Archive for November, 2008

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Belgian Upstart Solves Murder: Death on the Nile

November 23, 2008

DEATH ON THE NILE (1978)
d. John Guillermin

A very amusing mystery from Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile features Herecule Poirot, the Belgian detective, and a cast of characters all revolving around a rich woman, Lynnette (Lois Chiles), her sister Jacqueline (Mia Farrow), and Simon, who is stolen from Jacqueline to become Lynnette’s husband.

The action takes place mainly on a steamer as it chugs its way down the NIle, and in classic Christie fashion, we are introduced to a bevy of characters who all have a reason for hating Lynnette, and when she turns up dead, all have a motive for killing her. It’s up to Herecule Poirot, ably assisted by David Niven’s character, to solve the crime before more killings take place.

When I was younger and first saw this film, I confess to not being impressed by it; seeing it now, I cannot help but be dazzled by the assemblage of star power. It seems as if there were a lot of movies done back in the 70s that had all-star casts (The Towering Inferno, the Airport series, et al), and here we get a great collection: Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, Jane Birkin, George Kennedy, Olivia Hussey, Jon Finch. Each character has their peculiarity (Bette Davis covets pearls, Angela Lansbury is an over-sexed Romance author, Jon Finch is a Communist) and all get a chance to shine.

And while it’s fairly easy to figure whodunnit, most of the pleasure is seeing how theydunnit when Poirot gathers everyone together to reconstruct the crime. I was surprised at the high body-count and took pleasure in seeing all these actors share scenes, though George Kennedy all but disappears toward the end.

The music is very grand, like the Nile, and once I found out that Nino Rota was responsible, it made sense.

So overall a very effective mystery — even if the solution is transparent early on — that is made interesting by the excellent cast and the memorable humane and humourous performance by Peter Ustinov.

*** stars.

I meant to see Albert Finney in Murder on the Orient Express, but the disc I received was cracked. So while I await a replacement, I should have Lady in the Water next.

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Something Is Happening And You Don’t Know What It Is… : M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening

November 20, 2008

THE HAPPENING (2008)
d. M. Night Shyamalan

Not the turkey I was led to expect by all the negative reviews, The Happening is a slow-burning, moody eco-thriller with many memorable and visceral scenes and some decent performances all around.

One of Many Memorable Images

One of Many Memorable Images

The movie tells the story of an unexplained rash of suicides in the North Eastern region of the U.S., and as the survivors, including an elementary science teacher (Mark Wahlberg) and his wife (Zooey Deschanel), make their way out of the infected zone, the possibility of the deaths being the result of a terrorist action become less and less likely.

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When There’s No Room Left In Hell, The Dead Will Walk The Earth… To Vote! — Masters of Horror: Homecoming

November 17, 2008

MASTERS OF HORROR: HOMECOMING (2005)
d. Joe Dante 

Not as bad as most of the episodes of this Showtime series, Homecoming manages to get a few good laughs with its broad satirical swipe at the Bush administration and its failing War on Terror.

Set on the eve of the 2004 Presidential Election, David Murch, a republican spin doctor inadvertently pulls a page out of the Liar, Liar book and makes a wish that goes horribly wrong. He wishes that the soldiers stationed abroad could come home, and come home they do despite having been killed in battle. And in a great twist on the zombie genre, instead of coming home to feast on brains, the undead have returned to vote against the reigning administration.

Joe Dante, known for The Howling and his segment from Twilight Zone: The Movie does a good job of keeping the satire broad and brisk, even staging scenes like horror films from the 50s to pay homage to its b-movie roots. The script is a little flat-footed with a lot of narration filling in for ellipses in time and feeding us explanations of what’s happening, but it offers some good scenes (between Murch and his mom at the cemetary) and some schmaltzy ones that are actually touching if corny (the undead soldier being sheltered in the cafe by the kindly couple).

And look for the names of movie directors of the undead in Arlington Cemetery when zombies erupt from their graves. Nice touch!

At an hour, it works fine, even if the gag is given away early in the game and there are few surprises at the end.

**1/2

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G.I. JOE — Cobra Commander w/MASS Element Carded Variant

November 16, 2008

I only just noticed this because it is only a packaging variation of a figure that isn’t terribly exciting to begin with. However, for completion’s sake, I offer the following pics:

Wave 8 release

Wave 8 release

1) COBRA COMMANDER w/MASS Element — Wave 8

This is the carded figure that was released initially with Wave 8. This wave was the first one to officially mark the end of the 25th Anniversary logo in the upper right corner. In its place one would find one of three different logos that would place the character’s source: 1) A faction logo such as Python Patrol or Tiger Force, 2) A “From the G.I. Joe Comic Series” logo, or 3) A “From the G.I. Joe Cartoon Series” logo. Here you will see a logo for the TV series. Also, the foil treatment of the G.I. Joe logo and card border was ended and a plain white color was substituted.

