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Sideshow's G.I. Joe Snake Eyes Review

  • Sideshow Collectibles G.I. Joe Snake-Eyes Figure
  • Sideshow Collectibles G.I. Joe Snake-Eyes Figure
  • Sideshow Collectibles G.I. Joe Snake-Eyes Figure

I have to admit, I was shocked when Sideshow Collectibles announced they had acquired the rights to produce 1/6-scale G.I. Joe figures. G.I. Joe has been a staple of Hasbro's portfolio for going on 5 decades and along with Mr. Potato Head helped transform a small-town, textile remnant company into one of the world's largest toy makers. So what would cause Hasbro to lease the rights to one of their most successful brands?

Hasbro's business plan relies on mass-production and volume sales. High-end collectible figures, such as the ones produced by Sideshow, don't fit that plan because they pose too great a risk when you factor in research and development, production time, price-point and mass appeal. By giving Sideshow a shot at the G.I. Joe license, Hasbro satisfies the demand for collector-quality merchandise without taking that risk; and they make some money while they're at it.

If it's collector quality you're after, Sideshow's first offering in the G.I. Joe line, Snake-Eyes, delivers. Fans of the G.I. Joe animated series will immediately recognize Snake-Eyes' signature black wears, balaclava with visor, bandolier and Mk-23 pistol. Those unfamiliar with the animated series should have no problem appreciating the layers of military-accurate, holsters, harnesses, arms and accessories that accentuate the stealthily silent character. The figure's level of meticulous detail, coupled with the vast number of accessories is unprecedented in any of Sideshow's previous offerings. Snake-Eyes is Sideshow's best figure to date; by far.

It's worth noting that Sideshow's G.I. Joe line focuses on the 1980s A Real American Hero series and not the 1960s-era kung-fu grip, Chia Pet hair-styled Joes. Sorry old-timers. Anyways...

Snake-Eyes' comes armed with a number of detailed knives, ninja swords and firearms, and his countless magazine rounds and grenades never lack a storage pouch or pocket. His equipment and arms arsenals are complimented by several pairs of interchangeable hands and boots that, when geared-up on Sideshow's newly-engineered Prometheus body, can achieve a broad array of life-like action poses. The Prometheus body is much improved since its debut on Sideshow's Indiana Jones figure, earlier this year. The loose limbs and frequently disconnecting joints have been corrected, though the body silhouette looks a tad on the thin side for Snake-Eyes, who is usually portrayed as being a bit more muscular.

Snake-Eyes' clothing and accessories are well made. The hooks, clips, belts and harnesses are to scale and function just as you'd expect them to, if not better. The stitching on and around the pockets and Velcro did have some exposed threads and the Velcro's stick is a little weak on some pouches. This tends to result in pouches that won't fully close or flop open when you move the figure, which isn't so much a detriment as it is a nuisance. My only real gripe—besides the omission of Snake-Eye's pet wolf Timber, which Sideshow addressed in their upcoming Recon at Waypoint 12 Environment—was fitting the ammo clips into the pockets of the light assault vest. The clips just didn't want to fit and I found the canvas-constructed material would tear if I tried to force the clips in without wiggling them around. I eventually got them in, but it was frustrating.

I give Sideshow Collectibles' 1/6-scale G.I. Joe Snake-Eyes figure a 9.5 out of 10. Yo Sideshow!

Sideshow's Idol Chamber Environment Review

  • Sideshow Collectibles Indiana Jones Idol Chamber Environment
  • Sideshow Collectibles Indiana Jones Idol Chamber Environment
  • Sideshow Collectibles Indiana Jones Idol Chamber Environment

Continuing my review of Sideshow Collectibles’ Dr. Rene Belloq, today I take a look at the Idol Chamber Environment, which is the unique piece included with the exclusive version of the figure.

During the priority pre-order for this set, I couldn’t help but think the version of Belloq packaged with the Idol Chamber Environment was an odd choice. I also couldn’t help but think “Holy shit! I can’t believe they're including an idol chamber as the exclusive,” but that’s beside the point. If you recall, at the beginning of Raiders, Belloq swipes the fertility idol from Indy wearing a safari-esque outfit with khaki shirt and pith helmet. Though that version of Belloq would have been a more obvious choice to include with the chamber, the good news is we get a Belloq figure, and khaki shits and pith helmets are a dime a dozen in the 1/6-scale world. In other words, it’ll be easy to make your own jungle Belloq, should you choose to.

Before I start my review, let me get this out of the way; the Idol Chamber Environment alone is worth the $140 you’re paying for the set. The chamber is made from polystone and comparatively shopping Sideshow’s site for other polystone pieces with similar dimensions, you’ll find this set sells for considerably less. And you get a Belloq in the deal. Anyone complaining about the price of this package has no justification in my book.

