Friday, November 30, 2012

November 2012 End Of The Month Report

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It has been another good month of growth here at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe! While there was no movement in the Top Ten Of All Time, November eked its way into the second most trafficked month! While this month's blockbusters did not perform as well as during Summer Blockbuster Season, our readership was pretty wonderful! This month, we put special emphasis on graphic novel reviews and readers continue to enjoy those! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts!

We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're really looking to grow our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In November, we were able to keep the Index Pages up and updated the entire month, including on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, making for a very dynamic website. The primary Index Page, which is now updated daily, lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog on Cyber Monday! Please consider purchasing items through the blog as you do your holiday shopping. By purchasing items through the links on the blog, you sponsor my ability to continue reviewing. Thank you so much for that support! BIG “Thank you!” to all of the people who continue to support the blog and my writing in that fashion! We really appreciate all the support.

At the end of November, I have reviewed the following:
413 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Fiction
Star Trek Books
Nonfiction
Graphic Novels
Magazines
673 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2007 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
170 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
593 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
590 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Drinks
Candy
Cereal
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
147 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
106 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
125 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
129 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
82 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
22 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review Of The Month for November is: Invader Zim! Check it out!

The month of November saw the resurgence of some popular reviews (including decent traffic for what I thought was one of my worst reviews ever!). I am so thrilled that the documentary on Prometheus managed to place and it is hard to complain about the endurance of that Cadbury Screme Egg review! For November, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Cadbury Screme Eggs
9. 2012 Merida From Brave Hallmark Ornament
8. The Furious Gods: Making "Prometheus"
7. Why The Trailer To Rise Of The Guardians Is Objectionable
6. Prometheus Engineer (Pressure Suit) Action Figure
5. "Bride Of Chaotica!" - Star Trek: Voyager
4. Rise Of The Guardians
3. Brita Water Filter 42629 Slim Pitcher
2. Red Dawn
1. Breaking Dawn, Part 2

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 262 reviews
9s - 367 reviews
8s - 639 reviews
7s - 708 reviews
6s - 637 reviews
5s - 850 reviews
4s - 585 reviews
3s - 488 reviews
2s - 208 reviews
1s - 137 reviews
0s - 74 reviews
No rating - 28 articles/postings

And, if you haven't checked out the top reviews of all time, at the end of November, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. Total Recall (2012)
9. Breaking Dawn, Part 1
8. Snow White And The Huntsman
7. The Amazing Spider-Man!
6. Cadbury Screme Eggs
5. The Avengers
4. The Hunger Games
3. Star Trek: Machinations Of Doomsday
2. Won't Back Down
1. Prometheus

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Christopher Nolan Makes Superhero Films Respectable With The Dark Knight Trilogy!


The Good: Interesting characters, Great thematic development, Amazing acting, Generally good plot progression.
The Bad: Pacing, Predictability of the final act
The Basics: With Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of the Batman mythos with The Dark Knight Trilogy, viewers are treated to a sufficiently adult superhero story that nevertheless drags at times.


As one who does not go back and re-rate products and media, it is a rare thing for me to have an opportunity to make commentary on something that I might have rated unfairly the first time around. When considering individual films versus the entire series or boxed set of a movie, there is the opportunity to consider how the pieces fit together. Sometimes, the sum of the parts is greater, like with The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (reviewed here!), but more often than not, the full video collection forces one to realize that the pieces might not fit together as well as fans hope. With The Dark Knight Trilogy, watching Christopher Nolan’s Batman films back to back to back, one realizes how much the final act truly suffers in comparison.

I am one of the rare critics who was not entirely bowled over by Batman Begins; I found it slower and more ponderous than clever and engaging. Rewatching it, the pacing does not bother me nearly as much, and while I respect the thematic development in the movie, his exploration of fear is not as well-developed as the themes in the other movies. On the other end of the Trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises seems disturbingly predictable, formulaic, and unsophisticated coming off the complexity and perfection of The Dark Knight. Viewed in order, in the eight hours of The Dark Knight Trilogy is, hands-down the best superhero film series yet made and it owes much of that to the writing and the able direction of Christopher Nolan, but it is not at all perfect.

Comprised of: Batman Begins (reviewed here!), The Dark Knight (reviewed here!), and The Dark Knight Rises (reviewed here!), The Dark Knight Trilogy assembles the three films and adds the value of two bonus discs.

In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne returns from years of wandering the world to explore what gives criminals their power to Gotham City, a city his murdered parents were influential in cleaning up. There, he rejoins his father’s company and uses the research and development department to equip himself for a nighttime war on crime in Gotham City. As Batman, he begins to strike fear into the mob, while during the day posing as an irresponsible playboy. Bruce Wayne’s efforts clash with the machinations of Dr. Jonathan Crane, the psychologist at Arkham Asylum, where he experiments on the criminally insane and the League Of Shadows, which seeks to destroy Gotham City as a statement against the decadence of the world.

After years of fighting crime, The Dark Knight sees the potential to retire when Gotham City’s new district attorney, Harvey Dent, begins his own war on crime in the city by prosecuting the mobsters. Wayne’s romantic life is complicated by the fact that his childhood love is romantically involved with Harvey Dent and his vigilante actions are met with resolve of the psychopathic Joker. Meant to bring chaos to the attempts at order of Batman and Jim Gordon, the Joker strikes at the heart of the city by attacking Rachel Dawes and working to corrupt Harvey Dent.

Eight years later, with Batman having been vilified, a mysterious woman breaks into Wayne Manor to steal a copy of Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints. As Wayne Enterprises stock suffers, with the research and development department sitting on an incredible power source that could be perverted into a weapon, a thug named Bane makes an assault on the Gotham City stock exchange. Bane shatters Bruce Wayne and deports him while taking over Gotham City. Cut off from the rest of the world when Bane steals the reactor and destroys the bridges out of the city, Bane crushes the spirit of the city by exposing the deception of Jim Gordon and holds Gotham City hostage. Bruce Wayne must physically recover, return to Gotham City and resume his role as Batman to save the people who turned against him.

The Dark Knight Trilogy smartly develops themes in each film and those themes interact well with one another. From fear to the struggle between order and chaos to an exploration on the nature of consequences, The Dark Knight Trilogy strives to be more than just a repetitive saga of superhero films. By developing themes over the course of the three films, Christopher Nolan and his co-writers manage to shake up the familiar and often formulaic superhero stories.

