Friday, 8 August 2014

Seriously Off-Topic: Please Help!


Hey everybody! As you may or may not know, outside of collecting figures I'm an aspiring filmmaker, with delusions a single minded goal of working on a Star Wars film in the near future. In respect of that a short film I recently wrote and directed, Beneath the Wormwood Trees, has been shortlisted for the 2014 Film Northants contest, of which the result is partly determined by audience vote.

I imagine you can see where this is going...

Please, I implore you, take a minute out of your day to vote for Beneath the Wormwood Trees right here. It'd mean so much to me to be able to repay the cast and crew with a little bit of success for their endeavours, and it'd go a long way to getting everyone involved the next step along in their careers.

For those of you with five minutes to kill, here's the film in all its glory...


Help me, readers of the MEC. You're my only hope!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Spotlight: Head Off!

Transformers Voyager Springer Hasbro Autobot Fansproject Weirdwolf Quadruple U Monzo Decepticon Headmaster
Not-Monzo makes a break...
Let's face it, it doesn't matter how gnarly your colour scheme, how awesome your alt-mode, how 'second-in-command' you are of the Decepticon Headmasters... When Voyager Springer comes swinging at you with his massive sword, you're not going to stand much of a chance. Monzo knows this. That's why he's getting out of there...

Catch you later, Quadruple U. Best of luck!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Doing The Rounds

Comic Shop Leicester
Enter, ye pilgrim, and browse silently...
This week the Emcat and I took a trip out of town, and as always when we end up anywhere other than here I was spoiled by the selection of geek wares available to purchase. This amount of capitalist envy may necessitate yet another move in the near future…

To begin with we stopped in at one of my favourite stores, Leicester’s Forbidden Planet International. I’m a big fan of both FP chains, and I always try and drop into them when I can (FP Coventry served as my LCS from Civil War through to NYX, and it was somewhere I always enjoyed going). The Leicester store is no different and over the last three months they’ve sold me plenty of Transformers, TMNT and Spider-Man comics and TPBs. This was the first time I’d been out this way since May, and there were a few standout items that really caught my eye this time around:

Last Stand of the Wreckers, Gypsy Danger, Play Arts Kai Robin
Yes please!
Here we have IDW's Last Stand of the Wreckers, Play Arts Kai's Arkham City Robin, and NECA's Gypsy Danger from Pacific Rim (something I had little interest in until actually seeing it on the shelf). Unfortunately at the minute these are all consigned to the ‘one day’ list – but given that I started my new job today, that’ll hopefully be one day soon!

A brief sojourn into the Disney Store scored me a look at the rest of the first wave of Star Wars 12” talking figures, and whilst I’m not sure about Luke, Han Solo and the Stormtroopers look as good as the Darth Vader. Given the size, great sculpting, poseability and action features on these guys, it’s actually criminal that Hasbro is selling the 6” Black Series at the same price point. Something is going to give there, and soon.

Leicester City Centre Shopping
The standard attractions...
We saw a few other cool sights as well, including a market place which was trying its hardest to entice me back to vintage video games, which reminded me that I’m interested in Titanfall and led directly to a look around Game. Verdict: I have no time for video games. This makes me feel sad on one level, but productive and ever-so-slightly ‘adult’ on another…

Of course, all these boasts of adulthood were undone with a follow up trip to Northampton’s Toys ‘R’ Us, the finest purveyor of Transformers toys that I’m aware on in the Northants area. This is in large part because other than the supermarkets there’s nowhere else to actually buy the things, of course…

Transformers 4 Age of Extinction at Toys R Us Northampton
The state of brick and mortar today...
I’ve not really been too smitten with the AOE line, but I think that Scorn looks quite nice. This trip also gave me my first glimpse of Evasion Mode Optimus Prime ‘in the plastic’, so to speak, and I have to say that it looks even better in real life than it does online. I’m still not convinced that it’s the Prime for me though, although I’ll reserve my full judgement until I see the Evolutions two-pack version up close. It’s a definite case of facemask FTW.

Transformers 4 AOE Age of Extinction Optimus Prime Evolutions 2 Pack Evasion Mode Faceplate
Double Optimus!

So there you go; in the world of ‘If I Had Money’, these are the kind of products I’d be coming home with after a Saturday afternoon out. The thing is that even with all this brick and mortar love, I know that online shops provide a much wider selection at highly competitive prices – sites like the excellent Kapow! and Star Action Figures bear me out here – but I maintain that there’s nothing like seeing an item in hand and weighing it up before committing to buy it, and that’s where TRU, with its FOC Generations Deluxes and Voyagers gathering dust, holds the slightest of advantages.

This is an area where I struggle with buying 3rd Party products (as opposed to any moral/copyright concerns). I’ll caveat that by saying that I own Fansproject’s Quadruple U and I’m really impressed with the build quality; but that was a purchase I had weighed up for a long time before going for it. Maybe it’s the case that it is worth waiting on those pre-orders until the figure is in (someone’s) hand, with the trade-off being that you just pay a slightly higher price later down the road for a figure that you know is worth the cost?

So anyway, there’s that idea… And then FP comes along and teases Classics style not-Dinobots.

FP Columpio Derpan Dinobots Sludge Snarl Swoop Slag Slug Grimlock G1 3P
Targetmaster Dinobots!

