Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Review: Deltora Quest Volume 5

Review:  #291
Title:  Deltora Quest Volume 5
Series:  Deltora Quest - 5th volume
Author:  Story by Emily Rodda; Illustrator:  Makoto Niwano
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Still got those weird, hard to like character designs.  Anyway, the story conveyed through the chapters was likeable, and better done than previous chapters were.  However, throughout this adaptation, the puzzle-like nature of the encounters was severely dumbed down.  It is really disappointing when it goes backwards in terms of complexity and fun.  You won’t get any surprises here.  I do have to say though, the atmosphere at the city of Noradz was perfect (but once again, they skipped a couple of interesting events that happened there).  Not really worth reading unless you haven’t read the original books.
Rating:  5.5/10

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I didn't think the first movie was terrible and so when I saw that this was not well received critically, I had really wanted to watch it to see if I would enjoy it.  After delaying and delaying, I finally watched it and thought the reviews were justified.  This was a very boring movie!  It had such a slow start, and the whole wedding thing was quite lame.  They had to shoehorn it in, and make such a big deal out of it.  I was looking forward to some fight scenes between the Fantastic Four and the Silver Surfer, but all we get is some flying shots and Doom getting in there somewhere, quite disappointing.  The plot was a simple one and wasn't even executed very well, they expect us only to be wowed by the special effects...  When the Torch got his molecules scrambled and started switching powers with the rest of the team?  Well, that was quite stereotypical and expected, it's like you could see where this was going to go.  I didn't laugh at many of the jokes, since they were quite lame and overused.  Overall, there were many areas where your belief of reality has to be suspended, and the pacing was too slow.  They need to inject more action and life into it.  It felt dreary and I won't be watching this again.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project 5

Review:  #290
Title:  Neon Genesis Evangelion:  The Shinji Ikari Raising Project 5
Series:  Neon Genesis Evangelion:  The Shinji Ikari Raising Project - 5th volume
Author:  Osamu Takahashi
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  While the team keeps going on and participating in experiments, there’s no more clue on what the experiments are about.  Anyway, going on with the ‘normal’ life of Shinji, I’ve noticed that this volume’s much funnier than previous.  There were more jokes and less of a dreary, serious atmosphere.  While there are many typical falls in which Shinji ‘accidentally’ lands in an awkward position, it doesn’t detract much.  There is a lot more outings too, in which they go for a vacation type thing, a water park, one day restaurant and hot springs.  It does seem to be focusing more on Rei than Asuka, with Shinji preferring Rei.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, December 28, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Generations FOC G2 Blast Off

Review:  #116
Name:  Blast Off
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Fall of Cybertron
Year of Release:  2012
Size Class:  Deluxe
Variations:  SDCC and JP version in game accurate colors, retail version in Generations line, retooled into Top Spin


Awesomely, Blast Off transformers into a white Cybertronian space shuttle with some purple camouflage splashed upon him.  You can have the gun attached with winglets up or to the side (like the photos).

Like the other Combaticons, Blast Off is unusually light when you pick him up, all the potential places for pieces to be hollow... they are.

The rear is fairly disappointing since it's just a bunch of junk (made even worse since it's hollowed junk).  There are not proper thrusters (except that circular thing on top which I'm surprised is painted silver).

Blast Off is very white, seemingly lacking a lot of color, but the paint is there, just sparsely allocated so the full effect doesn't come into play.

Blast Off is a decent size.  Personally, I think this mode is fairly undefined (for some reason, I keep thinking the two windows in front look like eyes) and doesn't particularly evoke "space shuttle" to the viewer.

It's a passable space shuttle mode, but it's far from the best alternate mode among the Combaticons.


Conceptually simple, but the execution can be lacking.  I don't like the shoulder pieces, they are attached at awkward angles, so I usually accidentally pop them off their balljoints.  It's not good for the joints if I keep doing that.  There are tabs for his arms, and they feel very tight.  The arms are hidden inside the engines/thrusters, and the whole front part flip down to become his torso.  Again, it's quite simple and bland.  Feels uninspired.


