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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon Initial Thoughts (spoiler free)

I had the good fortune to see the most recent Transformers movie this morning and I must say I was much more impressed than with the previous two attempts. This movie actually has a coherent story that is adhered to and really focuses a lot more on the Transformers as characters than just the humans. I would say there is much more balance in this film than the others. The 2007 movie was good but it felt like the movie makers were still trying to find their footing and so a lot of things seemed just a little bit off. And of course we all know Revenge of the Fallen was plagued by trying to go bigger and better without a script due to the writer's strike and the film suffered incredibly for it. This movie finally feels like they got it right, at least as close to right as they could get. We get a lot more Transformer characterization and the action sequences are paced much better to avoid overload.

My viewing this morning was in 2D because I find that 3D tends to give me headaches if I try to focus too much and I didn't want to miss any details from the film. So I can't comment on if the 3D helped the story or not. There were a few sequences that I was watching where I was thinking to myself "I wonder why this sequence is so long" or "that's an odd thing to focus on" but after thinking about it I am sure those scenes were there for the 3D effects. That's not to say those scenes were superfluous, it just seemed odd to me. I plan on attempting to see it in 3D in the near future. There are also a bunch of great nods to fans of the franchise and some really obscure references that I was happy to discover. And I was very happy with all of the human performances as well, especially Rosie who played Carly. I really didn't think I would like her, but she has a strong presence and does a much better job than Megan Fox ever did. I really kinda wish they had been using her from the beginning.

There was a scene in the movie that actually gave me chills, and that is the first time that has happened to me watching a Transformers movie. I won't reveal the scene, but I will say it was spectacularly done and stole the show for me personally. So as a hardcore Transformer fan that has been beaten over the head with the "Movie" aesthetic for the past five years I can honestly say this was a fun movie and I would recommend it to all of my friends. There is a very high likelihood that I will be buying this movie when it comes out on blu-ray.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dark of the Moon Cyberverse Blackout (with Scorponok!)

Okay, this one was a total impulse buy. I had no intention of ever owning this figure, and honestly I'm not even sure I knew it existed. But Blackout is somewhat special to me, as he was the first live action Transformer we got to see when he debuted in the 2007 Movie. Plus, he is a very cool helicopter with a 'minicon' of sorts: Scorponok.

Small TF toys can go one of two ways: really crappy bricks that only move their arms, or great feats of toy engineering. Blackout here is the latter. They did a great job of making the robot fold up into the helicopter, in my opinion better than the original Voyager Class toy from 2007.  And the vehicle mode looks fantastic, very realistic (except for the scorpion hanging off the back of course).

Great vehicle mode, this could be a much larger toy with all the detail that was included.

Blackout and his partner.

Who turns into a Targetmaster! Schweet!
Finally I did notice something about Scorponok. He bears a remarkable resemblance to the Action Master partner Scorpulator that originally came with Devastator. He even transforms the same! This is the first Action Master nod I've seen in the movie line, but because I'm not very familiar with it I'm sure I've overlooked some other glaring example. It's a fun little tribute though.
Scorpion modes
Targetmaster modes
I've been doing my best to resist buying any other DOTM toys because I know I'll be sick of them in a few weeks. But I'll be seeing the movie tomorrow morning and I know my resolve will be tested because I am sure I'll want to go out and buy every figure I see on the screen. But no...I have more self control than that. At least I think I do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

MPM-01 Movie Masterpiece Starscream

Since Transformers: Dark of the Moon is released in a few days I thought I would celebrate by posting only about the Movie Era this week. I am not a big fan of the recent Transformer movies. I was on board back in 2007 when the first one came out but ever since then my interest has been slowly waning. Of course it didn't help that "Revenge of the Fallen" was a complete stinker. To this day it is the only video media related to Transformers that I refuse to purchase. I'm not a fan of the character aesthetic and I don't find the designs visually appealing. However every once in a while a figure comes along that is so good I can't pass it up. This is why I only have a select few "Movie Era" toys. One of these figures is Movie Masterpiece Starscream.

2007 Voyager Starscream
Starscream has always been my favorite character ever since I started watching Transformers way back in 1985. Of course I was very excited to hear he would be in the movie franchise and that he would be represented by an F-22 Raptor. That was a big deal back in 2006. However once the character designs were released I was less than thrilled. But I went ahead and bought the toy anyway. Unfortunately the design was pretty bad. He looked okay in robot mode but he was way too thick in vehicle mode; too many parts on the underneath and not very aerodynamic. I grew up on vehicle modes being dead accurate so that is what I often look for in my figures. Recently it hasn't been such a large issue because Hasbro would make up vehicles for figures rather than attempt to pay for the designs. Of course that changed with Alternators and the subsequent movie figures. So in my mind, 2007 Voyager class Starscream failed big time.