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy is an epic of ever-increasing sacrifice on the part of Bruce Wayne. Starting as the man who has everything, Bruce Wayne’s character arc is far less defined by his romantic entanglements, as it is by the steep curve of his level of sacrifice. Bruce Wayne gives up more and more in order to combat evil in Gotham City. While his mansion is rebuilt, Bruce Wayne’s adherence to rules and his singleminded ambition are challenged before he encounters an enemy who he might have to give up his life to defeat.

The Dark Knight Trilogy is supported by wonderful supporting characters. Bruce Wayne is not in his fight alone. Supported personally by the family butler, Alfred, supplied professionally by his father’s trusted aid Lucius Fox, and directed on the streets by the one uncorrupted cop, Jim Gordon (and later Blake), Bruce Wayne becomes a viable character who seems to have a reasonable investment in the city he is trying to save. Instead of simply being a superhero motivated by some sense of idealism, The Dark Knight Trilogy instead develops a character whose family ties and then his own friendships motivate him to fight organized crime.

Just as the characters in The Dark Knight Trilogy are compelling and developed enough to have complex motivations that make for a surprisingly sophisticated series of movies, the performers are all top-notch and playing at the top of their game. Consistently great are Christian Bale (Bruce Wayne), Michael Caine (Alfred), Morgan Freeman (Lucius Fox), and Gary Oldman (Jim Gordon), with wonderful supporting performances by Cillian Murphy (Dr. Crane), Liam Neeson, Aaron Eckhart (Harvey Dent), Heath Ledger (The Joker), Nestor Carbonell (the Mayor), Anne Hathaway (Selina Kyle), and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Blake).

On DVD and Blu-Ray, The Dark Knight Trilogy includes the three films, with bonus discs for The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, with enough behind-the-scenes content to please the fans.

Cinephiles enjoy The Dark Knight Trilogy and while the fans of superhero films reasonably go gaga over the set, discriminating film critics have to admit that the Trilogy is hardly perfect. It’s close, but the pacing and inevitable predictability of The Dark Knight Trilogy is off enough to make it just shy of absolute perfection.

For other live-action DC superhero works, please check out my reviews of:
Green Lantern
Jonah Hex
Watchmen
Superman Returns
Catwoman
Batman
Supergirl
Wonder Woman - Season 1

8.5/10

For other film reviews, check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Myah Actually Begs For Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips!


The Good: Healthy, Good ingredients, Smells great, Myah loves them!
The Bad: No dental benefits, Could always be less expensive!
The Basics: Myah loves the Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips whenever she needs a reward or wants to work on training.


It is hard not to love the internet for deals as a pet owner! In addition to finding treats less expensive via online sources (they really are, especially if you can bulk up!), so many manufacturers offer deals online as well. My wife, who surfs the web every few days for new deals won a “free” (I hate that because usually, it’s X dollars in the fine print and, yet – in the case of Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips $X.68 at the store - they are not, in any way, free) bag of Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips.

Outside the initial expense of the Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips, and how fast my Siberian Husky, Myah, went through the 6 oz. bag, these were a great treat for reward and training reinforcement!

Basics

We picked up the 6 oz. bag of Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips thanks to that online coupon. While it might seem hard to quibble with $.68 for a week’s worth of treats, knowing that they are regularly quite a bit more than that made it harder for me to justify these. That said, Myah made it clear that she loved even the crumb pieces from the Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips dog treats.

The Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips dog treats are soft, jerky-like treats that are shaped and colored to look more or less like actual bacon. Each bacon Beggin’ Strip is about 4 3/4” long, 1 1/8” wide and 1/8” – 3/16” thick. Most of the Beggin’ Strips are curved like actual bacon would be; it mimics bacon very closely.

Ease Of Preparation

This is a ready-to-eat dog treat and only requires one to open the resealable bag to dispense.

Myah’s Reaction

The Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips smell exactly like bacon and cheddar cheese and they make my mouth water almost as much as they make Myah salivate! Myah comes to attention the moment we crumple the bag to open it and the second she can smell these Beggin’ Strips, she practices being obedient until the moment they are hers! She has illustrated a clear preference for this dog treat.

Nutrition

The Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips dog treats are fairly healthy. With at least 15% crude protein, 4% crude fat and no more than 3.5% crude fiber and 26% moisture, the Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips offer some decent nutrition to dogs. Made primarily of ground wheat, corn gluten meal, and wheat flour, we feed these conservatively to Myah to prevent her from having any form of digestive tract upsets as a result of the non-meat ingredients. Still, Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips appear to have nothing bad in them. The Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips have over a year shelf life (our bag would have expired in November 2013, had Myah not eaten them up within a week!). As with all dog treats, it is highly recommended that when you give your dog Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips, you make sure they have a decent supply of clean water available. Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips treats are not intended to replace dog food.

Overall

If one can resist the smell and not sample the Purina Bacon & Cheese Flavor Beggin’ Strips themselves, the only real thing these treats leave one wishing is that there were more of them for less money!

For other Purina dog treats and foods, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Beneful Baked Delights Stars
Beneful Baked Delights Hugs
Pro Plan Natural Lamb & Rice Shredded Blend

8/10

For other pet products, be sure to visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Bernie Is A Good Almost-Documentary That Prioritizes Substance Over Sparkle.


The Good: Interesting story, Good characters, Jack Black’s performance
The Bad: Tone/pacing
The Basics: Bernie is, ultimately, a glorified newsmagazine special of a murder case that takes far, far, too long to become anything.


Lately, when my wife and I finish watching a film, she turns to me and asks, “What are you going to give it?” because she knows I will review anything and everything that comes before me. When Bernie was done, we had a rare discussion about the film. Her family had left a copy for us to watch on their last visit and we finally watched it, pretty late at night. Bernie was engaging enough that I stayed awake an hour and a half after my usual bedtime to watch it and it was presented in a way that continued to develop such that I could not fall asleep during it (not that that was my first instinct).

