Toy Review: Voltron Legendary Defender Basic Series – Blue Lion & Lion Attack Voltron

Like any good child of the 1980’s one of the highlights of my Saturday mornings was catching a block of Voltron: Defender of the Universe.  Even by 1985 standards, Voltron was a pop culture phenomenon whose legendary iconography has remained relevant for thirty years.  Now, when Netflix relaunched the franchise last year with, Voltron: Legendary Defenders, I was very impressed with the results.  As promised, Voltron: Legendary Defender paid homage to the original series, staying loyal to mythos, characters and overall look of the show.

I mean, they even brought the Space Mice back!  After binging the first season I likened it very much to the  the ill-fated ThunderCats reboot from 2011, which I loved.  In both cases theses reboots embraced some of the sillier aspects of their predessors all the while providing a more contemporary, action driven plot.

In anticipation of the second season of Voltron: Legendary Defender, set to release on January 20th, 2017 my good friends at Playmates Toys were kind enough to send over some samples from their expansive action figure and role playing line which has started to hit stores across the country.

Long a go a mighty robot warrior,Voltron, was created to protect the galaxy from evil.

Now, five young heroes must master the power of the Voltron Lions to defeat the Galra Empire and restore peace!

The Voltron: Legendary Defender Line is spread of four categories:

  • The highly detailed and articulated basic action figure assortment includes all of the heroes and villains of Voltron, and each figure comes equipped with incredibly fun action features.
  • The Legendary Lion assortment includes all 5 Lions that can combine to unlock unique phrases and sounds from the show and form a 16” articulated Voltron figure
  • The 14” Ultimate Voltron Figure features electronic lights, sounds, incredible detail, articulation and more.
  • The roleplay assortment includes Voltron and Red Lion masks and swords, as well as an electronic transforming version of Voltron’s sword.

For review purposes I was provided two figures from the Basic Assortment: Blue Lion and Lion Attack Voltron.

img_7511It is important to note that the Lions in the Basic Assortment do not combine, rather they each have a specific action function.  The Blue Lion has a “pounce” action which is is engaged by pushing down on the lion so that it’s hind legs lower and you hear a click.The lion then “pounces” by pushing a button on its back.  Due to the internal mechanics of the action feature, the Blue Lion has limited articulation but it’s sculpt and paint are extremely faithful to it’s look on the show, making it a decent display piece.

One of the things that I enjoy most about Voltron: Legendary Defender is that the overall production design pays homage to the classic Voltron we all know and love.  The Blue Lion of 2017 looks nearly identical to the Blue Lion of 1985.  They aren’t amorphous blobs like those new Zords from the upcoming live action Power Rangers movie.  You take one look at it and you would think that it looks very much like the Voltron toys you may have had as a kid 20+ years ago.

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The second figure that I was sent was Lion Attack Voltron, one of two full Voltron figures in the basic assortment.  Coming in at right around 5 1/2 inches, Lion Attack Voltron features a missile launching feature which is activated by depressing the end of the projectile which protrudes from the Green Lion.

It’s a fun little figure and undeniable cool, with just enough articulation which make for some really great hero poses.  From what I’ve seen first hand, the Basic Assortment is a great entry level action figure for long time fans who want a small piece of nostalgia or even better a great way for those very same long time fans to introduce a new generation of fans to Voltron, Defender of the Universe.

Do you want to know what one of my favorite parts of ripping open these figures was? The mini fold-out catalog wedged under the plastic tray which showcased the rest of the action figures.  As a kid I used to freak out over the catalogs included with GI Joes and Transformers.  It was a way to plan out what you were going to ask for for Christmas, your birthday and when you got a good report card.

 

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Now, savvy collectors have already started to spot the Voltron: Legendary Defender line at retail. I imagine that the Legendary Series which features the combining lions and allows you to assemble a 16″ tall robot will be the first to fly of shelves.  It has been quite some time since we’ve been able to get Voltron merchandise at retail that wasn’t ultra high end or vendor exclusive (cough cough R.I.P MattyCollector). The Basic Assortment figures have a MSRP of $9.99 and will be available across most brick and mortar retail establishment as well as several online options.

