Wednesday, September 17, 2014

TV on DVD Review: Friends - Season Six

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Still plenty of laughs and fun moments
Cons: The one that is an ad for Pottery Barn
The Bottom Line:
Six friends, more great laughs
As characters keep growing
And writing sparkles

The One with Musical Roommates

Like many shows that are on the air a long time, Friends declined in quality somewhere along the way.  Mind you, I always enjoyed it, but I think every fan will agree the early seasons were the best.  For some reason, I had in my mind that season six is when the quality went downhill.  Having just rewatched the season, I can say I found it very funny and enjoyable with no loss of quality at all.

This season picks up where the last one ended – Vegas.  Ross (David Schwimmer) and Rachel (Jennifer Aniston) have just gotten married!  However, it was a huge drunk mistake.  When the gang arrives back in New York, that means that Ross has to get divorce number three, something that is a running joke for the rest of the season.

Also on the return to New York, Chandler (Matthew Perry) and Monica (Courtney Cox Arquette) decide to move in together.  And so some of the most stable roommates on the show so far get switched up.  Rachel winds up moving in with Phoebe (Lisa Kudrow) while Joey (Matt LeBlanc) searches for a new one.  For a little while, it’s hot dancer Janine (recurring guest star Elle MacPherson).

As the season progresses, Chandler and Monica figure out living under the same roof.  Ross gets a new job teaching at a university and finds a forbidden romance with one of his students, Elizabeth (guest star Alexandra Holden).  Phoebe and Rachel have a tragedy at their apartment.  Joey’s lack of a roommate forces him to take a job at Central Perk.  We meet one of Rachel’s sisters (guest star Reese Witherspoon).  Joey might finally land his big acting break, if he can get along with his cheesy co-star.  And the gang spends one hour imaging what might have been if their lives had taken on turn differently.

There may not be quite as many classic moments during the course of this season, but there are still plenty of great laughs.  I laughed through every episode, both the ones I’ve seen several times before and the ones I didn’t really remember.  The characters are still growing and that leads us to some great lines.  The writing hasn’t faltered a bit and things are still crisp and sharp.

Want to know how much we still care for the characters?  Watch the last few minutes of the season finale.  I teared up both times I watched it just now, once without and once with the commentary.  That’s good stuff.

The actors are still at the top of their game as well.  No matter what the writer’s throw at them, they bring it to life with hilarity grounded in reality.  Yes, we still believe what we are seeing even as we laugh along the way.

And as a bit of trivia, this is not only a rare season without a Ross/Rachel cliffhanger, but without a cliffhanger of any kind.

About the only real misstep is one the feels like a giant ad for Pottery Barn.  The idea behind the episode is funny, and if they’d used a generic store I would have loved it.  But as it is, I’m not the biggest fan of the episode.

This season consisted of 25 episodes, but two of them are two parters that aired the same night as “events.”  They are all preserved here on four discs in their native full frame and surround sound.  Frankly, surround doesn’t do much most of the time on a sitcom filmed before a live audience, but it is nice to have.  In the way of extras, we get three audio commentaries, two of them on the two hour long episodes.  (And it explains why Ross wasn’t in that final scene of the finale.)  Frankly, the commentary on the finale was fascinating as the three creators talk about things they almost did in the finale; trust me, it is a great thing that they went with that they did.  The last disc also has a featurette with interviews with four of the recurring guest stars and a very funny gag reel from the season.

The laughs really still are good in season six of Friends.  It’s been too long since I did more than catch a random rerun, and I’d forgotten just how fun the show can be.  Hopefully, I can make some time to dive into the next season’s laughs soon.

