Friday, March 31, 2017

March 2017 End Of The Month Report!

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March was a real split month for the blog; we were sidetracked by the loss of our beloved Myah and plodded through the release of the Netflix series Iron Fist. As a result, our productivity was lopsided, but we got some good writing in this month!

We have been continuing to adapt our prior reviews so they have functional links and our new reviews are being released with good new links, so products being reviewed generally have the right products associated with them. We appreciate our readers sticking with us through Amazon reconfiguring, which is likely to be ongoing for just a while longer!

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

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

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews (as most are rendering properly!) and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As tax returns start coming in, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of March 2017, I have reviewed the following:
584 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Fiction
Star Trek Books
Nonfiction
Graphic Novels
Magazines
957 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
3193 - 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!)!
236 - 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
903 - 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
995 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Drinks
Candy
Cereal
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
269 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
114 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
211 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
208 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
108 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
61 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of March is my review of: Blue Dog Bakery Peanut Butter & Molasses Dog Treats!
Check it out!


The month of March was packed with new, highly-read reviews and it is no surprise that almost all of the biggest reviews were new movies and television reviews! For March, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. "Abra Kadabra" - The Flash
9. "Fellowship Of The Spear" - Legends Of Tomorrow
8. Love - Season 1
7. "Into The Speed Force" - The Flash
6. "The Wrath Of Savitar" - The Flash
5. Love - Season 2
4. Travelers - Season 1
3. Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
2. "Duet" - The Flash
1. Iron Fist - Season 1

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 - 326 reviews
9s - 507 reviews
8s - 984 reviews
7s - 1096 reviews
6s - 1025 reviews
5s - 1298 reviews
4s - 969 reviews
3s - 757 reviews
2s - 369 reviews
1s - 246 reviews
0s - 119 reviews
No rating - 133 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but no new additions to the all time Top Ten Reviews! At the end of March 2017, the most popular reviews/articles are:
10. Oz The Great And Powerful
9. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
8. Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
7. Warm Bodies
6. Iron Man 3
5. Now You See Me
4. Tyler Perry's Temptation
3. The Burden Of Being Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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!

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

Everyone Punches Mick Rory In "Doomworld!"


The Good: Good performances, Well-paced plot, Decent special effects, Good mood
The Bad: Fairly light on character
The Basics: "Doomworld" brings the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow to a pretty powerful climax (even before the season finale)!


In the week since the Legends Of Tomorrow episode "The Fellowship Of The Spear" (reviewed here!), I have given the episode and Legends Of Tomorrow remarkably little thought. The truth is, given the cataclysmic nature of Mick Rory's character shift in "The Fellowship Of The Spear," I was tremendously disappointed in Legends Of Tomorrow. As a result, I went into "Doomworld" less enthusiastic than I usually would as, truth be told, I truly enjoy Legends Of Tomorrow.

Fortunately, "Doomworld" is enough to justify any fan's faith in Legends Of Tomorrow!

It is impossible to discuss "Doomworld" without some allusions to where "The Fellowship Of The Spear" ended. After all, "The Fellowship Of The Spear" saw Mick Rory reunited with a temporally-displaced Leonard Snart and betraying the Waverider crew. The Legion Of Doom found itself in possession of both the Spear Of Destiny and the "owner's manual" which would tell them how to use the artifact, putting all of existence in jeopardy. "Doomworld" follows very closely on the effects of the climax of the prior episode. In fact, "Doomworld" leaps right into the altered universe created by the Legion Of Doom using the Spear Of Destiny.

Opening in Star City, 2017, a villainous Black Canary and Vixen capture the vigilante Felicity Smoak for Damian Darhk, who is the mayor of the city. In Central City, Eobard Thawne is visited by Malcolm Merlyn, who wants to use the Spear Of Destiny more. Thawne denies him the favor and asks Jefferson Jackson to speed up his work in his lab. Elsewhere in Central City, Mick Rory is jaded over how he and Snart essentially run the streets without the police impeding them. When Nate Heywood appears at Thawne's lab, Thawne tasks Snart and Rory with killing Heywood, who seems aware of the changes to reality.

When the bored Rory opts to save Heywood's life, the pair flees to Ray Palmer's makeshift lab in Star City. There, they discover that Palmer (a janitor in this reality) has manufactured a prototype for a gun that restores the memories of those who were scarred by the changes in time and space. The Legends are slowly reunited using the prototype weapon, with Jackson revealing that Dr. Stein has been building a reactor for Thawne . . . one that might be capable of incinerating the Spear Of Destiny and cementing the new, horrible, reality.

"Doomworld" has all of the potential to be a pretty basic "alternate reality" episode much like Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" (reviewed here!). And "Doomworld" gets off to that type of start. There is a lot of novelty to seeing the actors portraying the Legends playing altered versions of their characters. Jefferson Jackson is a complete dick of a boss, Dr. Stein is browbeaten and at his mercy, Rip Hunter is a drunken cake-maker, and Felicity Smoak is an ill-fated vigilante; all of the performers play their altered selves well and there is still a freshness to it considering that only Arthur Darvill's Rip Hunter has been played as an alternate version before now.

The thing about "Doomworld" is that it does not dwell too much on the alternate version of each character. Instead, the episode is a bit plot-heavy, but it quickly pushes toward a showdown and another big moment for Mick Rory. Dominic Purcell again lives up to his potential by taking a somewhat obvious character moment and absolutely rocking it. Purcell - after Mick Rory is punched repeatedly in the face - performs silently opposite Maisie Richardson-Sellers for a very compelling moment of character.

As a reviewer, there are a wide array of media works that I take in that are easy to watch and review. Arguably one of the best compliments I can give an episode of television is that it was so engaging that I found myself more captivated by the work than analytical of it. "Doomworld" is that. It takes a pretty overdone in genre film and television premise and makes it feel fresh again. "Doomworld" manages to illustrate the world Eobard Thawne would make given unlimited power and plays with the premise in a delightful way.

