Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 2013 End Of The Month Report

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Following on the heels of the Blog’s best month, we decided to take it easy for July. Watching more of the art films for Summer Blockbuster Season, keeping current on True Blood episode by episode and enjoying Hallmark’s ornament release weekend as a source for a plethora of new reviews, July was more relaxing than intense. In addition to dealing with excessive plagiarism (who would have thought that Summer Blockbuster Season reviews would be purloined so much online?!), July was lower on the hits than June. Thanks to everyone who read, commented (still catching up!) and shared links to the blog this month.

With Summer Blockbuster Season nearing its end and a ton of ornament reviews forthcoming, we’re hoping for a big August!

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, there were no additions to the Top Ten Of All Time, though we suspect next month we will see some movement there again! This month, we put special emphasis on Hallmark ornaments, new True Blood episodes, and Summer Blockbusters in theaters and forthcoming. Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts, as well as all of the new hits on older reviews!

Last month, we picked up no new subscribers, but we’re hoping that next month we’ll pick up some new readers with the end of Summer Blockbuster Season! 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 July, 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! By purchasing items through the links on the blog, you sponsor my ability to continue reviewing. Summer is a very slow time for online shopping through blogs, but I have a number of very cool annual events coming up that could use your support, from Summer Blockbuster Season to the Hallmark Ornament Release (which nets dozens of reviews and is a popular feature of this blog!). Please check out our sponsored links and thank you so much for that support!

At the end of July, I have reviewed the following:
458 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
811 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2332 - 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!)!
197 - 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
679 - 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
694 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
194 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
107 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
151 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
159 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
90 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
31 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month for July is the review of the 2013 Limited Edition Boushh Return Of The Jedi Hallmark ornament!
Check it out!

The month of July had a lot of movement within the month and from some interesting prior reviews that made the list. For July, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Pacific Rim
9. Despicable Me 2
8. The Twilight Saga
7. Scenic Route
6. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
5. The Host
4. The Lone Ranger
3. Beautiful Creatures
2. The Wolverine
1. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone

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 - 282 reviews
9s - 403 reviews
8s - 742 reviews
7s - 832 reviews
6s - 742 reviews
5s - 991 reviews
4s - 710 reviews
3s - 578 reviews
2s - 253 reviews
1s - 176 reviews
0s - 84 reviews
No rating - 49 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but no new entries into the Top Ten, and at the end of July, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. Hammer Of The Gods
9. Beautiful Creatures
8. Star Trek Into Darkness
7. Safe Haven
6. Oz The Great And Powerful
5. Warm Bodies
4. Iron Man 3
3. Now You See Me
2. Tyler Perry's Temptation
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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Wildly Erratic, Sean Connery Returns In Diamonds Are Forever!

The Good: Decent pacing, Engaging reversals and plot development.
The Bad: Special effects/fight sequence editing, A particularly lame Bond girl in the form of Plenty O’Toole, Lack of character development, Dumb quips, Mediocre editing.
The Basics: Sean Connery comes back as James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever which pits Bond against Blofeld and a whole diamond smuggling conspiracy.

When I was young, I went through a James Bond phase. At that time, I watched all the Bond movies I could get my hands on via the local library system. It was the age of VHS and I was young and I don’t know how much attention I paid to them because watching them now, I find myself stymied. Was I ever so young that I might love those films?! My James Bond phase was truncated by my personal discovery of Star Trek and I guess I remained there afterward. Now, as a reviewer, I’ve been going through the James Bond library and today I watched Diamonds Are Forever. Diamonds Are Forever was one of the movies I missed when I was in my James Bond phase.

As an adult, I can safely say I wasn’t missing much. Diamonds Are Forever is not (by far) the worst Bond film in the series. However, it is one of the most inconsistent. It has a rocky beginning marred horribly by absolutely cheesy special effects (the blood is terrible) and it develops into one of the worst-performed Bond films (Lana Wood is terrible as Plenty O’Toole). But then, somewhere in the middle, Diamonds Are Forever actually gets good. The reversals are exciting and the movie becomes watchable and tense with a plot that develops and unfolds in a clever-enough way to actually engage the viewer. But then, late in the film, Diamonds Are Forever turns again with the addition of more absurd assassins and sequences and a female sidekick that is shamefully presented for a woman in a movie from 1971. Still, Diamonds Are Forever is a James Bond film that has a pretty typical Bond sense of progression on the plot front and the characteristic lack of character development for the protagonist.

Opening with James Bond hunting the world round for Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He corners and apparently kills him in a volcano lair. Bond is then brought back to headquarters where he is given a background on diamonds and South African diamond mining. The corrupt workers in South Africa smuggle diamonds out, but now two goons Mr. Kidd and Mr. Wint are knocking off smugglers and stockpiling the diamonds. Bond is assigned to find out who is stockpiling the diamonds and thus secure the diamond market. Bond assumes the identity of Peter Franks and meets with Tiffany Case, who is smuggling diamonds and wants him to move a large shipment into the United States. When the real Peter Franks breaks out of prison, Bond must dispose of him to maintain his cover.

In exposing the diamond smuggling operation, Bond as Franks must enlist the aid of Felix Leiter to avoid cremation, bad puns and double crosses from a lousy comic who is in on the smuggling, Kidd and Wint. In tracing the diamond smugglers to the Las Vegas recluse Willard Whyte and his hotel/casino, Bond is reunited with Tiffany Case and the real power behind the smuggling ring. With Bond imperiled and the world’s nuclear arsenal being systematically destroyed from space, Felix, Bond and Case work to thwart the plans of an evil genius.

Diamonds Are Forever has Sean Connery returning to the role of James Bond with little fanfare and no acknowledgment of his return. On the character front, this works in that it allows Connery to take the role back from George Lazenby on the assumption (supported in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) that the code name James Bond is used on multiple MI-6 agents, without acknowledging or addressing at all that Bond’s wife (not from a mission) was killed at the climax of the last film. What the film leaves completely unanswered it the idea that even this version of Bond was recently married and there was no on-screen resolution to the relationship (yet). Diamonds Are Forever picks up as if there was no prior story to James Bond, save that he is obsessed with finding Blofeld and that obsession is never explained or elaborated upon.

