Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April 2013 End Of The Month Report

| | |
Ugh, what a month!

I was very sad to find that my productivity was severely down this month as the demands of my new job began to truly eat away at my time to attend screenings, see and experience new things and to blog about them. That said, I'm now working from home again and I'm hoping that will allow me to radically improve my output for May . . . which is perfect timing, given that Summer Blockbuster Season is upon us! I've already reviewed two of the summer's potentially biggest hits and I'm eager for more (bolstered by one of those films, the blog had its second best day of all time last month!).

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, there was one addition to the Top Ten Of All Time and a lot of movement in some of the others in the Top Ten! This month, we put special emphasis on music reviews, in addition to the new cinematic releases! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts! This is, likely, the final month that one of my favorite pieces of writing in this blog will be in the Top Ten Of All Time, so if you haven't yet checked out my concept for what the new Star Trek movie should have been, please check out and share the link to Star Trek: Machinations Of Doomsday; I'm very proud of it!

Last month, we picked up two new subscribers! Thanks so much! We're thrilled to have more regular readers and we hope very much to keep growing that! 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 in this new year, 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 April, the index pages were updated exceptionally sporadically. Sorry about that! We'll do better next month. The primary Index Page, which we try to update 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 as that keeps us going. Thank you so much! By purchasing items through the links on the blog, you sponsor my ability to continue reviewing. Summer is a very slow time for online shopping through blogs, but I have a number of very cool annual events coming up that could use your support, from Summer Blockbuster Season to the Hallmark Ornament Release (which nets dozens of reviews and is a popular feature of this blog!). Please check out our sponsored links and thank you so much for that support!

At the end of April, I have reviewed the following:
447 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Fiction
Star Trek Books
Nonfiction
Graphic Novels
Magazines
786 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2243 - 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!)!
194 - 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
654 - 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
669 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Drinks
Candy
Cereal
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
186 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
107 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
142 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
153 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
87 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
28 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month for April is: ValueVapor.com!
Check it out!


The month of April had a lot of movement within the month and from some interesting prior reviews that made the list. I was a little bummed that my satirical article on Justin Bieber Apologizing For His Anne Frank House Gaffe did not make the cut, but I was psyched about all the pieces that did! For April, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Finish Quantum Powerball Dishwashing Blocks
9. The Walking Dead - Season 3
8. The Host
7. Olympus Has Fallen
6. The Avengers
5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
4. The Numbers Station
3. Star Trek Into Darkness
2. Tyler Perry's Temptation
1. Iron Man 3

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 - 278 reviews
9s - 395 reviews
8s - 716 reviews
7s - 808 reviews
6s - 719 reviews
5s - 954 reviews
4s - 679 reviews
3s - 549 reviews
2s - 242 reviews
1s - 167 reviews
0s - 81 reviews
No rating - 42 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, despite only one new entry into the Top Ten, and at the end of April, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. Star Trek: Machinations Of Doomsday
9. Won't Back Down
8. Jack The Giant Slayer
7. Prometheus
6. Iron Man 3
5. Beautiful Creatures
4. Oz The Great And Powerful
3. Safe Haven
2. Tyler Perry's Temptation
1. Warm Bodies

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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

With This Is 40, Judd Apatow Returns To Smart Dramedy!


The Good: Funny, Decent character conflicts, Entertaining story
The Bad: Somewhat formulaic in its resolution, No performances that truly “wowed” me
The Basics: Smartly capturing the angst of adult life, This Is 40 is a rare instance where the sequel is vastly superior to the original work!


For a few days now, my wife has been on me to watch This Is 40 with her. I had, admittedly, no real interest in seeing what was buzzed as the “sort of sequel” to Knocked Up (reviewed here!). I was not exactly motivated to watch This Is 40 because Knocked Up did not thrill me (though, admittedly, it grew on me some by the time I had my third viewing of it), so I went into This Is 40 last night with ridiculously low expectations.

And I was very pleasantly surprised.

Gone were the juvenile jokes that have plagued so many of Judd Apatow’s recent works and in its place was the Judd Apatow who originally got my attention with the magnificent Freaks And Geeks (reviewed here!). Despite its simple story and no real acting triumphs, This Is 40 is solidly entertaining and it explores well life in middle age when relationships take work and people get to the point where honesty trumps comfort and a couple has to find a way to live with the truths they expose to one another. This Is 40 has some wonderful lines – “J.J. Abrams is ruining our child!” – and a very modern understanding of the world and how it is to raise a child today.

As Pete and Debbie’s 40th birthdays approach, with Debbie insisting she is only turning 38 and going so far as to lie to her medical practitioners (and their billing departments), the couple experiences above average torsion associated with aging and the specific problems of their family. Pete has a record label that signs classic rock artists for new recordings and has been tragically unsuccessful. This comes at a time when Pete has loaned his father a lot of money and his current artist, Graham Parker, is dropping an album that all of Pete’s backers are convinced will not sell. With their money stretched for their joint 40th birthday party, financial problems overwhelming them and trying to help their children with bullies at school and their dependence upon technological devices, Pete and Debbie struggle to stay together and recall why they wanted to be together in the first place.

This Is 40 has a number of moments that any healthy couple who has had a dynamic relationship will recognize, from the moment where Debbie and Pete lovingly tell one another that they desperately never want to fight again to the moment they return from a retreat together to the first problem their children have and realize life never offers a full-time vacation. Judd Apatow, who wrote and directed This Is 40, is smart enough to include a multi-generational sense of conflict and comparison in this film. Debbie’s father is almost entirely absent and when he pops up for the birthday party, he mis-identifies Debbie’s employee, Desi, as one of his grandchildren. Conversely, Pete’s father is around more often than Debbie would like and his financial woes – the result of having three children very late in life – make his presence much more draining than enjoyable.

The presence of the parents to Pete and Debbie and their assorted issues – along with the comedy of adults now having siblings younger than their own children (Pete and Debbie’s children are older than the half-brothers and sisters both Pete and Debbie now have from their respective parents!) – puts the strained couple at a serious crossroad. In fact, one of the unfortunately dangling plotlines in This Is 40 is Debbie’s pregnancy. Debbie spends more time trying to track down who stole $12,000 from the boutique she runs than actually addressing what she and Pete will do about her unplanned pregnancy. Glossing over that is unfortunate given how straightforward This Is 40 is in tackling the other real world issues the movie takes on.

