Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Un-Boxing Day

I hope you've all had a great Christmas! In particular I hope you've managed to spend time with family and loved ones, as that's what it's all about. And if not this time, then there's always next year...

This is just a quick post to say hello, offer my seasonal regards and to highlight how much toy blogging I need to catch up on following an insanely busy December. To provide a quick visual snapshot, here are all the toys I have to photograph and review. At the time of this photograph (roughly 40 minutes ago), they weren't even opened!

What? No Transformers?!
Okay, so the Landspeeder had been opened. But as I've had no time to use it for anything over than a handful of photos, and needed the space for normal people things, it's since been boxed back up and left untouched. The Stormtrooper is my latest 'Vintage 12' appropriation, and the Turtles, well... Entertaining cartoon, stylish toys, and a mighty ten on the nostalgia scale - these have been a must-buy since I first saw them earlier this year. Only a Donny and Raph required to complete the four!

Told you I'd be coming back to these guys...
And so (roughly 30 minutes ago), that's Leonardo out of the box. Immediate first impressions are decent articulation, great sculpt and a fun figure, but I'll be back with a full review in a few days. As I now have a (slight) break from Uni for the next few weeks, I'm pretty hopeful the others will follow suit in the new year.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


After a couple of weeks of letting my QC standards slip I've been making a conscious effort to step back from the editing software a little, and to try and get a decent picture first time around. Nothing's exemplified this better than these recent Grimlock shots, and I'm really happy with how this set's turned out.

Well, I say "step back from the editing software", but I've still made minor modifications to the image; however, I've kept the emphasis on minor and only slightly tweaked the brightness, shadows and contrast, and not used any photo-apps. I think my reliance on apps and preset treatments led me to believe every image requires loads of post-production, and after some bad photos I remembered that that's not that case.

Akin to my post on copying promo images, the above shot is a Transformers Animated take on the below G1 image; Grimlock getting chompy on Thrust. I always preferred the Seekers over the Coneheads, subsequently the jet getting chowed down on above is none over than Starscream.

G1 nom.
And a wide shot to round it off. I've been properly enjoying playing with this toy and the character, and it's showing in the final product. It seems like my interest in Transformers is really fuelling my creativity; and you gotta go where the river flows, I guess...

So there we have it; how to get your toy photography mojo back with Transformers Animated Grimlock. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A New Breed of Decepticon

As my quest to collect the best modern iterations of the original 12 Star Wars figures draws nearer to conclusion (only one purchase left to make!), I've been teetering on Star Wars burnout - make no bones, I still love the series, and I'm actually listening to the ANH soundtrack as I type this; but after too much of one thing it's always good to flex some different creative muscles... Therefore, I present today's quick snap - Cyclonus!

Post-Movie Second-in-Command to Galvatron, Cyclonus (motto: "Compassion is the Autobots' downfall.") realised the Decepticon cause was all but lost without Galvatron, and led the mission to retrieve him from Chaar. A fierce warrior, he also fought with honour; Ultra Magnus being one Autobot to earn his respect. From the looks of the above scene however, Jazz did not... 

Cyclonus here is from the Reveal the Shield line, whilst Jazz is from Universe. As Transformers (and TMNT as well, but more on that another time) have taken my interest of late, I've also been looking into Third Party products, and today made my first purchase...

The Maketoys MB-01 SP2 Mobine Missile Launcher - Marine Type. Why this obscure bit of kit? Two reasons. Firstly, Third Party products are expensive. Whilst they generally look great, I didn't want to take a £100 plunge on something that my clumsy ham-fists might break out of the box. Secondly:

Oh yeah. Smoulder's getting an upgrade! :D

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

VC92: ‘Realistic’ Clone Wars Anakin Skywalker Review

Here’s a release that would be pretty much tailored for an eight-year old me. Whilst there have been several iterations of the Clone Wars Anakin, they’ve almost all been in the ‘animated’ style – an acquired taste, to be sure. This is the first figure in Hasbro’s move to release Clone Wars figures in a ‘realistic’ style, more akin to the film-based lines, and was followed by a Clone Wars-style Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano. From the concept up (my friends and I used to imagine endlessly what the Clone Wars were like and how Anakin Skywalker was as a Jedi), this figure was a must-buy for the collection…

