Saturday, June 29, 2013

Book Review: Deadly Diseases


Review:  #347
Title:  Deadly Diseases
Series:  Horrible Science
Author:  Nick Arnold
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  This is an interesting book, and not just because of the content.  The way the author had presented it was very fun.  I wouldn’t say its novel, since if you’ve read other books in the “Horrible” series, then you’ve encountered this style before.  I liked the puns and the light-hearted (yet still serious) way it presented the information.  The illustrations are nice, and most are funny.  The book was enjoyable to read and you really learn a lot from it.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Latest Buzz (Season 2)


I can instantly say that Season 2 is better than Season 1 from every angle.  The story arcs in each episode were much better than Season 1's.  Season 2 episodes were much more interesting and the humor was more entertaining (most of the time, it worked, whereas in Season 1 there were a few forced moments).  This is partly due to the fact that there is no need to do introduction episodes for each character and their traits anymore.  I commend the last third of the season where the episodes were really good and funny.  I miss some of the funnier characters from Season 1 though like Herman.  With that being said, there were still some random episodes where the plot device is some super annoying trait that was never before seen (and never will again) of a main character, it gets very annoying.  Relationships also starting happening in this season, with the focus on Rebecca's and Noah's relationship.  We saw that coming but it felt as if it skipped straight from the bond forming to them dating.  It was jarring since we never saw Noah fully spell his feelings out and propose to Rebecca (we only saw hints in one episode and then a few episodes later, they were a couple).  The writers have also progressively hinted more heavily Amanda and Wilder; poor Michael gets left out in this area.  As is usual with these sitcoms, there are a lot of cringe worthy moments where the characters do stupid things or events that are cliche.  Anyway, the final episode in the season was nice, it was touching at the end.  The way Shepard and DJ got together in this episode felt like it was on speed dial...  The cliffhanger with the words "to be continued" is a tease though.  Overall, a good season and elevates this series from an "okay" to a solid "plus".

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Punisher


A simple concept for a plot, but it works.  What happens is that Castle (who turns into the Punisher by the end of the movie) has his whole family killed, and the rest of the film is spent with him getting his revenge.  I thought the film started off fairly well, and the massacre of Castle's whole family (family as in including his cousins, parents etc, it was a family reunion) was quite shocking, especially when you consider the fact that it wasn't his fault that someone's son died.  While it's cool that the protagonists survives whatever is thrown at him, sometimes you do have to wonder if he has some sort of supernatural abilities because a lot of times, he is hurt pretty badly and fatally.  I think the film's darker and more serious tone helped the character.  You feel the injustice of all the film's events and can't wait until you see the antagonists suffer for their crimes.  Some of the plot elements you could guess quite easily, such as artificially creating the affair to get the antagonist to kill his best friend and wife.  I think it's quite a good action film that wasn't boring at any point in the film.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Review: Cardcaptor Sakura: Master of the Clow Vol. 5


Review:  #346
Title:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow Vol. 5
Series:  Cardcaptor Sakura:  Master of the Clow - 5th volume
Author:  Clamp
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Probably the most anticipated volume in the series.  Why?  It’s because it is the one where the revelations come rushing out.  We *finally* get to hear the reason behind Eriol’s meddling against Sakura that has been the heart of the “Master of the Clow” arc.  You could rack your brains again and again and it still won’t warn you of what is coming.  That’s not to say that Eriol’s rationalisations were perfect, but they do the job.  There were a few surprises, but some you would have suspected throughout the course of the manga.  The art was as great as ever, and at the end of the volume, there were a lot of emotion.  You see these heart warming elements of friendship and care that’s very satisfying.  An excellent volume, the only flaw was that it ended quite abruptly.
Rating:  6.5/10

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Addams Family


I remembered watching the cartoon before and loving them, but this movie doesn't really live up to the name.  The actors were good, but it was the plot that let you down.  The plot was weak and didn't amount to much, it seems like a thirty minute episode extended into a full blown movie.  It was overly simplistic and events were just mashed together, with no true flow or coherence.  I found myself bored by around the half hour mark, and the film just didn't pick itself up.  You could half-guess the plot elements.  I liked the appearances of the characters though, I thought they had it pretty much spot on.  However, those characters are weird (and as they should be), but they weren't as funny as you would have wanted.  I think they tried to be funny by having the characters act strangely but in the end, they just felt strange for doing what normal people wouldn't do.  Most of the humor wasn't exacting the best.  I think the only moment that I liked was the scene where the two kids were performing in a play and all the blood squirted out.

