zaterdag 30 november 2013

Today's News: City of Sins on the small screen too?

Totally hot off MovieScene (really, just a matter of minutes!):

A Sin City TV-show? Seems like the comic book craze moving from the silver screen to the small screen is already getting overdone, now "more prestigious" comics (or graphic novels, depending on your definition of the latter) are also under consideration for TV projects, after the news of more Marvel shows and a Gotham TV series broke. A Sin City TV show doesn't actually sound like a bad idea, considering the episodic nature of the original works, loosely linked to one another. However, there's only so many of them, and I definitely can't see this as a running show. A miniseries, yes, 10 to 13 episodes max. That could work. But beyond that, the visual film noir gimmick that drives it would feel exhausted and what remains would be mostly gratuitous sex and violence (HBO maybe?). Plus, what about the movies? Producing a TV-show on the heels of a movie implies a connection between the two. Will there be, other than Rodriguez and Miller also being involved somehow? It's too soon to tell. However, considering the success of the first film - already eight years ago, can you believe it... - and the anticipation for the upcoming A Dame to Kill/Die For (title depending on what territory you live in), it's hard to believe audiences will swallow a second Sin Cityverse so soon. This whole notion of Weinstein's to further exploit films that need not be exploited (The Mist, which is excellent) or that have already been fully exploited (Scream, milked dry after four movies) reeks of rampant sucking money out of past glory. Though any or all of these proposed projects might result in good television, there's no need for them other than studio execs wanting more money. Which is how the movie/TV business works anyway, so in that regard this news comes as no surprise. If we look at Dimension's repertoire, there's no doubt the possibility of series based on the likes of Piranha, Mimic, Equilibrium and Spy Kids too.

vrijdag 29 november 2013

Today's News: Hercules fights his way through another trailer

This just in:

Despite a new and slicker title, it seems there's still little to look forard to in this particular Hercules flick. It has all the hallmarks of a modern B-movie: a cast of mostly unknown actors, fairly digital and unconvincing effects, a director who hasn't produced anything of note in over a decade and a visual style that rips off the latest trends (already overused at this point), in this case 300's extreme slo-mo fight scenes (for which they got Spartacus' Liam McIntyre in the package as a bonus no doubt). What's worse, there's apparently just nothing truly Herculean about this film. There's no genuine connection with the myths that have entertained and inspired humanity for thousands of years, let alone cool monsters to match (fortunately Ray Harryhausen doesn't have to live through this terribly missed opportunity). The more I see of this project, the more I look forward to next year's other Hercules epic, which also shares a lot of flaws with this supposed Legend, but at least has a better cast (I'm not referring to Dwayne Johnson, I meant grand British actors the likes of John Hurt, Ian McShane, Rufus Sewell and Joseph Fiennes) and most likely a bigger budget to ensure we're engaged more on a visual level, if nothing else (which is likely). But it's a sad fact the legendary demi-god still hasn't received the cinematic treatment he deserves, nor is he likely to get it anytime soon. Maybe it's time Marvel did for their Hercules character what they did for that Scandinavian thunder god?

donderdag 28 november 2013

Today's Mini-Review: What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew: ***/*****, or 6/10

Some children are blessed with loving parents, while others are stuck with horribly egocentric folk that just can't get along, to the detriment of their offspring. Poor Maisie (young newcomer Onata Aprile, only 7 years old at the time of shooting) unfortunately has to contend with the latter, as her terrible excuses for parents, played by Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan, simply cannot see eye to eye about anything and only communicate by shouting at each other and arguing ad nauseam. Maisie can't remember ever seeing them in another, happier state of their relationship and has gotten used to their constant petty bickering, but doesn't let it get her down as she tries to make the best of it. Of course, the question always on our mind is: does she understand that the emotionally unhealthy environment she's growing up in is not the regular way for children to mature? Could she ever choose between her mother or her father if it came down to it as they are both lobbying for her unwavering love? Coogan and Moore certainly excel in playing people you just can't help but hate for how they're so obviously ruining Maisie's childhood, a fact they ignore becayse they are more concerned for besting the other in winning Maisie's love. While we are busy detesting these horrible guardians for causing her to accept a living condition that is quite simply unacceptable to behold for anybody with a slightest sense of reponsibility, hope looms on the horizon as her parents both mix up with just the right people to turn her life into a more positive direction. Her father marries her foreign (Scottish) nanny, while her mother hooks up with a seemingly not so bright, tall guy (Alexander Skarsgård attempting to shed some of that sinister, scheming vampire image of his, courtesy of True Blood, by playing a sweet, easily likeable bartender). Unfortunately the story soon progresses in the most predictable of directions as these two people, who actually care more about Maisie as a person than as a means of annoying the other by acquiring custody of the girl, come to understand just how easy it is to love this charming child and agree how much she deserves to be taken care of by decent folks. And naturally they can't help themselves by also falling in love with each other when they realize just what a manipulative, sleazy people Moore and Coogan are, abusing both them and Maisie for their own purposes as they keep up their disgusting little power play. In terms of plot development, we soon come to know that What Maisie Knew has little surprises to offer while delivering its fairly repetitive, one-sided melodrama. The film makes up for this in the acting department, where young Aprile stuns the audience with a most exceptional, truly inspiring and convincing performance; a remarkably rare occurrence for such a young child, but a solid promise for her future career in acting should she decide to keep it up (we can only hope). While the adult actors go through the motions in a more regular fashion, which isn't devoid of merit but simply not nearly as mesmerizing, Aprile carries the film as very few other actresses her age could ever have done, proving just how much truth there is in that old adage that good casting is doing half the work. What Maisie Knew is just average in all other regards, but a fabulous performance like this is well worth checking out, as it is so seldom witnessed.

woensdag 27 november 2013

Today's News: the Days of Future Past go viral in the Sixties

Business is slow of late, but don't blame me, blame business. And blame time for not being available in the quantities one would like to have at his/her disposal. Anyway, here's a bit of news I managed to slip through:

I like alternative timelines, I like viral campaigns for movies that make good use of them to get me excited for a movie and I like X-Men, so this is a winner. It may not be the most detailed video (and a bit short really) and it's more of a teaser for the Bent Bullet website (which it itself is a teaser for next year's X-Men: Days of Future Past movie), but it serves as a decent catalyst for public interest. The article on the website looks fascinating too, but unfortunately, as mentioned above, lack of time prohibits me from reading it (probably until the Holidays have come and gone). I glanced through it and already found a minor spoiler for characters that we saw join Magneto's cause in X-Men: First Class, but won't be featured in the sequel because life (or its exact opposite rather) intervened with their goals. So no Jason Flemyng in DoFP apparently, since he's apparently too busy getting cast for Star Wars Episode VII.

