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Messages - Muftak

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Watto's Junk Yard / "I, Robot:" The Indignity...
« on: June 4, 2004, 08:33 PM »
I was at the bookstore today and happened to see a display  of the "novelization" of Will Smith's latest action/adventure flick, "I, Robot."

I was intrigued. I read the Asimov book (really a collection of robot-centered short stories) many years ago, and after having seen the movie's trailer last year (and snorting loudly in the theater, to my fiance's dismay) I figured the two were only marginally related.

But here was the new novelization, with the by-line of Issac Asimov himself. WTF? I thought. it's gotta be some one ghost-writing...

So I grabbed a copy and sat down with it for a few seconds. It's the stories from the 50's, alright, exactly as I remembered them. More importantly, nothing like the film I've seen advertised.

It brought to mind authors rolling in their graves and whatnot. Especially considering there was a very good script written by Harlan Ellison for a very faithful "I, Robot" movie that Asimov actually signed off on back in the 80's.

The mind, it truly boggles

"Boba Fett, who is hired by the evil Empire, is the most dangerous bounty hunter in the galaxy. He wears a helmet that completely hides his face. Boba Fett carries lots of weapons to capture whomever he is chasing, including a jetpack that fires missiles. He is a skilled pilot with a powerful ship, Slave 1,  which is packed with equipment to track down his prey and escape any attack."

Editor's note:
The use of the word "whomever" may be a little over the heads of our target audience. How about substituting "good guys?" Also, remove mention of his firing missile. Legal doesn't want to go down that road again.

Original Trilogy Collection / Re: OTC DVD Sets
« on: June 2, 2004, 11:07 AM »
At this point, I barely even care. I've seen enough special repacks to know I don't want 'em. I do give them some credit for finally reusing the beautifully sculpted Bespin Capture Han Solo, but I guess I take the credit immediately away by seeing they're trying to reuse last year's horribly botched Emperor.

As for OTC repeating the mistakes of the FreezeFrame year, I've been worried about that since I first saw the line-up.

I keep thinking hopefully Wal*Mart/Target/TRU will set up large sections for the figures again this fall (they'd almost have to, what with the vehicles.) I also keep hoping the figure space gets divided equally between the vOTC  and OTC figures. At least then we'll have a sporting chance to find the 15 or so hits among the 50 or so clunkers. If not, well, history tells me I can always wait till 2006 when these all float back out at a dollar each clearance.

In the end, do I buy the premise that more kids will be looking for the toys based on the DVDs? No, I think the only time that has panned out was the original 1995 figures coming out at the time of the "new" VHS versions, and then it only worked because no one had sold Star Wars toys for ten years prior.

Original Trilogy Collection / Re: OTC = Freeze Frame Waves
« on: June 2, 2004, 10:56 AM »
DoctorPadawan posted this in the OTC DVD sets thread, and it's exactly what I was trying to articulate with this thread:

The one phrase that keeps coming back to my mind these last few days is "those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."  How this applies to this situation is that Hasbro has simply not learned from its mistakes.  They have done this endless recarding before, and it ended up very badly and killed any momentum the line had at that time with retailers.  Only Episode I, believe it or not, saved the SW line.  

What I'm referring to is the Freeze Frame line.  Very nice concept, but executed badly.  Yes, they released a wave of new figures on a regular basis, but mixed in with these new figures were a veritable truckload of older figures who hadn't been all that difficult to find in the first place, on new cards.  It had nothing to do with keeping popular characters out there for fans or newcomers; it had more to do with milking the completist carded collectors for all they were worth.  And it backfired.

Probably the best/worst shining example of this was the rerelease of a Collection 3 case with nothing but older figures.  Never mind the fact that they had just released the first Removable Helmet Vader in an earlier case assortment not more than a month earlier; they had to release a whole case of figures nobody had any trouble finding at all in their previous incarnations (Tarkin, TIE Pilot, Stormie), ignoring the previous wave with the RH Vader, and when it came time for the second wave of Collection 3 figures that were new, they were impossible to find (Ree Yees and DST).  All because of Hasbro's desire to cut corners and "maximize their profits."

The fact that they were releasing waves of figures with one new figure (usually packed at 2 per case) like the Ugnaughts or 8D8 wasn't helping either, because it was getting 2 new figures and 14 old figures on the shelf.  I don't think I need to explain which ones didn't sell.  It was also the FF line that necessitated the ridiculous clearance sales that fall (2 dollars a figure with those little stickers).  I have never seen a Wal*Mart so overrun with figures as I did that fall, and it was all the same figures.  Nothing new.

And then that winter, after a whole load of relative hype, Hasbro released the Expanded Universe line at the tail end of the FF series.  Was there anyone here who had an easy time finding any of these, particularly the Darktrooper and Spacetrooper?  Then the last wave (the Hoth Leia wave) wasn't even released to retail because after the clearance disaster, retailers pretty much told Hasbro "NO MORE."  They had to seek out alternative outlets because they had burned the retailers so badly with endless repacks.

