Saturday, July 22, 2017

Wow! Rittenhouse Does Women Right With The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary Trading Cards!


The Good: Impressive chase cards, Flashy common set, Some very cool autograph signers, Neat costume cards, Awesome sketch cards
The Bad: Somewhat irksome collectibility
The Basics: Rittenhouse Archives proves they still have a winning formula for Star Trek trading cards with their new "The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary" set!


Rittenhouse Archives has had the license to produce Star Trek trading cards for over a decade and a half and watching how the company has developed its products over the years has been fascinating to watch for both collectors and Star Trek fans. A decade ago, Rittenhouse Archives made the 40th Anniversary of Star Trek into a three-year affair, with four trading card sets commemorating the entire franchise and each of the three seasons of the original Star Trek. For the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, Rittenhouse Archives has produced three major trading card sets, plus one boxed set focusing on the 50th Anniversary traveling art exhibition. The fourth and (final planned, at least at the time of this review) 50th Anniversary tribute set from Rittenhouse Archives is the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading card set.

The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading card set is a premium trading card set that focuses on the women of the entire Star Trek franchise. The final 50th Anniversary of Star Trek set is an obvious sequel to the very popular Women Of Star Trek trading card set released back in 2010 with a quality level meant to mimic the premium nature of the Star Trek The Original Series 50th Anniversary trading card set (reviewed here!).

The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading card set is a magnificent set and it is the first set since I started splitting my rating system for trading cards to achieve a perfect score. This is an impressive, beautiful, trading card set and the only (comparatively minor) issue with it is its collectibility. Even with collectibility factored in, this is a near-perfect trading card set. The collector in me (I've been a trading card collector for almost as long as I have been a Star Trek fan) finds it unshakably problematic that with absolutely ideal collation, it would take 30 cases to assemble a true master set - and with this set, there's no cheating through Archive Boxes as the Archive Boxes do not include sketch cards, metal cards, or gold metal cards!

Despite the collecting gripe - a minor one compared to the other two 50th Anniversary sets that had more sketch cards and cut signature cards! - the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading card set is an objectively perfect set that represents the pinnacle of Star Trek collecting!

Basics/Set Composition

"The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary" is a set of high-quality trading cards that feature a sheen to them that makes them look like foil cards for most of the surface of the card. The set focuses exclusively on the women of the Star Trek franchise and expands the autograph set from the 2010 Women Of Star Trek, while introducing a new style of costume card and presenting some incredible sketch cards of the various women of Star Trek! For a television franchise that championed women in positive roles well before the sexual revolution began, the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary treats the women of the franchise right!

Properly assembled, the "The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary" set consists of three hundred seventy-one cards. The set is made up of one hundred common cards and two hundred seventy-one bonus cards, only eleven of which are not available in the actual boxes of "The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary" cards. Boxes of these cards consist of twenty-four packs with five cards per pack and highlighted three autograph cards and one costume card per box.

Common Cards

The common card set of the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading cards consists of one hundred partially-foil cards. These cards were made on a premium card stock and each card features a front that has a high-quality image of the female character and a second image, in a picture window, non-sheen, that features the character paired with another character. The set is oriented entirely in landscape format and features cards for comparatively minor women in the Star Trek franchise - like Shahna, Madeline, and Erika Hernandez - and multiple cards of each of the most important women from the franchise - Uhura, Kira, Janeway, Dax, Crusher, etc. It is hard not to be thrilled with the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary common card set - after studying it, the only change I probably would have made to its composition would have been to swap one of the minor characters (my vote is Madeline!) for a card featuring Ezri Dax and Captain Sisko (the only Ezri card in the set is Ezri Dax and Dr. Bashir).

The backs of the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading cards are well-written and most-frequently focus upon the relationship between the card's primary character and the character they are paired with. So, for example, card 7 details well the relationship Nurse Chapel had with Mr. Spock. Not limited to a single episode or incident, the card follows the many chances Chapel took to express her feelings for Spock and it gives a very complete view of that entire relationship! The cards are very well-written and the stand-outs and cards like 7 where the writers are able to show their mastery of the long arcs for the character, as opposed to simply detailing a one-off character's arc in a single episode. Despite having some limited characters based on their airtime, Rittenhouse Archives did an excellent job at fleshing out minor characters from fan-favorite episodes. As a result, both major women from "The Inner Light" are well-represented with common cards of their own!

This is one of the best-conceived, best-executed common card sets and it is nice to see that for its Star Trek: Voyager component, Kes was not neglected!

Chase Cards

The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading cards have a good balance of bonus cards and for the first time in a few Star Trek sets, there are bonus sets that can be assembled in a single case of cards. The premium quality cards include 271 bonus cards, 260 of which are found in the packs and boxes of the cards. The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary bonus cards include: Metal Parallel Cards, Women In Command, Quotable Women Of Star Trek, Women Of Star Trek Gold Metal, Costume Cards, Autograph Cards, and Sketch cards.

The common card set of Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading cards was replicated as metal cards. This process has become more popular in recent years and the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary common set lends itself beautifully to metal card treatment. The metal cards are found only one per box, so with truly ideal collation, it would take nine cases to complete this subset! The truth, however, is that it is worth it. The metal cards are stylish and carry the images and border from the common set beautifully.

The first unique chase set for the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading cards is the Women In Command chase set. The Women In Command chase set is a set of nine, landscape-oriented cards featuring a minor foil accent in the border that focuses on the influential women of Star Trek when they took command. Rittenhouse Archives aimed for precise with the set and, as a result, Uhura is not featured in the set - she never actually took command of the Enterprise (at best, she had command of a transporter station in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock). Number One from "The Cage" is featured and while it is odd that Saavik is card 9 in the set (chronologically, she should have been card 2), the cards are well-written and nice-looking and the set is comparatively obtainable at one Women In Command card per box.

Also found one per box are one of eighteen Quotable Women Of Star Trek cards. These cards feature a beautiful shot of the character featured on the card (different image on the front than on the back!) and a quote from the woman. The set is a good idea, but here Rittenhouse Archives is somewhat hoisted on its own petard. Rittenhouse Archives has released five different "Quotable" Star Trek sets, with additional "Quotable" cards being used as chase cards in other sets. As a result, Rittenhouse Archives has pretty well mined the franchise for great quotes. So, cards like QW9, which features Deanna Troi, has a quote from Troi that is hardly emblematic of the character. Conversely, it is somewhat shocking that the quotes for Major Kira (which provide some of her fundamental characterization) had not been used before! The Quotable Women set implicitly makes the argument that there is no point in a "Quotable" Star Trek: Enterprise set quite well, though the photography for this chase set is universally high and these cards look nicer than the common "Quotable" cards that made up the five "Quotable" Star Trek sets.

