Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 2012 End Of The Month Update

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Coming off a record-breaking month, we managed to pull in our third best month of all time! Bolstered by the review of The Amazing Spider-Man, June was another great month for the Blog!

One new review this month made it into my Top Ten of all time! Sadly, that means that one of my favorites, my argument for Anne Hathaway to take the role of Wonder Woman in a forthcoming film version of the heroine fell out of the Top Ten of All Time.

If you're thinking of subscribing, please do! We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe. 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!

In June, we were able to keep the Index Pages up and updated the entire month, 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!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. By purchasing items through the links on the blog, you sponsor my ability to continue reviewing. Thank you so much for that support!

At the end of June, I have reviewed the following:
367 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books!
Graphic Novels
525 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
1663 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture 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!)!
155 - 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
491 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
487 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Other Food
118 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
106 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
99 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
109 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
76 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
21 - Other Product Reviews

My featured review for June is: Jelly Belly Sunkist Orange Slices! Check it out!

For June, the Top Ten Reviews were my reviews of:
10. Snow White And The Huntsman
9. Star Trek: Voyager - "Projections"
8. Weeds - Season 7
7. Rumor Has It . . .
6. The Avengers
5. Spider-Man
4. The 40 Year Old Virgin
3. Brave
2. Prometheus
1. The Amazing Spider-Man

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 - 239 reviews
9s - 321 reviews
8s - 548 reviews
7s - 576 reviews
6s - 510 reviews
5s - 688 reviews
4s - 483 reviews
3s - 402 reviews
2s - 175 reviews
1s - 114 reviews
0s - 62 reviews
No rating - 21 articles/postings

And, if you haven't checked out the top reviews of all time, at the end of June, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. Bath & Body Works Rain Kissed Leaves Shampoo
9. Men In Black 3
8. Project X
7. Breaking Dawn, Part 1
6. Snow White And The Huntsman
5. The Amazing Spider-Man!
4. The Avengers
3. The Hunger Games
2. Star Trek: Machinations Of Doomsday
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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Classics And Covers: Elvis Heart And Soul Is A Worthwhile Compilation!

The Good: Some wonderful releases, Decent mix for the album's theme
The Bad: Moments of vocal limitation, Nothing truly new to Elvis fans
The Basics: Elvis Presley's established and obscure love and loss songs come together on an adequate compilation disc that's worth picking up!

Just when I think I will not be surprised again for some time, I find myself surprised, usually unpleasantly. It was an unusual circumstance, then, when I found an Elvis Presley c.d. after a month of Elvis overload that not only could I stand, but I actually enjoyed! Such was the case, though, with Elvis Presley's Heart And Soul, a compilation album of some of Presley's best-known, most romantic songs. In addition to the standards, though, there were some true surprises; covers I had never heard of Presley performing that he pulls off admirably, a shock for all who listen to the album!

With twenty-two tracks clocking in at sixty-five minutes, twenty-one seconds, Heart & Soul represents a strong presentation of classic Presley tracks in their original forms, along with lesser known covers of amazing songs. After weeks of listening to the works of Presley from the 1950s, I was impressed to hear later works and covers which I had never heard the King perform, like "Always On My Mind," "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Yes, in 1970, Elvis Presley recorded a cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and it is quite good!

Over the course of the twenty-two tracks, Presley proves himself a master crooner, if not a gifted songwriter or guitar player. As noted since my earliest reviews of Elvis' works: Presley is far more a performer than an artist. He only co-wrote "Love Me Tender" on this album and there is some question as to whether or not that credit is deserved. A more creative illustration of control over the music comes from Elvis producing or co-producing every track on this album and that is telling of his abilities and interest. This is a well-produced album and while some of the songs might fall down for lyrics or even musical diversity, it comes together nicely as a theme album - a must for a compilation like this - in that the production elements balance nicely with Presley's voice.

For the most part, this is a simple compilation album of tracks previously released, with few genuine surprises. All that separates "Love Me Tender," which opens the album, from other versions of the same song is that on this disc, it is now in stereo. "I've Lost You" also appears virtually identical to other versions of it that I've heard. The bulk of the tracks, then, are the same studio tracks trotted out for decades when creating Elvis Presley compilations. For a change of pace, a track-by-track listing/evaluation follows:

1. "Love Me Tender" - Perhaps the quintessential Elvis Presley love ballad,
2. "Young And Beautiful" - A simple track wherein Elvis repeatedly croons the title to a fair maiden,
3. "Love Me" - A strangely unmemorable song wherein Elvis begs for love,
4. "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" - A tune with a bit more of a tempo to it to break up the monotony of the early Elvis ballads,
5. "Don't" - A quiet, pleading track wherein Elvis delves into the lower vocal ranges and is able to make anyone without a stone heart swoon,
6. "As Long As I Have You" - Another quiet and surprisingly sad Presley track that illustrates why there can be too much of Elvis crooning,
7. "Loving You" - Ditto from the previous track,
8. "Fame And Fortune" - The last in a streak of low points on this album, this is one of the more cliche tracks Presley sings as it delves into all that the narrator would give up for the love of his life,
9. "The Girl Of My Best Friend" - A wonderfully poppy, upbeat lament wherein the singer notes that the one who got away - who is not involved with his best friend - is unattainable, lest he lose both. Surprisingly clever and fun, despite the underwhelming sadness of it,
10. "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" - Perhaps an example of the "soul" aspect of Heart & Soul, this questioning song does little other than ask about what it is like to live without love,
11. "Can't Help Falling In Love" - As one raised on the UB40 cover of this song, I dreaded the first time I would hear Elvis perform it, but here it is melodic and surprisingly good. Proof Presley can sing,
12. "She's Not You" - Somewhere between tongue-in-cheek and the harshest of truths is this track wherein the singer compares the one he's with to the one he loves. They just don't write songs like this anymore,
13. "Anything That's Part Of You,"
14. "Love Letters" - I've listened to this album thirteen times now - literally! - and I can't say a word about these two tracks. By the time they come up in the album, they are so nondescript that one is unable to recall either melody, theme, vocal performance or even a single lyric from them! One wonders why "Burning Love" wasn't tossed on this album instead of one of these two tracks,
15. "It's Now Or Never" - Returns the album to distinction with a track that is recognizable, sensible and has a decent tune. Elvis makes a musical ultimatum and he actually makes it sound like it could be related to actual love,
16. "It Hurts Me" - Another strangely sad song that focuses on the breaking of the heart as opposed to the celebration of love that much of the rest of the album embodies,
17. "I Just Can't Help Believin'" - One of the longer tracks on the album, Presley's live-sounding rock ballad reminds explores the faith of love and Presley has a decent vocal range on this track,
18. "Always On My Mind" - I didn't check out the track listing before my first listen to this album and this was the first pleasant surprise for me. Presley covers the classic song and he gives it a flavor born of Southern charm, distinctly different from - for example - the Pet Shop Boys' cover of the same,
19. "Suspicious Minds" - Classic late Elvis, this has a full-bodied sound that presents Elvis as the leader of a gospel choir and he rocks with singing about the traps people in relationships fall into when there is a hint of jealousy,
20. "I've Lost You" - As the title suggests, yet another ballad about living without love, rather than expressing feelings of love. This one has the same late-Elvis bigger production value sound to it and it works for a track that is more acknowledging loss than exploring the desolation of it,
21. "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" - Where does this song come from? Who else has covered it? Truth be told, I've no clue, but having heard this version, I think Elvis owns the song when sung by a male perspective. Desperate and somewhat haunted, Presley's vocals are both bold and needy, making this one of the standout tracks on the album,
and 22. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" - An admirable cover of a genius song by Simon and Garfunkel. Presley does not attempt to recreate the original, rather here he reinterprets it with vocals that connote strength and character, eliminating subtlety in exchange for an air of support.

