Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Liam Neeson As Han Solo: Why The 2016 The Force Awakens Han Solo Ornament Flops!


The Good: Good balance, Some of the coloring details
The Bad: Light on facial detailing, Poor coloring details, Expensive
The Basics: The Han Solo ornament from The Force Awakens is a tremendous disappointment and a poor tribute to the legendary character.


Before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters last year, many fans were miffed at how Mark Hamill's role of Luke Skywalker was left out of the advertising materials. Harrison Ford's reprisal of Han Solo became a key component of the advertising campaign and, after the fans saw the film it became pretty clear why that was the case. This year, Hallmark immortalized the incarnation of Han Solo who appeared in The Force Awakens and, sadly, it is one of their less successful renditions of the character. In a nutshell, the 2016 Han Solo ornament is plagued by a facial sculpt that more closely resembles Liam Neeson than it does Harrison Ford.

The new Han Solo ornament is the twentieth in the series of character ornaments from Star Wars. Fans of the Star Wars Saga know who Han Solo is and have the potential to recognize him in ornament form from The Force Awakens by his costume and gray hair. Having allied with Finn, Han Solo finds himself once again fighting for the Rebellion in The Force Awakens (reviewed here!). Hallmark captures Han Solo with a blaster in his hand, in the process of drawing the weapon!

This is an overpriced, 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 Han Solo ornament recreates the aged smuggler in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2016, is the smuggler holding a blaster in his right hand. As a result, most of Han Solo's body is the character in his indistinct outfit from The Force Awakens, with only his head being truly distinctive to the character. Hallmark charged $15.95 originally for this ornament and it is selling very few pieces at that price. Han Solo is in the same scale as the other ornaments of people from the Star Wars films. This character ornament is four and one-eighth inches tall, two inches wide and one inch deep.

The Hallmark Han Solo ornament is made of a durable plastic and has him holding a blaster in his right hand, just out of its holster. His feet are arranged in a solid stance, as if he is prepared for attacks coming from any direction. Han Solo's outfit from The Force Awakens is hardly as distinctive as his smuggler's outfit or even his Hoth outfit, making it an odd choice for an ornament. The sculpt of the blaster Han Solo is holding is more detailed than the facial sculpt for the ornament.

Han Solo is detailed generically in the body and in the accessory. Unfortunately, Han Solo looks virtually nothing like he did in the movie. The skin tones are monotonal and the eyes lack the depth of Ford's eyes. In fact, this character looks more like an animated version of Han Solo than a recreation of the live-action character. The sculpt looks more like the head of Liam Neeson than it does Harrison Ford. On the coloring details, the ornament is monotonal in the skin, shirt and pants, but has depth and shading for the grays in the hair and the browns and black on the boots.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, Han Solo 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 Han Solo simply hangs. Han Solo's gun may not be removed from his hands.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Han Solo ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, the Han Solo is very much a luxury; this version of Han Solo was hardly an essential character. The ornament has a brass hook loop embedded into the top center, slightly back, of the character's skull. From that hook, the Han Solo ornament hangs well balanced. It is impressive and the ornament sways when rocked, but otherwise hangs stable in the right position!

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 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 Han Solo 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 Han Solo ornament is a poor one; it is a mediocre rendition of an un-iconic version of the essential Star Wars character. 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:
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

2.5/10

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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mood Unfolds Into Slushy Substance: Stranger Things Season One Fizzles.


The Good: Mood, Most of the acting, General concept
The Bad: Not exceptional on character development, Plot-centered, Derivative
The Basics: Stranger Things is marginally interesting, but hardly enduring or exceptional television.


In its quest to create cutting-edge television entertainment, Netflix has surged forward with production of a number of projects. In fact, it seems like almost every week now, there is a new Netflix film or television season being released. Only a few days ago, I saw the first preview trailer for the first season of Stranger Things and now that the eight-episode season has premiered, it is hard to watch the season and feel like Netflix is choosing quantity now in the classic argument of quantity versus quality. With vastly more programs than are being produced by HBO, Showtime, or obscure networks like Starz, Netflix makes a conscious business decision each time it produces something new, as opposed to continuing a season of a previously-established work. It was not long into the first season of Stranger Things that I started to feel like Netflix could have better used their resources to continue the story begun in Sense8 Season One (reviewed here!).

Stranger Things might instantly draw comparisons to the film Super 8 (reviewed here!), due to its setting in the early 1980s, its predominantly young cast, and its scientific/supernatural elements, but it owes great homages to The X-Files (reviewed here!) and Fringe (reviewed here!). The Winona Ryder vehicle was created by a team of people who loved The X-Files for its government conspiracy ideas and Fringe for its normalized exploration of an alternate universe. Unfortunately for fans of the works that Stranger Things is derivative of, the first season lacks characters and character dynamics as interesting as Mulder and Scully . . . or the Bishop family. Instead, the science fiction mystery that is pieced together over the course of eight episodes is plot-heavy and mood-intensive in a way that fails to fully invest the viewer. Viewers are likely to stick with the season more to find out what the hell is going on, rather than because they actually care about the characters involved.

Opening in the early 1980s in Hawkins, Indiana, where a Department Of Energy worker meets an untimely, unreported, gruesome death, four middle school boys get together for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. At the end of it, three of the boys leave the gathering and one of them disappears completely. Joyce Byers wakes up the next morning and cannot find her son, Will and her other son, Jonathan, does not know where he is, either. Joyce contacts Police Chief Jim Hopper, who treats the missing person's case by the numbers. But as Will's friends Mike Wheeler, Dustin and Lucas look for Will on their own, the trio of boys discovers a traumatized girl who is fleeing agents from the government facility in town.

