Showing posts with label Return of the Jedi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Return of the Jedi. Show all posts

Monday, 31 March 2014

Return of the Toy Photographer...

Strange Trophy
It's been a while since I last posted anything, hasn't it?

I'm pleased to report that everything is going well here at the Collection HQ, but I've been insanely busy finishing off my uni course over the last few weeks and haven't had much time to do anything beyond filming, editing and writing essays. And yes, that includes eating and sleeping! With all of my big deadlines finally out of the way however I thought I'd unwind today with a bike ride and a spot of action figure photography...

Somewhere along the line, Teebo from POTJ has become one of my favourite figures to photograph, and today was no exception - I wasn't even planning to go anywhere that wooded, but still bought him along just in case and was rewarded when I found a very cool spot along an abandoned railway track. 

I tried something a bit different today and left my Canon 600D at home and instead took out my old PowerShot A530, a point and shoot I was using way back when I first got into this hobby. I found I was focusing a lot more on composition of the shots than anything else, and whilst the auto focus led to a lot of blurry takes I was able to get a reasonable amount of usable pics. It was a lot of fun and a lot easier than carrying around my bigger camera, so I might be using it a little bit more in the future...

*
This old chestnut...

On another note, the Emcat and I are moving house! We're downsizing to start saving for the future, which means we're doing a lot of sorting and clearing out. Toys will be sold amongst the shedding, but at the end of it I'm going to have the kind of streamlined, focused collection I've been after for a while now - as well as also having the space and funds to add to that collection further down the line. Whilst all this is going on there'll probably be another absence of posts, but hopefully for nowhere near as long as this last hiatus - more than anything, I'm looking forward to finding a whole host of new locations to explore and share...

Man, it's good to be back. To those of you still out there, many thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Star Wars Black Series Most Wanted: The Next Five

6" Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker

The 2014 New York Toy Fair was a real moment of triumph for the Star Wars Black Series line as a plethora of new figures were displayed, including the incredible ROTJ brace of Jedi Luke and Darth Vader. The all-but-confirmed Speeder Bike with Scout Trooper was also on show, along with an amazingly hideous Jabba the Hutt, and any fears I had about the line pricing me out have disipitated next to the thought of getting these guys. A quick scout of eBay confirms I can get two thirds of wave two for a reasonable price, whilst wave five (or 2014 wave three, confusingly) may just be the first time I buy by the box, and cost be damned. If the Black Series needed fresh momentum, it certainly found it this weekend...

With the future of the line looking more than just a little bit secure, it seems like now would be a good time to follow up my original article, and take a look at the next few figures that I'd love to see Gentle Giant and Hasbro tackle!

5. C-3PO

 

Threepio from A New Hope

This one's such a no-brainer that I questioned whether to include him on the list, but everyone's favourite protocol droid (by default of being pretty much the only one we see) is starting to look like a gap in the Black Series line up - there's only so long you can keep him and R2 seperated, after all! I'd love to see a vac-metalised, ANH specific figure with a dusty paint job, removable left arm and additional restraining bolt and communicator accesories. If a definitive OT version is looking out of the question, then Hasbro needs to pull out all the stops on making the characters episode specific, and this would be a great place to start.

4. Qui-Gon Jinn

 

Qui-Gon Jinn from Episode I: The Phantom Menace

On the subject of episode specific... I may have sold my wave one Darth Maul, but I'd still be interested in seeing how the smartest Jedi in the prequels would look in 6" form. Liam Neeson put in a performance head and shoulders above the other actors in The Phantom Menace, which gave Jedi Master Qui-Gon due gravitas amidst all the noise and CG fireworks. Of the few characters I would like from Episodes I-III, he's near the top of the list. Throw in a commlink, poncho and breathing apparatus with the standard lightsaber and cloak and we have a winner!

3. Bib Fortuna

 

Bib Fortuna stands next to Jabba, from Return of the Jedi

Since we're getting the gloriously grotesque Jabba the Hutt as part of the deluxe line his Twi'lek majordomo shouldn't be too far behind, and just think what a figure this would make in the 6" scale. I'd prefer sculpted outer robes similar to those employed on the Darth Maul figure (as long as the articulation isn't too hindered), but either way I think Gentle Giant have the skills to knock this one out of the park in terms of the sculpt. Throw in Salacious Crumb* and we're golden.

*With Crumb teased as an SDCC exclusive (exclusively for scalpers) along with Jabba and his dais, I know this last point is wishful thinking but I'm gonna throw it out there anyway...

