Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Underwhelming Aroma: Limited Edition Renuzit Aroma Adjustables Crème Brulee!

The Good: Inexpensive enough, Easy to use
The Bad: Exceptionally weak scent, Limited edition nature, Does not endure all that well.
The Basics: The Creme Brulee Renuzit Aroma Adjustable has a scent for about ten minutes, but it’s weak and it does not endure at all.

My wife and I are working hard to save money and keep our apartment clean and smelling great. This is not always easy with our Siberian Husky who is shedding early this year. So, when we were out looking at clearance products at our local grocery store, she leapt on the limited edition Renuzit Aroma Adjustables that were being clearance there. When she “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed over the Crème Brulee flavor, I knew that was coming home with us. Now, a month later, I’m sad to say that the Crème Brulee scent is probably limited edition because it is one of the least impressive scents/products in the Renuzit Aroma Adjustables product line.

Renuzit Aroma Adjustables are best analogized as scented candles without the wick. These are waxy cones that come in a plastic cone package that are actually solidified essential oils that emit a scent. The principle behind them is simple; air passes through them, they slowly effervesce throughout a room and for a month, the living environment is supposed to smell like the scent the Adjustables claims to have, in this case, Creme Brulee. The principle is a generally good one; Renuzit Aroma Adjustables eliminate the potential danger of burning down one's house by having an inflammable odor-releaser and offer long-lasting odor coverage.

Unfortunately the Creme Brulee Adjustables does not have either a strong intial scent or an induring aroma to it. Renuzit Aroma Adjustables have an instant scent, like for about ten minutes. Unfortunately, the scent did not even permeate a room, so the scent of cinnamon and vanilla is only strong for about ten minutes when sticking one’s nose directly into it. Given that the point of this little device is supposed to be making odor control effortless - as opposed to having to light a candle every day or two and remember to blow it out - the Creme Brulee Renuzit Aroma Adjustables fails horribly.

The Renuzit Aroma Adjustables are five-inch tall plastic cones that look like an overturned snowcone. The base is a black plastic dish that reveals the black of the Creme Brulee air freshener inside. Use is ridiculously simple; twist the black cap up and set in a place where one wants fresher air. Opening the Adjustables only half an inch gives access to the faint smell very briefly.

The Creme Brulee Renuzit Aroma Adjustables smells like vanilla and cinnamon . . . for only about ten minutes and within a few feet of the Adjustables.

The Crème Brulee Renuzit Aroma Adjustable is a good theory with a poor execution. Opening the air freshener half an inch gave us a reprieve for a few minutes. There is the option to open the product more, which is a simple matter of raising the plastic cone on top higher. This does disperse more of the Adjustables's scent, but within two hours, I could not smell anything from the Crème Brulee Adjustables, even in our small bedroom. For the remainder of the month this was open in our home, it did not have a noticeable scent.

The Adjustables are easy enough to use; after about a month the black waxy portion that initially looked like a candle will be shriveled to look more like an apple core and even sticking one's nose into it will not reveal the smell it originally had. At that time, the plastic cone and dish may simply be thrown away. This is very easy to use and when placed in high places, it is very safe for use around children and animals.

My problem is that it does not work, not even for a couple of hours. The Crème Brulee scent of Renuzit Aroma Adjustables is ineffective and not worth picking up, even on clearance.

For other scented product, check out my reviews of:
Renuzit Adjustables Limited Edition Mandarin Lemonade
ScentSationals Oatmeal Cookie Wickless Wax Cubes
California Scents Coronado Cherry Fragrance Sprays


For other home and garden product reviews, please visit my Home And Garden Product Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Matthew Perry And Allison Janney Prove (Briefly) They Have Talent Untapped In Mr. Sunshine!

The Good: Very funny, Interesting characters, Generally amazing acting
The Bad: SHORT! Lack of DVD bonus features/chapters
The Basics: Mr. Sunshine was a thirteen episode television series that gave Matthew Perry and Allison Janney the chance to show off their talents after Friends and The West Wing, respectively, which unfortunately got cancelled long before its time!

After a long-running series, it is hard for actors and actresses to find a role that can match their iconic role that made them a household name. Few casts have had trouble finding consistent work like the cast of Friends (reviewed here!) and The West Wing (reviewed here!). Of the six main cast members of Friends, Matthew Perry seems to have tried the most new network television projects and failed. While I might be one of the few people who loved Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (reviewed here!) with Matthew Perry (and, ironically, The West Wing-alum Bradley Whitford), Perry’s terrible luck made me fall in love with a second prematurely cancelled television series, Mr. Sunshine.

The real story with Mr. Sunshine is Allison Janney. Janney followed Bradley Whitford and Rob Lowe back to regular series roles after the end of her seven years on The West Wing. While some of the other members of the cast returned to doing guest roles or films, Janney tried to stretch her performing wings on Mr. Sunshine and she proved to be exceptionally versatile in the role of the crazy, addled stadium owner, Crystal Cohen.

Ben Donnovan is the manager of the Sunshine Center, a 17,000 person stadium in San Diego. He is shocked one day when the stadium’s owner, Crystal, brings her adult son to him and orders him to give him a job. Roman is good at absolutely nothing and Ben struggles to find a place for Roman. At the same time, his girlfriend, the marketing manager Alice, decides that she is going to commit to Alonzo (a former NBA star who now works at the Sunshine Center), breaking things off with Ben. While Ben avoids his own assistant, the legitimately crazy Heather (who once set a man on fire), he takes pity on Roman and lets the adult child move in with him.

As the season progresses, Ben slowly becomes less self-centered. He handholds Crystal when she freaks out on the anniversary of the day she lost her true love (which inspires a guest appearance by James Taylor) and he has to learn the name of all of the people who work under him at the Sunshine Center when the air conditioning kicks out. Ben has to put up with a spoiled child rock star and has an uncomfortable date with Heather’s sister and manages to bag a beautiful woman who is reminiscent of him at the beginning of the season (a woman who is just looking for a completely casual relationship). While Ben evolves, it begins to make him realize all he lost with Alice and the changes in his life actually lead Alice to notice him again.