The style and quality of the Quotable Women Of Star Trek chase set is blended with the inherent value and quality of the metal parallel set for the Women Of Star Trek Gold Metal set. The landscape-oriented metal cards feature a big image of each major female character on the left, with a gold secondary image as the background on the right. These are magnificent cards and one of the tragedies of this subset is that fans can never collect this set and get them all signed (the subjects of three of the nineteen cards are now dead). Nineteen is a weird number of cards for a bonus card set, but Rittenhouse Archives makes it feel worthwhile with the quality of the Gold Metal set and the fact that they included Kes instead of culling the set at 18 major female characters.

One per box is a costume card in a new style. The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary cards feature a portrait-oriented costume card style and they succeed in a way that is the opposite of the Quotable Women chase set; Rittenhouse Archives has done an amazing job in the past of representing main castmembers' traditional uniforms in their costume cards. The fifteen primary Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary costume cards feature recognizable and impressive female characters in their non-duty uniform costumes! As a result, Dr. Crusher gets two costume cards from her outfit from Star Trek: Insurrection and Torres has two casual costumes as part of her representation in the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary set. Even fan-coveted T'Pol is given a dual costume card from one of her alternate personas! The costume cards feel fresh and have some very cool variants, like Guinan's hat having noticeable variants and Vash's jacket featuring a number of different colors to her fabric swatch. Even Jennifer Sisko's costume has some cool variants! The costume card set is fleshed out by an exceptionally limited Yeoman Rand costume card that fills in a gap from the prior Women Of Star Trek set!

Each box of Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary had three autograph cards and the complete set featured 68 autograph cards. The autograph cards continued the style begun in the Women Of Star Trek set and featured some incredible signers. Vanessa Williams signed for the first time in the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading card set and Whoopi Goldberg provided an autograph card as well! The Women Of Star Trek set was exceptionally comprehensive for the main cast of women of the franchise - almost every major female cast member from the various Star Trek series's signed an autograph card in the (at that time) new style of autograph card back then. The Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary fills in the gap of Roxanne Dawson, but leaves Nicole de Boer, Linda Park and Jolene Blalock absent from the Women Of Star Trek autograph card format. Despite that, it is hard to denigrate the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary autograph cards as they do include autograph cards from Yvonne Craig, Julie Warner, Susanna Thompson, Sharon Lawrence, Madchen Amick, and Meg Foster! First-time signers like Galyn Gorg and Laura Banks flesh out the set incredibly well, making this a must-collect autograph card set for fans of the larger Star Trek franchise!

One per case, there is a hand-drawn sketch card for the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary. Thirty different artists contributed sketch cards for the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary set and there were some truly magnificent works from artists like Emily Tester and Kris Penix. I was impressed by how familiar sketch card artists Chris Meeks and Warren Martineck - best known for starship and technical sketch cards - adapted to the Women of Star Trek subject matters. Meeks, especially, creates some immaculate works that show he has the ability to render characters with beautiful depth and shading, not just ships! The sketch cards for the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary set are some of the best Rittenhouse Archives has ever presented! The sketch cards may create an issue with the set's collectibility, but tracking down 30 cases to assemble a sketch card set (if one lucks out on the collation!) creates a truly beautiful set!

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Very few of the bonus cards in the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary set cannot be found in the packs and boxes, but some of the ones that are not found in the boxes this time are bound to be the most coveted! There are eleven cards (fourteen, actually) that are not found in the packs and boxes, but because Rittenhouse Archives includes the printing plates as a complete set (which is very much a decent thing to do!), I count them as one card to chase. There are two promotional cards - the general-release P1 card and a P2 card that is exclusive to the manufacturer-released Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary binder. The promo cards follow a format that accurately foreshadows the common cards in the set.

Similarly, there are 2 different casetoppers. The casetoppers are metal replications of the P1 and P2 cards and are found only one per case. Like the standard metal parallel cards, the casetopper metal cards are quite pretty.

In recent years, incentive cards have become incredibly important to collectors and the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary set is no different in that regard. There is a six-case incentive autograph card that continues the Legends Of Star Trek autograph format. For the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary set, the Legends Of Star Trek autograph is a Nichelle Nichols autograph, which is a great tribute to the pioneering actress.

The real drool-worthy component of the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading card set is the 9-case incentive sketch card. Esteemed sketch card artist Charles Hall took the image captured in the picture window portion of each common card and replicated it as a painted art sketch card for the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary. Charles Hall made artwork for these cards that is jaw-dropping good in its quality. Hall picked up subtle background details and included immaculate depth and shading for these sketch cards. They are the true gem of this set and the quality of them is astonishing!

There is an exclusive Women In Command Rittenhouse Rewards cards available for die-hard collectors who exchange wrapper points for the card. The WC10 card features Erika Hernandez from Star Trek: Enterprise. Hernandez is a comparatively minor character and makes for an underwhelming rewards card. There were plenty of other women in command - many of them villains, come to think of it, like Donatra from Star Trek: Nemesis or planetary leaders who might have made an intriguing rewards cards if one had to go with obscure - but the addition of a tenth card to a nine-card set seems pretty superfluous as it is. Despite that, Rittenhouse maintained the quality of the chase set with the reward's card. It is completely Monday Morning Quarterbacking, but as I wrote this, it occurred to me that the Rewards card should have been Captain Tryla Scott. Obscure? Absolutely! But die-hard Trek fans will know that with one-line, she became an essential Woman Of The Star Trek franchise - she is the captain who beat Jim Kirk's record to become the youngest Captain in StarFleet! Furthermore, using her as an incentive card would have been particularly clever as she was a character not utilized anywhere else in the set.