Season Six Episodes:
1. The One after Vegas
2. The One Where Ross Hugs Rachel
3. The One with Ross’s Denial
4. The One Where Joey Loses His Insurance
5. The One with Joey’s Porsche
6. The One on the Last Night
7. The One Where Phoebe Runs
8. The One with Ross’s Teeth
9. The One Where Ross Got High
10. The One with the Routine
11. The One with the Apothecary Table
12. The One with the Joke
13. The One with Rachel’s Sister
14. The One Where Chandler Can’t Cry
15. The One That Could Have Been Part 1
16. The One That Could Have Been Part 2
17. The One with Unagi
18. The One Where Ross Dates a Student
19. The One with Joey’s Fridge
20. The One with Mac and C.H.E.E.S.E.
21. The One Where Ross Meets Elizabeth’s Dad
22. The One Where Paul’s the Man
23. The One with the Ring
24. The One with the Proposal Part 1
25. The One with the Proposal Part 2

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book Review: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran (Read 'Em and Eat Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters, setting, realistic reactions to death
Cons: Pacing uneven with the plot
The Bottom Line:
Unlikely victim
Leads us to uneven plot
In lovable cast

Plot Doesn’t Live Up to Characters and Setting

Last month, many of the blogs I read were talking about and reviewing Well Read, Then Dead, the first in a new mystery series from Terrie Farley Moran.  Being the rebel that I am, I waited until this month to read it.  (Okay, so it might have had something to do with just not having time to read it myself until this month.)  Unfortunately, I didn’t love it quite as much as everyone else did.

When life threw them lemons, Sassy and Bridgy headed south.  The lifelong friends went from New York to Florida and opened a combination café and bookstore called Read ‘Em and Eat on the Barrier Island of Fort Myers Beach.  Over the last few years, they’ve made friends, especially through the book clubs that Sassy runs.

Which is why it is upsetting and shocking when Delia Batson turns up dead one morning.  Even more surprising is that it was murder.  Delia was a quiet woman who would never cross anyone if she could help it.  When her cousin, Augusta, asks Sassy to look into the murder, she begins to stick her nose into the investigation.  But what will she find?

Many people praised the characters and setting, and that much is completely true.  These were real people, and I enjoyed spending time with them.  Likewise, I loved the setting and would enjoy visiting in real life.  Unlike many of the books I read, the murder affected quite a few people, and I enjoyed seeing them deal with their grief.  This was handled realistically without being depressing for us and was a refreshing and realistic change.

However, that was one of the things that helped slow down the plot.  Overall, I felt like the pacing should have been tighter with more investigating happening earlier in the book.  Now this isn’t to say there weren’t some twists to the story, I was surprised a time or two before we reached the logical ending.  And the climax was definitely one of the more creative ones to come along.  I loved it! 

Of course, we can’t have a mystery set in a café without a recipe, right?  In this case, there’s a recipe for buttermilk pie at the end.  I’ve never had that kind of pie, but it sure sounds delicious.

With a tighter paced plot, Well Read, Then Dead would have been a winner.  I’m hoping things improve in the sequel because I really did love the characters enough to revisit them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Giveaway Winner - Maple Mayhem

And the winner of Maple Mayhem is...

Number 6, Linda Langford!

Congrats, Linda.  I'm sending you an e-mail so I can send you the book.

Meanwhile, Linda runs Chatting About Cozies on Facebook.  If you haven't visited the page, I highly recommend you do.

TV on DVD Review: Castle - Season Six

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery with deeper characters
Cons: For some Pi, for most the cliffhanger
The Bottom Line:
More great mysteries
And characters keep growing
Show still going strong

"When We Do This, Let's Not Do the Dead Body in the Middle of the Aisle."

There seems to be this superstition about a show going downhill when you get the main characters together, and many shows fight against it for far longer than they should.  But ultimately, it is all about how you handle the characters as a couple, and the sixth season of Castle proves just how great it can be.

The season picks up at the season five cliffhanger.  Author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), unaware that Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) has decided to take a job with the FBI in DC, proposed to her.  In typical Castle fashion, the response was equally parts funny and touching.  The result is that we get a season of Castle and Beckett planning a wedding.  (Really, did you expect her to say no?  The whole premise of this show is about their relationship.)  However, Beckett also takes the job with the FBI, and we spend a few episodes with that before things get back to normal.

