Monday, July 27, 2015

Martha Jones’s Chance To Excel Is Co-Opted By “The Family Of Blood!”


The Good: David Tennant’s performance, Character development, Plot progression
The Bad: Focus on secondary characters, Neglects the significance of Martha Jones for most of the episode.
The Basics: “The Family Of Blood” completes the story begun in “Human Nature,” but it does not do so in a particularly satisfying way.


In science fiction television, there is arguably no greater mixed bag than the two-part episode. Two-parters are more often about the tease than telling a longer, compelling story that could not simply be told in the time limits of a single episode. Instead, so many two-part episodes of science fiction television are about getting the characters to the worst possible place they can get and trying to intrigue viewers into tuning in the next week. In Doctor Who, there are very few actual two-part episodes and the one that seems like it does have a decent story to tell that is more drawn out is the two-parter that begins with “Human Nature” and concludes with “The Family Of Blood.” Unfortunately for fans of Doctor Who, to bring a climax to the episode “Human Nature,” “The Family Of Blood” begins in an unfortunately lame position.

Picking up immediately where “Human Nature” (reviewed here!) ended, “The Family Of Blood” makes Martha Jones into a compelling and complete hero. It’s a rare thing when a show allows the main protagonist to be replaced by the lead supporting character. “The Family Of Blood” allows Martha Jones to become the legitimate hero of Doctor Who, even if only for an episode. But “Human Nature” reached a peak where The Doctor had to make a choice and for all the intensity of that moment, how the subsequent episode goes it cannot be honestly dragging that decision out. The result is the feeling that “The Family Of Blood” opens at an artificially cheap point. “The Family Of Blood” is further hampered by the fact that the conflict is not significant-enough to carry the entire episode, so it turns into a somewhat maudlin tribute to the loss of youth brought about by World War I.

With The Doctor given the painful choice of having to sacrifice either Martha or Joan, Martha Jones leaps into action. Threatening The Family with their own weapons, Jones is able to create a distraction long enough for most of the people at the dance to get to safety. While Martha goes in search of the pocket watch that houses The Doctor’s consciousness, the headmaster meets with The Family. The school is suddenly under siege as The Family’s army of animated scarecrows descend upon it.

After a conversation with Martha Jones, Joan Redfern begins to suspect that Jones might be right about Smith’s true identity as The Doctor. With his TARDIS discovered and The Family closing in on the school, Tim figures out the nature of the pocket watch. Forced to retreat into the school, The Doctor acts as general to lead the students and help them survive the terrible night and the hideous creatures who menace them all!

Throughout “The Family Of Blood,” John Smith’s student, Tim Latimer, is hunted by the alien family that is searching for The Doctor. Tim is in possession of the (essentially) magical pocket watch that houses The Doctor’s true consciousness and will rewrite his DNA when it is open. Latimer opens the watch several times without fully unleashing The Doctor, which is not satisfactorily addressed in “The Family Of Blood.” The focus on Tim Latimer and his seemingly psychic ability to see the future (namely the day of his death in the forthcoming war) diminishes some from the focus on Martha Jones.

At its best moments, “The Family Of Blood” makes Martha Jones into a legitimate defender of The Doctor and the only real force that can stand in opposition to the villainous aliens who are attacking the boarding school. Jones is compellingly portrayed by Freema Agyeman when she is given enough of a part to play. Unfortunately for her chances of being the hero of the episode, “The Family Of Blood” often refocuses on Latimer or The Doctor.

“The Family Of Blood” affords a great chance for David Tennant to shine. Throughout the episode, John Smith is tormented by partial knowledge of his true nature. That leads to wonderful tortured moments when David Tennant plays Smith as regretful of being The Doctor. Tennant commits to the part and he is agonizing to watch in the moments where he plays Smith as lost and hurt by all he will have to give up if The Doctor is to live.

The initial concept of “The Family Of Blood” seemed to justify the two-part episode by creating a threat that immediately endangers The Doctor and Martha Jones. The full scope of the nature of that threat is not revealed in “Human Nature,” but does come out in “The Family Of Blood.” Unfortunately, that transforms The Family into another somewhat generic alien race that is an Alien Of The Week. While there is the potential of The Family to spread throughout the galaxy, that seems unlikely given that there are only four left and they only seem to be a real threat because they stole a temporal vortex manipulator.

The end result is a second part that is comparatively unsatisfying, like so many second parts of two-part episodes; “The Family Of Blood” completes the story set-up in “Human Nature,” but it does not make for a great resolution.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Third Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the second season of the Tenth Doctor here!
Thanks!]

For other episodes of television where identity of a character is compromised, check out my reviews of:
“The Paradise Syndrome” - Star Trek
“Who Are You, Really?” - True Blood
“Yes Men” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

6.5/10

For other Doctor Who episode and season reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best to worst!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Unimpressive, Unnecessary, The 2015 C-3PO And R2-D2 Ornament Is An All-Around Disappointment!


The Good: Wonderful sculpts, Good coloring detail on R2-D2
The Bad: Coloring on C-3PO, Balance, Lack of feature
The Basics: The 2015 C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament is a miscalculation for Hallmark on just what Star Wars fans will buy.


Hallmark ornaments of subjects I like are not graded on a curve. As a result, the Star Trek and Star Wars ornaments that I collect do not get special treatment or consideration just because I am a fan of the franchises. This year's primary Star Wars character ornament is a flop and despite my appreciation of the sculpt, my love of the Star Wars characters does not make it better. Hallmark completely blew the coloring on the C-3PO half of this year's C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament and given that both halves of this ornament have been done before, it seems like an immediately superfluous cashgrab on the part of the company.

Pretty much anyone who knows the Star Wars Saga (reviewed here!) will recognize the two primary droids from the series. C-3PO is the gold protocol droid who reminded the Rebels of rules and regulations. His companion, R2-D2, was the non-anthropomophic droid that was known as an Astromech droid.

