Monday, September 1, 2014

Pricy, But Cool, The 2014 Sandcrawler Star Wars Ornament Is Worth It!


The Good: Great Sculpt, Interesting sound effect, Impressive balance
The Bad: Seems expensive
The Basics: Despite the size, the only real detraction to the 2014 Sandcrawler Star Wars ornament is its price.


For a nice change of pace, Star Wars fans are getting a pretty easy year when it comes to Hallmark ornaments. Usually, Star Wars fans get exploited for several ornaments and many of the pricier ones. While there is a convention-exclusive Star Wars ornament, there was no preview weekend exclusive for Star Wars fans. As if to compensate for the lack of a preview weekend exclusive, it feels like Hallmark jacked up the price on their more simple vehicle ornament this year. This year’s Star Wars vehicle ornament is the Sandcrawler.

The "Sandcrawler" was seen early in A New Hope (reviewed here!). The Sandcrawler was seen on Tatooine. It was the vehicle that picked up C-3PO and R2-D2 in the desert and carried them to the Skywalker moisture farm. Interestingly, for the iconic nature of the sandcrawler, it was only seen for a little bit of time in one Star Wars film.

It is the Sandcrawler vehicle on its own that is the subject of the 2014 Sandcrawler Hallmark ornament.

Basics

The "Sandcrawler" ornament faithfully recreates the Sandcrawler on its own. The ornament, released in 2014, is an impressive work of sculpted detailing and craftsmanship. Measuring four inches long, 2" wide and 1 1/2" wide, this Hallmark Keepsake ornament still seemed a little pricy at the original issue price of $29.95.

The Hallmark "Sandcrawler" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has a Sandcrawler without any desert ground underneat the treads. The ornament is colored in more than just simple monotones, so the Sandcrawler looks like a weathered vehicle working in the real world. The copper and browns of the vehicles sides contrast beautifully with the gunmetal of the treads.

The Sandcrawler is extraordinarily detailed with such fine work as the window in the upper portion of the side of the Sandcrawler. Near the top, front, of the Sandcrawler is the windshield that seems like it would give Jawas there a view out the front of the vehicle. The windshield on this toy is opaque, black, and the glossy finish which contrasts nicely with the matte finish of the rest of the Sandcrawler and gives it a realistic look.

Features

The "Sandcrawler" ornament has the bonus feature of a sound effect! Unlike some ornaments that light up, the stark nature of the Sandcrawler prevents the vehicle from being adorned with much in the way of light effects. As a result, there are no diodes that emit light and, in fact, this ornament does not plug into a light strand.

On the back of the ornament, there is a simple button. Pressing the button activates a sound chip. The ornament plays several seconds of sound effects out a small speaker on the ornament. The sound effects are the noises of the Sandcrawler, dialogue from C-3PO when he finds R2-D2, 3PO’s famous “We’re doomed” line and the sound of a gonk droid.

The sound function is powered by three small 1.5V batteries (watch batteries), which are included. The batteries seem to hold out for at least fifty activations of the ornament, which I figure is a season or two of entertainment from this ornament.

Balance

As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Sandcrawler" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, the "Sandcrawler" ornament is a pretty wonderful accent piece. The ornament has the standard steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the Sandcrawler. As a result, the ornament, when affixed to a tree with a hook, hangs perfectly balanced from that loop.

This ornament has very little sway, as well; with the standard fishhook-style ornament hanger, the "Sandcrawler" ornament has a little bit of side to side play, but otherwise, the ground hangs nicely level, maintaining the illusion that the vehicle is traveling over level ground.

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!). Since then, Hallmark has branched out into other serious franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter. Hallmark Keepsake ornaments tend to be mass produced and the "Sandcrawler" ornament seems to be following in that trend. As a result, it is a harder sell at full retail price, but given the popularity of Star Wars, whether or not this will appreciate in value. Either way, at the moment it seems to not be a sell-out at all.

Overview

Fans of A New Hope, Jawas and Sandcrawlers will likely enjoy the 2014 Star Wars vehicle ornament, but for the price it might be a tougher sell to general ornament enthusiasts. Regardless of the price, the Sandcrawler is an amazingly-sculpted, colored and balanced ornament with a neat sound clip worth picking up!

For other Hallmark ornaments of Star Wars ships, please check out my reviews of:
2006 Imperial AT-AT
2009 Luke's Landspeeder
2010 Rebel Snowspeeder
2011 Slave I
2012 TIE Interceptor
2013 All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST)

8.5/10

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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Aging No Better Than Its Initial Release, Hook Is Bloated And Boring!


The Good: Decent character arc for the protagonist
The Bad: Mediocre performances all around, Varying quality of special effects, Plot progression in the midsection is dull
The Basics: A family adventure that provides a live-action Peter Pan story, Hook is an unfortunately dull take that has the lawyer Peter Banning put on a quest to save his children by reverting to his prior persona of Peter Pan.


Last month, with the untimely death of Robin Williams, my wife and I felt an instant desire to rewatch works by Robin Williams that we had not seen in quite some time. For me, that took the form of wanting to watch The Fisher King (reviewed here!), for her she had a powerful desire to rewatch Hook. Hook was one of those films that I had managed to avoid in my young adulthood – when it was released, I was past the age where I had any interest in kid’s movies and I was still too young for the adult themes in Hook to resonate – but, as it turns out, it was one of the formative films for my wife. I recall the movie being on in the staff lounge when I worked at a summer camp (I avoided it by going off on my own to read, as I frequently did), but until my wife sat us down to watch it, I had never actually seen Hook. In watching Hook, I realized that I never paid tribute to the passing of Bob Hoskins, who also died this year (I’ll rectify that later this week!). Unfortunately for the legacies of Robin Williams, Bob Hoskins and the rest of the cast who will one day leave this work behind as part of their legacy, Hook is not an exceptional film in any way.

Steven Spielberg, who directed Hook, is famously quoted as saying “People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don't have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning” and he certainly is right about that. Most movies do not develop or only do so in truly predictable, banal ways. Unfortunately, with Hook, Spielberg (who was not involved with writing the film) illustrates well that even with a solid sense of development, it is possible to make a pretty terrible movie. Hook is not the worst movie ever, but it is a film crippled by mediocrity, hampered by predictability and is so concerned with telling a specific story of one character’s arc that is completely neglects a sensible development for several of the other characters (most notably the titled villain).

While finding an audience should not be a huge problem, rewatching Hook is a great example of how a movie without a clear focus of to whom the story is being told can be troubling. The film is painfully boring for children for almost the first third, too goofy for adults in the second and third parts to pay off for adults and ultimately acts as an overlong The Little Rascals sketch with an obscenely long build-up.