You gotta love the eternal 'what if' question. Marvel certainly does, the House of Ideas even made a long running, delightful comic book series entitled What If on the subject, dealing exclusively with alternative plots to regular series, to explore the possibilities had things turned out otherwise. What if Wolverine was a Thirties' gangster? What if Spider-Man's daughter had survived? This viral video really fits right into that same venue. After all, First Class already handled historic happenstances that we know the conclusion of (at least, students of history do), but shed a different light on the situation because of the superpowered individuals native to the X-Universe, who could have influenced such global events for intriguing dramatic purposes. Occurrences that are shrouded into mystery until this day beg a mutant involvement in fiction, so the JFK assassination is a logical topic for an alternate history revisitation. Magneto bending a bullet so it would hit Kennedy is a wonderful notion, as is the thought of Mystique disguising herself as somebody else (in this instance, Lee Harvey Oswald) and taking the shot itself to add to the public confusion and number of question marks surrounding the case. Upon learning the possibility of mutant influence in the matter, the bleak future we'll see in the next movie, where mutants are hunted and slaughtered by the robotic Sentinels to guard the human public, is not such an unlikely thing to happen. I sure hope the viral campaign for Days of Future Past will contain more similarly themed conspiracy virals. I have heard it from reliable sources that such mutant scum was also responsible for the Watergate scandal and the Chernobyl catastrophe, ya know...

zondag 24 november 2013

The Lost World Series 1: Carnotaurus

Year of release: 1997

-Seven pieces of capture gear
-Dino damage piece

Description: this rather odd carnivore stands in a neutral pose, tall on its hind legs with its tail raised high above the ground. The last few centimetres of the tail are curved upward, making the tail resembling a hook of sorts. The figure has a very strange looking short head, with large nostrils and small horns above the eyes, resembling a bull (hence the name Carnotaurus, ‘meat bull’). The head is positioned in such a way that the animal spends its days looking down, as if ogling potential prey. This dinosaur comes with a chomping action: pulling the right leg back causes the upper jaw to move upwards, making the mouth open very wide. Pushing the leg back makes the mouth close again. The creature carries a dino damage wound on its belly: removing the skin patch reveals white ribs and red muscle tissue.
The figure’s predominant colour is dark red, which is found on almost the entire head, its back and flanks, the arms and legs and the upper part of the tail. Black stripes adorn this red paint job in a chaotic pattern, running over the back and upper legs as well as the head and tail. Its claws too are black, except the ones on the sides of the lower legs (notice he has two of these on each leg, instead of the usual one). The underside of the beast (its belly, inner part of the limbs, lower part of the tail and throat) sports a sickly green paint job. It has very bright green, cat like, eyes. On its right upper leg a dark yellow JP: Site B logo is found, along with the number .26.
This dinosaur comes with no less than seven pieces of capture gear, all coloured shiny metallic reddish brown. Two of these are used to restrain the legs of the creature, while the other five form an elaborate harness around the monster’s head. This requires the figure to bend forward with its tail in the air and its face almost to the ground, making it look rather silly and not able to stand. Pulling the Carnotaurus’ leg back now makes the animal break free of its restraints.

Analysis: like the JPS2 toy line, this line features a flawed Carnotaurus figure. However, the JPS2 Carno was still a very cool figure to behold, despite its shortcomings. This Carnotaurus however, is not even really cool, and certainly no improvement over its JPS2 predecessor. It’s just too much of a disappointment.
The main problem is the overall look of this dinosaur. It’s not the paint job’s fault. Though the colouring isn’t totally imaginative it still looks fine on the figure. It’s more the odd posture this figure assumes, tall on its legs, resembling the way dinosaurs used to be depicted, as walking tightly upright, looking down at their helpless victims (at least in the carnivores’ case). The weird angle of the end of the tail also doesn’t help. The dino damage wound is located at a rather unusual spot, though it may also be considered original.
The cause of the annoying stance of this figure is the inconvenient attack action, which doesn’t really work. Though pulling the right leg back does open and close the mouth easily, the mouth doesn’t have enough force to clamp stuff between the jaws, mostly because the upper jaw hangs a bit loose. So anything it manages to grasp with its mouth, immediately slips out. Also, when the mouth is widely opened, the figure looks plain ridiculous, like it severely dislocated its upper jaw, with its tongue hanging out. Additionally, the figure is out of balance and falls over easily, unless it stands in a very upright pose. This too can be blamed on the design of the chomping action.
The capture gear doesn’t help much either. In order to properly apply the gear, the dinosaur must bend over, which it can’t without falling down, despite the leg restraints. The dinosaur-breaks-free action doesn’t really work either, since the gear doesn’t stick much to the animal.
Apart from the decent paint job, there’s very few good qualities this figure has. The savage and demonic design of the upper jaw, even though the horns are a bit tiny, as well as the bumpy and scaly body give this creature a little extra creepy character. The design of the arms, though incorrect, makes them look eerie. Overall speaking, the lousy action and annoying posture ruin an otherwise nasty looking predator.

Playability: not all that high. The creature has poseable arms and legs, though the right leg supports the chomping action and moves less smoothly, limiting options a bit. The mouth is also moveable, but is under influence of the attack option as well, and moves right back when posed separately. The dino damage wound is located at a bit of an inconvenient place, making it somewhat harder to remove, also because the arms tend to get in the way. And the capture gear adds almost nothing in this figure’s case.

Realism: Carnotaurus was not featured in the TLW movie, though it did have a memorable role as a vicious carnivore with camouflage ability in Michael Crichton’s TLW novel. It doesn’t show on this figure. It also hardly resembles the JPS2 Carnotaurus, being a clearly different take on this species of dinosaur on the designers’ part (the same thing happened to the Baryonyx). From a scientific view point, this figure isn’t accurate. Its arms are way too long and sport three fingers instead of four. The design of the head also lacks in correctness, and its horns are a bit on the small side. Still, compared to human figures, this creature’s size is more or less realistic.

Repaint: no. This figure would not be repainted for following toy lines either.

Overall rating: 4/10. A missed opportunity to improve on one of the most infamous and popular predatory dinosaurs, sporting a lame attack option, lousy capture gear and an irritating posture. To make things worse, it’s quite rare (especially in complete condition because it comes with so many small pieces), so even though it’s not a very good figure, competition to get one is pretty high, as are the prices it fetches. Be sure you really want this one before spending loads of cash on it, because you may find it’s not worth it in hindsight.

The Lost World Series 1: Pachycephalosaurus (large)

Year of release: 1997

-Four pieces of capture gear
-Dino damage wound piece

Description: this large Pachycephalosaurus model sports a different, darker, paint job than its smaller counterpart from the same toy line. Most noticeable is the dark blue colouring which is found on most of the body, running in one large spot from the neck to the base of the tail, from which it continues over the tail in a series of ten stripes. On the flanks the blue flows out in an asymmetrical pattern from the blue on the back, as is also the case on the upper legs. On its lower left leg a JP: Site B logo with the number .23 is located, in the same colour. Additionally, the creature also has blue spots around its bright orange eyes, and its small beak is dark blue as well. The lower parts of the animal, its belly, inner part of the limbs, throat and lower part of the tail are entirely white, as is the large dome on its head including some of the small spikes directly behind it. The rest of the body of this creature, most of the face and limbs, side of the neck, most of the flanks and parts of the tail, are coloured dark brown. The Pachy’s claws (notice he has five fingers on each hand) are not painted.
This robust and muscular dinosaur stands in a totally neutral position, though its tail is bent upwards at the end to keep it in balance. On its left flank there’s a dino damage skin patch: removing it reveals pink intestines and red muscle tissue. At the upper base of the tail a button is located, which activates the attack action this dinosaur is equipped with. (Note: there is a variation of this sculpt that doesn’t actually have a visible button on its back because its located under its skin. This version is unfortunately rarer.) Pressing the animal’s head inwards and then pushing the button causes the head to move forward with great force, as if giving a violent head butt.
The head ramming action also facilitates the dinosaur-breaks-free-of-restraints action. This figure comes with four pieces of capture gear, all painted in the same dark metallic colour. When the head is pressed inwards, this gear can be attached around the animal, forming a sort of harness. Pressing the button makes it appear the dinosaur forces its way out of these restraints, though the large piece strapped around its waist doesn’t come off.