Normal, of course, being Castle following Beckett around helping her solve murders in New York City and getting ideas for his Nikki Heat books.  Over the course of the season, they solve such mysteries as a former TV star, a case the FBI is interested in.  There’s a case where their prime suspect claims to be from the future.  Someone is killing the doppelgangers of the members of the precinct.  There’s a murder at Castle’s high school (well, one of his high schools).  And Who do they believe when multiple people confess to a murder knowing details only the killer would know.

Nathan Fillion decided as the season began that he wanted to work fewer hours, a move I can understand since being the lead in a show and pretty much in every scene can make for a very exhausting schedule.  As a result, Detectives Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) get more screen time, even getting some sub-plots in various episodes while they took more of an active role in solving the cases.  Honestly, I appreciated seeing more of them and watching how their characters developed.  They are actually featured in one of the best episodes of the season, which finds them trapped in a burning building as Ryan’s wife (played by Seamus’s real life wife Juliana Dever) goes into labor.  This didn’t hold true for Captain Gates (Penny Johnson), who was still around in her usual number of episodes this season.  She doesn’t seem to get quite the same amount of development she did last season, but when they give her moments to shine, she really does.  Medical examiner Lanie (Tamala Jones) is still around like she’s always been and provides some great moments as well.

Unfortunately, Fillion’s reduced schedule meant a bit less screen time for Castle’s mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) and daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn).  Alexis in particular was missing in much of the second half of the season.  I’m wondering if, like her character, Molly Quinn is in college.

The episodes themselves continue to entertain.  The mysteries are rather formulaic but decent, and really they are just an excuse to visit the characters each week.  We get the usual assortment of quips and one liners as the characters solve the mystery of the week; that humor is one reason I have always enjoyed this show.  There are the darker episodes, most noticeably surrounding one particular ongoing story, but they always surround them with some of the lighter episodes of the year.

But as I hinted at earlier, Castle and Beckett’s relationship is still at the heart of the show.  However, now that they are engaged, the writers have given the characters more depth than ever before.  It is truly remarkable watching them interact with each other in their private moments.  Castle is showing remarkable maturity when the situation calls for it, and Beckett is showing a vulnerability I never would have expected from her.  In fact, some of these scenes are my favorites from the season and one in particular could land in the top 5 overall for me.  (That first kiss between them as a couple will always be number one.)

This added depth is no problem for the actors at all.  By this point, they know the characters and are able to put everything they have into the performances.  Everyone in the main cast is top notch again this year.

Not to say that this season doesn’t have some issues.  Many (probably most) fans hated Pi, the new boyfriend that comes home with Alexis from her trip over the summer.  His fruitarian ways are designed to annoy Castle.  Frankly, I found him a fun foil for Castle, but many fans hated his guts, wanting to see him become the victim of a killer in an episode.  As you are watching, just keep in mind that he is only a guest star, not a new main character.

Then there’s the season finale.  It sets up a problem that is supposed to be fun but seems out of character for Beckett.  When that is resolved, we then get a cliffhanger.  Again, I’m not as annoyed as some fans are (I was actually kind of expecting it).  However, if they don’t resolve it correctly come the season seven premier, I will be revising my opinion of the show runners.

On the other hand, a long running story was successfully wrapped up this season.  I’m glad to see them know when they had dragged it out long enough.  I was thrilled with how they resolved it and think they made the right call.

There were 23 total episodes in season 6, and all of them are collected in this set in their native wide screen and full surround.  Extras include commentaries on four of the episodes, including one from the point of view of the characters Ryan and Esposito.  There are also deleted scenes, bloopers, a day in the life featurette, and one where cast and crew talk about their favorite parts of the show, which includes a never before seen scene from season 4.

