Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Chogokin Memories: A Look Back at the Miniature Voltron I Action Figure from Matchbox

Last Christmas, I did a retrospective post about the massive influx of Japanese robot toys that hit U.S. toy stores during the Christmas season of 1984. In the time since that post, I've learned that Japanese robot toys have their own system of taxonomy to classify the toys according to build, features, and material composition. For example, the term "chogokin" specifically refers to Japanese robot toys that were made during the 70s and 80s and featured a significant amount of die-cast metal. Chogokin toys were usually produced in one of two sizes: "ST" (or "standard"), which meant that the toy was around 5 inches high, and "DX" (or "deluxe"), which meant that the toy was much larger than 5 inches in height and came with more complex features.

This post is devoted to one of the ST chogokin toys that I had as a kid: the miniature 6 inch Voltron I action figure, which was released by Matchbox in 1984. There's quite a history regarding the Voltron anime series and its related merchandise--namely, that "Voltron I" was actually the super robot combiner from the anime series Armored Fleet Dairugger XV and that the Matchbox Voltron toys were actually repackaged toys that were made by Popy, the subsidiary of Bandai that is credited with the creation of chogokin-style toys. Click below to see a Voltron I picture gallery and to learn more about this imported version of a Japanese toy phenomenon.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rebuilding Kenner's Star Wars Micro Collection, Brick by Brick

Toy collecting has become such a popular hobby that some collectors customize toys to appear like characters from popular fantasy, horror and sci-fi franchises. Sometimes, these customizations are done of compensate for the lack of licensed toys made in the likeness of a particular character (or even a particular vehicle), but what happens when a toy is used to recreate a previously released licensed toy?

Meet Eric Druon, a.k.a. BaronSat. BaronSat has produced a series of customized toy kits by using Lego bricks and you can see most of his work on his site, the BaronSat Workshop. He has assembled kits based on characters, settings and vehicles from franchises such as Battlestar Galactica, Planet of the Apes, Robotech, Star Trek and Star Wars, and you can even purchase some of these customizations--either as complete kits or as assembly instructions--through BaronSat's site.

Of the many amazing things that BaronSat shares on his site, I think that the most unique are his recreations of the two Death Star playsets that were released by Kenner as part of its short-lived Star Wars Micro Collection toy line during the early 80s. Not only do these sets recreate the exact details of the playsets, but they have been re-scaled to accommodate Lego Star Wars minifigs. Click below to see pictures of the two customized Lego playsets and how they compare to Kenner's originals. Photos are provided courtesy of the BaronSat Workshop, the Star Wars Collectors Archive, and the Rebel Scum.com site.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nerd Rant: Is High-Definition Technology Killing Practical Special Effects?

At the end of this week, theaters across the country will debut The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the long-awaited film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel story for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. While the film itself is getting positive reviews, I've noticed that many of the critics have also commented on one of the film's technical aspects--namely, the visual effect has resulted from the film being shot at 48 frames per second (fps) instead of the traditional 24 fps. The film's director, Peter Jackson, chose this new format for the sake of giving his film better image definition; some critics think that Jackson has achieved his goal in spades, while others think that the movie looks much more artificial than had it been shot at the normal frame rate.

In particular, Andrew O'Hehir's made this observation about the 48 fps format when he saw The Hobbit: "(F)or me ... this cinematic innovation apparently meant to create an atmosphere of magic realism makes the whole thing look immensely more fake. Mountains and fortresses that are presumably digital creations look like painted backdrops; humanoid figures of hobbits, dwarves and wizards appear just as artificial as the goblins, specters and trolls. ... Personally, I found the Thomas Kinkade-like glow of The Hobbit’s images both fascinating and disconcerting, and felt that it accentuated the movie’s other flaws."

I've noticed before on Blu-ray how higher definition can make multi-million dollar film productions look cheaper than they actually are, as if they were shot for television instead of the silver screen. Granted, this doesn't happen on all Blu-ray transfers--for example, the Blu-rays for Jaws and the Alien series look fantastic--but I've noticed it happening with enough frequency that I can only wonder how things will further change when and if the 48 fps format becomes the industry standard. In short, here's my question: Can practical special effects still be used if high-definition technology exposes their artificiality, or will only high-definition CGI special effects technology be able to keep up with the new fps format?

Essentially, special effects involve the creation of celluloid-ready optical illusions in order to enhance the audience's experience of watching a movie. In some ways, special effects are like stage magic: Just as magicians have to carefully control what a live audience can and cannot see in order to make stage tricks appear magical, special effects artists have to control what a movie audience can and cannot see in order to maintain their suspension of disbelief. The effects can be a complicated as stop motion animation or as (relatively) simple as forced perspective shots, and many special effects techniques have deliberately exploited the shortcomings of film as a medium to keep the audience unaware of the effects' artifice. So, what happens when special effects artists are forced to contend with a film format that is intended to show everything in such high detail?

Of course, filmmakers want fake things to appear real for the purpose of capturing the audience's imagination. Yet film projects that are heavily based on special effects--scale miniatures, animatronic costumes and puppets, complex applications of makeup, etc.--shouldn't look too real, because if they do they'll look exactly like what they really are: fake. Will practical special effects still have a place in 48 fps movies, or will the 48 fps format serve as another damaging blow against the usage of practical effects and further promote the usage of CGI special effects in their place?

Monday, December 10, 2012

I'll Be Block: The Terminator Buildable Construction Playset

With Lego raking in the cash through licenses such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and superheroes from both DC and Marvel Comics, it's inevitable that Lego's competitors will follow suit. For example, Best-Lock Construction Toys has picked up the Terminator license and has released The Terminator Buildable Construction Playset.

According to the product's description, "Recreate your favorite scenes from the blockbuster The Terminator movies with this superb value building block set, The Terminator Buildable Construction Playset, from Best-Lock Construction Toys. Containing over 1,000 pieces, The Terminator comes to life in block form and features all the essential elements to role play your very own Judgement Day, including; three Aerial Hunter-Killer models and two Tank Hunter-Killer models plus an army of T-800 cyborg figures as well as the iconic Terminator figure and a number of other models and accessories. This block set provides hours of fun for children aged five years up and can build everything illustrated at the same time, following the full-color, step-by-step building instructions which are included." I don't know if this set will allow builders to make larger Skynet war machines, such as the Harvester or the HK Centurion, although I'd be surprised if you could not with over 1,000 pieces at your disposal.