Analysis: since the smaller Pachycephalosaurus of this toy line was a repaint of the JPS2 Pachy, it’s only fair Kenner provided us with a new Pachycephalosaurus as well, to celebrate this dinosaur’s small but spectacular role in the TLW movie. The designers did not disappoint, since this large Pachy is a wonderful and given its large size even surprising addition to the toy line. The paint job is adequate but nothing too special, so it’s the head ramming action which is the main attraction of this figure.
Granted, it looks a bit odd to see the neck of the animal stick out of a big hole like that, and when the head is pushed inwards it looks rather silly, but the ferocity and power of the attack option make every little point of criticism fade. To keep it short: this attack action works really well. The head is released with great force, smashing down anything in its path, which does mean it only works on a point blank range. Unlike with most attack actions this one doesn’t just affect smaller dinosaurs or human figures, but vehicles and large creatures as well. A precise hit will easily knock a Net Trapper or a Carnotaurus over. It’s really a fun action feature, which of course is also used for the compulsory dinosaur-breaks-free-of-capture-gear action most TLW dinosaur figures come with. In the Pachy’s case, this too works almost flawlessly. Pressing the button basically launches the front part of the restraints, sometimes up to about 60 centimetres. This can even be used as a weapon, not unlike missile or net launchers, except now it’s the dinosaur’s turn to fire at others.
Despite the great attack feature, the typical dino damage wound is less of a success. It looks very artificial, like someone cut an almost symmetrical piece out of the creature’s left side. But the worst part is that it’s very hard to remove, since it fits in very tightly. It’s also a bitch to put back. A shame, because it’s the only real problem this otherwise fantastic figure suffers from.

Playability: quite high. The head ramming action alone makes for loads of playability options. Besides that, this sculpt stands in a good neutral posture and has both poseable arms and legs. Also, its head can be twisted around, even in a 360 decree circle (though that may be a bit gruesome). In this case the capture gear also adds some nice options, since it’s not only usable on the dinosaur, but also by the dinosaur. Sadly, the feeble damage wound takes away something, but the overall playability doesn’t suffer to much from it. However, a note of caution: the attack action really is quite powerful, so you should be careful with it. It has the ability to damage figures when it smashes into them, and causes paint wear, even on this figure’s head itself. So have mercy on your toys.

Realism: the bizarre shape of the head with its large dome and array of small spikes make this creature stand out as a real Pachycephalosaurus. Interestingly enough, compared to the human figures of this toy line, the creature’s size is about accurate. The Pachy seen in the TLW movie was smaller though, and most likely a juvenile. Its colours somewhat match this figure’s paint job, or at least the blue/brown combination does. However, they are very different from the colours of the other Pachys from this toy line, like they’re different species.

Repaint: no. This figure would not be repainted for any later toy line either.

Overall rating: 8/10. This is a very neat dinosaur with a great attack action and a decent paint job. Even though it has some minor downsides, like the dino damage piece that’s hard to remove and the potential damage the head butting action may cause on other figures, it is most definitely worth being added to any JP toy fans’ collection. It’s not hard to find since it enjoyed a wide release, so you shouldn’t have much problems getting hold of one.

The Lost World Series 1: Stegosaurus

Year of release: 1997

-Four pieces of capture gear
-Dino damage wound piece

Description: as is usual for Stegosaurs, the most noticeable thing about this creature is the double row of plates running from its neck to halfway over the tail. In total, this sculpt carries 22 plates (one of them on the dino damage piece), varying in size. Additionally, at the end of its tail there are the four spikes Stegosaurus used to defend itself with. These spikes are also the main ingredient of the action feature this sculpt is equipped with. Pressing the two plates next to the dino damage piece together causes the tail to swing around, giving this beast the opportunity to knock figures down. This mechanism works fairly well, though in some cases it gets damaged easily. As stated, this animal has a dino damage piece, located right above the right front leg: removing this piece reveals bones (including a shoulder bone) and red muscle tissue.
The Stegosaurus assumes a sort of walking posture, its left hind leg in a forward move and its right hind leg moved backward. Its front legs are neutrally positioned though. His head is posed to the right, as if the animal is looking at something on that side. Green is the predominant colour of this figure’s paint job. The entire upper part of its body (upper part of the tail, back, neck, upper part of the head) is painted dark green, including the plates on its back, though the larger ones on its back (not on its tail, since the figure’s tail section is composed of a different material to facilitate the attack action) are toned even darker, and a bit shiny, green. The creature’s flanks, side of the tail and head and most of the legs sport a lighter shade of green, while its underside (belly, throat, lower jaw, lower part of the tail, inner part of the legs) is coloured beige. The spikes on the end of the tail are painted dark brown at the base, which gradually changes into bright beige. The Stegosaurus has very small yellow eyes, and a beige JP: Site B logo, along with the number .24, is located on its lower right hind leg. The small claws on its elephant like legs are not painted in a different colour.
This figure comes with four pieces of capture gear, which can be assembled together to form a hind leg and tail restraint. It basically shackles the legs, which via a wire are connected to what can best be described as a box that goes around the tail, keeping the animal from using its spikes. Like most TLW dinosaurs, the attack option is also a dinosaur-breaks-free-of-capture-gear action: pressing the plates together makes the Stego break free of the box and smash it in two. It doesn’t get rid of the shackles though. All pieces of capture gear sport the same shiny silver metallic paint job.

Analysis: after the disappointing JPS1 Stegosaurus with its totally incorrect appearance, this differently designed TLW counterpart comes as a relief. Maybe it’s because the designers had the Stegosaurs from the TLW movie to use as examples instead of building it from scratch, but this figure came out pretty well qua design and realism. It’s relatively movie accurate and sports a good green paint job, not even that dissimilar from the JPS1 Stego which was also painted in green.
Additionally, where the JPS1 Stego featured a pretty lame attack option (if you can even call it that), they put a little more effort in this one, resulting in a superior tail swinging action. Though its range is limited, up to about ten to fifteen centimetres at best, it works quite well and provides for a lot of fun. It doesn’t always do a lot of damage, especially to larger dinosaurs and vehicles, but it should knock over most human figures and smaller dinosaurs.
Apart from the green paint job and tail clubbing option, a third function this Stego shares with its JPS1 brother is the dino damage piece. In this case, the piece is often a bit of a nuisance: it comes loose way too easily, whether you want it to or not. It doesn’t always stay attached to the figure, which also increases the risk of misplacing it. There is a positive aspect to this though: unlike with most dinosaurs featuring damage pieces, firing any kind of weapon on the piece makes it drop off, like the animal is shot to death. A bit gruesome, but good fun.
The capture gear is something the JPS1 Stegosaurus, nor any of the JPS1 dinosaurs, did not feature, and gives this sculpt some relative originality. It’s neatly designed, but like the dino damage piece, it too lets go on its own accord too easily. This does make it less difficult for the animal to liberate itself though. Other than that, the capture gear doesn’t add much.

Playability: little, unfortunately. Though at first glance you might take the hind legs to be poseable, they’re not. Apart from the tail swinging action, this sculpt does not have any moveable parts. The action feature isn’t bad, though it has a tendency to get easily damaged. The dino damage piece and capture gear add some minor playability options, but not much, since it can’t be used for anything else. On a side note, the tail section of this figure is composed of a different material than the rest of it, which is sadly more susceptible to paint wear.