The other four bonus cards are exclusive to the archive box. Found only in the archive box was a Teri Garr autograph card in the Women Of Star Trek format. Also exclusive to the archive box was a WCC27 Seven Of Nine costume card that continued the Women Of Star Trek costume card set, much the way the WCC16 card in the boxes did. Rittenhouse Archives surprised fans with an Archive Box exclusive throwback costume card that they did not announce prior to the set's release! The archive box included a variant WCC11 from the Women Of Star Trek set with a variant fabric swatch from the previously-released version! Also one per box was a set of four printing plates used to make the common cards for the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary set!

Overall

Ultimately, the Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary trading card set is a fitting tribute to its subjects that rewards trading card collectors with a truly impressive set worth tracking down for their collections. If Rittenhouse Archives never does another set focusing on the women of the Star Trek franchise, this is a fitting way to immortalize the heroic women; if Rittenhouse Archives ever revisits women of Star Trek as the subject for a trading card set, it sets the bar impossibly high!

This set culls images from:
Star Trek
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Star Trek Movies
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
and Star Trek: Enterprise

This is a trading card set I proudly stock in my online store. To collect it, please check out my Women Of Star Trek 50th Anniversary Trading Card Inventory!

10/10 (objective), 8.5/10 (with collectibility factored in)

For other card reviews, be sure to visit my trading card review page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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The Short Sad Life Of Laura Moon: "Git Gone"


The Good: Good performances, Good direction
The Bad: Dull characters, Dull plot, Erratic pacing (last 15 minutes is better than the first 45!)
The Basics: "Git Gone" fleshes out Laura Moon about as well as one can expect for a boring, bored, character who died in the series premiere.


Someone watched Lost. The climactic opening of the hatch in the first season finale of Lost left the writers and producers at a very difficult position; the mystery of the hatch had driven fan theories and made interest in the show rise at a time when usually a popular show starts to see fall-off in viewers. With the hatch being blown open, the mystery was now gone and the writers and executive producers had to pay off all that emotional investment, lest the second season go down in flames very quickly. To keep the level of intrigue high and delay a full, comprehensible revelation as long as possible, the second season of Lost (reviewed here!) took the primary characters to a point, then replayed with a different character to that point, and then replayed with another character to that point. When American Gods capped "Head Full Of Snow" (reviewed here!) with Shadow walking into his motel room and seeing his dead wife sitting on his bed, but begins "Git Gone" at the (apparent) beginning of Laura Moon's story, it's clear to genre fans that the Starz series is playing the same narrative game.

"Git Gone" is an attempt to make Laura Moon, a character dead almost immediately in the American Gods narrative, into a vital character. Unfortunately, it does not take long into "Git Gone" before it is apparent that Laura is neither a vital character, nor a particularly good or interesting one.

Laura is dealing blackjack at a little casino in Indiana, where she resists the automatic shuffling machine (preferring to deal by hand). She leads a simple life, after work eating meagerly and getting high on insecticide spray. One day, after four years of working at the casino, Shadow walks in and attempts to steal at her table by swapping chips subtly. Laura waves him off the attempt and after her shift, she finds Shadow waiting for her. Laura takes Shadow back to her house and the two begin a relationship. Soon, they are married and Laura slips into a numb pattern of work, passionless sex with Shadow and waiting for her life to pop.

Four years into their relationship, Laura sits Shadow down and tells him she wants to rob the casino. Laura's "perfect plan," though, fails and Shadow takes the fall for her, going to prison. While Shadow is in prison, Laura dutifully waits for him taking his calls and doing more inhalants until her cat dies. Laura's friend Audrey has a husband, Robbie, who is handy for Laura while Shadow is in prison and he buries her cat, which starts the two having an affair. As Shadow moves toward his release, Laura and Robbie's affair reaches a peak and the two go out driving when they get into a car accident. Laura finds herself with Anubis and when he challenges her, she is abruptly and shockingly resurrected. Back on Earth, Laura begins to follow a mysterious light, which leads her to Shadow.

Emily Browning is fine as Laura in "Git Gone" - she plays Laura as a bored, dull young woman who is thoroughly unlikable. To her credit, Browning is able to display range and she emotes using more than one facial expression, which is a distinct step up from her performance in Sucker Punch (reviewed here!). Laura Moon is a boring, unlikable character, but Browning plays the bored character well.

The real acting winner in "Git Gone," though, is Dane Cook. Cook plays Robbie and it is one of the more subtle, less manic, characters that he has played. In fact, Robbie is one of the first characters I can recall where Dane Cook fully invests in a character; watching "Git Gone," one does not see "Dane Cook as . . ." Dane Cook plays Robbie without any hint of Dane Cook.

Craig Zobel's direction for "Git Gone" is notable for finding the right balance of what is shown and what is obscured. Zobel illustrates the repetitive quality of Laura's life quite effectively. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Zobel's directing in "Git Gone" is in the inevitable car crash. Zobel does not sensationalize or show excessive detail in the car crash and he makes that work. The lack of gore for the car crash contrasts nicely with the colorful netherworld Laura finds herself in following the crash.

Ultimately, "Git Gone" does about all it can to make Laura interesting, but her character is a bored, lousy schemer. While there are ample hints within the episode that someone else is involved in much of what goes wrong in her life, it is hard to care because just as Laura lopes dully through life, the episode never gets much momentum as it plods from boring new scenes through events viewers already know about.

For other works with Betty Gilpin, please check out my reviews of:
Glow - Season 1
"The Bone Orchard"- American Gods
Fringe - Season 1

3.5/10

For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Hallmark Has Another The Little Mermaid Ornament Winner With The 2017 Ariel's World!


The Good: Decent sculpted details, Affordable, Neat coloring accents
The Bad: Slight left-bias, Sloppy paint job on scalp for Ariel
The Basics: The 2017 "Ariel's World" ornament from The Little Mermaid is a good argument for why Hallmark can get away with churning out yet another Ariel ornament; it's that good!


For the last several years of reviewing Hallmark Keepsake ornaments, I have kvetched about the annual ornament featuring Ariel from The Little Mermaid and begged Hallmark to produce ornaments based on other characters from The Little Mermaid, namely Ursula and King Triton. In 2017, Hallmark seemed to split the difference by finally making a limited edition Ursula ornament (reviewed here!) and producing yet another Ariel-themed The Little Mermaid ornament. The standard release The Little Mermaid ornament is called Ariel's World and it is quite good!

For those unfamiliar with The Little Mermaid (reviewed here!), Ariel and her fish companion, Flounder, head from a sunken wreckage to a small island where they meet a seagull. After eluding the villainous sharks in the sunken ship, Ariel swims with the fork she found and Ariel's world seems to encapsulate the moment when Ariel and Flounder are nearing the surface of the water with Ariel's new "treasure."

