Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013 End Of The Month Report!

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Talk about rocking in the new year!

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, we broke almost every record we had before! There was a new addition to the Top Ten Of All Time and an all new #1 review by more than four times the hits of the prior #1! January became the blog's most trafficked month by more than seventeen thousand hits! Once again, big movie releases were what intrigued our readers most! This month, we put special emphasis on pet reviews and Myah and Gollum had a tremendous month as a result! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts!

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

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

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. Thank you so much! By purchasing items through the links on the blog, you sponsor my ability to continue reviewing. Thank you so much for that support!

At the end of January, I have reviewed the following:
431 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
723 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2122 - 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!)!
178 - 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
623 - 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
628 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
173 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
106 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
136 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
142 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
84 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
24 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews Of The Month for January are: Masters Of The Universe - Season 1 and an article on How IGT And Facebook Are Inadvertently Curing Gambling Addition!
Check them out!

The month of January saw some serious staying power and growth of some prior popular reviews as well as the predictable popularity of new theatrical releases. For Janurary, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Devils & Dust - Bruce Springsteen / The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
9. Idahoan Applewood Smoked Bacon Potatoes
8. Silver Linings Playbook
7. She-Hulk: Single Green Female By Dan Slott
6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - 25th Anniversary Collection
5. Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice Tea
4. The Captains
3. Wear-Ever Popcorn Pumper
2. Safe Haven
1. Warm Bodies

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 - 270 reviews
9s - 384 reviews
8s - 682 reviews
7s - 756 reviews
6s - 674 reviews
5s - 897 reviews
4s - 630 reviews
3s - 517 reviews
2s - 226 reviews
1s - 152 reviews
0s - 78 reviews
No rating - 34 articles/postings

There was a LOT of movement in this first month of the year, and at the end of January, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. Snow White And The Huntsman
9. The Amazing Spider-Man!
8. Cadbury Screme Eggs
7. The Avengers
6. The Hunger Games
5. Star Trek: Machinations Of Doomsday
4. Won't Back Down
3. Prometheus
2. Safe Haven
1. Warm Bodies

Thank you again, so much, for reading! Please share links to the blog with friends and spread the word!
© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Gollum’s Love Of Stability Is Met With The Affordable 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food!

The Good: Very nutritious, Gollum enjoys it, Made with good ingredients, Generally affordable, Aids in urinary tract health!
The Bad: Does nothing for tartar control.
The Basics: Gollum enjoys 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food, but it is a basic cat food that necessitates the use of cat treats for dental health benefits.

Gollum, as my loyal readers know of my ten year-old (almost!) housecat, loves variety. Even so, when he has a standard food to return to for a little while, he seems to like that. He might like it because he knows that if the food is a typical, average one that he gets day after day for a few months, he is likely to get new and interesting treats every few days as well. Regardless, coming off a series of weekly diet changes, Gollum seemed unusually excited for the 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg cat food, which I began serving him last week and he remains excited for. While he might not come running for it, Gollum clearly enjoys the 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg cat food. It is very good for him, but because it requires additional treats to balance out his nutritional and dental needs, it is far from perfect.


9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food is a cat food formulated for adult cats. The 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food catfood regularly comes in a thirteen point three pound reinforced paper bag that is priced in stores around $10. As a cheapskate and poor person, this is one of the more affordable cat foods and one that is a good basic food.

The 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food food comes with three different pieces. The red fish (or boot?! This is a weird, twisted shape!) shapes are 7/16” long and wide and a thickness of around 3/16”. They are hard and red with a softer brown center. The light brown egg pieces are 7/16” long by 1/4” wide. The little green eggs are 3/8” long and 1/4" wide. All are 3/16” thick.

Ease Of Preparation

9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food is a hard catfood that comes in a large bag, so preparation only involves opening the bag and measuring out the proper serving size for your cat, as determined by its weight. For Gollum, that means a 1 cup serving and that lasts about two months at that rate of consumption.

Gollum’s Reaction

This cat food smells very mealy, with almost no smell of meat. Regardless, Gollum seems engaged when he hears the rustling of the bag and can smell the 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food.

Every time I open the bag of 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food catfood, Gollum comes to eat it. He has been known to leave some in his bowl, but whenever I refill his bowl, he comes to eat some, so it is clear he enjoys this food.


The Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food is a rather nutritious cat food. The guaranteed analysis of it indicates that it has a minimum of 31% crude protein and 9% crude fat. With no more than 3% crude fiber and 12% moisture, this is a food that is very balanced. Always have adequate water near your cat’s feeding area!

The main ingredients in this food are whole ground corn, corn gluten meal, and poultry by-product meal. While most of the ingredient list is a chemistry equation I can barely read, the primary ingredients are recognizable. 9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food could be a lot worse. It is hard enough to have the basic dental benefits of physically scraping plaque and tartar off cat’s teeth, though the pieces are so small that I have seen Gollum eat this food without much chewing. There are, however, urinary tract benefits, at least from the fish-shaped pieces!


9 Lives Plus Care Grilled Tuna & Egg Cat Food is a good basic cat food and the urinary tract benefits are enough to encourage me to stock up on it. As Gollum sits here purring next to the bag of food, it is hard to deny that this is one of the better staple cat foods!

For other cat foods, please visit my reviews (with Gollum's help!) of:
Purina Cat Chow Healthy Weight Cat Food
NutriSource Cat Senior/Weight Management Chicken & Rice Formula
Fromm Surf & Turf Cat Food


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Butter Is A Wonderfully Quirky Comedy Worth Watching!

The Good: Funny, Quirky, Decent acting
The Bad: Somewhat predictable plot progression.
The Basics: A ten year-old girl takes on the horrible wife of the reigning butter sculptor in Iowa in Butter!

I am always amazed by how some films manage to assemble an impressive cast without my ever hearing about the finished movie. I swear, half the independent films that are out there would do better if only people knew they existed. I don’t even recall how I heard about Butter before I sat down to watch it today. And yet, Butter has a pretty amazing cast and is a clever, funny film.

Led by Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrell, Butter is an independent film that solidly entertains. Fleshed out by the likes of Alicia Silverstone, Ashley Greene, Olivia Wilde, Rob Corddry, and Hugh Jackman, Butter uses the wealth of talent that shows up for it remarkably well.

A year before Laura and Bob Pickler find themselves in Iowa running for office, Bob is muscled out of his fifteen years of butter sculpting success. His wife is unwilling to go quietly into obscurity and raises a fuss. When she catches Bob with a stripper/prostitute, Brooke, Laura decides to enter the annual contest herself.

Paralleling Laura’s journey is Destiny, a young black orphan who is taken in by Julie and Ethan. She illustrates a real artistic aptitude, but is supported by Ethan and her school teacher to apply herself. Ethan encourages Destiny to enter the county’s butter sculpting contest. When Brooke enters as well, the contest takes a very ugly turn. Impressing her foster parents, Destiny uses butter sculpting as a social commentary as well as an artistic outlet, winning contest after contest.