While there are some flaws for some fans, I found season six of Castle to still be very entertaining.  Even if you don’t like the elements I named, they are easy enough to skip over so you can still enjoy the new highs and lows for the characters in this set.  After six years, the show is still fun and entertaining, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Season Six Episodes:
1. Valkyrie
2. Dreamworld
3. Need to Know
4. Number One Fan
5. Time Will Tell
6. Get a Clue
7. Like Father, Like Daughter
8. A Murder is Forever
9. Disciple
10. The Good, the Bad, and the Baby
11. Under Fire
12. Deep Cover
13. Limelight
14. Dressed to Kill
15. Smells Like Teen Spirit
16. Room 147
17. In the Belly of the Beast
18. The Way of the Ninja
19. The Greater Good
20. That 70’s Show
21. Law & Boarder
22. Veritas
23. For Better or Worse

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Book Review: Guys Read 5 - True Stories Edited by Jon Scieszka

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: 10 entertaining sections on a variety of topics
Cons: A couple will bother only the most sensitive
The Bottom Line:
Non-fiction stories
On topics that guys will like
Told so pages flies

Guys Can Learn a Lot Reading These Fun Non-Fiction Stories

I wasn’t familiar with the Guys Reads series at all until I had a chance to win a copy of an ARC of the fifth volume, True Stories.  While not normally a non-fiction reader, I figured I’d see what this book was all about.  I’m glad I did because I enjoyed this collection.

Aimed a middle school guys, this is a collection of ten essays and stories.  And what a wide range of topics are covered.  In the history department, there are two stories from the early 1800’s, one about the survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Africa and one about a man attacked by a bear and left for dead by his companions.  We learn about Jumbo, an African elephant circus attraction and his trainer and their unique relationship.  More recent history gives us a short biography of Muddy Waters, a Blues musician.  We get two memories.  One from a woman who grew up trying to emulate her six older brothers in 1970’s South Vietnam.  The second is from a man who enjoys exploring the uncharted rivers of North America via canoe.  Then there’s a tale of tarantula hunting.

Probably my favorite section is Uni-Verses, which features a short poem about a scientific principle or theory with a one paragraph summary of the current thinking underneath it.  These poems are pretty funny and cover everything from the Big Bang to Magnetism and Gravity.

A couple of the sections made me a bit uncomfortable.  The one about the shipwreck survivors talked about the extremes they went through to survive.  Then there was one on the history of dentistry that also made me cringe a little.  Neither is excessively graphic.  I’ve always been a wimp, and I think most guys will be thrilled with the details presented here.  It is worth noting only in passing.

And did I mention that one of the stories is told in comic form?  And no, it’s not the one about the life of a comic artist (although he does slip in a couple of his comics into that story).

I found myself really drawn into these stories and enjoying them.  It did help that just about everyone was truly a story and not just a presentation of facts.  I was entertained as I read and that will always help me read non-fiction.

Most of these stories end with a works cited section, so if you want to read more about that topic, you can.  The only exceptions are the ones that are autobiographical in nature, for obvious reasons.

So if you have a guy who you want to get to read more, I recommend True Stories as a way to do it.  He’ll have fun and just might learn something along the way.

NOTE: While I won this ARC in a contest, no review was promised in exchange.  My thoughts are my own.

This is my entry in this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekly TV Thoughts for September 13th

I've been inviting you to play along for a while now, but with the new TV season starting in a couple of weeks, I thought I'd make it official.  I'm going to make Weekly TV Thoughts a weekly event.  My posts will go live on Saturday mornings (hopefully earlier than this one is most weeks).

So what is the idea behind this?  Just post a little bit about what you watched.  It can be simple thoughts about every show you watch or you can go into depth about one show.  Watch hundreds of hours or just a sitcom?  Talk about all or none of it.  Want to rant about a favorite show getting canceled or gush about this great new show you've found.  It all works.