The Package

The Vintage Collection packaging is a great look for the Star Wars line, and Anakin Skywalker is no different. The Clone Wars logo from the TV series is used, but the image is a photo-realistic portrait of Hayden Christensen in Clone Wars attire against a Coruscant-esque backdrop. The Kenner logo is present on the bottom of the card, and Anakin is packed with his lightsaber and saber hilt on display. As with all European releases, the back of the card is covered by a boring multi-lingual sticker.

The Figure

Anakin Skywalker comes with 14 points of articulation, a lightsaber and a lightsaber hilt. His look is based upon the 2008 Clone Wars film, with the stylish red, blue and brown armour. He wears a four piece soft-goods skirt.

The Light Side

First of all, the figure looks very cool. Anakin’s Clone Wars armour always had a good look to it, and is a refreshing change to the usual Jedi-in-robes look. The facial sculpt resembles Hayden Christensen enough to pass (although it could also be used for Edward Norton), and the lines in the armour and folds in the fabric are very well done. The proportions are spot-on, and despite the small, in-scale, feet, he can balance very well – no stand required!

The joints allow a great deal of posability, which is a massive plus point. The balance is such that the legs can be posed in an action stance whilst still standing up, which is important for an action figure. The ball-jointed shoulders are a good step forward for Hasbro – previously, we’ve seen shoulder pads restrict arm movement, but on Anakin Skywalker, the shoulder pads actually slide under the body armour, leading to a much greater degree of movement. The skirt works really well, matching the colours of the paint apps and actually being quite posable.

The Dark Side

One of the first things I noticed out of the package was that Anakin Skywalker is slightly hunched – it’s not a huge problem in most poses, but it’s there. Another half-criticism is about the points of articulation – swivel hips rather than ball-joints and the lack of upper torso articulation might be a negative to some, but in all honesty the figure has all the articulation it needs, and looks as good as it could.

One definite change I would make would be a hole in the belt to hang the lightsaber hilt from, but that’s it. There’s really not much wrong with this figure.

On Balance

This is a fine toy, and one that’s been a long time coming. Regardless of your opinions of the Clone Wars series, I’m sure that the idea of a Jedi Anakin Skywalker appeals to Star Wars fans young and old, and this time round Hasbro have nailed it. An unreserved five star figure!


Saturday, 17 November 2012


Somehow or another, I've stuck with this blog long enough to hit 100 posts! 70 of those have been from this year alone (which astonishes me to think about); I guess I finally found my groove with it. The truth is I would've given it all up if it weren't for the rapid escalation in hits that started around last December, and has been gradually increasing since. All I can say is thank you for visiting, and that I hope you enjoy my little bursts of creativity!


Monday, 12 November 2012

MH11: Movie Heroes Clone Trooper Review

As I've mentioned before, I find the period between the Prequels and the OT a fascinating time in Star Wars lore - there's a lot of ground to be covered with many of the 'big' characters in their prime, and a wholesale change in the style and look of the galaxy. This is where the Clone Troopers come into their own, having been on a pretty clear path of evolution from their introduction in Episode II. I have to say, with hindsight and a softening demeanour towards the Prequels as a whole, I'm actually rather fond of the ROTS 'Phase 2' look. With that in mind, it's time to review... The Movie Heroes Clone Trooper!

star wars hasbro clone
Clone Trooper and his Gear
Basic Training

This figure is a re-pack of 2005's Clone Trooper with Firing Jet Backpack, a deluxe figure that was based on unused concept art for Revenge of the Sith. As far as I can tell it's a straight-up repack, with no change to the paint apps. The figure features 12 points of articulation and the aforementioned Firing Jet Backpack (essential for anti-Separatist missions!), and a rifle with a sight. It also comes packed with a Star Wars display base, a Galactic Battle Game Card and Game Die.

For the Republic!