Peter Banning is an American lawyer who hates flying on planes, is tremendously focused on his work, and neglects his two children most of the time. After missing his son, Jack’s, baseball game, Peter, his wife, and children head to London where Peter’s “great grandmother” Wendy is being honored for her lifetime of charity work for orphans. While Peter, Wendy and Moira are out at the dinner, Jack and Maggie are kidnapped from their beds by the malicious Captain Hook. Peter is miffed, though Wendy tries to get him to believe that he has to go to find the children. Peter is visited by Tinkerbell, who takes him to Neverland.

There, Peter awakens in the pirate’s village where he finds his children and Captain Hook. Hook slowly comes to accept that Banning is Peter Pan (even though Banning does not), but finds the straight-laced lawyer an unworthy opponent for his wrath. To save Peter’s life and the life of his children, Tinkerbell tells Hook that she can get Peter to remember who he is within three days and they can have the battle Hook wants. So, while Hook tries to convert Jack to his cause, Peter is taken to the Lost Boys where Rufio and his child gang retrain him to use his imagination and recall that he is Peter Pan.

The thing about Hook is that Hook is so dramatically underdeveloped in contrast to Peter that he comes across as a monolithic villain. He has had decades to get over the fact that Peter Pan cost him his hand and he essentially rules the seas around Neverland, so provoking a fight with Peter that could cause him to lose everything seems utterly moronic. Lacking a compelling villain who has a clear and compelling need for revenge, Hook becomes a somewhat ridiculous grudge match where one of the participants does not even bear a grudge!

Fortunately, Captain Hook is given the whole plotline that has him turning Jack Banning to his side, to drive a wedge between Peter and his own son. That concept at least makes Hook smart and gives Dustin Hoffman as Hook additional screentime.

But Hook is too straightforward otherwise to keep the interest of the viewer. Peter Banning was always going to go through the journey to realize that he was Peter Pan; everyone around him has been right all along. This was never going to be a reality-bending film experience where people surrounding Peter Banning are all crazy and they get wrong who Peter Pan has become. So, going into Hook, the deck is stacked against those hoping for an audacious film experience. Peter Banning’s arc from uptight lawyer to Peter Pan is actually remarkably good and well-developed. The entire film smartly moves Peter along on his journey of self-discovery (or rediscovery) in a way that works beautifully.

The acting in Hook is mediocre. Dustin Hoffman plays Hook as bored and goofy as opposed to truly menacing, so the hold Hook has over the other pirates does not seem at all realistic. Julia Roberts, due to the special effects process of making her appear smaller, seldom gets eyelines right for interacting with other actors. As a result, Tinkerbell seems disconnected from other characters and Roberts is clearly not interacting with Robin Williams or Dustin Hoffman in most of the scenes they share. Robin Williams is fine as Peter, though he has absolutely no on-screen chemistry with Caroline Goodall (who plays Peter’s wife, Moira) and he fails to land a key scene where Peter Pan tells Jack that the happy thought that allows him to fly is related to his son. Poor Bob Hoskins is relegated to the role of ridiculous Disney-style comic relief sidekick as Smee.

The result is that Hook has a clear beginning, middle, and end and a protagonist whose story develops, but none of it is truly compelling. Too slow to be a great kid’s movie, too goofy to entertain adults, Hook fizzles.

For other works with Caroline Goodall, please check out my reviews of:
My Life In Ruins
Alias - Season 5
The Princess Diaries 2: A Royal Engagement
The Princess Diaries
The Mists Of Avalon
Schindler’s List

3/10

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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 2014 End Of The Month Report!

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As Summer Blockbuster Season reached its close, we found a strong lack of enthusiasm for this year’s new big-budget blockbusters. Instead, we focused on Hallmark ornament reviews, additional food reviews, and the new episodes of True Blood and Doctor Who! We’re excited going forward about some of our upcoming toy and television reviews.

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, there we had no new additions to the Top Ten Of All Time. This month, we put special emphasis on food, the musical works of Bjork, new episodes of True Blood and Doctor Who and brand new Hallmark ornaments! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts, as well as all of the new hits on older reviews!

This month, we picked up no new subscribers, which is not surprising given how little we were able to produce. 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 hoping to continue to grow our readership this year, 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 August, the index pages were updated very regularly! The primary Index Page, which we try to update daily, 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!

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. Thank you so much! Thanks so much to all of the shoppers who have been spending during the summer and going through the blog to do so! If you have back-to-school shopping to do online, please consider doing it through the blog, to show your support for us!

At the end of August 2014, I have reviewed the following:
506 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Fiction
Star Trek Books
Nonfiction
Graphic Novels
Magazines
873 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2596 - 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!)!
208 - 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
741 - 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
799 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Drinks
Candy
Cereal
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
216 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
107 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
168 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
177 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
94 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
38 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of August are the series finale of True Blood - “Thank You” and the season premiere of Doctor Who - “Deep Breath”.
Check them out!


The month of August had a lot of movement within the month and was dominated by reviews that have been holding on! For August, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Parenthood - Season 1
9. ”Almost Home” - True Blood
8. ”May Be The Last Time” - True Blood
7. ”The Unquiet Dead” - Doctor Who
6. The Fisher King
5. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
4. ”Love Is To Die” - True Blood
3. The Expendables 3
2. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
1. Bad Neighbors

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 - 292 reviews
9s - 425 reviews
8s - 820 reviews
7s - 921 reviews
6s - 837 reviews
5s - 1093 reviews
4s - 795 reviews
3s - 635 reviews
2s - 289 reviews
1s - 198 reviews
0s - 89 reviews
No rating - 73 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but there were no new entries into the Top Ten. At the end of August 2014, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
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!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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In Every Way But The Expense (And Stock-Up Factor), Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food Is Perfect!


The Good: Very nutritious, Both my cats love it, Made with great ingredients
The Bad: Smelly, Expensive!
The Basics: Still a relatively new product, Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is beloved by my cats, but not my checkbook!


Ever since Timber came into our lives, my wife has been much more open to spoiling our cats. While she has done a pretty amazing job of restoring our other cat, Gollum, to a healthy weight and form, she and Gollum have never quite gotten along. But, my wife and Timber are the best of friends; Timber absolutely loves her and they play daily and he acts more like a dog with her (he comes when she calls, snarls at interlopers hanging about outside, and plays fetch with her!). So, she likes spoiling Timber and when we were having a day out recently and I found the Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe cat food on sale, she seemed to be okay with me overspending on our cats to get the three pound bag. The 48 oz. bag of Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Purina Beyond cat food costs as much (at its regular price) as we usually spend on a bulk bag (10 or more pounds) of cat food. The redeeming factor of the Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe is that both Gollum and Timber seem to have an absolute love of this dry catfood. Whenever they smell it, and they can do that easily given how aromatic it is, they come running to eat as much from their bowl as they can.