The women in Diamonds Are Forever are almost universally presented as if they received their lines about five minutes before their scenes were filmed. For Tiffany Case and Plenty O’Toole, there is almost no resonance for the characters; they seem like actresses playing characters they are entirely unsure of. Despite how terrible their characters are, Bambi and Thumper at least seem to know what they are doing as they attack James Bond in Las Vegas. Rather horribly, though, they do not help the status of women in the movie as they are universally violent and one is unpleasantly masculine. Thumper and Bambi also serve to undermine the character of James Bond as he stands at a distance watching and waiting for the women to go through backflips and the like until they get into range to hit him. Given that, early in the movie, he strangles a woman with her own top and smacks around at least one other woman, there is nothing chivalric about him waiting around to be attacked by Thumper and Bambi.

Diamonds Are Forever actually has one of the better plots for a Bond film. While the fundamental villain reversal are entirely passé and the technique of having Blofeld duplicating his appearance is somewhat ridiculous, the film actually progresses well. Bond is given a chance to move forward after his vengeance against Blodfeld is satisfied (though there is no catharsis or reflection for Bond following him putting down his long-fought villain) and the mission in tracking the diamonds allows him to move forward in a substantive way. The simple diamond smuggling turns into a beautifully over-the-top scheme for world domination and that is more development than many of the Bond films (which start with an objective and end with the same thing).

Ultimately, Diamonds Are Forever is far too erratic in form and performance to be worth adding to one’s permanent collection, but it is a fair James Bond movie. On two-disc DVD or Blu-Ray, Diamonds Are Forever comes loaded with a commentary track and multiple featurettes on the movie, none of which improve the editing of the film to make the fight sequences less cheesy or the line deliveries better. Still, it’s a fun film, though objectively it has a lot working against it.

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
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum Of Solace


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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Why Doesn’t Hallmark Love Middle Earth?! The 2013 Bilbo Baggins Ornament Flops!

The Good: Affordable, Nice detailing on the ring
The Bad: Severe coloring issues, Animated look, Gaps at seams.
The Basics: The 2013 "Bilbo Baggins" ornament illustrates perfectly that Hallmark is not banking heavily on The Hobbit!

Last year, I found that I was pleasantly surprised that Hallmark had picked up The Hobbit as a keepsake ornament line. While I was generally unimpressed by the Gandalf The Grey ornament (reviewed here!), I was excited that the ornament company had begun producing Middle Earth-themed ornaments again. Unfortunately, like so many companies that merchandised for The Lord Of The Rings when those films were released a decade ago, it seems that Hallmark learned that there is a particularly short half-life for Middle Earth based ornaments and it did not truly invest big in the franchise. That is evident from this year’s ornament outing, Bilbo Baggins. While the ornament has superlative detailing on the molding of the One Ring, the rest of the ornament is particularly anemic and disappointing.

For those unfamiliar with the idea of the ornament, Bilbo Baggins features the hobbit from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (reviewed here!) and the subsequent Hobbit movies still forthcoming. This is Bilbo Baggins, looking like he is contemplating a riddle while holding the One Ring in his hand. This is a more contemplative version of Bilbo than the action-oriented sculpt of Gandalf which was released last year.


The "Bilbo Baggins" ornament recreates Bilbo Baggins in his traveling coat and short pants with his left hand raised to his chin and his right hand pinching the One Ring of power. The ornament, released in 2013, is a very lightly-detailed sculpt of Bilbo Baggins, as portrayed by Martin Freeman. This version of Bilbo Baggins looks remarkably animated, as opposed to having come from a live-action reference, and it looks unfortunately, poorly, assembled.

Hallmark only seemed to make an effort on the molding with detailing the One Ring. The exceptionally-fine work on the ring, even though it is ridiculously oversized for the hobbit, shows some sophistication. Unfortunately, the rest of the detailing is not as fine. The hair on the feet and on the top of Bilbo Baggins’s head is only passably sculpted on and the ears and costume details are very lightly presented. Measuring four and one-quarter inches tall, one and a half inches wide and one and one-quarter inches deep, the "Bilbo Baggins" ornament is one of the larger Hallmark character ornaments this year and is not exactly in proportion to the Gandalf The Grey ornament that was released last year! At $14.95, the Bilbo Baggins ornament is, admittedly, one of the more affordable genre ornaments this season, further implying that Hallmark is betting low on the viability of merchandise surrounding The Hobbit.

The Hallmark "Bilbo Baggins" ornament is made of a durable plastic and sculpted to look generally like Martin Freeman, though because it lacks significant sculpting details, it looks much more like an animated version of the character as opposed to Freeman’s version of Bilbo. The coloring for the skin is monotonal, save a light blush to the cheeks. The hair on both the head and feet is similarly one-colored. As well, the clean costume is colored in single colors without any realistic depth and shading. Even the buttons on the coat remain unpainted, though the brass buttons on the vest are at least shaded on!

Adding to the disappointment is the fact that the One Ring is a sickly brown color, as opposed to a gold hue. Hallmark did not waste much time going for realism in the coloring or sophistication in the sculpt of the Bilbo Baggins ornament!


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Bilbo Baggins" could have a sound effect, but it does not. Instead, this is a less-expensive option that is just the character.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Bilbo Baggins" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate movie nostalgia Christmas Tree, the "Bilbo Baggins" ornament is a conceptually wonderful option, but a poor ornament in execution, making for a real non-starter. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of Bilbo Baggins's head. This is fairly obvious and necessary for the ornament. Hanging there, the ornament is fairly well-balanced.


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 (click here for that review!). Within a few years, every major franchise from Star Wars to A Nightmare Before Christmas to Indiana Jones started making Hallmark ornaments. "Bilbo Baggins" is one of only a few Middle Earth ornaments on the market, but it is the first of Bilbo Baggins. Between the mediocre quality and the short half-life of Middle Earth-related merchandise, investors might want to wait until this is half price before stocking up!


