Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan: Admiral Kirk by Art Asylum

Folks, I’ve got Star Trek on the brain this week. What with the new movie opening this past weekend, I wanted to balance it out with some Classic Trek cinema, so I busted out my Wrath of Khan Blu-Ray and now I’m all ready to talk some Trek toys. So, what the hell, let’s call the rest of this week Star Trek Week! To kick things off, we’re going to Art Asylum and their line of figures based on the second and greatest Trek movie of all time. And who better to go with than the hero and the villain of the piece. I’ve had this pair for a little while now, and I decided the time was right to open them up and get them on display. Today we’re going to check out Admiral Kirk and tomorrow we’ll swing back with a looksee at his nemesis, Khaaaaaaaaaaaaan.

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I really dig the packaging here. Kirk comes on a huge card with a bubble shaped like the familiar Starfleet insignia. To the left of the bubble is an illustration of The Enterprise and to the upper right corner is a nice piece of art depicting Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and Khan. The artwork almost has a vintage feel to it, which really fits the flick incredibly well. It just reminds me of early 80’s movie poster art. The bubble has an insert with the 25th Anniversary (holy shit, I’m so old!) Wrath of Khan logo and another insert with Kirk’s name on it.

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The flipside of the card shows stills of the characters that are available in Series I and II. It also taunts you with the fact that four members of the bridge crew are SDCC Exclusives and so if you want them you’re screwed. Actually, you can still nab some of these figures for around $30 on Ebay from time to time, but others have crept closer to that three-digit mark. Suffice it to say if you’re looking for a full set, you better be ready to dig deep. Ok, let’s bust out Kirk and check him out…

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Hot damn, I adore the Classic Trek movie uniforms: The burgundy tunic with that front flap, the shoulder strap with the rank insignia medal, the gold plated Starfleet insignia on the breast and matching belt buckle. These uniforms were clearly the pinnacle of Starfleet fashion design and I remember being so disappointed when The Next Generation premiered and dragged Starfleet kicking and screaming back to jumpsuits… although, I eventually succumbed to their old school charm. Anyway, this figure does the uniform justice in every way. The black piping is sculpted into the tunic, as is the seam running down the center of the chest. The insignia are painted onto the arm band and the sculpted Starfleet insignia on the left of the chest and on the belt buckle are both things of beauty. Overall, the paintwork is solid, and I like how they used matte black for the pants and high gloss for the boots.

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You may recall a while back I looked at “Regula-1” Kirk from the same series and I was less than impressed with the head sculpt. Well, regular Kirk here uses the same head sculpt. It isn’t terrible, but there’s something definitely off about it. I think it looks like much older Shatner. His eyes seemed to get squintier the older he got, and that’s what I’m seeing here.

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Kirk features decent enough articulation. You get a ball joint in the neck. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, hinged at the elbows, and swivel at the biceps and wrists. His hips feature a standard t-crotch, his knees and ankles are hinged, and he has swivels in the lower thighs. I’m glad they didn’t go for any torso articulation, as it would have messed up the look of the tunic. Speaking of the tunic, because the lower part of it is made of rubbery plastic, Kirk can actually sit down. I am, however, somewhat hesitant to leave him in a sitting position, since it will likely crease the plastic. It’s not like there’s a proper movie captain’s chair for him to sit in anyway. Although, the Defiant chair that came with Playmate’s 5” Sisko will work in a pinch.

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Kirk comes with an extra pair of hands and the basic Starfleet gear: A phaser and a communicator. The hands are nice, but I didn’t find them really necessary. I use the ones designed to hold his equipment and don’t bother with the others. Both pieces of gear are nice tiny representations of the props in the film. I’m pretty fond of this model phaser, and this one appears to be a repaint of the accessory used for the Admiral Kirk figure from The Motion Picture. The communicators in Wrath of Khan, on the other hand, were shit. In fact, they were probably the only bad thing about that entire movie. Seriously, how did Starfleet go from using wrist communicators in TMP to these ugly behemoths? They look like some kind of scratch built transistor radios.

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And that’s Admiral James T Kirk. He’s a really nice figure. The portrait of the head sculpt could have been better, but it’s not a deal breaker. He’s also one of the WoK figures that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. I got mine at a Toy Show for $20, which is about right. And, if one Kirk isn’t enough for you, you can also track down Kirk with the bloody handprint on his tunic, put there by Scotty’s dying nephew. Hey, Scotty, the dude is dying… WTF did you bring him up to the bridge for? Take that shit to Sickbay and maybe he’d have a chance to live. Oh yeah, there’s also another variant with Kirk doing the Khan scream. Happy hunting! Tomorrow, I’ll be back with the most Noonien of Singhs… Khan himself.

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Marvel Universe: Scarlet Witch by Hasbro

Holy crap, is it Monday again already? That means it’s time for some Marvel Universe. I finally gave up on finding Scarlet Witch on the pegs. Actually, I gave up on that a while ago, it was just a matter of resigning myself to spending scalper prices on her via The Interwebs. Let’s see if Wanda was worth the extra dollars… her brother Quicksilver says she is… Oh snap! Incest jokes… do they ever get old?

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Speaking of getting old… package shot! We see it every Monday, so let’s not dwell on it. The character art is quite excellent and Scarlet Witch fills out the bubble surprisingly well for a female type. I think it’s partly the pose, partly the cape, and partly the effects part. As usual, the “Comic Shot” offends me.

