Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Opinion: ThunderCats-No?

A reboot/imagining/make of the 80s classic ThunderCats appeared on Cartoon Network and in toy stores thanks to Bandai at the end of the summer in the US. There was a bit of uproar from fans in the UK since Bandai UK imposed an import ban and the toys only arrived here in December. In all 13 episodes of the show aired, finishing at the end of November in the US and at the end of the Christmas holidays on Channel 5 in the UK (who showed the entire series over two weeks).

In the UK we've only had the first wave of figures, while in the US the second wave hit in January.

And that's it.

Toyfair in New York showed no new figures. None at all. Since this is the event where retailers see the new products that are going to be available from manufacturers in the coming year Bandai showing nothing beyond that was already available in stores is a little alarming.

In the past week it has been announced that Cartoon Network will definitely be showing more episodes, but failed to mention when.

The question is, when it does return will children care? Is it likely children will still care about a series they haven't watched in 6 months, or will they have moved onto other things?

I've watched the first 13 and while there was definite promise, I think the writers failed to imprint the characters on viewers as well as they might - the villains especially. Mumm-Ra appeared now and again, and had some vague shape of characterisation, but other than that... The writers seemed intent on having an arc plot, which is great but since they decided to spread out the ongoing plot it didn't have time to really cement itself into viewers minds before it was taken off the air. Criticise the original series all you like, but it very quickly established the main heroes and villains and then gradually added new elements later.

I don't know what it says that the episode I enjoyed by far the most was Berbils. An episode which was the most, in tone, like the original series than any of the others. It wasn't just me who thought this either - both my boys loved this episode far more than the others.

The toys were okay, but hardly brilliant. The Thunder Lynx feaure wasn't great and having a giant magnet in the back of the figures made them look a bit rubbish. The 8" Classics line was cancelled after just two figures, to be replaced with a 6" one. Again 2 figures have been released in this size with no announcements yet of further ones.

The line appears to be in deep trouble. Things will only become clear when the cartoon starts up again on Cartoon Network, but my sad prediction is that ThunderCats will not live to see the end of the year. To all intents and purposes it looks horribly like it's already dead. For something which arrived with much fanfare last summer this is a big disappointment and I can't really see where it all went wrong.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Review: Extremis Iron Man

Someone once said that Marvel Legends was the most important toyline of the 2000s. Can't remember who, exactly, but he was surely someone amazing. After Hasbro fantastically managed to kill the line 2 minutes after taking it over from Toybiz, they've now bowed to public demand and brought it back again. Hurrah!

The first Marvel Legends figure I ever bought was Iron Man (I say 'I bought' but it was actually my mother I conned into buying it) so it seems fitting that the first figure I've bought for The Return is also Iron Man, this time in his 'extremis' armour.

I'm making out I bought this particular figure out of nostalgia, but the real reason is that Legends now cost an arm and a leg each and Iron Man was the cheapest in the shop (since there's two of him in each case, compared to one of all the other figures in the wave).

Before we get to the figure I'll quickly note that the packaging looks great on these (no, I didn't take a photo. Because I forgot). The previous attempt by Hasbro was fairly terrible, but I really like The Return box.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Review: Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs

I don't know about schools these days, or schools in the past for that matter anywhere else in the world other than the ones I went to, but at our school at the end of term no one ever felt like doing any work. Teachers, pupils - no one could really care less about learning. At high school any celebratory activities were banned by the Head until the afternoon and it was lessons as normal in the morning (albeit with a high % of Hangman lessons) but at primary school we did pretty much nothing all day.

I know a lot of the time we had to suffer through Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves or Fievel Goes West (over and over and over... Every single end of term for what seemed like an eternity...). Since Robin Hood only fills up a couple of hours we got to take board games to school and play those for the rest of the day.

Some kids took Twister and a select group of the most popular kids got to play it in the library. I remember a time when Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur was taken ('he turns and spins 'til someone wins!'). I can't really remember much else about it other than I was never given a choice about which game I took. It was demanded that I take Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs. Which was fine by me as a) I didn't want to make Anthony cry with the disappointment and b) it's possibly the best board game ever made EVER.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Review: TFC Hercules (aka Not-Devastator)

Available from Kapow Toys for lots and lots of money.