But the more and more my wife and I talked about Bernie - and I did like it – the more I was forced to admit that, more than anything, I simply did not care how the film turned out. My wife analogized Bernie to a 48 Hours television special, without the ominous tone (I used the phrase “sensationalism”) and she was right. Bernie is very much like a profile on a television newsmagazine, usually the type where the trajectory of a killer is traced with voiceovers that make the person seem terrible and their crimes almost inevitable (or, conversely, utterly shocking). Bernie is very much like that, but without the tone or sensationalism and, for a significant part of the movie, a crime. In fact, it is remarkably late in the movie that the film evolves from somewhat boring character profile to an abrupt murder, cover up and inevitable trial. The erratic nature of Bernie left me feeling the film was far more average than exceptional, though I did enjoy it.

Bernie Tiede is a Texan in his late thirties, who is a mortician’s assistant in Carthage, Texas. Beloved by all the locals for the way he has a kind word for everyone and goes out of his way for the bereaved, Bernie finds success and happiness in the small community. Marjorie Nugent, on the other hand, is reviled my most of the town for the way she is mean to everyone and delights in rejecting loans in her position at the local bank after her husband dies. But, when her husband dies, she and Bernie strike up an unlikely friendship. Against all odds, Marjorie allows Bernie to console her and soon they are seen everywhere traveling together and spending time in one another’s company.

That relationship, however, takes a turn for the unhealthy when Marjorie starts controlling Bernie’s time and keeps him under the thumb. Frustrated one day at her berating him, Bernie picks up the armadillo shooting rifle and shoots her in the back four times. After that, Bernie continually comes up with excuses for why people cannot visit Marjorie, while at the same time using her considerable assets to benefit everyone in the community. But Marjorie’s stockbroker and the local district attorney slowly come to believe something is amiss and when they find her body, Bernie is taken into custody.

Bernie is based upon a true story, so all my comments – it should be noted – pertain only to the film Bernie. Bernie takes its time to adequately illustrate just what a nice guy Bernie Tiede is, and it does that exceptionally effectively. But the film plods along without any purpose for quite some time as Bernie just keeps doing nice things in Texas and by the time something actually happens (i.e. he shoots Marjorie), I had almost completely lost interest. In fact, it almost seems like writer and director Richard Linklater got bored as well because he forgot almost all of the rising action leading up to the murder. Bernie’s defense at his trial has to do with how controlling Marjorie was, but that is not exceptionally well-illustrated in Bernie; the scene before, Bernie is off flying the plane Marjorie seems to have bought for him. In other words, Bernie fails to show the man oppressed in a serious or crippling way.

This is to the detriment of the film because as soon as the accountant goes snooping and Marjorie’s body is found, Bernie focuses quite a bit on D.A. Danny Buck, a thoroughly unlikable character. So, despite loathing Buck and his methods, Linklater’s Bernie is only so persuasive because the first half of the film convinces the viewer that Bernie and his perspective can be trusted.

Shirley MacLaine plays Marjorie and she has vastly fewer lines than most of the townspeople (who are played by themselves, actual peers of the real Bernie Tiede) and her role is basically a supporting one that is comparatively minor. Similarly, Matthew McConaughey’s Daniel Buck only comes into his own in the last third of the film and he quietly develops the character in reaction shots more than he defines him through anger or bluster. Buck’s fate is not mentioned in the closing credits and that is unfortunate, so McConaughey effectively generated enough interest to make the viewer care whether the D.A. got re-elected or not.

Most of the movie rests on the performance of Jack Black, as Bernie Tiede. Black gives a performance that instantly reminded me of Zach Galifianakis in The Campaign (reviewed here!), but to be fair, Black beat him to the mannerisms. Regardless, this is a role unlike any I’ve seen Jack Black in and he carries it effectively, showcasing his musical range along the way.

Ultimately, Bernie is a simple movie, well worth watching once, but unless it is leading up to a retrial or pardon (one supposes the Governor of Texas could watch Bernie and be moved or Obama could use a Presidential pardon on the guy) it is hard to muster up the enthusiasm to rewatch the film.

For other works with Shirley MacLaine, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Around The World In 80 Days
The Apartment
Terms Of Endearment
In Her Shoes
Rumor Has It . . .
Valentine’s Day

5.5/10

Check out how this film stacks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where the film reviews are organized from best film to worst!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wilson Fisk Is Dragged Back Into Crime In Daredevil: Gang War


The Good: Fair artwork, Good story, Character development
The Bad: Weak coloring, Missing portions
The Basics: A decent return to form for Wilson Fisk, Daredevil is almos a peripheral character in Daredevil: Gang War


One of the things about a good villain is that, like the hero, they have character arcs. There are very few villain characters that are well-conceived enough to be developed over the long-term, especially in the long-running comic series’. But, with Daredevil, the characters do more than just show back up with a new lamebrained scheme to rule the city/world/etc. Bullseye, one of the more formidable villains in Daredevil books, actually had some arcs and suffered some consequences for his relentless pursuit of Daredevil after some of their encounters where Daredevil thwarted him.

Daredevil: Gang War was written with an appreciation of the history of the character in mind and, as a result, becomes one of Daredevil’s most perilous stories and times. Daredevil: Gang War also reflects an early 1980s attempt to explore real issues in comic books, in this case mental illness and police indifference. As Bullseye, who is suffering from a mental breakdown whereby he sees everyone around him as Daredevil, escapes hospital custody and goes on a killing spree, the police muse about whether or not it would be all right to let the villain simply be killed on the streets. Daredevil, then, faces an intriguing conflict whereby his quest for justice leads him to act to stop Bullseye and save his life at the same time.

Following his nervous breakdown, as Bullseye prepares to go under the knife, he breaks out of the hospital and begins killing people and taking hostages. Daredevil pursues leads to free the hostages and learns quickly that there are more nefarious activities going on in the city. Interrogating Turk, he discovers that the crime bosses of New York City have lined up a $5,000,000 bounty on the head of Wilson Fisk, the former Kingpin (who has retired and moved to Japan). On the day Bullseye is released from jail, Wilson Fisk’s wife Vanessa comes to Hell’s Kitchen to retain the services of Nelson & Murdock and is promptly captured by ganglords.