Mr. Sunshine derives most of its humor from phenomenally funny lines, as opposed to the situations. The plots to the episodes are often very tame – Ben gets waylaid by Crystal, so Roman has to entertain a lingerie football player Ben hooks up with whenever she is in town or Alice and Alonzo come to believe Crystal is a racist and try to change her perceptions on black people – but it is the lines that are audacious and laugh-out-loud funny. Matthew Perry delivers his lines with an anhedonic quality that is distinct and different from any other character I’ve seen him play. Allison Janney is absolutely loopy as Crystal Cohen and she delivers her lines with an earnestness that is hilarious (when she sings the song about all the different ethnicities of children with wide, eager eyes, it is impossible not to smile).

The thirteen episodes of Mr. Sunshine create a core of six memorable characters. In the sole season of Mr. Sunshine, the characters are:

Ben Donovan – Boyish and happy working for the Sunshine Center, he is entirely self-absorbed. He, for example, only refers to his past relationship with Alice as “the time we were sleeping together.” He lets Roman move in with him and he often has to remind Crystal of her son’s existence. He negotiates with multiple young women for sex through the course of the season and has to keep a teen heartthrob happy so he will actually perform at the Sunshine Center. He stops going only for casual sex and works to develop real relationships, which makes him look back in Alice’s direction,

Alice – A cheerful marketing manager, she decides she wants to commit to Alonzo. She becomes frustrated when Alonzo is so busy doing good things that she will never be first in his mind. She tries to one-up her high school rival when she visits the Sunshine Center and she briefly mentors under Crystal to learn how to be confident,

Alonzo – A former NBA player who failed to make a key basket in a game years prior, he now works community outreach at the Sunshine Center. He is perpetually happy and loves being in a relationship with Alice. Technically still married, he does things like give blood, organize charity events and coaches a team of at-risk young women (not quite realizing how bad “Alonzo’s Ladies” sounds!),

Roman – Something of an idiot, he is eager to try new things. He falls for Ben’s psychotic assistant, hard. He gets jealous when Heather and Ben spend time together, but covers for Ben when Ben needs favors. He works as Alice’s assistant, which leads Alice to stop trusting him because of the way he blabs to Ben,

Heather – One of Alonzo’s outreach projects, she came to work at the Sunshine Center on an internship. Having once set a man on fire, she keeps Ben continually on-edge. She is eager to please and falls for Roman’s earnestness,

and Crystal Cohen – The drug-addled owner of the Sunshine Center, she delegates to Ben on most things. When her adult son, Roman, pops back into her life, she has no idea how to be a mother. She resents the Smurfs, is thrilled by mysterious men and admits to being married six times, only five of which were consummated. She has an oddly close relationship with one of the cleaning women at the Sunshine Center and is devastated when Nadia dies abruptly. She briefly mentors Alice, but discovers Alice does not have her tolerance for drugs that she does.

Mr. Sunshine has an amazing cast led by Matthew Perry and Allison Janney. Andrea Anders makes a credible romantic interest for both Matthew Perry’s Ben and James Lesure’s Alonzo, though she often plays Alice like she played her character from Better Off Ted (season 1 is reviewed here!). Nate Torrence plays Roman with a familiar goofiness, but he brings an endearing quality to the role that sparks well with Portia Doubleday (who plays the wide-eyed crazy Heather).

Ultimately, though, Mr. Sunshine is thirteen delightful episodes that replay, like most outrageous comedies with diminishing humor. The DVD set is one of SONY’s “burn on demand” discs, so there are absolutely no frills (not even episode menus!) on the two-disc DVD set. Given how fast Mr. Sunshine was cancelled by ABC, it is unlikely that a better version of the show will ever make it to DVD. As a result, I make a strong recommendation for getting the set now; it’s worth it, even if it left Matthew Perry and Allison Janney looking for work and the show’s five fans pining for more episodes.

For other television series' that made their debut on ABC, please check out my reviews of:
”Turn, Turn, Turn” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Happy Endings - Season 1
V - Season 2
Pushing Daisies - Season 1
Boston Legal
The Job
Once & Again - Season 2
Once & Again - Season 1
Sports Night
Spin City - Season 1
NYPD Blue - Season 4
Twin Peaks
V - The Complete Series
Battlestar Galactica - The Complete Epic Series


For other television and movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Hippolytus Is A Background Character In His Own Tragic Play By Euripides.

The Good: Some decent lines, Ethics, Tragic story
The Bad: Incredibly simple, Very monolithic characters, Ridiculously simple plot
The Basics: The Euripides play Hippolytus has a very basic story with a clear Greek moral that might be better if it had action motivated by characters, as opposed to nebulous, manipulative, gods.

Lately, I’ve been on a classic play kick. I’ve been reading Euripides and the latest play by the ancient Greek playwright I have read is Hippolytus. Hippolytus is one of those plays that would never be made into an American movie for two key reasons: first, the plot is pretty creepy and deals with incestual lust and second, the major actions are not motivated by the primary characters. There is something very uncompelling about watching a work where the characters are simply tools as opposed to motivating the plot. Yet, in Hippolytus, the characters are basically playthings of the gods without actually having independent strength of their own.

Moreover, as a very simplistic play, Hippolytus does not rely upon a dramatic sense of movement or action. Instead, Hippolytus has all of its important action occur off-stage and Euripides tells as opposed to show in his writing. The Chorus in Hippolytus is relied upon heavily to sell the events of the plot, which makes for a pretty disappointing play (to read and use one’s imagination to imagine watching).

At the royal palace at Trozen, Queen Phaedra is troubled. Her stepson, Hippolytus, is a devote of Artemis. Artemis, among other things, is a Goddess of Virginity and Hippolytus is celibate. As a result, Hippolytus has offended Aphrodite, the Goddess of sexual love. Aphrodite curses Phaedra with a lust for Hippolytus. Phaedra realizes her feelings are wrong and refuses to act upon her sexual attraction to her stepson, but she confesses her feelings to her nurse. Her nurse, in turn, tells Hippolytus how Phaedra feels and advises the boy to consider relieving her pressure. Pissed off and offended, Hippolytus confronts his stepmother, but does not tell anyone of her feelings because he made an oath to the nurse not to tell anyone before she revealed Phaedra’s secret.

Embarrassed beyond belief and still cursed with the lust, Phaedra kills herself. King Theseus returns home to discover his wife dead and is distraught. When he finds Phaedra’s suicide note on her, he is angered at Hippolytus. In her suicide note, Phaedra claims that Hippolytus raped her and she killed herself to avoid the shame. Theseus banishes Hippolytus, who does not tell of Phaedra’s lustful feelings because of the promise he made. Leaving the kingdom, Hippolytus’s boat get beaten upon the rocks and he is nearly killed before the truth comes out.

