Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Review: Cage of Eden Volume 3


Review:  #369
Title:  Cage of Eden Volume 3
Series:  Cage of Eden - 3rd volume
Author:  Yoshinobu Yamada
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The story gets more intriguing and the art gets better and better.  There were still some scary moments, particularly the disease that had taken everyone (that was freaky).  The author has a way of just throwing these freaky moments at you when you least expect it.  It kinda sucks that the team is split up again by the end of the volume.  There were some random moments but a good volume.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, August 30, 2013

Elektra


If Daredevil was successful enough to create this spinoff, they should have created a sequel instead.  Elektra is a movie that will bore you to tears, there's really nothing going for it to make it worthwhile to watch.  The plot is intensely bland and flat, nowhere in the film does any excitement happen, even the fight scenes (of which there is very little) were below average.  Once again, the moves are fairly stylized and filled with special effects and a lot of a twisting, turning and jumping around.  However, they're not done that well so it's hard to enjoy it and it looks completely fabricated (you will not expect anyone to fight like that in real life).  The performances were stale, it's hard to discern any emotion from the characters.  The flashbacks of Elektra, supposedly trying to provide some backstory to the character, and create some sort of emotional journey/transition, fails completely.  There are too many flashbacks of the same thing, and it breaks up the pace a lot.  The character is so different from the one in Daredevil that you can't find any of the similarities.  The explanation given in how she came to this predicament is weak.  While I wouldn't say that the movie is a complete disaster, it IS boring, a chore to watch and not recommended.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review: Agent 21


Review:  #368
Title:  Agent 21
Series:  Agent 21 - 1st book
Author:  Chris Ryan
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Not as addictive as some of the author’s other stories, this series seems to take on a more fictional approach (but there is still a lot of realism and survival tips scattered throughout).  The first half covers how Zak gets developed into the titular Agent 21 and the second half is understandably, his first mission.  What the book lacks is some sort of more concrete plan, the things that happen to Zak, it didn’t feel like it was a lot, actually.  The whole ploy to get close to the drug lord’s son, it never really worked since Zak and Cruz (the son) never really got into “best friends” area.
Rating:  6/10

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

To Love-Ru Darkness Vol. 8

VOL. 8

29 – Manservant

This turned out to be quite a funny chapter.  The jokes used were better than normal and wasn’t as contrived (well, there were still those moments but they weren’t as frequent).  Nemesis comes to play with Rito and makes Momo jealous.  I thought the whole situation was contrived.  The explanation about the ‘darkness’ ability in Yami was lame although I think that was done on purpose to make it more funny (and it did work).  If they didn’t have that bath scene at the end, it would have been so much better.


The plots have started to diverge and the chapters are more vague and aimless now.  Even though the author tried to tie it back, it felt weak.  You get the suspicion that Nemesis has already started falling for Rito (even though he did nothing...).  Rito’s also too naive; it’s starting to get ridiculous.  You would have thought that he’d have built some resilience to what was happening around him but nup.  Still, it’s a good time passer.

30 – Resistance

It feels like more of the same (once again), with a whole chapter dedicated to how Yami and Mea’s way of thinking has changed for the better.  We see how they ‘puzzle’ over their feelings and find out their true self, blah blah blah.  Of course, Rito must have his hand in things and get into weird and awkward ecchi situations.  It was really obvious in this chapter how naive most of the characters are, and also how forced some of the dialogue and jokes are.


It feels as if the characters are spouting the same stuff over and over again (they are) with nothing new added in to make it interesting or different.  Oshizu makes an appearance which was nice (although as you’d come to expect, she gets afraid in the presence of a dog and goes psycho).

31 – Cleaning

This chapter wasn’t too perverted, which was surprising (I guess they come in spurts).  As per usual, the plot feels contrived at times and it will somehow involve Rito getting into awkward situations.  Some of the humour was good; they’ll give you a solid chuckle.  There are also a few side characters that make a lengthy appearance like Zastin and Rin.  This lets this chapter feel different and give more variety compared to previous chapters.  Then again, Momo’s plan is starting to get too large and unwieldy with the amount of potential candidates.


If you thought that the first few pages where Zastin was telling the story of a cursed blade to be some trivial mention, it turns out that it wasn’t.  The mentioned blade makes an appearance at the end of the chapter (apparently a plan created by Master) leading to a cliffhanger (something we haven’t seen for quite a while now).  The maid costumes worn were fairly typical and feel overused by now.  Momo’s display of perversion is starting to become disturbing too.