Butter is hilarious for its awkward moments. The scene where Destiny and Ethan sit outside in the car coming up with the worst things that could happen if she enters the contest is laugh-out-loud funny. Yara Shahidi (Destiny) has a wonderful sense of comic timing and plays off the far more seasoned Rob Corddry (Ethan) expertly. Corddry and Alicia Silverstone play a married couple exceptionally well and they seem like plausible foster parents to Shahidi’s Destiny. Shahidi explodes onto screen as a vibrant young talent who successfully carries most of the film. Responding to the foul-mouthed admonishments of Olivia Wilde’s Brooke, Shahidi has a great poker face.

As far as acting goes, Ashley Greene steals her scenes as Kaitlen, the bratty teenage step-daughter of Laura. Hugh Jackman has little more than a cameo, but playing off him allows Jennifer Garner to deliver one of her funniest lines of the film (“He slammed into something he shouldn’t have slammed into”).

The film is somewhat predictable, quickly turning from a meandering narrative where butter sculpting is peripheral to the family life of two weird Iowan families into a war of wills where an adult becomes to determined to beat a ten year-old at a contest. It is funny, surprisingly clever and thoroughly enjoyable for anyone who likes awkward, audacious comedies that do not play it safe.

For other works with Rob Corddry, please visit my reviews of:
Warm Bodies
Cedar Rapids
Hot Tub Time Machine
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry
Failure To Launch


For other movie 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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Consequences, Character, I Like It! She-Hulk: Superhuman Law Is A Well-Constructed Story!

The Good: Decent artwork, Engaging character, Good story/plot development, Effective use of humor
The Bad: “Missing” chapter, Relies upon quite a bit not in the book
The Basics: In She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, Jennifer Walters continues her adventures as She-Hulk, practicing law for Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg, & Holliway, though old enemies crop up to do her and her friends harm!

My She-Hulk Year is in full-swing, though it got off to a rocky start. The second She-Hulk volume I read, The Sensational She-Hulk (reviewed here!) was just an abysmal book and I thought I might have to abandon my study of She-Hulk for lack of interest. Fortunately, the third book I picked up, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, was easily the best of the character’s books I have yet read and it turned out to be exceptionally well-conceived and well-executed. A direct continuation of Single Green Female (reviewed here!), She-Hulk: Superhuman Law follows She-Hulk, with only occasional appearances by her human alter-ego, Jennifer Walters.

While usually I find myself bothered by stories where the elements are telegraphed in the construction of the story, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law seems far more well-constructed and well-conceived than it appears contrived. For the greatest enjoyment and understanding of She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, the reader must read Single Green Female in advance of this volume. There are numerous callbacks to the prior book and writer Dan Slott does an exceptional job of making some of the throwaway lines and moments in the first book have importance in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law. Unfortunately, this volume is far from perfect in the continuity regard (and I am not referencing the Infinity Gem stuff, as I have no knowledge of those outside this book); there is an incident referenced with the Scarlet Witch, which is not contained within She-Hulk: Superhuman Law. To truly appreciate the sense of confusion and loss She-Hulk has immediately prior to her confrontation with Titania, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law should have included that.

On the fringe of the galaxy, a Champion boxer, Tryco Slatterus, pounds the crap out of any and all who enter the ring in which he fights. By Skardon law, he maintains control of the planet with each victory he achieves. A representative of the Magistrati (an interstellar legal authority) oversees the fights, reluctantly. When one of the Magistrati comes to Earth to induct She-Hulk into their ranks, Jennifer Walters is initially honored and she and Southpaw are sent to mediate the dispute on Skardon. In resolving the issue on Skardon, She-Hulk ends up exceptionally powerful and unable to control her physical strength as well when she returns to Earth.

After helping Hercules out with a case and getting outfitted with a power-limited suit by Reed Richards, She-Hulk once again finds herself in conflict with Southpaw and an old enemy. After a primer on Titania, the deposed Champion outfits Titania with the Infinity Gem and the villain Titania comes after She-Hulk . . . this time with enough lethal power to actually be successful!

She-Hulk: Superhuman Law includes a whole chapter that is a primer on Titania and while that is exceptionally useful, it seems to come at the expense of including the incident She-Hulk undergoes with the Scarlet Witch, which is alluded to but not seen. She-Hulk: Superhuman Law is generally strong and interesting on the character front. In fact, the only real issue on the character front is that, after years of being lied to about her condition, Jennifer Walters learns the truth about her transformative abilities. Having been lied to for years, by two people she seems to have trusted more than anyone else, She-Hulk: Superhuman Law does not include nearly enough of a chance to explore the ramifications of those lies. Instead, She-Hulk’s world is shaken and turned upside down, with no real emotional consequences.

She-Hulk: Superhuman Law lacks a larger thematic moral or exploration of emotion or humanity that the best books contain.

However, what the book does have, is an exceptionally engaging storyline and the character aspects that it does explore are well-conceived. When She-Hulk realizes that she can defeat Hercules, she becomes concerned about the level of power she possesses. In the process of taking responsibility for her actions and powers, She-Hulk thinks her way out of some of her legal problems and that makes She-Hulk: Superhuman Law an engaging read.

While the first fight sequence in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law, the conflict between the Champion and most of Skardon is predictable and blasé, the second fight is better and it sets up an important character development. With Tryco Slatterus wanting vengeance, it makes sense that he would seek out She-Hulk’s greatest enemy and that progression is well-developed (with minimal breaks in the fourth wall!).

Unfortunately, as She-Hulk develops and is tormented by her own demons, Southpaw shows nothing quite so compelling or interesting in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law. At her earliest opportunity, well three months after her earliest opportunity, she goes rogue again and that is an unfortunate lack of development after witnessing how hard She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters, and her grandfather, Holden Holliway, work to keep her safe and reform her. Even Dan Slott cannot make her a more interesting character.

The artwork in She-Hulk: Superhuman Law mostly wonderful. The coloring is homogenously rich and filled with real depth and an artful sense of shading. However, several of the panels in the book, especially early on, are overly simple. The artwork does keep the pace of She-Hulk: Superhuman Law moving fast.

Were it not for how dependent She-Hulk: Superhuman Law was on the prior book, this would be a great entry point for new She-Hulk readers. Even so, it is a very good read.

For other graphic novels, please check out my reviews of:
Angel: Immortality For Dummies
The Brave And The Bold, Volume 4: Without Sin


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Consequences And Queer Captains: “Flesh And Blood” Raises The Debate Of Holographic Rights!

The Good: Great exploration of consequences, Decent character arc for the Doctor, Great special effects
The Bad: Terrible characterization for Janeway, Unconvincing adversaries, Continuity of Hirogen
The Basics: The first part of “Flesh And Blood” finds the Doctor lobbying for Voyager to aid holograms abused by the Hirogen.