As for the acting, Judd Apatow uses his considerable cache to bring together some truly amazing talents for This Is 40. Despite oblique references to Ben and Kate (how the film gets around Kate missing her sister’s 40th birthday party is entirely dodged, though the presence of weed in the film is explained by the movie’s lone reference to the central protagonist from Knocked Up), the film employs remarkably few performers from Knocked Up. Apatow regulars Jason Segel and Charlyne Yi have supporting roles which are little more than cameos to service Debbie’s character (otherwise, Leslie Mann’s presence in the film would be entirely to react to relationship issues her character has with Pete). Graham Parker makes the most of his limited time on screen, though is oscillates between seeming like an advertisement for his new projects and making him seem like a bit of a dick (Pete is losing everything investing in the guy and he blithely notes, “I’ll be fine . . . they’re doing one of my songs on Glee.”). Sure, Apatow goes for some obvious eye candy – Megan Fox appears as Desi and is sure to show off most of her breasts – but he also goes with substance and quirky comedic deliveries with heavyweights like John Lithgow and Albert Brooks, respectively.

Much of the film hinges on Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann (Pete and Debbie) and they do a great job of taking two background characters who were closer to non-entities (Pete) and annoying (Debbie) in the prior outing to make them entirely interesting and viable characters worth spending two hours watching. Rudd is wonderful at playing a man with a quiet dream who is slowly watching it fail and slip away and his body language and deliveries – where almost everything comes out in quietly exasperated tones with only a hint of hope (which often borders on desperation) sneaking in at the end – are spot on. Mann makes Debbie sympathetic and not at all annoying, which is a nice step up from her portrayal of Debbie in Knocked Up. She is a fighter, fighting for her family and the “guard dog” mentality she presents is much less abrasive than in the first film.

In the end, This Is 40 does well what so many films try to do, but fail; it straddles the borders of comedy and drama to create a movie that explores serious, real-world issues and the consequences of relationships, while managing to be entirely entertaining (and not emotionally oppressive in any way). That makes This Is 40 one of the late-release gems of 2012 and a must-watch now that it has dropped on DVD and Blu-Ray.

For other works Judd Apatow has been involved with, please visit my reviews of:
Girls - Season 1
The Five-Year Engagement
Wanderlust
Bridesmaids
Year One
Pineapple Express
Step Brothers
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby
The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
The Critic

7.5/10

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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Monday, April 29, 2013

Substandard Pop, No Matter The Lighting: Different Light


The Good: Some decent lyrics, Good vocals, Some memorable tunes
The Bad: Very fluffy, Musically inconsistent, Short!
The Basics: Thoroughly average in the final analysis, Different Light by The Bangles is an erratic collection of pop tracks from sources within and outside the band.


I was recently listening to and reviewing a c.d. of Lilith Fair and I was caught by the presentation of "Eternal Flame" presented by Susanna Hoffs. Hoffs was one of the Bangles, for those too young to know better they were one of the pop-girl bands that preceded the Spice Girls or (shudder) the Pussycat Dolls, back when female pop-rock artists were more concerned with creating music than selling sex. Hoffs had a solo career (she might still, but if so she keeps it pretty quiet), so I was surprised that she would include one of her Bangles songs on the Lilith Fair album as opposed to one of her own solo works. This inspired me to pick up an album by The Bangles and give it a spin.

I picked up Different Light, a twelve-track pure pop album that clocks in at a disappointing 38 minutes, 40 seconds. Best known for the singles "Manic Monday," "Walk Like An Egyptian" and "If She Knew What She Wants," the Bangles might seem dominated by Susanna Hoffs, but on Different Light, the singing duties are remarkably well-distributed. Conveniently, the liner notes to the c.d. list who the main vocalist is for each track and for the quartet, vocals are remarkably well-distributed.

The question one might reasonably have after listening repeatedly to Different Light is "Whose vision is this album? Whose voice defines the Bangles?" By "voice," I don't mean vocals, but rather whose voice as in making a statement, is the album and band following? The hit song "Manic Monday," credited to "Christopher" was written by Prince (before he became a symbol). "Walk Like An Egyptian" was written by Liam Sternberg and "If She Knew What She Wants" was written by Jules Shear; the main three singles to be successful on the charts were all written by people who are not members of the Bangles. Of the remaining nine songs, eight are written or co-written by members of the quartet. So, why was the band reticent about releasing a song like "Return Post?" It's written and performed by members of The Bangles, why release the contracted out songs for the hits? On the album, only "Let It Go" is written and performed entirely by all four members of the group.

The reason I am belaboring this whole point and idea is because Different Light suffers greatly because the beast has no head. What Different Light lacks is a sense of creative unity that defines who and what the group and the album are. As a perfect example, the soft, folk-like "September Gurls" is followed by the punk-pop "Angels Don't Fall In Love," with its crazed drumming following such a gentle song, the ear just shudders. It is then followed by a pretty standard pop ballad called "Following."

While musical diversity is the hallmark of an artist who has skills, on Different Light, the result is more sloppy than professional. The feel of the album is that of a collection of singles tossed together. Thematically, the album is just as tormented as the sound. Michael Steele wrote the soft, sad, ponderous "Following," which brilliantly emotes with lines like, "You call me a loser / You call me a shadowing fool / Look over your shoulder / And you say I'm haunting you." Her vocals on the song are equally impressive for their simplicity and the tone of eerie loneliness they connote. "Following" is completely out of place on the same album as the album closer, "Not Like You," with its insipid rhymes of "Busted down and broken / All in two / But you never thought / This could happen to you / Wake up, stumble / Trip and fall / You had so much / And now you've lost it all." It is performed with the sound and resonance of a commercial jingle and it is as irritating as it is simplistic.

The thing that surprised me when considering the lines and collection of songs on Different Light was that Susanna Hoffs was the only one to leave the Bangles and have a front-running solo career. Honestly, "Following" is a strong enough song that it should have bought Michael Steele her own solo career. But more than that, the way the album is organized with each member contributing their own style and lyrics, the effect is one that is ultimately rather assembled. In short, what is not contributed by outside sources and simply performed by the Bangles is basically a collection of solo efforts wherein each member of the band writes their own songs and sings them with the others backing them.

