Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February Failures: The Three Big Reviews You Didn’t Read on Our Site This Month and Why.

On Fruitless Pursuits we obviously don’t aim to cover everything pop culture related, and most of our film, video game and toy reviews cater very specifically to our individual tastes. But we do conscientiously write up lists of releases that we anticipate writing about, and it has struck me that February 2013 has disappointed more than most. There are at least three releases that I was very eager to review but now refuse to waste my time on.

What are they and why won’t you see them reviewed here? Find out... after the jump!

1. A Good Day to Die Hard

The fact that Die Hard movies used to be great almost seems like a dream now. I adore the first, can tolerate the second, enjoyed the hell out of the third, and abhor the fourth. And yet there was enough goodwill floating around to keep me hopeful for the fifth. Why would I allow myself to be burned again?

Simply because Fox got enough audience feedback after Live Free or Die Hard to make the appropriate changes to steer a fifth film back on course. Fans made it clear that they didn’t want to see a diluted Die Hard, and more importantly didn’t want to see a superhero John McClane who could walk away from a ridiculous action scene unscathed. McClane at his best is the everyman - an ordinary cop with a lot of family problems who seems to wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time and has to push his physical limits to overcome a threat. Throw in a charismatic villain, a few twists, some snappy one liners, and slowly beat Bruce Willis to a pulp and it can’t fail, right? I’m pretty sure that was the clear message that the audience sent.

And yet just about every single early review of A Good Day to Die Hard claimed it was even worse than the fourth movie! All reports are that John McClane is an intolerable jerk who is more indestructible than ever. Worse than the fourth? Now we really have a problem.

I’m not going to bitch about the cost of movie tickets or anything ridiculous like that, but I do need to put a value on my time, and everything that came out about this film's release deflated me. I simply can’t justify an evening spent watching and as such this is all you’re going to read about it for now. I’ve said many times before that fans of franchises can be obnoxiously entitled and think that they know more about making films than the filmmakers, but in this case I have to side with the crowd. If Fox currently have no idea what makes a Die Hard film a Die Hard film then I’m not going to support their fumbling efforts to figure it out. Sorry, Bruce!

2. Aliens: Colonial Marines

This game sounded great, right? The team behind Borderlands creating a direct sequel to James Cameron’s epic Aliens with you taking the role of a Colonial Marine. Foolproof! The buzz was pretty high on this one.

On the day of release I was all ready to pick this up straight after work. Gearbox should have been able to already smell the money. But, luckily for me, I happened to stop by Metacritic on my lunchbreak. Look... I promise that I’ll tend to form my own opinions on a product, and there’s plenty of things that I’ll defend that everybody else hates, but when IGN - a site that gives plenty of major releases that bore the crap out of me 9/10 - gives this game a shocking 4.5, I know that something is amiss. And the deeper you dig on this game the worse it gets.

I’ll leave the commentary on what went wrong to the experts, but there’s some very intriguing material out there, especially videos that compare the visuals and the gameplay of the demos compared to the bare bones version that was actually released...

Compound this with the Twitter drama that surrounded Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford and it’s all a colossal mess. And not a mess worth $80. If I pick this up at all now it will be when it’s ridiculously cheap. Which should be about two or three weeks.

3. Lego TMNT, Batwing and Tumbler

This last one is an interesting one because it’s not about a problem with the product. It’s an issue with the company that produced it.

I feel like we’ve been pretty avid supporters of Lego here on Fruitless Pursuits, especially when they produce products that specifically tie into collector/pop culture interests. We have no real promotional ties at all with Lego beyond some friendly emails, and we purchase the product ourselves. And we’ve had somewhat of an impact - our Lego Avengers review. for example, is one of the most read articles in the history of the site.

So when the opportunity arose through our sponsorship with Big Bad Toy Store to pick up some new sets for review, I was excited to order one of the smaller TMNT sets, and the Lego Dark Knight Rises themed Batwing and Tumbler set that is packaged with Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Bane.

Now here in Australia Lego is significantly more expensive than the US despite our dollar usually being stronger. If the Batwing set retails for $49.99 US you can expect it to sell for around $79.99 here. It sucks when there’s parity with our dollars, but I’m just going to accept that it is the way of the world - plus I’m sure there’s import fees and other duties - and we’ll move on. However, after successfully ordering the sets I am told days later that my order has been cancelled. Lego “rules” will not allow Big Bad Toy Store to sell Lego to an international customer. (The product listings have since been updated to address this).

As I said, I’m prepared to accept different prices in different countries. For example, a Star Wars figure may cost $10 in the US and $16 here. However, if I was to purchase a Star Wars figure from Big Bad Toy Store, Hasbro won’t intervene to block the sale. Lego does though and seems doggedly determined to fix their prices around the world. It leaves us unsatisfied and I assume it has to suck somewhat for the retailer who has to deny a customer’s money.

I emailed our Lego PR guy about this (the one that sent the friendly email post Avengers) but he’s no longer there. We’ve waited a couple of weeks for our new contact but no such luck. We’re told Lego will help enlighten us about these policies but no news yet.

And here’s the reality of the situation. Despite appearances sometimes, I am an adult, and if we don’t get to review Lego Batman on this site then so be it. I can cope, you can cope, and maybe it’s a silly thing to waste any time on anyway. Let’s just forget about it, right? You and I will survive - but is this the ideal outcome for Lego?

And that’s why February is kind of sparse...

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