Basics

Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is a cat food formulated for adult cats. The Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food regularly comes in a three pound reinforced paper bag that is priced in our local grocery store at about $9.99. As a cheapskate and poor person, this is a bit much for the volume of cat food and made me instantly disinclined toward it. If our cats had not reacted so favorably toward it, I probably would have been unwilling to spend so much money on so little cat food.

The Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food comes in hard pieces that range slightly in shape and size. The brown pieces are triangular or round pieces that average 1/4” – 1/2" long or in diameter. The mix is evenly distributed between the various shapes and all are quite hard. This cat food does not attempt to mimic the shapes (real or stylized) of any of the ingredients.

Ease Of Preparation

Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is a hard cat food that comes in a small bag, so preparation only involves opening the bag and measuring out the proper serving size for your cat, as determined by its weight. For both Timber and Gollum, that means a 2/3 – 1 cup serving (each) and the three pound bag lasts about a week at that rate of consumption with the two cats.

Gollum And Timber’s Reactions

This cat food smells exceptionally fishy. The Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food is very aromatic and those who do not like the smell of fish or sea food will not be thrilled by how this cat food smells. The cats, however, get excited each and every time the bag is opened and they can smell the Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe cat food.

Every time I open the bag of Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food, both Timber and Gollum come running. Both Gollum and Timber will devour this food and neither seems to want to be interrupted while there is still food in their bowls. This is a food that they will overeat so long as the food is in their bowl; so, it is a food I found from experience I have to measure out for the cats. Otherwise, they will eat to the point of gorging. It has been a long time since a cat food, and a dry one at that, has completely thrilled both Gollum and Timber that way.

Nutrition

The Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Beyond Cat Food is an exceptionally nutritious cat food. The guaranteed analysis of it indicates that it has a minimum of 36% crude protein and 15% crude fat. With no more than 4% crude fiber and 12% moisture, this is a food that is very balanced. This food also has notable amounts of Linoleic Acid (at least 1.3%), Calcium (at least 1%), Phosphorus, and Zinc. Always have adequate water near your cat’s feeding area!

As well, those who are concerned about what goes into their pets will be pleased by how this is a mostly natural cat food this is, with only the bottom half of the ingredients being added vitamins and minerals. The main ingredients are salmon, chicken meal, and dried egg product. While only the end of ingredient list is a chemistry equation I can barely read, the primary ingredients are all recognizable. My point is that Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat is a wonderful, wholly balanced cat food.

Overview

Purina Beyond Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food does not have an incredible shelf life (just over a year and a quarter) and it is pricy, but it is incredibly healthy and enjoyed so much by both my cats that it is almost entirely worth the expense. While not specifically designed to prevent tartar build-up, the hard nature of the pieces scrape matter off cat teeth. Similarly, the well-balanced nature of the food is not specifically designed as a urinary health formula, but the Salmon & Whole Brown Rice Recipe cat food seems to promote urinary tract health, as well as all-around wonderful cat health. That makes it a cat food well worth buying.

For other Purina cat foods, please visit my reviews of:
Kit & Kaboodle Original cat food
Cat Chow Healthy Weight Cat Food
Pro Plan Seafood Stew Entree cat food

8.5/10

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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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More Than The Novelty, Doctor Who Succeeds Going “Into The Dalek!”


The Good: Good character development, Decent pacing, Good performances
The Bad: Somewhat silly plot conceit for the plot . . .
The Basics: An utterly unnecessary trip “Into The Dalek” makes for a strong, compelling philosophical episode of Doctor Who that helps strongly establish Peter Capaldi’s version of The Doctor!


Now that Peter Capaldi has taken up the mantle of The Doctor, my household is in a state of near-constant excitement. Capaldi is the first new Doctor since my wife became a Whovian and more or less dragged me into the fandom as well. That means that each little teaser trailer for the new season yielded a “stop everything, we have to watch this!” moment in our home. None of those trailers left my wife with more excitement than the one that had Capaldi’s first Doctor lines where he quietly asked his companion Clara, “Am I a good man?” Between learning that Capaldi was bringing a Bowie-esque take to The Doctor and that teaser, my wife was super-enthused for a month.

That line was not made just for the promos; it comes up in “Into The Dalek,” Peter Capaldi’s second full episode as The Doctor (whose number could be retconned at any moment, but is generally called the Twelfth Doctor). The new episode is “Into The Dalek” and while many fans I know were excited to see the Daleks return, Dalek episodes are, for me, quickly becoming stale. The once seemingly-unstoppable enemy never seems to die, was defeated in the past (early 20th century in a somewhat nonsensical two-parter), wiped out in the future, and was last seen blowing themselves up during the significant action of “The Day Of The Doctor” only to return the very next episode to bring about the long-awaited Siege Of Trenzalore in “Time Of The Doctor.” So, going into “Into The Dalek,” my expectations for the episode were pretty simple: I want to know how the Daleks exist in this incarnation of Doctor Who and if they will serve as a distraction or a key to The Doctor finding Gallifrey, a purpose that was neglected in “Deep Breath” (reviewed here!).

In the distant future, a small ship is being attacked by a Dalek mothership. Just as its captain, Journey Blue, is about to be killed, she materializes on the bridge of the TARDIS. Rescued by the Doctor, Journey Blue just wants to know where her brother and her command ship, The Aristotle, are. The Doctor returns Jenny to her hospital ship where the fact that he is a doctor earns him his survival (the captain wants to kill him for fear that he is a Triplicate). The Doctor recognizes a medical shrinking device before he is shown the patient the captain wants him to heal: a Dalek. The Dalek seems to recognize The Doctor instantly.

Clara is working at Coal Hill Secondary School, where she meets the new teacher, Danny Pink. Mr. Pink is a former soldier, who is shell-shocked from having killed and Clara takes a pretty instant fancy to him. Her potential for a date with him is interrupted by The Doctor, who pops back (three weeks after he abandoned her in Glasgow) to get her advice. Flashing back aboard the Aristotle, The Doctor learns that the Dalek is expecting medical assistance and that it was found adrift by the crew, who do not entirely understand its nature. The Doctor is equally confused by the Dalek; it wants to destroy the rest of the Daleks. Returning with Clara to the future, Clara and The Doctor go through the nanoscaler and into the Dalek’s shell. With a military team, the Doctor and Clara try to figure out why this Dalek is different and how to heal it. When one of the soldiers activates the Dalek “antibodies,” he is killed and the Doctor’s team runs to the organic waste disposal section of the Dalek. Tracing the problem with the Dalek to a radiation leak, the Doctor is able to heal the damaged Dalek . . . only to have it revert to its true nature!

