The Force Awakens 3 3/4" Armor-Up Poe Dameron

So far, I've completely avoided the 3 3/4" line of Armor-Up (AU) figures. They're mostly repacks of figures from the Build-a-Weapon (BaW) line, but typically retail for around 50% more. The one exception to this is Poe Dameron. While we got an X-Wing pilot Poe in the first wave of BaW figures, his fixed helmet meant there was little resemblance to Oscar Isaac's character. For this reason, I've had my eye on the AU Poe for some time now - and when Toyworld reduced him from $24.99 to the much more acceptable price of $19.99, I couldn't resist the temptation to pick one up.

First things first: the figure itself is fantastic. The likeness is uncanny, and the pose - at least in its neutral stance - is great for display. This is another example of how a limited articulation figure can still be sculpted to look amazing. The paint app is spotless, and Poe's jacket is sculpted in a soft rubber that adds an extra level of detail. Poe comes with only one accessory - the same rifle that came with the BaW Resistance Trooper. I'm assuming this is a standard-issue Resistance rifle, as the BaW Finn also came with a 'sawn-off' version of the same weapon.

Of course, the real elephant-in-the-room is the Armor-Up equipment. I'm going to express a sentiment that you've already read countless times on this blog and other collecting sites: I simply don't understand Hasbro's choice of pack-ins. I suppose this armour makes at least a little more sense than the build-a-weapon accessories. I mean, Poe's a pilot, and his armour features a jetpack and pilot's helmet. That being said, this isn't a screen-used accessory - and the figure simply looks much better without it. I look at that armour and can't help thinking that the same quantity of plastic could have been used to give Poe some extra weapons, or a removable helmet, or a display stand, or a build-a-droid piece...

But I digress.

Despite my misgivings about the Armor-Up accessory, I'm absolutely rapt with this figure. There's a chance we'll see this version of Poe in a future wave of the  BaW line, but that's not likely to happen until well into next year. I was more than happy to pay a little extra to have this figure prior to the release of The Force Awakens.

Classic Star Wars and The Force Awakens Temporary Tattoos

Random items from The Force Awakens continue to pop up where you least expect them - and these sets of temporary tattoos are no different. I stumbled across these during a trip to a Spotlight fabric store last weekend. The first pack contains 24 classic Star Wars-themed tattoos, while the second features 16 images from Episode VII. Each pack retails for only $2.89.

The quality of these tattoos is surprisingly good. They don't flake and peel like normal temporary tattoos, but instead simply fade over time. And that fade takes a long while. I wore the BB-8 tattoo for my birthday, and he was still going strong after three or four washes.

Of course, the hard part is now working out which of these I'll be rocking at the premiere of The Force Awakens next week!

Even More TV Spots for The Force Awakens

[The following post is a bump from Tuesday 24th November 2015, with new TV spots added as they're released.]

The TV spots for The Force Awakens just keep on coming! More promos have been hitting the web - and while most of the scenes are familiar, every now and then you'll see a tantalising glimpse of something new.

The thing I love most about these TV spots is the real sense of fun that pervades them. They show a sense of humour and excitement that was all-important to the original trilogy. It's a really promising sign.

If you're having trouble keeping track of all of these promos (I sure know I am), then have put together a handy round-up of all of the trailers and TV spots released so far for The Force Awakens.

Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes for The Force Awakens

As well as the TV spots, you can now see three new behind-the-scenes featurettes on The Force Awakens. Each of these focuses on a new element of the film: one on 'legacy', one on Rey, and one on BB-8.

Keep an eye out for the moment when a star-struck John Boyega asks Harrison Ford to sign his Han Solo action figure. It's a moment we can all relate to, I'm sure!

The Force Awakens World Premiere Red Carpet

In case you missed the live stream, has now posted the full video for the World Premiere Red Carpet of The Force Awakens on YouTube.

The premiere features some great candid discussions with the cast and crew (as well as a few surprise guests). It's the perfect thing to watch while you're waiting for the midnight premiere to roll around!

The Black Series Titanium Series Rey's Speeder

The final Star Wars item I received for my birthday was this Black Series Titanium Series Rey's Speeder. In fact, this came as an awesome decoration on the cake that my parents gave me (pictures available here). This Black Series range is a revival of the old Titanium Series line that was discontinued several years ago. It's great to see an assortment of collector-focussed vehicles back on shelves - and judging by this item, the quality is still top-notch.

The main body of the speeder is die-cast metal, with Rey and the rear engine instead molded in plastic. The paint application is superb - allowing for a level of detail that just isn't present in the smaller Micro Machines version of the speeder. I've said before that Rey's speeder is my favourite vehicle from The Force Awakens so far, so it's great to have another version of it to add to my collection!

December 2015 Time Magazine

This week it's Time magazine's turn to get in on the hype surrounding the release of The Force Awakens. Their feature contains all-new interviews with the cast and crew, as well as a stunning set of portraits by Marco Grob.

The article has a strong focus on Abrams's film-making process - emphasising the ways in which he wanted to remain true to the thematic and technical spirit of the original films. It makes for a great read, and should help bolster confidence that we're in for a treat this Thursday!

This edition of Time magazine is currently retailing for $6.40 at most magazine stockists.

The Force Awakens Monopoly Board Game

I've always been a huge fan of Star Wars-themed board games, so this The Force Awakens Monopoly set I received from my parents for my birthday will make a great addition to my collection. The basics of the game are more-or-less the same as the original Monopoly - with a few minor tweaks. The board is circular; the cash, 'Chance', and 'Community Chest' cards are all Star Wars-themed; and the players purchase planets, not streets.