Trailing Bullseye, Daredevil is thrown out a window, but comes to understand that Fisk has files to implicate all of the current crime lords in the City. Posing as a bounty hunter named Shades, Matt Murdock infiltrates Wilson Fisk’s new operation to get the files he needs to end the current crime lords’ reign. When he encounters the Kingpin directly, Turk tries to drown him and this sets off an elaborate game of cat and mouse as the Kingpin reasserts his authority, outwitting both Daredevil and Bullseye to survive.

On every front, Daredevil: Gang War is a satisfying return to form for one of the Marvel Universe’s most compelling (mundane human) villains. Dominating the story in an interesting way, Daredevil: Gang War truly is the story of Wilson Fisk’s return to Hell’s Kitchen. A compelling villain must have motivations, just like a reasonable and good super hero. Wilson Fisk retired, managed to escape prosecution and incarceration and his wife, Vanessa, became a reasonable force of grounding for him. Daredevil: Gang War explores how Wilson reverts to his old ways when he loses that tether. The writer Daredevil: Gang War, Frank Miller, is smart in creating multiple layers to the story and the character. As a result, Wilson Fisk does not simply snap from one change in his environment and life. Daredevil: Gang War is smart enough to create a perfect storm of events that come crashing down around Wilson Fisk.

Wilson Fisk is characterized in Daredevil: Gang War as exceptionally intelligent. He recognizes the plans and machinations of his adversaries because he trained almost all of them and they used to work for him. Rather smartly, Frank Miller develops Fisk and Bullseye at the same time. This allows the final turn of Bullseye to be seen as credible by the reader and the entire story works.

Throughout Daredevil: Gang War, Matt Murdock is preoccupied with the moral implications of him saving Murdock’s life in the opening chapter. Murdock saves the villain’s life and, in exchange, he becomes concerned as to how Bullseye might act now that he has his freedom. This gives Murdock a bit of an internal conflict to deal with while the book focuses on the plot machinations of Wilson Fisk and Bullseye.

The final chapter follows Daredevil’s attempt to find Vanessa Fisk in the literal underground of New York. It is an afterthought that ties up the loose end of Vanessa Fisk’s missing body from the main story in Daredevil: Gang War. The result is interesting and enough to leave one clamoring for the next chapter (Daredevil is a highly serialized storyline).

The artwork in Daredevil: Gang War is good, with a decent sense of movement throughout. Like most Daredevil books from this time period, though, it lacks any subtlety or realism to the colors, so the monotones are fairly unsophisticated. The only other serious issue is the fact that the book – as a compilation of individual comic books – redundantly reminds the reader each chapter of Matt Murdock’s blindness and his super-powered sonar sense.

Still, it is not enough to make one not want to recommend Daredevil: Gang War. Though plot-heavy and lacking in deeper themes, Daredevil: Gang War makes for an entertaining and fast read that is enjoyable.

For other Daredevil books, please check out my reviews of:
The Essential Daredevil Volume 1
Daredevil Vs. Bullseye
Daredevil: Visionaries Volume 1 - Frank Miller
Marked For Death
Born Again
Typhoid Mary
Guardian Devil
Parts Of A Hole
Daredevil: Yellow
Batman/Daredevil - King of New York
Daredevil Noir
Daredevil: Golden Age
The Devil: Inside And Out, Volume 1
The Devil: Inside And Out, Volume 2
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 1
Daredevil: Hell To Pay - Volume 2
Daredevil: Shadowland
Shadowland
Daredevil: The Official Comic Adaptation

7/10

For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the book reviews I have written!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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“Darkling” + “Dreadnought” = “Warhead,” An Entirely Derivative Episode Of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine!


The Good: I want to say the acting, Harry Kim character development, Special effects, Concept
The Bad: Entirely derivative plot, Predictable resolution
The Basics: “Warhead” could have been audacious had the components of it not already been used in other episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.


Arguably the most serious issue with Star Trek: Voyager was that it was a series that was almost entirely derivative. The characters were basically the “best of” Star Trek: The Next Generation’s guest character aspects, but when the series began, the show refused to do heavily serialized episodes and the writers did not seem to know what they wanted to do with the eclectic and interesting characters they had created. As a result, far more frequently than not, Star Trek: Voyager simply recycled prior plots from the Star Trek franchise into new episodes. “Warhead” is one of the most unfortunately obvious episodes that utilizes entirely recycled plot components, though in this case, they are Star Trek: Voyager episodes that are gleaned from.

“Warhead” might have been an incredible episode, had the series not previously released “Dreadnought” (reviewed here!) and “Darkling” (reviewed here!). “Warhead” is, in many ways, simply a mash-up of those two episodes.

On the anniversary of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres’s first date, Harry Kim is in command of the night shift when he receives an automated distress call and makes a course correction to find the source of the message. Beaming down to a deserted world with the EMH, they discover a mechanical device that communicates to the Doctor and has bioneural circuitry. At the Doctor’s urging, Kim agrees to beam the wounded artificial intelligence aboard. When they rescue the device and study the area that it claims its comrade was sent to, they realize that the artificial intelligence is actually a missile.

Taken to Sickbay, the artificial intelligence takes control of the Doctor and holds B’Elanna and Harry Kim hostage. The controlled Doctor becomes enraged, but refuses to try to change its nature from the weapon of mass destruction it is told it is. While Neelix helps the crew find an alien who might know how to deactivate the technology of the alien weapon, a fleet of similar missiles heads toward Voyager, looking for their comrade to lead them to the target they may no longer be responsible for attacking!

“Warhead” is just far too late for even the appearance of greatness. The plot is frustratingly familiar – Harry Kim may get the crap kicked out of him more often than not, but it seems B’Elanna Torres is the show’s resident hostage for almost any circumstance! – and there is no real character development. Harry Kim has been commanding the night shift for some time now and this is merely the first episode to concretely illustrate that. The Doctor has had a willingness to stand with alternative life forms before now and “Warhead” does nothing to fundamentally alter that. Instead, it very quickly turns into yet another “possession of the Doctor” episode.

In a similar fashion, “Warhead” is underwhelming on the acting front. Robert Picardo is not at all bad in the episode, but he is not showing any range or emotions that he has not illustrated before. The altered Doctor has Picardo playing a pretty basic variation on the character that he has played before. Even Garrett Wang is not adding anything extraordinary with his performance. He is long beyond playing Harry Kim as na├»ve or idealistic. Instead, he has played Kim as smart and professional for quite some time and “Warhead” does not add to that.

