Friday, 13 October 2017

This Black Series Full Size Vader Helmet is Insane!

Coming Spring 2018 Hasbro will be gracing us with what could be one of THE most collectible items for any Star Wars fan.
Hasbro follows up its full size Rogue One wearable Black Series Imperial Stormtrooper helmet I previously covered here  - with a full size reproduction of the Return of the Jedi helmet of Darth Vader.
The news was announced earlier this year at the Hasbro Hascon event with pricing details to be revealed closer to launch.

Whats so special about the Return of the Jedi Helmet? (ROTJ)
Okay so here's where things get super geeky, the sculpts for Vader's helmet are different in the original trilogy , each movie has a different variation in the design from Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. To that point the the prequel trilogy also introduced a totally different sculpt to that of the original trilogy as well (flatter eye lenses smoother, less pronounced brow-line and more flared helmet hood).
Star Wars Prequel helmet on the left - Original Trilogy on the right.

The Vader helmet from 1977’s Star Wars, was sculpted by Brian Muir ( he also sculpted Vader's helmet for Rogue One) and the helmet was asymmetrical, with a red tint to the eyes that you’ll notice in certain scenes from when Vader is on Bail Organa's ship,Tantive IV. The helmet design in The Empire Strikes Back got rid of the red eyes and the more pronounced sinister brow over the eye lenses with its pronounced widows peak. 

In Return of the Jedi, Vader’s helmet is considerably more glossier and reflective, something that is clearly evident when he exits his shuttle on the Death Star at the begining of ROTJ. For the most part the design is relatively consistent with that of the design in Empire albeit a slightly flatter more condensed profile for the Jedi design. In ESB and ROTJ the neck of the helmet was actually a gun metal silver as was the left cheek segment and side flashes, black was merely limited to the main face area. The helmet for Return of the Jedi underwent a redesign which would allow for the grand reveal as to how Vader actually wore the helmet in 3 pieces, this added even more tension and drama during the unmasking scene with Luke at the film’s climatic end.
Its this 3 piece segmented helmet design that draws the main appeal for the Black Series version coming in 2018.

 Shiny Happy People - A glossy Darth Vader.

 Luke removes his fathers helmet in the climatic ROTJ scene.

Three sections make up the Black Series Vader helmet as true to the movie.

Stunning attention to detail is sure to be a winner for collectors.

The Hasbro Black Series 3 piece Vader helmet was revealed at Hascon 

The Black Series helmet provides a more affordable collectible  to a broader range of fans but die hard prop makers and collectors will always aim for specific helmet molds and pieces (Don Post and EFX) that prop sculptors or movie auctions provide. Anovos, the costume collectible specialist also provides a complete Vader costume and helmet also available in segments but the finish is more in line with movie prop materials than the mass produced plastic Hasbro offering but interestingly Anovos only created a 2 piece helmet.
Above: The Anovos Vader Helmet.
Above: The Anovos version - note that the neck piece is all connected to the facemask.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Conor McGregors 'F**k You suit

They say clothes maketh the man, apparently we have Mr William Shakespeare to thank for that one, I can neither deny or confirm if that's true or not, a quick Google search suggested it was from ancient Greece but hey, what do I know?
You may or may not be into boxing or MMA fighting, I'll claim ignorance to knowing much about it to be honest but the recent words of wisdom between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor last week were talk of the town, things got pretty amped between the pair, one turned up in a baseball cap with a big bag of money ( well, stacks of $1 dollar bills) and one turned up in a sharp looking 'pinstripe suit' and a truck load of attitude.

Getty Images

However, on closer inspection,what everyone thought were the traditional designer lines on McGregor's pinstripe suit were hugely mistaken, closer inspection reveals the suits pinstriped lines were actually in fact very small text that said "fuck you". Designed exclusively to wear at the press conference this week to promote their mega payday fight on August 26th.
Much of pre-fight press conferences  for big mega pay day fights is all about the psychology between the fighters and for setting up the hype to push ticket sales for pay per view, its about putting serious doubt into your opponents mind before the fight- unless of course things get really heated and fists fly which isn't unheard of.