Hippolytus is an exceptionally basic tragedy. It has a clear moral: don’t fuck your kids. Or, alternatively, don’t lie/some promises are not worth keeping or have sex of you’ll offend the gods. Anyway, the moral story leads to tragedy for all involved and it would be so much more compelling if one cared at all about the characters. As it is, the characters are just manipulated because Aphrodite is a pissy goddess who punishes one guy who just won’t give it away.

The problem is, Aphrodite is not characterized as interesting. She is just shallow and vengeful against a man who retains his virginity. Given how many people there were in Greece, punishing one man for not giving it up seems more ridiculous than divine and powerful. There’s not even a powerful relationship between Aphrodite and Artemis in Hippolytus. The result is a somewhat random grudge match with humans as tools of the gods. That part is not exactly a message that resonates today.

For other plays, please check out my reviews of:
Alcestis – Euripides
Arms And The Man – George Bernard Shaw
An Enemy Of The People – Arthur Miller


For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

“Divergence” Is Brought Down By Speed 3 Subplot!

The Good: Decent retcon plot for most of the episode, Special effects, Concept in the larger Star Trek continuity. Decent character development for Phlox.
The Bad: Opening plotline, Jolene Blalock’s performance, Questionable medical science
The Basics: What could have been great is constantly undermined in “Divergence” as Star Trek: Enterprise tries to reconcile the different appearances of Klingons in the franchise.

One of the enduring mysteries in the Star Trek franchise was how the Klingons went from being the Klingons as seen in Star Trek versus how they appeared in the rest of the Star Trek franchise. The jig was up for the writers writing their way out of the problem easily when “Blood Oath” (reviewed here!) aired on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. That episode featured three Klingons from the original Star Trek appearing in modern Klingon make-up. That meant whatever happened to the Klingons, it had to be something that would change. The malleable nature of the Klingons was further suggested with the theorizing by the Defiant officers in “Trials And Tribble-ations” (reviewed here!). That the change in the Klingon appearance would be something the prequel series was forced to deal with came when “Broken Bow” (reviewed here!) started the series out with the modern Klingon make-up. “Divergence” is where the split in the Klingon race is finally made explicit.

“Divergence” is the follow-up to “Affliction” (reviewed here!). It is impossible to discuss “Divergence” without revealing aspects of “Affliction.” “Divergence” is brought down by an opening act that is troublingly dull and forced by a minute subplot introduced in the final moments of “Affliction.” Basically, the opening to “Divergence” is a ridiculous remake of Speed and it guts the momentum of the episode from the outset.

With the Enterprise forced to stay above Warp 5, lest it explode, the Columbia is sent to rescue it. Putting the Enterprise within its warp field, Columbia makes a tether to the Enterprise over which Tucker travels. Aboard the Enterprise, Tucker takes command of Engineering and works with T’Pol to disable the Klingon subroutine infecting their computer. With Reed exposed to Archer as a traitor, Archer works to discover what Reed’s alternative orders are. Reed begrudgingly agrees to put Archer in touch with Harris.

With the Klingon attack fleet headed to Koval Colony to destroy it in order to stop the plague Phlox was kidnapped to cure, Phlox is feeling pressure to perform. He and Antaak come up with a reasonable (if devious) plan. Lying to General K’Vagh, they develop a treatment for the Augment virus sweeping through the Klingon Empire. Having developed four potential treatments, Phlox reluctantly experiments on live Klingons until he finds the treatment that will work. When Archer tries to rescue Phlox as the colony falls under Klingon attack, he becomes the test subject needed for Phlox to create an accelerated treatment for the virus.

The concept of “Divergence” is one that is problematically executed. The Section 31 plotline makes less sense than one might hope. That Klingons were trying to make their own Augments is a good idea; that they would stop because of the setback in “Affliction” and “Divergence” is less believable. The explanation is an interesting one and the relationship between the Klingons and Augments is a cool idea.

On the character front, “Divergence” is most intensely focused on Reed. Over the course of the episode, Lieutenant Reed commits to Archer over Harris and while there is no compelling reason for that, it shows some growth. That Reed has only been contacted by Harris once since Reed joined the Enterprise makes little sense as well, considering the Enterprise has been involved in such things as saving the Earth from the Xindi and one might suspect Section 31 would have had a vested interest in, for example, stopping the Andorians from getting the Xindi prototype in “Proving Ground” (reviewed here!).

T’Pol is glossed over for having an emotional attachment to Tucker in “Divergence,” but that makes no real sense. T’Pol has, by this point, committed absolutely to Surak’s philosophies of unemotionalism and so she should be much more adept at hiding her emotions. Jolene Blalock’s performance is annoyingly conflicted and decidedly un-Vulcan. The other major character moment comes from Dr. Phlox. Phlox basically uses biological weapons on Klingons, with Archer’s aid and that seems like a huge character detraction. That “Divergence” offers no time to reflect upon it is even worse.

Ultimately “Divergence” is one of those episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise where the writers were given a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to overcome and they did the best they could to rectify one of the problems of the franchise.

The two biggest gaffes in “Divergence:”
2. If the Klingons were altered by Augment DNA, it makes no sense that Augments would not still be fresh in the minds of the Enterprise crew in “Space Seed” (reviewed here!) and that people like Dax would not know the truth in “Trials And Tribble-ations,”
1. How the hell does Section 31 ever develop if one of its early, powerful, operatives is an ineffective and untrustworthy operative like Harris, who is outed so easily?!

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - The Complete Fourth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the final season here!

For other works with John Schuck, please visit my reviews of:
“Muse” - Star Trek: Voyager
“The Maquis, Part 2” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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The Hunger Matrix Mess: Divergent Is A Poor Amalgamation Of Better Ideas.

The Good: Effects are fine, Most of the acting is convincing-enough
The Bad: Dull plot, Listless characters, Ridiculous setting
The Basics: Despite serious conceptual problems, Divergent is watchable . . . even if it is not very good.

For all of my issues with the film Divergent, which will follow, I wanted to start off with a positive note from the Credit Where Credit Is Due Department. For all of the problems with Divergent, it has singlehandedly revitalized the Teen Fantasy Literature Turned Movie Genre. Since the end of The Twilight Saga (reviewed here!), the genre has been flooded with movies and the only one to reliably continue the trend of making blockbuster films was The Hunger Games (reviewed here!) and its sequel. Despite other films, like Beautiful Creatures (reviewed here!) and the recent Vampire Academy (reviewed here!) film adaptations containing many of the same elements that made earlier teen lit film adaptations successful, none have captured the imagination of their audience – and, more importantly, a broader audience – since then.

