Monday, May 29, 2017

Netflix Competes In Summer Blockbuster Season With War Machine!



The Good: Great commentary, Wonderful performances, Some very funny lines, Good casting
The Bad: Pacing, Repetitive use of satire, Mood
The Basics: War Machine is a good idea with some very funny lines and decent performances, but it hits the same note far too often and drags entirely through its second act.


Summer Blockbuster Season has officially arrived and arguably the biggest surprise of it so far is that Brad Pitt is headlining a film that is intended to get viewers to stay away from the movie theaters. Instead of participating in a massive special effects-driven film that is intended to make huge bank at the box office, Brad Pitt is participating in a comedy film that is now out exclusively on Netflix. The film is War Machine and while theatergoers are competing for tickets and seats for the latest Pirates Of The Caribbean film and the Baywatch theatrical release, Pitt is encouraging viewers to stay home, get comfortable and take in some satire.

War Machine is a comedy about the U.S. military and it was strategically-released for Memorial Day Weekend. Had it been released in theaters, War Machine would have been an R-rated comedy, mostly for language. War Machine, like most military films, has a lot of swearing and the "adult themes" are ironic statements on the failures of policy, personality and strategy in a mismanaged war zone. Right off the bat, War Machine is very well-written and it is often quite funny.

Eight years into the War in Afghanistan, President Obama wants to get the war done. To that end, the General leading the coalition forces in Afghanistan is replaced by the determined General Glen McMahon. McMahon and his staff are brought in to do an assessment that will inform the President on what is needed to win the war - not more troops! After meeting with President Karzai and recognizing that he will get no more help from the infrastructure in Afghanistan, McMahon tours Afghanistan. After his tour, McMahon is told that Helmand province is unsecurable, so he sets his attentions to winning over the hearts and minds in Helmand.

McMahon asks the U.S. government for 40,000 more troops to secure Helmand and is told he cannot have them until the Afghan elections are over. When he learns about the bad conditions at the U.S. position codenamed Sasquatch, McMahon accompanies his troops out into the field. McMahon hires Badi Basim to represent Afghans in his new attempt at a regime. When the election results only confirm Karzai as Afghanistan's President, McMahon leaks his own report to try to get traction and public support in the U.S. about the war.

War Machine does an excellent job of making commentary on exactly what fails in a "nation-building" military conflict. The film details well how an insurgency is virtually impossible to defeat. War Machine is very well-written in that it explores incredibly well the rhetorical difficulties with attempting to win hearts and minds when you're armed and have no clear mission.

The satire in War Machine is appropriately dry and very funny, usually in a very off-putting way. Brad Pitt leads War Machine is a great series of incredibly dry deliveries paired with a very stiff and often-ridiculous physical performance. Pitt squints with one eye through almost his entire time on screen, while keeping his other eye very wide. Pitt's stiff back and gorilla arms help to define McMahon as much as his scowl and frown.

War Machine has brilliant casting and the cast is very well used. Anthony Michael Hall creates arguably his most abrasive character ever as McMahon's right hand man, Greg Pulver. Casting Sir Ben Kingsley as President Karzai is genius and Alan Ruck is credible as Pat McKinnon, the pragmatic government foil for McMahon. Topher Grace uses his brief time on screen to deliver very funny lines and Tilda Swinton creates yet another wonderful character, even though she is not in War Machine long. In War Machine, Scoot McNairy proves that his future in voice acting is secure for each and every position David Duchovny passes on.

War Machine is an unfortunately erratic film. While the opening narration in War Machine draws the viewer in, by the time writer Sean Cullen enters the narrative as a character doing a Rolling Stone profile on McMahon, the pace of the film is virtually at a dead stop. The essential joke of War Machine is that a hapless general is put in charge of a war zone where he cannot win using his military training; that punchline is delivered multiple times within the first ten minutes of the film. By the hour mark, War Machine struggles to say anything new.

That, sadly, is the death knell of War Machine; Netflix and Brad Pitt took a big, important risk on a film that had something to say and the statement is made with hilarity very quickly. The film's social commentary is also made exceptionally quickly and reiterated many, man times in War Machine. As War Machine trudges toward its inevitable end, the joke is beaten to death and the humor, ultimately, falls unfortunately flat.

For other Netflix exclusive films, please check out my reviews of:
Girlfriend's Day
Take The 10
Clinical
Barry
Spectral
True Memoirs Of An International Assassin
I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House
Mascots
ARQ
XOXO
Tallulah
Special Correspondents
The Fundamentals Of Caring
The Ridiculous 6

4/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Interesting, But Not Indispensible: Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt Balls


The Good: Great chocolate flavor, Good ingredients
The Bad: Expensive, Malted milk center is virtually flavorless, No real nutritional benefits
The Basics: Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls a good example of how Jelly Belly might be better off sticking to the jelly bean market as they do not quite land on all fronts with this chocolate confection.


On my recent trip East, I stopped at one of my favorite little shops. In Erie, Pennsylvania, right off Interstate 90, there is a whole store dedicated to Jelly Belly products. I made a point of stopping because, living in the middle of nowhere as I now do, I do not have access to the latest Jelly Belly jelly beans or other products. I was super excited when I stopped to find a new (to me) flavor of Jelly Belly jelly bean in the form of Pancakes & Maple Syrup (reviewed here!), but I also found myself pleasantly intrigued by the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls. I'm a big fan of malted milk balls, so seeing that Jelly Belly now made Milk Chocolate Malt Balls made me excited to try them.

And the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls are all right. But, for the price, Jelly Belly produced a far better chocolate than a malted milk ball; the center is virtually flavorless, while the outer coating is extraordinary. That made the confection a much tougher sell with me than I anticipated when I excitedly purchased the bag.

Basics

Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls are 3/4" - 1" oblate spheroids made of chocolate and semisolid malted milk filling. Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls come in a 2.3 oz. bag or a full bulk 10 pound box. Trying them for the first time, I went with the smaller bag, despite the environmental implications of it. In my 2.3 oz. bag, I found exactly 10 Milk Chocolate Malt balls.

For those who have never had a Milk Chocolate Malt ball before, Milk Chocolate Malt balls are a firm sugary sphere that is coated in chocolate. Moisture - or saliva - dissolves the ball within the coating, so many people who savor Milk Chocolate Malt balls either let the coating melt away in their mouth and let the malted milk center dissolve without chewing.