The 'fuck you' suit is actually an inspired piece of mind games, for all of Mayweather's material wealth and TMT self-endorsed branding (The Money Team)  not to mention the endless Instagram money stack photos he posts - all this despite the fact it appears that the IRS is chasing him for around $29 Million in back taxes. McGregor went into this press conference to get inside Mayweather's head. 'The man had a pinstripe suit which said 'fuck you' all over it - now Floyd is a big boy, he's probably not all that bothered about the man inside the suit but from now until the fight he'll be wondering how much did that suit cost to make, who made it and who the hell came up with that idea?. Additionally it gets press talking, GQ already did a big article on it.

The suit was designed and made by David August who makes all of McGregors suits, this one was custom made, Navy Wool and was designed with McGregor's personality in mind.
Mayweather's track record speaks for itself, the man has made lots of money from winning in a career that is currently 49 wins with no losses so lets hope that McGregor's press conference willy waving and grandstanding doesn't make him look the fool come August 26th.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

JAWS: The Art of the Poster

Back in 2015 the movie JAWS hit its 40th Anniversary, released on June 20th 1975 (December 26th  in the UK) the film did for beach holidays what Fatal Attraction did for having an affair. Jaws installed a fear of deep ocean water in me, I will not swim in deep open water from a boat unless I'm with lots of other people (the chances of being attacked are somewhat reduced if there's more meat swimming around). The film was responsible for the massive decline in the shark population in the late 70's and very early 80's when fear and the 'cool factor' of shark fishing, "hey look ma, I killed a predator" painted sharks in a bad light rather than the crucial role they play in the ecology of the ocean. The point is the only thing more dangerous than a man eater is a man hunting for the thrill of it.Man remains at the top of the food chain, 11,417 sharks are killed every hour according to a 2013 Huff Post article. Anyway, I digress  -(sorry about that), when JAWS reached its 40th milestone back in 2015 the Alamo Drafthouse in Texas celebrated by showing the movie Jaws on Austins Lake Travis where viewers could sit on inflatables to watch the movie at night. It's been a yearly event and shows the movie through June and July.

Designer Roger Kastel was responsible for the original JAWS movie poster painted as an oil-on-board painting for the purposes of the films marketing for Universal. (He's also credited with The Empire Strikes Back movie poster.) The JAWS shark mouth and swimmer design was based on Paul Bacons original book cover for the Doubleday hardcover which was created in 1974 depicting a shark below a swimmer, the image was black and white. Kastels updated version for Universal brought more life and menace to the premise of the story and the terror of an impending shark attack.
The Kastel cover featuring the nude swimmer ended up getting the book banned in Boston, Massachusetts and St Petersburg Florida. Further complications including a  lawsuit between DoubleDay and Bantam over the revised and updated cover and Paul Bacons original concept ended up with DoubleDay receiving compensation.
The original Kastel artwork, once framed and hanging in the Society of Illustrators in New York was shipped off to Hollywood for the movie promotion back in the late 70's, it was never returned, lost forever and has never been since since.

JAWS remains a iconic movie over 40 years on, an almost ageless classic -  it defined the summer blockbuster and created a cultural phenomenon. 40 years down the line it inspired fans, designers and artists all over the world to express their love and respect for the movie with some truly awe inspiring poster designs. Here's a selection of some of the best.

Phantom City Creatives JAWS poster print limited to a run of 325 now fetches a tidy sum if you can get your hands on it via Ebay with prices in the region of $299
Check out the red variation below.