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The back of the package has a really odd shot of the figure that is actually missing one of the swivel cuts in the left leg. Weird. She also has a rather lengthy bio describing her powers. It could have been summed up in just five words: “Chick can f’ck with reality.” I’m stunned to see that I actually have all the figures pictured on the back. Kang, Punisher and She-Hulk… they’re all pretty excellent. MODOK is doing his thing on the bottom of the card, sucking at Hasbro’s corporate teat. I love you MODOK and I long for the day when you will appear in a Marvel major motion picture. Let’s see the “average Joe popcorn munchers” try to wrap their brains around you! Actually, once Rocket Raccoon hits the big screen, your debut will probably be somewhat anti-climactic. Ok, enough with the jibba-jabba… let’s bust this witch out.

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The portrait is easily the best thing about this figure. The head sculpt gives Wanda a pretty face and the way her tiara (or whatever you want to call that thing) is sculpted looks mighty good for a figure in this scale. One of the top corners on my figure’s tiara is bent a little. I almost thought that was part of the sculpt, but it’s not pictured that way on the back. The hair sculpt is fantastic, particularly the way it looks from behind and the way some strands overlap the tiara. I’m also happy that the added hinge in the neck post means she avoids that whole hunched shoulder look that Jean Grey suffered from. It’s obvious Hasbro put some time and effort into the head.

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Unfortunately, the rest of the figure is pretty average. The torso looks too plain. There’s no sculpted muscle tone or anything in her stomach, making it look really basic. I like that the tops of her thigh boots are sculpted, and the high-heeled boots are ok, but she’s got some serious cankles going on. CANKLES!!! Her feet are also kind of stubby and crushed. There’s also something off about her legs. It’s really tough to make them look natural. I like the way her hands are sculpted so you can give her a nice hocus-pocus style pose. The cape is a little longer than it needs to be, but I’m guessing that might be so you can pose her slightly levitating. You can also just pull the cape back a bit so she can stand with both feet on the ground. Unfortunately, Wanda is huge when posed next to my Secret Wars Magneto. On the other hand, the paintwork on my figure is quite good. I absolutely love the shade of red they used. It’s vibrant and shiny and it suits the character very well. The purple is also a nice shade and matches up with the red to produce a very pleasing and accurate deco.

Besides the crappy “comic shot,” Scarlet Witch comes with an energy blast effects part that fits over her hand. I’ve never been a big fan of MU’s effects part. This one will likely go into a baggie and be forgotten.

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Wanda’s articulation includes ball joints in the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, and ankles. She has swivels in her wrists, thighs, and again in her lower legs, just below the knees. The knees are double-hinged, and she has an additional hinge in her neck. There’s no waist swivel, but she is ball jointed in the upper torso. The big things missing are bicep swivels. I would much rather have had bicep swivels than the extra pair of swivel cuts in the lower legs.

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Scarlet Witch and I have a bad relationship when it comes to action figures. I’ve purchased the old Toy Biz Marvel Legends version of her twice now and each time I wound up with paintwork that looked worse than a botched custom job. I’m glad to finally have a decent figure of her, even if it is in the smaller scale. She’s not one of the best figures to come out of this wave, but she is a solid enough effort. I was ultimately able to get her for $15. Call me Mr. Unreasonable, but that’s more than I like to pay for my 3 ¾” figures. Nonetheless, living in one of the dark pockets of the country that gets zero Marvel Universe distribution, sometimes you just got to bite the bullet.

Sunday Funday with Booster Gold!

It’s Sunday Funday, where I chronicle something I did over the weekend that doesn’t have to do with toys. This weekend, I kicked back with the Booster Gold TPBs: “52 Pick Up” “Blue and Gold” and “Reality Lost.” See, I told you the last three features of the week would synch up! Yes, Booster returned with his new Ongoing book in 2007, inevitably reprinted in some collected editions a couple years later. The series picks up exactly where the events of “52” left off. While not a complete collection, the three trades offer a cohesive (well, as cohesive as you can get from time travel fiction) storyline from the first 20 issues. To the uninitiated, these volumes are a great introduction to Booster, while fleshing him out as a more sympathetic character and offering a great tribute to his undying loyalty to and friendship with Ted Kord, the second Blue Beetle. In some ways, this collection is almost as much about Kord and The Blue Beetles (plural) as it is Booster, but then the two have always been rather inseparable in my eyes.

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In broad strokes, a good part of the ongoing story plays out as a DC inspired tribute to Quantum Leap (maybe with a dash of Forrest Gump since Booster manages to hit a lot of important moments in the history of the DC Universe). Booster bounces through the personal histories of various superheroes and villains in an attempt to set things right. He’s on hand to keep Green Lantern Sinestro from meeting up with Hal Jordan before his time. He has a hand in making sure Barry Allen gets zapped into becoming The Flash. He teams up with Jonah Hex to prevent a herd of teleported bison (!) from falling out of the sky (!!) and crushing the Doctor that would deliver the ancestor of Superman’s adopted Earth father (!!!) all while drunk off his ass. And he dodges some rather awkward questions from Ralph Dibny about his future with his wife. Even Booster’s own timeline isn’t immune to his good-natured meddling, as he eventually teams up with himself to defeat the mysterious villains. For me, the culmination of all these time travelling adventures is the harsh lesson Booster learns while repeatedly trying to save Barbara Gordon from the infamous paralyzing attack at the hands of The Joker. The Doctor would have referred to that as a “fixed point in time!”

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And, of course, against all warnings and advice, he uses his time-traveling power to bring back his best friend, Ted Kord, to the land of the living. And therein lies the bulk of the second volume, “Blue and Gold.” It’s so great to see the two chums standing shoulder to shoulder against evil again, even if we suspect from the beginning that such a good thing can never last. And in an instance of truly tragic irony, before the third volume is complete we see Booster unknowingly save the life of the ancestor of Max Lord himself. Time travel… it’s a fickle bitch!

