Tuesday, December 31, 2013


What better way to end the year's worth of posts than a post about my thoughts on the Disney movie for 2013, Frozen.  I've read reviews about it comparing it to Tangled and it seemed to be in the same vein.  Just throwing it out there now, it's not as funny as Tangled, nor the story is as great.  However, this is still one of the best Disney movies in the last ten years (since 2008's Bolt, Disney has started to be on a roll, churning out one solid animation to the next).  Frozen takes on a story based on The Snow Queen, which is an excellent premise.  The snowy and ice setting makes for some dazzling scenes.  In case you didn't know, Frozen also includes songs and the songs are half-decent.  Sure, they're no classics like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid, but they were easy on the ears and it was more catchy when compares to the likes of The Princess and the Frog and Tangled.  The heroines in the movie are no longer the damsels in distress, each are independent and their actions are touched with modern influences.

The movie starts off getting straight into it and it doesn't take long for it to get into the crux where Elsa builds herself the breathtaking ice palace.  Songs are frequent in the first half but disappears soon after, which is a shame.  A signature piece at the climax would not have been displaced.  There's the whole princess meets her prince and falls in love type of thing, but the funny thing is that it pokes fun at the "Disney couple falls in love after just meeting" cliche, that was a very nice touch.  The addition of Kristoff set some doubts on Hans and I was wondering how it was going to end, although you do suspect something.  When that suspicion comes true, it feels kind of odd as he seems so evil.  It was also a little bit surprising at the violence of Anna's treatment to Hans.  I like how there were a few pieces focusing on two vocals and the way they fed off each other.  It was nice but I found sometimes the voices of the singers didn't quite reach that sweet spot.  Nevertheless, an excellent film and one I look forward to watching again.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Review: City of Lies

Review:  #391
Title:  City of Lies
Series:  The Keepers - 2nd book
Author:  Lian Tanner
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The first book had a story that was self-contained and can stand on its own.  City of Lies is the start of plot that spans across two books.  The story was interesting, although we didn’t get any further glimpses of the secrets of the museum from Museum of Thieves.  The adventure takes place in a new city, and a sinister plot for power starts to unfold.  It’s nothing complex but it keeps you going.  There were some nice fantasy elements that blended well with what we have already understood.  The ending is somewhat like a cliffhanger, it feels like the end of the first part of a two-part movie, which isn’t necessary bad, but it just means it feels that there is too much that wasn’t completed.
Rating:  6/10

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers Animated Activators Bulkhead

Review:  #161
Name:  Bulkhead
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Animated
Year of Release:  2008
Size Class:  Activators (Wave 1)
Variations:  none that I am aware


Bulkhead transforms into a SWAT military van.  Only four wheels roll, the middle pair are fake which is slightly disappointing.

While looking quite good from the front, it somewhat falls apart from behind as you can clearly see his arms and legs poking out.  Bulkhead doesn't have a defined rear.

One of the neat things that they did here was molded the big hinges that are required for his transformation into gatling guns.

It's really obvious when you first set sight on the figure, Bulkhead is super-deformed.  He feels really compressed, length-wise and the proportions are not show-accurate at all.  It's required to have a decent robot mode but the compromise do suck.

Being super compact makes Bulkhead feel small in your hands.  Overall though, it's still a okay vehicle mode.  They hid the transformation activation button quite well, it's the red part of his siren.


As mentioned, you pressed the red part of his siren and Bulkhead automatically transforms.  You have to make sure you've tabbed in the arms correctly otherwise the auto-transformation won't go all the way.  Afterwards, you just have to fiddle with his arms and legs and you're done.  It's pretty fun but Bulkhead basically just unfolds from the vehicle mode so it's not as clever or integrated as Bumblebee.  That said, the collapse of the panels is fun to watch and marvel at the engineering.


The designer managed to capture Bulkhead's essence quite well.  He's instantly recognisable and thanks to the torso and panels (that acts kinda like wings), he looks big and bulky too.

Thanks to the unfolding nature and just how the character is designed in the cartoon (no vehicle kibble except for his chest), the whole rear of the trucks forms kibble on his back.  There are giant panels and it looks like a mess at first.

The headsculpt makes Bulkhead look angry, it can turn from side to side.  It's tiny in size though.

You have to lean him a little bit forward at the hips in order for him to balance.  You can also fold the truck side panels further back so they aren't as obvious from the front or just leave it there.

Like how the Voyager toy is near Deluxe-height, this Activator is near Legends-height.  He's got more bulk and looks bigger but he seems to have less mass than the other Activator toys.

In terms of poseability, Bulkhead is okay in that aspect.  You can probably tell, but his proportions don't exactly make it seem like it's easy to give him articulation.

