Thursday, December 31, 2015

December 2015 End Of The Month/End Of The Year Report!

| | |
December was a mixed month for the blog - between some awesome reviews of new television and movies and having power outages and yet another new cat (who shall join our little reviewing family right away in the new year), we posted very erratically this month! Ending the year with some big new movie reviews, Hallmark ornament reviews, food and the new episodes of The Flash, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Doctor Who that we reviewed, we finished early and took a few days off!

This month, we picked up four new followers through Twitter and one new subscriber (welcome!). 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 hoping to continue to grow our readership this year, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In December, the index pages were updated very regularly, which was great for our readers! The primary Index Page, which we try to update daily, lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. Thank you so much! Thanks so much to all of the shoppers who spent on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and throughout the holiday season and went through the blog to do so! As we enter the new year, if you have shopping to do online, please consider doing it through the blog to show your support for us!

At the end of December 2015, I have reviewed the following:
540 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
915 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2893 - 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!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
224 - 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
841 - 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
910 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
239 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
114 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
189 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
192 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
99 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
49 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of December is: Forever Evil By Geoff Johns!
Check it out!

The month of December had a lot of movement within the month and was dominated by reviews of new movies and television and a seasonal review that returned with surprising force! For December, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog
9. Doctor Who - Season Nine
8. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
7. ”Running To Stand Still” - The Flash
6. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
5. ”Legends Of Today” - The Flash
4. Jessica Jones - Season 1
3. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
2. "Closure" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
1. "Maveth" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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 - 318 reviews
9s - 471 reviews
8s - 909 reviews
7s - 1023 reviews
6s - 936 reviews
5s - 1200 reviews
4s - 881 reviews
3s - 690 reviews
2s - 326 reviews
1s - 219 reviews
0s - 103 reviews
No rating - 101 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but there were no new entries into the Top Ten. At the end of December 2015, the most popular reviews/articles continue to be:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

. . . which means that for all the growth of 2015, we had no new reviews break into our Top Ten Of All Time!

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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Star Wars Weekend! The 2015 Holiday Darth Vader Ornament Is FUN!

The Good: Good sculpt, Fun sound clips, Most of the coloring.
The Bad: Contrasts in detailing levels
The Basics: The 2015 Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster knows how to turn a phrase, which makes for an enjoyable novelty ornament!

As the weekend, quite predictably, explodes with enthusiasm for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (reviewed here!), I'm getting in the last of my holiday shopping and reviews done. For Hallmark, that means taking some time to whip off a few ornament reviews and, because I'm feeling the Force around my home, I figured I'd check out the Holiday Darth Vader, which is another Hallmark Peekbuster ornament. The ornament is a fun little concept ornament that uses turns of phrase from Darth Vader to chide those who pass in front of the ornament.

Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster is a late-release Star Wars Hallmark character ornament that features a motion sensor and a series of unique sound clips designed to startle and delight those who come near it and it has some fundamental differences from the Darth Vader Peekbuster ornament that was released a few years ago. Given the plethora of bounty hunters and other popular characters from the Star Wars franchise, it is weird that Hallmark went back to the Darth Vader well so soon, but the result is whimsical and fun, even if the purists might be irked by it.


The Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster ornament recreates the instantly recognizable Sith in solid plastic. The ornament, released in 2015, features Darth Vader with a Santa hat and a holiday sweater over his familiar black armor, standing on a little patch of snow. Unlike the earlier version of Darth Vader in peekbuster form, this Holiday Darth Vader does not have his lightsaber drawn. The Holiday Darth Vader ornament is just over 5" tall, 3" wide and 2" deep. Hallmark charged $19.95 for the ornament originally and it is still readily available at my local Hallmark stores.

The Hallmark Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster ornament is made of a durable plastic and has him with his hands at his waist, with his helmet looking slightly up. The ornament is molded with a decent amount of detailing, at least for the helmet, base, and sweater. The helmet is finely detailed with the air vents on the fronts of the helmet and the sweater - which features AT-ATs and other Imperial icons on it - similarly looks textured like an actual sweater. However, the Santa hat has poor detailing. The fringe lacks texture and the lines on it lack the flow of the rest of the ornament, like the cape and the base. So, it looks like Darth Vader (a practical version) with a poor CG-Santa hat stuck on it.

The coloring detail on Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster is similarly erratic. Holiday Darth Vader himself looks good, which is easy given that most of the finer details on Darth Vader are covered by the sweater. As a result, the black armor is easy to do right and Hallmark does it well. Similarly, the base looks amazing with the white textured and faint glitter. The Santa hat, though, looks bright and monotonal. It's weird, but given the depth and shading to the base, the hat seems incongruent. And yet, the sweater looks fine.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster has a sound chip but no light effect. When turned on, the Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster is a motion-activated ornament. When it senses movement in the field before it, the Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster speaks one of (at least!) five admonishments to the person making the movement. Holiday Darth Vader calls out about the lack of holiday decorations and turns of phrase with lines from A New Hope including lines about the holidays, decorations, and presents! The voice from the sound chip sounds just like James Earl Jones as Darth Vader, which is very cool!