Toy Review: WWE Ninja Superstars – Raphael as Sting (Playmates Toys)

If there is one action figure line that can get away with ridiculous variants and theme mashups it would have to be Playmate Toys’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line.  The latest genre mashup was a result of a partnership with WWE which transformed our favorite foursome into new versions of some of the most iconic WWE Superstars ever to grace the squared circle.

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  • Leonardo as WWE Superstar John Cena
  •  Raphael as WWE Hall of Famer Sting
  •  Donatello as WWE Superstar Undertaker
  •  Michelangelo as WWE Hall of Famer “Macho Man” Randy Savage

Playmates Toys has been the master license holder for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for well … forever (1988 to be exact).  And when I was offered a chance to get an early look look at one of the Walmart Exclusive Ninja Superstar figures I couldn’t say no.

Once the package arrived I was greeted by Raphael as Sting, which in my opinion could be the truest Turtle-to-WWE Superstar translation of the series.  At the 6-inch scale, Raphael has 12 points of articulation and is capable of some really great poses despite his duster, which is more flexible than your would think just by looking at it.

 

img_3366As far as accessories go, Raphael comes with Sting’s iconic bat, a kendo stick and a trash can lid.  The paint applications are spot on and my review sample was free of any smudges or smears.  I imagine that this figure in particular will appeal to wrestling fans of a certain age as the height of Sting’s career was in the now defunct WCW (which was purchased by WWE in 2001).  I fully believe that the Leonardo as John Cena will sell because … John Cena.

Sting returned to the WWE Universe to much acclaim in 2014 with appearances in SummerSlam and Wrestlemania 31 and was enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016.  In the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t the weirdest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle mashup we have seen in the near 30 year old line.  The WWE Ninja Superstars are a fun combination of two of the more popular boys action figure lines right now.

 

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(L-R) Grand Slammin’ Raph (1991), WWE Ninja Superstar Raphael (2016), Classic Collection Raphael (2013)

 

As stated earlier, this limited series is a Walmart exclusive and has a MSRP of $19.99.  Now my toy hunting days are somewhat behind me, but I can tell you that I have yet to see any of these at the two Wally Worlds that I frequent.  If you can track one down, this would make an excellent gift for the 10 year old boy or the 34 year old man in your life.  Good luck and Happy hunting!

 

*Note – This figure was provided by Playmates’ Toys for review.  

 

Dear Hollywood, Please Don’t Screw Up Voltron

As any respectable child of the 1980’s I have a deep and profound affection for Voltron: Defender of the Universe.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned that the show was heavily reedited from a Japanese anime Beast King GoLion which had a much deeper story line.  Voltron was beautifully animated, with a great opening and a general plot which involved five giant lion robots forming an even bigger robot to fight giant monsters.  For a 5-year-old kid, it was perfection.

voltron-lionsOver the years I was entertained by all of the continuations and sequels, even the lackluster Voltron: The Third Dimension.  Right now the franchise is enjoying renewed interest due to the very entertaining and well-received Netflix series, Voltron: Legendary Defender.  The franchise is one that has been able to maintain pop culture relevance for over thirty years with a somewhat limited profile.

The good news is that finally Universal Studios is developing a live-action film after a long and winding road through development hell.  ScreenRant is reporting that Universal gained the rights to Voltron as part of their purchase of the DreamWorks catalog in 2015 and that this film will not have any connection to the current cartoon.  The last time we saw news on this front Pharrell Williams was set to produce the film and write the soundtrack a decade ago.

On paper, a live action Voltron should be easy to get right.  It’s hard to imagine that someone could turn an iconic piece of pop culture into a bloated, unrecognizable CGI mess.  I wish I had more faith in Hollywood, but have you seen that new MegaZord from the upcoming Power Rangers movie? Please, don’t screw this up.

 

I Went To The #ForceFriday Midnight Madness Event So You Didn’t Have To

file-sep-30-10-13-28-amThe official retail kick off for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story AKA Force Friday was officially underway at 12:01AM on September 30th, 2016. And because I was up anyway, I decided to take part in the midnight launch at my local Toys ‘R Us. I arrived at 11:55PM to find myself the 11th person person in line, at which time staff were handing out passes for their exclusive 6″ Black Series Imperial Hovertank Pilot.

