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Monday, April 30, 2012

New Blog Feature

I added a new blog feature today. I've been working on it for a couple of days now, but I worked really hard this afternoon to get it finished so I could put it out here for you guys. There is now a "Reviews" page which you can go to to get a concise archive of all of the episode and character reviews I've ever done. This will be useful to me, so I hope it will be useful and fun to you as well.

In other news, guess who's coming to my house on Friday? Josh from The AIO Fan's Life!!! He and his family are coming to America for the first time in three years, and they're making a stop at my house from Friday to Monday! I'm very excited. Maybe he'll let me post a picture or two of our meeting. :)

P.S. This is my 150th post! And I forgot to post on the blog's anniversary last month, so let's make this the belated anniversary post too. My blog has now been around for two years! I'm so thankful to God for the opportunity to have had this for as long as He's let me had it.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lieutenant Jersey

Well here we are at the end of Odyssey's first four-part episode (unless you count Plan B, but I don't, because it had separate subtitles for each episode :D). My knee-jerk reaction is, I really, really liked it. Album 55 continues to get better and better.

At first I thought that a series of Kid's Radio broadcasts was a weird way to frame the episodes, but it grew on me. It was nice to have little snippets of film reel or radio that explained the parts that would be weird in dialogue. And I liked the way Eugene and Red were able to recap everything at the beginning of each episode instead of there being a "Previously on Adventures in Odyssey..." segment. But one problem I had was that I didn't think the chemistry between Red and Eugene was very good. They were polar opposites in their presentation, and while others may view that as a good thing and that it was good to balance out Eugene's boringness, I'm still not that big a fan of Red. But I have to admit, Red was probably a better choice than Wooton, who may have been the only alternative. I still don't like his accent very much though.

On the subject of accents, I thought that the southern accents throughout the show were actually pretty good. They were definitely better than that of Buck Oliver. Ugh. Although there were actually a few times where I felt like they were fake. I haven't listened to the podcast where the actors who played Alvin and Gracie were interviewed, but I suspect that they aren't native southerners. It showed at times, but it wasn't really bad like it was with Buck.

More than anything, I think I enjoyed the overabundance of references to God and the Bible throughout these episodes. It's been a looong time since we've had such a spiritually-oriented group of episodes. The Jubilee Singers came close, but I don't think it was anywhere near as deep as these. The AIO team decided to discuss a touchy subject, and I applaud them for it. I like it when difficult subjects are touched on, even when I know people will have many varying opinions. I think it's better that AIO take a side on an issue than to just leave it undiscussed. I personally think they took the right side, but even if they didn't, I'm glad they took a step in the direction of controversial subject matter. We haven't really seen any controversy since Album 49 when the writers discussed abortion, gambling, and divorce all in the same collection. I thought it was very reminiscent of the "old days" to have a character figuring out his own convictions based on what he read in Scripture. What a concept! Using the advice of the Lord of the universe to help you make a difficult choice.

The scene at the end of the second episode was my favorite of the whole four parts. It was very good to have an older, wiser character giving biblical advice to a younger, more ignorant character. Verses were used from both the Old and the New Testaments, which is always good. The scene even impressed my dad, which is very hard to do these days. ;P We need to have more scenes like that featuring Mr. Whittaker. The only thing I think we've had so far since the relaunch that was similar to this was Mr. Parker's conversation with Olivia in Wooton Knows Best. And you all know how much I loved that scene. :)

All the action in these episodes was great. The war scenes were very realistic; they were great food for the imagination. And they even got a little intense. It was great to have Dave Arnold introducing the last two episodes because of that intensity. It's been a long time since we've had a parental warning on an episode. I'm thinking maybe...somewhere in Album 49? It made me feel like I was listening to "the old Odyssey" again. It was sad when Alvin's two friends died: Robert and Murray. I was glad that Harry didn't die. He was my favorite of Alvin's friends. He reminded me of Liz Horton's brother Mark in Room Enough for Two. I think he may have been played by the same actor. Oh, actually, AIO Wiki says that he was the voice of Dirk Beggs, but not Mark Horton. All the same, he had a great voice, and very genuine emotions.