The 2015 Hallmark C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament presented both droids on a single ornament, connected.

Basics

The C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament recreates the two droids in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2015, are the two sidekick droids, connected by C-3PO's hand on R2-D2's domed head. The droid pair is 4" tall by 2 1/2” wide and 2" deep. Hallmark charged $17.95 for the ornament originally and it was by no means a sell-out at that price. Unfortunately, the look of the ornament made the original release price seem overpriced.

The Hallmark C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament is made of a durable plastic and they are both sculpted wonderfully. The R2-D2 half of the ornament looks perfect for the Astromech droid, with every nook and cranny detailed accurately. C-3PO looks good, but in a very general way. The sculpted aspects are accurate, from the assembled-looking leg plating to the center stomach area having wires molded in.

Unfortunately, the coloring on C-3PO is entirely off. C-3PO is metallic and should have a reflective quality to him. He is gold. The C-3PO in this ornament is brass or bronze, dull and animated-looking.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but does not. C-3PO and R2-D2 could light up and play dialogue between them, which would make some sense, but Hallmark did not bother with either enhancement to the basic ornament. This is C-3PO and R2-D2 and they simply hang on the tree.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, C-3PO and R2-D2 is very much unnecessary given that Hallmark has done both C-3PO and R2-D2 separately, before. The ornament pair has the brass hook loop on C-3PO's left shoulder. From there, the ornament is heavy to the C-3PO side, making it off-balance and awkward-looking when it hangs.

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 branched out into other popular franchises like Star Wars and The Wizard Of Oz. The C-3PO and R2-D2 ornament is fairly common and because both characters have been done before as part of the standard ornament line, it is unlikely this version - which is the nineteenth in the set of character ornaments - will explode, or even appreciate much, in value.

Overview

Like most Star Wars ornaments, C-3PO and R2-D2 has nothing to do with the Christmas holiday, but Star Wars fans tend not to care when collecting these ornaments. What they do care about is quality and the coloring and balance details are seriously off, making it easy to pass it by.

For other Hallmark ornaments of Star Wars characters, please check out my reviews of:
2015 Admiral Ackbar Limited Edition ornament
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

4.5/10

For other holiday ornaments, please check out the Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Most Developed Yet: Ten Love Songs Is Wonderful Susanne Sundfor!


The Good: Good lyrics, Wonderful lyrics, Most of the instrumental accompaniment is cool
The Bad: Short! Awkward album assembly
The Basics: On her latest album, Susanne Sundfor creates Ten Love Songs that hold up remarkably well . . . even if the album order is sometimes odd!


When I take on a musical Artist Of The Month, eventually, I move toward an inevitable judgment: would I recommend listeners tune in to the works of the artist? My July 2015 Artist Of The Month is Susanne Sundfor and I have been on the fence about her. After a strong debut (reviewed here!), I found myself very unimpressed by The Silicone Veil (reviewed here!). With her latest album, Ten Love Songs, though, I am definitely falling into the camp of "listen to this artist!" I'm discovering that Susanne Sundfor does not release a lot of music at any one time; her albums are short. Ten Love Songs is fairly well-developed in its sound, but it is very short and the album order is somewhat baffling.

Ten Love Songs is a collection of ten interesting and good songs (it was one of the harder albums in recent memory to pick a weak track from!), but the order they are placed in makes for a more unsettling than compelling listening experience. The song "Accelerate" is followed by "Fade Away" and "Fade Away" uses a virtually identical bassline/percussion programming so the songs blend together. And after the loud, fast, energetic "Fade Away" the album hits a wall with the almost-acoustic opening to "Silencer." The album is centered around "Memorial," which is a long piece that evolves from a somewhat standard pop number into a classical/orchestral song. It's interesting, but it feels like the product of a very different album from the one containing "Kamikaze" and "Trust Me." That said, it still is a collection of singles worth investing the time in.

With only ten tracks, occupying forty-seven minutes on c.d., Ten Love Songs is short, but it is the clear, distinct creative vision of Susanne Sundfor. Sundfor wrote all of the lyrics for the songs and she composed the music for the tracks as well. As is her fashion, Sundfor provides all the main vocals and she plays instruments on each of the songs. At this point in her career, Sunfor is involved with producing her own works and she is the sole producer on six of the songs and a co-producer on the remaining four. Ten Love Songs is very much her intended musical vision.

And it is good. Instrumentally, Ten Love Songs is very ambitious. Despite "Fade Away" starting out in a way that sounds virtually identical to the track before it (and "Delirious" using a similarly-produced beat later on the album), the musical development on Ten Love Songs is impressive. "Delirious" blends keyboards, percussion and overlapping vocal tracks to accomplish exactly what it intends. Similarly, "Kamikaze" has moments of instrumental cacophany that perfectly embody the song's goals. "Slowly" and "Silencer" both use keyboards and programmed percussion to make for delightful, almost-1980's sounding, pop songs.

Vocally, Ten Love Songs has Susanne Sundfor at the top of her game. Sundfor has clear vocals and seems to effortlessly traverse the alto and soprano registers, all the while maintaining a level of articulation that makes every one of her lines clear and emotive. Sundfor is hypnotic with the way she uses her backing vocals to harmonize with her melodies on "Slowly" and Ten Love Songs does not make the mistake of ever producing the instrumental accompaniment to overwhelm the vocals.

On the lyrical front, Sundfor illustrates a real talent for musical storytelling on Ten Love Songs. First off, Susanne Sundfor has a wonderful sense of diction and an impressive ability to use imagery in her songs. With lines like "Here I stand with the gun in my hand / Waiting for the water to calm / The moonlight can barely paint / An aquarelle of coral blue and red / Like the colours / Of your lover's / Pretty eyes and hair" ("Silencer"), Sundfor sets herself apart from her contemporaries.