The 2017 Ariel's World is actually a very cool mobile style ornament that features the surface of the water from which hangs Ariel, Flounder and strands of beads meant to represent bubbles! This is a very cool ornament and it is surprisingly well-executed.

Basics

The "Ariel's World" ornament recreates Ariel, holding a fork, Flounder, bubbles and a translucent disk that they hand from which appears to be the surface of the ocean. The ornament, released in 2017, is an incredible sculpt of the mermaid Ariel, especially for the smaller scale, and is instantly recognizable to anyone who loves The Little Mermaid.

Measuring five inches tall, two and a half inches wide by two and a quarter inches deep, the "Ariel's World" ornament is on scale with the majority of the other Disney ornaments. Even with an initial release price of $17.95, Ariel's World feels like a value for the quality of the ornament.

The Hallmark The Little Mermaid "Ariel's World" ornament is made of durable plastic and wire and has Ariel, swimming up toward the ocean surface, with Flounder hanging similarly nearby. Ariel holds a fork in one hand and is sculpted with a big smile on her face. Hallmark got all of the sculpted details absolutely right, from the subtle veining on Ariel's tail to the fine cute nose on her face. Flounder is featured with fine fins on his side and top and decent sculpting for his smile.

The paint accents on the "Ariel's World" are generally good. Ariel has a blush to her cheeks and Flounder is painted with sharp, distinct lines. Both characters have incredibly well-rendered eyes. Ariel's tail has some sparkle accents to it, which are very cute! Unfortunately, while Founder has very clear lines for his blue stripe, the three copies of Ariel's World that I looked at each had sloppy painting where Ariel's hair meets her head. All three featured orange paint that was well off the hair portion of the ornament and onto Ariel's face. Given the attention to detail on the rest of the ornament, this is noticeable, but not a dealbreaker for fans.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, The Little Mermaid "Ariel's World" could have a sound or light function, but Hallmark opted to make a less-expensive ornament option for fans of The Little Mermaid instead of augmenting it with a feature. The mobile structure of the ornament is feature-enough for most!

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake The Little Mermaid "Ariel's World" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Disney movie Christmas Tree, the "Ariel's World" ornament is a great addition, despite having a minor balance issue. The ornament has the standard steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the top of the water, the uppermost portion of the mobile. Unfortunately, from that vantage, the ornament has a left bias; Ariel and her bubbles are a little heavier than Flounder and his bubbles. Because of the flat surface of the water, the balance issue is noticeable, but even this is not a dealbreaker with the ornament; I quickly discovered that the hanging bubbles can actually be used to wedge up Ariel and Flounder in such a way that the balance issue gets fixed . . . even if it slightly alters the appearance and free-floating mobile nature of the ornament.

Collectibility

Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Within a few years, every major franchise from Star Wars to A Nightmare Before Christmas to Indiana Jones started making Hallmark ornaments. "Ariel's World" is one of many The Little Mermaid ornaments the company has released and one of several Disney ornaments on the market for 2017. This ornament appears to be resonating with fans and has sold out at several of the Hallmark shops I have gone to! As a result, I was unsurprised to find it already increasing in value on the secondary market. That suggests that it will be a good investment piece, even at its full, original release price.

Overview

Fans of The Little Mermaid, Disney, Ariel, and Hallmark ornaments are likely to love the The Little Mermaid Ariel's World ornament, despite the minor balance and hair-paint issues. If Hallmark keeps making ornaments of this quality alongside future limited edition The Little Mermaid ornaments like Triton and the chef (with a sound clip of Rene Auberjonois singing "Le Poisson"), it will be okay that we end up with an armada of Ariel's!

For other Disney's The Little Mermaid Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2016 Under The Sea ornament
2015 Ariel's Thingamabobs ornament
2014 The Little Mermaid 25th Anniversary ornament
2013 Under The Sea The Little Mermaid
2013 Ariel's Big Dream The Little Mermaid ornament

9/10

For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Alternating Between Delightful And Gross, Ben & Jerry's Urban Bourbon Ice Cream Is Unpleasant.


The Good: Good ingredients, A few bites out of the pint, Fair trade certified
The Bad: Awful sour flavor for most of the pint, Low on nutritional value, More expensive than other ice creams.
The Basics: Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon Ice Cream is a solid failure from Ben & Jerry's.


Not long ago, I went on a working vacation and after the first night of the show I was working, I excitedly stopped by one of my favorite grocery stores (which has not made it to Michigan, so I was excited to revisit the chain while on my trip) and decided to treat myself. Given that my hotel room had a freezer, I decided to indulge and get a couple of pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream (they were on sale). In addition to picking up one of my favorite flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, I decided to get a new-to-me flavor. I went with the Ben & Jerry's Urban Bourbon.

Ben & Jerry's Urban Bourbon ice cream sounded wonderful to me as it was billed as burnt caramel ice cream with almonds, fudge flakes and bourbon caramel swirls. After only a few bites, I abandoned the new flavor in favor of the other pint and when I went back to the pint a day later, I discovered it was no better than on the first pass. Ben & Jerry's Urban Bourbon ice cream is mostly sour and unpleasant, making it a real flop for the venerable ice cream company.

Basics

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream comes in a pint container. The Urban Bourbon Ice Cream is a mostly smooth ice cream with the nuts and fudge chips so broken up that they do not impede the spoon or scoop when consuming the ice cream. The caramel swirl is fairly heavy in the Urban Bourbon ice cream.

At (locally) $5.99 a pint, the Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon ice cream is an expensive ice cream, despite how this flavor is unique to Ben & Jerry's.

Ease Of Preparation

The Urban Bourbon Ice Cream is a light ice cream that is dominated by its caramel swirl. As an ice cream, preparation is ridiculously simple: one need only open the top of the container, scoop out a half cup and consume! There is no trick to preparing or eating the Urban Bourbon Ice Cream!

Taste

Urban Bourbon ice cream smells very mild. It was only after I had gotten about a quarter of the way through the pint and the ice cream began to move toward its melting point that it became at all aromatic. Even then, there was only the very faintest scent of caramel to the ice cream.

