Monday, July 28, 2014

Blade II

A more exciting sequel.  It has a better story, more entertaining and easier to sit through.  It still feels overly long and would be nice if it's length was cut down.  The "new" breed of vampires and the way it was presented (as in, vampires were just humans with a virus) felt more intriguing and it served to flesh out the backstory a little bit more.  The villain kept your interest (unlike the first film) and the pacing better.  A negative would be your typical sidekick type character, Scud, where he was predictable, annoying and unnecessary.  There feels a slight change in tone with more gore (but it is still restricted to minor scenes).  The fight scenes noticeably include some special effects which ruins it somewhat.  It is still not the best movie around as it feels too boring during some scenes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Review: Savage Shapes

Review:  #435
Title:  Savage Shapes
Series:  Murderous Maths
Author:  Kjartan Poskitt
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  Once again, your enjoyment of this book depends on how much you enjoy maths and how much you like shapes.  The book doesn’t have any sums so it’s not as interesting.  It’s also very wordy and descriptive, therefore not as interesting as it could be.  There’s the trademark humour which elevates things a bit and the illustrations are good.  I loved the fact that the author wrapped the maths knowledge around some clever and witty stories.  You will definitely learn a thing or two from reading this.
Rating:  5.5/10

Thursday, July 24, 2014


A film with vampires which does not focus on horror, which is nice.  You learn the background of Blade (the half human, half vampire being) and how the vampire world works.  It's not done in an extremely efficient or entertaining way but it was sufficient.  Blade is shown to be badass here, wiping the floor with the vampire enemies.  There were numerous fight scenes but it felt that their movements were stiff and could be much more fluid.  There were also some of your typical body explosions which felt awkward and not suited the theme of the movie.  The ending wasn't that great either with the revelation of the Bloodgod to be somewhat underwhelming.  The lead up to the climax was dragged on for far too long.  While not a boring movie overall, the length feels bloated and particularly in the early parts, there wasn't a sense of purpose or direction.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Animatrix

A collection of nine short films (written and directed by the same people as The Matrix Trilogy) that expands and complements the movies.  While most of them are fairly interesting to watch by themselves, they aren't crucial to the understanding of the Matrix universe.  There are a few where not only does the ending not really make sense but the whole purpose of that short cannot be fathomed.  You don't truly get to see any of the movie characters in any of these shorts, which is a shame and only two really ties in with the movies (in particular, Reloaded).  The biggest detraction here is the inconsistent animation style.  There are apparently seven different animators which explains this but it still feels really odd, especially when you watch them back to back and the perspectives change.  Each being so short in length, you would hope that none of them wastes any time but that is not to be, as there are a few scenes where it is boring and feels unnecessary.  Overall, while it is not a bad compilation and does expand the Matrix universe, there are two or three duds.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Toy Review: NECA Pacific Rim 7" Figure Coyote Tango

Review:  #184
Name:  Coyote Tango
Brand:  Pacific Rim (NECA)
Allegiance:  Jaeger
Year of Release:  2014
Size Class:  7" figure (Series 3)
Variations:  none as of yet


In the Pacific Rim fiction, Coyote Tango is a Mark-1 Jaeger (i.e. one of the first generations).  Coyote Tango appears very briefly in the film (during Mako's memories) to the point where you won't really be able to remember any details.

It appears more prominently in the other tie-in materials such as the novels and comics.  Anyway, as you can probably tell, it's most distinctive feature is the dual cannons resting on his back.

The first question that anyone asks would be, does those cannons swivel?  The answer is yes.  Each one can be independently swiveled forward to for a shoulder cannon.  Neat.

The "head" or pilot cockpit has painted windows, highlighting the fact that this is not a sentient mecha but rather a human controlled one.  The head is only a restricted swivel, only able to turn a few degrees left or right.

Continuing the trend of the line, there are some amazing sculpted detailing.  I'm particularly impressed by the elbow joints which has tiny molded gears and pieces.

Each cannon it attached to a plate that also swings forward.  I love the fact that the swivels are displayed as gears so it feels like machinery inside the Jaeger is moving when you position those guns forward.