While Mike hides the girl, Eleven, in his basement, Joyce begins to experiences seemingly supernatural visitations in her house. She quickly realizes that the mysterious lights and sounds in her home are Will attempting to contact her and she brings her suspicions to Hopper. Hopper's initial skepticism dissolves, though, when another government agency arrives in Hawkins and claims jurisdiction over what appears to be Will's corpse, which they pull out of the local quarry. When Hopper discovers the corpse is a synthetic, he begins to suspect a larger conspiracy. Eleven, meanwhile, begins to exhibit telekinetic powers and tries to convince the boys that Will is still alive as she is pursued by the government agents. As Joyce tries to communicate with Will, the citizens of Hawkins are hunted by a creature from the place where Will has been taken and Hopper, Joyce, and others in the know have to figure out how to save the town and get Will back!

Stranger Things Season One sets up a number of tropes, scenarios and concepts over the first two episodes, then spends the remaining six episodes tying them together and explaining them. The result is a season that is plot and concept-heavy and while the show generally comes together well, it is executed using characters that are virtually impossible to care about or be invested in. The mystery of Eleven (Elle) is simplistic and the show belabors costumes, props, and dialogue to set it in a very specific time and place as opposed to intimately exploring Joyce's grief and sense of being jerked around by the otherworldly contact from Will. The episodes are fleshed out with subplots of teenage romance and bullying that create a well-rounded setting, but dilute the horror of the otherworldly predator and the effects of the rips in space on the small town.

Despite the rather large cast of characters, Season One of Stranger Things has few characters of real depth and sophistication. The primary characters in the first season are:

Joyce Byers - A distraught mother living paycheck to paycheck when her young son, Will, disappears. After she receives disturbing phone calls which make her believe Will is still alive, she becomes obsessed with finding Will and bringing him back from the horrifying place he has been transported to,

Jim Hopper - The hard-drinking, smoking police Chief in Hawkins, Indiana, he has encountered nothing particularly extraordinary in his tenure as Chief. Years ago, his daughter died and he has not had a particularly stable life since. When Will goes missing, he organizes the town to search for the missing boy, but is quickly clued into a secret conspiracy from the Department Of Energy facility in town when a body appears in a place he already investigated. Hopper starts to put together the pieces of the conspiracy surrounding sudden surprising deaths and disappearances in Hawkins and their relationship to the facility in Hawkins,

Mike Wheeler - A geeky boy who is bullied at the middle school he attends, he is good friends with Will, Dustin and Lucas. When Will disappears and the trio discovers Eleven, he sneaks the girl into the basement of his parent's house. He is protective of Eleven and he soon realizes that her powers were developed with a high psychological price to the girl,

Eleven - A traumatized girl with 011 tattooed on her arm, she sneaks into a diner in Hawkins, before he has to go on the run from the men pursuing her again. Running into the woods near Will's house, she encounters Mike and his friends. She develops a love for Eggo waffles and tries to explain to Mike and his friends where she believes Will is. As the boys hunt for Will, her telekinetic powers begin to develop and she starts to remember the experiments performed on her by Dr. Brenner and how they relate to the town's current problems,

Nancy Wheeler - Mike's older sister, she studies and gets good grades, but is attracted to the high school jock, Steve. She is best friends with Barb and when Steve's parents go out of town, she uses Barb as a chaperone. But, when Barb disappears and Jonathan Byers has some clues into what might have taken her away, she begins to develop a friendship with him. As she searches for her lost friend, she becomes deeply intertwined with Jonathan Byers, his younger brother, and becomes more of badass in the process,

Jonathan Byers - An outsider who works hard and has a passion for photography, he was working the night his brother Will did not return home. He starts hunting for Will and reaches out to his estranged father in the process, but when some of his photos of Nancy and Barb enrage Steve and his friends, he is bullied. But Nancy reaches out to him for help and soon the pair are arming up to find the predator from the place Will has disappeared to,

and Dr. Martin Brenner - A somewhat monolithic adversary, he is part of the military base that is using the Department Of Energy as a cover for his experiments in Hawkins. He essentially raised Eleven as he experimented upon her from the time of her conception. In the process of his experiments, he inadvertently created many of the problems overrunning Hawkins.

While Stranger Things is dominated by a young cast in its first season, the show is almost completely stolen by actor David Harbour. The Newsroom was the work of Harbour's I was most familiar with prior to watching the first season of Stranger Things and as Chief Jim Hopper, he illustrates a far greater range and depth than he did as Elliot Hirsch. Harbour might look at various points in Stranger Things like Michael C. Hall or Jack Nicholas and the big surprise of the season is how he is able to perform on that level. Harbour starts the season playing Hopper as disgruntled and somewhat monolithic, but fleshes him out in almost every scene as a man still coping with his sense of loss. Harbour makes Hopper into someone who is not a simple womanizer and he is able to use his more subtle facial acting to perfectly sell the idea that Hopper is smart enough to observe things like the lack of rain on the government's video footage and question the state of reality in Hawkins. Harbour perfectly dominates every scene he is in.

The rest of Stranger Things is well-portrayed by Winona Ryder (Joyce), Finn Wolfhard (Mike), Natalia Dyer (Nancy), and Charlie Heaton (Jonathan). Matthew Modine is pretty much wasted as Dr. Brenner - the role is monolithic and does not require him to use even a fraction of his established range. Millie Bobby Brown is the breakout performer as Eleven and her emotive, complex performance plays off Modine's simplistic one. As well, Brown manages to cover the generally mediocre portrayals of the other child actors in the ensemble.