Realism: this figure is a definite toy version of the Stegosaurs seen in the TLW movie. Although compared to human figures, it’s not as big as the creatures seen in the movie and it’s less fat or bulky, the shape and paint job are very similar to its movie counterparts. It’s also a big improvement over the JPS1 Stegosaurus figure, which wasn’t anatomically correct at all. Of course the capture gear this dinosaur comes with wasn’t seen in the movie, since in the film the InGen hunters used a large cage to keep the Stegosaurs captive. It would have been cool to see a cage come with this animal, but this is adequate at least.

Repaint: no. However, this figure would be repainted once, for the first JP Dinosaurs toy line.

Overall rating: 8/10. Despite its limited playability, this is a fine sculpt with a good paint job and a fun and original take on an otherwise predictable action feature. Fortunately it had a wide release and as such it’s not difficult to find, though maybe harder if you want it complete. Still, it shouldn’t cost you an arm and leg if you find one.

zaterdag 23 november 2013

Today's Mini-Review: La Vie d'Adèle

La Vie d'Adèle: ****/*****, or 8/10

Abdellatif Kechiche's exploration of love, released in some territories under the title Blue is the Warmest Color, packs quite a powerful punch in terms of both emotional and controversial contents. This microcosmic three-hour epic follows the young Adèle (relative newcomer Adèle Exarchopoulos) during the evolution of her first love and sexual awakening, divided into two distinct chapters. In the first, the teenage girl is struggling with societal expectations and personal preferences. Though she physically experiments with boys, she quickly grows confused and disappointed as it doesn't seem to be able to stimulate her as she has been brought up to believe it should. A circumstantial kiss with a girl leads her to suspect she is looking for love in all the wrong places, a hypothesis soon tested out in a gay bar. When she meets the free-spirited Emma (Léa Seydoux), who has a habit of dyeing her hair blue, the two connect almost instantly, which leads them to start the road down a genuine romantic relationship, which includes many a scene of passionate same-sex intercourse. In the second chapter, we find the pair some years down the road, after Adèle has graduated and is aspiring to become a elementary school teacher, while Emma is starting to come into her own as an artist. Despite their love continuing to flourish, the element of novelty has worn of and Adèle considers she might have jumped to conclusions about her sexual nature as she finds herself interested in male partners after all, which causes her to be unfaithful to Emma and attempting to lie about it afterwards to no avail. Emma uncovers her infedelity and in a fit of rage kicks her out of the house. Adèle must come to terms with the sad fact she has lost her first love due to her own faux pas, but it will take her quite some time to recover from this emotional trauma.

La Vie d'Adèle must surely have been an extraordinary ordeal for the two young actresses carrying the piece in terms of filming. Kechiche tells Adèle's story relying on close-ups for most of the film, their every facial nuance laid bare, which makes us feel like we're right on top of them continuously. Correspondingly, the two women also spend a lot of time on top of each other, in a number of quite explicit lesbian sex scenes that leave next to nothing to the imagination, covering the entire range of physical positions you can think of where two women are involved. Though this apparent excess of groping, fingering and tribbing appears titillating at first, these scenes carry on for far longer than feels comfortable for the audience. However, they are yet another natural part of the everyday love life of these girls in the director's mind and as such ought not be censored for the sake of the audience's own inhibitions, nor are they meant to arouse. Accusations of blatant pornography cannot be wholly dismissed, but clearly are not Kechiche's sole intentions, whatever the levels of controversy and thus publicity these scenes might spark. In that regard, he also holds little interest in the homosexual nature of the mutual love he examines. Though at first the concept of a girl falling in love with a girl and the views thereof in society, i.e., Adèle's high school and home environment, relate the usual notions of otherness and awkwardness, the story quickly evolves to the point where that fact simply matters not. Though the two women don't openly flaunt their love for each other at every turn, the gay side of their relation is quite apparent yet never the subject of open criticism: these are just two people in love, it's as simple as that for Kechiche. Whether it is intended as such or not, it's quite a statement to make in contemporary France, where homosexuality is still a matter of heated debate and even violent confrontations. Kechiche doesn't seem to care about current day politics. Realism, and realism only, is key, as he illustrates by making effective use of improvisation throughout the film, the script only used sparingly to help the actresses establish their own natural rhythm of conversing and interacting, instead of merely adhering to the lines written down. It's a monumental task for any actor/actress, no matter how experienced, but both of them succeed to completely convincingly results: Exarchopoulos in particular is to be applauded for the achievement of portraying the inexperienced Adèle to such compelling success, considering her own lack of experience in terms of acting. La Vie d'Adèle deconstructs the theme of love entirely, from its inception to its brutal ending, its joys and its horrors exposed, fully justifying its running time of 187 minutes despite the risk it carries of discouraging the audience. Kechiche is not afraid to end the movie on a note of ambiguity in regard to Adèle's own understanding and weathering of the concept, as she is confronted by the mark it has left on her. Sometimes love is a blessing, but an equal amount of time it's a curse, the director remarks.

vrijdag 22 november 2013

Today's Double News: studio decisions regarding superheroes and a teddy bear

Another double bill of news today, because I didn't post one item yesterday for lack of time, again (insert shamefaced emoticon):

In both cases we get a fascinating glimpse of how a studio plans its strategy for much anticipated blockbuster movies it has high hopes for (and in both cases I daresay the audience does too, though in one case more deservedly so than in the other). So Universal doesn't own the rights to Ted 2, apparently. No surprise really if you look at the Ted credits (on IMDb for example) and see that 'Universal presents' it only, which strongly hints at this major merely distributing (and marketing) the film which by itself was produced by a smaller company. This sort of thing happens all the time in the studio system. Big studios these days are mostly engaged in distribution and promotion of other studios' films rather than paying for production themselves. Not to say that distribution and promotion doesn't carry a risk financially too, considering how much money is being spend in those two departments today. If a movie flops, everyone loses money. Ted certainly didn't flop though, not by a longshot! It was quite surprisingly a runaway hit, earning over ten times as much as it cost (or at least, as much as its production cost: who's to say how much money was involved creating audience awareness?). Ted 2 will likely fare about as well if not better. So even though a final deal has not yet been struck between Universal and MRC, I would venture a guess the current release date won't change at all and the production is not in any jeopardy, despite what my overly sensational headline seemed to indicate (hey, I need attention just like every other human being!). In fact, Universal may have been attempting to force the issue by stating a release date in advance, so MRC can't allow itelf to lose face by not living up to this deadline (kind of a mean tactic, but nothing studios haven't done before). And why wouldn't the smaller company want to live up to it, considering how much money Ted 2 is likely to earn it and Uni both? Like any Hollywood studio would ever say no to the prospect of more precious shiny money!