The idol pedestal is hollow, but still has some good weight to it. Both it and the additional floor piece have soft foam along the bottom to prevent them from moving or sliding, which is a nice touch. The carvings on the chamber aren’t completely screen-accurate, but they’re close enough. What really surprised me is the level of detail Sideshow was able to achieve with the vegetation on the pedestal. The moss and growth on the rock looks very realistic and has depth and dimension. It’s well done.

Now what’s an Idol Chamber Environment without an idol? Despite including a fertility idol with their Indy figure--who you’ll most likely be displaying in the chamber--Sideshow included a solid metal idol with the environment. The idol has a gold-metallic finish and is quite heavy for its small size. The metal idol holds detail better than its plastic counterpart, so you’ll most likely bag the idol included with Indy in favor of this one.

So what’s wrong with the Idol Chamber Environment? Not much. My only complaint is the use of an additional floor piece to extend the floor, instead of widening the floor on the base. I think it would have looked better as a complete, single piece. Besides that, I think it’s a great piece and a must have if you’re an Indy collector. I give Sideshow Collectible's 1/6 scale Idol Chamber Environment a 9 out of 10.

Sideshow's Dr. Rene Belloq Review

  • Sideshow Collectibles Dr. Rene Belloq
  • Sideshow Collectibles Dr. Rene Belloq
  • Sideshow Collectibles Dr. Rene Belloq
  • Sideshow Collectibles Dr. Rene Belloq

My Sideshow Collectibles' exclusive Dr. Rene Belloq 12-inch figure (with Idol Chamber Environment) arrived via UPS, yesterday. Like one of my previous UPS shipments, the box had a gratuitous gaping hole at the bottom, so my excitement was mixed with the concern that something had been damaged. Luckily, I avoided disaster yet again, but still contest that brown is an appropriate metaphor to describe UPS' service.

Out of the box, Belloq's suit is a little wrinkled so you may want to press his coat and pants. The material and tailoring are well done and the stitching is clean. His pants are...well they're hiked up high enough to raise anyone's voice a few octaves, so you'll most likely want to display him with the coat closed. The problem with that is the clasp used to button the coat shut was applied slightly higher than it should have been (curse the factory!), so it gives the coat the appearance of being tight. Moving the clasp should help alleviate the fat guy in a small jacket appearance.

I was a little disappointed by the quality of Belloq's tie. The tie is pinned into a knot with a piece of thread, instead of being tied or glued to achieve a realistic look. This looks cheap, but thankfully can be remedied with a bit of innovation as seen on the Sideshow Collectors forum. There's also some debate amongst diehards on the Sideshow Collectors forum regarding the color accuracy of Belloq's shirt. I'm going to let this one slide since there are film stills that depict both white and blue shirts, so it can go either way (though blue looks to be the correct version).

The Belloq figure is built on Sideshow's new Prometheus body, which debuted on their Raiders of the Lost Ark version of Indiana Jones, late last year. The body has since been improved with tighter joints and limbs that aren't as loose as they were on the majority of the Indy figures. In fact, the figure holds poses well and I haven't had an incident of 1/6 leprosy, where a joint on the figure falls out of the socket. Belloq's shoes connect directly to the legs with a socket so there are no feet included. This is no big, but there aren't any socks included. This means Sideshow either missed this detail or Dr. Belloq was not only scholarly, but had an incredibly forward-thinking fashion sense in wearing a linen suit with no socks (think Miami Vice).

Belloq's likeness to Paul Freeman isn't bad; at profile it looks like Freeman, but the resemblance isn't completely there from the front. The figure's brown hair should have been highlighted with a touch of gray, especially on the sides. The proper highlights would have helped improve the likeness. Thankfully, the hat covers enough of the hair to hide the fact that Sideshow wasn't accurate with their paint applications. The hat itself is made of a soft plastic and fits snugly over the sculpted hair. I wish Sideshow would have used the same approach with the hat on their Indy figure because it looks great and works well.

You have several options in accessorizing Belloq including a pocket watch, a bottle of liquor with his family label and a MP-40 machine gun. I was hoping the pocket watch would have a “glass” face, but it didn't achieve that level of detail. The watch chain is a vast improvement over the chain Sideshow used for the necklace on their Lord of the Rings Frodo because it doesn't clump and knot. The detail on the MP-40 is also an improvement on what has come to be expected from Sideshow. The gun is molded in several pieces that fit together, has a removable clip, a spring-loaded chamber, a strap, and a working, retractable stock. In addition to the open/gripping hands, Belloq includes a pair of interchangeable clinched fists.