The only bad thing is that Bulkhead lacks any knee joints, couple that with feet that can't be adjusted, and the possibilities of dynamic poses are limited.

Overall, this is a solid robot mode.  He can seem a little gappy from a few angles but still a cute little robot mode nonetheless.


Not as strong as some of the other molds in the Activator line but Bulkhead is still a fantastically fun figure himself.  You'll find yourself transforming him back and forwards and marvel at how the panels move and align each other.  The vehicle mode is a bit too super-deformed to look good while the robot mode is an acquired taste.  You'll probably find him growing on you though.


Transformers reviews can be found here.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Don't have high expectations for this movie and you won't be disappointed.  It's not bad but it never really elevates itself.  The plot is very simple and the special effects can feel a little bit lame at times.  Especially with the way how some of the magic is done, it reminds me of those cheesy low-budget movies, which is disappointing to see here.  There are some sections where the humor is good and you laugh at the constant one-liners.  Mostly though, it's filled with cliches that you can't help but roll your eyes at.  The acting of some of the characters feels half-baked, you feel that they could have done a much better job.  The character of Becky as the love interest also feels tacked on, she doesn't have an important role and feels pointless to the plot.  There are some great ideas here although the execution is lacking (too many ideas and not enough time to flesh them out), a deeper backstory would have done the plot wonders.  Overall, a fairly bland movie but at least it keeps your interest enough to keep watching to the end, just don't hope for an awesome out of this world climax.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Book Review: Wild Animals

Review:  #390
Title:  Wild Animals
Series:  Horrible Geography
Author:  Anita Ganeri
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  Once again, this handbook feels a bit too brief in its catalogue of dangerous animals.  It does enough to whet your appetite but doesn’t fill it, instead egging you to find some other book to read more about them.  All the real life stories about animal attacks (especially some of the more unusual ones) were interesting.  It also gave you some good tips on increasing your survival rates.  This is a very enjoyable book.
Rating:  6/10

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Game Dev Story (Android)

This game... is super addictive.  This point cannot be stressed enough, it gets you into the mentality of playing/creating one more game and seeing how well it sells and before you know it, hours has passed and yet you still just can't put it down.  The appeal of creating your own games, personalizing it (to a small degree), advertising your studio and seeing how well your sales are, is massive and cannot be understated.  In the 'main' game (you get a score after twenty in-game years has passed and then anything after that is like a 'zen' mode), new advancements often happen.  This kept the first playthrough fresh and dynamic since just when you thought that you have seen everything the game has offered, something new gets introduced, from new consoles, moving to a new office, new genres and even creating your own console.  Since there is a rapid rate of new things being introduced and next-to-nothing in the post-game, it can feel jarring and makes you wish that Kairosoft could have introduced even more things during post-game.

One of the neat things are the references to real-life companies, video games and consoles.  It was hilarious when you see Sonny's PlayStatus, Intendro's Game Kid or Senga's Harpo Drive.  The graphics are the same as all the other Kairosoft games, in that it is reminiscent of the 8-bit (or 16-bit) games of old.  These simple sprites are perfect for this type of game.  Unlike some of the latter Kairosoft games, the camera angle/viewpoint is fixed, you can't zoom in/out or move the camera around the office.  Not that is matters but it's just something that you'd notice if you have been playing a lot of their other games.  One of the things that could be done better here though is the stats display.  It would be nice if you could get more out of them (since this is a simulation game that puts a lot of emphasis on numbers, you would expect that there would be some rich statistics reports).  It also would be nice if it didn't start deleting the records of your previous games once you've created more than 32 games.  The music is not memorable but does what it has to do.  Some of the sound effects don't seem to suit the actions, like the "warning" sound that plays whenever one of the staff gets motivated and performs well in a game currently being developed.

As per usual with these types of games, once you know how the game mechanic works and can use it to your advantage, you can break the game quite easily.  However, on a first playthrough with no idea of what is going on, it can get tough during the latter stages where the cost of things skyrocket.  For example, the game system that you're developing on is being discontinued but you don't have enough money to purchase a development kit for one of the newer consoles and you're stuck wasting time trying to earn enough money from third party jobs or developing for the PC (which is the one with the lowest market share in the game).  Once you figure out how everything works such as what makes the game sell well and how different elements combine together, it gets substantially easier and more satisfying.  Overall, this is an amazingly addictive game that you will pour hours into.  Just due to how it works, there is amazing replay value.  Definitely recommended if you like simulation games because there is much more depth to this game than what the graphics suggest.