As for Supes and Bats, it was known Batman vs. Superman wasn't a definitive title, just a temporary one. A temporary one that caught on though, as both fans and movie websites across the globe have embraced it vigorously. Nevertheless, considering this film is a sequel to Man of Steel (which also serves as a new set-up for the Caped Crusader and a possible new sub-franchise of his own), it's logical studio Warner Bros. would want to take advantage of the new and popular Man of Steel brand name, as opposed to the maybe too classic Superman name, by emphasizing the connection between that film and this one via the title. Of course, this title must also allow for room for the Batman character (whatever his exact moniker this time around), but if you don't use the term 'Superman' (as Man of Steel tried so hard to avoid for over two hours), why would you use 'Batman'? So you come up with more subtle titles, like this cascade of concocted credits illustrates, after they'd been exposed by alleged "secret" domain name registering. Like there's any room for secrets on the Internet... I wouldn't be surprised if Warner allowed these names to leak on purpose just to continue fueling the movie's hype, a process which will not conclude right up till the actual release of the piece. I'm not particularly fond of any of these proposed titles, I must admit. There's just something catchy and iconic about the title of 'Batman vs. Superman'. It says it all, doesn't it? Or are we being deceived, and will this movie not feature the two of them battling it out at all? Is it possible there's more truth to these Justice League rumours that are flying around the web than we thought there was, and other tentpole DC characters, like Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, will also be of major importance? So many questions, but for now all of them are still being outstaged by the biggest one of them all: Batffleck, yay or nay?

woensdag 20 november 2013

Today's Double News: and now for something completely ancient, again

Here's a double bill of news for y'all, concerning some oldies but goldies:

Were we waiting for these fossils to return to stage? Not really, despite the rumours running rampant about their potential reprisal over the last few years. Can they still be funny? Sure they can! Age is no excuse not to be funny anomore, and silliness basically comes with the natural condition anyway. I'm willing to give the remaining Pythons the benefit of doubt, though I would prefer it if they didn't call it the 'return of Python', which they haven't but other people are oh so eager to do for them. After all, you can't have Python if there's a member missing, that would be disrepectful. Graham Chapman has been dead for 24 years now, and Monty Python basically died with him, like it or not. In my mind, and I'm quite positive in theirs too, this is just a reunion of old friends/former colleagues to once again do something they loved, and no doubt still love, doing: making people laugh. What form it will take? A TV-show seems unlikely, it's doubtful they have the will and strength to keep up with such a demanding, even killing schedule, and one of them apparently doesn't have the time either (see below). A film could be a distinct possibility, but I'm pesonally betting on a live show. They did several of those to great acclaim and it seemed their preferred format, so why not stick with what they liked best? Of course, we won't know until they confirm just what it is they're doing that they have confirmed to be doing together again, so this is all 'idle' speculation until their alleged press conference sheds more light on their intentions.

And Gilliam is at it again once more! Seventh time is the charm, he seems to hope. You gotta love someone so passionate about a certain project, meaning it can only be good, otherwise it wouldn't be worth putting so much time and effort in again and again. I've had the pleasure of meeting Terry Gilliam (I actually touched him too!) and he's without a doubt one of the most charming and likeable characters I've ever come across, so anything he feels like doing has my blessing (not that it needs it, but in this particular project's case, any blessing seems most welcome!). Even though Gilliam's projects tend to be rather 50-50: either they're great, or they're too weird and off-putting for words. Oh well, even if it falls through again or ends up a dud, we'll always have Lost in La Mancha.

dinsdag 19 november 2013

Today's Review: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I had the privilege of reviewing the next installment for The Hunger Games last week, and here's the result as posted on MovieScene today:

It got edited down a bit due to length, as is usual for my MS reviews. Some of the sentences don't run as smoothly as my original intention was, but you get the gist: I was quite positive about the film. It was a worthy successor to the first film and in many ways surpassed it. Nor was the much dreaded love triangle, though still present, as much as an obstacle for the flow of the film and the attention of the audience as I initially feared. Though still not perfect, Catching Fire did about everything The Hunger Games did, except bigger and to more gripping results.

This was also my first major press viewing. Whereas most of the ones I attended so far drew crowds of no more than 20 people, this particular screening witnessed at least 80 attendees from all over the country. It was a more formal showing too, complete with security taking the audience's cell phones in custody to prevent potential illegal copying. They didn't find one on me, much to their surprise and my entertainment. Furthermore, the distributor tried to bribe us with copies of the book and a neat little mockingjay brooch. Considering my 8/10 rating, they might as well have succeeded. I'm currently reading that book, which is odd, since I haven't read the first novel and I usually refrain from reading Dutch translations from books originally written in the English language. Maybe it's simply a good read, even though I preferred the movie (which follows the original text fairly closely I must add). To top it all, the screening was held at my actual job location, so I surprised and frustrated my colleagues, hard at work at that time, by appearing on the job only to disappear into the theatre to watch a film they all desperately wanted to see for themselves. And of course I bragged about it the rest of the week, for such is my nature. All in all, I much enjoyed this first big shot press screening of mine and I sure hope more will follow (though sadly I just lost out on the second Hobbit film).

It seems the odds where in my favor on this one.

maandag 18 november 2013

Today's Mini-Review: Machete Kills

Machete Kills: ***/*****, or 6/10

Robert Rodriguez continues telling the strange and ever over-the-top chronicles of his delightfully violent character Machete (Danny Trejo), who once starred in a fake trailer attached to his original Grindhouse segment Planet Terror and suddenly embarked on a life of his own. Though no faux trailer for this second installment was ever attached to other similar themed films (maybe there just were none), Machete Kills itself opens with a trailer for the alleged third movie, the dubiously titled Machete Kills Again... In Space! It's both a stroke of genius – as this 'prevue' perfectly sets the tone for what's to come, as well as pokes fun to the whole B-movie style Rodriguez embraces so vigorously more aptly in two minutes than the following film does in two hours – but also rather frustrating, as we know exactly how the movie we're about to see ends and what characters survive to fight another day (in space, yes). As such, Machete Kills is largely rendered devoid of any large narrative surprises. As we'll find out soon enough, the film doesn't rely on story structure at all, as in this regard it's kind of a mess, bloated with characters and motivations, many which change over the course of the movie. We're just supposed to roll with it as we did in the case of the first film, but it's obvious the paying-hommage-to-grindhouse-cinema is getting stale. This time, Machete is hired by the President of the USA (Charlie Sheen, humorously billed under his birth name Carlos Estevez and given an 'introducing' credit accordingly) to stop an arms dealer with a bad case of schizophrenia (Demian Bichir) from launching a nuclear assault upon Washington D.C. Why Machete cares about America at all, being an exploited Mexican alien and so forth, is only briefly addressed as we're not supposed to care to much for it is his simple duty to 'go kick some ass', and we like to see him do just that (we do!). Of course the situation is not nearly as simple as it seems and the bad guy's trail leads to an even bigger villain, a big shot industrialist named Voz (Mel Gibson) who harbors even deadlier threats to mankind's health. Along the road, Machete must dodge various well armed, colourful hitmen and legions of mindless minions, survive plots by double agents and also make love to beautiful women from time to time. A lot to do in only two hours, and what's more, a lot of characters to introduce and successively kill off in new and interesting ways.

Even more star studded than Machete's previous venture, this movie features appearances by an overly large score of popular actors including the likes of Jessica Alba, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Vanessa Hudgens. With so many celebrities present, it's obvious a lot of them don't get the screen time they deserve. Another, more serious result is that Trejo himself feels somewhat overwhelmed by it all (or maybe it's just his age, as he's pushing 70) and delivers a less than stellar performance than we're used to, not nearly exuberating the same type of invincibility and 'badassery' as he did before. Fortunately we still have the scantily clad tough girl Michelle Rodriguez (no relation), reprising her role as secret revolutionary Luz, to make up for Trejo's lack of bravura. In all other respects, Machete Kills is equally enjoyable as its predecessor, containing the maximum amount of scenes of idiotic ultraviolence, sweaty sensuality (though surprisingly no actual nudity this time) and a plethora of insanely funny genre self-referencing that have proven hallmarks of Rodriguez' grindhouse flicks. My favorite, apart from the opening trailer for Part 3, is the sex scene which out of the blue has the film stock distorted and blurred just when it got saucy, with an overlaying text asking us to put on our 3D-glasses. At least in terms of sheer simple fun Machete once again gives us what we expect, which does still make you want to see him kill again in space: like the trailer says, because 'it's all galactic and shit'.

zondag 17 november 2013

Today's News: BARRRdem setting sail for Neverland soon?

