Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Review: Transformers Generations Orion Pax

It's Prime Time! Oh, uh, wait - nope, not yet...
OK, full disclosure - I don't think I've been very good at reviewing Transformers toys. Not only because I've very rarely done it, but also because when I do, I'm probably not the best person to make a judgement call - look at this glowing review of Transformers Prime Bumblebee to see what I mean... Anyway, from here on in I intend to make ammends - and who better to start with than Mr. Pre-Prime himself, Orion Pax!

I guess 'Thrilling 29' doesn't have quite the same ring to it...
Firstly, I'm a big fan of the cardback. Whilst the pack-in IDW Spotlight comic would've been a welcome addition, I'm not going to complain - I have stacks of comics sitting in boxes not being read as it is, and tfwiki  tells me everything I need to know about the story. The red grid design is reminiscent of the original G1 packaging, and I love me some big portrait artwork showing the character off. You can see both his weapons and both his modes - this is a card that does everything you need it to do, and looks snazzy doing it.

Freedom is the right of whoever has the biggest gun!
The Prime

In robot mode, Pax looks great. At first I thought the legs looked a little long, but as soon as I got him into a pose that doubt disappeared. With 16 points of articulation (outside of transforming) he can be put into a wide variety of fighting positions, and with both a solid centre of gravity and ball jointed feet he can hold those poses too.

Party Prime!
It's not just the posability though, as the sculpt and paint apps help sell this figure for me. As strange as it is to write this about a completely fictional character, this Orion Pax really captures the essence of a youthful Optimus Prime. A big part of that is IDW's character design for sure, but then you get little details - the yellow on Pax's forearms and pelvis for example, which Hasbro didn't have to include. Orion Pax succeeds as both a homage to the G1 character and as an entity in his own right, which I would imagine is a difficult thing to pull off. Of course, the weapons help a lot in this respect - his gun is like a slightly smaller version of Prime's famous mega firearm, and he also comes with a translucent orange axe. I do like a Transformer with a good melee weapon - very War for Cybertron, and a very cool look when standing on the toy shelf. 

Orion Pax and his Backpack Axe!
My favourite feature of Orion's robot mode is this nifty weapons storage, however - his battle axe slots firmly between his alt-mode's wheels, meaning he can keep a hand free rather than looking permanantly tooled up. The protruding axe head also helps him look a little taller as well, which really isn't a bad thing, as we'll find out. My final 'Prime' point is the Autobot faction symbol on the plastic behind the translucent windshield - it looks great, and shows that Pax is Autobot to the core. Was there ever any doubt?

The Pax

From getting him out of the packaging I realised that Orion Pax is small, and much smaller than the Deluxe class figures of the past. Since he's not Optimus Prime (and I'm assuming that OP went through the same Matrix-acquiring growth spurt Hot Rod does in the movie) I don't really mind the smaller size; however for people with large CHUG (Classics/Henkei/United/Generations) collections already I can understand the frustration that this shortening might bring.

Actually, Cyclonus is used to short faction Commanders...
The paint apps on mine aren't perfect, but they do a more than good enough job of conveying all the detailing that's required. It's mainly some of the yellow highlights that are a bit sloppy, but they're barely noticable in robot form anyway. It's when we get to Pax's alt-mode that things take a slight downturn...

The World's Fightingest Pickup Truck
Firstly, I love that there's weapon storage/armament points on Pax's vehicle mode. It would've been undoubtedly easier for Hasbro to leave Pax's car a car, and I appreciate the ingenuity used to keep the firepower present. It looks a bit goofy for me but that's OK, because I can take them off. That is, if I even displayed these guys in their alt-modes anyway...

Definitely not hands.
As I've been writing this review I've realised the similarity between Pax's transformation and that of G1 Kup, which may be more than coincidental considering that Orion Pax's first figure was a repaint of the 1986 Autobot. Whether it's an intentional homage or just the nature of his physical appearance, I have no idea. Anyway, it's the vehicle mode that lets Pax down. It's not bad but it feels very small and lightweight. From the front it still looks great (although the paint does look a bit plain), but from the back it loses its form a bit. It's not terrible in any way at all though, and you'd have to be an idiot to display him with the rear of the alt-mode sticking out anyway - it's just it does feel a bit less substantial than you'd expect. Still, this is nitpicking - it does the job of being a vaugely-relateable-whilst-still-Cybertronian vehicle and does it well.