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If the underlying theme of “Blue and Gold” is all about Ted, than a big part of the issues that make up “Reality Lost” gives Goldstar the spotlight, as more time meddling shenanigans bring Booster’s sister, Michelle, back to life and sees her teamed up with her brother. Much like “Blue and Gold” it’s bittersweet because we know this can’t end well. Still, it’s a fun ride along the way as Michelle gets to pose for Leonardo DaVinci, cosplay as Batgirl, and help steal the Batmobile with Booster dressed like Elvis. Epic hardly seems like the right word.

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As the bulk of my comics are in storage, picking up these trades was a nice treat. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Saturday evening than sitting out on the porch, enjoying a cigar and a couple belts of Jameson and getting lost in the pages. Granted, it’s only been a couple of years since I last read this run, but it’s still one of those books that I love to read even though I know what’s going to happen. The editors did a nice job cherry-picking the issues to present casual readers with a complete package, but as a Booster fan, I’d still recommend hitting all 20 issues if you can. Sure, the overall story is mostly time-travel cliches and nothing to write home about, but it’s the journey along the way that makes it so entertaining. These books feature solid art, pithy dialogue and they really do the character of Booster proud. It’s whimsical, silly, poignant, tragic, but I’ll concede that I was always more than a little disappointed that it ends with the status quo being reinstated. Still, any chance to see Booster and Ted Kord in action again is a great book for me.

Images used are the copyright of DC Comics and are reproduced here for review purposes only. If you love comic books, support the artists and writers by BUYING them, either digitally or in print. Better yet, buy them in print and support your local comic shop too!

DC Universe Classics: Booster Gold & Blue Beetle by Mattel

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere…

Before him I may think aloud.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted in Booster Gold.

Of all the characters in the DC Universe, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle have been my favorites. Yeah, that may sound weird. People usually say Batman, Wonder Woman, or Superman or Aquaman… no, scratch that… nobody says Aquaman. That’d be ridiculous. But as pointed out in yesterday’s feature, I first took notice of this pair of BFF’s while reading one of my favorite childhood comics, Mr. Miracle, and I’ve pursued their exploits in Justice League International and the pages of other DC comics ever since.

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It’s no secret that I’m not a huge Batman fan, and maybe that’s because I like Ted Kord’s version of that character archetype better. Both are millionaires relying on their own brilliance and technology over superpowers. But unlike Batman, Kord wasn’t a moody dick. On the contrary, among his peers he was probably the most liked character in the DC Universe. You could argue that he ultimately died because Batman couldn’t be bothered with his findings and Ted was too nice a guy to want to burden the rest of the Justice League with his theories on Max Lord. Booster, on the other hand, yeah he was a dick. At least that’s how he was perceived by most. But he grew into a better person, and Ted saw something in him, and thus was forged this unlikely and delightful friendship. Let’s kick it off with Booster.

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The self-centered jock from the future turned time warrior, Michael Carter, aka Booster Gold would be a polarizing character if enough people actually gave a shit about him. Those that do either love to hate him or hate to love him. He’s a fun character because he’s an anti-hero and he’s exactly what you don’t expect. He’s both pathetic and heroic, and a general pain in the ass for the Justice League, and just when you think you can sum him up in a few unfavorable words, you find that he can be frustratingly more complex than that. All I know is I love this guy.

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The DC Universe Classics version of Booster was available in two variants. I have the version of Booster that I prefer, but seeing as how the other one comes with a Skeets that opens up to reveal Mr. Mind, I really should pick that one up at some point. Booster’s portrait is a little hit and miss with me. Maybe a little too cartoony? I don’t know. Sometimes it bugs me, other times I’m perfectly happy with it. I do really dig the clear yellow goggles and the way his sculpted hair sticks up out of the top of his hood. The body makes use of a standard DCUC buck, but he does have his forcefield emitters sculpted into his hands, as well as his flight ring on his finger. I also really dig the sculpted high collar. Booster has a cavernous hole on his back, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

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Booster features one of my favorite paint jobs among all the DCUC figures. The mix of metallic gold and blue is really gorgeous and there isn’t much slop or bleeding to speak of. The only downside here is that his copyright stamps are painted black and smacked right onto his gold ass, so the lettering stands out pretty sharply.

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Of course, you can’t have Booster without Skeets, and that’s where the big hole in his back comes into play. Skeets is sculpted along with a translucent yellow effect piece that allows him to hover over Booster’s left shoulder. I think I would have preferred the connecting piece to be completely clear and not yellow, but all in all, the effect works really well.

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Moving on to Blue Beetle. I love this guy, and I’ll never forgive DC for allowing just about every other character that dies in the DCU to come back to life except for poor Ted Kord. Ok, so he comes back temporarily, but we’ll get to that tomorrow. Anyway, Blue Beetle is one slam-dunk of a figure. The head sculpt is fantastic and just like Booster, I love the use of the clear yellow goggles here and the powerful slightly cleft chin. Of course, setting the portrait aside, Ted was a pretty easy figure to do, since he also uses a standard DCUC buck with a painted costume. The paintwork utilizes two shades of blue and heavy black outline is crisp and fits the costume perfectly.

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The only new sculpting on the body involves his belt and FUNCTIONAL holster, which holds his gun. Wow, do I love Blue Beetle’s gun. It’s pure retro sci-fi love that looks like a combination of a 50’s hairdryer and power drill.

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Both figures feature the same standard DCUC articulation, with just one exception. The arms have ball joints in the shoulders, hinges in the elbows, and swivels in the wrists and biceps. The legs have the usual DCUC style hinge, hinges in the knees and ankles, and swivels in the thighs. They each have the ab crunch hinge in the torso and ball jointed necks. What’s the exception? Booster can swivel at the waist, whereas Blue Beetle cannot.