Throughout the course of the album, the vocals and instrumentals evolve, which makes sense given the timeframe of Presley's career. Heart & Soul journeys from one whispery ballad to another only to break the mold with more straightforward, bold vocals that come to the point of almost blaring at the listener. Similarly, the instrumentals start with stark guitars or pianos and evolve into full orchestral works by the final tracks.

Thematically, the album works remarkably well and Heart & Soul might be ideal for non-Elvis fans who want some of his best works without too many flat-out duds. Between the well-known, classic Elvis tracks like "Love Me Tender" and "Can't Help Falling In Love," and the obscure covers like "Always On My Mind" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," there is much to recommend this work.

The best track might well be the soulful "Bridge Over Troubled Water," the low point is the unmemorable "Anything That's Part Of You."

For other works by Elvis Presley, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Elvis Presley
Loving You
Elvis’ Golden Records
Elvis’ Christmas Album
King Creole
For LP Fans Only
A Date With Elvis
50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Elvis’ Gold Records Volume 2
Today, Tomorrow, And Forever
30 #1 Hits


For other music albums, be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the music I have reviewed!

© 2012, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Delightfully Complex On The Palate, Green Machine Boosted 100% Juice Smoothie From Naked Juice Is A Winner!

The Good: Very nutritious, Tastes great
The Bad: Expensive
The Basics: Naked Green Machine is a winner from the eclectic juice producer.

A few weeks ago, I found myself more than a little despondent, whatwith having taken my wife to Michigan and been forced to leave her there for her summer job. It’s not an easy thing and on my way back to our (now much emptier) home, I stopped at the grocery store. I certainly do not advocate eating away the pain, but I went shopping and subconsciously, I think that might have been what I was planning on doing!

At least I chose healthy. One of the first things I picked up was a collection of Naked Juice juices. I was not at all wowed by the Protein Zone (reviewed here!), which was my first experience with the company’s drink line. So, I was a bit hesitant about trying the Green Machine I picked up. I was actually a little surprised I had picked up a whole 32 oz. container, but I guess that was what was on sale.

I had no reason to fear this weird beverage. Neither do you!


Naked is a health drink brand, which is like an energy drink except that is designed for more of a full-health solution and they tend to taste better. This is a fruit and vegetable juice that is packed with nutrients. Naked Green Machine comes in a 32 fl. oz. plastic bottle that is rectilinear, smooth and very portable. The #1 recyclable bottle is filled with the opaque rich green liquid, which looks much like an split pea soup in a bottle. Naked juice products is one of the leading manufacturer of healthy prepared beverages, mostly of Boosted 100% Juice Smoothies, like Green Machine.

The 32 fl. oz. bottle is intended to give consumers a full four servings and it truly seems to fill one up!

Ease Of Preparation

Naked Green Machine Protein Juice Smoothie is a liquid in the 32 fl. oz. bottle and is a ready-to-drink beverage. So, preparation is as easy as opening a plastic bottle. Green Machine has a plastic cap that easily twists off and can be put back on in order to reseal it. It is important to note that this is supposed to be refrigerated, so quality of the beverage will degrade if it is left out at room temperature before or after the bottle is open. This has a pretty standard security seal ring around the lower half of the cap and informs the consumer as to whether the product has been opened by cracking off when the top is twisted.


Naked Green Machine smells like broccoli and mango and the scent is very disconcerting. The aroma is very hard to place and has a vaguely citrus, equally vague vegetable scent.

In the mouth, Green Machine is very sweet and the dominant fruit flavors are apple and mango. While none of the vegetables – broccoli, spinach, parsley or barley grass – are overly evident in the flavor, the banana gives the Green Machine a slightly dry aftertaste. Still, sweetness dominates and as the temperature of the beverage rises closer to room temperature, the flavors of pineapple and kiwi come closer to the surface.

Despite having an instantaneous dry aftertaste from the banana, the Green Machine Juice Smoothie has no lingering aftertaste and actually results in being a fairly decent thirst quencher.


As a healthy fruit beverage, Naked Green Machine Protein Juice Smoothie is designed to fill in some of the nutritional gaps one might have in their diet, without compelling consumers to take a pill. Nutritionally, Naked Green Machine is an exceptionally good option for those who are dieting or are trying to improve their health. Green Machine is primarily composed of apple juice, mango puree, and pineapple juice. It contains nothing bad, which might be why it expires so quickly. It is Vegan compliant, has no added sugar, preservatives, or genetically modified ingredients!

This drink is also exceptionally healthy for you. One serving of Green Machine has 140 calories and no fat. While there are 33 grams of sugars, the beverage has no cholesterol and 2 grams of protein! There is a negligible 15 mg (1% RDA) of sodium in each serving. A single serving is a significant source of Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12.


Naked Green Machine Protein Juice Smoothie comes in a plastic bottle and it keeps for only a few weeks. The bottle I bought at the beginning of June had an expiration date of August 8, 2012 and I suspect it lasts longer than things like the Protein Zone because there is no milk in it. And, it is not evil. This beverage must be refrigerated!