Until now, with Divergent.

Only, I am at a loss as to figure out why. Divergent is yet another dystopian future where people live in servitude to an oppressive regime and only teenage characters seem to be able to save the world by trying to topple the oppressors. There’s the obligatory love plotline and everyone in the thing is too damn good looking to live in a world that is otherwise as unclean as the sets and setting demands. But on top of all that, Divergent is just so damn predictable! Anyone who loves film, has seen any films of a similar ilk and has a working brain will be able to call almost all of the direction of Divergent as soon as each new element is introduced. In fact, the only seemingly original aspects of Divergent, which is like The Hunger Games minus the bloodsport, seem heavily lifted from The Matrix (reviewed here!). Yes, the mindwiped, centrally-controlled zombie army that appears in the last act bears a striking resemblance to the concept of the Mr. Smith character (or other Agent characters) from The Matrix. As it always behooves me to, it is worth mentioning that I have not read the book upon which Divergent is based.

Following a great and terrible war that has decimated the human population, the remnants of society are living in the remains of Chicago, which is protected from unnamed threats outside by a massive fence. Inside the city, humans now live under a strict caste system based on a combination of birth and personality (most of the population stays within the caste in which they are born, though everyone has the choice of which caste to join when they come of age). Outside the farming caste and the truthful Candor faction, there are three relevant factions within normal society: the selfless Abnegation faction (who are so giving that they are the only ones who are trusted to run the place, despite there being a caste that is built around unwavering honesty and one has to wonder how the farming group is not considered selfless), the intelligent Erudites, and the Dauntless who are so brave that they are given the job of policing the city and its borders and keeping everyone inside safe (though their entrance into the film is a raucous tribute to parkour, which is hardly a great example of law abiding behavior). Those who flunk out of the tests needed to train in the various Factions end up factionless as the derelicts of society. Those who show multiple aptitudes and refuse to play along with the government’s long con can escape the system and join the rebel Divergent Faction, which seems to be causing trouble, though none is specifically detailed in Divergent. So, that’s the troubling world of Divergent, where apparently the people stop counting to five or they just can’t wrap their heads around the fact that there are, de facto, seven Factions.

Beatrice Prior and her brother have come of age and they are to be tested to determine which Factions they will join. They come from the Abnegation faction, whose leader Marcus is mired in rumors of impropriety that threaten the Faction’s dominance over the other groups. When Beatrice is tested to be sure her aptitude is for the Abnegation caste, her tester is alarmed when she shows aptitudes for multiple Factions. She is a Divergent and her tester warns her not to rock the boat by revealing herself. The next day, the Prior family shocks the assembled population when Beatrice’s brother, Caleb, chooses to join the intellectual Erudites and Beatrice decides she’s going to be a Dauntless. She backs up her first bad decision by volunteering to be the first Dauntless initiate to jump blindly into a pit (which is presented as far less brave and far stupider than one might hope). Befriending Christina and changing her name to Tris, Beatrice joins the Dauntless and discovers it mostly means getting her ass handed to her by a bunch of people who are a lot more aggressive than she is.

Tris endures and she takes tutelage from the mysterious Dauntless trainer, Four, who is older but still age-appropriate to get her thunder rolling. As Tris slowly works her way out of the bottom of the leaderboard to remain in the Dauntless when the training is complete, she gets warnings from Four, her mother, and the leader of the Erudites, Jeanine, who all have an inkling that Tris does not truly belong with the Dauntless. Despite all that, Tris manages to pass her tests. She does so at the exact time that the Erudites finally make their move on the government. Using the Dauntless, who become mind-controlled pawns for the Erudites (believing they are being given a tracker), the society is menaced by Jeanine and her gun-toting thugs. Immune to the programming, Tris, Four, and the small cadre of Abnegation citizens they rescue must overthrow the killers and brilliant people in the city to restore order to society.

Divergent is one of those movies that is not unpleasant to watch, but the more one thinks about it, the more it completely falls apart. In fact, this is a painfully easy film to nitpick to death to the point where it would be hard for fans of the books to not sit and admit that the whole premise is so painfully flawed as to be ridiculous. The nitpicks range from the huge – if the purpose of the factions is to insure order and the natural flow of society, why is the aptitude test a subjective experience that is administered by a (fallible, corruptible) human being?! – to the easily-overlooked sensible details that make no rational sense as presented in the film; Abnegation citizens are supposedly so selfless that they are only allowed a few moments in front of a mirror each day. We see Beatrice use a spoon to look at herself; why aren’t all Abnegation citizens given silverware that is powercoated or enameled to be opaque instead of reflective, to avoid just such a cheat?! The first question, though, is problematic and it becomes more so as the movie goes on; various tests involve Four watching Tris’s thoughts and dreams and interpreting them (yea, psychoanalysis by a soldier!). These scenes work great on a metaphoric level, much like the cave scene in The Empire Strikes Back (reviewed here!), but they become incredibly problematic on a literal and filmmaking level (they kill the film’s pace each time they come up and foreshadow all of the film’s potentially audacious moments) each time they crop up after the initial test.

The concept of the factionless class makes no real sense either; what is the point of a caste system if you can flunk out of it?! Divergent is set in a world that does not make rational sense. That undermines the film from the outset.

On the character front, it is equally hard to get into Divergent. The moment the concept of Divergents are introduced, it seems obvious that Beatrice will end up as one of the special multitalented outcasts (farbeit for Hollywood to make a movie where the protagonist is an Untouchable with absolutely no marketable skills in their society). But Divergents seem like they would, rationally, be a super-caste, as opposed to outcasts and Tris and the other main character who utterly unsurprisingly turns out to be a Divergent as well are played as more-than instead of other-than, which makes one baffled about how this society has been maintained for a hundred years. The thing is, Tris is entirely unremarkable. She does not seem particularly smart, strong, compassionate or anything, save in one exercise where she illustrates three-dimensional thinking that makes a more powerful implicit anti-military statement than any other in the film (the militaristic Dauntless Faction is not made up of great thinkers, which means that even their most fearless generals and tacticians should have nothing in the way of tactical/strategic knowledge the way the Erudites would. So, yes, Veronica Roth and the writers who adapted her novel seem to be implying that “military intelligence” is a complete oxymoron in the world of Divergent).