Other game reviews can be found on this page.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Get Smart

A surprisingly enjoyable and neat film.  While there was nothing original at all, from the plot to the humor, they gelled together quite well and made the film a blast to sit through.  It never amazes you or does anything clever, but the time ticks by as you anticipate what is going to happen next.  There were some laugh out loud moments and a lot of scenes where it'll give you a chuckle.  The plot was somewhat simple and is nothing complex.  The two main characters were interesting enough and they had a nice chemistry.  There was a number of action scenes which wasn't too bad and gets your adrenaline rushing (mainly the climax is where most of the explosions and stunts are).  More screen time for Dwayne Johnson would have been nice, you would've expected his character to have some death defying stunts or at least some fist fights, but he's regulated more to the side (even though he turned out to be one of the main antagonists).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: Dinosaurs

Review:  #389
Title:  Dinosaurs
Series:  Horrible Science
Author:  Nick Arnold
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  A well written and entertaining take on dinosaurs.  It helps if you’re already interested in the subject matter, but who isn’t interested in dinosaurs?  The major flaw in this book would be the brief take on it, it’s a small book, and the subject matter is so vast, that it just skims over a lot of details.  It’s a good thing that it leaves you wanting for more I guess.  I’m a little bit surprised at the blood that’s splattered throughout a lot of the illustrations.
Rating:  6/10

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers Animated Activator Grimlock

Review:  #160
Name:  Grimlock
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Animated
Year of Release:  2008
Size Class:  Activators (Wave 3)
Variations:  repainted into Fireblast Grimlock


Grimlock, unsurprisingly, transforms into a robotic dinosaur.  It is very stylized but still looks excellent and it's a good design.

He's got some kibble (his robot legs) near the back of this mode, which makes him too chunky to look good.  He features a gold tipped tail.

Even in beast mode, he can't escape the Animated trademark of a huge, jutting jaw.

A neat feature if that his jaw is jointed so you can open and close the mouth for some chomping action.

There a gap from above where the purpose (as far as I can see) is to show off the Autobot symbol but it doesn't line up perfectly and it feels redundant as there's a bigger Autobot symbol on his left side...

Being an Activator, Grimlock features a spring-loaded transformation.  Bad thing here is that the clips aren't big enough (or the springs are too strong) to hold Grimlock perfectly.  the front half of the dinosaur easily flips back when you handle him.

Size-wize, with a beast mode, he is fairly big but light as he's a bit hollow.  It's still a great mode though.


Grimlock's automatic transformation is pretty neat.  The front half flips onto his back and his torso, along with his legs, shift upwards.  It looks great.  You do need to them fiddle with his arms, fold back his tail and flip up his legs but that doesn't require too much effort.  This is a good transformation.


Grimlock's robot mode is as faithful to the cartoon as his beast mode.  The only bad thing here is the out of proportion arms which are much longer than you'd want.  You can fold it at an angle to make it appear shorter but it's not perfect.

Grimlock carries a bit backpack, being pretty much the rest of the dinosaur (now that I realise, Grimlock is somewhat of a shellformer).

Unfortunately, due to this backpack and the way the feet fold up, it makes he can easily keel over backwards (the long heelspurs are useless as the ankle joints are giving way).

The head sculpt is good and the head can slightly turn from side to side.

Once again, he is a decent size, especially considering how much he shortens by when compared to his dinosaur mode.

Poseability is excellent, but once again you gotta watch out with those ankles to prevent him from falling over.

He's got joints in most areas, only lacking in a waist joint.

A great robot mode hindered by his ankles and long arms, but that's unavoidable as making his arms shorter would make the dinosaur mode look really weird.


A good rendition of Animated Grimlock.  He looks accurate in both modes and is plenty of fun to play with.  The spring loaded transformation works.  Just a fun toy all around.


Other Transformers reviews can be found at this page here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

I didn't think the first one was too bad (and I have nothing against Nicholas Cage) but Spirit of Vengeance felt like it was even worse than the first film.  The story wasn't very original and the way that events played out, the plot twists and the like, it felt that it was all done in other films before already.  There were a few moments, with the special effects happening onscreen, that you can't take it seriously coz it defies logic or what you'd expect (even from a fictional point of view).  The flashing scenes during the Ghost Rider's transformation or when Carrigan decays his victims, they seem to feel amateurish and not used to great effect.  The boy being the devil's son, the most important character in the movie, they tried to make him a bit badass, but it fails.  The CGI was surprisingly bad in some scenes for a movie that seems quite well known.  It's hard to invest into this since it gets dull many times.  There are some design changes, and not really for the better.  His bike seems more tame.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2

The idea of the plot was intriguing, in that it begins straight after the first movie (a nice change from the regular setting of a few years later in other sequels) and the food mutates into living beings.  Some of the food animal designs were imaginative and sweet such as the cheespider and tacodile while other animals didn't fit in so well.  The first thirty minutes of the movie was somewhat of a letdown in that it was fairly bland, you anticipate the part where the gang heads off to the food jungle.  You also can't wait for the humorous parts to begin.  Sadly, the movie never lifted off.  It's less funny and less imaginative and they reused the subplot of turning antagonist (Flint) against his friends that's been done many times before.  I tried very hard to find the jokes/gags funny but while they would give you a chuckle or two, it never sets you off laughing your head off.  The animation was slick and the movie overall was bright and colourful so it was still an enjoyable piece.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Book Review: "Who Could That Be at This Hour?"

