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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.

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

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Movie reviews: ‘Creed,’ ‘The Good Dinosaur’

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in 'Creed' (photo: Warner Bros.)

By Tim Lammers

“Creed” (PG-13) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

Sylvester Stallone is back and better than ever in “Creed,” a smartly plotted Rocky Balboa film that forgoes the formula of the previous “Rocky” installments and instead frames Stallone as a crucial supporting character. The film naturally feels like a Rocky film since it involves the family of his late formal rival-turned-friend Apollo Creed, yet moves the story of the boxer saga ahead with a fresh and plausible storyline.

“Creed” re-teams Michael B. Jordan and his “Fruitvale Station” director Ryan Coogler, and the actor and filmmaker deliver another solid one-two punch with “Creed.” Jordan plays Adonis Johnson, a troubled youth who, as it turns out, is the product of an extramarital affair Apollo Creed had near the end of his career. However, Apollo died before Adonis was born, and after his mother dies, the angry young son of Creed becomes a ward of the state. However, when Creed’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) discovers the boy, she adopts him as her own and raises him into an upstanding young man.

Even though Adonis’ future appears bright, he can’t resist the urge to fight and pursue a career as a professional boxer. But if Adonis is ever to forge the same sort of path as his famous father he needs to find the proper trainer to guide him, and his only choice is Rocky. However, the former champ is worn down emotionally by a life that includes the loss of his wife, Adrian, and physically by years of beatings in the ring. But since Adonis is like family to Rocky, he reluctantly takes on the upstart Adonis, who clearly has the same fire in his belly as the father he never knew.

Naturally, “Creed” has a similar feel to the “Rocky” films, because you simply can’t have a story of a fighter without the requisite training and fight sequences if you’re going to properly tell the story. But that’s wh

ere the similarities begin and end. The key to the success of this film is the realistic storyline of a fighter who’s unwilling to fight under the name of his famous father, and the heartfelt connection between him and Rocky. Like the first two films in the “Rocky” saga, “Creed” contains both the raw intensity of the fight game, which is met in equal measure by an emotionally engaging narrative.

While Jordan displays a great range as the hungry Adonis, Stallone – who is clearly in his element as Rocky – is tasked with most of the emotional heavy-lifting. With “Creed,” we see a side of the character we’ve never seen before: a former champ nearing the final stretch of his life who is physically a mere shadow of his famous former self. Stallone is simply brilliant in the way he brings the character full circle.

The great thing about “Creed” is its one of those movies that seems to be going down a predictable path, until a vicious left hook knocks you for a loop and changes the way you’ll look at the outcome as the film plays out. Maybe “Creed” won’t end up being this year’s box office champ, but the film – and Stallone in particular – certainly have earned the right to be a serious contender this awards season. It’s a real winner.

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“The Good Dinosaur” (PG) 3 1/2 stars (out of four)

Pixar Animation hits paydirt once again following the phenomenal success of “Inside Out” with “The Good Dinosaur,” a prehistoric tale that doesn’t have quite the complexity of this summer’s smash brain tale, but contains just as much emotion and heart. Clearly tailored for the youngest of audience members, “The Good Dinosaur” still manages to entertain the kid in all of us with a parade of colorful characters, wondrous animation and lots of action to fill its vast landscape.

“The Good Dinosaur” begins 65 million years ago with a simple yet fascinating premise: What if the asteroid that once obliterated the dinosaurs completely missed Earth and the creatures lived? Because of that, the dinosaurs survived, evolved and thrived, and millions and millions of years later, they confront a completely different sort of animal.

Jeffrey Wright and Frances McDormand voice Poppa and Momma, an Apatosaurus couple who hatch three dinosaur babies: Libby, Buck and Arlo. As Libby and Buck grow they quickly adapt to their surroundings and find their place in their lives, but the under-sized Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), clumsy and fearful, never seems to fit in. Tasked to protect the family’s food supply, Arlo discovers the creature that keeps breaking into their storage is actually a wild cave boy – and while the young dino is on the hunt for him, he is swept up in a river current and finds himself lost, alone and far away from home. Saved by the boy, who he dubs Spot, Arlo befriends the curious creature, and the two team together as they begin a trek that will hopefully lead back to Arlo’s family.

“The Good Dinosaur” begins more as cute film that seems to only appeal to young kids at the outset, but once Pixar takes a page out of the Disney playbook and a tragedy rocks the narrative, it suddenly becomes emotionally engaging for the entire audience. While the film is at its core a heartfelt coming-of-age tale for both Arlo and Spot, it’s enhanced by every colorful character they encounter on the long and winding trek home. The voice cast is excellent (particularly Sam Elliott as a T-Rex named Butch), making for a completely lovable supporting cast (apart from a trio of bad creatures). A film ultimately about the importance of core families and adoptive families, “The Good Dinosaur” is a perfect family film for Thanksgiving weekend.

Reviews: Tim Lammers talks ‘The Expendables 3,’ ‘The Giver’

'The Expendables 3'

Read Tim’s reviews of star-studded action adventure “The Expendables 3” and the dystopian thriller  “The Giver” on BringMeTheNews.com. You can also hear Tim review the films on K-TWIN FM below.

Barney Ross - The Expendables 2 - Sixth Scale Figure

Tim Burton Book 2
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