In the mouth, Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon ice cream is very sour. Almost every bite - with or without the caramel swirl - was sour with a bitter bite reminiscent of alcohol, which seems to be the very embodiment of the bourbon flavor in the ice cream. Out of the whole pint, only a bite or two did not taste sour . . . and those bites only tasted milky and muted. The fudge bits and nuts do not have the flavor ability to compete with the overwhelmingly sour and bitter flavor of the bourbon-laced ice cream.

This ice cream has a fairly strong aftertaste, which is sour and lasts in the mouth for about five minutes.

Nutrition

The Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon Ice Cream is a fairly sour ice cream. The pint represents four half-cup servings. In the half-cup serving, there are 300 calories, 150 of which are from fat. The seventeen grams of fat include 9 grams of saturated fat in the Urban Bourbon ice cream. One serving has 60 mg of cholesterol and 70 mg of Sodium (3% RDA). The 33 grams of carbohydrates per serving are offset by a single gram of dietary fiber, making this not a heart-healthy ice cream. The only other real nutrients are five grams of protein in the Urban Bourbon Ice Cream.

Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon has decent ingredients, though. Made primarily of Cream, Skim milk, and liquid sugar, there is nothing unpronounceable in the ingredients list for the Urban Bourbon ice cream. There are no allergy warnings on the pint, but anyone with allergies for eggs, milk, and/or nuts will want to avoid this ice cream.

Storage/Clean-Up

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is both a frozen and a dairy product, so it is pretty obvious that it must be kept frozen in order to remain viable. Kept frozen it remains fresh for months.

The Urban Bourbon ice cream is fairly light and it would be surprising if it left stains outside of light fabrics, though the caramel will certainly stain. As a dairy-based food, though, when the ice cream melts and gets onto fabrics, it will require one to wash it right out. On nonporous surfaces, the ice cream wipes off exceptionally easily.

Overall

The Ben & Jerry’s Urban Bourbon ice cream was disappointing outside a few bites in the pint, making it virtually inedible and unpleasant for consumers.

For other Ben & Jerry’s ice creams, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Core ice cream
Pistachio Pistachio Ice cream
Limited Edition Candy Bar Pie Ice Cream

2.5/10

For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Is This What Action Movies Are Now? Baby Driver Is More Style Than Substance.


The Good: Good performances, Decent direction
The Bad: Lousy characters, Dull plot
The Basics: Baby Driver is a stylish and entertaining movie, but it fails to rise above entertainment as the characters, plot and themes never develop into anything more than a clever cinematic exercise.


Once upon a time, there was an actor who broke out in a little indie film called The Usual Suspects (reviewed here!) before getting top-billed in major motion pictures and getting recognition for his performance in American Beauty (reviewed here!). After that, he had the choice of virtually any role he wanted and after a string of gambling movies and box office flops, he ended up regaining his notoriety through his television work. The actor, of course, is Kevin Spacey and after years of playing President Francis Underwood, Spacey is returning to major film works. Spacey is participating this year in Summer Blockbuster season with Baby Driver.  Perhaps the weirdest aspect of Baby Driver is that Kevin Spacey is relegated for the first time in so very long to a supporting role and a comparatively minor one at that.

Baby Driver is a stylish film that works more as an academic exercise than it does as a story populated by realistic characters in a permutation of the real world. Most of Baby Driver plays out like an extended music video where a young Han Solo drives a getaway car and dances through the streets. Yeah, writer and director Edgar Wright clearly wanted his lead, Ansel Elgort, to be the young Han Solo as he outfits him in a vest last seen in A New Hope (or, to be fair, being worn by Lando in the last shots of The Empire Strikes Back) and then gives Baby a virtually identical sense of moral ambiguity and angst.

While three bank robbers rob the First Bank Of Atlanta, Baby sits in his bright red getaway car, listening to "Bellbottoms" on his headphones and rocking out. When the heist goes violent, Baby has to drive the thieves out of the area in a high speed chase that allows them to effectively elude the Atlanta police. Bringing coffee to the lair, Baby's boss, Doc cuts Baby in, though privately - after everyone has departed - Doc takes most of the money back against a debt Baby owes him. Promising Baby one more job until they are square, Doc gives his driver a pair of driving gloves as a gift. Baby returns to his apartment where he cooks for his foster father, produces some music and has a flashback to how his mother died.

Doc calls Baby up for a new job with a new crew. Doc explains to Bats exactly why Baby is a part of his crew and when Bats believes Baby is not paying attention, Baby is able to relay the entire plan for the new heist without any issues. The heist the next day goes very badly and Bats and Doc have one of the crew executed for his incompetence. Doc, however, proves good to his word and lets Baby go free after the job is done. Baby returns to the diner where he is smitten with the waitress, Debora, and they talk about music. While the two start to date, Baby becomes a pizza delivery driver. When Baby and Debora are out on a date, Baby encounters Doc again and he extorts Baby back into his life of crime. Doc has Baby scope out a Post Office and he has a plan to rob the money orders there. Of course, Baby's life soon spirals out of control as Doc exerts his influence and Baby and Debora's lives are put in jeopardy.

Baby Driver might completely marginalize Kevin Spacey, but it allows Ansel Elgort and Lily James to truly shine. I've never been a fan of car racing movies and when Baby Driver is not mired in featuring big car chase sequences, the film allows Elgort's Baby and James's Debora to shine and explore some decent on-screen chemistry. The relationship between Debora and Baby may be completely contrived (waitresses in big cities get hit on all the time; it's far less charming in reality than it is as a conceit in a film) and Lily James seems to be channeling Madchen Amick's Twin Peaks character for much of her performance, but when the pair shares the screen Baby Driver hits its high notes.

Sadly, most of Baby Driver is just an extended music video. Wright is preoccupied with song-selection, stylish choreography and capturing movement. Baby is a tough character to empathize with - Baby Driver fails to satisfactorily explain why Baby doesn't move his father and Deborah away after his last job for Doc before he can ever be brought back into a life of crime. The criminals in the movie are able to bond with Baby over music and Baby Driver at least makes a passing effort to flesh out the characters before devolving into gunplay and car chases.

While Ansel Elgort gets high marks for playing Baby as a generally cool, emotionless driver, Baby Driver affords John Hamm the opportunity to shine in one of his most subtle roles to date. While Jamie Foxx plays his criminal role with constant menace, John Hamm plays Buddy as quiet for most of Baby Driver in a way that he does not usually. Hamm's Buddy is surprisingly likable without playing toward most of Hamm's sparkling-eyed moments of innate charisma. Hamm is fun to watc as Buddy, at least until the over-the-top climax of the film. Spacey, sadly, mostly scowls his way through Baby Driver.