Stranger Things utilizes its special effects well in its first season. The show has fun retro-style credits and a soundtrack that clearly places the show in the time period, without ever overwhelming the unfolding mystery.

But, the sense of mood is one of the few superlative elements of the first season of Stranger Things and it is terribly inconsistent. The creepy moments are almost entirely overwhelmed in the early episodes by long stretches of boring teenage melodrama. While there are moments that are evocative of Twin Peaks (reviewed here!), the show lacks the character quirks and overall complexity of its obvious influences. Unlike something like Netflix's Sense8, where viewers had a lot to go back for multiple times and had a lot to anticipate for the second season, Stranger Things is simplistic enough in the first season that attentive viewers will catch - and, sadly, too often predict - everything, making it entertaining for one viewing, but hardly worth coming back for after one is done.

For other Netflix exclusive seasons, please check out my reviews of:
Arrested Development - Season Four
The Clone Wars - Season Six
House Of Cards - Season 4
Jessica Jones - Season 1
Orange Is The New Black - Season 3
Daredevil - Season 1
Grace And Frankie - Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 1

4.5/10

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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

After The Legends Line, Hallmark Makes A Mediocre Ensign Pavel Chekov Ornament!


The Good: Good balance, Detailing on the tricorder, Good general sculpt
The Bad: Unfortunately obvious seams, Animated look, Paint issues
The Basics: The 2016 Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament is average at best, made valuable only by its limited edition nature.


During my month and a half sabbatical from writing reviews, actor Anton Yelchin died. As a young man, Yelchin's body of work is comparatively small and he is, arguably, best known worldwide for playing Ensign Pavel Chekov in J.J. Abrams's two Star Trek films and the forthcoming Star Trek Beyond. Yelchin's version of Chekov from the rebooted Star Trek films is not the subject of the new, 2016 limited edition Star Trek ornament from Hallmark; their Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament features the classic Star Trek character, as portrayed by Walter Koenig. Ensign Chekov is, essentially, a continuation of Hallmark's vastly overproduced Legends Of Star Trek ornament line and it fits the general quality and scale of those ornaments, even if it is more expensive and produced in lesser quantities.

Starting out at $15.95, the Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament looks like an animated version of Chekov, which is ironic because Ensign Chekov was absent from the animated Star Trek series from the 1970s.

For those unfamiliar with Ensign Pavel Chekov, he was the navigator aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise for most of Star Trek (reviewed here!). Played with one of the most ridiculous "Russian" accents by Walter Koenig, Ensign Pavel Chekov is a seminal Star Trek character, despite the fact that he came in as a new character in the second season.

Basics

The Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov recreates the Navigator of the Enterprise in solid plastic and ribbon. The ornament, released in 2016, is presented very generally, with a decent head sculpt that is, predictably, underdetailed on the coloring front. Ensign Pavel Chekov is fairly recognizable to genre fans holding up a tricorder with both hands. Molded to be recognizable, the ornament still has a more animated look for the character than one might hope for. This comes from the character’s very simplistic colorscheme that lacks realistic depth and shading. As well, Chekov's arms have deep, ridiculous-looking seams where they connect to the character's chest section. Measuring four inches tall by one and three-sixteenths inches wide by one and one-eighth inches deep, the Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament has been selling, despite it being a limited edition ornament.

The Hallmark Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament is made of a durable plastic and black ribbon and has the human junior officer standing in his yellow shirt, tight black pants and shiny black boots. The face is sculpted to be a good representation of Walter Koenig and, outside the eyes lacking Koenig's sparkle and zest for life, the representation is good. This ornament is molded without deep attention to detail, like fingernails.

Conversely, Hallmark went to create painstaking detailing for the tricorder, getting it in perfect proportion with the rest of the ornament. The tricorder is exceptionally detailed in both sculpt and coloring. The black ribbon mimics well the leather strap the props from the show had.

The Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov is colored correctly with his yellow Command shirt, outside his skin tones, which are very basic. Ensign Pavel Chekov has appropriately pale skin, but the ornament lacks the depth and shading of most collectibles. I was impressed that the boots were a glossy black, while Chekov’s pants were appropriately matte in their finish. While the tricorder in his hands is well-colored and detailed, including having blue highlights on the tricorder's screen, the skin is much less impressive or realistic in its detailing. The fingers have a lack of definition between them as well. Unfortunately, on three of the four Ensign Pavel Chekov ornaments I found, the paint job was flawed; with issues in the eyes and odd color spots on the shirt. The black spots on the yellow shirt are troublingly obvious given the brightness of the yellow color.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but does not. This is just an ornament, a comparatively low-cost option for those who might not want to shell out for the starship or mural series of Star Trek ornaments. This is Ensign Pavel Chekov, standing alone with a tricorder as opposed to behind his navigator's console on the bridge. Having the ornament without any features might disappoint some collectors.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Trek Christmas Tree, the Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament is a necessary one, given that Chekov is an iconic character, probably the last iconic Enterprise crewmember that had not yet been immortalized by Hallmark. The ornament has a brass hook loop that comes out of the top, center, of Ensign Pavel Chekov's skull. To its credit, Hallmark's Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov is perfectly well-balanced from that point.

