Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 2013 End Of The Month/2013 End Of The Year Report!

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We are ending the year on a high note at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe!

December was a big month for the blog and we thank all our loyal readers over the past year. Bolstered by the review of The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, it was an exciting month for the blog and it ended up being our third best month for readership since the blog began!

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, there were two additions to the Top Ten Of All Time, with Catching Fire both joining the Top Ten, getting knocked out, and then rejoining it a few days later! This month, we put special emphasis on Hallmark ornaments, new movies, the musical works of Billy Joel and Madonna and Star Trek: Enterprise episodes! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts, as well as all of the new hits on older reviews!

This month, we picked up one more subscriber! Thanks for joining our regular readership! 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 growing our readership this 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 December, the index pages were very regularly! 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! Thanks so much to all of the holiday shoppers who went through the blog to do their holiday shopping this year!

At the end of December and 2013, I have reviewed the following:
481 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
839 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2431 - 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!)!
200 - 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
707 - 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
722 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
203 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
107 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
158 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
165 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
91 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
35 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month for December is: Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon Bar! My highlighted review for the year is: How The Affordable Care Act Is Unconstitutional !
Check them out!

The month of December had a lot of movement within the month and a couple of prior reviews that made the list. For December, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Gravity
9. Frozen
8. American Hustle
7. 12 Years A Slave
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
5. Compulsion
4. Thor: The Dark World
3. Grudge Match
2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
1. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

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 - 283 reviews
9s - 408 reviews
8s - 775 reviews
7s - 860 reviews
6s - 785 reviews
5s - 1029 reviews
4s - 742 reviews
3s - 602 reviews
2s - 266 reviews
1s - 189 reviews
0s - 85 reviews
No rating - 59 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, with two new entries into the Top Ten. At the end of December and 2013, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

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.
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Ending 2013 With The First Billy Joel Album: Cold Spring Harbor!

The Good: Good lyrics, Not bad vocals
The Bad: Musically limited, SHORT!
The Basics: Cold Spring Harbor was an unremarkable start to Billy Joel’s career and proves the artist had real gumption and determination (as well as lyrics-writing skills) before he became an American pop-rock mainstay.

As 2013 comes to an end, I am capping off my exploration of the works of Billy Joel with the album that started his musical career: Cold Spring Harbor. Cold Spring Harbor is a short album that only spawned hits after its reissue in the early 1980s. The fairly indistinct album is very much a piano-driven, early 1970s album that has clear influences coming out of the popularity of folk rock in American culture. Yes, if nothing else, Cold Spring Harbor illustrates to the newer fans of Billy Joel that Joel started his career in a folk-rock tradition.

Cold Spring Harbor is not bad (unless one has one of the original record pressings that has the wrong speed and thus alters the vocals on the album), but it makes it harder to believe that Billy Joel was an artist of any special destiny. The songs on the album wander from messy rock (“You Can Make Me Free”) to political folk songs (“Everybody Loves You Now,” “Falling Of The Rain”) which have more relevance in context to the Vietnam War to the usual Billy Joel romantic ballads (“She’s Got A Way,” “Turn Around”). As an artist at the beginning of his career, it is unsurprising that Cold Spring Harbor lacks a sense of ambition and refinement, but what the hook was for Joel this early in his career is something of a mystery.

With ten songs clocking out at 33:07, Cold Spring Harbor, the biggest strike against the album is that it is incredibly short. Even so, it instantly established Billy Joel as a legitimate musical artist. The album features ten songs all written by Billy Joel and he provides the lead vocals on every track. Billy Joel also plays harmonica or some variation of the piano (piano, organ, keyboard, etc.) on each song. As a new artist when the album was created, Joel received no production credit on the album and that is somewhat unsurprising.

Instrumentally, Cold Spring Harbor starts off the career of Billy Joel with the one man and a piano sound that fans would eventually expect from him. Unfortunately, the limitations of the sound are evident on the first album; “She’s Got A Way” and “Turn Around” have many of the same progressions and similarities in their tunes that make them sound very much alike. Sadly, when Joel departs from that sound, he ends up with songs like “You Can Make Me Free” which have Joel backed by a number of guitars and more active drums . . . and the song degenerates into a cacophonic mess. Most of the songs on Cold Spring Harbor are slower, piano-driven, and allow Joel’s vocals to be highlighted.

On the vocal front, Joel presents a mellow, easy vocals for most of Cold Spring Harbor. Just about the time Joel is taking on a narcoleptic sound that is putting his listeners to sleep, he breaks out a bass vocal on “Tomorrow Is Today” long before the song makes its crescendo and surprises us awake. Outside “Tomorrow Is Today,” Joel tends to stay in the higher registers of the tenor range and sticks in his safe zone. On such a short album with little musical differentiation, the vocals quickly become monotonous. “Tomorrow Is Today” is the obvious exception.

Billy Joel, as is his want, manages to be wonderfully expressive through his lyrics. One of the two bigger surprises on Cold Spring Harbor was that Joel wrote on his first time out as a solo artist a pretty impressive (and depressing) break-up song. The hopelessness of the unexplained break-up is perfectly portrayed in the lines “'Cause it's so hard to make it through the day / A man my age is very young / So I'm told / Why do I feel so old? / Tell me why Judy why” (“Why Judy Why”). It might not be the most compelling song, but it tells the story of a break-up perfectly.

At the other end of the spectrum is “You Look So Good To Me.” On “You Look So Good To Me,” Billy Joel aims for entirely superficial and he hits it as admirably as one might when they aim so low. The song is characterized by very sing-song rhymes like “Ah, you look so good to me / With my eyes open wide I can see / Ah, you feel so good to me . . . I'm feelin' the glory from that smile upon your face / You lifted me high above my ordinary place, uh huh / And I am so happy when I'm in your warm embrace” (“You Look So Good To Me”).

Of course, the main breakout song of Cold Spring Harbor is “She’s Got A Way.” “She’s Got A Way” is a pretty sappy love song that has become a standard since Joel first released it in 1971 (or, more accurately, after it gained traction in the early 1980s with the reissue of Cold Spring Harbor) and it’s good. It’s hard to argue with the raw romanticism of “She's got a smile that heals me / I don't know why it is / But I have to laugh when she reveals me / She's got a way of talkin' / I don't know why it is / But it lifts me up when we are walkin' anywhere” (“She’s Got A Way”).