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And there ya go, two of my favorite DCUC figures based on two of my favorite DC characters. Besides my genuine love of these guys as individuals, it’s the magic and tragedy of their friendship that elevates them to an even higher level in my eyes. Like I said earlier, it never seemed fair that just about every other character that dies in the DC Universe gets to brush themselves off and come back, while Ted Kord remains in the ash heap. It was something that Booster could never get over, and that was really something ironic for a character that was viewed by everyone but Ted as a self-centered narcissist. Maybe it all strikes a chord in me because I’ve been there, I’ve lost a best friend before, and while time is said to heal all wounds, it’s something that never truly goes away. From Mr. Miracle and Barda to Blue Beetle and Booster, I’ll wrap this whole thing up tomorrow as I spend my weekend reading three TPBs of Booster Gold!

DC Universe Classics: Mister Miracle & Big Barda by Mattel

Today I’m kicking off a three-part set of features with a look at a pair of older DC Universe Classics figures. Follow me on this one, it’ll all be connected. I tend to get my share of strange looks when I tell people that Mr. Miracle was one of my favorite comics as a kid. He’s not exactly an A-lister in the DC roster. It was even an unlikely choice for me, as I just stumbled upon his books at the local used book shop and my dad bought me a stack of them. I also owe it to Mr. Miracle for getting me back into comics in 1989 with the return of his ongoing series (and introducing me to Booster Gold and Ted Kord, but more on that tomorrow). What sucked me in wasn’t necessarily Mr. Miracle as a superhero, but rather the whole New Gods tie in and the backstory between Scott Free, Big Barda, Darkseid and Apokolips. I thought it was epic stuff, and the book was packed with great humor as Scott and Barda tried to build a new suburban life on Earth and no one would leave them in peace.

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As a result, Mr. Miracle was actually the very first DCUC figure I ever bought, and it became the slippery slope that led to my addiction to the line. He was quite the pegwarmer, and one day I encountered an entire wall of them in the action figure aisle at one of the big box stores. Leave it to me to be overjoyed by a figure that nobody else wanted. I tend to be funny that way. I couldn’t help feel bad for Scott. First he gets traded to Apokolips in one of the most poorly conceived peace deals ever and now he’s made to suffer the shame of pegwarming. The dude just can’t cut a break.

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The DCUC version of Mr. Miracle gets by with a pretty standard buck and a few tweaks and bobs to the sculpt to make him unique. Oddly enough some of the best detail in the sculpt is on the soles of his boots. He’s got a crazy amount of circuit-styled detail down there where you would never see it. He’s sporting a rather seriously pissed-off head sculpt, which might not have been an optimum choice for the character. He also sports one of my favorite capes in all the DCUC line. It doesn’t drag on the ground, it has a bitchin’ over sized fastener in the front, and he’s got that great high collar that gives him a regal countenance.

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The colors on the other hand? Well, I always thought red, yellow and green were an interesting choice of color palate. Or at least they would have been if you’re Captain Bolivia. In fairness, I think Miracle’s deco works better on the pages of the comics than in figure form, and even then it depends on who’s doing the colors. Still, he’s one distinctive looking figure. He does have some strange shadowing on his inner thighs that makes it look as if a bomb exploded between his legs!

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I don’t usually expect accessories with my DCUC figures, but Mr. Miracle is one of the few that actually came with some cool stuff. First, you get a set of manacles for him to escape from. These slip on over his wrists and feature some amazing sculpted detail, nice silver paint, and even some additional paint apps. Very impressive!

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He also came with a set of his signature Aero Discs, which peg into his feet. Again, the paint and sculpt on these are brilliant. It’s almost a shame that there’s so much detail in the bottoms of the Aero Discs, since you can’t see it when they’re plugged into the figure’s feet.

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And that brings us to Big Barda. The lovely Mrs. Miracle if you will. She was available in two versions: Helmeted and sans Helmet. I have the later, but one of these days I’ll pick up the one with the helmet. In order to accept DCUC Barda into your heart, you need to lay aside a pretty glaring issue of scale. As one of Darkseid’s Furies, in the comics Barda was huge (hence the name!), much bigger than her husband, and so she falls into the trap of uniform scaled figures that DCUC often fell into. It should probably bother me more than it does, but somehow I’m able to look past it.

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I’m pretty fond of the headsculpt on Barda. She’s attractive and looks a tad angry. The sculpt seems a little soft by today’s standards, but it’s not bad at all. I also appreciate that the hair is sculpted back a bit so as not to inhibit her head movement too much. Barda’s armor is reproduced with a very cool scale texture sculpted right onto the figure, and the top and bottom bronze plate. You could certainly argue that she should have been bulkier. The super thin arms don’t really reflect her character, but I’m guessing Mattel was faced with the dilemma of making her either too feminine or too butch.

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Both figures feature the same DCUC style articulation. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, hinged at the elbows, and have swivels in the biceps and wrists. The legs have the usual universal hinge joint, hinges in the knees and ankles, and swivels in the thighs. They have ab crunches in their torsos and their necks are ball jointed. The only difference is that Barda’s armor skirt sadly renders her hip articulation rather useless.

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And that’s Mr. and Mrs. Miracle. These two figures have a special place in my heart among the 150 or so DCUC style figures on my shelves. Every time I look at my DCUC display, my eyes are drawn back to this pair that started it all. Tomorrow, I’ll be back to check out another pair of older DCUC figures, who happen to be based on two of my favorite DC characters of all time, and as already mentioned, were introduced to me in the pages of Mr. Miracles own book.