Monsters University


When you think of a sequel for the amazing Monsters, Inc, a prequel isn't exactly what you would expect, yet that is what we got, but hey, give it a chance before you start condemning it.  Monsters University is an entertaining animation film, it does not reach the emotional heights of the original movie, nor does it have the same level of charm and fun.  It's still very enjoyable and there were a few moments where the humor was great and you'll be chuckling quite hard.  The plot isn't anything special, we get to see how Mike and Sullivan form a bond (after initially not liking the each other).  The way you see their friendship grow resonates by the end of the film.  It's nowhere near as great as Boo, but I don't think the creators had that in mind in the first place for this movie.  There are some neat bits that tie it to Monsters, Inc, such as how the rivalry between Sullivan and Randall formed, these may be minor points in the movie but it's nice that it's here to make it feel like a proper Monsters, Inc film.  There are a couple of inspirational speeches and messages throughout the story, and it does make you feel good.  You feel anxious and then great when Mike succeeds at the 'end'.  The climax of the film was unexpected and felt jarring compared to the rest of the movie, it felt tacked on.  A lot of college jokes feel like a retread from other films.  The biggest thing against Monsters University is that it is nowhere near as imaginative as some of the studio's previous films but overall, the film works and is a nice movie.  No regrets watching this at all.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Book Review: Plugged


Review:  #345
Title:  Plugged
Series:  Daniel McEvoy (not official name) - 1st book
Author:  Eoin Colfer
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Where there were many things that I didn’t quite like or enjoy about this book, I just kept reading onwards.  I felt that there were too many flashback scenes, and it was confusing at first, but it did give us a better look into the background of the main character.  There are some very weird characters present and a lot of swearing and crude mentions.  While this is described as a crime thriller, I didn’t feel much tension or suspense.  The situation changes drastically as the book go on too, and it feels as if there were a couple of distinct subplots going on around at different parts of the book.  Near the end, you’d thought that the whole thing was over, and then suddenly, the second major plot comes into play and you get another situation brewing.  It’s an interesting book but it doesn’t stand out too much.
Rating:  6/10

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Blitzwing


Review:  #135
Name:  Blitzwing
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations
Year of Release:  2013
Size Class:  Voyager (Wave 3)
Variations:  none as of this date

TANK MODE:


Let's start with the tank mode first, which I think is actually the better vehicle mode.  Everything pegs together solidly and it looks convincing as a tank.


Well... from certain angles anyway (of course, the official photographer chose to take pictures of Blitzwing from the only angles that make his three modes look good).  You can clearly see the gappiness (is that even a proper word?) and the jet nosecone sticking out.


As ridiculous as a sword on top of a tank looks, it's worse if you don't plug in the sword to cover it the gap up in the turret.  It helps a little bit when you fold the tailfins on the legs to make it seem that the back is more solid than it is.


That said, the toy does a good job of hiding all the jet and robot elements inside, there are some really neat concepts here.


On the underside, you can see the jet nose and the robot chest, but it doesn't give too much away on how Blitzwing transformers (and he's not a shellformer like the original G1 toy).


In addition to the triple-changing gimmick (yes, if you already haven't picked it up, Blitzwing is a triple-changer, even after Hasbro said that they wouldn't make another triple-changing figure after Animated Blitzwing coz of the difficulty), Blitzwing has a few additional ones, which is surprising.  First off, the turret features a spring loaded missile launcher, pull back the cannon and it'll fire the missile, it's neat.


The turret also turns but I wouldn't recommend it.  First off, it'll reveal the gaps at the back and second, the swivel isn't in the center of the turret so turn it too far and it'll look weird.