Best-Lock Construction Toys has also picked up the Stargate license, and it has released a few kits based on the Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis series. (Both of these TV shows were cancelled years ago, but I suppose that this is better late than never.) For additional brick-based sci-fi fun, Best-Lock has a "War of the Outer Planets" line, which includes space ships that look suspiciously similar to ship designs from Battlestar Galactica.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

NECA's Big Red Predator: From Fan Film to Collectible Figure

I'll say this for the Predator franchise: Even though Hollywood doesn't have a clear idea of what to do with it, this creative property sure does produce some fascinating merchandise. Even though it only has produced only three stand-alone movies and two crossover movies during the last quarter century, Predator merchandise has included comic books, novels, video games, and collectibles that range from never-before-seen mask and creature designs to replicas of Predators from both the movies and the comic books. The fourth Predator movie appears to be stuck in development hell, but that hasn't stopped NECA from moving into new Predator merchandising territory.

NECA will be releasing the Big Red Predator figure, the first--and so far only--Predator figure that's based on a fan-made film. This seven-inch figure is based on a Predator that was seen in the 2003 fan film Batman: Dead End. In addition to the bold color scheme of its armor, the figure also comes with interchangeable hands and two katana swords.

The rear packaging for the Big Red Predator figure.

While it may seem unusual for NECA to use a fan film as the source of a new Predator figure design, it should be noted that Dead End was directed by special effects veteran Sandy Collora. Collora's professional work includes creature design work for films such as Leviathan, Jurassic Park, Men In Black, and Predator 2. Click here to see more pictures of the Big Red Predator figure, which is scheduled for shipping in January 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Promising Ghost Story Gets Orphaned in The Orphanage (2007)

Did you ever watch a movie that you want to like but you simply can't because it doesn't adhere to its own internal logic? If you do, then you know how I feel about The Orphanage, a 2007 Spanish horror film directed by Juan Antonio Bayona.

The Orphanage is about Laura (Belen Rueda) and her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo) who are renovating an orphanage into a home for special needs children. Laura herself was an orphan at the very same orphanage that she and her husband are restoring and they even have an adopted child of their own, Simon (Roger Princep). A series of mysterious incidents begin to occur as Laura and Carlos prepare the building for new occupants, incidents that culminate with the disappearance of Simon on the very day of the orphanage's reopening. Laura's subsequent search for Simon leads her into the building's forgotten past and the dark secrets that it hides.

As a gothic ghost story, The Orphanage drips with unrealized potential. The cinematography is gorgeous and creepy in equal measures, the underlying themes and symbolism adds emotional weight to story's proceedings, and performances given by the principle cast make you feel for the characters and their plight. The story builds to a crushing and bittersweet finale, but that feeling rapidly fades when you begin to think about the story and realize that much of its details don't make sense. Character motivations and actions don't add up, and curious details surface that go unresolved even though they should not. There's even a hidden door that plays a major part in the story, yet it doesn't take much to realize that the details behind the door--who finds it, how it is found, and why it was hidden in the first place--weren't very well thought out by the script writer.

Overall, the viewing experience that comes from seeing The Orphanage is akin to waking up from an intense, feverish dream and then realizing that what you just experienced--regardless of its emotional power--can't stand up to the scrutiny of conscious thought. In that regard, it felt like this movie was just a few script rewrites away from being a better movie. Perhaps if one or more of the secondary characters, subplots or themes had been removed, the total narrative would be greater than the sum of its many parts.

In his review, Roger Ebert wrote that The Orphanage "is deliberately aimed at viewers with developed attention spans". I think that the exact opposite is true: The viewers who pay close attention to the film's minutia will be the ones who find its biggest faults, regardless of how deftly the film appears to utilize the narrative conventions that are common in stories about ghosts and haunted houses. Without giving too much away, it would seem that the moral of The Orphanage is that if anyone ever goes missing in or around a recently renovated building, please be sure to check the building's blueprints before consulting with a psychic. Speaking as a horror fan, this is not the kind of concluding message that any decent fright flick should leave with its audience.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Look Back at Four Fantastic Giant Robot Games for the SNES

As a long-time fan of giant robot stuff like the Robotech anime series and the Zoids toy line, I'm frequently drawn like a bee to honey to giant robot video games. By "giant robot video games", I'm not talking about any of the Transformers games (where sentient robots fight other sentient robots) or games such as the Super Robot Wars series (where the robots are just pieces that players move around on the board as part of a strategy game). No, I'm talking about games that allow you to control robots that are piloted by people, something along the lines of a Japanese "real robot" anime series. For games of this variety, some of the best were made for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) back in the 1990s. Click below for a list of four SNES games that allowed players to assume control of a big 'bot and lay waste to various digital landscapes and pummel the bejesus out of other robots.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Follow a Terrifying Investigation of the Supernatural in Noroi (2005)

For some, the horror subgenre of found footage has become the bane of good horror filmmaking. Much like the slasher and zombie subgenres in previous decades, found footage has become the subgenre of choice for aspiring horror filmmakers who have very small production budgets at their disposal. Of course, the talents of such filmmakers vary and while some of them have produced found footage films of high entertainment value, many more have made films that are simply average, below average, or so below average that they are unwatchable.

Even though some found footage narrative conventions have become clichéd due to their recent overuse, I still think that this subgenre has the potential to tell stories that other subgenres can't. As the name suggests, "found footage" is just that--footage that was shot by one person or group and found by another. With so many forms of video technology available these days, the footage could come from anywhere: home video, security cameras, news footage, live Internet video feed, and so on. In other words, wherever a video camera can be found, a found footage horror movie has the potential to be made.

In the case of Noroi, the found footage in question is a documentary that was completed by a journalist two days before he went missing. Unlike most found footage films, Noroi is shot like a documentary with very few "shaky cam" shots. What also sets this film apart from others in its subgenre is the span of time it covers: most found footage films cover events that occur within a few hours or a few days, but Noroi examines events that occur over the course of several months. Such differences result in a different kind of horror movie, the kind that foregoes jump shocks and excessive gore in exchange for an eerie, creeping mood that stays with you long after the film ends. Read on for my complete review.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Adults Become the Ultimate Monsters in the Vernon Smith's Hide

"Killer kid" stories, stories where one or more children become bloodthirsty murders, has long been a popular subgenre in horror. A few of my favorite killer kid horror movies include Village of the Damned (1960), Who Can Kill a Child? (1976), and The Children (2008). Yet for a many killer kid novels, short stories and movies that there are, there are very, very few that reverse the roles in this subgenre. In other words, while there are plenty of stories about previously normal children becoming relentless and remorseless killers of adults, few dare to depict a situation where previously normal adults become relentless and remorseless killers of children. Not so with Hide, a new comic book series that's written and drawn by Vernon Smith and published by El MacFearsome Comic Squares.