Ultimately, “Warhead” does not ask any interesting philosophical questions, nor does it recycle previously used plot or character elements in an even remotely interesting way. It can safely be skipped.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the season here!
Thanks!]

4/10

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

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Growling Through His Mediocrity, Klingon Warrior Worf Is A Good Figure.


The Good: Good balance, Generally decent accessory design, Cool sculpt
The Bad: There's a better version on the market now, Accessory coloring
The Basics: A decent Klingon action figure, Klingon Warrior Worf is light on surface and accessory details, but still holds up as a decent toy.


Worf is one of the most recast and redistributed action figures Playmates Toys ever sought to exploit and one only hopes that Michael Dorn received the royalties he was do. Of course, fans know from his resistance to signing autographed, licensed products (like the Lightspeed Fine Art prints and trading cards) that his was not the case. Much of Dorn's grudge against the gravy boat that made him a household name came from products where he did not received the royalties he was due from things like the action figures. Playmates Toys, which licensed the likeness to Worf from Paramount Pictures, continued to make toy after toy of Worf without making sure the actor received his due. The second line-up of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures was released with two different Worf figures, though it does not take a detective to notice both use the same head. The superior Worf to collect in the 1993 toy run was the Klingon Warrior Worf action figure.

Klingon Warrior Worf figure could be worse, the other one was an uninspired recast. This Worf was released twice, at least in Canada in order to promote both the second line of figures (Playmates's second wave of Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures was released in 1993 and included twenty-three figures, several of which were re-released in a later line in Canada where the only difference was that the trading card that came with the twenty-three line was replaced with a SkyCap (a pog). The figures inside were identical. For fans of the Playmates Star Trek line, despite its flaws, this version of Worf is a great addition to the collection and a must for fans of Worf, Klingons or Michael Dorn!

Basics

The Star Trek: The Next Generation 1993 Collection of action figures contained twenty-three figures and it broadened the line away from the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation and supplemented the characters with memorable guest stars and aliens. The second series of figures contained a Klingon Warrior Worf "In Traditional Klingon Battle Attire With Ceremonial Robe" figure which sold quickly. Fans were hot for this figure despite first Worf figure being so good, because this offered a legitimate variation on Worf. This figure seemed to be mixed into the cases less, as well.

The Commander Worf figure is the Klingon Security officer as he appeared whenever he worked among Klingons, but most notably when he left the Enterprise to work aboard his brother's ship in "Redemption, Part II" (reviewed here!). This is the same Worf head that was originally made and distributed, but popped onto a new body.

Standing four and three-quarters inches tall, this is a decent likeness of Worf in his full-Klingon outfit immortalized in plastic. There is a decent level of uniform detailing. Worf's face is molded in a determined expression and it lacks much in the way of detail, though the lips are downturned in an appropriate scowl. His dark skin lacks any realistic shading, save in the head ridges. The uniform is appropriately armored, making Worf look quite durable. His armor is covered in the Klingon robe he wore in "The Emissary" (reviewed here!). His eyes are appropriately brown, but the pupils are white instead of black! The uniform incudes such details as the horns on the toes of the boots and the brass accents on the bandoleer and belt buckle.

The paint job is mediocre at best. The skin tones are monolithic brown and lack any shading or subtlety. The uniform is appropriately colored and the figure looks good in that respect. This includes the thin gun harness, which was a nice touch of realism. The uniform looks good and the soft-plastic (almost rubbery) robes do not inhibit the figure's movement at all.

Accessories

Commander Worf comes with four accessories, plus a trading card: A Klingon pain stick, a Klingon spiked club, a Klingon disruptor, and an action base shaped like a Klingon symbol. That Klingon Warrior Worf comes with only weapons makes a great deal of sense, as his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation while aboard Klingon ships often was perilous and required him to use weapons. The Action base is just enough to support Worf and is a three-pointed Klingon Symbol cast in appropriate red and yellow plastic. The center of the top spike on the symbol has a peg which fits into the hole in either of Worf's feet!

The Klingon painstick is a great accessory as it is one that was used on Worf during Klingon rituals on the holodeck. The 3 5/8" long staff has the appropriate shocking end molded on so it looks appropriately wicked. Unfortunately, there is no distinction as far as coloring details between the wood part and the metal business end. This is the same accessory used originally for the Gowron action figure.

Also simply reused from the Gowron figure (come to think of it, the body of this Worf might well be a Gowron body, were it not for the bandoleer across his chest) is the Klingon disruptor pistol. This wicked looking gun fits in either of Klingon Warrior Worf's hands and has the surface, but not coloring, details of a Klingon firearm.

The final accessory, the Klingon Spiked Club bears no resemblance to anything ever seen in Worf's hands on the program. This is a little 2 3/4" mace with a heavy, spiked end and a ball on the opposite end. It looks like a meat tenderizer and its ridiculousness is increased by the fact that they often come in the package bent. Unfortunately, all three of these accessories are molded in an inaccurate navy blue or puke brown plastic that is utterly lacking in realistic coloring detail. Worf is over-accessorized and with the lame coloring of the accessories, it is less exciting than it otherwise could be. Depending on when the figure was made, the accessory coloring seems to vary between the hideous brown and the inaccurate blue.

The 1993 line of Playmates action figures also comes with a very cool SkyBox trading card unique to the action figures. The Klingon Warrior Worf card features a big shot of Worf's head and upper body with a warp field background that is quite striking. The back of the card has all sorts of vital information on Worf and the figure is highly sought by card collectors who collected the cards and disposed of the figures. Interestingly, the repackage that used the SkyCap often had multiple cards in the bag behind the SkyCap, so it can often save collectors money to pick up the figures that way for the multiple cards!

Playability

The Klingon Warrior Worf, despite having miscolored and obviously recycled accessories, helped continue a high level of quality from Playmates and he was quite good at the time, pleasing collectors and fans alike. This is not a bad sculpt of Worf. The Klingon Warrior Worf is endowed with twelve points of articulation: knees, groin socket, biceps, elbows, shoulders, neck, and waist. All of the joints, save the elbows and knees, are simple swivel joints. As a result, the neck turns left to right, for example, but the head cannot nod. Similarly, the shoulders are not ball and socket joints and only rotate. Still, Playmates dealt with this limitation by having a swivel joint in the bicep, that allows everything below to turn and offers real decent posability!