“Into The Dalek” runs into similar conceptual problems to the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “One Little Ship” (reviewed here!). Both episodes try to take a somewhat ridiculous premise which plays better on a Saturday morning children’s cartoon and make it plausible in an adult science fiction show, namely miniaturizing people and having them fly about something or someone a similar size to their original one. The idea is an old one: ever since the 1966 science fiction classic Fantastic Voyage. The danger for an adult television context is simple: such a conceit naturally leads to the potential that the episode will just be a goofy, big-budget special effects-driven one-shot with little purpose outside creating spectacle. While “One Little Ship” played with the spectacle, it utilized the conceit well-enough to make for an enjoyable episode. “Into The Dalek” smartly avoids being a simple special effects show by keeping the conversation flowing and minimizing the battle sequences.

Instead of spending a great deal of time with the wonder that is the inside of the Dalek, the journey into Rusty (as The Doctor nicknames it) is rather quick. The Doctor does now dwell on how some of the wires he and Clara sees are actually blood vessels. Instead, the episode treads smartly toward the philosophical. Just as the first “modern” episode that involved Daleks, “Dalek,” had the concept that combating the Daleks could be a philosophical war, “Into The Dalek” picks up the idea of converting Daleks. Much like the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “I , Borg” (reviewed here!), the purpose of “Into The Dalek” is largely to change the terms of the conflict with the implacable, unstoppable, foe. In that regard, “Into The Dalek” works exceptionally well. Instead of being a physical conflict, “Into The Dalek” turns into a psychological conflict where epiphany and beauty become the best chance for humans to survive and succeed in the darkened future.

The Doctor might need more guidance in “Into The Dalek,” but he generally answers the question of whether or not he is a good man in the episode. Actually, one of the beautiful aspects of “Into The Dalek” is that the emotionally-conflicted nature of the Doctor is delightfully presented in the episode. The Doctor has anger within him at the Daleks and even at himself. Despite having a strong philosophical bent to his take on warfare, he has no real issue with killing by proxy (while he is happy to mind-meld with Rusty, the result is not to download the epiphany back to the Daleks to get them to stop . . . ). The character elements of “Into The Dalek” are good, though much of the episode seems to serve the purpose of differentiating the Doctor’s rules (not big on soldiers) from Clara’s (she has no issue with them).

Fortunately, once Rusty is repaired, the end of “Into The Dalek” is not telegraphed. The Daleks refer to the crew of the Aristotle as “rebels” and that makes no real sense . . . unless the entire crew is Daleks in human form who have left the Dalek order. That does not seem to be the case, though; the rebels are those who rebel against the Daleks, though that has not been established in the Whoniverse before now. So, the sacrifice of Gretchen Allison Carlyle is not a clever chance to reveal the true nature of the rebelling humans, just that Missy is going to continue to recur and swipe out of time and space significant people The Doctor encounters this season.

The trip into the exoskeleton of the Dalek largely serves as a conceit to make the Doctor’s conversation with the organic element of the Dalek seem more sensible. It’s a largely unnecessary conceit, but the episode’s other conceits – the mind-meld, the Dalek declaring that resistance is futile, etc. – have all been established fairly well before now. In fact, on the conceptual front, the only real issue with “Into The Dalek” comes from a few stray lines where the Doctor talks to Clara as if he was Strax (the line about Clara’s hips and looking like a man did not quite seem to fit). Unfortunately, the explanation for how this batch of Daleks survived the carnage that ended the Time War or the Seige Of Trenzalore is not at all addressed.

All that said, “Into The Dalek” has Peter Capaldi strongly defining himself as a morally-ambiguous Doctor who tries to do good and while there might be a debate as to how well he succeeds, his desire to safeguard the beauty that exists in the universe becomes one of his most compelling and likable traits.

8.5/10

For other Doctor Who episode and season reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spiced Aroma, Absent Chocolate, Bellagio Holiday Spice Hot Cocoa Is A Mixed Mug!


The Good: Good taste and aroma, Nothing truly bad in it!
The Bad: Very expensive in this form, Environmental impact of packaging
The Basics: For my first experience with Bellagio, their Holiday Spice Hot Chocolate mix underwhelms me, but does not at all leave a bad taste in my mouth!


With the end of winter comes clearance hot cocoas! That’s always a good time for me as a reviewer. This year, one of the hot cocoas I was most eager to try (and was thrilled to pick up on clearance) was the Bellagio Holiday Spice Hot Chocolate mix.

Sadly, the anticipation did not make the great-smelling, somewhat unimpressive tasting, beverage into a perfect drink at all.

Basics

The Holiday Spice hot cocoa mix is part of the Bellagio premium hot cocoa line. The mix comes in a 1.25 oz. sealed paper package and is a good mix. Each 1.25 oz. packet is a single serving and these bear a relatively high price tag virtually everywhere I have found them. Locally, we have only found them for $1.10/ea! For a single mug of cocoa, this is expensive when compared to other make-at-home products. On the plus side, getting them on clearance for only $.59 took the sting out of the price for me, though!

Ease Of Preparation

The Holiday Spice hot cocoa mix is ridiculously simple to make. The cocoa is rather enduring and the new packet I just picked up would have expired in January of 2015. 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 ¾ cup of water. There is no measuring of the product involved!

As a result, preparation is ridiculously simple. The top of the envelope is paper 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 near-boiling water over the powder and stir. Stir the powder until there are no blobs of cocoa powder visible in the water or giving resistance from the bottom. The beverage will have a very pale brown color to it and will be uniformly smooth and creamy.

Taste

Bellagio Holiday Spice hot cocoa has a scent that is appropriately spicy. The aroma of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon fills the nose as this hot beverage steams up and it smells much more like a vanilla chai drink than anything that contains chocolate.

As appropriately foreshadowed by the scent, the Holiday Spice hot chocolate is very mild on the chocolate flavoring. Instead, the dry, flavorful cocoa tastes like a number of somewhat nebulous (though tasty) spices. The chocolate flavor asserts itself more as a slightly sweet aftertaste after the primary flavor has passed. The mix of spices is certainly more intriguing to the tongue than plain milk chocolate cocoa, but it is not exceptionally chocolatey or distinctive.

Interestingly, the Bellagio Holiday Spice Cocoa leaves nothing in the way of an aftertaste; not even a milky flavor on the tongue.

Nutrition

Bellagio Hot Cocoa is a hot cocoa mix and therefore not the most nutritious things ever. While I am used to reviewing things like all natural teas where the ingredients are all easily pronounceable and recognizable, the Holiday Spice hot cocoa has a few ingredients that cannot be easily identified. The primary ingredients are sugar, non dairy creamer and Dipotassium Phosphate. It is not vegan compliant as a result. Ironically, there is nothing even resembling any of the spices this smells like in the ingredient list.

