Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review: My Diary from the Edge of the World

Review:  #585
Title:  My Diary from the Edge of the World
Series:  N/A
Author:  Jodi Lynn Anderson
Read Before:  no
Comments:  What starts off as just your average fantasy book becomes something amazing, magical and a real treat.  My Diary from the Edge of the World takes on the form of a diary and it tells a wonderful story.  Set in an alternate universe where all your fairy mythical creatures are real, from dragons to mermaids to the Earth being flat.  It manages to include these creatures into the modern day perfectly that it feels believable.  It still takes place in modern times, with cars, however, due to the mythical creatures being dangerous, America is sparsely populated, concentrated in towns with huge distances between them that are uninhabited.  It also wraps some light pieces of quantum mechanics and string theory into its plot, creating the perfect blend of science and fantasy.  In this world, when you're about to die, a Dark Cloud comes to take you away.  Not wanting their youngest son to go, the family embarks on a journey through America, the pole and finally to the edge of the Earth (where the ocean just falls off the edge), and into the Extraordinary World, an alternate version of Earth without all the mythical creatures (i.e. our world).  As you'd expect, the journey is filled with interesting encounters.  The characters slowly warm up to you, as does the story.  The events are exciting and the world is extremely fascinating.  The last leg of the journey was hard to put down, as you're anticipating the end of the novel and wanting to know what they would find, and how the story would end.  It became a bittersweet moment that was filled with emotion.  This is a novel where you are genuinely sad that it came to an end.
Rating:  8/10

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mannequin Two: On the Move

A sequel to Mannequin with completely new characters and story, this doesn't sound too promising...  It starts off in the past again, where a Prince wants to marry a commoner, with a sorcerer ending up turning the commoner into a status/doll/mannequin, only being able to turn back to life if she finds true love within 1000 years.  Fast forward to the present and we follow Jason, an apprentice window dresser.  Naturally, he finds the mannequin, called Jessy, and brings her back to life and now must escape the clutches of the sorcerer (who is still alive to this day).  Mannequin Two has a stronger fantasy element to the plot, which doesn't make it as believable as the first movie.  It also loses its charm since it's a mannequin in name only, everyone can see her for real.  There was a good scene during the climax but overall, fairly stock standard.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Groove (Deluxe)

Review:  #322
Name:  Groove
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations - Combiner Wars
Year of Release:  2016
Size Class:  Deluxe
Mold Status:  new


Hasbro's version of Defensor had Groove as a Legends-sized figure forming the chestplate since a motorcycle would have been complete out of scale.  TakaraTomy went ahead and created a Deluxe version anyway and Hasbro released their version as part of the "May Mayhem" promotion as an online shared exclusive similar to 2015's Quickslinger and Brake-Neck.

Nonetheless, Groove transforms into a white and black motorcycle with his robot guns doubling up as exhausts and his lightbars on the sides.  Surprisingly, the back has red rear lights painted.  On the whole, Groove has surprisingly a lot of paint applications.

Size-wise, this a big motorcycle.  He feels big in your hands and if you lay him down flat, he has nearly the same amount of bulk as a normal Deluxe-sized car.

Standing the motorcycle up, it is taller than most Deluxes.

A quick comparison with the Legends-sized Groove, this is a more traditional motorcycle.

The combiner piece which doubles up as a gun can be attached on the top.  It looks kind of stupid but at least you can store is somewhere.  There is a kickstand on the left.

He comes with a collector's card showing some art from the Legends mobile game.  Groove doesn't come with a comic like the other Deluxes in the line.

This is a good looking bike but you need to realize that if you take the guns off from the sides, the back of the bike looks incomplete.

Welcoming back the use of transparent plastic, Groove has a fantastic vehicle mode.


Groove transforms similarly to most of the other Combiner Wars Deluxes but adds his own spin to it.  His legs form the same way, but when converting him back into motorcycle, it can be tricky aligning the two halves of his rear wheel together to sit flush.  The upper torso is pretty basic but since this is a motorcycle, at least there is a little bit of differentiation compared to the predictable and generic transformation schemes we have gotten used to with this subline.


