vrijdag 31 oktober 2014

Jurassic Park III: Paul Kirby & Stegosaurus

Year of release: 2002

-Stegosaurus figure
-Net launcher (with “net”)

Description: this figure sports a light red, almost pink, shirt with a pair of binoculars over it, a gold watch, dark grey pants with darker tones mixed in, brown shoes and a brown belt. He shows signs of being attacked by some ferocious creature: his right leg features some rips in his pants, showing skin underneath, while his lower left leg is covered in bandages and part of his pants is missing. Paul has red hair and green eyes, but actor William H. Macy’s famous moustache, featured heavily in the JP III movie, is noticeably missing. The figure doesn’t stand in a neutral pose: his legs are in ‘walking mode’, with one leg moved forward and the other backward. His arms are bent, like he’s holding something. The figure has some slight balance problems and has a tendency to fall over.
The net launcher is entirely painted in metallic grey. It looks pretty sophisticated, but it’s a very simple design despite the detailed look: just push the lever and the end part moves upward, launching the net (or any item presently sitting on the device). The net is quite small, and all black. It’s got two ‘balls’ on its sides, with which it can be attached to the launcher.
The Stegosaurus certainly isn’t a hatchling (its plates are way too big), but appears to be a miniature version of an adult Stegosaurus. It’s basically coloured in three layers. The lower layer (the belly, legs, and undersides of the tail and neck) are painted grey with black stripes. The middle layer is coloured blue. The upper layer, consisting of the back, top of the head and tail, as well as the spikes and plates, is black. The eyes are yellow, and a black JP III logo can be found on its left back leg. The animal stands in an attack posture, with its body bend and its tail dangerously sticking out, like it’s defending itself from an aggressor.

Analysis: this figure evokes mixed feelings. Though Paul’s paint job is quite good, the sad fact he misses his trademark, the moustache, is a disappointment. I reckon many people had no trouble applying a moustache themselves though. The pose he takes on in also somewhat irritating: he easily falls over because of the position of his legs. The odd way in which he holds his arms, especially his left, also doesn’t help. But other than that this is a pretty good sculpt.
Unfortunately the net launcher is a different thing: it downright sucks. It looks ridiculous, and the net is far too small to catch anything. The nets are launched, but don’t get very far and rarely hit something (at least: they don’t catch anything). Even the Stegosaurus with its plates and spikes is easy to miss with this sucker. The material of which the net consists is also quite a bummer: one can’t help being remembered of all the wonderful nets the Kenner lines featured. The paint job of the launcher further diminishes the set: though the device is pretty detailed, it’s coloured in a monotonous paint job, like they couldn’t be bothered painting some of the details.
The Stegosaurus is fifty-fifty. The animal looks pretty good, but the paint job could have been better. Especially the dull black of the spikes and plates makes one want to get some paint and customize the poor creature. The attack posture looks pretty scary and aggressive, but it stands in the way of playability since the sculpt is in defensive mode only. A neutral pose would have been preferable.

Playability: quite limited unfortunately. The figure has the usual poseable body parts, but his position doesn’t help the playability. The Stegosaurus, which is not poseable in any way and stands in a very un-neutral pose, further hinders possibilities. The net launcher is just a disgrace to the very term ‘net launcher’ and should be utterly ignored.

Realism: Paul Kirby’s facial features look quite similar to those of Paul in the movie, despite the moustache being absent. His outfit is also different, but still pretty realistic for an everyman posing as a millionaire adventurer. There were no net launchers in JP III, and seeing this miserable contraption we can be nothing but grateful for that. The Stegosaurus is easily recognizable as a Stegosaurus (or a close relative), but doesn’t look much like the Stegosaurs featured in both TLW and JP III (we only saw a few shots of them in JP III anyway): the most noticeable difference is the paint job this figure sports. But also the position of the plates and spikes, as well as the relative long front legs this figure has, differ from its movie counterparts. It’s still relatively paleontologically correct though, except for the front legs maybe.

Repaint: no. However, the Stegosaurus would be repainted for future toy lines: once for JP III Camo-Xtreme, and twice again for JP Dinosaurs 2 and 3. (Note: one of the JPD models actually had the same paint job as the Camo-Xtreme model, so it was a reuse instead of a repaint. But JPD still featured two more paint jobs for this sculpt.)

Overall rating: 5/10. The figure looks pretty good, but is hampered by his posture, and the Stegosaurus even more so. The net launcher is just a plain disaster, the less spoken of it the better. This set isn’t very hard to find in the US, and probably at low cost, so if you feel you need one you can get it without much trouble. It’s a bit harder to find in overseas territories, but still not impossible to locate.

donderdag 30 oktober 2014

Jurassic Park III: Military Diver & Spinosaurus

Year of release: 2002

-Spinosaurus figure
-Missile launcher (with missile)

Description: this figure wears an all black suit, including black flippers, with a yellow vest over it, as well as several blue belts and dark grey highlights. On his right leg he wears a yellow knife holder with a knife in it (non removable). On his left upper arm an American flag (or something like it) is found, so this guy is part of the US military alright. His face is partially covered with breathing equipment, though he’s got nothing covering his eyes. He’s got a black air tank with more dark grey detailing on his back. He shows signs of a dinosaur attack on his left leg and right arm, showing skin. His weapon appears to be some sort of missile launcher. It’s coloured in a slightly metallic dark grey paint job, with a yellow missile sticking out of it on both sides. Pushing the end of the missile sort of launches it, though it doesn’t work very well.
The Spinosaurus is positioned in a crouching move, possibly stalking potential prey. Its left arm is raised upwards and its mouth is opened wide. The figure sports a grey paint job, with some shiny blue stripes on every part of its body, including the sail. A large red stripe, also in a shiny paint job, runs from its snout all the way to the end of its tail, including all over the sail. Its claws are painted black, its eyes are yellow and a black JP III logo is located on its left leg.