What is not a mystery is how high this product is in sugars. In each cup of Holiday Spice Cocoa Classics, there are 140 calories, thirty of which are from fat. There are three and a half 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! There is no cholesterol, but a consumer gets 4% of their recommended daily allowance of sodium 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 milk and soy 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 Holiday Spice powder in its packet, it ought to stay usable. 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 paper wrappers are not recyclable anywhere I've been.

Cleanup is very easy. 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

The Bellagio Holiday Spice is good, but the novelty of a “holiday spice” flavor wears off quickly at the packet’s full price. Even so, it’s worth trying once at least; I know I’m glad I did.

For other hot cocoa reviews, please check out:
Land O’ Lakes Double Fudge & Chocolate Cocoa
Maud Borup Peppermint Drinking Chocolate
Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows

5.5/10

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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

One Of The Surprise Delights: Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango Chocolate Squares Blend Fruit And Chocolate Wonderfully!


The Good: Good taste, Decent quantity, Generally natural ingredients, Beautifully dark, A decent value, Smart serving size/nutrition information
The Bad: I’d prefer a little less nutty, a little fruitier, but they have almost the ideal balance now!
The Basics: More flavorful than truly dark and “intense,” Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares find almost the perfect balance between chocolate and fruit flavors!


Last night, for watching the season premiere of Doctor Who (reviewed here!), my wife picked us up some special treats. Chief among those treats was a bag of Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares. This was an odd choice for her for me because there are very few chocolates that combine fruit and nuts and dark chocolate that I come to love. My wife, however, was convinced that this combination sounded delicious and she was right. Despite not being absolutely in love with almonds, Ghirardelli found the right thing to pair with almonds with their Cherry Tango squares. The flavor of these chocolate squares is enough to make a believer out of those who question how good chocolate, fruit and nuts can be together!

Basics

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are one and a half inch squares of chocolate that are about one-quarter of an inch thick. Each of the squares comes individually wrapped in a dark, opaque brown wrapper (which looks just about black). It is worth noting that while I usually rail against the environmental impact of such things, it is hard to imagine Ghirardelli chocolate squares not wrapped. This keeps each one clean, unmelted and intact.

Each chocolate square is a seamless square that is solid. In this form, the 4.87 oz. bag, the individually-wrapped chocolate squares are packaged together in a thick foil paper bag. This size has thirteen squares and the thick foil paper bag does little to protect the squares. The bag is not resealable, though this matters very little considering that the chocolate squares do not go bad as they are individually wrapped.

One of these bags tends to run in the $5.00 range and they are competitively priced at that.

Ease Of Preparation

These are candy, so preparing them is as simple as opening the bag and then opening one of the foil wrappers around the actual chocolate square one wishes to eat. There is no grand secret to eating Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares. This is a flavor that is good at room temperature or frozen; it has a delicious solid flavor to it that carries the taste in all temperatures.

Taste

The Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango smells entirely fruity. The scent is powerfully the scent of cherries and chocolate and the net result is an aroma that smells like black cherries and a much lighter chocolate than the chocolate actually is. The scent is entirely devoid of a nut scent, so this prepares the consumer for a good blend of chocolate and fruit.

In the mouth, the texture from the almonds, chipped up into the chocolate, provide an immediate sensory experience that separates this from other chocolates. While the almonds do not contribute much to the flavor, they seem to prepare the tongue beautifully for the cherry flavor. The Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are sweet and fruity and the chocolate carries the cherry flavor wonderfully. The sweet cherries are reminiscent of maraschino cherries and they sweeten the dark chocolate enough to keep the bitterness of the dark chocolate from actualizing. The result is a chocolate flavor that is full and rich, without finishing bitter.

The sweetness of the cherries also prevents the Cherry Tango chocolate squares from having an aftertaste. Even the sweetness of these chocolates fades within a minute of one consuming them.

Nutrition

These are candy, so they are not healthy, but the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are not nearly as bad as they could be. The primary ingredients are semi-sweet chocolate, almonds, and freeze-dried cherries. There is nothing unpronounable in these candies and everything in these could be readily identified by me.

A serving of the Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares is a single square, which is a user-friendly serving size, especially for those of us who are calorie/carb conscious. From a squares, one takes in 50 calories, including 3.5 grams of fat. There is no sodium and a gram of protein, but no vitamins in these chocolate squares. There is, however, 4% of one's daily iron in one square, so they are not devoid of nutrition.

These are not Vegan-compliant (as they have milk in them), nor are they recommended for anyone with a nut allergy as they contain almonds. They are, however, kosher.

Storage/Clean-up

The bags of these Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares remain fresh for quite some time. The bag we bought two days ago would expire in February of 2015, though I am certain mine will be devoured long before then! One assumes that if they are kept in a cool, dry environment they will not melt or go bad. Given that they are individually wrapped in a very sealed package, it is hard to imagine just what it would take for these to go bad outside melting and refreezing.

As for cleanup, I applaud those who actually throw the wrappers away in socially appropriate places, as opposed to litter. Outside that, there is no real cleanup needed, unless one is eating them in a hot environment. In that case, it is likely one would need to wash their hands, though these squares do not easily melt. When these chocolate squares melt into most fabrics, they will stain.

Overall

Ghirardelli Intense Dark Cherry Tango chocolate squares are a pleasant surprise and they are one of the newer flavors of Ghirardelli chocolates that should survive as a permanent addition to the company’s chocolate line!

For other Ghirardelli chocolate squares reviews, please check out:
Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares Sublime White Vanilla Dream White Chocolate With Vanilla Beans
Cookies And Cream Chocolate Squares
Dark Chocolate & Strawberry squares

9/10

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

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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After A “Deep Breath,” Doctor Who’s Eighth Season Might Find Its Own Legs. . . (But It Doesn’t Here!)


The Good: Decent acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Heavy reliance on comedy, Very simple plot, Requires so much other Doctor Who to truly get.
The Basics: Peter Capaldi’s first full outing as The Doctor has the new Doctor in Victorian London alongside Steven Moffat’s reliable gang of Companions for a “Best Of”/sampler pack episode.


This week is a big week for those who love genre television. Sunday saw the end of True Blood with its series finale, “Thank You” (reviewed here!), and the BBC sent the new season premiere of Doctor Who across the pond to American audiences. “Deep Breath” is the first new episode I’ve had the opportunity to review since my wife got into Doctor Who (and pretty much dragged me along into that fandom, too!). “Deep Breath” is also the first episode of Doctor Who that I’ve felt the need to watch more than once (I’m up to three times now) before I actually reviewed it. The reason for that is simple: on the first viewing, I was excited by the experience and the novelty of the new Doctor, on the second viewing, I was predictably disappointed (comedy and self-reference plays poorly the second time around) and on the third, I felt I had a fair assessment of the episode.