Moreover, for use with actual play, Captain Worf may bend or extend at the elbows, which offers a greater amount of movement potential making him one of the more realistic Star Trek action figures to play with (for those who actually play with these toys!). As well, this Worf may bend at the knees so it may sit in the Captain's chair on the bridge playset!

On his base, Worf is quite stable, even in fairly ridiculous poses, making him a great figure for display as well as play. Even off his base, this is one of the most stable action figures Playmates Toys released!

Collectibility

Playmates mass produced the first few waves of Star Trek: The Next Generation figures, so this Worf is virtually worthless. Found loose for less than a three dollars these days, this Worf is one of the few to appreciate on its card. It can seldom be found for less than its original issue price in the $5.00 range. Playmates flooded the market with these figures and they are almost impossible to use as investment pieces, though the Klingon Warrior Worf has held up over the years, possibly because it was less mass-produced than the others in this series.

Playmates tried to make the figures collectible. Each figure has an individual number on the bottom of his right foot. In the attempt to make them appear limited, they had numbers stamped on them, and it might be considered pretty limited when there are at least 4,000 figures out there (my Klingon Warrior Worf is #003601!).

Overview

This Worf is not bad, but it is easily trumped on accessory quality and sculpt by the new Art Asylum Worf figure in Klingon armor. But for those collecting the 4 1/2" Playmates toys, this is quite good and more than enough to be worth keeping or hunting down now.

For other Playmates Star Trek: The Next Generation figures from the 1993 line, please check out my reviews of:
The Borg
Captain Jean-Luc Picard In StarFleet Duty Uniform
Commander Riker In Second Season Uniform
Geordi In Dress Uniform
Locutus
Ambassador K'Ehleyr

5.5/10

For other toy reviews, be sure to visit my Toy Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Plain Fun Compliments Of The Simpsons With Songs In The Key Of Springfield!


The Good: Intelligence of song lyrics, humor
The Bad: Most of the clips depend on the show
The Basics: A must for Simpson's fans, but not much appeal beyond them. Recommendation is ONLY for fans of the Simpsons.


Perhaps the "Butterfinger" advertisements weren't paying off a few years back when Twentieth Century Fox decided to market the Simpsons' musical talents in the form of a c.d. Regardless of the reason, Songs In The Key Of Springfield takes songs sung on the television series The Simpsons and brings it to your player. For the most part, that's a good idea because the songs are funny and the musical quality on the album is excellent.

Songs In The Key Of Springfield works primarily because the writers of the songs have picked some of the most culturally beloved works (Annie, Disney's Beauty And The Beast) and expertly satirized them. With 39 tracks, this album is a wonderful example of the talents of the writers and actors on The Simpsons. From a musical mockery of Planet Of The Apes (Track 27 includes a wonderful Falco "Amadeus" knockoff called "Dr. Zaius") to a getting Robert Goulet to sing the old elementary school favorite "Jingle Bells, Batman smells . . ." this album illustrates the depth and appreciation the writers and producers on The Simpsons have for popular (and less than) culture.

Indeed, the sharpest aspect of this work is that the writers managed to beautifully insinuate completely different lines flawlessly into established tunes. So, for instance "It Was Very Good Beer" completely recreates the classic "It Was A Very Good Year" without extraneous notes or lines. It seamlessly satirizes the song and creates its own musical piece. All of the songs that are spoofs on the album excel at doing that.

The album is downright funny and where it's not, it at least succeeds in being entertaining. The vast majority of tracks are laugh out loud funny for the first few listens. Outside the satirical songs, there are various versions of the opening and closing credits themes and while they are orchestrally intriguing, the variations become quickly predictable.

The failure of the album is in the clips. Too many of the sound-bites from the show are taken out of context or need the visual accompaniment to them to be as funny as they are. A perfect example is the end of track 32 ("Bagged Me A Homer") where the track ends from a grinding noise, it's nowhere near as funny without seeing Marge there grinding her teeth.

And as the nature of humor goes, the album is one the listener will only listen to an average of once every three months because, well, humor wears off. It's good for what it is, but if you're not a Simpson's fan, odds are you won't enjoy this. It's too insular and depends far too much on visual gags that are associated with the television show. I would estimate at least half the jokes in the music and clips have some visual reference that would at least strengthen, if not outright clarify, the track.

The strongest track is "See My Vest" which is pure genius and the weakest link is the "'Eye on Springfield' Theme" which is pretty much nothing without the visual satire from the show.

For other soundtrack reviews, please visit my takes on:
Dead Man Walking Soundtrack
An Inconvenient Truth Soundtrack
Labyrinth Soundtrack

6/10

For other music reviews, be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Syrup Or Sugar Replacement, Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar Is Worth Using!


The Good: Not unhealthy, Tastes great!
The Bad: Slightly pricy, Takes some experimentation to use as a replacement in recipes.
The Basics: Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is a delightful way to replace sugar or syrup!


In starting to review sweeteners, like the Stevia In The Raw (reviewed here!), I find myself caring quite a bit more about nutrition in sweeteners. I have also been doing quite a bit more baking since my wife and I picked up Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar. A liquid sweetener, Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar replaces sugar, corn syrup or syrup for daily use. However, in replacing the sugar in recipes, using Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar requires quite a bit more trial and error experimentation than many of the sugar substitutes on the market today.

Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is a sugar substitute that is designed for people who have dietary needs that force them to take in less carbs and few calories. Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is one of the rare sweeteners designed to replace sugars in baking and it is good as long as one can take time to adjust their recipes accordingly.

Basics

Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is an amber fluid that replaces sugar. We picked it up in the 11.75 fl. oz. bottle. The bottle is about the same price as a five pound bag of sugar, though we got it on clearance for $2.50. The light flavored liquid sweetener is remarkably fluid, as opposed to syrupy.