This is all going to happen again.  Out of 38 regular carded figures, there are arguably 7 new figures, two repaints (Hoth Vader and Bespin Luke), and 29 repacks.  I don't care what Hasbro says: this line is NOT going to get new people to start buying figures because of the DVDs.  People are going to buy the DVDs and that is it.  Given the fact that the electronics section and the toy section are a good distance away from each other in most retailers, people are going to buy the DVDs and that's all, not even giving the toy section a second thought.  They're  basing their entire product offering (and a vast amount of their products themselves) on the assumption that new people will buy things, when in reality, this will be a very small portion of the buying population.  They should know this by now, but they obviously prefer to live in their ivory tower and develop new ways to package POTJ Obi-Wan and CTC Han than put money into developing toys that people actually want to buy.

Get ready folks, it's going to be 1998 all over again, if not worse.

Thanks, Doc, you took the words right outta my mouth!

Star Wars Dioramas and Displays / Re: Modular Cloud City
« on: June 2, 2004, 10:44 AM »
Thanks, Matt (that is you, right? :)). Cloud City has been on hold for about a month or so...I moved in May, and I've had to spend the time concentrating on real floorplans and furniture.

I hope to get back to Bespin soon...  

The Prequel Trilogy / Re: The Phantom 5-Year Old
« on: June 2, 2004, 10:42 AM »
Glad to see I could stir up some memories. I hadn't really given TPM much thought for a while, but after writing about seeing it, I had the desire to watch it one more time. I popped it in this weekend, and was pleasantly surprised by my warm reaction. Yeah, the "whoopees" and the farts will always annoy, and I cringe when I hear "ex-squeeze me."

But the podrace is just great. I'll never get over the brilliance of the Tusken snipers there.

And Watto...I don't think I've seen a better "b" character in any Star Wars film. Greedy, but not evil. An obstacle, but not uncompassionate. When he loses the race, and everything is going right for our heroes, how can you not feel kinda sorry for Watto (who's in big trouble and he knows it...)?

And the Duel at the end. The laser doors, the tension, pure cinema.

I guess I never hated TPM. I'm just surprised how much there is to like that I'd neglected the past couple of years.

Thanks everyone (and sorry I'm so late to my own party...)

Oh, and happy birthday to Diddly Squat as well. The more the merrier.

(special thanks to DSJ and AE for bringing my favorite bands to the party)

I actually really enjoyed the GIJoe-styled character bios form the very first sets of POTF2 more than the super-collection from the Vintage cards. I think if I were in charge, I'd return to that style.

Either is better than "Vader was a bad man. Very, very bad. Shame on Vader!"

Ah, to see how far it's fallen...

Well, I retract my earlier speculation that it could be the non-handstand Dagobah Luke's head on the "new" Bespin Luke. I've seen some much clearer pics and that hair's even more unkemp than the Saga Luke's.


The Prequel Trilogy / The Phantom 5-Year Old
« on: May 20, 2004, 09:00 AM »
(this is from a writing exercise I do as often as I can, just a kind of stream-of-consciousness writing. I wrote it yesterday, and figured I might as well share:)

Five years ago yesterday, Star Wars Episode I was released. I remember that day well. Nearly three weeks prior, I had called around to all the local theaters, trying to find out as much as I could about the opening day activities. I decided I would go see it at my favorite theater of the time. The Tinseltown theater was about a half-hour drive on the expressway from my house, but worth it for its deluxe auditoriums with huge screens and extremely comfortable seating. (Two years prior, I had done a marathon of A New Hope for the rerelease (all 5 showings the opening day) at the local General Cinema theater, and my neck and back had paid for it.)

There was going to be a ticket presell (the first one I can recall, definitely the first one I had attended) the week before, with the box office opening at noon. I drove down at 10:00 am to find a line already wrapping the building, tents lined up near the front. I settled in at the end of the line near the rear exits of the theaters to wait. About an hour in, my younger brother showed up to wait with me. By noon, my girlfriend also showed up. Between the three of us, we held our spot in line while also going over to the Wal-Mart across the street for refreshments, potty breaks, and (at least in my case) ogling the huge Star Wars merchandise displays for new stuff I hadn’t seen yet. I remember the line moving pretty quickly once the doors opened and everyone started going. I must’ve been out of there by 1:30 or so. I bought tickets for the midnight showing, as well as some for 11:00 am.