“Deep Breath” is a decent comedy and a good episode of Doctor Who, but it is utterly unremarkable for television. In other words, if one is not a fan of Doctor Who the episode is much more likely to baffle and disappoint than genuinely entertain. When it is not busy explaining itself to new viewers, “Deep Breath” belabors the humor. More than most episodes of Doctor Who, “Deep Breath” is like Doctor Who meets Ally McBeal. Somewhat surprising for Stephen Moffat, the humor in “Deep Breath” is troublingly obvious; Moffat telegraphs most of his jokes. My wife and I managed to avoid all spoilers for the episode and virtually every gag the episode had (most involving Strax and props), we were able to call in advance of its execution. Humor that is predictable plays poorer upon subsequent viewings and “Deep Breath” might be amusing or diverting, but its entertainment value quickly diminishes upon multiple viewings.

Opening in Victorian London where a dinosaur is walking around the Thames, Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Strax the Sontaran witness the dinosaur cough up the TARDIS. When The Doctor emerges from the familiar blue box, he is entirely disoriented and his companion Clara tells the others that he has regenerated. After taking The Doctor back to her house and telepathically knocking him out, Madam Vastra finds herself annoyed at Clara’s treatment of the Doctor and her lack of comprehension over his regeneration. As The Doctor becomes more grounded, he witnesses the dinosaur spontaneously combust before he rushes out into the London night to see what happened. There, he challenges his Companions with the question of “have any other, similar, murders occurred?” As he heads off to try to investigate the only person in the crowd unphased by the flaming dinosaur, the other four return to Madame Vastra’s.

After a medical examination by Strax, Clara finds an advertisement in the newspaper that seems to be an invitation from The Doctor to lunch. Meeting The Doctor, who has managed to get a new coat and an unpleasant odor, both Clara and The Doctor realize they have been set up for their meeting. The Doctor recognizes the restaurant as a trap (all of the other diners in the restaurant are automatons) moments before he and Clara are taken to a subterranean ship where human organs are being harvested. With the villain revealed as a machine who is reconstructing himself with organic parts (then disposing of the bodies by lighting them on fire), the Doctor abandons Clara to try to figure out why the adversary seems so familiar to him.

On its own, “Deep Breath” does not answer the question in a satisfying way, though fans of Doctor Who will easily recognize what the Doctor obliquely references. “Deep Breath” is a de facto sequel to the second season episode “The Girl In The Fireplace,” where the romance of that episode is replaced with over-the-top humor that does not fit the established patterns of Doctor Who (has there been a cheap groin joke in the modern Doctor Who before now? This is not progress . . .). In a similar way, the Doctor’s references to his own face are not explicitly clarified in “Deep Breath,” but strongly allude to Capaldi’s previous appearance in Doctor Who, “The Fires Of Pompeii.” So, while fans of Doctor Who might appreciate the new Doctor running around declaring that this situation and adversary (and face) are familiar, casual viewers or newbies to the series will be left baffled.

The reason this is as much of an issue as it is is because of Clara. Clara was the Doctor’s last companion before he regenerated from his Matt Smith appearance/personality to the new Peter Capaldi incarnation. Moffat uses Clara’s inexperience with regeneration to have Clara go through the character struggle of feeling like she does not really know the Doctor anymore and her arc in the episode leads her to the decision of whether or not to remain with the Doctor on his journeys. Unfortunately, as the Impossible Girl, this struggle is the most ridiculous journey for the character to make. Clara has been a part of the lives of all previous Doctors – in “The Name Of The Doctor” this is made explicit – and possibly the subsequent incarnations of him. Either way, Clara has witnessed, interacted with and saved all of the prior incarnations of The Doctor to undo the damage done by The Great Intelligence. In short, there is no sensible reason why Clara would have an issue with the Doctor changing his face; the only reason for that character arc in “Deep Breath” is to explain the regeneration concept to new viewers. So, fans are given tons of allusions to thrill over, but bored by a senseless character direction for the most consistent character in the episode and browbeaten with regeneration information they already have and new viewers are spoon-fed the regeneration concept while being baffled by allusions that are not made explicit enough.

Beginning the episode with Vastra, Jenny, and Strax (indeed, setting the episode in their native time and place) sets the stage for an episode that is much more fan-friendly than it is intended for anyone who is starting the show at this point. The trio of occasional companions/allies to the Doctor could have their own spin-off and it might work better than “Deep Breath” because they could pull off a science fiction comedy more effectively than Doctor Who (which does best when it blends creepy and humorous). “Deep Breath” is heavy with humor when it is not beating viewers over the head with exposition.

What works best in “Deep Breath” is Peter Capaldi as the new incarnation of The Doctor. There is always a period of adjustment for the Doctor after one of his regenerations and the new Doctor is delightfully edgy and has moments of unpredictability that play well. While some of the plot-based issues are predictable (that The Doctor did not place the ad that leads him and Clara into the trap was instantly foreseeable), most of the character-based changes are not. The Doctor abandons Clara at a key moment and his ultimate confrontation with the episode’s adversary is delightfully unsettling. Capaldi takes up the mantle of The Doctor with perfect distinction and credibility.

All that said, some of the minutiae also oscillates between delightful and troubling. Has it previously been established that Doctor Who androids are bound by Soong-ian rules of grammar?! The Doctor declares that the droids are now more human than robot because they use apostrophes, but that’s not some universal science fiction constant (even in Star Trek: The Next Generation, while Data cannot use contractions, Lore can . . . so this is a right-field assumption on The Doctor’s part). On the delightful side is the substantive function of the episode’s big cameo. The prior incarnation of The Doctor makes a telephone call to Clara and as possibly one of the coolest, most delightful retcons ever, Clara admits to him that the new Doctor has gotten old. If she had not confirmed that for him, the Doctor might well have picked a different face and been younger (a great observation from my wife!) for this season.

The eighth season of Doctor Who was set up in an uncommon way; unlike most of Doctor Who where the protagonist is usually a wanderer, this season was set-up with a mission for The Doctor. The Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey has been revealed to still exist, albeit in a pocket universe; the Doctor has a self-imposed mission now of finding and rescuing his people. While the resolution to “Deep Breath” unfortunately does not redirect the befuddled new Doctor with that purpose, but the idea of this particular Doctor with a quest and an adversary of his own is a promising one. It’s unfortunate that “Deep Breath” forces fans to take it on faith that the show will go in that direction.

