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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hey look what I bought!

Epic Mickey came out for the Wii today and since Kmart has been having these great coupons with buying various games I cashed all of mine in for the Collector's Edition. I'll be using the coupon I got with that for Golden Sun DS when they finally put one out but in the meantime I think you guys would like to see some awesomely amateur photography of what you get with the Collector's Edition.
It's my game in a box
The Collector's Edition does have 'exclusive packaging' according to it's back, but really that just means everything comes in a relatively nice cardboard box. One that has one annoyingly difficult to open top flap I might add.
Have fun restraining yourself from destroying the lid
Once you take out the little green air bag you get the whole spread: Two console skins, a Wii-mote skin, the bonus disc, the Mickey figurine and the game itself.
If you ever wanted Oswald the Rabbit on your Wii-mote, your dream just came true
I'll never use any of the skins; they're a nice thought but I've never had much interest in them. The graphics on them are pretty cool though, the same image as the box art.
Serious packaging optional



The bonus disc is cool though it comes in a little cardboard sleeve that's sure to scratch it up. Fortunately, if you preordered it (or got one of the Kmart coupons they were offering that apparently is not a preorder according to the fine print) you probably have an extra white case with the same art as the cardboard box. That's what I'll be using to house mine though who knows when I'll get any time to actually watch any of it. I can tell you the four remastered shorts are 'Thru the Mirror' 'Lonesome Ghosts' 'Clock Cleaners' and 'The Whalers'. You've all seen the first two (in fact 'Thru the Mirror' is directly referenced in the game's opening cinematic) but the second two are slightly less famous. I'm interested to know why these two were picked as opposed to something like 'The Mad Doctor', whose antagonist is featured in the game. Maybe when I actually get to the game it'll be clear.

The Mickey figurine is actually a lot better than expected. He is kind of small but he's got articulation at his neck. shoulders, wrists and ankles. The deep crouch is a drawback but it's made to imitate the pose on the cover art. Mickey's mouth is open and there's a dab of red paint in there to clarify his expression; it's nice because there aren't any smudges or smears and the figure is very on-model. The Paintbrush is also removable and has it's own little paint ops on the tip.
Next to Roboto for scale, mostly because he's what happened to be on my kitchen counter at the time

Winner of over 15 awards already?
Then there's the game. It's slid into it's own holder in the back of the box and is exactly what you get when you buy the normal version, right down to the sticker mentioning all the awards the game's already won. We'll have to see what I think of the game itself later partially because I wanted this to be up for all the people curious about the CE, partially because I have to go give my dog a bath.

The complete package, though the skins completely blend into the cover art of the game
Overall not a bad package; with all my coupons I basically paid $20 for this and I got another $30 one by doing so. Getting Golden Sun DS for $5 is totally worth it for me and as a bonus I got all this stuff. However, for those without the coupons I have to say you're basically paying $20 for the figurine. It is very nice but it's not like there aren't others like it in the world. Heck, Jas has an Oswald statue he got in the Disney Store 2 years ago that was only $8, so it's not like there's a lack of Disney figurines out there (at least not a lack of ones that aren't the cool imported ones from Medicom anyway). I'll be back later in the week to give you an idea of what the bonus disc is like, unless it spoils something huge; if that happens, then I'll get back when I beat the rest of the game, long after the CE becomes a pain to get a hold of.  Fingers crossed guys!

In the meantime enjoy more pictures!
Interesting spread
Mickey in his bubblewrap prison

I thought the tail may be articulated but it's not. Likely for the best in light of it's thinness

I wonder if IGN got Collector's Editions for review copies...

Rated 'E' for 'Cartoon Violence' but strangely not 'Comic Mischief'. Though I guess this means the game is full of 'Toon on 'Toon hate crimes...






















Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review: Kirby's Epic Yarn


If you hate cute things, this game is not for you
I originally wasn’t planning on getting this game; my Brother gave me a Kmart coupon that he’d gotten with the Fallout: New Vegas preorder and in light of the fact that by using it I’d be getting another coupon that would basically make the game cost me $25. Since that was too good of a deal to resist, I decided to let ‘Kirby’s Epic Yarn’ be my first release date game purchase since ‘Metroid: Other M’.  This title was originally developed without Kirby in mind, rather starring the character that would become the second player avatar, Prince Fluff. Kirby, Metaknight and company were all added in after the That was probably a good idea on Nintendo’s part as I don’t think ‘Epic Yarn’ would have gotten the attention it has without the recognizable pink puff. It's good in another respect as Kirby hasn't really had a good game in quite a while excusing 'Canvas Curse'; this is a series highlight, which is funny considering how the game started out.