Wave 12 release

Wave 12 release

2) COBRA COMMANDER w/MASS Element — Wave 12

Much to my chagrin, this figure was re-released for the Wave 12 case assortment; while its inclusion makes sense as you get three characters with all the MASS element cannisters needed for the MASS Device, I had wished that another character had been mixed into the assortment. Anyway, completists and collector’s may find the package variation enough of a reason to seek this figure.

l. Wave 12 release, r. Wave 8 release

l. Wave 12 release, r. Wave 8 release

  • Emblem changed from Cartoon Series call-out to Comic Series call-out
  • “A Real American Hero” tagline removed
  • Artwork angle rotated clockwise slightly and enlarged
  • In the character art, Cobra sigil enlarged and placed on center of chest
  • Background explosion not as high contrasting, more diffuse
  • “Cobra Enemy!” shield moved over the stripes in the G.I. Joe logo
  • Type size of “Cobra Leader” reduced
  • Background behind the packaged figure changed from white to yellow

 

l. Wave 12 release, r. Wave 8 release

l. Wave 12 release, r. Wave 8 release

  • “Cobra Enemy!” shield removed from upper-left corner
  • File card artwork and copy reverted to that found on the Cobra Commander 5-pack version; black color-field instead of yellow
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G.I. Joe Target Exclusive — Ultimate Battle Pack (Loose)

November 15, 2008

This set rocks on all levels in spite of the plethora of repacks/repaints/re-decos. It’s a lot of value for the cost, plus you get Short-Fuze and the MOBAT. Before I display the loose pics, here’s a quick review:

Cobra Commander: Not much new here except darker shade of blue, silver trim/highlights, and no stripe down the leg. **

Destro: Iron Grenadier mold without the cape, silver and grey highlights instead of gold, and chrome head. **1/2

Cobra Vehicle Gunner: Straight-up repaint of the Cobra Trooper in dark grey with red highlights. ***

Cobra HISS Driver: Silver chestplate with black trim. Still an excellent figure. ***

Sgt. Stalker: Darker green and lighter skin tone, and comes with a JUMP pack and Air Trooper weapon. ***

Short-Fuze: Repainted Doc head on top of Steeler body (Snake Eyes torso and legs, Cobra Trooper Arms, Double Clutch/Steeler boots); mortar stand is loosey-goosey. Slight disappointment in this. **1/2

Ralph ‘Steeler’ Pulaski: Lame code name since it can’t just be Steeler, but a straight-up repaint of the figure that came with the Armadillo, this time in tan hues. Helmet too loose on his head doesn’t stay on. **

Flight Pod: Trouble Bubble in blue. Great update of a classic. ***

HISS Tank: Red color to accompany your basic black and previous blue exclusive. Excellent! ***1/2

MOBAT: Green tank with rubber treads and extendable cannon. Never had this as a kid so it’s a definite plus! ***1/2

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G.I. Joe Comic Pack w6 — Scrap-Iron / Wild Bill (Loose)

November 15, 2008

Just opened up my Scrap-Iron/Wild Bill comic pack, and here are the loose pics for your pleasure.

Wild Bill (Front) 1) Wild Bill Helicopter Pilot

  • Body — Wild Bill (w7)
  • Helmet — New

Here we have Wild Bill painted to represent his cartoon version, which doesn’t really work for me thought I like it a bit better than his drab olive and green colors. He comes with his signature cowboy hat and six-shooters, but he also comes with a cool new removable helmet (which gets a lot of mileage as it will show up with Scarlett (Pilot) and Destro (Pilot) and most likely some Cobra troop builders). Otherwise, since he’s just a straight up repaint, nothing much more to write about. **

Scrap-Iron (Front)2) Scrap-Iron — Anti-Armor Specialist

  • Body — Cobra Trooper (w2)
  • Head — Scrap-Iron (xc2)
  • Vest — New

Utilizing a different body and webgear construction from the Arctic Assault version, this Scrap-Iron looks like the perfect update of the original. And just like the Arctic Assault version, his visor is removable to reveal some pretty ugly scars. However, I think I prefer the Extreme Conditions version over this one mainly because that came first and all my excitement was used over that one, and the re-used comic-pack Firefly mold was rather genius. Here it’s just a ho-hum Cobra Trooper body; it works, but it’s just not as cool! Anyway, still glad to have Scrap-Iron in his classic colors. ***

Meanwhile, a brief glance at the comic reveals artwork that actually looks pretty good! Usually these comics feel light on story and art, so my expectations are low. The story has Wild Bill chasing after Scrap-Iron, and the novelty comes in the form of a narrative told solely through radio transmissions. It’s a pretty interesting gimmick, along the lines of the silent issue, but still a gimmick. It’s pretty much about what one would expect from the comics of these two-packs, but I’m not buying these for the comics.

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G.I. Joe Target Exclusive — Ultimate Battle Pack (MIB)

November 15, 2008

Once news hit the boards that people were able to get the Target Exclusive Ultimate Battle Pack using the DPCI#, I got bit by the bug so hard that I went out and actually used that number to my advantage for the first time. On Wednesday, I used the scanner to check the stock and got a big fat “No!” I went home empty-handed, but relieved that my wallet would not be crying, keeping me up at night.

All that changed today. After work, I visited the same Target and input the DPCI# into the scanner again. This time it was a glorious “YES!” I then did another thing for the first time, and actually approached an employee and asked him to input the DPCI# in hopes he would pull it from the back. And he did. He was so helpful, he even flagged down the department lead (Toys & Electronics wasn’t his department) in order to help me out! Then he called the stockroom and got the stock shelf number and a few minutes later, I was hauling this huge sucker down to the registers!

Anyway, enough blabbing. Here are the pics!

Some notes after the jump.

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