Groove's robot mode is equally fantastic with a well-proportioned body and a clean color scheme, the silver, bronze, white and black works really well.

He wears the front of the motorcycle, wheel and all, as a big jutting backpack.  He also has the wheel halves on the outside of each leg.  It doesn't destabilize him and with the wheel halves at least, it adds to his distinctive silhouette.

The headsculpt is good although the sculpted detail plus the bronze color makes Groove seem like a grumpy old man.  He features a lightpipe, probably the only figure in the Combiner Wars line to have lightpiping.

In terms of size, he is once again approximately the same as most other Deluxes.

A quick comparison with the Legends version shows that the smaller-scaled incarnation is a bit closer to his G1-self, but this Deluxe version looks so much better.

In terms of articulation, Groove has got the lot including waist swivels.

He's easy to keep balanced in a variety of poses.  That piece of kibble on his back really doesn't affect anything at all.

His combiner piece weapon is the same one that comes with Alpha Bravo (and the other redecoes of that mold), which is a twin-barrelled Gatling gun.

He can naturally hold the weapon in either hand but it's fairly oversized and unwieldy.

Never fear because underneath his right arm is a 5mm port to attach the gun to as an under-slung weapon.

Of course, he comes with a pair of gunmetal grey guns.

His main weapons is dual-wielding this pair of rifles and he looks fantastic with them.

That's really the real reason why he has that port underneath his right arm, such that he can wield all his weapons at once.

An amazing robot mode, probably one of the best in the line since Groove looks great and plays great.


Groove normally forms the right leg of Defensor and getting him into a leg is super easy, it's basically the motorcycle mode with the windshield and arms folded down.

Attaching him to finally form the proper Defensor, he looks fantastic and you won't even care about the apparent lack of scale.

He's solid as a leg but as per normal, the foot is too small if you want to pose Defensor in a really dynamic shot.

The color scheme works well too with the three main colors, there's no weird clash.

Getting Groove into an arm means it's easier to transform from the robot mode since you basically tuck the head away and tab the arms in an alternate position.

While the arm mode still looks good, the windshield and wheel juts out quite far out to the side.

The robot fists are also completely visible which kind of sucks and the forearm is partially hollow, since it's required for transformation.

Nevertheless, it's still looks great and forms a solid arm.

With the rest of the Protectobots, Groove looks vastly out of scale in vehicle mode.

Whereas in robot mode, that scale factor doesn't matter and he fits perfectly into the team.

It's a very unified set in terms of colors and aesthetics here as well, they look very much like a good team.  Needless to say, Defensor just doesn't look complete unless you have this proper Groove as a part of him.


Groove is a near perfect figure.  While Rook was a good toy himself, Groove is one of the best Deluxes in the Combiner Wars line and all four of his modes look great.  The fact that Hasbro retained all the paint applications from the Japanese version means that Groove has a slight premium feel to him.  Groove is highly recommended if you can find him at a decent price, and of course, you need him to properly complete your Defensor.


For other Transformers reviews, have a look at this page.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Book Review: "Shouldn't You Be in School?"

Review:  #584
Title:  "Shouldn't You Be in School?"
Series:  All the Wrong Questions - 3rd book
Author:  Lemony Snicket
Read Before:  no
Comments:  "Shouldn't You Be in School?" is the best book in the series yet, as it is not as pointless or babbles as much.  It presents an interesting mystery where the villain Hangfire is at it again with another plot.  While it is confusing in the beginning, it starts to take form before too long, and with the reappearance of previous characters, it makes for an engaging read especially towards the climax where Snicket actions his plan.  True to the author's form, after finishing the book, you realize that he did not reveal much at all, leaving way more questions than answers and this remains frustrating.  It leaves a tantalizing effect just out of reach.  There were times where the novel presents big blocks of text that adds nothing to the story, only serving to add to the word count.  Overall, this has a better story hidden in there than you would expect.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, June 24, 2016

Mannequin (1987)