The coating of the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt ball is an impressively hard milk chocolate. The coating is strong enough to prevent the candy from getting crushed and soft enough to melt easily in the mouth. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the coating on the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls was of a quality consistent with Jelly Belly products - like the Dips line - not at all waxy!

Ease Of Preparation

Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls are candy so preparation is pretty much limited to opening the bag and popping candy into one's mouth. Do not try to swallow all of the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls whole and you'll be fine!

Taste

Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt Balls smell delightfully chocolate. Smelling the real chocolate aroma that came the moment that the bag was opened was enough to get me actually excited about the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls.

In the mouth, the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls are solidly chocolate flavored. The chocolate flavor is delightfully dark and real, not at all waxy or generically sugary. The strong chocolate flavor entirely overwhelms the flavor from the center. The malted milk center is not sweet or flavorful enough to overcome the flavor of the chocolate coating. Instead, is manifests more as a texture than an actual flavor.

The Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls leave a strong chocolate aftertaste in the mouth after the last of them is consumed.

Nutrition

Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls are candy, so one ought not to be living off them. The Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls are made primarily of sugar, chocolate liquor, and milk. Most of the ingredients in the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls are recognizable, which is a nice change from some of the competitors' products!

Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls have a whopping 310 calories per serving, 150 of which are from fat. That said, the full 2.3 oz. bag is a pretty big serving, so it is easier than one might expect to eat fewer and save on the calories and fat intake. The 16 grams of fat represent 25% of the recommended daily value of fat and they have 50% of the daily recommended saturated fat. There are only 65 milligrams of sodium in a serving and 43 grams of sugars. There are, however, 4 grams of protein in a serving of Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls and it is interesting to note that one gets 10% of their calcium by eating these.

These are not overly nutritious, but the Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls could be far worse on the ingredient and nutrition fronts. Because they contain milk and whey, they are not Vegan-compliant. They are not marked as gluten-free or Kosher, either.

Storage/Clean-up

The Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls store just fine in their bag and as long as they are kept in a cool, dry (preferably dark) place they ought to last for quite some time (I've never had a Milk Chocolate Malt ball of any type go bad). The bag I picked up last month would have expired on February 16, 2018 had I not consumed them well before then!

Because the coating is made of actual milk chocolate, these malted milk balls will melt and have the potential to stain - especially light colored fabrics. If it becomes an issue, consult a fabric cleaning guide. Chocolate stains might be a problem, but it only becomes an issue if it gets melted.

Overall

Jelly Belly Milk Chocolate Malt balls might please those just looking for an intriguing chocolate, but for those who love malted milk balls, this is not nearly as balanced on the flavor and nutrition fronts as one might hope for.

For other Jelly Belly candies, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Prehistoric Eggs
Sunkist Fruit Gems
Hot Chocolate Jelly Beans

4.5/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Rough Middle Act Of "The Pyramid At The End Of The World"


The Good: Good performances, Moments of character
The Bad: Pacing, Very little happens on the plot front
The Basics: "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" brings the promised alien invasion from the monks who experimented upon The Doctor, with a stated benevolence from the alien invasion.


Sometimes, the best surprise a show can do is to truly upend the expectations from what comes before the latest episode. In the case of Doctor Who, the show has an often-formulaic development. As "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" begins, viewers had reason to expect that the next big alien invasion was imminent. In preparing for "The Pyramid At The End Of The World," it occurred to me that arguably the most creative way to approach the threat made by the aliens in "Extremis" would be to have their attempted conquest of Earth already foiled at the outset of the new episode. "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" does not actually do that.

"Extremis" (reviewed here!) led into "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" and it amped up the momentum for both the next alien invasion and the return of Missy. Missy, however, does not make an appearance in "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" (which could be a very unfortunate element that highlights exactly how The Doctor will resolve the problem that is presented at the episode's climax). "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" is the plot macguffin that allows the aliens from "Extremis" to make their move. "Extremis" essentially introduced the monk creatures who want to take over the Earth; "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" is how they execute their plan.

Bill and Penny are out on their date when the Secretary General Of The United Nations arrives, searching for The President. Bill, thus, learns that in times of crisis, The Doctor is the President Of Earth. The Secretary General is alarmed because a 5,000 year-old pyramid has materialized on Earth in Termezistan, in between the Russian, Chinese, and U.S. militaries. While Bill, Nardole, The Doctor and the Secretary General are flown to Termezistan, a scientist for an agrofuel company is headed to work when her glasses get broken. Erica arrives at work and one of her coworkers has to mix the next experimental compound. While that compound is tested, The Doctor and his team investigate the mysterious new pyramid.

The Pyramid is housing the monk aliens who learned all about humanity from their simulation. The monk aliens reset every clock in the world to 11:57, based on the Doomsday Clock. The leader of the aliens tells The Doctor that they will take over and rule the world, with the consent of humanity. After The Doctor and Secretary General get the leaders of the three major armies together, he attempts to make a show of force, which the aliens foil. The military leaders declare peace. Sadly, the clock keeps ramping up toward doomsday, with the Secretary General attempting to consent to the aliens, and being killed in the process. While The Doctor searches for a way out of the predicament, he recognizes that the aliens are involved in misdirection and he, Nardole, and Bill begin to hunt for an alternative to consenting to alien domination.

"The Pyramid At The End Of The World" is a bridge episode between the episode that explains why an alien invasion would be coming and the episode that resolves the invasion. So, essentially, this is yet another Doctor Who "aliens invade the world" episode. This time, the aliens come with our consent and it seems entirely off that none of the characters point out that: 1. the monks are not giving them the ability to make informed consent and 2. No leader of the world has the authority to consent for all of the citizens of the world. As a result, the set-up wherein the aliens demand consent in order to be able to take over the world (in order to save humanity from itself) is inherently problematic. It is an idea that sounds far more clever than it actually is.

The far more clever aspect of "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" is the misdirection aspect of the episode. Initially presented as a random subplot, of course what is going on in the agrofuel lab turns out to be the most important aspect of the episode. The moment Erica's coworker, Douglas, removes his contamination suit hood, it is hard not to see that the episode is pointing toward a blatant issue that will make that b-plot relevant. For sure, director Daniel Nettheim does an excellent job of making the decimal point problem visible long before it is made explicit, but its importance takes exposition to make relevant.

The Doctor has a good character moment late in "The Pyramid At The End Of The World." The Doctor has been blinded and Peter Capaldi plays him as blind fairly well for most of the entire episode. In fact, Capaldi's performance of The Doctor blind helps to characterize Bill as youthfully oblivious. The Doctor is not quite looking at Bill when he removes his glasses and when a bright light comes through the nearby window, Bill squints, but The Doctor barely does. Faced with certain death, The Doctor feels compelled to finally be honest with Bill.