Well, there goes that resolve.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Spotlight: Generations Orion Pax

Orion Pax Optimus Prime IDW Transformers Autobots
"What happened to my lucky face plate?"
I've been getting to grips with the local landscape since moving earlier this year and I recently found a most excellent location for Transformers shots, as demonstrated by Orion Pax here. Next time I go, I'm taking a few more robots with me...

Amid all my G1 Classics/Generations loving the other month, I neglected this guy due to his IDW origins and anachronistic standing. Yeah, he is a little out of place in my collection, but he's definitely still there on merit.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Episode Guide: More Than Meets the Eye

G1 Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, More Than Meets The Eye
Here We Go!
Perhaps it’s a sure sign that I have too much time on my hands, but this is it – the start of my watch and review of the original Transformers animated TV show. Whilst I’m not going to go through every series in strict chronological order, there’s probably still no better place to start than with the original arrival from Cybertron…

Before the comic book, More Than Meets the Eye was the three-part cartoon pilot that introduced the first generation of Transformers to Earth, and it sure opens with a bang: that theme song, combined with a colourful, fast-paced montage of action shots that lets the viewer know that they’re in for a sugar rush of fun. It’s eye-opening and exciting, and even if it is a bit crude by today’s standards it’s still highly effective at setting up the sides of the conflict and the concept. It definitely reels you in.

Cybertronian Thundercracker and Skywarp hunt Bumblebee and Wheeljack
Enter the Tetrajets
We come straight into the action on Cybertron, with the Autobots desperately hunting for more energon resources as the Decepticons tighten the net around them. These intro scenes do a good job of setting out the basic premise whilst the Cybertronian alt-modes are visually fantastic, with Bumblebee and the Seekers in particular looking like the sleek, futuristic alien vehicle robots they’re meant to be. Size and mass issues are apparent almost immediately as an injured Bumblebee hitches a ride inside Wheeljack, before transforming into a vehicle of almost equal size. As this actually happens so much during the entire series (this isn’t even the worst instance in this episode) I’m not going to draw any more attention to it unless it’s really glaring; but still – improved physics were a welcome addition to later versions of the franchise!

G1 Autobot Ark base background
Home Sweet Home
With the type of compressed storytelling that’d give Brian Michael Bendis an aneurysm we’re on Earth in little over eight minutes of runtime, before succinctly skipping ahead four million years. The Decepticons are repaired first, and there’s nice dramatic irony in the way that Starscream’s petty anger causes the Autobots’ own reactivation. Of all the Decepticons Starscream has the most apparent character in this episode, as his scheming and cowardice is painted in pretty broad strokes. On the Autobot side Hound and Cliffjumper get the most character time as Cliffjumper’s impetuousness causes their spying mission to go awry. I was surprised by how much I liked Hound, an Autobot I’d never cared for before, but his easy going character and love for nature is clearly stated and immediately makes him one of the more likable robots we meet. On that note, it seems apparent that the writers attempted to stagger the character introductions throughout the episode, but by the time Jazz is lining up the Autobot strike force it really becomes no more than a bunch of names and different coloured cars. Never mind though, that’s what the tech specs were for, right? Just don’t tell the FCC…

Autobots More Than Meets The Eye Part One
Heroic Autobots
There are nice references throughout to how the Transformers are robotic beings, which I don’t remember occurring as clearly in later episodes. Bumblebee sustains damage to his rear axle, for example, whilst Hound has a problem with his drivetrain after being attacked by Laserbeak. This is just reaffirming the concept, and the fun of the idea for young minds – these warriors could literally be our cars, with us none the wiser. Robots in Disguise indeed.

Decepticons More Than Meets The Eye Part One
...And Evil Decepticons
The sound design is well worth commenting on. The music tracks are pure 80’s cartoon gold, and the sound effects have become so iconic that they’re instantly recognisable – the transforming noise and Megatron’s cannon are just a few of the audio treats that became staples for the series. The seeds of the great voice work to come are there, but the characters here are the least developed they’ve been in any iteration of the franchise ever. It’s going to be interesting watching how these sketches became the now-familiar heroes and villains of Cybertron as the series develops.

G1 Transformers Optimus Prime More Than Meets The Eye Part One
To Be Continued!
At the episode’s climax the Decepticons raid an oil rig, and the story starts to deliver on the promise of the premise as the two factions battle fiercely. The Autobots and a couple of human workers are trapped underneath the burning wreckage of the rig as the Decepticons flee, before BAM! Along come the end credits and we’re left waiting for Part Two.

More Than Meets the Eye Parts Two and Three are less successful when viewed in one hit, and from the Burma plot line onwards events feel superfluous, and more like extended standalone episodes than necessary additions to the introductory story arc. In fact the first three episodes cover such a wild amount of ground by today's standards that the structure seems all over the place, and certainly doesn't come together as cohesively as multipart stories in later series.

Transformers G1 Autobots Decepticons More Than Meets The Eye
Now this is how you conclude a story arc... Oh wait - it's not?
But ultimately the 1980’s was a different time for kids’ TV programming, and whilst the fast plotting and inconsistent (inconsistently brilliant) animation might not stand up by today’s standards, the opening episodes really do a great job of highlighting the fantastic concept behind the Transformers, and the play possibilities inherent in the toys. That core concept still works, and that’s probably the reason why the Transformers are still around now, a whole three decades later.

Thanks to the excellent TFW2005 for the screengrabs; it's a truly great Transformers resource.

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