Fans of the Middle Earth franchise, Martin Freeman, and Hallmark ornaments are likely to all be disappointed by the execution of the Bilbo Baggins ornament and find themselves hoping for something better from Hallmark to celebrate the next The Hobbit movie next year!

For other Hallmark genre ornaments released in 2013, please check out my reviews of:
Pirates Of The Caribbean
Hogwarts Castle Harry Potter ornament
Boushh Star Wars Limited Edition ornament
U.S.S. Kelvin Star Trek ornament
Scarlett’s Green Gown Gone With The Wind ornament
At Jabba’s Mercy Star Wars ornament
Iron Patriot Iron Man 3 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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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Predictable And Funny, Ted Helps Seth MacFarlane Make The Leap To (Almost) Live-Action Films!

The Good: Very funny, Decent acting, Excellent effects.
The Bad: Painfully predictable plot, Reused jokes.
The Basics: Ted is funny, but remarkably predictable, especially for fans of Seth MacFarlane’s wildly popular Family Guy.

When Seth MacFarlane alluded to a movie project in the opening scrawl to It’s A Trap! (reviewed here!) to a movie project he wanted to get released to pursue, I was a bit skeptical. After all, outside the three main animated projects MacFarlane has created and executive produced, the only other work of his I’d seen was Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade Of Cartoon Comedy (reviewed here!) and it was atrocious. In fact, the idea that MacFarlane could be a one-trick pony or might not be able to create sustained larger projects is not a particularly audacious one. Unfortunately, despite how entertaining Ted is, it only helps to reinforce the idea that the career of Seth MacFarlane may well have jumped the shark.

Fans of Family Guy, the very fans Seth MacFarlane is counting on to support Ted will recognize several jokes – like Ted complaining about the way pop singers sang vowels in the 1990s – from Family Guy. That there is an explicit reference to MacFarlane’s breakout animated series in the movie is similarly unfortunate, as is Seth MacFarlane voicing the title character. MacFarlane is a talented vocal actor, but the truth is he has pretty much shot his wad through Family Guy and American Dad!. With the distinctly different voices of Brian, Peter and Stewie Griffin and Quagmire coming from the same source (along with the similar voice of Carter Pewtershmidt and others), Ted might have worked better had Seth MacFarlane let someone else voice Ted.

All of that aside, Ted is a fairly innovative and fun concept for a comedy film. And Seth MacFarlane directed Ted at the right time in movie history; computer generated effects make the extraordinary premise look and feel entirely plausible. The basic premise is ridiculously simple: the main human character (John Bennett) has a sentient teddy bear (Ted) as a best friend. The film hinges entirely upon the virtual character interacting with the live-action characters absolutely seamlessly. In many ways, Ted is the film that Robert Zemeckis wanted to make with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Any other issues with the writing and characters aside, Ted is arguably the best use of a computer-generated character in years. The effects are flawless and Mark Wahlberg, who does the lion’s share of acting opposite the virtual character, performs incredibly well, interacting with Ted as if the bear was actually there. As simplistic as it might seem, the ability to act well with entities that are not present and get things like eyelines and comedic timing right is a skill that very few performers get right, but Wahlberg does!

Opening with a childhood wish, John Bennett as a child is granted a talking teddy bear who becomes a real friend who will never leave him. John reveal Ted to his parents and overnight, the talking teddy bear becomes an instant celebrity. Years later, though, Ted is just a burnout who lives with John, who struggles at the rental car place where he hopes to become manager someday. John has been in a relationship with Lori for four years and when John fails to propose to her, she gives him an ultimatum. She wants Ted to move out so they can begin their life together for real.

John tries to push Ted away, which he has a vested interest in as Lori’s boss, Rex, hits on her relentlessly, but even as Ted gets a job at a grocery store, he pulls at John to continue their symbiotic relationship. On an important date night, Ted calls John to come visit him to meet their childhood hero, Sam Jones (who played Flash Gordon). That night effectively trashes the relationship between John and Lori, but in the ensuing fall-out, John pushes Ted away. On his own, Ted falls to the mercy of a man for whom Ted was a childhood hero and when Ted is kidnapped, he desperately calls upon John and Lori to save him.

Ted is basically a long collection of drug, poop, and sex jokes delivered during a fairly uncomplicated relationship struggle. The plot is very much a typical romantic comedy plot where the romantic interest does not like the best friend. Outside the CG character, there is nothing more sophisticated to Ted than that. As such, the plot progression is painfully predictable and MacFarlane telegraphs all of his moves, from having Giovanni Ribisi’s creepy Donny showing up early in the movie and John folding up his contact information to Frank responding to Ted being aggressively honest. That does not make Ted bad, it is just unsophisticated and more obvious than it is audacious.

Seth MacFarlane assembles what would otherwise be an impressive cast for Ted. For fans of MacFarlane’s other works, this is just an assemblage of the usual suspects. Mila Kunis, Alex Borstein, John Viener, and Patrick Warburton are instantly recognizable to fans of Family Guy who have watched all the many hours of DVD bonus features from the series. In fact, Ted makes tongue-in-cheek references to doing just that by presenting a fake DVD commentary from Ted Danson for the Cheers DVD set in the film (“Are there dicks in gay porn?” has become a pretty much instantaneous catch phrase around my house since my wife and I watched the film). The less-obvious performers from Family Guy are joined by Mark Wahlberg who joins the ensemble exceptionally well. Wahlberg is funny as John and he and Mila Kunis have great on-screen chemistry as Kunis plays Lori.

Ultimately, Ted is good geek date night material, but it is not much more than entertaining. It does what it sets out to do very well, but nothing more.

For other works with Giovanni Ribisi, please check out my reviews of:
Public Enemies
Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow
Lost In Translation


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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More Anna Paquin Nudity And Another Death “In The Evening!”