Collectibility

Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all of the major starships from the franchise and when they started on the personnel in 1995, though this is the first Chekov ornament. The Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament was not a fast-selling ornament, at least it did not sell out at most Hallmark stores I checked out during Ornament Preview Weekend, but it seems coveted by the fans who purchased the prior six Legends Of Star Trek ornaments.

Given the precedent from the prior Legends Of Star Trek ornaments, along with the way this ornament has an original issue price $1 more than the other ones, it is hard to see how the Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament would appreciate much in the secondary market. Unlike the prior ones, which sold largely on clearance, the Chekov ornament might actually sell out at full price and, at least, not depreciate in value. It remains, given the paint issues on the ones I found, a tough sell for all but the die hard fans.

Overview

Fans of the Star Trek franchise, Walter Koenig and Ensign Pavel Chekov are likely to feel compelled to pick up the Legends Of Star Trek Ensign Pavel Chekov ornament to complete their collections, but not be ornament most fans will be exceptionally excited about.

For other Star Trek ornaments of characters, please check out my reviews of:
2015 Legends Of Star Trek Lieutenant Uhura
2014 Legends Of Star Trek Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu
2014 Vina The Orion Slave Woman (Limited Edition)
2013 Legends Of Star Trek Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott
2012 Legends Of Star Trek Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
2011 Legends Of Star Trek Spock
2010 Legends Of Star Trek Captain James T. Kirk
2009 Limited Edition Ilia Probe
2005 Khan
2004 Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker
1999 Lieutenant Commander Worf
1997 Dr. McCoy
1996 Mr. Spock

5.5/10

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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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An Open Letter To Donald Trump: You Won, Go Home.

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The Basics: Right now, Donald Trump's celebrity capital is at its peak: how will he spend it?


Dear Mr. Trump,

Congratulations on securing enough delegates within the Republican Party to receive their nomination to be their candidate for President Of The United States. Next week when the Republican National Convention meets and you are officially given the nomination will be very exciting for you.

I was hoping you might give me a sneak peek into what comes next. What will you do after you tell the Republicans at their Convention that you are not accepting their nomination for President?

Come on, Mr. Trump, just a hint as to what your next project is, please!

I understand that it might be difficult to discuss what your plans are for after the Convention because you do not want to ruin the surprise for everyone else, but I already get it. I know what you know about the strategy you are employing and it was absolutely brilliant.

Your only rhetorical promise in your campaign for the Republican Presidential Nomination has been to "Make America Great Again." It's a great slogan and it is not something that any single person can do within a democracy. I see what you saw at the very beginning of your campaign: the two-party dominated system within the United States is horribly broken. Most people do not believe it, but you do and you found the most impressive way to prove it to everyone in the United States.

As a candidate supported by a shocking number of registered Republican primary voters, you have absolutely proven that the leadership of the Republican Party does not represent the people they claim to lead. The very fact that a large number of establishment, life-long Republicans refuse to support your candidacy illustrates the schism between the Party and the people in the Republican Party. Your candidacy represents a number of voters in the United States and you appeal to them in a way that even the Republican Party's leadership cannot tap into.

Your social and political experiment was brilliantly executed when you made a right turn to appeal to the Evangelical Christian base. Suddenly, millions of people who were on the fence about voting for you fell into line and pledged to vote for you because you "found god." You have proven that the Republican Party is a corporation utterly dependent upon theocrats, without any clear set of beliefs outside its determination to put a winner at the head of the Executive Branch at all costs.

Today was the final nail in the platform you created and I, for one, am incredibly impressed at how expertly you played the game. Today, your candidacy destroyed the Sanders campaign and that is an impressive thing. Today, Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton for Democratic Presidential Nominee and mortgaged his entire philosophy and organization because all his principles collapsed underneath the pragmatic need to prevent you from being elected President Of The United States Of America.

I get it. Your candidacy was masterful and it has utterly destroyed every illusion about American politics. You have struck down every illusion the electorate might ever have had. Even if the Republicans were to nominate Hillary Clinton as their candidate (as I suggested would be an ideal move for them in this article here!), Sanders has destroyed his credibility and cache by endorsing Clinton even before the Democratic National Convention. Your candidacy compelled Senator Warren to abandon her long-held principles to endorse Hillary Clinton; you effectively showed the electorate just what the principles on the Left truly are! You have, singlehandedly, made the 2016 election about Donald Trump and his vision for America.

So, because I get your plan, I see what comes next, just like you do. Next week when the Republican delegates meet and nominate you as their nominee, you declare victory and decline the nomination. Again, no need to be coy with me: I get it. You have seen all the projections and know that there is no electoral math that would give you the Presidency. You know that failed Presidential candidates fade from the spotlight and lose all credibility (Bob Dole, John McCain, even John Kerry faded from the public eye until he was nominated to be Obama's Secretary Of State, and have you seen the glazed look on people's faces when you say the name "Mitt Romney" as they try to place him?); a shrewd businessman would never let that happen to him.

And the Presidency is not something that would work for Donald Trump. The President is accountable to Congress, the Courts, the American electorate - it is not a top-down managing style exhibited clearly on The Apprentice. Governing is about compromise, working with people who disagree with you and reaching a middle ground: that is not your style. As long as there is a Legislative Branch, the United States is not a dictatorship and a Trump Presidency would be so gridlocked that it would make the pre-9/11 years of the Bush Administration look like a success story. As a CEO, you know that you can't effectively run a company with an entirely hostile Board Of Directors. Why would you want to spend four years of your life fighting for half- and quarter-measures of ideas that you're not truly invested in?