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate Star Wars Christmas Tree, the Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster is very much a luxury which is likely to appeal only to the die-hard collectors or those who want to freak out their geeky children! This ornament has a steel hook loop embedded into the top center of the back of Holiday Darth Vader’s hat. From that hook, the Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster ornament hangs fairly level. The ornament sways when rocked, but otherwise is level and faces straight ahead well.


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 other popular franchises like Star Wars and The Wizard Of Oz. The Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster ornament is not as limited as many other Star Wars ornaments and has not appreciated in the secondary market yet, which makes sense because many Hallmark stores still have him on their shelves. At this point in the Star Wars ornament collections, fans are either sticking with what they know or accepting concept ornaments like the Peekbuster and LEGO Star Wars ornaments. I suspect that the novelty of this ornament will wear thin, especially considering that there already is a Darth Vader Peekbuster ornament.


Unlike most Star Wars ornaments, the Holiday Darth Vader Peekbuster has a lot to do with the Christmas holiday, but it is a novelty ornament. It is fun, for sure, but Star Wars fans have mixed reactions to "fun" as opposed to faithful representations of characters and things from their beloved film franchise. For me, though, the ornament is certainly cute enough to recommend.

For other 2015 Hallmark ornaments from the Star Wars franchise, please check out my reviews of:
There Is No Try Ornament
The Force Awakens Captain Phasma
Y-Wing Starfighter Ornament
The Force Awakens Kylo Ren
C-3PO & R2-D2
Limited Edition Admiral Ackbar


For other holiday ornaments, please check out my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Consequences Of The Classic: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Packs A Lot In (For Adults)!

The Good: Decent story, Excellent character moments, Some good moments of performance, Special effects
The Bad: Moments of direction, Busy
The Basics: Largely satisfying, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has more character punch for the new and beloved characters from the Star Wars universe!

As cinematic anticipation goes, it is hard to imagine a film with more pressure to perform than Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (reviewed here!). Telling the backstory of Anakin Skywalker was the promise of fleshing out a universe that had been defined by effect, rather than cause. Indeed, one of the most common oversights made by casual viewers of the first film in the Star Wars Trilogy is that the Senate is dissolved by the Emperor, ending the Old Republic. The original Trilogy is about effect and beginning the prequel Trilogy was the promise of cause. As much as I allowed myself to get excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the truth is that in many ways it had the potential to be merely a vanity exercise.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a chance to see old friends and see the effects of the familiar story on a galaxy far, far away. But with the fall of the second Death Star and the death of the Emperor who led to more than twenty years of tyranny in that galaxy is, in truth, a satisfying enough end for most fans. There was a tremendous amount of hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but the real risk in continuing the story of Star Wars following the events of Return Of The Jedi (reviewed here!) was that the story would not be strong enough to justify the continuation. After all, the nostalgia element of seeing how the beloved characters of the original Star Wars Trilogy aged and developed is not nearly enough to hold a full film, if they are not the focus of it.

Fortunately, Star Wars: The Force Awakens finds the right balance.

In fact, Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers something that George Lucas's original idea for a "space opera" lacked and that is a sense of impact, consequences and adult relationships between most of the characters. Prior to watching the film, I was speaking with friends who were with us about the color motifs in the original Star Wars Trilogy and I pointed out that Luke Skywalker wearing black throughout Return Of The Jedi was intended as a visual cue to viewers that during the final battle between Luke and Vader, the viewer is supposed to believe that Luke Skywalker could actually go over to the Dark Side and join the Emperor. I noted that the film had absolutely failed to portray Luke in a convincing way where that turn to the Dark Side seemed like a legitimate character development (indeed, the idea that the dramatic tension at the film's climax was supposed to suggest Luke could go to the Dark Side only became clear to me through one of the commentary tracks on one of the DVDs; and that was after decades of watching the movie!). The brilliance of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is that the film's dramatic tension is such that throughout the film there is the feeling that, truly, anything can happen.

Opening thirty years after the Battle Of Endor and the fall of the Empire, Luke Skywalker has gone into hiding and the First Order has risen in its place. The First Order is hunting Luke Skywalker to eradicate the last trace of the Jedi from the Galaxy and on the planet Jakku, they may well have found the means to find him. On the desert planet Jakku, Poe Dameron is given a map to find Skywalker and when the First Order descends upon the village he is at, he puts the map into the droid BB-8. The First Order is led by the aspiring Sith Kylo Ren, who takes Poe back to his star destroyer for interrogation. In slaughtering the inhabitants of the village, one of the Stormtroopers breaks his conditioning and realizes just how wrong the First Order is and he refuses to kill anyone there. While that Stormtrooper rescues Poe from the star destroyer and flees the First Order, on Jakku, a scavenger named Rey finds BB-8. When the freed stormtrooper, named Finn by Poe, crashes near Rey, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 flee Jakku in a piece of junk . . . the Millennium Falcon!