*This photos for this Feature were revised on 1/21/2016

Hellboy 2: The Angel of Death by Mezco

I’ve taken care of most of my new receivings for the week already, so today I thought I’d do a Toy Closet Find and then for the rest of the week I’m going to be dredging out some older DCUC figures. But Hellboy 2, really? I know, right! I spotted this guy on the top shelf of one of the bookcases in my library and decided he needed his day in the sun, especially since there has been a little buzz lately about a possible third film. Despite being a comic junkie, I don’t think I’ve ever actually read a Hellboy book. That having been said, I enjoyed the movies, probably mostly because I really dig Guillermo del Toro’s flicks, particularly the creature designs. I didn’t pick up any of Mezco’s other Hellboy 2 figures, but when I saw The Angel of Death here, well I couldn’t resist him because he was my favorite creature design in that movie. I mean… how can you not love this…

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Yeah! That right there is some good old fashioned nightmare fuel. The packaging is long gone, but let’s just say he came in a window box and get right to it.

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The sculpt here is really spectacular, especially considering the body is rotocast. The body and cloak are just like a hollow cone, but it suits the design well. One of the creepy things about this guy is you can’t really tell where his body ends and his cloak begins. The fractured, eyeless face is awesome as are all the little sculpted teeth. Creepy! The massive wings are truly breathtaking. Every single feather is meticulously sculpted on both sides. I think Mezco might have gone a little overboard on the size of these babies, but they’re so majestic looking on the figure, I’m not complaining. 

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The paintwork on this figure isn’t exactly dynamic, but it’s not supposed to be. He’s brown, he’s dark grey, and lighter brown, and the eyes in the wings are painted with a high gloss to make them stand out. Overall, he looks ancient and dusty just like he’s supposed to.

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Ah, but is he an action figure or a statue? I’m not a fan of arguing semantics, so let’s not try to pigeon hole him. Because of his teepee style construction, Death’s only articulation is in the arms and wings. His arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, whereas his wings have hinges and ball joints. There aren’t a ton of poses to work with here, but you can tinker a bit. And herein lies my one complaint about this guy. The wings are designed to be removed, as they are off the figure in the package. As a result, the ball joints have a problem holding their massive weight. It’s not uncommon to find his wings in a different position a few hours later because they droop. It’s a little unsettling when every time I look at this thing its wings are in a different pose than I last left it.

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Mezco does nice stuff, and I’m sometimes surprised that I don’t own more of their collectibles. It wasn’t until their Mega Scale Thundercats that I really began to take notice of them. I think it has a lot to do with a general lack of interest in a lot of the licenses they’ve secured. I don’t remember how much I paid for this thing, but I think I picked it up at one of the big bookstore chains and I’m pretty sure it was deeply discounted. I’m finding more and more that Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble are good hunting grounds for toys and collectibles. You don’t think to go there to buy this sort of thing, and since nobody else does either the stuff tends to sit around and go clearance. Either way, it’s a nice one-off piece that fits right in displayed on one of my shelves of old and out-of-print occult books. Few guests that I have over that see it know what it is, but most agree that it looks damn cool.

Cover Girls of the DC Universe: “New 52” Catwoman by DC Collectibles

Today’s feature almost didn’t happen, because the USPS temporarily lost my Catwoman statue. To be more accurate, they claimed it was delivered and after a few days of me insisting it wasn’t, bitching at them, and finally letting them know it was insured (why didn’t THEY know that?) it magically turned up in my postbox. In fairness, I get a lot of shit mailed to me every week, some USPS some UPS (and some by whatever cracked out sorcerers Amazon uses to get stuff thrown on my doorstep from a moving vehicle 12 hours after I ordered it) and this was the first time I’ve ever had a problem like this. Yeah, I consider myself pretty lucky. Catwoman is one of the New 52 books that I’m still reading regularly and I enjoy it quite a bit, so when I was able to get a decent deal on this statue, I really couldn’t resist.

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This piece comes in a fairly bland white box with some pictures of the statue on it and a little blurb on the back. “Catwoman is ready to whip the Dark Knight into shape if he tries to stop her!” I’m guessing that’s some kind of kinky S&M reference, because every encounter Batman and Catwoman seem to have in the current book involves them screwing. The back also shows off two other statues currently available. Harley Quinn is actually sitting in my Pile of Loot at BBTS, but I’m not digging Poison Ivy enough to buy her. Anyway, there’s not a lot else to say about the box. It gets the job done, but considering we’re dealing with a comic book company, a company that is all about the graphic arts, you’d think they could come up with something more attractive than the presentation here. The statue comes wrapped in plastic and nestled between two styrofoam trays.

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Out of the box, Selina stands atop a decorative finial on a rooftop. One leg cocked, she’s glancing back over her shoulder, goggles up, her whip is coiled around her, and she’s carrying a novelty kitty-cat backpack full of jewels. I can’t argue with the pose, it’s a little seductive and it captures all there is about the character pretty well. If I had one thing to nitpick it’s that the pose makes it difficult for me to decide on how to display the statue. I suppose it’s intended to be displayed with her head looking straight out at you, and that does indeed look nice. On the downside, you miss out on some of the other assets she has on display, and at this angle the cat chasing her is obscured by her leg. Still, all in all, I’ve got no complaints about the pose.

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In hand, the statue has a satisfying heft for its size. It’s a cold cast porcelain piece, rather than the PVC plastic that make up most of the statues in my collection. The portrait, Sam Greenwell is the sculptor here, is certainly competent, but it’s not stellar. There’s a reason some statues are considered “high end collectibles” and sell for hundreds of dollars and others don’t, so I’m willing to be a little forgiving here. Selina’s face is pretty and it’s close to the comic art by Guillem March, but it’s not a slam dunk. The short spikey hair must have been a challenge to get right, but I think they did a good job. I do wish the strap on the goggles was sculpted or painted to stand out from the hair just a bit more.

