Sunday, October 31, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Haunted Mansion - Cuckoo for Disney Pins #2 - 2021 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Perfectly fun themed pin
Cons: I’m not haunted by any cons
The Bottom Line:
Haunted Mansion theme
Makes for a spooky cuckoo
Haunt you if you miss

If the Pin is Striking 13, It Must Be Haunted Mansion Themed

It’s a safe bet that if Disney is going to release something in one of their limited-edition series themed to the Haunted Mansion, it will come out in October.  Until this year.  I don’t know why, but we got the Haunted Mansion themed entry in the Cuckoo for Disney Pins series in February.  Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either.  Not that I’m really complaining since the pin itself is great.

Each pin in this series features a different cuckoo clock inspired by a classic Disney attraction.  I’ve only reviewed one so far, but they are pretty fun.

This particular cuckoo clock looks like a mausoleum with a clock face right in the middle.  There are columns holding up the roof, dead trees growing next to it, a gargoyle and a couple of tombstones in front of it, and a bird on the very top.  In other words, it looks perfectly creepy.  The weight hanging down from the bottom looks like a ghostly snake of some kind.  I’m not recognizing the creature, but I know I wouldn’t want to meet him in the dark.

The clock itself is inspired by a grandfather clock we pass in the ride.  Why do I say that?  Because it goes to 13.  In fact, look at the time, I think it is 13:22.  Not sure what time that translates to for us mere mortals.

I was looking at this pin, and I thought parts of it looked like it would glow in the dark.  So I tried it out.  After having the pin in daylight for a couple of minutes, I took it into a pitch-black room.  I was right.  The face of the clock glows, as do the eyes of the creature making up the weight.  I said it was creepy, right?  That’s a wonderful added touch that I just love.

I’ve been enjoying this series (more reviews to come, probably next year).  The creativity on display is just great.  This pin is instantly recognizable as a clock that would feel right at home in the Haunted Mansion.  It’s those fun touches that always make me smile.

Since this came out near the beginning of the year, it is now only available on the secondary market.  But if you enjoy the ride, you’ll be glad you tracked down the Haunted Manion cuckoo pin.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

October 30th's Weekly TV Thoughts

I had actually missed the announcement that Killer Camp was pulled from the schedule, so I went looking for information when I didn't see it on my DVR Monday night.  Not that upset that it isn't airing.  We'll see if I go back to it when they decide to burn off the episodes at a later date.

Meanwhile, here's what I did watch this week.

The Equalizer – That was an intense episode.  I was on the edge of my seat multiple times not sure how it was going to turn out.  Figured the kid would most likely be okay, but still, I couldn’t figure out how he was going to get out of things.  Glad the DEA agents are facing consequences for their actions.  That was completely out of line from them.

Legends of the Hidden Temple – We finally had a team win it all!  And they weren’t a team I’d picked to go very far early on in the episode.  Also, I hope we get a legend without an absent dad here pretty soon.

Dancing with the Stars – I’ll admit, I was picturing something more like songs from horror movies when they announced the theme.  Still, I’m impressed with how well they did at matching the theme to the dance.  The costume and make up people on the show are incredible!  Surprised Suni was in the bottom two, but not that surprised at who went home.

Stargirl – Pretty much did what the episode needed to do.  We need all of our characters back for the final fight.  And we needed a big cliffhanger.  Mind you, I’m not saying it was a bad episode, but I wasn’t surprised that we didn’t see any big changes or revelations until the final few minutes.

Supergirl – This is definitely a different side of Lex.  If he weren’t teaming up with a villain, I think I’d like it.  Curious to see where they will go with it.  I called where the love totem was going to wind up, however.  Pretty predictable.  Should have seen the surprise of the proposal coming, but that one I missed.

Survivor – That really was a two parter, complete with a cliffhanger.  I would bet she decides to turn back time.  I know I would.  Honestly, I’m a bit surprised there is much to think about.  You’ve got five people thankful to you, and you are hurting the other half who sent you there.  Meanwhile, a merge feast, but only if you win the challenge?  I feel like we saw that at some point in the past, but maybe I’m wrong.

Legends of Tomorrow – I think I was expecting a little more fun.  Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but it wasn’t quite what I was picturing.  Still, I did enjoy seeing the old characters come back, and it was a nice way to honor the milestone of 100 episodes.  It must have been pretty good because I didn’t even mind that we pretty much stopped the story arc for the season for this episode.

Batwoman – I had forgotten that Mr. Freeze had a wife.  The fact that they brought her in made this at least a little more interesting than the other episodes so far.  I mean, we got an update on the character behind the villain.  But how long ago did Mr. Freeze die/Batman leave?  I didn’t think he was supposed to be that much older than our characters.  In other developments, I was just thinking how nice it was that Sophie and Ryan weren’t going to be paired up on the show.  Guess that shows all I know about what the writers have in mind.

Frogger – That was quite the surprise.  The person who did the worst on the level wound up winning.  Not that any of them got very many frogs; it all came down to the time.  That slow mo was horrible, too.  I wanted to know who won!

United States of Al – I was afraid we were doing to be dealing with a serious physical medical condition with the way that started.  I feel like having both of our main characters in therapy (or studying phycology) is a bit redundant, but we shall see.  I’m wondering if this was the one supposed to be the season premier that got delayed after the events in Afghanistan this summer.  Otherwise, it is weird with everyone talking about the start of school at the end of October.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Movie Review: Goosebumps 2 - Haunted Halloween

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action packed story with laughs
Cons: Predictable at times
The Bottom Line:
Halloween, dummy
Action, light scares in sequel
Most kids will enjoy

“As a General Rule, When an Animated Doll Tells You to Keep Secrets, That a Red Flag.”

I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the original Goosebumps movie.  It was the perfect mix of comedy with light scares that made it fun.  So when I spotted Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween on TV, I didn’t hesitate to record it.

The action this time takes place in Wardenclyffe, New York and centers around the Quinn family.  Single mom Kathy (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is overworked trying to provide for her kids, high schooler Sarah (Madison Iseman) and middle schooler Sonny (Jeremy Ray Taylor).  This particular Halloween, Kathy has also agreed to take care of Sonny’s best friend, Sam (Caleel Harris) while his parents are out of town.

Sam has decided that he and Sonny are going to start a business that removes trash for people, and he is thrilled when he gets their first client.  The house is spooky and appears deserted.  They do find some stuff inside, including an old ventriloquist doll.  They don’t realize it is Slappy, the evil ventriloquist that R. L. Stine wrote about.  Slappy just says he wants to find a family.  But is his definition of a family a good one for the Quinns?