The Good: Plot progression, Moments of character
The Bad: Nothing stellar on the performance front, Somewhat predictable plot
The Basics: A startlingly average episode of True Blood, “In The Evening” returns to the tried and true formula of nudity and gore for a (mostly) satisfying episode.

Given how (apparently) harshly I review everything I encounter, I suppose it might be easy to be confused about what I actually like. The truth is, I like True Blood. However, it has become far more soap operatic and surprisingly droll, usually undermining its own principles (fairy realm is supposed to move at a vastly different pace than the real world, so if Sookie spends the night with Warlow in the fairy realm, how is it not, like three years later when she comes back this time?!) and belaboring servicing its bloated cast of characters as opposed to telling a coherent narrative. True Blood is rapidly devolving from a smart social commentary show into a “guilty pleasure;” “guilty” only if one does not accept their enjoyment of something simplistic for what it is. In fact, with the latest episode, “In The Evening,” True Blood feels vastly more like an episode of Angel (reviewed here!) with uncharacteristic nudity than something that the supposedly sophisticated HBO audience might gravitate toward.

At the heart of my issue with “In The Evening” is that the episode has only two superlative aspects (and one is not even all that incredible). “In The Evening” is a one-hour journey of Eric Northman whereby the character gains and loses his faith (not terribly extraordinary as the result is that he ends the episode exactly where he began it) and the performance by Carrie Preston. It is impossible to discuss “In The Evening” without revealing some spoilers that I omitted from my review of the prior episode, “Don’t You Feel Me” (reviewed here!), so do not read on if you want to be able to watch the sixth season and actually be surprised by which characters live and die! Beyond those two things, though, “In The Evening” is somewhat mundane and it is hampered by splintering off in so many directions that none of the characters actually get the chance to truly reflect on the magnitude of what is happening around them.

Case in point is Andy Bellefleur. Andy might have been saddled with children for only a few days, but to lose three of his four daughters and then his cousin within a few days, to already be at a point where he could forgive Bill and accept him seemed more plot convenient than character realistic (character realistic might have had Andy working toward the same goals as Bill, but refusing to do so side by side with him). The dialogue between Bill and Andy is memorable and well-written, but it happens so quickly relative to the carnage both characters have witnessed that it is very hard to accept as realistic for human psychology.

“In The Evening” picks up almost immediately after “Don’t You Feel Me” left off. Nora is dying of Hep-V, which the Governor has infected her with and Eric is working to get Nora out of the Camp. Eric puts his faith and hope in Bill Compton and after alerting Willa to the tainted TruBlood the governor has produced, he escapes with his sister and arrives at Bill’s, begging for the godlike vampire to save Nora. In an act of compassion, Bill tries to save Nora and when his blood fails to do so, he rushes out into the day in search of Warlow. Warlow and Sookie, meanwhile, have a discussion about how having sex does not mean they are married before Sookie senses the distraught Arlene in the graveyard. After returning Arlene home, Sookie and Lafayette go in search of Terry’s safe deposit box where they discover the cook had taken out a life insurance policy only days before his death to provide for Arlene and their children.

In the camp, Willa lets Tara and Jessica know about the tainted TruBlood and Pam delays any chance for contamination by seducing the psychologist who has a crush on her. When Sarah Newlin discover’s the Governor’s body, she hatches a scheme to keep the appearance of the Governor in place while she executes his plans against the vampire population. Unfortunately, her return to the camp puts Jason in serious jeopardy as he was doing Jessica a favor when he is exposed by Sarah and thrown in with the female vampire population. When Bill and Sookie reunite to find Warlow, Eric is left to tend to Nora.

And elsewhere in the True Blood universe, Jackson tries to share a decent moment with his son, Alcide, before Alcide once again shoves him away and Sam and Nicole have their inevitable sex scene before they go their separate ways. The Alcide and Sam storylines (which are intertwined) are a great example of how the show suffers as a whole because it has so many characters to service. If nothing happened with the characters, viewers would whine, “What about Sam or Alcide?” But, as it is, giving them about four minutes of airtime in a 56 minute episode does not truly advance their characters in any meaningful way (it’s not even enough time for Alcide to get his shirt off!).

While I want to say that “In The Evening” is a great example of the performance abilities of the cast of True Blood, it is not. Alexander Skarsgard plays Eric as more distraught in the episode’s climax than Eric was when Godrick died and Stephen Moyer has long had the ability to play Bill with subtlety and nuance down pat. Is Bill’s compassion for Nora realistic because of Moyer’s performance? Absolutely. Is it a surprise that he could emote so well while still making Bill seem like a vampire? Not at all. After Chris Bauer and Stephen Moyer play a scene loaded with subtext, there is a more refreshing sense that the performers have lived back up to the high expectations we’ve had for them as opposed to them reaching a new height.

The exception to the actors meeting performance expectations comes from Carrie Preston in “In The Evening.” Preston plays Arlene and Arlene has usually been relegated to a supporting character with one or two good quips per season (noting early in the season that Sookie seldom actually works at Merlotte’s anymore might have been all she got had it not been for Terry’s demise). However, in “In The Evening,” Preston has to play Arlene as emotionally shattered and truly despondent and she rises to the occasion admirably. In fact, given how many disappointments Arlene has face, that she put so much faith in Terry (despite him being always on the edge of sanity), that Preston is able to present a new depth of loss to Arlene gives her the performance of the episode.

Ultimately, even Preston’s few scenes and the moments where Eric comes back to where the viewer expects him to be are not enough to be enthusiastic about “In The Evening.” It’s nice, as are Anna Paquin’s breasts, which we see plenty of in the episode. The problem is, like so much of True Blood at this point, it’s nothing we haven’t seen in the series already.

[For a much better value, check out True Blood Season 6 on Blu-Ray and DVD. The penultimate season is reviewed here! Check it out!]

For other works with Carrie Preston, please check out my reviews of:
A Bag Of Hammers
Cradle Will Rock
My Best Friend’s Wedding


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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Monday, July 29, 2013

Counting Down From The Second String, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One Is A Lackluster Start!

