Tag Archives: Michael Fassbender

Q&A: NECA’s Randy Falk talks vintage movie licenses, SDCC exclusives

Founded in New Jersey in 1996, the National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) has not only long been associated with excellent product, but lauded for its ingenuity to produce action figures for films that didn’t get a toy line when they were released in theaters.

Currently, NECA is preparing for its annual pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic-Con next week to reveal upcoming products and sell exclusives figures from such licenses as “Coraline,” “Aliens” and “Predator.” In the middle of the madness, NECA’s director of product development, Randy Falk, answered a few questions by email about the company’s vintage offerings and SDCC exclusives.

 Tim Lammers: Thanks for your time, Randy. I have to admit, I was so thrilled to hear NECA was going to produce “The Lost Wave” of “Prometheus” figures. What factored into that decision? Was it because of the pending release of “Alien: Covenant” or the continuing success of the your “Alien” line? 

Randy Falk: Thank you! For the “Prometheus” Lost Wave, it was little of both, actually. There was continued interest from a small but vocal fan base that five years on still wanted to see these figures happen, and with the release of “Covenant” on the horizon it felt like the right time to do it. This is really a gift for the loyal fans.

TL: Could this signal the beginning of more “lost waves” being produced? Is there another example of something NECA had in the prototype phase that didn’t make it to store shelves, which you would like to see completed now?

RF: I don’t know if I would go that far… the tooling is the biggest expense in manufacturing figures of this kind, and usually if something does not get produced it’s for a good reason, so it’s tough to justify those costs.

TL: What are the chances of the first waves of “Prometheus” figures being reproduced to compliment the “Lost Wave” of figures?

RF: Slim to none, unfortunately. The audience has not grown much since release and as far as the toys are concerned, the sales were never near the level of our “Alien” line.

MORE: Tim’s articles on NECA for Screen Rant

James Cameron is getting an ‘Aliens’ action figure

Paul Reiser ‘Proud’ of ‘Aliens’ action figure

‘Alien: Covenant’ action figures revealed

TL: I think what separates NECA from so many other toy/collectible companies is their commitment to develop figures on vintage licenses whereas other companies concentrate solely on current releases. What drives that mindset to produce vintage licenses?

RF: Honestly, I would be thrilled to work in what I call the golden era/decade of ’77 – ’87 as much as I could. That 10-year period encompasses all the best in film, music, and video games and the nostalgia factor makes these brands successful 30 to 40 years on, not only with the people who grew up with them but the younger audience that has discovered that greatness on video or Netflix or cable. I love the classics and for the most part there isn’t much in modern entertainment that comes close. There is a reason Jason or Freddy or “Alien” or “Predator” still resonate today, or why a 4-year-old loves Gizmo as much as a 40-year-old who saw “Gremlins” in the theater in 1984.

A Rocky

TL: I’m thrilled that you’ve reissued the “Rocky” figure line (and I especially love the “Rocky IV” Apollo Creed). Given that these figures were popular enough to reissue, is there any desire to expand the line to include Mickey, etc?

RF: Thanks, and these are a lot of fun to create. It is unlikely we would do a Mickey or Adrian because of all the new tooling costs involved, added to their limited appeal compared to Rocky, Apollo, Clubber, etc. We do have a fantastic set of maquettes coming, though, based on the puppets used in an old iced tea commercial. These are great versions of Rocky and Mickey.

TL: Perhaps one of the biggest surprises for exclusives being produced by any company for SDCC is the “Coraline” Display and figure. Is that tied into the 10th anniversary of LAIKA, and, is it possible NECA will be reissuing any of its previous “Coraline” figures?

RF: I can’t elaborate too much on this at the moment, but yes, we are definitely celebrating Laika’s 10th anniversary. We love all of their films and are thrilled to be working with them again. “Kubo and the Two Strings” was one of my favorite movies last year, in fact! We have a lot of things in the planning stage now, but for the moment I can only say there will be new figures and more.

NECA

TL: It’s great to see that NECA is offering the Jungle Briefing Dutch as an exclusive at SDCC. Any chance we’ll get Carl Weathers’ Dillon at some point?

RF: We would absolutely love to produce a Dillon figure and have made many attempts to reach an agreement with Carl for the use of his likeness as Dillon. Fox, which holds the license for “Predator,” does not have any of the likeness rights to the actors within the film. We were able to make a separate agreement with Arnold to include Dutch in the line, but that happened around the 7th series in the “Predator” line, so as you can see it can take a while. This year we celebrate “Predator’s” 30th anniversary, so we have some Dutch figures and classic Jungle Hunter Predator figures back out in the market. We would still love to include Dillon and hope that one day it can happen, but that is still to be negotiated with Carl Weathers.

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Movie review: ‘Alien: Covenant’

“Alien: Covenant” (R) 3 1/2 stars (out of 4); Kid Quotient: None

Director Ridley Scott is back with his first official prequel to the “Alien” movie series with “Alien: Covenant,” a thrilling sixth chapter in the franchise that began with “Alien” in 1979. The first possibly to more prequels to “Alien,” the film bridges the events of 2012’s “Prometheus” to a new intergalactic ship, the Covenant, which is populated with 16 crew members and 2,000 people in hypersleep headed to a distant planet for colonization.