I like works that explore consequences, perhaps that is why I enjoyed the serialized nature of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5. As a general rule, Star Trek: Voyager’s nature – or at least the execution of it – has not frequently given the show the opportunity to explore the consequences of their actions on the ship’s journey home. So, when the seventh season was progressing and The Doctor had a significant arc involving the argument in favor of holographic rights, it seemed somewhat natural that the series would explore the consequences of “The Killing Game.” “Flesh And Blood” is the episode where the consequences of “The Killing Game” is explored and progressed.

For those unfamiliar with it, at the climax of “The Killing Game Part 2” (reviewed here!), Janeway brokers peace with the invading Hirogen by giving them holographic technology. While all evidence suggests that Voyager has long ago left Hirogen space (there is the insinuation that the technology they are guarding in “Message In A Bottle” is an alien race’s that the Hirogen eventually conquered or whose technology they appropriated after that race was extinct), they pop back up in “Flesh And Blood.”

Following two Hirogen hunters being killed by what appear to be StarFleet officers on a jungle world, the Doctor finds himself in a debate with Chakotay about his ability to leave Voyager to attend a symposium. Their conversation is cut short when Voyager receives a distress call from a Hirogen outpost. Chakotay, Tuvok, Seven Of Nine and Paris recover a Hirogen engineer from the outpost where they discover replicated and modified StarFleet holodeck technology. Visited shortly thereafter by a Hirogen ship, Voyager’s crew learns that the Hirogen have created holographic prey that have become sentient and rebelled, killing the Hirogen who have hunted them.

After the Hirogen ship is incapacitated by a ship staffed by holograms, the Doctor is abducted by Iden, a hologram of a Bajoran freedom fighter who wants the Doctor’s help to repair holograms who are members of his crew. Iden’s people have fled Hirogen captivity and hunts and when the Doctor returns to Voyager, he makes an appeal to Janeway to aid the holograms. While the Doctor wants to help the holographic crew, Janeway has Torres prepare to incapacitate the hologram’s ship.

The Doctor, despite being abducted and tormented with the memories of a hunted hologram and the horrors the now-free holograms have endured, is rational and makes a compelling argument in favor of holographic rights. “Flesh And Blood” smartly alludes to “Body And Soul” (reviewed here!) which introduced the idea of a photonic insurgence on a planet earlier in the season. The Doctor continues a larger arc in “Flesh And Blood” that has been building for years. And, outside him experiencing being hunted (which he correctly identifies as a form of torture), his presentation in “Flesh And Blood” is very convincing.

Unfortunately, the arc is dulled some by Janeway. She spouts a strangely familiar mantra of not wanting to debate holographic rights. That makes Janeway arguably the least philosophical Star Trek franchise captain. Every other captain is deeply concerned with the rights of life forms they encounter and Janeway never seems to want to consider that, especially when it comes to holograms. This seems especially idiotic in the case of Janeway and holographic rights as she considers the Doctor a vital and important member of her crew. Why she never seems to want to step up and allow the Doctor a voice for presenting a philosophical point of view seems especially droll.

Just as Janeway seems problematic and banal as the commanding officer, once again the security section of Voyager is presented as utterly incompetent. As the Hirogen patients are kept in the mess hall, they gang up and cause a riot, knocking around Neelix, Paris, and the security guards who are on-site. How Tuvok does not keep a race of powerful hunters – especially ones who have, in the past, taken over Voyager – under better guard is disappointing for the incompetence it portrays.

In “Flesh And Blood,” the freedom fighting holograms are problematically rendered. Iden lacks charisma to be a viable leader and Kejal, the Cardassian hologram who self-taught herself “holographic medicine” is erratic. Neither seems to be viably created. In fact, given that Iden is programmed with a sense of Bajoran religion, it seems odd that he never makes the correlation with the Hirogen (not “organics”) being the villains. In other words if he is, for all intents and purposes, a Bajoran, he should have no inherent prejudice against the human captain.

“Flesh And Blood” is the first part of a two-parter and it is an engaging one, even with its problems. With the Doctor advocating helping the holograms set up their own planet and the Hirogen moving in, Janeway seems lame in forcing the conflict that stretches the episode out, but it is a good story with an engaging first part.

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


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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Barbie Ornaments Dance Into History With The 2012 Brava, Ballerina! Barbie Ornament!

The Good: Good sculpt, Decent use of mesh, Decent balance
The Bad: No flexibility, Coloring is a little off, compared to artwork
The Basics: In its final ballerina release of a Barbie ornament, the 2012 Hallmark Keepsake Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament looks good, but not as vivid as the artwork indicated!

With 2012 being the final year for the Barbie line of the Hallmark Keepsake ornaments, I was surprised to learn that for the last several years, there has always been a Ballerina Barbie ornament offered. I suppose it shouldn’t have surprised me, as many little girls want to be ballerinas and the popularity of The Nutrcracker makes the ballerina a pretty common Christmas image worldwide. Fortunately for fans of the Ballerina Barbie ornaments, the line went out on a pretty high note with the Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament.

For those unfamiliar with them, Barbie dolls have been a leading trademarked doll (and model for unrealistic female bodytypes!) from Mattel for over sixty years. Hallmark Keepsake picked up the Barbie license in order to produce Christmas ornaments and Brava, Ballerina! Barbie is one of several Barbie and Barbie-themed ornaments produced for 2012!


The Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament recreates the Brava, Ballerina! Barbie doll with Barbie up on her left toes, with her right leg bent at the knee and the toe pressing out from the left knee, as if in the early stages of a pirouette. The ornament features the recognizable visage of Barbie with her blonde hair pulled back, but then cascading behind her. This Barbie is uncharacteristically wearing minimal make-up (which is ironic considering how much make-up stage ballerinas actually have to wear! The ornament has Barbie wearing a simple pink tutu with flared skirt. The skirt is webbed, pink and made of nylon. This Barbie ornament is 4 1/2" tall by 2 1/4" wide and deep because of the skirt.

The Hallmark Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament is made of a durable plastic outside the nylon skirt and has the feminine icon standing alone, holding her hands before her, as if she is beginning a complicated dance move. Her one-piece is colored dull pink with darker pink accents for the toeshoes and skirt. This Barbie is distinctive in that she has decent depth and shading on her skin tones in her face. Her hair is a little less impressive and the Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornaments I picked up for review (I went back a couple times to confirm it) all had a duller, more pale color palate to them than their box photography presented. While there is something to be said for the photographs on the boxes being for reference purposes only, the Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament is noticeably more pale than the artwork on the box.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, Brava, Ballerina! Barbie could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but does not. This is just an ornament, a low-cost (comparatively) option for fans of Barbie. I think it's disappointing that Brava, Ballerina! Barbie does not have any articulation to her limbs. It was well within the abilities of Hallmark to make the ornament articulated at least at the shoulders or neck, but they opted for a boring statue look for the ornament and that disappoints some.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Barbie Christmas Tree, the Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament is a great addition. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the character's head. From there, one hangs the ornament and this Barbie ornament is perfectly balanced! Unlike the doll itself, which is almost impossible to get to stand up, the Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament has great balance and hangs perfectly!