Gameplay/Control:
This game was developed by Good Feel who previously released ‘Warioland: Shake it!’
 I actually got Epic Yarn to end up saving money on my future planned purchases of ‘Donkey Kong Country Returns’ ‘Epic Mickey’ and ‘Golden Sun: Dark Dawn’. So it’s a good thing that it’s a pretty enjoyable game. It’s not going to set the world on fire with something dramatically new to the platforming genre but it’s an enjoyable title in its own right.
You play either as Kirby wandering a world that looks like the arts and crafts section of a department store exploded all over it, whipping thread to unravel yarn based enemies and obtaining patches to unlock new levels.  The basic attacks consist of that yarn whipping, tapping to unravel an enemy and holding to roll them into a ball which can be used as a projectile. Since Kirby is transformed into a yarn-being himself, he doesn’t utilize his familiar copy ability; rather, the game opts for transformation sequences where he becomes things like a Tank or Dolphin.  Though rare, some of these are the most entertaining bits in the game as the snowboarding and shooter stages are great fun. I wasn’t a fan of the train levels at all though, as laying down track by pointing the Remote at the screen was imprecise and repetitive.

Kirby and second player character Prince Fluff traverse a world made up of places like ‘Hot Land’ and ‘Treat Land’ in order to obtain the Celestial thread that will allow them to bind another piece of the Yarn world together. Each level has 2 pieces of furniture and a music CD to grab as well as a ranking based on how many beads you cleared the goal with. All of the individual maps have 4 levels plus a pair of extra stages you access by beating enough beads out of the boss characters.  The second player element is pretty valuable in the game as this could be a great successor to the 35th round of ‘Lego Star Wars’ for all of you with kids out there. It’s easy enough for kids (and adults) to learn the controls plus there’s enough variety to keep them entertained for a while.

That’s pretty notable as you can’t die in Epic Yarn; when you’re hit you just drop beads. Upon clearing a level you get medals for how many beads you reached the goal with though it’s necessary to point out that both players share the same pool of the collectibles. As a result, when one of you is injured it drains your collective pool of bedazzlement a little, putting you at risk for the Silver instead of the Gold. While I can’t figure out what getting the medals really serves other than 100% completion, getting as much of the beads as possible is important since they’ll help you unlock the extra levels. Sub games are accessed in the games hubworld, a place called Quilty Court, which is where you’ll be using all that furniture. Kirby keeps a room in an apartment building that you’re free to decorate as you please. The place is run by a yarn ball named Dom Wool with two adjacent shops run by his brothers where you can buy extra wallpapers and furniture. You’ll be asked by your landlord to ‘donate’ beads so he can add extra floors to the place, which will give you new rooms to decorate with specific items that will lure in new tenants. They in turn will give you access to the sub games that will let you get 100% as well as possibly make you tear your hair out.

Epic Yarn is not a difficult game but it can very tiresome when you’re replaying a challenge level for the fifteenth time because you made one mistake and were penalized twice as a result.  Still, the boss battles are pretty memorable and you’ll enjoy yourself while finding the game’s most challenging sequences. Squashini, the boss of Treat land, is particularly memorable as he makes great use of the ‘arts and crafts’ gimmick with his magic tricks. The 2 player co-op will definitely make things more fun as you can teach anyone to play this in a matter of minutes. It’s not going to be a party game anytime soon but it’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with someone.
7/10

Graphics/Presentation:
This is an interesting category to write about as the game has truly excellent graphics. All of the backgrounds and set pieces look like real crafting material come to life. Kirby and company obviously stand out because they move around much more but they blend into the more realistic elements with little trouble. The game’s aesthetic is one of its strongest attributes though this is admittedly ground that the Paper Mario series has tread before. Still, this is an interesting new take on what kind of elements can make up a gaming world and in that arena it excels.

The game's presentation is top notch; whether or not the aesthetic appeals to you, no one’s going to be able to deny that it’s well done. All the logic that goes into making a world out of crafting material is interesting visually as well as fun to play. While the game originally starred Prince Fluff, it fits in Kirby’s world with little difficulty and it might have been a tough sell without the branding. Still, this is a bright and cheerful game with lots to look at while exhibiting a decent amount of difficulty. It’s at least worth playing through to the final boss as the Cut scene Narrator is one of the game’s biggest highlights plus some of the levels (such as the snowboarding) are just fun to go through on a lark. There’s no reward for getting 100% completion but it’s still enjoyable getting there despite the very repetitive racing and combat minigames; younger players will appreciate the fact that there’s a huge amount of things to collect even if most of them are just various wallpapers for your apartment. Despite the elements of a typical Kirby game being absent, the spirit is still there.
7/10

Overall:
‘Epic Yarn’ walks a steady line between enjoyment when you’re blasting through levels and tedium when you’re playing the race sub games or repeating a normal level to get that gold medal. Still, the good outweighs the bad and this is overall a very fun game. It’s a great rental and might be one of the best investments you can ever make if you have to babysit as kids will just eat it up.  The Boss battles are memorable and the story, while not deep, will keep you amused. The Kirby elements are something of an afterthought but it’s easy to see that Nintendo was very smart to make this an entry in the series; otherwise it may have languished in obscurity. The game would likely be seen as being too cute to be acknowledged, the way something like ‘Mischief Makers’ on the N64 was.