A unique romantic comedy, Switcher is a window dresser, someone who prepares the mannequin displays at a department store.  One of the mannequin ends up coming to life and they fall in love.  There is a twist, the mannequin, Emmy, only comes to life when she and Switcher are alone, whenever someone else sees them, Emmy is reverted back to a mannequin.  Of course, this creates some awkward and humorous situations.  The film has quite a few innuendos.  It manages to keep this plot going forward and ends up being entertaining.  The department store thrives and competitors are trying to get Switcher to join them.  While the beginning was weak and unusual, Mannequin redeems itself with the charm of its story and characters.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Professor Layton and the Lost Future (DS)

Professor Layton and the Lost Future (also known as Professor Layton and the Unwound Future in US) is the third and final game in the original trilogy, the others being Curious Village and Pandora's Box.  It plays pretty much identically to the previous games, being that you use the touchscreen exclusively for the whole game.  You move around by pressing the arrows that appear onscreen, and investigate objects by tapping on them with the stylus.  The key gameplay is finding puzzles and then solving them, and the story that revolves around these puzzles.  The game boasts 168 puzzles, which are a lot!  153 of the puzzles can be found within the story mode, and the remaining 15 serves as bonuses which you must unlock by completing minigames within the story mode, these extra puzzles are extremely hard.  Continuing the trend set by previous games, the rules of each puzzles are explained within one screen, but it is noticeably wordier now.  There are a wide variety of puzzles but there are several types that keep cropping up, so your enjoyment of the game depends on whether you like these types of puzzles or not.

To begin with, there are a bunch of shape based puzzles, which involves moving blocks around on a tiled square when there are only limited empty spaces.  The blocks are usually oddly shaped objects which makes the puzzles harder.  A variation will be swapping the puzzles shown in the blocks around and reconstructing the images in a different way.  The next type of common puzzles are visual-based, designed to confuse you with a tangled mess.  These involves checking which are the two ends of a rope among of mess of ropes, or reshuffling the tangled ropes such that only two are connected.  Further examples include checking how many posters there are on the screen (the posters are taped on top of each other so only the edge and corners peek out) or how many ripples are in a pond when several stones are thrown in.  Tangrams feature in several puzzles, which you need to manipulate by rotating and flipping them.  Then you might have to check out what's the original shape that created the mirrored image.  The wordier puzzles have you reading several statements and then deducing which person is lying or what object it is talking about.

You might have to count some items or be thrown into several mazes with specific conditions, and trying to make it out from one end to another.  Personally, it feels like The Lost Future's puzzles are much harder than previous games.  Thankfully, Hint Coins return, which you gain by tapping in certain areas in the environment, and you use these to unlock hints.  In additional to the three hints given, there is now a Super Hint for each puzzle, which basically gives you the answer.  From the very start of the game you'd notice an uplift in quality.  The animations are smoother and cleaner, not as pixilated anymore.  The artworks are nicer too, as well as the character portraits.  The story is told via the animated cutscenes, dialogue with character portraits and static backgrounds, and fullscreen artworks.  The story has a lot more unusually designed characters this time around, including talking animals.  The game is story-heavy, more so than previous games, with puzzles being infrequent in the earlier parts of the game as it sets the story up.

That said, The Lost Future has the best story out of the three games, it is intriguing but does stall in the middle where it ends up being a big runaround.  Still, it is the biggest story in terms of scale, with a brilliant twist during the climax, and an amazing and emotional ending.  You get to see a side of Professor Layton that you've never seen before, and it was fantastic.  The whole game is worthwhile just for those ending scenes alone.  It contained just the right amount of mystery and drama.  The story begins when Professor Layton and Luke receive a letter from the future, and the pair end up travelling ten years into the future, and have to solve a mystery... with their adversary being the future Professor Layton.  Rounding out the story is a wonderful cast of characters.  The Lost Future also has the biggest map yet for exploration, although it takes place in both present and future London.  However, the tedious nature of walking around makes you wish that there were some sort of fast-travel system.  Furthermore, it is even easier now to miss puzzles during the game as some puzzles require you to interact with an object multiple times before it shows up.

