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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lego Mini Rockefeller Center - Architecture Series

Since Borders Bookstore is having a fire sale due to the company going out of business I popped in the other day to see if I could snag anything at a good price. I originally had about four Harry Potter Lego Sets in my hands but I decided to put them back since they all were a complete impulse buy. But what an impulse buy that would have been; I almost walked out with Hogwarts, Hagrid's Hut, The Hogwart's Express and Hogwart's gates. Fortunately I came to my senses. Instead I moseyed on over to the games and decided to buy the Rockefeller Center Architecture model instead. It has a lot of neat pieces and wasn't too expensive, especially with the sale. (I almost bought Fallingwater too but decided against it; I'm such an emotional buyer!)

It was a fun little build and was amazingly accurate to the real thing. This is the first Architecture set I have purchased since the skyscrapers I usually build are in a much larger scale. I'm not sure I would spend my money on any others though because they just don't have the detail I am looking for in a Lego model. I feel like Lego models can be very, very accurate, down to the tiniest detail if you are innovative enough. Lego and Adam Reed Tucker did a nice job with this set, it is just a little small for my tastes.

Although you do get a very nice book describing the history and construction of the buildings which is a nice little bonus. I liked it at least.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

United Frenzy and Rumble - The Street Punks Return!

Ok, this was a total impulse buy. I knew I wanted these guys for a while because they are part of the original Decepticon lineup, but I was just going to wait for the domestic releases. And then Robotkingdom restocked and my impatient self kicked in. I decided since it will probably be a while before Generations ramps back up I would just go ahead and pick them up while I could. I know they will be released here eventually, but just like with Generations Red Alert I didn't want to wait.

They are great little updates of the classic characters that we haven't gotten in any official capacity yet (other than the Alternators Rumble a few years ago). Their new alt modes are tanks and fortunately their robot modes incorporate the pile-driver action that made these two so popular in the past. In fact, one of the main gimmicks I wanted more than anything was for my original Rumble and Frenzy to have transforming arms to form the pile-drivers. But alas, I would have to wait over 25 years to get my wish. I guess that says something for my patience. Or then again maybe not since I really didn't have a choice.
The two Pile Drivers.
Pop Quiz: Frenzy is what color?
Alt modes
Predecessor pic
The yellow squares on the chests are a nice homage.
Alt mode comparison. Hmmm...which is more threatening?
The past and the present.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Inspiration: Spencer Rezkalla and his Lego Skyscrapers

In the Lego community, AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) sometimes refer to themselves as Brick-Artists. One of my favorite brick artists and the source of much of my inspiration is a man named Spencer Rezkalla; you may have seen me refer to him in some of my previous posts. Spencer takes real life skyscrapers and re-imagines them in Lego form with both correct scale and colorization. His claim to fame is that he doesn't go for super accurate designs, he more or less focuses on a "mind's eye" approach so that when you see the model it is instantly recognizable and looks very much like the real thing. The irony of this approach is the model usually ends up looking super accurate anyway. His designs are always very clean and often don't even look like they are constructed out of Lego. You can check out many of his designs on his MOCPage.

Last week Spencer started what I hope will be an ongoing tradition: Skyscraper week. He unveiled one creation per night for five nights in a row, culminating in the awesome One World Trade Center from the new WTC site in New York. After a very long time without any updates this was an awesome way to showcase some of his newest creations. I swear every time he creates something new, I want to build it myself. I am normally not a copycat, but his models look so good I don't believe they can be improved upon.