The night of the 18th, I worked until 8:00, then went home and changed into my Star Wars outfit: jeans and a Jawa t-shirt. It was a rainy night, and after some initial car problems that made me worry we wouldn’t make it to the movies in time, we were on our way: my girlfriend, my brother, and me. We got to the theater about 10:30, and once again found ourselves in a long line, this one waiting to get seats. The crowd was populated with many of the now-classic sights: homemade Jedi outfits, an army of Darth Mauls, plastic lightsaber skirmishes, the occasional ornately-made Amidala costume. We were near the back of the pack, and by the time we made it in most of the theater was full. We wound up in the nosebleeds, three rows from the projector. Spirits were high as the crowd waited, I remember some guys behind us having fun with a laser pointer on the screen to the groans of the rest of the mob. Management came in and made threatening noises, and when that didn’t work, one of the homegrown Darth Mauls came up to confront the guy he was sure had the laser. It was an amusing sight.

When the previews started, there was a cheer the likes of which I hadn’t heard in a theater before, followed almost immediately by the largest “boo” for the preview for “the Beach” starring Leo DiCaprio (then a rumored favorite to play adult Anakin, but mostly hated for Titanic’s success.) Other film previews flashed by: Titan AE, Fight Club, American Pie, Austin Powers 2.

Then the movie started. Applause for the 20th Century Fox drums, then more for the logo. Then more for the Lucasfilm logo. A veritable roar for the “A Long Time Ago” titlecard. Somehow the noise just kept getting louder, as the words Star Wars leaped onto the screen, culminating in the cheer when the lines Episode I: The Phantom Menace scrolled into view.

The film upon first viewing was a treat. It looked good, back before our collective eyes got weary of all the digital stuff. I remember being drawn into Liam Neeson’s performance quite a bit, while his main adversary for the bulk of the movie—little CGI Watto—reassured the fears that Jar Jar Binks was already stirring in me. The movie came to conclusion amid many cheers (and not as many groans as I’d expect, looking back), all the way thorugh the end credits, when the patient could hear the phantom breathing of a character that wouldn’t appear for another two films.

We went home afterward, talking about the eventuality of Anakin’s fall and Obi-Wan’s failure. Of whether any casual fans would pick up on Palpatine clearly being Darth Sidious. Of Threepio and Luke being half-brothers. Of the surprisingly limited use of Darth Maul after all of the promotion. We got home about 3:30 in the morning, took quick naps, and went back for the morning showing. This time we sat very close, and felt more immersed in the story and images than the night before—so close I saw the ET senators that second time.

We talked about going again that evening, but finally decided not to. I saw it plenty of more times that summer. After a few viewings, it was easy to see this new Star Wars wasn’t going to have the same effect on me the old ones did as a kid, but I always had a good time.

Could they have just borrowed the "non-handstand" head sculpt of the Dagobah Luke for the Bespin version? That would go a long way towards making it a different figure (and an idea I was going to try anyway.)

If they could just drop a few more subtle changes in with the figures, it really would make all the difference as far as the good graces of the collectors. I could go in for buying variants on paintjobs and minor details that make sense. I absolutely loved the improvements on the Momaw/Greedo/Ponda Cantina sets. But there just doesn't seem to be a lot of that going on here. Little stuff like the Jawa two-pack in slightly different colors (like reverse the dark brown/light brown scheme, help fill out that army of scavengers)...metallize IG-88 a bit...

...though I don't know how they could rehabilitate Bib or the Scanning Tech...

Other Toy Lines / Re: McFarlane Alien/Predator
« on: May 14, 2004, 08:44 AM »

Other Toy Lines / Re: McFarlane Alien/Predator
« on: May 14, 2004, 08:42 AM »
There is the old Kenner "Aliens" line from the early/mid 90s...they had quite a few different types of Aliens. My Cantina has always had a "Scorpion Alien" in it (looks most like the classic Alien) and it seems to be pretty close in scale, about as tall as Chewie.

There was a Kenner "Predator" line as well, don't know how clos ethe scale came on that...

Watto's Junk Yard / Re: It's A BOY!
« on: April 25, 2004, 07:39 AM »

I'm glad to hear everything went well.

Original Trilogy Collection / OTC = Freeze Frame Waves
« on: April 23, 2004, 02:47 PM »
All of the rereleases to come in the Original Trilogy Collection due out this summer strike me with a certain sense of deja-vu, right back to 1998.

I thought the Freeze Frames were a novel idea to get a little more life into the POTF2 line after the huge success in 1997, but I quickly learned to hate the line. I had no idea at the time that practically every figure would be rereleased, I was only interested in the new figures, and so found myself stuck hunting. (Feels like I've been hunting through new shipments of old figures ever since.) Zuckuss was such a pain in the butt to track down...

I've always thought that the Freeze Frame rereleases were what killed the momentum in POTF2, I even remember Hasbro mentioning the fact that they learned a lesson about never recarding figures en masse again.

While I am looking forward to more shelf space in the fall for my favorite toys, I sure wish there were going to be a couple figures on those shelves that I wanted (or even didn't already own.)

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