As you can see below, I tend to just leave some random thoughts that probably only make sense if you've watched the show yourself.  But you can do whatever you want.  Just leave your link in the link up below, and I will come visit even if no one else does.  If you don't have a blog of your own, you can leave any thoughts on these or other shows in the comments.

Here are my thoughts on what I watched this week, but again, you can do whatever format you want.

(And no, I don't have a graphic yet.  I'm thinking a thought bubble with a TV inside with Weekly TV Thoughts on the screen, but I have no idea how to even create a graphic.  If anyone can offer some advice on that, I'm all ears.)

I know for me that next week I'll hardly have anything to talk about, but starting the week after that, I'm going to be very busy watching TV.  That's when most shows start up again, so if you won't join for a week or two, that's okay.

Wipeout – Two completely different episodes back to back.  Still, both were enjoyable in their own way.  They did make some of the obstacles harder for the champions, and it also proved my point that if you could practice once or twice, some of those things might be easier.  Look at how many people made it to the last big ball if not all the way across.  We normally don’t see that at all.

American Ninja Warrior – I don’t get why they keep changing up the obstacles and making them harder.  So few people make it through each stage as it is, why make it harder and harder each year?  My prediction that we’d get the first finisher of all four stages was way off, but it might have helped if they hadn’t put that rope thing on the beginning of stage two.  That was just too hard.  Wait until we get a finisher, then start making it harder on everyone.

Graceland – Well, that was just a mess.  Granted, I wasn’t thrilled with the first season of the show, but this season left much to be desired.  I still don’t get why Mike hasn’t told Paige the truth about Lena.  It wasn’t his fault!!!!  He can’t be dead, I get it, but obviously there’s too much stuff from this season to wrap up if the show comes back for a third season, but honestly, I just don’t care any more.

The Quest – Do you think they were trying to set things up for a sequel series there at the end?  I don’t think the ratings were good, so I’m sure we’ll never find out who the Vasir was so happy to see at the end, but I am a bit curious.  Yes, I managed to get into the show, these two hour episodes certainly helped.  I must admit I was rooting for Andrew or Patrick, but I was okay with Lina winning, too.  I was so happy to see everyone come back and fight side by side at the end – yes, even Christian.  It was a very fitting way to end this particular series.  Definitely more enjoyable than I thought it would be after the first couple of weeks.

Girl Meets World – I was so glad this was back!  Some of those lines were hilarious, especially Topanga’s lines referencing the first series.  “How many people have Cory and Topanga ruined?” and “I married Feeny!” were hilarious.  For the main story, I do like how they played out the beauty thing via the debate.  It was actually a much better take on it than normal.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ornament Review: North Pole Tree Trimmers #2 - Candy Cane Painter - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Cute elf getting a candy cane ready
Cons: Tips forward a bit when you hang him
The Bottom Line:
Painting candy stripes
Is this elf’s important job
For festive outcome

So that’s How the Stripes Get on the Candy Cane

We know that Santa makes toys, but he also has a team of elves that help with Christmas decorations.  Well, at least that’s the premise behind the North Pole Tree Trimmers series from Hallmark.  2014 is only the second year for the series, but it’s already proving to be a real winner.

This year, the elf is painting candy canes.  I’d assumed he was painting the real candy canes that Santa would sometimes hang on our tree Christmas Eve, but maybe these are fake decoration candy canes.  Yes, I know I said the elf was painting, but this is Santa and the North Pole.  They could have peppermint paint that is completely edible.  Okay, so maybe my initial idea was wrong, but I like to think it’s right.