Analysis: this is a fairly decent figure. The diver sure looks like a diver, though not necessarily military, were it not for the flag on his arm. The figure stands in a rather neutral pose, except for his left leg, which is positioned in a forward move. The paint job is pretty good, with a fair amount of details. I’m not an expert on diving equipment, so I don’t know whether his gear is realistic, but it looks good enough to me.
The same can’t be said for the weapon. Once again Hasbro uses its own launching mechanism, with the push-the-end-of-the-missile system. It’s a rather lousy system anyway, but in this case it just doesn’t work right. The missile hardly flies in a straight line to its target but gets off course easily. It also does little damage if it hits anything at all, it just lacks the necessary impact force. That, and the fact it has a lame paint job, makes it a very disappointing gun.
The Spinosaurus is better by comparison, but nothing great in itself. It sits in a bit of an odd position and tends to fall over because it’s slightly out of balance with its left arm raised like that. The paint job is quite original, but doesn’t remind us of the colours the Spino in JP III had (though it is similar to the paint job of the Aqua Attack Spinosaurus of this toy line). It’s not the best JP III Spino figure by far, but decently enough.

Playability: not great. The diver’s limbs are all poseable, and the more or less neutral pose also helps. The weapon however is a lost cause, and one of the lamest weapons of all the Hasbro JP figures. The Spino is not poseable in any way and also doesn’t take on a neutral pose, so it doesn’t help the playability much.

Realism: there was no Military Diver in JP III. There were marines and military craft, but no divers. Hasbro just made the figure up. I think it would have been better if they had made soldiers like seen in the movie: instead they just made something up, but the result in this case is adequate enough. The weapon also wasn’t featured in the movie, and thank heaven for that!
The Spino certainly is recognizable as such, with its crocodilian jaws, sail and long arms, but other than that it doesn’t resemble the Spino from JP III much: the most noticeable difference is the odd paint job this figure sports which is in no way reminiscent of the colours Spino sported in the movie.

Repaint: no. However, the Diver and his weapon would be repainted for JP Dinosaurs 2 (Dimetrodon & Military Diver) and JP 2009 (while the repainted weapon was also found on the big Deluxe Electronic T-Rex set, paired with a repaint of the Military General instead).The Spinosaurus would be repainted four times, once for JP Camo-Xtreme, once more for JP Dinosaurs 2, and twice for JP 2009.

Overall rating: 6/10. The figure is okay, though the weapon sucks. The dinosaur is decent enough, but nothing too special. This set is not very hard to find in the USA, so if you want one you could probably get it relatively cheap and not have much trouble finding it. It’s a bit harder to get your hands on in some other territories, but still far from impossible to find.

woensdag 29 oktober 2014

Today's News: It's a Marvelous world

It's a tumultuous week in terms of Marvel movie news.




Quite the stirring live-event that was, when Marvel announced its new five-year plan. It looks like the Marvel Cinematic Universe will undergo a lot of upheaval soon. Old characters get tossed around and in some cases, likely killed. Fortunately, fascinating new characters will step in to even the score a bit. Question of course, is whether these new kids will prove to have an equal amount of staying power. Marvel sure has listened to the fanbase's loudest requests, while at the same time opting for diversification of characters. A black superhero film, a female heroine carrying her own movie; the sky is the limit as it is in the comics. Time to kill of all the chauvinist blond male characters while we're at it, they must have thought. And so Cap is marching towards Civil War. It killed him in the comics and, just as in the case of the source material, his successor is already in place to take over the shield. At the same time, Thor is facing Ragnarok and the end of all things, which also doesn't bode well for him, not to mention the universe. The universe is in deep trouble already as Thanos is finally stepping up out of the shadows of cosmic villainy to assume his place as ultimate bad guy, as he at last acquires that Infinity Gauntlet with which Marvel has been teasing us for a few years now. A single movie wasn't enough to tell that epic tale of heroism and sacrifice, so it's split into two parts. It may even be enough to throw the Guardians of the Galaxy into the mix - as they have plenty of ties to Thanos too - though both movies are explicitly labelled as Avengers flicks. Shit is swiftly hitting the fan.

What will remain for Marvel's Phase 4, one cannot help but wonder. The Infinity War seems a very tough act to follow. Though it appears unlikely the very popular founding Avengers like Cap, Thor and Iron Man will be retired for good, it seems the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have to make do without them sometime soon. New heroes will rise, but a team consisting of Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and Captain Marvel will find itself with the task to fill some very big boots. Diversity is key, possibly enticing a broader audience, while also adding more room for relatable conflicts and engaging character dynamics, the type of things Joss Whedon excels at (I doubt the Avengers movies will lose him as showrunner anytime soon). Of course, such a group will only be as good as its separate components. Captain Marvel remains to be cast, but it's now very likely Benedict Cumberbatch will assume the mantle of Doctor Strange. Though he was not my first choice, casting such a fine actor definitely won't hurt. I'm less sure about the casting of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, simply because I'm not familiar with the man's work. He's rather unknown, which is probably for the best, as to the general audience the same can be said for Black Panther himself. It wasn't like Chris Hemsworth was such a wellknown guy before he became the God of Thunder, yet that turned out pretty well. Seasoned actors and eager young dogs, a potent combination as ever. Fortunately the Marvel veterans will still be around for a movie or two to guide these newbies, nevermind their acting experience, into the Marvel fold. I bet we can expect a situation along the lines of that old saying, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same'. And though I'm a strong proponent of change in movies, I would like to stay the Marvel Cinematic Universe equally exciting at is it, if not more so. Seems that's exactly what's gonna happen.


This franchise, too, has hardly changed since its inception. New faces come and go (and usually come again), but the core ensemble remains the same, as does the recipe of fast cars, tough guys, sexy dames and plenty of action. Paul Walker's untimely death has not changed that, though whether the studio feels the need to make another movie without him after Furious 7 remains to be seen (though I know the answer, if the boxoffice will be any indication). It's safe to say Furious 7 is the most ambitious entry in the franchise so far, even though the ingredients have not been altered. Virtually the entire main cast is back, while several popular actors have been added to the mix to spice things up even more. A director hardly familiar with the genre but quite proven in another has so far steered this project succesfully around its many pitfalls, including the loss of Walker. This conservative teaser poster is a clear indication little has changed to the franchise's success formula despite everything thrown at it. The audience will get what it wants, and a lot more. It's just those shorter titles people will have to get used to, since nobody has time anymore for long titles these days.


