Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: The Dragon's Tooth

Review:  #332
Title:  The Dragon's Tooth
Series:  Ashtown Burials - 1st book
Author:  N.D. Wilson
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  I’ll speak of the flaws first, and that it is too long, and the plot is aimless.  The beginning was dull and stretched for far too long.  It is very likely that you’ll lose interesting in this story before it actually even started.  This slow introduction takes up more than one-fifth of the book.  However, the story never really takes off.  The plot doesn’t seem to have a clear objective, being a mess at times.  You never truly understand anything at any point (and it’s never fully explained either).  It all feels very confusing.  If the author could have streamlined everything, it would have made it a much better read.  The writing was good though, it manages to keep you reading.  It promises that everything will be explained in time, but by the end, still a lot is shrouded in mystery.  Character motives are never explained, they just do their things and that’s that, even if it doesn’t make much sense or have any sort of justification.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, April 29, 2013


Not the classic epic tale that I was expecting, nevertheless, it still retains some feel of those classics.  The animation/motion capture technique they have going on in the film threw me off.  From having quick glimpses at screen caps and the disc case, I thought it was live action.  I was quite impressed with how realistic they had things going... at times.  At other times, the characters feel fake, it was a weird combination.  However, the more fantasy elements such as the dragon and Grendel blended in with the film much better than if it was live action and they had to animate those monsters in.  I did feel in the early parts of the movie, that they went a bit too much on the sexually suggestive things.  Sure, it might have been what it was like during that time, but there was too much of it, which ended up detracting from the movie.  The story told feels right at home with tales from the past... to the point where you can guess the major plot point between the relationships of the monsters with the kings.  The time skip was surprising, and the climax of the film was great.  The battle with the dragon was quite exhilarating.  Some of the scenes were obvious in their styles that it was for the 3D effect (and so the camera positioning was weird when you were watching it in 2D).  The film wasn't as exciting overall as I would have liked, as there were many parts of the film where it was slow paced and boring.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: How to Be a Pirate

Review:  #331
Title:  How to Be a Pirate
Series:  How to Train Your Dragon - 2nd book
Author:  Cressida Cowell
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Is it enjoyable?  It’s okay.  Is it funny?  Not really.  So what has this book have that’s going for it?  Not too much I would say.  Hiccup isn’t really a likable character and neither is his dragon, Toothless.  Toothless is selfish and like Hiccup, he’s not really that special.  You keep waiting, waiting until that moment where they truly show their specialness, but they never do.  Hiccup fails in everything until right near the end, but even that victory isn’t worthy of celebration.  The humour can be childish and immature at times, and the plot feels bland and flat.  Repetition occurs throughout the story.
Rating:  5.5/10

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Superman Returns

This movie is unnecessarily long and bloated.  I was bored for pretty much the whole way through.  The movie is full of things that are done before, done better elsewhere or just very cliche.  You can guess what is about to happen before it happens, and I just kept rolling my eyes at supposedly tense situations like seeing if the characters are going to survive (when we know that they are or they're not).  They dealt too much on Superman catching up with the past, which made it very boring when it wasn't interesting in the first place.  The plot never really lifted up, it was quite plain and flat the whole way through.  The climax was extremely disappointing, wait... what climax?  I didn't even realize that was it as I was expecting more.  This version of Lex Luthor was a huge let-down, he never felt like a threat or a proper villain, I was waiting and waiting for him to actually do something that will clearly distinguish him.  Many of the events were highly unrealistic to the point where you just think, "they can not be serious with where this is going".  Personally, I think unless you're a dedicated fan of Superman, it's better to watch some other more entertaining movie.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel

Review:  #330
Title:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  The Third Wheel
Series:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 7th book
Author:  Jeff Kinney
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  It’s quite a funny read, and the illustrations were as charming as ever.  The events weren’t boring and it causes you to keep on reading and reading.  It has the same flaws that’s prevalent in the rest of the series and that’s the plot.  It’s almost non-existent, the book being a collection of events chained together, supposedly like a diary (the diary component has always been weak to me).  Some of the things that happened were over-exaggerated and immature.  Sometimes, you can't help but feel sorry for Greg when nothing goes his way.  Sure, he probably doesn’t deserve whatever he is looking for, but he is the protagonist and narrator, and you want him to succeed.
Rating:  6.5/10