Phantom City Creative: Red JAWS variant - Ltd Edition print run

Designer: Laurent Durieux

Designer: John Barry Ballaran

Designer: Anthony Petrie

Designer: Flore Maquin

Designer: Kyle Brown

Designer: Matthew Thomas

Designer: Remulous

Designer: Phantom City Creative

 Designer: Matt Ryan Tobin

Designer: Mike Wrobel

Designer: Kevin M Wilson

24″ X 36″ 3 color screen prints, regular “Beach Open” edition of 100 and variant “Beach Closed” edition of 75. Private commission.
Designer: Patrick Connan
Designer: Paul Shipper


Check Out Roger Kastels art here
The Literary Hub showcased Paul Bacons Book covers here

Friday, 7 July 2017

What The F***k is NEX MACHINA?

You may or may not be familiar with the side scrolling voxel based shoot em up Resogun back in 2013, beyond that, you might remember R-Type or even perhaps 1942 with the WW2 plane that spewed out ridiculous amounts of firepower against waves and waves of enemies....yeah that.

R-type in all its glory

Well, dial that all up to 11 and add a neon disco like you've never seen before because Nex Machina is the arcade players dream shooter. A marriage of what Robotron and Smash TV were back in the day, frantic eye busting affairs of onscreen digital mayhem.
Developed by Housmarque who developed the original Resogun, Nex Machina is a twin stick shooter, on PS4 you can either use both the analogs to move the character and shoot or use each of the joypad buttons to fire your characters weapons in the direction of the button press. 

What initially looks like a manic onscreen frenzy is actually a well choreographed enemy threat, timing is crucial to utilize your characters dash ability to avoid the seemingly impossible pulses of plasma shots and spinning shurikens of laser filled death. If you actually watch the patterns you'll see that timing and well as pulling off some crazy moves can work in tandem.
Onscreen pickups like shields are essential, multi-shot blaster upgrades and dash pickups are challenging to reach too, you'll need to blast your way through a wall of enemy bots homing in on you or the hapless humans that are wandering around on each level that you need to save.

Resogun - developed by Housemarque in 2013

Waves upon waves of enemy droids will stream towards you in a seemingly endless tsunami,walking spider bots with cannons lumber towards your position from all angles and stationary mortar stations target you from afar with a neon crosshair that gives you enough heads up that standing still is a death sentence. The game is tough but very easy to play, dying a lot is the norm, as is utilizing copious amounts of continues as you look to keep the action going. One of the most striking aspects of the game is the visual chaos, electric neon blues, pinks, greens and purples mix with a heavy dose of reds and blacks which are then further contrasted by exploding enemies that disintegrate into a mash of coloured pixel spray as your shots hit home. 

The game takes up less than 1 Gig of space on a PS4 and is a perfect pick up and play blaster that takes what Resogun, R-Type,Smash TV and Robotron did but cranks it all up another level and delivers an eye bleeding and satisfying arcade shoot em up.

Above: The on-screen arcade mayhem of Nex Machina.

The video below was me on 'Rookie' setting, I was sweating like a demon even on this setting, I think my wife thought I was going to have a heart attack, all she could hear from the lounge was me shouting "holy shit" or "this is bloody impossible"...additionally flavored with 'thank Christ that's over".

Check out the Gameplay video here and see for yourself

The Good Stuff

  • Pick up and Play instant Arcade action
  • Visuals are incredible
  • Challenging and also has co-op mode
  • Bound to become a classic much respected arcade shooter
  • probably THE best arcade shooter since Resogun

The Bad Stuff

  • Insanely challenging for novice arcade players, you'll die...a lot
  • Limited Scope after prolonged play
  • lacks any real customization to make the game your own.


Friday, 23 June 2017

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered - Standalone release - is it worth it?

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Remastered

Seek and ye shall find, the internets latest 'worst kept secret' should have the older console fanboys either drooling or raging depending on their moral stance with regards to remastered editions of games and paid-for DLC. If the latest information surrounding the remastered standalone edition of Call of Duty Modern Warfare is anything to go by Activision appears to have changed its mind about releasing a standalone edition of Modern Warfare, its seminal modern combat FPS.