Out of the five Combaticons, I felt that I would like Blast Off the best, he transforms into a space shuttle, and he has a good robot design, but the question is:  "does it translate well into a toy?".  Well, the answer is that it sort of did.

Blast Off is solid enough on his own, but there are some things holding him back.  The forearms are hollow (no reason except to cut costs) so they feel really flimsy and insubstantial.  The shoulder pads also restrict movement more than you would expect.

Blast Off doesn't gain any more colours that you didn't see in shuttle mode, so he still feels very white and bland, as if he's lacking some dark color for contrast's sake.

I do like his head sculpt, and his head is on a balljoint.  The eyes are painted, thus he lacks lightpiping.

Blast Off's size is what you'd expect, no bigger or smaller (just lighter).  If you think about it, Blast Off have wide shoulders but very thin legs.

He has two guns for his weapons.  Like the rest of the G2 Combaticons, they're unpainted so they're a block of white plastic.  If only they kept with the packaging shots, in which the weapons were painted...

I don't see anywhere that seems compromised due to the combining gimmick and Blast Off balances well with his long feet.  He's not going to fall over any time soon.

Articulation is decent, but again, the shoulder pads limit shoulder movement.  The elbows feel fragile with the thin plastic.

A nice robot mode but not the stellar one I was looking forward to.


I tried really hard to like and love Blast Off but he is just a decent figure, not a stand out one.  Maybe it was a good choice that he was purple for his retail version since the white on this version just makes him so bland and colorless.  The space shuttle mode is passable and the robot mode is solid.  He still makes a great display piece though and looks great with the rest of the Combaticons.


Many other Transformers reviews can be found here if you so desire.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: Sister of the South

Review:  #289
Title:  Sister of the South
Series:  Deltora Quest 3 - 4th and final book
Author:  Emily Rodda
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  You would have started reading this book expecting what happened in the previous three to happen here.  Namely, the trio would find the Sister of the South and destroy it.  I don’t want to put any spoilers, but suffice to say, it will defy all your expectations.  While the first part was still good in its own right, the ending will completely blow you away, just when you think it is all over, something else is revealed.  The pacing was handled very well, never once did I felt like I was bored, there was no boring part.  While the Toran Plague may not be the most interesting thing ever, it was handled very well, and with the chain of events, I can hardly think of anything better.  When the big revelation came, and the true cunning of the Shadow Lord was shown, you will be amazed.  This last ploy, it linked everything in the whole Deltora Quest series of books together, the amount of preplanning in order to have this one moment, it is incredible.  It fit in so well; the plan was so elegant, and so intricate, you would be hard pressed to not be impressed.  Seriously, you feel like you’re going to overload with the amount of things you have gleaned from those few pages, as everything fell into perspective and clicked into place.  Then there’s the final battle, it’s everything you would have wished for.  The teamwork and trust that was built in those final moments, it’ll bring a warm feeling to your heart, and you feel a pride in them.  This book presents a final ending to the adventures of Deltora and of Lief, Barda and Jasmine.  It was nice knowing the fates of those three characters, and you feel like you’ve gone through a big journey too, living the adventure through them.  This is truly a stunning masterpiece.
Rating:  9/10

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets

I actually like the sequel more than the first movie.  The plot goes along much faster here, and is arguably more interesting.  I found the breakdown between Ben and Abigail to be a bit contrived and unnecessary here.  While the story is captivating, the protagonists' actions are more ridiculous and improbable here:  kidnapping the president?  Seriously?  Or breaking into Buckingham Palace or the White House?  Yeah...  You do wonder that after over a century of time, that the mark on the rocks are still there (and not gone due to erosion) and everything practically still works as intended.  Anyway, the characters were still likable but we didn't get to see too much of the antagonist nor learned of his motives until near the end.  I liked his actions at the end, it felt noble, and so he wasn't a true antagonist in the end.  I liked the humor since most of it worked.  Once they got into the traps, which was this climax of the film, it was quite exciting and you're anticipating at what is going to be thrown at them next.  They need to have better lighting though since for most of it, they were in half darkness, which, while understandable given their situation, does not mean it'll be great for viewers.  A good and interesting film.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Book Review: Isle of the Dead