While Coyote Tango may seem to not have much paint, it's because they are all subtle.  He's got a metallic/rusty airbrushed effect around the whole body and there are a lot of tampographs such as "USAF" on the chest.  The torso sculpting is also exquisite.

I find that the arms appears too rounded and chubby to look good.  That and the fact that the arm articulation is extremely limited.

Coyote Tango is shorter than Cherno Alpha who was also released in the same wave.

And... just because I like Transformers, here's a quick size comparison with a Deluxe figure.  I am surprised at the size and heft of Coyote Tango, it seems good value for money when it comes to the mass of plastic used.

As briefly mentioned above, articulation is probably the most disappointing aspect of this figure. You couldn't tell from just photos but Coyote Tango has extremely limited range for all joints and you can throw dynamic poses out the window.

First off, his arms.  He has two "elbow" joints but both of them can only bend a few degrees (above picture shows the maximum bend).  He has balljoints wrists and shoulders that can't lift out that much but at least has 360 degrees rotation.

The legs fare better, the knees can bend to nearly 90 degrees but the hips can't move around too much.  The ankles are on balljoints.  Of note, I had a horrible quality control issue on my figure with the left knee in which the peg joint did not fit properly, slightly disappointing as it called the knee to not be able to move at all (took a short while to fix which required disassembling the figure).

The feet are also angled weirdly, they have tapered soles such that Coyote Tango will not rest completely flat on the table.  You need to balance him on the heels otherwise he'll fall forward.  An unusual design choice.

There is also a torso joint available for use but since there are supposed to be hulking figures, you don't really pose them in dynamic situations.

A decent figure, you're more likely to be turned away from the fact that he doesn't play a prominent role in the film or the design doesn't appeal to you.


Considering that the RRP of these guys is something like US$20, Coyote Tango is good value for money.  He looks good and displays well.  Play value may be a little bit lacking due to restricted articulation but he will fit well with the other Pacific Rim Jaegers.


Interested in the review for Cherno Alpha?  If so, find it by clicking on this link.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Book Review: The Key to the Universe

Review:  #434
Title:  The Key to the Universe
Series:  Murderous Maths
Author:  Kjartan Poskitt
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  I guess you have to really enjoy maths in order to like this book.  However, I love maths and I found this book to be really interesting.  It’s filled with some pretty useless but amusing facts.  It highlights how awesome and elegant mathematics can be, wrapped around with a nice dose of humour.  The humour is really well done; there were a few times where I found the jokes to be very funny.  The illustrations add to the experience.  It also covers a fairly broad amount of topics, it skims the top and doesn’t go too deeply.  That said, I found too much text was wasted on elaborating and giving steps on some examples.
Rating:  6.5/10

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Matrix Revolutions

If you were expecting some answers or more revelations about the nature of the Matrix, then forget about it, because Revolutions doesn't do either of that.  Instead, we get the first half hour setting up the plot (the party splits into two), the next hour on the battle of Zion and the last on Neo's fight with Smith.  Granted, the battle of Zion was exciting and a lot of explosions happening.  It wasn't boring at all but you can't help but feel that Revolutions ended up focusing more of the action and big scale fights rather than the philosophic side of things that made the first movie so enjoyable.  The end fight against Smith wasn't that great as it relied heavily on CGI, and the moves weren't as imaginative.  It feels more like a fight of two Superman's (with all the flying and super strength).  The resolution wasn't that great either with little explanation on what happened and why.  While not a bad movie, the battle scenes were large scaled and intense, it's just disappointing in that it did not live up to the expectations set by it's predecessors.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Toy Review: NECA Pacific Rim 7" Figure Cherno Alpha

Review:  #183
Name:  Cherno Alpha
Brand:  Pacific Rim (NECA)
Allegiance:  Jaeger
Year of Release:  2014
Size Class:  7" figure (Series 3)
Variations:  none as of yet


A year after the movie was first released comes Cherno Alpha, the Mark-1 Russian Jaeger.

All details are faithfully reproduced here.  There is an impressive amount of sculpted detailing from vents to pistons.