For other works from the DC Television Universe, please visit my reviews of:
"Invasion!" - Arrow
The Flash - Season 2
"Distant Sun" - Supergirl

8.5/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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More Dry Than True, Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts Are A Tough Sell!


The Good: They do not taste bad, Affordable
The Bad: More bready than coffee flavored, Packaging/environmental impact, Not terribly nutritious.
The Basics: The Limited Edition Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts are mediocre at best and not doing Dunkin' Donuts any favors on the flavor front.


I am fascinated by how a wide number of restaurant chains try to affiliate themselves with at-home products. While I understand the advertising benefits of associating home-based products with chain restaurants (for the restaurants), the at-home products seldom match the flavor or quality of the restaurant that licenses its name. To wit, the brand new Limited Edition Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts, which trade on their affiliation with Dunkin' Donuts (reviewed here!) does very little to mimic the flavor of any Dunkin' Donuts product.

While my wife and I were eager to try the Dunkin' Donuts Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts, she was more impressed with them than I was. Then again, she's a pie woman and I'm prefer cake. The Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts are much more like pie than cake and more generically sweet than the delightful coffee flavor I had hopes for.

Basics

Kellogg’s Pop Tarts are toaster pastries, which are basically semi-hard flat bread pouches filled with a flavored filling. The filling has the consistency of peanut butter and some, like the Limited Edition Vanilla Latte flavor, come with frosting on them. The frosting is hard and on the Vanilla Latte flavored Pop Tarts has a lighter frosting swirl that is akin to the mixing of cream in one's coffee in appearance.

Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts come in a box of eight with the Pop Tarts paired up in thin foil pouches. The foil pouch helps to protect the Pop Tart and keep it fresh.

Ease Of Preparation

Pop Tarts are one of the easiest foods in the world to prepare. Simply tear open the foil pouch and pull a Pop Tart out to eat it. It is truly that simple. Of course, you should dispose of the foil wrapper in an environmentally appropriate manner. Outside that, preparation is unnecessary as Pop Tarts taste great at room temperature.

But, for those who like them hot – which makes the filling more like a warm pie – Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts may be heated in a toaster, toaster oven or microwave. I actually like heating the Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts in the microwave for thirty seconds because it makes the corners softer and makes the pastry a little less dry.

Taste

Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts have a pretty wonderful coffee aroma to them. These Pop Tarts actually smell like coffee, which is very inviting to those of us who love coffee and coffee beverages.

At room temperature, the Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts taste quite a bit like pie crust. The frosting on their top is sweet and sugary and compliments the bready crust. The frosting flavor is not enough to overcome the dryness of the rest of the pastry. The center of the Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts is sweet and only vaguely coffee flavored; the filling is not enough to overcome the dry pie crust-like pastry.

Served warm, the Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts pop with a distinctive coffee flavor, which is kept from being a full-throated strong, dry coffee flavor by the sugary flavor. The generic sweetness of the filling does not overwhelm the coffee flavor, though it does cut it.

Even warm, the Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts have a pretty strong dry aftertaste to it.

Nutrition

Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts are not the worst option as a component of a breakfast. A single pastry is considered a serving. But one Vanilla Latte Pop Tart has 200 calories, 50 of which are from fat! With 5 grams fat, one Vanilla Latte Pop Tart gives you 8% of your RDA of fat and 8% of your RDA of sodium. The 35 grams of carbohydrates provide 12% of your daily recommended intake! On the plus side, this flavor Pop Tart does have 10% of your RDA of Calcium, Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin C, Iron and Vitamin B6, which makes it more nutritious than some juices!

Still, there is not a ton to laud in the nutrition department. Right after Enriched Flour in the ingredients comes sugar and dextrose, so it is unsurprising these are not terribly nutritious. The ingredient list quickly becomes a chemistry equation after cornstarch.

There are notations that the Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts contain wheat, milk and soy ingredients. They are not Kosher.

Storage/Clean-Up

Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts are very easy to clean up. Simply throw away the foil wrapper in an appropriate place, brush up the crumbs and you are done! Kept in their foil wrappers, Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts will remain fresh for a while; the ones we bought a week ago have an expiration date of November 6, 2017.

Overall

Vanilla Latte Limited Edition Pop Tarts taste fine in a vague, somewhat unsatisfying way, but are not at all exceptional.

For other foods for breakfast, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts
Quaker Cap’N Crunch's Oops! All Berries cereal
Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice English Muffins

3.5/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Savitar's Identity Is Teased In "Abra Kadabra"


The Good: Good performances, Engaging plot, Decent character moments
The Bad: Important moral questions are ignored, A few moments of melodrama.
The Basics: The Flash tap dances around the identity of Savitar in "Abra Kadabra," which manages to be surprisingly satisfying for such a tease!


Every year on The Flash, the heroic speedster gets menaced by a villainous speedster. After a good start in its first season, The Flash has devolved into a pretty formulaic television show. The Flash and his team of allies encounter a number of metahumans over the course of a season while trying to foil the Speedster Of The Year. For the third season, the Speedster is Savitar and viewers have been waiting to find out who Savitar is, given that The Flash has a well-established precedent of having the Speedter Of The Year be a known quantity from the show. Viewers were teased with the mundane identity of Savitar being revealed in "Abra Kadabra."

"Abra Kadabra" was preceded by "Duet" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references as to where the prior episode went. Given that "Duet" climaxed with Barry proposing again to Iris, "Abra Kadabra" has some sweet character momentum coming into it.