Review:  #288
Title:  Isle of the Dead
Series:  Deltora Quest 3 - 3rd book
Author:  Emily Rodda
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  A major step up from the previous two in the series, while they have been enjoyable, this is the point where the story becomes phenomenal.  A significant portion of the book deals with a subplot, where Lief and Barda spends some time on a deserted casino ship.  There, major background story elements are given on Laughing Jack.  The way this subplot was delivered was amazing.  The pacing was just right, with perfect use of ‘flashbacks’.  You’re presented with the feeling of urgency to find an exit, while anticipating the next piece of information that is revealed.  Furthermore, this complex subplot melds together so well with the story that it feels like an integral part, relevant to later events.  While you may think that all four books will follow the same structure of the protagonists travelling to the next Sister and destroying it, Isle of the Dead feels different from that formula.  I loved the way the villain was disposed of; a lot of thought went into it.  There are some major plot twists near the end, where it just will flip your understanding of the plot upside down.  You’re left shocked while everything is explained.  As always, the beasts of Deltora are fascinating.  It’s no small feat when you consider in the space of less than 200 pages, this book manages to have a complex subplot AND further the overall plot of the series.
Rating:  7.5/10

Monday, December 24, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Generations FOC G2 Swindle

Review:  #115
Name:  Swindle
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Fall of Cybertron
Year of Release:  2012
Size Class:  Deluxe
Variations:  SDCC and JP version in game accurate colors, retail version in Generations line, retooled into Roadbuster


Now, the first of the FOC Combaticons!  Yes, you know what to expect in the next four toy reviews, the rest of them.  Anyway, apparently this is supposed to literally be an updated version of the G2 Combaticons, but I'm still going to treat them as their Fall of Cybertron incarnations.  Swindle's in a nice shade of red this time, and one of the better color schemes in the set.

Don't be deceived by the apparent bulk, even in this mold he feels largely hollow and light.  Needless to say, all four wheels roll.

It's a fairly well defined vehicle.  You can tell instantly that it's some sort of wheeled vehicle (unlike some of the other Cybertronian figures). There are exhaust pipes on either side and he stays together quite well.

While he seems to be quite large in size, he doesn't have the mass to support it.  Pick Swindle up and you'd be surprised at how light he will be.  That's the only disappointing aspect here.

You can plug his gun on top or just leave it out.  Personal preference on which makes him look better.  He has a G2 Decepticon insignia at the front.

A surprisingly well formed alternate mode.


There's only one aspect where Swindle sucks, and it's not even an engineering flaw.  The top of Swindle's vehicle mode is made from the panel in front that plugs onto each of the legs that form the back.  What's wrong is that the tabs are too tight, and it's a nightmare tearing it off.  Since the plastic quality has gone down (and it's instantly noticeable when you take him from packaging), you'll be worried about it snapping off eventually (and stress marks have already started appearing in some people's toys).  Anyway, apart from that, Swindle has a solid transformation, but it's a pretty simple one.  It's still fun though and does the job.  It isn't going to wow you any time soon but then again, he doesn't need to be (since he has the combiner gimmick).


Swindle appears to be the bulkiest of the Combaticons, and the most 'value'.  He has thick legs, wide shoulders and a bulky torso.  He appears blocky.

Viewing from the back is another story and breaks this illusion.

You can see how they have tried to cut cost everywhere, the bulky torso you've seen?  It's just a big plate.  The hollow forearms and legs?  They're not necessary, they're just hollow to save on plastic.  This makes Swindle feel extremely light (since he's all 'stretched out') and even a bit fragile.

The head looks nice, with a yellow visor, no lightpiping as the visor is painted on.  The head can be tough to get a grip on due to the bits surrounding it but it can turn from side to side.

Swindle looks the size from Deluxes of old but it's all sadly just an illusion...