This drink is a fruit product and an opaque green. If this gets on clothes, it will certainly stain them, at least light clothes. Consult a care guide for your clothes, though I suspect light clothes would need bleach to get this out. Still, the drink wipes off surfaces easily with a cloth, assuming they are impermeable.


Naked Green Machine Boosted 100% Juice Smoothie tastes good and is healthy, which seems to be hitting the essentials for the health drink market! It is well worth picking up.

For other healthy beverages, please check out my reviews of:
Bolthouse Farms Strawberry + Yogurt + Granola Smoothie
Dole 100% Juice Orange Peach Mango
O.N.E. Active Cranberry Grapefruit Coconut Water


For other food reviews, please visit my index page for a complete listing by clicking here!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Inspired Brilliance Starts The Career Of Christopher Nolan: Memento

The Good: Incredible acting, Excellent concept, Interesting characters, A lot of good bonuses on DVD
The Bad: It's going to take real study to figure out the whole truth
The Basics: A man with no short-term memory works a hunt for the man who killed his wife backwards in a stylish, clever movie by Christopher Nolan.

Guy Pearce is an actor whose day came and went rather quickly, it seems. He was robbed of his rightful top billing in L.A. Confidential (reviewed here!) because he lacked celebrity and he was given the lead in such uninspired films as The Time Machine. And in between, he created the magnum opus of his career thus far with Memento, a film where he looks more like Brad Pitt (a la Fight Club) than Guy Pearce. The truth is Memento has been on my list for years and having finally seen is, I'm glad I saw it. Memento makes me wish that underrated movies would be re-released in theaters every couple of years until they "take." Memento is a high-concept movie that I'm unsure the movie-going public appreciated enough in 2000, when it was released.

Leonard suffers from a rather serious brain disorder where cannot form any new memories, so his short-term memory never gets archived into his long-term memory. Thus, roughly every five minutes, Leonard's life restarts. This is problematic as he is searching for the man who killed his wife an indeterminate amount of time ago. Starting with the moment Leonard believes he has found his wife's killer, Memento works backward to through a sequence of events that put him at the moment of vindication.

Leonard functions by taking Polaroid photographs of people he encounters and making notes about them. This allows him to do such things as figure out which car is his, define allegiances and know where he is bunking. Leonard tattoos the most important notes onto his body so they become permanent. The thing is, other people may - or may not - be using Leonard's system of keeping track of his life against him.

Memento is most respectfully reviewed with a minimalist review. My review is successful only if it gets you to watch this film and the truth is, it's exceptionally hard to do that at length without delving into the complexities that make Memento worth seeing. It's unfortunate, because ideally, the viewer should go into a first viewing of Memento with minimal information. The movie gives the viewer all they need in order to figure out what is going on, what the truth is, and how the movie works. So, for example, one of the characters explicitly postulates that Leonard's disorder would be like living his life backwards, not knowing if he was coming or going, which basically informs any viewer who hasn't picked up the technique of the movie (i.e. that it is going backwards) by that point what is going on.

This is an ambitious project for director Christopher Nolan. This was his first major studio, successful, feature-length project and it's amazing that his career started on such a high note (though I suppose I ought not to be surprised as I enjoyed his more recent The Prestige, reviewed here!). Nolan takes a complicated screenplay (which he wrote based on the short story "Memento Mori") and executes it with flair, style and distinction. Nolan does more than use a plot technique to make the movie distinctive or weird, but he creates a visual style that immediately transforms the viewer's reality. The opening credit sequence drags the viewer backward and it's a very intriguing and intoxicating method for getting the viewer into the film's mindset.

The characters in Memento are instantly engrossing, starting with Leonard. Leonard's condition could be all that is used to define his character, but wisely Nolan does not allow his disorder to be the end all and be all of his personality. Leonard has love, loss and no small amount of obsession, making his character interesting and watchable. His disorder makes his lack of immediate passion for vengeance realistic; scenes exploring the continual sense of loss Leonard experiences over the death of his wife, give him heart that make him memorable and essentially human.

Leonard is surrounded by intriguing characters, who include Burt, Teddy and Natalie. Burt is simply the hotel lobby clerk who pops up through the movie to amuse the viewer and jerk Leonard around. Far more important are Burt and Natalie. Natalie is a woman who appears to be aiding Leonard in his quest to find the man who killed his wife. She is sympathetic, sad and she captivates the attention of both Leonard and the viewer.

Teddy is the character who seems most ambiguous and troubling to both Leonard and the viewer. He's slick and it's easy to view him as a con man and the truth is part of that comes from the way the movie is structured and some from the way Joe Pantoliano plays Teddy. Pantoliano treats the viewer to his wide-mouthed smile and jocular speeches from the beginning, making us feel like he's trying to pull one over on both Leonard and the viewer. Pantoliano is great at that sort of role and in Memento, he creates the masterpiece performance of sleazy sidekick.

Carrie-Anne Moss plays Natalie and her performance is the one that shakes the viewer. Moss transforms Natalie throughout the movie in such a way that jerks at the viewer, not simply for the character manipulations but by the genius portrayal Moss gives. To explain more and go into depth about how specifically Moss is genius in her performance would give too much away about the twists in the movie, so please take it on my word that her acting in the movie is amazing and worth the price of admission alone.

Guy Pearce is exceptional as Leonard. Throughout the film, Leonard tells the story of Sammy Jankis, someone who suffered from a similar condition as he does. Leonard suggests that Sammy was faking his condition and the "tells" he indicates clued him into the possible acting on Sammy's part are never present in Leonard's character. Pearce fully embraces the character and completely sells the audience on who he is and why he is the way he is.

In the end, Memento is an exceptional movie that I'm going to have to go back and rewatch several times. To put it all together, to make a coherent argument about who is truly telling the truth is a real task. There are some concepts that become undeniable and wrenching (again, I'm not going to ruin the surprises for you), but there are giant leaps in Memento that seem up for debate. The DVD has an exceptional number of bonus features to help the interested viewer get into the story even more and it's almost worth making a guarantee that if you pick the disc up and watch Memento, you'll want to watch and listen to those bonus features.

This is not a movie the viewer can give half (or less) attention to. It is a movie that demands attention, but it rewards the viewer with its attention to detail and the integrity and interest of the story created. It is an incredible debut and well worth the buy.

For other works with Stephen Tobolowsky, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax
Peep World
The Time Traveler’s Wife
Heroes - Season 2


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

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Sampler Of Training Treats For Dogs, Milk-Bone Trail Mix Is Good!