Security guards at Stagg Industries are talking when they encounter a metahuman who utilizes almost magical abilities when he kills them. The next morning, Barry and Iris have breakfast with Joe and D.A. Horton to tell them about how Barry proposed to Iris. Cecile offers Barry and Iris tickets to Hamilton in July, after Barry has foreseen Iris being killed by Savitar. Cisco vibes the future in which Iris is killed, while tensions between Snow and Albert rise over Snow's past lies. Barry tracks the metahuman to Kord Industries, where he is surprised when the metahuman has intimate knowledge of his identity and his struggle with Savitar.

Gypsy arrives from Earth-19 and tells the S.T.A.R. Labs team that the metahuman is Abra Kadabra and he is from the 64th Century. After failing to apprehend the metahuman, Abra Kadabra appears at S.T.A.R. Labs where he terrorizes Joe West, Julian Albert, and Dr. Snow. When The Flash arrives, Abra Kadabra claims he knows Savitar's identity and will tell him the secret of Savitar's identity in exchange for his freedom. While Gypsy wants to take Abra Kadabra back to Earth-19, Barry and his team intend to get information from him first. When Joe attempts to get the truth from Abra Kadabra, the time-traveler escapes and steals something from Dr. Wells's time vault. In the ensuing escape, Dr. Snow is mortally wounded. Rather than risk turning into Killer Frost, Dr. Snow turns to Albert to save her life.

It is actually fairly refreshing to see the universe of The Flash get smaller through allusions to prior big players in Central City. Stagg Industries being the site of the murder that starts the Central City Police Department's investigation is a nice callback to the first season of The Flash. The reference to Stagg Industries is balanced against a visit to Kord Industries, but the Blue Beetle does not enter the DC Comics Television Universe in "Abra Kadabra."

At the other end of the spectrum, "Abra Kadabra" - like Supergirl before it - makes a reference to Hamilton and it seems like a desperate reach for The Flash to make a cool, hip, reference.

"Abra Kadabra" has an entire character thread that has Cisco hitting pretty heavily on Gypsy. Gypsy is determined to bring Abra Kadabra back to Earth-19 because he is a killer and it becomes clear pretty early on that he killed someone Gypsy cares about. "Abra Kadabra" has a pretty clear moral dilemma as Gypsy is collecting a bounty that carries a death sentence with it. Throughout The Flash, characters have moralized over the potential of killing a villain; in "Abra Kadabra," the S.T.A.R. Labs team seems to pretty much accept that Abra Kadabra can die without much reflection on the fact that Gypsy is ready to have him put to death. While the episode spends a lot of time debating setting Abra Kadabra free in exchange for the information which will save Iris's life, it does not spend real time debating that turning Abra Kadabra over to Gypsy is a death sentence.

There is something tremendously disappointing about "Abra Kadabra" on the production level. While it is delightful that Joe West takes steps to do whatever he can to save Iris's life by having him interrogate Abra Kadabra, the episode is notably lacking in H.R. Wells. Wells does not appear in "Abra Kadabra" for no storytelling reason; Tom Cavanaugh's The Flash directoral debut is next week and, like most directors, Cavanaugh needed a week prep time (usually they take a week for post-production work as well). For a change, Wells actually could have been of use in figuring out what Abra Kadabra was up to before it became apparent. While Cavanaugh shows up for the episode's final scene, he is noticeably absent the rest of the episode in an unsatisfying way.

The performances in "Abra Kadabra" are good, with Jesse L. Martin finally getting an amazing part to play on The Flash again. Martin plays Joe West as a father desperate to save his daughter's life and strong enough to do whatever has to be done. Jesse Camacho does a decent job of fleshing out Gypsy as well, but Martin steals every scene he is in.

"Abra Kadabra" had all of the elements needed to be a painfully formulaic episode of The Flash, but instead it managed to do what many of the recent episodes have failed to; it gets the viewer to entirely reinvest in the core characters of The Flash and the circumstances in which they find themselves.

For other works with David Dastmalchian, please visit my reviews of:
Ant Man
The Dark Knight

7.5/10

For other television episode and season 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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Awesome And Excessive, Rogue One Mission Briefing Trading Cards Split My Standards!


The Good: Good overview of the time period in the Star Wars universe, Some cool autograph signers, Cool Rogue One teases
The Bad: Ridiculous numbers of parallel cards, Insane rarities on a wide variety of cards, A weird card choices, Sticker autograph card style.
The Basics: Leading up to the cinematic release of Rogue One, Topps produced the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards which are interesting-enough, but absolutely impossible to collect.


Every now and then, I encounter a product that forces me to re-evaluate how I rate various products. Sometimes, there is a film where I find myself literally caught between a 2/10 and an 8/10, usually when something that is nauseatingly horrific, but I have to acknowledge that it is done well. With trading cards, I find myself occasionally trapped because "collectibility" is one of the standards by which I rate a trading card set. In recent times, many trading card sets have become prohibitive to even attempt to collect the set. Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards from Topps are one such set. Given that there are at least 184 unique - 1/1 cards - not counting the printing plates (!) the Rogue One Mission Briefing are impossible to collect. Literally, the moment any two collectors actually committed to trying to collect this set, it became absolutely impossible to make a true, complete master set of the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards.

That said, when I started opening packs, boxes and cases of Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards, I found there was actually quite a bit to like about the card set. Outside the weird volume of hard-to-assemble parallel sets, the content in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card set is actually pretty cool. The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards blend key Star Wars prequel events with animated series moments with the highlights - usually concerned with the first and second Death Stars - of the original Star Wars Trilogy . . . with teases of Rogue One.

Basics/Set Composition

Topps has begun to be an active part of building hype for the new Star Wars movies by creating transitional trading card sets that connect the new works to the classic Star Wars films. Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards are one such set and it does its best to capitalize on the connections between classic Star Wars works and Rogue One.

