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Friday, November 24, 2017

MAFEX Spider-Man Homecoming Toy Review


I don't often find myself choosing favorites in my toy collection. All of them are awesome in their own right (as they should be...I have good taste!), but sometimes I'm blessed to come across a toy that ticks every box in your feel-good checklist, and that time is now. Join me as I go over Medicom's MAFEX Spider-Man: Homecoming ver. action figure today!

The box is your standard MAFEX big box, the size needed to hold all the stuff the figure comes with...and it comes with a lot. Loads of alternate hands, webs out the wazoo, and alternate heads!


The first thing I liked after taking Spidey out of the box is his size. MAFEX action figures are known to be considerably larger than most 1:12 scale toys, and I was afraid that I would have an off-sized Spider-Man for my Infinity War collection. But thankfully MAFEX Spider-Man: Homecoming is appropriately teenager-sized, and looks great even beside a figure like the Marvel Legends Civil War wave Captain America, one of the smaller figures from that line!


The sculpt and detail are just spectacular. The lines and textures in the suit are sharp, the colors are vibrant and screen-accurate, and his proportions are more human-like than any other Spider-Man: Homecoming toy out there *cough Marvel Legends cough*. MAFEX's strengths as an action figure manufacturer are in full display here.


MAFEX Spider-Man: Homecoming boasts of an impressive array of articulation with extreme ranges of motion. An ab crunch you have to see to believe, double knees and elbows, shoulder hinges that can bring his arms straight forward or back in a realistic way...this figure has all the articulation that befits a name like Spider-Man! I've been warned about MAFEX and their floppy, loose-limbed figures, and my recent MAFEX purchase (Iron Man Mk. 45) proved them right. But it looks like Medicom got their shit together with this figure, because every joint is surprisingly tight so posing him is really fun!


Spidey ain't Spidey if he ain't spinning webs, and MAFEX Spider-Man Homecoming is packaged with a generous amount of them! Two short and two long "web shots" can be attached to Spider-Man's wrists, while "web strings" can be held in his hands to make him look like he's swinging through the city. There's also a web string with a large "web connector" on one end as if it's attached to something, for when you want to pose him hanging by a (web) thread.



You can pick and choose from those options for your display, but be careful as they're flimsy,  translucent plastic, and you don't want those disappearing!


The thing that blew geeks' minds when Spider-Man first appeared in the Civil War trailer was his expressive eyes, and the people at Medicom heard that fangasm loud and clear. So what do they do? They include an alternate "squinting" head! As much as I like how Figuarts did it, I'm fine with swapping heads instead of swapping microscopic eye pieces, thank you very much.


And now we come to the reason why I chose MAFEX over any other toyline: the unmasked head of Peter Parker as portrayed by Tom Holland on the big screen! It's a pretty passable likeness for something so small, but it could use some highlighting or a wash to make the features pop. I don't know how Medicom could include so much in their figures while still being priced competitively against similar lines (like Bandai's S.H. Figuarts), but however it is, I hope they don't stop!


And how cool is this: there are alternate hands and feet included with the figure that has magnets embedded in them! What does that mean? That means you can display MAFEX Spider-Man: Homecoming climbing walls! Provided they're metal, of course. But WALLS! I haven't gotten around to testing if they do work, since I'm having a hard time removing the non-magnet feet from its peg to swap with the magnet-ed one.


And therein lies my single peeve with this figure: swapping hands and feet are goddamn scary. The wrist pegs look very fragile, with only micrometers of plastic connecting the peg to the hinge. It feels like it only takes a few ham-handed attempts at hand-swapping to stress that tiny bit of plastic to the point of breaking, and a 70USD++ figure like this is not the kind you want breaking. Not to mention to this day I still haven't pulled its feet off the peg (and yes, I've read the instructions). Maybe it's just this particular figure, but definitely something to watch out for.


But they're minor gripes in the overall scheme of things, because the MAFEX Spider-Man Homecoming ver. action figure is simply amazing and represents the high point of MAFEX action figure engineering. I just found my favorite action figure this year, and I couldn't be happier!


It retails for around 70USD here in the Philippines, but it should be cheaper everywhere else. Shout out to the good folks at XPlay Collectibles for hooking me up with this toy!


I hope this review was useful to you! What's your favorite Spider-Man figure? What did you think of Homecoming? Leave a comment below and let's talk about it! Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League Movie Review


Justice League tries its best to escape the black hole that is BvS, but its weighed down by all the things it's trying to achieve. From introducing new characters, course-correcting the DC cinematic universe, to making a movie that will bring them out of Rotten Tomatoes hell and into the critically-acclaimed limelight, Justice League has its hands full and you can tell it's juggling them as best it can.