Susanne Sundfor's origins are in the folk tradition and on Ten Love Songs, she combines the lyrical sensibilities of a folk singer with the instrumental accompaniment of a techno-pop artist. Sunfor still sings musical storysongs with a strong, clear protagonist and intriguing imagery, like when she sings "Many people will get hurt / Take your time and I'll finish your dessert / Don't look people right in the eyes / If you can, you can / Wars erupting like volcanoes / Blood streaming down the walls / It's out of our hands, so baby let go" ("Accelerate") but she pairs the lines with more aggressive and expressive instrumental accompaniment on Ten Love Songs. Sundfor makes it work.

Even repetition does not hurt Susanne Sunfor. On "Trust Me," Sundfor repeats many of the same lines, but she creates a ponderous, heartwrenching mood that perfectly fits her lines "Nothing’s ever easy, when you take ecstasy / All you do is please me, all you do is tease me / You cannot erase me, you cannot replace me / Like they do in the movies, like they do in the movies." Finding that type of balance is a tough thing, but Sundfor creates musical themes and plays them out wonderfully on songs like "Trust Me."

Ten Love Songs shows real growth and creative mastery for Susanne Sundfor and with progress like this, it is surprising her works have not yet jumped to the U.S. to become mainstream hits here!

The best track is "Accelerate," the low point is probably "Darlings" if for no other reason than every song after it on the album is better than the album's opener. It's still not a bad song, though!

For other 2015 album releases, please check out my reviews of:
Star Wars - Wilco
Endless Forms Most Beautiful - Nightwish
The Way It Feels - Heather Nova
Emerald - Dar Williams

7/10

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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Outside The Balance, Ariel's Thingamabobs Is A Perfect Ornament!


The Good: Decent sculpted details, Affordable, Neat coloring accents
The Bad: Back-heavy
The Basics: The 2015 "Ariel's Thingamabobs" ornament from The Little Mermaid is an understated great ornament from Hallmark and is easy to recommend to fans!


It is a rare thing when my wife and I disagree on a Disney Hallmark ornament and it actually affects whether or not we buy it. While I have a modest collection of Star Trek and science fiction Hallmark ornaments, my wife collects the cute holiday ornaments and the ornaments from her favorite Disney films. This year, she went through the wishbook and picked out the ones she wanted and when we have gone ornament shopping since, she has stuck to her original list.

She decided, based on the dreambook, that she did not want the Ariel's Thingamabobs ornament from The Little Mermaid. This surprised me because she is a huge fan of The Little Mermaid and she has several other ornaments from that film. But, even after we saw it in person, she was adamant that she did not want the ornament. As a fan and collector, I think she is making a terrible mistake; the Ariel's Thingamabobs ornament is one of the best Hallmark ornaments this year and a very cool Disney ornament!

For those unfamiliar with The Little Mermaid (reviewed here!), early in the film, the mermaid Ariel explores a shipwreck and she finds things like a fork and a shell with an oyster. She sings a song about the artifacts she has found and her cravings to be on land.

Katrina Bricker did an absolutely incredible sculpt for the ornament and it includes a glass shell backing that makes it feel like one of Ariel's ancient artifacts!

Basics

The "Ariel's Thingamabobs" ornament recreates Ariel and shell - with pearl - that she is holding inside a glass seashell with kelp accents on the side. The ornament, released in 2015, 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 three inches tall and wide by one inch deep, the "Ariel's Thingamabobs" ornament is a slightly smaller than most of the Disney ornaments, but it packs a lot in. At only $14.95, it is one of the more affordable Disney ornaments this year and with the feel of glass to its backing shell, it gives the impression of being a real value!

The Hallmark The Little Mermaid "Ariel's Thingamabobs" ornament is made of glass and durable plastic and has Ariel, swimming up from the ocean's floor and essentially hovering inside the ornament holding the shell in her left hand. The sculpt is accurate enough to make the mermaid look perfectly recognizable. The paint accents on the "Ariel's Thingamabobs" are pretty incredible. Ariel has a blush to her cheeks and the kelp that frames the ornament is pearlescent. The tail even has some sparkle accents to it! Even the character's eyes are well-detailed and colored!

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, The Little Mermaid "Ariel's Thingamabobs" 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.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake The Little Mermaid "Ariel's Thingamabobs" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Disney movie Christmas Tree, the "Ariel's Thingamabobs" ornament is a great addition, despite having some balance issues. The ornament has the standard steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the back of the shell, right behind an ornamental starfish. The starfish hides the hook loop well. Unfortunately, from that vantage, the ornament is backheavy. That means that the level bottom of the ornament actually pitches upward, like the ornament is falling slightly back into the tree. The balance issue is enough to rob the ornament of perfection, though it is not a serious-enough defect to make it unworth buying!

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 Thingamabobs" is one of many The Little Mermaid ornaments the company has released and one of several Disney ornaments on the market for 2015. 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 Thingamabobs ornament, despite the minor balance issue. As a low-cost Disney ornament, it is a must-buy, even if my wife can't see that!

For other Disney's The Little Mermaid Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
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!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Child-free Jurassic World Might Not Have Sucked.


The Good: Moments of effect, Some of the performances
The Bad: Unlikable characters, Ridiculous and predictable plot, Thematically heavyhanded
The Basics: Jurassic World is another cheap re-do of Jurassic Park: this time with undertones of sexism and an overt "family values" message likely to disgust viewers more than the killer dinosaurs will!