So, Tris is boring, Four is generically good-looking and likes Tris for no particular reason, Caleb is supposedly smart but gulliable, and there are far more Divergents passing for members of factions than anyone knows. Throw in the generic sidekick, Chris, and the random psychopath lackey, Peter, and you have a film.

That said, the acting is fine (if unremarkable). It’s nice to see Ashley Judd getting work again and as Tris’s mother, she has the chance to remind viewers how well she can dominate a scene. Her character’s short arc is memorable only in that it gives Ashley Judd the uncommon opportunity to play a leader character. Miles Teller is good as Peter; there’s not a hint of his redneck hick character from Footloose (reviewed here!) in his performance of the angry and unsettling Dauntless soldier. But the leads are mediocre at best; Shailene Woodley has no real on-screen presence as Tris and Theo James could have been swapped out with virtually any other Hunky McGoodlooking actor of his generation without losing anything.

So, while the success of Divergent at the box office is already encouraging the studio to make the third book into two films and might just get some other films based on teen fantasy literature greenlit for production, it’s hard to make the argument that continuing the trend based on the strength of this film is actually a good thing.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Rio 2
Hateship Loveship
Only Lovers Left Alive
Authors Anonymous
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Cheap Thrills
Veronica Mars


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

So This Is What Sting Wants To Do . . . If On A Winter’s Night…

The Good: Good vocals/harmonies
The Bad: Short, Musically unimaginative, Vocally unimaginative, Lyrically dull
The Basics: If On A Winter’s Night... has Sting doing what he wants, which is apparently making bland holiday music.

When I reviewed the Sting album, Songs From The Labyrinth (Here!), I cut Sting a lot of slack. After all, there is something inherently awesome about a musical artist getting to the point in their career and personal development where they say to hell with commercialism and produce exactly what they damn well please. Songs From The Labyrinth is cool because Sting wanted to make an Elizabethan music album and he pulled it off admirably. The same cannot be said of If On A Winter’s Night.... If On A Winter’s Night... is a very similar album to Songs From The Labyrinth, save that it is a thematic album: all of the songs are about winter, Christmas, and holiday bonding. Where Songs From The Labyrinth was a cool musical experiment, If On A Winter’s Night... sounds much more like the artist got stuck in a rut. If On A Winter’s Night... is a vocally-driven album that sounds like Renaissance light rock. Largely, it sounds like b-sides from Songs From The Labyrinth and those who come to Sting’s music because of his pop-rock foundation will find that he has strayed to an utterly unrecognizable place on If On A Winter’s Night….

With fifteen tracks, occupying just over fifty minutes of the c.d.’s capacity, the biggest strike against If On A Winter’s Night… is that it is boring, with a close second being that it is short. I suppose it’s a catch-22, but I prefer an album be packed, even if I do not particularly enjoy it. What does appear on the album is largely the musical vision of Sting. Sting wrote (or co-wrote) the lyrics for three of the songs and performed the English adaptation of another. While that might sound somewhat unimpressive considering how much influence Sting usually has over his own albums, most of the songs on the album are traditional or adapted from poems that are now in the public domain. As well, Sting came up with music for a Robert Louis Stevenson poem on “Christmas At Sea.” Sting performs all of the primary vocals and he plays an instrument (percussion, lute, etc.) on almost every song. Sting is a co-producer of the album, which means that If On A Winter’s Night… is the album he intended to make at the time!.

Sting presents his usual, smooth vocals on If On A Winter’s Night.... He stays safely in his alto range on If On A Winter’s Night... and it seems his purpose is largely to get those not into classic poetry into it; as a result, every line, every word is sung crystal clear. Unfortunately, because the album is dominated by his voice (the instrumentals are, truly, accompaniment to the instrument that is Sting’s voice), the songs have a tendency to blend together. Sting holds notes, sings sleepily, and evokes a very chill mood. Sting goes lower on “You Only Cross My Mind In Winter,” but by that point in the album, it’s hard to believe most listeners would still even be awake.

Instrumentally, If On A Winter’s Night… is similarly dull. The guitars and lutes blandly follow Sting’s vocals. Outside the annoyingly repetitive “Soul Cake,” which utilizes trumpets and up-tempo guitars, If On A Winter’s Night… is depressingly slow and musically bland. The strings are soft, the percussion subtle, and the net result is that there are no real hum-able tunes on the album.

Ultimately, outside those utterly sick of every other holiday album in the universe, I am at a loss as to for whom If On A Winter’s Night would appeal. The best track is “You Only Cross My Mind In Winter,” the rest of the album is pretty forgettable and bland.

For other works featuring Sting or The Police, please visit my reviews of:
Fields Of Gold: The Best Of Sting 1984 - 1994
Sacred Love
Every Breath You Take: The Singles - The Police


For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page where the albums are organized from best to worst!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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The Tough Sell Of The Independent Film: Hateship Loveship Has Good Components For A Cliché Story.

The Good: Kristen Wiig’s performance, Decent direction, Moments of realism
The Bad: Storytelling gaps, Oppressive mood, Unremarkable and uninteresting characters
The Basics: Despite a strong last third, Hateship Loveship remains a difficult-to-watch, awkward film with pretty stellar performances and direction.

As the weekends devolve into blockbuster releases that generally trade on spectacle over substance, I find myself turning toward independent cinema with the hope of seeing worthwhile movies. To that end, I took in Hateship Loveship this afternoon. Hateship Loveship is the latest Kristen Wiig vehicle and the indie film follows Wiig’s post-Saturday Night Live career. Wiig seems to alternate between taking reliable blockbuster projects and independent films (like Girl Most Likely). Wiig seems to be determined to get taken seriously as an actress and in Hateship Loveship there is no hint of any of her goofy comedic characters that made her so successful as a sketch comedy performer. Come to think of it, even in Bridesmaids (reviewed here!), Wiig presented a more serious character; the zaniness occurred around her serious character.

Hateship Loveship is a straightforward drama and Wiig is wonderful in the movie, even if the film is not a spectacular story. In fact, were it not for the quality of the performances, the moody movie would probably have been relegated to the deepest reaches of Indie Cinema Hell and never even released on DVD. As it is, between Liza Johnson’s direction and Wiig and Guy Pearce’s performances, Hateship Loveship is compelling to watch, though the story’s stark realism is often difficult. The film is based upon a short story and it is worth noting that I have never read that short story, so this is a very pure review of the film Hateship Loveship, unencumbered by any comparisons or preconceptions of what the movie was “supposed” to be.