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Deep Impact

A comet heading for collision on Earth, with the ability to wipe out all life.  Interesting concept right?  In the end, Deep Impact feels boring and dragged on for far too long.  The movie started out like any other, with the discovery of the comet before skipping to something else, and it slowly (and with that, I mean really slowly) builds up to the revelation of the comet and what is being done to prevent the catastrophe.  The first half hour is a write-off, you can not watch it and still understand what is happening.  It doesn't feel like it adds to the movie too much, at that point, I was just thinking, would they get on with the film already coz I'm sick of watching what is in the end, inconsequential events.  Then the next section we have the first plan put into action, and that is a little bit more interesting.  I feel sorry for the person who was cast out into space though, leaving to die in suffocation.  I didn't like the ensemble cast, there were too many viewpoints and they weren't interacting with each other enough to make it worthwhile.  The could at least cut the Leo Biederman viewpoint (which would mercifully shorten the length of the movie as well).  Even though the impending disaster should cause a lot of urgency and tension, there was a noticeable lack of it.  It's thanks to the slow pacing, and in the end, I just wanted the movie to finish so I can carry on with whatever I was going to do next.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers Prime Beast Hunters Optimus Prime (Voyager)

Review:  #132
Name:  Optimus Prime
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Prime - Beast Hunters
Year of Release:  2013
Size Class:  Voyager (Wave 1)
Variations:  the Japanese version has some color changes (notably the transparent green changed to transparent blue)


Optimus transforms into a short-nosed truck (unlike his previous model) that  for some reason, reminds me of Star Convoy (it's the cab).

I'm going to make this clear right off the bat, this is a TERRIBLE truck mode.  It's basically the robot lying down with minimal effort done to hide the legs (that's his feet at the back and there's no attempt to make it even look like a proper truck's back).  The only dedicated truck parts here are the wheels and cab, everything else is folded up robot pieces (that doesn't even do a great job at hiding).

What's more, Optimus is really short.  He's the length of a Deluxe figure, although he is taller, that just makes him feel stumpy.  Plus, he's fairly light for the supposed bulk.

Optimus has got a 'visible head' syndrome.  When I first transformed him, I thought I did something wrong since you can still quite obviously see his head, but nup, that's the way it's supposed to be.  It really puzzles me since there's nothing in the cab that's preventing the designer from letting his head flip further in.

His fists are also visible at the back, with only the Star Saber to slightly detract you from it (and it's not as if the Star Saber is realistic there either).

Optimus is quite armed in this mode, with a missile launcher on either side of the truck.  The yellow painted side windows look tacky (actually, most of the yellow paint applications are tacky).

If you take off the missiles and sword, you're left with a truck that looks even worse.  The robot wings form the sides with a cage like structure on the top.  All six wheels roll though.

A fairly disappointing truck mode (especially when compared to the First Edition or even the RiD mold), this is pretty much a folded up robot.


Extremely simple.  It all boils down to flip down the legs and flip around the arms.  While it may be disappointing from an engineering's perspective, the simple transformation does allow for some quick conversion between molds, such that you may find yourself transforming Optimus more than you'd expect.  The way the wheels form his back is neat, although it may be tricky at first to find the correct way as it's not entirely clear how it is supposed to go (if you do it wrong, then the wing-pack won't sit flush).


This is where Optimus shines through and makes up for the disappointing truck mode and transformation.  He's big and bulky here, his design being completely revamped.  He's very imposing and the sculpting is good.

He sports integrated wings, so you can expect that he can fly.  There aren't too much kibble, only the wheels that are on his back (since there aren't many truck-specific parts to begin with).

The head sculpt is interesting, it's faceplate-less.  If they painted the two sides of his face silver then I think it would have made it much better.  The eyes are lightpiped with that ugly transparent green, and it works fairly well.  The head is on a swivel joint but he can still look up thanks to a transformation joint.

While compact in vehicle mode, the transformation unfolds a lot.  He's the regular height for a Voyager classed figure.  Personally, I think he bears next-to-zero resemblance to the original Prime design, Beast Hunters Prime looks more like a completely new Optimus character from another continuity.

In terms of weapons, he has both his missile launchers, the sides of which can fold out to form a bow-type weapon.  He also has the Star Saber, sadly, it's in green, I would have preferred blue like the Japanese version or even just silver like in the show.

His wheels have holes in them to plug in the missile launchers to look like jetpacks.  I haven't taken any photos of this since it's a tight fit and there has been too many reports of this configuration leaving stress marks.