The Good: Moments of character, Artwork
The Bad: Largely secondary characters who do not captivate one’s full attention, Huge gaps in the storytelling.
The Basics: With Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One, the DC Universe begins its transition from 52 to Final Crisis in a pretty blasé way.

When it comes to the major DC Comics crossover events, I often find myself at odds with popular opinion. I find myself in the awkward position of actually reading the book in front of me, as opposed to reacting to the hype of a crossover event. The difference, sadly, is all the difference, especially when it comes to the major crossovers. The transition events, however, are not immune to the problems of presenting incomplete stories to the reader. This comes up for me at the outset of Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One because there are exceptional gaps in the story. Had I not previously read Amazons Attack! (reviewed here!) as part of my Wonder Woman Year and The Flash: Fastest Man Alive – Full Throttle (reviewed here!) as part of my Flash Year, I would have been completely lost. I am sure there are Catwoman, The Atom, and Shazam stories that filled in other gaps in this story.

The point is that Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One is not a single, complete story. In fact, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One is not a single, cohesive narrative but more than that, the story elements that are included in this book are lacking in background information and key parts of the story, some of which are not alluded to in a strong enough way to truly resonate with the reader.

Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One follows up on 52(Volume 4 is reviewed here!) and takes the first steps into leading to Final Crisis (reviewed here!) . Fundamentally, one of the problems with Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One is that (having read Final Crisis) only two of these plotlines – a series of vaguely-related scenes that focus on Darkseid and another focusing on the Monitors – are actually directly related to the oncoming crisis. Final Crisis might be a universe-encompassing event, but it focuses on the big three and their role in the event.

Obviously, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One does not get to even the heart of the oncoming crisis, though it does have a smattering of scenes that illustrate that Darkseid is building a massive army that he might use to attack Earth (and possibly Earths across the multiverse).

Like 52, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One begins to tell a story that focuses on the supporting heroes in the DC Universe. Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One has multiple threads, none of which are fully developed. Some, like the inclusion of the members of the 31rst Century Legion Of The Super Heroes , are woefully under-developed and when they pop to the forefront of the story, they are at a completely different place (often with additional characters) than they were when they were last seen.

The meat of Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One is in three main plotlines. Marty Marvel awakens from her coma. Shocked and bereft of her powers, Mary does the exact opposite of what a fortune teller advises and she makes a journey to Gotham City. There, in the ruins of an old building, she is met by Black Adam. After many threats of death, Black Adam slowly comes to believe that Mary arrived there by random chance and she is truly devoid of all her super powers. Black Adam transfers his powers to Mary, creating a darker, more edgy version of Mary Marvel. She spends the rest of the book trying to figure out her place and the extent of her powers.

The Mary Marvel in Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One is unlike Mary Marvel in any other book I have read that features her, even as a peripheral character. Instead of being naïve and inexperienced – even in her powerless mundane form – Mary is worldweary and just a young woman who is lost. In her new super-power form, she wears a shorter, flared out, black version of her usual garb and it is designed to look anything but innocent. In fact, it wavers at the bottom in a way that is entirely intended to titillate the readers. This is a leggy Marvel Woman (she’s no girl!) who is busty and butt-kicking.

As Mary tries to figure out who she is now, so too does Jimmy Olsen. Olsen is investigating the death of Deula Dent, the Joker’s daughter. In the process, he is attacked in Arkham Asylum, but comes to no harm because he exhibits all the properties of Elastic Man. Confused, Olden brushes it off as a dream or fatigue until he experiences two more instances where he manifests super powers. Taking his cue from Superman, Jimmy Olsen creates the super hero Mr. Action and begins cleaning up the streets of Metropolis.

A far more compelling a-plot in Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One has the Pied Piper and The Trickster running for their lives. Having been a part of the posse that killed the Flash, both men – who has previously gone legitimate – flee from the superhero community in hopes of finding a place where no one would look for them. Taking refuge with the Penguin, they find themselves in more peril than even they initially predicted!

Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One also includes a plotline with the Amazons, which overlaps with their attack on Washington, D.C. There is a storyline that focuses on Donna Troy and Jason Todd as they begin a search for Ray Palmer (the Atom) in an attempt to get an ace-in-the-hole for the upcoming crisis. As one might predict given how many plotlines there are in the limited space of the first book, this does not create a wealth of opportunity for the characters to truly develop and change. Jimmy Olsen and Mary Marvel spent the most time pontificating on character and how they are changing, but the rest of the book is exceptionally plot-focused.

For all its problems on the story front, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One has consistently good artwork. The characters look good and – outside the fact that several are b or c string characters seen in these pages out of costume/make-up – are generally recognizable. Some of the new characters, like Forerunner, look good and continue the quality level for modern character designs.

Ultimately, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume One is a beginning and were it not for my already being invested in the direction of this massive crossover, there would not be enough in the book to recommend it.

For other major DC Universe crossover events, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Idenity Crisis
The OMAC Project
Infinite Crisis
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Brightest Day, Volume 1


For other book reviews, 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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Nearing The End Of The First Phase Of Enterprise Shows A Lack Of “Judgment!”

The Good: Cool special effects, Moments of performance
The Bad: Entirely derivative, Lack of genuine social commentary, While there is some character reflection, there is no real development.
The Basics: “Judgment” is yet another episode of Enterprise that might be fine on its own, but has a distinctly dungy appearance after so much other Star Trek . . . which it shits on.

Enterprise was a conceptually-plagued television show that, arguably, went through three iterations. The first, Enterprise was an attempted prequel to Star Trek that exhibited a distinct lack of regard for the decades of works that came before it. The second phase was the third season, which was a self-contained, heavily-serialized adventure in a pocket universe that was entirely ironic in that it had absolutely no connection to the rest of the Star Trek universe, but was the first season to be called Star Trek: Enterprise. The final phase of the show was the fourth season, which was written by people who actually gave a damn about the franchise and spent a year trying to connect the crap that came before with all of the beloved Star Trek works that followed (at least in terms of in-universe chronology). As the writers and producers of Enterprise labored near the end of the second season, there was a certain irony to their direction. Even as viewers continued to abandon the series, the writing progressed with more stories that seemed to be a big “fuck you!” to the loyal fans who made the Star Trek franchise into multi-billion dollar enterprise it was.