Rating: 7.5/10
This is a good game; if you can find it somewhere for $30 or less it’s worth the money as you’ll be entertained. The simple nature of the game makes it a great game to play with others of all skill levels as well as giving you plenty of content to sift through. Charming, though not outstanding, this is a unique game in more ways than you would expect.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Marshall's Adventures in the Land of Holly and Wood


Saturday night I went to the Valley Film Festival screening of “Butterflies,” a documentary by my new pal Ester Brym about YouTube stars and the way the internet is changing fame. The film was great, really spoke to the empowering nature of the interwebs, but also humanized the people in it and didn’t pass judgment on them. By contrast, “Monster Camp” which I reviewed briefly on episode 30 of ORCCA obviously demonstrated the filmmaker’s dismissive, contemptuous opinion of the LARPing community.

At the afterparty at Senor Fred, I met with Jen Friel of TalkNerdytoMeLover.com. Jen is a creative dynamo, filled with the kind of passion and energy that electrifies the room. She created TalkNerdytoMeLover.com a year ago, and now the site has a stable of over 30 writers, gets tens of thousands of page views, and is grabbing some major attention from the powers that be. And she is going it her own way. “What we have is worth so much; we have eyes on our sites and they know they can’t buy that kind of attention.”

We spoke at length about her wonderful site and about Orcca and about the internet generation as a whole. “I don’t think people over 35 or under 24 really get it. Over 35, and you have already come of age before the internet. Under 24, and you don’t know about dial up; we had to blow into Nintendo cartridges!”

We met with Matthew Gregory from “The Matthew and Ali Variety Show,” (http://www.youtube.com/user/anthrocrane) a muppet show on YouTube. This guy’s puppets are hand made by Matthew without patterns, and are Muppet (big M) quality. He’s based in Idaho, and has made custom puppets for people like Jill “Xgobobeanx” Hanner (http://www.myspace.com/xgobobeanx) (See her with her puppet here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/xgobobeanx#p/a/u/1/L_vKEGNhbJg) and Ester Brym, director of “Butterflies.” Jen and I spoke with Matthew about the fact that what he has, like what any of us have, is a creative idea and ownership of a niche. There are people out there for whom Matthew’s show is a highlight of their day when it comes out. Similarly, when a new article goes up on TalkNerdytoMeLover.com or a new episode of OrccaCast comes out, there are a subset of people that jump for joy, who’ve been anxiously awaiting that update.

The ultimate realization of the evening is the empowerment we 20-somethings have. “This is the best time ever to be alive,” said Friel. The internet has given a platform for everyone to find their niche audience. She mentioned that there are really only like 7-9 kinds of people in the world, and the internet in a very real way is letting the people find their viewers. And there is power in that.

I have seen “The Social Network” now twice with plans to see it a third time while in theaters. If you haven’t already seen it, go. Now. It is the best movie you will see this year and maybe this decade, and it perfectly encapsulates the opportunity all of us young people have to take over the world right now. At first, watching the film I felt envy for Mark Zuckerburg, envy that I hadn’t thought of Facebook first. But now I realize that I should be thankful. I have none of his technical knowhow, but thanks to Facebook, a billion eyes go to one site practically every day. And I have free access to that site. I can post pretty much whatever I want on that site. And as such, I can find my audience from Facebook. Mark Zuckerburg, in becoming the world’s youngest billionaire, launched a site that will create a million millionaires.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Matty Nightmares and Movie Posters



So King Grayskull, Venkman and the Great Wars Weapon Pak came out today; in the process of struggling with the Matty Collector website I have way too big a headache to focus on writing anything lengthy so I'm instead going to improvise (re: be lazy) and comment on some of the recent posters that have been popping up without much hoopla.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger Tides
It's all about growing the brand
So this is out there. This is pretty much the ultimate in Teaser Posters as it tells you nothing but a release date; no mention of Johnny Depp or Geoffrey Rush much less Keith Richards (who's apparently back in a bigger role). That's pretty much not needed though as there's a reason that Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley aren't coming back for this one: no one cares. Has the hair on the skull always been white and I've just never noticed? Maybe it's meant to hint at the hunt for the Fountain of Youth plot point. It is interesting that the skull's apparently made of metal as it kind of resembles the teaser for 'The Expendables'.