For other works with Peter Capaldi, please visit my reviews of:
World War Z
In The Loop
Fortysomething
Smilla’s Sense Of Snow

6/10

For see how this episode stacks up against other Doctor Who episodes I’ve reviewed by visiting my Doctor Who Review Index Page where the episodes and seasons are organized by rating!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Collectible And Cool, The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies Trading Cards Retain Value!


The Good: Cool (if repetitive) chase cards, Some awesome signers, Patch cards are neat
The Bad: Lack of continuity with prior sets, Autograph numbering issue, Later movie quotes
The Basics: Still worth hunting down, The "Quotable" Star Trek: The Movies cards are a confounding mix of wonderful and troublesome for collectors and fans.


As a Star Trek fan and a trading card collector, I have become quite the fan of Rittenhouse Archives. Rittenhouse Archives is the manufacturer of Star Trek trading cards and they have served the license fairly well throughout their fifteen years of producing Star Trek trading cards. The company has weathered the recession well and the staff continues to be collector-friendly, even if some of their products have made it very hard for a decent number of collectors to continue collecting (at this point in Star Trek trading card collecting, there are only five possible master sets for Star Trek card collectors!). For as wonderful as the company is, sometimes the execution of their ideas results in a more mixed result than they might have intended. Perhaps one of the best examples of that is the "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set.

The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies follows in the tradition and concept of Rittenhouse Archives' previous "Quotable" Star Trek sets, but as the fourth “Quotable” Star Trek set is hampered by weird problems that make it a harder sell than it should have been. In fact, the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies does a better job of continuing the movie-themed sets begun with the Complete Star Trek: The Movies (reviewed here!) and continued with the Star Trek Movies In Motion (reviewed here!) than it does creating a compelling “Quotable” set. Even so, many of the bonus sets are cool enough to make the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies set well worth hunting down and the bulk of the cards make it an enjoyable set.

Basics/Set Composition

The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies was the fifth set of cards that focused on the cinematic Star Trek produced by Rittenhouse Archives. Properly assembled, the set is a collection of 171 trading cards and there is an official The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies binder from Rittenhouse. All but eight of the cards are available in boxes of The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies cards, making it one of the sets that is a bit easier to collect (and have fun doing so). Produced before one had to buy dozens of cases to make a master set, fans, collectors and dealers were generally able to succeed at assembling the set with six cases, a binder and hunting down a few promotional cards. The cards were originally released in boxes that contained twenty-four packs of five cards each. Boxes tended to run in the $60 - $75 range and guaranteed one common set and three autograph cards per box.

Collation in the The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set was remarkably good. To complete a true master set of The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies cards, collectors had to purchase at least six cases of the cards, as there were two multi-case incentive cards. As well, there were promotional cards that were not available in boxes or cases and there was one card that was only available through Rittenhouse Archives' Rittenhouse Rewards program (though it was inexpensive in its wrapper cost). In other words, there was quite a lot packed into these boxes of trading cards, which has helped the boxes to retain their value over the years.

Common Cards

The common card set consists of 90 trading cards, which are printed on standard cardstock and have a glossy UV resistant coating. The ninety card reduced set actually works well for the film set as there were ten films and the nine cards per movie makes it easy to place the set in a sensible way within the binder of cards. With 90 cards, Rittenhouse Archives caters to putting the cards in binders as the binders have standard nine-card pages.

The ninety card common set focuses on the memorable quotes from the Star Trek movies (the first ten before the reboot). The big reason for the issues with the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies set is that Rittenhouse Archives had already mined the films for some of the key materials used here. The SkyBox Star Trek: Insurrection set (reviewed here!) included quotable cards in its common set, as did the Rittenhouse Archives Star Trek: Nemesis set (reviewed here!). Teased in the Star Trek Movies In Motion set as a bonus card set, the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies set misses out on a number of good quotes simply because they have already been done before. Star Trek: Insurrection might suffer the most in this set as Rittenhouse was forced to use a few lame quips from Riker from the battle sequence (card 80, for example, is hardly memorable, quotable Star Trek lines!). That Rittenhouse Archives had already mined some of the most interesting quotes before committing to produce this set undermined it a little bit.

Also undermining the set is the orientation. I get what Rittenhouse Archives was trying to do by changing the orientation of the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies cards from a portrait to a landscape orientation; they wanted to make the images more of a “widescreen” format and spread the text out. Unfortunately, though, that does not fit with any of the other four “Quotable” sets (there was a “Quotable” Star Trek: Voyager set that followed this set). The common cards look decent, but not consistent with the rest of the “Quotable” Star Trek cards. The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set utilizes many images that are not the typical ones seen over and over again, making for a visually interesting set that features both the main cast and some of the significant supporting characters/villains from the films. With different quotes on the front than on the back, collectors and fans are treated to two different quotes per card, netting 180 quotes for the 90 card set!

Collation on this set was excellent, so the common sets averaged one and a half per box, which was good for collectors. With only 6000 boxes of “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies cards, this might be the least-common “Quotable” Star Trek common set!

Chase Cards

There are eighty-one chase cards in The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies set, with seventy-three found in the boxes of cards and the remaining eight available outside the boxes and packs. The bonus cards that can be found within the boxes were the Women Of Star Trek Movies Expansion, Star Trek Bridge Crew: Transitions, Star Trek Movie Poster cards, Star Trek: The Motion Picture Bridge Crew patch cards and autographs. For some baffling reason, there was no checklist for this set within the packs. This is awkward mostly because several of the autographs are not consecutively numbered (see below), so those picking these cards up and not utilizing an online checklist might be left baffled or hunting cards that do not go to this set. Noticeably lacking from the “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies set are TV Guide Cover Cards (believe it or not, many of the Star Trek movies have made the cover of TV Guide, so it’s not a ridiculous assertion that there should have been a TV Guide Cover card set to maintain continuity in this set!) and StarFleet’s Finest cards (which could have featured the cinematic renditions of the characters from Star Trek and/or Star Trek: The Next Generation). For those not concerned with conceptual continuity, this is not a big deal. There are also no “Quotable” style movie autograph cards, which is fine considering how all of the main cast has done autograph cards before (or since) in that style.

The most common bonus cards in this set were the Women Of Star Trek Movies Expansion cards. These were nine cards that continued the common card set of the Women Of Star Trek cards with the missing significant women from the films. Found one in every six packs, these cards have remained ridiculously inexpensive, despite taking three boxes to complete a set (largely because they are essentially bonus common cards for a different set).

At two per box were the Star Trek Bridge Crew: Transitions set. On the front of each card is a main cast member from the original Star Trek and a central picture of them as they appeared in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Rather than rehashing how their character changed between the television show and the movies, the backs come together to form a nine-card mural of the cast of Star Trek: The Motion Picture on the bridge of the Enterprise. These cards are, unfortunately, more rare than they are valuable, given that they are fairly simple and it does take five boxes to complete a set.