Which didn't stop the producers of Exodus: Gods and Kings to add a redundant subtitle to the name of the film. Exodus itself would definitely have sufficed. The addition is just there to hit the character struggle at the core of the movie's narrative home that much harder. It seems to be a classic story of brohter versus brother, one of them being the Pharaoh/King, the other his closest friend who ends up defying him because God tells him to do so (ah, the destructive power of faith running rampant!). I think these posters oversell that point and focus a little too much on these characters, even though I know full well it's all about them. I guess the supporting cast wasn't interesting or vital enough to warrant posters of their own. No one-sheets with grand actors like Ben Kingsley or Sigourney Weaver, or younger, more popular ones like Aaron Paul. Too bad, but at least we get a good chance to admire the detailed work that went into making Bale and Edgerton's fabulous period armour.

maandag 27 oktober 2014

Today's Video: showing off my excessive dinosaur toy collection

Believe it or not, but a fellow forum member of the Dinosaur Toy Forum (yes, there actually is such a thing) recently asked me to create a video walkthrough of my overly extensive dinosaur toy collection. Not one to turn down a request that touches my ego, I filmed this 20-minute walkthrough yesterday and uploaded it on YouTube today. Since I unfortunately did not have enough memory storage on my camera to film it all in one take, it ended up in three pieces: one briefly covering about everything there is to see in my kitchen, dining room and lounge (top), and two short compendium pieces that cover the attic (below), for those few dinosaur die-hards who could stand to watch more. I must apologize for the phony English accent I apply when, basically, talking to myself. Dinosaur (toy) enthusiasts will get a kick out of seeing just how many wonderful models of prehistoric critters (plus assorted nerd toys) have accumulated over the years and now grace my living area. Everybody else will likely consider it a obsessive waste of time, money and effort, but I've grown accustomed to that.

zondag 26 oktober 2014

Today's News: business as usual

It's been a slow second half of the week for posting movie news. Good thing too, it won't cause me to get behind again:


I had hoped for this, so I'm glad the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs isn't letting a second John Carter of Mars movie gestate for another 70 years. I was really disappointed Disney's John Carter flopped so hard at the boxoffice. Sure, it wasn't perfect, but it was a damn fun movie with great visuals and it had solid franchise potential. Maybe I liked it more than I should, but subject material like this - strange aliens, exotic alien worlds, sexy alien chicks, etc. - really is my cup of tea, always has been. Granted, the movie made its fair share of mistakes both in terms of development, narrative and marketing, but in my mind it truly deserved a better fate. And so ERB, Inc. thinks, too. The original books were groundbreaking, swashbuckling rollercoasters of adventure novels that have endured for many decades, so there must still be an audience for them somewhere. No harm in trying again, starting from scratch, maybe not spending such excessive amounts of money on them this time. I'm really hopeful the company can find a new partner, a studio that still feels there's room for old fashioned Sci-Fi adventures like these. At least this time they know what not to do to make it work. Though it would make sense for both the estate and the studio to wait a little longer, after Jupiter Ascending and Star Wars Episode VII have hit theaters, so they can see whether there's still an audience for grandiose space opera in the ERB tradition.


Seems like more of the same. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, as the first Woman in Black was quite a decent horror flick with its wonderfully creepy and moody period look. Trading in a late Victorian style for a WW II era visual look is not a bad thing. From a story point of view, it makes sense as to why people would allow kids to visit that horribly haunted house again. It seems a better place for children to be than a bombed-out London, any regular parent would think. City folks don't believe in countryside ghost stories after all. And not having Daniel Radcliffe as the protagonist is probably a good notion too. His post-Potter presence in the previous part tended to overshadow the movie as having its own identity. The Woman in Black is still commonly referred to as 'that spooky film featuring Harry Potter', and I don't think that does it any justice at all. Then again, the second installment stars Potter's Narcissa Malfoy, for those who weren't aware. Hopefully it doesn't mean the movie will soon be acknowledged as 'that spooky movie starring Draco's mum'. That is, if Angel of Death turns out as decent a scary movie (or more so) as its predecessor. Otherwise, I couldn't really care less anyway.


Another Steve Jobs biopic? There was one in theaters only a year ago. Than one, however, didn't win much favour with audience or critics with its rather bland and straightforward approach. Nor are its director and main star (Ashton Kutcher, if you recall) considered such bankable talents as Christian Bale and Danny Boyle. So yeah, why not make another? There's still plenty to tell about so inspiring and innovative a man, no doubt. Plus, there's better storytellers available, and Boyle sure is an intriguing choice. I don't mind Bale, though he tends to go a little too far in his acting, reminding you that you're not watching the character he plays, but that you're seeing Bale doing his extreme thing again. The script is in the capable hands of Aaron Sorkin, who seems to be in danger of being typecast as the screenwriter for penning biopics about important folks in the digital industry for hugely talented directors (he also did The Social Network, after all). You think we'll get multiple Bill Gates motion pictures when that Microsoft man logs out of this life? If so, Sorkin is likely to be Hollywood's go-to guy to pen a script about Gates' life.