Ultimately, Baby Driver is a movie that looks and sounds good, but ultimately features characters in situations that it is hard to invest in. The result is a momentary diversion as opposed to an enduring work of cinematic greatness.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Transformers: The Last Knight
Rough Night
The Mummy
Wonder Woman
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

5.5/10

For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Another Year, Another Mediocre Star Wars Character Ornament: Luke Skywalker Underwhelms.


The Good: Some of the sculpted details, Some of the coloring details
The Bad: Light on sculpted detailing, Poor coloring details, Right bias on the balance front
The Basics: The Luke Skywalker ornament from The Force Awakens is another underwhelming Star Wars character ornament.


Hallmark has a decidedly mixed record with making ornaments of major characters who are, essentially, human. While there are a vast number of quality ornaments Hallmark makes, the Star Trek and Star Wars (and other science fiction genre ornaments produced by Hallmark of human characters) ornament lines have suffered mightily over the years by having sculpts that are less-detailed and coloring that is far less-accurate than their subjects.

The new Luke Skywalker ornament is the twenty-first in the series of character ornaments from Star Wars. Fans of the Star Wars Saga know who Luke Skywalker is and have the potential to recognize him in ornament form from The Force Awakens (reviewed here!), despite the fact that Luke had only a few seconds of screentime in that movie. Hallmark captures Luke Skywalker, cloaked, with his naked cybernetic arm in ornament form with his faint beard painted on.

This is a comparatively pricey, simplistically-rendered Star Wars ornament with no bells and whistles, which is a tough sell for its key demographic of hard-core Star Wars fans.

Basics

The Luke Skywalker ornament recreates the aged Jedi in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2017, is the Jedi in his cloak seen waiting for Rey at the climax of The Force Awakens. As a result, most of Luke Skywalker's body is the character in his indistinct cloaks and cybernetic arm from The Force Awakens. Hallmark charged $15.95 originally for this ornament and it is nowhere near selling out at that price. Luke Skywalker is in the same scale as the other ornaments of people from the Star Wars films. This character ornament is four and three-eighths inches tall, two and a quarter inches wide and one and three-quarter inches deep.

The Hallmark Luke Skywalker ornament is made of a durable plastic and has him without any weapons or tools, staring much like he did at the climax of The Force Awakens. His feet are obscured by the cloak. Luke Skywalker's outfit from The Force Awakens is hardly as distinctive as his cloaked heavily in Jedi robes. The detailing on the robes are actually pretty cool; there are fine lines of the robes make it look like it is burlap or some other wide-weave. Ironically, the finest detailing on the new Luke Skywalker ornament.

Luke Skywalker is detailed generically in the face, hair and even for his bionic arm. Unfortunately, Luke Skywalker looks virtually nothing like he did in the movie. The skin tones are monotonal and the eyes lack the intensity of Mark Hamill's eyes. The best aspect of the coloring details are the hair on Luke Skywalker's head, which has multiple shades of gray. As well, the robe coloring has surprisingly realistic depth and shading as well. Unfortunately, those coloring aspects are not at all matched by the monolithic skin tones on the character's face, the simplistic painting of the character's beard (much thinner in some places than Luke Skywalker's beard in The Force Awakens!), and the sloppy paint job on the bionic arm.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, Luke Skywalker could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but does not. This is just an ornament, a low-cost (comparatively) option for those who might not want to shell out for the ship or diorama series' of Star Wars ornaments. This is Luke Skywalker ornament simply hangs.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Luke Skywalker ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, this version of Luke Skywalker is entirely unnecessary, though one suspects that after The Last Jedi is released, some iteration of this Luke Skywalker might become essential. The ornament has a steel hook loop embedded into the top back of the character's skull. From that hook, the Luke Skywalker ornament hangs with a noticeable right-bias. The right side is slightly heavier than the rest of the ornament, so he is very minorly off-balanced.

Collectibility

Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!) and the marginally more common Millennium Falcon ornament from the Star Wars line. Since then, they have branched out into other popular franchises like Star Wars and The Wizard Of Oz. The Luke Skywalker ornament is very common and one suspects more will sell on clearance after the holiday is over. At this point in the Star Wars ornament collections, the primary characters have all been done and the popular secondary characters are being explored, as well as alternate versions of principle characters.

This is not a great investment piece and it is unlikely to appreciate for some time, if at all.

Overview

The Luke Skywalker ornament is a disappointing one, despite the cloak and hair coloring, As a result, most fans will be underwhelmed by the ornament and not feel the need to add it to their collections.

For other Hallmark ornaments of Star Wars characters, please check out my reviews of:
2017 First Order Stormtrooper FN-2199
2016 Death Trooper Rogue One
2016 Imperial Stormtrooper
2016 BB-8
2016 Han Solo The Force Awakens
2015 Captain Phasma The Force Awakens
2015 Kylo Ren The Force Awakens
2015 C-3PO and R2-D2
2015 Admiral Ackbar (Limited Edition)
2014 Yoda Peekbuster Ornament
2014 Imperial Scout Trooper
2013 Jango Fett
2013 Wicket And Teebo
2013 Lego Yoda
2013 Boushh Limited Edition
2012 Lego Imperial Stormtrooper
2012 Sith Apprentice Darth Maul
2012 General Grievous
2012 Momaw Nadon Limited Edition
2011/2012 Lego Darth Vader
2011 Jedi Master Yoda
2011 Bossk Limited Edition ornament
2010 Lando Calrissian Limited Edition ornament
2010 Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot
2010 Boba Fett and Han Solo in Carbonite mini-ornament set
2009 Greedo Limited Edition ornament
2009 Han Solo As Stormtrooper
2008 Emperor Palpatine ornament
2005 Slave Leia ornament
2000 Darth Maul
1999 Max Rebo Band mini-ornament set
1998 Princess Leia

4/10

For other ornament reviews, please be sure to visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Benny's First Proper Review! I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites Helps Him Train!


The Good: Healthy, Good ingredients, Wonderful aroma, Benny loves them!
The Bad: No real dental benefits, Comparatively expensive
The Basics: Benny enjoys the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites as part of his training; they make a good, if expensive, reinforcement tool.