32 – Danger

A continual of the previous chapter’s plot (which is paper-thin anyway), which now involves Rin getting possessed by a cursed sword.  If that isn’t repetitive enough for you, then get ready for a whole slew of reused gags, ecchi moments and action.  It’s slightly disappointing, but there is one or two redeeming humour in there which I thought was quite funny (the passing comment by Yami explaining how Rito is able to dodge all those quick sword slashes despite being a human is the best one in the chapter).


Most of the chapter is comprised of fighting, but it isn’t terrible exciting due to the focus on extreme focus on ecchi (although it isn’t that bad in this chapter).  The cursed sword feels like another useless plot device and doesn’t push the plot forward much.  That and the continual of the cheesy saves and selflessness of Rito make this chapter a bit monotonous.

Extra – Adhesion

This is just another typical extra.  It’s starring Yami this time as she gets into one of those typical exposing poses (thanks to Rito).  Hmmm, if I think about it, this chapter is really pointless since I don’t know if what happened is interesting enough to be even drawn.  Anyway, the chapter is flat-lined until the final two pages, in which is actually picks up!  It was funny at the end (which was unexpected) but it was also an abrupt end (it skips to another scene which at first I thought was a daydream, then something happens and that’s the final page!).

Extra – Mobile Phone

Lala actually makes a bigger appearance in this extra, which is surprising.  However, as can be expected, she unintentionally stuffs some things up, in this case, she fixes Rito’s (outdated...) phone causing some disastrous consequences.  It’s just another excuse though and the ecchi goes a bit further than some of the previous chapters, with some very obvious innuendoes.  Is it funny?  Not really.  Is it boring?  You can’t really say that.  Is it original?  Nup.  It’s what you expect though.  The plot of the chapter does seem shallow and pointless.

Overall

The volume is basically more of the same, and you can’t help but think that it’s starting to get stale.  There’s barely anything here that pushes the plot forward, rather, it’s just a whole collection of fan service.  It feels as if the author has run out of ideas for this series (maybe they should just let it die or at least go on a hiatus and start another series).  As per normal, the art is very nice.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Mockingjay


Review:  #367
Title:  Mockingjay
Series:  The Hunger Games - 3rd and final book
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  First thing you’d notice is that Mockingjay isn’t as addictive as the previous two books.  It’s hard to say why, but probably because the events that take place aren’t as intense or exciting.  This last book chronicles the rebel’s actions to take over the Capitol.  This meant that Katniss is left behind sometimes in the grand scheme of things and there are often scenes where Katniss is not the focus anymore.  That’s not to mention she is suffering some serious emotional stress and trauma.  While it’s realistic, it doesn’t make much of a great read since she was depicted as such a strong character before, it sucks to see her like this.  Then there’s Peeta, with his condition and the time dealt on that situation.  It wasn’t that good and it made the book much more boring by having him out of the book for so long.  Then when he finally makes his appearance, he’s not himself, effectively turning himself into the enemy.  Some of the best parts in The Hunger Games and Catching Fire were of him helping Katniss and giving his motivational speeches.  Similarly with Haymitch, he takes it to the background and doesn’t help as much as previously.  As per usual, the deaths are shocking and some of your most beloved characters perish for the greater good.  The ending was good, it could have been terrible after all this build up but the author delivered.
Rating:  7/10

Monday, August 26, 2013

Daredevil


For some reason, Daredevil himself reminds me of Batman, from his fighting style, to his mask, to his stick that he uses to travel around.  Anyway, I felt that the film was an over-exaggeration of pretty much everything.  The fighting was very stylized, to the point where it doesn't look too realistic or possible.  I felt that after the introduction (which was pretty good), it failed to engage the viewer into the story (which is pretty simplistic), and the villains felt pushed into the background.  There wasn't a focus on the villains Bullseye and Kingpin, it would do wonders to the film is they were given more backstory or at least better rationalizations to their motives other than that one is a mercenary and the other is doing 'business'.  It was kinda disappointing in that there wasn't much character development (at least, less than expected), and the characters were fairly bland and uninspired.  It's not a terrible movie, but it feels very average.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Ghost Knight