Obviously, you wouldn't. But then, that was never truly your plan. You want to "Make America Great Again" and that is not something that will happen from a President who is not supported by his Party and whose electorate is either afraid of or despises him. So, when the Republican delegates nominate you next week, you decline the nomination, the Party scrambles desperately to try to find a candidate to run as their standard-bearer and the Democrats are thrown into equal chaos because they have spent so much time and effort focusing on how to try to beat you that they have not presented any solid rhetorical ideas to run on (save, of course, Sanders, who just destroyed that philosophy by endorsing Hillary Clinton). You step aside, shrewdly refuse to endorse anyone, and Clinton wins the Presidency by exploiting the chaos on the right and the surrender of the Left (Was that your plan all along? Was it a coordinated effort between your campaigns?) and you are left with the power and capital to do whatever you want.

My thing is, I can't see what comes next for you. It is easy for you to declare victory - you proved the point you set out to at the beginning of your campaign - and the resulting systemic changes and debates within the American electorate represent the greatest chance to Make America Great Again, but what comes next? By illustrating the malleability of the American electorate and the two major political parties, you have proven the system as it exists is irrevocably broken - even your supporters know that you are not the man who can fix that!

So, you become the hero, opening the eyes of millions of people to the fault lines in American politics and set the stage for the builders in the political architecture to Make America Great Again. Whomever becomes President - Clinton, or on the off-chance the Republicans find a nominee with a pulse - owes you a debt of immense proportions for essentially installing them as President, giving you the clout to do whatever you want in the private sector. You are the hero, you have built the cache that comes with ruling the debate and forcing all other candidates to accept that you are THE political force to be reckoned with or stopped.

What do you plan to do with that power and influence? Is this a scheme to roll out the next big Trump product? Is this how you introduce your next big investment opportunity? What could it possibly be? Having turned all debate on you, you have illustrated your clout and ability, but governing is not about those things, whereas the cache of Brand Trump will never be higher than right now, allowing you to do whatever you want in the business world.

So, I was just hoping you might give me a sneak peek as to what that is.

Sincerely yours,
W.L. Swarts

[In the interest of full disclosure, the essential concept behind this article came from my wife, who - very early in the primary season turned to me and said of the Trump candidacy, "Is this a joke? Wouldn't it be hilarious if he was kidding, got the nomination and then said 'fuck you' at the Convention?!" She is a visionary.]

For other political articles, please check out:
Did Phil Bryant Just Enter The 2016 Presidential Contest?
Fail Of The Superdelegates
Why Modern Libertarianism Is Disastrous For The United States

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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, July 9, 2016

HAPPY ORNAMENT PREVIEW WEEKEND! The Limited Edition Beauty And The Beast Lumiere Starts The Year Off (Mostly) Right!


The Good: Good sculpted details, Great balance, Collectible value, Most of the coloring details
The Bad: Not as metallic as the promotional photographs make it look, No sound chip/feature
The Basics: The 2016 "Lumiere" ornament from Beauty And The Beast is a neat, but not perfect, limited edition Hallmark ornament which kicks off Ornament Preview Weekend.


I took a little over a month off from reviewing, but I am back now! June was a pretty brutal month in politics and in my personal life, but after a brief disconnect from writing reviews, I am back in time for Hallmark's Ornament Preview Weekend! Ornament Preview Weekend is one of the big events each year for me as a reviewer and it is enough to get me out of my self-imposed sabbatical. The truth, however, is that this year I was comparatively unenthusiastic about Ornament Preview Weekend. I looked over my Hallmark Dreambook (the catalog with the main-release ornaments) fairly late in the cycle and I was surprised by how few genre ornaments truly impressed me enough to want to preorder them. In fact, it was only in going through the supplement for the Dreambook with the limited edition ornaments that I discovered some that I could be excited about. My wife has a Disney ornament collection and the one that instantly interested her was the limited edition ornament of Lumiere from Beauty And The Beast.

This year's Lumiere ornament from the Disney Hallmark ornament line is part of Disney's celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Beauty And The Beast and part of the company's effort to build hype for next year's live-action version of the film. The limited edition Disney ornament is very cool and is rapidly approaching a sell-out at the few Hallmark Gold Crown stores I visited today. That said, the promotional images of the Lumiere ornament appear to have a very different luster to them than the actual ornament, which was a serious detraction for me - much less of one for my wife, who loves the ornament!

For those unfamiliar with him, Lumiere was the magically-transformed man-turned-candelabra living in the Beast's castle in Beauty And The Beast (reviewed here!). The debonair Lumiere tries to set the mood for Belle and the Beast to try to create an environment where Belle will fall in love and thus break the spell that will free him and the others living in the castle.

Hallmark created a memorable sculpt of Lumiere, though they charged $15.95, originally for the limited edition ornament, despite it not having any sort of sound or light function to augment it.

Basics

The "Lumiere" ornament recreates Lumiere as he appeared in Beauty And The Beast, looking like he is singing "Be Our Guest" and is mid-song. The ornament, released in 2016, is an entirely accurate sculpt of Lumiere, holding a matchstick like a cane and preparing to remove the cap on his candle-head. The subject of the ornament was an animated candelabra with three candles who sang and danced and Hallmark captured that well from the flames for hands to the nose and eyelids of the personified candle!

Measuring three and three-quarters inches tall from the bottom of the base to the top of the cap, two and one-half inches wide and one and a half inches deep, the "Lumiere" ornament is on-scale with most of the other Disney character ornaments. As a limited edition ornament, the Lumiere ornament reflects the new, higher pricing from Hallmark with an original release price of $15.95.

