Christmas Stocking Star Wars Haul

Long-time readers might recall the Chewbacca Christmas stocking I picked up a few years ago from a Target store in Houston, Texas. Every year, I hang it up at my folks' place - and every Christmas morning I find it miraculously filled with a handful of (usually Star Wars-related) surprises!

This year, there was a distinctly original-trilogy theme to the contents - which was very appropriate, given the recent release of Rogue One. Among the treats inside was a Darth Vader pez dispenser; a light-up Darth Vader bouncy ball; a pack of playing cards featuring exquisite images from episodes IV, V, and VI; a pair of Force Awakens pens; and a swath of original trilogy stickers.

Lego 30279 Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle Mini Building Set

It's no secret that I have a real love affair with Lego mini sets, and for my birthday this year my girlfriend surprised me with a new addition to my collection - Lego 30279 Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle.

It's clear that - as has come to be expected with these smaller models - Lego put an enormous amount of thought in to how to best represent this ship with such a tiny number of pieces (43, to be precise). The silhouette is perfect, and the addition of a handful of flat tiles allows the shuttle to retain it's signaure streamlined wings - which is no mean feat when you're working with an innately blocky medium. My favourite feature, however, has to be the ingenious use of a flag piece to give the model a fully-functioning boarding ramp.

This model never saw the light of day back in New Zealand, which makes it an even more unique addition to my growing contingent of Star Wars mini sets!

Star Wars Origami by Chris Alexander

There's nothing like doing some arts-and-crafts projects over the holiday season, and if those projects happen to be Star Wars-related - all the better! This year, I'm having an enormous amount of fun working my way through another birthday present from my girlfriend - Chris Alexander's Star Wars Origami.

The book features instructions for 36 different models in four ranging levels of difficulty: 'Youngling, 'Padawan', 'Jedi Knight', and 'Jedi Master'. This graded scale is a welcome feature, especially for those with little-to-no previous experience of origami folding (like myself). My girlfriend and I are currently working on the Padawan-level models, and already finding that it's a steep learning curve. While the models can be made using any old piece of paper, the rear of the book contains a stack of custom-printed pages to add some extra wow-factor to your creations. Best of all, most models come with duplicate sheets so that you and your friend (or equally Star Wars-obsessed significant other) can work on the same model simultaneously.

The Black Series 6" K-2SO

One of the most distinctive designs to come out of Rogue One is that of K-2S0 - the sassy reprogrammed Imperial droid that aids our heroes on their adventures. I'd previously picked up the basic 3 3/4" figure of this character, but my wonderful girlfriend also surprised me with the far more intricate 6" Black Series version for my birthday.

This is actually the first figure I've come to own in this scale. Hasbro's introduction of the 6" line in 2013 left collectors with a difficult decision: move to an entirely new scale of action figure, or stick with the 3 3/4" line and accept a severe reduction in detail and articulation. I opted for the latter;  adopting a strict rule of collecting figures of only one particular scale. There are exceptions to every rule however - and if ever there was a character that would best showcase the increased detail of this line, K-2SO is it.

The figure boasts seventeen points of articulation that allow him to be placed in almost any conceivable pose. Further, K-2SO's design means that these points of movement blend seamlessly into the figure - a welcome departure from many other super-articulated figures that feature a number of unsightly hinges. His paint job is top-notch, featuring a matte-black base that gives the figure an exceptionally high-quality feel. Convincing scratches and weathering at the joints only serve to add to this impression. K-2SO's spindly legs and top-heavy construction might seem as though they'd make for a precarious figure, but this version is surprisingly stable. Only the most minute of adjustments is required to have him stand firmly - even without the use of a figure stand.

While my core-collecting focus will always be on the 3 3/4" line, I'm rapt to have K-2SO in this bigger and better scale. He works fantastically as a stand-alone model, and will be getting his own spot sitting pride-of-place on my desk!

The Hunt Is On - Rogue One 3 3/4" Wave 2 Single-Carded Figures Found

While it took a few weeks longer than expected, the second wave of Rogue One 3 3/4" figures finally turned up at my local Warehouse store last week. Fortuitous timing saw the entire line reduced down to $13.00 a figure, so it was the perfect opportunity to pick up all of the characters I was after - Captain Cassian Andor (Eadu)Chirrut Îmwe, Director Krennic, and Sergeant Jyn Erso (Jedha).

As far as I'm concerned, Hasbro continue to impress with their 3 3/4" line. While the vehicles are best left unmentioned, their single-carded figures continue to display the excellent sculpting and painting that have (for the most part) been a hallmark of Star Wars figures over the years. Sure, they're still five-points-of-articulation - but their naturalistic poses mean they still look damn good when displayed.