There are little plastic wheels on the treads so Blitzwing can roll in this mode.


In terms of comparison, here he is with his wave-mate Springer.


And another comparison with Optimus Prime.  Don't be fooled into thinking Blitzwing has more mass, I think Optimus is heavier, Blitzwing just gives the illusion of being bigger due to how the tank forms.


There are some nice molded details (most are just generic lines).  Obviously it's not terribly realistic due to the colors but it does a nice job.


Not a bad tank mode, sure, there are heaps of other Transformers that forms a better tank, but considering the amount of things this guy is expected to do, he gets away with it.

TRANSFORMATION (JET):

Not too hard conceptually, but in reality, things can get annoying.  There are some neat elements like how his hips collapse down (and you fold down the panels that filled in the front gap in tank mode) and how the wings form.  Then there's the annoying fiddly things like his jet nosecone and the cannon.  That said, everything pegs somewhere, it's just when moving pieces to get there, you might dislodge other pieces.  It's an interesting transformation and doesn't feel lazy at all.

JET MODE:


From certain angles (like the one above), Blitzwing's jet mode looks excellent.  It may be a bit blocky but still very aerodynamic and looks like a jet.


From other angles... it's not so good.  Just like the tank mode, the back is gappy.  And just like the G1 toy, he has the cannon sticking out the back.


You really need to plug in the sword on top to cover up that massive gap in the middle of the back end of the jet, it makes it so much better.


Blitzwing features an opening cockpit, which was a surprise.  There's some nice molded details inside (and it's painted too).  Watch out though opening the cockpit causes the nosecone issue (which I'll come back to later) to become even worse.


So, onto the nosecone issue.  For some odd reason, the designer decided on a spring loaded head to pop up, this shouldn't be a problem except for the fact that there is no catch to keep the head down.  So the head ends up always wanting to pop out and force the nosecone off.  This problem is compounded by the fact that the nosecone is made of soft plastic, which means it doesn't tab on securely and you end up stretching the soft plastic trying to force it on.  NOT good.


Other than that, this is a nice jet, I guess as always, it was better as a concept than the execution.  Another small problem is that the lower tail fins are on balljoints so they're easy to dislodge.  Every piece has a place to tab in so you can fly this guy through the air and he won't collapse.


As a jet, Blitzwing is more spread out, as you'd expect, but as shown in other photos, there's a lot of empty space in the middle, coz it's all an illusion.


A comparison with his wave-mate Springer, both in their flying modes.  Anyway, Blitzwing has a landing gear that folds down from under the nose, the other wheels are molded on.  I really like how they didn't try and shove everything to the bottom of the jet and create some undercarriage kibble (something that still happens with a few non-triple-changing jetformers).  The arms on top of the jet look natural and like a 'fast pack'.


It's a solid jet if you can look past a few of the problems, a good effort.

TRANSFORMATION (ROBOT):

80% of the tranformation is fine and causes no problems, what's a little bit annoying and fiddly is how the shoulders form, since there's some panel folding happening here (which is actually fairly ingenious).  I think the shoulders are the neatest concept while all other parts are standard affair.  It should be noted that some joints are annoying tight.

ROBOT MODE:


Personally, I think this is the best mode of this toy.  The robot just looks so good.  The aesthetics is perfect and it evokes Blitzwing nicely.


Plus, unlike the other modes, there are no gappy sections here.  It seems like the designer focused more on making the robot mode look good, which is fine since that's the mode that most people will have him in.


You can have the cannon sticking straight up like the G1 toy and cartoon model or you can have to pointing down.  The nosecone is weird coz it doesn't seem like there is a proper place for it to go (there is not much clearance with the cannon on his back).


Onto the weapons, Blitzwing retains both his melee and ranged weapons.  There's his wicked looking sword (which has the blade painted in a lighter purple) and a small pistol.  Very awesome.


Here's a shot of the headsculpt, it's excellent.  I can't say anything bad about it...


In a homage to the Animated character in which that character has split personalities (three in total), and had three different faces to support that, so does this guy.  The normal G1 face is the 'hot headed' one, and above is the 'cool and calculating' one.