The overall feel and sound of the bulk of the album is definitely pop, far more than pop-rock. The songs are largely jingles that have memorable tunes (ask any child of the 80s how "Walk Like An Egyptian" goes and they can at least spit out the chorus in tune). But they are musically safe; this is the typical guitar, bass, drums band and the Bangles are not pushing the envelope in any meaningful way on this album. Instead, Different Light could be any group of young women playing in their garage.

Does that mean it is without quality? Not at all. Regardless of who wrote the song, "If She Knew What She Wants" remains one of the most original pop songs of all time. How often is the youthful inexperience with desire actually explored? Susanna Hoffs beautifully sings "If she knew what she wants / He'd be giving it to her . . ." ("If She Knew What She Wants") with the stark expression of how young women seldom know what they are truly looking for. It's not another simple, stupid song about love or loss, it's just about youthful inexperience. That's cool.

And even the somewhat pointless and weird "Walk Like An Egyptian" is memorable if for nothing else than the Bangles managed to make number one hit out of how people move. It's ridiculous, candy-coated pop, but it does that well.

That's why we bother to remember the Bangles. All of the songs on Different Light worth remembering are on their "Greatest Hits" album, reducing significantly in value on its own.

The best track is "If She Knew What She Wants" (though "Following" impresses me quite a bit), the low point is "Angels Don't Fall In Love."

For other works with Susanna Hoffs, please visit my reviews of:
When You're A Boy
Susanna Hoffs
All I Want (single)

5/10

For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Revamping In The Darkness Is Less Than We Might Hope For With Star Trek Into Darkness


The Good: Pacing, Acting, Moments of Character
The Bad: Familiar feeling plot reversals, Lack of genuine character development
The Basics: Star Trek Into Darkness is an action-packed science fiction adventure that lacks the deeper character conflict of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.


Star Trek Into Darkness is a film that has any number of reasonable comparison points to Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (reviewed here!) and the episode of Star Trek that spawned it, “Space Seed” (reviewed here!). For all its greatness, Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan put the Star Trek film franchise into a rut from which it has not (yet) recovered. That rut forces the studio to produce unfortunately interchangeable “kill the villain” science fiction epics, a trend that since Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was a massive fan and box-office success was only challenged once, with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (reviewed here!). Otherwise, regardless of the set-up, the Star Trek films have all degenerated into “kill the villain” action adventure movies. With each subsequent Trek film, the standard to pass, however, has always been Khan.

With the reboot of Star Trek with J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek (reviewed here!), the franchise had its most direct attempt to capitalize on the popularity and success of Khan and Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, which is what Star Trek Into Darkness tries to do. Sadly, the follow up to the 2009 Star Trek was never going to be Star Trek Machinations Of Doomsday (check out that concept here!), a film which would have told a character-driven story other than a “kill the villain” story that would have shown real respect for the original Star Trek. Star Trek Into Darkness takes a different tact, though it – like the Machinations Of Doomsday concept – tries to utilize elements from the original Star Trek to tell a story that rewrites the Star Trek universe. And Star Trek Into Darkness generously rewrites the Trek universe . . . with only window dressing of creating a truly new film. Like the previous film, Star Trek Into Darkness is preceded by a graphic novel, Countdown To Darkness (reviewed here!.

To get to my issue with Star Trek Into Darkness, it lacks the truly compelling character elements that made Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan and its sequel so good. Khan was such an interesting villain in the cinematic rendition because he, despite being genetically enhanced and better in many ways than Captain Kirk, was still ruled by human emotion. At his core, Khan was a man suffering from the loss of his loved one and he, rather reasonably, blamed James T. Kirk for the death of his wife and most of his crew when the planet he was stranded by Kirk upon became a horrible and inhospitable wasteland. For more than fifteen years, he stewed angrily so that when the first chance of escape came, he took it and began a hunt for James T. Kirk that was, in its truest form, epic. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan is a deeply personal conflict between a man feeling his age and second guessing his past decisions and a superhuman who is passionately furious about his loss.

Star Trek Into Darkness is not that.

Instead, Star Trek Into Darkness is a young man at the beginning of his career learning his limitations and abilities (and those of his crew) when he responds to a crisis that threatens his home. It is, for the contemplative fans who like smart cinema, hardly a fair trade. And it hinges on a ridiculous premise in relation to the villain, one that completely guts the purpose and character-driven angst of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.

After the Enterprise works to save a primitive alien planet from an environmental catastrophe (an exercise whose purpose seems to be to illustrate both Kirk and Spock’s resolve and to show how well the Enterprise crew has gelled since Star Trek, as well as illustrate Kirk’s ability to think three-dimensionally), the ship is recalled to Earth. There, Kirk is dressed down for violating the Prime Directive and Pike is returned to command of the Enterprise, with Kirk as his first officer (Spock is reassigned to another ship). In the wake of a bombing in London and an attack on the Admiralty of StarFleet Command, the Enterprise crew begins a hunt for John Harrison, an operative working for StarFleet outside the official chain of command. Working for Section 31, Harrison is a fugitive and when Admiral Marcus assigns Kirk to hunt Harrison to the death, Spock has serious reservations. When the ship is armed with a new style of photon torpedo, one which Scotty cannot scan, Scotty resigns in protest and Chekov is made Chief Engineer.

In trying to apprehend the fugitive Harrison from Klingon space, Kirk and Spock learn that Harrison is a pawn, resentful of how he and his people have been used by Admiral Marcus in an escalating series of conflicts with the Klingon Empire. On Kronos, when Harrison is cornered, he surrenders when he learns about the torpedoes and that makes Kirk wary. Harrison soon reveals his true identity as Khan and in an unlikely turn of events, Kirk and Khan team up to attempt to arrest Admiral Marcus and stop his massively powerful warship he has built.