Cold Spring Harbor is a Billy Joel album that suffers from lacking a spark to set it apart. There is nothing on the album that shines in such a way that makes the listener think “I have to buy this album!” Joel takes the listener on a fairly indistinct musical journey from love to anger to loss to a somewhat juvenile sense of romance (the up-tempo “You Look So Good To Me” is a flirtatious, incongruent song that does not fit the rest of the album) to the melancholy “Tomorrow Is Today.” Ultimately, the album lacks cohesion, a strong single and songs that resonate after the listener has heard them more than twice.

The high point is the moody “Tomorrow Is Today,” which is unique to this album, the worst song is “You Can Make Me Free.”

For other Billy Joel reviews, please check out:
Piano Man
52nd Street
Glass Houses
The Nylon Curtain
An Innocent Man
The Bridge
Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II
Storm Front
River Of Dreams
12 Gardens Live
Fantasies & Delusions


Check out how this album stacks up against all of the other musical works I have reviewed by visiting my Music Review Index Page where works are organized best to worst!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Not Quite Coffee Enough: Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte Is All Right, Not Superlative.

The Good: Tastes very flavorful, Nothing bad in it
The Bad: Expensive! Low nutritional benefit.
The Basics: Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte is tasty, but vastly overpriced for what it is.

When my wife and I picked up the Caramel Macchiato Starbucks Discoveries (reviewed here!), I was pretty excited. At the same time we got that, she also found the Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte. Vanilla Lattes are a favorite of my wife, so we felt pretty strongly compelled to pick this up. And it was good, but not exceptional, especially for those looking for a coffee drink. In fact, even my wife had to agree that if it wasn’t on clearance, it would not be worth picking up.

The Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte is good, but not as healthy as, for example, Bolthouse Farms coffee drinks. Still, it is not bad and has better ingredients than most prepared coffee drinks.


Starbucks is a company that makes coffee and in expanding out from the coffee shops, it has been selling its coffee as prepared beverages, beans, and ice creams. This is a dairy beverage that is milk and coffee-based, so it is one of the more perishable Starbucks products sold outside the cafes. Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte comes in a 50.7 fl. oz. cardboard carton that is too large to be portable. The carton is filled with the opaque fairly light tan liquid, reminiscent of chocolate milk, that is the Discoveries Vanilla Latte. Starbucks is one of the leading manufacturers of prepared coffee beverages.

The 50.7 fl. oz. bottle is intended to give consumers six servings and our carton bore that out exactly when we measured our servings.

Ease Of Preparation

Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte is a liquid in the 50.7 fl. oz. carton and is a ready-to-drink beverage. So, preparation is as easy as opening the plastic cap. Unscrewing that, one has to pull off the plastic tab beneath to get access to the spout and the fluid inside. Starbucks 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 may degrade if it is left out at room temperature before or after the bottle is open. Otherwise, this is very easy to dispense and there is no real preparation required outside shaking the carton while the cap is on.


The Vanilla Latte smells appropriately light and sweet, exactly like what one would expect from a vanilla coffee drink. The scent is subtle, but previews the flavor of the drink nicely.

Getting by the foam, the consumer is treated to a light, milky flavor that has the distinctive dryness on the tongue that is instantly recognizable as vanilla. That flavor lasts for about a second before an equally clear coffee flavor washes over the tastebuds. The coffee flavor is surprisingly weak and it only lingers on the tongue a second or three before the milky vanilla flavor overwhelms it again and finishes the drink’s flavor off nicely. The sweetness of the vanilla completely cuts the hints of bitterness from the coffee.

The Vanilla Latte has a slightly dry aftertaste, but not one that is unpleasant or diminishes the drink in any way.


As a dairy and coffee beverage, Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte is designed to meet the consumer’s need for coffee without having to brew coffee or buy one’s own Starbucks coffee. Nutritionally, Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte is mediocre, but not bad. Discoveries Vanilla Latte is primarily composed of reduced-fat milk, brewed Starbucks espresso coffee and sugar. It contains nothing bad, which is probably why it expires so fast. The Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte contains milk, so it is in no way Vegan compliant. On the plus side, though, there are no preservatives, artificial flavors or colors!

This drink is also good, but not overly healthy. One serving of Discoveries Vanilla Latte has 2 g fat and 120 calories, 20 of which come from the fat. While there are 20 grams of carbohydrates, the beverage has only 10 mg of cholesterol and only 3 grams of protein! Unsurprisingly, there are 40 mg (2% RDA) of sodium in each serving. A single serving is a not a sufficient source of any nutrients, though it has 10% of the RDA of Calcium.


Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte comes in a cardboard carton and it keeps for only a few weeks. The bottle I bought the first week of November had an expiration date of November 11, 2013 (fear not, I consumed it and wrote the review well before it expired!). This beverage must be refrigerated!

This drink is a dairy product and fairly light, despite the coffee in it. If this gets on clothes, it will certainly stain them. 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.


Starbucks Discoveries Vanilla Latte is good, but those who love coffee are likely to find it too watered-down and sweet to make it worth trying more than once.

For other Starbucks coffee reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Via Vanilla instant coffee
Starbucks Cafe Estima Coffee
Starbucks Via Iced Coffee


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Science Fiction Bond: Moonraker Is An Unfortunate Departure!

The Good: Decent acting, Moments of plot
The Bad: Overall ridiculous plot, No real character development, Odd script issues.
The Basics: The James Bond franchise takes a flying leap into space with Moonraker, wherein Bond must defeat a billionaire’s plan to kill everyone on Earth and repopulate it with his select bimbos and beefcakes.

As the 1970s drew to a close, the obsession with outer space and science fiction reached one of its peaks in the United States. Following the success of Star Wars (reviewed here!), 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, it was clear to the major movie studios that science fiction films were important for retaining audiences and developing film franchises. The James Bond franchise was not immune to the effect of the influence of the blockbusters; seeking to keep its audience, Moonraker was produced and the fantastic nature of the film sets it apart from the rest of the films in the James Bond franchise.