The FPS game that kicked off the series into modern era combat is due to get a standalone release  on June 27th. Already available since November 2016 as part of the 'legacy Edition on PS4 and XBox One' which includes Infinite Warfare, multiplayer for Modern Warfare was somewhat of a ghost town as many older players who had first cut their teeth on the original didn't want to have to purchase infinite Warfare at a premium price just to access the remastered version of the game.

Charlie Intel got a leaked pack shot from US retailer Target (see below) although it doesn't include the variety Map Pack that launched in March. This might be high on the list of your summer purchases if you're one of the 'older generation' of gamers who prefers not to have to suffer the indignity of getting no scoped by a 12 year old with a  dayglo pink tiger camo M85 sniper rifle.

At the time of writing, neither GAME or Amazon UK have this product listed so the European release is still in the realm of the unknown but at least it appears to be coming. The biggest issue of course is the fact that content that came free in the original 10 years ago now comes as a microtransactional add-on in the remastered edition, something that won't sit well with the community. Add to that a $39.99 price point for the US it would inevitably mean a £39.99 UK price equivalent which seems way too high when many retailers are selling the Legacy Edition at a similar price - could even be the reason other retailers are lukewarm about the standalone, I don't know.
I guess time will tell if this works or not, personally speaking I think the pricing should be closer to $9.99 with all the content included to push the impulse purchase, the series more than made its coin a decade ago despite the retail disappointment of Infinite Warfare last year. The other thing to consider is the sheer amount of stock already in the sales channel at retail for older games in the franchise as well as stocks of Infinite Warfare and Legacy Edition stock.
Uncertainty in the economy and the sheer number of new releases also means that players are keeping a close eye on what they are spending their money on and summer is a time when people want to spend their money on vacations and non-gaming essentials.
The next in the release in the franchise -  Call of Duty: WWII is set for a Nov 3rd launch and takes the series back to its World War 2 roots.

Remastered Comparisons

Below screens shows the detail upgrade in the remastered edition from older PS3 compared to PS4 or Xbox360 Vs XBox One. Surface detail and resolution gets a massive boost but is it enough to pay top dollar for?
Gaming is all about new experiences, something new, something fresh, not necessarily 're-freshed'. I loved the original when it came out and while I love gawking at these images I can't quite bring myself to want to drop the cash on this for the same experience I had a decade ago just with better visuals.

Although Target doesn't currently have it listed for sale, the 27th June seems like a firm date according to my Activision source.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Art of Mort Künstler

The Art of Mort Künstler

Known to fans and collectors of his art as "the premier historical artist in America' Mort Künstler is Americas most collected Civil War artist. After studying art at Brooklyn College, U.C.L.A. and Pratt Institute, he became a successful illustrator in New York where he received assignments from book and magazine publishers. Künstlers work can be seen adorning the cover of many of the pulp magazine and story magazines of the 60's, publications such as 'Male', 'Stag' and 'Adventure'. Geared towards a male readership, the covers often depicted a tense or dramatic illustrated scene to give a sense of narrative to the magazines content, guns, girls, peril and plenty of drama.

 Künstlers body of work is immense, a traditionally trained artist he masters the oil medium beautifully and his composition always provides the viewer with plenty to look at. Attention to detail is also excellent in his paintings for both the physical form and technical assets such as vehicles, weapons and buildings.
Collections of Künstler's work are published as limited-edition prints, and his artistic output places him at the forefront of contemporary historical realism. NASA made him their official artist for the space shuttle Columbia. He's illustrated a number of movie posters for adventure films, such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). Künstler also created the illustration for the 1976 MAD Magazine cover which parodied the movie Jaws and comic art depicting women's liberation.

Among the eight books featuring his work, is the 1986 coffee-table book The American Spirit: The Paintings of Mort Künstler, which contains nearly 200 images and commentary written by historian Henry Steele Commager. An updated edition of The American Spirit was published in 1994

 Mort at work in his studio " I feel like I'm opening a window on a little part of history. What I try to do is create an image that will make you feel like you were there. I try to make it as accurate and as dramatic as possible."

Check out an in depth profile of the artist and his work here at the King James Galleries

Visit his official website here