2. Princess Leia Organa

 

Princess Leia Organa on Yavin, from A New Hope
The 3.75" line hasn't seen an update to the original Princess Leia in a decade now, which makes me hope against hope that Hasbro will impress us soon with her hignessness in the new scale. I'd go for sculpted robes that are again made from soft plastic like Maul's outer cloak, so the Princess can still be as articulated as possible underneath. Pack her with an interchangeable head for hooded Tantive IV action, along with both a sporting rifle and Stormtrooper blaster and I'd consider this figure nailed.

1. Ben Kenobi

 

Ben Kenobi on the Death Star, from A New Hope

Definitely 'Ben' Kenobi. Now we've seen Darth Vader and both the Bespin and Jedi Lukes, it's time to see the original lightsaber wielder. Make him with a soft plastic outer cloak (I'm noticing a trend here...), interchangeable heads for displaying with either the hood up or down, two sets of hands for both two-handed duelling and Jedi mind trick posing, and I'd call him done - capable of both fighting with cyborg Sith Lords or confusing multiple repainted Sandtroopers. Instant win!

Deluxe Set: Ewok and Glider

 

Flying Ewoks from Return of the Jedi

I know we're unlikely to get AT-STs for the Ewok to bomb, but how much fun would this be? For sure it'll be a cold day on Mustafar before we see it, but a guy can dream can't he? Dream about flying teddy bear toys, I mean?

Yes. Yes he can. If anything this weekend proved that the Black Series is here to stay, and secondary market prices are also making most of the figures worthwhile (with the obvious exception of Boba Fett). Despite my still legitimate complaints, I think I might be in for a few more figures from this line yet...

Anyway, with that I'm out. Thanks for reading!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Best of the Best: The Star Wars Soundtrack Countdown


Star Wars Episodes I-VI
VII-IX Pending.
I’ve had very little time to focus on action figure reviews or photography over the last few weeks as my university course has grown increasingly hectic (it’s the final year rush!), but one thing that’s kept me going in that time has been Spotify, and in particular the fantastic work of John Williams. Whilst I’ve been happily listening to his scores for Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and The Book Thief, it’s really the Star Wars soundtracks that made me fall in love with his music, over and above, say, the incredible themes for E.T. or Indiana Jones

The thing is that when you begin to consider the music as a separate entity to the films a very different order of preference emerges, and the prequels don’t seem quite as bad anymore… With that in mind, I proudly present:

The Star Wars Soundtrack Countdown


6. Return of the Jedi



Coming at the tail-end of the OT, the Return of the Jedi soundtrack has its moments, such as the soaring, operatic majesty of Luke and Leia or the haunting Emperor’s Throne Room. However the music rarely takes off, and never feels quite as vibrant as the earlier scores, due in large part to the production which is almost muted and flat by comparison to the earlier records. The Special Editions were the hardest on this film as well, as we were ‘treated’ to the appalling Jedi Rocks and inferior Victory Celebration tunes – celebrate the love indeed. Like the actual film, the Jedi soundtrack has some depth, but a lot of filler. Still worth a listen though!

5. Attack of the Clones



On a similar note (hah!), the Attack of the Clones soundtrack has some beautiful moments, such as Across the Stars and Yoda and the Younglings; but it still falls a bit flat in places – Zam the Assassin and the Chase Through Coruscant is as bitty and noisy as the horrible, horrible scene it scores, for example. However, tracks like Confrontation with Count Dooku and Finale really emphasises the intended mystery of the Sith, and on the whole it’s a collection of beautiful music with a building, tragic undertone that sells the story far better than the actual film. It’s an undeservedly elegant score.

4. Revenge of the Sith



Revenge of the Sith comes the closest out of the prequels to matching the quality and tone of the OT, and as such it’s far more in harmony with its score than the previous two episodes. I’m still confused as to why Battle of the Heroes was composed and used when Duel of the Fates would have been equally (if not more) appropriate, but it’s a fine tune in and of itself. We’re also introduced to the brilliant, alert General Grievous, which is a sharp continuation of themes from The Phantom Menace album. The soundtrack is punctuated with stabs of the Imperial March, and the closing A New Hope and End Credits is the perfect way to tie the two trilogies together. It might not have a beautiful high point like the ROTJ or AOTC albums, but as a whole this soundtrack is greater than the sum of its parts.

