LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle (4842)



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Review:

Harry Potter and Lego are two of my daughter’s favorite things. And mine.

Unfortunately, the Harry Potter theme hasn’t come out with any new sets since 2011, so we missed the opportunity to buy any new, but this Hogwarts set is our favorite of the sets that were produced. Unfortunately, it now sells for over $300. 🙁

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Spot It! Alphabet



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Review:

Want to play

If Spot It! Alphabet is as fun as the original Spot It! it seems like a great way to help teach the letters.

Spot It



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Review:

A fast paced card game that builds visual perception and was a huge hit with my daughter in particular. There are several different variations.

My rating: (4 / 5)

The Borgias Season Three Review



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Review:

With Juan out of the picture, Cesare’s transformation into “The Prince” of Machiavelli’s famous political treatise is well underway and season three of The Borgias really belongs to him… and Francois Arnaud.

Cesare finally consummates his incestuous passion for his sister Lucrezia, raises his own personal army when his father refuses to give him control of the Papal Army, douses a traitor with sulfur and sets him alight, and generally becomes a force to be reckoned with for everyone from his old nemesis Caterina Sforza to the new King and Queen of France to his own father. His arc is compelling, well acted, and produces some of the best television of the show’s entire run.

On the downside, poor Lucrezia spends much of the season stuck in Naples with a wet blanket husband and his comically evil relatives (none of whom, alas, are even a tenth the fun of Augustus Prew’s cackling Alfonso back in season one), and you can almost feel Neil Jordan and his writers losing interest in some of the secondary characters. Giulia and della Rovere virtually disappear, and Micheletto gets saddled with a ludicrously improbable gay romance. Even Alexander himself gets a rather mixed bag, plot-wise, though a fairly entertaining one. (Madwomen! Scheming Jews! Murder in the consistory!)

Sadly, the fun is never to continue, as the show was cancelled by Showtime. Though uneven throughout its run, when The Borgias was good, it was very, very good, and its premature cancellation was a sad loss to its fans, and to television.

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My rating: (4 / 5)

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The Borgias Season Two Review



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Review:

Season two continues the saga of the Borgia family with enemies regrouping all around. Again, there are a few problems with pacing (most notably with the interminable and boring subplot about Lucrezia’s Genovese suitor and his brother in the second half of the season), but the season also contains some of the show’s best episodes. In particular, season 2 makes much better use of the awesome “Tigress of Forli,” Caterina Sforza (Gina McKee), than the first season did, and the tensions between Cesare, Juan, and Lucrezia come to a head.

My rating: (4 / 5)
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The Borgias Season One Review



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Review:

The Borgias is one of my favorite tv shows of recent years. Though its historical accuracy is mixed at best, it’s well acted, mostly well scripted, and gorgeous to look at in every respect. Jeremy Irons looks like he’s having the most fun of his career chewing the scenery as the notorious Borgia pope, Alexander VI, but the breakout star of the cast for me was Francois Arnaud as Rodrigo’s son Cesare.

The show did suffer a bit from uneven pacing throughout its run, and season one is no exception, but overall it was a strong start.

My rating: (4 / 5)

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LEGO Castle Medieval Market Village (10193)



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Review:

On my wishlist.

This detailed set is considered one of the best recent sets from the Castle theme (my favorite) and I’ve been longing to build it for ages. It looks like it has great play value as well.

Les Miserables 10th Anniversary Concert Album Review

Review:



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If you’ve spent any time around theater geeks, you know that the question of which Les Miserables cast album is the best is a topic that can lead to heated arguments, and even feuds. This one gets my vote.

Though the production itself was visually bland (a bunch of people standing on stage in costumes and singing into microphones), it was able to get most of the most legendary stars of the first ten years, and the vocals are simply outstanding. Colm Wilkinson. Philip Quast. Lea Salonga. Michael Ball. Alun Armstrong. It’s called the “Dream Cast” for good reasons – the names are enough to send almost any theater lover into raptures. And they live up to their reputations.

My rating: (5 / 5)

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Mulan

Review:



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The single best Disney movie to show to girls (and boys), in my opinion.

Although Disney has gotten much better at presenting well-rounded and interesting heroines in recent years, many Disney movies still focus ultimately on romance. In Mulan, by contrast, the romance is a minor and understated subplot, and the focus is squarely on Mulan’s quest to save her father’s life and bring honor to her family. Along the way, her cleverness, resourcefulness, and quick thinking save China as well.

In addition to providing a great role model, Mulan also has some great songs, lots of action and humor, and lovely animation. A must-have for any family video collection.

My rating: (5 / 5)

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The Complete Calvin & Hobbes



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Review:

In You’ve Got Mail, Joe Fox describes the film The Godfather as “the I-Ching,” the “sum of all wisdom.” That’s approximately how I feel about Calvin & Hobbes. It was my favorite strip as a child and I saved my birthday money to buy every new collection when it came out. Today, most of them are battered and falling apart after being read over and over by myself, my siblings, my children, my nieces and nephews, and other relatives and friends for 20 years. I’ve been dreaming of this collectors’ edition of the complete strip for years.

My rating: (5 / 5)

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