Review:  #366
Title:  Ghost Knight
Series:  N/A
Author:  Cornelia Funke
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The plot is best described as simple.  At one point, you feel that there could be potential but it never lives up to it.  The beginning was slow and nothing too exciting happened.  From the title, you would have expected either the setting to be in a fictional world or from the past.  Not true, it’s set in the present which takes a little bit of getting used to.  The middle where the Ghost Knight rises up and protects the main character, Jon, was great.  The little facts that were given from the ghosts’ abilities were awesome too.  Then the ending just kinda dies down and you feel that the peak wasn’t high enough.  The illustrations was a great idea, and some of the drawings was stunning and impressive.
Rating:  6/10

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Latest Buzz (Season 3)


The first thing you'd notice upon beginning to watch season 3 of The Latest Buzz is "whoa!  Everyone's grown up now!".  I mean this literally, as all the main character looks fairly different compared to back in season 2.  Anyway, about six episodes into this season (around twenty six episodes), the plot suddenly starts to get better and much more fun to watch.  The humor is notched up a dial and some moments were done extremely well.  By this point, you start to care for the characters, a lot.  The ideas are neater and there are less cringe-worthy moments, even a few scenes where it was quite clever.  You still get the odd episode here or there when 'best friends' start to argue against each other over some fairly petty or strange misunderstandings, and so easily too!  Well... the plot required it but still, considering that they know each other fairly well now, and supposedly everyone's changed such that their annoying traits shouldn't be as evident anymore, there are still too many episodes where they just play that trait up too much (then in the next episode, everyone's all virtuous and everything).  This season puts a bigger emphasis on an overarching plot amongst all the episodic subplots.  Mostly it's to do with the relationships, Amanda with Wilder, Rebecca with Noah, and to a degree, DJ with Shepherd.  Amanda and Wilder's relationship turns from bitterness to sweetness, back to bitterness and then climbing to sweetness again (ups and downs I guess).

It was somewhat rushed at one part where they got forgave each other and got back together.  The ending with them was sweet and just loved the episode where Amanda brings a Prince who is a Wilder look-a-like (one of the best episodes).  While Rebecca and Noah spend the first half of the season at each other's throats, not admitting that they still have feelings for each other.  I wished that the couples could have spent less time arguing and more time getting back together...  Anyway, the final episode was very emotional, and tugs at your heartstrings.  I liked how they managed to give each character a future that was pulled from some of the iconic moments of that character's past.  By the end of 65 episodes, you feel as if you have grown along with the character/cast, experienced their hardships and you've seen how much they have changed over the course of the three seasons.  You know how well they work together, what their personalities are and feel as if you were right there along with them for all that time.  As if you'd expect, it's a happy ending and when they each do a little speech at the final toast, you can't help but be sad that this is ending.  After this final episode, and the amazing preceding episodes, you really don't want this series to end.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules


Review:  #365
Title:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  Rodrick Rules
Series:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 2nd book
Author:  Jeff Kinney
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Keeping on with the theme as a diary, it lacks a solid plot, having one event happening after another.  What happens to Greg is very funny, and the simple illustrations add a lot of charm.  There are many many times where you feel as if Greg has it unfair, as his parents seem to spoil his younger brother Manny and his older brother Rodrick, more than him.  It just seems as if his parents can act illogically at times.  It manages to keep you flipping page after page to find out what’s going to happen next.
Rating:  6/10

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Total Recall


Despite the negative critical reception (which truly astounds me sometimes, a lot of supposedly "good" movies are pure rubbish or doesn't seem to deserve what they got), Total Recall isn't a disaster.  It presents an intriguing idea, and I thought they way that they had it fleshed out was done well.  The start could be confusing when it turns out to be a dream, but once the main character Doug heads off to Rekall to get implanted memories, that's when things got interesting.  The fact that Doug had his life fabricated (which explains the beginning scene) and the fact that later on in the movie, how they tried to twist the truth and convince him that what he was experiencing wasn't real, that was quite neat.  The future is depicted as bleak and old, with the rusty and awkwardly built structures.  The improbable escape in the climax of the film was a low point (pretty sure if they got out of the transport while it's traveling through the Earth that the gravity and pressure would kill you) and that the action scenes felt a little bit generic.  There was an abundance of swearing that made it feel... artificial and for no good reason (other than to signify that they're in a death-is-likely scenario?  Which we could see anyway...).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review: Cage of Eden Volume 2