The plot behind Hide is as simple as it is scary: One day, people over the age of 18 decide to go on a killing spree against everyone who is under the age of 18. (By everyone under 18, I mean everyone--no child is spared.) No clear reason is given in the comic (at least not yet) as to why this is happening; even creepier is that the adults still behave normally around each other and only become consumed by a violent rage whenever they see a teenager or a child.

The first issue of Hide is currently available at comic stores, and you can read it online at the El MacFearsome Comic Squares site. According to the site, Hide should total at 140 pages in length when it is finished; judging by what I've seen in the first 22 pages, this is going to be a wildly terrifying ride.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

KMD Artistry Restores Two of Hollywood's Classic Human-Insect Freaks of Nature

KMD Artistry, which is owned by visual artist Kelly Delcambre, specializes in restoring and replicating props and costumes that have appeared throughout Hollywood's history. To date, KMD projects have included replicating costumes from Universal's classic monster movies to restoring mechanical props used in films such as the original Fright Night (1985). Delcambre has also designed and produced many cosplay costumes, which are very remarkable in their own right. Yet with me being a huge fan of "Big Bug" movies, I wanted to call attention to one of KMD's restoration projects that is near and dear to my dark, twisted heart: the human-fly costumes from the original The Fly (1958) and its first sequel Return of the Fly (1959). Click below for more pictures of the human-fly monster restorations, as well as a few thoughts about how the restorations compare to the original costumes. All pictures are provided courtesy of KMD Artistry.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Classic Italian Horror Cinema Lives on in Insidious (2011)

One of the great things about being a long-term horror fan who watches both American films and films from other countries is noticing how older horror films impact newer horror films in different cultures. No, I'm not talking about Hollywood's current infatuation with remaking horror movies, both domestic and foreign; I'm talking about how filmmakers from one country adopt the look and feel of horror that is often associated with filmmakers from another country--while at the same time remaining faithful to their own cultural roots. Such mixture of styles result in horror movies that are much more engaging than those that are content to merely imitate the cinematic approach used by the most well-known horror movies.

Take Insidious, for example. When it was released in 2011, the ad campaigns promoted the fact that it produced by people from the Saw and Paranormal Activity franchises--namely James Wan, Leigh Whannell, Jason Blum, Jeanette Brill, Oren Peli and Steven Schneider. Wan directed Insidious, while Whannell wrote its screenplay and Blum, Brill, Peli and Schneider assumed producer duties. Such advertising was done to capitalize on popular American horror franchises, and the plot of Insidious does bear some plot similarities to Paranormal Activity (2007) and other popular American horror movies such as The Exorcist (1973) and Poltergeist (1982). Yet what I did not expect when watching Insidious was just how much it was influenced by classic Italian horror directors such as Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. In other words, as American horror movies go, Insidious is the most Italian movie I've seen that wasn't made by anyone from Italy.

Insidious tells the story of Josh and Renai Lambert (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) who have just moved into a new home with their three children. After one of their children Dalton (Ty Simpkins) slips into an inexplicable coma, strange occurrences begin to plague the Lambert family. The Lamberts move to a new address to escape what they believe to be a haunted house, but the haunting continues in its frequency and intensity. Josh and Renai soon learn that the key to ending the haunting lies with saving their comatose son, a task that requires the Lamberts to look to the past for answers.

I don't want to say too much more about Insidious because it will give too much away. What I can say is that I think it is a movie that delivers an ample supply of scares, largely through Wan's careful attention to detail: the film features many visual and spoken clues that pay off greatly during the film's final act. I also encourage horror fans who love films by Italian directors such as Bava, Fulci and Argento to see Insidious because they will find much to appreciate in this movie. As the film progressed, it reminded me of classic Italian thrillers such as Shock (1977), Suspiria (1977) and The Beyond (1981).

I think that Wan's homage to Italian horror was intentional: If you look closely in Dalton's bedroom in the second house, you'll briefly see a page from a Diabolik comic book displayed in a picture frame. The character Diabolik made his first appearance on the big screen in 1968's Danger: Diabolik, a film that was directed by horror maestro Bava. That said, I'd also advise that fans who don't care for Italian horror, which is known for balancing surreal creepiness with low-budget camp, might want to avoid Insidious for the same reason why I appreciated it. If spaghetti horror isn't your thing, Insidious probably won't be either.

Insidious is a welcome addition to the haunted house subgenre of horror, but fans who know their foreign films will also be thrilled by the movie's frequent nods to the classic Italian approach to fright flicks.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Star Wars Flashback: Early Star Wars Remote Control Toys and Model Rocket Kits

This weekend marks the release of the Wii U, the new Nintendo gaming console. The big selling point for the Wii U is the touch screen control pad, which offers new ways of interacting with video games. With me being a sci-fi fan, hearing about a new kind of video game control scheme immediately leads me to wonder how the new scheme will allow me to better interact with and control the iconic vehicles from my favorite sci-fi franchises when they are ported into a video game environment.

Take Star Wars, for example. The earliest video games that put fans in the seats of Rebel and Imperial star fighters first appeared during the 90s, with titles such as X-Wing and TIE Fighter. (There were also the Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back arcade games in the 80s, but those were more like rail shooters than flight simulators.) Yet even before video games had enough sophistication to create a vehicle simulation fit for a galaxy far, far away, Lucasfilm tried to give fans the experience of controlling a Star Wars vehicle through remote control toys and model rocket kits (with varying degrees of success, of course). Click below to look back at these early attempts to put fans in the seat of their favorite Star Wars vehicles.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) is Fantastic

Through my blog, I do what I can to call attention to movies, TV shows, video games, prop replicas, or other things that I think deserve some additional recognition among the fan community. Most of the things in question are from the genres of horror and sci-fi, but I'm happy to make exceptions to this rule for things that fall outside of these genres. This brings me to the topic of this post, my review of Wes Anderson's stop motion animated film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is based on a book by Roald Dahl.