The Good: Apparently delicious, Great for reinforcement
The Bad: Lacks the dental benefits I want when giving Myah treats, Pricier than other Milk-Bone treats.
The Basics: Milk-Bone Trail Mix is a good reinforcement treat for dogs, though there are others I prefer (and can better afford!) to give Myah.

Since my wife went off to Michigan to work for the summer, I have been alone with our Siberian Husky, Myah, who never really seemed to like me before now. Now, she comes to work with me every day and I take her to the park – beautiful park, Green Lakes State Park (reviewed here!) – that she loves each day as well. I suppose I am growing on the girl, which is nice because I know my wife would kill me if anything happened to Myah. Literally kill me. Fortunately, I have been working with Myah and even getting her to do a few new tricks. That’s not entirely true; I bring Myah to work where one of my co-workers continues to get Myah to do new tricks.

Fortunately, before my wife left for the summer, she picked up several different types of dog treats. One was a bad of treats specifically designed for me to use with Myah while training and for reinforcement of good behaviors. That treat was a bag of Milk-Bone Trail Mix! Before these, the onkly Milk-Bone treat Myah had was the Milk-Bone MaroSnacks (reviewed here!), which she absolutely loved.

Milk-Bone Trail Mix comes in a 9 oz. box filled with dog treats. The Milk-Bone Trail Mix come with four different pieces in the mix. There are rolled oat bones – brown and white. Both rolled oat bones are 1” long by 1/2" wide and 5/16” tall. They are pressed rolled oats, made into the shape of tiny bones, just like what one might expect from Milk-Bone! The Trail Mix also includes sweet potato discs. These discs are orange, supple like good dried fruit and are a little over a half inch in diameter. The Real Beef chunks are 3/4" by 3/4” by 3/16” blocks of real meat. This smelled just like beef jerky and made for an interesting combination of pieces. All four pieces were in our Milk-Bone Trail Mix with about equal frequency, which is nice.

Myah, predictably, went right for the beef pieces first, even picking through the other pieces to consume the beef part of the trail mix before the other three types of treats in the assortment. After that, though, she exhibited no preference. She ate the sweet potato and rolled oat bones with a ferocity that made it clear she liked what she was eating, but she showed no desire to discriminate between the various pieces in the Trail Mix after the beef was gone.

Because half the contents of the Trail Mix are supple, this treat does not have as much in the way of dental benefits as I usually hope a dog treat will. That makes it good for reinforcement, but not a strong treat that I readily endorse. If it’s not scraping plaque and tartar and/or freshening Myah’s breath, it’s not doing all a dog treat could, in my book!

Lacking in extensive dental benefits, Milk-Bone Trail Mix is, at least, fairly healthy for dogs of all sizes. With a guaranteed analysis that declares the Milk-Bone Trail Mix have at least 11% crude protein and 6% crude fat and at most 3% fiber and 16% moisture, these are not at all bad snacks. Made primarily of wheat flour, whole ground wheat, and brewer’s rice, Milk-Bone has made a generally snack for dogs.

Milk-Bone Trail Mix are small enough to be great for a training reinforcement snack, but I’m not wild about the packaging and price. Because they only come in resealable 9 oz. bags, it is very easy to go through bags of these while training for a few weeks. Myah and I went through an entire bag one week and I suspect getting her to roll over is going to cost me another whole bag! The environmental impact of that – in addition to the cost – is not something I am wild about.

That said, Milk-Bone Trail Mix are apparently tasty and enough of an inducement to get Myah to follow basic commands. That makes them worthwhile to me!

For other dog treat reviews, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Dental Smartbones Large
Hartz Crunch ‘N Clean Savory Dog Biscuits
Purina Benefuls Baked Delights Stars


For other pet product reviews, be sure to visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the dog product reviews!

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

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Charming But Completely Predictable, Post Grad Fills In The End Of Summer Blahs.

The Good: Moments of laughs, Generally good casting, Moments of charm
The Bad: Entirely predictable, Editing, Incongruent moments with main plotline.
The Basics: Barely fun, Post Grad flops as the subject is not enough to sustain itself, so it frequently digresses.

[Note: This originally was written upon the movie’s release, hence the dated references! Enjoy!]

As the end of summer comes, I find myself considering just what it takes for a film to participate in Summer Blockbuster Season. Every year, it seems, there are a few big surprises or a few sleeper hits and the longer Post Grad went on, the more I felt like it was this year's Swing Vote (reviewed here!). Swing Vote arrived in theaters last year with little fanfare, died at the box office and was generally a mediocre film that was predictable and understated and entirely average. Post Grad is essentially this summer's Swing Vote, replacing the message on the importance of voting with an exploration on the difficulties in the economy today.

Unfortunately for those who like romantic comedies or thematic comedies, Post Grad is far too scattered and predictable to be truly enjoyable and while it has some laughs and moments that garner smiles, it is essentially a failure. This is yet another movie where the preview trailer shows the entire movie and yet, I went into the film with high hopes. After all, this was Alexis Bledel's big chance to open a film. I loved her in Gilmore Girls (reviewed here!) and have been waiting to see what she would do on the big screen. Alas, the film starts out with Bledel playing her new character, Ryden Malby in a very Rory-esque way and the movie stagnates and wanders far too much.

Ryden Malby is graduating from college, trumped by her childhood nemesis for valedictorian, and she is surrounded by her loving family and platonic friend, Adam. Ryden has big plans and after signing a $3,500 check for her ideal loft, she goes to interview for her dream job at Happerman & Browning publishers. En route to her interview, she and Adam get into a car accident and she finds herself competing against several other candidates just like her. When her nemesis, Jessica Bard, gets her ideal job, Ryden is forced to move back in with her father, mother, grandmother and weird younger brother.

While Adam quietly pursues Ryden romantically - all the while feeling out his own musical career and debating going to law school on the East Coast - Ryden and her father try to find a path for the new college graduate. This puts Ryden working for her father, both at his luggage store and a shady startup as a belt buckle distributor, while she tries to get a better job. When her father accidentally kills the neighbor's cat, the chance encounter leads Ryden to a job as a p.a. and puts Ryden's heart in play and her future in uncertain territory.