Hopefully poor Jesse Eisenberg fully realized what he got himself into before signing on as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Considering DC's overly ambitious plans for its own cinematic universe - clearly copying Marvel's designs, but still - it would be natural for a bad guy of Luthor's stature to appear in multiple DC movies soon. Luthor, after all, has his greedy conniving arms wrapped aroud a lot of shady businesses in the DC comics, and has had them there for decades. The movie version is expected to be just as busy controlling an evil empire, one that's not restricted to simply plaguing his nemesis Superman, but many of his fellow heroes as well. Right now the most apt comparable character available in the Marvel Cinematic Universe villain would be Loki, who also started out the archenemy of one but soon demanded a bigger piece of the superhero pie. Luthor is likely to do the same. Nevertheless, his skills would make him more of an evil Nick Fury, controlling strings of a lot of other baddies behind the scenes, as Fury does with good guys (or what he considers to be such, at least). In this case, it seems he's the guy responsible for forming the supervillain team called Suicide Squad, soon to give the Justice League a hard time. I wouldn't be surprised to see him, and thus Eisenberg, make regular appearances, both minor and major, in many upcoming DC movies. And I'm sure Eisenberg won't particularly mind, it just keeps him occupied while the pay checks keep coming in at a steady flow.

zaterdag 25 oktober 2014

Today's Article: 'It's a mad house!': de dystopische sciencefictionfilm 1968-1977, Part 9


In de inleiding van Science Fiction Films of the Seventies stelt Craig Anderson dat de jaren zeventig het 'coming of age' van het sciencefictiongenre inluidden.1 Hoewel Anderson de implicatie van deze opmerking niet bespreekt – hij laat haar verder links liggen – is deze aanduiding heel toepasselijk. Waar sciencefiction in de vijftiger jaren hoofdzakelijk entertainment was met bij vlagen maatschappijkritische trekjes, waren het de sciencefictionfilms van de Tweede Golf die maatschappijkritiek tot een belangrijke doelstelling van het genre maakten, zonder daarbij de factor vermaak uit het oog te verliezen. De meeste sciencefictionfilms uit de vijftiger jaren gaven eigentijdse thema's als nucleaire angsten en 'red scare' hoofdzakelijk in metaforen weer. Deze luchtige, soms kinderlijk speelse, sciencefiction, waarin ondanks de omvang van de weergegeven catastrofale problemen uiteindelijk alles goed kwam, werd in de periode 1968-1977 vervangen door een kritischer variant. Deze nieuwe sciencefictionfilms approprieerden specifieke thema's en angsten die in de samenleving heersten en maakten hen bespreekbaar, zonder de ernst van de problemen te reduceren tot een makkelijk oplosbaar, zwart-wit conflict.

Herboren in de ernst van 2001: A Space Odyssey en Planet of the Apes, die aantoonden dat serieuze sciencefiction niet alleen geschikt was voor ingewijden, werd de representatie van de pessimistische tijdsgeest in het nieuwe type sciencefiction niet geschuwd. De Westerse samenleving, hoofdzakelijk de Verenigde Staten, verkeerde in een toestand van crisis. In de drang een serieuze boodschap te hebben, zoals 2001 en Planet of the Apes dat hadden, zag het genre geen reden om de verschillende factoren die deze crisis vormden onbesproken te laten; de tijdsgeest was duister, en het sciencefictiongenre daardoor niet minder. Door in te springen op de actualiteit gaf het genre een hoeveelheid aan sociale thema's weer, waarvan ik er hier “slechts” twee (inclusief 'subthema's') in detail heb besproken. Sciencefiction had een missie: 'critical dystopia' was het devies. Het publiek werd geconfronteerd met toekomstige extrapolaties van heersende negatieve thema's als milieuproblematiek, technofobie, racisme en geweld, met als doel om te waarschuwen voor de mogelijke dystopische effecten hiervan op de langere termijn als er niet tegen opgetreden zou worden. Hoewel het “if this goes on” type sciencefiction hierbij de neiging had te overdrijven, maakte het de aanwezigheid en intentie van de boodschap niet minder treffend: het publiek moest ervoor waken dat de in deze films geschetste wereld realiteit zou worden.2 'Het gaat misschien slecht met de wereld', stelde het genre, 'maar als we het zo door laten gaan, gaat het alleen maar slechter, dus dat moet voorkomen worden'. De toekomstbeelden in de sciencefictionfilms van de jaren zeventig waren uitsluitend uitvergrotingen van het pessimisme in de eigen tijd, en waarschuwden dat de oorzaken hiervan nu bestreden moesten worden. 'Fantasies of the future may [...] be ways of putting quotation marks around the present', schrijven Ryan en Kellner, en hoewel hun bespreking van dystopische samenlevingen te wensen overliet, geef ik hen hierin gelijk.3

De dystopische systemen in het sciencefictiongenre zijn de resultaten van de imperfecties van het verleden, waardoor de mens van de toekomst lijdt onder de fouten van het verleden. Desondanks, de mate van lijden is relatief gebleken, afhankelijk van het thema dat besproken werd. De dystopische systemen in technofobische films zijn zowel afschrikwekkend in hun totale onderdrukking van het individu, als verleidelijk dankzij hun geborgenheid en veiligheid (wat men node miste in de zeventiger jaren). Deze dualiteit wijst op de aloude dubbelzinnige rol van technologie; enerzijds is zij een brenger van vrede en voorspoed, anderzijds de motor achter verwoesting. Het is aan de mens te bepalen naar welke kant de weegschaal zal overhellen: hijzelf, als schepper van technologie, bepaalt hoe zijn creatie gebruikt zal worden, ten goede of ten kwade. In 'environmental sciencefiction' is er daarentegen niets positiefs aan het geportretteerde dystopia: het is een nare wereld die voor iedereen met moeite uit te houden is en alleen maar minder leefbaar zal worden, want de natuurlijk wereld heeft het onderspit gedolven. Ook hier ligt de schuld bij de mens zelf, met als verschil dat het te laat is om keuzes te maken: wat gedaan moet worden om het tij te keren, had veel eerder moeten gebeuren. De mensheid kan nu slechts afwachten.

Het gaat te ver om te zeggen dat de filmstudio's die sciencefictionfilms produceerden uitsluitend thematische diepgang in hun films aanbrachten omwille van de boodschap voor het publiek. Financiƫle belangen speelden, zoals altijd in de filmindustrie, een belangrijke rol. Films die inhaakten op de actualiteit vielen immers op en brachten winst in het laatje. Het is niet verrassend dat de markt voor actuele pessimistische sciencefiction op den duur verzadigd raakte, wat het succes van Star Wars en Close Encounters of the Third Kind verklaart. Immers, deze films hadden geen specifieke boodschap, maar keerden terug naar de sfeer van simpel, optimistisch vermaak zonder de noodzaak zwaarmoedige thematiek te bespreken.