So... Prime time yet?
The Verdict

As I only have a fledgling Transformer collection the size isn't a dealbreaker for me, and as I said above, I think that because it's Orion Pax and not Optimus Prime it doesn't matter so much that he's a little bit smaller. The thing is, other than the diminutive size and slight alt-mode, it's actually an excellent figure. If you're so inclined, buy this, get it into some kickass robot poses, and put it with the rest of your WFC/FOC 'bots. I honestly think you'll be glad you did.

*****

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Matrix MIA

Classics Rodimus, Generations Orion Pax
Here's my latest purchase - Transformers Generations Orion Pax, with my not yet spotlighted Classics Rodimus standing in behind him. The more recent Deluxe figures being smaller like this isn't such a big deal for Orion Pax here, as he's not yet evolved into the Matrix-bearing Prime he will be, and he makes a great addition to my Autobot shelf. Both weapons (his cannon and axe) look great, but the winningest part is how the axe can be carried neatly on his back. Who needs a Matrix when you have weapons storage?

Despite how good this figure is (and it is very good), the size drop does puts me off getting the fantastic looking Megatron from this wave. I already have a Galvatron that looks stumpy next to Cyclonus; I don't want all my Decepticon leaders to have height complexes... That also brings me to my next point though - I got burned out with collecting Star Wars toys after completing my stated goal of getting the best modern vintage 12 figures. The Transformers line is in rude health right now between Hasbro and all the third party manufacturers, and it's something I'm considering getting back into - but only within certain pre-defined limits.

Destined for Greatness!
As I work out what those limits are, I'll be selling off more figures from the collection to raise funds. Here's hoping that this time next year, when I'm on the eve of turning 31, that I have a collection that's both focused and concise. No more messy shelves!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Photoshop

Gold and Blue Team.
Whilst perusing some toy photography shots on the web, I came across this photo of Bane from El Dave Photography. Reading through the description I decided to mess around with layers in Photoshop with one of my own lightbox images to see what I could come up with...

The Original Image
Firstly I duplicated the image twice, each time into a new layer. I made the top layer blue and reduced the opacity until it simply created a pale blue tint over the image. With the next duplicated layer down I increased the contrast and the brightness, which really helped clarify the details.

Post-Photoshop
Then I pulled the photo into PicMonkey and got to work. After cropping the image I put a gentle vignette over it, which helped to soften the corners, and then used the Orton filter to give it a slight glow. The finished image is a bit too soft for my preference, the compsition's not fantastic and the reflection of my hand in C-3PO's shiny frame is a bit too blatant to ignore; but all the same I'm impressed with the results of ten minutes experimentation.

As an aside, this was the kind of vibe I was going for with the original photo. Probably.

"My joints are freezing up!"
It was in my ESB folder anyway, so I'm guessing this is what I was thinking...

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Instagram Man

The Sanctuary Moon!
I tried the latest beta test of Flickr last week and found it to be painfully lacking - it's actually a far worse user interface than the last major 'upgrade' earlier this year, and so, given the direction that the site seems to be taking, I've jumped on to the Instagram wagon...

Biker Scout (Sans Bike)
It's been a good experience thus far as I've connected with loads of Star Wars and film enthusiasts from around the world, and there's tons of funny, interesting and highly creative content on there. It's also given me the opportunity to use some phone camera shots that I've been sitting on for a while; subsequently today's pictures are bought to you by my HTC Desire S. And filters. Don't forget the filters!

Feel free to check out my pictorial ramblings, and maybe even follow:

http://instagram.com/tjapes
@tjapes

Friday, 18 October 2013

The Purge: Part Three of the Exciting Trilogy!


OK! It's the final post on this weeks batch of figures for sale. As of typing this everything but the Action Fleet Landspeeder has a bid on it, so barring a mass buyer pull out these figures are already as good as gone. Without any further ado then, let's give these guys a decent appropriate send off!

No Good Words.
You know the thing about this Yoda toy, from the Vintage Collection? It's a very good action figure, a good likeness of the Prequel character it's based on, and aside from the pea-green hair, fairly flawless. The problem though, is that it's based on Prequel Yoda. The lightsaber wielding, fight happy, non-sensical little CG-goon that killed ESB's mystery and went on to whore himself out to Vodafone. He really is nothing like the wise little Jedi Master so many of us were enthralled with for nearly two decades. Anyway, something struck me when watching ROTS the other day - AOTC is awful, obviously, and Yoda's Sonic the Hedgehog impression goes some way to furthering that impression. Now, imagine if we never saw Yoda as anything more than the vulnerable muppet he truly is through Episodes I and II, actually living by the mantra that 'wars not make one great' - how much more of an impact would the Order 66 Kashyyyk scene in ROTS have had then?