The Millennium Falcon is rescued in space by none other than Han Solo. Rey and Finn describe their predicament to Han Solo and Han Solo is not eager to get involved, until a deal he is in the middle of goes south. Han reveals that Kylo Ren is his son and that he was being trained by Luke Skywalker when he turned to the Dark Side and ruined Luke's attempt to rebuild the Jedi. When Han, Finn, Chewbacca, and Rey attempt to get BB-8 to the Resistance through Maz Kanata, the First Order arrives to capture them. They kidnap Rey. Han reluctantly returns BB-8 to the Resistance, which forces him to reunite with Leia, with whom he is estranged. Under the orders of the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren and General Hux activate a new planet-destroying weapon, which wipes out the last traces of the Republic. While Han Solo, Finn, and Chewbacca work to rescue Rey, the Resistance launches an assault on the Starkiller!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film that is packed with both the sense of consequence and the fearless idea that the familiar people from the previous story have aged and developed. Han Solo and Leia Organa had their relationship and it was torn apart by the loss of their son, which is a depth of realism that was noticeably lacking from their prior, flirtatious, relationship. Antagonism is a great way for characters to spark chemistry, but it is not exactly viable for a relationship and Star Wars: The Force Awakens allows Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to play their characters in a more weighty way.

They are balanced by Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), who are new characters who are given enough backstory to intrigue and enough character to compel without feeling overly expository. It is easy to make comparisons between Rey and Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Luke, Leia and Han in A New Hope, especially when easter eggs, like Finn picking up the target training droid from A New Hope while on the Millennium Falcon, keep popping up throughout the film. Boyega is entertaining as Finn and Ridley plays conflicted remarkably well for Rey. Throughout Star Wars: The Force Awakens, both characters oscillate between being analogous to Luke or Han, which keeps viewers guessing as to which one will actually be the character who awakens the Force within them!

Despite the title, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not nearly as much about the rebirth of the ancient religion as it is about the corruption of Kylo Ren and how the First Order has grown in power in the absence of Luke Skywalker. The viewer is completely missing the rebirth and second slaughter of the Jedi; Star Wars: The Force Awakens explores the consequences of that, not the actual events. There is no great confluence of the Force in Star Wars: The Force Awakens; there is just a new New Hope that gets access to the Force.

Director J.J. Abrams does a decent job with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, if for nothing else than not using too many lens flares. There are shots he does that are clear homages to A New Hope, Alien, and Star Trek and most of them are good. However, there are several shots that Abrams does not linger on long enough for the viewer to appreciate or he focuses too tightly on, so the scope or action is harder to discern than it ought to be. But, of course, Greg Gruenberg makes an appearance!

Ultimately, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is more adult, clever and character-driven than the prior Star Wars films, which is a treat for those who grew up on the Star Wars film and wants something weightier than a simple space opera.

For other works in the Star Wars franchise, please check out my reviews of:
Star Wars - Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
The Clone Wars
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Volume 1
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Volume 2
Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith
Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars - Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Caravan Of Courage - An Ewok Adventure


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Flavorful And Fun, Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky Is Still Expensive!

The Good: Taste good, Low calorie, Easy to eat!
The Bad: Expense, Very high in fat!
The Basics: Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky is a surprisingly delicious treat that lives up to the promise of its name!

Every now and then, I like to surprise my wife with something that I think that she will truly enjoy. She is on a low carb diet at this point, so finding good snacks for her has been a pain in my butt the last few months. However, when I saw the Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky at the store where I was buying a new litterbox for my cats, I knew it would be the right thing to pick up for both my wife and I. And it has been! Despite the expense of the Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky, it is a treat that satisfies enough for consumers to wish that there was more of it!

I found the 3 oz. pack locally for $5.99, which is pretty steep as far as I'm concerned. That said, it is a wonderful treat for those who are on a Keyto diet.


Wild Bill’s is a manufacturer of meat products like jerky. The intent of the Wild Bill’s beef jerky is for the meat snacks to be their own snack, not a component (in contrast to something like uncooked meat or pepperoni, which tend to be ingredients or garnish to other recipes).

Wild Bill’s’s Bacon Jerky is a processed meat product. The package I bought contained about forty pieces of bacon, both 1/4 strip (no more than two inches long and 3/4" wide), though most of them were broken up significantly smaller than that. That is, supposedly, three full servings. The bag also has a packet of silica in it, so it is highly recommended one not shotgun a package of this jerky!