Review:  #364
Title:  Cage of Eden Volume 2
Series:  Cage of Eden - 2nd volume
Author:  Yoshinobu Yamada
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  This volume flows better and the chapters are getting more and more interesting.  Although the extinct animals that are introduced here aren’t as exciting or shocking as it was in earlier chapters (I guess because we are expecting them now).  There are some intense moments as the characters fight for their survival, you can feel their fear as they hide from a fearsome predator, or when they trek out into the other unknown.  In addition, the deaths continue to shock you (well, at least the first one anyway, the other two you’d knew it would happen eventually).  The resolution from the previous volume’s cliffhanger wasn’t that interesting (and this volume’s cliffhanger isn’t that good either).  I like how the book shows how this disaster had bring out the worst in a lot of people, how they’ve changed from their normal selves in a bid for self-preservation.  It should be noted that there are some awkward shots up a girl’s skirt which seems out of place here.
Rating:  6/10

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers Masterpiece MP-12T Tigertrack (Tokyo Toy Show Exclusive)


Review:  #147
Name:  Tigertrack
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Masterpiece
Year of Release:  2013
Size Class:  Masterpiece (MP-12T)
Variations:  a repaint of Sideswipe, also shares mold with Red Alert

PACKAGING AND CONTENTS:


Tigertrack is a Tokyo Toy Show 2013 exclusive, coming in a black shiny box (it's reflective and not matte like the normal Masterpiece boxes).  There's a grayed out piece of artwork on the front.


While we only have an outline of the robot for the back, which is slightly disappointing, since TakaraTomy usually has awesome official pictures.


A scan of the box's front to show the details more carefully.  You'd notice the prominent Lamborghini badge.


And the back, which has the bio and shows the contents inside.


In terms of accessories, there's not too much.  There's his shoulder cannon, a gun, two jackhammers and a sticker sheet with two Autobot stickers of difference size.


Don't forget the bio card!  Show's a nice piece of colored artwork (the same as the one on the front).


The back shows the official photos of the figure as well as some tech specs.

VEHICLE MODE:


Tigertrack transforms into a yellow fully licensed Lamborghini Countach LP500S.  The whole body is painted yellow, so the shade of yellow used is consistent (it's unavoidable but the paint used on transparent plastic is still a slightly different shade).


This is an amazing vehicle mode.  It's a very accurate replica.  Sure, there are transformation lines breaking up the smoothness but all the painted details and proportions are spot on.  Only complaint would be that you can see part of the feet that forms the back of the car (where the exhausts are, it's too low to the ground, which seems weird).


In terms of size, Tigertrack is a bit bigger than a Deluxe, and smaller than a Voyager.  Tigertrack is also fully plastic, not even rubber tires (although I don't really care too much about that), thus Tigertrack feels a bit lighter than you would want.


Supposedly, Tigertrack scales with the rest of the Masterpiece line, particularly Optimus.


This is one of the best alternate modes a Transformer figure has had since the Binaltech/Alternator era.  Tigertrack proudly displays his Lamborghini badge at the hood of the car.


Tigertrack is well painted, apart from the lavish coat o the whole vehicle shell pieces, the headlights, rear lights, vents etc are all painted.  Although it kind of makes you wish that the exhaust pipes are also painted silver too.


You can see the biggest panel breaks are on the side of the car, which forms his arms in robot mode.  Tigertrack rolls, as you'd expect, and he sits quite low on the ground.


So, one of the promo pictures of the Sideswipe (the original character for this mold) was how the vehicle mode interacts with Optimus' trailer (i.e. it fits into the trailer).


I guess that's neat, if you're into that sort of thing, but it just limits the size of the figure a bit (Tigertrack needs to be a little bit bigger).


Tigertrack is compact in this mode, all the space is filled up in car mode, which is a nice touch (it's something you rarely see in contemporary figures).  You can also see the big difference between the yellow paint and the bare yellow plastic used (you don't see those unpainted pieces in vehicle or robot mode, so don't worry about any inconsistencies).


You can also store most of Tigertrack's weapons in car mode, the two guns peg together...


...and then you can plug to onto the roof.  Okay, so it's not exactly storing the gun but it doesn't look too bad.  The slot it plugs into is spring loaded, so a panel fills in the gap if the gun is not plugged in, this is a nice touch.


Tigertrack is wide and flat as you'd expect of a sports car.


While this model of Lamborghini still looks nice, it is a little bit dated in terms of the blockiness.


There's no other gimmicks to speak of, it is evident that the designer focused upon the displaying aspect of the figure (that, and I guess Lamborghini would have restrictions about replicating their vehicles and not deforming it too much).


Another thing that's lacking would be chrome!  He doesn't have any whether it be the robot or the vehicle mode.  It feels a little bit weird although I wouldn't know where they could have put the chrome so that it looks good (definitely not the feet as it'll chip easily).


