NECA 1/4 scale Striker Eureka

Third and final Jaeger: Striker Eureka. "First and last of the Mark Fives." Though hopefully, NECA sees some good sales for this one so they might go back and give us the fourth Jaeger, Crimson Typhoon. I understand why it wouldn't make financial sense to go and make 18 inch versions of obscure ones like Horizon Brave or Tacit Ronin, but it really hurts to see my shelf with three of the hero Jaegers. There's an obvious hole there waiting to be filled. (that's what she said!)

Striker is the largest, by mass, of the three NECA figures. His head is about on equal level with Gipsy Danger's, while his jetpacks make him the tallest by a hair. This is probably oversized compared to the movie version, where Striker looked to be about a head shorter than Gipsy's tall lanky form, emphasizing its short, powerful bulldog-esque physique.

An interesting new wrinkle is the fact that Striker's two large fin-shaped jet thrusters on his back come separately, so some assembly is required. At first, this seemed an impossible task. Striker, just as the other NECA Jaegers before it, is mostly made of tough vinyl. So you see the male plug on the jetpack, and it doesn't slip comfortably into the hole on the back. I was jamming and jamming on it for a while before giving up. So like, I was totally about to start bitching about how this vinyl bullshit was screwing up the figure, just like Cherno, when I went online and looked up a youtube review and found out that you're supposed to use the hairdryer technique to soften up the hole so the plug goes in easily. And lo and behold, on the back of the box... there's some instructions to do just that. Doh, what a fool I was. So... just a note to anybody else: it's not a design defect, you're just meant to heat up and soften the hole. Lesson learned.

Here's a closeup of the detail on Striker. It looks really good, especially the molded detail on top of the cockpit. It's all film accurate and doesn't look warped the way that some vinyl features on Cherno did. Overall, I feel like they really learned from their mistakes on Cherno and got the quality control to where it needed to be. The feet are also flat and firm and plant perfectly on level surfaces. Really good changes after the last figure. The cockpit itself is rather large, so you don't get super good articulation with head movement. Side-to-side movement is good, but that's about it. There's no looking up or down.

One thing you definitely notice right off the bat is that Striker is by far the least weathered of the three Jaegers. There's some battle scrapes here and there, but for the most part this looks like a factory fresh model. I think that's okay though, since Striker is the most advanced Jaeger in existence and so it logically makes sense that it'd have taken less damage than the war-weary Cherno and Gipsy.

While I'm really happy with the detailing on the figure, there are some design quirks that could've been worked on. The large wrist blades flip out from the arms and you can have them deployed just like in the movie. However, there's nothing that snaps them into position, they're simply operating off of friction, so if you're careless and bump the blades accidentally, you can just swing them into overlapping arcs, which looks bad. I just wish they'd made some sort of wrist stopper there to keep them from colliding into each other.

While the problem with Cherno's joints were that they were way too tight and constricted, NECA seems to have gone to the other extreme for Striker and made shoulder joints that are way too loose. Once again, instead of going for pricier ratchet joints (those are the ones that go "click click click" when you rotate the joint and are some of the strongest joints in action figure design) NECA went for cheaper ball joints that mainly rely on friction against the socket. This means that all too often, the arms of Striker will just fall down and droop. And you look at Striker's arms, and they're big and long and heavy, like a gorilla's arms. There's really no way that loose shoulder joints are gonna be able to support elevated arms like these in the vast majority of poses that you can think of. I've gotten them in some poses in these pictures by toying around with the arms for a while and finding sweet spots to relieve the stress on the joints, but it's not ideal by any means. Elevated arm poses are going to be a constant problem.

Another tricky thing about the figure is that the big finned jetpacks on the back are somewhat weighty and noticeably shift Striker's center of gravity backwards, resulting in a much more funky, top heavy figure than either Cherno or Gipsy. So you really need to check the balance and be sure of the pose, or else a slight loosening of the leg joints anywhere will either send it falling backwards from the weight of the jets, or forwards onto its face. I've already had it fall off the table once, thank god it's made out of tough vinyl and my floor's carpeted.