Firstly, it's a decent sculpt. A lot of detail has been crafted into the armour, with lines in all the right places and an impressive level of detail on the belt and the right-wrist controls. The paint apps are really well done, with great detailing on the helmet in particular. The ball-jointed head is the right size, and the waist joint, swivel hips and ball jointed knees and ankles allow for some well-balanced poses (although posing is an issue that will be discussed further below). Even with the heavy weight of the firing jetpack plugged into its back the Clone Trooper can still stand up well. The jetpack itself looks very cool, and both the spring loaded wings and missile firing feature work well enough as play features for me; I'm sure that a kid would absolutely love this toy for that alone!

For the Empire!

As you may have noticed so far however, I've avoided talking about the arms. And if you look at the pictures above, you may notice they're all in the same position - and that right there is the serious flaw with this figure, ladies and gentlemen: swivel elbows. Without any kind of hinge action (and nothing like a ball joint), this Clone Trooper is eternally stuck in either a rigid, double-handed gun holding pose, or with his arms out in a 'what ya gonna do?' kind of stance. I know how he'll sit on my shelf, but it's not a great choice. Another problem I've found is seriously loose joints, and a lower left arm that came off straight out of the packet. The former isn't a huge problem because as yet the Trooper's had no difficulty holding a pose, but the arm has dropped out a couple of times since. The rifle is incredibly under-sculpted as well, but it serves its purpose well enough.

"Why me?" bemoans the MH Clone Trooper as his SL counterpart stretches w-i-d-e...
For Some Ball-Jointed Arms!

My overall impression is that this is a very solid toy with one big minus point; however, the good almost counteracts it. There's a decent sculpt, a very good paint job, great lower-body posability that can make the upper-body poses seem less static, and a very cool and well-made action feature that keeps the spirit of the character whilst also providing a great toy. The arms aren't great, but at least the pose they hold looks natural and appropriate, and I'd have absolutely no second thoughts about putting this guy on display next to my Saga Legends Clone Trooper. In fact, I'd say they look pretty swell together...


Friday, 9 November 2012

Watching Them Escape

I'm thoroughly enjoying the Blu-Ray ESB figure pack, and today can introduce the Snowtrooper to the Blog. I still have to take some shots of the Princess Leia, which is an excellent looking figure, but will get around to that when I'm feeling a bit more wintery. I think building a suitable set for her could take some time as well...

I went a slightly different way to usual with this shot, as it was a black and white image that I've edited a fair amount. As always, Vader's cloak needed some touching up to look heavier, and I added the lights to his chest plate. Otherwise the blue tint was achieved by lowering the colour temperature and increasing the saturation. I think it's worked out alright; for sure it's made Vader's armour look great!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Running into Trouble...

I posted this on my Flickr photostream, but the colour temperature was much colder, so I fixed it for here. Not sure which version I prefer now... :S

Film-making is taking over my life currently, which is probably why this photo has such a cinematic treatment. I'll update when I can!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

I Am Ready!

I already thought it would be interesting, but now I'm finding the announcement of the Sequel Trilogy just plain inspiring. Star Wars influenced and inspired me hugely growing up, and it's fair to say that without the original film series I wouldn't have the passion for film-making that I do today. I've already been at film school for over a year and was fully intending to start work in the industry afterward anyway, but Tuesday's announcement (on my birthday, no less) seals it.

I will be working in the film industry when I finish my course. And I am going to do my level best to contribute, in whatever small way, to the Star Wars sequel trilogy.

It's on! :D

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Fence

Well, this certainly changes everything... And nothing.

I'm not a huge fan of Disney, but Marvel's certainly not suffering. Episode 7, 8 & 9 could be great... Or could be as disposable as the Prequels. Either way, it's a clear page turn in the Star Wars story.