But when a communication beacon tempts the Covenant to veer off-course, the ship lands on a different planet to discover not only the fate of the “Prometheus” characters Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and the android David (Michael Fassbender), but the horrifying destiny that awaits them.

Hear Tim’s review of “Alien: Covenant” with Tom Barnard and Phillip “The Philly Dawg” Wise on KQRS.

While “Alien: Covenant” has the distinct feeling of an “Alien” film (especially when the face-hugging Xenomorphs come into play), Scott, through his expert direction creates tension and bloody gore that easily bests any horror film in theaters today.

The bonus is, there are great actors like Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir and Danny McBride (in a rare, serious role) to help amplify the atmosphere, setting up a tantalizing premise to the next “Alien” film.

Watch Tim’s review of “Alien: Covenant” with Adrienne Broadus on KARE 11.

Movie reviews: ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass,’ ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’

Disney

By Tim Lammers

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” (PG) 3 stars (out of 4)

Wonderland is as buoyant, beautiful and bright as ever in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” a satisfying prequel/sequel to the 2010 billion-dollar blockbuster. Despite a thin storyline, the film is once again bolstered by a lovable cast, spectacular visual effects and stunning production design and costumes. Fans will likely favor the original “Alice” to this follow-up, but it’s an entertaining film nonetheless.

Mia Wasikowska returns as Alice, who after three years of adventures at sea and exploring new lands with her late father’s ship returns home and is beckoned to Underland by Absolem (voice of Alan Rickman, in his final film role), the blue caterpillar-turned-butterfly. Turns out that Alice’s old, dear friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is dying of a broken heart, since he happened upon a remnant that reminded him of the tragic loss of his family to the Jabberwocky years before.

After pleas from the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and company to find a way to save Hatter, Mia sets out to snatch from the personification of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) the Chronosphere – the power source that runs the Grand Clock. It will enable Alice to travel back in time and right the wrongs of the past – that is if her enemy, the banished Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), doesn’t get the device first in a bid to get her crown back.

While Wasikowska and Depp are as strong as they were in “Alice in Wonderland,” Bonham Carter once again steals the show with her big head, bombastic personality, wild chants and maniacal laughs. Her performance alone makes “Through the Looking Glass” worth peering into, even though the time travel narrative falls far short of the events that sparked “Wonderland.” Baron Cohen (along with some CGI mechanical minions) proves to be a grand addition to the “Alice” film family as Time, a touchy taskmaster whose ticker is weakened by the Red Queen and her wicked wiles.

While “Alice Through the Looking Glass”

has its share of flaws, the film’s spectacular visual effects make up for the shortcomings. Director James Bobin smartly crafted several jaw-dropping sequences, including trips across the Oceans of Time (which allows the film to cross over into prequel territory). The film also boasts stunning costumes and breathtakingly beautiful settings, both real and virtual. They’re wondrous visions to behold.

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“X-Men: Apocalypse” (PG-13) 2 stars (out of four)

X misses the spot in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” a lackluster follow-up to 2014’s brilliant “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” With a tedious 2 hour 20 minute runtime, an overload of visual effects and a plot spread far too thin across too many characters, director Bryan Singer’s fourth “X-Men” film is without question his weakest. It’s a shame because the talent is all there, but ultimately, they’re trounced by the overambitious storyline.

Picking up 10 years after the events of the 1970s (and the rewriting of X-Men history) with “Days of Future Past,” “Apocalypse” picks up in 1983 with the unearthing of the titular character, the all-powerful mutant taking the form in an armored, blue-skinned Oscar Isaac. Once entombed in Egypt, Apocalypse’s followers figure out the key to unleash the mutant, who is hell-bent (along with his four horsemen) on imposing his powers on the citizens of Earth because they’ve lost their way.

Having the wherewithal to even tap into the immense mind powers of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Apocalypse seems unstoppable, that is until Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a new band of mutant recruits (Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler) spring into action to recover their kidnapped mentor and desperately attempt to defeat a seemingly undefeatable enemy.

As passionate as Singer has been about the “X-Men” movie universe since the first film in 2000, you can’t fault him for trying to make the most out of his latest opportunity to tell another tale about the Marvel movie mutants. Yet at the same time, it feels like he’s trying too hard to one-up what transpired in “Days of Future Past” both in terms of the film’s overwhelming special effects and about a dozen mutants, causing the film to lose its focus.

By the time “X-Men Apocalypse” limps to the end, you get the sense that this current iteration of the “X-Men” movie saga is up as its next generation is trained to take on its next foes. It’s too bad, considering the prequel films that came before it started off with such promise, only to end in such an underwhelming fashion. It’s a real disappointment.

