Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lego Star Wars Death Star

I'll just get this out of the way: the last toy to make me feel this giddy - like 10 year old you getting from your mom and dad the exact thing you wanted for your birthday giddy - was Fortress Maximus couple'o years ago. Even with grown up goggles its hard to get over how much ass this toy kicks.

See, i am, for all intents and purposes, a lego casual. I'm cool with dropping serious dough for a toy when it comes to vintage transformers (being the focus of my collection its easy to justify) but to me lego is generally expensive. Star wars lego even more so. First time i saw this set online when it came out I thought, "cool" followed by "fuhgedaboutit".

Then the local lego store brought it in, so see the thing in person. And it was GLORIOUS. The box was frickin huge, the packaging was plastered with little vignettes of all its play features (and there was a lot of em); only thing it was short of was hypnotic strobe lights above the retail shelf relaying subliminal message telling me to BUY IT NOW.

I HAD to have this toy.

Then i saw the price tag and quickly changed my tune to 'i still need to have this toy but not for SIX HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS' (RM2,000 actually, for my homies).

A price check on amazon (they sell used lego sets, sometimes at bargain prices) and a trip to (their review really sold me that i was not gonna have buyers regret, even if i overpaid) sealed the deal for me. And because i'm a cheap bastard i only bought a loose set (without packaging but with instructions) with spare change even to also snag the midi scale lego millenium falcon (previously reviewed).

(note how many weeks ago this arrived and for me to finish it. LOL. Told y'all i was a casual.)

You can get better in depth description from the review but its already evident from pictures, this set has all the characters and set pieces to recreate all your favourite scenes from ANH and long as those scenes happened on the death star. Theres some creative license of course to fit em all into a single 2' diameter sphere, BUT STILL!

*deep breath*

...Its all integrated with not one but TWO working elevators, two sliding doors, a chasm for luke and leia to swing across, working tractor beam which light column 'switches off' with a lever pull, synchronized gun turrets, swiveling/tilting superlaser platform, working garbage compactor, operable cranes in the hangar and deck, a working trap door over the garbage compactor and a collapsible platform for luke and vader to duke it is IMPOSSIBLE to undersell this toy.

This thing is a bitch to build and a nuisance to store/display but at the end of the day this set superbly captures the essence of the source material, has inexhaustible features/high replay value and having recently been discontinued, will only go up in price.

Superlaser side of the death star...

...detention cell with trap door to garbage compactor, tractor beam generator platform below it...

...superlaser platform room, theres another control panel on the other side of the platform, shooting projectile cannon with gunner seat below it...

...conference room and superlaser command centre at top level.

Far side (away from the superlaser) of the death star...

...superlaser control room overlooks into the hangar, which is connected to the cargo bay below by a working elevator...

...emperors throne room with a bridge and void so you can chuck ol' palpy into the chasm/shaft below which luke and leia swing across...

...gun turrets and a droids workshop at the top level.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TF Animated: a retrospective

With all thats going on with Transformers Prime (culmination of 2 seasons worth of toys and storytelling) i thought this would be a good time to look back at its predecessor and one of my favourite incarnation of the brand: Transformers Animated.

When hasbro previewed graphic teasers for the show i recall most fans were put off by it: the stylized look made people think it was a bandwagon jumping move based on Ben10's popularity (TFA's look was in fact conceptualized by the same guy responsible for Ben10's character designs, Derrick Wyatt) and the human protagonist, Sari, was female, a child even, so most assumed it was going to be kiddie fluff. It was especially confounding when you consider this came out at the height of the Movieverse popularity: it cannot be understated that the departure of style and tone was immense.

Anyways, 3 seasons and 1 botcon set later, TFA deserves to be considered one of the high points in the franchise. We got some revolutionary/groundbreaking toys design-wise (pretty impressive when you consider they came up with the movie toys with its own distinctive aesthethic relatively recent back then), and it successfully brought back TF cartoons production stateside (the AEC trilogy was previously produced in japan, lets just say the storytelling tone is an acquired taste and leave it at that).

The trend of buying up pre release toys (established with the movie toys) continued with TFA - i practically completed the core of the cast before they officially hit stores - and the line marks only the 2nd time where i felt it was worth it to pay the premium for exclusives: botcon's TFA stunticons.

Overall, i rate TFA in top 3 of my favourite TF line with its balance of good toys and even better stories (the other 2 being G1, which i grew up on - and Beast Wars - great overall story and characters, even if i dont dig the toys). In my opinion, when compared to TF Prime, hasbro made a bigger gamble (more radical premise where Optimus was cast as a young and inexperience character - even more so than in Beast Wars) yet rewarded with much better results (better world building and the tone/feel was adept at balancing both fun and serious aspect of the series). I've posted the more recent toys in individual entries previously but heres some older pics i dug up from my collection album.

Prime and Megatron were initially released in their cybertronian modes in smaller size class (deluxe and voyager respectively).

TFA with its exaggerated anatomy really showcased hasbro's ability in translating 2D character designs into 3 dimensional transforming toys, most evident in female characters like Blackarachnia.