What won't change are my copies of the OT on VHS. What won't change are my memories of the best film trilogy I've seen (sorry Nolan; you're close but nostalgia edges it). What won't change is the profound influence George Lucas has had on my life as a film-maker and as a person. I know what Star Wars means to me, and I'm happy with that. Besides, more product means more cool stuff for me to photograph... :)

It's going to be interesting!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Point of Comparisons

Probably the best Star Wars shots I get are the ones that I directly base on stills from the films, and the best place to go for these are production or promo stills, because they might show a slightly different angle to what we're used to seeing. This is interesting in itself, but also because when you're not enslaving yourself to exact screen accuracy, you can roll with the picture a little bit more. Case in point...

I wanted to get some shots of my new Boba Fett figure in action, and I've also wanted to do something Bespin related for a while - an easy two birds with one stone. After a quick Google and a shifty through several images, I settled for this one:

Hardly accurate, I'm sure you'll agree. But the point is, I got my inspiration for the shoot; and after trying several unsuccessful times this morning to get decent pictures of Boba in the bag, it's nice to finally get him up here!

Anyway, there'll be more pictures and a review of Boba Fett and the rest of the ESB Blu Ray pack up soon, before I crack into ROTJ. Exciting times!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cutting It Down to Size

As it's the beginning of study week, I've been able to take an hour or so and crack open the ESB Blu Ray pack. Well, I say crack open the pack; so far I've only punched Snowspeeder Luke out of the blister! That's not for any negative reasons though; in fact it's quite the opposite - this guy is awesome! Further to that, when POTF2 was released, this Luke was the first figure I bought, closely followed by R2 D2, and they became the focal point of most of my adventures. As such, it was nice to re-create the feeling for a little while before getting overwhelmed with Boba Fetts and Princess Leias...

Anyway, I made a little set, messed around with the lighting and got a few shots. There weren't any where I thought straight away 'that's it!', which is normally a troubling sign, but there were enough maybes to work with, so I got the images onto my computer and produced the picture above. Now, I like it - the pose works, the shadows on Luke are nice, the composition is solid - but I was just bugged by the shadow on the wall. And that's the problem: because of that shadow, you know that's a wall. Instant scene killer. The solution?

Well, how about a drastic crop?

By re-centering and trimming the image, I turned a flawed scene into what I think is a decent portrait. It may not be what I had in mind when I broke Luke out tonight, but it's still the best shot I think I could've got, and highlights the detail of this excellent figure.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Striking Back!

It's the OTC Luke and Yoda again! But deservedly so I say, because if ever a day warranted some Dagobah shots, it's today - misty, damp; it's Autumn hitting full speed, that's for sure...

Fond as I am of these two figures, there's another reason I'm getting all Empire on you:

This is one of the five Blu Ray Commemorative Packs that finally arrived yesterday after a hold-up in customs. In one bargain purchase, I've doubled my Star Wars figure collection; exciting times indeed! I'll probably sell off the prequel sets to recoup the cost, but I sure am excited about these guys now. Looking at the figures above, I find myself thinking the unthinkable: Roll on winter, roll on...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Autobot Spy

It's the turn of Episode One: The Phantom Menace to be on TV today; however as I critically re-appraised that for myself the other week, I have no inclination to watch it again. Instead, let's try a little Jazz, hmm?

This is the Reveal the Shield Special Ops Jazz, released by Hasbro in 2010. It's the most recent of my Transformers purchases, and goes some way to healing the wound opened by this same character some decades before...

Light-piping in Action
Back in the late 80's/early 90's, my family tended to go shopping in Milton Keynes as much as Northampton. The highlight of these trips to the new city for me was always John Lewis. The huge department store was in the centre of the MK shopping centre, and provided a toy perusing experience like no other. I remember the excitement of taking the escalator to the first floor, and seeing the boxes and boxes of Transformers piled up. Sure, there was other stuff like Lego, Dino Riders, Zoids and whatever else was popular with us kids then, but the Transformers were it for me.

Yeah, Prowl was alright. But this guy!
I was at a point where more than anything, I wanted an Autobot car. I had a Grimlock, many hand me downs and a few newer robots for Christmas and birthday presents, but it was one of the iconic Autobot-mobiles I wanted more than anything. I saved up my £6 a month pocket money, which would have seemed like an eternity back then, and eventually, one glorious day, went back to John Lewis with my parents and bought the G1 Autobot Spy.