Moonraker puts James Bond in space under circumstances that are even more preposterous than the usual James Bond plotline. Bond villains, for those not familiar with the franchise, tend to be bent on world domination and/or profiting from the mass destruction of nations or industries. Moonraker takes it a step farther with a Bond villain bent on wiping out life on Earth and repopulating with his concept of what represents the best traits of humanity (all of whom are pretty thin, stereotypically beautiful, and supposedly smart - though genetic diversity does seem to be a priority, which is realistic). In order to sell the larger than life plot of the villain, Hugo Drax, the viewer is forced to accept premises such as a standing U.S. military space army, laser guns, a secretly-constructed space station, artificial gravity technology and a weaponized toxin made from one of the rarest flowers on Earth mass produced to a level that it could actually wipe out humanity. For the viewers who enjoyed any sense of realism in the spy thriller genre, Moonraker breaks with all conventions of the familiar and real and comes across as unfortunately absurd.

Opening with the Space Shuttle Moonraker being piggybacked on a 747, two men enter the shuttle and ignite its fuel, stealing the shuttle and destroying the plane. The theft prompts M to recall James Bond, who narrowly escapes an attempt on his life while in a small plane on his way home from his last mission. Bond is told the truth about the hijacking by M and given a dart gun by Q before being sent to California to visit Drax Industries, the manufacturer of the Moonraker shuttle. Drax, who is obsessed with the conquest of space, is insanely wealthy; his residence in California is a transplanted French castle and he immediately sets to making sure Bond fails in his mission to find the Moonraker. Drax’s assistant, Chang, attempts to kill Bond using the g-force centrifuge, though Bond survives with the help of his dart gun and the NASA scientist, Dr. Holly Goodhead.

Bond inadvertently follows Goodhead to Venice where he is investigating a subcontractor to Drax and where she is giving a speech. After surviving gondola chase, infiltrating a secret Drax laboratory and finally dispatching Chang, Bond discovers that Goodhead is a CIA agent tasked with the same mission as him. While trying to expose Drax’s secret lab, Bond is discredited and has to follow the trail of Drax Industries subcontractors to Rio De Janeiro on his own. When Q determines that a compound snuck out of Drax’s secret lab is a poison made from an ultra-rare orchid, Bond is vindicated and he and Goodhead infiltrate Drax’s secret shuttle fleet and space station, pursued by the assassin Jaws, to try to save the world from being poisoned and humanity killed.

Even more than a “more preposterous than usual” plotline, Moonraker is plagued by odd and obvious script problems. For example, when Bond reports in, his dialogue with Moneypenny is unusually fragmented. He tells Moneypenny about how he jumped out of a plane without a parachute, she tells him something else and they have a back and forth before he incredulously observes that she does not believe him about the plane jump. Sadly, that is not the only place in the movie where the dialogue seems stilted.

Moonraker features the return n The Spy Who Loved Me. Unlike the Louisiana sheriff being used in two James Bond movies, the reuse of Richard Kiel as the giant Jaws is far less annoying and helps tie the otherwise far-flung Moonraker back to the rest of the Bond franchise. Kiel is hired for his brawn and he is an exceptional match for Roger Moore.

The distinct guest star in Moonraker, though, is Lois Chiles as Dr. Goodhead. While the name might be absurd, the character is one of the more interesting Bond women. Goodhead spends the first half of the film clearly the equal of James Bond with a moral uncertainty that makes watching her character’s direction fun and interesting. While Michael Lonsdale’s Hugo Drax is instantly portrayed as evil and the actor is not given much in the way of range to play the role, Chiles excels because she gets through the excessive technobabble of Goodhead flawlessly – credibly establishing Goodhead as a smart enough woman to plausibly be both a NASA astronaut and a CIA agent. As well, she matches Roger Moore’s James Bond line for line with the wit and snappy comebacks one expects of James Bond. Her performance is more than just that of sex object (the objectified women – and, for a change, men – in Moonraker are relegated to Drax’s menagerie of repopulating personnel at the film’s climax).

Roger Moore does a fine job as James Bond, though Moonraker does not push his character forward in any meaningful or noteworthy ways to give him much new to do, save playing thoroughly exhausted following the centrifuge scene.

In all, Moonraker is preposterous – details like closing an airlock door differentiating between an area without gravity and one with is just silly – but it is pretty harmless entertainment that has the added benefit of being well-acted, if not superlative in any other way.

For other James Bond films, please check out my reviews of:
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
You Only Live Twice
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Diamonds Are Forever
Live And Let Die
The Man With The Golden Gun
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum Of Solace


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.
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Only With Other Stuff Added . . . Friskies Mixed Grill Classic Pate Isn’t Amazing.

The Good: Nothing bad in it, Does not smell bad
The Bad: Does not entice cats at all on its own, Comparatively expensive.
The Basics: Friskies Mixed Grill catfood is a tougher sell for my cats, though heated and with cream cheese, Gollum enjoys it!

As my wife and I have gotten our cat Gollum back up to a healthy weight, we have been getting them all sorts of wet cat foods. With the Friskies wet foods, the latest one our cats have tried is the Friskies Classic Pate Mixed Grill Cat Food. The Mixed Grill Pate might be the first major miss by this food line in the judgment of both my cats. Timber refuses to eat it (unless he sees Gollum eating some and is feeling jealous) and Gollum only eats it when it is heated up and mixed with cream cheese.

This is the only Friskies pate that I have to modify in order to get my cats to eat it.


Friskies Classic Pate comes in a metal 5.5 oz. single serve container. Supposedly, Gollum for his weight and age should eat two of these containers per day! Even on sale, that would be a pricy endeavor, though $2/day might not seem pricy, it adds up compared to dry cat food that Gollum and Timber are used to. Given that we have to add cream cheese to it in order to get the cats to eat it, the expense for this food adds up! Each container I opened, Gollum only reacted when it was heated up and he could smell it and the cream cheese.