The fundamental problem with Post Grad is that it is a comedy and that there isn't enough material to make a comedy out of the subject. Writer Kelly Fremon attempts to flesh out a script about an overachiever's flailing life after college and the film fails to stick with that. As a result, minutes burn by - not with Ryden-related romantic subplots, which are ridiculous and predictable enough - with cat poop jokes focused on Ryden's father, Walter, a weird bit involving Ryden's mother advising her younger brother to stop licking kid's heads at school and the whole belt buckle enterprise subplot. While these might flesh out the Malby family well, they completely distract the viewer from the movement of the film and the growth of Ryden into an actualized character.

As a result, Post Grad struggles to be funny and stay focused, creating an erratic story where Ryden is a fairly ambitious young woman surrounded by a family that is anything but like her. Her family is funny and Ryden is relegated to the straightman of the family and the film runs out of steam and runs out of plot well before the seventy-nine minute running time is exhausted. As a result, much of the movie is not focused on Ryden's struggle to enter the working world, but pointless digressions like her father's arrest and a soapbox derby race.

What Post Grad does have is a lot of charm and excellent casting. Alexis Bledel even performs well as Ryden more and more as the movie progresses. She and costar Zach Gilford have great on-screen chemistry and the scenes between Ryden and Adam "read" as entirely real. Gilford holds his own in the scenes they share and they insinuate in the ease of their body language a history and connoting that weight is impressive by young actors. Similarly, Bledel and Michael Keaton play well off one another. Keaton plays Walter and he is hilarious as the off-kilter father figure. Jane Lynch and Carol Burnett round out the cast well, though this represents the only bit of poor casting for the main characters. While Keaton and Bledel look like they could be related, Burnett plays Walter's mother, when she and Lynch bear a more striking resemblance.

The only real dud on the acting front is Rodrigo Santoro, whose tenure on the screen is mercifully short. Santoro and Bledel have no chemistry as Ryden and her next door neighbor and their scenes are excruciating in the way they are drawn out. Santoro's role is designed to keep open the age-old paradigm that forces a woman to choose between two men and realize that the man she wants is the one who was with her all along. Unfortunately, Post Grad does not even try to put up the pretense of surprising the viewer. This film is one of the most predictable ones to come down the pike in a long time.

As well, the editing in Post Grad is sloppy; I noticed several bad cuts throughout the movie and this is death to a movie that was already struggling to fill the minimum necessary airtime. For example, when the soapbox derby race begins, Hunter Malby's car that is brought to the starting line is clearly a different vehicle in the first shot than it is in subsequent shots.

On a strangely contrary note, the humor that is generated by the subplots and random humor elements - the headlicking bit especially - are actually some of the film's most enjoyable moments. The problem is that they just don't fit the particular movie the viewer went in to see. If this were "Meet The Malbys" it would be one thing, but it is supposed to be a comedy about the struggles one suffers after college and these scenes - most notably one where Grandma Malby takes the family coffin shopping - just do not fit.

The result is an awkward film that does not quite seem to know what it wants to be and it flounders in a way that makes it drag, despite not being a particularly long movie to begin with. That combination of lack of focus and predictability make one wonder how Fremon and director Vicky Jenson got the movie made. As it is, despite the fact that they did get it made - and with a respectable cast - ought not be encouragement for others to try or for audiences to flock to see it. And for those of us who love Alexis Bledel's works . . . we have confidence she'll get into a better project next time.

For other works with J.K. Simmons, be sure to check out my reviews of:
I Love You, Man
Spider-Man 3
Thank You For Smoking
Spider-Man 2


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

© 2012, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, June 29, 2012

My First Standalone Supergirl Graphic Novel Doesn’t (Stand Alone): Supergirl: Death & The Family Underwhelms.

The Good: Artwork, Moments of character, Moments of plot
The Bad: Very fractured storytelling, Clearly not the entire story, Derivative, Odd/unsatisfying character choices.
The Basics: When sentiment in Metropolis turns against Kryptonians on Earth, Kara has to lie low as Supergirl, which becomes problematic as Silver Banshee and Insect Queen attack in Supergirl: Death & The Family!

I’ll be honest; it was only my local library’s inability to get me in more Flash books in a speedy manner that made me pick up Supergirl: Death & The Family. I’ve been wary of picking up any Supergirl books because, frankly, I’m not sure how old the protagonist is supposed to be. In The Brave And The Bold: Volume 1 (reviewed here!), Supergirl is clearly a minor and that makes her choice of costume ridiculously inappropriate. I mean, I get the whole idea that someone who is essentially invulnerable might have no issue with exposing their legs and belly (and, hey, it works for Wonder Woman, so it’s not like I’m a prude!), but the very short miniskirt, exposed midriff and accent to the bustline is not exactly age appropriate for the minor child. Regardless of that general sense of discomfort with her outfit, I did pick up Supergirl: Death & The Family to read.

And I’m pretty much regretting that choice. Supergirl: Death & The Family is part of a “New Krypton” story arc and the author of the graphic novel, Sterling Gates, makes very little effort to make sure readers understand what is going on in the larger arc. Supergirl: Death & The Family is very much a part of some larger story and character arc and is, on its own, a fairly unsatisfying book.

As near as I can tell, based on what is in Supergirl: Death & The Family, there is a new planet where (apparently) refugees and survivors from the doomed planet of Krypton have made a new colony. There is an implication in Supergirl: Death & The Family that Brainiac may have had a miniaturized Krypton city that was reconstituted. Apparently, General Zod, the Kryptonian, launched an invasion on Earth and by the time Supergirl: Death & The Family comes around, Kryptonians have been deported to New Krypton and Superman is off on that planet helping to establish its government. Some Kryptonians, most notably Kara, are still living on Earth trying to fly under the radar as anti-Kryptonian sentiment rises. To combat problems in Metropolis, Superman has been replaced by the Science Police.

As one who has pretty studiously avoided the Superman portion of the DC universe, divining all of that backstory just to make Supergirl: Death & The Family comprehensible is an annoying amount of work. That said, Supergirl: Death & The Family is not terrible, it just holds together poorly as a single book.

Kara is taking refuge with Lana Lang when a bank robbery in Metropolis turns into a hostage crisis. Unwilling to let such crimes go unpunished, Kara disguises herself and inserts herself into the bank. There, she ends the standoff by using her heat vision to melt the guns of the villains, an act which draws the attention of the Science Police. As the Science Police investigate the hostages to find the Kryptonian among them, Kara lives in fear of being exposed.

The whole point of the “Secret Identities” chapter seems to be to set Kara up for a future conflict. In the search for the Kryptonian, the Science Police haul out some Red Kryptonite, which mutates Kryptonians. This leads to a surprise for Kara and one that leaves her shocked and more alone than before. In trying to rescue the bank hostages, Kara comes to doubt the necessity of helping everyone all the time. The chapter leaves her with a new antagonist who might have a vendetta against the young woman.