If you and your kids enjoy the first one, you’ll find more of the same here.  There are light scares, but the movie is really more of an action movie for kids set around Halloween.  Yes, we are dealing with the supernatural and monsters, hence my description of light scares.  But this is tempered by some great comedy.  You know your kids best, but I can imagine only the most sensitive kids will be bothered by what is presented here.  (I’ll admit I would have been one of those when I was the target age for the movie.)

Do keep in mind that this is aimed at kids.  Adults will certainly find it tame.  It follows some of the familiar family movie tropes, so it is predictable as well.  As long as you keep that in mind when you sit down to watch it, you should be fine.

Because the movie is fun.  It is filled with action that doesn’t really give you time to stop and think.  The special effects, and there are plenty of them, are great.  And the cast does a fine job of helping us get lost in the story.

Unlike the Goosebumps books, which were often not connected to each other, this movie does contain some connections to the first movie, but it’s not obvious what they are until late in the movie.

Speaking of which (VERY MINOR CASTING SPOILER AHEAD), I got a kick out of seeing Madison Iseman and Jack Black sharing some screen time here.  If you are a fan of the two recent Jumanji movies, you’ll recognize them as Bethany.

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween aims to be a light, family friendly, and fun Halloween movie.  It succeeds brilliantly at it.  Set your expectations accordingly, and you’ll have fun.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Book Review: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder by Maria DiRico (Catering Hall Mysteries #3)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Characters, plot, Christmas spirit, laughs
Cons: Climax is a bit much
The Bottom Line:
A long-lost brother
Family secrets appear
Fun Christmas entry

Enjoy Christmas with The Family

One of the most unique premises for a cozy series in recent years has been Maria DiRico’s Catering Hall Mysteries.  The series is set in Astoria, Queens, and some of the supporting players are in the mob.  And yet, it works as a cozy mystery, as It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder demonstrates.

It’s December, and the catering hall that Mia Carina helps run is busy with events all month long, including an elaborate first birthday party and a drama filled sweet sixteen party.  However, her world shifts when her personal life begins to create drama.  For starters, her estranged mother is back in town, and Mia can’t figure out what she wants.

However, it’s her connection to the Boldano family that really puts a damper on her Christmas spirit.  Someone has come forward claiming that he is Jamie’s long-lost brother.  The problem is, Jamie didn’t know he was adopted.  Jamie is one of Mia’s best friends, so she does her best to help out, although the revelations throw Jamie off and make him start acting funny.  Then a dead body turns up in the neighborhood where Mia lives, and things go from bad to worse.  Can she figure out what is going on?

My reference to the Boldano family above should have really been Family.  While they’ve been in the background in the earlier books, this mob family steps into the foreground much more with this book.  Even so, since the emphasis is on what is going on with Jamie, this is still definitely a cozy mystery.

It also helps that all the characters are real.  We are focused on how what is going on around them impacts them and not on their life of crime.  If they are doing other things that aren’t cozy, we aren’t hearing about it.  This is Mia’s world, and, as a result, we get to know the characters as people.  I appreciated that and found it easy to cheer for the characters to get their happy endings.

As you might have guessed from my plot teaser, there are several sub-plots in addition to the main mystery, which keeps the story hopping.  My interest never waned as I was reading because something was always happening somewhere.  I did feel the climax didn’t quite work like it was supposed to.  Yes, it did answer all of our questions, but it just felt a bit much.

Yes, this is a Christmas book, and there is plenty of Christmas spirit to go around.  I haven’t mentioned yet, but a delightful sub-plot involved the over the top decorations in Mia’s neighborhood.  There is plenty of humor in the book as well, and a lot of it comes from this particular sub-plot.

At the end of the book, we’ve got seven new recipes inspired by the food the characters eat in the book as well as some event tips.

This is a fun mystery that will put fans of the series in the Christmas spirit.  If you are looking for a Christmas cozy with a dash of something different, you definitely need to check out It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder.

Don't refuse the rest of the Catering Hall Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Movie Review: Freaky

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Vince Vaughn
Cons: Too predictable, too much going on, not scary, only marginally funny
The Bottom Line:
Comedy slasher
But doesn’t work as either
Tries to do too much

What Could Have Been a Great Premise Doesn’t Work

When I saw the previews for Freaky fall of 2020, I got excited.  It looked like a slasher crossed with a comedy that would be delightful.  Sadly, when I finally got to see the movie, I was disappointed.

Every town has their legend of a deranged serial killer who stalks teens, especially teens who are into drugs and sex.  However, the legend of The Butcher (Vince Vaughn) is true, and he’s returned to town with a vengeance just before Homecoming.  Meanwhile, we also meet Millie (Kathryn Newton), a high school student who is picked on endlessly by other students.  Even some of her teachers pick on her.

When Millie’s path crosses with The Butcher’s, she does her best to fight back, and is surprised when she makes it out alive.  However, the next day, she wakes up to find that they have switched bodies.  With the police searching for The Butcher and Millie going to school with unsuspecting students, will Millie reclaim her body?

Yes, this is Freaky Friday meets Friday the 13th.  As such, it could have been fun.  The problem was, it didn’t quite know what type of movie it wanted to be.  When it was being a comedy, it had some funny moments.  However, it never reached anywhere nears the level of scares or creep it was going for.  Honestly, those scenes would have been better if they had toned them down.

I think the real problem is that the movie was rated R.  However, the tone it was taking required a PG-13 rating.  That would allow us to be entertained and laugh at some of what was happening.  They can even make a creepy movie at PG-13 without all the gore or language.

Or sex.  Honestly, they could have left out the crude sex scenes and the movie would have been stronger.  These were played for laughs, but they didn’t work.

They also try to give us a storyline for Millie that will lead to character development.  That storyline was completely predictable.  That’s never a bad thing in my mind, but here it didn’t work.  It was like we had one too many storylines in the movie, and this one definitely felt forced.  I think Millie having a happy home life would be a better storyline since it would allow for the film to focus on the suspense and comedy without trying to add the drama to the mix.

Vince Vaughn totally makes the movie.  His performance as a teenage girl is hilarious, and I usually run the other way from his movies based on the previews.  This isn’t to take away from Kathryn Newton, but she isn’t given nearly as much to work with.  Likewise, the rest of the cast is fine, but they are all overshadowed by Vince Vaughn.