There were also giveaways (provided you gave Geoffrey a high five) which consisted of a Rogue One Funko T-Shirt and a poster.  At the stroke of midnight they let us into the store and back to the Star Wars area which had been restocked with approximately 3 cases of Black Series figures (the Death Troopers and K2-SO were the first to disappear) and a ton of 3.75″ basic figures (5 POA), vehicles, role-play items and LEGO sets.

I was in the store for maybe 25 minutes, during which time maybe a grand total of 30 people came in (and even one female!).  The event was low key and very orderly and no one got stabbed, molested or harassed.  My haul was modest along with the giveaways, as I picked up a 6″ Black Series K2-SO and a 3.75″ Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels.

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Not interested in dealing with the teeming, sweaty masses?  Head over to our friends Entertainment Earth who have a huge Rogue One shop set up with everything you could possibly desire.

 

Book Club — An Early Look at Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors

cityofmirrorsCVRIn 2010, I picked up Justin Cronin’s The Passage in hardback simply based on the tremendous amount of  good word it was receiving prior to its release.  The nearly 800-page epic told the story of a near future where vampires bring about the fall of civilization.  These weren’t shimmering and sparkly Twilight vampires, these were monstrous creatures born of United States government experiments to harness the power of a virus carried by Bolivian bats gave increased strength, agility and a boosted immune system.  Eventually the test subjects, of which there were twelve, broke free of their test facility and thus began the fall of man.

The Passage spent months on the New York Times bestsellers list and the movie rights were optioned by Ridley Scott’s production company.  The first in a planned trilogy, I found The Passage to be an enthralling read that was reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Stand (one of my all-time favorites). Cronin’s follow-up, The Twelve, came out in 2012 which continued the story of the fight between the remnants of humanity and the vampires, or Virals and their collaborators.

I was aware that Cronin planned to finish out the trilogy and given that my spare time is occupied with parenting three daughters, I kind of got out of the habit of reading for a while.  About three weeks ago I received a notification through NetGalley that I was able to receive a pre-release edition of The City of Mirrors, the conclusion to The Passage Trilogy for review.  I immediately downloaded it to my Kindle Paperwhite and started to devour it.

I must admit, after getting through the first few chapters I had to stop and go back to revisit the broad strokes of the previous two novels as four years have elapsed since I last read both The Passage and The Twelve.  After re-familiarizing myself with the cast of characters I found myself once again immersed in the world that Cronin has created.

The City of Mirrors like its predecessors, uses time jumps and different point of view characters to fill in more of the mythos, adding to the vastness of this story.  Beginning shortly after the events of The Twelve, most of the virals haven’t been seen for years and the last remaining human settlements have begun to go about their lives in a more normal fashion.  The characters we met in The Passage are now much older, having battled their way halfway across the country against insurmountable odds.  But now babies are being born, kids are going to school again and a sense of normalcy has begun to set in for these survivors.

What these survivors don’t realize that Patient Zero, the most powerful and “father” of the Virals remains in the haunted ruins of New York City (hence the title) biding his time for one last strike to finally remove humanity from the face of the Earth.  This final battle with Zero comes at a great cost to the remained of the human race, but to what extent? You wouldn’t think I would spoil it here for you now do you?  The City of Mirrors is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to The Passage Trilogy, and in it Cronin is able to maintain that balance of emotion and action which has been his trademark throughout this series.

The City of Mirrors will be released on May 23rd, 2016 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

**This review was made possible by NetGalley, who provided a digital review copy

The Non-Existent Marketing Plan for Star Trek Beyond is Troubling

Not too long ago I had a pretty length Twitter conversation with a few Star Trek minded individuals about the promotion for Star Trek Beyond.  Now as this is the first post-Abrams Trek film and I would have thought that under new director Justin Lin the whole “mystery box” concept would be no more.   But I think that has less to with Lin and more with Paramount’s lack of confidence in the film.

stb-02722rlcjpg-684dbcStar Trek has always competed with Star Wars.  And with The Force Awakens dominating theaters last December and home release this spring, well there hasn’t been a lot of room for Star Trek on the Interwebs or elsewhere, despite the ardent and loyal Star Trek fandom.