Exhibit A
Now, sad to say, the original Transformers weren't always the most sturdy of toys. And I wasn't the least clumsy of kids in my family. Or street. Or most likely town, actually, so you can probably guess where this is going. Within about two hours of being home, I'd already lost the missiles for his shoulder cannon, but then, whilst trying to transform him, I broke the arm off. I remember my feeling of shocked disbelief, and going to my brother to see if he could fix it. He couldn't, and I ended up getting a scolding for breaking my new toy. Jazz ended up in the bin, and the whole experience was like a terrible, terrible dream.

And... Relax.
So, finally having gotten a newer, sturdier version of the Autobot that caused so much trauma before, am I over it? Am I a happier, more well-adjusted person? Owning this guy definitely makes me happy, but all the same - I still exhibit insane amounts of caution when transforming him...

As always, thanks for reading. Any similar nightmare toy stories out there?

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Detention Block Escape!

And so, the experimentation continues apace. Or, perhaps that should read continued. It's been another prolific month here at Mos Espa, but it's drawing to a close, as is the amount of free time I'm going to have with College starting back up. I'm already starting pre-production on two different films, and then I'm sure there'll be re-writes of the feature film script I've been hired to work on as well, so it's going to be busy. 

Updates here will likely be less frequent, but don't worry; when the stresses of words and deadlines get too much, there's nothing better to do than crack out the toys for a shoot. In the meantime, if there's anything you'd really like to see, let me know in the comments. Otherwise, as always: thank you for reading!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Streets of Mos Eisley: Re-made!

Following the incident at the Cantina, the Droids aren't the only ones wanted by the Empire...
I'm working on a new display piece for my many Tatooine figures. The moisture vaporator is a key prop, although the 30th Anniversary Luke Skywalker it came with isn't as good as the one in the picture, which comes from the Blu Ray Commemorative A New Hope set (same as Obi Wan Kenobi, in fact). That's what I love about coming a bit later to the Star Wars party; at this point I can pick and choose the best versions of each character...

Ain't no-one taking Palpatine's moisture... *shudder*
The moisture vaporator is the one diorama piece that instantly makes a set indisputably Tatooine, and you could argue that it's not even convincingly Mos Eisley (or Anchorhead, or even Mos Espa) without it. Of course, a few more Sandtroopers, Droids, Aliens and Landspeeders wouldn't go amiss either, but everyone has a budget, which I've certainly blown for a few months with my latest haul (not the vaporator - exciting news to follow, pending shipping :D)! This set is still very much a work in progress; but I have plenty of photos for a making-of when it's finally done. Just a shame I still can't decide for sure between set-building for photography, and diorama creation for display...

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Vintage Wednesdays: An Autobot Shall Rise from the Ranks

88 posts per blog. That can only mean we're time travelling for the return of... Vintage Wednesdays!

Ba-Weet Gra-Na Weet Ninnybomb!
So, Hot Rod. Since you're on this site I can assume you probably know who this guy is, but the capsule version goes something like this... Hot Rod, a young, fast tempered Autobot, fought in the 2005 battle of Autobot City. At the defeat of Unicron, Hot Rod reclaimed the Autobot Matrix of Leadership and became Rodimus Prime; however the weight of leadership proved a difficult burden to bear. Following the resurrection of Optimus Prime, Rodimus gladly relinquished the Matrix, and returned to the ranks of the Autobot warriors.

Yesterday's Car... Today!
Due to the success of the Transformers line, by 1986 Takara and Hasbro no longer needed to rely on toys from various Japanese lines, and Hot Rod was one of the first to be modelled after his animated design. As the film was set nearly two decades into the future, he was given a sleek, futuristic-car alt-mode. Needless to say, we don't really have cars like this today. But then, we don't have huge, militarised cities built and populated by robotic alien lifeforms either, so he gets a pass!