Spencer first came to my attention back in 2001 when he built his original World Trade Center site after September 11th. I have always had a peripheral interest in skyscrapers and the WTC was one of my favorites. After it was destroyed, I wanted something to commemorate it and I thought Spencer's Lego model fit the bill quite nicely. However at that time I was still in college without a whole lot of money and even though I have a lot of Lego's from my childhood it was still going to cost me over $1000 because of all the specialized parts needed. And I had just planned on building the two main towers! So needless to say I put the project on hold. As time passed by the project came back to me every now and then, but lots of other stuff kept getting in the way like moving, jobs, marriages. You know, adult stuff. So finally in 2009 when things had settled down and I was finally in a position to order all the parts I needed, I began work. It took over two months but I was able to finish the model exactly how I wanted it: complete with all seven buildings and surrounding streetscapes.
But then I got the building bug. All of a sudden I decided that my WTC looked lonely and needed a few more companions to accompany it. So I took on the challenge of Spencer's Sears Tower (I refuse to call it the Willis Tower) which was a piece of cake compared to the WTC complex and only took maybe a week. But I still wasn't done; I decided to try the Aon Building in Chicago next. I really loved the design and how it mimicked the WTC without copying the technique. In fact, it uses a fairly ingenious technique involving hinge bricks and rail plates. So basically the point of all this is: I am addicted to Spencer's designs and I love his interpretations. He just takes everything to the next level. I know of no other AFOL that can design and create like he can. There are quite a few fans (myself included) who copy his designs for their own but none of it would be possible without the vision that he provides when he first creates something.

So thank you Spencer, for having the ingenuity to create these wonderful designs for all of us to enjoy (and sometimes copy).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dark of the Moon Space Case

Ever since the Generation 2 Redux Botcon 2010 set was announced last year I have been on alert for any figures that might fit into the updated G2 category. Obviously Space Case fits since he is a direct homage of the original G2 Cyberjet Space Case. Unfortunately he seems to be the only G2 inspired figure in the entire DOTM line. Also from this point forward I will no longer refer to him as a DOTM figure, but a G2 Redux figure instead since that is what I believe Hasbro had in mind for this guy.

Space Case is a repaint of the Hunt for the Decepticons figure Terradive with a new head mold that evokes the original Cyberjet feeling a little. It is basically just an updated head that makes a little more sense than the original triangular visor that the first figure had. Oddly enough this is the second Cyberjet homage we have gotten in the past few years; Skyjack was the first who himself was a repaint of Generations Silverbolt. If we could just get a good Hooligan it would be enough for a Cyberjet party!

This is a really fun figure overall; one of the best aspects is that he transforms in a way that leaves very little kibble anywhere on the body. I wish all transformations could be this clean. He also has some very interesting engineering in the nosecone which makes for a few cool surprises during the transformation. Lastly, his arms transform in a way that calls back to G2 Smokescreen as well as Energon Starscream.

The Cyberjets were always really fun little toys and I am glad Hasbro hasn't forgotten them even after all these years. I would call this toy absolutely perfect if it weren't for one small detail: THE TATOOS!!! Ah well, maybe I can repaint him.

Cyberjets are back, baby!
With his G2 Counterpart.
The vehicle modes match up almost perfectly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Classics Special Edition: Overkill

Overkill has always been a bottom-rung character. He only got one appearance in the U.S. Cartoon, no appearances in the Marvel comics from what I remember, and very little in the way of fan characterization. However it seems that anytime a Grimlock repaint is required, Overkill fits the bill nicely. This special edition (SE) classics figure does just that.

The SE Classics were initially released for the non-Japanese Asian market but were eventually made available through Hasbro Toy Shop. Also in the wave was a repainted Mirage as Drag Strip, Optimus Prime in a semi-unique color scheme and Tank Megatron in a colorscheme that matched his G1 look. Overkill is a direct repaint of Classics Grimlock and the only one of the four figures that actually interested me. And frankly the only reason I actually wanted him was for another Decepticon for my Classics display since my sides are a little uneven. So I never really put a lot of effort into obtaining him, but I happened to find one at Botcon for a good price.

The box is really nice.
Yup, here he is.
At least now he has a robot mode...
...vs just having a cassette mode. Vintage Overkill here is in his robot mode.

With Grimlock and Shattered Glass Grimlock.
They all look pretty good together!
So that's another one off the bucket list, but much like Weirdwolf he was purchased more out of necessity than actual desire.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Revisiting Terminator 2 almost 20 years later...

Over the past few months I've had the desire to re watch T2 since it has been a few years since I've seen it. I first saw it in the theaters when I was 12 and of course it was one of my favorite movies since then. What I didn't realize was how much this movie affected me as a child and throughout my life.