I obviously have a few gripes with this figure, but I consider them to be more lapses in detail than serious flaws. The problem is that Sideshow isn't demonstrating the same level of detail that Hot Toys is putting in their 1/6-scale figures and collectors are starting to recognize it. I personally like this figure and believe a few corrections to the lack in detail I mentioned above would vastly improve it. As a result, I give Sideshow Collectible's 1/6 scale Dr. Rene Belloq a 6 out of 10, which is a shame because it really should have been an 8 or higher. The Exclusive Belloq is limited to 1000 pieces and retails for $139.99 and as I'm writing this, is still available for order on Sideshow's Web site.

Stay tuned, tomorrow, for my review of the accompanying Idol Chamber Environment.

Top 5 Android Applications

The Android Market has been growing steadily since the T-Mobile G1 launched this October. Thanks to the five-star rating system and user comments, in the market, it's been relatively easy to identify the applications worth downloading and those that should be avoided altogether. Here's a list of the top 5 Android applications that every G1 shouldn't be without.

  1. Locale (and Locations): Locale dynamically manages your phone settings based on conditions such as location and time. Locale works in conjunction with Locations—an application that pinpoints your GPS coordinates—and requires Locations if you're using geographic rules in your settings. You'll never have to worry about your ringer going off in the wrong place or at the wrong time. I personally use Locale to set my G1 to use my wireless Internet connection whenever I'm at home.
  2. ShopSavvy and CompareEverywhere: I've found that both ShopSavvy and CompareEverywhere have their unique upsides and are most effective when used in tandem. Use the camera in your phone to scan the barcode of any product to find the best prices on the Internet and at nearby, local stores. You can then read product reviews to find what others think as well as keep track of your items in a shopping list.
  3. Twidroid: If you tweet, Twidroid is for you. Twidroid a full-featured, mobile Twitter client that includes direct messaging, photo posting and background notifications. Twidroid is still in beta so not all of the features work flawlessly, but it boasts a clean, easy-to-use interface and has a lot of promise.
  4. WeatherBug: WeatherBug uses your GPS location information to provide live, local weather information featuring location-based forecasts, severe weather alerts, radar and satellite maps, camera views and more. WeatherBug is the most comprehensive weather tool in the Android Market.
  5. Dial Zero: Dial Zero allows you to quickly dial the customer service number of over 600 companies and skip the prompts to speak directly with a person. No more menu trees or annoying voice recognition software to stand in your way!

My First Week with the T-Mobile G1

  • T-Mobile G1 Packaged Front
  • T-Mobile G1 Contents
  • T-Mobile G1 Phone with QWERTY Keyboard Opened

I’ve been at it for one week with my Android-based, T-Mobile G1. I admit that every time I get a new cell phone I either get a tinge of buyer’s remorse or end up comparing it to my previous phone more than I should. The G1 is no exception. When I pulled the G1 out of the box, my initial impression was that it was a bit clunky, bulky and even heavy. I know comparing the G1’s size to a Motorola RAZR (which it’s replacing) isn’t exactly fair considering what the G1 is capable of, but a precedence had been set.

What the G1 lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in functionality. Sure I would love the G1 to be the same size as the RAZR, but my concerns that the G1 would be a brick in my pocket subsided as I familiarized myself with the Android interface and started making use of the features that I cursed my RAZR for not having. I also felt better when I had a chance to compare the G1’s vitals to a friend’s iPhone. The weight of the two devices is very similar and though the G1 is thicker, the QWERTY keyboard that adds to the extra thickness is totally worth it.

Once I got over the dimension shock, the only real issue I had with the G1 is battery life. If you’ll be using your G1 heavily throughout the day, you’ll need to keep a charger handy. Even with recommended settings to extend the battery life (GPS, brightness, WiFi and auto sync settings turned down or off) the phone eats up the charge quickly. I would imagine that if you took the phone on a trip to use as a reference guide and were out of the hotel all day sightseeing, you wouldn’t make it into the evening without needing a charge. I’m not sure how this compares to the battery life on an iPhone, but I could definitely see it being an issue at some point.

What I don’t see being an issue is the Android Market. There have been dozens of new applications added since theG1 launched on the 22nd and every time I check the Android Market, the application and game libraries seems to be growing. Obviously some of the applications are more useful than others, but it’s nice to know there’s no shortage of developers working on the Android platform. I’ll blog a more detailed account of some of my favorite applications later in the week, but want to include a quick real world example of how the G1 is making a difference in my life.

I downloaded one of the first applications available in the Android Market, named QuickList, to create a running grocery list throughout the week. If you’re wondering why I don’t just write a list out, I’ve tried and since my list isn’t at my hip at all times—like my phone—I always seem to forget something. As I navigated the aisles of my local Publix this weekend, checking off the list items as I add them to my cart, I didn’t have that usual “I’m forgetting something” feeling that comes over me right before I check out. When I cleared those automatic doors I not only felt confident that I got everything I needed, I also realized that for once, I didn’t forget the garbage bags!