I was planning on addressing the historical accuracy of the episodes, but I don't know how much I can, since I hadn't read or heard anything about Sgt. York before the episodes aired. (I actually had it in my head that he was an officer during the Civil War, not WWI!) But I've heard enough from my brother and my best friend who have read York's journal to know that it was pretty close. They both liked the episodes a lot, so it must not have been that terrible of a deviation. ;) They said that the army commander was portrayed a little poorly at the beginning of the second episode. He wasn't really that hard on Alvin. But they said that the discussion about the Bible verses was very accurate. As Red mentioned in Episode I, the book doesn't really say too much about Gracie, so most of the scenes with her were speculation, but I was okay with that. His interactions with her before his salvation went far to show how depraved his heart was.

At the end of it all, I was surprised and amazed at the big accomplishment York made in capturing such a large squadron of German soldiers. I don't know what part that played in the overall ending of the war, but I can imagine that he was heralded as a hero in the hearts of many Americans. You have to do something pretty big to get a letter from the president.

So as you can see, I very much enjoyed these episodes. There were a few quirks, but the good far outweighed the bad in this case. I can't wait to see what is in store for us in the coming final weeks of Album 55!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Grand Design

The title for Album 56 is out! The Grand Design will be available for download later this year, and 3/4 of it has already been recorded. The album art will be released as soon as AIO's Twitter account reaches 1,000 followers! Thank you to AIO Wiki for putting this information out.

It seems like this kind of exciting news always comes when I'm not expecting it for a while. And it usually brightens up my day. Hopefully it brightened yours too! :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Official Guide, Second Edition

The official cover for the second edition of the AIO Official Guide is revealed!

Looks like those of us who guessed that the previously-released "mystery art" was the cover to this book were correct. I don't think it looks as great as the first edition, but it still looks good. It'd be nice if the art covered more of the cover, but I guess it is what it is.

I have to admit, I'm not nearly as excited about this as I was when the first edition was out, but it is still pretty cool. I don't know if I'm going to buy it or not.... I really do want the new information about Albums 51-56, but I'm not convinced that it's worth it, when I'll just be getting another copy of the information about Albums 1-50.

What's your opinion about the artwork? Will you buy the book? Please comment!

EDIT: I just saw this story that features a real-life guy named Barrett Jones. And he's a Christian! And he's even got reddish hair!

Check it out here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Understood as Evil

I probably shouldn't have read Ben Warren's review of this episode at The Changing Times before I tried to review it, because he said everything that I wanted to say, and I might sound like I'm ripping him off, copying everything he said. I'll try to keep this all original, but I'll give the credit to him for bringing most of these thoughts to the forefront of my mind. It has been several days since I read his post though, so I think this should be mostly from my mind.

I really, really, really liked this episode. From the very beginning of the episode, I knew I was going to like it. The episode summary gave away that it was going to have a single storyline, without trying to meld two or three together for a singular moral. Therefore, I had high expectations, since I tend to like singular stories better. And the episode definitely met my high expectations. It was high in entertainment value, it definitely held my attention, and it had a great lesson to be learned.

The plot for this story was very original and genius. Not only have we had very few episodes in nursing homes in the past, but we've never had an episode where someone is cheating one of the residents. I think this is what made the story so emotionally engaging. Two teens stealing money from an old lady is something we can all see as deplorable and evil. So from the beginning, we are genuinely disappointed and frustrated with Jay for taking the money, and then we can later sympathize with him when Vance forces him to keep doing it with blackmail.

The characters and actors were all amazing in this episode. Kelly Stables again did a wonderful job as Olivia. I'm glad the directors decided to keep her on, instead of going back to Hope Levy. Ms. Stables makes her a much more likeable character. Whit Hertford, as always, nailed Jay's character and emotions. Vance's actor gave him the perfect sinister sound. Mrs. Kramer was true to the character we've grown to like over the last few episodes she's been in. And even Andre Stojka surprised me by doing a very good job as Whit. He was only in a couple of scenes, but he seemed much more like Whit than he has in the past. It was great to have him in that climax scene where Jay gets himself caught.