The chapter that follows, “Second Born: The Secret Origin Of Superwoman” is an entirely divergent story within Supergirl: Death & The Family. A full chapter, “The Secret Origin Of Superwoman” details the whole story of the villain Superwoman. Raised as Lois Lane’s sister, Lucy Lane lives in her shadow and goes to work for General Lane, a powerful person in the military and not at all a supporter of Superman.

The big problem with “The Secret Origin Of Superwoman” is that it does not at all fit in Supergirl: Death & The Family. The entire Superwoman plotline is seeded throughout Supergirl: Death & The Family, but it does not materialize as a plot by the end of the book. This is entirely setting up some other story and “The Secret Origin Of Superwoman” only confuses the main plotline and detracts from any sort of character-story that focuses on Kara. That said, Superwoman is characterized in a way that is very easy to empathize with her as she lives in Lois Lane’s shadow the entire time. Having read the chapter twice, though, her story is either entirely derivative of Dawn’s insertion into the Buffy The Vampire Slayer mythos (check out the review of Season Five here, if you do not understand the reference!) or entirely improbable. Either Lucy Lane is retroactively added to the DC Universe or the reader has to believe she was never once given immunizations as a child. Either way, the editors are asking readers to take a pretty serious leap with the character.

“The Song Of The Silver Banshee” and the title chapter have Lana Lang telling Kara that she has been ill for about a year. Kara is shocked, but when Inspector Henderson requires her help, she leaves her friend and mentor to try to save Metropolis. The threat Henderson has for Kara is the Silver Banshee. A supernatural villain, the Silver Banshee uses magic and thus poses a threat to Kara. The Silver Banshee is kept in check by her personal quest to find several enchanted objects, the bringing together of which will end the Silver Banshee’s curse. Henderson has managed to find several and when he exposes that to Kara, it draws the attention of the Silver Banshee and puts Supergirl in harm’s way!

This is half of the meat of Supergirl: Death & The Family and it is not a bad story. The Silver Banshee plotline quickly turns into a possession story and it is a fairly engaging one, though it is resolved with such speed that the next plotline occupies almost half the chapter. While I generally like that type of continuity, it essentially robs Lana Lang of her blaze of glory and the overt possession in the Kara plotline implies far too much of what is coming for engaged readers. That type of foreshadowing dumbs down the story some. Even so, my real gripe with the chapter is how Kara’s character is not given any real time to reflect or illustrate a sense of trauma when Lana’s illness very quickly takes her.

The “Queen” section of Supergirl: Death & The Family finds Supergirl rescued from an alien insect hive that sprung up in Metropolis. Kara almost instantly (correctly) postulates that Lana Lang is not dead and she discovers Lana’s body is alive and being used by Insect Queen. Their battle is bookended by the complete resurrection of Superwoman and the revelation that she has full Kryptonian powers. Then the book abruptly ends (save a vignette on the value of Supergirl).

Supergirl: Death & The Family is very light on character development and has some problematically forced aspects that make it less than a thrilling read. While Kara’s character issues can be written off due to her youth (she decides to reject Lana as family because Lana withheld information from her), Lana’s are a much tougher set of issues to reconcile. But Supergirl: Death & The Family is mightily confused (and confusing) on the whole issue of Lana Lang.

As I understand it, Lana Lang grew up with Clark Kent. That would put her at about age, what, seventy? Eighty? While Superman may get reboots, his peers don’t (to the best of my knowledge) suddenly de-age. Throughout much of Supergirl: Death & The Family, Lana looks roughly the same age as Kara (who is seventeen, perhaps?). Kara refers to her as a “sister” and on most of the panels, they look like peers. Yet, Lana has a mentor role to Kara and there are a few panels where Lana actually looks haggard enough to be quite a bit older.

All of this would be a little, gripy, nitpick were it not for the whole Superwoman plotline interpolated throughout Supergirl: Death & The Family. Lana Lang grew up with Clark Kent, Lucy Lane grew up with Lois Lane. Lois Lane is – at the very least – in her thirties and Lucy has the body type of a woman in her mid-thirties (at least). And Lucy has been out of the picture for a whole year. My point here is that even assuming Clark, Lana, Lois and Lucy are all about the same age, Lana should not even appear like a teenager or (at best) in her very early twenties. Yet, that is how Supergirl: Death & The Family finds her and Sterling Gates, ultimately, does not make her seem like a viable adult.

Ultimately, Supergirl: Death & The Family seems to be a series of side stories for a character who is not clearly defined or developing within this graphic novel. In the end, that makes me more wary of recommending it than I would have thought.

For other strong female characters in the DC Universe, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Wonder Woman: Mission’s End
Birds Of Prey: Blood And Circuits
Justice League: Generation Lost Volume 1


For other graphic novel reviews, be sure to check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the graphic novel reviews I have written!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Kes Gets A Bit Randy From Giant Space Slugs In "Elogium"

The Good: Moments of character, Moments of acting
The Bad: Plot is overdone, Special effects are mediocre, Overall tone of episode
The Basics: When Kes's natural mating cycle is induced by giant flying space worms, Neelix must decide whether or not he's ready to be a dad in an uninspired episode.

Star Trek, as a franchise, has long had a "thing" for mating. Back in the 60s, Star Trek became one of the first science fiction series' to try to deal with sex when it created the concept of the Vulcan mating drive for Mr. Spock in "Amok Time" (reviewed here!). Ahh, pon farr, the idea that Vulcans mate once every seven years and a Star Trek inconsistency that has never been well-dealt with since. Sure, it's great for a joke on The Simpsons, but the idea of talking frankly about sex and sexuality was audacious when "Amok Time" first aired. With Star Trek: Voyager, there comes something much less audacious and more plot-driven with "Elogium."

Kes is going about her daily routine on the U.S.S. Voyager, as the starship ambles toward home, which now includes gardening in a garden set up in one of the cargo bays, when she decides to eat a big bug. This, apparently, is the first of several symptoms of her Elogium - the Ocampa mating drive - which Kes was not scheduled to endure for at least another year. Soon, the Voyager finds itself swarmed by giant space worms that flock to the ship like children and the ship is in greater danger than one horny Ocampa. Of course, the two phenomenon are related and when the dominant space worm shows up, Janeway must figure out how to save her ship while Neelix tries to save his relationship with Kes.