Nardole has a good outing in "The Pyramid At The End Of The World." Nardole correctly deduces what is actually going on and where the end of the world is likely coming from. Strangely, "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" has an utterly nonsensical ending. Bill's final moment makes some sense from a character perspective; how and why the alien monks believe she has the authority to make any form of planetary decision is ridiculous.

Ultimately, "The Pyramid At The End Of The World" is a "necessary evil" episode, one that pays off a promise and seeds the resolution to that major plot event. To execute the plot event, though, the aliens have to make a banal demand and the threat hardly seems as menacing as, for example, the Earth's atmosphere being poisoned by aliens. That makes for one of the more average alien invasion episodes of Doctor Who.

For other works with Andrew Byron, please check out my reviews of:
The Monuments Men
28 Weeks Later

5/10

For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening Toothpaste Delivers Clean, Healthy Teeth!


The Good: Cleans teeth well, Inexpensive, Stops oral irritation, Appears to effectively block stains, Does not taste bad
The Bad: Does not noticeably whiten teeth.
The Basics: Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening toothpaste is effective at doing what it promises, though the whitening aspect is still up for debate.


Whitening toothpastes are a much harder sell for me than for other people, I suspect. First, I don't smoke or do anything else that has left me with already stained teeth. Second, I tend to use firm-bristled toothbrushes, so my daily coffee does not net new tooth stains. Finally, the amount of time it takes to whiten teeth is usually well beyond a single tube or couple of months. I have been using Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening Toothpaste for the past two months and my teeth have not gotten noticeably whiter, but they have also not gotten any stains (which is a promise the toothpaste makes) and it does very effectively freshen my breath first thing in the morning when my breath is at its worst.

I purchased the 6 oz. tube of Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening toothpaste a little over two months ago and it has lasted at least that long with me using it twice daily. The key selling points of the toothpaste were the tartar control, anti-cavity, stain guard, breath freshening and teeth whitening aspects, though the latter was not the best execution of the idea. After two months of using Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening toothpaste twice a day, I noticed no significant color change in my teeth.

Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening is an inexpensive, but generally effective, toothpaste with several selling point functions. It comes in a classic tube design with a plastic top that unscrews from the tube. The 6 oz. tube is seven and a half inches long by two inches wide and it tapers near the end with the nozzle. When the cap is unscrewed, there is a hard plastic nozzle which directs the product out of the tube and onto one's toothbrush. Toothpaste is easily dispensed from this type tube by flattening the plastic tube from the bottom toward the top and this also allows the user to get the most out of it.

To use Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening, simply dispense a small amount onto the bristles of a toothbrush and bring the brush up to your mouth and spread the toothpaste over teeth using the brush. Then agitate the toothpaste into a foam to clean teeth entirely and expectorate the product (the process takes about a minute). Rinse mouth to remove any excess toothpaste and theoretically, the process should be complete and your teeth ought to feel wonderful.

The reason I continue to use Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening is that it seems to work very well and it did not taste bad. Unlike many whitening products, there was no chalky flavor to this toothpaste. Since starting to use this toothpaste, I have developed no cavities and there has been no noticeable tartar or plaque build-up on my teeth.

Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening significantly freshens breath. The toothpaste tastes mildly minty, with a grit that proves the presence of the promised baking soda within the toothpaste. After agitating the toothpaste in one's mouth and on the teeth, Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening makes teeth, gums, tongue, cheeks and throat feel cool and fresh!

Arm & Hammer Complete Care Plus Whitening cleans very well and does appear to do what it promises in terms of protecting teeth, freshening breath and guarding against new stains, making it worth recommending.

For other oral care products, please visit my reviews of:
Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant Clean Mint toothpaste
Alcohol Free Colgate Total Daily Repair mouthwash
Burt's Bees Tropical Pineapple Flavor Crystals Lip Balm

8.5/10

For other health and beauty reviews, please visit my Health And Beauty Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, May 25, 2017

"The Return Part 4" Bears The Burden Of Making Twin Peaks Comprehensible!


The Good: Decent performances, Plot starts to develop, Moments of realism, Hints of character development
The Bad: Irksome new characters, Ridiculous, pointless, monologue from Michael Cera
The Basics: Twin Peaks actually starts to put into focus the various Dale Coopers in "The Return Part 4."


Weird is good. Weird is weird and it can be great, but when it comes to art, weird for the sake of weird has a very short shelf-life. In media, weird works where the purpose is simply to create something that is surreal as opposed to sensible - mood pieces, deliberately obscure, or mysteries where the writers have no idea how they intend to resolve the set-up (I'm looking at you J.J. Abrams!) - have low replayability. Indeed, many at some point forego the mood and the mystery to attempt to deliver concrete answers that both continue to intrigue and reward the viewers for their investment. As the original Twin Peaks (reviewed here!), went on, David Lynch had to pay off the various threads he had woven early on with answering the fundamental mystery of the show: "Who killed Laura Palmer?" After that answer was revealed, the narrative threads that were left for the second season of the show were hardly as compelling or intriguing as the original characterizations and plots suggested and the show meandered. Fortunately, it came back for a big finish as the focus turned to the epic struggle between F.B.I. Agent Dale Cooper and the villainous Windham Earl as they both hunted for the mysterious Black Lodge.

With the revival of Twin Peaks, it is hard not to get a few episodes in and feel like it is time for some put up or shut up storytelling from David Lynch and Mark Frost. The third episode of the season (reviewed here!) was annoyingly convoluted; after a long surreal opening, Agent Cooper may have managed to escape the Black Lodge, despite the fact that Cooper (his Bob-infected doppelganger for the past twenty-five years) is still in the world. Did Agent Cooper actually escape the Black Lodge and is now walking around South Dakota winning at casino slot machines without any memories? Is the new Cooper a construct of some sort? Will the police at Twin Peaks figure out that "something is missing" could mean "you're missing something?" Or will one of them figure out that Lucy only fessed up to eating one piece of chocolate, which means someone else ate the other two in the package? Will viewers keep caring long enough to get actual answers?!

That is where viewers come into "The Return Part 4." "The Return Part 4" opens with the promise that F.B.I. Agent Rosenfeld and Deputy Director Cole might actually learn about Cooper, the doppelganger, for the first time in twenty-five years and begin to piece together that something happened to Agent Cooper twenty-five years prior in Twin Peaks.