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have branched out into every major franchise from Barbie to Gone With The Wind to Twilight. The Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament sold well and seemed to meet customer demand. While there were none locally available after the holiday, I noticed that this is not one that has not moved in price much since the holidays. I suspect that if one can find it at clearance prices now, this will be a decent investment piece for the future, especially with it being the final release.


The Brava, Ballerina! Barbie ornament might not color match to the pictures on the package, but it is still a decent release and a worthwhile ornament for Barbie or ballerina fans!

For other Barbie ornament reviews, please check out:
2012 Holiday Celebration Barbie (Black)
2012 Holiday Celebration Barbie (Caucasian)
2012 Matinee Fashion Barbie - Final In The Series!
2012 Tweed Indeed Barbie
2011 Celebration Barbie (Black)
2011 Campus Sweetheart Barbie
2011 Prima Ballerina Barbie ornament
1996 Enchanted Evening Barbie ornament
1994 Barbie Debut ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Sour Review For A Sour Single

The Good: One amazing track, A decent reinterpretation of that amazing song
The Bad: One mediocre track, SHORT!
The Basics: A great, though very short disc becomes the only Stone Temple Pilots I've yet made an effort to own. And I love it!

Nothing quite tests the reviewer like reviewing a c.d. single. Yet, I find myself with a strange desire to review the Stone Temple Pilots' c.d. single "Sour Girl." This is a three-track disc and two of the tracks are essentially the same and it clocks out at twelve and a half minutes.

"Sour Girl" was a moderate success for the band Stone Temple Pilots in 2000 when the track was playing on the radio. The single opens with the album (and radio) version of "Sour Girl." Lead singer Scott Weiland wrote and sings the track (actually, both tracks on this disc).

"Sour Girl" is a mellow rock ballad that charts the end of a relationship from the perspective of a man who has been left by a very bitter young woman. Weiland's baritone gently and mellowly describes, "She turned away, what was she looking at? / She was a sour girl the day that she met me / . . . She was a happy girl the day that she left me." This is a tremendous and melodic breakup song that is backed by the band for the refrain of "What would you do / What would you do if I followed you?" The song charts the man's joy over meeting the woman and her indifference toward him, despite his best efforts. It's a wrenching and witty song.

This version is marked by the presence of direct, up front bass and guitars. The drums are strong and accent the strummings of the electric guitars to accent certain lines. It's a perfectly arranged, wonderfully written and sung song and it's a shame it never went as high on the charts as it deserved to go (this was around the time Red Hot Chili Peppers were burning up the charts with "Californication").

The live version of "Sour Girl," which closes the album, is notable for accenting the lyrics by removing the electric guitars and replacing them with acoustic ones. The drums are replaced by simply knocking the guitar after each strum. This creates a very stark, lonely sound that perfectly expresses the lyrics and intent of the song. It is a wonderful supplementation to the original version and a legitimate and worthy reinterpretation of the rock song.

In between the two tracks is a live song called "Sex & Violence." The song is an up front rock track with heavy guitars and banging drums that embody exactly what one expects from rock and roll music. The vocals are somewhat garbled through the refrain as Weiland sings about the effects of sex and violence on a relationship. The reason this song works even remotely well with "Sour Girl" is the setup for the song. It is telling essentially the same story as "Sour Girl" when the narrator declares, ". . . And now I turn around, you're everywhere / You chew me up and spit me out / You're just a little bitch I care about . . ."

The track ends with the audience cheering and Weiland noting that they might have to release the track in the future. That seems silly, but it does capture the "live" aspect of it. It's not a bad track, but sandwiched in between two great versions of an amazing song, this just seems somehow underwhelming. It has the feel of "we're a rock band and you expect us to rock, so here's a rock and roll track for you fans!" "Sour Girl" is softer than much of Stone Temple Pilots's standard works.

All in all, though, "Sour Girl" has three songs. It's straightforward rock and roll and the title track - both versions - are amazing. It's a well written, well produced song that illustrates there are still some genuinely creative talents working in the field these days. The serious drawbacks, of course, are that this disc is hard to track down and it only has the three tracks. That said, I went through the effort of finding it and have never once regretted the purchase.

For other singles, check out my reviews of:
“Stand By Me” - Oasis
“Jackie’s Strength” – Tori Amos
“Across The Universe” – Fiona Apple


For other music reviews, please visit my Music Review Index Page where albums and singles are organized from best to worst!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Filling, But Not Overly Minty, Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate Bars Are Pretty Good!

The Good: Very healthy, Tastes good.
The Bad: Very expensive, Could be more minty.
The Basics: A great way to fill up fast, Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate Bars are pricy, but worth it!

Recently, my wife and I were out and she saw Clif Bars on sale. She was miffed when I told her that I had never reviewed any Clif Bars, so she picked up a few in order to fill me up and give me more material for my food reviews! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Cool Mint Chocolate Clif Bars she picked up for me. She knows I am a huge fan of all things Chocolate Mint, so this was a pretty natural place for me to start reviews of Clif Bars!

We only picked up the Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate Snack Bars because they were on sale and she thought it would be a great meal substitute for me on days when I was not in the mood to cook while she was at work. She was right, but at even $1.00/bar, these are at the border of “too expensive.”


Clif Bar is the company that merchandises its foods for active people who are on the go and need a lot of nutrition in light, convenient form that travels well. For exercise enthusiasts, outdoorspeople, and/or dieters, the Clif Bars can be a real asset.

The Cool Mint Chocolate Bars come in a 2.4 oz. chocolate bar that is foil-wrapped. Each bar represents a single serving and Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate bars are a mealy 2 1/4” wide and 3/4" tall by 3 1/4” long bar that looks like an oatmeal brownie. The textured top of the bar has lines of frosting on it. One bar is one portion, so this is very easy to get into on the portion front! These snack bars come sold as single bars.

Ease Of Preparation

Eating Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate Bars is not a real challenge. After removing the wrapper, simply pull out the bar and take a bite off it. There is no particularly complicated equation to eating this chocolate bar. This is an entirely ready-to-eat food!


Opening the wrapper on the first Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate Bar, I was surprised by how strong the mocha scent of the bar actually was. The scent is almost entirely of chocolate, with almost no mint scent to it.

With the bold scent of chocolate in my nose, I allowed myself to get my hopes up for the Cool Mint Chocolate Snack Bars. The soft, grainy bar is very chocolatey, with a faint mint flavor in the frosting. The chocolate flavor dominates with a very light peppermint flavor that is embodied almost completely as an aftertaste. The mint flavor appears as the chocolate bolus is swallowed and it endures for about two minutes.