Ease Of Preparation

Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky is a processed meat product, so basically, one opens bag and starts eating the pieces. This requires no refrigeration after opening, but between my wife, me, and the animals in the house begging for it, the Wild Bill's Bacon Jerky does not last long enough around here to ever raise the question of needing refrigeration!


Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky has a surprisingly mild aroma to it. In fact, I was surprised by how little scent the meat strips have. They forshadow a very weak jerky.

Fortunately, the Bacon Jerky is powerful enough on the flavor front to excuse the lack of aroma. Despite the lack of a strong scent, every bite, every piece of bacon dust, every full piece and every shard of Bacon Jerky tastes salty and fatty and exactly like cold bacon. It is wonderful and fully flavored as anyone who loves bacon will instantly recognize!


Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky is a poor choice for balanced nutrition. A serving size is considered one ounce, but unless one is walking around with a scale, that is very hard to regulate. In the recommended serving, there are only 110 calories, 70 of which are from fat. This snack has 13% of one's daily recommended saturated fat intake and a stifling 27% of the RDA of sodium. On the plus side, it also has eleven grams of protein.

This is not Gluten-free nor not marked as Kosher (duh, it's bacon!). This meat snack is made primarily of bacon cured with water, salt and sugar. That makes it mostly natural, but it does have a couple of preservatives that are not natural. The fact that sugar is so high on the ingredient list is unsurprising considering how addictive this meat treat is!


My package of Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky was supposed to remain soft and tender until the third of June, 2016, but it will be long gone before then!

Bacon Jerky is a meat product, but given how fatty bacon is, the bacon jerky is a little greasier than beef jerky. As a result, contact with light fabrics has the potential to stain.


Wild Bill’s Bacon Jerky is flavorful and delivers on its promise of being a very different meat jerky, but it is more expensive than its competitors!

For other meaty snacks reviews, please check out my takes on:
Hormel Turkey Pepperoni Stix
Oberto Cocktail Pep Smoked Sausage Sticks
Duke's House Of Meats Stubb's Spicy Bar-B-Q Beef Brisket Strips


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Early Indistinct: John Cougar Didn't Give John Mellencamp A Fair Shot!

The Good: One or two decent tracks
The Bad: Short, Repetitive, Instrumentally unremarkable, Frequently overproduced, Vocally unimaginative
The Basics: John Cougar is an early album misstep for John Mellencamp, which - predictably - failed to truly launch his career.

Every now and then when I make an artist with an extensive musical collection my Artist Of The Month, I find myself intrigued by trying to figure out how or why their career went the way it did. So, for example, John Mellencamp has been an accomplished singer-songwriter for just shy of forty years . . . how did it take him so long to break out and get heard by the population in general? After all, it is hard to argue that his first several albums did virtually nothing on the charts, yet somehow he managed to hang on to become a household name and become one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 1980s and then an impressive enough performer to keep a pretty vibrant career through most of the 1990s. After listening a lot to John Cougar, I finally have my answer as to why John Mellencamp wasn't instantly recognized as a musical genius or one who could truly sell records and dominate the charts.

John Cougar is a pretty terrible album. Fortunately, much of the blame can easily be steered away from John Mellencamp. Mellencamp writes relevant and interesting lyrics for many of the songs on John Cougar, but the album has erratic production and the instrumental accompaniment is all over the place, which results in an album that oscillates between being a mess and being forgettable. And when it is neither of those things, it is sadly repetitive.

With eleven tracks (on the 2005 re-issue), clocking out at 43:20, John Cougar is short, but pretty clearly the work of a young John Mellencamp. Mellencamp wrote ten of the eleven tracks and co-wrote "Pray For Me." Mellencamp provides all of the lead vocals on John Cougar, as well as playing primary guitars. Mellencamp is not credited with producing on John Cougar, which makes some sense given that he was a pretty young artist at the time.

Musically, John Cougar is all over the map. While most of the songs sound like incredibly average rock songs being played by a minimal garage band, the album opens with a pretty dippy pop-rock opening for "A Little Night Dancin'." There is a painfully incongruent keyboard (which sounds a lot like a sax, but there is none credited on the album) on "Do You Think That's Fair." Both "Miami" and "Sugar Marie" are overproduced. Even "I Need A Lover" has an extended musical intro that seems like either pointless grandstanding (though I bet it would be great live as a way to bring in the whole band and then erupt with Mellencamp) or vamping for time because, as much as I like the song, it does not have all that many lyrics/is very repetitive with the lines it does have. In fact, only the stripped down version of "Taxi Dancer" seems to get the balance of music and vocals perfectly right.

Vocally, John Cougar does not challenge John Mellencamp at all. The songs feature his occasionally raspy, usually clear voice. It works, save when his lines don't; there are a few moments where he tries to shove too many syllables into a verse and, because he sings so clearly, it is noticeable in a troubling way.