3. The Phantom Menace



The soundtrack that started the debate. In my factual and scientifically endorsed opinion this is only the fifth best Star Wars film, but the soundtrack runs the top two extremely close. This album was pretty much all I listened to over the summer of 1999, and it’s a score of unexpected majesty, beauty, and fun – waking up the neighbours by blaring out Augie’s Great Municipal Band and End Credits every morning certainly fulfilled my bizarre, Calvin-esque rebellious streak; Anakin’s Theme is one of my favourite tracks from the whole saga, and even Jar Jar Binks gets a bone with a playful, enigmatic introductory tune. That’s even before we consider the commercial impact of the frenetic Duel of the Fates, as exciting as the fight scenes it accompanies… Regardless of your take on the success of Lucas’ decision to show a more regal and refined galaxy, John Williams delivered the goods in spades.

2. The Empire Strikes Back



I struggle with the Empire soundtrack, because it’s simply amazing – from an objective viewpoint, it can be genuinely considered for the title of the greatest film soundtrack ever. However, and I’m being subjective here, I listen to it fairly frequently and find myself skipping the ends of tracks, before the Imperial March comes crashing in and destroys the mood the previous music created. I get it, how the never-too-distant fear of the Empire is perfect for the film, but from a selfish point of view I’d really enjoy being able to listen to the soul edifying grandeur of Yoda and the Force without having to worry about turning the volume down almost immediately afterwards.

But maybe I’m being too critical; after all, this album gave us The Asteroid Field, City in the Clouds, Han Solo and the Princess, Yoda’s Theme… And of course, the Imperial March. It’s a classic.

1. Star Wars



Now, I’m not the kind to think that Star Wars is the greatest achievement of the saga (however great an achievement it is), and I love the fact that we have two complete stories, those of both Luke and Anakin Skywalker. However the score is a huge part of why Star Wars exists as it does today, and Williams nailed it at the first time of asking. The Main Title is a cultural touchstone, enough said. Beyond that there are moments of beauty and adolescent melancholy galore with The Hologram/Binary Sunset, and Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force, weighted against the drama and tension of Burning Homestead. The beauty reaches a high point with Princess Leia’s Theme. There’s the playfulness that sets this film apart from the others in The Dune Sea of Tatooine/Jawa Sandcrawler and Cantina Band, and the glorious, rousing The Throne Room/End Title caps both the listening and the viewing experience off perfectly.

The Star Wars soundtrack established the themes and pattern for the others to follow, and however great Williams’ achievements on the other five films, or any of his countless other classics, no other soundtrack surpasses his work on this.

John Williams is The Man.
The music of Star Wars is one of the elements of the franchise that I enjoy the most, and do so on an almost daily basis. Whatever order you may put these soundtracks in, we should all be grateful that such masterful music exists for our listening pleasure. All the same if you think I've got it the wrong way around, let me know in the comments!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Ackbar!

Life on Home One
Sorry for the lack of updates; between an extremely poorly relative, client work and another film entering pre-production the last 10 days have absolutely flown by, and I've had no time to post anything. Even this is a fly-by blogging - I just wanted to show off a shot I took of Admiral Ackbar last night...

On a collecting note, I've finally spotted the Mission Series two-packs in the wild (at Forbidden Planet Sheffield), and they look good, particularly the Utapau Clone Trooper set. I also saw the ROTS Obi-Wan Kenobi in hand as well, and it looks much better than any pictures I've seen of it online. As I already have an Anakin on pre-order (scheduled to arrive with the good Black Series Luke X-Wing and Sandtrooper), that may be a final 3.75" temptation.

On that note, I've also started to reach some conclusions about my collection, and the direction I'm taking it. The Purge is coming... As soon as I get a free day to sit down and actually do it! For now though, I'm all about dealing with what's immediately in front of me; and that's a house in mid-sort, and a film that needs a production office. None of these things are mutually exclusive, but at the moment collecting is fairly low on that hierarchy. Hopefully though it won't be too long before I'm back with more regular updates, and maybe even a Black Series review... 