Okay, that's enough complaints about the low mass (I know I keep harping on about it), Swindle does look good from the front.  If you have the retail versions, you'll notice that there are less paint on specific details, but in Swindle's case, it's not too much of a problem (it's worse on the other Combaticons).

Swindle comes with a gun that he can hold in either hand (the extra pegs are for combining weapons).

Articulation is good.  The legs are too big to have a wide range of motion though as they get in each other's way.  The forearms may also be too short at times to do what you want the to do.

The big feet means he's stable in a wide range of poses.  The shoulders are also adjustable so that they're higher up and closer to the main body (I just like mine that way).

Not a bad robot mode.  He might take some getting used to but this is a solid robot and one of the better ones in the set.


I hadn't expected this but Swindle turned out to be my favorite one out of the Combaticons.  The vehicle mode looks great, and the robot mode turned out better than I expected.  Swindle is a fun figure, and although he isn't without his flaws, there's no compromise made for his combining gimmick.  Swindle is a solid figure even as a standalone.


Various other Transformers reviews can be found at this page.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Book Review: Shadowgate

Review:  #287
Title:  Shadowgate
Series:  Deltora Quest 3 - 2nd book
Author:  Emily Rodda
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  This book presents a lot more questions, questions that are only answered in later books.  Normally, this would be very frustrating and annoying, but the book presents enough answers to earlier questions to be bearable.  Plus, it discreetly paves the way for future books, where characters and events that appeared here, will be important later on.  Once again, you will be amazed and be captivated at what the author has produced.  There were so many elements that you wish that there were more time to dwell on, things such as The Masked Ones, the dragons and their behaviours, Laughing Jack and of course, the Sisters.  They are all intertwined so masterfully and gracefully, everything just fits together so well.  The story was a blast from start to finish, and there was a good balance between mystery and creepiness (in a good way).  While there weren’t many puzzles and riddles, the complex plot and surprises, especially near the end, more than made up for it.
Rating:  7/10

Saturday, December 22, 2012

National Treasure

I'm going to admit it, I love this movie.  I really like the treasure hunt concept of this film, set in the modern day, a team trying to find some lost hidden treasure that everyone else seemed to have overlooked (or thought it was the stuff of legends).  While I enjoyed the movie, it wasn't without it's flaws.  The beginning was too slow paced for my liking and they spent too much time on planning to steal the Declaration of Independence.  Truthfully told, the theft of it was ridiculous, and they made it look so easy when it would have been practically impossible for such an important piece of history.  Anyway, all those other clues surviving to this day stretches it a bit too, but hey, don't argue against the movie right?  The ending was good, with the false dead ends.  I loved how they all give up and then realize that there is something after, and then something after that.  Great during the first view, but after that, you spoil it for yourself as you wait for the movie to unfold and end.  The race between the two teams were intense at times, and the chase scene was exciting.  An enjoyable movie overall.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: Dragon's Nest

Review:  #286
Title:  Dragon's Nest
Series:  Deltora Quest 3 - 1st book
Author:  Emily Rodda
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  As with all first books in a series, it takes it upon itself to set up the overarching plot, which reduces the amount of space available for the real objective.  The destruction of the crystal in the beginning of the book, while important, feels depressing and forced.  However, when the Shadow Lord’s plan was revealed, it was shocking, and it makes sense.  You could tell that a lot of planning went into the book.  While you can summarise the whole book as just a few events, they all felt important, and created an air of urgency and suspense.  The villain was surprising, and everything feels just right, fitting together with the overall lore well.  There are some very interesting elements and monsters in the book, it feels like the author had designed and made sure the biology and ecosystem of Deltora worked and made sense.  A lot of moments happened where you were shocked, there were some very good writing here.  Also, there’s the enjoyable rhyming warnings and puzzles.
Rating:  7/10

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Prime First Edition Starscream

Review:  #114
Name:  Starscream
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Prime - First Edition
Year of Release:  2011
Size Class:  Deluxe (First Edition - Wave 1)
Variations:  retooled into JP Skywarp and Thundercracker, repainted in a 2pk with Bumblebee, repainted in Dark Energon Starscream and retooled into Timelines Slipstream (Wow!  They really used this mold up)


Starscream transforms into what should be a very thin and sleek jet.  Apparently, it's based off a General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, looking at pictures, there is a passing resemblance.