That right there is the meaning of restraint, George.

Bad Dad.
On the subject of ROTS, here's Anakin Skywalker from the 2005 toy line. He comes with a blue lightsaber wielding right hand, an interchangeable open right hand, and Count Dooku's red lightsaber for some left-handed decapitating action. He also has the 'squeeze my legs and I slash' action feature as practised by incontinents and Obi-Wan Kenobi toys everywhere. It's a decent likeness that has served me well enough for the last few years, but the new Saga Legends Anakin has now rendered this completely obsolete.

Redeemed Dad!
Speaking of obsolete, here's the Vintage Collection Darth Vader that's also up for grabs, and currently subject of a fierce bidding war. I have 2007's Anniversary Collection Vader, with a one-piece removable helmet that can actually stay on, and also without that ridiculous silver chain around this guy's neck. Sith bling. He can also hold his lightsaber in his (correct) right hand. Whilst the two part helmet of the VC figure looks neat, it's absolutely rubbish even as a display piece because it falls off so frequently and doesn't even fit together properly when it's on. How people can swoon over this and have an unbridled hatred for the recent Mission Series Vader, I have no idea. Well, actually I do. It's called idiocy.

Keeping up with all of them.
I'm selling this group of Indiana Jones figures as one lot, because I now have one quality Raiders-style Indy and a playset section to display him on, and don't really feel the need for anything else to display my fondness for Dr. Jones. I was considering keeping at least one of the KOTCS Indys, but decided against it for reasons I will outline below...

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You know a 3.75" figure that I've always wanted?


Rick O'Connell from the Mummy films. Sure, the sequels sucked fairly massively, but for one exciting film we had a genuine 90's take on the Indiana Jones archetype, and it was awesome. Maybe the fact that I'm willing to give the Scorpion King a pass as a decent film betrays my status as a fan, but whatever. That's why we write these blogs, isn't it?

Anyway, I'd planned to use one of the jacketless Indianas from the lot above, along with parts from the Prince Dastan I highlighted on Wednesday to build an O'Connell figure, but I just kept the figures in a box for months without doing anything with them. I've repainted a figure before, but never properly customised one, and I realised when I saw these figures sitting in their box that I never really had any intention to. I struggle to build dioramas, something I profess to enjoy, and the fact that I wouldn't know where to start with a custom is about all I need to put me off.

I guess the short of it is that if a company ever made a 3.75" (or 6", I'm not fussy) Mummy line, with Rick being joined by Evy, Beni, and John Hana, then I'd give them my money. But do it myself?

Nah.

Thanks for enduring my ramblings reading!

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The Purge: Round Two


Welcome to the second of three posts on the first lot of figures I'm shifting on Ebay this week. It's been mainly Star Wars figures I'm selling so far, is that going to change today? I sincerely doubt it... On to the toys!

Big Millennium Falcon
Mace Windu here is from 2007's Anniversary Collection, and looks pretty neat. The Sith lightning on his lightsaber is a nice touch that's really well realised, but I have zero interest in this figure. I have massive respect for Samuel L Jackson, but I also think that Mace Windu is one of the biggest wastes of space in the Star Wars universe, with terrible dialogue and not much to do but sit around and be a bit of an arse to Anakin. And I never liked the purple lightsaber either. Easy sell!

If only Qui-Gon were here...
On the opposite end of my preference spectrum is Episode I's esteemed elder Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn. Liam Neeson is the best actor in the whole of the PT for me, lending Jinn the nobility and authority the role required, and he's captured here in the plastic for 2012's Movie Heroes line. I picked this up for cheap but as I established before, I have no interest in collecting anything from TPM or AOTC. Also the light-up lightsaber feature actually momentarily blinded me when I looked at it wrong, it's that bright - two good reasons that he's got to go.