As the movie opens up we see a few scenes of a modern day Los Angeles with children playing. All of a sudden the movie does a quick cut to L.A. 2029: a world destroyed by war and ruled by machines. It was these first few scenes that shaped a large part of my childhood. After seeing this movie I came to accept the 'fact' that one day in my lifetime "Judgment Day" would become a reality and I would need to be prepared for it. I thought that everyone who didn't see this reality was only deluding themselves and I would need to be smarter than that. Unfortunately as I grew up this belief never really left me. On the morning of 9/11 my first reaction was that it was the beginning of the end and I needed to pack up as much food as I could and head into the country. Of course all of this was nonsense but it took me quite a while to realize it. I was always waiting for the day when I heard the news. I was always in a rush to get everything done so I would be ready. I just couldn't accept that it might not happen. It still amazes me to this day that one of my core beliefs stemmed from a movie and I had a hard time separating fiction from reality. Although I was a very impressionable young child so perhaps it makes a little sense.

At any rate, the movie continues along with the Terminator finding and protecting John Connor and his mother and the eventual showdown between the T-800 and the T-1000. When I was younger the main draw of the movie was the action and special effects. But as I've grown older I've found more meaning and depth in the movie that I hadn't found before. The weight of the world on a small child who isn't ready to take it on; the determination of a mother to protect her son; and the attempts of a machine to grow and learn and become more. This movie is also full of come beautiful cinematography that holds up very well after 20 years. Some of the shots are just downright beautiful and the filters work very well. James Cameron knows how to make a movie look good that is for sure. The same is true of the original Terminator movie. The result of these shots is a definite 'feel' and vibe that the movie emits.

This will always be one of my favorites, but at least I've finally matured enough to understand how much something like this can affect a young mind, especially when it is my own.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Japanese Exclusive: Sky Garry...What the hell is a Garry?

I've had my eye on Sky Garry here for a very long time. Probably at least ten years or more ever since I learned about the Japanese exclusive Transformers. However in the past I never pulled the trigger on purchasing him because he never really seemed that rare or hard to find. As time went by, this of course changed. My basic philosophy to buying old transformers is to "buy it now before it becomes more expensive later". I applied this mindset to the Dinocassettes, Liokaiser, Black Shadow, and countless other hard to find figures. But for some reason Sky Garry always seemed easy to find, almost like and afterthought. So that is how I began to see him. I would only buy him when I found a deal I couldn't refuse. And I found that deal at Botcon this year. A MISB Sky Garry in near perfect condition for only $100. Hell, I paid that much for Movie Starscream!

So of course I had to open him up. If you've never had the pleasure of opening a mint vintage Transformer, it is quite an experience. The smell is what is really memorable to me, that new toy smell. It is kinda like opening up a pack of baseball cards for the first time, you always get that little hint of print along with a little adrenaline at not knowing exactly what you might find.

I will say Sky Garry does not disappoint in the toy department. Sure his robot mode is a brick, but so are all G1's. Not only does he transform into his 'Micromaster' carrier mode, he also transforms into a base that can be connected to other TF: Return of Convoy (the series to which he belongs) bases. There is a tremendous amount of play value in this toy. And he comes with a ton of stickers! I haven't had the chance to apply them yet, but I will sometime soon. Not to mention he comes with an exclusive Micromaster. Micromasters were like the mini-cons of my youth so they still retain that "collect them all" mentality. Obtaining some of these rarer Japanese Micromasters can be very hard to do (Grandus, I'm looking at you).

Robot Mode with Micromaster Shotbomber
Vehicle Mode
There's room for a pilot!
Very cool base mode. I love bases.
I hope to purchase more Return of Convoy figures in the near future, so I can build a massive Micromaster City, but with the cost of Grandus these days it may be a while yet.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Animated Blackout! I must have a thing for Helicopters lately...