The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards are dominated by a retro cardboard cardstock for the bulk of the cards. Chase cards like the sticker cards, autograph cards, foil cards and printing plates have a different sheen and feel to their fronts, but most of the trading cards in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards have a retro cardboard look and feel, which goes back to the original Topps Star Wars trading card releases from the late 1970s. While all of the common cards (and most of the chase) are formatted in one orientation (landscape), the text on the back of the cards is (unfortunately) oriented the same way as the text on the front. As a result, when one flips a page in the binder, they must rotate the binder around in order to read the backs. This is not very friendly to those who want to sit and read the cards.

The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards could be compiled to make a single, true master set of 1583 trading cards. Most of the cards in the true master set would be chase parallel cards and the set is prohibitive to collect because of some of the odds of ever finding the rarest cards, which were truly unique 1/1 individually numbered parallel cards. Boxes of the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards contain only twenty-four packs of eight cards each. Topps, Inc. only guaranteed two “hits” per box. In my experience, that meant that each box had a patch card and then an autograph, sketch or printing plate card; there were three boxes in my case that had parallel cards that were part of the individually-numbered sets.

Common Cards

The Rogue One Mission Briefing common set is an interesting concept that loses a little bit of focus near its end. The 110 card set focuses in a general way on the elements that went into the creation and destruction of the Death Star. The first 68 of 110 cards transition from the Star Wars prequel films to events in A New Hope that focus on the Death Star. Cards 69 through 78 do a fast gloss-over of The Empire Strikes Back and the destruction of the second Death Star in Return Of The Jedi before going into character cards. The common set ends with ten cards focusing on events and characters from Rogue One.

The common card set is generally well-written, though some of the cards are weird stretches that seem designed entirely to sell the rest of the set. Chief among these are cards in the character portion of the common set like card 90 - John D. Branon (Red Four). Topps managed to track down the random actor who appeared for a few frames in A New Hope who played the Red Four X-Wing pilot. The actor is Jack Klaff, who actually was credited in A New Hope, which was his first film, who had perhaps thirty seconds of screentime (including where he was in the background). Card 90 fleshes out the briefly-seen character with a full backstory, arguably to build enthusiasm for an autograph card where one's first instinct upon seeing it would be to wonder "Who is this?!" The nine-card mural, with a final card showing what the mural is supposed to look like assembled, help infuse the Rogue One Mission Briefing common card set with actual material from Rogue One.

As for the images, the Rogue One Mission Briefing, most of the shots are from the films and the animated television shows, no promotional shots. Interestingly, astute fans of the Star Wars films will recognize the ten shots from the final cards in the common set all from the trailer from Rogue One. These are hardly ambitious images from Rogue One, but they are the shots that Topps had in advance of the film's release.

Chase Cards

The Rogue One Mission Briefing cards are loaded with bonus cards. The bonus cards range from various levels of parallel cards to basic chase cards like Death Star, Heroes, Villains, and Rogue One character cards, as well as higher level chase cards like patch, autograph, and printing plate cards. There are 1473 chase cards in the Rogue One Mission Briefing set, with only ten that are not found in the packs and boxes of the cards.

Most packs of Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards contain two parallel cards, though there are six different parallel sets. The six parallel sets replicate the common card set with different border colors. The common set has a retro look to it, with a red border around the big image of the card's subject. The parallel cards replace the red border with "Death Star Black," green, or blue borders. For the three rarer sets, the red border is replaced with a sickly blue-gray (the backs are individually numbered out of 100), gold - which actually looks orange and is individually numbered out of 50 - and orange, which are unique 1/1 parallel cards. There is nothing particularly special about these parallel cards, save their collectibility, though the black parallel cards actually look pretty awesome. It's funny that they are the most common of the parallel cards.

There are a number of fairly common bonus cards - whose sets take about three boxes to complete - in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards. Found one in every eight packs are Rogue One foil cards, Heroes Of The Rebel Alliance, and Villains Of The Galactic Empire cards. A little more common are the Rogue One comic strip cards and Death Star cards; found two per box are Darth Vader Continuity cards and the sticker cards. Only the Death Star cards are in landscape format, like the common cards; the rest are all in portrait orientation. Rather wisely, the Heroes and Villains chase sets do not bother with real text on the back; fans already know who these characters are. The sticker cards feature mediocre artwork of characters in sepia tones on a blue background and decent artwork of the various ships from Rogue One. The Death Star cards are neat in that they include some weird, obscure shots of various interiors of the Death Star, while the character foils do a decent job of blending the promotional images of Rogue One characters with generic foil backgrounds. The only real issues I found with the basic chase cards are that some of the Darth Vader continuity cards and Darth Vader-themed character cards are virtually identical, with one having to look at the back of the card to determine which card they are looking at!

One per box of the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards is one of nine Rogue One Montage cards. The Montage cards are a truly nice replicated artwork card of the new characters from Rogue One. These include very cool artwork cards of Jyn Erso, Director Krennic and some of the distinctive Rebels from Rogue One.

Also one per box are manufactured patch cards, which make up a thirteen card set. The patches are cute and some feature really neat ideas, like the MP-5 of Krennic. Instead of the standard Imperial symbol (which is the subject of Krennic's MP-8 patch card), the patch in the MP-5 card features the Death Star with Darth Vader superimposed on it. It might look vaguely like a Dalek, but it is pretty cool. There are three different individually-numbered parallel patch cards and, mercifully, the most rare of these is x/10 (featuring a red stripe on the front). The patch cards are pretty neat, though the parallels of the patch cards do appear to be exceptionally rare (I did not pull a single one).