Star Trek Into Darkness puts familiar pieces into play in ways that initially seem new and the most problematic of them are the ones that die-hard fans are likely to care about the most. Spock Prime, for example, defies logic by being more reticent than giving. As my concept Machinations Of Doomsday illustrated; the Star Trek universe has already been fundamentally altered as the results of Star Trek. Spock Prime, then, has an ethical duty to save as many lives as possible using his foreknowledge of the universe as events unfold. As a result, he can save Deneva, all the planets the Doomsday Machine and Nomad destroyed . . . and he could have prevented the Botany Bay’s crew from ever getting reanimated. That, alas, is not the way Star Trek Into Darkness unfolds. Instead, the cameo with Spock Prime is woefully underwhelming.

That said, there is some imagination in Star Trek Into Darkness and the new look of the Klingon ships is interesting. However, the appearance of the Klingons in the film makes no real sense given how Star Trek Enterprise eventually explained why Klingons looked human in the original series, but not in the subsequent entries into the franchise (that series of events would not have been altered by the events of Star Trek). Abrams and his team do not quite land the new look, but they make a transition Klingon that works well enough. Moreover, the fact that the Klingon moon is shown destroyed in Star Trek Into Darkness makes no sense as the destruction of Praxis would not have happened for at least forty more years!

The action sequences are good, but they feel very Star Wars as opposed to Star Trek and the reliance upon the action adventure sequences as opposed to anything more cerebral is a bit disappointing. In fact, the special effects are gutted by the speed at which they appear. As the old adage goes, if you're going to make a special effects movie, the least you can do is let people see the effects! In IMAX the 3-D was particularly underwhelming with it being very obvious (to those who enjoy films) that the effects were done in post-production.

On the character front, Star Trek Into Darkness continues to move the crew of the Enterprise toward the more familiar Star Trek dynamic. As a result, Kirk and Spock are the featured characters, with the rest of the crew (plus the plucky Carol Marcus) and the villain along as supporting quippers. This is not a Chekov movie or one that makes one think that Sulu is ever going to grow into an influential StarFleet captain. Kirk and Spock continue to develop trust and grow together throughout Star Trek Into Darkness and, despite the continued romance between Uhura and Spock, there are the insinuations in this film that the Kirk and Spock relationship will be their most significant one.

As for the acting, Zachary Quinto is great as Spock. He has the emotionless thing down pat and he plays logical and commanding in a way that is different enough from his portrayal of Sylar in Heroes as to be entirely convincing and a great actor. And when Spock breaks, Quinto sells it . . . though there is really nothing that sells a Spock uppercut. The rest of the supporting cast is good, but not given enough to do to truly shine with their talents.

That brings us to Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch is the best example of shit casting in modern times that I can come up with. Director J.J. Abrams had a serious problem with Star Trek Into Darkness and that was that Benicio Del Toro famously turned down the role of the villain in the film. The problem with even allowing Benicio Del Toro’s name to be leaked in association with the film is that, for all its diversity, the Star Trek franchise is exceptionally low on Latinos. Outside Khan, the only significant Latino in the franchise is B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek: Voyager and her half-Klingon heritage trumped anything human or Latina in her culture for the entire series. Unless Del Toro was being cast to play someone new, the only logical character for him to be was Khan. Sadly, casting the British “it boy” (he’s filling the same niche now that Ryan Gosling had two years ago) as John Harrison, the alias used by Khan for most of the film, is a huge mistake. In “Space Seed,” Khan was painted historically as a fairly dark Indian, and was deeply tanned. Cumberbatch is pretty pale. Writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof, apparently did not believe they had the skill between them to make the viewers of Star Trek Into Darkness believe credibly that any of the seventy other genetically engineered individuals on the Botany Bay could become as villainous as Khan. Cumberbatch does what he can and he is a very physical villain, but he never seems credibly passionate enough or his character truly invested enough to buy.

On the flip side, Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk is plenty emotive and Pine plays him exceptionally well. Chris Pine – who is the focus of most of the screentime of Star Trek Into Darkness that has a camera pointed on a person as opposed to a planetscape, starship or external chase/battle scene – is magnetic and expressive as Captain Kirk. In the early scenes with Pine playing opposite Bruce Greenwood's Pike, he says more with the look in his eyes than most actors do with pages of dialog. The few moments of humor he is given are delivered with characteristic charm and as his Kirk pursues Khan, he has a determined fa├žade which is very convincingly rendered.

The balance of Star Trek Into Darkness, though, is a very average-feeling chase/defeat the villain movie and when the hype for the film fades, one suspects it will not only be the fans who find themselves wishing for more.

For other films with Alice Eve, please check out my reviews of:
Men In Black 3
Sex And The City 2
She's Out Of My League

5/10

For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Simple Repack Theatre Meets Decipher Learning From Past Mistakes With "Reflections 2.0!"


The Good: Some very nice foils,Decent original foils, With price depressed the boxes are a great deal
The Bad: Rarities, A ton of filler!
The Basics: With brand new foils mixed in with foil reprints and a ton of extra singles, "Reflections 2.0" makes itself worthwhile to collectors and investors, if not players.


When the Star Trek CCG reached a certain point, it had a lot of material and as a result, Decipher, Inc. had a lot of material stocked up. With the first edition of Star Trek CCGs, this resulted in a number of attempts to liquidate the stock, possibly the most notable of which was the Reflections (reviewed here!) set. Comprised of foil reprint cards mixed in with obscene amounts of singles from the first six sets, "Reflections" devalued a lot of collections and made for an annoyingly difficult foil set to attempt to collect. So, when Decipher, Inc. announced Reflections 2.0 for the Star Trek Second Edition CCG, many of us were wary. We did not, as it turned out, need to be.

Decipher's most blatant effort to dump old Star Trek Second Edition CCG stock to date came in the form of "Reflections 2.0." After only a few years of producing the Star Trek Second Edition CCG, Decipher warehouses were apparently still plugged with old inventory from the first three sets, so they came up with an interesting solution; repackage the cards and reprint some as foils. Learning from their prior mistakes, though, this time Decipher offered some intriguing new foil only cards. So, while there were a few foil reprints from the first four sets, there were also brand new cards, making this set essential to collectors and investors. It turned out to pay out well for both. As for players, some like the original cards in this set, many could not justify the expense to get them.