In fact, when you're examining figures like Krennic (and his molded vinyl cape) you'll swear you're holding a piece straight out of Kenner's Power of the Force line - and that's by no means a bad thing. The likenesses to each on-screen character are also very satisfying, with Chirrut Îmwe bearing a particularly uncanny resemblance. Each figure continues to come with a single on-screen weapon, as well as an oversized feature-adding weapon. Cassian's zipline accessory opens some fun diorama-building options, but the rest (all projectile-firing launchers of some kind) are best left to one side and forgotten about.

Hallmark Keepsake T-70 X-Wing Christmas Tree Ornament

Every year, Hallmark release a new assortment of 'Keepsake' Star Wars Christmas ornaments. This year's range comes with a distinct Force Awakens flavour - and one of the coolest is this superb replica of Poe Dameron's T-70 X-Wing fighter that I received as a birthday present from my parents this week

Like it's predecessors, this ornament features exquisite detailing, a superb paint job, and is cast in a high-quality plastic that gives the model a surprising amount of heft for its size. As an extra feature, the ornament is battery powered - and pressing BB-8's head causes the unit to play one of three pieces of Poe's dialogue from the final battle above Starkiller Base.

For mounting, you'll need to attach your own thread to the inconspicuous hook mounted at the rear. I opted for some stylish black ribbon!

The Force Awakens 3 3/4" First Order Snowspeeder

The 3 3/4" vehicle offerings for The Force Awakens were a contentious affair. With dramatic under-scaling, cockpits that couldn't properly seat figures, and cheaper rubberised parts that were prone to warping, it's not uncommon to see both Poe's X-Wing Fighter and the First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter still on shelves over a year later. Two notable exceptions within the vehicle line were Rey's Speeder (which I received last year) and the First Order Snowspeeder - which I received a couple of days ago as a birthday present from my parents. 

While the snowspeeder's screen-time in the theatrical film was minimal, it did play a central role in a deleted scene contained on the Force Awakens Blu-Ray. It's a fantastic little vehicle that comes with a removable firing tripod and an exclusive First Order Snowtrooper Officer. The snowspeeder itself is perfectly scaled to the 3 3/4" line, features a handy set of fold-down landing gear, and - like Rey's speeder - is of a satisfyingly sturdy construction. In fact, it's once again exactly the kind of thing you would've expected to see from Kenner back in the late 90s (a time which is, for collectors of my age, full of heady nostalgia).

With the addition of a second snowtrooper and a few cargo crates, this set makes the perfect base for a miniature Starkiller Base-diorama.

Star Wars Rebels Complete Season 2 DVD

Back in November, the Complete Season 2 DVD of Star Wars Rebels hit stores here in New Zealand - and I was lucky enough to receive this set from my parents for my birthday.

At the end of Season 1, I wrote about how Star Wars Rebels is binding the galaxy together. Season 2 of this phenomenal show is no exception. With more appearances by prequel, original trilogy, and Clone Wars characters, introductions of elements from the Legends expanded universe, and even head-nods to The Force Awakens, this show is pulling from every aspect of the vast Star Wars mythos to fill each episode.

Like Season 1, this latest release also includes every episode of Andi Gutierrez's fantastic Rebels Recon series as well as a bonus featurette Connecting the Galaxy: Rebels Season 2. 

Sphero BB-8 App-Enabled Droid

Of all of the Force Awakens merchandise that hit stores last year, there was one item in particular that all fans were clamoring for - Sphero's BB-8 App-Enabled Droid. It was my birthday today, and thanks to my parents I'm now lucky enough to have one of these droids to call my own.

Take a quick tour of the internet, and you'll find any number of websites, blogs, and video reviews claiming how awesome this thing is. Let me tell you, they're not wrong. Whatever you think you're going to get out of this little guy, your expectations go out the window as soon as he comes to life. With his trademark engineering-marvel-movement, and an undeniably mischievous personality, Sphero's latest robotic offering is truly phenomenal.

BB-8 links up to almost any portable device, and once operational can be run in a range of different modes - including a manual remote-control mode in which the operator has full control, as well as a fully autonomous mode in which BB-8 will explore the area and react to obstacles on his own. He also responds to voice commands, and - thanks to a recent update - can now be instructed to follow pre-programmed routes drawn on the controlling device's screen.

While BB-8 originally retailed for $279,99, he's been occasionally available for little as $149.99. If you haven't yet added one to your collection, you'll want to in time for the release of Episode VIII next year!

Park Avenue The Force Awakens Christmas Countdown Calendar

As is becoming tradition at this time of year, December 1st marks the beginning of a new Star Wars advent calendar counting down the days to Christmas. Several were available this year, but I opted for Park Avenue's Force Awakens-themed offering.

As is customary, the calendar contains twenty-five opening compartments - each with a small chocolate behind. While the chocolates are in traditional Christmas (not Star Wars) themed shapes, the back of the calendar does contain a cut-out card matching game featuring characters from The Force Awakens. You can pick up your very own from most New Zealand grocery stores for just $4.99.