Jurassic World is, as I write this, the third top-grossing film of all time and already has a sequel in development. I waited weeks to watch Jurassic World because I have not, traditionally, been a fan of the Jurassic Park film franchise. In fact, I only recently realized that I have only seen and reviewed the first Jurassic Park (reviewed here!) before taking in Jurassic World. While I was not super-impressed by Jurassic Park, I was actively bored and repulsed while watching Jurassic World.

Before watching Jurassic World, I had some inklings that it might not become my favorite film of all time. My wife asked me if I grade on a curve for "b" movies and I told her "no" - I review and rate Casablanca with the same criteria as Step-Brothers and Just Friends - and we had heard some rumblings that it had some distinctly anti-child-free elements to the film. What surprised me most about Jurassic World was how dramatically sexist the film was. And yes, for those who are deliberately child-free, there is something distinctly offensive about the death of Zara in the film (this is not a significant spoiler at all). Zara is the personal assistant to Claire, who is saddled with childcare duties that are nowhere near in her job description and as "punishment" for her failure to look out for the child protagonists of Jurassic World, she endures the longest on-screen human death sequence of any of the human characters (only one of the dinosaur characters is brutalized longer on-screen than Zara is!). For those of us who are deliberately child-free, the message from screenwriters Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow (who also directed the film!) and Derek Connolly is pretty clear: everyone should want to have children in their life or die horribly for not protecting kids!

More than Twenty years after the planned Jurassic Park was scrapped, Isla Nublar is up and running as a successful theme park known as Jurassic World. Despite having more than twenty thousand visitors to Jurassic World a day, the park's director, Claire, is anxious about the bottomline and has had her team of scientists developing new human-engineered dinosaurs. Claire is meeting with the corporate director, Masrani, and sponsors who are funding the research for developing the new dinosaurs, when her sister sends her nephews - Gray and Zach - to the park. Unprepared for their visit, Claire fobs the kids off on her assistant, Zara, and tries to keep the park up and running.

But the new genetically-engineered dinosaur, Indominus Rex, decides now is the time to fake out its overseers and it pretends to escape its enclosure, which sets up for her actual escape. Claire is forced to rely upon the velociraptor trainer, Owen, to find her nephews who are lost in the park when Indominous Rex breaks out and the rides get shut down. While Owen and Claire are out trying to save the children, the military contractor Hoskins siezes the opportunity to fill the power vacuum by bringing the velociraptors into the field against the Indominus Rex. While trying to get the human visitors to safety, the dinosaurs are set against each other.

Every now and then, there is a movie that has a conflict that has such a stupidly complex story when the simple solution is the most sensible and Jurassic World is exactly that kind of movie. Jurassic World is populated by characters who learned absolutely nothing from Jurassic Park and live in a world where our technological achievements did not occur. In Jurassic Park, DNA from other animals was spliced with the dinosaur DNA to fill in, essentially, the introns, because computers of the day did not have the processing speed to analyze full DNA strands in a timely manner. That is not the case now. Computer speeds have become so very much faster that it would no longer take decades or even years to render a single dinosaur's DNA strand. In other words, all of the evolutionary benefits the Indominus Rex gets from its spliced DNA are entirely unnecessary.

But beyond that, Jurassic World suffers from being a victim to simple numbers. The Indominus Rex has $26,000,000 worth of research and development poured into it, which is why Claire is anxious to not kill it right away. But the potential lawsuits from deaths of visitors to Jurassic World with the utterly foreseeable event of a giant genetically-engineered dinosaur escaping and killing or maiming anyone is entirely forseeable to exceed $26,000,000. So, simple business insurance would have Jurassic World preparing for foreseeable disasters with a killswitch (i.e. it is more cost-effective to insure the research and development on a new dinosaur than it is to insure against the deaths of up to 20,000 visitors to Jurassic World). Jurassic World makes a piss-poor run-around the concept with "shock collars" and "trackers." The moment the threat of Indominus Rex was revealed in the film, I sat up and asked "Why didn't they install an explosive in the dinosaur so if it left the enclosure or they couldn't find it, they could just blow its head off?" The writers of Jurassic World are not so smart. They thought "we'll give it a tracker." But even there, why wouldn't they put a small load of Cesium in the tracker? Cesium explodes in oxygen and if the dinosaur was smart enough to remove the tracker, the process of removing it would kill the dinosaur. How is it that pretty much anyone watching Jurassic World will be smarter than the people who are supposed to exist in the world where engineering dinosaurs for fun and profit is real?!

So, back to the actual film Jurassic World. It's a lot of running around. It's a lot of computer-generated dinosaurs running around and attacking people. There are a lot of guns that shoot dinosaurs and don't seem to cut them down nearly as fast as one might expect. And there are a lot of surprisingly weak women. I love Judy Greer. Greer plays Karen in Jurassic World, the mother of Gray and Zach. In her professional workplace setting, Karen begins crying while on the phone with Claire for no particular reason other than the fact that Claire is not actually spending time with her children (nothing bad has yet happened to them to their knowledge). Zara is a nonentity who is not so vital that she cannot be fobbed off on babysitting duty (and fails horribly at that because she can't stay off her smartphone). Claire constantly defers to men in the film; she is the director of Jurassic World, though she gets a verbal spanking from Masrani for not understanding the philosophy behind the park (though this is not a new job for her!) and turns to Owen for in-field help at the first sign of trouble. The most competent female character in Jurassic World is Vivian, a control-room operator who is horrified when things go wrong at the park, but stands her ground against inappropriate inter-office contact when it comes time for her to evacuate.

The acting in Jurassic World is fine, save the preponderance of shots where child actors fail to get eyelines or emotional reactions right while working with virtual characters.

The dinosaurs are big, but hardly special in Jurassic World and there my analysis ends: Jurassic World is a long, painful, dull before is rushes into a derivative chase movie that viewers have already seen.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Dragon Blade
Ant-Man
Lila & Eve
Minions
No Way Jose
Terminator Genisys
Inside Out

2.5/10

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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Friday, July 24, 2015

Where's The Marshmallow?! Land O'Lakes S'Mores Cocoa Is Too Tough To Execute Properly!