The game blocks progression at certain points and lets you continue only when a specified amount of puzzles are completed.  There are several minigames, including a Parrot minigame, where you draw ropes and the parrot will automatically try to reach from one end of the screen to the other.  Then you'll have the Toy Car minigame, where you place arrows to direct the car around the screen, collecting all the items and reaching the destination.  Finally, there is is a Story Book minigame, where you collect stickers for solving puzzles and filling up a storybook with the appropriate sticker on each page.  After you finish the game, there are several bonuses unlocked depending on how good you were at solving the puzzles.  You will get to unlock profiles, artwork and music.  Overall, Professor Layton and the Lost Future is more of the same, yes, but it refines the formula and gives it a nice graphics boost.  The story is fantastic with an emotional ending.  The Lost Future is highly recommended and is the best game in the series yet.


For other game reviews, have a look at this page.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Titans Return Fortress Maximus w/ Cerebros and Emissary

Review:  #321
Name:  Fortress Maximus w/ Cerebros and Emissary
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations - Titans Return
Year of Release:  2016
Size Class:  Titan
Mold Status:  new (but technically heavy remold of Generations Titan Metroplex)


Now this was a surprise when Fortress Maximus was announced as the next Transformers to receive the treatment for Titan Class.  Nevertheless, this is a fantastic choice and needless to say, the hype was high for an update to the holy grail of all Transformers.

His packaging has a huge copy of the awesome artwork and the back's stock photography shows off all three modes, plus the gimmick of the Titans Return toyline, and that is the interchangeable heads.

The box is absolutely huge.  Above is a picture comparing against Deluxe Rook and Leader RiD Optimus Prime.  Both will be the size comparisons for this review.

Fortress Maximus, like others in the line, comes with a card showing off the artwork and some stats on the back.  He also comes with a sticker sheet but I didn't manage to get a photo of it since I forgot and started stickering up the toy right after I received it.


We'll start off with Emissary, who replaces Spike as the Headmaster (now known as Titan Master) of Cerebros.

He is surprisingly smaller than the Headmaster of Brainstorm but is much better designed.  He still has the uncovered robot head on his back though.

However, his arms are more free and has balljointed shoulders.  His head is on a balljoint while his legs are pretty much fixed.

The head is very very small but it has a lot of sculpted details giving him quite the attitude.

And a quick size comparison with the body of Cerebros, you can't have Titan Masters without showing them off with the headless body.


Getting Emissary into the head mode for Cerebros is as simple as folding him up into a cube.  Seriously, there's nothing complex about this and all Titan Masters transform the same way.


Cerebros, also known as the Super Titan Master, is a fantastic looking robot.  Truth be told, Cerebros is probably the highlight of this set since he just looks so good.

The biggest negative of course is the huge backpack.  Not only does Cerebros have to carry the face of Fortress Maximus on his back (but at least it is covered) but the electronics and batteries are also stored here.

Yes, this figure has electronics.  Being a heavy heavy remold of Generations Metroplex (in reality, it's more that he reuses some of the parts), the electronics ended up being shifted to Cerebros, the brand new item in the figure.  Plugging in Emissary causes various sounds including him yelling out "Cerebros" and a couple of weapon sounds, as well as a light on his chest.

The head is fairly generic with a visor and faceplate, it doesn't stand out as unique at all.  It is on a balljoint and one thing is for sure, the connector of the Titan Master's head into the body is much better than Generation Brainstorm's, since you can detach and attach is very easily, but also secure enough to not fall out during play.

Cerebros is super poseable with articulation all over the place.  He's only missing a waist swivel since that is where the batteries are placed.

The electronics doesn't feel as if it has hampered the toy much at all.  Cerebros feels solid in your hands and much more satisfying than some of the Combiner Wars Deluxes.

Cerebros is taller than all of the Combiner Wars Deluxes which was a surprise there.

The aesthetics of the figure is nice, he has the straight blocky look of G1 but now with much improved articulation.

The heelspurs are the only odd thing since they are not level with the feet so in some poses, he may lean back on them.

Not documented in the instructions is that the chest gun of Fortress Maximus can detach for a weapon for Cerebros.