Ease Of Preparation

The Mixed Grill Classic Pate opens up easily enough in the 5.5 oz. metal container. The small metal container has a thin aluminum lid that easily pulls off. Opening the container reveals the food inside. Classic Pate Mixed Grill looks like a lump of ground beef, dark brown with a fatty gravy around the edges. This cat food may be dispensed into a cat's food dish by either smacking it against the bottom of the dish or spooning the contents out into the dish. Alternatively, this wet cat food may be eaten right out of the can, though the metal edges are sharp and that method is not recommended for cats. Unfortunately, the only way our cats eat it is warm and mixed with cream cheese.

Gollum And Timber’s Reactions

The Friskies Mixed Grill Classic Pate smells completely like beef gravy. This has a powerful gravy smell that is very beefy. The smell is very familiar and actually somewhat inviting to a human; though it does not seem strong enough to thrill Gollum or Timber. Gollum only eats it warm and with cream cheese, mixed together in order to become a warm meat and cheese paste. Timber usually refuses to eat this and Gollum will not eat it at all once it cools down.

This does not leave either cat with any sort of smell on their breath.


The Classic Pate Mixed Grill is very nutritious for cats and it has nothing noticeable bad in it (I'm not a Chem student, so I can't speak for all of the preservatives). But considering that the primary ingredients are meat by-products, water sufficient for processing, and poultry by-products. Friskies seems to have its act together on making an essentially good product. According to the guaranteed analysis on the container, there is a minimum of 10% crude protein and 5% crude fat and no more than 1% crude fiber, 3% ash, and 78% moisture. This is food appears to be wheat-free and it most definitely requires refrigeration after it is open!

I cannot afford to give Gollum and Timber this regularly and once Gollum is back to a healthy weight, which is likely to happen fast given the fat content of the Classic Pate, I will probably return to hard cat food exclusively for him. Hard cat food has clear dental benefits that the Classic Pate Mixed Grill does not have. When the cats chew (to split into bite-sized pieces) their hard cat food, it scrapes plaque and tartar off their teeth. There is no such physical operation going on with this cat food.


Unfortunately expensive to use to fatten my cat back up, the Friskies Classic Pate Mixed Grill is not quite worth picking up, though it is not inherently bad at all.

For other Purina cat foods, please visit my reviews of:
Salmon Dinner Classic Pate
Purina Kit & Kaboodle Original cat food
Friskies Party Mix Wild West Crunch Beef, Liver, & Cheddar flavor cat treats
Purina Cat Chow Healthy Weight cat food
Purina Friskies Turkey & Cheese Savory Shreds
Purina Pro Plan Seafood Stew Entree
Purina One SmartBlend Salmon And Tuna Cat Food


For other pet product reviews, please visit my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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An Engaging Experience, Craigslist Joe Explores America Well!

The Good: Tells a good story, Interesting cultural experiment
The Bad: Misses some chunks of time, Invasive soundtrack, Lack of a convincing or demonstrative theme.
The Basics: Joey Garner is a decent journey movie that explores America today through the eyes of a man who tries to survive for an entire month only on generosity found through Craigslist users.

There seem to be two main types of documentaries: those that purely document an event or idea and those that have an agenda. Craigslist Joe is one of the former. The idea behind Craigslist Joe is a very direct one and it seemed audacious when the film began. Filmmaker Joseph Garner (Joey), wants to see if technology has made people more isolated from one another. To explore that idea, he decides to use the social networking site Craigslist to try to live for a month.

Having no idea where the Internet will take him, Joey grabs his passport, a backpack, a new cell phone and e-mail address and logs onto Craigslist in Los Angeles. Joey starts off simply trying to get food, places to sleep and rides on Craigslist and he sees where it will take him. By day eight, he is in Portland, Oregon, with the bicycle given to him by a Craigslist user. Joey heads north to Seattle where he helps tutor some children at a community center and spends an evening with an Iraqi family. On Day 13, Joey heads toward Vermont and along the way he stops in Chicago for some free break dancing lessons.

Joey’s journey continues to New York City. On Day 20/1 Joey ends up in New York City on the streets. It is one of the few nights he almost finds himself homeless. He does volunteer work in New York City and even organizes some volunteer efforts around Christmastime. Eager to share his experiences with the founder of Craigslist, he gets an appointment for the end of the year in San Francisco with the founder. Trying to get to Craigslist over the course of ten days, Joey heads south where he finds himself in Tallahassee, New Orleans, Juarez (Mexico), and ultimately back to California for his meeting and home.

Joey’s journey is interesting to watch, but Craigslist Joe has no real rewatchability to it. The journey lacks a resounding or convincing theme. Joey tries to convince the viewer (and the founder of Craigslist and his own family) that the experience has taught him that people are fundamentally good. But there are several points in the film where there is the feeling that the subjects of the movie are acting charitably because they know they are on camera (not to mention a few moments when people mention in passing they have space and Joey leaps on it as if the space was offered to him).

Some of the people Joey meets stand out – like a dominatrix, an Iraqi and a Jewish family – but many get Joey into situations that are uncomfortable and Joey and his cameraman are stranded in places with little in the way of resources or hope. Could a person replicate Craigslist Joe without a film crew and not end up killed, raped, beaten or robbed? Probably not; Craigslist’s users seem to be smart enough to realize there would be ways to be tracked with their e-mail address and appearing on camera. As a result, Joseph Garner spends only one night homeless and does not get mugged, taken advantage or otherwise suffer (though he loses considerable weight over the course of his month on the road).

As a result, Craigslist Joe has a feel-good quality to it, but little resounding or lasting merit. It chronicles one person’s journey, though that journey is very dated and is hardly universal. This was an interesting academic exercise to witness, but not an extraordinary one for experiencing over and over again.

For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Jedi Junkies
Trek Nation
Great White Odyssey


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.
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Volume Between Things Actually Happening: The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves!

The Good: Good character work, Realism
The Bad: Artwork, Lack of events
The Basics: The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is a book of non-events in the world of The Walking Dead.