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The rest of the statue is quite nice, although in fairness her leather bodysuit doesn’t require a lot of detail so it lends itself well to this kind of statue. There are a few seams and wrinkles, and the zipper is detailed, but most of what’s here is smooth, glossy black curves. The whip is actually a soft rubbery material (OMG, IT’S MIXED MEDIA!!!) and I like the texturing on the backpack. The base looks good and as far as architecture goes it’s about as Gotham City as you can get without actually putting a gargoyle on it. The cat on the base is a nice touch. I like how it’s suspended in mid jump and how it looks like it’s mesmerized by and chasing the frayed end of Catwoman’s whip.

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Paint has been a hit and miss affair with the DC Cover Girls line. Honestly, I think the paintwork on my Catwoman is quite good. Again, this is a pretty simple statue to paint, as the bulk of the body is just coated in high gloss black. The detail work on the zipper is pretty good, as are the flesh tones. The one thing that stands out a bit is her right eye looks just ever so slightly droopy and uneven, but it’s not enough to ruin the piece for me. In fact, I didn’t really notice it until I was really scrutinizing it for this feature. The paintwork along her hairline is pretty solid as are the lips.

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I like this statue a lot, but it feels a little less impressive than past statues in this series. It feels like there’s been some cost cutting since the days of Cover Girls’ production limitations and Adam Hughes’ sculpts. But I also need to remind myself that some of those statues could be hit and miss as well. For example, I have desperately wanted to pick up the Cover Girls Starfire statue, I still hope to one day, but I’ve yet to see one with acceptable paint. I could also mention that while DC Collectibles no longer limits the production on this line, they haven’t lowered the price accordingly. Catwoman’s MSRP is $99, and when you see what you can get from Kotobukiya for less, that seems rather high. I picked up mine for $65, and that seems a lot closer to the mark. All in all, I’m satisfied and I’m happy to have her on my shelf.

Transformers Beast Hunters: Smokescreen by Hasbro

Folks, I am not going to be big into Beast Hunters. No, really. I’m not. I know I’ve said that before about TF: Animated and TF: Prime and in the end I bought a lot of them. I really don’t see that happening here. There are a few figures that may tempt me just because it’s such a rare treat to go to a store and actually buy a toy off the pegs these days, but I’m going to be mighty picky about any of the figures in this line that I buy. That having been said, Smokescreen was a no-brainer. He’s one of a pair of figures (the other being Shockwave) that seemed like they were planned for Prime release and so their spikey Beast Hunters rubbish are just extra bits that can be taken off and thrown away in order to give you a regular old Prime figure.

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I’m not going to get into my thoughts about the direction Beast Hunters is taking the show. I haven’t watched it regularly anyway, so I don’t really feel entitled to discuss it. With the exception of Transformers comics, I’m only about the toys these days. I’ll just say that I’m sure Hasbro is trying to come up with fresh new ideas to sell the figures and, to be honest, if I were a kid I’d probably be all over this concept. Anyway, I’m not a big fan of the new packaging. TRANSFORMERS PRIME BEAST HUNTERS is quite a mouthful and the new deco just doesn’t do anything for me. Smokescreen is carded in his robot mode and there’s a sticker on the bubble advertising The Hub, which I’m frankly surprised still exists.

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The back of the card shows pictures of both modes and it looks like Hasbro has really cut down their bio-writing staff because Smokescreen just gets a single line. Ok, I’m done with the packaging. As usual, I’m going to start out with Smokescreen’s alt mode.

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As expected, that alt mode is a sports car and overall I think it’s pretty good. He’s got a sexy, curvy look to him. The bulk of the toy is cast in an off-white plastic with some nice red and blue paint apps and “38” on the doors to provide me with a cool little G1 fanwank. I like the tinted clear windshield and the tinted yellow headlamps. Yes, it feels like it’s missing some paint apps on the bumper and tail lights, but all in all, this is a pretty solid little car mode. I’ve got no complaints.

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There are peg holes on the roof and sides of the spoiler to plug in Smokescreen’s weapon, which is a net launcher. Blah! Fortunately, you can remove the rubbery net and turn it into a perfectly serviceable little gun-slash-missile launcher.

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Smokescreen also comes with his “Shadow Quill Armor.” It’s a rubbery piece of armor that fits over the front of the car kind of like an automotive bra. I gotta say, I’m not hating the way it looks on the car mode. It feels a tad out of place on a car with this kind of sporty paint job, but it gives him some nice ramming spikes, and I’m certainly down with that.

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Transforming Smokescreen is a wee bit fidgety, but it’s also rather fresh and clever, and the end result is a robot with a lot of interesting stuff going on. You’ve got some really cool shoulder armor, doors that hang off his sides and kind of remind me of the holster/scabbards on Generations Drift and Blurr. The chest plate is kind of a fake out, as it’s obviously intended to be a crunched down version of the front of the car. I know some people don’t dig the whole fake out thing on Transformers, but it doesn’t bother me so much here. About the only downside to this guy is that he’s best viewed from the front because from the back he looks rather hollow and unfinished. Oh, and yes, you can put his “Shadow Quill Armor” on when he’s in robot mode, but it looks like ass, so I won’t be doing that.

