Posted by: Ryan McDonald | December 21, 2008

New Release for ’09 puts the “action” in Action Figure.

I remember the “good old days” of action figure collecting; when you’d buy a toy, take it out of the box and then find multiple ways to break and/or mutilate it with your best friends. I have fond memories of GI Joes and firecrackers, He-Man figures and a magnifying glass, (“Ve have vays of making you talk Camerade Man-E-Faces”) and a troop of Star Wars figures lost to the Sarlac Pit we made in Mark Williams’ sandbox down the street. We didn’t set out to destroy items which could have possibly paid for a used car or a keg of PBR someday. We had toys and we PLAYED with them! That’s what you were SUPPOSED to do… Not any more.

I blame Todd McFarlane. With the oodles of cash he made off the Spawn comic book, he created his own action figure company (McFarlane Toys) and brought about the downfall of playable toys. Before McFarlane Toys was around, people made toys with the intention that kids would take them out of the box and mess around with them. They had joints, swivels, pivots, all sorts of accessories, were vaguely detailed and we made to take a bruisin’ and keep on ‘a’ rockin’. McFarlane’s toys were made to… sit there and look cool. And they did that in spades. They were gorgeous pieces of art with fine detail, backdrops and big, square boxes that sat on a shelf like a champ. I should know. I bought a crapload of ’em when they came out. I took them out of the boxes and set them up on any available flat surface to show off to the world! Then… I tried to play with them, *SNAP!* The arms popped right of the socket. Or *Plop*, they’d fall over because you didn’t have their feet set juuust right. It seems that I was one of the only ones who was stupid enough to take them out of the box and found the fatal flaw in their design because shortly thereafter, EVERYONE switched to the INaction figure style of beautiful pre-posed characters with no articulation.

In the latest in the line of “That’s-So-Freakin-Useless-I-Must-Own-It” toys comes this Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive figure, due out in 2009: FromTrekMovie.com:

Diamond T has announced in their ‘E Spectrum’ online newsletter the its first exclusive for Toys R’ Us is none other than an Admiral Kirk ‘Khaaaannnn!’ 7″ action figure. The action figure commemorates the iconic moment when Kirk “doesn’t mince words” and “expresses his true feelings” about Khan from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Star Trek toys are already starting to show up at TRU, and the Kirk exclusive will be available soon.

I know. I know. I know… I want one too… but WHY?! What’s wrong with me that I would want something that I just spent the last half page ranting against? It’s not like I’d be waiting in line if they came out with a Star Wars Exclusive Darth Vader Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! Action Figure…

Or would I?

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Posted by: Nar Williams | December 16, 2008

Japan: Robot Nation

Now that CNN has cut its science and technology staff, I’ll have to go elswhere for in depth reports like this one — oh wait, CNN would’ve never done something this interesting to begin with. If you don’t watch Current, you’re missing out. Below is a full 24 minute report by Adam Yamaguchi on Japan’s population woes and how it plans to solve it with robots.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Posted by: Nar Williams | December 15, 2008

LOTR Fan Film THE HUNT FOR GOLLUM Looks Prrrecioussssss!

hunt4gollum11

If you’re like me, the prospect of waiting 3 more years to see another Tolkien film is just too much to bear. Sorry, Guillermo, I need my Lord of the Rings fix much sooner than that.

That’s where The Hunt for Gollum, a new fan film from writer-director Chris Bouchard, comes in.  The film is an unofficial, not for profit, labor of love by a bunch of Tolkien enthusiasts (read: nerds) and it looks beautiful. I mean, the Robot Jox fan film I made back in high school looked like a fan film — i.e., crap. Judging by the trailer, The Hunt for Gollum could play nicely right next to the LOTR trilogy that cost NewLine close to $200 million to make.

Made on a shoe string budget, much of the impressive production design, makeup, and CGI was done by volunteers. As with all fan films, the team participated purely for the love of the material, which is based on Tolkien’s appendices.

From the film’s website:

The script is adapted from elements of the appendices of The Lord of the Rings.The story follows the Heir of Isildur; the “greatest huntsman and traveller in Middle Earth” as he sets out to find the creature Gollum. The creature must be found to discover the truth about the Ring, and to protect the future Ringbearer.

hunt4gollum2

Bouchard is no stranger to high profile fan films, having composed the original score for the 2005 internet phenom Star Wars: Revelations (he composes the music on Gollum as well).  The film will run 30 minutes and will be released for free on the internet sometime in 2009. Maybe it will put the heat on Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson to get The Hobbit out a wee bit sooner…?

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Posted by: Nar Williams | December 12, 2008

Nerdcore Rap + ’80s Action Movies = Friday Videos

If you have a love for ’80s action flicks like I do, dig this: nerdcore rappers DJ Mayhem and MC Mouthmaster Murf of the band The Anomalies have followed up their Amazing Predator Rap with the Amazing Robocop Rap.

Both videos are below and make for perfect it’s-Friday-screw-this-office-job viewing.

ROBOCOP   “I’m not arresting you anymore.”

PREDATOR   “I ain’t got time to bleed.”

Posted by: Nar Williams | December 11, 2008

Gifts for Geeks: Trossen MechRC Breakdancing Robot

The MechRC Humanoid Robot from Trossen Robotics is ready to scare the hell out of your cats and make your holiday party the nerdiest one ever. Seems like every other robot video on the ‘net involves dancing nowadays, and this ‘bot hangs with the best of  ’em. Pretty sure this is the first one I’ve seen with speakers for a chest, though.