Lyrically, John Cougar is all over the map. Mellencamp writes musical storysongs for works like "Taxi Dancer" and "Welcome To Chinatown," but the latter is hardly one of his most coherent or compelling musical stories he has told. In addition to being painfully repetitive with the refrain, Mellencamp sings about "Well I ain't that choosy / I'll flip-flop with a floozy / If I figure there's no strings attached / But sometimes I loose my feet / Underneath the back seat / And I have to fly my heart at half mast" ("Welcome To Chinatown"), which lacks the usual thematic depth Mellencamp brings to his songs.

John Cougar is not lacking entirely in social commentary, though. On "The Great Midwest," Mellencamp does his usual job of poking through the veil to illustrate some sense of reality behind the ideology of America. With lines like "... they call this the Great Midwest / Where the cornfields row and flow / They're all 5 years ahead of their time / Or 25 behind, I just don't know / All the young men talk about their 4 wheel drives / And how much money they're gonna make on Friday night / And, they like to brag about how they mistreat their girlfriends / Hey, let's get drunk, party it up, start a fight" ("The Great Midwest"), Mellencamp does a decent job of exposing the reality of America.

Even so, John Cougar is fractured in that Mellencamp refuses to commit to being as smart as he actually is. When he sings "Well Shakespeare threw down his pencil, / Said I think I'm gonna start layin' brick / Too much of this Romeo stuff enough to make / Anybody sick / 'To be or not to be,' I mean what's that supposed to mean / I'm changin' my image tomorrow / Be a groupie, make the scene" ("Pray For Me"), it is hard not to be a bit disappointed by him playing ignorant, even in the form of a musical protagonist.

Ultimately, John Cougar is a comparatively underwhelming album that was an early misstep for John Mellencamp. For sure, he recovered from it fast, but listeners will understand why he wasn't a break-out artist from his first big studio album when they hear it! The best track is "Taxi Dancer," the low point is probably "Small Paradise."

For other works by John Mellencamp, please check out my reviews of:
Chestnut Street Incident
A Biograpghy
Nothin' Matters And What If It Did
American Fool
Words And Music: John Mellencamp's Greatest Hits


For a full list of the albums and singles I have reviewed, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Doing What It Needs To, The Petmate Hooded Litter Pan Works!

The Good: It fits both Elim and Timber, Easy to clean, Durable, Affordable
The Bad: Comparatively large footprint.
The Basics: Having two cats has necessitated a third litterbox and the Petmate Hooded Litter Pan is an excellent addition for our cats!

Not long ago, our newer rescue cat, Elim, began giving us unfortunate surprises around the house. He is a longhaired cat and in our first year of having him as a member of the family, we would occasionally find cat poop around the house. It was always in such small quantities that we easily assumed that Elim just had the occasional piece of poop stuck to his hair near his butt when he left the litterbox and tracked it out of the box. Recently, though, we were surprised (read "appalled") to find greater quantities of poop from Elim in weird places (halfway up a wall was arguably the most surprising and unfortunate). So, despite a year of generally good bathroom behavior, the sudden, new issue, led us to get a third litterbox (the general rule for cats is that one should have a litterbox for each cat plus one). Despite the lack of a lot of room in our apartment, we went with the Petmate Hooded Litter Pan for our new litterbox.

The Petmate Jumbo Hooded Litter Pan seemed like a good fit for us as we wanted a litterbox that would afford our cats some privacy and would leave less of a mess. As a hooded litterbox, the Petmate Hooded Litter Pan works to prevent cats from flinging litter out of the box. As well, the top on the litterbox prevents Elim from leaping on Timber when he is in the litterbox, which is a good thing given how Elim does not have much in the way of boundaries for play.

The Petmate Hooded Litter Pan is an 18” wide, 22” long, 19” tall litterbox, when the hood is on it. There is a vent on the top of the hood and a simple mesh filter that slips into the vent. This prevents litterdust from coming out the bulk of the litterbox when cats try to bury their waste. There is also a handle on the top of the hood of the Petmate Jumbo Hooded Litter Pan, which allows the user to easily transport the litterbox from one room to another. This is a good thing because part of the appeal of the hooded litterbox is that it will allow less litter to escape, so it encourages people to use the litterbox in rooms other than the bathroom.

Because of the rather large footprint of the Jumbo Hooded Litter Pan, we use ours in one of the rooms that is carpeted and it has worked perfectly to keep litter (and cats using the box) contained! Unfortunately, because of the ridiculously large size of this litterbox, we must use it in a room other than the bathroom - there is just not enough floor space in our bathroom for us to place the litterbox and sit on the toilet!