In any long serialized story that strives for realism, there comes a time when the writers must choose between sensationalism and realism. In a sensational volume, events are constantly happening; there is no rest for the characters and at some point the readers have to ask themselves how people could survive on such constant adrenaline or drama or conflict. The Walking Dead seems to take the other tact: there are entire books where nothing much happens. The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is one such volume.

Compiling issues 85 to 90 of The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves begins right after Book Seven (reviewed here!). Interestingly, this volume has enough recap to make clear virtually all that is within its pages without reading the prior anthology. The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is a rebuilding book that chronicles the day or two after the last major attack on the town that Rick Grimes and his companions have joined. Rather than presenting the familiar (in the past usually while cleaning up after such an attack, someone else gets bitten and has to be put down), writer Robert Kirkman treads new territory; the clean-up goes fine and the characters have a chance for some introspection and reflection.

And it’s good, but thoroughly underwhelming for anyone who is not already invested in the continuing story of Rick Grimes and the survivors of the zombie apocalypse.

After Jessie’s death, Rick starts figuring out how to make the town into a new bastion of civilization. Intent on doing more than surviving, he has the members of the community come up with suggestions on how they can fortify the town so that roamers cannot get in any longer to menace the survivors. As Rick waits for Carl to wake up from the coma he is in following having a chunk of his skull blown off, Rosita leaves Abraham over his infidelity with Holly. When Carl does wake up, Rick is dismayed that he is unaware that Lori (Carl’s mother) is dead and he has no memory of the brief life of his sister.

With food running low, Rick decides to lead a team to thoroughly investigate the houses nearby outside the walls. But while his group is scouting the nearby houses and another team is digging a trench to trip up roamers, Nicholas starts planning to overthrow Rick. Resentful of how Rick has come in and taken over, Nicholas talks to other members of Douglas’s community about killing him, which Glenn overhears. When Nicholas and Glenn get into a fight and Rick and his party return, the tense situation turns into the first big test of Rick’s determined effort to recreate civilization.

The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves does what it sets out to do, even if it is not the most exciting read. What Kirkman does absolutely right – even if it might not be the best use of the medium (it’s not terribly visual) – is have Rick both take a philosophical and emotional position and then test that new resolve. Rick has spent pretty much the entire series before this struggling violently to survive and he lost his hand as a result of the brutalism he has encountered in the dark new world following the outbreak. But after the hole in the wall is plugged – an event that would not have happened with Rick working all on his own – Rick finds he wants something more for himself and Carl. In The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves, the book starts heading in a different direction. At some point, the world will run out of undead and then the question is what kind of world will remain, what kind of people will live in it? Rick is asking all the right questions in The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves and he has a decent plan to make the town a place to live for the longterm.

Outside Rick’s struggle to define the future for his group and actually execute the plan, Rick’s story in We Find Ourselves is about him trying to get in touch with his feelings when he realizes Carl may have lost his ability to feel. Fearing Carl has become cold and distant robs Rick of the simple joy of his son being alive after getting shot pretty graphically in the head.

The rest of The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is filled up with soap opera exchanges. Andrea pushes away her paramour, Glenn consoles Maggie when Maggie is worried about never feeling safe again, Rosita pushes Abraham away and Abraham and Holly have a “Lady MacBeth” moment. The supporting cast in the book have fairly banal problems at this point and the subplot with Nicholas comes up at a time when the volume is at the risk of being sappy.

The artwork in The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves continues to be thoroughly underwhelming. Several characters look like one another (there is a character who is a cleanshaven version of Rick Grimes in these pages that is somewhat confusing for those of us who have read prior books, forgotten this distant supporting character, but remember what Rick looks like without his stubble.

That said, The Walking Dead, Volume 15: We Find Ourselves is a fair transition book and given where the book ends, there is enough to make the reader want to come back for the next one, even if this volume seems like a “read once, never have to read it again” book.

For other The Walking Dead books, check out my reviews of:
Days Gone Bye
Book One
Book Two
Book Three
Book Four
Book Five
Fear The Hunters
Life Among Them


For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Consciously And Unconsciously Against Everything Star Trek, “Damage” Is A Broken Episode.

The Good: Moments of moralization, Pacing, Special effects
The Bad: Very stiff acting, B-plot is a huge problem
The Basics: Archer consciously crosses an ethical line while the writers of Star Trek: Enterprise unconsciously create a messy plotline for T’Pol in “Damage.”

There’s a good rule for a franchise that all future writers for the Star Trek franchise should heed: if you’re going to steal from somewhere for your ideas and plots, steal from somewhere other than your own franchise. Star Trek: Enterprise severely “borrowed” from the Star Trek franchise when it ended with the ship virtually destroyed in one episode and opened with the damaged ship virtually incapacitated and surrounded by enemies, much like in “A Time To Stand” (reviewed here!) and “Rocks And Shoals” (reviewed here!).

That said, “Damage,” which follows directly after “Azati Prime” (reviewed here!), is a fairly grim and realistic episode that finally reveals the Sphere Builders to the audience. Unfortunately, the b-plot, which involves T’Pol degrading fairly consistently, makes little sense in the internal continuity of the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise. In “Impulse” (reviewed here!), Trellium-D – which is used to protect the starships from the effects of the Expanse – is determined to be the cause of the Vulcans going crazy within the Expanse (in protecting their ships, they inadvertently poisoned themselves). The resolution to “Impulse” has Archer deciding not to fortify the ship in order to protect T’Pol and T’Pol is advised not to go near the ship’s store of Trellium-D. So, there is no good reason given that T’Pol would be degrading the way she is in “Damage” (and “Azati Prime”).

Opening with the Enterprise without warp drive, Degra, Jannar, and the leader of the Xindi-Primates demand that Dolim release Archer. Unwilling to trust the Xindi Reptile leader, the Xindi Aquatics take custody of Archer. With E-Deck virtually destroyed, T’Pol prioritizes restoring the deck so Tucker can try to repair the warp drive. When the Aquatics send a shuttle with Archer back to the Enterprise, the Captain is revived and learns that fourteen of the crew are dead with three more still missing. Shortly after T’Pol finds herself unable to control her limbs and emotions, the Enterprise gets a distress call from a nearby ship, an Illyrian vessel.