The Hallmark "Lumiere" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has Lumiere, left hand on his cap, his right candle hand holding his matchstick "cane." The arms are very thin, but the plastic is apparently strong enough to resist breakage. Aspects like the wrist cuff ornamentation are sculpted onto the ornament for realism and look amazing. Lumiere's mouth is open as if he is in the middle of singing "Be Our Guest." The ornament is sculpted accurately and gets the look of Lumiere perfectly right! Lumiere's eyebrows are slightly raised and his eyelids are sculpted with a somewhat sultry half-lidded look.

On the coloring front, Lumiere is a real mixed execution. Hallmark did amazing work on some of the coloring. like the way the character's eyelids are presented with a faint yellow to set them apart from the white of the main candle head. The flame hands are monotonal yellow, which is fitting in that the animated character was created without realistic coloring depth and shading. The bugaboo for me is in the coloring for the pieces of Lumiere that are intended to be metal - the candelabra parts and the character's cap. Hallmark used a gold flake coloring and that makes the character look like plastic, as opposed to bronze. My primary issue is that the ornament looks less like the photograph on the box or promotional materials. On the box and promotional materials, Lumiere looks like he is cast using a reflective metallic plastic, so he looks more like a reflective gold or bronze, as opposed to a tarnished gold coloring. When you're expecting metal - or something that looks like metal - it is hard to get excited about the metal flake plastic. My wife, however, felt very differently and thought that it was much easier to take care of as a plastic ornament - and one that would weigh less on the branches and risk our cats less than a metal ornament.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Lumiere" could have a sound or light function, but it does not. While fans of Beauty And The Beast might have wished the ornament would possess a sound clip of Lumiere singing "Be Our Guest" or light up flame hands, the ornament does not. For the price, the ornament is fine without any additional functions, especially given that it is a limited edition piece.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Lumiere" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Disney movie Christmas Tree, the "Lumiere" ornament is an awesome addition! The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top back of Lumiere’s candle head. From that position, the Lumiere ornament hangs perfectly level. The balance for this ornament is incredible and it looks like Lumiere is beginning his dance routine.

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. "Lumiere" is not the first Beauty And The Beast ornament the company has released and is one of two Hallmark Beauty And The Beast ornaments released this year. Hallmark has a pretty strong record of producing Disney limited edition ornaments that appreciate in value and, despite the lack of realistic metal coloring to the ornament, Lumiere might well be one of their successes that ends up appreciating in value quickly.

Overview

Fans of Beauty And The Beast, Disney, Lumiere, and Hallmark ornaments will be excited by this full-sized, limited edition Lumiere ornament, though those who buy based on the box or promotional materials might feel a little less initial thrill. But, given the limited edition nature of the ornament, the quality of the sculpt and the other decent coloring aspects, Lumiere is bound to thrill the die-hard Disney and Beauty And The Beast fans!

For other Disney-themed Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2015 "Let It Go" Frozen ornament
2015 "Yo, Rugman!" Aladdin ornament
2015 Olaf In Summer Frozen Ornament
2015 Jiminy Cricket Pinocchio Limited Edition ornament
2015 WALL-E
2015 Rapunzel And Pascal Tangled ornament
2015 Tiana Ballerina The Princess And The Frog
2015 Ariel's Thingamabobs The Little Mermaid ornament
2014 Queen Elsa Frozen Limited Edition
2014 Bank On Hamm Toy Story ornament
2014 Jack's Peculiar Pet The Nightmare Before Christmas ornament
2014 The Daring Princess The Princess And The Frog ornament
2014 Rapunzel's Long Locks Tangled ornament
2014 The Little Mermaid 25th Anniversary ornament
2014 "This Is Halloween" The Nightmare Before Christmas ornament
2014 All Eyes On Belle Beauty And The Beast ornament
2014 Olaf Frozen ornament
2013 Under The Sea The Little Mermaid
2013 The Nightmare Before Christmas Jack’s Sleigh O’Scares
2013 Tiana's Party Dress The Princess And The Frog ornament
2013 Beautiful Belle Beauty And The Beast
2013 Fierce With A Frying Pan Tangled ornament
2013 Ariel's Big Dream The Little Mermaid ornament
2013 Merida The Archer Brave ornament
2012 The Circle Of Life The Lion King ornament
2012 Jack Sneaks A Peek The Nightmare Before Christmas ornament
2012 Monsters, Inc. ornament
2012 Merida Brave ornament
2012 It's All About The Hair Tangled ornament
2011 Rapunzel Tangled ornament
2011 CLU’s Light Cycle from Tron: Legacy ornament
2011 Up ornament
2011 A Snowy Surprise The Nightmare Before Christmas ornament
2011 Captain Jack Sparrow Pirates Of The Caribbean ornament
2010 Tron: Legacy Light Cycle ornament
2009 Welcome To Christmastown The Nightmare Before Christmas ornament

8/10

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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Good-Looking Mess: Why Alice Through The Looking Glass Fizzles!


The Good: Good effects, Moments of theme, Sacha Baron Cohen
The Bad: Dull plot, Obvious character work, A number of terrible or inconsistent performances
The Basics: Even Johnny Depp's occasional energetic performance cannot save the dismal Alice Through The Looking Glass from its own issues.


Summer Blockbuster Season is, predictably, chock full of sequels. One of the more anticipated and direct sequels to drop in 2016 is Alice Through The Looking Glass, which is a sequel to the live-action Tim Burton film Alice In Wonderland (reviewed here!). Alice Through The Looking Glass has the honor of being the final credited film for the late Alan Rickman and his very minor role in the film bookends his career in an unfortunately mediocre way.