To this point the marketing efforts for Beyond can only described as somewhere between terrible and non-existent. As I was starting to looks at this more deeply I found that the good people at Trek Movie already did this for me.  Trek Movie tackled this in depth, comparing the advertising timelines/campaigns for Star Trek Beyond to Star Trek Into Darkness, and the comparisons aren’t pretty:

“At the time of writing, with 81 days until Beyond‘s release, we have gotten 1 trailer, 2 major interviews, 10 photos, and 2 behind-the-scenes videos. At the same point in Into Darkness‘s timeline, we had gotten 2 trailers, 3 major interviews, 15 photos, plus 2 apps and the reveal of some plot details”

There is a fan event scheduled for May 20th on the Paramount Studios lot where fans will be treated to the premiere of the new trailer, behind the scenes footage and a Q&A with Justin Lin and the cast.  For those of you counting at home that is only 63 days before Beyond premieres in the United States.

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Will that be enough time to rally the Trekkies who were burnt after Into Darkness?  Can anything really be as bad as that teaser trailer featuring the Beastie Boys and Captain Kirk doing his best Star Lord on a dirtbike?  Will Star Trek Beyond actually take place in space?  Right now there are too many questions, and apparently there’s no one at Paramount that is willing to give us the answers until at least May 20th.

h/t [Trek Movie]

Has Wizard World Left the Average Fan Behind?

It’s almost May which means that ‘Con Season is nearly upon us.  Convention centers and hotel ballrooms across this great country of ours will soon be filled with cosplayers, panels, and merchandise that touches all corners of fandom, everything from Dr. Who and Star Trek to The Walking Dead and My Little Pony.

While nearly a quarter million people will be descending onto San Diego Comic Con in late July, most genre fans will find themselves walking into a convention put on by Wizard World.  In 2016, Wizard World is putting on 19 events (down from 25 in 2015), with stops in nearly every major metro market in the continental United States.

wizardworldfloorAlmost two weeks ago it was announced that Wizard World suffered a $4.25 million loss in 2015.  Overall convention revenue was down roughly 33% in 2015 and when combined with their obligations to the albatross of ConTV, a digital geek content channel, it made for a rough go of things for the ubiquitous convention promotion.  It came as no surprise that Wizard World President & CEO John Macaluso resigned from his position shortly after this news broke.

I’ve been attending Wizard World Philly pretty regularly for the better part of a decade and have seen the show grow exponentially in that time frame.  Now, there were years where the biggest booth was for Norton AntiVirus and there was no representation from Marvel or DC Comics on the show floor.  Oddly enough, there was always a Bath Fitter booth, which must be some kind of union thing.

Over the last five years Wizard World has become a very large (and very expensive) autograph fest spread over four days taking over nearly all of the Pennsylvania Convention Center’s recent addition.Four-day tickets will run you $89.95, with one day admissions varying in price.  (**Pro Tip, Saturdays are notoriously known to be shit shows, I prefer Fridays and Sundays).

These days, most of the show floor was been ceded to Autograph Alley, where genre A-Listers like Chris Evans, Chris Helmsworth and Norman Reedus will sign autographs for fans that paid anywhere from $350-1300 for VIP packages that guarantee signings, photo ops, panel seating, and “exclusive laminate passes”.  Vendors have seen their booth prices increase on an annual basis, so much so that some local comic shops don’t even set up anymore.

ww_hemsworth-evans-hiddlestonPresently Wizard World is advertising an Avengers VIP Package for $1350.00 where you can meet Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. That’s a mortgage payment for what would be an amazing memory, but one that your average fan will be paying off at 16% interest rate because they threw that charge on their credit card.  But at what point is it just too much, and fans refuse to show up?

Here’s the thing.  They always show up the Pennsylvania Convention Center will be packed out this June with the stench of unwashed Wookies and the Reading Terminal Market will be overtaken by Harley Quinn cosplayers.  And inevitably there will be a very sad 7-year old sobbing on the show floor who won’t understand why he won’t be able to meet Captain America.

 

We’re Getting A New Voltron Series? WE’RE GETTING A NEW VOLTRON SERIES!!!