One of the big “f-u” episodes near the end of the second season was “Judgment.” In addition to completely undermining Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (reviewed here!), “Judgment” is a particularly cheap rip off of the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes “Tribunal” (reviewed here!) and “Rules Of Engagement” (reviewed here!). The narrative technique is essentially stolen from “Rules Of Engagement” and the concept is largely a cheap rehash of “Tribunal.”

Opening with Archer imprisoned on a Klingon world, under suspicion of conspiracy, Archer finds himself waiting for his trial. Archer meets with the defense attorney, Kolos, who lets him know that the charges will be given at the trial. There, Archer and Kolos discover that Archer’s recent rescue of colonists who are subjects of the Klingon Empire, which resulted in an attack by Captain Duras and his ship the Bortas. Archer defended against the Bortas and in rescuing the colonists, he manages to raise the ire of the Klingons.

Kolos defends Archer only after Archer pushes him to actually do his job. Kolos recalls better times for the Klingon Empire and he pushes to have Archer regarded as a nuisance instead of a criminal against the Empire. Despite Kolos’s advocacy, Archer is condemned to life on Rura Penthe.

If virtually everything in “Judgment” had not been previously done in other incarnations of Star Trek. “Judgment” is a fine Klingon episode that fleshes out the idea of Klingon culture very nicely, however, it presents several of the same concepts as “Tribunal” without the larger social commentaries relevant to human society today. This is somewhat insulting as Enterprise had a forum to attack current social problems under the Bush Administration under the guise of the bloated and problematic Klingon Empire. Instead, “Judgment” just focuses on the plot-based ideas of the issues that plagued the Klingon Empire.

Kolos having his moral awakening is way too thin an allegory for standing up against the injustices of the Bush Administration.

Instead, “Judgment” – at the same time it is spitting on the Star Trek history that makes things like a jailbreak from Rura Penthe utterly inconceivable – makes some very clever prequel references to the Star Trek franchise. “Judgment” is basically a heady prequel to the Klingon arc on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Klingon arc on Star Trek: The Next Generation features the Duras family, which was a dishonorable Klingon family that allied itself with the Romulans. “Judgment” makes some fun references to “Redemption” (reviewed here!) and “Sins Of The Father” (reviewed here!) in that the Klingon captain (turned weapon’s officer) Duras is the son of Toral (it was the opposite way in “Redemption”) and his ship was the Bortas, which was the Klingon flagship introduced in “Redemption!”

The resolution to “Judgment” is insulting beyond belief. Without spoiling the episode entirely, the lack of sophistication to the jailbreak from the tightest jail in the galaxy is ridiculous.

“Judgment” features the sole Enterprise appearance by Star Trek franchise veteran J.G. Hertzler. Hertzler plays Kolos and he makes for a perfectly credible litigator. Hertzler speaks with passion about the Klingon Empire in a way that makes it seem like Kolos deeply cares about the fate of the Empire and its past glory. It is almost like Hertzler is emoting the disappointment of the fans in seeing how the franchise has been degraded by Enterprise. Regardless of the subtext, Hertzler plays Kolos with a strength and dignity that he is known for and he performs the one-shot role exceptionally well.

Also making his final appearance in the franchise is John Vickery, who plays the Klingon prosecutor Orak. Vickery is good in the role, though he is not given much opportunity or freedom to actually perform beyond playing the part of a generic antagonist.

One of the things “Judgment” does have going for it are the special effects. The brief space battle in “Judgment” is impressive and makes the episode initially engaging. As well, John Billingsley’s brief role in the episode’s early scene is one of his more engaging ones. It characterizes Phlox as somewhat smarter and more devious than Archer and Billingsley sells it.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to save “Judgment.” “Judgment” lacks depth, sophistication, and originality that fans of the Star Trek franchise want and expect. Those who only watch Enterprise might enjoy it, but those who have been fans of all the Trek that came before are much more likely to be insulted by the lowbrow nature of this episode.

The three biggest gaffes in “Judgment:”
3. Archer’s Klingon food is served to him cooked, not alive or freshly killed,
2. If Captain Archer had been tried in a Klingon court, the novelty of the sense of Klingon jurisprudence would not have endured for the next hundred years,
1. In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country no one had ever escaped from Rura Penthe.

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

For other works with John Vickery, please check out my reviews of:
“Tacking Into The Wind” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“When It Rains . . .” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
“The Changing Face Of Evil” - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Babylon 5
“Night Terrors” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


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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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Underrated But Wonderful, White Lilies Island Gives Natalie Imbruglia A Solid Sophomore Album.

The Good: Vocals, Lyrics, Interesting instrumentals
The Bad: Short, Mildly repetitive
The Basics: Decent vocals and catchy tunes make for a pretty solid sophmore effort from Natalie Imbruglia!

Natalie Imbruglia is one of those musical artists who seemed to get nailed with the label "One Hit Wonder" pretty much the minute her single "Torn" hit number one on the charts. "Torn" opened her debut album Left Of The Middle (reviewed here!) big and while there are ample songs on the album that could have been big as well, the album and the artist couldn't place another single that powerfully in the United States again. It is unfortunate that not so many people continued to give Imbruglia the chance; her sophomore album, White Lilies Island is a solid musical effort and it follows up the debut with fewer duds than the first outing.

White Lilies Island is probably best known in the United States for the single "Wrong Impression," which did all right on the adult contemporary charts, but failed to wow pop-rock listeners in 2001 when the album was released. As a result, Natalie Imbruglia seems to have largely faded from the consideration of U.S. audiences. This is unfortunate and listening to White Lilies Island now makes a decent argument for one to give Imbruglia another chance; her style of pop-rock is infectious and surprisingly classy, unlike much of what passes for pop-rock on the radio today.