Alice Through The Looking Glass is directed by James Bobin instead of Tim Burton and it reunites most of the cast of Alice In Wonderland. Bobin's work retains the look and feel of Burton's work, at least after its initial straightforward set-up. Alice Through The Looking Glass relies heavily upon information from the first film and stands poorly on its own, making it feel very much like a sequel. Like its predecessor, Alice Through The Looking Glass prioritizes style over substance for the bulk of the film.

Opening in 1874 in the Straits Of Malacca, Alice Kingsleigh is commanding her father's ship as it outruns pursuing pirates. Her skillful maneuvers allow her ship to escape and they return to London safely. In London, Alice discovers that Hamish now runs the company that sent her on the expedition to China and he leverages her boat and home against the young woman. After Hamish's maneuver to get Alice to surrender her ship, Alice follows a butterfly through a mirror to a drawing room in the sky through which she enters Underland. In the magical world of Underland, she learns that the Mad Hatter is not well . . . in a way that is inconsistent with his usual madness.

Meeting with the Hatter, Alice learns that when he found his very first paper hat, the Mad Hatter leapt to the conclusion that if the hat could survive the Jabberwockey attack, then his family must have survived as well. The White Queen, Mirana, sends Alice to Time to use the Chronosphere to rescue the Hatter's family on the day they die and return them to the future to make the Mad Hatter sane and well again. Time rejects Alice's request and when the Red Queen, Iracebeth, arrives, Alice uses the distraction to steal the Chronosphere. Persued by Time into the past, Alice attempts to save the Hatter's family and then prevent the accident which made Iracebeth into a villainess.

Alice Through The Looking Glass is predicated largely on the idea that Alice has a deep love for the Hatter that was hardly indicated in the prior film. The character leap that viewers are asked to take initially is that Alice would risk life, death and the temporal ramifications of time travel to help save the life and, relative, sanity, of the Hatter based on how she feels for him. That emotional bond is not developed in the two films well-enough to be a realistic motivation at the outset.

The film is dominated by style, so the initial problem with character is quickly matched by problems on the acting front. Mia Wasikowska plays Alice and she delivers lines that are strong and emphatic, while having a physical performance based on the same wide-eyed disbelief and uncertainty, which is a troubling acting choice. While she gets eye-lines right for her interactions with virtual characters, she fails to bring anything new or significant to the role of Alice with her acting.

The usually amazing Anne Hathaway is surprisingly bland as Mirana. Hathaway resumes the body language of her prior part, without having the wonderful, strange, off-putting detachment the character had in the first film. While Hathaway's vitality and range of emotional expression play well and fine for the scenes in the past, the scenes in the "present" stand out as problematically incongruent with the established character. Johnny Depp's performance is one of his most bland, with him simply blithely lisping through his lines. With the themes of distant fathers being explored in Alice Through The Looking Glass, Depp's performance seems troublingly derivative of his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory (reviewed here!).

In fact, the most instantly energized performer in Alice Through The Looking Glass is Sacha Baron Cohen. Cohen once again creates an entirely new and different persona for himself as Time. Cohen's Time is weird and awkward and he steals his scenes, even when they are not especially good. Cohen's Time quickly overshadows Helena Bonham Carter's Iracebe to draw the eye and capture the viewer's attention.

Amid lines that play off every cliche about time, Alice Through The Looking Glass tries to marvel the viewer with bright colors and generally-competent computer generated effects. The effects are one of the few things going for the film.

Unfortunately, it is not enough. Alice Through The Looking Glass attempts to blend past and present, reality and Underland, into a story that seeks to both reinvigorate wonder and illustrate the drastic consequences to attempting to chang time. It fails to satisfactorily impress or entertain viewers. The result is a good-looking mess that is a poor end to the legacy of Alan Rickman.

2/10

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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 2016 End Of The Month Report!

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May is the beginning of Summer Blockbuster Season, but we got our most consistent hits from reviewing the ends of the current seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Legends Of Tomorrow, and The Flash! For another month, readership picked up!

This month, we picked up three new followers on Twitter, but no new subscribers! We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're slowly growing our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In May, the index pages were frequently updates. The primary Index Page, is usually updated daily and lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out and feel free to use that as it is a much more useful and organized index to the reviews I've written!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As summer spending picks up, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of May 2016, I have reviewed the following:
543 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Fiction
Star Trek Books
Nonfiction
Graphic Novels
Magazines
921 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2966 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
225 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
846 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
926 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Drinks
Candy
Cereal
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
245 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
114 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
193 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
197 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
102 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
55 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of May are my reviews of the first two big summer blockbusters: Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse!
Check them out!


The month of May was, predictably, dominated by prior new reviews of new television episodes, with a couple of surprise blasts from the past. For May, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Folgers Fresh Breaks 100% Colombian Roasted Concentrated Coffee
9. "Legendary" - Legends Of Tomorrow
8. "Destiny" - Legends Of Tomorrow
7. Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream
6. "The Runaway Dinosaur" - The Flash
5. "Failed Experiments" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
4. "The Race Of His Life" - The Flash
3. "Emancipation" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. "Absolution" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4
1. "Ascension" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 319 reviews
9s - 480 reviews
8s - 927 reviews
7s - 1033 reviews
6s - 957 reviews
5s - 1220 reviews
4s - 899 reviews
3s - 700 reviews
2s - 329 reviews
1s - 220 reviews
0s - 108 reviews
No rating - 117 articles/postings

While there was a decent amount of movement this month, the all time Top Ten remains unchanged. At the end of April 2016, the most popular reviews/articles continue to be:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Can Open, Worms Everywhere: "The Race Of His Life" Ends The Second Season Of The Flash!