"Elogium" is a highly plot-driven episode that serves little purpose in the overall scheme of the story of the U.S.S. Voyager. The main reason this episode fails in the long run is because Kes gets ditched before a reprise could happen. Moreover, the Elogium is a remarkably plot-intensive condition that the viewer finds difficult to accept as it stands. It is explored with much exposition and the only good that truly comes of it is the character conflict that results.

The Elogium makes Kes - and, I suppose, all Ocampa - into a tree frog biologically as she has a limited window in which to mate and the Elogium only happens once in a lifetime. Symptoms include Kes going (literally) into heat and developing an adhesive on her hands which will allow her to cling on to her mate (pun intended). This rather intensive concept drives what little character development occurs in "Elogium," when Kes basically pressures Neelix to settle down and have a family with her.

The best moments here are when Kes and Neelix are talking about the ramifications of having a family. The problem with "Elogium" is that there's been nothing in the prior year - wherein Neelix risked life, limb and the U.S.S. Voyager for Kes - that would suggest that Neelix is not ready to settle down with Kes. Indeed, the level of character bonding between Kes and Neelix in episodes like "Phage" (reviewed here!) and "Jetrel" (reviewed here!), where Kes gives up much to save Neelix's life and where Neelix relies on Kes for spiritual guidance, suggest that their relationship is deep, meaningful and lasting. "Elogium" cheapens that quite a bit by belaboring the point and giving Neelix cold feet about the idea of having a family with Neelix.

Which brings me to the troubling aspect of "Elogium." The Star Trek franchise has any number of episodes that may be viewed in a metaphorical context. In the original Star Trek, episodes like "A Private Little War" (reviewed here!) resonated with viewers because they provided allegories to the Vietnam War which allowed criticisms of escalation to slip by the censors. "Elogium," then, provides a particularly twisted metaphorical interpretation that is never explored in enough detail to be considered edgy. Allow me to explain to the non-fans:

Kes is an Ocampa, a new race created specifically for Star Trek: Voyager. All the viewer truly knows about Kes at this point is that her race has an average life expectancy of approximately 8 years. When the series began, this clued fans into the idea that by the series finale, either the Doctor would find a way to prolong Kes's life of part of the finale would deal with the death of this character. This means, in analogous terms, that Kes is less than twenty Earth years old (in equivalent terms) - in a few episodes, Kes turns 2. If you follow my logic here that 8 Ocampa years is about equivalent to the 80 average year lifespan of humans, that at less than 2, Kes is less than 20 by human standards. What this means, in the metaphorical interpretation of the episode is that "Elogium" is about a late-teen who has one chance to have a baby before losing her fertility and she tries to rope her older boyfriend into it. This interpretation of the episode is inadequately explored, as the plot centers around reminding the viewer that Kes is going out of her head with the mating drive and minimizing Neelix's feelings for her. But it also doesn't feel edgy enough to me; going on the assumption that Kes is almost 2, in equivalent terms, she's in her late teens (probably 19 in equivalent terms). This episode is basically asking the viewer to consider the desperate situation of a 19 year-old who has one chance to get pregnant before losing her ability to have children.

My response? Meh. Who cares? She has a long potential life before her, in the analogous terms, the argument comes up that there's adoption, surrogate motherhood, extra-vaginal fertilization, etc. Historically, and in contemporary terms, we know that people much younger could be having children and as a normal function of societies in the past, did. So, there's little edgy about asking a man who has already illustrated a love and devotion to his 19 year-old girlfriend to knock her up and start a family. There's no punch to the metaphorical issue here and as a result, the episode becomes mired in a somewhat pointless plot.

This is not to mention that it does not take the viewer any time at all to realize that Kes's Elogium and the appearance of the worms in space are related, so the menace of Kes potentially losing her mating drive is gutted. This is very much an "alien influence of the week" story and it feels like it. Moreover, the creative department did not go out on any real limbs here. The giant space worms look remarkably similar (almost identical in coloring) to the giant space worms in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Galaxy's Child" (reviewed here!).

The acting here varies greatly. Jennifer Lein shines as Kes, giving one of her best performances. Her role in "Elogium" forces her to go through quite a bit of range from confused to fevered to horny to angry and Lein handles the task wonderfully with a great sense of body language and control over her vocal presentation. This is one of her best performances.

Sadly, she stands out in an episode populated by performances that are either typical or poorly scripted. For example, The Doctor - played by Robert Picardo - gives Kes a foot massage and Picardo plays the part as a beaming physician that is fairly obvious. Ethan Phillips is unable to give anything sterling as Neelix as the episode provides him with a somewhat pointless emotional debate that is easily resolved. Moreover, after seeing Phillips's acting gravitas in "Jetrel," his role here pales.

This is a very plot-driven episode that is truly only accessible to fans of science fiction and/or Star Trek and only for the die-hard fans there. It does not raise any genuine larger questions or ideas and as a result, it ends up feeling like a chance for the special effects department to shine and while they do, it's not enough for those looking for satisfying television.

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


Check out how this episode stacks up against others in the Star Trek franchise by visiting my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Surprisingly Well-Balanced And Well-Detailed, The Jabba’s Skiff Guards 3-Pack Remains A Great Value!

The Good: Fairly decent sculpts, Great balance, Decent base, Very good coloring on the figures
The Bad: Cheap cardboard backdrop, Low articulation, Abysmal collectible value.
The Basics: You can never have too many thugs and guards for Jabba’s Palace or a Tatooine scene, so the Jabba’s Skiff Guards 3-Pack is still worth picking up!

There are very few older figures that have been recast that I continue to recommend the older versions of. Still, when something is well-made, it’s worth picking up even if there is a version with more bells and whistles, at least when it comes to action figures. After all, with many action figures, they fill out scenes where more creatures, soldiers, or aliens make for a richer play or display environment. Arguably one of the best values in the Star Wars figure market – even now – is the Jabba’s Skiff Guards 3-pack!

The Jabba’s Skiff Guards is a collection from Return Of The Jedi (click here for the review of the film!) that features three different aliens seen mulling around the floating skiffs Jabba uses when he takes the heroes off to be executed at the Pit of Carkoon. The characters of Klaatu, Barada, and the generic Nikto fight and die for Jabba over the course of a single scene.

The 4" figures are decent, at least as support characters for the ships with which they are associated.