Anyway, this elf is holding a candy cane that is bigger than he is.  It’s at an angle, but he’s holding it pretty successfully with just his left hand.  (That hand is in the red stripe he’s just painted, so I hope it is fast trying paint.)  In his right hand, he’s holding a paint brush that has been dipped in red paint.  We can see he’s half way through painting the red stripe up the candy cane since the top half is still white while the bottom half has a red stripe on it.  And let me just say how impressed I am that he is able to get the stripe perfectly angled down the candy cane while holding it like he is.  I know I couldn’t do that.  Like last year’s elf, he’s dressed in mostly green with red boots and pants and a red bottom to his hat.  At his feet, there’s a can of Candy Cane Red paint.  Who knew that was an actual paint color.  (And yes, I know that the can of paint makes it less likely this is real candy.  That was what made me think it might be a purely decorative candy cane.  But I still like the idea that this is real candy better, so there!)

If you look at the elf’s hair sticking out of his hat, you’ll notice it has a certain wave to it.  That’s because, according to the ornament’s sculptor, Tracy Larsen, our little friend this year is an elfish, I mean Elvis, impersonator during evenings, weekends, or whenever anyone needs him for a party.  It’s a fun little bit of trivia to add to this ornament.

Not that the ornament needs it at all.  It’s cute without knowing that added bit of trivia.  The little smile on the elf’s face as he concentrates on his work just seals the deal as far as I am concerned.

The ornament is a little back heavy, so you need to be careful if you go to set it out to be displayed.  If you aren’t careful, this elf will fall over on this back.  Once he’s down, however, he’s fairly solid and it will take a good shake to get him to tip over.

He actually has the opposite problem when you go to hang him – he tips forward ever so slightly.  It is noticeable when you are lifting him off the table, but by the time you get him surrounded by tree branches, you won’t really notice.

Being the second in the series, you’ll find a 2 in a Christmas tree on the bottom of the paint can.

Considering I never would have thought of this job, I’m very curious to see where North Pole Tree Trimmers will go next.  After all, if I think that a Candy Cane Painter is cute, how much will I love the next installment in this promising series?

(And my apologies for the elfish/Elvis impersonator pun.  I blatantly stole it from VeggieTales.)

Original Price: $14.95

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: I Am Invited to a Party! by Mo Willems

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Funny story backed up with the perfect illustrations
Cons: I couldn’t attend this party with them
The Bottom Line:
Ready to party?
You will be after reading
Gerald and Piggie

Does Gerald Know Parties?

Who doesn’t enjoy going to a party?  They are a time of games and fun with friends – I mean what’s not to love?  And it makes a great subject for I Am Invited to a Party!, one of Mo Willem’s wonderful Elephant and Piggie books.

Piggie is thrilled.  She is invited to her very first party.  Her best friend Gerald the Elephant is going to go, too, which is a good thing since he knows parties.  In fact, he’s trying to guess just what kind of party it might be.  As each idea gets crazier, Piggie begins to wonder if Gerald could possibly be right.  Is he guessing correctly, or will there be some other kind of party?

Many of the books in this series feature a lesson sweetly and subtly given.  That’s certainly not the case here.  Just like a party, this book is designed to be pure fun.  Gerald keeps trying to guess what kind of party it might be, and he goes from pool to costume to fancy.  As always, the book is told with simple words that is just dialogue between Gerald and Piggie, making it a fast read.  The language is such that beginning readers could easily read it on their own.

What really makes this book, however, are the illustrations.  Each time Gerald suggests a new party theme, Piggie’s expression gets funnier.  What the duo wind up looking like while heading to the party is wild.

Of course, the final couple of pages are the punch line to the joke, and the payoff is super.  I’ve read the book several times, and I still laugh each time.  Knowing the twist doesn’t make the humor any less funny at all.

So if you have a pre-school to earlier reader, you’ll just love getting this book for them.  I Am Invited to a Party! is silly fun you and they can enjoy again and again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Movie Review: Remember Sunday

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: The leads and their characters
Cons: Story just a bit too unfocused
The Bottom Line:
Good hook for story
But not completely fleshed out
Loved main characters

Falling in Love Every Day

Normally, I don’t watch the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies.  They just don’t appeal to me.  But when I saw Zachary Levi was starring in one, I had to give it a chance, so I watched Remember Sunday.  It was like the other one I remember watching – average.