The highlight of this set is definitely the player pieces. There's four in total - two of which are taken directly from The Force Awakens. There's Luke Skywalker and Finn on the light side, and Darth Vader and Kylo Ren on the dark side. The quality of the paint job on these pieces is impressive - almost on par with the old Wizards of the Coast miniatures that I obsessed over in the mid-2000s.

I haven't had a chance to give the game a run yet - but I'm hoping to do so during the Christmas break!

Star Wars 'Hyperspace' T-Shirt

Another birthday gift from my parents was this awesome Star Wars 'hyperspace' t-shirt. It's a simple design - but incredibly striking.

The only downside  is that it's made the decision about what to wear to the opening night of The Force Awakens even harder. I suppose I should get on to that - it's only seven days away, after all!

Park Avenue Stormtrooper Cookie Jar and Stormtrooper Cookie

In a perfect birthday present pairing, I received a ceramic stormtrooper cookie jar from my parents and a stormtrooper cookie from my partner. I've had a soft spot for all things trooper-related since I finished my suit of armour, so I absolutely love both of these.

Both the jar and cookie come courtesy of Park Avenue - the same company responsible for the Star Wars character cookies and Easter treats I blogged about earlier this year. The jar comes pre-packed with a bag of chocolate chip cookies, but I reckon it'll look even cooler with a stormtrooper cookie inside as well!

Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens Trading Cards

One of the birthday presents I received from my partner was a pack of the new Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens trading cards. I've always been a sucker for blind-bagged collectibles - so these are right up my alley. 

There's five in a pack, and I was lucky enough to get two from The Force Awakens - including a foil version of the First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter. I've got to say that I'm sorely tempted to pick up a few more packs of these. But with 200 cards in the set (not counting variants) that could lead down a slippery slope!

The Force Awakens 3 3/4" Rey's Speeder

One of the fantastic birthday presents I received this year was the 3 3/4" version of Rey's speeder from my parents. I'd had my eye on this set ever since Force Friday - but now that I've had a chance to see it up-close, I love it even more.

There've been two serious criticisms of the 3 3/4" vehicles from The Force Awakens: Firstly, that they're grossly underscaled; and secondly, that some parts are cast in inferior - and easily warped - plastic. I'm happy to say that neither of these concerns apply to Rey's speeder. A quick comparison with the first teaser trailer shows that the vehicle is perfectly in scale with figures in the 3 3/4" line. Further, the plastics used are incredibly sturdy. In fact, there's a robustness about this speeder that I haven't felt in a Hasbro vehicle in a long time. When I heft it in my hand, it reminds me fondly of the Shadows of the Empire Swoop - one of my favourite 3 3/4" Star Wars vehicles from the '90s. That swoop stood up to a lot of intense play, and it feels like Rey's speeder will easily do the same.

The central feature of this vehicle is the concealed cannon housed in the main body of the speeder. A half-press of the button on the side will cause the cannon to pop up on a spring-loaded mechanism, and a full-press will fire the 'missile'. Some of the action features fitted into these vehicles can come off gimmicky, but this one bucks the trend. The cannon - while presumably not a screen-used feature - doesn't feel at all out of place. There are also a couple of extra features that aren't immediately apparent. The steering vanes at the rear of the speeder pivot, and the netting on the side peels off to expose a range of salvage. They're minor touches - but they greatly increase the play-value of the whole vehicle. The set also comes with a brand new 'Jakku' version of Rey who sports the gloves, goggles, and head-covering seen in the theatrical trailer. You can see a comparison of this figure with the standard 'Starkiller Base' version of Rey below.

Of all the vehicles we've seen from The Force Awakens so far, this is by far my favourite. It's the epitome of the 'used universe' aesthetic of the original trilogy - and this version captures that design perfectly.

A Force-Filled 29th Birthday!

Yesterday was my birthday - and with only ten days until the release of The Force Awakens, it was inevitable that Star Wars would play a big role in the festivities. My Mum and Dad went all-out on the party supplies, and my partner stored my presents in what is easily the coolest gift bag ever. Even the cake from my parents was adorned with a tiny Rey on her speeder!

I was also lucky enough to receive a fantastic assortment of Star Wars-themed gifts. I'll be blogging individually about each of those items over the next few days, so stay tuned for more!

November 2015 Entertainment Weekly Magazine

This week, Entertainment Weekly's next Star Wars-themed issue began turning up here in New Zealand. It's a special collector's 'double-issue', and comes in four different cover variants including Han Solo, R2-D2 and C-3PO, Rey, and Finn (pictured here).

The issue features a massive 32 pages of Star Wars coverage, including some brand new interviews with the cast and crew of The Force Awakens, a guide to the new canon, and a very handy timeline of upcoming Star Wars releases. It's retailing here for $16.90, and should be available in most magazine stores.

Kinnerton Star Wars Advent Calendar

Yesterday marked the beginning of December, and what better way to count down the days until Christmas than with a Star Wars advent calendar! These are selling at a number of retailers throughout New Zealand, but I picked mine up from The Warehouse for $4.99.

The calendar contains one miniature chocolate for every day leading up to Christmas. These chocolate aren't Star Wars themed, but are instead molded in a number of more traditional shapes (Day 1 was a reindeer). There are, however, a couple of different Star Wars character hidden behind every door. All-in-all, this is another nifty way to add some Star Wars flavour to your Christmas celebrations!