The Illyrian Captain is eager to trade with Archer, but he is unwilling to strand his own vessel in the expanse by trading away a warp coil that the Enterprise desperately needs to get the warp drive working again. After the Illyrian ship leaves, T’Pol has a nightmare and recovers some of the Trellian D, which she injects herself with. Sato realizes that the Xindi Aquatics are about to take Degra’s children hostage in order to insure he completes work on the weapon and Archer makes the decision to violate his own set of ethics to save Earth and the Enterprise. Ordering Reed to assemble an armed boarding party, Archer is ready to pirate the warp coil the Enterprise needs. When the Sphere Builder is called by the three members of the Xindi Council sympathetic to Archer, she reveals that she has aided the Xindi Reptiles and Insectoids without the rest of the Council knowing. Degra, however, has been swayed by the fact that Archer has provided proof for his story whereas the Sphere Builders remain enigmatic and out for their own agenda. With T’Pol advocating an ethical stance against Archer’s plan of attack, she and Archer come into conflict as Archer steps over the line to board the Illyrian ship and steal their warp coil.

“Damage” is a troubling step back for the character of T’Pol. The retcon concept of T’Pol “medicating” herself with Trellium-D makes no sense whatsoever. While sloppily writing off her entire character arc with Tucker as a drug addition, the fundamental problem with the concept remains tied to what came before. The Vulcans in “Impulse” went much crazier through much less direct exposure to the Trellium-D. Given the sloppy way in which T’Pol has been “self-medicating,” it seems like she would have poisoned herself much worse far before she ever became addicted and the result would have been much more potentially catastrophic before this ever happened. As well, T’Pol has been in Sickbay several times since she started poisoning herself with Trellium-D. And if she wanted to experience emotions, she didn’t need a drug, just to lower her conscious control. And in “Twilight” (reviewed here!), she either would have been dead, much more emotional, or prone to admitting her addiction to the future version of Archer because she had no reason to keep it secret. In other words, the T’Pol plotline with Trellium-D is just an absolute mess.

The exchange between Scott Bakula and Casey Biggs is packed with technobabble. As Archer tries to get a warp coil from the Illyrian Captain, the two actors exchange lines with a stiffness that is difficult to watch. The lack of emotion and realism – the disconnect between the words and the sense that the actors saying them fully understand them – makes the scene flop entirely and the viewer is left feeling like neither actor truly landed it.

Similarly, for all of the problems with the T’Pol plotline, one of the bigger issues is that Jolene Blalock does not truly sell the concept. Blalock does not make T’Pol an emotional junkie and she fails to sell the idea that T’Pol would have started down the path for the emotional exploration that the episode retroactively creates. Blalock is not extreme enough in her character’s degredation, nor subtle enough to make the viewer convinced that the character had such ambitions.

Despite that, the emotional journey of Archer is good. It calls to mind the difficulty faced by Sisko in “In The Pale Moonlight” (reviewed here!) and the idea of how far Archer will go to save humanity is a compelling one. “Damage” presents that, and the physical destruction to the Enterprise, well-enough, but not enough to make the episode worth watching for anything other than its place in the heavily-serialized arc.

The three biggest gaffes in “Damage:”
3. The T’Pol plotline completely undermines the internal strength of Vulcans and their lack of emotionalism, making it unrealistic that the cultural conceit of Vulcans lacking emotions would endure for hundreds of years,
2. The Sphere Builder looks like the entity that is the genetic basis for all life in the Milky Way galaxy, revealed in “The Chase” (reviewed here!). However, the Sphere Builders come from an entirely different dimension, so there is absolutely no reason they ought to bear such a similarity to the base entity,
1. Mayweather notes that the Xindi Aquatic language sounds like music and that allows Hoshi to start translating the language. Xindi Aquatic sounds quite a bit like whalesong; Hoshi’s ability to translate the language ought to have made is a much quicker leap for Spock and the Federation to evaluate the whalesong from the probe in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (reviewed here!).

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

For other works with Rick Worthy, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Heroes - Seasons 3 & 4
“Proving Ground” - Star Trek: Enterprise
“Rajiin” - Star Trek: Enterprise
“The Xindi” - Star Trek: Enterprise
“Equinox, Part 2” - Star Trek: Voyager
“Equinox, Part 1” - Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine - “Soldiers Of The Empire”
Star Trek: Insurrection
“Prototype” - Star Trek: Voyager


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Perfect TIE Fighter Pilot, The New Legacy Collection Black Squadron TIE Pilot Figure!

The Good: Amazing poseability, Exceptional detailing, Awesome balance, Decent accessories!
The Bad: None!
The Basics: The Star Wars Legacy Collection Black Squadron TIE Pilot is well worth picking up, despite the prevalence of TIE Fighter Pilot figures on the market.

In recent years, I have been disappointed by the Star Wars action figure line. Most of the figures have been simply recasts of previously-released action figures and overwhelmingly overproduced figures. The Star Wars action figures have largely been done and now they most seem to be refining the previously-released figures. Apparently Amazon.com snuck out its own figure set from Hasbro, resurrecting the Legacy Collection Build-A-Droid concept and most of the figures in the set are familiar and overdone figures. The first one I’m tackling for reviews is the Black Squadron TIE Pilot action figure.

For those unfamiliar with the Black Squadron TIE Pilot, they are the Imperial Stormtroopers seen throughout the Star Wars Saga (reviewed here!) who wore black and piloted the Imperial TIE Fighters.

The 4" Black Squadron TIE Pilot figure is another generic shock troop which may be stocked up on and because this is such a good figure, it is worth doing so. In fact, this might be a perfect rendition of the TIE Fighter Pilot figure.


The Black Squadron TIE Pilot figure stands 3 7/8" tall to the top of his helmet. He wears the black outfit and black armor of the Imperial TIE Pilot. This toy is a great sculpt, even when it has the helmet off. With its helmet off, the Black Squadron TIE Pilot is revealed to have a scowling face that might look almost nothing like Temuera Morrison, who one assumes is supposed to be the subject given the figure's complexion and curly black hair (and the insinuation that all of the troopers in the Empire are now clones). The lips are colored a bright pink, but the figure otherwise looks flawlessly realistic.