Obviously, Optimus can hold his missile launchers on either hand, and they look pretty good there.

Same can also be said for the Star Saber, it's not as big as how it was depicted in the show, but it's still a considerable size.  There's a peg on right side of the hilt so that may change your preference on whether Optimus wields the sword left or right handed.

If you don't want him to hold his weapons, or you don't want the launchers at jetpacks, then you can place them on the wingpack, they just plug in the same places as in truck mode.

Optimus has the ability to hold all his weapons at once, you'll just have to place two launchers in one hand, it looks okay.

The large feet allows Optimus to be stable in a variety of poses, yet they can be limited since the feet can't fold forward (only backwards which has limited uses).

Despite his bulky look, cost-cutting is evident here.  Wherever possible, the pieces are hollow, but what makes this more acceptable is the fact that they've covered the hollow parts up.  Instead of being glaringly obvious, the hollow pieces are fully covered (instead of previously where you can see the hollowness when viewing from the back).

If you don't like his wings you can always fold it down his back and get it out of the way.

This guy has a surprising number of ratcheting joints, his shoulders and knees.  Articulation is pretty good, except for the fact that his wings will get in the way of his large shoulder pads when you're trying to pose his arms.

Paint apps are decent, with silver detailing on a few areas.  The transparent green for his windshield seems tacky here.  This shade of green is not a good choice.

 He's a lot of fun to play around and pose.  The legs are particularly well sculpted.  The plastic doesn't feel too cheap and he doesn't feel fragile.

A fun robot mode that displays well and isn't ruined by forced gimmicks.


An extremely weak truck mode is balanced by a strong robot mode.  The design will still take some getting used to but this is one of the most intimidating Optimus toy in a while.  He's stable in both modes and the lack of any balljoints mean that he won't become a floppy mess in the future.  Recommended if you like the robot design.


Many other Transformers reviews can be found on this page.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: Dragon Moon

Review:  #329
Title:  Dragon Moon
Series:  Dragonkeeper - 3rd book
Author:  Carole Wilkinson
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  While this is technically the third book in the series, it is the last book in the original trilogy (as the next one is a prequel).  Therefore, Dragon Moon chronicles the journey of the girl Ping and the dragon Kai, as they make their way towards the dragon haven.  While most of the book is a standard affair and nothing special truly happens, for some reason, you can't stop reading.  You want to find out what Ping is going to encounter next and how she is going to pass this obstacle.  Since Kai is still young, he doesn’t have the wisdom you’d expect of dragons and thus can be an annoying character at times.  Where this book excelled was the way the plot was wrapped up in the end.  You can't help but feel that Ping got the short end of the stick throughout her whole journey.  She, who had given up everything, and selflessly protected and cared for Kai (who is supposedly the last dragon left), you would expect her to have some kind of reward.  You would expect she would live happily ever after.  She does, in her own way but it was truly a sad and tearful ending.  After all the effort she had put into getting them to the haven, it feels as if she is abandoned.  Her romance is rushed but it works out okay (you could see it coming from miles away).  The book still had the same flaws as its predecessor, it relies heavily on Chinese pinyin, yet to most people, this is meaningless.  The author tries to explain but it just gets confusing in the end and you take her word for it.  Overall, Dragon Moon is a beautiful work of art.
Rating:  7/10

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

17 Again

At first, I thought the plot would be the main character (Mike) going back to when he was 17, and not just changing back physically while time remained in the present.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie.  I keep finding myself smiling and chuckling at the jokes and awkward situations that turn up between Mike and his children.  Some of the dialogue was gold and I thought that it was quite clever.  The plot isn't exactly the most original, but it was well executed here.  It was good that you go through the loss thanks to the divorce with the grown-up Mike, before he turns back to 17 and slowly, but surely, repairing his relationships with everyone important to him.  It made the whole process of learning what is important in his life more impactful and memorable.  You feel Mike's pain when things doesn't go his way, and his happiness when it does.  After all that, the ending was a bit quick and weak.  While it wasn't too bad, and I liked the way the ending did mimic the beginning scenes (and being such a significant event), I wished it was elaborated more.  I think the performance from Zac Efron was pretty good, he made his character quite likable.  Of note is that they portrayed Ned as such a weird person... to the point where it was somewhat creepy at times.  Anyway, I am surprised at what a fun film this was, and if you are intrigued by the plot, I urge you to have a shot with viewing this film.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To Love-Ru Darkness Vol. 7

VOL. 7

25 – New Move

The plot of this chapter feels similar, and that’s coz it is.  Mea comes over to the Rito household for dinner, and mimicking the chapter when Yami did that, she cuts the vegetables too…  Anyway, it goes well for most of the chapter, until Mea loses control, and slices everyone, well, just their clothes.  This felt contrived… but compared to previous attempts, it’s actually not terrible.

