Category Archives: Reviews

Podcast Review: Why You Should Be LIstening to This American Life

THIS AMERICAN LIFE

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There’s few things in life I will obsessively chatter about, which may surprise some of you who know me well enough to know I’m a bit of a fan girl, but in reality my obsessive column is fairly small. One of those things is This American Life.

Now, I know technically This American Life isn’t strictly a podcast, it’s a radio show that’s also released as a podcast. But not all radio shows are and there’s a large percentage of folks out there that I know ONLY listen to the podcast. Therefore, for our purposes, it’s a podcast.

This American Life is an hourly, slice of life, interview/journalistic program that also features essays, memoirs, field recordings, short fiction, and found footage. The real draw for this program is that it touches on real people who are living real lives all over the United States. The topics are universal (recent topics included infidelity, starting over, the recent economy crisis, and more) and the stories are emotional, compelling, and passionate.

Tying every episode together is the host, Ira Glass, whose radio voice is unmistakable and enjoyable to listen to. I believe I could just listen to Ira read a menu and be enthralled. Ira is a lovable, relatable host and when he interviews folks you have the feeling that he truly is fascinated with their stories.

The charm of the episodes is hard to explain. This American Life has the simple charm of an old-time radio show, but with the modern sensibility that makes listening to the episodes timeless. Do beware, the stories are incredibly impactful. I’ve laughed, cried and chewed on episodes I’ve listened to for weeks later. The show is so inspiring that some of my favorite ideas for stories have come from stories on This American Life.

If you’re looking for a podcast to keep you entertained on your commute, you should subscribe to This American Life. Unfortunately, due to the popularity and bandwith costs they only offer one episode on their feed at a time.

Subscribe via their website – http://thisamericanlife.org/

If you are a fan already of This American Life, please consider making a donation to keep the podcast going! It costs about $130,000 a year to host the podcast!

(Photo: Douglas Barnes/Showtime)

TV Review: Bones 5×10 The Goop on the Girl

1061Watch Bones on Fox – Thursday Nights
Buy Bones: Season Four Amazon.com

Watch Bones on Hulu

Christmas is all about family. Not just your blood relations, but also your found family. The Christmas specials for Bones have usually centered on this truth (from Season 1’s “The Man in the Fallout Shelter” to this year’s “The Goop on the Girl”).

While not as whimsical or funny as “The Santa in the Slush” (from Season 3), this episode is tinged with the emotional high notes that one would want in their Christmas episodes.

Spoilers to follow:

Beginning with a bank-robbing Santa (who then explodes in front of Booth, fan girls are treated to a nearly-naked David Boreanaz, as Booth needs to be stripped down for evidence. After five seasons of romantic tension between Booth and Brennan it’s nice to see it’s still hard for both of them not to admit full feelings for each other during the “evidence collecting” (and later on during the episode). The writers did well with keeping it there, but not so heavy handed that you get tired of it.

The crime plot was enjoyable, I especially loved the facial reconstruction (which is very true-to-life). It wasn’t without it’s downside, the assundry human elements were a bit far fetched in places, and choppy. The team all gets stuck in D.C., missing flights for Christmas. I highly doubt that they’d be made to stay after having Christmas plans (though it is convenient to the plot). As a side note, I really loved how the lab was decorated for Christmas (especially Brennan’s office).

Christmas is explored at length in this episode. Brennan struggles with the meaning of Christmas, especially after her father tells her that being alone on Christmas means you’re not loved. Sweets and Daisy have their own ideas about Christmas (though, I find it hard to believe that Daisy is super concerned with celebrating Jesus’ birth on the true day and okay with having a day of pre-marital sex with her boyfriend). Even Angela and Hodgins have some sweet Christmas thoughts — especially about family being more than just your blood relations. I was most disappointed with the way the tension between Cam and Michelle was played. There’s real reason for Michelle’s unease about spending Christmas with Cam, but instead it was played off by another stereotypical teenager tiff instead of the meaningful emotion it could have had.