Basics/Set Composition

The Star Trek Customizable Card Game "Reflections 2.0" set was the sixth full expansion set of cards sold in boxes created by Decipher to continue the Customizable Card Game Second Edition. Players saw the game as a strategy game that is like a Role-playing game with cards. The players got to use characters, vessels, and scenarios are all already conceived by others. The original concept was to find a way to make play socially acceptable for an older audience and it generally worked. Collectors saw this as another thing to collect to show their love of Star Trek and while the cards have very different images from the trading card releases, many collectors were turned off by how small the images were and how much space on each card was given to game-related text.

"Reflections 2.0" is a 121 card set that is comprised more or less of half of foil reprint cards from the first four sets of Star Trek Second Edition CCG cards (see links at bottom of page) and 61 foil cards unique to this set. The set consists of 60 rare foil reprints and 61 Premium rare foils unique to this set, with the most popular characters and scenarios being given the more rare status. Interestingly, there is no differentiation within the rarity for the exclusive cards and thus, they seem to come up with the same frequency.

The 61 new cards that are unique to "Reflections 2.0" include: 13 Dilemmas (cards featuring challenges the crews faced, like a shipboard fire or an unknown microorganism), 19 Events (cards featuring long-standing challenges or concepts in the overall Star Trek universe, like an interstellar treaty or a Maquis Raid), 7 Interrupts (cards featuring phenomenon that quickly turn events, like a change of heart or a transwarp conduit), 20 Personnel (2 Bajoran, 2 Borg, 2 Cardassian, 3 Dominion, 5 Federation, 2 Klingon, 2 Non-Aligned, and 2 Romulan characters), and 2 Ship cards (1 Dominon, 1 Federation).

Fortunately, for collectors and investors, those trying to assemble a 121 card foil card set will find the packs of 18 cards have two foil cards per pack, usually a foil reprint and one of the Premiums exclusive to this set.. The other 17 cards are all regular, repackaged cards from the prior sets. There are commons, uncommons and rares from the first three sets of Star Trek Second Edition CCGs. Once in a long while, a "Reflections 2.0" pack will have a "Necessary Evil" single in it, as well!

Playability

At its most basic level, this is a board game where one constructs the board and pieces out of a selection of cards. The starting purpose of the game is to get 100 points, points most often are derived from completing missions by thwarting dilemmas using the unique attributes of your ship and crew. The "Reflections 2.0" set incorporates the cards introduced and revised with the "Second Edition Premiere" set.

"Reflections 2.0" does not add any new affiliations or concepts.

This is a very complex customizable card game, but it represents a level of gaming sophistication designed to appeal to younger adults and actually challenge them, which is a decent idea given the thematic complexity of the Star Trek universe. The problem, of course, is that most people who would be most stimulated by this game do not have the time or effort/interest to learn to play it. As a result, the mid-teens that basically run the CCG players world seem to have had mixed impressions about this game.

This is very much a collector's set as players who seriously play the game will already have everything that is in these boxes of cards and would be unlikely to play with the more valuable foil cards anyway.

Rule Changes

The basic rules for the Star Trek Second Edition CCG were laid out in the "Second Edition Premiere" set and are covered in my review (see link below). There are no rule changes in this expansion.

Highlights

The "Reflections 2.0" set set out to wow fans and it manages to do some of that with its impressive list of new cards. In addition to the fun of Vina as an Orion Slave Girl, there is Troi as Major Rakal, her Romulan alter-ego from "Face Of The Enemy" (reviewed here!). Fans of the franchise will appreciate the appearance of a few alternate personas - Picard and Riker - from "All Good Things . . . " (reviewed here!).

But the stand out for me would have to be Odo, Curzon Odo. This card is based on the events of "Facets" (reviewed here!) and it is a wonderful and clever idea for the gaming card. Combining the talents of the shapeshifting Odo with the technical knowledge of Curzon Dax made for a great character and now a powerful card. As well, the picture looks good and it looks good as a foil!

Collectibility

"Reflections 2.0" is all about the collectors and it's all about pleasing the collectors who need everything. While nowhere near as difficult to complete as the original "Reflections" set, this has enough complexity to keep fans hunting down the full set.

In general, though, the "Reflections 2.0" set actually had the inverse effect of what collectors and especially investors want out of a set. The "Reflections 2.0" set itself remains quite valuable. Most collectors did not have the patience or money to sift through all the garbage to pull the cards per pack they needed to try to assemble the 61 original cards or the 60 card set of foils depicting cards they already had, so many simply let dealers do all the work and purchased their sets from dealers.

The problem is, the dealers who opened them ended up flooded with commons, uncommons and rares from the first three sets, which depressed the value of the sets of cards that had already been out. All three sets plummeted in value upon the release of "Reflection 2.0."

The only positive aspect of the "Reflections 2.0" set from a collectibility perspective is that the set wisely focused on reprinting the most popular ships and personnel cards. These two card types tend to have more universal appeal and as a result, they do increase the overall sense of value to the set, even if it does not add new characters or even new images of them.

In other words, it's a long way to go for little pay off.

Overview

The foil set that was "Reflections 2.0" set represents the best cards already in the marketplace as well as a whole bevy of new powerful cards with intriguing characters and situations to play with and/or collect. Nowhere near as uncreative as the first "Reflections" outing, it is easy to covet these cards and nicely, it is not impossible to collect them!

This set culls material from the following Star Trek Second Edition CCG series, which I've reviewed:
Second Edition Premiere
Energize
Call To Arms
Necessary Evil

This set was preceded by "Fractured Time" (reviewed here!) and followed by the Star Trek CCG expansion "Adversaries Anthology" (reviewed here!) and the full release "Strange New Worlds" (reviewed here!).

This set culls images from:

The Star Trek films
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise

Check out my current inventory of this set at my Reflections 2.0 Store Front!

7/10

For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

The Day The Feminists Took Away My Lilith Fair Tickets . . .


The Good: Some of the lyrics, Moments of voice
The Bad: Maybe I just don't like bluegrass? No, lyrics, music and voice did not impress me.
The Basics: With unmemorable lyrics, unimpressive musical backing, Shaming Of The Sun is a disappointment that is more forgettable than entertaining or enjoyable.