Here's how it looks with the light up feature. The top of the cockpit lights up, along with the lights on the chest. It's way way less bright than what you get with Cherno's lights, and feels like more of a nice warm glow than some crazy strong floodlights, which is nice.

There's a few problems with Striker, but its presence as a display piece is pretty damn impressive. Unlike with Cherno, they really got the details right and it all feels like a quality factory run. The loose shoulder joints and top heavy nature of the torso slightly detract from the playability, but it's not bad enough to stop me from recommending it.

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NECA 1/4 scale Cherno Alpha

Finally got the rest of the 18 inch NECA Pacific Rim jaegers. First up is Cherno Alpha, a lot of people's favorite jaeger. Unfortunately, this uh, this came with a whole bunch of problems. Problematic, I think I'd consider this one problematic.

First of all, the first Cherno I got from Amazon was defective. The hip joint, you can see it from this pic:

This is how it's supposed to look normally. Well, the first one, which I didn't take pics of, the front piece of that hip joint was bent outwards out of the socket and detached from that darker center core piece in the middle of the ball. Obviously, this was completely bullshit and not my fault, so I just went and got a replacement from Amazon, which came quite quickly. So... right off the bat, there's a bad experience. But the second one, it didn't have any hip joint malfunctions, so all seemed well. Oh, not at all, in fact.

Here it is. Looks pretty nice, huh? On first glance, yeah it does. I've got it posed like how it was right before that classic Cherno fist-smashing move in the film. The detail and weathering are about what you'd expect from that first 18 inch Gipsy Danger. Not great, but overall pretty good for how much it costs ($90-100). The big structural change they made was to space the legs out farther from the center. In the film, Cherno had its legs closer to its centerline, emphasizing the top heavy nature of the robot. I suspect that NECA decided to spread the hips out for stability reasons, which makes sense.

Cherno looks best from the straight front view. That leaves a good impression. But look at that third pic, from the side. Now, you start seeing that there's a huge gap of nothing between the torso and the uh... the reactor "helmet" that makes up the top of Cherno. The figure is made so that that top helmet is attached to the rest of the robot by a ball socket joint and you can really move it around to accommodate the movements of the arms. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of the area between the helmet and torso is completely empty and certain camera views will expose this truth blatantly. This was definitely not true in the movie, where Cherno seemed completely solid and thick from the bottom of the torso to the top of the head.

The other big problem is that NECA seems to love to make most of these 18 inch figures out of thick rubbery vinyl or some vinyl-like material, instead of straight plastic like most toys. The big issue with this is that the vinyl can warp and distort and give way more than you'd expect. That's good for taking punishment while your kid plays with it, but bad in some other ways. For example:

Look at the top of the cockpit covering. It's off-center, warped and leaning off to the left. That's just real bad looking. That is something that you most likely will never find on a normal plastic toy, but the flexible vinyl material will not conform as often and you end up with these lousy results. It's also a problem with arm limbs, where the sockets aren't made from plastic ratchet joints, but are instead ball joints where the joint itself is made from tough vinyl, going into sockets that are made out of vinyl. This arrangement is unforgiving with tolerances and in Cherno's case, the shoulder joints were tight to the point of absurdity, as it was just a big vinyl ball stuck in a really tight and constricting vinyl socket. The only way to loosen up the joints and actually get the arm to move was getting out the trusty old hair dryer and blowing hot air to soften the vinyl. So I mean... sure, there's a way, but it's a shitty solution to a problem that shouldn't exist.

The poor use of vinyl in 90% of this figure also results in this above picture. As you can see, the foot isn't planting flat on the table. The entire vinyl foot has warped out of its intended mold shape and gotten curved. Which ya know, isn't very good for a foot's function. Stuff like this is all over the figure and getting a good proper unwarped Cherno from the factory is probably like hitting the lottery. I guess they must exist, but why take the risk?