After two minutes, the Cool Mint Chocolate Clif Bar has a fairly dry aftertaste that lasts in the mouth for several minutes.


Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate Snack Bars are intended as a supplemental food or to replace a full meal when one is on the go. These 2.4 oz. bars represent a single serving and they have a boatload of nutrients in them. Made primarily of organic brown rice syrup, Clifpro (a proprietary blend of nutrients intended to energize), and Organic Rolled Oats, the ingredient list does become a mess of preservatives and vitamins near the end. This is not an all-natural food product and these snack bars were produced on equipment that forces them to add a disclaimer about milk, soy, wheat, and peanuts.

Clif Bar Cool Mint Chocolate Bars have a stunning 240 calories, only 50 of which are from fat. A bar represents 8% of one's RDA of saturated fat, though they are cholesterol free. As well, they are surprisingly low in sodium, having only 170 mg per serving. They also have ten grams of protein and at least ten percent of twenty-one different vitamins and minerals! This contains caffeine and while it is not vegan compliant, it is marked as Kosher. This is a wonderful healthy snack!


Cliff Bar Plan Cool Mint Chocolate Bars are amazingly tasty regardless of when they are eaten or how they are stored. Unopened, they have a decent shelf life around eight months. We purchased a ours in the mid-January (2013) and they have an expiration date of October 2013. If they melt, they will stain, so consult your fabric guide if that happens. Otherwise, cleanup is simply throwing the foil wrapper away when you are done with the chocolate bar.


Clif Bar Plan Cool Mint Chocolate Snack Bars are delightful, though they could stand to be more minty and less expensive for my tastes!

For other reviews of healthy foods, please check out:
Bolthouse Farms Perfectly Protein Chocolate Mocha
Peeled Organic Apricot-a-lot
Ocean Spray Pomegranate Craisins


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Why Struggle To Recall What You Can Watch Again? He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Holds Up Well On DVD!

The Good: Great morals, An intriguing universe, Great character and creature design, Decent voice acting
The Bad: Repetitive storytelling, Occasionally simplistic to keep it kid-friendly.
The Basics: In the first season of the animated series He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Eternia is established as an intriguing realm of science and magic.

There are a number of things I loved as a child that simply do not hold up well over time. Now, when I encounter them, I find myself wincing at just how bad they actually were. So, when I find something that is the opposite – something I loved as a child that is still impressive to me as an adult – I am thrilled. One of the things I adored as a kid was He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe. Having picked up He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Season 1 on DVD, I’ve been pleased that the show is actually as remarkable as I recall it being.

The animated children’s series He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe takes place on Eternia, a faraway planet where magic is alive and science is thriving. Years ago, an astronaut, Marlena, crashed on Eternia. She fell in love with King Randor and the two had a son, Prince Adam. Adam now has the magical ability to turn into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. He also transforms his cat, Cringer, into the fearsome Battle Cat. Together with the King’s chief inventor, Man-At-Arms, the court magician Orko, and the Captain Of The Guard, Teela, He-Man confronts the forces of the evil Skeletor, including Evil-Lyn, Beast Man, Mer-Man, and Trap Jaw (later in the season, Clawful).

The episodes are 22 minutes each and explain the basic premise during the opening sequence each time. While the show might have initially been an advertisement for the highly successful toy line (which I was a huge fan of as a child!), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Season 1 is surprisingly substantive and includes some clever notions that hold up well, even after thirty years.

The essential characters in the first season of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe are:

Prince Adam – The playboy prince who appears to be a slacker as cover for his world-saving role of He-Man. He is very educated, intuitive, and kind. However, to retain his secret identity, he often has to appear as a layabout,

He-Man – The most powerful man in the universe, he is strong, highly ethical and never around when Prince Adam is,

Orko – The floating alien court magician, he is seldom able to actually perform the magic he attempts successfully,

Man-At-Arms – A man of science, he loathes Orko and his clumsiness. He retains He-Man’s secret and is the adoptive father of Teela,

The Sorceress/Zoar – The guardian of Castle Greyskull, she is virtually powerless outside its walls. So, she transforms into the hawk, Zoar to travel elsewhere on Eternia,

Teela – The militant Captain Of The Guard and Duncan’s adopted daughter. She is assigned with protecting Prince Adam and is irked constantly by how he never seems to live up to his potential,

Mer-Man – The villain who comes from the sea,

Trap Jaw – A partly mechanical monster who works for Skeletor,

Evil-Lyn – An evil sorceress who works with Skeletor, though she is often looking for a way to usurp his plans and authority to take control of Eternia for herself,

and Skeletor – The skull-faced warlock who creates schemes from deep within Snake Mountain to try to take control of Eternia.

The characters in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe are interesting, but they are largely archetypes. He-Man is an absolute good and Skeletor is a self-serving, ultimate evil, who is not motivated by anything other than the desire to dominate (it is never explained why). Occasionally, Prince Adam is made deep enough to express the idea that his character feels sadness over not being respected by his father, King Randor. Basically, this is a science fiction/fantasy series with easily recognizable heroes fighting off monstrous villains episode after episode.

Here is what happens in the first season of the largely episodic He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe:

Opening with “The Cosmic Comet,” Evil-Lyn and Beast Man test the defenses of Castle Greyskull, using the power of the Cosmic Comet, which has come into view above Eternia. After Evil-Lyn, Beast Man, and Skeletor use their magic to bring the Cosmic Comet under their control, Prince Adam, Man-At-Arms, Teela, Orko, and Cringer visit the Wizard of Zagras Mountain, who is responsible for the Cosmic Comet. Zagras reveals that he is responsible for the creation of the Cosmic Comet, which is a sentient and evil comet. Skeletor sets creatures spawned from the comet on the heroes in his attempt to take Greyskull!

After thwarting training droids in “The Shaping Staff,” Orco accidentally conjures Magestra, the sorceress from the ether. When she uses a trick box to teleport King Randor away (and replaces him with an impostor), Magestra reveals herself to the captured Randor to be Evil-Lyn (and his replacement Beast Man). Using the mystical Shaping Staff, Evil-Lyn sets up to control Palace Eternia through Beast Man. With Orco, who has discovered the truth, transformed into a cricket, the forces of good must retake Palace Eternia and protect Castle Greyskull. With Skeletor creating an alternate He-Man (Fakeor), it falls to the magic of the Sorceress to save the day!

“Disappearing Act” features Orco accidentally teleporting Prince Adam’s sword away, making it impossible for him to transform into He-Man. Unfortunately, this incident follows Skeletor using an invisibility helmet, which he applies to himself to invade Palace Eternia and abduct Prince Adam! Orko and Man-At-Arms must find the sword and rescue Prince Adam to keep Eternia safe. While Orko and Cringer go into the past to recover the sword and Man-At-Arms builds a He-Man robot, Prince Adam uses a device to try to summon Stratos, his flying friend, but he attracts Wolf Bats instead!