Here's a little scoop from MovieScene:

Another live-action version of Peter Pan, eh? In fact, there's two in the works at the moment, including this one. If you've got Bardem as your bad guy you've certainly got the upper hand though. His talent for screen villainy has been well documented with both Skyfall and No Country for Old Men, the latter being rewarded with a properly deserved Oscar. So if the deal gets made, poor Peter Pan is in for quite a fight squaring off against Bardem's Blackbeard. Can Bardem beat Ian McShane's Blackbeard - from the haphazardly confusing yet half-decently entertaining Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - in terms of grotesque appearance and evil scheming though? Possibly, but there's a good chance Pan will at least be more consistent and well rounded than that film. What concerns me more in that regard is the writing for this movie, which is currently being scribbled down by Jason Fuchs, who has already displayed an interest for piracy in the dismal Ice Age: Continental Drift. Fuchs hasn't yet shown himself to be a talented writer, so there's still plenty of chances the movie will fall short in that department. If there's any failures involved, it's very likely we won't be able to attribute them to Bardem.

On a sidenote, this is another example of me posting a bit of 'unfinished news'. After all, Bardem hasn't been confirmed for Pan yet, he's still in talks to assume the mantle of the notorious pirate captain. You get this a lot when you're looking for news to post. Rumours, uncomfirmed casting, etc., it's all part of the business but can feel frustrating for readers and writers alike when a deal does not get struck, or projects get scrapped entirely. You often wonder what the result was about certain bits of old news you remember hearing about once and when you look them up again, there's just no additional information because much has changed about the project in question and it's now another project entirely. Recent examples include the casting of the second Avengers film, where certain actors were rumoured for a role months before actually signing on (in which case you have to post both the rumour and the actual confirmation, at the risk of introducing a sense of déja vu for your readers), or the increasing and decreasing cast levels for Jurassic World, which recently witnessed several fairly high profile casting rumours that ended up debunked as quickly as they popped up (including such names as Josh Brolin and Idris Elba, and now Jason Schwartzmann). Such irritating elements all come with the territory of posting film news, though I myself at least try to wait for studio confirmation instead of responding solely to rumours. Sometimes that means I miss news as others beat me to it, but on other occasions it means I don't post anything that eventually ends up going nowhere.

zaterdag 16 november 2013

Today's Mini-Review: Thor: The Dark World

The Odinson returns in his second solo venture, more grandiose than the last, but still very close in narrative make-up to its predecessor, despite a change of director. Kenneth Branagh declined the offer to helm this second installment while female director Patty Jenkins was fired early on, at which point Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor took over the reins, and quite successfully so. The Shakespearean overtones are nevertheless kept in, only enlarged by his Martinian experience with grand halls, epic battles and conniving siblings, all too similar in nature to the subject matter so far. After leaving the Avengers and returning home with his captive brother Loki, Thor (Chris Hemsworth more beefed up than ever) has been kept busy for two years fighting rampaging marauders and other dangers to cosmic stability across the Nine Realms. Meanwhile, his human love Jane (Natalie Portman) also hasn't taken time off in search for her divine boytoy by using every scientific means at her disposal. On investigation in Britain, she stumbles upon a portal to another place where she is infected by the Aether, a dangerous, ancient material that is the key energy source of the largely extinct Dark Elves that once battled the Asgardians for dominance in times immemorial, and lost. Sensing the Aether has awoken, the few remaining members of this shadowy race prepare for another shot at universal power grabbing under the leadership of the wrathful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston wearing creepy make-up). When they unexpectedly assault Asgard and kill Thor's mother, the distraught wielder of the powerful hammer Mjölnir disobeys his heavenly father's commands and recruits his untrustworthy brother Loki (an impeccable Tom Hiddleston, again playing the trickster god with the usual vigour that makes him the most fascinating Marvel villain of them all) to defeat the Dark Elves before their nefarious plans for Jane and the universe are brought to their catastrophic conclusion. The only bond that shares them at this point in their overly tumultuous relationship is the mutual love for their mother's memory: otherwise there is no trust or love lost between them. Will Thor manage to save his girlfriend and everything else, without ending with a knife in his back at the hands of his seemingly imbalanced brother, or crushed by the ever stronger Malekith? It will remain to be seen during a bombastic battle in the British capital (instead of set in the States, as has been usual in Marvel movies thus far).

The problem audiences might have with Thor: The Dark World is the fact it doesn't dare to leave its established comfort zone and therefore sticks suspiciously close to what we have already seen in the previous film. Though Thor's cosmic portion of the Marvel Universe is certainly expanded in terms of scope and story, thematically speaking there's little to be found that feels new. The nature of heroism, the love for a mortal woman, the rivalry between brothers: it has all been done before, but at least The Dark World doesn't do it badly. In terms of style Asgard has never looked so glorious to behold: a sharp contrast to the dreadful dead soil of the barren world of Svartalfheim that had to be conquered and annihilated for the Norse gods to rise to power – which makes you rethink how much of 'the good guys' they really claim to be – as we are told in a fabulous prologue that feels a lot like the opening of a certain Peter Jackson fantasy blockbuster. Apart from the many predictable but entertaining scenes of supernatural action The Dark World provides, also ever present is the level of humour that reminds us we ought not to take any of this too seriously, as well as keeping us from forgetting we're watching a comic book adaptation. Key in this is a reversal of the dynamics between Jane and Thor seen previously, where he was cast out of his world in order to come to terms with a “lesser state” of existence for his own good. This time it's Jane's turn to be a stranger in a strange land as she's swept to Asgard where her Earthly unsophisticatedness causes many a merry moment: not because she's overwhelmed by it all, but due to her impulse to make scientific sense of her new environment, which startles the Asgardian natives somewhat. Those who hoped for more Asgardian style dialogue, as present in the comics, will find themselves disappointed though, as the gods unfortunately speak as much of a contemporary language as our own. Thor and Jane make a decent on-screen couple, but it's the supporting cast that succeeds the most in keeping us engaged, with Hiddleston worthy of most praise. It is often said a movie is only as good as its bad guy, which should have made The Dark World a very good movie, but Loki is forced by the plot to be submissive in terms of villainy to Malekith, despite the fact Loki far exceeds this new villain in being interesting (no criticism on Eccleston's performance it must be stated), mostly thanks to his almost heartfelt loss of his mother, which for a moment makes you think he genuinely wants to help Thor in exacting revenge. And by pulling that off convincingly, Hiddleston again reveals why he was such a good choice for this loveable rogue. Dark or not, it's Loki's world, and we would do well never to underestimate him as everyone else does.