This is a set of three action figures and a "playset" (or more accurately a play environment). The Jabba’s Skiff Guards fits the 4" figure line and the three figures each come with a accessory. The Nikto figure is the brown and green amphibian or reptile in his skiff guard outfit. The figure stands 4" tall to the top of his head, which has a cloth wrap molded to it. This version of Nikto is underdetailed on the costume, but surprisingly cool on the level of detail for the face and hands. The face has tiny horns and bumps, the hands have similar detailing (with even the barest fingernails). The costume is a clean version of leather armor for the top, but the “white” pants are actually colored and shaded to look dirty and worn. The shin guards are a nice detail as well!

Klaatu looks like his white outfit has actually been through a sandstorm, which makes perfect sense for the character. Klaatu is colored a rich forest green and looks more amphibious than reptilian. The coloring detail – the shading and depth to the face and hands, make this 3 7/8” figure look like he was based on something more real than a latex mask.

The real grail of this set might well be Barada. Barada is green and yellow-skinned with mottling that looks entirely realistic. Even the headband the figure wears looks somewhat deteriorated and worn. His white shirt is speckled to look like it is dirty and dusty and he even has cool details like a backpack molded to his back!

As for the background play environment, the base is a 9 3/4" inch long by two inch wide section of skiff deck and it has a slot in the back. The slot is just wide enough for the cardboard back that has the mural of the sands of Tatooine and Jabba’s main Sail Barge on it. The cardboard backer is problematic because it is easily bent, but by this time Hasbro designed it so that it came completely ready for play. It does not need to be cut out at the bottom to fit into the slot. The base has three plastic pegs which fit the holes in the figures' feet and allow them to easily stand on the base.


Each of the Jabba’s Skiff Guards figures come a single accessory, tailored to them. Klaatu comes with a 3 5/16” vibro-ax that is cast in a brownish gunmetal color plastic that fits the earth tones of his costume – boots, shoulder pads – well. It is a monotonal colored weapon with a decent amount of surface details like two blades that look like they would be deadly!

The Nikto figure features a three-pronged force pike that is the same length as Klaatu’s vibro-ax. Colored in a gunmetal colored plastic, this is a well-detailed accessory that fits nicely in Nikto’s two-handed grip.

Barada comes with a simple, somewhat underwhelming 1 1/2” black plastic blaster pistol. Given how detailed the figure is, it stands out, being clean and monotonal, in his hand.


The four inch toy line was designed for play and the guards fit that fairly well and the play environment is a good idea. Still, the figures are poorly articulated and later sculpts - there are later sculpts of each of Jabba’s Skiff Guards - improved upon them a little bit. All three figures have limited articulation, but great balance even when they are off their action base. As well, all three figures have foot pegs so they can stand on the play base easily enough. Still, the figures come with only five points of articulation each all of which are simple swivel joints. They have joints at the groin socket, shoulders, and neck. The elbows do not extend, so all arm posing is straight-armed.


The Jabba’s Skiff Guards play environment is part of the Power Of The Force four-inch series, a series of Star Wars action figures that was incredibly common. This three pack was tragically overproduced and is exceptionally easy to find in the secondary market, even now. Given that subsequent three-packs of Jabba’s Skiff Guards include figures with better articulation and more accessories, it is hard to imagine the value on this three-pack ever bouncing back. Even so, the quality of these figures is hard to deny, making it worth buying while they are available so inexpensively now.


The Jabba’s Skiff Guards three-pack is a decent set of alien warriors that fleshes out and Jabba’s Palace type play environment, even now. That makes it worth picking up and a surprisingly easy set to recommend!

For other Star Wars 3-packs of action figures, please check out my reviews of:
Final Jedi Duel
Rebel Pilots
Mynock Hunt


For other toy reviews, please visit my index page!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Katy Perry's Ridiculous Remix "Single" For "UR So Gay."

The Good: ? It's short?
The Bad: Short, Lame remixes, Horrendous lyrics, Terribly repetitive, Unimaginative.
The Basics: Shocking the world with the word "penis" on her single, "UR So Gay" is an insulting, rage-filled single remixed far too many times for anyone who likes quality music.

When it comes to flash-in-the-pan musical artists, there have been few in recent times I have hoped would take a dive the way I hope Katy Perry might. When Perry hit it big with "I Kissed A Girl," I did a lyrical analysis to try to expose her for exactly what she was saying. Nevertheless, her debut album One Of The Boys has continued to sell remarkably well after a few years and Perry still has the ability to get on magazine covers.

No song from her first album is arguably more offensive than "UR So Gay," a song which almost immediately led to a backlash in the LGBT community and led Perry to issue one of the most lame backpedals in contemporary pop music. As a c.d. single, "UR So Gay" is the album cut of the song with 4 remixes of the song and the track "Use Your Love." This is immediately problematic because "UR So Gay" was incredibly overproduced to begin with, so the remixes take a track which was already worked over to the point of sounding unnatural and pushes the pop envelope beyond anything sounding human.

"UR So Gay" is a railing from a female protagonist against a boy who is too effeminate for her. Using "gay" as an insult, Perry sings "I hope you hang yourself with your H&M scarf / While jacking off listening to Mozart / You b!tch and moan about L.A. / Wishing you were in the rain reading Hemingway / You don't eat meat / And drive electrical cars ... You need SPF 45 just to stay alive / You're so gay and you don't even like boys" and the best defense she has is that she is not using "gay" as "homosexual."

It's hard for anyone not to listen to this song and feel insulted, even her audience - which, one assumes, she figures wasn't smart enough to know what "fey" meant when she wrote the song, which would have allowed her to use that instead of "gay." The song is repetitive with the title and adjacent line being repeated over thirty times in the explicit versions (more in the first remix). In fact, the most enjoyable portion of the EP are tracks four and five, which strips away the banal and insulting lyrics and plays two different instrumental only versions.

"UR So Gay" in all of its incarnations is a very obvious pop song with loud guitars, thumping drums and excessive keyboards. Perry's vocals are so produced as to make it questionable how many times she actually sings any of the lyrics and wonder how many times they just looped her vocals. The overproduced instrumental pop-dance sound only gets worse when looped, as it is on the first remix and final one.

Broken up only by the equally singsong and overproduced "Use Your Love," the "UR So Gay" single may safely be avoided by anyone looking for good music.

For other works by and about Katy Perry, be sure to visit:
Why “I Kissed A Girl” Is Utterly Demeaning And Homophobic
One Of The Boys
Katy Perry Unplugged
One Of The Boys (2009 reissue)
Teenage Dream


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

© 2012, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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