I'm not sure how Fantastic Mr. Fox escaped my attention for so long. I only have a passing familiarity with Anderson's films but since the movie is based on the work of an author who's as popular as Dahl, I'm surprised that it didn't earn a more successful reception. I've read that 20th Century Fox had no idea how to promote this film, so it became the victim of an extremely poor marketing campaign. That shouldn't have happened, because Fantastic Mr. Fox is a witty animated fable that is entertaining for children and adults alike--all without loading its script with pop culture references, casting the most popular movie stars, or clogging its soundtrack with the latest batch of one-hit wonders. Read on for my complete review.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Three Wii Horror Games That Were Never Released

With the official release of the Nintendo Wii U console just a few days away, I thought I would take the time to look back at three promising horror titles for the Wii that never made it to the store shelves. Mind you, I'm not talking about horror games that were released for the Wii overseas but not in the U.S. (although there are a few of those, such as Japan's Night of the Sacrifice), nor am I talking about horror games that were released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 and not the Wii. No, these are games that spent plenty of time in production and development but for whatever reason were not released--ever. Click below to read more about these unseen Wii games (listed in alphabetical order), games that may still have a chance on the Wii U.

Friday, November 9, 2012

REC 3: Genesis (2011) Movie Review: 'Til Demonic Possession Do You Part

After watching all of the films in the REC franchise so far, I've come to this conclusion: The ending for the first movie in 2007 was that film's "twist" ending. Period. I don't think that the film's creators had any plans to explore that ending in any greater detail, let alone build a franchise around it. Yet a franchise is what REC started and as of the latest entry, REC 3: Genesis, fans are no closer to learning anything more about the larger significance of the ending of the first film within the REC universe.

To be sure, REC 3 is not a bad horror film; its director Paco Plaza has a lot of talent and it shows in many sequences of this sequel. But even though REC 3 is a more polished movie than its predecessor REC 2 (2009), it still is a weak sequel in terms of advancing the plot that was started in the first movie. Read on for my complete review. Note: If you haven't seen REC yet but would like to, skip this review now and come back later because this review will spoil the ending of that movie for you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's a Beastly Bare-Skinned Bloodbath in Wii's Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers

As of this post, I have come to the end of the horror video games that I'll be reviewing for the Wii, at least for the time being. With Wii U's release set for later this month, I figured that I'd ease off the video game reviews for a while until the new Nintendo console has a chance to settle in and demonstrate how its new selection of touch screen controls complements the pre-existing motion controls. Thankfully, the Wii U is reverse compatible with Wii games, so feel free to come back to this site for reviews of low-priced Wii games that you can play to tide you over until you can afford the more expensive Wii U games.

This review is of Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers, which was released for the Wii back in 2009 by Tamsoft. In case you couldn't tell by the title, Onechanbara is a big, heaping serving of campy Japanese gore cheesecake, a video game counterpart to films such as Tokyo Gore Police (2008) and Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009). As a game, it feels like an oversimplified version of Hunter: The Reckoning, but the main appeal of Onechanbara is found in its endless supply of blood and dismemberment. Read on for my complete review.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, a Pilot Movie about Humans Fighting Intelligent Machines, Debuts this Friday on a Computer Network

Oh, you silly SyFy Channel. Have you ever liked the sci-fi genre at all, or was your initial airing of sci-fi TV shows just an excuse to sneak more professional wrestling and reality TV on the air?

I just found out that the two-hour pilot episode of Blood and Chrome, the long-delayed prequel spin-off of Battlestar Galactica, will be making its debut this Friday. However, the pilot will not be seen in a single showing on the SyFy Channel, which was home to the rebooted Galactica and Caprica, the first prequel spin-off series. Instead, the Blood and Chrome pilot has been edited into ten chapters that will be made available on Machinima's YouTube channel starting this Friday. You can learn more about this segmented premiere here at the Entertainment Weekly site.

I enjoyed the Battlestar Galactica reboot through most of its run, although things started going downhill when the "Final Five" Cylon infiltrators started hearing Bob Dylan in their heads. Don't get me started about the series' finale--that frustrated me so much that I completely avoided Caprica. But anyone who knows anything about television knows that if you really, really want to promote a new TV project, the last thing you do is chop it into pieces and dump it in some obscure location. (Wait--did I just describe a mob hit?)

To be sure, Machinima isn't the most unpopular site for video content on the Internet (see this page for stats about Machinima) but from what I've read, putting the Blood and Chrome pilot on Machinima is not a teaser for a new TV series, but some kind of weak promotional campaign to help sell the pilot when it is released on DVD in 2013. In other words, this is part of SyFy's attempt to ensure a return on its investment in a failed attempt at creating a new TV series. I suppose that impressive DVD sales and high ratings from online viewings could earn Blood and Chrome the series commission that it didn't earn initially, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Anyway, here’s a preview trailer for those of you who give a frak:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Nerd Rant: Darth Vader Goes to Disneyland, while Terminator Remains Lost in Time

Everyone knows by now that George Lucas has sold Lucasfilm and all of its creative properties, such as the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, to Disney for over $4 billion. This is big news for both Star Wars fans and sci-fi and fantasy fans in general, so I thought that I would contribute a few of my own thoughts as to what this means for the future of Star Wars and sci-fi/fantasy film franchises in general, as well as how it compares to the current status of the floundering Terminator franchise. Read on ...

Friday, November 2, 2012

What Every School Needs: A Zombie Survival Club

Last Halloween, I did a blog post about how Westlake Ace Hardware and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) were using zombies as part of their respective public outreach campaigns. Not wanting to be left out of the zombie apocalypse preparedness movement, John Deere Middle School in Moline, IL has created their own "Zombie Survival Club" in time for this year's Halloween.

According to the Quad-Cities Online news site, "Zombie Survival Club is made available through a partnership between Lights ON for Learning 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the Moline Public Library. ... The program was created by Jan Laroche, the teen services librarian who has an interest in Zombie movies and recognized the trends in teen literature about zombies. She says the club will focus on STEM lessons (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in a fun setting. 'Zombie Survival Club is intended to be a lighthearted, activity based program that develops educational skills through a fun after school curriculum.'" Click here to read the full story, and you can see the video report about the club that aired on WTVR here.

From what I've read and seeing the video report, the Zombie Survival Club is a variation on the CDC's zombie apocalypse campaign that I wrote about last year that's aimed at a younger audience. While practical, real-life emergency survival information is incorporated into the club's teaching materials, you can't go wrong with an educational program where kids can proudly say, "We learned what weapons to use to kill some zombies."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Star Wars Flashback: Happy Halloween, Ben Cooper

This Halloween is going to be a damp, soggy one for me with Hurricane Sandy beating up the east coast, so I thought that I would warm my geeky heart with a trip down Halloween memory lane to a much simpler time. A time when Halloween costumes were easy to find and cheap to purchase. A time when a flimsy piece of molded plastic, a thin elastic strap, and an easy-to-tear vinyl suit bearing a copyrightable logo could pass for a Halloween costume. A time when Halloween itself was all but owned by Ben Cooper, Inc.