Opening with Johanna Parry attending to the last moments of an elderly lady and then dealing with the hospice of the body after her death, Parry is set-up with another family for her next job. Johanna moves in with the elderly Bill McCauley, who has a complicated relationship with his widower son-in-law, Ken (who is about Johanna’s age and has a daughter, Sabitha). Sabitha and her friend, Edith, are virtually inseparable and when Edith refuses to let Ken drive her home one night, Johanna peeks in on a conversation between Ken and his father-in-law to learn some of the complexities of their relationship. Parry feels very separated and detached from the family in which she is now working (and living); she has a more natural dialogue with McCauley than she does with Sabitha (whom she is supposed to look after).

When Ken includes a brief note to Johanna in with one of Sabitha’s letters, Parry leaps upon the communication with an eagerness that she does not have for anything else. She immediately writes Ken back, but hands Edith the letter to mail. Edith and Sabitha read the letter and begin corresponding with Johanna as Ken . . . After a fallout between Edith and Sabitha, Edith continues to impersonate Ken via e-mail, with Johanna getting increasingly invested in the online relationship. That leads Parry to Chicago to try to find Ken. There, she finds Ken strung out on coke, living in the run-down motel he bought and promised to fix up using McCauley’s money. Learning that Ken does not even have a computer, Johanna is shocked, but she stays with Ken and begins fixing up the motel so he has the chance to turn his life around.

One of the striking aspects of Hateship Loveship is how long it takes to establish the characters (if not the mood). Eighteen minutes into Hateship Loveship, Johanna and Sabitha have not really had any scenes together to make one believe they have been interacting. So, the idea that Parry is Sabitha’s nanny pretty nebulous and underdeveloped until the plot contrivance from Sabitha and Edith comes into play. When Sabitha and Edith begin writing to Parry as if they were Ken, there is no apparent motivation and the act seems instantly cruel (especially for teenagers who are old enough to know better). It calls into question just what type of movie Hateship Loveship will be. Fortunately, the plot contrivance of the teenagers impersonating Ken is pretty much over by the midpoint of the movie and the mood piece continues as a stark and off-putting character piece.

Johanna Parry is competent and caring, but immediately sheltered and socially-awkward. Guy Pearce’s Ken is charismatic and smart enough to be believable (he figures out almost instantly that the girls were likely responsible for the e-mails Johanna received). The characters in Hateship Loveship are anything but moral absolutes. Johanna, despite seeming entirely sheltered and somewhat naïve (especially about Ken’s drug use and romantic relationships), appears to think nothing of stealing the furniture that belonged to Bill’s daughter (which McCauley covets and keeps in the garage) and paying to have it shipped out to Ken’s motel. Parry is educated; she seems to be a competent home healthcare worker, but even there her character is inconsistently defined. Parry cares for Mrs. Willets from age fifteen until the old lady’s death, so how and why she makes a transition into working with a young person is an abrupt transition for the audience to make. Ken has all of the erratic qualities of an addict and the viewer watches as he flounders around trying for redemption as he turns toward Johanna and away from his druggie girlfriend, Chloe. To the credit of Guy Pearce, while the viewer might be ambivalent as to what they want to see from Johanna, Pearce makes the audience root for Ken to succeed and turn his life around.

Director Liza Johnson does very well with the fractured script she is given. Hateship Loveship would be a dud – it starts off with so many characters and threads, like the relationship between Sabitha and Edith that has so much potential before it falls out of the film completely for the middle third of the movie – were it not for the caliber of the acting and Johnson’s direction. Johnson not only gets a serious performance out of Kristen Wiig that is spectacular (the scene where Johanna practices kissing herself on the mirror could easily have turned into a comedic moment of utter farce, but Johnson keeps it tight and Wiig lands the moment dramatically), but she holds on the characters and their emotional expressions for enough time to truly flesh out the realism of their emotions. When Parry learns that Ken does not have e-mail, Johnson captures the shock and realization on Wiig’s face without her saying a word.

Hateship Loveship is a good example of how the production end of a movie matters less if one does not start with a strong script. Wiig, Pearce, Nick Nolte (McCauley) and Hailee Steinfeld (Sabitha) might all do wonderfully with the characters they are given and Liza Johnson captures their performances well, but the story is not a particularly compelling or original one and it contains significant gaps. The story leaps almost immediately from Parry moving in with McCauley to weeks later (with no scenes that have interactions between Johanna and Sabitha) and has an abrupt fallout between Edith and Sabitha and a plotline with Bill and the bank teller, Eileen, that seems thrown in just to justify the expense and presence of Nolte and Christine Lahti in the film. Hateship Loveship has a number of trademark indie film moments: Ken tries to turn his life around by throwing away his drugs, but ends up doing some of the coke off the toilet seat in one of the film’s most telegraphed moments.

Despite the oppressive mood throughout, Hateship Loveship recovers much of its watchability in the film’s last third. As Johanna and Ken begin to forge a real relationship, Hateship Loveship becomes watchable, even if it is never really enjoyable. But that, too, is the hallmark of many independent films; Hateship Loveship captures that stark realism of people struggling to survive and relate. Despite the initial, sometimes problematic or cliché, conceits, Hateship Loveship recovers well and is worth watching once for all it gets right.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Rio 2
Only Lovers Left Alive
Authors Anonymous
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Cheap Thrills
Veronica Mars


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

One Of My Favorite Beverages, Rendered Well: Sodastream Diet Tonic Water!

The Good: Calorie free, Fairly inexpensive, Tastes completely accurate (and wonderful)!
The Bad: Requires a pricy machine to make into soda pop, Harder to find
The Basics: Sodastream gets their Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix just right, making a great mixer or soda.

When I hit my teenage years, I developed a real love of tonic water, of all things. Since my wife got her Sodastream Fizz (reviewed here!), I’ve been trying to enjoy various flavors of soda. When I got the chance to pick a flavor of soda on my own, I went with the Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix. The Diet Tonic Water was calorie free, which is a new dietary issue for my wife and I.

I was pretty thrilled when it turned out that the Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix lived up to my hopes without the calories.