I've been to almost no concerts in my life (thus far). The first concert I went to as an adult was Lilith Fair in 1998 and I went because Heather Nova was performing at it and her album Siren (reviewed here!) had knocked me off my feet. I loved the experience. It was a thrill meeting Heather Nova, watching and listening to Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, and Sarah McLachlan. It blew me away. So, knowing that the Indigo Girls were generally enjoyed by people who attended Lilith Fair, I decided it was time to give an album of theirs a spin. The first Indigo Girls album I found was Shaming Of The Sun.

It didn't grab me.

I'm a fan of folk music, pop, rock and roll, and generally like my artists progressive and female. In fact, I like Indigo Girls's songs "Galileo" and "Least Complicated" (neither of which are on Shaming Of The Sun. Someone once told me the Indigo Girls are considered bluegrass and maybe that falls just outside what I like. With twelve tracks, Shaming Of The Sun is a socially-conscious album that has a hard root in gospel music. There is a strong sense throughout the album that Amy Rays and Emily Saliers are women of strong faith.

Perhaps that's one of the things that just doesn't fit for me; on "Scooter Boys," Amy Ray rights powerfully about the plight of the Indians with lines like "Scooter boys and Argentineans / Europe shed the blood of the Indian / Here I sit in the land of plenty / Crying about my own virginity." It's strong and socially aware. And what solution comes from this? Turning it over to god, at least on other tracks, "Hey holy console me / Some power controls me" ("Shed Your Skin"). I'm a bit more proactive, I suppose, than letting it all be a matter of the divine moving all of the pieces.

It's that kind of rhetorical and philosophical and lyrical incongruity throughout Shaming Of The Sun that turned me off. There are moments the vocals are exceptional; "Everything In Its Own Time" sounds wonderful with Saliers and Ray harmonizing beautifully in the upper ranges - most of their songs are in the mid-range on this album. "Everything In Its Own Time" stands out as a beautiful vocal presentation. But there, the lyrics did not impress me.

In fact, throughout Shaming Of The Sun, I found myself underwhelmed by the lyrics. From the singsong refrain of "Get Out The Map" ("Get out the map get out the map and lay your finger anywhere down / We'll leave the figuring to those we pass on our way out of town") to the ridiculous rhymes on "Don't Give That Girl A Gun" (clean/mean, cool/fool, smile/mile), the writing did not impress me and I was waiting to be wowed by this group.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual civil rights are important to me and Indigo Girls are touted as being an important part of the movement. On Shaming Of The Sun, they get around to poking at religious discrimination with the song "It's Alright," with lines like "And it's alright (sic) if you hate that way, hate me cause I'm different, hate me cause I'm gay." But the album overall is mildmannered and generally inoffensive with the solutions to the problems of the world being passed along more to the divine than a rally to organize.

In short, on Shaming Of The Sun, Indigo Girls are more likely to pray their way out of problems than organize a posse to march on the political establishments. I'm more for the latter solution myself.

None of the music on Shaming Of The Sun leapt out at me. Primarily composed of guitars and strong up-front vocals, the music on Shaming Of The Sun is indistinct rock in the folk-rock, bluegrass-country border. The guitars are either strummed up tempo for a folk-country sound or are slow in an ambiguous way that puts all of the pressure on the vocals for creating a memorable melody. And they don't. Not this time.

I like folk-rock, but did not enjoy this disc. I suspect those who like gospel music or country might be more grabbed by it, though I can't even recommend it to those people. Feminism is all about choices and I choose not to listen to this disc again.

The best track is "Everything In Its Own Time," the worst track is "Caramia."

For other reviews of former Artists Of The Month, please visit my reviews of:
Remember - Janis Ian
The Very Best Of Linda Ronstadt - Linda Ronstadt
The Collection - Alanis Morissette

5/10

For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Aiming Toward Average, Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends Cereal Is A Tough Sell For Post!


The Good: Fairly nutritious, Tastes good, Affordable
The Bad: Not the most distinctive taste, Nothing superlative
The Basics: Post Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal franchises the popular Honey Bunches Of Oats in a surprisingly mediocre way.


When it comes to cereals, I have a tough time not seeing corporate greed everywhere. I mean, I love cereal, but for the last several years, when a company has a legitimately good cereal that becomes (as much as these things can) a breakfast phenomenon, they almost immediately begin creating variations of the cereal in an attempt to grab a larger piece of the marketshare. I suppose the business concept is “If you like Cheerios, we want to entice you into trying one of these eight other types of Cheerios, as opposed to picking up a box of Quaker Life cereal.” But, given how the market will suddenly be flooded with variations of a cereal and they will go through promotion phases and then 95% (or more) invariably end up being blown out on clearance or at the local Big Lots, it just strikes me as greedy. The cereal companies are in competition with one another and none are happy just making a solid cereal that gets x% of the breakfast cereal dollar and leave it at that.

Right now, Honey Bunches Of Oats is going through that explosion of experimental flavors and one that I am utterly convinced will end up being clearance any day now is the Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal.

Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is a flake-based cereal with tiny, less flavorful additives than the traditional Honey Bunches Of Oats. And it is fair, but it is not exceptional in any way.

Basics

Post Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is a relatively new cereal with flakes of corn. It looks like a very typical collection of flakes, most about 1/2” to 3/4” in two directions, thin and textured, with most of the small flakes being slightly curved. Honey Bunches Of Oats cereal now comes in several different varieties, designed to give dieters more variety while they lose weight.

The standard box of Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is 14.5 oz. That represents approximately fourteen servings and I was able to get a little over twelve servings and a generous helping of crumbs and cereal dust out of the box I bought. In addition to having traditional flakes that have a light sheen from honey, Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal features a smattering of oats, some of which have tiny red pieces one suspects are supposed to be related to raspberries.

Ease Of Preparation

Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is a breakfast cereal, so this is one of the low-impact breakfast options as far as preparation goes! Simply open the box of Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal, pour out 3/4 cup (I’ve taken to using a measuring cup) and add 1/2 cup of milk to it. I have discovered, as part of getting healthy, that one of the biggest challenges one might have with breakfast cereal is actually eating the serving size recommended by the manufacturer. Given that I have been monitoring my intake for several weeks now, I am now able to enjoy only 2/3 cup of Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal in a sitting, though it is not as filling as some other cereals I have had.