The new heroes Barry Allen/The Flash (played with infectious fanboy glee by Ezra Miller), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) are pulled into the story seamlessly enough, and though you can see the seeds of future DC movies being sown, thankfully they're just there to advance the plot and aren't needed to fully understand the new guys nor the rest of the film. See, it wasn't that hard, DC!

Surprisingly, Justice League does its best to be *gasp* fun! Gone is the somber mood that gets more dour as the movie goes on...Justice League finally admits it's a goddamn comic book movie and adjusts accordingly. Batman gets to be witty and relatable, and even Momoa as Aquaman is a hoot to watch. There's also a lot of bombastic superheroic set pieces now that they've decided to fight bad guys instead of each other. The action is flashy and intense, as Justice League gives you no doubt that these colorfully-costumed do-gooders can bench-press apartment complexes or stop every single bullet from an automatic rifle. Watch Flash race through the screen in a burst of lightning and energy and tell me it didn't put a smile on your face.


The one thing that did put a smile on my face was the gloriousness that is Wonder Woman. Gal Gadot is an absolute beast here, a beautiful enigma that smiles to put children at ease one moment, then goes toe-to-toe with the movie's villain Steppenwolf the next, all without breaking a sweat.

Speaking of villains, it's unfortunate then (or should I say appropriate?) that Justice League's weakness lay in its main bad guy. Steppenwolf may be imposing and even downright scary (thanks to Ciarán Hinds' absolutely diabolical voice performance), but then Plot-Induced Stupidity kicks in during the third act and he turns into the typical raving villain who fights the Justice League 1 v 6, conveniently forgetting he has the entire force of Apokolips at his command. Stupid, yes, but then again seeing the entire Justice League work as a team on the big screen has been a dream for most of us, and at this point I'll take what I can get.


See, all DC had to do was try. To make a competent movie, to make us believe in heroes again. It's safe to say that Justice League is a fun time at the movies with one of the first and biggest superhero teams of all time, even if it didn't wow me like Wonder Woman did. A win is a win, and by god I'll take that over another shitty DC movie any day.

If you haven't read a single Justice League or DC comic book in your life, you'll probably enjoy this one. If you're a fanboy like me, I'll ask you to bring seat belts and a fresh pair of pants...you're in for a bumpy yet fun ride.

Oh, and it feels damn good to see you back, Superman!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review


If you're of the opinion that Marvel movies basically boil down to Quips: The Laughening, Thor: Ragnarok will definitely cement it. The difference here is that it embraces the campiness, revels in it, turning the last of the Thor trilogy into quite the movie that's better than its predecessors in surprising ways.

Forget the Shakespearean diction and the solemn tone of the last two Thor movies. In fact, forget everything you know about MCU Thor, because you won't be needing it. Here, Thor is on full-on bro mode, trading jokes with Surtur the goddamn fire demon that heralds the apocalypse and even having his share of physical comedy. Chris Hemsworth has proven his knack for comedy before, and I have to say it's fun watching him take the God of Thunder in a fun new direction while giving us more of the physicality and awesomeness we expect from a larger-than-life character like Thor.


Mark Ruffalo's Hulk deserves special mention, because we're finally treated to more of the Big Green Machine than ever. Scary powerful and with a wicked sense of humor, Hulk lets loose in Ragnarok, which is ironic given that most of the characters in the film are from his comics.

But the further the movie goes, the more Thor:Ragnarok feels like a parody of Thor films than an actual one. Director Taika Waititi doubled down on the comedy in this movie, which unfortunately leaves little room for gravitas. Every dramatic moment is immediately undercut by a stray ball to the face or pratfall, as if the movie's afraid of coming across as too serious. Characters not known for being funny, like Loki, suddenly become quippy caricatures. And if you're a fan of Skurge the Executioner, He who Stood Alone at Gjallerbru, I have bad news for you.


The levity ultimately hurt Cate Blanchett's Hela, who may have been Marvel's most formidable villain yet but whose villainy is reduced to posturing cutscenes while all the fun is happening elsewhere. I never felt afraid for Asgard, never felt the imminent Twilight of the Gods, while Hela was on-screen, since I was conditioned to expect a joke afterwards. What's the use of tension when everything is a punchline?