Cerebros can hold the gun in either hand and it is much needed weaponry since Cerebros felt so bare and like he was missing something.

It's not the best gun around but does it's job.  The blend of silver, grey, black and blue works out surprisingly well.

A fun side-distraction and the way the electronics was incorporated and the speaker placement of the torso is clever.

And of course, the shot of Emissary with the other two headless bodies.


Transforming Cerebros into head mode is more involved than other Titan Masters, since he is much bigger after all.  It is satisfying though when if you think about it, you're basically folding the robot into a block.  Transformation effects will play when you flip up or down the visor covering Fortress Maximus's face.  Plugging him in will also trigger various sound effects and it is tricky at first securing the head onto the body, since it needs to peg into three different slots and you need to push very hard.  The eyes light up as part of the electronics (as shown above).


Let's be honest, the robot mode is the real reason that you bought this figure and in this aspect, Fortress Maximus looks good and quite the part.

He is fairly clean in terms of kibble with only the runways behind his shoulders and ramps as his backback.  For some odd reason, those circular holes on his back and the behind of his legs have the metallic blue stickers.  What a waste of the sticker detailing considering they don't show up in any modes at all in a significant way.

The headsculpt is perfect and you cannot fault it.  What you can fault is Cerebros' robot hands sticking out the back of them, it would have an easy thing to put in joints to fold those hands in...  What's more is that Cerebros' arms don't peg in which is more of an annoyance rather than a flaw.

In terms of electronics, plugging the head in will cause some lights and sounds.  Pressing the transparent turquoise button on his torso will also activate lights and sounds from the head.

Of course, size is a major focus and Fortress Maximus as a character has reclaimed the biggest Transformer title from Generations Metroplex, if only by a small amount.  He is so much bigger than a Deluxe or Leader classed figure.

Fortress Maximus absolutely towers 2015's Titan Class Devastator and makes Devastator look tiny in comparison.

As you'd expect of a figure this size, Fortress Maximus is filled with sculpted detailing, his torso has an unbelievably complex sculpt.

He reuses more than a fair few of Metroplex's parts, including the forearms, parts of the thighs, legs, hips and hands.  He also retains various joints that aren't used for Fortress Maximus and it feels wasted here.  For example, his legs open up in halves or the weird joint for his right arm which was originally used for Metroplexes city mode to create a tower.

The other thing is that he has this weird protrusion thing on his left leg which looks like a tank.  It originally comes detached and you need to snap it onto the swivel.  The designer probably envisioned it to detach and be played with but it was so hard to attach it fully in the first place, and hard to remove it, that you probably won't.

Of course, he has his trademark leg guns which can fold forward to aim and fire, and you can swivel the tank thingie forward too as more guns.

The other odd thing is that he has red plastic on the outside of his right forearm but his left forearm remains blue.  It just feels odd that it's asymmetrical for no good reason.

Fortress Maximus has all the standard articulation you'd expect of a contemporary Transformers toy.  These joints include waist swivel, knee hinges and swivels, shoulders, elbows and wrists.  The head can also turn from side to side.  All of these joints (barring the head) are ratchets but the ratchets tend to be too weak for the weight of the figure so dynamic poses are out.

Weight is the biggest thing against Fortress Maximus.  Even with the usage of various hollow areas he is still very heavy and since he doesn't have ankle joints, he tends to slide and fall down when you're trying for dynamic poses.

The other interesting piece of articulation is that his fingers are individually jointed, which is pretty cool actually.

Of course, this robot mode is mostly scaled to interact with Legions, Legends and Commander sized figures.

One of the saddest things is that Fortress Maximus doesn't have his waist guns anymore, they were such a defining element of the character.

Actually on the whole, Fortress Maximus tends to lack in the weapons department, having only those shin guns and that tank thing.

Those shin guns though, are designed to detach.  Although similar to the tank on the side of his legs, they are attached via swivel joints and very tightly so.  Detaching them too much will definitely wear the joint down or stress the plastic.  Nevertheless, it's a deliberate feature since the guns have handles.