Oh yeah, here's how it looks with the lights on. Uh, as you can see, this fucker is really fucking bright. Like, ohmygod bright. Of the three 18 inch jaegers, Cherno has by far the brightest lights. I mean, I don't see why anybody would want to have the lights on like this, it's uncomfortably bright to look at for any length of time.

Also, I'll note that this Cherno figure is not quite to scale with Gipsy Danger. Of the 3 NECA jaegers, Cherno is by far the shortest, which isn't right. If you think about it, Cherno with its bigass reactor helmet would probably be the tallest. I'd say Cherno is probably undersized by about 25% from what it should be. Sucks for any big Cherno fans.

Bottom line: This is a really bad figure. It's a big decline from NECA's Gipsy Danger, which was wholly free of these problems and had pretty good poseability. Wouldn't recommend anybody spend 100 bucks on Cherno.

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Daredevil season 1

It really did pretty much everything right. It got the action right. It got the characters right. It got the romance right. It was dramatic and effective in its twists and turns. Where it goes with characters like the Russian are places that feel fresh and alive and not generic television plotting. In fact, it really reminded me of the first season of Breaking Bad. When you get to the second or third episode and it goes into the situation of Crazy-8... it feels surprising and unexpected and dramatically gripping. You're caught off guard because it doesn't go through the expected motions, and there's nothing to do but watch with bated breath and see exactly how deep the rabbit hole goes. That's exactly the same way I felt about this first season of Daredevil. You don't know what's going to happen and you don't know how the characters will react and deal with it. That's a treasure. Even with a character that could've been a cheap caricature like Marci, the show goes and shows that no, it can elevate that past your expectations and refuse to take the easy road. Instead of being a throwaway gag, Marci turns into a real person who has reactions and feelings and something beyond the shallow exterior. It's these little things that add up and really make you appreciate the deft execution of this show.

The producers said they were inspired by the Bourne films, and that's completely evident right from the beginning. The hired assassin that tries to get Karen, as well as the bowling alley hitman, are completely analogous to the various "assets" that go hunting after Bourne. It's okay though, because when you really think about it... was Nuke from Miller's "Born Again" really all that different from the superhuman Bourne "assets?"

With Daredevil, it gave us Marvel's best supervillain in the Kingpin. It probably gave us Marvel's best romantic interest in Karen Page. It's given us the best realization of a Marvel setting. The Hell's Kitchen depicted in this show wholly does justice to the Hell's Kitchen that we've seen from Miller and other acclaimed DD writers. It is the suffocating cesspool of corruption that we read about. It does feel like the Kingpin is a grand puppetmaster pulling on strings, or a big fat spider, sitting at the center of a tremendous web of crime and graft and everything unsavory you can imagine. Gradually through the season, the entire landscape somehow morphs from a brightly lit New York into one long trail of corpses leading up to Wilson Fisk's penthouse. That's the Hell's Kitchen that we know from the comics, the one that Miller so marvelously crafted with his narrative power. Even in great past superhero movies like Nolan's TDK... we're told about the police corruption, but we never really see it. It's not encompassing and enveloping the way it is here. It doesn't wallow in it the way that Daredevil does. Daredevil goes and shows you exactly why you shouldn't utter the Kingpin's name. It shows you why people are afraid, and how far the Kingpin's reach is.

Well, okay... so they didn't get the red Daredevil costume right. They botched that one. But that's pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Marathoning Daredevil over a weekend was truly one of the most enjoyable and impactful entertainment experiences of the last couple years.

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ThreeZero's Titanfall Atlas 21 inch

Well, I think it's about time to show off ThreeZero's Atlas.

Obviously, it's from Titanfall. ThreeZero seems to specialize in putting out robotic designs, they've released some Japanese anime robots and also Chappie from the movie, so yeah... it seems to be their wheelhouse. This particular figure is a 21 inch tall Atlas. Though 21 inches is the max height, it's really more like 19 and a half inches if you have the legs bent in more of a chicken walker stance the way I do. It won't hit 21 inches unless you have the legs straightened out all the way. But that's no fun, right? It's got the chicken toes and everything...