Until then, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

VC26: Rebel Commando (Version II) Review



At B&M, a most excellent discount chain here in the UK, I recently picked up the variant Rebel Commando for £4.99. I had gone in for a B-Wing Pilot I’d seen the week before, but when I saw this guy I knew it was best to snap him up quick, especially for that price. Was it worth it? Read on to find out…

Kitted Out.
I’m a big fan of all the Endor action in ROTJ (growing up near an expansive woods does that to a lad), but this is the first Forest-Camo Rebel I’ve owned. My first impression on cracking open the card was of how many accessories this guy comes with; he's packed with:

  • A Helmet
  • A Coat
  • A Backpack
  • A Rifle
  • A Handgun
The grenade belt over his torso might even be removable as well, but I’ve not wanted to risk breaking it to find out. Anyway, for a regular army builder that’s a heck of a lot of extras, and it really adds to the value.

Takedown!
Other than T-joint hips, this guy has all the articulation you’ve come to expect from the Vintage Collection, so I’ll leave that there. After General Grievous this figure has my favourite soft-goods from the modern line. The coat is dyed effectively, and feels quite sturdy and hard-wearing. The proportions are spot-on, with outer pockets that sit at the right height and a collar that folds correctly. There’s a hole in the back of the coat (barely noticeable) through which the backpack plugs. 

The backpack itself is a cool looking survival/comms unit reminiscent of the POTF2 Rebel Commando, with a camo paint app that stands out from the jacket but doesn’t clash. The removable helmet looks exactly like the kind Luke wears (so there’s crossover potential there for any customizers not fortunate enough to own the Saga Endor Luke), and sits a little low on the head for my liking. It looks cool in general, but thanks to the ball-jointed head not having a great up-down range, the peak obscures the face quite a bit. As such, it’s my preference to have him with his hat off.

Backpack/Rifle
The rifle looks fantastic, with the gun itself a matte black, but the strap a leather brown. It’s a simple touch that’s really effective in conveying the realism of the weapon, and loads better than the cast black equivalent rifle that came with the Movie Heroes Clone Trooper. The handgun sits snugly in the on-belt holster, another little detail that serves this figure well. Credit where it's due, if there’s one thing Hasbro can do consistently well with the Star Wars line now (in my experience), it’s holsters and weapon ports!

Leading the Way
What this range of accessories means is that the Rebel Commando can be displayed in a multitude of ways – should you get a couple of these guys and some different heads, you could feasibly build a small unit of Rebel saboteurs for taking down any nearby shield generators. Or, y’know, sitting on your shelf; however you use your figures is fine with me!

Checkpoint Secure
Overall this is a really solid army builder, loads of play value, excellent to display, and generally fun. I recently sold off a few of my background figures, but this guy earned his place - and that’s because he’s a solid five stars.

*****

NB: You may have noticed I'm quite generous with my figure reviews - in fact, it's because I only tend to review the toys I really like. As I do more reviews in the future, I'm sure that average will drop. Although obviously, I'd rather it didn't!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Vintage Wednesdays: POTF2 R2 D2 & C-3PO

Well, this seems like a relevant time to return to Vintage Wednesdays, and who more apt to focus on than Luke Skywalker's loyal droids, Artoo Deeto and See-Threepio?

"I don't know what all this trouble is about, but I'm sure it must be your fault."
Despite the background, these shots aren't from my new lightbox - I took them some time ago, and have been storing them up for this very day. Anyway, what do you need to know about these guys?

R2 D2

"Beep!"
Height: .96 meters average
Status:
Navigator, T-65 X-Wing Fighter
Classification:
Astromech Droid
Affiliation:
Rebel Alliance 

I'm pretty sure most Star Wars fans would count R2 as their favourite droid. The ultimate robotic Swiss army knife, it's his mission that sets the whole chain of events of A New Hope into motion and pulls Luke Skywalker into the Civil War. After that he serves as Luke's loyal and trustworthy companion throughout the evacuation of Hoth and both his trips to Dagobah, and he also plays a key role in the rescue of Han Solo. None of us had ever seen such devotion from a droid before (although granted, we'd never seen a droid before either); it's kind of amazing Obi Wan Kenobi forgot all about him. Almost like a huge, unresolved and unnecessary plot hole. Anyway, I digress...

C-3PO

"But, sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid."
Height: 1.67 meters
Status:
Interpreter
Classification:
Human-Cyborg Relations Droid
Affiliation:
Rebel Alliance 

And, let's face it, Threepio is harder company to have around. Despite being the most annoying character in The Empire Strikes Back, I now realise how that's part of the measure of the heroes of the film that they never leave him behind - Han Solo ensures 'Goldenrod' makes it out of Echo Base on the Falcon, and Chewie carries his destroyed body around Cloud City, despite being insulted for doing so. I think that's why I like C-3PO; he brings out the best in his compatriots. He's a lot more tolerable in Return of the Jedi, and the way he's revered as a God by the Ewoks is a great touch, and a nice little way for Lucas to say 'thanks' to the character for being such a superb heel. I'm not sure about his being created by Anakin - don't get me wrong, I do like how coincidences hang together in stories, but that felt like a stretch too far for me, even if it did yield a superb comic that plugs a gap from ESB.