That said, the Black Squadron TIE Pilot is an amazing sculpt. The figure's jumpsuit includes such realistic details as molded pockets and the arm badges. The armor on the Black Squadron TIE Pilot's outfit looks strong and clean, which makes sense given that the Black Squadron TIE Pilot works in the relatively clean environment of the cockpit of the TIE Fighter. The coloring details on the Black Squadron TIE Pilot's armor are also pretty wonderful and this looks exactly like the Black Squadron TIE Pilot's in the pictures (and in the movie).


Black Squadron TIE Pilot is an Imperial stormtrooper and comes only with two accessories: an Imperial blaster pistol and a specialized blaster! The blaster pistol that the Black Squadron TIE Pilot comes with is an Imperial blaster remolded for the Legacy Collection figures that is in the figure’s holster. The 11/16" long gun fits in either of Black Squadron TIE Pilot's hands and looks entirely proportionate. The monotonal black weapon is generic, but looks good in or out of the holster on the figure’s belt.

The other gun appears to be unique to the Black Squadron TIE Pilot. The 1” long black firearm has a top/side scope and a virtually nonexistent barrel. The handle has a decent textured grip and fits into either of the figure’s hands.

Like the rest of Amazon’s 2013 Legacy Collection figures, the Black Squadron TIE Pilot features a droid part. The Black Squadron TIE Pilot features the right leg of TC-70. The copper and silver leg looks very much like a protocol droid’s leg. The leg is articulated with a hinge joint at the knee and a hinged ball and socket joint at the ankle. The foot has the appropriate hole for putting the droid into a vehicle or playset.


The four inch toy line was designed for play and the Black Squadron TIE Pilot is exceptional in that regard. The Black Squadron TIE Pilot has great balance and even better poseability, illustrating the latest in molding technology. The Black Squadron TIE Pilot is articulated at twelve points, few of which are simple swivel joints. The Black Squadron TIE Pilot is articulated at the knees, groin socket, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists and head. The head is on a ball-and-socket joint, inhibited only by the helmet's air tubes which connect to the chestpiece control panel. The knees, shoulders and elbows are all hinge joints on the ball-and-socket, giving them exceptional poseability and playability. The wrists and waist have simple swivel joints which do all they truly need to do.


The Black Squadron TIE Pilot is part of the Legacy Collection with the build-a-droid figure that was released in 2013 entirely through Amazon.com. The Black Squadron TIE Pilot was released with equal frequency as the rest of the line. Given how this is more poseable than the prior TIE Pilots, it makes for a great supplemental figure for any TIE Fighter vehicle toy.


The Black Squadron TIE Pilot is quite possibly the best TIE Fighter pilot figure made by Hasbro so far and makes investing in the Amazon.com Legacy Collection set instantly worthwhile.

For other TIE Fighter pilot figures and TIE fighter collectibles, please check out my reviews of:
Vintage Collection VC65 TIE Fighter Pilot
Power Of The Force TIE Fighter Pilot
2012 TIE Interceptor Ornament


For other Star Wars toy reviews, please check out my Toy Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, December 27, 2013

A Fairly Original Country Christmas Album: The Gift By Kenny Rogers!

The Good: Good mix of largely obscure Christmas music, Decent vocal range
The Bad: Very short, Musically unspectacular.
The Basics: A very different Christmas album, The Gift showcases the talents of Kenny Rogers as a performer, even if there is not much to the album other than fairly original song choices.

Complaining about how much Christ comes up on a Christmas album is about as ridiculous as wondering why the Torah has so many Hebrew characters; it’s the nature of the work. And yet, recently while driving with my wife, she put on one of her favorite Christmas albums from her childhood - The Gift by Kenny Rogers – and as we drove along, I began to get progressively more uncomfortable with how religious the album was (both my wife and I are atheists, but she was raised as a Christian). After a few days of letting the emotional impact of The Gift wear off, I got to a place where I felt I could objectively listen to the album and review it fairly.

I was actually surprised when considering The Gift that I had reviewed only one other Kenny Rogers album; 20 Great Years (reviewed here!). Rogers is one of my wife’s favorite Country music artists and from an objective standpoint, The Gift is good, especially for a Christmas album. Unlike the usual standards that appear on virtually every other Christmas album since Elvis released Elvis’s Christmas Album (reviewed here!), The Gift is largely unfamiliar Christmas works, at least to the general population. Only one song contains familiar Christmas songs and even those are ones (the song is a massive medley) that fall to the hymn side of Christmas music.

With only nine tracks clocking out at 43 minutes, The Gift is mostly hampered by being short. Kenny Rogers clearly has plenty of faith and Christmas spirit, so why he includes so few songs and uses so little of the compact disc’s capacity is a bit of a mystery to me. Rogers sings the lead vocals on all of the songs, but he is only credited as a co-writer on a single track (which surprised me because I had not heard any of the other songs before this album). Rogers is not credited with any of the instruments, arrangements, or production credits on The Gift. How much of The Gift is actually Rogers’s creative vision, as opposed to being studio vision/profit motive is unclear.

That said, Kenny Rogers provides smooth, beautiful vocals on all of the songs. He sings every line on the album so it may be clearly understood and the album has a very Gospel-Country sound to it.

Instrumentally, Rogers is backed up by keyboards and light strings. Only “Pretty Little Baby Child” truly diverges in terms of the instrumental accompaniment; it includes percussion (presumably glockenspiels) that bring the song a more up-tempo and almost Caribbean sound. The rest of the songs sound like they could be played at virtually any church. The one problem with that is the familiar song; “The Chosen One Montage.” “The Chosen One Montage” is a fifteen-plus minute song that has Kenny Rogers telling and singing the story of the birth of Jesus. Utilizing children singing and asking questions, Rogers answers with the story of Christmas in words and music. Unfortunately, the children’s vocals come between long stretches of Rogers singing, so it replays poorly; there is more of a feeling of “Oh, are we still on that song?!” when the children’s vocals pop back up seemingly at random.