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Smokescreen’s coloring in bot form is pretty close to his alt mode deco. He’s still mostly off-white, although he does feature some nice red and blue paintwork on his arms and legs, a blue stripe down the front of his chest, and yellow paint to simulate his headlights in his chest. I don’t know if it’s the design of his robot mode or the deco or a little of both, but I do get a little bit of a Gundam vibe off of him. I think the only gripe I have is the paint apps on the head could have been executed a little better. It’s not bad, just a little bland. It might not just be the paint. To be honest, a lot of the Prime styled head sculpts look a little too much alike to me.

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Articulation has not been a problem with the TF: Prime figures, and it isn’t here either. Smokescreen’s got a lot of poseability, making for a very fun figure. His shoulder armor can angle up so as not to inhibit his arm movement. His shoulders are hinged on a little post and then ball jointed, and his arms have swivels in the biceps and hinges in the elbows. His legs are ball jointed at the hips and then hinged at the knees and ankles. He can swivel at the waist and his head can turn side to side.

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I haven’t been paying much attention to the Beast Hunter pegs, so I’m really glad I happened to spot Smokescreen on my last trip through the toy aisle. Whether or not I choose to get any more Beast Hunters figures, he makes a nice addition to my TF: Prime Autobot lineup. And that’s pretty cool, because I was all but certain I was done adding to that collection. To sweeten the deal he was only about $13, which is a couple bucks less than most of the Deluxe TFs have been as of late. I was rather tempted to pick up Ripclaw as well, but I decided to save him for another time. Now if only I could stumble across Shockwave, I’ll be a very happy camper.

Marvel Universe: Beta-Ray Bill by Hasbro

Welcome to Marvel Monday, my continuing journey to get through all my Marvel Universe figures… and today is all about Beta-Ray Bill. I’ve always found Bill to be a very cool character, even though I’ve only occasionally encountered him in my funnybook readings. That having been said, he wasn’t really on my “must have” list for action figures, but he’s still a welcome addition to my collection. Hey, if you’re one of the few worthy enough to wield Mjolnir, then you’ve got the chops to hang out on my Marvel shelf. Let’s take a look!

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Yep, that’s the current incarnation of the Marvel Universe packaging. Bill really fills out the card nicely and I totally dig his character art. Also present is the wonderful “Comic Shot,” and by “wonderful” I mean, I’m about to flick it at my cat so at least he might get some use out of it. Wait for it… nope. He’s not interested in it either. Anyway, I was in the middle of tearing Beta-Ray Bill open when I screamed out the revelation, “Oh shit, I didn’t take the package shot yet!” and that’s why it looks a little worse for wear. Usually when that happens, there’s alcohol involved. In this case, I was just really excited to get the figure out.

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The back of the card has one of the more lengthy bios I’ve seen on an MU package. I’m guessing Hasbro thought a lot of people might not know who poor Bill is and thus his background needed an explanation. Hey, he got an episode in “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” so the kids should at least recognize him. You also get another little quip from Rocket Raccoon… Ha ha… “free of clowns” Ahh…Wait… I don’t get it. Getting Bill out the package is a project and a half. Between all the invisible rubber bands and his cape passing through a slit in the tray, I almost had to chew him out.

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Since he wears what is essentially a set of Thor’s Asgardian armor, one might expect Bill to be a quick kitbash from previous Thor figures. In the early days of MU, I would have expected Secret Wars Comic Pack Thor with a horse head thrown on him. But no. I’ll hand it to Hasbro. They didn’t take the low road here. In the tradition of most of the recent MU figures, they stepped up and went all out on this guy. Beginning with the portrait, the head sculpt is excellent. The Asgardian helmet looks amazing and while the wings are a little soft, they aren’t warped at all. I totally dig the eyes, and the head has a special treat which we’ll touch on when we get to talking articulation… aw, hell, I’ll just ruin it now… HE HAS AN ARTICULATED JAW!!!

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If the torso is recycled from a previous Thor figure, I sure can’t tell. In truth, it looks too lean, so I’m guessing it’s new. Either way, the discs on the armor are all actually part of the sculpt and he has a belt that hangs loose around on his waist. The legs appear to be new sculpts as well, with armor plates on the thighs and knees. The cape is a brand new piece and it has two pegs to secure it to the pair of sockets in Bill’s back. This is easily one of the better executions of the Thor style cape as it fits snugly on the figure, but it can easily be removed for when Bill needs that extra room to take care of business. I’ll also note here that the quality of Bill’s plastic is really excellent. There’s no warping or sense of soft joints.

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As great as the sculpt is, it’s the coloring on this figure that impresses me the most. Bill is sporting one of the better paint jobs I’ve seen in this line, and that’s not intended as a loaded compliment. He’s gorgeous! The black and light metallic blue used for his torso looks amazing and when combined with the metallic gold of his belt and boots, the figure really pops. Toss in the darker metallic blue for the leg and shoulder armor and the bright white of his gauntlets, and this figure’s color palate screams comic book beauty! Even better, the quality of the paint is immaculate.

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Naturally, Bill comes with his trusty hammer, Stormbreaker. It’s a relatively simple accessory stamped out in gold plastic, but it really completes his ensemble nicely. He can wield it in his right hand and his left hand is left clenched in a fist for punching fools.

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Bill features all the articulation we’ve come to expect from the current crop of Marvel Universe figures. The arms are ball jointed at the shoulders, have swivels in the biceps and wrists, and hinges in the elbows. The legs are ball jointed at the hips and ankles, have swivels in the thighs, and double hinges in the knees. He has a ball joint in the torso and can swivel at the waist. Technically, Bill has a ball jointed neck, but he can really only turn his head from side to side. The reason? Because he has a goddamn hinged jaw, that’s why! A hinged jaw!!!! Well played, Hasbro.