With Action Feature!
Qui-Gon's apprentice is next up. This Obi-Wan Kenobi figure is from 2005's ROTS line, and as such is imbued with a 'slash attack' action feature - basically, you squeeze his legs, and his torso jerks left and right, waving the lightsaber around. It's actually a pretty neat feature. I've gotten some alright shots with this figure before, but he's since been replaced by a far superior Kenobi (review and pics to follow).

I am wondering... Why are we here?
This may surprise longer term readers to see these two gone for auction, but I can explain - I picked these up in a POTF2 lot earlier this year, duplicating two of my collection's stalwarts. I love these figures and would recommend them to anyone, but I only need the one set myself.

The Flop Film Cast (John Carter not present)
Today's final lot is a small selection of figures from the Prince of Persia and Golden Compass movie tie-in toy lines. I've highlighted the Lyra figure before, but Prince Dastan (who came as a pack in with a fantastic gate backdrop) and Setam (bought on clearance from Toys 'R' Us) have both been largely anonymous on the blog. I did toy with the idea of picking up discount lines a while back, but ultimately had no real interest and found I was just buying junk. Not saying these figures are junk, but they're no longer items that I want in my collection, and hopefully putting them together as a lot means I can sell them all a little bit quicker.

*
I had planned to tackle sculpt versus articulation today, but that's a debate which is just getting bigger and bigger to attempt to do justice to in one or two paragraphs, so it'll be the subject of a future post of its own. In the meantime I'll be back on Friday with the last of this week's Ebay listings as well as some ideas on custom figure recipes that I never quite gave myself the time to try...

Until then, thanks for reading!

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Purge: The First to Go...


I have my first few listings up on Ebay for the Purge, the catch-all term I'm using to describe the stripping down and streamlining of my collection. Every item is at a 99p start and with reasonable postage, so I'm really not trying to rip anyone off; I'll just be happy to clear out some space (both physically and mentally) and make some pennies whilst I do it.

First up is the Anniversary Collection Evolutions Jango Fett figure, which I obtained in the AOTC Bluray multipack...

The Ultimate Army Builder.
I've highlighted this figure before here, but now it's time to say goodbye. Despite coming from Episode II, an instalment better forgotten, Jango is actually a fairly decent character as a gun slingin', 'simple man' of a bounty hunter.  The thing is, this toy looks awful. I mean, it's in good condition, but look how squeezed that helmet is on the head, and how off-colour the purple jumpsuit looks. I don't watch AOTC with regularity at all, but I remember it well enough to know that Jango looked a lot more blue under the armour than he does here. Regardless of the many points of articulation this version has, the 2013 Saga Legends edition just looks far, far superior.

The Ultimate Penknife
R2-D2 here was a present that came from the previous incarnation of Saga Legends, although research tells me it was originally available in 2005 as part of the Revenge of the Sith line. It's a decent figure, good sculpt and size, but it's one of four R2s I have - the OTC Dagobah R2 is also electronic and is part of a set, the Saga Collection R2 is my standard go to Astromech and the POTF2 version I'm keeping for the sake of sentimentality. This isn't a bad figure at all, but it's a case of being the odd droid out.

Hero Lot
Luke & Han from TAC are both figures that I acquired in job lots, and I don't really have any need for either. I've photographed this Luke figure once, but generally use the Legacy Collection version as my default whiny farmboy. I would use the Han if I had a Millennium Falcon, but I very much doubt I'll own one of them any time soon...

Hot Wheels? No Wheels!
There's actually a bit of an embarrassing story behind how I ended up owning this Galoob Action Fleet Landspeeder, because when I bought it I thought I was getting a rather cheap Hasbro/Kenner POTF2 version. As soon as it arrived I realised my error, but it was my fault for not asking any questions of the seller and leaping on the purchase at the last minute, however vague the listing was. I still managed to work it into a few shots though and, needless to say, I've been crystal clear when listing it this time around.

Dark Knight in Bright Light!
It's not all Star Wars. This Batman figure from Mattel's DKR line was bought for a reduced and insanely low price, and it's served its purpose for one shot. However I've since acquired the Play Arts Kai Dark Knight Trilogy Bats, and since I'm not picking up any other 3.75" DC heroes, I've hit the end of the road with this one. As a kid I would've loved this Batman, as opposed to all the day-glo versions we got from the movie lines and animated series, but it's now surplus to requirement.