Lyrically, The Gift is very much a Christmas – and Christian – album. The songs are largely unfamiliar to secular listeners and include larger religious themes than just Christmas. For example, “A Soldier’s King” plays off the Country music-listener’s stereotypical level of faith and patriotism with lines like, “No one seemed to notice the man beside the road / He was just a ragged soldier out there in the cold / But he seemed to have a purpose only known to him / As he walked along the streets that night through the town of Bethlahem. / In his head he held a memory of all the wars he'd known / In his hand he clutched a medal for the bravery he'd shown / And the weight of every battle he caried in his heart / But his eyes were clear and searching for a manger in the dark.” The songs aren’t bad, but they are very much playing to the established Kenny Rogers audience and are fairly inaccessible to anyone who is not a Country or Gospel music fan or a Christian.

Ultimately, The Gift is good for Christians looking for something other than the usual commercial Christmas album or those who are familiar with the songs on the album and are drawn to the nostalgia of it. The best track is “I Trust You,” the “The Chosen One Montage” fares the worst over multiple replays.

For other fairly original Christmas albums, please visit my reviews of:
Wintersong - Sarah McLachlan
Midwinter Graces - Tori Amos
20th Century Masters: Christmas Collection – The Best Of Reba - Reba McEntire


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Not Quite Enough To Thrill Bacon Lovers, Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon Bars Are Still Enjoyable!

The Good: Great taste, Wonderful quality, Does not melt easily
The Bad: Not strongly flavored of bacon, Still expensive.
The Basics: Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon Bars are good, but not for their embodiment of bacon.

Despite being atheists, my wife and I do our best to show our love for one another, even on holidays that are not innate to us. As a result, yesterday, my amazing wife showered me with gifts and as it turned out a number of them were food (especially chocolates) that she picked up for me to enjoy . . . and review. There is something exceptionally sweet (pun intended) about a woman who provides me with candy to review, even though neither candy nor my reviews are truly her favorite things. So, to show her how much I appreciate the gift, I thought I would right away prioritize trying one of the chocolates she picked up for me. The first one I leapt on, the one I was most excited to try, was the Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon chocolate bars she picked up for me. The Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon Bars are good, but neither of us found them to be a very true embodiment of bacon flavor.

This was my first experience with Chuao Chocolatier chocolate bars and it is clear the company is providing a premium product (given how expensive the bars are). If they were more bacony in their flavoring, they would have easily been a perfect product (the chocolate is wonderful and the maple flavor is present).


The Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon Bar is a filled milk chocolate bar from Chuao Chocolatier. Each 2.8 oz. chocolate bar is wrapped in a metallic plastic wrapper. The actual chocolate bar is 3” wide by 6” long by 3/8” thick and features an imprint of leaves and a stamp identifying the bar as being from Chuao Chocolatier. There are no segments and I was surprised by how the bottom of the bar was smooth; the filling does not make the bar textured anywhere!

The chocolate is very light, but decently solid. Individually, the bars are on the $5.00 - $10.00 range, which is super expensive, until one considers just how delicious these chocolate bars are!

Ease Of Preparation

Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon bars are chocolate, not preparing a chocolate fountain! Preparing them is as easy as unwrapping the candy bar. Because the chocolate is so pricy, I recommend eating this a little at a time, not just biting right into the bar.


The Maple Bacon chocolate bar is delightfully aromatic; the bar smells strongly of chocolate, without a hint as to what the flavors within the bar might be. The chocolate smells like a decent grade of cocoa, without alluding to being milk chocolate, either.

On the tongue, Chuao provides a real mixed bag with the Maple Bacon chocolate bar. The chocolate is thick and sweet, without at all overwhelming the tastebuds; this tastes like chocolate, not the milky, vaguely-sweet crap that mass-produced chocolate has become. Instead, this is sweet and rich without being dry or at all unpleasant on the tongue; it is a firm, flavorful milk chocolate. As the chocolate rests on the tongue and slowly melts away, the sweetness of the maple flavoring comes out; the sugary-sweet flavor is distinctive enough to assert itself from within the chocolate bar and let the consumer know they are eating something intriguing and more than just a high-quality chocolate bar.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the bacon. The bacon flavor is not able to overcome the sweetness and the crispy pieces of bacon in the bar do not carry the flavor of bacon and/or bacon grease well enough to satisfy those who love bacon. Instead, there is a vaguely salty flavor that comes out when one chews the candy bar, but it is not quite strong enough to prove to the consumer that it is actually bacon in the bar.

The Maple Bacon bar has a slightly dry aftertaste that lingers on the tongue for about five minutes after one is done consuming the bar.


Chuao Chocolatier makes their fine chocolates with fine ingredients, which is arguably why they are so expensive. With the primary ingredients being Premium milk chocolate (41% cacoa), maple sugar, and bacon, the Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon bars are not a wonderful food to try to survive on. However, they do use natural ingredients and Non-GMO ingredients and none of them are unpronounceable. In a 1.4 ounce serving, there are 210 calories, 120 of which are from fat. This represents 21% of one’s RDA of fat (41% of the RDA of saturated fat). Each bar has 140 mg of Sodium (mostly in the bacon, one assumes) and 3 grams of protein. In other words, this is not a snack to try to survive on.


Because the chocolate is so hard, the Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon bars are not especially susceptible to heat. Still, these should be kept cool in order to not melt. With that in mind, as long as they are kept cool and dry, these will last over a year (the one my wife presented me with yesterday would have lasted until October 12, 2014).

Clean-up is easy, so long as the chocolate does not melt. The Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon bars have wrappers that ought to be properly disposed of, but otherwise, the chocolate washes off skin and non-porous surfaces. It the chocolate melts onto fabric, consult a fabric guide.


The Chuao Chocolatier Maple Bacon Bar is a delightful chocolate and maple confection, but the bacon flavor is not strong enough to please those who would buy the bar for that flavor.

For other fancy candies, please check out my reviews of:
Lindt Pistachio Nut Bars
Ferrara Milk Chocolate Peppermint Chocolate Orange
Godiva White Chocolate Vanilla Bean bar


For more food reviews, please check out my Food Review Index Page!

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