If theaters in my area had been opened when this hit theaters, I would have gone to see it in person.  I’m glad I didn’t get to see Freaky until it was out for rental.  Even then, I wish I’d caught it on TV and saved even the rental fee.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Book Review: Murder in an English Glade by Jessica Ellicott (Beryl and Edwina #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, interesting mystery
Cons: Weak ending; one thing not fully resolved
The Bottom Line:
Artist colony
Beryl Edwina still strong
Fans will enjoy it

Fake Investigation Leads to Real Murder

I look forward each year to returning to the English village of Walmsley Parva to find out what friends and business partners Edwina Davenport and Beryl Helliwell are up to.  We have another fun visit with them in Murder in an English Glade.

If you are new to the series, it is set in the 1920’s.  Edwina is a native of Walmsley Parva and is quiet and reserved.  Beryl is an American who is famous as an adventurer.  She is much more willing to take risks.  Together, the two life long friends have started a private enquiry business, and their different strengths make them wonderful at reaching the truth.

Edwina and Beryl don’t quite know what to make of it when they are asked to conduct a fake investigation.  Their potential client is Constance Maitland, part of the village’s upper crust.  She wants Edwina and Beryl to pretend to investigate her sister-in-law so her cousin will lay off the claim that the sister-in-law is having an affair.

The Maitland estate is currently hosting an artist colony, and this provides the perfect cover for the pair to join the Maitland estate.  They haven’t even been there a full day when someone turns up dead.  Now they are left to wonder if their fake investigation is the cause of the murder.  Can they find the truth?

As is always the case in this series, the characters shine.  The book is narrated third person from both Edwina and Beryl’s points of view, which allows us to really get to know them better and observe the changes in their personality they bring out in each other.  They really do make each other stronger and complement each other, and I enjoy watching that in each book.

Of course, this isn’t to take away from the suspects.  They are just as strong, and I enjoyed getting to know them.  We don’t see quite as much of the other series regulars as we might, but many of them do put in appearances, and I enjoyed catching up with them as well.

The time spent on the characters doesn’t take away from the plot.  It unfolds in a steady manner with plenty of clues, red herrings, and surprises along the way to keep us entertained.  I did feel that the ending was a little rushed, and there was one early plot point that was never completely resolved.  I can guess what was going on, but I would like to know for sure.

Part of the warmth of the series is the, for lack of a better word, culture clash.  Since Beryl is an American, she isn’t used to the British way of doing things.  While she and Edwina get along well, there are moments of differences between them.  Don’t worry, these moments are almost always played for laughs, and I appreciate them.  In fact, there is a very funny scene to open the book.

Murder in an English Glade will keep fans of the series happy.  If you are looking for a fun mystery the combines a bit of history with wonderful characters, you need to pick up this book.

Enjoy the rest of the Beryl and Edwina Mysteries.

Note: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Movie Review: Dune (2021)

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: It looks amazing
Cons: Direction makes the pace too slow and keeps us from connecting with the characters
The Bottom Line:
Scifi epic starts
The pacing is very slow
But visuals stun

Looks Amazing.  But the Rest?

I’ll admit, Dune wasn’t on my radar.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of the books in the past, but I wasn’t that interested in watching the latest movie version.  However, a friend of mine wanted to go see it for his birthday, so I decided I’d go see it.  I wish I’d liked it better.

Before we go any further, the movie makes it very clear that this is only part of the story.  When Dune comes up on the screen at the beginning of the film, Part 1 also appears underneath it.  While there is obviously more to the story, I did feel this movie stopped at a good point that gave us some level of resolution.

The story revolves around Paul Atreides (Timothee Chalamet).  He is the last in the Arteides line, and will inherit his father’s (Oscar Isaac) title and responsibilities one day.  The emperor has just sent the Atreides to the planet of Dune, important for the spice that is harvested there and used for space travel.

Paul doesn’t know it yet, but he has another legacy, one coming from his mother, Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson).  And that legacy might come into play once they have landed on Dune and begin to face dangers.  But how are his visions connected to all of this?

Yes, I am being a little vague here.  It’s a hard story to tease without giving away too much.  This is especially true since I don’t feel like a lot happened in this movie.  I get it – in a science fiction movie, you have to spend time setting up the world where the story is taking place.  This went beyond that.  As someone who hadn’t read the books, I felt like I spent a lot of the film trying to figure out the world of the story while waiting for the story to get started.

And, I also get it, this is only half the story.  As I said at the beginning, I felt we got a decent stopping point here.  There’s no cliffhanger, which is good since the next part isn’t in production yet.  On the one hand, I also appreciate a movie that wasn’t all action, but a bit more action would have been appreciated.

My biggest issue was with the directing.  Good directing shouldn’t be obvious, but here it was very obvious.  We had multiple, multiple slow-motion shots of each character’s reactions to events.  I appreciate a little of that in a movie, but here it was so over the top that it really slowed down the pacing.

Additionally, the tone was overall somber.  I get it, this isn’t a comedy, but a little bit of cheer would help.  We came close a couple of times, but it was quickly shut down as we moved on to the next scene.  We need some lighter moments to connect to the characters and to fully appreciate the relationships between them.

I’m not blaming this on the actors, who did fine.  It was the direction that kept them from fully connecting to each other and to us.

We did see this on the IMAX screen.  Maybe it was our theater, but it was loud, and it was mixed so that the music and other sounds often drowned out the dialog.  I am sure I missed some stuff as time, especially when the actors were speaking softly.

The one place I will give the movie full points is the visuals.  It looks amazing!  The world the characters inhabit comes fully to life.  Any and all special effects work just as well.  I was able to get lost in the visual world of the film.

I saw it with three friends, and they were all commenting on the same things I was.  The friend who wanted to see it had read the book, and he helped fill in some of the gaps we didn’t pick up on from the movie.  I think they enjoyed it more than I did, but none of us were raving about it.

I’ve heard about Dune enough that I would be willing to watch the sequel whenever it might come out.  But I will definitely wait to watch it at home instead of going back to the theater.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Disney Pin Review: Stitch Crashes Snow White - Stitch Crashes Disney #8 - 2021 Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Good looking pin with an added fun touch
Cons: It’s not fair to list cons
The Bottom Line:
Back to beginning
A pin with an added touch
Honoring Snow White

Is This Stitch Pin the Fairest of Them All?

The second half of the Stitch Crashes Disney series is focusing more on the older animated films, and for the eighth entry, they are going all the way back to the first animated feature.  That’s right, Stitch is crashing Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in this pin.