Het ongelijk van Joan Dean (p. 16) is praktisch bewezen: de sciencefictionfilms uit de periode 1968-1977 zijn niet vergeten. De Tweede Golf heeft haar sporen op de ontwikkeling van het genre nagelaten. Meer dan tijdens de Eerste Golf heeft zij aangetoond hoe het sciencefictiongenre de angsten en wensen van de tijdsgeest kan reflecteren, hoe zij thema's bespreekbaar maakt en hoe zij entertainment en boodschap kan combineren. Waar de films van de Eerste Golf slechts een introductie gaven tot deze werkwijze maar niet haar volle potentieel benutten, waren de films van de Tweede Golf de pioniers die zich deze aanpak eigen hebben gemaakt. Sindsdien is het goeddeels de standaard in het genre geworden: de boodschap en de representatie van actuele thema's geeft sciencefictionfilms een meerwaarde, die nu als gangbaar kan worden beschouwd. De werelden die sciencefiction ons voorschotelt worden geacht een 'mad house' te zijn.4


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Telotte, J.P. Science Fiction Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001: p. 40-44, 

100-104, 123-141
Verheul, Jaap. Dreams of Paradise, Visions of Apocalypse: Utopia and Dystopia in 

American Culture. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2004: p. 1-9


Andromeda Strain, The. Reg. Robert Wise. Universal Pictures, 1971.
Barbarella. Reg. Roger Vadim. Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica, 1968.
Battle for the Planet of the Apes. Reg. J. Lee Thompson. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1973.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Reg. Ted Post. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1970.
Boy and His Dog, A. Reg. L. Q. Jones. LQ/JAF, 1975.
Clockwork Orange, A. Reg. Stanley Kubrick. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1971.
Colossus: The Forbin Project. Reg. Joseph Sargent. Universal Pictures, 1970.
Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Reg. J. Lee Thompson. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1972.
Dark Star. Reg. John Carpenter. Jack H. Harris Enterprises, 1974.
Death Race 2000. Reg. Paul Bartel. New World Pictures, 1975.
Demon Seed. Reg. Donald Cammell. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1977.
Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Reg. Don Taylor. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1971.
Futureworld. Reg. Richard T. Heffron. American International Pictures, 1976.
Journey to the Far Side of the Sun. Reg. Robert Parrish. Century 21 Television, 1969.
Logan’s Run. Reg. Michael Anderson. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1976.
Man Who Fell to Earth, The. Reg. Nicolas Roeg. British Lion Film Corporation, 1976.
Moon Zero Two. Reg. Roy Ward Baker. Hammer Film Productions, 1969.
No Blade of Grass. Reg. Cornel Wilde. Theodora Productions, 1970.
Omega Man, The. Reg. Boris Sagal. Warner Bros. Pictures, 1971.
Planet of the Apes. Reg. Franklin J. Schaffner. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1968.
Rollerball. Reg. Norman Jewison. Algonquin, 1975.
Silent Running. Reg. Douglas Trumbull. Universal Pictures, 1972.
Soylent Green. Reg. Richard Fleischer. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1973.
Stepford Wives, The. Reg. Bryan Forbes. Palomar Pictures, 1975.
THX 1138. Reg. George Lucas. American Zoetrope, 1971.
2001: A Space Odyssey. Reg. Stanley Kubrick. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1968.
Westworld. Reg. Michael Crichton. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1973. 
Zardoz. Reg. John Boorman. John Boorman Productions, 1974.
Z.P.G. Reg. Michael Campus. Sagittarius Productions Inc., 1972.

1Anderson 1985: p. 11
2Anderson 1985: p. 28
3Ryan en Kellner 1988: p. 254
4Voor de goede orde, de titel van mijn scriptie, 'It's a mad house!' is een quote afkomstig uit Planet of the Apes.

donderdag 23 oktober 2014

Jurassic Park III: Alan Grant & Compies

Year of release: 2002

-Two different Compsognathus figures
-Bazooka type weapon (with missile)

Description: this Grant figure stands in a relatively neutral pose, except his left leg is positioned in a forward move and his lower right leg is bent backwards somewhat. The figure sports light blue pants, a white shirt with a brown vest over it, a black belt and brown boots.
The weapon appears to be a bazooka on a tripod: it’s painted in grey, with some metallic dark grey on the front giving the impression it’s been used before. The missile is slightly transparent orange, and resembles a big bolt of fire shooting out of the gun. The firing mechanism is the same as with the guns attached to the human figures in the Wave 1 line: the end of the missile sticks out of the weapon, and pressing it causes the missile to be launched in a not so straight line with minor impact.
The Compies are the most interesting part of this set. There are two of them, each in a different position. The first stands in an attack posture with his mouth opened, like it’s jumping on its prey. The other one takes on a slight stalking pose, like it’s checking out prey. The figures sport the same paint job: both are coloured light green with some small yellow stripes and a large stripe running from the back of the head all the way over the tail. The eyes and claws are black, and a black JP III logo can be found on both figures’ upper left legs. The two creatures are pretty skinny and lightly build: one can see their ribs on either side of their bellies. Both dinosaurs are attached to a support, coloured in the same green as the figures, making them able to stand up straight. The one assuming an attack posture also appears to be standing on a small green rock.