The hood for the Petmate Jumbo Hooded Litter Pan is easy enough to use; there are grooves on the sides of the litterbox that the top of the hood slides into. Then, simply push the sides of the top into the tab on the bottom and the hood locks on. After a few weeks of use, the top remains strong enough to carry the litterbox using the handle from one room to another, even when it is full of litter. I'm wary of it regardless, because if the top does come off, the litterbox detaching will make quite a mess. That said, the only way we've been able to get the top off so far is pressing the release buttons on either side of the base to release the top.

This is a very easy-to-use litterbox and after weeks of use, the litter pan portion seems to remain unscratched. The cats have been burying their waste pretty consistently, but the pan appears to be durable enough to resist their scratching, which is pretty great.

As well, the Petmate Jumbo Hooded Litter Pan is very easy to clean; our scoopable litter does not stick to the sides or bottom excessively. This is a good litterbox for multiple cats, even if it does take up quite a bit of space.

For other cat care products, please visit my reviews of:
Sport Pet Designs Pop Open Kitty Play Cube
Hartz Angry Birds Running Bird Cat Toy
Cat litter scoop


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Agonizing In Between Great Lines, Why Stop Now? Just Doesn't Nail It.

The Good: Decent performances, Some good lines
The Bad: Oppressive mood, Predictable character moments, Direction
The Basics: Failing to straddle the line between comedy and drama effectively, Why Stop Now? is more unpleasant to watch than it is entertaining.

I am a fan, in general, of the recent trend in movies and television that blurs the lines between drama and comedy. The rise of the dramedy - dramas with some truly hilarious lines or comedies with some punchy characters or hard-hitting lines - hit the mainstream with the widespread success of The West Wing (reviewed here!) and nothing proves how hard it is to find the right balance between humor and drama like a work that does not do it well. Why Stop Now? certainly falls into that category.

Why Stop Now? is too awkward and painful to watch throughout the bulk of the film to actually appreciate the hilarious outbursts and funny lines when they do come up. The film is hampered by characters who are (once again) supposed to be smart people, but overlook the most obvious, simple, and intelligent solutions to their problems. After alienating the audience thoroughly, the film transitions into an occasionally hilarious, sometimes heartwarming, but still painfully awkward movie that the viewer has to fight to sit through.

Opening with Eli Bloom arriving, almost late, to a piano audition, the film flashes back to the night before. At a local college party, Eli gets so drunk that when he tries to play the piano, he throws up next to it, in front of the young woman he has had a crush on for years, Chloe. Eli then returns home to his mother. This is the day he is putting her in rehab and after dropping his younger sister off at school, they head to C.A.M.P. to enroll Penny. Penny, however, has a problem; she's not high when she gets to rehab and she does not have insurance. So, she is told to come back with dirty urine and under those circumstances, a bed can be made available to her.

In the quest to get his mother drugs, Eli visits her dealer, Sprinkles. Sprinkles is trying to restock his drug business, but his usual translator is no longer with him. Eli steps in as a translator to help negotiate the deal for the drugs that will get his mother into rehab. However, in negotiating for the drugs, he is shoved and cuts his hand badly, which jeopardizes his one chance to get away from his addict mother and get into the music conservatory of his dreams.

Why Stop Now? is seriously hampered by a fundamental problem that none of the characters seem smart enough to figure out. When Penny is told she needs to fail a urine test to get into rehab, Eli becomes obsessed with getting drugs in her system. Penny does not need drugs in her system; she just needs the urine of any drug user she can find. Or to bribe the admitting clerk to mark that she did fail her drug test. Here the direction of the film works vastly against the plot; we are shown Penny taking her drug test and it would have been absolutely simple for her to smuggle in a dirty urine sample. That this solution occurs to none of the characters is one of the earliest, gut-wrenchingly irksome decisions one of the people on screen makes that pulls the viewer out of the film.

The obscure film is headlined by Jesse Eisenberg and Melissa Leo, both of whom are often far more impressive in their performances than in Why Stop Now?. Eisenberg feels like he is playing his version of Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network (reviewed here!) without a similar level of diction and while sleepwalking through the part. Melissa Leo is convincing as Penny, which I did not fully realize until I started writing this sentence. Yeah, she's good; she's convincing and she sells the wacky, wacked-out role with her whole body, voice and performance. Perhaps the best contrast to her performance is that of Sarah Ramos as Chloe; Ramos is given an understated part and she seems like she tries to get by by delivering her lines and smiling (as opposed to actually embodying a character). To Ramos's defense, it does not seem like Chloe was given a truly substantive role in the film Why Stop Now?.

What makes Why Stop Now? at all watchable (when it is) is the patter between Sprinkles and Black. Tracy Morgan and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. have absolutely amazing comic timing between them with Whitlock nailing many of the best deliveries with his stern, focused, presentation. Morgan is not playing a ridiculous parody of himself and Whitlock is given the space to both deliver great lines and play off Morgan without simple being a comedic straightman. The result is a few moments of true comedic gold.