When 2009 rolled around and the figures for Revenge of the Fallen were released, a new Voyager class Starscream was released, this time with a much more accurate vehicle mode. At least, the shape was a lot more accurate. To my chagrin the 2009 Starscream was released covered in Cybertronian "Tribal Tattoos". I never thought this was a good idea; the entire point of the Transformers is to be "in disguise" and hide in plain sight. How can one do that covered in weird alien tattoos?!?! Anyway I was impressed with the engineering of this figure and so I promptly sold off my 2007 Starscream (along with a lot of other 2007 movie figures). But again as time went on I found myself liking the figure less and less. He started to look like a large triangle and I really hated those tattoos. But there was hope. I had heard of a Leader class Starscream on the horizon, but probably at least a year away. It promised to be the 'Ultimate Movie Starscream".

HFTD Starscream.
Fast forward to 2010 and Hunt for the Decepticons Leader Starscream was released. And guess what; those damn tattoos were still there. Other than that one issue this looked like a great representation of movie Starscream. In the end it was TakaraTomy who came to my rescue. They released the HFTD Starscream in vehicle accurate colors as part of their Masterpiece line. Does this figure really qualify as a Masterpiece? That is up for contention and I don't really care myself. Now you may ask yourself, why would I pay nearly double the price of a figure for nothing other than a paint deco? Because I really, really hate those tattoos and that is all there is to it. I would rather spend the money and have a better representation than look at those tattoos any longer. Although now that people are finding HFTD Starscream at TJ Maxx for around $20, it does give me slight pause. But I am happy with my purchase. Sure the vehicle mode isn't perfect and is slightly kibbly on the underside, but it is leaps and bounds better than 2007 Starscream and the robot mode is just about perfect!

Confirmed by a friend of mine who works on an Air Force base: Accurate.
Significantly less kibble than the 2007 version.
A lot less triangle-y than the 2009 version.
As you can see here. (Stupid Tattoos)
With his counterpart: G1 Masterpiece Starscream.
Hopefully this will be the last Movie Starscream I have to buy. Fortunately I found him at a good price and didn't have to ship him from Japan, so I'm pretty happy with the deal. And he does look really good on the shelf. I can honestly say this was the only Movie figure I had been excited about in a really long time and I am glad to add him to my collection.

See also:

The Masterpiece Starscream Saga

Friday, June 24, 2011

X-Dimension Air Defense Microns - The Fire Saber!

Wow things are getting random around here lately. But I did make a lot of random purchases recently so it isn't that surprising. I also figured that most bloggers are in the process of talking about either the Botcon Exclusives or the recent TF Collector Club Exclusives so I thought I should offer up something a little different. When Transformers: Armada was just getting started back in 2002 one of the innovative new things about the line was the introduction of Minicons (or the reintroduction of Micromasters if you like to think of it that way). Minicons were normally either sold with a larger figure or in three-packs usually revolving around a theme. One of the first three packs was the Air Defense Minicon Team: Sonar, Runway and Jetstorm. They could each transform from a small jet to robot and could also combine to form the Star Saber; a mythical weapon of great power in the series (and named after the Japanese only Supreme Commander of Transformers: Victory).

The idea behind the minicons was to emulate the "collect them all" mentality of Pokemon which was incredibly popular at the time. So it was no surprise that every minicon released was recolored over and over again. By my count the Air Defense Team was recolored at least three, maybe four times and remolded and recolored twice more for later releases. When Armada first came out I was determined to collect every single minicon that was released, whether it was a recolor or not. Unfortunately it became immediately clear to me that this would never be a reality due to all of the Japanese exclusive releases, some of which are very, very rare. However, I really liked the idea behind the combining minicons, so I was determined to at least attempt to collect all of the combiners. Two weeks ago, that goal became one step closer with the purchase of the X-Dimension Air Defense Team: a Japanese exclusive repaint of the Air Defense Team in a "fire" theme that was very limited. To my knowledge (and Flywheels may need to correct me here) that was the last repaint of these figures I needed in order to complete my "Star Saber" collection.

So now I can finally display all of my "Sabers" together!
Robot Modes
Vehicle Modes
Jetstorm and his repaints/remolds

In robot form
Sonar and his repaints/remolds
In robot modes
Runway and his repaints/remolds
Robot modes
From Left to Right: The Cybertron Saber, The Fire Saber, The Star Saber, The Dark Saber, The Ice Saber, The Energon Saber
All the Robots!
I wasn't planning on purchasing "The Fire Saber" while at Botcon, I just happened upon it (a lot like Rattrap) and I couldn't resist since it was at such a good price and was still sealed. Maybe I will end up with all the minicons after all, it may just take a really long time :-)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

C-43 Metals Rattle AKA Transmetal Rattrap!