For the purposes of my reviews, and my regular consumption, I only use skim milk (fat free) milk with cereal.

Taste

The Honey Bunches Of Oats Fruit Blends with Crispy Peach Flavored Flakes and Crunchy Raspberry flavored granola clusters smells appropriately fruity. The scent is very inviting and insinuates well how the cereal will taste.

The flakes are light and very sweet. The flavor is the perfect embodiment of peach. The light and fruity flavor is sweet and distinctive. As for the crunchy raspberry flavored granola clusters are a bit more grainy than actually fruity, but the aftertaste is lightly that of raspberry.

With milk, the fruit flavors blend and becomes a sweet mix that is far less distinct. Oddly, the peach flavor overwhelms the rest and both flavors are carried by the milk. The result is that the flakes are very dry and grainy while the milk is flavored.

Nutrition

Post Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is pretty nutritious on its own and with skim milk. Made primarily of corn, whole grain wheat, and whole grain rolled oats, there is nothing unpronounceable in Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal. Given that there is a separate listing of vitamins and minerals, I suspect that Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is one of those cereals where the nutrients are then sprayed onto the cereal, making it important to drink the milk with this cereal in order to get all of the nutritional benefits out of it.

A single serving of Post Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is 30 grams, 3/4 cup. In that serving, there are 120 calories, with 15 calories coming from fat. There is no saturated fat in this cereal, nor is there any cholesterol. With only 135 mg of sodium and a gram of dietary fiber, this is a good dietary choice for those striving to improve heart health. With two grams of protein and 55mg potassium, Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends is very healthy. On its own, this cereal has significant percentages of seven vitamins and minerals.

Storage/Cleanup

Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends is a cereal, so as long as it is kept sealed in its box, it ought to remain fresh for quite some time. The box of Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal we purchased on April 15, 2013 had an expiration date of August 17, 2013, so it is not the most enduring cereal on the market. Obviously, when you are done pouring the cereal from the box, fold down the plastic inner wrap to help maintain the cereal’s freshness.

Cleaning up after Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is simple as well. Simply brush away crumbs left by it and you are done! It is that simple! This is a cereal that does not even discolor the milk added to it!

Overall

Honey Bunches Of Oats Crispy Peach Flakes & Crunchy Raspberry Granola Fruit Blends cereal is not as flavorful as I would hope for for a cereal trading on having fruit added to it. I found myself wanting more . . . and wishing Post had just stuck to the cereal it had done right.

For other breakfast cereals, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Fiber One Honey Squares
Kellogg's Krave Double Chocolate
Cap'N Crunch's Limited Edition Christmas Crunch

4.5/10

For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the food reviews I have written!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A (Mostly) Amusing Animated Film, Hotel Transylvania Is Not Great.


The Good: Moments of imagination, Much of the voice acting
The Bad: One-hit humor, Predictable character arcs and plot
The Basics: An amusing concept, Hotel Transylvania has a decent set-up that fails to evolve in an interesting or unpredictable way.


There are, these days, very few films that I miss that I feel like I have actually missed. When a movie is important enough to me, I tend to find a way to get out to see it. So, I was not feeling any great deficit in my life when I uprooted last year and moved from New York to Michigan when Hotel Transylvania came out. It was not a film I prioritized checking out after my move and, having seen it now, I am glad I did not make the effort (getting to the movie theaters out here can be a real pain!). Hotel Transylvania is not bad, but it is hardly as funny, audacious or even interesting as one might hope.

That is not to say that Hotel Transylvania is bad. However, it does not take long for the initially fun-feeling animated feature to turn into pretty much what one expects from an Adam Sandler movie. In addition to utilizing the voice talents of virtually all of Adam Sandler’s old Saturday Night Live buddies – Jon Lovitz, Molly Shannon, David Spade – Sandler’s initial voice performance as Dracula soon slips into his familiar timbre. The result is that the film slowly becomes one of Adam Sander’s feel-good comedies, though this one has a pretty low rewatchability factor because the jokes might illicit a smile the first time around, but not much more than that on subsequent viewings (rewatching even the trailer after seeing the film, I found myself unfortunately unamused).

As her 118th birthday approaches, Mavis – the vampire daughter of Dracula - begs her father to honor his word to her and let her leave their monster sanctuary hotel as he promised her she could at that age. To her surprise, Dracula does let her go – starting with a visit to a nearby village. There, Mavis is horrified to find villagers with torches who want to eat her toes, exactly like her father warned her about. As Mavis flees back to the hotel sanctuary, Dracula has the zombie bellhops from the hotel – who were disguised as humans for the show – strike the village set he created to freak Mavis out. The ruse has the desired effect and Mavis expresses no further desire to leave the monsters-only hotel.

Unfortunately, the show Dracula puts on for his ignorant daughter has an unexpected consequence; a human hiker follows the zombies back to the monsters hotel. While Dracula works to conceal young Jonathan’s humanity (a real difficulty considering the hotel chef, Quasimodo, has a rat with a nose like a bloodhound) to insure his guests will continue to stay at his monster’s hotel and get the young man off the grounds, Jonathan meets Mavis and the two have an instant connection. Forced to keep Jonathan around when he explains to Mavis, Frankenstein and the others that Jonathan is a party planner (and the Frankenstein monster’s cousin), Dracula struggles to keep Jonathan and Mavis from getting closer while keeping his human identity from the guests and chef!

Hotel Transylvaniaquickly abandons its sense of originality – the whole premise that classic gothic monsters are actually fun-loving, misunderstood, and still exist in this day in age is fun – in favor of a predictable plot so obvious and formulaic that only children will be surprised by it. Mavis and Jonathan hit it off, but Dracula is the classic disapproving parent. So, much of Hotel Transylvania is his journey toward a modern, tolerant viewpoint when he realizes just how much Mavis likes Jonathan.