Kung Fu Panda 2 



These came out right on top of one another, maybe in hindsight on Paramount's part that this is going to need a much bigger marketing push then the Justin Bieber movie that it split an attached trailer with. I can only imagine that a full-on CGI feature has to cost a lot more than a hastily assembled psuedo-biopic/concert movie. The first Kung Fu Panda was a big surprise to me; I never really liked anything Dreamworks Feature Animation had done before and this one finally hit the nail on the head enough for them to earn my grudging respect. Of the two of these I much prefer the second one as the expression is completely priceless and it has the benefit of no empty space underneath the character's crotch. Sure it has less info on it but it also doesn't bitch-slap 2D as the ancillary method of audience viewing,so points for that. Here's hoping the final isn't incredible as I have a real reluctance for keeping sequel posters when I lack one for the original (Toy Story 3 being an exception though at some point I plant to get the others). At any rate it'll hopefully outdo the Megamind final where they forgot the title character's facial hair.

Don't be afraid of the Dark 

This is a neat little number; it has a real Edward Gorey vibe and that helps it stand out. The advertising has been a little soft for this (there's only been one trailer that's come in on the hard drives) so it's good to see something that stands out like this. Not sure about the January release date but I think 'The Orphanage' was a first quarter release too and it did a little above expectations.

Mars needs Moms

This may be the final, it's hard to tell at this point; there's no date or rating (admittedly the rating on what is supposedly the 'Tron: Legacy' final is also missing) so there's no guarantee of that. I'm glad to see that they've found a pretty evocative image and cute tagline for Berkeley Breathed's charming picture book though Simon Wells has yet to direct anything I've really been thrilled with (I'm looking at you 'The Time Machine'). I have faith in Zemeckis since I enjoyed 'Monster House' and anything related to Breathed will manage to get my attention. Good to know Mindy Sterling isn't dead either.

Cowboys and Aliens
I HAVE BEATEN YOU YAHOO! WATERMARK

This was the big reveal today over at Yahoo! Movie News. At least it was until the Pirates 4 poster popped up. You can see I've circumvented their watermark by taking a picture of the real one I got when I ran by work today. Yes, that's the fridge in my kitchen.

Anyway, this is the first picture I've seen for Jon Favreau's adaptation of Fred Van Lente's comic and I have to say it's pretty cool. They're probably not doing themselves any favors by leaving out the cast members but I don't mind since it keeps it uncluttered. Besides I don't know if any movie star is enough to pull people in who aren't already convinced of the concepts. It's got a Cowboy and a piece of presumably Alien technology so all parties involved are represented.


So there you go: Matty gives me brain damage and as a result you guys get a peak into what it's like when I bring my work home with me. I'm hoping that the Tron Triptych comes out domestically but otherwise I'm basically in a holding pattern until we get 'Thor' or 'Captain America' teasers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Episode #35: The present is NOW!

Set sail for advennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnntuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! This week on the ORCCAcast we're once again joined by C the one, the only Chris Kinsel just in time for part 2 of the Orccasterpiece theater production of 'Faith Without Wings!' Parliament throws down the gauntlet at 3-D! Marshall tells us a funny story about Ian Mckellan! Jas makes fun of Ke$ha again! I completely blank when I get my death ring! All that plus we bid farewell to a crew member going on shore leave... FOREVER!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Favorite Robot Masters: Mega Man 3

20 years later and my Ire for those Porcupines burns just as bright

I've been playing 'Mega Man Zero Collection' for the past few days (after getting it from the TRU buy 2 get 1 free sale) and before I do a real review of that corner of the Mega Man franchise I'd like to talk about what got us all loving the Blue Bomber in the first place: the original games. More specifically, about the Robot Masters in those games









Shadow Man

Shadow Man deserves your love because he's a ninja and we all know ninja's are the greatest thing ever because they wield real ultimate power. So what else makes him great? Well he's got one of my favorite levels in 'Mega Man 3' which was unique because of all the vertical drops at the very start. There are those cool bubbles that turn off the lights and the breaking platforms that I prefer infinitely to the ubiquitous disappearing blocks we usually see (see Magnet Man's level). There's also one of those crazy jumping helmets with the hydraulic pumps on his legs. You know, the ones that you slide to get underneath Capcom.

Sorry, a little Mega Man 9 and 10 frustration slipping in there. Because when a move's in 6 out of 8 previous games, it's not a standard or anything.

Anyway, the music in Shadow Man's level is crazy; it sounds like it should take place in a railroad station or something. I love the Shadow Blade; sure it's just the Metal Blade with fewer directions and shorter range but the fact that you have to beat a robot ninja to get it has to count for something.
Fight Mega Man! Fight for everlasting peace!
Also, as I'm sure everyone realizes, the Mega Man universe is all about Balance. Dr. Light parallels Dr. Wily, Fire Man counters Ice Man, Rush is equaled by Treble. So if there's a Robot Master that's a Ninja you have to wonder: is there one that's a pirate?