The Good: Good flavor, Easy to prepare
The Bad: Fairly expensive in this form, Environmental impact of packaging, Doesn't actually have the marshmallow flavor of s'mores!
The Basics: Good, but not truly great, the Land O' Lakes S'mores Hot Cocoa is still worth trying!


I admire ambition, in all things I experience (and review). Ambitious movies, ambitious musical recordings, even ambitious foods impress me for the attempt, if not their execution. I was instantly impressed by the Land O'Lakes S'Mores Hot Cocoa. I love flavored hot cocoas and S'mores is a neat flavor. Following on the heels of their Chocolate Graham cocoa (reviewed here!), Land O'Lakes S'mores Cocoa seems like a flavor the company could conceivably pull off. Unfortunately, the flavor balance between the three key elements of S'mores - chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows - prove to be an impossible combination for the company to pull off in cocoa form.

The only real problem with the S'mores Cocoa is that it fails to live up to the flavor of marshmallows in its flavor palate.

Basics

The S'mores hot cocoa mix is part of the Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics premium hot cocoa line. The mix comes in a 1 1/4 oz. sealed foil package and is a pretty delicious mix. Each 1 1/4 oz. packet is a single serving and these bear a relatively high price tag virtually everywhere I have found them of approximately three for two dollars. For a single mug of cocoa, this is expensive when compared to other make-at-home products, but about on par with getting a cocoa at a place like Starbucks.

Ease Of Preparation

The Cocoa Classics S'mores hot cocoa mix is ridiculously simple to make. Because it is sealed and has some artificial preservatives in is, this is likely to last virtually forever unopened. A single serving is the packet and six oz. of water. There is no measuring of the product involved!

As a result, preparation is ridiculously simple. The top of the envelope has a perforated edge and one need simply tear open the top, which is quite easy, and pour the contents of the packet into a mug that is at least eight ounces large. Then, simply pour hot water - near boiling, but not actually boiling as boiling water cooks the ingredients as opposed to simply dissolving them - over the powder and stir. Stir the powder until there are no blobs of chocolate powder visible in the water or giving resistance from the bottom. The beverage will have a light brown color to it and will be uniformly smooth and creamy.

Taste

The S'mores cocoa has a wonderful aroma to it. The scent is strong with the aroma of graham crackers and there is enough in the aroma to hint at the chocolate flavor, too. There is nothing in the scent that screams "marshmallow," so the scent is very much the embodiment of graham crackers and chocolate.

On the flavor front, S'mores cocoa is a good balance of chocolate and graham cracker flavor. The milk chocolate flavor Land O' Lakes was striving for is balanced well by the cinnamon and graham flavor one would expect from a S'mores cocoa. This is a very sweet cocoa flavor, which is dominated by the graham cracker flavor over the chocolate. Even in the sweet aftertaste, there is not really any marshmallow in the S'mores cocoa's flavor.

Nutrition

Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics are hot cocoa mix and therefore not the most nutritious things in the known world, though the S'mores flavor could be far less nutritious than it is. The S'mores hot cocoa has a few ingredients that cannot be easily identified. The primary ingredients are sugar, nonfat dry milk and whey. It is not vegan compliant as a result. There are no flavorings in the ingredient list that would define the beverage as graham cracker flavored!

What is not a mystery is how high this product is in sugars. In each cup of S'mores Cocoa Classics, there are 140 calories, twenty-five of which are from fat. There are 2.5 grams of saturated fat, so while one might be tempted to curl up and enjoy this while resting, they are likely to pay for it later on! While there is no cholesterol, a consumer gets 11% of their recommended daily allowance of salt out of a single packet of this beverage! There is a little protein, but not enough to live off this. In other words, this product is not a nutritious food product.

This product contains soy and milk and because there are no notations on it, one must assume it is not Kosher or gluten-free.

Storage/Cleanup

So long as one leaves the S'mores Cocoa Classic powder in its packet, it ought to stay usable. Given that it had an expiration date almost two years away - our package had an expiration date of February 27, 2017 - one assumes it will last quite a while and dissolve appropriately when one attempts to use it. The packets, for those of us who consider the environmental impact of such things, are terribly wasteful and expensive. The foil/plastic wrappers are not recyclable anywhere I've been.

Cleanup is very easy as well. If the product spills while dumping it into the mug, simply wipe it up or brush it up with a dry or damp cloth. If it has already been reconstituted with water into hot cocoa, simply wipe it up. Light fabrics are likely to stain if this gets on them, in which case consult your fabric care guide to clean it up.

Overall

Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics are good, but the S'mores flavor does not add anything to the line that the Chocolate Graham did not already do. The result is a good flavor, but not quite all that the name promises!

For other Land O' Lakes hot chocolate drinks, please visit my reviews of:
Warm Oatmeal Cookie Cocoa
French Vanilla & Chocolate cocoa
Arctic White

7/10

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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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An Average Indie Allegory Story: The Brass Teapot


The Good: Moments of concept, Character, Adequate performances
The Bad: Overbearing soundtrack, Obvious morals
The Basics: Money changes everything for those who suddenly get a windfall from The Brass Teapot.


Last year, I discovered a hidden gem of a film to be the best movie of the year. The indie film Cheap Thrills (reviewed here!), while understated and horrifying, blew me away. When I began praising that film, my wife started looking into similar films. She discovered The Brass Teapot and what Cheap Thrills did with subtlety and class, The Brass Teapot does with overt, reckless abandon. Instead of trying to pound its message home in a potent way, director Ramaa Mosley tries to make a stylish film that entertains.