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Even if you have zero interest in Beta-Ray Bill as a character, you should buy this figure. Why? Because every bit of him is gorgeous! Hasbro really has been delivering the goods with the latest waves of Marvel Universe and Bill here is a perfect example of the added quality that Hasbro has been investing into the line. A year or so back I was wondering why I was paying $10 a pop for these figures, but in Bill’s case he’s worth every penny. It does my heart good to see Hasbro turning this line around over the course of the last year, but it also thrills me to no end when they invest this kind of effort into a character that is, well… let’s just say not an A-lister. In fact, I’ll go one better, Bill is probably in my Top 10 MU figures so far. He really is that good!

Sunday Funday: The Last Starfighter Blu-Ray

So, I really didn’t need anything from Wally World, but I convinced myself to drive down there the other morning because I was jonesing for an action figure or a Lego set or something. So much of my stuff has been coming to me by way of the Internets lately. I don’t really miss the hunt, but every once and a while, it is nice to actually buy something and not have to wait a week to have it in hand. Anyway, I didn’t do all that well in the toy aisles, but I did spend some time rummaging through the HUGE drum of $7.88 Blu-Rays that that they have set up in the middle of the aisle. I honestly hate going through these things. Trying to find anything in it is like digging a hole in the sand. It just keeps closing up and you can spend an hour just flipping through copies of Ace Ventura, Face Off, and Happy Feet. Also, I feel like a homeless person picking through a giant garbage can looking for something I can use to decorate my cardboard box shack.

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Well, I was just about to call it quits before I came up with this forgotten gem. When I say forgotten gem, I mean I really did forget this movie existed. Once I set eyes on it, however, it all came rushing back to me. I could remember my parents taking me to see it in the theater. It came out in 1984, which means I was 12. That right there was what made my parents so awesome. They had no hope of enjoying anything this movie had to offer, and yet they flushed their Saturday afternoon down the drain because they knew it would make me happy. Maybe my Dad got a kick out of the effects, but my Mom must have been bored to tears, but she did it because she is a great Mom. (And that’s my shout out to my Mom on Mother’s Day!).  I loved this movie and I can well remember renting it more than a dozen times when it finally became available on VHS. It celebrated almost everything that I loved about life as a 12 year old boy: Aliens, Space Ships, and Video Games.

Now it’s been over a decade since I saw it, and I was excited to pop it in and see whether it could possibly hold up. Now granted, the last time I watched this, I was a 14-year old munching on some Cap’n Crunch, and now I’m a middle aged nerd with a rock glass of Jameson in my hand. So, does it hold up? Well, with just the right amount of nostalgia and whiskey… yes, yes it does.

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Trailer park washout Alex dreams of heading to the big city and making something of himself, but he’s stuck fixing people’s fuse boxes and dropping quarters into the local Starfighter arcade machine. Of course, it’s all a test to find someone capable of joining The Star League and piloting a Gunstar against the forces of the evil dictator-wannabe, Xur. There’s a lot I love about this story, but mostly it’s the stuff that’s non-conventional. Alex is clearly a video game nerd, but he’s not really a loser. He’s got a pretty girlfriend, he’s got friends to hang out with, but most of all, he’s got the support of his little trailer park community who turn out in droves to cheer him on when he’s beating the machine’s top score. Seeing all those people cheer him on is just one of the greatest video-gaming moments of cinema. Some of you young people may not be aware, but it wasn’t always cool to be a nerd like in today’s world of top grossing comic book movies and Xbox. Stuff like this and Tron were a really big deal.

Robert Preston gives it his all as Centauri, who shows up in his flying car to take Alex to the Star League base. Yes, kids, if an old stranger shows up and tells you to get in his cool car, you climb on board! That’s what we learned from The Last Starfighter! Anyway, I still love the “Star Car” as much as I did as a kid and I still remember screaming inward at the screen when Alex asked to be taken home rather than help. “What the hell are you doing??? They’re going to let you fly a f’cking spaceship with a lizard man and shoot lasers!!!!” I had forgotten about this plot-point in the movie, and this time I was yelling at the screen out loud in a Jameson fueled rage.

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The subplot with Beta Unit Alex holds up pretty well for me too, mainly because of the cool special effects scenes. I remember seeing a lot of screen grabs and articles in either Starlog or Fangoria, or a similar magazine, about the makeup and effects. I used to love those kinds of magazines and how they showed everything that went into practical effects, and now I have a hankering to pull my old stack out for a future Sunday Funday. That kind of shit made me want to ask for a bunch of latex and air bellows for Christmas so I could learn how to do it and get a job in an SFX company. Good thing I didn’t, because now it’s all done by computers, and I spend too much time sitting at a computer desk already.

Speaking of computers and effects… Last Starfighter was hyped because it was one of the first movies to showcase CG effects in place of model ships. Watching the movie again, I thought the hardest thing to accept would be the Tron-like CG effects as realistic spacecraft. To my surprise, they actually look quite spectacular on the Blu-Ray cut. Not realistic, mind you. There’s no part of me that is convinced they’re real ships, and I still prefer the good old studio model kit building for my space ship effects, but I can’t deny that this stuff just looks neat. NEAT!!!

Sometimes, I drop $8 on a budget movie, watch it and think, meh… why did I bother? That wasn’t the case here. I enjoyed watching this one again and I can see myself popping it in again sometime down the road. In fact, I’ll probably watch it again this week for the commentary and extras. Oh, and while Sunday Funday is all about taking a break from toys, I’m not opposed to a toy tie-in if I can do it. Check out this amazing little piece on the unproduced Last Starfighter action figure line at the awesome Plaid Stallions blog. Or how about this ridiculously cool Lego Gunstar.