It is, however, not enough to justifying sitting through Why Stop Now?. The film is just too inconsistent and dark to be enlightening, entertaining, or evoke empathy.

For other works with Stephanie March, please visit my reviews of:
The Invention Of Lying
Mr. And Mrs. Smith


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Entertaining, But Not Enlightening: She-Hulk: Law And Disorder!

The Good: A fast read, Funny, Engaging characters
The Bad: Simplistic, Poor artwork for a big chunk of the book!
The Basics: She-Hulk: Law And Disorder is a fun comic book anthology, but it lacks the weight of genuine significance or complicated characters.

Both Marvel Comics and DC Comics have undergone reboots in the last few years, which has altered continuity of some of their major franchises. As a reader and reviewer, that has left me a bit wary of continuing with many of the beloved characters I've enjoyed from Marvel and DC. Still, with the latest Marvel Now! She-Hulk books suddenly coming my way, I figured it was worth it to check in on one of the Marvel characters I had devoted a year to. Ironically, with picking up and reading She-Hulk: Law And Disorder, I was treated to the Marvel Now! versions of two of my prior characters: She-Hulk and Daredevil!

Despite the reboots, She-Hulk: Law And Disorder depicts She-Hulk as remarkably unchanged by things like M-Day, changes to the Fantastic Four, and whatever other major events have recently befallen the Marvel Comic Book Universe continuity. She-Hulk tends to be a title that blends fun and humor with engaging stories, most of which blend super heroes and legal matters and She-Hulk: Law And Disorder maintains that trend.

Jennifer Walters has been working for the law firm of Paine & Luckberg for a year when she is called in for her annual evaluation. Expecting a big bonus based on her billable hours, she is shocked when she is hit with bad news of how the partners believe she is underperforming (based on her not bringing any business in from her super hero billionaire friends). Seeing her future at the firm limited, she quits, goes out to a lawyer bar and runs into a woman who has been hitting up every lawyer in the place, trying to get justice for her dead husband. Walters takes the case when she sees it is against Tony Stark and she thinks with a single conversation she can resolve the matter. Unfortunately for her, she is mired in a conflict with Stark's "Legal" (the representative of Stark's empire who is essentially a slimy lawyer who acts as a gatekeeper for Stark). When Jennifer gets evidence that Stark's people did steal her client's repulsor technology, she cuts a deal with Tony Stark and the resulting payment from her client allows her to open up shop in an undesireable part of Brooklyn that she can afford.

After hiring Angie, a strange woman with a monkey who seems to have the abilities of a Pusher, Jennifer goes out for a drink and runs into Patsy Walker (Hellcat), who is having a pretty bad go of things. Patsy gets drunk and she and Walters go out an knock over a little A.I.M. lab before Walters hires Patsy to be her private investigator for the firm. Soon, they have a case when Kristoff Vernard arrives and wants to defect from Latveria, where his father (Victor Von Doom) is forcing him to become the country's absolute ruler. Walters protects her client long enough to get him to a hearing, but then discovers that protecting him from Doctor Doom is a bigger task than just a legal matter. After that, Walters begins looking into the sole file she took with her from Paine & Luckberg; the blue file, which is a lawsuit in which she is named. When Walters, Angie, and Walker start looking into the content of the case, they uncover a bizarre mind-control trigger that leaves Walters questioning what has happened to her in the past and what has been removed from her memory!

Jennifer Walters remains a consistent character, regardless of the apparent reboot of other big events in the Marvel Comic Book Universe. She is a smart lawyer and her creativity with the law is shown a little bit in Law And Disorder. Beyond that, she is wry and delightfully sarcastic. Writer Charles Soule plays that well with Walters and makes her well-rounded between her professional and super-hero lives.

Soule also deserves a lot of credit for writing Angie so effectively. Without explicitly stating it in Law And Disorder, there is something seriously off about Angie. People do what she tells them to and the "pusher" aspect to her sets up an interesting potential for subsequent volumes. And the relationship between Angie and Hei Hei - her monkey - is just weird . . . in a good way.

The art in Law And Disorder is fine for a few of the chapters, but then degenerates quickly. The last two issues that are part of the anthology are absolute shit for lines and perspective. They look like one of my drawings and I once had a traveling art exhibition called "An Argument For A Novelist To Stick To Writing!" Even the quality of the coloring takes a dive in the latter part of the book, which is a severe disappointment, given how bold the colors are at the book's outset.

Ultimately, Law And Disorder is entertaining, but does not have an enduring quality to it. While Kristoff's section clearly makes a statement that even being forced to rule a country is inhibiting freedom, it is not the most powerful example of a human rights violation. The result is a volume that is entertaining at best.