Skeletor summons all the evil minions – Mer-Man, Evil-Lyn, Tri-Clops, and Trap Jaw – to Snake Mountain in “The Diamond Ray Of Disappearance.” Using a gem that causes people to disappear, Skeletor attacks the King, Queen, and Sorceress, banishing them to a phantom dimension. With the aid of his many friends, He-Man must protect Castle Greyskull and Eternia from the armies of Skeletor.

“She Demon Of Phantos” has Man-At-Arms and He-Man buying weapons from a nearby Queen’s realm. The photanium they bought, though, is actually worthless ore and the Queen is being manipulated by Skeletor, who is holding her people hostage. Summoned to Greyskull, Man-At-Arms and Prince Adam learn the truth about Queen Elmora. He-Man and his men visit Phantos again, but get captured trying to free Elmora. As a result, it falls to Teela to rescue the men from the traps Elmora’s magic created!

After recounting how the Queen arrived on Eternia from Earth, “Teela’s Quest” focuses on Teela’s desire to discover her own origins. When Orko slips up, Teela believes the answers to who her parents are may be found at the Crystal Sea, a dangerous place that Mer-Man used to rule. As Teela searches for answers, Mer-Man uses her being on her own to satisfy an old vendetta against Man-At-Arms!

In “The Curse Of The Spellstone,” Skeletor and Evil-Lyn capture the Spellstone and use it to thwart Man-At-Arms and King Randor when Man-At-Arms tries to invent a weather-control device. Even though Teela is able to expose Evil-Lyn (who tries to use mob mentality to usurp Randor), it is not before she releases the Creeping Horak on the palace. As He-Man and his allies work to recover the Spellstone from Skeletor, Teela and Man-At-Arms try to save the palace.

Skeletor’s latest attempt to rule Eternia comes from time manipulation in “The Time Corridor.” In that, Skeletor seeks to stop the construction of Castle Greyskull in the past. There, He-Man and his friends work to stop Skeletor and his henchmen and preserve the timeline.

“The Dragon Invasion” finds Skeletor trading a dragon Eternian silver for its valuable dragon eggs. He has Beast Man place the dragon eggs all over Eternia. As the eggs hatch and dragons wreak havoc on the world, Skeletor takes a dragon pearl to Greyskull to trap the Sorceress and take Castle Greyskull! Erecting a magical barrier, Skeletor effectively keeps He-Man out!

In “A Friend In Need,” Teela and her visiting friend Ileena are out riding on the geyser fields when the evil magician Jarvan is set loose from his extradimensional prison. He gives Ileena a potion to make her stronger and faster, which makes her reckless. When she wants another hit, Jarvan extorts her for her father’s powerful transmutator, which he then uses to attack He-Man!

While searching for the lost magical city of the ancients, He-Man, Orko, and Beast Man fall afoul of two new young villains working to impress Skeletor in “Masks Of Power.” Possessed by ancient masks, the two villains become two ancient, legendary, adversaries and go searching for a powerful sword beneath Snake Mountain!

“Evil-Lyn’s Plot” opens with a Widget’s (like gnomes or dwarves) palace and mine being overrun by Skeletor’s forces. Repelled by He-Man and his allies, Skeletor retreats, but Evil-Lyn uses a disguise and the trust of the Widgets to try to get the cordite the little people mine!

In “Like Father, Like Daughter,” Teela helps repair a device Duncan was working on and follows him and He-Man after she is forbidden from going on a mission.

“Colossor Awakes” has Skeletor using an energizer that turns living things into stone and may use that energy to make stone objects animate. Skeletor uses the energizer ray, which has turned Man-At-Arms into stone, to make Colossor, a massive statue, alive. While trying to rescue Man-At-Arms, He-Man must protect Castle Greyskull from Colossor!

Skeletor disguises Beast Man to make a parade of animals that he hopes to use to ensnare Cringer in “A Beastly Sideshow.” Using Cringer, and later Teela, Skeletor tries to lure He-Man to Octobeast, a massive creature that may have the ability to kill him!

Skeletor’s magic is failing in “Reign Of The Monster,” so Skeletor uses Stratos to steal a powerful staff, powered by the magic of the ancients. With the staff, Skeletor is able to free an imprisoned monster that He-Man must then thwart.

In "Daimar The Demon," an alternate dimension is discovered and Orko releases a small demon from it. Daimar, an exceptionally powerful demon, begins to gestate, which sets off waves of power which draw the attention of Skeletor and Evil-Lyn!

"Creatures From The Tar Pits" introduces Adam's snobby cousin, Edwina. When Orko gets a crush on her, Adam recounts the story of how Orko rescued him and Cringer from the tar swamps. His crush leads him back to the Tar Swamps to try to find his magic necklace. There Orko falls afoul of Skeletor, Evil-Lyn, and Beast Man, who resurrect ancient creatures that died in the swamp to lay siege to Palace Eternia!

Trap Jaw and Tri-Clops attack Palace Eternia at the outset of "The Quest For He-Man," an attack which leaves Skeletor able to erase He-Man's memory and banish him to the Crossroads Of All Universes! Ram Man, Orko, and Cringer are sent to recover the hero while the others remain behind to stave off Skeletor.

"Dawn Of The Dragon" has Orko going off to his home planet to rescue his people from a half-human, half-dragon creature. Unable to transform into He-Man on Orko's home world, Prince Adam's attempt to rescue Orko leads Adam to discover how powerful a magician Orko can be!

“The Royal Cousin” has a bratty cousin of Prince Adam’s visiting. The little snot hates adults and adult supervision. When left in Ram Man’s care, Jeremy plays on the vehicles that Adam asked him not to. After being punished, Evil-Lyn manipulates Jeremy to deprive Man-At-Arms of his new rock softener, which she then uses on Castle Greyskull.

In “Song Of Celice,” the powerful beast Yog is awakened by Skeletor. Only able to be put back in hibernation by a song, the Yog runs amok after Evil-Lyn and Trap Jaw capture the visiting singer and He-Man must rescue her.

“The Return Of Orko’s Unkle” introduces Asrog, Spydra, and Orko’s Uncle Montork. Montork is a powerful and competent magician and it is only when Asrog breaks out of his magical prison and teams up with Spydra, with the plan to come to Eternia to thwart He-Man and Montork that they reunite. In the course of their interactions, Orko causes more problems for the heroes. Enslaved by Asrog, Orko must be rescued by his uncle, Teela, and He-Man.

“Wizard Of Stone Mountain” finds Malek, the wizard trapped in Stone Mountain, pining for Teela, though she rejected him quite some time before. When he is visited by Lokos, a minion of the Spirit of Evil, Malek is seduced into letting the imp destroy a local dam to draw Teela to him. Though Teela is indifferent to him, she does not want him to lose his soul to evil in exchange for her.