If you read my post last week on the other Blackout you may have noticed that I have a certain fondness for the character that I can't really explain very well. So I was thrilled when I was able to obtain Animated Blackout here. I was actually planning on purchasing him at Botcon however no one there seemed to have one; at least not that I could find. So as soon as we got back I purchased him online from Japan and he arrived yesterday. True to all the prior Animated figures, Blackout does not disappoint in characterization as well as engineering.

Animated Blackout only appeared in the cartoon in one episode at the beginning of Season 3 as part of Team Chaar (a reference to the planet of the same name in G1). He was described as the biggest Cybertronian ever created before the Omega Project (this is what I love about Animated: it has such a rich backstory for being a brand new continuity. I'll explore this topic further in another post). Unfortunately the toy itself isn't that large. He is only about as tall as a deluxe although he is very wide. His transformation is similar to Lugnut in that the front of the helicopter splits apart to reveal the head and chest. However his toy conveys a certain feeling of massiveness about him. He is definitely not a character you want to take on by yourself if you are an Autobot.

I was so disappointed when Blackout wasn't released in America, the toy is definitely fun and one of the last molds I need for a complete Animated collection. Unfortunately the Animated show and toyline was canceled before he could be released and unlike Rodimus, Ironhide and Arcee he is too large to be a store exclusive. His helicopter mode (which I don't think we actually see on screen) is a very nice homage to Movie Blackout and at the same time does a very nice job of fitting into the Animated universe. This is one of the main travesties of canceling the Animated cartoon too early, it actually made the Movie designs palatable. The Animated Almanac Vol. 2 (available on Amazon) does a great job of demonstrating this fact with all the characters that were being prepped to be added to the show and possibly the toyline. Unfortunately it will never happen.

I don't mind a movie character that looks like this!
With the only other Team Charr member: Oil Slick.
With his movie counterpart (at least one version of him)
Vehicle mode

I like helicopters!
Now all I need to do is find another one and repaint him into Venom.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Maiden Japan's Wreck-Gar Upgrades

Oh, happy day! Today my Wreck-Gar Upgrades came in from Master Customizer Maiden Japan. He is a one man operation that has been making additional parts to the recent Classics Wreck-Gar that was released a few months ago. He is also one of the primary reasons why it is impossible to find a Wreck-Gar around these days because everyone is buying them up for army building. And with Maiden's additional parts, you can create hundreds of different kinds of Junkions! I only have two Wreck-Gar's so far, but I plan on purchasing at least three or four more. If you haven't seen these parts before, the difference is staggering. Check it out:
This is the set of parts that arrived. (yes, two heads, one for the future)

This is the figure before any modification.

And this is the exact same figure after the parts have been added!

He looks even better from this side!

Now I have a random Junkion riding Wreck-Gar. Just like in the '86 Movie! Squeee!

Bad. Ass.
Most of the parts can remain on the figure when transformed into bike mode, which is very convenient. Maiden Japan is also in the process of making more heads and parts, so the number of different Junkions you can create will be endless! Each part he produces is available in six colors, so if you took Statistics you can figure out the permutations of those numbers. If you want to order parts, you need to become a member of TFW2005 and go to this thread. The parts can be a little pricey, but if you figure in the fact that he is making them all by hand and by himself it doesn't seem so outrageous. Currently ordering is closed, but will reopen soon. I will definitely be ordering more in the future.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dark of the Moon Skyhammer

To round out my "Dark of the Moon" themed week we have the recently released Voyager class Skyhammer. So far this is the only DOTM figure that I have actually been interested in due to his interesting transformation. Most helicopter transformers remove the blades and convert them into swords or fold them together to hang off the figure somewhere. Not this guy. His blades are firmly integrated into the transformation, and it is quite a fun one. He also doesn't necessarily have a 'movie only' look like most of the figures do. He could easily fit into the Cybertron or Energon line. And that is probably where I will put him, since I don't have much space for movie figures. There may be a few other DOTM figures I purchase before they are out of stores, but they will be few and far in between.

This guy has a nice helicopter mode. Very futuristic.
Robot mode.
I would have posed G1 Skyhammer with him for comparison if I weren't  so terrified that I might break the G1 figure by moving him. So, DOTM Skyhammer gets to hog the camera.