Analysis: this is a fun little set, though not because of the Grant figure. Though the figure doesn’t stand in an outrageously inconvenient position, like a lot of the Wave 1 figures, it’s still not great. The figure again doesn’t resemble Alan Grant much, and the paint job is rather bland. It’s not bad or anything, but not much of an improvement either.
The gun unfortunately sports the same weak firing mechanism as most of the guns in the Wave 1 line. It is however largely redeemed by it’s original and cool look. It looks relatively realistic, and the fact that the missile isn’t really a missile but more of a fireball does give it some credit. It still doesn’t have a great impact when fired, but the most likely target, the Compies, are easily knocked over by it. The paint job, with the darker metallic grey on the front side, gives it some history, like it’s been in combat more than once. The figure can hold the weapon by any of its three feet, but the weapon can also stand on the ground on it’s own. Unfortunately the front side it quite heavy when the gun is loaded, so it tends to fall over at times.
The greatest part(s) of this set are the two Compsognathus figures. Though they don’t exactly stand in a neutral pose, the fact there are two of them greatly helps playability, providing a wider range of possibilities. Having a pair also enhances the group feel these creatures have to them: Compies are after all never alone, but always in a group in order to kill their prey. Having only one Compy figure in the entire TLW line was certainly a mistake, and these two figures make up for it a bit. The paint job is pretty good, and certainly reminiscent of the Compies we saw in the movies. The same goes for the overall physical design of these critters: they certainly look like agile little beings with their skinny, slender bodies. It’s a shame they need supports to help them stand up, but one can live with that flaw. Unfortunately the supports are coloured the same as the figures; it would have been better had they sported a different paint job. But this is once again a minor disappointment.

Playability: good enough. The Grant figure stands in a more neutral pose than most of Hasbro’s human figures. The weapon works decently enough and the fact that it can stand on its own feet also helps. Though the Compies aren’t poseable, it’s good there are two of them: it doubles playability options.

Realism: Grant doesn’t look much like the Grant we saw in JP III. The head sculpts still bears little resemblance, and the outfit is also different. Once again, the infamous cowboy hat is sadly missing. The gun doesn’t resemble any weapon seen in JP III, but it looks more life like than the Wave 1 JP III weapons. The Compies look a lot like the creatures we saw in both TLW and JP III: they’re coloured in a slightly different tone of green and sport yellow stripes the Compies in the movies didn’t appear to have, but their physique makes it unmistakable we’re dealing with the same little devils here. They are a bit oversized though, but it’s understandable: it would be hard to make figures half the size of these. People would probably lose them way too easily then, so this size is more convenient.

Repaint: no. One of the Compies (the one assuming an attack posture) would be repainted for the last JP Dinosaurs line though. The other one wouldn’t however.

Overall rating: 7/10. The figure itself may not be very special, but the dinosaurs are really quite cool, despite their limited playability. The weapon, though hindered by Hasbro’s standard lame firing mechanism, also looks better than most of the weapons of the JP III line. This is just a nice little set, and worth getting. It’s not all that rare in the US, so it shouldn’t be too hard or costly to get your hands on. It’s harder to find in some overseas territories, but fortunately not too difficult to acquire online, and likely worth the effort, you'll find.

woensdag 22 oktober 2014

Today's News: back on schedule!

Finally managed to catch up with commenting on my own news today, thanks to a drought of news this first half of the week:


Excellent poster and tagline to match, precisely portraying Big Eyes' narrative issue at hand while indicating a humourous, even whimsical tone. Not as Gothic as we're used to from Burton, which could be a nice reprief, since most of his films in that vein from recent years (Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland) failed to capture our imagination. Still, biopics are not new territory to the man, as he already made one of the finest I've ever seen with 1994's Ed Wood. Seems he has a thing for underdogs in the visual arts, though the exact finesse of that term is debatable when it comes to Wood's excessively amateuristic works. However, as that film illustarted and tBig Eyes might underscore yet again, it's all about the love and enthusiasm you put into the act of creation. Talent comes second, or sometimes sinply not at all. Burton also doesn't seem to rely on his usual actors this time, instead opting for new company (but fortunately for us, still delightfully watchable talented actors). Big Eyes in many ways seems like a change of pace for the director, though he's still not entirely leaving his comfort zone given the subject matter. I hope the film will reaffirm Burton is still one of the most unique and worthwhile directors in Hollywood.


I'm not familiar with Suicide Squad. Sorry, I'm just a Marvel guy, while DC never really did grab my attention (aside from Batman, naturally). Such as it is, I am quite familiar with X-Men baddie Apocalypse. And I think Hardy is a fine choice to portray that ancient genocidal genius. Of course he looks nothing like Apocalypse does in the comics, but that's what computers are for. With Hardy, you may not even need those. After all, the Bane from the comics is as much of a hulking behemoth as Apocalypse, but Hardy's portrayal in The Dark Knight Rises, both physical and intellectual, made us forget all about the source material. Hardy definitely possesses the necessary gravitas and determination to make Apocalypse work on screen, as he did Bane. Though not in the same vein as Ian McKellen's Magneto (no, no no sir! That's the very top level of acting!), Hardy's Apocalypse could surely be a tour-de-force in supervillain acting, if he does opt for Marvel of course. Maybe his prior experience working for DC, though unrelated in terms of the DC Cinematic Universe which does not inculde Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, will entice him to choose Suicide Squad after all. Marvel's loss would definitely be DC's gain. And I'm sure he would make for a formidable foe to whatever poor DC superhero crosses his path in that film (if any), but it would be a great loss for X-Men: Apocalypse. And that movie already has a few things going against it, what with Channing Tatum performing Gambit... Hardy would be a fine choice to balance the acting scales in that regard.


I'm generally not fond of the concept of horror sequels, particularly to movies that made a valuable contribution to the genre. But if you gotta cash in by repeating a concept, you damn well better get the man behind the concept itself. Especially if that man could be held responsible for revitalizing the horror genre - at least in terms of popularity and audience attendance - over the last decade. James Wan sure can be said to have done so with Saw and Insidious, though particularly in the case of the former franchise, all the money spent on its many redundant sequels could have been put to better, more creative use. Now history is sort of repeating itself with The Conjuring, except that its success had already spawned a spin-off - Annabelle, currently in theaters and reportedly not all that bad - prior to a direct successor. Wan understands horror in its various incarnations, and if any genre director is capable of making this blatant cash grab work for audiences as well as for money hungry studio suits, it's him. Is his heart in it? It just might, since time has proven that he keeps returning to his horror roots despite the occasional break in that routine. Such a break is currently in progress as he's finishing Fast & Furious 7, so after all the tedious car chrashes and chase sequences, he'll probably be up for a few more oldfashioned scare tactics. And if he does finally miss the horror mark this time around, there's always the possibility of an Annabelle 2.

zondag 19 oktober 2014

Today's News: climbing back on top of myself

Gotta love Sundays, there's usually no or little news to report on. Today proves no different, which gives me an opportunity to catch up with myself at commenting on the news of the week. Still a bit more to be posted here, but the bottom of the barrel is in sight. For now.