Arr! I be a fan of ancient Internet jokes! You best be turning over all your LOLcats if you expect safe passage!


Magnet Man

I can't even decide which reason to best love Magnet Man.  He's got a giant magnet on his forehead, which is presumably where his hard drive/memory bank is, so he must suffer terrible memory loss. Or at least be in a state of constant delirium. Who knows, maybe Magnet man here thinks he's the Queen of Namibia or something...

What is he? The result of a drunken bet between Dr. Wily and Dr. Light that was followed up on years later? A giant 'eff you' to all the people who said it couldn't or shouldn't be done? Then of course, there's the old standard of Dr. Wily just being a total dick with an obscenely cruel sense of humor.

Though, I guess you could also make the argument that it's quite genius for him to be built that way: Wily could just as easily have done that because it'd make him totally jealous of Mega Man! Or maybe he's taunting Mags here with the promise of rebuilding him so that magnet sits in a place that won't make him infrequently believe he's a prize winning Greyhound.

For that matter, the Robot Masters of 'Mega Man 3' were originally built with a non-rampage purpose in mind though I find Magnet Man's somewhat suspect. Bomb Man? Demolitions. Ice Man? A relentless worker in sub-zero conditions. Cut Man? The ultimate Lumberjack. I know that Magnet Man was apparently built to destroy garbage and scrap metal with his powers but I have to wonder how a Magnet helps that. I guess his amnesia makes it so that all he's suited for is to pick things up and smash them together.

The Magnet Missile is great because it changes direction to home in on enemies like some kind of tech-geek nightmare smart bomb. Wily must hate bringing in Magnet Man for repairs because he'd probably come to think he's in the enemy base or something, firing missiles that would eliminate the Doc's cake recipes and prized research.

Magnet Man: Bad idea or Baddest idea?
So in the end, Magnet Man has a ton of potential: Tragic Amnesiac or comical Spaz? Powerful threat or dangerous loose cannon? Only the player knows for sure...


As you can probably tell I'm only getting started here; I picked Mega Man 3 because it was the first Mega Man game I ever really got to play for more than 5 minutes at a friend's house. It was brand new around the time I finally owned an NES and Mega Man 2 was a pain to rent as they only had it on the opposite side of town. That still didn't stop me though as it’s still my favorite (along with most other fans). You'll see that for sure next time when I discuss some choice Masters from it.

Yeah I don't know why he waggles his eyebrows so much either.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reel Madness: 'Inglourious Basterds' and 'Precious'

When I started jotting down my thoughts for these I knew I'd be getting some shit for what I'd be saying about 'Inglourious Basterds'. I'm sure I'll be getting shit about it for years to come. The truth, really, is that Tarantino's latest was hard to quantify because while I found it to be very entertaining the first time, I wasn't quite as engaged in my subsequent viewing.
We never got this poster.
 The first time I watched 'IB' I enjoyed it a lot and found that it clipped along despite my relative disinterest in the Basterds themselves. The second time, I found it interminable. I do realize emotional state can play a lot into enjoyment of a movie (for an example of that, look no further then my Brother. He's pissy all the time and therefore hates any movie that isn't a retro-kitsch pastiche fest or has no muskets being loaded) so I do need to see it again; in the meantime, all I can go on is the fact that the first time was the peak, the second the valley.

Maybe the minor flaws from the first time had become more glaring with hindsight. I never really cared for the titular Basterds as they seem very much like throwaway badasses with little to set them apart excusing their differing degrees of supposed badassery. I hadn't realized how much of the movie's tension is diffused by the fact that they ultimately don't really matter. The Basterds apparently really annoy Hitler but we never see why they'd happen to be more irksome then say, the German defeat at Stalingrad. These guys are a public relations nightmare, that's clear and we definitely see that the German soldiers live in absolute terror of the guys. But I don't know how that's a worse threat then being sent to the Eastern front where you could be eaten by a bear (this is a Tarantino movie so I'm not ruling it out). The possibility that the entire Russian campaign never happened in this universe is there though, since we never see or hear anything about it. But the fact that the Eastern Front was home to most aspects of the Holocaust would seem to give context to the Basterds remorseless torture of the Nazi's they meet, right?

I'm reading into this too deeply aren't I?

Anyway I'm going to say that the Basterds just hate Nazi's arbitrarily in reflection of the fact that they kind of don't matter so much to the movie. More than half of them are dispatched off-screen so I think around the time Tarantino was watching the dailies he realized the movie really only needed to be about one thing anyway: Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa.