Once upon a time Devastator was the biggest, meanest, most popular combiner in Transformers history. He was the original, the guy responsibly for the slew of combining Transformers who followed. Superion, Defensor, Computron... - they'd be nothing without Devastator.

Then along came Michael Bay, the wrecking balls, and the biggest, meanest combiner was turned into a complete joke.

Saying this, I was never really Devastator's biggest fan. No, I was a Predaking man - though owned neither when I was small. I had a couple of bits of Superion but managed to twist off Fireflight's head inside Silverbolt's leg, where it remains to this very day.

For those who don't know, and are wondering what on Earth I'm rambling on about, Transformer combiners - as the name implies - are a group of small, independently transforming robots who in addition join together to form a giant robot.

Despite his known popularity, Hasbro have never made an updated 80s-like Devastator. Instead it was down to the 3rd Party fan companies. There are actually two competing ones out at the moment. One by MakeToys, the other by TFC. This is a review of the latter who, for reasons of not wanting Hasbro to sue, has been named 'Hercules'.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Review: James Bond Jr

I don't like Bond.

There, I've said it. I'm sure as soon as my fingers hit the keys a large and angry lynch mob instantly appeared outside my house, but this is where my zombie-survival plan will come into play. For indeed a crowd of angry Bond fans is a lot like an invading army of the undead. Probably.

I don't mean to insult all the billions of Bond fans out there - the link to zombies was purely coincidental - but in my experience the public at large get a bit angry when someone says they don't like James Bond very much. Maybe it's me - I suspect a large angry crowd often appears outside my house purely to try and put an end to my existence - but putting this explanation aside, it does seem that there is an unwritten law which states that Everyone Must Love Bond Films.

Is it the Britishness? It is because Bond is one of the few successful British film series (though with a huge dose of American investment)? Do people genuinely like these films with their cringe-worthy double entendres? The plots that make little sense? Q inventing gadgets which just happen to be exactly what Bond needs later on? Chase sequences that go on and on and on and on and...

I liked Goldeneye, though. I have many happy memories of Goldeneye. The N64 game, obviously. The Wii version wasn't half bad either.

I also like James Bond Jr. Apparently Bond had a nephew, who, for odd reason,s was named after him and thus got a 'Jr' suffix. Um, right... Anyway they made a cartoon about him and I really like it.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Review: The Trash Pack

Slowly coming into stock in most toy shops.

I came across these thanks to a review by Pixel Dan. Immediately I posted on the Toys R Us Facebook page demanding to know when they'd be released here in the UK. Shortly after it was announced in the 'toy press' that the release of the Trash Pack was being moved forward due to popular demand. Now I don't want to take all the credit for this rushed release, but I'm happy to if no one else steps forward.

In Toys R Us at the weekend I finally came across a pretty empty display of the Trash Pack. I honestly didn't expect them to be as popular as the display would make it appear. I mean, they're obviously cool, but I didn't expect near-empty shelves. Out of interest I had a search on ebay, where it turns out some people are charging crazy prices for the things.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Review: Highlander The Animated Series

I'm going to do a sweeping generalisation here and say that all of the Highlander sequels are crap.

No one arguing the point? No? Actually, If I'm completely honest I kind of liked the 3rd one. Well, 'liked' is a bit of a strong word. It was okay. The plot was vaguely reasonable and I didn't feel like I'd been robbed of 90 minutes of my life when I got to the end. But that's about the best I can say about it.

The TV series completely passed me by and therefore can't comment on it. I did, however, watch the animated series which, against the odds, was actually good.

It's vaguely set in the same universe as the original film (Connor, lead character in the films, is in a flashback in one episode), but not really. It's set after a world-wide disaster (meteorite/nuclear weapons combo) has wiped out most of everything, allowing Kortan, an Immortal, to take over. The other immortals have given up violence and dedicated themselves to help humanity. 700 years later, Quentin McCloud is born and destined to overthrow Kortan, with Ramirez as his mentor.

Rather than repeat all the details, more about the series can be found here. If you like cartoons, especially ones of the slightly darker variety, it's definitely worth a watch. The complete series has been released on DVD in the USA.