There are three missiles under each wing, they are made of soft rubbery plastic (which are unpainted).

He has a single molded thruster and underneath that are clearly his legs, albeit folded up.

There are gaps all over the place in the fuselage, and what is clearly his chest just behind the cockpit.  This is all due to the back of the plane comprised of his robot arms and shoulders, it's not exactly the best jet around.

What's more, he has some pretty hefty undercarriage junk.  They're his robot mode legs, not exactly tucking away.  Starscream has three molded wheels so that he lay flat on the table.

As a jet, there's the illusion he's bigger than he is.  Take away the wings (which are apparently shorter than they should be on a real jet, but I don't really see the problem) and you're left with a tiny mass of plastic.  It might be normal now, but back when it was released, you'd expect it to be heavier.

Either way, this is *just* passable as a jet.  It's better looking as a silhouette due to all the gaps and robot bits you could see.  Oh, and Starscream has a rubber nosecone.


Starscream has a very interesting transformation, the engineering that went into it is very impressive indeed.  While the legs are basic (just folding down), the arms are slightly more interesting, I think it's the way the designer placed and manipulated the kibble that makes it all much more fun.  I wouldn't say it's complex, but it's elegant and intuitive once you've done it once (or seen someone do it).  The waist joint can give you heart attacks since it feels so thin and fragile (but I have never heard of it having snapped before, so it's overreaction there).  The transformation does rely a lot on thin and long joints, so over time, I think it would be more fragile (since they're mostly held together by pins).  There's a lot of moving parts and small bits and pieces that make him more show accurate, like the small fins you can flip up at the back of his legs.


It's amazing how well they have captured the tall and lanky Starscream from the show into toy form.  Kudos to the designer, they have done an amazing job (and at Deluxe size too!).

Starscream is extremely show accurate, right down to the high heels.  Surprisingly, he's quite stable and easy to stand with his small footprint.

The head sculpt shows a lot of attitude, it captures Starscream's character really well.  The evil red eyes with the subtle smile/smirk.  His fin is made of soft rubber, and with a lot of Starscream's, straight out of packaging and their head fins are bent.  I had to fix mine (not perfectly) with a hairdryer.  The fin folds back for transformation so the head can tuck it, but more than often, it'll bend against something, quite annoying.

If you hadn't known, Starscream's torso bears a passing resemblance to the Movie Starscream's head, apparently this visual homage was unintentional (would have been cool if it was intentional).

Starscream's thinner than you would expect, since it's unprecedented on such skinny characters having a toy (as far as I am aware, I'll probably be proven wrong).  He does make up for it in height, he towers over a normal Deluxe.  Just note that the knee spikes are also made of soft rubber :(.

This is a First Edition toy, so blah blah blah, he has a stand.  Obviously, you cannot place his jet mode onto the stand since the wings will get in the way.

Starscream looks good on the stand, what more can I say?

Starscream is super poseable.  Imagine the most poseable toy you have, and make it even more poseable, that's Starscream.  I'm still amazed at the number of joints he has and the range of motion he possess.

However, the biggest threat against Starscream would be his hip joints.  They're inherently loose, causing him to topple over in many a circumstance.

He's not too stable in extreme action poses either due to his static feet (the spurs can only fold in, very limited when folding out).  You can have Starscream in all those flattering or grovelling poses that you see in the cartoon.

This is a surprisingly good robot, you can see where the designer has focused upon.  One word.  Wow.


This turned out to be a surprisingly good toy.  From initial pictures, I thought that the jet mode was too compromised, but it turned out to be quite good, and the robot mode is just stunning.  It's amazing how well they have captured the character, the gait, the smirk and the lankiness.  Being super poseable also helps, and the plane thruster being situated on his back also lends to the plausibility of flight in robot mode.


Various other toy reviews can be found on this page.
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