Fortunately, viewers get some answers - pretty fast - in "The Return Part 4." Almost immediately, the version of Cooper who was returned to the world is identified by other people as Dougie Jones, which suggests that Jones was someone before Agent Cooper basically possessed him by his unorthodox exodus from the Black Lodge. That idea is reinforced by Jones seeing Phillip Gerard within the Black Lodge and the one-armed man telling him that one of the Coopers must die.

Opening at the Silver Mustang Casino, Dale Cooper haplessly wins twenty-nine jackpots, much to the chagrin of the casino's owner. He is recognized by Bill and Candy Shaker as Dougie Jones and he is given his winnings by the casino owner before being sent home. Arriving home, he is accosted by his wife, Jane. Gordon visits F.B.I. Chief Of Staff Denise Bryson to get Agent Preston approved to his team to investigate the Cooper lead in South Dakota.

In Twin Peaks, Sheriff Frank Truman arrives at the Sheriff's Department where he puts Lucy in shock by using his cell phone. Truman is briefed on a drug overdose at Twin Peaks High. The personnel converge in the conference room where Deputy Briggs is visibly shaken by seeing Laura Palmer's picture on the table. Andy and Lucy's son, Wally, arrives at the station much to the delight of his parents (and the confusion of Sheriff Truman). When Dougie wakes up the next morning, his son helps him through his morning routine (while Jane just yells at him). The F.B.I. team arrives in South Dakota, where the lead homicide detective is surprised that the prints of the dead man at the apartment yeild a hit, but the identity is blocked by the military. The police in Buckhorn show the F.B.I. team what was found in Cooper's car - cocaine, a machine gun and a dog's leg - before Deputy Director Cole begins interrogating Cooper. Cooper insists he was working undercover, but he does not appear to recognize Albert and his speech pattern is erratic. Rosenfeld confesses to Cole afterward that he gave information to F.B.I. Agent Philip Jeffries that was passed on to Cooper, information that led to the death of a Colombian drug lord. Both Rosenfeld and Cole both recognize that something is very wrong with Cooper.

Fans of Twin Peaks are likely to be delighted by Bobby Briggs resurfacing in the new season. Briggs was a troubled youth back in the day and there is a delicious irony in the fact that he is now working in law enforcement.

"The Return Part 4" does a good job with getting some truly realistic aspects of supporting characters right. Candy Shaker is legitimately concerned by how Dougie Jones is acting; Bill tries to correct him when he simply repeats back words. The limo driver who takes Jones home has trouble seeing the color of doors at night and is impatient with waiting for Dougie to move toward his door.

Sadly, that realism is inconsistently executed. Michael Cera arrives in Twin Peaks as Wally and delivers a ridiculous monologue. Cera's scene in "The Return Part 4" is the Twin Peaks equivalent of the podracing scene in The Phantom Menace; "there's five minutes of my life I'll never get back." Similarly, Jane does not seem to have any idea what to do with Dougie. She talks over him and does not notice that he is only repeating words, does not even know how to dress himself or sit on his own or even know how to go to the bathroom until he is shown. While that helps to characterize Jane some, her inattentiveness is frustrating to watch and her failure to observe that he is not actually talking the night before their son picks up that Doug is out of it is infuriating.

"The Return Part 4" finally effectively blends the classic Twin Peaks characters and actors with the new recurring cast members and characters. While Michael Cera does not quite fit in, Robert Forster steps into the role of Sheriff Frank Truman well. Naomi Watts might play an oblivious character in Mrs. Jones, but she plays the part well. David Lynch, Miguel Ferrer, Michael Horse, Harry Goaz, Dana Ashbrook, and Kimmy Robertson all step with an apparent effortless quality back into their distinctive Twin Peaks roles. Even David Duchovny's cameo is not nearly as distracting or pointless as Cera's appearance.

Kyle MacLachlan once again dominates in "The Return Part 4." MacLachlan plays the dual roles of Cooper and Dougie and the two parts are so different that it is refreshing after seeing him walk around in a robotic fashion for almost the entire episode to see him deliver exposition during the interrogation scene - just to prove he has the range. MacLachlan manages to insinuate well that Dougie Jones is slowly learning and adapting to life back on our mortal plane, while Cooper is presented as far less villainous than he was in the prior three episodes.

Ultimately, "The Return Part 4" is the first episode that effectively focuses the mystery of the new season of Twin Peaks on the nature of Cooper and the (potentially) returned Cooper. The episode more effectively uses surrealism and weirdness, while telling an actual story, which is enough to remind viewers what they have been missing from Twin Peaks.

For other works with Sarah Paxton, please visit my reviews of:
Cheap Thrills
The Last House On The Left
Aquamarine

7.5/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Fun Twist On Peeps, Peeps Orange Delights!


The Good: Intriguing flavor, Great scent, Marshmallow actually tastes (some) like orange!
The Bad: Comparatively expensive, Not the most bold citrus or accurate creamsicle flavor
The Basics: Looking for an intriguing twist on ordinary marshmallow Peeps? Peeps Orange Delights marshmallow candies do the trick!


As I make my way through the cache of treats my wife picked up while I was out of town, I am doing increasingly more Peeps reviews. Today, I find myself trying the Orange Delights Peeps. The Orange Delights Peeps are a little better than original Peeps (reviewed here!), but while the aroma is delightfully reminiscent of Creamsicles, the flavor is a bit more muted and generically sweet.

Basics

Orange Delights Peeps are a marshmallow candy that were introduced in 2017 during the Easter Season. Thus far, they are a pack of three orange Peeps chicks with about 1/8" orange fudge coating the underside of the chick. These are not coated in fudge all the way around and they were produced exclusively by Just Born. The three pack of Orange Delights Peeps tended to run $1.99 - $2.99, which is a bit more than the average price of a four-pack of the regular Peeps.

Each Orange Delights Peep is almost two inches long by 3/4" wide by 3/4" tall and they are sugar-coated marshmallow candies with a very thin orange fudge shell on the underside.

Ease Of Preparation

Orange Delights Peeps are pretty simple to prepare. Simply unwrap the plastic around the tray and pull it out. Each of the Orange Delights Peeps is contained within its own plastic tray. Unlike the regular Peeps, the Orange Delights Peeps tend not to have their sugar fall off. As a result, they seem to be more clean and easy to eat; simply remove it from the package and consume!