And be sure to stick with the credits a while longer to witness a largely unrelated but neverthless hugely intriguing typical Marvel 'bridge' to next year's Guardians of the Galaxy, which will expand the cosmic corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe even further. It stars Benicio Del Toro with a funny accent and a silly hairdo, so you have no valid reason to miss out on it, really.

donderdag 14 november 2013

Today's Review: The Colony (Blu-Ray release)

Here's my second home cinema release review for MovieScene:

Another lousy flick. Though not nearly as bad and bizarre as the Nazisploitation cult curiosity called Salon Kitty, which I had the distinct displeasure of reviewing at home earlier this year. In fact, the failure in The Colony's case in many ways lies in the exact opposite method of sticking to a trite and true format instead of exploring its own merits, of which there are definitely some. Though it starts off pretty good, it soon slides into a worn out narrative that has been done to death, and almost always to better results. Nevertheless, on a rainy Sunday afternoon there's worse movies to sit through for those who happen to love dystopian and/or post-apocalytic action vehicles, with or without vicious cannibals.

woensdag 13 november 2013

The Lost World Series 1: Dino Damage Medical Center with Battle Ravaged Allosaurus

Year of release: 1997

-Medical Center platform
-Rejuvenation Lab
-Medical instruments
-Allosaurus featuring five pieces of dino damage

Description: the Medical Center itself is basically a rather oddly shaped white platform, with a large white bench or table on it sporting some grey covering and silver highlights. On the front it’s marked with a small TLW movie logo sticker. On the right side of the middle of the bench there’s a white plate sticking out, which is a resting support for any dinosaurs lying on it (it was designed with the Allosaurus in mind, which of course is most compatible with the Medical Center, but most smaller and medium sized dinosaurs fit on this table). There are four small protrusions sticking out of either side of the table: the set comes with a white strip with rows of holes in it so it can be clamped around the table, restraining any dinosaur lying on it. In front of the bench there’s more silver details, technical equipment of sorts with yellow cables sticking out. It’s there for show only and doesn’t do anything but give the set a more complicated and detailed appearance. In the right corner of the platform next to the table, there’s a grey device with a white arm ending in a large round hole so it can hold the rejuvenation lab. This is basically a vat holding a red liquid: my guess would be it’s supposed to be blood. It can be placed above the right end of the table, so it can administer a blood transfusion or perform some similar procedure on the poor prehistoric beastie lying on the operating bench. The vat itself is cylindrical and transparent for the most part, save the underside which consists of silver detailing. On the left side of the platform, there’s a white table adorned with computer instruments (unfortunately not painted in a different colour, so they’re not very noticeable). This table has three holes in it, to store the medical instruments (a syringe, a scalpel and a pair of scissors, all painted grey). On top of this table there’s a grey computer console adorned with four stickers showing the skeleton of the Allosaurus and a DNA string among things, to give the table some more detail. Lastly, in front of the table, on the left front corner of the platform, there’s a small white column, designed to restrain the tail of the Allosaurus when it’s lying on the table. It can be removed easily when it’s not needed, like when there’s a different dinosaur placed on the operating bench.
The Allosaurus stands in a completely neutral position and has both poseable arms and legs, as well as a lower jaw which is moveable to a small degree. It sports a predominantly light brown paint job: its back, flanks, neck, upper part of the tail, arms, most of the head and legs (including most of the dino damage pieces) are painted in this colour. Its underside (belly, lower part of the tail, throat, most of the lower jaw, and inner parts of its limbs are coloured white. It has about 25 dark brown stripes running from its snout to the end of the tail, as well as spots of the same colour on its flanks and upper legs. On its left upper leg there’s a black JP: Site B logo, along with the number .47. Unfortunately, none of the animal’s claws are painted. It has green eyes, located in the middle of a dark brown spot. Noteworthy: as was the case with real Allosaurs, this creature has two bony ridges on either side of the upper part of the skull, including “horns” above the eyes. This dinosaur comes with no less than five points of dino damage:
-left upper tail section: on the left side of the upper tail, a large portion of skin can be removed, revealing vertebrae and red muscle tissue. This particular piece is somewhat harder to remove.
-upper left leg: the part of the leg sporting the JP: Site B logo can be removed, showing leg bones and muscle tissue.
-entire left leg: this leg sure has a hard time, since it can be torn off entirely. It looks a bit fake when this leg is removed, but at least the designers adorned the part under the leg with a small imprint of intestines (not painted sadly).
-left flank: a large portion of the left flank is capable of being pulled off, revealing a white ribcage.
-ribcage: removing this ribcage reveals even more fascinating inner anatomy, mostly muscle tissue, but also several internal organs coloured red, pink and purple.
Note that all dino damage is located on the left side of the sculpt, while there’s none on the right side.

Analysis: this is without a doubt one of the best and most original play sets of the TLW toy line, if not any JP toy line. Giving credit where credit is due: this set contains one of the most realistic and playable dinosaur sculpts ever, so whoever designed this one should be praised for his/her inventiveness and originality. Since Allosaurus wasn’t seen in any of the JP movies and hadn’t been made into a JP toy before this figure is original already, but adding so many dino damage to it only enhances the brilliance of this set. Taking the dinosaur apart during a battle with another dinosaur figure never fails to be good fun. The head sculpt looks fantastic and makes it unmistakably distinct from other JP dinosaurs.
But even though this is a wonderful sculpt, there are still some minor points of vexation. Firstly, the figure can’t stand on its own feet, it’s out of balance. Having it lean on the tail in a sort of tripod position helps though. Secondly, the paint job is a bit dull and not very original. It’s a shame they didn’t bother to paint the claws. Thirdly, it’s cool this beast can open its mouth, but it can not really be opened far enough to be useful.
Though of course the Allosaurus is the main attraction of this set, the Medical Center itself isn’t bad either, even though it looks a bit odd with all those asymmetrical shapes. The Allosaurus fits perfectly on the operating table (it was obviously designed for that), but almost every small or equally sized creature will do just as nicely. The paint job of the set is nothing too special, but certainly adequate. The abundance of white along with the grey and silver of instruments makes it all feel very much like a hospital, which it basically is. However, it’s a shame the equipment on the computer table lacks a paint job of its own. Fortunately the stickers adorning the console provide for some variation in colour. The rejuvenation lab with the red “blood” in it is a nice touch, though once you use some of it you can’t use it again. The medical instruments enhance the realism of the set, but even though there’s room for them in the table, they have a habit of being misplaced, making complete Medical Center play sets much harder to find. 

Playability: this toy provides for loads of playability, especially since it already comes with a dinosaur figure so you don’t have to buy one separately. The Allosaurus not only stands in a totally neutral pose, but also has a full range of poseable limbs and even a mouth (which unfortunately can’t be opened very wide, but it’s still a nice little extra). The dino damage options only enhance the overall playability. The Medical Center itself adds some things as well with its removable rejuvenation lab and various medical instruments (which sadly have a tendency to get lost all too easily), though it’s clearly the dinosaur which does most of the job playability wise.

Realism: there was no Medical Center in the TLW movie. The Mobile Command Center trailer seen in the film might have carried some medical equipment (used on the T-Rex baby for example), but nothing like this since it just wouldn’t fit in the trailer. So this part of the play set is solely an invention on the toy designers’ part. As for the Allosaurus, it has not been featured in any of the JP movies, so we can’t compare it to its movie counterpart since it hasn’t got one. However, it’s quite correct from a scientific point of view. Especially accurate is the head with the ridges above its eyes, which also sets it apart distinctly from similar bipedal carnivores like Tyrannosaurus. A minor side note: any animal so heavily damaged as this poor creature wouldn’t live a day, Medical Center or not. But that would be too grizzly for a toy.

Repaint: no. No parts from this set, including the Allosaurus, would be repainted for later toy lines either.

Overall rating: 10/10. A fun play set featuring one of the best dinosaur sculpts of all JP toy lines, what more could anyone want? This set is highly recommended. The catch: it’s not easy to find, especially in complete condition. It wasn’t released in most foreign territories and isn’t exactly common in the USA either. eBay is probably your best bet, though often people sell the Allosaurus apart from the Medical Center. It’s usually not very cheap either, but being one of the best JP toys of all, it’s most definitely worth your money.