Man-At-Arms is exposed as suffering allergies in “Evilseed,” which finds the plant life on Eternia growing dangerously large. After rescuing the little people from their broken dam and overgrown vines, He-Man and Orko are summoned to Castle Greyskull. With both Skeletor and He-Man besieged by the overgrown plants of Evilseed, they team up for the purpose of defeating him.

In “Ordeal In The Darklands,” Evil-Lyn tries to take advantage of Skeletor being away to take over Eternia. With Teela forbidden by Man-At-Arms to test her skills in the darklands, Tri-Clops abducts the daughter of a prominent, peaceful wizard to try to implicate He-Man in the kidnapping. Teela goes off on her own anyway and is abducted by the forces of Kor, who wants to use Teela as bait to get He-Man!

Orko’s Uncle Montorkk returns for “Orko’s Favorite Uncle.” This time, Montork and his familiar are under a spell from the evil wizard Tauran, who uses the wizard to lay siege to Castle Greyskull!

“The Defection” has Orko positing that people do not change; they are evil or good, consistently. On the Isle of Tears, Sybeline turns from her evil path to teleport away from the despot she has served to the court of King Randor. Turning against Gorgon, Sybeline draws the ire of Evil-Lyn and she makes Orko more paranoid and prejudiced against the defector!

Beast Man is banished from Snake Mountain in “Prince Adam No More.” To get back into Skeletor's good graces, Beast Man captures King Randor and tries to get Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms to turn over all the gold in the kingdom to him at Snake Mountain!

In “The Taking Of Greyskull,” Orko believes everyone has forgotten his birthday when the heroes plan a surprise party for him. Skeletor steals He-Man’s sword and forms a white hole around Castle Greyskull to remove the castle from our dimension! He-Man, Teela, and Battle Cat pass through the white hole to try to restore Castle Greyskull!

After rescuing a princess, He-Man is knocked out and gets amnesia in “A Tale Of Two Cities.” Forced to fight as a gladiator while he unwittingly awaits rescue from Battle Cat and the Princess, He-Man struggles to remember himself and his values.

In “Search For The VHO,” two people end up stranded on a mountaintop, surrounded by wild animals. Teela takes an experimental new ship and the VHO, a device that scares animals away using ultra-high frequencies, to rescue them.

“The Starchild” is the subject of a great debate between two cultures that live in the jungles of Eternia. Powerful in her own right, she is rescued by He-Man and two groups of jungle-dwellers both want the Starchild for their own.

Man-At-Arms is taken out by a spell of Skeletor’s, which turns Duncan into a glass statue in “The Dragon’s Gift.” The Sorceress refuses to tell He-Man and Teela where the dragons, who might be able to reverse the spell, live, but she sets the heroes on the right path. Teela and He-Man go searching for the dragon, Granomere, who sends the pair to chop down SkyTree, the only thing on Eternia older than he is!

In “The Sleepers Awaken” two forest-killing people who put themselves in suspended animation awaken from a two hundred year sleep, enslaving Prince Adam! As Teela works to rescue him with the help of a winged horse, Prince Adam proves to Vultera that freedom is preferable to enslaving people and the forest and they work to stop her mate, Taran, and his giant spiders.

Zodac returns in “The Search” to warn the Sorceress of an impending doom, though he is prevented from directly interfering. After racing Teela, Prince Adam is called to Castle Greyskull, where he it told about the Star Seed, which could give Skeletor unlimited power over the universe. Sent to stop Skeletor’s drilling machine, He-Man must fight the villains and the temptation to do evil if the Star Seed comes into his possession.

“It’s Not My Fault” has Potie, the daughter of a friend of Man-At-Arms, avoiding responsibility and falling afoul of her father’s enemy. Going to rescue her in the Vine Jungle, Teela, He-Man, and Man-At-Arms discover that Potie is being used to acquire religious stones that will give her father’s enemy power.

An explorer finds the “Valley Of Power,” where he hopes to steal the egg of the powerful Mother Rowe, which happens to be where Prince Adam, Cringer, and Teela are visiting to find a spring that will give them great courage when the magic waters rise. After Donovas steals the egg, Mother Rowe abducts Teela and Donovas drinks from the spring, giving him power over the baby that emerges. He-Man must reunite mother and child and stop the now-evil Donovas.

“Trouble In Arcadia” finds Man-At-Arms using He-Man to test a new shield for Teela and her guards. Teela and Prince Adam visit the lowlands, but run into an invisible barrier. The barrier surrounds Arcadia, a female-dominated society where men are kept as slaves. Prince Adam is enslaved and Teela quickly learns the truth of how men are treated and stands against the established order there!

In “The House Of Shokoti, Part 1,” the Sorceress lets He-Man know that a building, a pyramid, has sprouted up in the desert. With Ram Man and Orko, Battle Cat and He-Man find the fortress under siege by Trap Jaw’s spider machines. Visiting the Eternian archaeologist, Prince Adam and his new friends walk into a trap while searching for the pyramid. But defeating the villainous Mask awakens Shakoti in “Part 2,” and the boy Stanley goes running into the pyramid to encounter the dark sorceress. He must overcome his fear when He-Man and the others are captured by Shakoti.

Man-At-Arms delivers King Randor bad news about the power supply on Eternia in “Double Edged Sword.” With Eternium running out, good fortune falls upon a pacifist when his grandson discovers a piece of Eternium in the Sands Of Time. Unfortunately, Trap Jaw and Mer-Man witness the discovery and hunt the Eternium down. When Trap Jaw consumes it, he ends up very powerful and He-Man is put in a challenging position.

Man-E-Faces is introduced in “The Mystery Of Man-E-Faces,” when the multiple-faced, armored actor arrives at Palace Eternia. Prince Adam tells Man-At-Arms the story of how a monster was tormenting the Widgets and Skeletor worked to seduce him to his cause. Only through He-Man and Teela’s heroic actions did Man-E-Faces resist Skeletor’s evil, stop tormenting the Widgets, and become an actor.

The King and Queen decide to go for a vacation into “The Region Of Ice,” where they are captured. Orko impersonates He-Man to save the frozen royal family from the Ice Lord. Reasoning with the Ice Lord, Orko gets Prince Adam freed and the pair goes to Snake Mountain to rescue the Ice Lord’s daughter from Skeletor to exchange for the Eternian Royal Family!

“Orko’s Missing Magic” puts He-Man, Cringer and Orko on an interdimensional journey to recover a small animal that accidentally absorbed Orko’s magic and then was captured by a malevolent wizard!

In “Eternal Darkness,” Darkdream returns to torment the dreams of Prince Adam, King Randor, Man-At-Arms, and Teela. With the aid of Evil-Lyn and a sorcerer, Eternia undergoes an eclipse that will allow Darkdream to break out of his prison, if He-Man and his friends cannot stop him in time!

Thousand year-old robots are awoken by Man-At-Arms and a professor in “Keeper Of The Ancient Ruins.” Having to fight a storm and Trap-Jaw, He-Man must save the pair from the robots.