I decided to customize my Atlas with some extra knick knacks and accessories to really give it a unique look. I didn't want it to look bland. Though, I will say... ThreeZero did a fantastic job with the weathering, they really seem to excel in that field. All the weathering you see in the pics is their handiwork, that actually wasn't something I put on. It's some sort of tampo factory process that gets all that nice detailed weathering on, because it simply looks too good to be slapped on there manually by some minimum wage Chinese factory worker. They really got the applications and everything, and it looks super nice.

If you want to see all the alterations I've made, just google up a few pictures of the vanilla ThreeZero Atlas and compare. Most of what I used was just readily available 1/6 scale accessories on ebay, mostly Hot Toys and Dragon. Surprisingly affordable stuff, even. I still have plans for a few more additions, like smoke launchers on the hips. There's some third party metal ones made for 1/16 scale King Tiger tanks that I've just ordered, so those should look pretty good.

As you can see, the figure is lit up with red LEDs inside. They're powered by batteries that you stick in a little compartment on his back. There's actually an option, they let you either have him lit with blue or red lights. I simply prefer the red because it really harkens back to the Heavy Gear glowing camera eye look, and obviously you can tell that the Respawn designers really cribbed a lot from stuff like Heavy Gear and VOTOMs. So yeah... my Atlas is always gonna be red.

Now, the thing is... the playability with the pilot figure is not that good. The Mech and the pilot are both 1/12 scale, but the pilot seems overly big for the Mech, and it's a huge pain in the ass to actually fit him inside the cockpit of the darn thing. It's tight and cramped and just not that good for any actual playability. You'll be torturing yourself if you actually like moving the pilot in and out of that cockpit. The Mech really feels like it was built for a 1/18 scale figure, because then you do have the room and it won't feel horribly restrictive. Now, I suspect that they got the actual scaling correct, since they took the CGI files directly from Respawn. However, in a video game, you can obviously cheat and get away with polygonal figures that don't need to worry about clipping or anything like that. So I think the problem is just that the necessary allowances and space requirements of a real physical figure are somewhat greater than what a video game model requires and they didn't take that into account. As a result... yeah, it sucks getting the pilot inside the Mech, so I just stay away from that entirely. Which is fine, because he actually looks pretty cool manning that machine gun on top of the Atlas.

The Atlas is somewhat pricey at over 400 bucks, but when you consider the exquisite weathering and poseability of the thing, it's actually a really good deal. Especially compared to other competitors like Hot Toys.

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The Flash season finale

Welp.

There's good, and there's bad.

The Bad: Poor writing on Barry's dad. They never convinced me why his dad would not want him to go back and change the past. He'd get his wife back. He'd get his life back, without being stuck in a shitty prison. This is something that any normal person would say yes to. But Barry's dad is the complete opposite, and giving out some hazy, half-baked platitude about maybe Barry losing something within himself or whatnot? I didn't really even understand what he was talking about. It was just odd and a poorly-thought out rationale.

Barry's mom. He doesn't save her. He just stands by and lets her die, based solely on seeing future Barry gesturing to him to stop. Cmon, man. This made absolutely no sense. This has been torturing Barry for his entire life. The idea of going back and saving her has been on his mind for half of this entire season. Yet when the time came, he just completely gave up, even though this whole opportunity was risked on a chance of a singularity possibly destroying the entire planet. WTF? Just lame and incomprehensible.

Yeah, they went and gave him a final farewell to his mom, blatantly ripping off the ending to Mark Waid's Superman Birthright. That had emotion, sure. But I wasn't invested in it, because I was just stuck wondering why he idiotically refused to save his mom. And also... just noticing the fact that Nora Allen's stab wound to the heart was apparently lazily applied with some ketchup packets at the last minute. What was that all about?