Available primarily in a 16.9 fl. oz. plastic bottle, Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix is a concentrated flavor syrup for creating Diet Tonic Water soda. At $5 - $7 per bottle, the Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix makes 50 8 oz. servings, though the 16.9 oz. bottle gets me twenty-five servings as we have a 16 oz. bottle for our Sodastream Fizz.

Ease Of Preparation

The Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix is a flavoring to be used with a Sodastream soda pop maker. After one fills the Sodastream bottle with water – I recommend filtered water and when I use my Brita Water Filter Pitcher (reviewed here!) in order to prepare the soda – and carbonates it, they must add a capful of Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix to the bottle. It is that easy. Preparing the Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix into a soda pop is easy and it makes a flavorful carbonated beverage.


The Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix smells vaguely like citrus. There is a slight lemony scent to the drink, which is interesting because tonic water does not usually have a strong aroma to it.

In the mix and once prepared, the Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Soda Mix is very sour and dry. It has a flavor somewhat like muted limes and the combination of both sour and dry is entirely distinctive. Tonic Water is a truly unique flavor and Sodastream gets it perfectly right!

The Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix leaves the mouth dry and a little sour. The aftertaste lasts for about ten minutes.


The Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix makes a soda pop, so it is not creating the most nutritious thing in the world. Even so, Sodastream creates soda pops that do not have anywhere near the problems of most sodas. In the case of Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix, this is one of the healthier mixes. It results in a beverage that has zero calories and 30 mg of Sodium (about 1% of the RDA of Sodium). Outside that, there are no nutritional benefits or detractions to this drink mix or the drink it makes.

Made primarily of water, citric acid, and natural flavors, the Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix has nothing particularly bad in it. There is no caffeine, no aspartame, and no calories. It is kosher and carries no allergy warnings. It does have quinine.


The Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix is a liquid, so there is the danger of spilling it and wasting some of it. But, for the most part, it is a drink mix that keeps for quite some time (more because it is not so good that we want to keep making up bottles of it!). The bottle we got a few weeks ago had an expiration date of January 25, 2015, so this can be stocked up on!

The Diet Tonic Water mix is clear, so it shouldn’t stain anything.


Wonderful and flavorful, Sodastream Diet Tonic Water Flavored Soda Mix might be a diet beverage, but it has enough flavor to truly sell anyone who wants a great mixer or a quirky, delicious beverage.

For other beverage reviews, please check out my reviews of:
Ayala's Lemongrass Mint Vanilla Herbal Water
Faygo Grapefruit Sparkling Water
Paradiso Wild Berry Italian Mineral Water


For other drink reviews, please visit my Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Summer Sequel Showdown: Rio 2 Marks The Season’s First Big Weekend Fight!

The Good: Animation is fine, Keeps the tone and characters of the original
The Bad: Unmemorable songs, Formulaic plot, Dull subplots, Lack of compelling new/interesting characters, No wonderful lines.
The Basics: Rio 2 is an unimpressive, though not unpleasant, sequel that continues the story begun in Rio in a thoroughly mediocre and unmemorable way.

Every year, it seems, Summer Blockbuster Season comes earlier and earlier. Summer Blockbuster Season is a series of big studio-released films that are calculated to blow out the box-office for a weekend (or two, for truly ambitious movies) before the next special effects-laden film takes its place in the public’s limited imagination and attention span. Summer Blockbuster Season is characterized by big studio releases, often sequels, that are not necessarily quality films, but are pretty much guaranteed to put cash in the pockets of studios. It’s also a time that is divided up and charted out by the big studios in a calculated effort to win the weekend boxoffice. This cinematic season usually comes after the studios have divided the weekends out without any real sense of competition and with the potential for a sleeper hit. This year, the peaceful film-release season has ended early with an “anybody’s guess” weekend that pits last week’s big sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier against newcomer sequel Rio 2.

If Rio 2 was a Dreamworks Animation work, instead of 20th Century Fox, the weekend would not be in dispute (the fact that a Madagascar sequel creamed Prometheus, reviewed here, for its opening weekend in the U.S. pretty much cemented the idea that Dreamworks Animation releases will always bring the cash crowds). As it stands, Rio 2 is a mediocre sequel continuing a fairly unmemorable original film. As I recall, I only watched Rio (reviewed here!) because it had Anne Hathaway’s voice talents and after my wife and I had already fallen in love with Angry Birds: Rio. Rio 2 seemed to be released on the hope that younger audiences would be brought out to see the film before too many critics panned the film to death. As it stands, I could easily have lived without seeing the sequel, even with my love of the works of Anne Hathaway and an appreciation of Jesse Eisenberg’s acting talents.

Opening with New Year’s in Rio De Janero, Blue Macaws Jewel and Blu are forced to quit partying when their babysitters keep revealing that they have pawned off their kids to others and left the ineffectual Tiny in charge of monitoring their kids. Meanwhile, their human scientist companions, Tulio and Linda, are two thousand miles away in the Amazon where they discover a blue macaw feather. Surviving rapids, the pair is interviewed on the news where Tulio postulates there could be an entire flock of blue macaws out there that were heretofore unknown. Seeing the television program, Blu, Jewel, the kids and Rafael, head to the Amazon (despite their fear of snakes that can swallow them in one bite!). On their trip, they fly over a carnival, where Nigel has been imprisoned, forced to work as a fortune teller, giving out prizes. Seeing the blue macaw family, Nigel breaks out of the carnival and vows revenge upon Blu and Jewel for the accident that prevents him from flying.

Accompanied by his lovesick salamander, Gabi, and a sloth, Nigel hunts down the blue macaw family on a boat, but is unable to catch them. The Big Boss in the Amazon tasks one of his henchmen to find Tulio and Linda and get them out of the area he is deforesting. Jewel and Blu meet up with a flock of Blue Macaws, which include Jewel’s long-lost father, who is thrilled to see her and to be a grandfather. While Jewel is excited to rediscover her extended family, including an ex-boyfriend, Roberto, Blu finds himself out-of-place in the wild. Hunted by Nigel as humans encroach into the last safe haven of the Blue Macaws, Blu and his family are threatened on all sides.

Rio 2 is not the worst animated sequel of all time, though it certainly is one that is lacking entirely in spark. The film is devoid of clever lines or memorable moments (the audience I was with only laughed out loud in the first five minutes when one of the kids got smacked against a wall with a blueberry pancake). The movie is very easy to watch even for those who have not seen the original. Having only seen Rio once, I only recalled the movie in the most general terms (as the beginning of a relationship between Jewel and Blu, who were tethered together for an Odd Couple-style relationship). So, things like a flashback to reveal Nigel’s motivations for the sequel were actually helpful and make the movie more accessible.