In “Return Of Evil,” Orko senses the coming of an Electroid (a robot made of pure energy) from his dimension for him. Soon, Aramesh appears and abducts Orko. He-Man and his allies must rescue Orko from Aramesh and Skeletor! Orko hid a secret thing in Castle Greyskull, which Aramesh is after and He-Man must prevent him from getting.

“Return Of The Gryphon” finds Beast Man and Trap Jaw invading kingdom for a gem, which they stash on the grounds of Castle Eternia after stealing. The young page, Thad, discovers it and He-Man quickly learns that the jewel was a gift of the mythical creature, the Gryphon. The gem has kept the Gryphon in check, but with it removed from the altar, the Gryphon comes on a rampage. Teela must appeal to Thad to return the gem, as the heroes come to understand the true importance of the gem!

Opening in the desert, a severely weakened man discovers the “Temple Of The Sun” and the magical scarab within. Taking control of its power, the newly empowered man captures Zoar and He-Man must rescue the Sorceress from the Temple and prevent the new villain from taking control of Eternia.

In “City Beneath The Sea,” the kingdom has issues with trouble on the seas where ships keep disappearing. After embarrassing himself to his father, Prince Adam volunteers for the mission Man-At-Arms contrives to stop the disappearances. Together, they discover a city beneath the sea that abducts their ship. Together, He-Man, Battle Cat, and Man-At-Arms discover the mythical city of Aquatica and they find Mer-Man has taken the city using the Pearl Of Power! Before they can stop Mer-Man, He-Man must fight a beast in Mer-Man’s arena.

After testing a teleportation device in the most remote area of Eternia, Man-At-Arms is almost captured by Trap Jaw in “Teela’s Trial.” Teela teleports Man-At-Arms away from the villain, but he unfortunately rematerializes near the fleeing Trap Jaw and is taken away to Snake Mountain! Feeling tremendous guilt, Teela goes into self-exile, which forces He-Man to rescue both her and Man-At-Arms.

“Dree Elle’s Return” has Orko’s girlfriend returning to Eternia to warn Orko that the Horn Of Evil has been found by Trap Jaw and Clawful. Dree Elle and her jokester brother come to Eternia, as the evil minions lay siege to Castle Greyskull. Saving the world is complicated by Yuckers playing practical jokes on Orko and Dree Elle after they recover the Horn Of Evil, leaving them vulnerable to Clawful and Trap Jaw!

Negator is introduced in “Game Plan” as an ultra-powerful scientific wizard who kidnaps Man-At-Arms and Teela and traps Ram Man and He-Man in an electronic game.

“Eye Of The Beholder” finds Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms crashing the Wind Raider when they succumb to a massive dampening field that weakens life forms as well as draining mechanical and magical energies. Man-At-Arms determines the oxygen on Eternia is being depleted rapidly, killing everything. He-Man discovers Greyskull open and vulnerable. In thwarting Skeletor’s oxygen-draining plan, He-Man works with a race of ant-men to save Eternia.

In “Quest For The Sword,” He-Man loses his sword to rock people when he is saving civilians. Facing the possibility of remaining as He-Man forever, He-Man tries to thwart the rock people, who in learning to respect one another, throw the power sword into a bottomless pit!

Skeletor studies the heroes with the aid of magical device in “Castle Of Heroes,” when another powerful magician appears. He is visited by Monteeg, who is an old ally of Skeletor! Monteeg has created an army from across time and the universe and he tells Skeletor he will recruit He-Man for his army! Monteeg tests He-Man by unleashing a giant and setting up obstacles for He-Man to defeat before trying to enslave him for his army.

Teela and Adam’s old friend, David, appears unaged and without his memories in “The Once And Future Duke.” He-Man learns that the boy’s uncle has wiped his memory and has taken the country that was supposed to be his! Using water of forgetfulness, Count Marzo menaces David, Teela, Orko, and He-Man.

“The Witch And The Warrior” finds a friend of Teela and He-Man asking for help in guarding a fountain in the desert. The magic fountain comes under continual attack by the wizard Kothos. Rather than risk being outdone by Kothos, Skeletor sends Evil Lynn and Clawful to take the fountain for him! He-Man and his allies find themselves fighting on multiple fronts to protect the fountain of life.

In “The Return Of Granamyr,” the dragon Granamyr calls upon He-Man to act as champion in a contest to win the hand of a human woman . . . for his lovestruck dragon son!

The Game Master is introduced in “Pawns Of The Game Master.” He arrives on Eternia in his space ship to abduct He-Man for his floating gladiator arena. Failing to abduct He-Man, he takes Teela and He-Man’s sword. Prince Adam, then, is forced to fight for Teela’s freedom and recover his sword.

A bit of Skeletor’s backstory is revealed in “Golden Disks Of Knowledge.” There, the wizard Zanthor, reveals himself to the Sorceress and He-Man. He was once a respected wizard, but he betrayed Eternia to Skeletor when he gave the villain the Golden Disks Of Knowledge. Eager to repent, Zanthor appeals to He-Man, Zodac and the Sorceress for the chance to recover the discs. With He-Man advocating for him, Zanthor leads a team into Snake Mountain to recover the disks.

In “The Huntsman,” Teela and He-Man work to stop an animal poacher from capturing the last unicorn on Eternia.

“The Remedy” has one of Man-At-Arms’s old friends falling gravely ill from a bug bite. Eager to save the life of his mentor, Rohad, Man-At-Arms sends He-Man to the furthest reaches of Eternia for the cure.

Season one concludes with “The Heart Of A Giant,” wherein Orko and a giant are both captured by the same evil man, who has a flying menagerie. There, he has collected all sorts of specimens for his “traveling zoo.” He-Man and Stratos work to rescue Orko, while Orko learns to get along with the giant!

On DVD, I noted some interesting censorship or standards issues, like how the creatures in “The Cosmic Comet” are likened to robots and unthinking comet chunks in order to allow He-Man to kill them. Otherwise, the show is very careful not to have the heroes kill anyone or allow any life form to die.

Each episode features a pretty obvious moral, like past failure is not a valid reason not to continue to try to succeed and it is important to report problems when they occur, regardless of the potentially negative consequences. The morals are summed up at the end of each episode and this programming is both entertaining and surprisingly educational.

On DVD, the first season of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe looks amazing. Most of the animation problems stem from the original animation – this was still physical animation and for some reason, Filmmation had characters framed funny (a common shot has a character standing in the foreground, looking at the camera, with only ¾ of their face in frame!). On the sound effects, I was surprised that, like Wonder Woman (reviewed here!), He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe uses sound effects from the original Star Trek (reviewed here!).

He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe is fun, smart, and well-conceived. The first season DVD set remains an impressive value worth picking up by anyone who recalled loving it as a youth or who might want their children now to have smart, imaginative, inoffensive programming to watch.

For other fanciful programming, please visit my reviews of:
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus


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

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