Review:  #388
Title:  "Who Could That Be at This Hour?"
Series:  All the Wrong Questions - 1st book
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  This book presents an intriguing mystery, too bad that it was not solved by the end.  True to the author’s style, there’s a bit of nonsense scattered generously throughout the book.  It can get tiring though; as it truly is nonsensical stupid stuff (it’s not even funny or clever now).  The mystery ramps up a lot but then it deflates in the final few chapters as there’s no revelation on each character’s motives.  This is a disappointing novel with a plot that just goes round in circles, never getting to the destination that it should have gone.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, December 16, 2013

Starship Troopers 3: Marauder

Instantly, you can tell that they've improved upon some of the flaws of the second movie.  There are way more appearances of bugs and the trooper's battles against them.  There's also more varied environments in which the movie takes place, which makes the movie seem less boring and less cheap (probably thanks to the increased budget to $20 million).  The battle that takes place in the first half hour was exciting and I was surprised at how long that battle was.  The bombardier bugs (i.e. grenades) was somewhat lame and stupid.  The CG were not that great (understandable given the low budget) and some of the movements of the bugs were awkward and stiff.  The story is somewhat similar to the second one in that there's a traitor amongst the troopers, but at least this is no zombie rip-off.  The introduction of several new bug types was good, although the scorpion one just looked too much like an oversized scorpion and didn't seem original enough.  Either way, they brought back the brain bug from the first movie, which was a great idea, but wasn't used that much in the end.  The ending was just random.  Despite Rico having a fair chunk of screentime at the start, he just disappears in the middle and comes back at the end in a robot suit.  They should have just taken out the robot suit as it's quite lame and fake (not to mention a bit odd).  It had seemed that the director gave up at the end with the dodgy cheesy effects and acting.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Toy Review: Transformers Animated Activator Starscream

Review:  #159
Name:  Starscream
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Animated
Year of Release:  2008
Size Class:  Activators (Wave 1)
Variations:  repainted into Thundercrack, Dirge, Ramjet and Skywarp.  The Japanese version has a purple/white Decepticon insignia instead of a silver one from the Hasbro version.


Unsurprisingly, Starscream transforms into a jet but not in the typical Starscream colours.  He features forward sweeping wings (which is unusual in itself).  He features some null-rays underneath each wing.

Sadly, his arms are not hidden in any way.  The jet overall is fairly bulky, a byproduct of the simplistic transformation/gimmick.  He is well painted though with red detailing throughout.

On a side profile, you can tell that the nosecone doesn't completely line up due to the auto-transformation aspect (and probably a one-off case).  Starscream features two flip down rear landing gear (with molded wheels).

The transformation activation button is this conspicuous red button on the fuselage.  If it wasn't red then it wouldn't have stood out as much...

You can see the gearing and how he folds up in jet mode.  This means that he has a rather bulky underside, but not enough to ruin the figure.

Also, being a jet, he gives the illusion of being bigger than he is.  Overall, this is still a good jet, especially for this size.  He holds together well, with the exception that his legs can unhook slightly thanks to gravity (this only ruining the aesthetics though).


Being an Activator, he partially auto-transforms.  Before you press the red button though, you have to unhook his legs.  After the spring-loaded transformation happens, you get the result that is pictured above.  You then manually straighten the head, arms and legs.  Starscream requires more manual handling than I expected or would have liked.


You are presented with a rather oddly proportioned robot.  Nothing here particularly screams Starscream.

One good thing is that there is no unintentional kibble, with nothing sticking out the back.

Starscream's head sculpt is great, the evil red eyes and the open mouthed smirk.  The head is attached to a balljoint which weirdly allows him to look up much easier than side to side (it's the big chin).

Starscream is tall and wide in robot mode.  I love his red shoulder guards.

Poseability is great, his feet is stable in a lot of poses and he features a lot of balljoints.

He features a null-ray on each arm.  It's awesome that he had some sort of weapon.

This is a great robot mode (sure, his knees are lower than normal but that is easily ignored) that's also show accurate.


Another stunning Activator toy, in my mind, second only to Bumblebee.  The auto-transforming aspect here requires just a tad too many manual adjustments but the resulting robot mode is amazingly good.  It captures the character of Starscream from the sculpting of his hands to his head.


For other Activator goodness, refer to this page here.

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