Taste

Orange Delights Peeps smell just like an orange creamiscle. The milky, sugary aroma is distinct and has a delightfully mild citrus aroma to it. The usual acidity of citrus in the bouquet is muted by the milky aroma that makes it smell more like a frozen orange creamiscle than, for example, a glass of orange juice or an actual orange.

In the mouth, the Orange Delights Peeps taste sweet and creamy. The actual orange flavor is easily overwhelmed by the orange fudge on the underside of the candy. Despite that, there is a faint orange flavor that makes the Orange Delights Peeps taste like the aftertaste of a creamsicle. The more generic sugary flavor is more prominent than the orange or citrus flavor, which makes its flavor a little less distinct.

The Orange Delights Peeps have a slightly orange aftertaste that dissipates quickly after the last Peep is eaten.

Nutrition

Orange Delights Peeps are a candy, not a health food bursting with nutritional benefits. The three Orange Delights Peeps in a package are a single serving. A serving has 160 calories, thirty-five of which are from fat. Orange Delights Peeps have three and a half grams of saturated fat, which is 17% of one's RDA of saturated fat. There are 35 mg of sodium and 1 gram of protein in each three Peep serving. There are no vitamins or other nutritional benefits to Peeps, outside 2% of one's RDA of Calcium.

The main ingredients in Orange Delights Peeps are sugar, corn syrup and gelatin. Orange Delights Peeps are gluten free and are not Vegan compliant considering there is gelatin, nonfat dry milk, whole milk powder and carnauba wax. There is nothing overly unfamiliar in the ingredient list, so these are not the worst candies ever on the nutrition front.

Storage/Clean-Up

Orange Delights Peeps are easy enough to store. The Orange Delights Peeps my wife picked up last month had an expiration date of December 2017, so keeping them at room temperature or below seems to keep them fresh for a long period of time.

Clean-up is as easy, unless the orange fudge melts onto something. Because the sugar does not seem inclined to fall off, truly the melting orange fudge - or the melting Peep - is the only real worry. Like the preparation, there is nothing hard about storing or cleaning up after this candy.

Overall

Orange Delights Peeps are interesting, but just a little less flavored than one might want. The result is a less-enthusiastic endorsement as opposed to a rave review.

For other Peeps candy reviews, please check out:
Triple Chocolate Filled Delights Peeps
Sweet Lemonade Peeps
Milk Chocolate Dipped Peeps

5.5/10

For other candy reviews, please visit my Candy Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

WTF David Lynch?! "The Return Part 3"


The Good: Well acted, Most of the direction
The Bad: Mood supplants plot, No real character development, Direction includes some truly pointless scenes that go nowhere, Moments of repetition are starting to get old.
The Basics: Twin Peaks returns to often-unclear weirdness that is more evocative of mood than any sort of sensible storytelling.


As the revival of Twin Peaks progresses, the potential and potential weakness of the series has been revealed. The show opened with an episode that barely included the town of Twin Peaks and got the latest chapter off to a particularly rough start. But with the second episode, the focus was on Agent Cooper and his doppelganger, which was more than enough to get viewers to care about the show once again. At its best moments, "The Return Part 3" works to more concretely reconcile the disparate elements of the revival - the seemingly random New York City plotline and the story of characters Twin Peaks viewers actually care about. Unfortunately, the episode does not devote nearly enough time to satisfying or clear answers as it does to deepening the strange elements surrounding Dale Cooper in his various incarnations.

Following on the events of "The Return Part 2" (reviewed here!), "The Return Part 3" picks up the investigation into what happened in the mysterious experiment room in the first episode of the revival. "The Return Part 3" features the return of Miguel Ferrer's FBI Agent Albert Rosenfeld and the on-screen return of David Lynch as Deputy Director Gordon Cole. "The Return Part 3" opens nightmarish and surreal and it is worth noting for newcomers to the show that whatever device one is watching the episode on, it is not skipping. David Lynch purposely made the beginning unsettling with backwards movements, abrupt sounds, silences and over-exposed skin tones.

Opening with Agent Cooper attempting to escape the Black Lodge and ending up in a surreal room with a fireplace and a woman with no eyes, Agent Cooper finds himself confused. The woman he is with warns him to remain silent when there comes a knocking on the door. Agent Cooper becomes fascinated with an object on the wall of the new room in which he finds himself, but the woman becomes agitated when he approaches it. When the pair ascends a ladder, the woman activates a device that appears to electrocute her and send her falling off into a starfield (in which Agent Cooper sees and hears Major Briggs). When Agent Cooper returns to the room, the device on the wall has the number 3 on it (instead of 15 when he left) and there is a new woman in the room before the fireplace. As Agent Cooper explores the device on the wall, he receives a shock from it and that has an effect on Cooper in the real world. Cooper crashes his car and starts to see the entrance to the Black Lodge, but he resists being pulled back into it.

Inside the Black Lodge, some form of Cooper materializes and then appears to be destroyed in front of the One Armed Man. Agent Cooper becomes corporeal through an electric socket, where he finds himself in the company of a prostitute who knows him as Dougie. Back in Twin Peaks, Hawk, Lucy Moran and Deputy Brennan try to piece together what is missing. Lucy Moran confesses to having eaten a chocolate bunny from the evidence collected in the disappearance of Agent Cooper, but Hawk dismisses that as relevant. After Dr. Jacoby spray paints shovels in the wilderness, Jade drops Dougie off at a casino with $5 and tells him to forget her and call someone for help. Following hallucinations of the path into the Black Lodge, Dougie plays quarter-slots and wins multiple jackpots, without any understanding of what he is doing. In Philadelphia, FBI Agent Rosenfeld and Deputy Director Cole work on an investigation when they are briefed by Agent Tamara Preston on the New York City murder. While Preston is briefing them, the FBI is called with the location of Cooper and the FBI agents prepare to fly out to the Black Hills of South Dakota to be reunited with their lost agent.

Kyle MacLachlan does an excellent job of emoting during the silent opening portion of "The Return Part 3." MacLachlan wonderfully portrays confusion as Agent Cooper tries to understand the mysterious woman in the new room in which he finds himself. Performing only with facial expressions and anticipation in his body language, MacLachlan revives the character of Agent Cooper as a curious, analytical man who was once capable of using reason to solve heinous crimes.

Beyond that, MacLachlan manages to perform the newest incarnation of Cooper - Dougie, who may just be Agent Cooper reacclimating to life on Earth, without all of his memories intact - with a distinctly different physical presence from the rest of his performances in "The Return Part 3." MacLachlan's stiff-legged lurch and blank stare as Dougie is unsettling to watch (I seriously got chills on my arms!) and the deliberate way he drops quarters in machines at the casino is just weird.