Did you know that we were getting a new Voltron cartoon in 2016?  No, well I didn’t either until about three hours ago when I came across the teaser for Voltron: Legendary Defender which is set to debut on Netflix in June.  The new series is a full on reboot/re-imagining of the original series which ran for 52 episodes from 1984-85. Despite the fact that the Voltron forming process was incredibly over complicated and time consuming, it was easily one of the most entertaining cartoons to find itself plucked from Japan and reconstituted for the American public.voltron_legendarydefender

Voltron: Legendary Defender will tell the story of five Earth teenagers who find themselves the to be the protectors of the planet Arus which is under threat by the evil King Zarkon.  The showrunners have assured that they will be loyal to the franchise, while allowing for more serialized storytelling.

What has me most excited about this new iteration is the fact that the two executive producers, Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos have done a lot of great work in the world of animation including Justice League Unlimited, Wonder Woman, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Green Lantern: First Flight.

Voltron is an iconic franchise that has seen two previous animated continuations in the form of the direct sequel Voltron: The Third Dimension (1998) and Voltron Force (2011). Along the way there have been several attempts to develop a feature film version of Voltron, all of which fell into the pits of Hollywood’s development hell.  Because let’s be honest …. any new Voltron is good Voltron. 

via @BrianTruitt for USA Today

This Star Trek 50th Anniversary Art Show Drops Out Of Warp in July

This year mstar-trek-50-artists-50-years-hardcover-book_670arks the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and the latest feature film Star Trek Beyond is just month away.   To celebrate this monumental achievement in pop culture an art exhibition, Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years, will launch this July during San Diego Comic Con and will feature stops in  Las Vegas, Toronto and the UK.

The exhibition will feature 50 artists from all over the globe, including a work from the late Leonard Nimoy who aside from portraying everyone’s favorite Vulcan science officer, was an accomplished photographer and a prolific patron of the arts.  The pieces featured in this exhibition will be gathered in a hardcover book, which is available for preorder now.

For me the standout has to be Tom Whalen’s contribution, U.S.S. Enterprise Spec Sheet (which also happens to be the cover for the book).  I’ve long been a fan of Tom Whalen and have had opportunity to meet him several times.  Hopefully prints will be available sometime soon, because there is no way that isn’t going in my office.

For more information about Star Trek: 50 Artists. 50 Years, be sure to bookmark StarTrek50Art.com and follow @startrek on Twitter.

 

CBS & Viacom Think Star Trek Fans May Be Easily Confused

The prospect of a new Star Trek series in 2017 under the guidance of Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, American Gods) and Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) is enough to make the thorniest Trekkie perk up with excitement. By the time the series premieres next summer, it will have been 12 years since the last iteration of TV-Trek, Enterprise went off the air in 2005. What is yet to be revealed about this new series is what timeline it will take place in. Will it be a part of the NuTrek created by JJ Abrams in the 2009 reboot? Will it be a continuation of The Next Generation? Or will it be a Nu Next Generation in the current movie timeline?

star-trek-1400-1At this point there are more questions than answers, but one thing is certain … both CBS and Viacom think that Star Trek fans are fucking idiots.

In a recent interview, as reported by TrekCore, CBS Corporation President Les Moonves elaborated on the status of the new series and the current state of affairs between CBS and Viacom. As it stands right now CBS owns the television rights and Viacom has the movie rights (and they have historically not played well together).

Moonves went on to say that “our deal with them [Viacom] is that we had to wait six months after their film is launched so there wouldn’t be a confusion in the marketplace”

Confusion.

In.

The.

Marketplace.

Star Trek fans are many things; but they are not easily confused. It was pretty easy to balance watching Star Trek: First Contact at theaters, TNG on SciFi and Deep Space 9 on UPN at the same time. As a consumer I was able to navigate the different incarnation of my favorite franchise AT THE SAME TIME.

The latest film, Star Trek Beyond is due in theaters later this summer and apparently CBS can’t roll out the new series until after the home release which is oddly frustrating. What’s even more frustrating is how this agreement will affect the future films (the cast does have an option for a fourth film) and the ongoing series.  I for one, am confident in my ability to enjoy both iterations of Star Trek without an iota of confusion.

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