POTF2

The Power of the Force line was launched in 1995 by Kenner (who had been purchased by Hasbro in 1991), and was quickly dubbed 'POTF2', after the original Power of the Force line from 1985. Despite the beefcake sculpts the series was a massive hit, and continued to run until 2000, and completely reinvigorated interest and sales for the Star Wars merchandising juggernaut. This line is probably the main reason this blog even exists...

Anyway, back on topic. The first I knew about POTF2 was seeing Luke Skywalker in X-wing Fighter Pilot Gear (actually Snowspeeder Gear) in Milton Keynes Woolworths, where I bought it outright. Shortly afterwards I picked up the R2 D2 featured above, and gradually built up a mish-mash collection of various figures that provided hours of fun. Honestly. I played with vintage figures growing up, but these were my Star Wars vintage toys, and they were most excellent. Which I guess brings us nicely to today's hot topic...

THE BLACK SERIES


So, it's finally happened. After decades of the 3 3/4 inch scale toy line, Hasbro is now preparing to launch a six inch, super-articulated, OT-centric and collector focused line, 'The Black Series'. I for one couldn't be happier. Yeah, I have a lot of 3 3/4" figures, and I will keep a lot of them. But look at that figure! It may be a prototype, but if the quality of the mass-produced ones is anywhere near that, it may become my favourite line ever. The launch, in August, consists of Luke, R2-D2, a Sandtrooper and Darth Maul - that's a definite OT three out of four for me.

Coming back to collecting late has had both good points and bad but I'm glad to be here, and now I'm really excited to get in on this line from the ground floor. And what better way to start a collection than with a Luke Skywalker in X-Wing Fighter Pilot Gear?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Palace Gates

"Die wanna wanga..."
This is another unused shot I found tucked away in one of my folders, clearly waiting to see the light of day! I no longer own either of these figures; kind of a shame now I see how good that ol' Bib could look...

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Setting the Trap


The Rebel Commandos captured, C-3PO does something quite rash for a protocol droid, and draws the Imperial's attention. Within a moment, the Stormtroopers have the driods captured...

Today marks the 29th Anniversary of the UK release of Return of the Jedi; still my second favourite Star Wars film featuring Tatooine!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Bunker Command


Lieutenant Renz and the troops of Tempest Force had killed nearly 300 Ewoks and other such life-forms on Endor's Sanctuary Moon since the construction of the shield generator, and the sport had started to become tiresome. 'If only', thought Renz, 'the locals would fight back with a bit more spirit...'

Saturday, 10 September 2011

In the Palace

When I started this blog it was going to chronicle my attempts to build a Jabba's Palace diorama (that staple of collecting), before it segued into attempts at photography. Even though my focus has shifted somewhat, it's nice when the two sync together every now and again...

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Fett Facing Front


I said it some time ago that Boba Fett needed a close up - well, here he is, scoping out Jabba's Palace. As much as I love the POTF2 line, like many of the figures Fett's representation here isn't the best. I've seen a lot of the more recent ones about, with better articulation, paint jobs, proportion (the less said about the barrel-chest the better). But I'll say one thing for this guy; when you're a kid, being able to take the jet-pack and Wookie braids off is awesome. 

Monday, 5 April 2010

Eyes Of Evil


My enduring memories of seeing Return Of The Jedi for the first time are of Endor, specifically the speeder bike chase and the Ewok tree village. However, given how young I must've been when that happened, I'm amazed I didn't have anything from Jabba's Palace seared into my brain, Bib Fortuna in particular. The red eyes, the tailed head, clawed fingers and creepy way he touches up R2 - although I guess he loses his air of maelovence when we encounter Jabba, and realise ol' Bib's actually a weak-minded fool...

This is the second picture I've got up here with Boba Fett relegated to the background - I think he'll have to take centre stage at some point.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Leaving Hibernation


I used the same box from the Mos Eisley scene to put together Han waking up to an (eventually) familiar face. I like the colder lighting, trying to get that early morning after party feel - this was a quick attempt at this scene and one I'm going to go back to.

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