As is frequent in all modern movie-themed trading card sets, the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards include autograph cards. There are 74 autograph cards spread between the classic Star Wars Trilogy, the Star Wars Requel films, and the animated The Clone Wars television show and Star Wars Rebels. The autographs are the incredibly unpopular format of autograph “card” where the signer signed a pearlescent white sticker and Topps slapped that sticker on a trading card. The Mission Briefing set was sold on its inclusion of the Original Trilogy’s Big Three – Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill, in addition to significant supporting actors like Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Billy Dee Williams. There are a number of autographs that are poised to explode in value like Jason Isaacs (now that he has been cast in the new Star Trek television show), but the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards also have a bunch of filler autographs, like David Ankrum (Wedge Antilles's redubed vocal actor), Jack Klaff, Rusty Goffe (who played a Jawa), and Megan Udall - whose only IMDB credit is The Phantom Menace, whose role she arguably got as one of Anakin Skywalker's childhood friends was because she was being dragged around the Tunisia locations because her mother was the Unit nurse there!

There are four levels of autograph parallel cards that mimic the common parallel cards, though all are individually numbered. The borders on the autograph cards are bright green. The parallel cards feature the autographed stickers slapped on cards where the bright green borders are replaced with Death Star Black (and individually numbered out of 50 on the back), Blue (25), "Gold" (I swear, they look orange!, x/10) and orange (I can only imagine how these might be differentiated from the "gold" outside the number on the back - 1/1) borders. The death star black autograph cards all look amazing.

For insane collectors who want high-level chase cards, there are two dual autograph cards (each numbered our of 3), two triple autograph cards (also numbered out of 3) and one quad-autograph booklet, of which there are only two copies. Having only seen photos of the multiple autographs, they are far more rare than they are extraordinary. The quad autograph booklet is sold on its inclusion of Mark Hamill's signature alongside three other X-Wing pilots. Topps has found the formula of including killer signatures with unremarkable signers unsuccessful with some of their other products, like the Firefly: The Verse trading cards (reviewed here!) and Alien Anthology cards and one has to figure Star Wars trading card collectors have enough to chase without something quite this insane. I would argue that the best of these high-level multiple autographs is the Carrie Fisher and Caroline Blakiston (Mon Mothma from Return Of The Jedi) dual autograph card. It is the most sensible of the multi-autographs considering Topps could not release a Carrie Fisher/Ingvild Deila (Leia's body model in Rogue One, which was kept as a pretty well-guarded secret before the release of the film) for the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card set.

The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards include sketch cards from 33 different artists. In the case I cracked, I pulled only a single sketch card and Roy Cover's sketch was one of the nicest I've seen. Ingrid Hardy did some beautiful sketches for the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards, as did Chris Meeks. I was a little surprised by how little variation there were in some of Rob Teranishi's sketch cards, but most of the sketches for the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards were a decent chase card!

For the four people who want to chase everything but the 1/1 parallel common and autograph cards, there are 263 printing plate cards (four different colors - black, cyan, yellow and magenta) that were used to produce the cards in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card sets. The printing plates were used to make the common cards, sticker cards, character foil, comic strip, Darth Vader continuity, Heroes and Villains, Rogue One Montage cards and Death Star cards. The 74 autograph cards also have printing plates included in the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading card set and to the credit of Topps, they slapped an autographed sticker on each one, so one gets an autographed printing plate card, which is pretty cool.

Here is where the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards left me truly divided; were it not for the insane parallel numbers and the multi-autographs, the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards actually impressed me with the bonus cards. I liked the more common chase cards, especially for a set working to transition between the existing works and Rogue One with its limited available footage at the time the set was produced.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

Outside the boxes and packs, there was a set of ten promotional cards, which were originally made available at the New York City Comic Con. The set was, mercifully, made available to fans through Topps's website and is now available surprisingly commonly in the secondary market.

Overall

So. The Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards left me very divided in my opinion and I decided to make a split decision on the rating. When I consider the content of the set, I found myself liking the set a lot more than I expected - even with the weird biographies of pilots who were seen only for a few fractions of a second on-screen or some of the obscure signers. When I considered the collectibility of the set, I very much did not like the Rogue One Mission Briefing set. I found myself unable to reconcile myself to this set. So, I decided to give two ratings for the set, one for people who might like to collect, generally, one of each of the cards versus how the set would look to try to collect a master set (i.e. all of the parallels). For those who want a fun exploration of the elements that made Rogue One a viable standalone film, the Rogue One Mission Briefing trading cards are fun and cool. For those attempting to complete a trading card set, the Rogue One Mission Briefing are a dog to collect!

This set culls images exclusively from the Star Wars Saga, reviewed here, The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels and some early images and artwork from Rogue One (reviewed here)!

This is a set of trading cards I sell in my online store (new inventory being added daily!). Please visit and purchase from the current inventory of them at: Rogue One Mission Briefing Trading Card Inventory!

For other trading card collections based upon the films, please check out my reviews of:
2016 James Bond Classics
The Mortal Instruments Trading Cards
2014 Star Trek Movie cards

7/10 (Substance)
.5/10 (Factoring collectibility)

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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Monday, March 27, 2017

"Distant Sun" Restores Supergirl To The Role Of Obvious Hero.


The Good: Some fun lines, Special effects are all right
The Bad: Very predictable plot, Melodramatic character moments, No stellar acting moments
The Basics: "Distant Sun" is an unremarkable Supergirl episode that is set up obviously and develops predictably.


When Supergirl moves to the CW, many people were very exicted because that meant it would be much easier (from a production standpoint) to do crossovers between Supergirl and other DC Television Universe productions. Unfortunately, most of us who were excited had no idea just how intrusive those crossovers might be to the continuing narrative of Supergirl. Every now and then, a Supergirl episode will have an entirely tacked-on ending that is incongruent with the rest of the narrative (and sometimes even the spirit of the show!) before Kara Danvers makes an appearance on (so far) The Flash. "Distant Sun" begins after one such lousy episode end.