The Good: Most of the acting, Special effects, Moments of character
The Bad: Terrible plot
The Basics: The Flash reaches its second season finale with "The Race Of His Life," an episode that once again puts a ridiculous spin on a simple problem.


Season finale time is upon us and this season one of the hardest finales to execute is coming from The Flash. The episode is entitled "The Race Of His Life" and the burden upon it is one that will reverberate into the future seasons of The Flash. The fundamental problem facing the executive producers of The Flash is that the franchise has three truly great villains: the Reverse Flash, Zoom, and Captain Cold. In the books, Captain Cold gets reformed post-Forever Evil and that has essentially already happened thanks to his role in Legends Of Tomorrow. Eobard Thawne - the Reverse Flash - was dispatched in the first season finale of The Flash and while there are implications he will continue to return as an out-of-time temporal fragment that makes no rational sense, leaving just Zoom as a constant, menacing adversary for The Flash. Don't get me wrong; in the books, The Flash has a ton of adversaries and when Mirror Master pops up, I'll be thrilled if they do it right and I'm already dreading the dumbed-down PG version The Flash will be forced to present with Murmur should Geoff Johns ambitiously try to bring that serial killer to the small screen. But villains from The Flash make for tough season-long or series-long arcs for network television (if The Flash was on AMC, I'd have different thoughts on the matter) and the Metahuman Of The Week style has already proven to be a very unsatisfying concept for The Flash, which has an audience that can easily handle serialization. So, going into "The Race Of His Life," the burden on The Flash is to satisfactorily thwart Zoom and set up the third season in a way that makes viewers want to return.

It failed.

"The Race Of His Life" picks up in the last second of "Invincible" (reviewed here!) and given the climactic nature of that episode and the way it reverberates into "The Race Of His Life," it is impossible to discuss without some conversation of where that episode ended. After all, "The Race Of His Life" opens in the wake of Barry Allen losing his father and the shock of that leaves him appropriately shaken at the outset of the season finale.

With Henry Allen killed in front of him, Barry Allen is furious. The Flash and Zoom begin to race through Central City when Zoom abruptly appears to kill the version who is fighting Barry. Zoom taunts Barry with the idea that The Flash is almost ready to completely become him. Following Henry's funeral, The Flash and Zoom square off and Zoom challenges Barry to a race. The S.T.A.R. Labs team, however, knows exactly what Zoom's trap is; a device was stolen from Mercury Labs that could be used to destroy Earths throughout the multiverse - which is the vision Vibe saw previously. The speed from Zoom and Barry running will power the device and allow Zoom to destroy Earth-2.

To protect Earth and the Flash, the S.T.A.R. Labs team knocks The Flash out and sticks him in a prison cell in order to keep him from racing Zoom. The rest of the team attempts to entrap Zoom and when they throw him back to Earth-2, Joe West is pushed through the breach with him. When Wally West finds out, he rescues Barry and The Flash demands the right to race Zoom to save Joe's life.

"The Race Of His Life" has moments of true greatness, but it falls down ridiculously fast. Opening with the sudden macguffin of the Mercury Labs device that can destroy Earths across the multiverse and Zoom informing Barry just how he can defeat him, there are elements to the episode that are tragically bad. Zoom telling Barry how to defeat him opens an instant plot problem with the episode. The Flash is told by Zoom that Barry has to be willing to kill his own temporal remnant and that being the case, all Barry has to do to stop Zoom from executing his plan to power the world destroyer (why the hell does Mercury Labs have this thing anyway?!) is make Zoom believe he is dead already. In other words, create a temporal remnant of The Flash, then have him killed in front of Zoom so Zoom doesn't have The Flash to rely upon. Similarly, Barry has had numerous experiences now with time travel; there is virtually no temporal consequence to Barry going back in time a day to save his father's life from Zoom. Or going back in time, creating a temporal remnant of Henry Allen and letting Zoom kill the temporal remnant while the proper Henry Allen remains alive somewhere safe.

So, up until the last act, "The Race Of His Life" is wonky at best; before the episode turns away from its potential to completely trash the series. The Flash takes a dive, as if the executive producers realized that they had shot their wad on the potential of the series far too early. The best analogy I have for what is happening with The Flash now is Glee. Glee reached its peak success early with a cast that was solidly constructed; the moment its first season succeeded, the subsequent seasons should have been re-constructed to make each season a semester of the school year to keep the cast solid. It would have given the show four more years before the producers had to deal with reinventing the show. In a similar way, the second season of The Flash banked heavily on keeping Zoom around and thwarting him in "The Race Of His Life" . . . without having a strong idea of how to get there.

The special effects in "The Race Of His Life" are great, as is the performance between Grant Gustin and Candice Patton. Danielle Panabaker is unfortunately stiff as Dr. Snow and Zoom is ridiculously monolithic in the episode. Ultimately, "The Race Of His Life" is a flawed premise with a series of leaps that make it fit poorly with what immediately came before it. The third season premiere will bear the weight of the final moments of "The Race Of His Life," but viewers will be returning to something that is already struggling to make sense of itself.

For other big season finales, please visit my reviews of:
"Legendary" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Fast Enough" - The Flash
"Doomsday" - Doctor Who

4.5/10

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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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