Make no mistake; the movie wouldn't be half as interesting without Waltz. The first time I saw it, he was all I could talk about; the second, all I still liked. The performance is so strong and engaging I think that's the problem I had with the next viewing: I didn't care about anyone but him. There's an immense amount of time spent on the Basterds not really mattering. Sure they shoot up Hitler and the boys but that's ultimately pointless since Shoshanna blows up the theater anyway. Since it's obvious that Landa recognizes Shoshanna, it's apparent that he was going to have Hitler killed anyway. The fact that we never get any real insight into why is a testament to how entertaining the performance is: we find out very little about Landa other then he enjoys the nicknames he's earned. Maybe he wanted to be "The man who between two simultaneous plans, indirectly killed Hitler"?
We never got this one either. I liked Eli Roth in the movie; he should stick to stuff like this and not make any more 'Hostel' movies. I wonder if that funky gun got a big scene the way that bat did.

I don't know what was cut from the film as it was originally planned to be a lot longer. Maybe there was more about Landa's different motivations and how he became such an insidious puppet master. Perhaps there was more to make Private Zoller less sympathetic and therefore more deserving of his fate. I do know that a big deal in made out of introducing Hugo Stiglitz who ultimately doesn't end up doing much outside of the stylish montage that introduces him. I'm not sure if that's a function of German film star Til Schweiger needing face time for international appeal or if Tarantino just really liked the name 'Hugo Stiglitz'.

On that note, I have to say Shoshanna's story was less interesting during the second go-round. Her part of the movie has the most dramatic moments and it's sad because I think on its own, the events would be even more effective. As it is, a lot of their impact is softened by the fact that she doesn't realize the fact that she's in a comedy. I think Tarantino's a great filmmaker, but I also think he's trapped because at this point everyone expects him to make a 'Tarantino' movie and if he goes away from that he ends up with something like 'Jackie Brown'. The fact that 'JB' made over quadruple its budget doesn't seem to conceal the fact that it's the least liked of his movies by audiences (edging out 'Death Proof' by a hair, apparently). The moments we spend with Shoshanna are among the most realistic Tarantino's committed to film but those damn Basterds get in the way of it being taken too seriously. Then again, that could be the point: Quentin doesn't want to be taken seriously and he's secretly laughing at all the reviews claiming that 'IB' is about the destructive power of art.


Still, a lot more has to be said about how the movie makes it fictional Nazi characters more interesting and sympathetic than the American battalion after which the movies named. I've not really looked into it yet, but I imagine that Aldo Raine's crew of roughnecks end up having less screen time in comparison as well.

I think this is the one that best reflects the movie's concept. As you can imagine, we never got it. I think part of why the Weinstein Co. is on the verge of bankruptcy is because they made about 20 different posters for this.

Maybe with the next viewing of 'Inglourious Basterds' everything will distill for me properly. The expectations I had for it going in the second time could have caused it to curdle in my mind prematurely or I might have just been in the wrong kind of mood for that kind of movie. Either way, I know Tarantino's capable of more precise films than this and I'd hate to see him descend into grotesque self-parody the way Sam Raimi is quickly doing. I think the fact that he's kept the tones of his movie's very consistent will help as there won't be quite as much of that 'sad old man trying to relive his past' feeling. 'Drag Me to Hell' was a master class in that, and I don't think QT could make a movie that bad if he tried.

I'll say that my Dad loves Tarantino to the point where anything that he worked on outside of a producing capacity was a theater-going must for us when I was younger; he really disliked 'Basterds' and it's the only thing Quentin's worked on that he didn't care for.

Then again he said Zach Snyder had officially become the Brian DePalma to Tarantino's Hitchcock when he saw the 'Sucker Punch' trailer so maybe we're both crazy.


So...
This is a lot like 'Anatomy of a Murder'. We did get this poster and as far as I know it's the first one.

'Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire' was a surprising experience for me. I'd heard a lot of things about it beforehand but until I watched it, it just seemed to be this year's well-marketed tragedy of choice with only the fact that it was being distributed from Lionsgate, as opposed to Miramax in past years, setting it apart. They somehow pushed 'Crash' into the best picture slot and an eventual win so I was more than a little wary going in.

However, I was glad to see that Lee Daniels' took material that easily could have been given a pass for its dramatic power and turned out a truly engrossing film. True, the movie is relentless in heaping miseries upon its main character but none of it ever feels artificial. It's the complete opposite of 'A Serious Man' as the tragic elements bring us closer to the main character rather than pushing us away with their tonal inconsistency. Precious' reality is a cruel place, with little kindness or humor to be found so it's fitting that the movie doesn't have any one performance you can place above the others. A lot's been made of Mo'Nique's role as Precious' mother and I suppose that's the easiest one to reflect on since it's shocking how ugly they allow the character to be. Still, the comparisons to Lady Macbeth in reviews I've read seem truly bizarre in light of manipulation taking a backseat to abuse.