"Star-Crossed" (reviewed here!), which preceded "Distant Sun," ended without explanation or relevant information of how the Earth-1 Music Meister appeared on the Earth of Supergirl. For those who only watch Supergirl and did not follow her to The Flash episode "Duet" (reviewed here!), Kara Danvers was last seen in Mon-El's arms, having just been apparently hypnotized by a metahuman and casting Danvers into some form of hallucination where she was stepping up to a microphone to sing. "Distant Sun," however, begins with Kara back on her Earth, having already forgiven Mon-El for his lying to her.

Kara wakes up to Mon-El making her breakfast, though she gets out of bed before he can deliver it to her. Before Kara can eat, however, an alien attacks National City. President Marsdin asks J'onzz for details on the Daxamite ship in orbit and orders the head of the DEO to not engage the ship. On the street, Alex and Maggie run into one of Maggie's ex's and Danvers invites her to dinner that night. At the DEO, Schott discovers that the alien Kara incapacitated is an alien bounty hunter and the bounty on Supergirl's head is incredibly high. Mon-El calls his parents down to Earth and confronts them with the accusation that they put the bounty on Kara's head. They deny his allegations and commit to waiting as long as they need to for Mon-El to return to them.

When Mon-El returns to Kara's apartment, he is taken over by a telepath. While Kara attempts to incapacitate Mon-El without damaging his body, Schott finds a way to incapacitate the telepath. Back at the DEO, J'onzz telepathically strips the information out of the alien who placed the bounty on Kara's head. Mon-El's parents are implicated, but J'onzz refuses to authorize an attack on the Daxamite ship in orbit. When Mon-El and Kara confront Mon-El's mother, Queen Rhea, in the Fortress Of Solitude, Rhea attacks Kara. Lar Gand seems legitimately shocked to learn that Rhea placed the bounty on Kara's head. When Mon-El makes a sacrifice to save Kara's life, Kara becomes determined to save him.

"Distant Sun" is the episode of Supergirl where fans are pretty much forced to ask, "What the hell happened to J'onn J'onzz?!" David Harewood's J'onzz is in "Distant Sun," but he is a virtually unrecognizable character in the episode. J'onzz is kind and soft in "Distant Sun" and while his character has been somewhat underused in the second season, the transition to an easygoing, kind guy feels unfortunately abrupt. David Harewood plays the emotional range of J'onzz well, but it does not feel like one is watching the same character in "Distant Sun."

Throughout "Distant Sun" there is a subplot involving Alex and Maggie and Maggie's ex-girlfriend. For a change, Alex's relationship subplot feels very forced and tacked on as opposed to engaging and organic. It is not until late in the episode that Alex and Maggie share a moment that is genuinely realistic and romantic. But, for much of the episode, Maggie lies yet again to Alex and Alex doing her own investigation feels more melodramatic than engaging.

Kara and Mon-El's relationship appears fully healed in "Distant Sun" and it is hard not to feel cheated by that. "Star-Crossed" might have had a painfully melodramatic fall-out for Mon-El's lies being exposed, but it was executed in that episode. So, the easy resolution of that emotional rift getting healed on The Flash cheapens the overall arc.

Lynda Carter is painfully underused in "Distant Sun." Carter's President Marsdin appears for only two scenes that does little other than set-up J'onzz being powerless to interact with the Daxamites and then punish the head of the DEO. For viewers too stupid to recall or too unobservant to notice from the first episode that Marsdin was in, "Distant Sun" provides a fairly pointless revelation of the character's true alien form. Given that Supergirl has not done any sort of compendium of alien races and that "Distant Sun" did not include a White Martian shapechanging, the revelation of Marsdin's alien race lacks real impact. Marsdin being an alien was already established; seeing what kind of alien she is without knowing what that means is fairly pointless.

"Distant Sun" is the latest episode directed by Kevin Smith and it is also the most problematic to date. For sure, there is a delightful Star Wars reference, but some of the direction is just terrible. When Teri Hatcher's Rhea takes a swing at Melissa Benoist's Supergirl in the Fortress Of Solitude, the shot is easily one of the most fake of the series. Some of the shots are truly baffling; J'onn J'onzz is stabbed while in another form and the fact that the weapon does not break his skin makes no sense. The Martian Manhunter does not have impenetrable skin. The episode climaxes with one of the weakest, most telegraphed, death scenes in recent memory and the net effect is a fairly painful anticlimax.

Ultimately, "Distant Sun" is an unremarkable script for a series of predictable or obvious events that the characters more or less trudge through; it is hardly the high point of season two of Supergirl.

For other episodes of television featuring alien bounty hunters, please check out my reviews of:
"Colony" - The X-Files
"Bounty" - Star Trek: Enterprise
"Dead Or Alive" - The Flash

3.5/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Vanity Is So Much Work! Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo Is A Tough Sell!


The Good: The shampoo appears to work to clean and dye hair subtly
The Bad: Expensive, Dries out hair, A lot of collateral work in cleaning
The Basics: After months of making my hair nice, a week with Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo pretty much ruined it again . . . though it did reduce my gray!


I am not a particularly vain person. In fact, I happily dress like a schlub most days and the only reasons I write reviews of health and beauty products are that they were a real moneymaker for reviewers when I wrote reviews for the now-defunct reviewing site for which I used to write and now my wife manages to get a pretty wide array of product samples. So, I was not feeling at all insecure about the gray in my hair that has crept in over the last five years. In fact, my wife has done a pretty amazing job of showing love for the new, grayer, me. But, with Just For Men doing a big product push for their new Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, she thought it might be worthwhile for me to try the shampoo for review purposes.

And I have.

Being someone who is not really vain at all, there are a number of beauty procedures that are normal that I was not at all familiar with before using the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo. Unfortunately for both me and Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, while there are some aspects to using a product like this that are normal, they are not exactly positive selling points to me. Unfortunately, all of the key aspects that my wife informed me were normal were all aspects of the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo that annoyed me. On the plus side, Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo actually does (generally) what it promises to do, so despite my issues with this shampoo, I am unable to deny that it is effective.