After finding out that Santa (really a man named Holden Chevaleer) wasn’t the real criminal, Brennan (who has absorbed her father’s words about Christmas) decides that she wants to go to his funeral — since his mother is burying him on Christmas morning all alone. This is probably my favorite part of the episode. The dialogue between Booth and Brennan was so sweet and meaningful.

The episode wraps up with a touching “family” Christmas dinner (though I have my own personal quibbles with how sharp Brennan was about Booth praying). Another highlight of the episode is Zooey Deschanel (Emy Deschanel’s real life sister), who rocked the role of Brennan’s second cousin – Maggie.

All in all a good episode, and one that should make it on your holiday TV watch list.

Quote of the Episode
Hodgins: Hey check this out. Explosive Unit guys loaned me these magnetized gloves. (excited) Oh these are so going on my Christmas list!

(Photo: Fox/bones-daily.com)

TV Review: Smallville 5×09 Lexmas

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Buy Smallville – The Complete Fifth Season on Amazon.com.

Lexmas is currently the only Christmas episode of Smallville. The episode starts out with Lex going to a meeting in a dangerous area of Granville. He’s making plans to get Jonathan Kent out of the senate race. Lex is shot when a couple of junkies steal his car.

When he “wakes up” he is lying in bed next to Lana. A young boy runs in and calls him daddy. Not only that, but Lana is pregnant. He is very confused, and asks some crazy questions to figure out what is going on. He is married to Lana and their son’s name is Alexander. They have a middle class income, as Lex was cut off from his father when he married Lana. Lex takes Alexander to find a Christmas tree, and runs into Clark and Chloe. They are all still friends. They remind him that they’ll see him later at the annual Kent’s Christmas party. Lex and Lana attend the party, and Lex is honored by Jonathan and the community. This has to be Lex’s perfect life, right?

Well, no. Lana goes into labor, but there are complications. Lex goes to Lionel for his influence and money in getting the best doctors. Lionel turns him down, and says he made his choice. Lana dies, and Lex wakes up again. This time he is in the hospital, having had a risky surgery that Lionel approved to keep him from being paralyzed. Throughout this whole thing, Lex has been “seeing” his mother, Lillian. She tells him that if he chooses correctly this could be his life. He could be happy. After seeing the death of Lana, Lex concludes that money and power are the way to true happiness. This is the moment where Lex makes a choice that will take him down the dark path to becoming the evil Lex Luthor.

Also in this episode, Chloe has Clark help deliver toys to underprivileged children. He runs into a drunk Santa, thinking of committing suicide. Clark saves him, and Chloe’s presents are magically delivered.

I really enjoyed this episode of Smallville. It could’ve been just a throwaway episode, like many holiday episodes are, but it wasn’t. This is a major event in Lex Luthor’s life. It’s a very big deal that he makes the choice to go down the darker path. He’s been fighting with his darker side for years, but here he chooses to embrace it.

Seeing the alternate future is lots of fun, too. Michael Rosenbaum is such a funny guy in real life, but you don’t get to see much of that in the character of Lex. It was great to see him smiling and laughing for a change. It’s also really fun to see where Clark, Chloe, and the Kents end up.

Need a Gift for the Barney Stinson in Your Life? Get them a Sockscription!

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If there’s one thing we’ve learned from watching TV — clothes make you a better man. If you don’t believe us, ask Barney Stinson, one of the lead characters of How I Met Your Mother. Barney’s catch phrase, “Suit Up!” is not only a funny saying, but a truth that Barney carries through out his life.

Why are we talking about Barney Stinson. I mean, other than he’s awesome, of course. Because we have the perfect gift for the Barney Stinson in your life (or the man who needs to learn from his fine example) – a sockscription. The good folks over at Blacksocks.com want to help the men in your life live in style this year, with a sockscription.

For an annual subscription of $89 (includes shipping), “sockscribers” receive three pairs of socks every four months for a total of nine pairs annually. The socks are manufactured in Northern Italy, using the highest quality yarns with long fibers that pill less and are more durable. Sockscribers have the option of calf socks, knee socks, and cashmere silk socks.