Just over two weeks ago, my wife and I took in a delightful new dog, a three or four year-old English Setter we've named Benny. Benny is picking up the slack left by Myah's death back in March. My wife has been training Benny pretty much non-stop since she got him and she very quickly found that he appeared to have issues with grain in his foods. As a result, she right away started looking for grain free treats for Benny. We have finally gotten to the point where Benny is no longer freaking out about everything and he has started to display preferences for various foods and treats we have been giving him. So, tonight, he is starting his reviewing with me! Benny's first treat he is endorsing are the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites.

I pretty much hate the name "I And Love And You"- what the hell does that even mean?! - but it is hard to deny that the company makes treats that my dog loves. Benny has been willing to do uncommon (for him) tricks in order to be rewarded with even a single Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bite! The I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites are reminiscent of beef jerky. Given the lack of a dental benefit to the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites, it is hard not to consider the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites as very expensive for what they are. Benny, however, is not bound by my budgetary concerns, so he seems to like the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites quite a bit.

Basics

The 4 oz bag of I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites is regularly about $6 online, which seemed pretty expensive to me, though I suppose that's a similar price for a similar quantity of human grade beef jerky. Each treat is approximately 1 1/4" long, 1" wide at the widest point and about 3/8" thick. These treats have a bit of variation in size and shape to them, though they are all about the same general proportion and are all rectangular.

The I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites dog treats are brown strips of meat. The strips are fairly hard, but each has some flexibility to them. The bags of I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites include a deoxidizer packet which should not be consumed by any animals!

Ease Of Preparation

The I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites are a fully prepared treat; one need only open the resealable bag and dispense a treat. For Benny's weight - as a full-grown English Setter - he should have only have a couple of treats a day. On average, he gets only two to four per day; the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites are intended for dogs five or more pounds in weight.

Benny’s Reaction

Opening the bag of I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites reveals a treat that smells just like human grade beef jerky. Benny seems to recognize the scent and comes whenever the bag is opened. This is one of the few treats he is actually responsive to by smell so far!

Benny loves the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites! He eagerly takes each Nice Jerky Bite from my hand whenever they are offered to him. Benny is still slowly gaining weight so he is able to be be satisfied by a single treat at a time.

The softer-than-some treats I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites have minimal dental benefits for dogs, especially big dogs like our English Setter. Because the snacks are so easy to eat, Benny seldom even chews them for more than five to ten seconds. It is hard to extol the dental benefits of something that is on the lips and teeth for only a few seconds.

Nutrition

The I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites dog treats are very healthy. With at least 27% crude protein, 19% crude fat and no more than 1% crude fiber and 22% moisture, the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites offer decent nutrition to dogs. Made entirely of Chicken, Duck and glycerine, I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites are quite good for dogs. The Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites have a decent shelf life of several months, though it is hard to imagine active dogs allowing them to last that long. The I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites last for well over a year, which surprised me given how few preservatives are in the treats (ours had an expiration date of September 2018).

As with all dog treats, it is highly recommended that when you give your dog I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites, make sure they have a decent supply of clean water available. I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites treats are not intended to replace dog food.

Overall

Benny, admittedly, loves the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites. Given the lack of a positive dental benefit to Benny, the I And Love And You Chicken + Duck Recipe Nice Jerky Bites are a tougher sell for me. They are a wonderful "once in a while" treat, but not an essential, must-stock-up on dog treat.

For other dog treats, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Purina Busy Chewnola Dog Snacks
Blue Dog Bakery Peanut Butter & Molasses Treats
Zuke's Clean Cherry Berry Z-Bones

7/10

For other pet products, be sure to visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Almost Incredible, The 2017 A Dangerous Game Ornament Delights Harry Potter Fans!


The Good: Excellent sculpted details, Sound clip is neat, Interesting concept, Excellent balance
The Bad: Pricey, Animated coloring
The Basics: An excellent sculpt with mediocre coloring, the Harry Potter "A Dangerous Game" ornament is one that might well reinvigorate the Hallmark Harry Potter ornament franchise!


As the Harry Potter franchise rebounds from the usual post-film franchise lull - thanks to the novels being released as e-books and the success of the first Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them film - Hallmark has been very conservative in developing ornaments based upon the new material. Instead, Hallmark has been cashing in on the nostalgia surrounding the early Harry Potter works with ornaments primarily from Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone. This year, the primary Harry Potter ornament is A Dangerous Game.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, “A Dangerous Game” is a holiday ornament that features a moment from Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (reviewed here!) when Ron Weasley makes a noble sacrifice while playing a dangerous game of life-sized chess with Harry Potter under Hogwart's.

It is Harry Potter, crouched next to Ron riding the Knight (armored horse piece) on a square of the chess board, that is the subject of the A Dangerous Game ornament.

Basics

“A Dangerous Game” recreates the moment from Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone by featuring Harry, Ron on the Knight, and the ground. The ornament, released in 2017, is a mediocre rendition of the characters, at least if they are supposed to look like Daniel Radcliff as Harry Potter and Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley. The characters, like many of the ornaments for Harry Potter look more like the artwork associated with the novels. In other words, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter look animated, much like Harry appears on the covers of the books. Measuring 5" tall, 3" wide and 3 3/8" deep, the “A Dangerous Game” did not sell out during the Preview Weekend at the original issue price of $24.95, despite being one of the best Harry Potter ornaments released in recent years.

The Hallmark “A Dangerous Game” ornament is made of a durable plastic and has Ron Weasley riding the life-sized Knight piece for the life-sized chess with Harry Potter crouching down next to him as Ron prepares to make the move which will sacrifice him in the game of chess needed to get Harry where he needs to be. Harry Potter's glasses are finely made, as is the detailing on the armor on the Knight. As well, Ron and Harry Potter are generally sculpted (their hair is sculpted without any texturing) and their shirts are very smooth in an unrealistic way. The sculpt is exceptionally accurate to make all of the major elements of the ornament be instantly recognizable.