The Good: Eddie's sacrifice. Okay, this was something I never saw coming. Eddie pulls a Looper and shoots himself to wipe Zoom out of existence. It was shocking and emotional and a great farewell to Eddie. It completely worked. Seeing his lifeless body tragically getting swept up and sucked into the singularity was really quite stirring. It's a funny thing... right after I was super bummed out about how they completely botched the Nora Allen subplot, they go and reel me right back in with this great ending to the Iris and Eddie subplot.

And of course, getting to see the huge singularity sucking up Central City at the end. Sure, it doesn't look as good and as polished as what we saw in Man of Steel, but comparing it to the metrics of a normal TV show... this looked damn amazing. We see now where the money actually went when they skimped out on the CGI effects for last week's episode. It was well spent and appropriate for a season finale.

Reflecting back on the series as a whole so far... yeah, this was one hell of a ride. Definitely the second best superhero TV show I've seen this year. Daredevil pulled off everything pretty much perfectly, so it gets the nod, but Flash is right there behind it.

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Review: Aldnoah.Zero season 1

This show, it uh... it makes no sense. Humans landed on Mars in the 1970s and by 2015 they're a completely different culture and empire and they all hate people on Earth and want to conquer? Duder, that don't make no sense. That's just really whack.

And I was actually digging the show at first, despite that. I read that the producer was inspired by Man of Steel (which is insane and ridiculous, btw) but I got a much stronger sense of BattleTech in the roots of the show, in particular the Clans. If you really looked at it, it feels a lot like the 3049 Clan invasion. The Earth Mechs are all weak and incredibly helpless in the face of the overpowered Martian Aldnoah Mechs, just like how Inner Sphere Mechs were completely outmatched by the Clan OmniMechs in BattleTech. And Slaine, being this captive ward of the Martians, was kinda like Phelan Ward in Clan Wolf. The Martians wanted to conquer Earth because Mars had scarce resources, just like the Clans did in the Kerensky Cluster. And the Martians' use of ancient Aldnoah tech was kinda like how Clan tech was built off of old Star League technology. So... there's quite a lot of similarities there. I thought that was neat.

***SPOILERS past this point***

But you know, the show just doesn't make sense the more you watch. Slaine is constantly beaten over and over again by his adopted Commander dude, which just feels brutal and over the top. So then when he finally finds out the truth and acts compassionately toward Slaine, I was like... dude, no. I still fucking hate you cause you've been beating the crap out of this little guy with your cane for the last 10 episodes. You don't get to be the compassionate father figure now, you fuck. I mean really, the show runners actually thought they could get away with that character turn?

The overall animation is fine. I mean, the CGI is there, and it looks bad, and CGI in anime always tends to look bad and not good, and it's here and it looks bad. But I guess that's kinda the state of anime in 2015. You just gotta accept it. The characters look.... well, really identical. Like, at the end of the first episode, the main character loses a friend who flies off of the back of the truck, and I couldn't tell who was who. They both looked pretty much identical. That's really a problem. And it happens with other characters. Inko and the main character's sister also look identical, except that the sister has slightly longer hair. But in some shots, that's not all that apparent. They just all look the same. It's a problem, man. And also, when the characters are in profile, they all look like they're talking out of the side of their mouths.

The Martians only apparently have 37 Mechs or something. 37 Mechs to conquer an entire planet? I'm sorry, but no matter how overpowered you are, and they certainly are incredibly overpowered... you need way more than 37 units. That's completely insufficient to pacify a whole planet. Not to mention that the Martian Mechs themselves feel more like they were designed to be video game bosses rather than actual coherent military units. In a real military, you'd probably build a whole lot of Mechs with those long range killer lasers (ya know, that Mech in the intro we never actually get to see in any of the episodes). Instead, you've got Mechs like one with an invulnerability field, which is really good, but which is also only armed with... big ol' bear claws. That's right, they invested in an invincible juggernaut Mech who's only offensive ability is to get real close and melee you. And which spends about half an hour chasing after a truck helplessly, because it has no guns at all. Again... they only brought 37 of these things to conquer a planet? When one needs to lumber after a fleeing truck for long stretches of time? Does this make any sense at all? This is video game boss logic.