With twelve tracks, totaling 51:37, White Lilies Island appears to be more of Imbruglia's musical vision than her debut. All of the songs were co-written by Natalie Imbruglia and she provides primary vocals on each track. While she does not play any instruments on the album, nor receive any production credits, the album seems to have the general thematic integrity of the songs written by Imbruglia on her debut.

White Lilies Island is remarkably straightforward in that it is a collection of twelve songs about love and relationships. Right off the bat, Natalie Imbruglia establishes a tone that is captivating by presenting a song that sounds like what it is supposed to be. "That Day" is a frenetic little song about a person who is just in the process of a collapse. The musical protagonist falls down as part of a messy breakdown that leaves her simply looking at the world and reawakening to the simple beauties around her. Musically, it is sloppy and chaotic and it does a wonderful job of illustrating what the song is saying. "That Day" is indicative of the quality of Imbruglia's creative mind on the album; she takes a few risks and they largely pay off.

Perhaps the greatest risk she takes on this fairly heavily produced album - most of the tracks are set to a rich rock and roll sound including guitars, bass, drums and keyboards - is on the album's superlative song, "Hurricane." "Hurricane" puts Imbruglia at the forefront ahead of minimal instrumentals, which forces her voice to carry much of the song. This would normally not be much of a problem, save that "Hurricane" is a fairly repetitive song in terms of poetics. Still, Imbruglia makes it work, even with the repetitions when she sings, "It came on like a hurricane / And I don't understand / And it moved me like a slow dance / Still I don't understand / It pushed me like a tailwind / And I don't understand / And it came in through the back door / And I don't understand / Still I don't understand" ("Hurricane"). Imbruglia makes the repetition work for her, creating a hypnotic track that is haunting and leaves the listener feeling numb, just as the musical protagonist is.

With Imbruglia being branded a one-hit wonder by many, it behooves the listener to try to consider why. For that, I look to the single released from White Lilies Island to try to sell the audience on Imbruglia's Sophomore album. "Torn," the hit from her debut, rocked in part because it had a clear, universal theme. There was a musical protagonist that was broken, confused and hurt. It might well be one of the great breakup songs of the 1990s. White Lilies Island was fronted by the track "Wrong Impression."

"Wrong Impression" has a lot going for it; clear vocals, a fairly infectious pop-tune and a melody that insinuates itself into the listener's mind. The problem with it is that it requires some real attention and a pretty thorough analysis to understand the song. After all, the song is filled with a lot of push-pull motion; it is not the clearest love song in history with its lines like ". . . Haven't you wondered / Why I'm always alone / When you're in my dreams . . . Haven't you wondered / Why you're finding it hard just looking at me . . . Wasn't trying to pull you in the wrong direction . All I wanna do is try and make a connection / Of love" ("Wrong Impression"). Here is a muddled little pop tune where the protagonist feels alone when she dreams of the one she is in love with . . . It's too much thought to be a successful pop song (whatwith most of the music-buying public being young people without any sort of advanced degree in literary analysis). It has the sound, a sugary pop sound, common with many pop hits, but lyrically it fails to make the connection.

Similarly, one of the reasons Imbruglia might be having such a problem following up her declarative hit is that many of her songs simply ask questions. Musings are great for conversations and perhaps a track or two, but they are largely unsatisfying for a musical experience where one is paying to be entertained or enlightened. So, songs like "Sunlight" hold up poorly upon multiple listens as Imbruglia simply asked "Did you ever feel sunlight on your face / Did you ever taste the clouds / Did you ever touch space . . . Did you ever truly live . . . Did you ever breathe hope / Did you ever dance with grace . . ." More than a song that tries to be a simple pop track, the questioning of "Sunlight" becomes rather unfulfilling as a collection of musical musings.

"Sunlight" is the most extreme example of this, though "Do You Love?" is another questioning song. "Goodbye" is a similarly simple song, though the melancholy quality to it is more directly moody than musing. As well, "Satellite" is crippled because the punch of the song is in the asking of a question that goes unanswered by the end of the track.

Fortunately, the album sounds good. White Lilies Island is a well-produced pop-rock album that balances well Imbruglia's mid-range vocals with an impressive array of instruments backing her up. Far from monolithic, the album has sweeping anthemic tracks ("Everything Goes") to near-acoustic songs ("Hurricane"). Much of it is fairly standard guitar and keyboard combinations, but there are catchy tunes.

Moreover, Imbruglia's vocals continue to give her some stretch. She does not remain in the safe territory between alto and soprano, going higher and lower on various tracks in a way that illustrates her willingness to take some musical risks. She is high and musical on "Goodbye" and goes lower for some real gravitas in "Everything Goes."

Anyone who likes strong female artists is likely to find something to enjoy on White Lilies Island.

The best track is "Hurricane," the low point is the unmemorable "Talk In Tongues."

For other works by impressive female solo artists, please visit my reviews of:
The Best Of Sophie B. Hawkins
Glowstars - Heather Nova
The Spirit Room - Michelle Branch


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

© 2013, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Getting More Out Of The Jell-O Chocolate Mousse Than We Were Supposed To!

The Good: Tastes great, Easy to prepare, Generates more than the directions say it ought to.
The Bad: Limited shelf life when made.
The Basics: Jell-O Chocolate Mousse is a pleasant surprise and a decent quality easy-to-prepare mousse!

When I began my blog, I discovered the simple joy of Jell-O Chocolate Fudge pudding (reviewed here!). I enjoyed it so much it is almost a surprise that it took me this long to get around to reviewing another Jell-O product. But when one of the local stores put the Jell-O Chocolate Mousse on clearance, I decided I had to try it. I love mousse and I had some real doubts that an instant mousse could turn out good at all. Fortunately, with the Jell-O Chocolate Mousse, I discovered how wrong I could be. Plus, as a little bonus to the reduced clearance price of the Chocolate Mousse, I was thrilled when I was able to get more out of it than the directions dictated I would (or should!).