Getting Fortress Maximus to hold those guns though is tough since the handles are just a tad bit thicker which pops his thumbs off easily.  The guns have tabs in the handles to slot into the palm of his hands.

Fortress Maximus was in dire need of some handheld weaponry and this suits him just fine, too bad it leaves some ugly gaps in his shins.

The handles of the guns have 5mm posts but they're mainly for the battle and city modes, you can't tab them onto his forearms which is a bad sad.

While Fortress Maximus is imposing, there's just something off with this incarnation.  He doesn't seem to have the impressive amount of gimmicks and weaponry the original had.  The fact that there are so many unused remnants of Generations Metroplex due to the retool means that Fortress Maximus has too many parts that does nothing leaving the robot mode just looking good for display and no fun for play.


To get Fortress Maximus into battle station mode is very easy.  Lie the robot on its back, fold the feet down, detach the head, unclip the waist pieces to fold up into a control tower, unfold the ramp and voila...  Quite disappointing, the only interesting part was that you plug in Cerebros to complete the tower in the middle.


The battle station is basically just the robot lying down which is slightly disappointing but no different to the original figure.

He can't actually roll in this mode despite some "wheels" underneath the guns, then again, in the cartoon he basically flew in this mode anyway.

The guns can hinge up or down depending on how you want to display him.  Aiming them up looks more impressive.

Of course, he remains huge in this mode.

He is scaled mainly for Legions, Legends and Commander sized figures with the runways on the back.  He has a few flat areas to play other figures.

One of the gimmicks involving Titan Masters is that the guns have a slot to peg the Titan Master's legs and then their arms to make it seem like they are manning them.

Overall, an okay mode that's faithful to the original but fairly uninspired and boring.


From battle station mode, you fold the legs to the sides, flip open the robot transparent chest compartment to reveal the gun and fold down a panel next to the ramp.  Extremely disappointing at how uninvolved the transformation of Fortress Maximus is into any of its three modes.  Even Metroplex was more involved.


The other big draw of the figure, the city mode.  This was always the big playset piece of the figure and it's not different here.

Unfortunately, the only differences between the city mode and the battle station mode is that the robot legs are in a different placement and you open two more areas...  The uninvolved transformation between the modes suck.

One of the most interesting elements is that Cerebros forms the top of the control tower, and you still retain access to the electronic sounds.

The tank remains on the side, apparently if you flip it over, there's a slot to peg Titan Masters to.

There's a few more gimmicks here, including the Titan Master placement of the guns just like in battle station mode.

A new flip open panel reveals the gun (the same that is used as a handheld weapon for Cerebros) that a Titan Master can sit in.

There are also various slots to peg Titan Masters to including the top of the ramp.

And another place at the end of the runways.

The excellent sculpted detailing remains and you can tell the supposed scale of the city mode with the windows above the ramp.

You really need other smaller scaled figures in order to properly enjoy this city mode.  There's a cell right next to the ramp.

There's the ramp itself.

Plus two runways for take-off and landing of aerial vehicles.

Getting enough characters here and you can really make a great diorama.  It really is too bad that there still seems to be a lack of gimmicks which makes the city mode a proper playset.  There's a fan mode that compacts the city mode and makes it look more impressive because right now, the city mode looks very stretched out.

It's an okay mode but once again, it's very obvious that it is basically a robot lying down.


Fortress Maximus is supposed to be the toy of the year but ends up feeling lacklustre, especially with the price of the figure, being a lot more expensive compared to Metroplex but not offering more.  He loses play value of the city and battle station modes but adds in Cerebros and Emissary.  Considering his size, you would expect Fortress Maximus to pack in a lot more gimmicks, instead we get some gimmicks and a lot of redundant parts that does nothing since they're remnants of the Metroplex mold.  The three modes aren't that different and the transformation is extremely simple.  Cerebros is the saving grace of this set and Fortress Maximus is only recommended if you like the character or that you want him for display only because as a toy, he has a lot more potential than what we are given.


Thanks for reading this review, for other Transformers reveal, be sure to have a look at this page!

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