Oh no, this beautiful art is getting me excited, too! And I so vowed not to get drawn into the hype, especially with J.J. 'Kill Trek' Abrams on board. But I must admit there's some gorgeous pieces of conceptual art here. Especially the artwork tying into the visual imagery of the old trilogy gets me where it's aimed at. The notion of a wrecked AT-AT Walker being refurbished into a makeshift shelter is simply splendid, as is the array of Imperial and rebel designs found among the imagery of new characters and locales. Can't say I'm too stoked over the design of the new villain, but I didn't think it would ever be possible to top Darth Vader anyway. It'll be fascinating to see just what makes the final cut and what doesn't. Even though this stuff was leaked to the studio's chagrin, I doubt they would order all of these scenes redesigned. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was an intentional leak, geared at getting up the hopes of sceptical fans (like myself), of which there are still many, but likely a few less now. In my case it's working, though I still refuse to get overexcited. Incidentally, don't ask me why my editor only posted a 'selection' (like, a third) of these concept art pictures on the site, while I actually took the time and effort to post links to all the available pics in my original message draft. Editor politics, I suppose.


Another paycheck of a whopping 40 million bucks in Robert Downey Jr.'s pocket. For a role in another Avenger's movie no less. I doubt that would sit too well with Chris Evans. So no wonder Marvel is anxious to do Civil War on the big screen, it means they can start killing off some major characters and thus save money on the actors portraying them. The winds of change are set to replace the old regime with a wholly new bunch of characters, even though most of them have yet to be introduced (like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange) and thus still need to win our hearts. I'm not convinced Civil War is the best story to tackle at this point though. There seem to be a bit too few characters to mine to make it work as well as it did in the comics. Also, the necessary emotional scale simply doesn't seem present yet. These characters, nevermind their limited numbers, don't have enough history with each other to make the impact of an ideological inner conflict with deadly consequences feel as touching and as compelling as required. I think Marvel had better wait a while longer until their upcoming TV shows, which allow for ample opportunity to introduce novel characters who would take sides in this fight, are in full swing. Granted, in that scenario we would be looking at another four or five years down the road, and Marvel doesn't want to wait that long to bring this much beloved story to theaters because DC is bringing the heat down on them with their own long-term plans. I would certainly argue that when dealing with important narratives like these, set to have major ramifications for all other Marvel properties and characters for many years to come, patience is a virtue. Either way, Robert Downey Jr. is the real winner here. Seems he already turned out the great victor in the civil war going on within Marvel Studios.


Ooh, it's all dark and brooding! Someone took a cue from the currently popular method of reigniting franchises. Glad they at least didn't tweak the familiar logo much. They just removed all colour and added a distinct layered feel, hinting at the 3D-release this movie is due. 'The park is open', the tagline ominously says. It'll be open for the tourists to gaze at the prehistoric critters, and soon they'll find it's open for the dinosaurs to eat the tourists en masse. That will be fun to watch, no doubt. This teaser poster adequately serves its purpose, but definitely doesn't get my blood pumping in joyous anticipation as its recent San Diego Comic-Con counterpart did. Too bad those go for like 500 bucks on eBay right now...


A short little teaser to kill some time for the fans in waiting between the trailers and the final release, I'd say. Not much new information is relayed here, other than the fact the District 13 resistance uses Katniss as a propaganda tool as much as the Capitol did, and in that regard may not be much better company in terms of morality. It's such intriguing political machinations that make The Hunger Games more than just a simple starry-eyed young adult flick, though the obligatory love triangle with its wooden acting gives a good shot at bringing the quality level down a bit. At least there's the strong performances from the more seasoned veterans (Jeffrey Wright, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland et al.) among the cast to look forward to. Jennifer Lawrence sure has some great actors to bounce dialogue off with. Philip Seymour Hoffman could have done worse for his last role on film, even though he's sadly not such a major character.


Any excuse to show Johansson on screen is worth the effort in my mind. I'm not at all into Manga, and I'm not afraid to admit I haven't seen a notable genre entry like Ghost in the Shell. I guess the Hollywood adaptation caters just to people like me then. Since the studio seems to finally start fast-tracking this project after a few years of it laying dormant, I doubt they're gonna get Scarlett, even for a 10 million dollar salary. After all, she's already done a few action heavy big FX movies recently, and her last one dealing with the symbiosis between (wo)man and machine, Lucy, didn't turn out so great (though it sure as heck did fine at the boxoffice,much more so than most would agree it deserved). Of course, an even better reason for her turning down the project is her current pregnancy, which is likely to keep her from active duty for a year or so. Would the studio be so anxious to get her for the part as to adhere to the necessity of waiting that long? I personally doubt that. I think it's very likely Johansson will pass on Ghost in the Shell and we'll hear of another actress being cast fairly soon. One in Johanssons class seems unlikely, as she really is in a class all her own.

zaterdag 18 oktober 2014

Today's News: a tidal wave of old news

The situation remains unchanged. I have time to post news on MovieScene on a (more or less) daily basis, but the same cannot be said for my blog. Of course, you can question the validity of commenting on (old) news on a blog with only six followers to begin with, but my obsessive-compulsive mind won't let me do so. So I continue to struggle on this quest to catch up with myself, seemingly doomed from its inception. Whatever. I ain't the giving-up type.