In the end, my week with the G1 was as much of a learning experience as a realization that the device has the ability to change the way people live their lives. It’s not that the G1 can make you a better shopper, a healthier eater, an accurate tipper or even more productive, but it gives you the tools that put you on the right track.

Holy Sequel, Batman!

"The Dark Knight" is an anomaly; one of the rare instances where the sequel to a successful motion-picture outshines the original.

The second installment of the grittier, more serious take on the Batman franchise is nothing short of stellar. The way each character, relationship and situation is developed is not only immersive, but intertwined with emotion. The sub-plots are just as compelling and you feel empathy for Bruce Wayne's internal strife, realize the maniacal co-dependency that drives the Joker and understand how the fragility of Harvey Dent's persona puts him over the edge...literally. And did I mention the film is full of action?

The action sequences in "The Dark Knight" are plentiful; non-stop even. Yet, they never detract from the film's focus or feel forced. George Lucas, take note. Instead, the scenes help tell the story and compliment the character development. I especially found the explanation of the origin of Batman's glowing eyes—as illustrated in many comic renditions—cleverly done.

Also cleverly done is Heath Ledger's interpretation of the Joker, arguably Batman's greatest antagonist. Ledger sheds the Joker's cartoonish-image and brings out a real-life eccentric insanity. He portrays the Joker as a madman obsessed with wreaking havoc on Gotham and the darker tone of the film compliments his creative direction. Do I think it was Oscar worthy? Possibly, but has there ever been a bad portrayal of the Joker?

My only complaint with "The Dark Knight" is Maggie Gyllenhaal, who gave the weakest performance of the cast. It's not that I'm a huge fan of Katie Holmes, but I dislike the inconsistency of brining back a character in a sequel and not having the same actor reprise the role; especially a major role.

Finally, a movie that lives up to the hype! I give "The Dark Knight" a 9.5 out of 10.

Sideshow's Commander Praji Review

Commander who? OK so I admit I do know a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to the original Star Wars trilogy, which I guess classifies me as a geek. Commander Praji, however, I don't know. Geek classification revoked! In order to figure out just who this Imperial crony is, I had to pull a Wookiepeia and watch a YouTube clip (start 3:17 in). Now I realize by going to Wookiepeida I'm back to being a geek. In that case, check out my geeky photos of Sideshow's 12-inch Commander Praji in my photo gallery.

Commander Nahdonnis Praji is an Imperial Officer who gets his 15 minutes seconds of fame aboard Princess Leia's Rebel Blockade Runner. Unable to locate the stolen Death Star plans aboard the Tantive IV, Darth Vader instructs Praji to personally oversee a detachment to the planet Tatooine in an effort to retrieve the plans from a jettisoned escape pod. We all know where that leads... my photo gallery.

Sideshow Collectible's Commander Praji figure is our introduction to Imperial officers in their Militaries of Star Wars line. Though he wouldn't be my first choice to immortalize, he's got an interesting back-story and Sideshow has been known to take that into account in their character selection.

The 12-inch Praji figure features the Art S. Buck body dressed in a standard-issue Imperial officer uniform. The detail and tailoring on the uniform is well done. The pants look great and have the widely flared thighs tapering from the knees to the ankles (an obvious reference to the pants worn by WWII-era German officers) while the top is a little stiff making it difficult to locate the slits for the silver tubes. Besides the tubes, the uniform is detailed with a rank insignia.

Commander Praji comes with a pair of swappable hands/gloves and pair of swappable Imperial caps. Praji ships dressed in the gloves and I'll warn you that they are better left on as they're very difficult to fit back once removed. I like the option of the two caps; one fabric and one sculpted. I don't have a personal preference, but I do think the fabric cap looks better in person while the sculpted cap photographs better.

Praji is armed with a stormtrooper blaster with folding stock as well as a blaster pistol, the latter of which fits into the holster on his belt. The simple leather belt is what it is, but I do like the magnetic clasp on the holster, which has thankfully become a standard feature on Sideshow's figures.

My biggest problem with Commander Praji is well...Commander Praji. The choice of this character is obscure considering the pool of Imperials Sideshow had to choose from. What makes things worse is that the likeness of the figure, in comparison to the actor, is poor at best making it even less desirable.

All in all there really isn't much to this figure. He's an obscure character, in a well-done, yet simplistic costume with an inaccurately sculpted likeness. I give Sideshow Collectibles 1/6-scale Imperial Praji a 6.5 out of 10.