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Resident Evil 4: Series One (Figures)

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I remember the first time I saw Resident Evil figures in stores, it was a great moment for my geeky little heart. They were really the first mass-marketed zombie figures, and even though the actual quality left a lot to be desired, I still had to have `em.

It’s been years since those toys have been for sale, and now NECA has entered the game to bring figures from the fourth, and arguably best, game in the series. Well, technically I believe it’s the sixth or seventh, but it’s called Resident Evil 4 so we’ll go with fourth.

It’s only fitting that a game with such a redefining approach to the RE universe should get high quality figures, and if NECA’s proven anything over the past few years it’s that they know how to do high quality. Series One consists of Leon S Kennedy (both with and without jacket), Ada Wong, a Chainsaw Ganado, and the cream of the proverbial crop, Verdugo. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?


Leon S Kennedy

Making his first Resident Evil appearance since the second game, this time out Leon is on his way to a Godforsaken island somewhere in Europe to try and find the president’s daughter. It’s clear both his aim and training have improved since we last saw him, and he’s become a lot more of a hero this time out.

His figure’s articulation is limited to only his arms and head (which looks eerily similar to its video game counterpart, great sculpt!), but that’s to be expected since he’s in the position he takes on the cover of the game for Gamecube (still the best one, despite the bells & whistles of the PS2 one). When I got him out of the package, I had some issues with getting his arms in the right position, but once I figured out where the hands should go to hold the gun right, it wasn’t a problem.

He comes with a knife, handgun, rocket launcher (which I could not find a way for him to hold), as well as all three kinds of grenades (normal, flash, and incendiary) and a can of first aid spray. The only real issue I had with him is that despite the utility belt that looks like it could hold all the aforementioned goodies (since they are to scale with the figure, they’re damn small), it’s just there for show. Would’ve been nice to be able to put it to use!


Ada Wong

Mysterious. Deadly. Agile. Very descriptive words to describe Ms. Wong, who shows up in clandestine meetings with Leon throughout the course of the game as we slowly learn more about her. She looks good in a dress, that’s for sure, though. Leon doesn’t seem to notice. Hmmmm…

Something seems to be missing from her head sculpt, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out what it is. Maybe she just looks too happy with that little smirk on her face, whereas you really never see her smile in the game. Not that she has any reason to. The details on her dress (each butterfly looks as if it were hand-drawn) is immaculate, so little things like extra happiness can be over looked.

Her articulation is about the same as Leon’s, as she’s only supposed to stand there holding the gun, looking like a badass either with her arms folded or pointing the gun. The figure pulls that off admirably. Articulation exists in her shoulders, arms (just above the elbow), hands, and legs. For some reason I still can’t get her to stand on her own no matter how much I move her right leg (a ball socket connects it to her hip), but that’s about the only problem with the figure as a whole. Her head is also on a ball socket, so you can move it into any manner of position. Basically whatever makes her look like she could kick your ass more. Her only accessory is a tommy gun, which she can hold as easily as the pistol but looks slightly less cool with it. Not that I’d say that to her face.


Chainsaw Ganado

Before I was offered the figures for review, this was the entire reason I was going to get the set. He’s big, crazy, and wielding a chainsaw. He’s also one of the most vicious and difficult to kill enemies of the entire game, so I felt I needed some kind of payback for all the times he cut Leon’s head off in one fell swoop.

The greatest thing about Ganado is that other than putting the chainsaw in his hands, he doesn’t need anything else out of the box. There’s something about that simplicity that only adds to the overall cool of both the character and the figure. The sculpt is immaculate, as you would expect, and the bag over the head is especially impressive as it looks just like burlap. The clear, blazing eyes from behind the two holes in the bag only add to the figure’s inherit madness.

Needless to say, character-wise, Ganado is one of my favorites. Their future lines will also feature the Chainsaw Sisters that you encounter later in the game, who were just as difficult if not more so than this big bastard, so I can’t wait for that.


Verdugo

It’s a bit of a leap going from a relatively static figure like the Chainsaw Ganado to the Verdugo, but I had to save this mean mother for last because he is truly the most impressive of the entire lineup.

Featuring all sorts of articulation from the head to toe to fingers (literally) and a segmented tail that you can pretty much put in any position you want it to be in, you can’t get much cooler than Verdugo. My only minor complaint is the usual: the ability for it to stand. It took me a few times to get him upright on his own, mainly due to the tail’s position, but I never got to the point of frustration because there are just so many choices as to how he stands; it’s finding what looks best to you more than anything else.

Finally, of course, there is the sculpt and paint job, both of which are fantastic from the attention to detail in the shoulders and chest down to the gleam in the creature’s eye. It’s obvious a lot more attention went into the final look for these than was probably necessary, but that’s pretty much what fans have come to expect from NECA at this point.


All in all, this is a great line of figures based on interesting characters from a truly amazing video game. If you’re one of the millions who fell in love with Resident Evil 4 on either the Gamecube or more recently the PS2, you probably won’t be able to help yourself when you see these in stores. Their unique (read: more compact) clamshell packaging will likely stand out against the bulkiness of some other figure sets out there, and if that doesn’t do it, I’m sure the large blood splatter on the front will get your attention

NECA has proven yet again why they’re leaders in the creation of badass toys for those of us who don’t see the point in not collecting anymore. Where were these guys when I was 12, dammit? Oh, right, they were mostly 12, too…

Look for Series Two to hit shelves early next year!

4 ½ out of 5

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa

Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa


During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.

Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).

What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.

While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.

Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.

While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.

With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.

  • Before We Vanish
4.0

Summary

Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On

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Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston

Directed by Johnny Martin


When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.

Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.

Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.

 

  • Film
2.0

Summary

Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!

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Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility

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Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita


The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

  • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
2.0

Summary

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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