In Laurel Springs, Indiana, John Macy sells extended warranties over the phone, while his wife, Alice, looks for a job. She has spent years getting her Bachelor's Degree and she discovers the jobs she wants has applicants who have better degrees and vastly more experience. The pair overdrafts their checking account paying their rent and goes to a party for one of their less-talented former classmates. Their friends, Louise and Chuck, are going through similarly tough times while the rest of their classmates seem to be excelling in their fields. The next day, John and Alice go out for a drive and are hit by a truck when they cross through an intersection where the stop sign was sawed off. Across the intersection, Alice sees an old lady at an antique shop pull a brass teapot out of her hiding spot and bring it back into her store. Alice steals the teapot and the two take it home.

The next day, Alice is at home when she accidentally burns herself on her curling iron. Immediately, hundreds of dollars appears in the brass teapot she stole and she quickly figures out that whenever she endures pain, the teapot generates hundred dollar bills. John is fired from his job, but returns home to find Alice wounded, but elated. John steals the teapot from her because he is concerned with how the inflicting of pain will end for them. The two come back together and exploit the teapot for money by hurting themselves and one another. They make a plan to work up to $1,000,000 by more conservatively, but because John appeared on The Antiques Roadshow with it, they soon find themselves targeted by various individuals who have been hunting the teapot for decades!

The allegory aspect of The Brass Teapot is incredibly thin; we hurt ourselves for money. The more we sacrifice, the more we earn. And, of course, nothing comes for free; the consequences of using the brass teapot outweigh the cash it dispenses. Greed corrupts.

The Brass Teapot only becomes clever in its final third. As the teapot seems to betray John and Alice, Alice learns that they can make money off the pain of others. From the very beginning, Alice exhibits an obsessive quality that make it clear she will go over-the-top, while John tries to maintain his friendships. In her desire to keep the money flowing, Alice is happy to exploit the pain of others to get the teapot to pay out. John willingly goes along with it, but does not delight in it the way Alice seems to.

The Brass Teapot lacks subtlety, from the beginning when the soundtrack is overbearing with indie pop-rock songs to the ultimate turning point for the characters. The moment they reach their threshold is an odd one and it indicates that Alice is not really all that close to her best friend, as opposed to her family.

The performances in The Brass Teapot are good. The film does not call for subtlety, so Juno Temple and Michael Angarano are ideally cast for it. The supporting cast of Alexis Bledel, Alia Shawat, Bobby Moynihan, and Jack McBrayer is good, though hardly used in any incredible fashion. The plot is fairly predictable, but the ride is intriguing-enough to stick with.

For other works with Juno Temple, please check out my reviews of:
Maleficent
Horns
Lovelace
The Dark Knight Rises
Year One
Atonement

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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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Myah Enjoys, But Does Prefer Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz Dog Treats!


The Good: Good ingredients, Smells very meaty, Myah goes for them! Affordable.
The Bad: Myah shows a preference for other flavors over them, Lack of decent dental benefits!
The Basics: The Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz dog treats are enjoyed by Myah as part of our training.


Myah has been training with my wife and I lately and to that end, she gets a variety of treats. Recently, we picked her up the Pedigree Smoky Bacon & Cheddar Flavor Stackerz (reviewed here!) and when she enjoyed those, we picked up the Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz. The Stackerz are still a relatively new treat from Pedigree and our Siberian Husky Myah has been enjoying these thanks to a good sale on big bags of them. Unfortunately for Stackerz, Myah liked, but did not love, the Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz.

Basics

We picked up the 25 oz. resealable bag of Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz on sale for under ten dollars, which is a great price for a month’s worth of large dog treats. These treats grabbed Myah’s attention with their strong scent and she became fairly willing to follow basic commands for a decent period of time when these treats were in play. However, when we had other Stackerz at the same time and Myah never once chose the Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz first; they were always her second choice.

The Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz dog treats are long, soft meaty stick treats that are brown and red, as if they were a blend of two different types of meat. When the bag is opened initially, the Stackerz smell very strongly of meat, like the exact scent of a Hickory Farms meat log. Each snack is approximately 4 1/4" long by 3/4” wide and 3/8" thick. The surface of the Stackerz dog treat is like a processed meat snack (think Slim Jim) without a casing. The treat is soft, but not very breakable and I was surprised to notice it has segments, so it can be easily torn into three pieces. Given how I have a bigger dog, we never had to make these smaller!

Ease Of Preparation

This is a ready-to-eat dog treat and only requires one to open the bag to dispense. The bag reseals after it is closed, so the meaty smell does not effervesce away from the bag very long.

Myah’s Reaction

The soft Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz does very little to freshen dog breath and/or clean plaque one’s dog’s teeth. This treat is too soft for that and for big dogs like Myah, she barely chews it, so it is a poor dental aid.

That said, Myah enjoys the Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz treats enough that she eats them up when they are offered to her. Because the treat is aromatic, Myah perked up whenever the bag was opened and it is one of the few treats I’ve seen her really sniff for. When she smells it, she comes for it! Whenever Myah could choose between the Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz and any other treat, she chooses the other treat.

Nutrition

The Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz dog treats are very healthy. With at least 8 % crude protein, 1% crude fat and no more than 4.5% crude fiber and 23% moisture, the Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz offer some decent nutrition to dogs. Made primarily of beef, wheat flour and wheat starch, I was impressed by how the Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz start with real meat ingredients and have other good ingredients. These treats do not have extensive preservatives; our bag, purchased in September, had an April 28, 2015 expiration date. As with all dog treats, it is highly recommended that when you give your dog Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz, you make sure they have a decent supply of clean water available. Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz treats are not intended to replace dog food.

Overall

Pedigree Filet Mignon & Bacon Flavor Stackerz are reasonably-priced and Myah likes them, though they are not her favorite and they do nothing for dental health.