The aesthetic designs of the Martian Mechs are really terribad too. They uh, they don't seem to make any sense. Like, they legitimately look like they'd bang their giant toe spike up against their knee or their arm against their torso as soon as they actually tried to move. It's ridiculous how loopy they look. The Earth Mechs are... better, but also real generic. They look like the generic Macross-style robots, but with giant over-sized fins attached to their ankles. That's not a real great look. The guns also seem to follow the generic look of other mecha anime, with short bullpup rifles. Muv Luv Alternate had the same looking bullpup rifles. I guess Japanese anime studios like the look of stubby bullpup rifles.

The main character is completely... a robot, I think. He's got nothing there. He's a brilliant genius dude, but he's very unemotional. I didn't care for that at all. The whole being-a-genius thing isn't that bad, after all Ender's Game is one of the best scifi stories ever written, so I can deal with a main protagonist being real smart, but Ender actually had some depth and there were things going on in his psyche and emotions and you felt for him. This main character... no, didn't feel for him at all. Just blank, like a video game avatar or something. And plus, he goes and shoots down Slaine after he helped him out, like a huge asshole. Why would we, as the audience, like this guy after he goes and does a dick thing like that?

Slaine is a whole lot better. I'll say that, I liked Slaine a lot. You felt for Slaine and what he was going through. Well, except for the last couple of episodes, when his character becomes oddly written and does inexplicable things. He finally finds out who the main culprit behind the conspiracy to assassinate the Princess is, but uh, this master villain guy doesn't kill him, but hands him an uber Mech. Why? What is the logic behind this? And then, in the final episode of the season, Slaine goes and saves the villain while they're engaged in a Mech duel. Why? Why would he save this guy who tried to kill the princess who he's in love with? I don't understand any of this. I think I was paying attention... but I don't get it.

So yeah, I don't know if I'll watch the 2nd season. It hooked me in with the BattleTech similarities at the start, but the show really went downhill in a hurry. And visually, the Mech designs stink. I heard somewhere that these show runners wanted this to be a Gundam-killer or something. Well, that ain't happening. The designs of the Martian Mechs look terrible. Giant top heavy torsos on really small legs? That's your idea of good design? I mean, I don't see how that's gonna appeal to otakus who have grown up adoring Gundams, with their giant oversized legs and small arms. That's not a recipe for success. And the Earth Mechs look way too generic to leave any sort of impression.

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First Impressions of Daredevil

Watched the first episode last night. Thoughts:

I really liked it.

The intro is a bit strange. At first, I thought maybe it was blood, but it looks too bright. So if not blood, then I guess it's... just red paint? Red candle wax? Not sure why they wanted to go that route.

Hell's Kitchen feels just bright and fresh and Sam Raimi's NYC-esque in the daytime. That's a very good choice. But at night, they seem to have gone for a toned down Punisher Warzone take, with lots of harsh yellow lighting. I'll have to see more, but I think it's a good look. From the spectrum of tv superhero shows I've watched, I'd say Flash has the most naturalistic looking city, while Daredevil is skewing towards the more exaggerated feel of Gotham, but not quite going as far. Again, I'll need to see more, but I'd say they've found a good balance.

Of the three leads, I've been really happy with Foggy and Karen Page. I'm quite familiar with the actor playing Foggy. He's been in the great indie "Cheats" as well as Ashton Kutcher's "The Butterfly Effect" and Denzel's "Deja Vu." The guy is just naturally charismatic and his chemistry with Matt is on point. You really feel for the guy, knowing that he's going to eventually be a third wheel with Matt and Karen (if they go down that comic storyline route). Not as familiar with Karen Page's actress, cause I sure as hell didn't watch Tru Blood, but she really impressed me. It really helps that she doesn't have a smidge of that annoying, cloying quality that seems to infest all of the female love interests on the CW's superhero shows (Lana, Laurel, Iris). The real genuineness of Karen Page here and her interactions with these two green lawyers is so damn refreshing and welcome to my jaded eyes. There aren't any lovey dovey eyes or anything, it feels like how realistic people would behave.