Still, if you're looking for a fun time at the movies, Thor: Ragnarok delivers even as an action-comedy. The visuals are dazzlingly colorful and lovingly Kirbyesque, the action is rampd up to amazing levels (you will definitely know the answer to the question "What were you the god of again?"), and to call this simply "funny" would be underselling it. Thor: Ragnarok is an explosive farewell to Thor as we knew him, and now I can't wait for the final phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Birdshot Movie Review



Stupid comedies and loveteam vehicle movies have put me off from watching any Pinoy film since forever. But a new breed of directors and studios are daring to to make movies unlike any Filipino audience has seen in a long while. Movies like Heneral Luna, Saving Sally, and now Birdshot.

First things first: Birdshot is an absolutely gorgeous film. Director Mikhail Red's cinematography begs to ruminated. From sweeping shots of the Philippine countryside to the dark and gritty confines where human corruption dwells, Birdshot yields so much good imagery that I wouldn't be surprised if it was featured on Every Frame a Painting.

The cast is great, portraying Birdshot's multi-layered narrative on the loss of innocence in many different ways. Mary Joy Apostol shines as the mysterious and captivating Maya, the daughter of a local caretaker, who yearns for more than this provincial life and whose actions drive the story to its intense conclusion. Apostol holds her own even in the presence of guys like John Arcilla, who plays grey-area operating cop Mendoza, and Arnold Reyes who portrays Domingo, Mendoza's rookie partner whose morals will be tested every step of the way.

I quite liked the story, even if some parts were too enigmatic for my tastes. But if you stick around, you'll find yourself so engrossed in the mystery until it's too late to look away. Birdshot tackles corruption and police brutality, real issues with real victims, in a compelling way. And if my Facebook feed is any indication, Birdshot is here to hang a heavy lampshade over all of it.

But Birdshot's verve to portray both beauty and truth may be its one glaring weakness. Mikhail Red loves his cinematic shots a bit too much, sacrificing story clarity for a few more shots of those gorgeous Isabela plains, or letting a particularly mysterious subject linger on-screen way past your threshold of caring. I guess I like my stories a bit more succinct, but I feel it would have served Birdshot's story more if it chose the more impactful route in its cinematography.

Despite its missteps, Birdshot elevates modern Philippine cinema in ways that current popular fare frustratingly refuse to match. With movies like Saving Sally, Heneral Luna, and now Birdshot showing moviegoers what Pinoys are actually capable of, it's high time that quality Philippine movies stop being as endangered as the haribon and start getting the attention they deserve.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

S.H. Figuarts Marvel Doctor Strange Action Figure Review


There comes a time in your life when you won't accept anything other than the crème de la crème. That time came to me when I came out of the Doctor Strange movie wanting an action figure of the titular hero to add to my Infinity War roster. Plenty of options came out, but was I gonna go for that shitty, not-even-screen accurate Marvel Legends one? Hell no.

What I needed was the Rolls-Royce of Doctor Strange action figures, one befitting the stature of such a magnificent man as Benedict Cumberbatch: Bandai's recently-released S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange figure, which finally arrived at my doorstep ready to review! Let's jump right into it!

This version of S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange comes in a huge box that displays the figure and its accessories well enough. That's a whole lot of box for storing and displaying, though. I guess the flame effects needed some really huge clearances!


But come on, you don't box in the Sorcerer Supreme like that. Let's take a closer look!

Despite standing a shade under 6 inches tall, Figuarts Doctor Strange is nonetheless packed with detail you'd come to expect from Bandai. The details are sharp for a figure of this size, from the texture of his many belts to the golden Eye of Agamotto resting on his chest. Paint is expertly applied all around, and you'd be hard-pressed to find any errors. As this is an almost $80 figure, it's all but expected.


The headsculpt bears a passable resemblance to Benedict Cumberbatch as seen in the movie Doctor Strange. It's not a spitting image, for sure, but in certain angles there's no denying that this is the Sorcerer Supreme standing on your desk!


Figuarts Doctor Strange has surprising flexibility for someone with a cape and skirt. It has all joints S.H. Figuarts is known for, and has good range of motion all around. The soft plastic "skirt" doesn't hinder hip articulation at all, and his Cloak of Levitation has enough clearance from his arms to allow him to do all sorts of poses you may expect from a Sorcerer-in-training.


And yes, his signature cloak also has articulation of its own! The sides of the cloak can swivel outward to simulate his cape fully expanded., while the entire cape has a hinge attached to the collar piece to let you display Doctor Strange with his cape blowing in the wind as if deep in thought in the frozen wastes of Kathmandu. The cape is made out of hard plastic that makes Figuarts Doctor Strange back-heavy, though, so keeping him upright will be quite the challenge especially since he's not packaged with any figure stand.


Figuarts Doctor Strange is packed with very important accessories, namely the energy "mandalas of light" that sorcerers like Strange conjure up during their everyday magicking. Two big orange mandalas printed on thin transparent plastic circles peg into special alternate hands to let you re-enact Strange's battle with the dread Dormammu, and they look amazing in the right light.


Those aren't 'shopped. That is what they actually look like in his hands. Amazing, aren't they?

There are also two small green mandalas that let you do Strange's timey-wimey scene from the movie. They may not look that green here, but in the right light I'm sure you can make these suckers pop in pictures.


An alternate head is also included, which apparently is a talking or angry face. I say "apparently" because Bandai has switched to printing the facial features onto the headsculpt instead of painting by hand, which unfortunately will be prone to errors like mine have. Mine looks glassy-eyed and faded like their printer ran out of ink. Sad, but I'm just glad the default head is fine. Something to look out for in case you're thinking of getting this.


Rounding out the accessory count is the reason why I paid premium for this set: Tamashii EFFECT Burning Flame effects packaged with Figuarts Doctor Strange. Cast in solid yellow translucent plastic with orange highlights, they're perfect for displaying Doctor Strange as if he's fighting the very forces of Hell or saving orphans from a burning building. To be honest, it's not really worth paying extra for these, especially if you're not in the market for flame effects for your figures anyway. But since they look real nice, I can't complain. I will probably give these effects to my future Human Torch figures.


If you're thinking of adding Figuarts Doctor Strange to your Marvel Legends MCU lineup, you might want to hold your horses. At under 6 inches tall, Figuarts Doctor Strange is simply too small for even the shortest Marvel Legends figure among the MCU Avengers made so far. Even my MAFEX Iron Man towers over a figure based on 6-foot-tall Benedict Cumberbatch!


But despite the dodgy height difference and the sloppy face printing, my verdict is that S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange is the best 1:12-scale representation of the good Doctor that money can buy. The Marvel Legends doesn't even come close. They're not even in the same multiverse. The accuracy, quality, detail, and amount of accessories blow any lesser versions out of the water. If you're looking to round out your Infinity War display, this is the figure to get.


I got the Doctor Strange and Burning Flame Set, which retails around $80, but there's also a regular version without the flame effects being sold for around $60. If you're into saving money, the regular version is a fine bargain *wink wink*. Shout out to Hobby Collector, who came through with my order in record time! 10/10 will order again!

I hope my review was useful to you and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it! What did you think of Doctor Strange? Are you excited for Infinity War? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 02, 2017

Wonder Woman (2017) Movie Review



The DC Extended Universe finally has a shining beacon of hope to break through its dark and dreary palette, and her name is Wonder Woman. Hear her roar.

About damn time, too. After DC Films' less-than-stellar initial outings (BvS and Suicide Squad), it can be forgiven if you come into this with the lowest of expectations. But it seems director Patty Jenkins and co. knew what was needed to turn the ship around, which was to treat the character not as a silly comic book character that needed to be brought down to our level, but as a true beacon of heroism in a time when it needed it the most.


Gal Gadot is perfectly cast, able to portray doe-eyed innocence of the outside world and the steel-eyed determination of a warrior. Her statuesque beauty and charm demands your attention both in her frenetic action scenes and the quiet moments with the humanity she has sworn to protect (or with Steve Trevor, played with heroic gusto by Chris Pine). The World War I setting did the story a lot of favors, as it allowed Jenkins to show how Diana viewed humanity, how she still believes in the potential of man to do so much good in a world capable of so much evil. Really, this is the Superman movie we should have gotten.

The movie does stumble at times, especially with Diana and Steve's lightning-fast love story that developed far too quickly to make sense, and there are dialogue and scenes that go on for far too long, especially the final battle with big bad Ares which devolves into the usual Snyder-rific flashy battle where everything explodes.


But to me, the important thing is Patty Jenkins understood. She understood the power these characters have over moviegoers, how they can make us feel good about ourselves, something that Snyder practically ignored in Man of Steel. When Diana climbs up the trenches of No Man's Land to face down machine gun fire, Jenkins frames it as an inspirational moment bereft of any depressing aftermath or consequence. Finally, DC Films has a hero that is actually superheroic.

Who knew DC had it in them to make a smart, funny, and fun comic book movie? It took them a while, but Wonder Woman was just the shot in the arm DC needed to make themselves relevant again. Whether that goodwill can be carried over to the upcoming Justice League film remains to be seen. But for now, I'm just glad that DC finally made a movie I would rewatch again and again. Highly recommended!
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