Sadly, the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is expensive, dries out hair, and requires a crapton of additional cleanup compared to other shampoos. In addition to my other disclaimers, it is worth noting that I have much longer hair than most of the target demographic for this product. My hair is a foot long; my wife tells me that, after looking at pictures of people testing this very product, this product seems to be used almost exclusively by men with buzz cuts and other very short haircuts. So, right off the bat, many people might not have the first issue I have with the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo; it is comparatively expensive because it does not last very long.

The Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a 2 fl. oz. tube of shampoo that is designed to both clean hair and dye hair in a subtle way to reduce grays in the hair. I used the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo for five out of six consecutive showers over a one week period and was only able to get five uses out of the shampoo before exhausting my supply.

Using the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a hassle compared to most shampoos. First, because there is a dye in the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, one needs to do an allergy test on the skin first. The Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo comes with directions on how to do a skin allergy test for the shampoo first. But, before the first proper usage, one needs to do preparation two days prior. I was not allergic to the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo.

After determining that I was not allergic to the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, I started using it. One begins their shower like normal, then applies enough shampoo to lather through one's hair. The Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a pearlescent brown shampoo and it took me two half-dollar sized dollops to lather both the top of my hair and my mane. The shampoo lathers fairly well and it coats well all of my hair.

But, the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is also incredibly messy. I've never dyed my hair before, but when I watch my wife dye her hair, it seems to be a pretty static process. She dyes it, puts her hair in a shower cap for about half an hour and then washes it out. A dying shampoo like the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo requires some agitation through the hair to get the cleaning properties of the shampoo and, no matter how careful I was, that led to splatter. I have the sneaking suspicion that my wife hooked me up with the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo just so I would clean our shower and tub more.

Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is not a shampoo for an insecure, graying, man-on-the-go. Any random lather or shampoo from the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo that splatters onto the wall of the shower or tub needs to be washed off pretty much immediately to prevent staining. Since we got our Hydroluxe Full-Chrome 24 Function Ultra-Luxury 3-way 2 in 1 Showerhead/Handheld-Shower Combo (reviewed here!), cleaning our shower has gotten much easier with the handheld showerhead and it became essential while I was using the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo. Fortunately, because the shampoo needs to be left on the hair for one to three minutes (I went with at least three minutes each shower before even beginning to rinse out my hair), there is plenty of time while one is in the shower to clean the dye splatter off the walls and floor of one's shower. Using Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo means the consumer has to spend time virtually immediately cleaning.

I have spent the past year and a half getting my broken, dry hair nicely conditioned and lustrous through the use of various conditioning products my wife has brought me. After the first use of Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, all that progress was gone. After the first time I used Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, my hair was noticeably more brittle and dry than before . . . and each time I used this shampoo, I conditioned twice after the last of the ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo was used. While the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo actually effectively cleaned my hair and it appeared to reduce the appearance of gray in my hair, it also ravaged my hair, noticeably weakening and reducing the luster of my hair.

As for the coloring effects of the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo, it does appear to work to make non-drastic coloring changes to one's hair. To wit, the difference between my natural hair (BEFORE) and after five uses of this shampoo (AFTER) is:
 photo hairbeforefront_zpspjqkpehd.jpg
BEFORE
 photo hairafterfront_zpsklhlzzji.jpg
AFTER
 photo hairbeforeside_zpsqtxcnrek.jpg
BEFORE
 photo hairafterside_zpsnl0zbusi.jpg
AFTER

Ultimately, Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo is a lot of work, for a comparatively high price relative to many other shampoos I have used, to deliver fair results that are not overly extraordinary. As one who would prefer a distinctive smell, conditioning properties and straightforward clean hair, the Just For Men ControlGX Grey Reducing Shampoo left me unimpressed. But then, I might not be the target market for this product. But, for aging vain men who don't like cleaning the shower or bath tub as frequently, this is probably not the ideal product for them, either.

For other shampoo reviews, please check out:
Vidal Sassoon Pro Series Extreme Smooth Smoothing Shampoo
OGX Strength & Body Bamboo Fiber-Full shampoo
VO5 Honeydew Smoothie shampoo

3/10

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

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

Return Of Beloved Friends (And Humor): Grace And Frankie Season Three


The Good: Very funny, Great performances, Wonderful character development
The Bad: Moments of forced conflict
The Basics: In the third season of Grace And Frankie, the humor comes back to the forefront with clever, amusing, heartfelt episodes that make all the characters shine!


There are few Netflix television shows I look forward to the way I look forward to new episodes of Grace And Frankie. Today is the day we get new episodes of Grace And Frankie as the third season premieres on Netflix. Grace And Frankie Season Three does what many of the best television shows do, which is to smooth out some of the rough spots from earlier seasons and hit a stride in the third season. Grace And Frankie is far less tortured than season 2 (reviewed here!) and it is well-beyond the initial character conflicts and the work of establishing the key characters which is what Grace And Frankie Season 1 (reviewed here!) had to do.

Grace And Frankie Season 3 does an excellent job of building all of the key characters, while remembering to bring the humor. The thirteen-episode third season of Grace And Frankie is funny, mature and socially-relevant.

A month after Babe's cremation and the execution of her will, Frankie is cramming to fill her gallery space, much to the chagrin of Grace, who is doing most of the work for their nascent business . . . and cleaning up their shared house. While Robert and Sol move into their new place, while Sol is obsessed with reconciling with Frankie, the tension in the family is still fairly high. Brianna reaches out to Frankie, while Sol crashes the gallery opening by trying a grand, sweet gesture with Frankie. As the family tensions even out, Grace and Frankie focus together on trying to get financing for their business of making vibrators for older women. Grace continues to be frustrated with Frankie over her friend's inability to stay focused, as Frankie continues to try to pitch easy-access condoms for senior citizens during their business meetings.