Oh, there’s another scene where Celine thinks Lala has milk, which felt like unnecessary padding.  Anyway, we see the similarities of Mea’s personality compared to Yami when she first came to Earth.  What’s different, is that Mea loses control much more easily (and is more scary doing so).  In the end, we didn’t learn much that was new, only that Master is still hinting at the ‘darkness’ inside Yami, that we will have to wait until it blossoms.

26 – Unconsciously

There were a few scenes that actually tugged a smile out of me.  One of them was something that the author hadn’t used before, and another was just the running gag of someone coming in at the wrong time.  The chapter focuses on Haruna, but nothing much happens except that Momo explains her plan with Rito to Haruna.  Surprisingly, she seems to like that idea…  Anyway, seeing Rito stumble and the two having some quality time together, it wasn't such a bad chapter overall.

27 – Adventure

It seems to be a recurring theme that the plot device is to have the main character Rito (or some other main such as Haruno) change into an animal, tries to find Nana but ends up wrecking havoc.  It’s the same here.  Thankfully, the humour is different enough to the other chapters such that it’s actually funny and refreshing.

You can pretty much guess what happens though.  I wish that the author could think of something else to write about and to further the already thin plot of the series instead of dabbling along these type of plots.

28 – Infiltration

Surprisingly, this chapter focused upon Kyouko.  That’s the only surprise you’d get though because everything follows the same routine.  Rito can't be helped but get thrusted upon the situation, Kyouko gets into some sort of trouble and Rito becomes the shining prince.  What can Kyouko do but fall for him at that time?  Yes, it’s shallow, it’s overdone, but what can you do?

Some of the older gags come back into play, such as Motemitsu, and he’s as funny as ever.  There is a scene in which Rito exclaims that Kyouko looks like Haruna with her hair down, and you’re like, “you think?!”, when all the females in this manga barely have any difference now.  The author also reuses the situation in which Rito and Kyouko get into some sort of awkward predicament, at least he didn’t get embarrassed when they fall out of the locker.

Extra – Girl of Blaze Magical Kyouko Flame

Right from the start, you know what’s going to happen to Run’s costume.  Anyway, I’m surprised Kyouko makes an appearance here; it seems that some past characters are finally getting an appearance.  In one scene though, Kyouko’s face and expression looked so similar to Mea’s (or some other character), which was kinda odd, as it makes each character lose their distinct feel.  I actually had a laugh at some places, so the character cannot be completely written off.  The Principal’s appearance felt a bit forced and contrived, but overall, it’s not terrible.

Extra - It Feels

What a pointless chapter.  What basically happens here is you get to see things happening to Tearju, and it feels just like a typical hentai manga.  It’s fairly unoriginal and boring, and it ends with the standard thing of Rito being chased by Yami.  The things that happen in the chapter just feels old and overdone already.


A volume filled with old plot and tricks.  There is no more originality in the plot anymore, it just seems that they are so lazy and can't come up with any more ideas so decided to use some old ones.  While the drawings are as nice as ever, it can only go so far without a solid story.  The volume of ecchi fluctuates with each chapter and it can get uncomfortable intense sometimes.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Book Review: Beyond the Valley of Thorns

Review:  #328
Title:  Beyond the Valley of Thorns
Series:  The Land of Elyon - 2nd book
Author:  Patrick Carman
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  The story told through this book is much grander and bolder than the previous in the series.  It does a little bit of a retcon but otherwise, it seems to be more of a standalone book, with a clear focus on the sequel after it.  I would say that this story is more interesting because you get to learn more about the lore of the world.  Part 2 of the book is where most of the excitement lies and it doesn’t let down for a moment once it starts.  It’s not clear how the main character Alexa is going to be a part of the bigger scheme of things since the book never has her do anything important that can’t be done by someone else.  The events leading up to the ending can be said as surprising.  The author has done a great job in delivering such a meaty and length amount of back story to the readers.
Rating:  7/10

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

This film feels a bit more boring compared to the previous two Fast and Furious.  I was surprised that while the movie is still centered on racing, a huge focus was upon the main character stealing someone's girlfriend and apparently learning some life's lessons.  The main character is unlikable during the beginning of the movie, purely due to his attitude.  What is up with him just deciding to steal someone's girlfriend every single time?  He's portrayed as reckless and irrational, trying for the badass look but it just makes him annoying.  While it doesn't get much better later in the film, the bigger jerk for an antagonist makes you cheer for the main character in the end in that hopes that he wins.  It's also quite pathetic when you think that whenever this guy just comes and talks to your girl, you automatically want to fight him.  The focus on the women here is a bit sterotypical.  At least the racing scenes were passable, it doesn't give you any rush but it's interesting enough to keep watching and frankly, it's probably the best parts of the film (as the rest is kinda boring talk). I think the biggest drawback here is the somewhat cheesy dialogue that you just can't take seriously.

Friday, April 12, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

The central plot of Retaliation continues on from the previous film, which surprised me.  We get to see what Zartan's plan was for taking on the appearance and replacing the president.  However, it's very much standalone and doesn't require your viewing of the previous film to enjoy this one.  One thing that I didn't like too much was the ditching of nearly all of the Joes from the previous movie.  Only Snake Eyes remains and he doesn't really count since you don't see him face anyway.  The way that the previous movie's characters were handled in this one was poor, it felt like they just wanted to have a bunch of bigger name stars as new characters.  On the Cobra's side, there were a few familiar faces (well, something like two) and it was enough to feel comfortable that this was supposed to be a sequel.  More evident on the Joe's side, at least two of the characters didn't have any meaningful contribution, they were just... there, no memorable highlights, what a waste.  The tone felt different too, whereas Rise of Cobra had a lot of gimmicky vehicles and weapons in many scenes, Retaliation has a lot more 'normal' guns and gunfire, it's also less cheesy.  The Cobra's plot was good enough to keep you interested.  In the beginning, it left you wondering what it was about and you wanted to find out more.  The climax didn't deliver though, it would be building up for the big showdown at the end and it doesn't truly come.  There are a few plot holes that are big enough to make you skeptical but doesn't ruin the enjoyment.  Storm Shadow's appearance is a bit of a mystery considering the fate he had back in the first movie (then again, if you think about it, we never knew for sure if that was a permanent thing).  I liked the movie and it's about on par with the first film.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: The Dark Hills Divide

Review:  #327
Title:  The Dark Hills Divide
Series:  The Land of Elyon - 1st book
Author:  Patrick Carman
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  This book might not be everyone’s cup of tea since the plot is more thought-based than action-based.  It might bore readers who prefer more exciting books with chases or action.  Nevertheless, I found that the plot was quite well done, as it gave off enough suspense and mystery to capture you.  While the first half of the book do leave some to be desired, the second half was pretty good.  Why do I say that?  Because during the first half, it doesn’t feel as if there was any destination or aim towards what you are reading.  It was just living the normal life of Alexa (the main character).  However, once the true threat came up, it was hard to put down as you wanted to find out more.  The concept of the plot was unique and the final answer was clever.  Sure, the hidden antagonist was cheap since the author never gave you enough clues to figure it out on your own or have your own suspicions (rather, he just told you straight out).  A great book if you persevere.
Rating:  7/10

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Independence Day

I liked how the film went right into it, showing off the alien spaceships as they arrived close to the moon.  Even after this first scene, things progressed quickly and we got to the meat of the plot.  The threat of invasion escalated, and you were left anticipating what would happen next.  One of the things that in my opinion was not needed was all the multiple viewpoints.  I don't think we needed to follow that many groups of people, if it was cut down to two or three, then it would have been much better and the plot could flow on faster.  Sure, they all converge eventually, but I felt in the beginnings, they didn't add to the story, and I was often left wondering why am I watching this.  When the aliens attacked, I think that was one of the more memorable moments of the movie, as the devastation is caused was just mind-numbing if you think about it (and I'm pretty sure that woman and her kids could not have survived in the maintenance room, especially when the door was still open, the fireball would have also consumed the room).  Another position about this movie is that they bothered to explain the motives of the aliens, why they are doing this.  We also got some good looks at the aliens so it wasn't an unseen threat.  While the ending pulled some strings, it was still good and enjoyable.

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