"The Return Part 3" is an objectively confusing episode of Twin Peaks. Agent Cooper has spent twenty-five years trapped in the Black Lodge, while his doppelganger has been running around in the real world doing horrible things. That was well-established in the first and second episodes of the Twin Peaks revival. It even makes sense when one of Agent Cooper's nightmare visions tells him that when he arrives, he will already be there (when Agent Cooper returns to the real world, his doppelganger will be there). But while Agent Cooper is in transition back to the real world, there is what seems to be a third version of Cooper already in play. Cooper appears to be both driving and with a prostitute, Jade, in a housing development. The third Cooper does not make real sense yet and "The Return Part 3" does not make a sensible differentiation between Cooper (Bob) and Dougie (Cooper 3). The only real hint within "The Return Part 3" comes from Phillip Gerard, the One Armed Man, within the Black Lodge, when he tells some incarnation of Cooper that he has been manufactured.

David Lynch directs "The Return Part 3" and he takes his time establishing mood and the episode is an example of how David Lynch's cinematic weirdness might not translate well to television today. Take, for example, Dr. Jacoby's lone scene in the episode. Jacoby spray paints a bunch of shovels. The scene is mind-numbingly long as Lynch follows him spray painting the front of each shovel and then he begins on the back of the shovels. The thing is, in a piece that is already heavy with mood and surrealism, taking the time to show most of the painting process feels entirely unnecessary. Showing the painting begin and cutting to the last of the painting gives viewers all the information they need. The mood is not actually enhanced and no additional information is given by showing the whole process. The scene is frustratingly boring that in retrospect, I cannot recall if it is four, five or six shovels that are being painted.

"The Return Part 3" further muddies the Twin Peaks narrative by appearing to offer Agent Cooper a back door out of the Black Lodge. Given how hard the Black Lodge was to get into, it makes little sense that it would be easy to get out of all of a sudden. Furthermore, the idea that Cooper and his doppelganger had to switch spots to become imprisoned/escape the Black Lodge made sense and had been reinforced fairly early on in the revival of Twin Peaks. Changing that suddenly feels more sloppy than clever and it puts a lot of pressure on subsequent Twin Peaks episodes to make it work.

Ultimately, "The Return Part 3" is more unpleasant and generically weird than it is a revelation. The result is a Twin Peaks episode that is probably important - given that Cooper either returned to Earth or another Cooper was introduced - but is not at all enjoyable or interesting to watch.

For other works with the late, wonderful Miguel Ferrer, please check out my reviews of:
Rio 2
Iron Man 3
Traffic
Mulan
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

2.5/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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R.I.P. Roger Moore: The 2017 James Bond Archives - Final Edition Trading Cards Are A Fitting Goodbye.


The Good: Archive box exclusives, Generally good collectibility, Some truly spectacular autograph card signers, Metal cards are neat, Cool relic cards
The Bad: Orientation issues,
The Basics: The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards make a decent trading card set out of an unfortunately bad James Bond film!


Like many people, yesterday I awoke to the sad news that Sir Roger Moore had died. Roger Moore frequently was underrated and undervalued by James Bond fans, which is ironic because Moore had the most "canon" James Bond films under his belt (Never Say Never Again has licensing issues due to its distribution and its authenticity within the James Bond canon is frequently challenged and counting that film only makes a tie for Moore and Sean Connery having equal quantities of James Bond films). Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond whose films I grew up on and because it was the work I had seen him in the most (other Bond actors having effectively branched out from James Bond or came to Bond later in their careers), I most closely associated Roger Moore with James Bond. His death left me saddened and it seemed fitting that the day after he died, completely coincidentally Rittenhouse Archives released its 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards. As the name suggests, the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards are Rittenhouse Archives's last James Bond trading card set for the foreseeable future (unless they do some form of In Memoriam exclusive set for Roger Moore) and so James Bond fans are saying a lot of "goodbyes" over the last twenty-four hours.

The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards are actually an incredibly fitting way for fans of the James Bond franchise to say goodbye to Sir Roger Moore, as the trading card set is very heavy in Roger Moore material - the set features four autographed trading cards by Roger Moore and bonus sets from three of Moore's James Bond films - Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only, and A View To A Kill.

The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards allow James Bond fans to complete their Rittenhouse Archives James Bond trading card collection with a lot of flair and some truly impressive cards.

Basics/Set Composition

Fully assembled, the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading card set has 387 cards and is essentially four (or five) sets in one. As well, there is an oversized binder produced by Rittenhouse Archives that holds the entire set, with all of its associated chase cards, which has not always been the case for some of the bigger James Bond trading card sets! The set consists of 83 common cards and 304 bonus cards. The chase cards are mostly available in the packs of cards, though eight of them were incentive or promotional cards and could not be found in any of the packs. The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards were released in boxes of twenty-four packs of five cards each.

Common Cards

The common card set for the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards consists of eighty-three modern-looking trading cards. The entire common set recaps the plot of Die Another Day (reviewed here!). Sadly, the common set for the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards are inconsistently oriented. While the backs of every card are portrait-oriented, the fronts of the cards vary between portrait and landscape orientation. That makes the cards something of a pain in the butt to place in the binder as there is no organic way to make the set look good from an orientation point-of-view.

That said, the photograph and writing for the Die Another Day common set in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards is universally wonderful. The 2017 James Bond Archives cards have the traditional UV-resistant coating which is flawlessly applied. The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards feature a great range of vibrant pictures that have not been overly-promoted (and are different from the shots from the Inkworks Die Another Day set from when the film was theatrically released). Interestingly, Rittenhouse Archives included the image from the promotional card within the common set, which is not a usual thing for their trading card sets. The cards have a fresh look to them that makes it a visually-interesting trading card set. The backs are well-written and the cards detail the plot of Die Another Day quite thoroughly. The writing for the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards common set is very entertaining and follows the plot of the film with a lot of detail.

Chase Cards

The 296 chase cards that can be found in packs and boxes of 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition essentially create three additional "common" sets and one bonus parallel set, in addition to more traditional James Bond chase cards. As is the habit in many of the newer trading card releases, there are no bonus card sets that can be completed with even a single case of trading cards; most require at least two cases with ideal collation to assemble the chase sets. The higher-end sets require three to six cases to complete.