Mousse is a pretty basic dessert, though I imagine finely-made one would require quite a bit more work than the instant mousse from Jell-O does! For those who have never had it, Mousse a dairy-based dessert which is whipped with milk into a thick, fluffy and usually surprisingly filling dessert that is like ice cream, save that it is not frozen and not quite as sweet. Jell-O brand Chocolate Mousse is a flavor that lives up to the promise of rich, thick, and almost dark chocolate.

Jell-O Chocolate Mousse comes in a powder, sealed in a bag, in a 3.2 oz. box. That is supposed to make four servings when prepared, but rather incredibly, we managed to get five out of it!

Ease of Preparation

Jell-O instant Chocolate Mousse is remarkably simple to make. The steps to making the Mousse from the solid to the full, thick dairy dessert are simple. Simply empty the powder from the box and bag into a bowl. Add one cup of cold milk (I used fat free milk because my wife and I are working to eat healthier and I was pleasantly surprised when it actually made a firm chocolate mousse!). Using an electric mixer, beat the mix for thirty seconds on low. Then crank the speed up to medium for a full four minutes. This results in a light, fluffy mix. Then, simply refrigerate and in an hour or two, you have thick, rich, delightful chocolate mousse. This is a surprisingly simple dessert to make up.


The Jell-O Chocolate Mousse smells perfectly like chocolate. In fact, it smells exactly like a Hershey’s milk chocolate bar! This has a rich chocolate aroma that is very inviting.

On the tongue, the Chocolate Mousse is exactly like one might hope or expect given the scent. The texture is light and fluffy, like a whipped cream. The taste, however, is exactly like chocolate chips. The flavor is distinctive and richly chocolate with a slight bitterness that insinuates both real chocolate and a darker chocolate than something like most chocolate chips or a Hershey’s bar. Instead, this tastes more like a high-quality chocolate bar, like Godiva, which is very gratifying!

This leaves a slight bitter and dry aftertaste in the mouth. The aftertaste endures for about five minutes.


Because it is dessert, Jell-O Chocolate instant Mousse is not intended to be overly healthy. Still, because it is a dairy product and made with real milk, it is not the worst dessert in the world on the nutrition front. Obviously, though, it is a dairy product so those who are lactose intolerant or have dairy allergies might want to have something else for dessert.

One box makes up five half-cup servings (it is only supposed to make four). In a serving (when prepared with skim milk), there are 120 calories, forty of which come from fat. That represents 7% of the RDA of fat and 2% of one's daily cholesterol. There is not a significant amount of protein in this dessert, though it represents the intake of 2% of a person's daily recommended sodium. The milk in a serving provides 8% of the RDA of calcium. There are negligible amounts of Iron and Vitamin A as well. As I said, this could be a lot worse as far as a dessert goes.


In its powdered form, the Jell-O Chocolate instant Mousse has a shelf life of only about a year. Once it is mixed with the milk, though, it ought to be eaten within forty-eight hours and be kept airtight to retain its flavor best.

Clean-up is easy as the ingredients wash off porcelain, metal and wood easily before the Mousse sets. After one consumes the Mousse, the leftovers can be washed off with hot water. Chocolate Mousse will stain as it is a dark brown color. If you get it on clothing, consult your fabric guide for cleaning instructions, though I'd bet getting the stain into cold water wouldn't hurt most of the time!


Jell-O Chocolate Mousse is a wonderfully flavorful instant dessert that is almost hard to believe is an inexpensive, instant dessert! It is well worth picking up and enjoying for date nights at home or just the surprise Wednesday!

For other chocolate treats I have reviewed, please check out:
Lindt Pistachio Nut Bar
Clif Builder's Chocolate Mint Protein Bar
Fiber One Chocolate Mocha Chewy Bar


For other food products, please check out my Food Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener Works Great!

The Good: Good grip, Easy to use, Inexpensive, Easy to clean
The Bad: Not the most durable grip
The Basics: The Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener is easy to use and clean, but has a breakable handle that can undermine its overall value.

After years of using my a very basic can opener, part of the gears broke off. When that happened, my wife and I found we were in the market for a new can opener. Can openers seem like they would be a pretty basic kitchen gadget, but as it turns out, there are a number of variables one has to consider when buying a can opener. The comfort of the grips is a big factor and based on the experience we had with our last can opener, I made sure that the cogs and gears at the head of the can opener were all metal, as opposed to plastic. That led me to the Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener.

The Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener is a 7 7/8” long by 2 1/4” wide and 2 1/8” thick. The black plastic and stainless steel looks good and efficient. The rounded grips are very comfortable and they make it very easy to squeeze and use the can opener without straining one’s gripping hand. The handle is somewhat squared, though because it is plastic, it does not cut into one’s hand when they are turning it. Most of the Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener is stainless steel and the plastic of the handle feels comparatively flimsy.

To use the Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener, simply open the top of the can opener by spreading the grips apart, and place the cutting wheel onto the top of the can one wishes to open. Squeeze the grips and the cutting wheel will penetrate the top of the can. While one hand squeezes the grips, the other should twist the handle. That will cut open the metal top. One of the nice things about the Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener is that the resulting open can does not have a jagged edge. The top is a little sharp, but that is to be expected of exceptionally thin metal.

The Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener also has an additional can/bottle opener – the hook style that one might use to remove the tops of beer bottles or puncture giant juice cans (like Juicy Juice). After two months of use, the Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener has stood up as durable and it has remained as tight as when we bought it, despite almost daily use. Because it is made with steel, this can opener is easy to clean off with a damp cloth.

While the handle of the Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener has shown no signs of wear, loosening, or just randomly cracking, it is the weak link of the can opener. Because it is a plastic piece covering a metal pin, the likelihood is that it will wear off or break there before anywhere else on the can opener. Even so, because this has not happened and it looks like it might take years before it does break at that juncture, it is exceptionally easy to recommend the Faberware 83036-93 Can Opener!

For other kitchen gadgets, please visit my reviews of:
Norpro 3660 Stainless Steel Cannoli Forms
Oneida 2 Piece Scale Set
Waechtersbach Fun Factory II 28-ounce Black Teapot


For other kitchen appliances, please visit my Appliance Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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