For other dog treats, please visit my reviews of:
Purina Benefuls Heartfuls Baked Delights
PureBites Freeze-Dried Ocean Whitefish dog treats
Iams Shakeables Turkey Flavor treats

7/10

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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Overt Comedy Of The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Ant Man Is Enjoyable!


The Good: Funny, Good special effects, Decent performances, Moments of character
The Bad: Predictable plot and character arcs
The Basics: The Marvel Cinematic Universe highlights the sidekicks and
back bench characters in Ant Man, which is successful as a comedy film!


The strategy from the executives in charge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become fairly evident over the last few years of the franchise's Phase 2 films: Marvel/Disney releases (at least one) "safe" film (one with a well-established character or team) each year and one "risk" film. The "risk" film is one that is not "guaranteed" to blow away the box-office because it is either not a sequel or does not feature one of the a-list Marvel Comics superheroes. For example, last year, amid all of the sequels from Avengers-heroes, Marvel released Guardians Of The Galaxy (reviewed here!). This year, after the reliable-hit The Avengers Age Of Ultron (reviewed here!), Marvel's addition to Summer Blockbuster Season is Ant Man.

Ant Man represents the largest risk to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Marvel has taken since Iron Man (reviewed here!). Had Guardians Of The Galaxy not been a sleeper-hit, it could still have been written off by the studio as an attempt to offer backstory and insight into the villain of the forthcoming The Avengers: Infinity War and the consequences for the fans would not have been huge because virtually the entire story happened off-planet. But Ant Man is very much based on Earth and it is a risk, like Iron Man. Revisionists like to forget how much of a risk Iron Man was: Marvel tried to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe five years prior with the (usually) reliable fan-favorite Incredible Hulk headlining a film that flopped, the protagonist of Iron Man was not even the highest-paid actor in the cast, and the comic book Iron Man was not even the most-popular (or even top five!) book Marvel Comics was producing at the time. Marvel took an interesting approach with Ant Man to mitigate the box office risk.

Perhaps the oddest choice - at least on the surface - that Marvel Studios made with Ant Man was to create a film that did not center around the original and widely popular incarnation of the title character. Instead of having Dr. Pym, the original Ant-Man, as the film's protagonist, Ant Man focuses on Pym handing the mantle of Ant-Man to Scott Lang. The jaded fan in me suspects that not having Pym as the film's lead is an excuse for lazy writing - Pym is one of the four smartest people in the Marvel Universe and having to write for a character who is that smart can be intimidating for writers and for the audience - and an attempt to make broader appeal for the film (with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, adding Dr. Pym to the mix makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe very scientist-heavy, which appeals more to geeks - read "niche audience"). As a business move, passing the mantle in Ant Man makes sense: it allows Marvel to make an overt comedy film and it introduces a whole "secret history" element to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - there is a "lost era" in which Dr. Pym as Ant-Man would have been the dominant super-hero in the Marvel Universe!

Ant Man is the closest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to overtly focus on the second-string characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (they haven't taken a risk like that outside Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Ant-Man is trained for a very specific mission and he only goes up against one adversary. As well, Ant-Man encounters only one Avenger . . . and it's The Falcon, who is presented almost as a parody of himself in the film. But, for all the hedging of bets, Ant Man works and it does exactly what it is supposed to: create a comedy film that still fits into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and add another hero who will have an integral part in saving the Earth from Thanos in The Avengers: Infinity War. And should Robert Downey Jr. decide to opt-out of any of the future Marvel Cinematic Universe films, it seems like Paul Rudd is being set up to fill the same niche for one-liners.

Opening in the late 1980s, Dr. Hank Pym confronts Peggy Carter, Howard Stark, and S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Mitchell Carson. Pym controls his revolutionary Pym Particle, which allows him to change size. Rather than let that technology fall into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s or Stark's hands, Pym resigns from their arrangement and becomes a recluse. Almost thirty years later, in the wake of Ultron's attack in Sokovia, Scott Lang is released from prison in San Francisco. Having served his sentence for burglary, for returning the ill-gotten gains of a company to its exploited customers, Lang is determined to fly right and get a legitimate job in order to get access to his daughter, Cassie. But, after getting fired by Baskin-Robbins, and with his friends pressuring him to do another heist, Lang succumbs and agrees to help break into a reclusive millionaire's safe. When he does, he becomes suspicious because the safe he cracks leads only to a strange suit.

Lang tries on the suit and discovers that it gives him the ability to shrink down to about 1/4" tall and the voice in his helmet tells him that the man from whom he stole the suit is impressed with him. Lang attempts to return the suit, but is arrested while leaving Dr. Pym's house. While in custody, Lang is visited by Pym, who is pretending to be his lawyer, and is broken out of jail by ants who bring him the shrinking suit. Escaping the police, Lang properly meets Dr. Pym, who explains why he is interested in Lang. Dr. Pym's corporation has been taken over by Darren Cross in Pym's absence and Cross has spent the intervening decades developing his equivalent to the Pym Particle. As Cross's work nears fruition, he is negotiating to sell his weaponized shrinking suit to the highest bidder. Seeing that Cross's perverted vision of his work is about to fundamentally change the world's landscape - Cross is selling an army of shrinking suits for defense, espionage, and the elimination of personal privacy - Pym begs Lang to break into his old laboratory and steal the prototype before Cross's work is finished. Trained by Pym's estranged daughter, Hope, Scott takes up the mantle of Ant-Man to save the world from Cross's twisted army.

In many ways, Ant-Man is a very typical super hero movie and an equally-obvious heist film. Were it not for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. using a number of similar elements on almost a weekly basis, there would be a lot in Ant-Man that was new to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, on the plot and character arcs, there is not a lot that is original.