Movie reviews: ‘Steve Jobs,’ ‘Crimson Peak,’ ‘Bridge of Spies’

Michael Fassbender in 'Steve Jobs' (photo -- Universal)

By Tim Lammers

“Steve Jobs” (R) 3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

Michael Fassbender gives one of the year’s best performances in the title role in “Steve Jobs,” a fascinating look into the complex mind of the Apple Computers genius. Foregoing the traditional biopic format, director Danny Boyle successfully opts to tell Jobs’ story in three thrilling acts, each taking place before product launches of the Macintosh Computer in 1984, the NeXT black box in 1988 and the iMac in 1998.

Unlike the previous Apple co-founder biopic — the 2013 Aston Kutcher bomb “Jobs” — “Steve Jobs” pulls no punches when illustrating the Jobs’ scornful behavior.  Some of the most notable scenes chronicle his ugly child support battle with his ex-girlfriend Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), the public lambasting of co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen, in a familiar feeling portrayal), and Macintosh co-designer Andy Hertzfeld (an excellent Michael Stuhlbarg); as well as an examination of his volatile relationship with Apple CEO John Sculley (the always great Jeff Daniels).

If it’s to be believed (Apple and Jobs’ widow have raised objections over the film), Jobs was hated by most everybody he worked with (the exception being his loyal marketing guru Joanna Hoffman, expertly played by Kate Winslet). The interesting thing is, Boyle, through Aaron Sorkin’s searing script, tries to examine just why Jobs was the way he was — mostly because he was a socially inept genius who simply thought about things on an entirely different plane.

There’s a telling line early in the film where Jobs tells Sculley something to the effect of, “I like you John — you’re the only one who sees the world the same way I do”; to which Sculley responds, “No one sees the world the way you do, Steve.” In a way, it tells us that Jobs’ prickish behavior wasn’t necessarily born out of hatred, but rather his frustration that people simply don’t understand him. There’s no question Steve Jobs was one of a kind, and so is this movie.

“Crimson Peak” (R) 2 1/2 stars (out of four)

Gifted filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro sadly falls short of delivering on his film’s promise with “Crimson Peak,” a beautifully constructed and admirably acted Gothic horror thriller that is hobbled by its predictable story-line.

Mia Wasikowska (“Alice in Wonderland”) stars as Edith Cushing, an aspiring American Gothic romance novelist in the late 1800s who is swept off her feet by Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a charismatic British aristocrat. After marrying Thomas, Edith moves to her husband’s native England along with his suspicious sister, Lucille (a creepy Jessica Chastain) — only to discover their family’s mansion houses gruesome secrets, and there is no way to escape.

There’s no question Del Toro has an incredible handle in filmmaking, as he artfully brings back to life the types of settings and atmosphere that gave the Hammer horror films of the 1960s and ’70s a special brand of eeriness (plus, Edith Cushing’s surname is an obvious ode to late, great Hammer star Peter Cushing). While at its heart “Crimson Peak” is a haunted housed thriller (Del Toro’s ghosts are as creatively fashioned as anything you’ve seen in his previous thrillers), the script feels as vacant as the sprawling Sharpe mansion. True, the scenes with the specters of Edith’s, Thomas’ and Lucille’s haunted pasts are thrilling, but ultimately, the motivation of the siblings and their lurid back story come as no big surprise when they’re finally revealed.

Ultimately, “Crimson Peak” isn’t a bad movie; just a disappointing one that fails to meet its potential given the level of talent involved.

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“Bridge of Spies” (PG-13) 2 1/2 stars (out of four)

“Bridge of Spies” has almost everything you would hope for out of a Steven Spielberg film: It transports you back to an important set of events in U.S. history, while being beautifully photographed and having a cast of colorful, convincing characters, including an Oscar-worthy performance by Mark Rylance. The theater veteran’s performance is so strong in fact, that it can’t help but highlight the film’s glaring weakness, involving someone in the cast that you’d least expect.

Tom Hanks stars as James B. Donovan, an idealistic New York City attorney tasked by the government to represent Rudolf Abel (Rylance) after he is detained in the city and accused of being a spy at the height of the Cold War. Asked to go through the formalities for a quick and speedy resolution — effectively, to put on a show so that no accusations could be levied saying that Abel didn’t have fair representation — Donovan instead represents the alleged spy in earnest. It’s a move that ultimately saves Abel’s life, and makes him a valuable asset for trade when an American pilot is shot down during a spy mission over East Germany.

Spielberg effectively presents “Bridge of Spies” in two acts: first, as it concerns the trial, and second, the exchange of spies with the Soviets in East Germany. For those looking for an intense spy thriller, you’ll only get it in the second act, and the thrills are limited at best. Action-wise, “Bridge of Spies” only has one scene of note, when the American pilot’s plane is shot-down in the enemy’s air space.

While “Bridge of Spies” has several strengths, the biggest problem with the film, honestly, is its leading man, as Hanks’ umpteenth turn as the good guy is starting to wear dangerously thin. There’s no doubt that Hanks can act, it just at this point feels like he playing the same type of role over and over again. It would have been interesting to see him take on Rylance’s role, which is played with brilliant ambiguity. Instead, we get another film where it feels like Hanks is just reading lines. In the wake of “Bridge of Spies,” somebody needs to infiltrate Hanks’ management and urge that the Oscar-winning actor start taking more risks. His career will be all the better for it.