Stitch is almost his normal color for this pin, just deeper.  He’s a very dark blue with royal blue sections.  While I don’t necessarily associate those colors with Snow White, the stylized flowers he’s sporting definitely look like they belong in the movie.  It’s funny that I would associate them with the movie since they are more decorations in the various backgrounds of the film, but I do.

And it looks like Stitch has stolen the poisoned apple.  That’s definitely going to shake things up.  He’s rather proud of himself, too, since he’s smiling about it.

And that is one thing that makes this pin extra special.  The green poison part of the apple will glow in the dark.  Oh, it’s not very bright, and it takes a lot of light to charge it up, but it is there, and it’s a fun addition.  As far as I know, this is the first pin in the series to do that.

Once again, the board the pin comes attached to gets into the act.  Behind Stitch, we can see Prince Charming’s castle off in the distance in the midst of the trees immediately behind him.

The result is a pin that immediately connects us to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  I like Stitch best when he sticks to blue, so the color works well for me, too.

While this may not be my favorite pin in the series (it’s hard to say when we haven’t seen them all yet), this is definitely a good one.  Fans of Stitch and Snow White will enjoy adding it to their collection.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

October 23rd's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Equalizer – I’m a bit impressed by this episode.  Yes, there was the push about gay rights in the story, but they were honest about the oppression that gays face in countries like Saudi Arabia.  Plus, they were showing how oppressive regimes can be over there.  It still felt a bit like a lecture, but at least it wasn’t aimed at Americans this time.  The new guy tracking her is going to be very interesting as the season progresses.  A bit of a cliché so far.  But I’m still interested to see how that is going to progress.

Legend of the Hidden Temple – I found the Pelle legend interesting just because of having been to Hawaii last week.  Overall, she doesn’t sound like a very nice goddess.  So much murder and resurrection and betrayal.  That final team was so dominant, but they didn’t have much luck at the end.  I don’t remember the kids having quite this much trouble in the original.  They must have made it harder, although doing the run in the dark would definitely make it more challenging.

Killer Camp – The whole love triangle?  I’m not a fan of it in the books, and I really don’t need it in my super cheesy reality TV.  I mean, if I were watching a romance show, I’d get it.  But a mystery show about a killer?  Nope.  The killer clearly doesn’t want the men to stick around.  Is it a woman this time?  Or a man who is threatened?

Dancing with the Stars – I’ve enjoyed the show more than I thought I would.  I’m not a fan of Grease, but mainly because of the story.  The music is fun, as this show reminded me.  So many great dances, and then the bottom two?  It’s hard to believe that some of the others weren’t down there at the bottom.  I think the competition just got real for everyone.

Stargirl – I really did think Cindy had died.  But what a way to bring her back.  Obviously, she is going to be important to taking down Eclipso if Courtney went so far out of her way to rescue her.  I would have gone through and then figured out a way to rescue Cindy, but that’s probably just me.  And I can’t wait to see Beth meet Dr. Midnighter.  That whole storyline this season makes much more sense now.

Supergirl – I was fearing another lecture when I saw the “previously on” and realized that we were revisiting Dreamer’s sister.  It wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be, but it was pretty painful and predictable.  Did not see Kara quitting her job coming, but it is true, she can’t do it all right now.  I’ve been waiting for Lex to come back.  Still, I wasn’t quite expecting that twist at the end.

Survivor – I haven’t seen a tribe have this much of a losing streak in a very long time.  Not sure what they are doing to the tribes next week but they really need it.  Of course, I think I’m rooting for the two members of that tribe left to be ejected from the game soon, but we’ll see.  There may be others I want off sooner once we get to know them better.

Legends of Tomorrow – Once we got past the opening scene (and I was trying to eat dinner during it), this proved to be a fun episode.  With several twists I did not see coming.  I’m very interested to see where they are going from here.  I’m not a fan of how they are treating Hoover like an evil person.  I get that he had his flaws.  Most people do.  But couldn’t they try for a little nuance?

Batwoman – So, basically, we are going to go through a greatest hits of all Batman’s foes?  Okay, got it.  I knew Alice was going to try to escape at some point, but I thought it would be another episode or two.  Still, that tracker she has now is great.  I wasn’t aware she was going to be in prison between episodes, I mean cases, so at least that much she isn’t our team’s responsibility.  And I feel so sorry for so many characters here.  The pair who died, and the guy who was turned into the croc.  Most of all, his dad.

Frogger – I’m not surprised at who won, but I’m disappointed.  Especially since the one woman completed her course on her first life.  I had to laugh about the one contestant forgetting to grab her frog.  That would totally be me.

United States of Al – Do I detect some romance coming for Al?  As fun as that storyline was, I loved the bowling parts so much more.  I would be surprised if Riley actually does grow a man bun.  Not that his hair is all that short to me right now, either.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Ornament Review: Seasons Treatings #13 - Display Case of Treats - 2021 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Many delicious looking sweets in one ornament.
Cons: I’m hungry now
The Bottom Line:
Delicious desserts
Offered in one ornament
I’m ready to eat!

Mouthwatering Display Case

Every year, the ornaments in the Season’s Treatings series make me crave the new treat being spotlighted.  The 2021 entry in the series is especially evil in that regard since it features a delicious variety of treats.

The ornament this year has several different items on a tray under a clear cover.  There are two decorated cookies, one of Santa and one of a Christmas tree.  There’s a slice of a layered cake with chocolate frosting between the layers.  There are two cupcakes, one with red frosting and one with green frosting and a candy cane on top.  Finally, there’s a piece of what looks like cherry pie.

And I think it was a mistake to write this review on an empty stomach.

Seriously, these desserts all look delicious.  I’m not a frosted cookie person, but even they look good enough to eat.  But I’d probably start with the cake.  Or maybe the pie.  Okay, fine, a cupcake.  And I could be talked into enjoying the cookies without too much effort.

The cover over the items is a new touch.  I have heard some people say that they saw ornaments that were cloudy, making it hard to see what was inside.  The ones I’ve seen have all been clear, so that’s not an issue for me.  At least not yet.  Hopefully, the plastic doesn’t cloud over as it ages.

2021 is written on the bottom of the display plate between the cookies and the pie.  Since most of the base of the ornament is clear, it is hard to see the series marker on the bottom of the stand, but the 13 in a Christmas tree is there.

And this does have more of a vertical presence to it than many ornaments in the series do.  As a result, I could see setting it out to be enjoyed.  The base is wide enough that it is pretty stable.