These socks are extreme quality in the making, BlackSocks.com sent me a pair to test out on my father, and they are as luxurious and good-looking as advertised. They were a lot thicker than I anticipated, a lot better than most dress socks you buy in the store. This is the perfect gift for the hard-to-please man on your gift list this year. Maybe your CEO, or father, your lawyer, your professor, or even yourself! After all, you worked hard this year at being awesome — shouldn’t your feet be rewarded for all that hard work?

Clothes may not make the man, but they sure make the man look good. So head over to Blacksocks.com and check out their service for yourself. Blacksocks also carries men’s underwear and fine T-shirts, available via subscription.

Not sure if you are ready to buy a sockscription? You can purchase trial pairs before committing. Barney would approve.

(Photo: CBS)

TV Review: Veronica Mars 1×10 “An Echoll’s Family Christmas”

VM_christmas
Buy Veronica Mars – The Complete First Seasonon Amazon.com

This Christmas episode from season one of Veronica Mars starts out with Veronica and Keith decorating the tree. This caring family environment is quickly brought into stark contrast when we head to the Echoll’s house. Logan is hosting a poker game. Duncan appears to be drunk. Weirdly, Weevil is playing with them. We’ve come in at the end of the game. It’s down to Logan and Weevil. Weevil wins and Logan goes to pay him, however the money box is empty. This does not go over well with Weevil. Through Weevil’s efforts to find the money, we find out Duncan and Logan both own the same reindeer boxer shorts.

Weevil starts stealing the 09ers possessions, saying they’ll get them back when he gets his money. Duncan’s laptop is missing, so Veronica goes to Weevil and says she’ll solve the case. Weevil tells Veronica how he bought into the poker game.

Meanwhile, Keith is hired by Lynn Echolls to find out who is stalking her husband, Aaron. They’re throwing a big Christmas party and she doesn’t want anything to go wrong. This doesn’t end up working out too well, and Aaron’s affairs are brought into the open.

Duncan thinks Logan stole the money, so he and Logan aren’t getting along too well. Veronica talks to Sean and Connor, who were also there. The clues keep coming. Everyone had an opportunity to steal the money, and everyone seems to have been hiding something.

I won’t give away the answer to the mystery, but it’s a good one. Veronica makes them all gather for another poker game and buy her in, she wants to send her dad to baseball camp for Christmas. Before the game, she unravels the mystery, then takes the place of the guilty party.

This is one of my favorite episodes of Veronica Mars. I often have no idea who commits the crimes on this show, but this case was extremely surprising to me. I also really enjoy the scene with Veronica and Logan. It is a hint at what’s to come and has the great line, “Annoy tiny blonde one, annoy like the wind.”

This is also a big episode in the overall continuity of the show. This isn’t just a throwaway holiday episode. There are things in this episode that affect the rest of the series. I think this is an excellent example of a great holiday episode of television.

(photo: Warner Brothers/vm-caps.com)

Quadruple Z Episode #002: Review of Chuck 1×1 – “Pilot”

chucks1ep1

Buy Chuck: The Complete First Season on Amazon.com

quadz_logochuckJoin Tabz, Kim and Faith (the Vampire Slayer) as they discuss Chuck Season 1, Ep 1 – “Pilot”.

TV.com Recap:
Chuck Bartowski is an average computer geek until files upon files of government secrets are downloaded into his brain. He is soon scouted by the CIA and NSA to act in place of their computer.

This episode was edited by Tabitha Grace Smith

Love Chuck?
Check out these great resources:
ChuckTV.net
Chuck vs. the Podcast

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Leave them below or email us at betweenthelinesstudios-at-gmail.com. We’ll read them on an upcoming episode!

(Photo: ChuckTV.net/NBC/Warner Bros. Television)

DVD Review: The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni: The Greastest Treasure

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Buy The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni: The Greastest Treasure on Amazon.com.

When I first received a screener copy of The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni I was extremely excited. I grew up on a variety of great Christian kids programs (like The Greatest Adventure Stories From The Bible, The Flying House and Superbook). I was delighted to get the same enjoyable, funny and memorable experience with The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni that I did with my childhood videos.