The 2017 James Bond Archives trading card set features three extensive bonus sets that require multiple cases to complete. There are retro sets that retell the stories of For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy and A View To A Kill with 36, 32, and 30 cards each. The retro sets in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards illustrate an overall problem with the way Rittenhouse Archives approached their throwback sets (as a holistic collecting issue). Prior retro Throwback sets had up to 102 cards and the detailing on the plot of each movie was as detailed as for the common sets, the films for which Rittenhouse Archives was able to yield less material made for smaller sets. The three retro throwback sets in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards are well-written, though they have somewhat more condensed plotting than the common sets (the Octopussy set, for example, devotes a single card to the teaser mission whereas the Die Another Day common set has eight cards for the mission that came before the opening credits in that film!). Rittenhouse Archives did the best they could with the material they were able to cull from the three films in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards, but James Bond trading card collectors are likely to feel like they are getting less for their money on the throwback sets in the Final Edition cards. If Rittenhouse Archives had produced all of the throwback sets at the same time and more evenly distributed them through the last six Archives releases, the throwback sets in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards would not have been so anemic by the numbers.

That said, the photograph and the writing for the throwback sets maintains the high standards of quality that the other retro sets have embodied. The throwback sets, like many of the prior Throwback retro sets are inconsistently oriented and are more problematic to try to put into binder pages in any sensible way. All three of the Throwback sets in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards are made of a more retro cardboard stock to make the cards from the older films seem like they were from the period in which the films were released. The For Your Eyes Only and A View To A Kill sets features black and white photography on some of the card backs, but this is nowhere near as problematic as the Throwback sets for the color films that have black and white images on the fronts.

Two per box there are gold parallel cards for the Die Another Day set. The gold parallel set was limited to only 250 of each of the cards. The gold parallel cards are a particularly boring parallel card; they are distinguished from the common versions of their cards by limited gold foil lettering for the title on the front of each card and an individual foil-stamped number on the back, at the bottom of the card. While they are substantively similar to prior James Bond parallel cards, the parallel cards lack any real flash quality to them.

As part of finishing the James Bond trading card line, the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards feature 24 SPECTRE and Skyfall Expansion cards. Found one per box, the twenty-four Expansion cards continue the common card sets from prior releases as bonus cards. The 9 SPECTRE cards for The Complete James Bond come together to form the movie poster for SPECTRE on the back, just like every nine-cards in the common set did. The other fifteen Expansion cards extend the Heroes & Villains, Bond Girls Are Forever, Bond Villains and James Bond Archives sets from prior releases with content from SPECTRE and Skyfall, perfectly continuing those sets and concluding them in a fashion consistent to the original releases.

The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards concluded the 007 Double-Sided (Mirror Cards) card set that was begun early in 2016. The eight cards found in this subset in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards work together with cards found in the two prior sets to create a 24-card bonus card set. These beautiful trading cards feature the incarnation of James Bond on one side and the primary villain on the obverse for each of the James Bond films. The eight cards in the 007 Double-Sided set found in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards are every three Bond films starting with the third M3,M6, M9, etc. While this might create a weird ultimate collation the cards themselves are stunning and cleanly printed on a vibrant-looking mirror board that is very fresh looking.

Also found only two per case are two of the twelve Metal cards for the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards. Featuring the movie posters for each of the last twelve James Bond films, the Metal cards are individually numbered on the back and they concluded a very cool set that was begun in the 2016 James Bond 007 Archives - SPECTRE Edition trading cards. Rittenhouse Archives has recently gotten into metal card production and the metal cards in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards reinforces the argument that Rittenhouse Archives knows exactly what it is doing with that technology!

The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards feature fifteen Relic cards, split between fairly traditional costume cards (albeit in an uncommon portrait orientation) and relic cards of James Bond props. Rather cooly, the Relic card set features a dual relic card with prop materials from two different props from Quantum Of Solace. The costume cards are limited to 200 each and they are pretty typical costume pieces - James Bond suits, a top from a Bond girl and a supporting character or two's costume pieces. Unlike something like a Star Trek costume that has a variety of fabrics or colors, the James Bond costume cards with costume materials from Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace and Skyfall have fabric swatches that are very consistent and unimaginative. Fortunately, the rarer relic cards are much more variable and intriguing for card collectors and James Bond fans.

As with most media-based trading card sets, the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards feature autographed trading cards. This set of trading cards features a whopping fifty-six autograph cards, which includes awesome autographed materials like autographed costume cards and a gold signature card. The bulk of the autograph cards in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading card set are split between the familiar format of the 40th Anniversary set – which had very small pictures of the character’s head and were oriented in a landscape format – a single Women Of Bond autograph card and the vastly more popular full-bleed style which was portrait oriented with giant images of the characters and a minimal signing space at the bottom. The seven 40th Anniversary style autographs are highlighted by autographs by three different Roger Moore autographs and one extremely limited Daniel Craig autograph. I was pretty psyched that Ben Whishaw signed another card for this set.

In the full-bleed autographs, the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards Rittenhouse Archives included one of the most incredible autograph line ups of all Rittenhouse Archives James Bond card set releases. In addition to a full-bleed Roger Moore autograph, there is yet another George Lazenby signature card. Rittenhouse Archives included first-time signer Tula alongside highly-coveted celebrities like Judi Dench, Halle Berry, Dave Bautista, Michelle Yeoh, Berenice Marlohe, Lea Sedoux, and Jeffrey Wright. Rather impressively, Rittenhouse Archives had held an incredible autograph card from fan-favorite villain Jaws portrayed by Richard Kiel before he died, which they released in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards. Most of the autograph cards in the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards are from recognizable actors and characters from the James Bond films. This is one of nicest-looking autograph card sets for James Bond trading cards that Rittenhouse Archives has ever produced.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading card set has eight cards not found in any of the boxes or packs. There are three promotional cards – the usual general release, an exclusive one that Rittenhouse Archives is distributing at conventions, and the binder-exclusive promotional card.

The casetopper for the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading card set is a pretty cool Die Another Day movie poster metal card. The Die Another Day variant movie poster cards are not individually numbered, but it is a metal card and it features artwork from the most recognizable movie poster for the film.

Then there are the incentive cards and they are split between the average and the incredible. For every six-cases ordered, collectors of the 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards received a Gold Signature Maud Adams as Octopussy autograph card. This card, predictably, looks amazing, though the value of it is not likely to be on part with prior 6-case incentive cards. The nine-case incentive card is an absolutely wonderful Christopher Lee full-bleed autograph card, posthumously released. This Scaramanga autograph card might well be the rarest Christopher Lee autograph card from Rittenhouse Archives and they look incredible!