The MechRC comes with over one hundred pre-installed motions and sounds. Adding motions to it’s repetoire looks like a cinch with the included 3D software interface — just manipulate the animated robot on screen, save it, and boom goes the dynamite.

mechrc-software

Who wouldn’t want to bust this baby out after the first few rounds of spiked egg nog? You’d be the envy of your ten-year-old nephews. And with the family distracted by MechRC’s Timberlake-like sexiness, you wouldn’t have to talk to them. Seems like a win-win. 

The MechRC comes pre-assembled for $600. Not the most affordable of geek gifts in these financial times, but if you can swing it, it sure beats a sweater!

Posted by: Nar Williams | December 9, 2008

Nar’s Nerd Worship: Alejandro Jodorowsky

I don’t exactly know what a “metaphysical gangster spaghetti western” is, but I do know that only one person in the world could make one: Alejandro Jodorowsky.

If you are unfamiliar with Jodorowsky’s work, he is one of the most interesting, unusual, and brilliant minds in cinema. His films are full of symbolism, religious themes, magic, and amputated dwarves. The Holy Mountain is one of my favorite films of all time, and his comic book series The Incal ranks near the top on my list of must reads. I’ve used this blog to nerd-worship before when I proclaimed a mage-crush on Alan Moore… Now it’s Alejandro’s turn.

I discovered Jodorowsky by accident, thumbing through old vinyl records at a Half Price Books in Cincinnati back in 2001. I came across a record with this image on the cover:

El Topo Soundtrack

I had no clue what it was, who it was, or what it was going to sound like, but really — how could I justify not buying it with that crazy eyed guy on the front? The record is a jazzfunk jam that reminds me at times of Bitches Brew-era Miles Davis. The sleeve explained that it was a soundtrack to a cult film called El Topo, and that the music was written by the film’s director and star (and the crazy eyed guy on the cover), Alejandro Jodorowsky.  I knew I had to see this film.

But it was nowhere to be found. It was a midnight cult movie from a bygone era of acid tripping hipsters (John Lennon said it was his favorite film), relegated to cheap VHS bootlegs from Japanese video releases. After a few unsuccessful bids on eBay, a friend found a DVD bootleg at a flea market in San Francisco. It’s about a gunfighter’s quest for enlightenment  — with plenty of bizarre characters, Eastern philosophy, and Christian symbolism. A really good, trippy flick.

But I wasn’t truly blown away until I watched The Holy Mountain a couple years later, having found another bootleg at a video store in Austin…

Alejandro Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain

The 1973 film was partially financed by John and Yoko, partially based on an unfinished novel by a student of G.I. Gurdjieff, and partially shot under the influence of magic mushrooms. Holy crap does it show. Let’s put it this way: at one point costumed frogs and iguanas reenact the Spanish conquest of South America. The film follows a thief as he is saved from crucifiction by an amputee dwarf, meets an alchemist, and led on an ascent up The Holy Mountain. It is absolutely brilliant, visually psychedelic, and a must see film for any movie lover with a taste for weird.

Soon after, I started reading Jodorowsky’s science fiction comics, notably The Incal, which Luc Besson essentially plagiarized to make the movie The Fifth Element. Jodorowsky’s comics are published by Humanoids Publishing, and his films were finally released stateside in 2007 on DVD. 

… So I was stoked (to say the least) to find this recent interview with Jodorowsky about his new film, King Shot, which is produced by David Lynch and stars Nick Nolte and Marilyn Manson, among others. The video features concept art — including what looks like a Pope that eats humans and ostriches on wheels. Welcome to Jodorowsky’s world!

For more info about Alejandro Jodorowsky:

ABKCO Films

Jodorowsky Wiki Page

Humanoids Publishing

Posted by: Nar Williams | December 8, 2008

Chief Cook Robot Plays Pong

When we last saw EPFL’s Chief Cook, he was frying up omelettes on his own. Now he’s apparently taken the first step in training for MLGPong! Watch as Chief Cook not only beats his human opponent, but trash talks him, too.

Here’s a trailer for the final season of BSG that aired on Canada’s Space network recently. For better quality, you can watch it here.

Posted by: Nar Williams | November 21, 2008

Picture of the Week: Stan ‘The Man’ at The White House

stanlee

This week, President Bush presented nine recipients with the National Medal of the Arts, managed by the National Endowment of the Arts. Among the recipients was legendary comic book creator and geek icon Stan Lee, who created Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four — to name a few.

I think this is the beginning of a new trend in which mainstream culture recognizes the literary genius of many comic book writers. Right now major film adaptations of Stan Lee’s characters are being released annually as blockbusters, but I think in the near future we’ll start to see acclaimed works of sequential art — graphic novels like Watchmen — on English class reading lists along with staples like Beowulf and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Congratulations, Stan — this is a huge honor. Excelsior!

Posted by: Nar Williams | November 17, 2008

“Which Path Will YOU Choose?” The Official Star Trek Trailer!

trekmovietrailer

To paraphrase Spock, “I have simply made the logical deduction that… this trailer kicks ass!” Finally, a Star Trek film (number 11, but who’s counting?) that got the budget to make a sci-fi action flick that won’t be an above average B movie based on a good TV show. Yeah, I said it. Action flick.

But will the Hollywood blockbuster treatment water down the Trek universe into a shallow, fx-ridden, calvacade of explosions and action-film one liners? Could the J.J. Abrams film possibly remain true to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the final frontier? A lot of diehard Trekkies are skeptical — and I don’t think this trailer’s going to help them sleep any better at night.

But remember: this trailer was released with the new Bond film, so keep in mind it was clearly cut to appeal to action movie fans (like me). Paramount still has 6 months to release more cerebral trailers for the film, along with a nostalgic version for the Trekkies, a romantic version for the chicks, and one with fart jokes for the kids. Hey — gotta get that big opening weekend audience, right?

Star Trek beams down May 8, 2009. 

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