This is one of the few ornaments in the series that hangs straight.  Usually, they hang at a fun angle on purpose, but this one doesn’t.  Makes sense with the design of the ornament.

The ornaments are always cute and delicious looking, and the newest is no exception.  Be prepared to drool with you pick up this ornament.

Enjoy the rest of the Seasons Treatings ornaments.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Review: Cozy Up to Blood by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #3)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Twilight spoof; our lead characters
Cons: Weak mystery; struggle to believe the premise
The Bottom Line:
Stranded on island
With thief, vampire lovers
Humor saves the day

Hiding Out on an Island with…Vampires?

When I am perfectly honest, I can see the problems in the Cozy Up series by Colin Conway.  And they were more obvious than ever in Cozy Up to Blood.  And yet there is something compelling about them that keeps bringing me back for more.

This book centers on Murray Lee, who has found himself trapped on the island of Belfry off the coast of Oregon due to floods washing out the bridge.  He’s just in time for the annual festival dedicated to the movies in the Evenfall series, a popular vampire themed series of books and movies which were filmed on the island.  This means there are plenty of outsiders posing as vampires around town.  Someone is taking advantage of the crowds by attacking some of the locals, stealing from them, and biting their necks.  The local police think that Murray is a good suspect since he is new to town but obviously not part of the Evenfall crowd.

But Murray doesn’t want the police looking into him or his past.  He has a secret.  And it might have something to do with the motorcycle gang sitting on the other side of the bridge waiting for the water to recede.  Can he clear his name without revealing his past?  Will he even get off the island alive?

Let’s start with the problems with the premise.  Those who have read the earlier two novels in the series know that Murray Lee isn’t our main character’s real name but his latest identity in the Witness Protection Program.  Now, I get that his former gang finding him is part of the series.  But I have a problem with Murray being left alone like he was in this book.  Oh, the author tried to explain it away, but I kept yelling at the book “This makes no sense.”

Then there’s the mystery of the neck biting thief.  It’s a sub-plot here.  As such, the resolution winds up feeling extremely rushed.

And yet, I enjoyed reading this book.  Part of that is because I like Murray, no matter what name he is trying to hide out under here.  I want him to succeed in staying safe, and I want to know what happens next to him.  We do spend a lot of time on this, so I am not complaining.

I also got a kick out of the Evenfall craziness.  Even though I’ve never seen them or read the books, this fictional series is clearly spoofing the Twilight series, and the various characters’ reactions to the series and characters was hilarious.  I enjoyed those scenes, and they take up quite a bit of the book.

The book is a bit of a faster read than the novels I usually read, which also helped.

The series has flaws, and Cozy Up to Blood definitely shows them off.  And yet, I’m hoping that we get another story with our hero.  We were certainly left with a set up for the next book.  If you are intrigued by these books, wait until you can get them on sale before buying them.

Check out the rest of the Cozy Up series.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

TV Show Review: Superman and Lois - Season 1

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Story, characters, acting all work together perfectly
Cons: This show has no Kryptonite
The Bottom Line:
New Superman take
Fantastic relationships
With gripping stories

“It’s a Little Weird to See Superman in Real Life.  I’m Used to Seeing Him on TV.”

I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t the most excited when I they announced Superman and Lois originally.  I’m not quite sure why since I was ready for Tyler Hoechlin to get his own spinoff the instant he guest starred on Supergirl.   Being the good Arrowverse fan that I am, I tuned in to watch the series premier.  I was quickly hooked on the rest of season one.

This series presents Clark Kent/Superman (Tyler Hoechlin) and Lois Lane (Elizabeth Tulloch) as you’ve never seen them before – the happily married parents of teenaged twins Jonathan (Jordan Elsass) and Jordan (Alex Garfin).  The pilot finds them deciding to move back to Clark’s childhood home on the farm in Smallville that he’s recently inherited.  That means reconnecting with Clark’s childhood, including his friend Lana Lang Cushing (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and her husband Kyle (Erik Valdez).

While Jordan is happy with the change, Jonathan had been the star of their old high school’s football team, and starting over is hard on him.  And, some of Jordan’s happiness may be because of his crush on Sarah Cushing (Inde Navarrette).

As part of trying to bring the family closer together, Clark and Lois decide it is time to tell the boys who Clark really is.  The timing is perfect when one of the twins begins to show possible signs of inheriting his father’s powers.  But Lois is suspicious of Morgan Edge (Adam Rayner), who has come to Smallville with all kind of promises about helping turn the town around.  Can he be trusted?

What made this show work?  Really, everything clicked for me.  The writers found the perfect balance between character and plot.  Not a second is wasted in any episode.

The plot caught my interest from the beginning.  It’s obvious Morgan Edge is up to something, but what exactly that is kept me tuning in.  And each week, the stakes got higher for all our heroes.  By mid-season, I couldn’t believe that we weren’t already at the end of the season, but they kept building a wonderful story.

Meanwhile, the characters and their dynamics were fantastic.  Lois and Clark have a wonderful relationship.  You can tell they love each other.  Do they have bumps in their relationship?  Yes.  Are these bumps realistic for a happily married couple?  Well, if one of them is Superman, sure.  They are a team, and I appreciate that.  Meanwhile, I also enjoyed seeing the adult relationship between Lois and Clark and Lana and Kyle.  They are friends, and those relationships were great.  If they ever mess up any of these dynamics, I will be furious.

While these parts of the episodes feel like they are aimed at adults, we do get more of a teen vibe when Jonathan and Jordan are on the screen.  I’ve got to admit, I got serious Smallville vibes at times, especially in some of the early episodes.  That’s not a bad thing, necessarily.  Having said this, I did appreciate the relationship between Clark, Lois, and their sons.

Of course, for this all to work, the acting has to be top notch.  And it is.  The actors bring their A game each week, bringing the scripts to perfect life.

As you’d expect, the effects are top notch as well.

Since Supergirl has used most of Superman’s most famous villains already, I will be very curious to see who pops up as villains here.  I probably won’t recognize them, which was the case in the first season.  Not that I’m complaining.

Season one consisted of fifteen episodes, and it was the perfect number to bring this show to life.  We had a few breaks in the season, and it was always agony to wait until the show came back to find out what would happen to the characters next.

With how much I loved season one, I’m worried that the writers won’t be able to keep this level of excellence going in the seasons to come.  But I will keep watching and hope they prove me wrong.