Unfortunately, it does not matter how easy-to-watch Rio 2 is on its own; the film is entirely uninspired. Gone is the adversarial banter that characterized the Blu/Jewel relationship in Rio, which makes sense. But it is replaced by a single catch phrase (“A happy wife is a happy life”) and a predictable conflict that is only resolved through the most generic expression of love as presented in modern cinema. The appearance of Roberto seems to have little consequence within the movie and is only a cheap excuse for Bruno Mars to show off his singing talents. Sadly, for all of Bruno Mars’ talents, there is no song he (or anyone else in the movie) sings that rivals any of the three (now) instantly-recognizable songs from Frozen (reviewed here!). Rio 2 utilizes a more dance-based and hip-hop soundtrack and the original songs are unmemorable and the covers just seem ridiculous in the brightly-colored movie.

Just as the appearance of Robert is an obvious romantic predator to the Jewel/Blu relationship, Rio 2 has a painfully predictable arc for Blu and his father-in-law, Eduardo. Eduardo is the archetype of the father-in-law; stern, loves the grandkids, hates the daughter’s husband, and likes the ex-boyfriend more than the current husband. Eduardo’s arc could have been written by a computer that made an amalgamation of animated family film plots. The fundamental problem on the character front with Rio 2 is that the characters never develop beyond their original premise or archetypes into anything new. Eduardo and Robert’s arcs can be called accurately the moment they first appear on screen.

As for the plot, Rio 2 is packed with plotlines, but none is compelling enough to capture the imagination of the audience. Outside the main plotline of the complications that come from Jewel and Blu visiting the Amazon, there is an entire subplot for Tulio and Linda, Nigel’s revenge subplot, and a series of auditions for the carnival back in Rio that the non-Blue Macaw’s devote time to (which allows a sequence of ridiculous animal performing pop music songs). Blu unwittingly starting a war with neighboring birds over a Brazil nut just muddies an already packed movie.

On the acting front, Rio 2 is unimpressive as well. Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, and Jemaine Clement all proved they could do voice acting well in Rio. Like George Lopez, Andy Garcia, Leslie Mann, and Bruno Mars, the primary performers illustrate no new emoting talents with their performances in Rio 2 to make the viewer believe that they are seeing actors doing something other than looking for an easy paycheck. Rio 2 is notably lacking in big emotional moments that might actually stretch the acting talents of those involved. Anne Hathaway, for example, is barely more than a supporting performer in Rio 2 with no memorable moments for her character, Jewel (though the animators did a good job with making Jewel look truly emotional upon being reunited with her father).

In the end, the box office fight for the weekend is almost inconsequential; whether or not Rio 2 can win the weekend race, it is a film virtually impossible to believe that word-of-mouth would be strong or positive enough to give it a second weekend at the top. A dubious sequel to begin with, Rio 2 is a strong-enough argument against making a Rio 3 that anyone needs; if you love Rio, just keep watching the first one. That is a better use of your time than Rio 2.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Hateship Loveship
Only Lovers Left Alive
Authors Anonymous
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Cheap Thrills
Veronica Mars
300: Rise Of An Empire
The Monuments Men
Adult World


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Another Overpriced Dog Food Myah Goes Through Way Too Quickly! Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult Dog Food.

The Good: Nutritious, Myah eats it consistently and seems to enjoy it.
The Bad: Comparatively expensive, Not Myah’s favorite from the brand.
The Basics: Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food seems to satisfy my Siberian Husky, but not to the extent of other Grandma Mae’s dog foods.

Following Myah’s costly experimentation with Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Grain Free dog food (reviewed here!), my Siberian Husky let me know that she would be very open to trying other products from the Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals dog food line. To that end, I picked up a thirteen pound bag of Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food. After two and a half weeks on Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food, Myah is ready to render a verdict: she likes and eats the Adult dog food, but she does not go for it with the vigor and enthusiasm of the Grain Free. That, combined with the price, makes it easy not to recommend the Adult dog food.


A single serving of Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food is two and a half to three and a half cups for a big dog like Myah and she is supposed to get one such serving per day, so a thirteen pound bag lasted only a little more than two weeks, which is expensive at $45 + shipping for the bags! Each piece of Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food is a thin brown disc that is very hard. They are 7/16" in diameter and 1/8” thick.

Ease Of Preparation

As a dry dog food, preparation of Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food is as easy as opening a bag and measuring out the pellets inside. There is no further prep needed.

Myah’s Reaction

The Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult smells very neutral. There is a slightly grainy, vaguely salty scent to this dog food which is indistinct and does not seem to entice Myah in any noticeable way.

When Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food is poured into Myah’s bowl, she will come sauntering over to have some. However, she has taken to looking at this food, looking back over her shoulder with a look that seems to say, “It’s this one and not the other one I like?,” and then the turn back to slowly eat the food because it is what is before her. She will consume the Adult dog food until she is full enough and she has been known to leave some in her bowl and wander off (which then encourages my cats to go try it! Grumble.). Myah eats the Adult dog food, but without any zeal or recognizable appreciation for it, which is irksome at the premium dog food prices!

Like the Grain Free Grandma Mae’s dog food, after eating the Adult dog food, Myah’s breath does not carry any sort of meaty (or other) odor; the hardness of the food works to actually keep her mouth somewhat clean!


Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food is made primarily of chicken, chicken meal, and brown rice. The ingredients are mostly natural, though after “dried kelp,” the ingredients list turns into an unfortunate and scary list of vitamins, chemicals and minerals that might be a mad scientist’s wish list. According to the guaranteed analysis, Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food has at least 24% crude protein, 14% crude fat, but no more than 4.5% crude fiber and 10% moisture. As a dry dog food, it is highly recommended that you have adequate water available for your dog when serving it Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food. Myah frequently drains her entire bowl when consuming this food.


Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult dog food is overpriced, based on Myah’s neutral reaction to the premium-priced dog food. That makes it one of the lesser products Grandma Mae’s offers and one that a dog owner could save their money by not buying.

For other dog food reviews, please be sure to check out:
Nature’s Variety Prairie Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Medley
NutriSource Large Breed Grain Free Chicken Formula Dog Food
Eukanuba Naturally Wild North Atlantic Salmon & Rice Formula


For other pet product reviews, please check out my Pet Review Index Page!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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