I don't know much about Ben Cooper, Inc. as a company, other than that it had the licensing rights to produce cheap Halloween costumes of just about any character you could think of during the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. These costumes were everywhere when Halloween season rolled around, so much so that it became synonymous with Halloween itself when I was growing up. Talk to anyone around my age or older (or even slightly younger) and I'll guarantee that they've worn at least one Ben Cooper costume for Halloween during their lifetimes. Of course, I'm being modest--they probably wore several Ben Cooper costumes, since they were so easy to find and purchase. Thanks to Ben Cooper, Inc., even the most negligent and emotionally distant parents could provide their kids with a passable Halloween experience.

Looking back, I'm amazed at how much chutzpah Ben Cooper, Inc. had in its selection of characters to market as Halloween costumes. It even produced costumes based on the Rubik's Cube toy and Atari's Asteroids video game. (Click here to see RetroCrush's list of the worst costumes produced by Ben Cooper, Inc. and its competitors.) I kept my costume Ben Cooper selections limited to Star Wars--I had the costumes for Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper, in that order--and in honor of that, I've assembled a picture gallery of Ben Cooper Star Wars costumes based on pictures that I've found around the net. Not all of them are here--I couldn't find a decent picture of a Ben Cooper Yoda costume--but I found enough to let you know that we've certainly come a long, long way in terms of license Halloween costumes. Click below to see the gallery, including the Ben Cooper R2-D2 costume. (Yes, there really was a Ben Cooper R2-D2 costume. That's chutzpah for you.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Giant Insects Reign Supreme in Wii's Escape from Bug Island

I'm a big fan of "big bug" movies, so it would seem obvious that I would pick up a copy of a survival horror video game called Escape from Bug Island for my Nintendo Wii, right? Well ... not necessarily. When the game first appeared in the U.S. back in 2007, it was panned by most video game reviewers. Yet with this game's drop below the $10 price point, I recently decided to give this game a chance anyway to see if the critics were right. Speaking as a big bug movie fan, they weren't.

I can think of several survival horror video games for the Wii that have better graphics, better level designs, and better stories. Even Wii's other bug-centric game, 2009's Deadly Creatures, has better production values. Yet where Escape from Bug Island really delivers is where it delivers the most: It's got plenty of big, icky, human-eating bugs ... and that is AWESOME! Read on for my complete review.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Skew (2011) Movie Review: When Video Cameras See Dead People

I missed last weekend's premiere release of Paranormal Activity 4, but I did have the time to watch another kind of "found footage" movie called Skew, which was written and directed by Sevé Schelenz and has won a few awards on the indie film circuit. Read on for my complete review.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Complete Batcave, Lego Style

If Bruce Wayne ever decides to re-design the Batcave, he may want to talk to these guys first:

Meet Carlyle Livingston II and Wayne Hussey, two Lego aficionados who took it upon themselves to make this astonishingly detailed Batcave replica. According to Discovery.com, "This is the culmination of about 400 hours of work over three months, completed in March. This intricate Batcave employs the use of four motors to operate some cool features, such as the Batmobile's turntable, a lift for the vehicle and a wall with rotating costumes and weapons. The masterpiece also integrates lighting, bringing to life this grand project. ... Weighing in at 100 pounds, the duo estimates the creation to use about 20,000 pieces 'but it’s probably much more.'"

Looking at pictures of this amazing feat, two things immediately came to mind:

1. This Batcave set dwarfs every other Batcave play set ever made, both in terms of details and features, with room for all of the iconic Bat vehicles.

2. I really, really need to pick up a copy of the Lego Batman 2 video game.

Click below to see more pictures of the Lego-ized Batcave.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Gallery of Gleefully Ghoulish Dolls by Shain Erin

I found some interesting pictures the other week that I thought I would share on my blog, pictures of horrific, malformed dolls made by Shain Erin. I've seen quite a few horror-themed dolls and action figures over the years, but very few of them are as creepy as those produced by Erin. In fact, they remind me of the dark, enigmatic dolls from Richard Sala's giallo-esque graphic novel, The Chuckling Whatsit.

According to the profile Erin provided on his Wordpress site, "For the last several years I’ve been preoccupied with dolls: I see them as a long under appreciated art form with virtually unlimited expressive possibilities. I’m inspired by traditional world art figures (kachina, bochia, nkisi, namchi, shadow puppets, etc.) while working to push the boundaries of what a “doll” is as far as my imagination and skills will take it. ... These are not comforting toys; they can be challenging and defiant, disturbing and enchanting, irrational and frightening, beautiful and sad. They have stories they yearn to tell, and they hold secrets they will never give up. I like to think of dolls as spirit vessels and the making of a doll a kind of offering or invitation. It’s always a collaboration between me and whatever spirit comes forward."

Unfortunately, the Wordpress site that I quoted above, which features his work from 2008 to 2011, is the only site that I have been able to find so far that it directly linked to Erin. Neither his official site nor his Esty page are working, so I have no idea how to contact him to find out if he still makes the dolls or how to purchase them. Click below to see a picture gallery of some of his dolls, dolls that evoke thoughts of ghosts, zombies, mummies, and other macabre nightmares.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

DC and Marvel Superhero Cartoon Report Card, Fall 2012 Edition

News has been circulating around the Internet this week about Cartoon Network's sudden and unexpected decision to halt the airing of new episodes of Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice until January 2013. While the exact reasons behind this decision remain unclear, I think that now is a good time for me to weigh in on how good each of the DC and Marvel superhero cartoons are doing on their respective homes of Cartoon Network and Disney XD. Read on ...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Onryo Ghosts go Gaming in Wii's Ju-On: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator

The series of Ju-on films that were started by Takashi Shimizu have grown into quite a franchise during the last few years. What began as two stories within a Japanese television anthology movie titled Gakko no kaidan G led to the production of two direct-to-video titles and five theatrical releases during the following decade: two theatrical movies in Japan, and a remake with two sequels in the U.S. In 2009, a two-part film was released, Ju-on: White Ghost/Black Ghost, to celebrate the series' 10th anniversary. With so many films under its belt, a tie-in video game is inevitable. That tie-in is Ju-on: The Grudge Haunted House Simulator, which was released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2009.

As a Wii title, the Ju-on game is three things, in this order of priority: an experience first, a story second, and a game third. In my review, I will examine each of these elements and why this particular combination results in a game that, in spite of its ambitions, will only be of long-term interest to die-hard Ju-on fans. Read on ...

Friday, October 12, 2012

NEW--A Pocket-Sized Arcade Cabinet!