Ease Of Preparation

Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is exceptionally easy to use on its own. It is easy to use in recipes, so long as one takes the time to make appropriate adjustments to the fluid in recipes. Simply open the bottle and squeeze the fluid into beverages, onto things one wants sweetened or even over ice cream. There is no trick to sweetening with the Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar. There is, however, a trick to replacing it in recipes. The Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar replaces sugar at 2/3 cup compared to a cup of granulated sugar. However, other liquids in recipes need to be adjusted and the bottle vaguely declares fluids must be reduced by ¼ to 1/3 cup and that variation is hard to reconcile on the first try. As a result, most recipes I tried took two to three attempts to make the substitutions correct.

Taste

Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar smells like rancid honey. In fact, I did not smell it in the bottle until after I had tried and enjoyed it and that made me very glad. In order to smell it purely, I opened the bottle and it smelled surprisingly horrible. If honey could go bad and be set on fire, that is what Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar would smell like.

On the tongue, Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar tastes like diluted honey. It is pleasantly sweet without any aftertaste or variation on the primary flavoring. This is a good, consistent sweetener.

As a control, I added Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar to my cup of Gourmet Supreme Coffee (reviewed here!) in order to test how it sweetened. The Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar completely sweetened the black coffee. The agave nectar made the coffee taste more syrupy and so effectively sweetened the coffee that it also had the benefit of eliminating the dry aftertaste of the coffee!

Nutrition

I was actually shocked by how good Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is on the nutrition front. In a 1 Tablespoon serving (there are 15 servings in the 11.75 oz bottle), there are 60 calories. There are only 16 carbs, no fat, and sixteen grams of sugars in the serving! There are no other nutrients in the Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar.

On the ingredients front, Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is pretty good as well! The Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar consists entirely of Organic Agave Nectar. There is actually nothing unpronounceable in this sweetener. It is made in Mexico and is Kosher.

Storage/Clean-up

I could find no expiration date on my container of Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar, but it seems reasonable that it would not expire so long as it is kept sealed.

If the Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar gets on clothing, it is sticky and will stain light fabrics. For fabrics, one will need to consult a fabric guide and on skin, it needs to get washed off. It easily wipes off any non-porous surface it gets on.

Overview

The Domino Light Organic Agave Nectar is easy and worthwhile to recommend! This is a wonderful sweetener that can replace sugar or syrup in a flavorful and delightful way.

For other garnish, spice or spread reviews, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Kernel Season’s Parmesan & Garlic Popcorn Seasoning
Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Chocolate frosting
Jif Mocha Cappuccino Flavored Hazelnut Spread

7/10

For other food reviews, be sure to check out my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Mildly Better Second Excursion Into Springfield: The Simpsons Season Two!


The Good: Increasing quality of the animation, Better character flow, Some humor still remains
The Bad: Much of the season does not hold up for real fans by this point.
The Basics: More original than the first season, this second boxed set of The Simpsons on DVD still suffers from overplaying for genuine fans, though there are enough bonus materials to recommend.


While it might not be clear from my failure to recommend the first season of The Simpsons on DVD (reviewed here!), I am and have been a big fan of the series almost from the very beginning. The thing is, as a such a big fan, I watched two episodes of The Simpsons five nights a week and one episode on Sunday for almost a decade. Thus, there is little value in owning so many of the early seasons. Why? I've seen them so many times I know many of them line by line. There's nothing funny about them anymore. Owning - and watching - the DVDs at this point would be the equivalent of listening to that five year-old kid tell the one joke he knows to every adult in the neighborhood at a neighborhood event. Again. At some point, one just starts to wince and wish for death. The Simpsons - The Complete Second Season on DVD is another set of DVDs that reveals for the seasoned viewer what a shaky start this series had - while it was still primarily focused on Bart. What throws this particular set over the edge (into recommend) is the quality of the bonuses and the sheer number of them.

The second season of The Simpsons finds the all-American Simpson family struggling less to stay together and focusing more on getting ahead. As a result, Bart is forced to work harder in school, Marge gets some moments of spine and character, Homer gets ahead at work through hair implants and follows his dream to be a team mascot, Lisa's love of learning is increased by a crush on a substitute teacher and Maggie begins her life of violence through inspiration from cartoons.

When The Simpsons works best, it is doing so because it is poking fun at familiar institutions and/or making exceptional social commentary. In this season, the hints of greatness to come are alluded to with such strong episodes as "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge." In that episode, The Simpsons tackle the issue of television violence (specifically animated violence) when Maggie hits Homer on the head with a hammer. The episode is smart, well-written and takes a bitingly satirical and honest look at the issue. The Simpsons take on politics ("Two Cars In Every Garage, Three Eyes On Every Fish" - which has a wonderful commentary track!), cable theft and the religious implications ("Homer Vs. Lisa And The 8th Commandment"), and big business ("Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?"). As well, this season has a clever tale of paranoia ("Three Men and a Comic Book") and marks the start of the "Treehouse of Horror" series.

The problem is, it also has several complete duds, like "Principle Charming" where Skinner dates Patty (Marge's sister), and "The War of the Simpsons" where Homer and Marge go on a marital retreat (which essentially revives the pretty tired first season marital problem plot). Many of these episodes do not hold up over ten viewings - which most die hards have already done before this boxed set was released.

Moreover, season two marks the beginning of The Simpsons relying heavily on established celebrities to appear on the show as characters to sell the concept. While some of these are wonderful and welcome - James Earl Jones narrating Poe's "The Raven" in "Treehouse of Horror" is a gift to this day and George Takei as the Japanese waiter in "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish" is inspired - some of them now seem dated (Tom Poston) or obvious (Tony Bennett singing in "Dancin' Homer"). This season features Danny DeVito as Herb Powell, Harvey Fierstein, Larry King, Tracy Ullman, Audrey Meadows, Dustin Hoffman, Ringo Starr and Cloris Leachman. While some of them are genuine treats, others merely trade on celebrity to get viewers to watch and that's a disappointing and desperate trick.

Because of the episodic nature of The Simpsons, episodes are hit-or-miss in general and season two is no exception to that. What keeps the show worthwhile when there is little or no character development is the situations that the character get themselves into. The Simpsons - The Complete Second Season" finds the show still heavily focused on Bart (out of the 22 episodes, he has the a-plot in 6 and a strong b-plot presence in an additional 5) with Homer a close second (6 a-plots, strong b-plot in 2) and the first episodes where supplemental characters like Grandpa Simpson and Principal Skinner are given a-plots.