The ornament is very light on detailing for Harry and Ron. The coloring details on Ron and Harry are very light. Both lack realistic fleshtones and their pants and shoes are monotonal. The skin and hair look more cartoonish than accurate, but the Knight looks rather mottled in an appropriate way, like a marble statue, which is very cool.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the “A Dangerous Game” ornament could have a function like a light effect, but it only has a sound clip. The pressing of a button on the ornament's base allows a sound clip to be played out of the speaker in the base of the A Dangerous Game ornament. The sound clip is an excellent touch and, for the expense, pretty much required. The sound clips for the A Dangerous Game ornament are pretty awesome. There are four clips from the scene in the film Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone and all four use Ron and Harry - only characters who appear on the ornament. The clips are exceptional and allow collector's to essentially play out the entire moment the ornament embodies!

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake “A Dangerous Game” ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate fantasy Christmas Tree, the “A Dangerous Game” ornament is a good concept, with a fair execution, both in scale and detail, especially compared with other Harry Potter ornaments. The ornament has a steel hook loop that comes out of the side of the horse's head. Rather impressively, the ornament is perfectly balanced from that position. Because the A Dangerous Game ornament features a base that is a piece of the chess board that is flat, any balance issue would be very clear. This ornament is exceptionally well-balanced!

Collectibility

Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have delved into virtually every other collectible franchise in an attempt to cash in on every major license. The Harry Potter series has had several ornaments made for it, a few of which have started to really explode in value. Objectively, the A Dangerous Game ornament is one of the better Harry Potter ornaments and ought to appreciate in value, but it is not a limited edition ornament. The truth is, the Harry Potter franchise is one that I have consistently been wrong about as far as investment pieces go; the mediocre ornaments that have sound features have almost universally increased in value, even when they are not of such a high quality as the A Dangerous Game ornament. As a result, despite its lack of a limited edition rarity, the past precedent is that the ornament ought to double in value on the secondary market within three years. That makes it a decent investment piece for collectors in the mid-term.

Overview

The "A Dangerous Game" is quite good, despite some of the characters looking more animated than realistic.

For other Harry Potter ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2016 Harry Potter Ornament Collection Set (Limited Edition!)
2016 Ollivanders Wand Shop
2015 Platform 9 3/4
2014 The Sorting Hat
2013 Hogwarts Castle
2012 The Final Battle
2011 The Golden Snitch (Limited Edition!)
2011 Fleeing The Fiendfyre
2010 The Pensieve
2010 A Gift For Dobby (Limited Edition!)
2009 "Harry! Happy Birthday!"
2001 Hogwarts School Crests mini-ornament set

7/10

For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page, for an organized listing of all the ornaments I've reviewed!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Enemies Abound In Twin Peaks "The Return Part 10!"


The Good: Good performances, Moments of character, Plot moves forward, Direction, Good use of humor and mood
The Bad: Still some pointless tangents that do not feel they work
The Basics: The table truly feels set for the back half of Twin Peaks's new season with "The Return Part 10" setting Dougie Jones in mortal peril and possibly seeding the next incarnation of Bob!


As the new season of Twin Peaks progresses towards its end, the show has a burden on it to pay off all of the seeds that have been planted in the first half of the season. The show is moving toward a somewhat obvious and sensible resolution, but for all of the surprising aspects of Twin Peaks the logical direction of the plot seems more obvious than audacious. That same direction also seems to be setting up a massive "okay, what next?!" moment. Twin Peaks is rapidly moving toward Agent Cooper and Cooper both returning to Twin Peaks and if Agent Cooper is fully restored following his twenty-five year ordeal inside the Black Lodge, how the real-world will accept his return becomes a thorny situation to deal with, especially if it comes only as a denouement.

That, however, is not quite where "The Return Part 10" is yet. Instead, "The Return Part 10" follows on the events of "The Return Part 9" (reviewed here!), which featured the long-deceased Major Briggs providing messages to the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department and his son. Cooper had set up the murder of the Warden whom he extorted for freedom and Dougie Jones and his wife learned that there had been an attempt on Doug's life by the police investigating the explosion of his car. "The Return Part 10" does a decent job of blending the old with some of the new elements and it seems to be setting up the next major plot surrounding Doug Jones as much of the plot belabors moving people to a point where they will kill the insurance adjuster.

Richard arrives at the remote home of Marion, the woman who knows that he killed the boy with his truck. Richard kills Marion and calls his contact in Twin Peaks to intercept the letter Marion sent. Dougie and Janey finally go to see a doctor, with the Doctor noticing the extreme changes in Dougie's body. At the casino, the gangsters who have taken over the casino learn that Ike has been captured and that Doug Jones is still alive. After returning home from the Doctor's, Janey gets hot for Doug and they make love.

Near Twin Peaks, Dr. Jacoby performs his latest anti-government podcast, which Nadine eagerly devours. Richard makes it to his grandmother's house, where Johnny is tied up, and he robs the place. The insurance executive pins the blame for an unpaid claim on Doug and sends the representative for the company to the Casino to rile the Mitchum brothers up to get them to take Doug out.

"The Return Part 10" features the usual amount of scenes that seem to have no apparent purpose within the main narrative. At the casino, a server - Candy - is hunting a fly when she smacks the mobster brother in the head and the joke is telegraphed and does not actually connect with the rest of the story. Similarly, Richard's place in the story seems like a random additional antagonist and why viewers are supposed to care (other than the fact that there is the possibility he is the delinquent son of Audrey Horne) remains a mystery in "The Return Part 10." As well, Nadine's scene again seems utterly unattached to anything else in the story.

Kyle MacLachlan once again gives a great, if subtle, performance as Dougie Jones and John Billingsley yet again plays a doctor on television. Eamon Farron is terrifying as Richard Horne; between seeing the effects of his attack on Marion and watching the way Richard mugs his own grandmother, Farron moves his new to the season character forward in leaps and bounds.

The most impressive aspect of "The Return Part 10" is that Twin Peaks starts paying off its network of villains. In "The Return Part 10," the viewer realizes there is a mole in the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department, Albert and Gordon figure out there is an enemy in their own ranks and we see the rest of the villains who are now set on hunting Doug Jones. Cooper had twenty-five years to build up a network of people who will protect his existence in our world; "The Return Part 10" illustrates that quite effectively.

"The Return Part 10" effectively blends menace and humor, with David Lynch's distinctive use of color and music. This is one of the best episodes of the rebooted Twin Peaks yet . . . even if it continues an escalation to a moment that viewers have to be wary of.

For other works with Jane Adams, please visit my reviews of:
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Orange County
Frasier - Season 8
Frasier - Season 7
Wonder Boys
Songcatcher
You've Got Mail

8/10

For other television reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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