On that note, I don't understand why so many people were confused by Jay's actions in that scene. It totally made sense to me that he was giving himself away. He had already demonstrated that he didn't want to ask for the money anymore, so when he did ask, I knew exactly what he was doing. And I thought it was a very intelligent move. It was a great resolution, and it was what made the episode so great. Jay listened to his conscience and showed us that he is able to do the right thing, even when it meant getting Vance totally ticked at him. And he was content to take the punishment for what he did wrong.

Well I'm running out of time to write this morning, so I'll say, I really loved this episode. It was a true slice-of-life episode, the likes of which we haven't seen for a long time in Odyssey. It was great to hear of places like J&J Antiques and other places around Odyssey that we've known and loved for years. I very much hope that the writers will give us more episodes like these in the future.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I Laughed Out Loud!

Lately, I haven't been posting much Odyssey news, but when I saw this picture just like two minutes ago, I knew I had to post it:

Isn't that like the best art from Gary Locke ever?! I love it! It makes me want to get the book, just so I can hold it in my hands! Oh, it's so cool!!

Now, I have been somewhat disappointed at the emphasis in recent artwork on these four main characters, but I think the action in the picture is so good that it makes up for the use of the usual characters yet again.

What are your thoughts?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

To Tear and Destroy

So, I think I've come up with a solution for catching up with the three episodes I now have to review. Since Sergeant York will be airing for the next four weeks, I'm going to catch up on my reviews during the next month, and then I'll review Sergeant York as a whole after all four parts have aired--like I did with The Jubilee Singers, if any of you can remember that far back. ;)

Anyway, here goes my review for "To Mend or Repair": Wow. I just finished listening to the episode, and that last scene is really touching. I dare to say that it's the first time we've gotten a real, real look at Eugene and Katrina's relationship with each other since "For Better or for Worse," or even "The Turning Point." It makes their marriage feel so much more genuine when you see them crying together. This was a really good episode. I didn't find any of the characters annoying (except maybe Mrs. Kramer xD), and even with the Barrett/Priscilla storyline, there wasn't any dialogue that made me cringe.

I thought that the two storylines wove together very, very well, and the combined force of the two aspects of helping others suffer leaves a big impact. Both stories were very easy to relate to, even though the Eugene/Katrina part would apply more to adults. Even though both were fairly sad, they left me with a good feeling; I guess it's just pleasing to see people with hearts help each other through hard times.

I'm almost at a loss for words about this episode. I liked it so much, and there's so much I could say, but it's hard to articulate everything. So forgive me if none of this is making much sense. I loved the episode; that's the jist of it. This episode definitely had more of a heart than The Labyrinth, and even though those episodes were action-packed and interesting, I can almost say that this episode was just as, if not more captivating than that three-parter. The characters were so real, and the issues dealt with were real, everyday issues that so many deal with.

There wasn't really a takeaway moral, other than that we should all learn to be sensitive and try to compassionately help others through any hurt they're experiencing. But this episode seemed to be directed toward helping us grow with the characters and having the characters grow on us. This episode and "Unbecoming Jay" have both softened my heart toward the Barrett and Priscilla relationship in a way that "When You're Right, You're Right" never could have. The writers are definitely getting better at writing for these characters as they go, and they are totally succeeding in making, me at least, feel for them.

On a lighter note, I liked Mrs. Kramer and Jay in this episode. Their humor wasn't sidesplittingly funny, but it was just enough to lighten the mood, and keep things moving along. I also liked Whit for the first time in a while. We only heard from him for a couple of minutes, but what I heard I liked. Oh, and Connie was really good in this episode. But I'm glad that Eugene was ultimately the one to comfort Katrina, rather than Connie. I was afraid it was going to turn into a girlfriend-comforts-girlfriend pity party, sort of like in the Eugene Returns episode, which is okay, but I like husband-comforts-wife way better. :)

I think that's about all I have to say about this episode. I know the review is a little mish-mashed and unorderly, but hopefully you guys can deal with it. :P Look for my review of "Mistaken for Good" next week! Please leave any comments you have about your thoughts about the episode or my review. Thanks!