The story follows Gus (Zachary Levi), a man who has suffered a brain aneurism.  While he is still alive, he has suffered damage to his short term memory, and doesn’t remember anything that has happened for the last five years.

One day, he meets Molly (Alexis Bledel), a beautiful woman working as a waitress with dreams of starting a flower business.  They are attracted to each other.  But will he remember her tomorrow?  How will she deal with her condition?

Yes, I know the premise was done as a comedy with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler, but I’m not an Adam Sandler fan, so I skipped it.  This takes the premise in more of a dramatic direction.  Yes, there are still some laughs along the way, but for the most part the movie is trying to get you to tear up.

And it does.  No, I didn’t actually cry, but I certainly was choked up several times over the course of the movie.

That’s a direct result of the acting.  Alexis and Zachary carry this movie.  I was not familiar with Alexis before, but I loved Zachary on Chuck.  Both of them did great jobs bringing their characters to life and making me truly care about them.

I wish I could say the same about the supporting cast.  The acting for all of them was fine, but the characters were just okay.  Gus’s sister is the only one I liked – certainly not his best friend.  I really wanted to like the rest of the characters, too.

The story tries to do a little too much, and as a result it starts and drops several different plot lines.  They should have cut one or two out and better developed all of them.  The result is a climax that, while satisfying on one level, left me wishing for a bit more closure on the other.

Remember Sunday works if you just watch it for superficial entertainment.  It’s an enjoyable but forgettable hour and a half.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ornament Review: Santa Certified #2 - Jack-in-the-Box - 2014 Hallmark Ornament

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Beautiful details create a toy work of art
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Santa takes his time
Creating a special box
Stands out from the rest

Santa’s Making an Elaborate Christmas Jack-in-the-Box This Year

I had hesitated about starting the Santa Certified series last year since I need another Hallmark ornament series to collect like I need more ornaments for my trees.  (Sarcasm aside, I do need more trees.  And the space to put them.  And the time to decorate them.)  However, I couldn’t pass up this collection of elaborate toys that Santa himself crafts.  I’m glad I started it because 2014’s second in the series is another winner.

This year, Santa has crafted a Jack-in-the-Box.  It’s a Christmas toy since Santa himself is the one who jumps out at the end.  Since the box doesn’t actually work, it’s captured in the open position with Santa popped out and a bell in his hand.  Of course, he’s got a smile on his face.  This is a classic Santa in red and a full white beard.  The details on him alone are great.  You can see the fur on his coat trim and the layers in his beard.  He’s even got holly on his hat.

However, the box is the real masterpiece.  Its default color is gold, and there are small golden trees on all the corners of the box.  Each side has a square picture in it of a Christmas or winter scene.  (Fun trivia, these pictures are taken from decades old Hallmark Christmas cards.)  If you turn the ornament around, you’ll see an ornate “SC” is on the top of the lid.

This ornament perfectly captures the idea behind the series of that special toy Santa puts lots of love and attention into.  The detail is outstanding (and I’m repeating myself) and it really is a work of art no matter which side you look at.

Santa takes great pride in these pieces, enough to sign them.  In this case, you’ll find Santa’s signature on the bottom of the box.  You’ll also find Hallmark’s series marker down there, however it, too, has been fancied up for this series.  I love that little extra detail.

As you’d expect with a Jack-in-the-Box, there’s a nice flat bottom so you can set it out anywhere.  However, the ornament just cries out to be hung from a tree.  The little loop is on the top of Santa’s head, and you’ll find it hangs perfectly straight.  What did you expect from something Santa put this much time and attention into?

The early pictures of this ornament made it look a bit garish, but the final result isn’t and no picture really does it justice.  Santa Certified #2 is a beautiful ornament you will proudly display for years.

Original Price: $14.95