The Lost World Series 1: Humvee

Year of release: 1997

-Missile launcher (including one missile)
-Pivoting Stampede Seats
-Dino Pursuit Claw
-Two stun sticks

(Note: the reviewer is not an expert on cars, so any incorrect terminology, or lack of detail, should be disregarded.)
Description: this large car sports a rather sober, colourless paint job, with a military feel to it. It is coloured mostly dark green, though somewhat lighter on the driver's cabin doors. Its underside is all black, with four dark grey wheels. The drivers' seats (there's room for two figures inside) are black, with a metallic brown steering wheel. This vehicle is equipped with an abundance of accessories and highlights. It has a grey, rectangular fence on each side of the driver's cabin, protecting those inside from close encounters with aggressive dinosaurs. These fences can be lowered in a 90 degree angle and used as platforms for figures to stand on. The car also has a large grey bumper with two lights on top up front, and an additional black piece with four more lights on top of the roofless driver's cabin. On the back of the car there is a platform surrounded by metallic grey railing, so figures won't fall off the car so easily in a high speed chase. The front part of this railing, just behind the driver's cabin, carries a detachable dark green missile launcher with orange highlights (grip for loading it on the railing and button for firing the missile): pressing the button on top launches the metallic brown missile over a decent distance. On either side of the car there's a black pivoting seat, attached to the vehicle by two metallic grey cranes. Both can move over a 180 degree radius, so people sitting in them can get closer to the hunting action to catch dinosaurs, making use of the two metallic brown stun sticks that come with this car as extra accessories.
A big Pursuit Claw comes with this vehicle, which can be used separately from the vehicle, but can also be placed up front so the car can push it forward into a herd of dinosaurs to catch some of them, or it can be towed at the back of the car via the grey grip located there. The claw consists of a black grid with dark grey wheels on either side, carrying a big metallic grey grip holding a dark green contraption which is equipped with two huge metallic brown “fingers” with grey 'balls' in between to trap dinosaurs with. Once a dinosaur gets trapped between the “fingers”, it either hits the big orange button on the front of the green part, making the claw close with force so the animal can't escape, or the smaller orange button on top of the green device can be pushed, causing the same effect to occur. The claw can be tilted over a 180 degree radius as well, unless it's attached to the car in which case its range is limited to a small extent.
The Humvee comes with various stickers for ornamentation, hinting at this vehicle's purpose as a hunter's car, and giving it more character. There are rectangular stickers with black and yellow lines (covered in mud stains) for both the claw and the car itself, as well as a similar smaller sticker which also carries a 'caution' note over it for on the claw. There's a small sticker carrying the TLW logo for on the windshield, as well as one showing the InGen logo, indicating to which party this vehicle belongs. There's a total of ten 'lights' stickers, eight for the front of the car and two more for the rear section. There's also a sticker saying 'Hummer', while various stickers with control panels and buttons come with this car to lighten up the driver's cabin. Lastly, there are various tiny stickers with dinosaur skull logos on them, and red crosses over these, to show what species have already fallen prey to this Humvee capture vehicle.

Analysis: the largest vehicle of the TLWS1 toy line (with the exception of the Mobile Command Center, which is more of a play set), this Humvee is more than a match for most vicious dinosaurs, being designed for capture and close combat with prehistoric vermin. It sports a rather sombre and dark paint job, very different from the jungle colours we've seen on more cheerful cars like the Ground Tracker and Jungle Explorer, indicating it's not to be messed with: the dark green, grey and black colour scheme hints at a serious occupation, and give it a more realistic feel (though the small orange highlights feel out of place in this regard). There's space for at least seven figures. It also comes with various tools to aid in the process of catching dinosaurs, especially those that don't feel like being captured.
The most notable accessory is the big capture claw, an adequate tool for catching mostly smaller or medium sized creatures. It's not handy for use while dealing with something like an adult T-Rex, but should succeed in catching or at least knocking out Raptors, Pachycephalosaurs and other smaller figures. It can grab them between its “fingers”, which violently snap to close around such beasts when either of the two buttons is pushed. The edgy shape of the 'balls' (for lack of a better term), which function as teeth with their serrated quality, make sure few dinosaurs manage to escape when the claw is closed. Animals that respond inappropriately (i.e., that resist their capture) can be subdued using the missile launcher on top of the car. This is a decent launcher, with a somewhat limited range (usually no more then 50 centimetres), which is sufficient for creatures that have been caught when the claw was placed on either the front or back of the car (though the gun can also be used separately, like the claw). However, there's only one missile, so you only have one shot. But if that doesn't work out, the Humvee is equipped with pivoting seats to make hunters sitting on them swing forward close enough to tranquillize the dinosaurs using the stun sticks that also come with this vehicle. When the claw is positioned on the front of the car, these seats can come close enough to put the hunters in the middle of the action. However, if it's positioned at the back of the car, they are less useful. Fortunately the missile launcher can also fire at things behind the vehicle. Not all figures fit well in the seats: some have a tendency to fall out easily, or have their arms positioned in such a manner that they get in the way of the inward side of the seats. But most figures fit in well enough, especially the ones from the TLW toy lines.
The Humvee is mostly focused on offensive action, being a capture vehicle, but also comes with various defensive pieces. The railing at the rear section of the car not only makes sure human figures don't fall out of the vehicle so easily when in a chase, it's also an obstacle for dinosaurs trying to attack from behind. Creatures trying to get to the people inside the drivers' cabin will have a tough time getting past the fences on either side which do an adequate protective job, but can also be used as additional attack platforms for human figures during a chase (again, using the stun sticks, or weaponry that comes with other figures). However, the main flaw of this vehicle is that the driver's cabin has no roof, so it's open to the elements (wouldn't want to drive this vehicle during a typical Jurassic Park thunderstorm!), and also to large predators that can manage to reach in the cabin and eat the people inside (like the big Rexes of this toy line). Again, the missile launcher helps in this regard, but you only have one shot.

Playability: excellent. This vehicle is loaded with poseable parts, action features and plenty of space for human figures. The Pursuit Claw can be attached to either the front or the rear side of the vehicle, but can also be used separately. The fences on either side of the driver's cabin not only protect the vehicle against ferocious dinosaurs, but also provides additional space for human figures. The missile launcher is also detachable, but it only comes with one missile: two or more, like the Ground Tracker had, would have been preferable. Though there's no specific dino damage parts, unlike on most other vehicles, various parts of this car can easily be taken off to stand in for such a feature, like the railing on the back of the car, or the lights on top. The stun sticks are a nice bonus, but only useful for human figures: they do have an unfortunate tendency to be easily misplaced, or considered as not belonging to his vehicle, making complete Humvees harder to find.

Realism: this is quite a decent toy version of the Humvee vehicle seen in the Lost World movie as used by the InGen hunters. It's not identical, being equipped with various action options for playability's sake (like the missile launcher). However, the Pursuit Claw and Pivoting Seats were both seen in the movie, not even all that dissimilar from the ones on this toy. Stun sticks were also used by the InGen team, though they too looked somewhat different. The shape, size and even colour of this car are quite comparable to the movie's Humvee. Overall, this is one of the most realistic JP vehicles of all the toy lines.

Repaint: no, this is a brand new vehicle. Nothing has been repainted from earlier toys, except for the missile launcher, which was retooled and repainted from the one that came with the JPS1 Bush Devil Tracker (with a different missile this time). The Humvee would not be repainted for any following toy lines.

Overall rating: 8/10. This is an excellent new vehicle, with a realistic design and paint job, solid action features, some of them quite original, and plenty of room for human figures. It's well worth getting, but it's not the easiest JP vehicle to find. Prices tend to be high for complete and MIB samples.