More than anything else, this show is why I am hanging on to the entire Arrowverse right now.  If you haven’t watched Superman and Lois’s first season yet, stop what you are doing and go watch it now.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Book Review: Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder by Tina Kashian (Kebab Kitchen Mysteries #5)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Characters, good mystery
Cons: Pacing, the biggest sub-plot leaves me with questions
The Bottom Line:
Cold water, cold death
Can Lucy defend her friend?
A Christmas setting

Polar Bear Plunge of Death

I realized a couple of months back that I had saved more Christmas books for December than I could read that month, so I’m sneaking a few of them in earlier than I originally planned.  One of those is Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder, which gets me up to date on the Kebab Kitchen Mysteries.

Every December, Ocean Crest, New Jersey, hosts a polar bear plunge as a fund raiser, and this year it is raising money for a much-needed renovation for the senior center.  Most of the businesses in the town are participating, and Lucy Berberian is representing her family’s Kebab Kitchen restaurant.  As expected, the water is chilly, but all that is soon forgotten when the dead body of one of the participants washes ashore.  At first everyone assumes that the shock of the cold water killed Deacon Spooner, but the medical examiners determines that it was murder.  Lucy had recently met Deacon, and he wasn’t a nice man.  When the police look at Lucy’s friend as their prime suspect, she can’t help but nose around.  She uncovers plenty of motives and opportunity, but who actually killed the man?

The plot started out well, and we have several strong suspects.  However, as we entered the final stretch, the story seemed to fizzle a little, and some of the sub-plots take over.  Mind you, I was enjoying the subplot since they involved character growth for the series regulars, which was nice, but I was frustrated because the main mystery faded into the background.  Still, we got a logical and suspenseful climax, which I appreciated.

I do have to rant about the main sub-plot for a minute, however.  At the end of the last book, Lucy and Azad, the chef at her family’s restaurant, got engaged.  When this book opens, they haven’t set a date yet, and Lucy’s matron of honor is driving most of the wedding planning, such as it is.  Heck, the engagement hasn’t even been officially announced.  I would understand this if the two books were set close together, but the engagement happened at Easter.  It is now December.  That’s a long time to go, and Lucy doesn’t understand the comments she is getting about planning the wedding.  Honestly, she really did act like it had only been a few weeks since they got engaged, and if that were the case, her behavior would make a lot more sense.  But this way?  I was actually on the side of those who were wondering if there was something behind Lucy’s reluctance to plan anything.

On the other hand, this sub-plot did give us a chance to get to see some real growth in Lucy and get to see her relationships with some of the other characters change, and I did appreciate that.

The book isn’t heavy handed with the Christmas theme, which made it perfect to read right now.  I enjoyed the references to the holiday, and Christmas did get stronger the closer we got to the end.

Since this book is set in a restaurant, it’s no surprise that we get four delicious sounding recipes at the end – including the lemon meringue pie that has been mentioned in several earlier books.

Mistletoe, Moussaka, and Murder could have been stronger.  Still, as a fan of the series, I’m glad I got to spend a little time at Christmas with Lucy and her family and friends.

Make reservations for the rest of the Kebab Kitchen Mysteries.

Monday, October 18, 2021

TV Special Review: Muppets Haunted Mansion

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Laughs and fun with the Muppets and friends
Cons: Final one third’s shift in tone
The Bottom Line:
Muppets in Mansion
Combo makes for laughs and puns
Fun at Halloween

“We’re Ghosts. Booing Comes with the Territory!”

I didn’t need to know any more about it than the title - Muppets Haunted Mansion - and I was in.  While I may not be the world’s biggest fan of The Haunted Mansion, I figured that the Muppets would make a fun special inspired by the classic Disney attraction.  And so, last Friday, I turned to Disney+ to see just how much fun it would be.

Instead of going to the annual Muppet Halloween Party, this year, Gonzo has received an invitation to spend Halloween night in the mansion where his idol, The Great MacGuffin, disappeared 100 years ago.  Along for the night is Pepe the King Prawn, who is expecting a celebrity filled party.  Gonzo, on the other hand, is hoping to figure out what happened to MacGuffin and prove that he is still The Great Gonzo.

Ignoring several ominous warnings, Gonzo and Pepe meet their host (Will Arnett) and enter the mansion.  Will they survive the night?  Or will they become the latest people to disappear?  And which celebrity will cameo next?

For much of the 52-minute special, this was everything I hoped it would be.  We’ve got puns.  We’ve got laughs.  We’ve got celebrity cameos.  We’ve got jokes based on the ride.  We’ve got nods to the classic Muppets show.  We’ve got three new songs.  Seriously, so much of the show works well.

Unfortunately, the final third does fall a little flat.  Pepe meets up with the Black Widow Bride (Taraji P. Henson), and I just felt like that wasn’t the best plot point.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of The Bride in the Haunted Mansion, and I’m not exactly sure why she is suddenly such a huge part of the attraction’s mythology since I can remember the attraction without her in it.  Meanwhile, Gonzo is going through his own revelation, which felt a little forced into the special so we could have some character growth.

These complaints aside, this really is a fun special.  It’s about as scary as the attraction itself, so it would be appropriate for all but the most easily frightened.  Its tone is playful and fun.

While most of the Muppets are supposed to be at a party, they also manage to appear in the Mansion, so we don’t miss out on time with them here.  Fans of the show will appreciate how one of the old recurring sketches managed to be worked into this special.

There are plenty of cameos in the special, and I’m not going to try to name them all.  But I do want to give a special shout out to Ed Asner, who appears as one of the ghosts in the graveyard.  I’ve been a fan of his for years, and given his recent passing, there was something very bitter sweet about seeing his cameo here, especially as a ghost.

Oh, and be sure to watch all of the credits.

If the tone of the first two thirds had carried over to the end, Muppets Haunted Mansion would have been perfect.  As it is, the special is still fun.  I will definitely be revisiting it.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Book Review: Footprints Under the Window by Franklin W. Dixon (Hardy Boys #12)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Action, story
Cons: Thin characters, overly complex, dated plot
The Bottom Line:
Action and story
Keep the pages turning and
Hide the weaknesses

Spies and a Quick Trip to South America

Even as a kid, I had to admit that the Hardy Boys books weren’t exactly realistic.  And, as much as I loved Footprints Under the Window, the twelfth in the series, even as a kid I knew it is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.