If you've had an opportunity to look at my collection pages you will notice one glaring omission from the Beast Era: Transmetal Rattrap. I do actually have the figure however after 15 years the vacuum-metalized paint on the figure had disintegrated. I actually had to put him in a ziplock bag a few years ago just to prevent little red flakes all over everything. A similar fate befell Beast Machines Ultra Jetstorm. So for quite a while I haven't been able to display Rattrap with his teammates. While at Botcon I happened upon this little gem: a Beast Wars Metals Rattle MISB for only $15! I could not pass that up so even though I hadn't planned on purchasing him at the show I was able to fill a large hole in my collection.

Beast Mode
Because this is the Japanese version of the figure, there are a few differences between this one and the American version. First and foremost is the color of the vacuum paint. You may or may not be able to tell through the pictures but it is more of a pink color than the show-accurate red. Also on the rear of the figure where Rattrap's name was tampographed is instead the word "Cybertron" (the Japanese equivalent for Autobot even though he is technically a Maximal). Other than those small differences the figures are the same. I didn't get my old figure out for comparison because I still don't want to deal with little red flakes everywhere.

Also of interest are his instructions because they also include the instructions for D-43 Terrorsaur. I believe this is due to the figures being sold in a two-pack and Takara just used the same instruction sheet for the individually packed figures instead of reprinting it. It also comes with a cool holographic card that switches between non-transmetal beast mode, transmetal beast mode and transmetal robot mode.
Vehicle mode (all Transmetals had this 'in-between' mode)
Robot Mode
The two Rattraps of Beast Wars
Rattrap's Evolution
It is funny his figure continued to get bigger as time progressed.
With the Wal-Mart Exclusive Blue Rattrap. Blue Rattrap is also known as Transmetal Packrat.
The beauty of the figures from the Beast Era was that they were more or less screen-accurate. In the show Rattrap's 'backpack' flipped around but other than that this figure was dead-on accurate. We are spoiled nowadays as we expect our figures to look like what we see on TV, but when Beast Wars was going on I can remember my excitement at actually having toys that looked 'right'. Back when G1 was on TV, we weren't so lucky.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sentinel Prime wants YOU (to shup up and sit down)!

So I finally got my hands on an Animated Sentinel Prime. The reason I didn't buy this guy when he first came out was I didn't like his scale. Now as a seasoned Transformer collector I should know better than to worry about something like scale, but I seriously thought they would release a larger version of him later down the line. Of course when the line got canceled I immediately regretted not purchasing him. So I was fortunate enough to get him at a great price in Pasadena and he is really a lot of fun. Like so many of the Animated toys it doesn't look like you can get that robot out of that truck, but somehow you do. Plus his transformation is very easy and straightforward so he is a lot of fun to fiddle with. And he has that chin! The Tick would be proud.

That massive chest just doesn't look like it can fit in that little truck!

But it does!!

You can really see the size difference here, I was holding out for a Voyager Sentinel.

So Sentinel, I salute you as one of the last mainline Animated figures I will ever buy. Sorry you never got your due :-D
The "Elite" Guard

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Heading in the right direction: IGear Kup Head

While I am on the subject of heads, I wanted to throw this up really quick. If you own a version of Generations Kup and you have not purchased this head, you absolutely need to. I will let the pictures speak for themselves but there is really no reason not to own this great piece.
Hasbro's Version of Generation Kup

Head close-up

Like night and day. Seriously Hasbro?

How he should have looked from day one.

There's the old timer we all know and love!

It is a good thing Igear provides this screwdriver b/c that is one tiny screw and it can be a pain to remove!

The old head is going in storage. I didn't want to use the 'Cy-Gar' head b/c my Kup is from the '86 Movie.
Bottom line, buy it, buy it, buy it. It is cheap, well made and even the most amateur customizer (me) can make this change with the equipment provided.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

He-do-ma-su-tai! Or something like that...

Since all my items from Botcon finally arrived today I can start showcasing them! These two items were complete impulse buys; I had absolutely no intention of purchasing them at the show and they weren't on my radar at all. However upon seeing them in person I thought they were neat little items and I got them for a great deal on Sunday. (Sunday @ Botcon is always my favorite day as it is 'deal day' and usually when I purchase the most stuff). First up: TFClub Justice Leader (Optimus):
Robot Mode

Alt Mode

Headmaster Mode (yeah, its a triple changer!)
Looking good on Chromedome.

Pretty even stats for Prime if you ask me.
Next is Tactical Officer (Soundwave)
Robot Mode

Alt Mode

Headmaster mode

Mindwipe seemed like an appropriate choice.

At least there is some variation here.
I really like these little guys a lot more than I thought I would when they were first released. I'm really not sure what 'universe' they fit into, so I'll just put them with all my other Headmasters as it seems many companies are starting to produce them nowadays. I also look forward to future releases, I would love to see TFClub try and pull off Megatron or Bumblebee but I guess we'll have to wait and see.