And then there's Matt Murdock. The actor playing him obviously doesn't have the strong heroic chin of a Ben Affleck, so I feel like he's playing up more of the nerdy legal side of Matt so far. That's the impression I'm getting. There's also the inherent challenge of the role, being as most actors' best tool to work with are their eyes. Here, this is pretty much taken away since we're dealing with a blind guy. So right from the start, the poor guy's handicapped in what he can convey. I think he's doing a good job, but overall my reaction is... just not really completely blown away like I was with the other two.

The action scenes are great and exactly what you'd want in a Daredevil show. They aren't quite up there with what we've seen in movies like The Raid and Winter Soldier, but for a tv show, it's pretty much as good as you can hope for. Unlike some portrayals of Batman, the young DD here does not take guys out without suffering a single hit. You feel every punch landing on Matt and it helps humanize the guy.

Of the other characters shown, I think the most important one is going to be the Kingpin's lackey. He seems much more assertive than Wesley in the comics, so perhaps he's not actually Wesley? But he kinda looks like Wesley, with the glasses and all. Wesley always had this meek and mouse-like quality in the comics, which was a striking contrast to the horrors he could unleash with just a simple phone call. The guy playing the role here is much more of a confident and sinister taskmaster, which probably allows for more story possibilities down the road for the show.

Overall, I think it's off to a great start. The delight of getting a true origin story for Daredevil's universe is definitely here, as opposed to Affleck's film. These aren't bigtime lawyers yet, they're straight out of law school in a dinky little apartment, and you even get to see the handwritten office sign which is just fun. You can see how they're going to gradually put all the pieces together and it feels fresh and rewarding. In Manohla Dargis's review for Batman Begins, she ends with describing how the movie "invites us to watch Bruce Wayne quietly piecing together his Batman identity, to become a secret sharer to a legend, just as we did once upon a time when we read our first comic." That's the same sense I get with this show.

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Review: Her

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for these sorts of sci-fi stories. I really enjoyed WALL-E and Robot and Frank and Moon’s GERTY. I suppose I’m just attracted to stories where you can find real humanity in inhuman constructs? To be able to convey that level of depth and natural essence from a robot just strikes me as an impressive achievement. And Samantha in Her is no exception. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is completely natural and expressive, while communicating a distinctive otherworldly nature that feels both intimidating and enticing. You fully buy into the idea of Theodore falling for her because of her performance, and the great rapport between them makes the movie come alive. Spike Jonze invests the story and dialogue with a lot of heart and truth.

And that’s really what shines about this movie, the truth within it. Jonze manages to verbalize and convey all those feelings and emotions we’ve ever had about a relationship and the aftermath of a breakup. “Sometimes I think I have felt everything I'm ever gonna feel. And from here on out, I'm not gonna feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I've already felt.” Who among us hasn’t felt that way and related to what Theodore is going through? I know I have.

Through simple cuts and edits, we get to see the subtle observations that Jonze has about love and life. Take the sleazy and clumsy audio booty call in the beginning of the film, where Theodore chats up random strangers on his earpiece. It's simple lust that's driving him. But later, he has a similar scene with Samantha, only it's imbued with quite a different emotional state. Two ostensibly identical actions, coming from different places and with vastly different results. It's the little things that define our meaning in life.

Most sci-fi futures tend to be dominated by steely cold blues and grays and you sense that humanity is being drained away by the uprise of technology. Her smartly steers away from this aesthetic in favor of warm pink and orange hues that are welcoming and inviting and feel suitably human-centered. The optimists haven’t all died out in the future, it turns out. The entire setting feels lived in and grounded, which lends believability to a movie premise that already requires the audience to take a leap.