Also two per box were the Star Trek Movies Poster Cards. Given that the Cinema 2000 set (reviewed here!) had already done nine of the ten movie posters, Rittenhouse Archives could have made a terrible mistake with this bonus set (which, frankly, is one of the most sensible bonus sets for a movie-based trading card set!). Instead of doing a carbon copy of the Cinema 2000’s movie poster set, the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies cards feature movie poster cards that are acetate cards! These translucent cards have the movie posters silk-screened onto them and they look awesome and distinctive as a result. While I, personally, would have loved some variants with these cards in the form of the promo posters released for the Star Trek movies (it’s hard not to laugh today seeing the promo poster for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier with its chair and tagline “Why are they putting seatbelts in theaters this summer?” [to which those who hated the film laughingly respond now “to keep people from walking out of the movie!”]) or some of the international movie posters (Star Trek: Insurrection, for example, had a far more distinctive and original international poster than the U.S. release) for the bonus set, Rittenhouse Archives made a solid chase set with the standard movie posters as the subjects of this card set.

One of the most valuable bonus sets in the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies cards were the Star Trek: The Motion Picture Bridge Crew Patch Cards. Individually numbered to 250, the nine badge cards feature insignia patches made for Rittenhouse Archives for the set for all nine of the main Star Trek characters (including Rand and Chapel) for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Star Trek: The Motion Picture might not be the most popular or incredible film, but this chase set is incredibly well-rendered with nice images and very cool patches. This is a nice variant of the costume card concept.

Then there are the autograph cards. The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies autographs continue the form and numbering for the autographs begun with the Complete Star Trek Movies cards and continued in the Star Trek Movies In Motion. These full-bleed autograph cards with the purple line at the bottom and the backs that have blue and purple frame are consistent with the past releases. As well, the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies cards continue the Star Trek: Generations character autographs as they appeared in the film’s first scene on the sailing ship with Gates McFadden and LeVar Burton. If the other bonus sets are biased toward the original Star Trek’s cast (two of the four bonus sets focus on Star Trek: The Motion Picture), the valuable autographs are exclusively focused on the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast. In addition to McFadden and Burton, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn signed for the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies set, though the other three do not feature the characters in their Star Trek: Generations naval outfits which is somewhat unfortunate, as it would have been cool to get the entire cast as they appeared that way. Perhaps the most significant Star Trek actor to sign was John Winston, who was actually Lt. Kyle in eleven episodes of Star Trek. While exceptionally popular actors John Larroquette (who I was most psyched to see signing for this set!), Kim Cattrall and Kurtwood Smith signed for this set, arguably the most valuable autograph is the very limited Rex Holman autograph. Holman played J’Onn in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and that he signed between two and three hundred cards makes it valuable by default. The autograph collection in this set fills in prior gaps – A56 and A59 were missing from the Star Trek Movies In Motion set – but also somewhat ridiculously makes new gaps (A107 and A111 are missing from this set, but are included in the subsequent Premium Pack set!). Even so, this set has a decent collection of signers from the famous to the obscure (only the die-hard fans will feel the need to hunt down Jon Kamal Rashad or Jeff Lester’s autographs if they do not pull them in their boxes!) that maintains the continuity of the movie sets well.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

As with most "modern" trading card releases - certainly the ones from Rittenhouse Archives - not all of the cards needed to make a true master set are available in the boxes of these trading cards. In this set, there are only eight cards that cannot be found in the boxes. There is the usual promo card which foreshadowed the series release which is common enough to find (P1). There is also a promo card exclusive to the The "Quotable" Star Trek The Movies trading card binder (P3). The P2 card is a promotional card available only through Non-Sports Update Magazine and it might take a little work to track down (though the magazine offers back issues pretty readily).

There was one other promotional card, which was exclusive to Facebook. Having worked to track this particular card down for the past few weeks, I can attest that it is annoyingly hard to find now in the secondary market (if not damn near impossible!). It is a simple-enough promotional card that features the Borg Queen and the usual catch phrase from the Borg. Ironically, all four promotional cards feature the traditional “Quotable” portrait orientation for the pictures and quotes.

The remaining cards are the casetopper, two multicase incentive cards, and the Rittenhouse Rewards cards. The casetopper is a simple costume card of Data’s invisibility suit from Star Trek: Insurrection and this follows the format of the costume cards from the Complete Star Trek Movies set. It might seem odd that there is a gap between the sets for this style of bonus card (Star Trek Movies In Motion did not have any costume cards), but the card looks good and is consistent. The only inconsistency is the numbering on the back. As opposed to the prior costume cards in this style which featured a foil-stamped collector’s number, the MC17 is hand-numbered out of 775.

The grails of the set are the multicase incentive cards. For every three cases of “Quotable” Star Trek The Movies cards a dealer bought, Rittenhouse Archives provided an A96 Michael Dorn as Colonel Worf autographed trading card. Like most of Rittenhouse’s incentive cards, this autograph card is found sealed in a hard plastic toploader with a gold Rittenhouse Archives seal keeping it inside.

The six-case incentive card was an autographed Brent Spiner costume card. This is a very neat concept and it is well executed here, with Brent Spiner’s autograph on a card very similar to the casetopper card – the costume swatch is the Invisibility Suit again. The 6-case incentive card is hand-numbered out of 200, so this is the most enduringly valuable card in the set.
The final card in the “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies set is the Rittenhouse Rewards card. Rittenhouse Rewards cards are exclusive cards that fans can get by sending wrappers from any sets in to Rittenhouse to redeem for cards not otherwise available. For this set, Rittenhouse produced a tenth Star Trek: The Motion Picture Transitions card. The final Transitions card is the U.S.S. Enterprise. The cinematic Enterprise is an interesting, if obscure, subject for the Transitions cards, but it has become sought-after by those wanting a true, complete set and it looks good (though the back, obviously, cannot, fit into the mural that the other cards formed).

Overall

The “Quotable” Star Trek Movies cards are a worthwhile investment and a neat set for those who love the Star Trek feature films and trading card collecting. Rittenhouse Archives made a solid set with this one and it’s not so pricy as to be stifling to collect even now. The cards look good, the autographs have decent value and the other bonus cards are neat . . . even if they do not completely fit the other “Quotable” sets.

This set culls images from all ten of the Star Trek Movies, reviewed here!

This set of trading cards is available in my online store! Please check out my current inventory at The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Movies Trading Card Inventory!

For other “Quotable” Star Trek trading cards, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
The “Quotable” Star Trek
The “Quotable” Star Trek: The Next Generation
The “Quotable” Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

6.5/10

For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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