The final two cards in the 2017 James Bond Archives set were exclusive to the Archive Box. Filling in one of the gaps in the Women Of Bond autograph card set is a Yvonne Shima autograph that was released as an exclusive. As well, Rittenhouse Archives released a true grail card in the form of a Sean Connery cut signature card, which could only be found in the Archive Box. The cut signature cards - the ones I've seen - look absolutely amazing with vibrant, clear signatures from Connery and they represent the only Sean Connery James Bond autograph card from Rittenhouse Archives.

Overall

The 2017 James Bond 007 Archives - Final Edition trading cards might not be flawless, but they are a fitting tribute to Roger Moore and the final James Bond films that Rittenhouse Archives had yet to make card sets for. Collectors will want to hunt down everything they can from this set as it closes the book on James Bond - at least for the time - with a very high level of quality.

This set culls images from the James bond films Die Another Day, Octopussy (reviewed here!), For Your Eyes Only (reviewed here!) and A View To A Kill (reviewed here!)!

These cards are available in my online store! Please check them out here: 2017 James Bond Archives - Final Edition Trading Card Current Inventory!

For other James Bond trading card reviews, please check out my reviews of:
2009 James Bond Archives
2015 James Bond Archives
2016 James Bond Classics
2016 James Bond Archives - SPECTRE Edition

8/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Flash Crosses The "Finish Line" With One Of The Best Episodes Of The Season!


The Good: Wonderful performances, Cool special effects, Good character moments
The Bad: All the characters become idiots for the season's final problem, Plot of the final few minutes of the episode
The Basics: The Flash ends its third season at "Finish Line," which is a surprisingly smart and well-executed episode!


The third season of The Flash arrives with "Finish Line" and it is a tough finale to get excited about. The big question for fans of The Flash is: will the writers and executive producers actually kill Iris West off or will the status quo be restored by the end of the season's final episode. The thing is, as "Finish Line" begins, the episode has the feel of being one where Barry Allen will either risk creating another paradox or the episode will hinge on a reveal that explains how Iris West was not actually murdered in the prior episode. Well before "Finish Line" began, the logic of creating a temporal remnant of Iris West made the most sense for setting up the long-awaited murder scene and given that in the prior episode, Iris West went to Earth-2 (where speedster Jesse Quick could, conceivably, help her create a temporal remnant), the clues to the easy resolution seemed to be in place already.

"Finish Line" was led into by "Infantino Street" (reviewed here!), which saw Savitar killing Iris West, almost exactly the way The Flash watched it happen months before. When Dr. Brand's Speed Force Bazooka fails to stop Savitar and Iris West is killed, all looks bleak for the S.T.A.R. Labs team. Thus "Finish Line" is instantly burdened with either committing to Iris's murder or finding an inventive way to undo it. Fortunately, it does.

Iris lays dead on Infantino Street, with the rest of the S.T.A.R. Labs team shocked at their failure to save her. H.R. used a holographic generator to replace Iris West, however, and he was sacrificed in Iris's place. H.R. gives inspiring words to Dr. Brand and Barry to deliver to Cisco before he ultimately dies. The Flash returns with Iris and Joe to S.T.A.R. Labs and the time vault where it appears history has been restored. Savitar prevents Killer Frost from killing Cisco because he needs the scientist to build something for him. Savitar wants to have Cisco alter the Speed Force Bazooka to splice himself in every moment in time to make him godlike and rectify the paradox.

Dr. Albert returns to S.T.A.R. Labs with a cure for Dr. Snow's metahuman DNA and Savitar uses that knowledge to extort Cisco into helping him with his work. Trying to save Savitar, Barry Allen approaches his future self and attempts to appeal to his humanity. Future Barry returns to S.T.A.R. Labs with Barry and Iris appeals to Barry. Dr. Brand is reticent to help Future Barry, so Iris turns to Harrison Wells from Earth-2 to try to appeal to her. But when Savitar recognizes that his own existence is not likely to be a happy one, he turns on the S.T.A.R. Labs team. That allows Team Flash the chance to band together to desperately attempt to stop Savitar one last time.

"Finish Line" is one of those rare episodes of television that manages to make a phenomenal and engaging end to a dog of a season. The third season of The Flash was riddled with conceptual problems and had a number of episodes that were just awful. As a result, the bar was set terribly low for the season finale, but "Finish Line" managed to exceed all expectations - up until the final scene.

The moment the reversal in "Finish Line" is revealed in the teaser, the finale for The Flash falls under a different burden; when Barry and Iris are reunited, Savitar will know that Iris is still alive. When that happens, Savitar should be consumed by either a paradox wave, time wraiths or the Black Flash. "Finish Line" addresses the paradox of Savitar, but it does not have the massive effects of Eddie Thawne killing himself to erase Eobard Thawne from existence.

What is refreshing about "Finish Line" is that the episode commits early on to not being a super hero slug fest. The best moments of the episode occur when Barry stands opposite his future self and has a conversation about a deeply human moment they both remember. The conversation has its desired effect and the episode spends much more time making intellectual arguments and character-based appeals than it does delving into science fiction device problems. In fact, the philosophical questions raised by Future Barry about what his place is in the world are very smartly delivered.

In fact, the power of Grant Gustin's performance in "Finish Line" comes when Future Barry Allen delivers a monologue where Gustin moves the idea of continuing his existence forward in the most minute of degrees. Future Barry's slow realization is incredibly well-executed in its subtlety. The realism of that moment is expertly executed.

While most of "Finish Line" is absolutely wonderful, the threat that is established in the episode's climax is increasing in magnitudes before the team is able to even identify it . . . it takes a convenient pause in its logarithmic development for an extended coda scene. Between that and the fact that the ultimate problem appears without any of the supposedly-smart characters attempting to head it off (most of the people in the climactic battle with Savitar knew of the issue presented by the appearance of one of the characters in that battle, yet none of them thought to attempt to put Savitar back within the Speed Force prison?!).

Despite the minutia, "Finish Line" is a (mostly) satisfying end to the troubled season and it is enough to remind viewers why they fell in love with The Flash in the first place.

For other DC Television Universe season finales, please check out my reviews of:
"Fast Enough" - The Flash
"Legendary"- Legends Of Tomorrow
"The Race Of His Life" - The Flash
"Aruba"- Legends Of Tomorrow
"Nevertheless, She Persisted" - Supergirl

8/10

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

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