When Grace and Frankie's business get's an angel investor through Frankie, the pair is able to manufacture their prototypes and starts the tough job of figuring out how to get focus group data from a surprisingly reticent demographic. While Brianna and Mallory have a conflict with one another over Mallory's children and Brianna's reactions to them, Robert and Sol have issues with their work, retirement, and Robert getting cast for a big part in a local theater production. As Bud takes a bigger role at the law firm by dating a woman everyone else hates, Grace and Frankie struggle with balancing their business and romantic relationships with their living together in the face of things like a break-in, Grace owning a gun, and Frankie's pot getting smoked up without her!

Grace And Frankie continues to both expand the characters from the first two seasons, who have now become beloved to anyone who watches the show, while adding more adult conflict with his less morose than the second season. The third season has some very funny lines and the usual hilarious performances. Grace And Frankie Season Three manages to utilize almost all of the cast in impressive ways with greater balance than the prior seasons. In fact, only Ethan Embry's Coyote seems to have less of a role than in prior seasons, though Brooklyn Decker's Mallory seems to have more of a substantive part in the third season of Grace And Frankie.

The key Grace And Frankie continue to be the same in the third season. Here is where the third season finds them:

Grace - Committed to the business with Frankie, she is frustrated by Frankie's lack of focus. She has to adapt to having Jacob around more (as Frankie's relationship with him continues to deepen). She is upset by how cruel the finance market is to her and Frankie based upon their age. Despite that, she works hard to get the pair financing, takes risks with her friends to get market data and continues to make amends for her prior cruelty while drunk. She is miffed by how many of the people in her life seem to prefer Frankie over her and she reaches out to have a better relationship with her daughters,

Robert - He is initially frustrated by Sol's obsession with smoothing things over with Frankie at the expense of the happiness he feels with moving into their new, shared, house. Tired of how unhappy and mundane working as a divorce lawyer has become, he is eager to retire finally to enjoy life. He is cast in a local production of 1776, while Sol is not. He is tortured by visions of his mother after he finally comes out to her and deals with her wrath, but he is able to turn to Sol,

Frankie - As she and Jacob become closer, she finds herself less excited about focusing on her work with Grace. She has an amazing gallery opening, despite Sol's grand romantic gesture flopping, and she bonds with Brianna. When the house she shares with Grace is broken into, she becomes terrified . . . as much of the criminal as by Grace and her marksmanship! She remains fearless in exploring her emotions and she finds new ways to be supportive to Grace, whom everyone now acknowledges as her best friend,

Sol - Feeling guilty over lying decades prior to Frankie about the quality of her artwork and a sale that never actually occurred, he tanks showing off his new house with Robert with his fretting. He works to reconcile with Frankie, while he and Robert adapt to living together in a new home, where they don't have to listen to each other's music. He wants to be in a play with Robert and he helps Robert overcome his mother-centered issues,

Brianna - Frustrated with Mallory and her many children and how that has strained their relationship, she finds herself having to work actively on her relationship with her sister. Desperate to reconcile with her mother figure, Frankie, she comes through with the business loan needed to fund Grace and Frankie's vibrator business, with the caveat that Grace not find out where the money came from. When her relationship with Barry falls apart because she is not forward-seeing, she starts going through relationships, including meeting a male prostitute,

Mallory - Following the birth of her twins, she is overwhelmed. Her husband seems entirely ill-equipped to deal with having so many children and she is frustrated by how having more children has strained her relationship with Brianna. She tries to relax and be supportive of Grace after the robbery and is pretty psyched to have time away from the kids just to get high,

Coyote - Relegated to a supporting role this season, he leaps to Frankie's support when their home is broken into,

and Bud - Now dating a woman who has a slew of allergies, he becomes a bigger presence at the law firm as Robert steps back from the job.

On the acting front, the third season of Grace And Frankie is the point where it is impossible not to say, "Holy fuck, how can the big four not dominate every award's show?!" Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, Jane Fonda, and Sam Waterston are all amazing actors and they each manage to have powerful and hilarious moments. They are all impressive, seasoned actors who have had long careers that have proven their talents, but in season three of Grace And Frankie, each one shows the viewer something new from their performance range. If Sheen, Fonda, Tomlin and Waterston are not nominated for acting awards for the third season of Grace And Frankie, the awards are just stupidly myopic.

The third season of Grace And Frankie also allows June Diane Raphael to break out as Brianna. Raphael has, historically, delivered some of the show's funniest, snarkiest, lines, but is has been hard for her to come out from the shadow of the four headliners. In Grace And Frankie Season Three, Raphael gives a more nuanced performance that shows off a far greater range than in prior seasons and other works she has been in. It is nice to see Raphael in a role where she can shine and show off more than one aspect of her talent. If June Diane Raphael is not even nominated for a Best Supporting Actress award for her work in the third season of Grace And Frankie, there is no real reason to pay attention to Award's Season.

Ultimately, Grace And Frankie Season Three manages to be very funny while exploring issues of aging, female sexuality, the psychology of religious oppression, and the complications of actually maintaining and growing family relationships. Grace And Frankie Season Three finds the actors hitting an uncommon stride while making their characters some of the most wonderful and memorable in television history.

For other works from the 2016 – 2017 television season, please check out my reviews of:
Iron Fist - Season 1
Love - Season 2
Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
One Day At A Time - Season 1
Travelers - Season 1
"Happy Fuckin' New Year" - Sense8
The OA - Season 1
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
"Invasion!" - Arrow
"The Ghost" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Duet" - The Flash
"The Fellowship Of The Spear" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Star-Crossed" - Supergirl
Luke Cage - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 1

8/10

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

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