This is an amazing vehicle mode that faithfully reproduces the Lamborghini Countach.  It will look great on any display.

TRANSFORMATION:

Tigertrack isn't hard to transform, but he isn't that easy either.  It's very satisfying and for the most part, intuitive.  The way his legs form is different, it's basically panels of the vehicle rear flipping open to form his legs (i.e. the panels wrap around his robot thighs in car mode).  It's very well done and is easily the best part of this transformation.  The arms are average in terms of cleverness, but it is executed well.  The hood doesn't deform in any aspect (so that Tigertrack ends up having a fairly large chest/torso), and the roof of the car (along with the doors) don't do much either.  The doors fold in a little bit but in general, it's a big piece of solid transparent plastic.  Overall, it's a fun transformation that you wouldn't mind doing more than once.  At least it's not nerve-wracking or make you chip your toy.

ROBOT MODE:


The robot mode is almost as amazing as the vehicle mode.  Tigertrack looks great here, the proportions are pretty good (although some say the chest is a bit too big/wide) and he has a good color scheme.


He wears most of the vehicle roof on his back.  The Lamborghini doors fold in, but that's the only manipulation of those parts, so it feel as if this big piece of plastic could be compacted down further.


Other than that, there isn't much kibble here.  He wears the spoilers above his feet, although it looks pretty good there.  The mold is cartoon accurate (although it matches the G1 toy quite well too).  On a side note, I only attached the shoulder cannon on his right side coz that was how he was drawn in the box artwork.


The head sculpt is decent, but there is not lightpiping (the eyes are painted blue though).  The head can swivel from side to side and also look up.  Something to note is that they used the Sideswipe helmet but the Red Alert face, to create a unique head compared to the other two.  While the Red Alert face isn't all that different (just some slight proportions and not as 'evil' looking 'slit' eyes as Sideswipe), it is an appreciated effort.


Tigertrack expands a little in this mode, being more Voyager sized, although he still feels a bit short compared to the revised Masterpiece Optimus.


As mentioned, the way his lower legs are formed are by two panels flipping around.  They've added in another flap to partially cover the hollow center.  That gap is not noticeable in real life but I just wanted to point it out.  It's an interesting transformation concept that hasn't really been done before.


Tigertrack comes with two weapons.  The aforementioned shoulder cannon, and also a handheld gun (doused in silver paint).


The gun has a rectangular peg that corresponds to a slot in his hands (either is fine) to secure it.  His hands are jointed, but only the fingers as one solid piece move (not very useful).


The other weapons are a carry over from the Sideswipe release, black jackhammers.


To attach them, you need to flip his hands in, then plug these jackhammers directly, it can get a tight fit (i.e. annoying to detach).  To be honest, they don't look that great, best to leave them aside.


His side profile looks good, there's nothing that majorly sticks out like a sore thumb.  Tigertrack is solidly built, everything holds and pegs together well (although the shoulders could be designed a little bit better, or at least peg into somewhere).


Articulation is excellent, as you'd expect (no excuses for a Masterpiece figure to be a brick in this day and age).  The range is impressive, most of the joints are using pins, so they won't wear out as fast as, say, balljoints.


The only weak part in his articulation would be his feet.  There's the most static part of the body since they cannot tilt side to side.  They're not extremely limited, mind you, it's just something that sticks out here.


You can get some great poses out of this guy.  I've tried to pose him like the box art... and completely failed, *sigh*.


There's no more gimmicks here to speak of.  Apparently he has more paint applications than either Sideswipe or Red Alert (the original characters of this mold).


To be honest, it would be nice if there were some more painted highlights to break up the solid white and yellow.  The shoulder gun also looks a bit too big for him.


As mentioned, all the visible yellow parts here are painted, which is a nice touch, there are no inconsistent shades of yellow unlike so many other toys.


A great robot mode that looks great.  He'll display well and has quite a few options with his weapons too.

OVERALL:

This is a great figure.  Maybe he's not amazing or will blow your eyes out, but Tigertrack is one solid bot.  The vehicle mode has a lot of attention to detail, and makes for a nice replica display piece.  While the robot mode keeps the G1 look and updates it with modern day engineering.  I loved how they painted all the visible yellow parts with yellow paint to give it that nice premium shiny look (even if the weight doesn't support the hope that maybe there are some diecast parts).  Recommended if you can get him at a decent price.

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