*

And so the Purge has begun. Do I have any second thoughts? Well, Jango Fett is the first figure that really raises any questions for me, because not only is it the only figure I've looked at today that I don't own another version of, but it's also something that I'm in two minds about whether to even replace. I'd like the 5POA Mission Series Jango, and also the Class II Slave 1 ship for him to pilot (toys being toys again!) but as I inferred above, Episode II doesn't hold any huge appeal for me. As collecting is becoming affordable and interesting again with both Saga Legends and next year's Rebels, I think it's important to set parameters - and the first of those is to stick to my stated Star Wars focus of collecting Episode III and onwards only. It felt good remembering this when I came within a whisker of picking up the Geonosis Mission Series pack today.

I'll be back on Wednesday and Friday highlighting and justifying the rest of the stuff I'm selling, whilst also thinking out loud about the 5POA vs SA debate, and why I'll never be a customiser...

As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Great Purge Has Begun!

First for the Chop
I've written before about my need to pare down my collection, which has grown incredibly bloated and in all sorts of unfocused directions over the last few years, and this weekend I've finally been able to sit down and start the process. It's been a case of going for the low-hanging fruit to begin with, as I'm getting rid of all of the odds and ends I've accumulated through bulk purchases, discount impulse buys, and older versions of characters that I've since replaced. Still, at least it's a start!

I'll be profiling the different figures over the coming week as they await their fates on eBay, and giving some insight as to why they no longer make the cut for the collection. Hopefully from this I'll have a clearer idea of which direction my collecting focus is taking as well, which would be nice...

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Shelf Review: Vintage Trilogy Saga Collection Greedo

"I'm lucky I found you first..."
Shelf Review! Not as in-depth as my regular musings, but a look at the equally-deserving items on my toy shelf all the same. Today I'm taking a look at Greedo, from 2006's Vintage Trilogy Saga Collection. The question is, is he as bad a figure as he is a bounty hunter?

Wrong Trade, My Friend.
I'll put you out of your misery straight away - Greedo is much better at being an action figure than he is a hired goon. Coming in at 14 points of articulation, with soft goods, a working holster, a striking colour scheme and exemplary sculpting (particularly on the head), this version of Greedo is as definitive as it gets.
 
All-Round Rodian.



As with all the better 3.75" Star Wars figures, Greedo has a good weight to him, and feels like a solid mass of toy. The joints are stiff on my version, which always helps to make a figure feel robust and well made, and because of this Greedo is easy to stand and pose unaided. The working holster is a treat, and the gun fits securely both in there and in his hand, which should really be a minimum essential for any figure that comes packed with a weapon. I know some folks aren't too keen on the soft-goods coat, but for me it's one of the better examples of soft-goods in the Star Wars line - I appreciate it hangs a little low, but it can be easily trimmed if you're so inclined. Otherwise it has a great colour, it fits, isn't see-through (ahem, Darth Vader) and generally looks great. For me it's the coat which takes the figure from solid to spectacular, which is really saying something for a minor character when it comes to my personal tastes.

Super-Size Greedo
As I'm sure most of you are aware there's a newer, bigger version of Greedo coming in the Black Series Wave 2, due in November, which I think looks ace - but it has some pretty big shoes to fill. If you're after the definitive 3.75" Greedo for your collection, then you should look no further than this superlative VTSC figure.

*****
Thanks for reading!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Back to the Fold

The Best at 6"
I've been pretty slack here for various reasons over the last month or so, the better of those reasons being that I've just started the third year of my university course. Whilst that is (rightly) going to take up a lot of my focus, worry not about my Star Wars fan status - my dissertation is going to be on George Lucas himself, and the many, many contradictions that he presents. If I don't end up hating every word I've jotted down by the deadline, I may even post it up here for your perusal...

Looking for Someone...
My apologies if you came back here expecting Black Series 6" reviews - whilst I have three out of four of the first wave, I've not gotten around to objectively collecting my thoughts on them yet. From my limited 'playtime' I would suggest that the Sandtrooper is the best of the bunch, but it's difficult for me to judge, with X-Wing Pilot Luke Skywalker being one of my favourite versions of the character in any action figure line anyway; even the times when he's actually a Snowspeeder Pilot!

Lightsaber Duel? I Maul For It!
Other than these guys I have no recent purchases to highlight, vintage or otherwise, which should allow me the opportunity to catch up with some of my backlog a little bit. University deadlines or not, I'm sincerely hoping to give you many more reasons to return for the next couple of weeks at least...

Thanks for sticking around!

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