Then there's the 'crazy' one (my favorite).  Sadly, these faces don't really seem to meld with the G1 style helmet too much, it looks odd if you're not using the G1 face.  It doesn't carry the same charm as the Animated toy and character.  Plus, due to this gimmick, the head is longer than it should be, which might be partly why it's causing problems in jet mode.  Finally, the joint for the face changing gimmick (you rotate the faces up) is tight and you feel like you might scratch the paint off or rip the faces off when you're doing it.


Some quick comparisons, here he is with Springer.


And here he is with Optimus.  Blitzwing is a really decent size, his blockiness gives the illusion that he is really big (well, he is... but you know).


Obviously, Blitzwing can hold he sword for some cool sword poses, he has a rotating wrist even though it's not required for transformation.  The sword feels a bit too short though, if it was longer, it'll be even cooler, as it is, it looks like a stub compared to Springer's massive (and cool looking) sword.


Sword poses could be easier purely because the fact that Blitzwing has a major problem here.  Due to his torso piece having too much plastic, the tabs on his shoulders doesn't peg in securely (and on some figures, not at all).  This means when you're posing his arms, you just completely dislodge the shoulders, it doesn't help that the joints are tight and they're attached on thin panels so you feel like you're warping them every time this happens.  It's fixable, but you have to disassemble the figure and shave down some plastic.


He can also hold his pistol but it's stupid in the fact that there's the raised piece of his forearm that blocks the pistol, so you have to attach it at an angle or more loosely.


The articulation is good, he has balljointed feet in addition to a lot of swivels, he can be in a wide variety of poses.


Sadly, due to his nosecone, you can't tilt the cannon overhead to fire forward.  Anyway, I love posing him in a standoff against Springer, it's like, triple-changer against triple-changer.


And now... time for a little bit of fun with his other faces...


There's surprisingly a lot of paint applications here, his lower legs are painted biege, there's the paint on his chest, his face and helmet and his forearms.  It's much more than you'd expect and with all the moving parts needed for his transformation, I'm surprised they managed to have the budget to do paint all of these details.


Apart from the nosecone and to a certain degree, his cannon, Blitzwing's robot mode is kibble free, nice!


Due to his large feet, he stands solidly in a wide variety of poses.  The color scheme is very nice.


This is a great looking bot, it's nice that he also has a Decepticon insignia in full view.


As mentioned before, this is the best mode of Blitzwing, if you can stand the shoulder issues, then Blitzwing is just brilliant and is a very nice update to the G1 character.

OVERALL:

Blitzwing is much more ambitious than Springer, it seemed that the designers tried out a few new things to try and make Blitzwing better.  In the end, some of these didn't work, whether it was just due to clearance issues or a bad judgement.  However, Blitzwing is still a solid triple-changer and he's a lot of fun to play with.  He's crammed with gimmicks which gives him more play value.  Both vehicle modes are passable and the robot mode visually stunning.  If you can ignore the various flaws (the two major ones is the shoulders and nosecone), then Blitzwing is well worth having.

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Check out Springer's toy review from this page here.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ghost Rider


Never read the comic books based upon this character, so I went into this movie with really no expectations on how it should be.  I think that this was a good thing since the film garnered fairly negative critical reception but I thought it wasn't such a terrible movie.  While the film never elevates or becomes really good, it wasn't boring in any places either.  It was fairly typical in how the film takes around forty minutes before the main character, Johnny Blaze, finally becomes the titular Ghost Rider and we get to see him in action.  The design is pretty cool, but the way he defeated some of the earlier enemies just seem underwhelming (the thing is, there is no flashiness like some of the other Marvel superheroes).  As the primarily antagonist, Blackheart just wasn't that cool.  The story didn't have depth, it was basically just Blackheart wanted the contract with 1000 souls so he can create Hell on Earth, that's it.  No back story or any real particular reason he wanted to do that (except to gain power).  I did like how Ghost Rider defeated Blackheart though, getting over the fact that Blackheart doesn't have a soul to burn.  The special effects that went into this film could be more realistic.

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