Either way, the film really is about the ensemble and how they all support the character of Precious, since her insights into them is what guides her towards a better life. The movie doesn't need to stand on any one performance to reach us and that is one of its greatest strengths. Really it only falters during one point: a strange scene that adopts a music video editing style that temporarily takes you out of what was happening around it. Everything around it is enough for that to be easily overlooked and I highly recommend 'Precious' as a whole. The fact that there's apparently a sequel in the works in disheartening as that seems very artificial; you want things to get better for Precious and by the end of the movie you're left with the hope that's what will eventually happen. Coming back for more seems less about being poignant and more about having arbitrary scenes of Precious’ Mother scream and throw appliances.

Of all the best picture nominees, this is the one that is the most arresting as far as drama goes. That may sound strange in a year when one of the nominees has a Robot fighting a Tiger, another lionizes a Nazi for his unsung manipulations towards killing his superiors and another is about a teenage girl finding out her older Beau is a total cad. It’s easy for something like ‘Precious’ to be ignored in light of it being a harsh experience and seeming like another drama generated to win awards (I’m looking at you ‘The Reader’, ‘Crash’, and ‘Babel’) but that works to its advantage. What it lacks in ‘nominee’ identity it makes up for with the excellence of its content. In the future, that will insure its impact rather than being forgotten the way something like 'Secrets and Lies' has been.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Review: DCUC 15 Sinestro Corps Batman and OMAC


So the spectacular K-mart DCUC sale has come and gone and that coupon is no longer valid. Hopefully some of you guys out there who were interested were able to at least snag a Martian Manhunter or Jack Knight. Today I’m going to look at the misfits of wave 15, the ones that you either already knew you wanted or didn’t when the wave was announced. That’s right, Sinestro Corps Batman and OMAC

It's not a foreground thing: OMAC's head is really that big

Sculpt/Design:
Both of these guys make use of Mattel’s beloved buck system: SC Batman is just the normal Batman figure with new forearms, right hand, and lower torso (or in the words of the common folk, crotch). At least I think it's new; the only 'new' quality about it is the belt and that could be a reuse from other Sinestro Corps members. Plus, as I'm sure you've noticed, there's a newly sculpted head. What a head too, as Batman’s obviously not relying on his yellow ring to frighten people; he’s banking on his pissed off expression



Do you smell that smell? Batman's smelled that smell and he's obviously not happy because it's the stench of crime



OMAC on the other hand has a fairly normal expression. He’s the Sinestro body with new boots, gauntlets, belt as well as a new head. With that giant Mohawk you’re not going to be mistaking Buddy Blank here for any other character, especially since it’s weirdly oversized. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not; perhaps Brother Eye increased his cerebral capacity requiring a cephalic upgrade as well.
OMAC's a little shorter then Plas but that huge noggin' and Mohawk make up for it


There’s not a ton to say here; they both look like they should and the scale seems appropriate. OMAC may be a little on the small side since he uses the still slightly shrunk Sinestro body but his Mohawk makes up for it. There don’t seem to be any details missed on the two; some may have wanted a raised ‘Eye’ emblem on Buddy but I don’t know if that’s accurate or not.

This is the only way I could get Batman to stand for this picture


Paint/Quality Control:
The paintwork on these guys had to be good because there’s not a lot of spaces Mattel could hide a screw-up. The pointy Sinestro Corps starburst is pretty solid on Batman here though you may want to look through a few before picking one out; not all of them were great but none were grotesque either. Don’t worry, if these have hit your area you’ll have tons to pick from as I’m pretty sure he’s half of every case; my K-mart had at least 20. Mine was among the better I’ve seen but the center of the Sinestro starburst shifts a little as it runs down the points of articulation. OMAC hasn’t fared as well but that could be because I’ve only seen 2 of him in person. The one I got was mostly fine but the other had orange paint flakes around his emblem and some slop on his gauntlets.

One area these two definitely falter is in quality control; there aren’t any outrageous problems but Batman has a slightly bent leg due to his positioning in the package. This was fixed by boiling it but I hate having to do things like this. I’ve still got a Black Adam with a wonky partially rotted left knee from where the clear bands holding him in his blister ate away at the joint. Besides that, as I’m sure some of you have heard by this point, the Corps symbol on his chest and arm band point in different directions.

Not the clearest picture but I try.

That’s right, the armband is upside down. We should be glad that it wasn’t the chest symbol but I still think this earns a hearty Gawd DAMMIT Mattel from me. While you could say this is a paint issue I think the fact that there was a reference for the symbol’s orientation less than 3 inches away on Batman’s chest is what puts it here.

GAWDDAMMIT MATTEL!!