Way back in 2010, I published a post about hand-held and tabletop video games from the 1970s and 80s. Part of that post discussed a series of tabletop games released by Coleco that emulated popular arcade games and looked like much smaller versions of arcade cabinets. At the time I joked, "Given the advancements in micro-computing and compact, high-definition video screens, a really devoted fan could probably gut one of the Coleco emulators and convert it into a tabletop unit--in other words, convert a plastic shell that was originally designed to house a VFD emulation of Donkey Kong into something that could house an actual, playable arcade version of Donkey Kong." Apparently, someone at ThinkGeek either read my post or thinks exactly the same way that I do:

Meet the "Arcadie iPhone and iPod Desktop Arcade". According to ThinkGeek, "The Arcadie Desktop Arcade is designed especially for iPhone and iPod Touch. Slide your device into the wee cabinet, pop it in the 30-pin connector dock, load up an Arcadie-supported app, and you're ready to play. More apps are being added every day, but for now there are games like Blasteroids, Alien Invaders, Ping, Stacker, and more. The 8-way joystick and two buttons will have you pew pew pew-ing the afternoon away, feeling like a jolly geek giant."

I don't have an iPhone or an iPod, but it amuses me to no end that someone remembers the video game arcade era so fondly that he/she is willing to make a teeny tiny version of an arcade cabinet interface for cell phones--even at the risk a causing some crippling new form of carpal tunnel syndrome--so that nostalgic geeks everywhere can relive the glory days of coin-op gaming. Now all they need to do is come out with Arcadie Desktop Arcade units that have marble-sized trackball controllers and action figure-sized light guns so that gamers can also play Centipede and House of the Dead knockoffs.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Deviant Artist Takes a Closer Look at Mimic's Judas Breed Bugs

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I'm a huge fan of monster art. In particular, I'm an avid collector of various mediums (books, magazines, toys, and scale miniatures) that provide accurate and detailed representations of certain movie monster designs that I consider to be art. Such designs would include the mechanical shark from Jaws, the biomechanical parasites from Alien, the submersible monster suit from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the various stop-motion puppets that Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen used throughout their respective careers in movie special effects. Such an interest becomes an exercise in frustration when I find a movie monster design that I like but I cannot find any pictures or miniatures that provide me with a clear look at the design. Case in point: the Judas Breed insects, the giant GMOs from Guillermo del Toro's Mimic (1997) and its two sequels.

As demonstrated in the behind-the-scenes featurettes that were provided in the recent Blu-ray release of the Mimic director's cut, del Toro and his Mimic crew put a lot of work into the Judas Breed, both in terms of their fictional biology and the effects that were used to bring the creatures to life. Unfortunately, even the high-resolution images provided in the Blu-ray release didn't provide any clear pictures of what a Judas Breed insect looks like in its entirety. On the other hand, the only pictures I can find of the Judas Breed online are either incomplete or murky.

Thankfully, I have just found someone online who not only has a mutual interest in the Judas Breed design, but also has the talent to produce detailed pictures of what del Toro's carnivorous and camouflage-capable critters look like, both in the original movie and in the sequels. The Mexican artist in question goes under the screen name of BlackCoatl, and he added his Judas Breed pictures to his account on the deviantART site a few months ago. Click below to see BlackCoatl's beautiful renderings of the different Judas Breed designs, as well as some additional thoughts about the designs and their changes in the sequels.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Splatstick Fantastic: The Cabin in the Woods (2011) and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

Films that successfully combine horror and comedy are elusive things to find. The best ones work because they combine a genuine affection and understanding of horror with a willingness to satirize the genre's most improbable and outlandish conventions. Thankfully, I recently found two films that excel at making the mixture of horror and humor work: The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. Both are witty spoofs of the familiar horror movie plot where vacationing young people are trapped in a remote location by some kind of menace, but each film takes a different approach to satirizing such an over worn contrivance. Cabin in the Woods uses the plot as a starting point that expands into a gruesome parody of horror cinema in general, while Tucker & Dale use it as the basis for a gory comedy of errors and misunderstandings.

Without giving too much away, Cabin in the Woods is basically a horror movie version of The Truman Show (1998). Both films are commentaries on the insatiable human need to mold real events and emotions into evocative (and sometimes predictable) stories, no matter how rigorously reality refuses to be reduced to such simplification. Yet because Cabin in the Woods incorporates horror and gore into its story, it eschews the sentimentality of Truman Show and instead dives head first into our collective fascination with the things that terrify us, no matter how improbable or ridiculous such things may be.

Cabin in the Woods was co-written and produced by Joss Whedon, so much of the film's humor stems from its absurd mixtures of the fantastic and the mundane. (Die-hard Whedon fans will also have fun spotting "Whedonverse" alumni such as Amy Acker, Fran Kranz and Tom Lenk.) Furthermore, the film steadily escalates the labyrinthine connections between its characters and situations into an insane, over-the-top conclusion that rivals Peter Jackson's Dead Alive (1992) in the amounts of geysering bloodshed yielded.

Tucker & Dale begins with a group of college students who are heading into the wooded mountains for weekend vacation, but then shifts its perspective to two well-meaning local rednecks, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), who have similar plans of their own. A series of hilarious chance encounters between the students and the rednecks build into a murderous misunderstanding that leaves few survivors standing by the film's ending.

Even though Cabin in the Woods has its own style of gore-based humor, Tucker & Dale is a perfect example of "splatstick" humor, humor that has been defined as "physical comedy that involves evisceration". During the film, the college students come to believe that Tucker and Dale are murderous, inbred cannibals who are out to capture kill them, and their attempts to defend themselves from the mild-mannered and accident-prone rednecks result in hilarious, blood-drenched sight gags. (One of the funniest scenes involves a bee hive and a chainsaw. Really.) Fun trivia fact: Whedon was not involved in Tucker & Dale, but Whedon fans will recognize Tudyk from Whedon's Firefly and Dollhouse TV series.

For horror fans who are in the mood for a double feature of giddily gory movies, I highly recommend The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beware of The Black Page in Wii's Calling

Of the many Wii horror games in which I have been indulging as of late, the hardest one to locate and purchase was Calling, which was developed by Hudson Soft exclusively for the Wii and released in the U.S. in 2010. Despite its status as a Wii exclusive, the game didn't receive much publicity and its distribution was very limited. I can understand somewhat why this happened, since Calling is not a typical video game. Calling is less of a standard survival horror game and more of a multiple-perspective ghost story that is told through a series of three-dimensional, interactive environments; hence, I noticed that many reviewers had no idea what to make of it, even to the point of despising the game for its obtuse approach to horror gaming.