The figure features the distinctive giant nuclear reaction in the place where the head will be.

"Cherno Alpha" is tampographed on either side of the reactor.

Various other wordings include "USF - B6" and "Caution".

The pilot cockpit situates in the torso.  Canonically, this causes Cherno Alpha to be one of the safest Jaegers for the pilots but it also means there are no escape routes, you either win... or die.

Paint applications are subtle, most of the figure has a brushed metallic look to it.  It does make Cherno Alpha look uniform but the worn look suits it.

A comparison with his wave-mate, Coyote Tango.  Cherno Alpha is one of the taller figures in the Pacific Rim series, however, most of the bulk is in the head (you can see that the legs and arms are spindly).

And just because I'm mostly a Transformers fan, here is Cherno Alpha in comparison with a Deluxe figure.

So, a shot of his arm...

...which features Cherno Alpha's distinctive assault method, extending fists!  It's nice that it is not permanently molded in extended form (which I was afraid of when official pictures surfaced), rather, you pull the fist out (although it is easily popped out).

This gimmick is present in both hands.

As a first generation Jaeger and the oldest one still in service, the design isn't as sleek or cool as Gipsy Danger or Striker Eureka.

I have been spoiled by the level of articulation Transformers have because I feel disappointed with the range of motion Cherno Alpha has.

While Cherno Alpha doesn't disappoint in the size department, its articulation leaves a lot to be desired.  In theory, it sounds good with balljointed shoulders and ankles, elbow hinges and a torso joint.  In actuality, these joints are restricted, especially the shoulders and knees.

Then again, Jaegers weren't exactly the most dynamic of mechas and you can still get a good sense of scale from these figures.

Interestingly, the nuclear reaction head is also on a balljoint so you can swivel it to "face" its opponents.  The fingers are all jointed as well allowing you to open and close its hand.

While Cherno Alpha is my least favorite design out of the four featured in the film, the toy has grown on me and simply looks fantastic.  All the details from the film are present here, just fantastic in general.


With the cheap price point, large size and film accuracy, Cherno Alpha is a brilliant action figure, whether it's for display or play.  Lacking a bit in the poseability department, it makes up for it by looking great, smart paint apps and heft.  Definitely recommended for fans of the film and it's great to hear that Pacific Rim 2 is officially happening!


While they may not be Pacific Rim figure reviews, check out this link for other toy reviews.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Matrix Reloaded

After a strong start, it slows down a bit before picking up with action scene after action scene.  The fight scenes in Reloaded triumphs over the first film but the story staggers.  It presents and reveals more about the Matrix but not enough to satisfy.  The answers it gives us though, are intriguing.  The additions to this world feel natural and clever.  Apart from these Matrix info-facts and action scenes, there's not much left for the story to develop.  While it does make much more sense at the climax and the pieces fit in like a puzzle, it's not enough to say that it had a great story.  Reloaded also relies heavily on CGI which is a disappointment as the CGI was not particularly realistic or well done.  It's hard to tell whether it was because special effects weren't that advanced back in 2003 when it was released or they just lazed out and didn't put as much effort into them.  Some of the stunts and moves were pretty sweet though, providing some nice eye-candy.  Overall, it is still a decent film to watch and makes you excited to see the next one.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dragon's Crown (Vita)

Dragon's Crown is developed by the same people as Muramasa, so needless to say, the art direction is unique and from the very first glance, stunning.  While not as artwork worthy as Muramasa, it is great in its own right and looks amazing.  You will spend time traversing through levels, stopping every so often just to appreciate the beauty of the environments.  Described as an action RPG, Dragon's Crown features side scrolling action but you can move up and down the screen instead of only horizontally.  This can cause some confusion when you try to attack a monster and realize that you attack didn't connect.  The battle system is simple with the normal attack mapped to the Square button.