In fact, Hotel Transylvania is so canned and predictable that virtually every formulaic plot point for this type of romantic comedy occurs. Dad disapproves, has a moment of understanding where he comes to like the potential suitor, sees the daughter and suitor together and freaks out, encounters an obstacle that forces him to rely upon the suitor and the boy and girl bond. But, to keep the suitor safe, he must reject the girl (which hurts both young people) and only then does the father realize that the story of these two youth in one form or another mirrors his own romance with his dead wife and he comes to a position of tolerance, which forces him to pursue the suitor to bring about a reconciliation, at great personal peril.

That fact that the main characters are monsters and a human does not make the character journey or plot any more original.

On DVD, I was caught by how much of the animation is clearly oriented toward the 3-D thrill aspect. Seeing it only in 2-D, I was largely unimpressed, but given that spectacle is only 1 point in my reviewing standards, this is not a dealbreaker. That said, the animation style is fun and Hotel Transylvania looks good. Director Genndy Tartakovsky makes Hotel Transylvania look good with a decent sense of motion and color vibrancy that feels fresher than the story does.

As for the performances in Hotel Transylvania, they are generally average. The cast is led by Adam Sandler (Dracula) and Andy Samberg (Jonathan) and they play off one another very well. Considering Sandler and Samberg are working with talents they are familiar with, it is unsurprising that Hotel Transylvaniasounds good. Given that none of the stars in the film are particularly adept outside comedy (save Steve Buscemi), it is unsurprising that things like Adam Sandler’s accent slip occur as the film progresses.

On the flip side, Selena Gomez does surprisingly well as Mavis. She emotes well using her voice and makes Mavis sound like a fun young woman eager to experience life outside the walls of Hotel Transylvania. On DVD, the film comes with minimal bonus features and we only watched the trailers for other films soon to be released and none were particularly thrilling. Then again, neither was Hotel Transylvania, so the DVD is par for the source material’s course.

For similar animated films, please visit my reviews of:
ParaNorman
Coraline
The Nightmare Before Christmas

4.5/10

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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Limited Edition, Not For The Permanent Run, Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Is Okay.


The Good: Tastes good, Great ingredients
The Bad: More expensive than other Ice creams, Not terribly healthy! Not the most robust blueberry flavor . . .
The Basics: Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is a limited edition flavor that lacks the spark to become a full-time part of the Haagen-Dazs line.


As many of my loyal readers know, the local clearance section at the grocery store is a wealth of products for me when it comes to my food reviews. I seldom pay full price for anything and it allows me to try a lot of products that are otherwise too expensive for me to realistically try or enjoy. That is why, up until now, I have only reviewed one Haagen-Dazs ice cream, the Black Cherry Amaretto Gelato (reviewed here!). Today that changes, though, as my local grocery store had a clearance of some of the latest Limited Edition flavors of Haagen-Dazs, including the 14 oz. container of Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Ice cream!

Unfortunately, for those hoping this limited edition flavor might endure in the standard line-up, this flavor is hardly strong or robust enough to get added, I suspect. It was enjoyable, but for the price, it is too tough a sell to make permanent!

Basics

Haagen-Dazs Ice cream comes in a 14 oz. (almost) pint container. The Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is a smooth Ice cream with chunks of cobbler crust. Blueberry Crumble is mostly smooth with chunks in every three to four bites. This Ice cream is basically one homogenous flavor with dry bits throughout.

At (locally) $5.99 a pint, the Haagen-Dazs Ice cream is an expensive frozen dairy dessert. That I found it on clearance for $2.99 was the primary reason I bought the pint of Ice cream!

Ease Of Preparation

The Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is a simple Ice cream with only one additive. As an ice cream, preparation is ridiculously simple: one need only open the top of the container, remove the safety seal from the top, scoop out a half cup and consume! There is no trick to preparing or eating the Blueberry Crumble Ice cream!

Taste

Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Ice cream has almost no aroma to it. In fact, in its perfectly frozen form, it was virtually scentless. Only when the ice cream began to melt or near room temperature did it begin to smell like blueberries.

On the taste front, the Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is very subtle. The creaminess of the ice cream overwhelms the fruit flavor of the blueberries. The basic, milky flavor even puts the cobbler crumbles to shame, though the dry, pie crust-like additions to the ice cream certainly overshadow the blueberries. Like the scent, the blueberry flavor only comes to the forefront of the flavor palate as the ice cream warms significantly, making for a disappointing overall flavor experience. The ice cream does taste like blueberry, but it is a far less pronounced flavor than one might like, especially for the price.

This Ice cream has no aftertaste to it.

Nutrition

The Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is a comparatively thick ice cream with a firm, obvious additive. The 14 oz. container represents three and a half half-cup servings. In the half-cup serving, there are 250 calories, 140 of which are from fat. The fifteen grams of fat represent 23% of the RDA of fat, with 45% of one’s RDA of saturated fat coming in the 9 grams of saturated fat in this Ice cream. One serving has 65 mg of cholesterol (that’s 22% of the RDA!) and 60 mg of Sodium (2% RDA). The only other real nutrients are four grams of protein 8% of the RDA of Calcium in the Blueberry Crumble Ice cream.

Haagen-Dazs has decent ingredients. Made primarily of Cream, skim milk and sugar, Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is all natural! There is nothing unpronounceable in the ingredients list. The Blueberry Crumble Haagen-Dazs is Kosher, but not marked as gluten free. There are no allergy warnings on the package. It does, however, contain milk and egg ingredients, so it is very much not Vegan compliant.

Storage/Clean-Up

Haagen-Dazs Ice cream is both a frozen and a dairy product, so it is pretty obvious that it must be kept frozen in order to remain viable. Kept frozen it remains fresh for months (my pint had an expiration date of January 8, 2014, which made it even more baffling why it would be clearanced now, other than that Haagen-Dazs is pulling this limited edition flavor).

The Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is fairly dark purple and will stain if they come closer to room temperature. As well, when the Ice cream melts and gets onto fabrics, it will require one to wash it right out. On nonporous surfaces, the Ice cream wipes off exceptionally easily.

Overall

The Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Ice cream is a comparatively underwhelming ice cream that is not one of the best limited edition flavors from Haagen-Dazs . . . or anyone else.

For other frozen desserts, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Breyers Blasts Banana Split Ice Cream
Edy’s Peppermint Limited Edition Ice Cream
Marie Callender's Seasonal Peppermint Pie

4/10

For other food reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |