some sort of plot.  The general plot is essentially Speed Racer and his crew working their way up through the racer ranks to become the best racer in the world.  Along the way there’s a few subplots involving Speed Racer’s brother who died in a race in the past, the mysterious Racer X and an evil corporation trying to use the race for nefarious purposes.  There isn’t a lot of depth to anything going on here, but it gets a little complicated and the film itself is pretty non stop in it’s pace which makes things feel a little messy at times.  It also makes the film feel a little long, but more because it’s kind of exhausting keeping up with the constant barrage of crazy visuals.

The cast also does a great job of selling the whole experience.  In the same vein as the visuals, the cast does a pretty good job of selling the idea of being cartoonish in nature.  John Goodman and Christina Ricci are both pretty good as Pops and Trixie as do the rest of the supporting cast.  Emile Hirsch as Speed does a nice job of selling the Speed’s obsessive racing desire and need to be good as well.  What really helps to is they all look the part.

Often with adaptations such as this there are “changes” done to modernize things or make them more hip.  Or worse, the actors chosen look nothing like their original counter parts.  A lot of what makes Speed Racer’s style work is that it sticks close to it’s roots.  Sure, there’s a “new” Mach 6 race car, but the traditional Mach 5 is plenty present in this film and the new car does a good job of keeping the spirit of the Mach 5 without going overboard in it’s redesign.

Speed Racer isn’t a movie that’s going to win any awards for depth, though it’s definitely a technically impressive film.  It’s almost too visually busy at times honestly.  It’s still worth checking out if you can handle the predictably simple plot that holds it all together.

Review – Marvel Legends – Juggernaut Wave – Phoenix (Jean Grey)

This may be a bit of a short one on the text.  I honestly have very little to really say about Marvel Legends Phoenix.  In fact, the main thing I have to say is something I really don’t say too often about anything.  I think I legitimately hate almost everything about this figure.

I’m not even sure it’s an upgrade from my old Toybiz Phoenix figure.  Sure that old Phoenix has some issues, and is far from perfect but this update just has so much that I don’t particularly like that makes for the perfect storm of dislike.

For starters, her sculpt is kind of nasty.  The head is weirdly skinny and angular and the hair looks unnatural.  This isn’t helped by how completely bland her design is.  At least the old Phoenix has a few extra flourishes here and there to keep her from being so blandly green.

She also can’t stand for crap, which only really helps to push my dislike of this figure down farther.  In fact the only reason I bothered at all was that she was the only figure left that I needed to complete the Juggernaut Build a Figure.   There isn’t much else to say, he’s just extremely bland and kind of ugly on the paint and sculpt, which is a shame because several other figures in this wave are excellently done.

Review – Transformers – Titans Return – Highbrow

Like most of the original Headmasters, Highbrow hasn’t gotten a proper update in a while.  There was a pretty neat Highbrow back in the Hunt for the Decepticons sub-line of Revenge of the Fallen, though his alt mode for that line was a Lockheed P38-Bomber style plane, and he was mostly green instead of his original blue and white.  It’s a neat toy mostly for using a cool alt mode, but it’s not very Highbrow and it wasn’t a headmaster.

Like most of Titans Return, Highbrow is a much more faithful remake of his G1 iteration.  He has the same colors and turns into a dual prop Cybertronian helicopter.  It’s not a toy without some pretty bad flaws though, mostly due to the helicopter blades.  This is one of those areas where the lessened budget of newer toys actually become a bit of a hindrance.  The helicopter blades don’t have any way to lock into place in robot mode and don’t fold out of the way in any meaningful way.  They just sort of flip around, which wouldn’t be a problem except they tend to get locked up in his massive helicopter cockpit backpack.

He also suffers from a severe case of “wobbly head” syndrome, which seems to plague a few of these Titans Returns figures.  Part of the problem seems to be that the hook for his head sticks out from his neck a few millimeters.  On the plus side, it means he can sort of look up and down a bit, but it doesn’t make things lose and floppy.  Something that was most common in the Wave 1 figure Scourge, which brings up another interesting bit…

Back in my review of Chromedome, I made a comment about how Chromedome looks like he is a remold of the Combiner Wars Breakdown mold, but isn’t, he just shares a transformation.  Highbrow here has a similar sort of situation going, because technically, Highbrow IS a remold of Titans Return Scourge.  That said, they share almost zero actual parts and their transformations are “reversed.”  Where Scourge’s front form by joining his legs together, Highbrow forms the rear of the helicopter.  The tell tale bit that these are remolds lies in the pull out section on the hips/legs used during transformation.  That, and that they are part of the same lines, it’s actually pretty uncommon to have a remold cross over between lines the way Chromedome and Dead End would have done.

The toys are definitely different enough to warrant owning both of them if you are interested in both.  The transformation results in a pretty near little helicopter.  The cockpit is functional to allow for the Titan Master to fit inside.  The two guns can attach to the underside of the wings to give the chopper some artillery, though they attach via the non round pegs, which is slightly against what you commonly see but it allows for the use of the molded landing wheels.  There’s a third flip out landing gear that isn’t super obvious on the under side of the cockpit.

The helicopter mode looks good and holds together very solidly.   It’s definitely a good addition to the vehicles for Titan Masters.  If your interest in this line lies more with the Titan Masters and their vehicles and bases, Highbrow is definitely a good addition, even if his Robot mode is a little clunky.

Review – Transformers – Titans Return – Mindwipe

Continuing on with the updated Decepticon Headmasters, today’s review cover’s Titans Return Mindwipe.  Wave 1 gave us Skullcruncher, the first beast based headmaster, Wave 2 gives us Mindwipe and Weirdwolf.  All of the updated Headmasters figures are very close in design and look to their original G1 counterparts with the exception of Mindwipe.  While Mindwipe captures the essence of the Bat to Robot, he has a very different transformation and much more proportioned look overall.

Transformers Titans Return Mindwipe

That design change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something that may bother people looking for a really pure “update”.  Titans Return Mindwipe is also much closer to the original design than the previous best update from Hunt for the Decepticons.  HFTD Mindwipe is a nice figure, but he’s a brownish stealth bomber robot.  He’s as close to the original design as HFTD Highbrow was.

Transformers Titans Return Mindwipe

Like Skullcruncher, Mindwipe does some really interesting things with his Transformation and design.  Fortunately, Mindwipe isn’t nearly as flawed as Skullcruncher is.  His shins are a little huge, which hinders his leg articulations a but that’s his only major flaw.  I suppose I could also mention that the claw weapon is supposed to peg into the Bat’s but to form a sort of tail but it falls out instantly because the hold is too large as well.  It really doesn’t feel like much of a flaw though because frankly, the tail is underwhelming and looks lame anyway.  The bat is better off without it attached.

Transformers Titans Return Mindwipe

So what actually is interesting?  Firstly, his robot has extra vestigial wings, entirely to give him wings in his robot mode.  This is because of the way the actual wings transform.  They sort of roll up on themselves to form the legs.  It’s certainly a different technique for dealing with wings in the Transformers line, and pretty clever to boot.

Transformers Titans Return Mindwipe

Also fun is his Titan Master cockpit in bat mode, it’s a coffin shaped door, you know, because coffins and vampires and bats.  It’s a neat little touch for what could have just been a simple open and toss him in deal.

Transformers Titans Return Mindwipe

The transformation is a bit tricky due to the way the legs/wings work, there are a lot of swivels and joints that have to be turned just right to make everything line up and tab in properly, which could be a little tricky for some.  The bat head mouth opens and closes, which is a nice touch as well, but it doesn’t have any way to look “up” for flying poses.

Titan Returns Mindwipe is a pretty fun and neat addition to the line.  He’s definitely a step up from Skullcruncher’s floppy mess.

Review – New Super Mario Brothers 2 (3DS)

The Good

  • It’s Mario, it’s pretty good in all the ways Mario is good.
  • The return of the Raccoon Leaf, generally reminiscent of SMB 3 all around
  • Build in mechanisms for if things get too tough

The Bad

  • It’s Mario…  It’s not a particularly original Mario either
  • There are a few tricky points but not much is super difficult, which makes the game go by pretty quick
  • The Coin Collecting aspect is interesting but serves little purpose

In Depth

If there’s one consistency in Nintendo’s world, it’s Mario.  I’m not even going to attempt to figure out just how many Super Mario Brothers titles there have been, let’s keep it at “a lot”.  A few years back for the original Nintendo DS, we got the first New Super Mario Brothers, a sort of, return to roots restart of the Super Mario Brothers franchise.  There have also been a few New SMB titles on the Wii and WiiU as well.  New Super Mario Brothers 2 comes to the Nintendo 3DS.

It’s not a remake of any previous title, despite the name, which can be a bit confusing, given how much Nintendo rereleases it’s old SMB titles.  I didn’t expect it to be a remake but they seem to have taken the same idea with the Yoshi’s Story series, there is a New Yoshi’s Story, that apparently isn’t a remake of the original as I had thought it might be.  Though not a remake, there isn’t a whole ton here that’s super original.  While the more old school Super Mario Brothers titles would get newer graphics and power ups and music, this game looks and feels very much like it’s predecessors, especially New Super Mario Brothers for the DS.  There aren’t even really any super original power ups in this title, the primary two being the Fire Flower and the Raccoon Leaf.

I really like the return of the Leaf, SMB 3 is one of my favorite titles in the series.  Of all of the ways Mario has been able to fly over the years I always felt like Raccoon Mario was a good balance between functionality and being too over powered like say, the Cape.  If you fail a level too many times you will be rewarded with the chance to use a White Raccoon Leaf, which gives you unlimited invincibility as well as (normal) flight power.  This isn’t always the best choice though hen trying to collect the Star Coins necessarily though, as some coins require you to perform tricky bounce maneuvers across enemies, with the White Raccoon power, you’ll simply push right through the enemies.  Also, while completing the stage with the White Raccoon lets you proceed, the stage will remain red and incomplete for actual completion percentage.

The real addition to the gameplay here is the coin accumulation.  In addition to score, you have a counter for how many total coins you have collected throughout the game.  The only real change that occurs as you collect coins however is that the pile of coins on the title screen will gradually grow larger.  This feature is similar to how Wario Land worked.  It might have been a nice twist to the classic formula for Wario or maybe the genie from Wario Land to show up, giving this coin total purpose, but sadly, it’s just the slightly tired 8-9 worlds with Koopa bosses.

Which is another nice nod to Super Mario Brothers 3, and Super Mario World, the return of Reznor and the Koopa Kids.  Bowser Junior was the villain of the first New SMB, instead Bowser’s other kids get to take control here, one in each world, just as you’d expect.

If you really like the coin mode there’s also the Coin Rush Mode, where you play 3 randomly selected courses with a very limited time set to see how many coins you can gather.  These coin records can be saved and shared via the Street Pass system, to let you try to beat other’s records.  It’s an alright additional mode, though nothing special.  You can also purchase additional course sets, which I believe is the first time a Mario game has had paid DLC.  Honestly, I don’t find the mode fun enough to justify buying more stages for it.  I’d rather just buy another title.

 The Verdict

What’s the final call here?  Well, it’s a decidedly adequate Mario Game.  It’s fun, it’s got some good references to older titles here and there, it’s everything you’d expect.  It’s also… everything you’d expect, with nothing overly new.

Review – Movie – xXx (2002)

Around the same era that Vin Diesel started making his mark as a tough guy Street Racer in The Fast and the Furious, he starred in a similar movie called xXx, or Triple X.  It’s similar in that Vin Diesel plays the same sort of underground tough guy bad ass character and both films are sort of designed for the X-treme audience.  xXx take this whole concept to the X-treme level though.

Aside from general tone and Vin Diesel’s character, xXx and Fast and the Furious don’t share a whole lot else in common.  At it’s core, xXx is essentially a Bond film.  In fact there is really very little that would need to be changed, including dialogue, to make this a bond film, aside from swapping Vin Diesel’s Xander Cage for Pierce Brosnan in a suit.    I suppose the early 30 minutes or so where Xander Cage gets recruited would need to be reworked a bit, simply because James Bond is already a secret agent, but you get the idea.

The core plot boils down to, the government is too out of touch to infiltrate a terror organization, Anarchy 99, of young Ukrainian punks, so they need to recruit their own younger hip tough guy to go and extract some intel.  Of course, this leads to Vin Diesel’s character getting too involved and he ends up saving the day.

This is definitely a film full of some pretty cringy bits, though mostly because it’s very much a film of the early 2000s.  Heck, Xander Cage’s nickname is “Triple X”, because of his three strikes criminal record, but also because it looks XTREME.   This is all demonstrated early on in the film as Xander steals a sports car and runs it off a bridge while video taping a statement about how the owner, an unpopular politician is a dick.  This basic concept seems kind of whatever these days but something to consider, this movie came out 3 years before Youtube was a thing.  This is pre internet video activism.

Xander Cage is then recruited by Samuel L. Jackson, as “government handler guy” though not before running him through several tests.  There are bits in the Colombia scenes that feel really out of place in the flow, since it’s really obviously just an excuse to throw some stunt bike work in, but otherwise it’s all pretty alright.  It seems a little ridiculous that the government would throw some random punks into the middle of a warzone with no training though.  Not to mention the incompetence in how the diner was staged.

Xander heads off to his mission, still without any training, though he does get some gadgets from this movie’s Q to help him out in a pinch.  One thing I will give this movie props for is that he uses most of the gadgets he is given, and none of them feel ridiculously situational, as seems to happen a lot in James Bond.

Eventually the necessary data is gathered but not before Xander falls for Yelena, the girlfriend of our villain.  Where would out X-treme James Bond be without an X-treme Bond Girl after all.  This becomes Xander’s driving force for the second half of the film, as the government wants to extract him, but he believe Yelena is good and wants to save her first.

During the extraction attempt we learn of the true plans of Anarchy 99, to launch an unmanned mini sub filled with deadly bio toxin filled missiles.  The ideas is to wipe out the world governments and cause Anarchy.  It’s once again, very James Bond in nature.

Eventually we learn, to not a lot of surprise, that Yelena is also an undercover agent, and Xander teams up with the Ukraine police to raid the compound of Anarchy 99.  Not before we get another really out of place X-treme sports sequence though, as Xander uses his mad Snowboarding skills to cause an avalanche and cut off communications to the compound.  It’s kind of funny considering part of the theme of this movie is the whole X-treme sports X-games motif, but anytime that element shows up, it doesn’t fit the movie plot very well and feels tacked on.

During the raid and final sequences, we get some good bits that help sell Xander’s character, which I really enjoyed.  He hasn’t had to do a lot of actual spy/soldier work yet, though he kind of boasts about how he’s this great whatever and plays plenty of video games.  Yet, he almost gets killed by not knowing how to work his machine gun (saved by Yolena, the real spy), and later only manages to kill Yorgi, the leader of Anarchy 99 when he takes time to actually aim his gun instead of shooting wildly.  He also has no idea how to use his recently acquired weaponized super car, though as pointed out in the film, nothing it’s equipped with is actually very useful to their situation.

During the final sequence, Xander and Yelena chase down the submarine in that super car, though Xander still gets to do some clever X-treme sports tricks to finish off the submarine.

Despite the grungy loudness of the film, it flows pretty well and is pretty believable in what it’s attempting to accomplish.  The dialogue has some cheesy bits, and everyone’s Russian accents get a little old after a while, but xXx is a decent action flick.  If you’re a fan of Brosnan era Bond or The Fast and the Furious, this movie is a decent blend of those concepts that makes it work.  It’s not high film, but it’s not god awful schlock either.