By combining the Square button with various combinations of the left stick, you get different attacks.  The Circle button does a powerful move and you can evade using the R button.  It's not exactly groundbreaking or innovative but it's instantly familiar and easy enough to get the hang of, while deep enough to discover new things when you're hours into the game.  The RPG elements come from gaining experience and then leveling up.  You can tell Dragon's Crown focused more upon the combat than the RPG elements.  The leveling up system isn't sophisticated and comes off as shallow; you automatically gain stats as you level up while the Skills tree is more involved.  Skills can be passive abilities or new moves; it presents a lot of freedom in which skill to learn first.

You gain skill points as you complete sidequests or level up and you can spend them as you wish on what skills you want, as long as you meet the prerequisites (minimum level etc).  Up to four players can battle at once.  If you're only playing by yourself though, you will have up to three AI companions.  They are more like mercenaries, no essential or even mentioned in the plot.  They are interchangeable as they do not level up with you.  You recruit more powerful party members as you progress through the game, constantly replacing and juggling your party members.  This kinda sucks as there is no attachment to those members, you can't see them level up with you or experience the journey with the main character.

During battle, it gets really chaotic with four characters fighting at once and special effects blasting everywhere.  You can easily lose sight of where you character is and it gets tempting to just button mash.  In this aspect, it might be better to play this game on the big screen via the PS3 version just so it's easier to see what is happening.  Sadly, the game isn't cross-buy so you have to make the decision upfront on which platform to play it on.  With that said, it still runs very smoothly on the Vita and I didn't run into any sort of problems.  The game can feel overwhelming when you first boot it up and you're thrust into the deep end.  After a brief tutorial which shows you your basic moves and explains where some things are, you're left to exploring and discovering what all those menu functions do.

You will learn how the equipment works, how the loot and leveling up system is and generally the structure of the game.  An interesting thing is that you only gain experience once you've completed areas, you don't get it straight after defeating monsters.  It's a different system for sure.  The game's structure is repetitive and predictable.  You will need to go to one of the town's areas, get a quest, go to the dungeon and clear the boss before coming back and repeating the whole process.  In this aspect, the game is linear and you can't deviate from the path.  There are side quests after each dungeon in which you will basically have to repeat the dungeon you just defeated.  Most of the side quests will require you to backtrack and redo the dungeons.

In fact, there are "only" nine settings for the dungeons.  After you've cleared the first nine, the plot device forces you to repeat those nine dungeons with an "alternative" route.  In some of them, this just means redoing it, in others, it means some new environmental backdrops.  However, you will get to face a new and tougher boss.  Once you've cleared the game, the next difficulty unlocks so that you can play through the same dungeons all over again, then repeat for the next difficulty.  By the time you've cleared the first set of nine and completed some side quests, it's actually quite sickening to keep going to those same places.  It gets repetitive if you end up using the same character to complete the Hard and Infernal difficulties, yet you will have to otherwise you will get wiped out easily.

The difference in the higher difficulties is that enemies are harder, the level cap is increased and the reason for trekking through the same dungeons again is explained that two other dragon's have awakened and you have to defeat them.  Also, several levels have special gimmicky sections in which you do something different like riding on a flying carpet dodging lava or on a boat lighting cannons to fire at the kraken's tentacles.  Sounds fun?  Not really, since they usually take a bit of time and the action isn't that intense, it gets boring when you do it for the 20,000th time.  At the beginning, the story has potential and that it will unfold into a grand tale.  You're an adventurer who will eventually save the kingdom by finding the Dragon's Crown, killing some monsters along the way and other problems.  What you actually get is a really weak series of events strung together.

It doesn't convey the epic scale the story could have taken and you can't invest into the characters because... there is no character development and no reason for you to care about them.  This was the biggest disappointment of the game, everything else was great, from graphics to music to gameplay.  There are six distinct character classes to play as and each have their own unique playing style as well as advantages and disadvantages.  While it somewhat freshens up the experience, the fact that you're still playing the same nine stages hits home the fact that the game is repetitive.  In essence, Dragon's Crown has a lot of content but achieving that long play time only artificial as you are playing the same few areas and listening to the exact same words from the narrator in each stage.  Dragon's Crown is great to play through on a fresh playthrough but whether you want to keep grinding onwards after that... it's another story.


Check out some other game reviews by clicking this link.

Blogger Widget