Calling has a few problems, but I found the overall gaming experience to be very rewarding and I could appreciate what the developers were trying to accomplish in making such a unique and unusual horror game. Read on for my complete review.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ghosts Get Serious in The Uninvited (1944)

As a horror movie fan, I do what I can to familiarize myself with noteworthy milestones in horror movie history. Thus, I recently watched The Uninvited, a 1944 horror movie that was based on the novel Uneasy Freehold by Dorothy Macardle. The Uninvited was one of the first Hollywood movies that took ghosts and haunted houses seriously. Previous films either featured ghosts in comedies or revealed them to be practical jokes or engineered distractions to keep attention away from criminal activities (you know, like most of the plots in Scooby Doo cartoons).

The Uninvited tells the story of pair of siblings, Roderick (Ray Milland) and Pamela (Ruth Hussey), who purchase an abandoned mansion that overlooks the English coast. Spooky and inexplicable things begin to occur shortly after they move in and their subsequent investigation into these paranormal events takes them into the strange, secretive lives of the mansion's original owner, Commander Beech (Donald Crisp), and his granddaughter Stella Meredith (Gail Russell).

The Uninvited is a well made movie, with a talented and likable cast, polished direction and cinematography, and special effects that are still convincing even by today's standards. Nevertheless, seasoned horror fans will notice a significant difference between this ghost story and subsequent movies such as The Haunting (1963), The Changeling (1980), and Poltergeist (1982). When watching this movie, it felt like the filmmakers were extremely reluctant to use the ghost as the source of dread and scares; instead, they opted to focus on the mystery behind the mansion's haunting, a mystery that doesn't take long to solve. In fact, I would wager that most modern viewers will figure out what is haunting the mansion and why halfway through the movie, long before the main characters do. Further emphasizing such reluctance is the dialogue exchanges between the characters (much of it consists of witty banter) and very few of the characters are genuinely frightened of the haunting.

I'm still recommending The Uninvited to horror fans due to its significance within horror cinema and because of its overall quality, yet I'm also certain that others will come away from this film feeling the same way I did in that it is a missed opportunity. Given the subtexts of the film's central mystery (which includes thinly repressed lesbianism, among other things), The Uninvited could have been a much bolder film had the filmmakers put more confidence in their subject matter and shifted the story's main perspective to that of Stella's, which would have made this ghost story a more focused cinematic experience.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Review of Scrap Sculptures' 12" Terminator T-800 Endoskeleton

A few weeks ago, I did a post about Scrap Sculptures' 7-foot-tall Terminator T-800 endoskeleton. Even though that sculpture is way out of my price range, I nevertheless wanted to add the smaller 12-inch sculpture from the same company to my own Terminator collection. I'm glad I did--weighing over three pounds and made completely from recycled metal parts, this T-800 sculpture is one of the most fascinating and durable items that any Terminator and sci-fi fan can purchase. Read on for my complete review and picture gallery.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Review of Lancer's VFA-6I Alpha Fighter from Toynami's Robotech Masterpiece Collection

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of a Veritech Fighter replica that Toynami produced as part of its Robotech Masterpiece Collection (click here to read that review). This post is a companion to that review, since this is a review of an Alpha Fighter from the same Robotech Masterpiece Collection line. When I purchased this Alpha Fighter, I did so because I felt that I should have an Alpha counterpart to the Veritech that I purchased for such a low price. Unfortunately, I had to pay the original, non-discounted price for the Alpha, and I'm still unsure if the price I paid was worth the product that I received. Read on for my complete review.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nerd Rant: Gentle Giant's Jumbo Star Wars Action Figures Jumbo-Size Kenner's Toy Gaffes

Last April, I posted a rant about Gentle Giant's line of Jumbo Vintage Star Wars Action Figures, wondering how this line could keep going when all it is is a series of expensive enlarged action figures--no extra details, no extra points of articulation, nothing.

Then again, what do I know? The line is still running strong, with recent releases including jumbo versions of the Lando Calrissian and Yoda figures from Kenner's Empire Strikes Back line and a jumbo Gamorrean Guard figure from Kenner's Return of the Jedi line. I kept thinking that there has to be something more to what Gentle Giant is doing other than just making small things bigger, and I think I finally figured out what it is. Gentle Giant is not only re-releasing Kenner's original figures on a larger scale, they are also re-releasing every variation that's possible for those figures as well. Read on....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Experience Tibetan Terror in Wii's Cursed Mountain

With computer technology's relentless advancement in the area of graphics, both in terms of complexity and depth, I find myself more and more amazed at how vividly some video games can create a virtual environment--so vividly that you can almost feel it as if it were a real thing. Such a feeling enhances a gaming experience considerably, since it's much easier to empathize with the game's characters and situations if you're engrossed in the atmosphere of the world they inhabit.

Such is the case of Cursed Mountain, a survival horror game that was released for the Wii back in 2009. Cursed Mountain takes place in the Himalayan mountains during the late 1980s, and the game's rendering of the many environments you encounter during the game is nothing short of breathtaking. Read on for my complete review of this immersive horror chiller.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Brief Review of Ti West's The Roost (2005)

Among the latest generation of horror writer/directors, I've been particularly impressed with the work of Ti West. House of the Devil (2009) and The Innkeepers (2011) are two of the best horror films from the last five years, so I decided to take a look at West's earliest feature-length effort, The Roost, to get an idea of how far he has come as a director. While it's not as good as West's other work, it features a few of his trademark style choices in their early stage of development.

The Roost is about four friends who are on their way to a wedding when their car is run off the road after a near collision. The friends walk to the nearest house to find it deserted, with a barn nearby--a barn that houses a horde of bats that thirst for human blood.

As debut filmmaking efforts on a limited budget go, The Roost has enough wit and style to make it worth watching. The film's main story is bookended by scenes featuring a ghoulish Horror Host (played by Tom Noonan, who would later appear in House of the Devil), an affectionate nod to late show broadcasts of horror films during heyday of syndicated TV channels. The story itself is thin and the characters make questionable decisions (particularly towards the end), but you can see West using this low-budget outing as an opportunity to begin crafting his "slow burn" style of horror as the film progresses.