Because the characters are so important to keeping the show viewable, here is how the second season finds the main characters:

Bart Simpsons - Struggles to pass the fourth grade (though he manages to stay in 4th the entire series, it seems!) and takes up fishing and miniature golf. Bart memorably becomes a daredevil and threatens to jump Springfield Gorge, learns a valuable lesson at Thanksgiving and fights for cartoon violence. As the season winds down, he comes back with a love of comic books and decides to do a good turn for Mr. Burns,

Lisa - Strikes out on her own more by falling in love with a substitute teacher, taking on Homer as his moral barometer, and becomes furious at Bart for destroying her centerpiece at Thanksgiving,

Maggie - Illustrates a preponderance towards violence when she takes a cue from Itchy and Scratchy and attacks Homer with a hammer,

Marge - The matriarch gets episodes that give her character! Marge takes on corrupt political candidate Mr. Burns, television violence and resurrects her love of painting. As well, she and Homer relive their early days together by explaining how they fell in love (take 1 for the series!), continues to be the voice for humanity and compassion in the family,

Principal Skinner - Begins to bloom as he steps out from behind his desk and falls in love with Marge's sister, Patty. Otherwise, he continues to pressure Bart to fly right at school,

Grandpa Simpson - Falls in love with a wealthy woman, fights the terrible living conditions at the nursing home and functions as a terrible babysitter for the kids when Homer and Marge need to go away. As well, he reveals a family secret to Homer that sends Homer to Detroit in search of his half-brother,

and Homer Simpson - the buffoon continues to bumble into hilarious situations as he becomes a mascot for the local baseball team, struggles to keep his job at the nuclear power plant that he's completely incompetent at, and begins his long-standing feuds with neighbor Ned Flanders. As well, he tries to keep Bart from hurting himself, is victimized by Maggie and provides no practical guidance for Lisa (in fact, her moralizing guides him).

This is the season where the writers seemed to realize that it was Homer who had the most potential to keep this series an enduring classic. The best episode is "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" where Homer meets Herb with hilarious consequences.

What keeps this boxed set just worth getting (watching at the very least) is the commentaries and the oodles of extras. There are more easter eggs on these four discs than almost any other DVD set I've ever seen! For those fans who have seen these episodes ad nauseam and cannot conceive of watching them even once more, they are worth tracking down (via NetFlix or your local library, yea local libraries!) for the commentaries which are insightful, funny and just enough to kill the tedium of watching most of these episodes yet again.

While fans of The Simpsons are likely to be tired of most of this material, this is an excellent season for fans who have not started watching The Simpsons and who have not started collecting the DVDs. Because the show is episodic, there's nothing truly lacking by starting one's collection here as opposed to with the first boxed set.

For other works with Hank Azaria, be sure to check out my reviews of:
The Smurfs
Love And Other Drugs
Year One
Run Fatboy Run
The Simpsons Movie
Along Came Polly
Friends
America’s Sweethearts
Mystery Men
Cradle Will Rock

5/10

For other television reviews, visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Delightful Cinnamon Surprise, The Bath & Body Works Cranberry Harvest Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel Works!


The Good: Appears to work, Easy to apply, Great smell
The Bad: Price/size
The Basics: Cranberry Harvest Anti-bacterial Hand Gel smells great and works exceptionally well to kill bacteria.


With the pile of Bath & Body Works products that my wife gets, it is unsurprising to me that every now and then, I discover something in her collection that pleasantly surprises me. With the Anti-Bacterial Hand Gels, my wife and I were out and I had need of one, I used her Cranberry Harvest Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel and it was delightful. The scent is strong and interesting without being overbearing, without drying the skin out and without breaking the budget.

For those who are unfamiliar with the recent trend in personal hygiene, Anti-Bacterial Hand Gels are like liquid soap. You drop a few drops of a gel onto your hands, then rub your hands together and the gel evaporates, killing bacteria on your hands. Also, it has the tendency to clean off mild amounts of dirt. It's a convenient way to clean your hands and keep them sterile while on the run or around a lot of sick people. Or when you're not around water or when you're trying to interact with people you don't want to get sick, which is why a lot of hospitals are using these now.

Honestly, anti-bacterial hand gels are genius. They are wonderful when one is at the movie theater and sees how people treat their bodies, they are likely to use them excessively. I could come up with literally a thousand places and times I've used anti-bacterial hand gels. Anti-bacterial hand gels are essentially biological weapons against bacteria that are convenient, easy to use and basically make living in a first world country a real treat.

Cranberry Harvest scented anti-bacterial hand gel from Bath & Body Works starts incredible and turns terrible before becoming passable again! This 1 oz. PocketBac plastic bottle holds a fluid that smells initially like cinnamon and cranberries. That smell is strongly fruity enough to embody the claimed cranberry scent which the Cranberry Harvest is supposed to be. However, after about three minutes on the skin, the fruit scent essentially burns off and the lingering scent is brown sugar and cinnamon, which is still pretty delightful.

Cranberry Harvest anti-bacterial hand gel comes in a pocketbac bottle for $1.50, $.99 on sale. The fluid is translucent dark red with tiny dark purple microbeads suspended in it. As near as I can tell, the microbeads do nothing. They dissipate when one uses the gel, so it is not like they are a grit for cleaning the hands.

The bottle is a rhombus shape that fits in the hand rather easily. The flip-top lid makes it easy to open and close the bottle with one hand. This is especially convenient because if you believe you need to sterilize your hands, odds are you will not want to touch many things until you've done. The ability to manipulate the bottle with one hand while getting the product out is a good selling point.

The bottle recommends a dime-sized drop to sterilize one's hands. That seemed to work for me and when applying this gel.

Even when used more than once per hour, Cranberry Harvest scented Bath and Body Works hand gel does not dry the skin out. Bath & Body Works does great work with the anti-bacterial hand gels and the Cranberry Harvest is one of the surprise successes.

For other Bath & Body Works anti-bacterial hand gels, please visit my reviews of:
Creamy Pumpkin
Fresh Picked Strawberries
Eucalyptus Mint
Warm Apple Cider
Scary Cats (Black Cherry)
Plumeria

7.5/10

For other health and beauty reviews, please click here to visit my index page on the subject!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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