The best part of the DVD was the characters. Captain Macaroni is a lovable, enjoyable super hero who is a bit silly but also wise. His sidekick, a cream-pie throwing rooster named Cheese, brings in the comedic value and offers a good foil for Captain Macaroni. I was especially impressed with the inclusion of a Hispanic character, Eddie and an African-American character, Mikey. Eddie is a genius and gets to throw in a tiny bit of Spanish when talking with Captain Macaroni.

Another great part of the DVD was the humor. It was, as the name suggests, kind of cheesy, but fun. With jokes that kids and adults can enjoy, while still being clean and wholesome. I was very glad to see there was little in the way of teasing or poking fun at other characters (an extremely easy to pick up trait that kids shouldn’t get help with).

The animation is done by the Animation Collective, who also work on cartoons for Disney, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. I really liked the hybrid of Anime and traditional animation styles, which make the cartoon seem modern and enjoyable. Produced in conjunction with Daystar the plot is focused on good values, but told in a way that makes it fun (not preachy).

If you’re looking for a great, wholesome DVD for kids 4-9, I’d say give Captain Mac.A.Roni a try!

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of “The Cheesy Adventures of Captain Macaroni: The Greatest Treasure of All” for review, but the review is entirely my own personal opinion and I was not compensated for this post.

Book Review- “Interview with the Vampire”

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Buy Interview with the Vampire on Amazon.com

Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice is the story of Louis in the series, The Vampire Chronicles. Louis is a wealthy aristocrat in New Orleans. He is bitten by the vampire, Lestat. Lestat makes him into his only companion. Louis struggles with being a vampire. He questions things like good and evil. He only feeds on animals for many years. Lestat will not answer any of Louis’ questions about being a vampire or if there are others. Lestat does not want to lose his companion.

Lestat finally convinces Louis that he must feed on humans. Louis does this, but only on the worst of them, until one night. Louis finds a young girl next to her dead mother one night during his hunt. The girl is close to death. He feeds on the girl, and then Lestat turns her into a vampire. By doing this, he is able to keep Louis from leaving him. Louis has become increasingly repulsed by Lestat, but is now tied to him by their new “vampire daughter.” They name her Claudia.

Claudia’s body remains that of a young girl, but her brain matures. She takes to killing very easily. Louis dotes on her and is happy for a time. After many years of living as a “family,” Claudia decides they should kill Lestat. She’s no fonder of him than Louis has been. She also wants to seek out the “old world” vampires in Europe, and Lestat is dead set against that.

I won’t go any further, so as not to spoil the main plot of the book. The story is told by Louis to a reporter, so sometimes it jumps out of the narrative. It’s a very effective story telling technique. It’s nice to have the reporter there to react or ask questions.

I’ve only seen the movie version of Interview with the Vampire once, but from what I remember, the movie did a great job of depicting the book. One thing that can’t come across in the movie as well is Louis’ inner struggle. He is very torn by his vampire nature against his morality. He still thinks as a human, as the vampire Armand puts it late in the book.

I definitely recommend this book, especially if you like vampires. I plan to continue on with the whole Vampire Chronicles series.

TV Review: Supernatural 5×7 – The Curious Case of Dean Winchester

spn507-0241 Watch Supernatural Thursday nights (9/8c) on the CW.
Not caught up? Buy Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season on Amazon.com

Non-Spoilery Review:

So far in the Supernatural season we’ve had so much about the overall arch that it was nice to take a break and do a “case of the week” type story. While the episode isn’t the highlight of the season it still cleaned up some important emotional points. Sadly it was one of the most poorly constructed (story-wise) episodes I’ve seen from Supernatural in a long time.

Rating: [rating:2.5]

Quotes of the Episode:

Dean: And you beat me here.
Bobby: Brains trumps legs, apparently.

Sam: Have you seen … you?
Dean: The old chick in Titanic, I know.

Doctor: You expect me to believe you’re CDC?
Sam: Excuse me?
Doctor: It’s just that you’re a day early. First time in history I haven’t sat on my ass waiting for you people.
Dean: New administration. Change you can believe in.

Spoilers after the cut.
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