I loved this toy as a kid. Alongside Kup, Springer and Ultra Magnus I had a full on post-movie Autobot strike force (which was good, since Galvatron was freakin' huge in comparison!). Unfortunately, in an incident which shall not be named, I lost all my Transformers in one fell swoop. Much like the Ghostbusters this isn't my original version of Hot Rod, but instead a re-issued one that a friend gave me for my birthday almost ten years ago. I'd like to say that I've kept him in good condition, but see for yourself - we've got a peeling decal sticker on the leg from too much transforming, and neither of his two blasters. Sigh. I am a bad Autobot owner :(

In a straight fight, with this articulation - I would be concerned about Hot Rod's chances...
Anyway, he still takes pride in my collection, and is the only Transformer I have who has ever wielded the Matrix - this is good when you consider I have a toy shelf that includes both Galvatron and Megatron...

Well, that's this Wednesday sufficiently vintaged. Till all are one!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Escaping Utapau

I watched Episode One on Friday night, for the first time in years and in the right frame of mind to enjoy it thoroughly. Jar Jar Binks wasn't as bad as the hyperbole, and at the end I was left thinking that it was a decent Star Wars film in need of some serious editing - just trimming scenes and shots and terrible dialogue here and there, nothing too drastic. Anyway, that's kept me in a Prequel mood. I'm reluctant to watch Attack of the Clones (for obvious reasons), but feel that I probably should watch them in order to get back around to Revenge of the Sith. Yeah, it's flawed, but it's the first time in any of the Prequel series that it feels like anybody involved in making it is actually having fun...

I tried a lot of different ways of editing this shot, but in the end went back to how it was (almost) originally. Still not thrilled with it from a composition angle, but it's passable. And considering how much I've been trying to force shots this weekend when there's been nothing doing, I'll take that.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Ran Into Some Old Friends - Redux

Another quick post today, with the fruits of a hastily-planned and executed photo shoot. This is my second version of this shot (the first is available here), with one key difference - I finally have the VOTC Leia! That means I'm two-thirds of the way to my goal of getting the best modern iterations of the vintage 12.

Even here the Leia sculpt isn't an amazing likeness to Carrie Fisher, but astoundingly this is the best currently on offer. Still, I'm sure there'll be a decent one released by the time ANH is re-re-released in 3D.

So, that'll be 2015 then...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Vader and the 501st

No Vintage Wednesday today, but I have more planned for next week. Instead my Star Wars run continues, with this 'inbetween the trilogies' shot of Vader and a Clone Trooper on the Jedi hunt. I think that's a pretty exciting time in Star Wars lore, and it's a shame that the planned live-action show is looking increasingly unlikely.

This shot took a fair bit more editing than most, and not just for the lightsaber. Vader's cloak, being quite a light material, let loads of background light through (you could actually see the trooper through the cloak under Vader's left arm), and so it required a little bit of work; I used the light and contrast settings along with gaussian blur, and even a little bit of paintbrush to get it as dark as it is now. This is only my second attempt at creating a lightsaber glow, and it's definitely better than my first; however, I think I made the white core a little too big here. I'll just have to practice a bit more... :D

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Luxury of Choice

I had a spare hour yesterday and knew I wanted to get some SW shots, although I had no idea of what. When I saw these guys on my shelf, everything kinda fell into place...

So, Star Wars. It had been a while. As much as I've enjoyed the Transformers shots recently, I've not taken any that I've been really happy with, and my interest has started to wander from the Robots in Disguise. Only for the time being, I should hasten to add - I'll be a lifelong fan, but a recent interest in Indiana Jones saw me drawing back into the world of Lucasfilm; really, this was inevitable!

I was messing around with some different lighting for these shots, experimenting with shadows and composition, but when I started to touch up the images this morning it was the more broadly lit pictures that I preferred, which surprised me. I think I'm starting to get the hang of editing shots, but as my last TF batch showed, maintaining consistency is hard. The main thing I've realised over the last few days is that I keep repeating mistakes, which I think comes from trying to rush and do shoots on the fly - basically, not being committed enough. What really helped me with this shoot was that I devoted some time to it, and got lots and lots of pictures, and tried different things as well. When I looked through the shots this morning I was surprised by which ones I preferred, but then, I gave myself that luxury of choice.

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