Batman’s not alone in his issues: OMAC came out of his blister completely bowlegged. His feet wouldn’t sit flat on the ground and after boiling, they’re still having a little trouble staying level. He also had a stuck wrist joint though I was able to work it in after freezing. Buddy’s right elbow was warped a little as well which continues a strange trend in this wave. Also, his right wrist is bizarrely loose but not enough to spin around on its own. Those problems together give him something of a bum right arm.
OMAC's strangely short looking lower legs

Articulation:
Both these guys have:
-Ball-jointed necks and shoulders
-Cut elbows, knees and ankles
-Swivel waists, biceps, wrists and thighs
-Ab crunch

That’s the standard for DCUC but it should be noted that OMAC has a great neck joint. Lately, that joint has had a pretty limited range of movement though Mattel has said they’re looking into it. Batman’s neck retains the small range so it’s hard to say how successful they’ve been in that effort. All the joints are tight, excusing Buddy’s right arm. That’s a real mercy on these two as with loose ankles they wouldn’t have the chance of a ‘Heroic Age’ comic launch to ever stand properly.

Accessories:
We get one real accessory this time, not including the BAF Validus part and the goofy little pin-back buttons. SC Batman has got a Batarang construct which attaches to his right fist so that it appears to be flying out of his ring. Its cast in a weird off-yellow color though as opposed to the bright neon of other constructs like this. Kind of like those are lemonade and the Batarang’s a frozen lemon bar. It does clip on easily and holds well so it’s got that much going for it. Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever use it but it’s good that they thought of it.

Yeah that's right. It's the color of a frozen Lemon Bar and NOTHING else

Rather than putting them below this time, I’ll mention that Bruce has got the Validus torso and OMAC one of the arms.

Overall:
These are two of the weaker figures in the wave when standing next to the truly excellent Martian Manhunter and Raven. OMAC’s wonky arm and Batman’s symbol goof-up put them in time-out but the bent legs are what sends them home for the day. I wasn’t particularly excited about either of these guys as character choices since OMAC has no home other then “pseudo-obscure Kirby characters” and Batman is apparently from a comic that’s not been published yet. Still, they both stand out visually though Bruce may end up blending into the Sinestro Corps over time. I wasn’t planning on getting either of them originally, hoping to find people who didn’t want their Validus parts, but I can’t say I regret getting either of them. OMAC’s growing on me especially though both of them kind of have that lost puppy quality because of their bent legs. I think if not for that, OMAC fans really couldn’t have asked for more. I have to give a little value to SC Batman for being a more interesting variant then the 29th mathematical permutation of Capsule/Pouch, Black/Blue, Big Bat/Small Bat and Oval/No Oval. If you have any interest in these guys pick them up; just be very careful about looking at their knees inside of the blister card.
SC Batman: **1/2
OMAC:  **1/2

You got something to say about my ears?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An ORCCAcast special report: The Dangers of the Ultimate Toybox!

Toy story 3 came out on Blu-ray/DVD Tuesday with several versions available: DVD, 2 disc Blu-ray and 4 disc combo pack containing both of the former plus a digital copy. Disney's making it so that you can watch it in any home video format available period.

However, beware the 'Ultimate Toybox' giftset! Back in 2000, the original Ultimate Toybox came out and was one of the best DVD releases ever. This new Blu-ray edition not only fails to live up to that name, but also has some of the most unsafe packaging I've ever seen.
What horrors are contained within?
Earlier in the year when those Blu-rays of the first Toy Story movies were released, I sat out in the hopes that there would be a boxset akin to the 2000's Ultimate Toybox. I was extremely pleased to see one announced when the press release for Toy Story 3's home video release came out. Little did I know that this UTB would just be a straight repack of the individual releases inside of a matte cardboard box made to look like Andy's toy chest

Sorry for the quality of the pics; I took them pretty quickly because I wanted to get this back to the store ASAP.

I was disappointed that there was no exclusive content from the solicits on the internet. That, I could live with. But upon removing the toy chest shaped box from it's flimsy cardboard shell, I was shocked to find that the discs rest inside of a foam block. No blu-ray cases, no disc tray, nothing. They sit there, hanging above oblivion inside of a cardboard rectangle. Neither the rectangle or the foam has a bottom.
They're just hanging there. Seriously Disney, WTF?
There's nothing to catch them if the foam deteriorates in the future and the rectangle is only kept solid by the stiffness of the foam. That's not the only problem though: the foam holds the discs tightly to the point where it's stressful to remove them. In order to get most of the discs in the center, you've got no choice but to remove all the ones around them. There's simply not enough leverage to squeeze the discs out by holding the sides. You need the spoke in order to pry/slide them out, otherwise you could potentially scratch the discs.


The foam has to hold them tight since this is how they sit when placed back in the slipcase
Once I'd opened this thing I spent about an hour warning everyone else to avoid it; then with some help from the friendly employees of where I'd purchased it, I exchanged it for the individual releases of the three movies. Bullet mercifully dodged, though in the future I'm going to be very reluctant to buy any boxsets from Disney. That's definitely one thing I miss about DVD: boxsets were more than gimmicky packaging. Avoid this thing, get Toy Story 3 by itself and wait for a good sale on the first two.