The movie does present us with this wonderful and imaginative speculative fiction to think and ponder on, but it never feels like it’s taking over. Her is very much of the same school as WALL-E in its structure. WALL-E had these big heady science fiction ideas and concepts that it played with, yet at the end of the day it was at its core a simple love story, between two robots. Her is modeled in the same way, in that it depicts this near future civilization with expressive AIs and people sinking deeper and deeper into isolation through technology… yet Jonze keeps his eye focused on what the true heart of the story is, which is Theodore and Samantha’s relationship. Some people have voiced their view in how they wanted the entire movie to purely be a meditation on this larger technological revolution and the implications of such, in the grand tradition of speculative fiction, but I definitely prefer the approach that Jonze took here. He melded together the larger canvass of a thoughtful, intriguing sci-fi future with a small, intimate love story, and in my eyes it felt seemingly effortless.

As much as we’d like to pretend otherwise, relationships are rarely as simple as two beings melding seamlessly into one. All too often, we find ourselves trying to get through the little hiccups along the road. No, it’s rarely that huge, bombastic fight that we see in some movies… more often it’s simply two humans who are trying to fit together an imperfect jigsaw. Watching the movie, I felt myself completely entranced by the small scenes, like when Theodore is sitting on a sidewalk, asking why Samantha audibly breathes while she’s talking. These little moments feel so genuine and raw and refreshing because they are the unfortunate aspects of relationships we all have to encounter and get through, and yet never quite see depicted onscreen in other movies.

The movie ends with a mildly optimistic conclusion, but it’s not a typical Hollywood happy ending. Jonze doesn’t go for a slam dunk finish, but leaves it open ended for your imagination. Where does Theodore go from here? It’s up to the audience to decide for themselves. Much like real life, we’re left to simply… move on and continue. To grow and form new connections. Just as Samantha had to grow and evolve and form new connections, so must we in our lives. The journey continues, and as one stage of it ends, another must begin. Theodore’s previous failure to connect with his ex-wife led him to Samantha, and her loss has now propelled him forward into another opportunity for growth. Theodore’s uncertain future is simply a new stage of his life, and I appreciated Jonze’s restraint in ending on an open question mark.

Just as Theodore fell in love with Samantha, so did I with this tender, sincere, expertly-crafted gem. It’s the rare film that leaves you feeling rewarded, respected, and reinvigorated with life.

10/10

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NECA 1/4 scale Gipsy Danger

Finally got the 18 inch NECA Gipsy Danger. And I gotta say, this thing is way better in functionality than the NECA Iron Man Mk 7. It's got great articulation and actually holds pretty complex poses without any fuss. This was the biggest problem with the Iron Man figure. The feet are ratcheted, come in two separate sections, and feel solid and reliable. Even with a pose leaning backwards like in the last photo, there's no danger of tipping over. Joints on limbs aren't overly loose or super tight, they're just about right.

The swords that you can attach to the arms are made out of flexible vinyl and don't hold a straight shape, so you'll see some curvature. I don't mind it too much, but I suspect over time gravity will make them droop even more. The hands are molded into fists, so you don't actually have the ability to give him open hand poses. A second set of switchable hands would've been appreciated, but it's no big deal.

The sculpt obviously looks great, since NECA probably just went and used the CGI model files straight from the movie. All the exposed hydraulic and shiny metallic sections on the robot actually do look metallic, which is a great feat, considering they're primarily vinyl.

The most problematic aspect of the figure is probably the weathered look they gave it. NECA did not go and make a clean, fresh-from-the-factory representation of Gipsy Danger. Instead, they wanted to make it look mildly weathered and dirtied up, from years of fighting Kaiju. While that's admirable, the result is not exactly all that convincing when you lean in and pay close attention. A lot of the scuffs and scrap marks look like some careless Chinese factory worker just haphazardly slapped them on with a paint pen, which is probably exactly what happened. It's not something noticeably lackluster at a distance, but the effect just doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased, considering I picked it up on clearance for about 70 bucks. This is absolutely the best version of Gipsy Danger to get and the articulation is excellent considering the sheer size of the thing. I can't wait to see how many different battle poses this thing can put on.

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