Its too bad we never got a leader scale Lugnut so i just stuck with voyager scale Bulkhead.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Shell's lego ferrari exclusives


Shell is currently running a lego/ferrari promotion. Buying their engine oil gets you a couple'o ferrari-themed mini figures, filling up gives you a chance to buy a bunch of li'l lego ferraris.

I have never been so excited to fill up at a gas station in all my life.

Its not that i'm even a big fan of ferrari but how else do you get to buy a lego set at the price of a frappe? Anyways, i'm only interested in the cars (i think they're made from lego's racer series parts), they've got pull back motors and i was pleasantly surprised theres quite a bit of parts than expected.

They're comprised of 2 waves; the 2nd is due later this month but in the meantime here's wave 1 made up of the f150, the 458 italia and my personal fave, 250 GT berlinetta (i like retro designs). Some stickers need to be applied; with the f150 you actually get two sets for the car number - numbers 5 and 6 (along with 2 color choices for the drivers helmet) which should please F1 fans. The parts aren't quite spot on (with the 458's hood and roof looking like reused racer parts, only the 250's hood and bonnet looks like its unique to the set...MAYBE) but the designers do a decent job of creating good representation of these ferrari marquees. Bring on wave 2!

Edit: my bad, seems the parts are entirely reused from Pixar Cars series (good thing i got over my hot wheels jones awhile back with the 1st Cars movie, otherwise might be tempted to start collecting the damn things).


Wave 2 consist of the FXX, F40 and Scuderia truck. The FXX is pretty cool with its abundance of parts for its size. I suppose the F40 in white with racing livery/decals is there for variety in terms of colors and details. The scuderia truck is a great complement to the F150 (tho honestly i find it kinda 'meh'. Wouldnt mind if they gave us yet another car, like Magnum PI's 308 GTS for instance, thats a classic).

Monday, November 05, 2012

Masterpiece Lambor (Sideswipe)

My last MP was convoy 2.0 (i passed up on the new seeker mold, i've already bought the previous mold 4 times over - including the original greenscream) so i was really looking forward to this guy.

Now that i have him...i'm a bit underwhelmed, to be honest. Couple'a things:
- G1 sideswipe was my absolute fave autobot car. He had a great looking robot mode and he turns into a lamborghini countach. And he was RED. So my expectations were HIGH.
- i was pretty ready for the fact that he was going to be small. Actually, i don't mind the size, its the lack of heft that bothers me. Even alternity bumblebee felt more substantial.
- i chalked up my convoy 2.0's poor QC (side panel paint finish was scuffed out of the box) to bad luck, after all, i've been buying MP's since the 1st one and they've all been decent to excellent. But with MP lambor thats 2 MP toys in a row i've had issues with. one of the door panels on my MP lambor has uneven paint. Its not immediately noticeable but considering its the part where it intersects with different material (solid plastic interfacing with clear plastic) the variation in shade between the two makes the error even more glaring.

Now that we've gotten pass the bad, the good news is that its a really good toy. The car mode looks great, the transformation is engaging without being overly complicated (my instructions are still sealed. I had more trouble with deluxe FE cliffjumper) and the robot mode is pretty fun to mess with. Some things to note:
- the use of plastic for the tyres, as opposed to customary rubber, is a design issue, not due to cost cutting. Theres this step where you fold the front wheels and it practically snaps in place, rubbing against the, uh, bodywork that encloses the wheel? Yeah. Theres just no clearance for rubber which is less robust and tendency to expand.
- accuracy be damn, but it'd be cool if they replaced the silver colored parts (gun, feet, wheels) with chrome finish. I know reds already a striking colour but chrome would give lambor some extra pop in either mode.
- its nice of takatomy to try and integrate the weapons in car mode. But sticking an ungainly, oversized cannon on top of a slick italian supercar is DUMB. I bet that mister lamborghini guy is rolling in his grave right now, wildly gesticulating 'AAAYY TA-KAAARA, WHY YOU-A DOO DEES TO MAH BEYOOTIFUL KOONTACH?!!'

G1 sideswipe can finally pose like his box art!

Lego Midi Scale Millenium Falcon

"What a piece of junk!"

My favourite characters from Star Wars (OT or GTFO!) when i was kid were (and still are) Han and Chewie. As an adult i get that they represent the seedy yet charming underbelly of the star wars universe. As a kid i just figured nobody's cooler than the wise cracking guy with the quick trigger finger and his pet sasquatch.

And their ride was a big part of the appeal. Its conventionally ugly yet, thanks to being an integral part to several key scenes from the movie (i still resent Lando flying the falcon in the ending to ROTJ) it still shines in a franchise filled with cool vehicle designs.

I passed on the midi scale falcon when it initially came out but the midi scale star destroyer, which i recently picked up really convinced me to track down the falcon.

Like the star destroyer, the midi scale does a good job of using moderate amount of bricks to not only make the falcon recognizable but also intricate enough to show off some detailing. Plus, compared to the star destroyer, the falcon's a less monotonous build with its assymmetrical design and colour variations. There's even some leeway at this scale to muck around with the arrangement of the 'gribble'.

Only negative to the set (besides the fact the midi scale being discontinued) is that now i'm jonesing for a larger version of the falcon.