West carefully sets up all of the characters and locations before letting the scares commence, which allows for the establishment of a particular mood that complements and accentuates the horror when it finally emerges. Even though you don't learn too much about the main characters, there's enough small talk and emotional exchanges between them to let you know that these characters have a history with each other outside of the story itself. The bat and gore effects are impressive considering how cheaply they were done, and West throws in a secret about the bats that is not explicitly explained through dialogue but makes enough sense to keep the scares going in spite of the film's short, simple plot. Not to give too much away, but The Roost would work as the first half of a double bill with a film like 28 Days Later or Quarantine. It should also be noted that The Roost was produced by veteran horror director Larry Fessenden, who also makes a cameo appearance and would go on to produce some of West's subsequent films.

The Roost is not Ti West's best work, but it's something that West fans and cheap horror film aficionados can both enjoy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Blast Away Dinosaurs in Wii's Jurassic: The Hunted

Jurassic: The Hunted is the best first-person dinosaur shooter for the Wii that was published by Activision back in 2009. This may sound like a dubious honor, since other Wii FPS games such as Red Steel 2 and the Conduit games leave Jurassic in the dust. Nevertheless, it helps to keep two things into mind when considering a game like Jurassic:

1. Jurassic is one of the few horror/sci-fi themed FPS games for the Wii that doesn't involve aliens, zombies, or futuristic cowboy-ninjas.

2. The other Wii dinosaur FPS games, Dino Strike and Top Shot Dinosaur Hunter, are cheaply-made shovelware titles in comparison to Jurassic.

If you've got an itchy trigger finger that's craving for some carnivorous dinosaur thrills, keep reading for my complete review of this dino shooter game.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

An Interview with Jaws Diorama Sculptor Nigel Humphreys (Part 2 of 2)

Here is the second half of my interview with Nigel Humphreys from Sculptoria Studio about his upcoming series of collectible Jaws dioramas. In this part of the interview, Nigel talks about how he goes about selecting the Jaws scenes and images he hopes to recapture in diorama form, the list of collectibles he plans to release in the near future, and additional movie collectible work he has lined up outside of the Jaws license. Read on....

Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Interview with Jaws Diorama Sculptor Nigel Humphreys (Part 1 of 2)

While continuing my obsession with high-quality replicas of famous movie monsters (an obsession that dovetails with all of my other movie-related obsessions), I have recently found promotional pictures for a series of Jaws dioramas that being produced by Sculptoria Studio, which is located in Manchester, England. Thankfully, Sculptoria’s founder and creative director, Nigel Humphreys, was kind enough to answer a few questions that I have for him about his Jaws work, his love of sculpting, and how he applies his sculpting talents to his love of Jaws and other horror and sci-fi franchises. Read on for the first part of the interview.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It’s College Students vs. Plant Monsters in Wii’s Obscure: The Aftermath

As far as I know, the cinematic narrative formula of teenagers versus monsters has been around since the 1950s, when movie producers realized that teenagers had enough disposable income to spend on movies. Early examples of this type of horror movie include Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), Earth vs. The Spider (1958) and The Blob (1958). This kind of teen-centric horror subgenre earned its notoriety during the 70s and 80s, when its films began to include heavy doses sex, nudity and gore. Yet for as well known as this narrative formula has been in horror movies for over 60 years, it hasn’t had much of an influence in horror video games. This brings me to my review of Obscure: The Aftermath, which was released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2008.

Unlike other horror video games, Obscure: The Aftermath takes many of its themes and plot points from horror movies that are commonly associated with the teenage demographic; in fact, as I played the game, I found myself reminded of such films as Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), Return of the Living Dead (1985) and Night of the Creeps (1986). While it’s not the best horror game that’s available for the Wii--or for any system, for that matter--the willingness of Aftermath to tell a of story that’s become commonplace in horror films but rare in horror games kept a horror fan like me entertained and curious about where the game would go next. Read on for my complete review of this unique entry in the genre of survival horror games.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Scrap Sculptures Builds a Full Metal Terminator

I’ve seen plenty of Terminator replicas over the years, including many interpretations of the T-800 endoskeleton. However, I’ve never seen a T-800 that’s completely made from real metal and real mechanical parts … until now.

Meet Scrap Sculptures, a Los Angeles-based art company that specializes in making sculptures by using recycled metal. Scrap Sculptures has previously produced sculptures of characters from various sci-fi franchises, including Star Wars, Alien, Predator and Transformers, but its T-800 sculpture leaves me--a die-hard Terminator fan--completely floored. This menacing machine is 7.5 feet tall and it features a removable gun and a movable head, jaw and arms. It’s not an exact replica of a T-800 endoskeleton--Scrap Sculptures’ work is considered fan art and each sculpture is an interpretation of an iconic character, not a copy--yet it’s usage of real metal and real mechanical parts is very complementary of the original design’s usage of pistons, cables and hinges. Furthermore, because the sculpture is made from real mechanical parts such as bicycle chains, shocks, gears, nuts and bolts, this T-800 has a Steampunk feel to it, sort of a “Steampunk Terminator”.

Read on to see more pictures of this amazing sculpture, and to learn more about the process the Scrap Sculptures uses to bring classic movie characters to life in the form of recycled metal.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Review of Jack Archer's YF-1R Veritech from Toynami's Robotech Masterpiece Collection

What can I say? I'm a sucker for miniatures and replicas of characters and vehicles from my favorite TV shows and movies. So when Toynami started releasing Robotech mecha as part of their "Masterpiece Collection", beginning with mecha from the Macross Saga, I knew I had to pick up at least one of these items regardless of their high prices. Fortunately, I caught a break when I saw on sale the only vehicle in Toynami's Robotech line that came straight from a video game and not the original anime series--namely, Jack Archer's YF-1R Veritech from the 2002 Robotech: Battlecry game. Read on for my complete review of this unique bit of Robotech merchandise.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Joe Dante's 3D Movie The Hole (2009) Will Arrive in U.S. Theaters This September

I just heard around the 'net that Joe Dante's 3D movie from 2009, The Hole, will finally make it to silver screens here in the U.S. this September. While I still can't pin down the details about how wide this release will be, all I can say is that it's about time.

The Hole is about two young brothers who find a heavily padlocked door in the floor of the cellar of their new house. After they open the door, they discover that they've unleashed a dark force that torments them with their deepest fears.

Why The Hole has been seen just about everywhere else but here is still a mystery to me. It was shot in Canada and it has a very American look and feel to it--it even won an award at the 2009 Venice Film Festival--and yet audiences in the U.S. will be the last ones to see it in the theaters. Furthermore, it's not like Joe Dante is an obscure or unproven director--he gave us such great films as Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, Innerspace and Matinee, and yet his first 3D movie doesn't make it into American theaters until three years after its initial release? What gives?

Anyway, below are two interviews that I found with Dante that were done during The Hole's release overseas.