That said, Scott Lang is an interesting protagonist and Michael Douglas brilliantly plays Pym as his straightman, even though he is forced to deliver an incredible amount of the film's exposition. The performances in Ant-Man are good, but play more to the performer's established wheelhouses, as opposed to expanding their range. Evangeline Lilly plays Hope Van Dyne in essentially the same way she played Kate on Lost (reviewed here!) and Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang with his usual knack for shtick. But, Rudd's performance is virtually interchangeable with his acting in Wanderlust (reviewed here!) and Anthony Mackie's appearance as The Falcon does not add anything truly substantive to the character's role (not Mackie's fault, it's just the part that was written for him!). Lilly and Rudd have virtually no on-screen chemistry, which makes their final scene seem like a cheap plot point, as opposed to something organic from the characters.

But more than the predictability, Ant-Man suffers from problems with the details. While there are fleeting moments where the special effects are erratic (it's tough to do the scale consistently properly and make miniaturized characters visible on screen!), the real issues come in the exposition and the tie-ins to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. Dr. Pym says that he cannot re-take the mantle of Ant-Man, which implies there are dire consequences from constantly using the Ant-Man suit. Lang doesn't question that adequately and Pym's lack of explanation makes him seem either dishonest or disingenuous. At the other end of the spectrum, the moment Cross's buyers are revealed to be HYDRA, the fact that Grant Ward does not appear on-screen feels like a real missed opportunity (especially considering where his character ended up at the end of the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.).

Ant-Man is funny and all evidence points to the idea that it will hold up under multiple viewings better than some of the earlier works in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Pym is a great mentor and his dynamic with Hope is one of the most realistic relationships yet depicted in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ultimately, Ant-Man is one of the better endeavors in Summer Blockbuster Season this year.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Dragon Blade
Lila & Eve
Minions
No Way Jose
Terminator Genisys
Inside Out
Jurassic World

7/10

For other elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing organized from best to worst!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cheap-Looking, But Cute, The 2015 Season's Treatings Ornament Is Still Fun!


The Good: Cute, Generally decent sculpt, Well-painted, Neat glitter accents
The Bad: Very plastic looking, Poor balance
The Basics: The 2015 "Season's Treatings" ornament is cute, but not terribly impressive, making for a good low-cost Hallmark ornament!


My wife has been building a Hallmark ornament collection over the last few years, which mirrors my genre ornament collection from Hallmark. My wife's collection is more broad than mine; she comes out with me on Ornament Premiere Weekend and goes through the Dreambook since she started her collection and she picks out the cute ones that capture her fancy. This year, in addition to her Disney and movie-themed ornaments, she gravitated toward a couple of non-genre ornaments. This year's Season's Treatings ornament grabbed her and so I picked it up for her.

The 2015 Season's Treatings ornament is a food-based ornament that is generally cute, but does not live up to some of the other ornaments my wife has picked up. It looks a little cheaper than other Hallmark ornaments, despite having some neat coloring accents. The result is an ornament that is affordable, but more mediocre than exceptional.

Basics

The Season's Treatings ornament is an ornament that features a pile of star-shaped cookies on a plate that forms a Christmas tree. The top of the tree has a yellow star cookie and the plate is accented by the star-shaped cookie cutter leaning against the bottom of the cookie-pile tree and a snowman cookie leaning up against the other side of the tree. The ornament, released in 2015, is a standard-release ornament that came out during Ornament Preview Weekend and it did not sell out at any of the Hallmark Gold Crown stores I went to.

Hallmark made a decent attempt to make a good ornament with the Season's Treatings ornament, but the ornament is very simple and clearly assembled. The snowman cookie looks like exactly what it is; a thin plastic snowman added to the ornament. Measuring two inches tall, one and fifteen-sixteenth inches in diameter, the "Season's Treatings" ornament is a small-sized Hallmark ornament. This is also one of the least expensive Hallmark ornaments. It originally retailed at $9.95, which makes it one of the most affordable Hallmark Keepsake ornaments released this year.

The Hallmark "Season's Treatings" ornament is made of thin plastic for the snowman, plate and star, though the rest of the cookie tree looks more durable. The painted details are consistently rendered, which is nice. The green on the cookies for the cookie tree are pearlescent, which makes for a more whimsical quality to the ornament. The snowman might look cheap for the thin plastic, but the paint job is incredible in its detailing. Even the plate looks nicely detailed with a good border on the plate. On the opposite side of the plate from the cookie-cutter is the neatly painted year stamp, indicating that this ornament was released in 2015.

Features

As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Season's Treatings" could have a sound effect, but it does not. Instead, this is a less-expensive option that is just made up of cute-looking cookie elements.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Season's Treatings" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas tree. And the "Season's Treatings" ornament is a good option for anyone who likes Christmas cookies. The ornament has the brass hook loop embedded into the top cookie, behind the star. While this allows the hook loop to be hidden, from that point, the Season's Treatings is poorly balanced. The ornament is front-heavy, so it looks like the plate is about to tip over!

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 (click here for that review!). Within a few years, every major franchise from Star Wars to A Nightmare Before Christmas to Indiana Jones started making Hallmark ornaments. "Season's Treatings" is a non-genre ornament that is actually part of an annual series. This is the seventh ornament in the Season's Treatings series and none of the primary-release ornaments from the set have not significantly appreciated (the repaints and limited edition versions have). There is no reason to expect that trend would not hold with the 2015 Season's Treatings ornament.

Overview

Fans of cute food, Christmas cookies, Hallmark ornaments, and generic Christmas ornaments are likely to thing the Season's Treatings ornament is affordable and cute, but given it seems to be a low-priority "buy" this year, one suspects most fans will be able to wait until the end of the season to pick it up.

For other non-genre Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2015 Barbie Celebration ornament set
2014 Sound The Trumpet ornament
2014 White Chocolate Moose ornament

7/10

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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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