Yup, that's a teaser alright. It offers only a glimpse into the story of this movie, focusing on the pin as a means of interdimensional(?) travel. We'll have to fill in the rest for ourselves, including the (intellectual) nature of the relationship between the young girl and the middle-aged inventor. It's Disney, so it will be pretty harmless on the surface no doubt. Then again, there already is a theme of juvenile delinquency present here, and I'm curious as to how far this will be taken. It's probably an 'unlikely heroine' case, where the world simply isn't ready for the misunderstood protagonist, while the oddbal inventor, also undoubtedly a social outcast, proves not all grown-ups are like that. And so they bond and have wonderful adventures in a weird and wacky wonderland beyond the reach of us ordinary mortals who pay to witness them. Not much of a 'wow' factor as of yet: as this is a teaser and most of the many expensive and complex VFX shots are still a work in progress, we have to make do with only a shot or two. Unless you consider a field of wheat a spectacular sight.


Well, duh! Seydoux, to my mind, is the quintessential type of actress to assume the mantle of the Bondgirl: sultry, sexy, undeniably talented, a hint of sexual danger behind her eyes and a succinctly European attitude. I am not surprised she's up for a part in Bond 24. I considered it only a matter of time. Just remember how well she performed in a similar genre movie like Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol. I do find it interesting that her part was originally intended to be filled by a Scandinavian actress. Of course she is enough of a chameleon to play a Northern-European broad, I even have faith in her ability to pull off the accent convincingly (which is not an attribute I normally credit persons of a French descent with). It just seems a shame for all the Scandinavian actresses who didn't make the cut because Seydoux beat them to it. Could it be another example of Americans generalizing all European nationalities as interchangeable (as us Europeans often tend to do with Americans from different states)? I doubt that, considering the diversity in nationalities from the people behind this picture. The director for example is British, as is most of the main cast. And the director of photography is a Dutchman. There's a little bit of pride in me for that, I'll admit. As I feel for Mademoiselle Seydoux, who happens to be the granddaughter of my highest ranking international boss. So yeah, her intense performance in La Vie d'Adele was quite an eye-opener for me, and if you have seen that film (which you should have) you bloody well know what I'm referring to. That's not gonna happen in Bond 24, I'm sure.


I'm not entirely convinced this is a good idea. The LEGO Batman character seemed to work fine bouncing off of other characters in witty repartees, but could the arrogant superhero toy actually carry his own movie? And would that be a smart move, considering a new version of the Dark Knight in the flesh is currently also developed, played by an actor many consider to be wrongly cast? It appears to be a case of bad timing and it may backfire on Warner/DC. Or maybe the exact opposite will happen, because both takes on the same character are so stupendously different (at least, we assume they will be at this point). However, I'm quite convinced the sequel to The LEGO Movie should take precedence over this spin-off and ought to star the brick version of the Caped Crusader as a side character yet again, to see whether the joke's still funny then. There's something gratuitous to famous characters, real or fictional, being LEGO-ized. It's simply an easy gag, has been for decades (remember this one, from the days LEGO movie tie-ins were still a spanking new phenomenon?). Even now that we learned to get used to LEGO making brick versions of many a major movie franchise, those minifigure versions of the real deals are not supposed to be the stuff of major motion pictures themselves. I guess it's up to LEGO Batman to prove whether that sentiment still holds true, or whether LEGO itself has finally been widely socially accepted as an 'artificial actor' playing different characters itself, even performing roles that have been and still are played many times before.


Hardly a novel subject nor a novel approach. The 'reluctant buddy' team-up could definitely be called a staple this day and age, especially when one is gruff, rude and experienced (and male) and the other is young, rash and ideologically motivated (though not always necessarily female). The black/white motif is age-old as well. As for series based around the premise of superpowered individuals and their place in society, if any, we've also seen our fair share of those (The 4400, Heroes, Alphas). Gritty, grounded in reality, both room for cynicism aimed at and hope for the general human condition, check, check, check. Likely to be cancelled after a season or two, definite check. So what would make us watch this show? I like the casting choice of Sharlto Copley, he's not the most obvious actor for the part. Though he's best known for his comedic touch, he too often dabbles in distressing real-world scenarios mixed with a fantastic element (e.g. District 9). Plus, he has done grimy, dislikable characters before (e.g. Elysium, nevermind his overacting). So his involvement is a big pro. But is it enough to beat all the apparent cons? That remains to be seen.


Did two reports on the deluge of Hobbit posters in my previous post, don't really feel the need to get repetitive here. Especially since these four new posters are equally dull as their predecessors, and don't do justice to the epicness that is in store for us (supposedly). I like the characters and the actors portraying them, but I don't need their sweat, blood and tears so in-my-face. Unlike the trailers, these posters don't get me pumped for this final Middle-Earth movie.


Sure, considering all the fabulous quality series currently on television, let's explore franchises that failed to find an audience on the big screen for regurgitating on the small screen. Then again, there has proven to be a definite audience for the Resident Evil films, as the sixth is currently in pre-production. None of them are serious blockbuster movies though, they all carry a B-movie stigma. They're totally the stuff of guilty pleasure and everybody knows it; they don't have good FX, good stories or good acting, but the fanbase keeps watching nonetheless. Probably because of all the hot women involved, like star Milla Jovovich. I doubt the series' budget could afford her though, which means there's one less succesful ingredient present in the series. They can find another 'hawt' action babe of course, but the audience needs time to get to appreciate her kicking ass. And poor Mortal Instruments doesn't even have the hot chick element in its favour, but since it's aimed at teenage girls, a few hot guys will suffice. Apparently demon slaying Jamie Campbell Bower didn't fit that bill, since the movie flopped so bad (though there were many other reasons for that, too). I think this franchise has a better chance at finding a new life on telly though, considering there's plenty of source material from the books to mine, plus most people obviously never bothered watching the film, so it might feel more 'new' than it actually is. And the young adult genre is still going strong at the movies, so maybe there's still a chance the failed flicks among them find an audience on television after all. So we can "look forward" to series based on the likes of Beautiful Creatures and The Host as well, possibly. Yay...