When Frank and Joe Hardy go to meet their Aunt Gertrude on her return from a trip to South America, they arrive a little early, so they decide to head out in their motor boat.  That’s when they see a man jump over the side of a ship.  They pick him up, but all they get out of him is a strange warning about footprints before he runs off again.

With their dad out of town on a case, they are left to try to figure out what is going on by themselves.  Might it have to do with the robbery they foiled at a nearby photographic plant?  And who left the footprints outside the Hardy’s house?

So where does the unrealistic part come into play?  The trail of this mystery seems to lead to South America, so the Hardys and their friend Chet take off for a few days.  What eighteen and seventeen year old would receive permission to do that?  Much less have the ability?  Of course, considering they get involved in and solve all these puzzling mysteries is really even more unbelievable than their trip south of the border, so I’ll leave it alone.  You’ve got to be willing to go with the flow a bit to enjoy these books.

We are presented with another puzzling, compelling case here.  I know I read this as a child since I could tell you what the climax was before I picked it up, but I didn’t remember many of the details.  The case makes sense in the end, but I think they tried to cram a bit too much into it.  I was struggling to keep up at the end of the book.  One less plot thread would have made it easier to follow everything and given them a bit more time to explain things.

On the other hand, there is plenty of action and suspense, and I found myself turning pages quickly several times to get the Hardys out of danger.

As always, the characters are cardboard thin.  Plot is king in these books.  But as a kid, I didn’t mind, and even now I got caught up in the action.

The plot of this book, what the Hardys wind up trying to protect, definitely seems dated today.  It’s a product of being written in the 1960’s.  I didn’t really notice when I read it originally in the 1980’s, but I’m sure today’s kids will notice.  But as long as they realize when this particular edition was written, they’ll be okay.

All told, this book is probably closer to a three than the four I am giving it.  Yes, nostalgia comes into play here since I loved this book as a kid.  But that’s often the case when I’m looking at books in this series.

If today’s kids are willing to overlook the dated storyline, they’ll definitely get caught up in the action of Footprints Under the Window.  Even as an adult, I know I did.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

October 16th's Weekly TV Thoughts

The Equalizer – Good episode back.  We’ve introduced a plotline for the season (and how did I forget he’d faked his death and that’s why he was living underground?).  We had a good case with plenty of twists and turns.  We Delilah is moving back in.  Okay, that was the most predictable subplot in the history of TV subplots, but it was still good enough for getting the characters to where we knew they’d have to be.  If they had belabored it with more scenes, it would have been way worse.

Legends of the Hidden Temple – I feel like the show worked better when it was kids and not adults competing, but it is the silly fun I’m looking for on a Sunday night.  I’ll be back for sure.

Killer Camp – I’m confused.  I thought the first season I saw was a British production, but what the CW was going to show now was an American version.  Yet it’s got the same host, sets, and killer.  Oh well, I’m in either way.  The reacting is still funny.  No clue who the killer might be yet, so we’ll see how things develop.  Can’t believe all the romances already.  I mean, you might be falling for a killer!

Dancing with the Stars – Two dances so early in the competition.  I feel for the celebs.  The Mickey Challenged turned out pretty well.  But it was so distracting hearing the songs cut.  I usually don’t know the songs everyone are dancing to, but I do here, so it always bothers me when they cut these for time.  I get why it happens, but I hear it immediately.  The second night had a few non-Disney songs which makes sense.  Not every villain gets a song after all, but I was pleased to see they mostly had Disney songs.  The first 10 of the season!  And from Len, too, which amazes me.  I’m sorry to see Brian go.  I doubt he would have lasted much longer, but still, he was one I was rooting for.  Not as much connection to Matt.  It’s going to get harder from here on out.

Stargirl – Well, that’s a cliffhanger ending.  I should have known that trusting the Shade was dangerous.  And what is going on with the brother?  I do hope that is really Starman who is trying to find them.  Although how he could be alive, I have no idea.  Things are definitely getting interesting.

Supergirl – Killing the hope pendant?  Something tells me they will regret it.  Not that I think it is dead.  I think someone saved it at the last second.  The question becomes – who did that?

Survivor – “You aren’t fooling me again.”  Famous last words.  Oh, and I have news for you, an assassin is a villain.  They even managed to blindside us this time.  Usually, we have a clue where it is going, but I wasn’t truly expecting JD.  I do not get, in a numbers game, why you would ever throw a challenge.  You need your entire team when it comes to the merge.  Of course, I also don’t get why you’d get rid of the strong players early on and keep the weak, so what do I know.

Legends of Tomorrow – Now there is the show I know and love.  That was so much fun!  I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about them being stuck in the 1920’s, but with the twist of having killed Hoover, I have a feeling this is going to be fun.  And the circus performers bit?  Classic comedy for the show.  I just wonder how long it will be before they reunite all the characters since they are currently in three different places.

Batwoman – Several disturbing scenes – the guy killing his friend and poor Mary at her graduation.  I knew Alice wouldn’t stay locked up long, but her working with Ryan is going to be interesting.  And I’m glad Alice isn’t still in prison.  Have I mentioned this season how much I love that character?  Didn’t think so.

Frogger – Wow!  That was an amazing performance by the circus performer.  Frankly, both of them did well on the first stage, but then on the bonus level, he was amazing.  My money is on him in the finals.  The other guys had done well, too, on their levels, so it’s really saying something about his performance, although he swept them away in the final round.

United States of Al – The laughs are back.  Okay, so maybe it was grins more than laughs, but still, that was a fun episode.  I could tell where it was going early on, but I still enjoyed it.  I do feel like this was the funniest episode we’ve had in a while.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Travel Review: Dolphin Discoveries

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Two excellent swims with this company
Cons: I’m not enjoying a third right now
The Bottom Line:
Swimming with sea life
Provides excellent service
Memories for life

Discovering the Wonders Under the Sea with Dolphin Discoveries

On my recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii, my friends and I did plenty of snorkeling.  However, we also went out on a couple of group boats to see specific things.  We did a dolphin swim and a manta ray night swim.  For both of these, we went with Dolphin Discoveries, and we are glad we did.

The Dolphin Discovery Adventure was a morning swim.  We explored quite a bit of ocean before we found some, but it was worth it.  Watching them swim past us was incredible.  We found a good sized pod as well.  The picture is a still from a video one of my friends took that morning.

The Manta Ray Swim was at night, and it was also incredible.  We floated holding on to a light board, and the manta rays came right up to the board to feed on the plankton attracted to the light.  This one was a little cold despite the wet suit tops they provided for us, but that was my only complaint.  We were very lucky because the manta rays were there the entire time.  One of the guides mentioned some nights they only show up for five minutes, but we had a good group almost the entire time we were in the water.

Dolphin Discoveries provides everything you need, including snorkels, mask, and fins.  Or you can bring your own.  Or you can do a combination of both (which is what I did).  Double check on their website for what is and is not included so you are ready when you arrive.

The crew was very friendly and helpful, sharing some Hawaiian history as we went along as well as a bit more about the animals we were seeing.  It helped put the behaviors we saw in perspective.

Dolphin Discoveries is located on the Kailua-Kona side of the island.  In addition to the tours we did, they offer snorkeling and whale watching tours, so be sure to check them out to see if they will meet your needs.

If you are looking for a once in a lifetime adventure in the ocean, I highly recommend Dolphin Discoveries.  They are a fantastic company that knows how to deliver the experiences you are looking for.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Book Review: Murder Gets a Makeover by Laura Levine (Jaine Austen #18)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun filled story
Cons: A few things could have been a little stronger
The Bottom Line:
Deadly makeover
Mystery that’s filled with laughs
Light, very funny

Who Gave Bebe a Makeover as a Corpse?

It’s always a pleasure to see a new Jaine Austen Mystery come out.  Laura Levine’s books are reliably fun, and Murder Gets a Makeover is no exception.

If you haven’t met Jaine yet, she is a freelance writer living in Southern California.  No, you probably haven’t read anything she’s written since most of her clients are local businesses that hire her to write advertising.  Her world is slightly wacky, but that makes it all the more fun.

This book finds Jaine agreeing to get a fashion makeover after her neighbor, Lance, pushes her into it.  She’s going to Bebe Braddock, fashion designer to the stars who also happens to be one of Lance’s clients at Neiman Marcus, where he works in the shoe department.  Bebe is intending to use Jaine’s before and after pictures in a publicity campaign, so the cost to Jaine is going to be zero.

And even then, it turns out to be overpriced.  Bebe is a nasty woman, who treats everyone in her orbit horribly.  When Jaine heads over for a fitting one evening, she finds Bebe strangled in her studio.  While the list of suspects is long, the police think that Jaine might be the killer since Jaine’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon.  Can Jaine figure out who really killed Bebe?

Of course, like isn’t that simple for Jaine.  (Yes, I’m calling being a suspect in a murder case simple.)  Her cat, Prozac, gets her fifteen minutes of fame when a film of Prozac saving a two-year-old’s life goes viral.  And the fame goes to Prozac’s head.  Meanwhile, via emails, we learn that Jaine’s father is certain that his enemy at her parent’s retirement community in Florida is having an affair, and he sets out to prove it.  Oh, and Jaine’s love life might be heating up.

Given the strong sub-plots and the book’s shorter length, you can bet that the pace is quick.  There is always something happening in Jaine’s life, and author Laura Levine does a great job of juggling all the balls she has in the air.

And there are the laughs.  The sub-plots are especially full of funny moments, but even the main mystery has some humor.  While Prozac doesn’t talk, Jaine is able to interpret her cat’s thoughts based on body language, and they are always a riot.  I don’t know how Jaine’s mom puts up with Jaine’s dad, but I’m glad she does because those emails are always a highlight as well.

With all this going on, we still have a solid mystery filled with several suspects and plenty of secrets for Jaine to uncover on her way to the solution.

I usually call these books to a cross between a sitcom and a murder mystery, and that holds true again here.  That’s most obvious in the characters.  They are more broad caricatures than true characters, but they fit perfectly in Jaine’s world and help give us the laughs.  You don’t pick up these books for the serious character growth; you pick them up to have fun.

I’ve been reading Jaine’s adventures since the first book came out, and I love the series.  I didn’t feel this one was quite up to the usual standards for the series, but it’s mostly a few nitpicks.  Or maybe it was the mood I was in when I read it.  Either way, this is still a fun read that will appeal to the series’ fans.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Jaine.  Murder Gets a Makeover is another fun adventure for our heroine that will leave you smiling.

Laugh along with the rest of the Jaine Austen Mysteries.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

TV Show Review: What If...? - Season 1

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some episodes were fun fresh takes
Cons: Some episodes fell flat
The Bottom Line:
Alternative takes
Mixing up the Avengers
Animated show

“That’s Was Brilliant!  Let’s Do It Again.”

Clearly, Marvel is gearing up for the next Dr. Strange movie with all of their Disney+ shows.  Each one has touched on the idea of a multiverse to some extent, but the most obvious of these has been season 1 of What If…?  While I originally was excited about the idea behind the show, I wound up being mostly disappointed.

This show was set up as an anthology series as each episode featured a different “What If” question.  What if Peggy Carter got the injection and became Captain Carter?  What if a zombie plague got unleashed on the Earth, infection some of the Avengers?  What if T’Challa because a Star Lord?  What if Thor were a party animal?

Each episode explores how the world might be different from what we’ve seen if that one thing were different.  Some stay fairly close to the movies we’ve seen while others are very different.

This is an animated show.  It’s the stylized animation most popular for TV type shows these days.  I’m not a fan, so I had to adjust to that as I watch, but eventually, I got used to it.

This also allows the producers to use whoever is available.  Sometimes, they do use the original cast to voice their iconic characters.  Sometimes, they use a sound alike.  I’m not sure how or why those choices were made, but I’m going to go with actor availability.  Either way, I had no trouble recognizing the characters by their voices alone.

Each episode is about half an hour, which is about right for exploring these alternative universes.  Most of the time, I felt like we got as much story as we needed.  In fact, a couple episodes felt a little long.

This format allows for some great crossovers.  You never really know which characters might pop up in any given episode and impact each other’s stories.

On the other hand, I couldn’t help but feel like we were watching fan fiction each week.  Mind you’ve I’ve enjoyed reading fan fiction over the years, so I’m not opposed to that, but the ideas could be pretty out there at times.  And, like fan fiction, some weeks worked much better than others.

And, again, I feel like I might have enjoyed this more if I were more of a Marvel fanboy.  My exposure is the Marvel movies, which I’ve seen once each.  I probably missed Easter eggs and cool moments that would have meant a lot more to me if I were more familiar with the characters.

The result was another mixed show for me.  Some episodes of What If…? worked well while others fell flat.  There are plans for a second season, and I will go back to see how they mix up the characters and their stories in the future.  But this is a show best enjoyed if you are a bigger fan of the characters.