For other She-Hulk books, please visit my reviews of:
The Sensational She-Hulk
Single Green Female
The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk
Superhuman Law
Time Trials
Laws Of Attraction
She-Hulk: Planet Without A Hulk
Fall Of The Hulks: The Savage She-Hulks
Red She-Hulk, Volume 2: Route 616
Marvel Her-oes


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

What Is So Bad About Doctor Who Season 9.

The Good: The performances of Peter Capaldi, One or two moments of character
The Bad: Dull plots, Lackluster performances, Ridiculous character directions, Preponderance of gimmicks, Agonizing "resolution," Absurd conceits
The Basics: Doctor Who takes a dive, but Peter Capaldi gives it the old college try when the ninth season wanders into a pointless point.

When Peter Capaldi was announced as the next incarnation of The Doctor on Doctor Who, I was incredibly excited. After all, Capaldi is an incredible actor and my thought was that even if Doctor Who's executive producer and chief writer, Steven Moffat, kept churning out wishy-washy crap (i.e. the Impossible Girl conceit, Sudden random prophecies concerning The Doctor, etc.), Capaldi would find a way to make it work. After Capaldi's decidedly erratic debut season (reviewed here!), Capaldi managed to prove me both wrong and right with the ninth season (series, for the Brits) of Doctor Who.

Peter Capaldi's performances are about all that works in the ninth season of Doctor Who.

But, alas, even Capaldi's acting abilities prove unable to turn shit into gold in the current season of Doctor Who.

The ninth season of Doctor Who suffers from the exact same problem as the forthcoming Star Trek television spin-off (bear with me a moment!). The next television series in the Star Trek franchise was announced with much fanfare just a few months ago and the information about it was stark, simple, and direct: There will be a new Star Trek series premiering in 2017 and it will be made available exclusively through the CBS pay-to-stream service. What is the new Star Trek series? We don't know, but we know how we plan to make money off it. We have no ideas for what the show will be about, but we're ready to make it the flagship of our new service (Paramount absolutely failed with that approach when it launched UPN with Star Trek: Voyager). To bring it back to the ninth season of Doctor Who: when the ninth season of Doctor Who was announced, all the buzz about it was that the season would be made up of two-part episodes. We have a structure, but not a genuine story idea or character arc. This is what they described brilliantly on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (reviewed here!) as the continuation of the one-sheet world ("I think we'll do the Green Lantern [as a movie] - I can see the one-sheet now. Don't worry that we don't have a story . . ."). The ninth season of Doctor Who is all about gimmicks and structure, style trumps substance and the executive producer and the BBC hope the audience has become too stupid to notice.

Sadly, for Doctor Who, we have not.

The ninth season of Doctor Who is one, long, jerking back and forth and all around about Clara Oswald dying. Rewatching the season, which follows on a season where it was widely advertised that Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) would be leaving the show, it becomes very clear that while Coleman was enticed to remain with Doctor Who, Moffat did not know what he wanted to do with her . . . so, he constantly teased viewers with the idea that she could die at any moment. In one two-parter, she is stuck in a Dalek and there's the possibility the Doctor himself will kill her, in another The Doctor abandons Clara in an isolated base filled with what appear to be ghosts that could easily kill her. Clara is captured by The Mire, then the Zygons replace her, and then she appears to be infected with something that might well turn her into hardened eye mucus (if that whole adventure even actually happened!).

The entire season is not about exploration or character development, it is structured around the "will they or won't they" of killing Clara.

And then they don't even have the balls to make it stick.

The problem, from the very beginning, is that Steven Moffat created a character who is, technically, impossible to kill. The whole idea of the Impossible Girl is that one incarnation of Clara Oswald traveled up and down The Doctor's timeline, constantly rescuing each and every incarnation of The Doctor from being exterminated by The Great Intelligence. It is why alternate versions of Clara appear to Matt Smith's version of The Doctor before Clara Oswald does. To carry the conceit to the only logical conclusion, it does not matter if Clara Oswald is The Doctor's Companion or not; present and future versions of The Doctor will encounter versions of Clara Oswald who will save his life or alternate versions of Clara Oswald will continue, behind the scenes to save the life of The Doctor and his Companions. In short, it doesn't matter if the Clara Oswald from "The Bells Of Saint John" and beyond lives or dies; we've already seen two others die and she keeps popping up, thanks to the events of "The Name Of The Doctor."

So, by the time Clara Oswald's arc is resolved in the ninth season of Doctor Who (and it's anything but resolved), it's virtually impossible to care.

And, if it seems odd to review the ninth season of Doctor Who with so much focus on Clara, such is one of the fundamental issues with the season. The ninth season of Doctor Who is mired in The Doctor being completely overshadowed. Missy returns to steal the spotlight, Maisie Williams plays a character and Game Of Thrones fans cream themselves watching the show each of the four times she pops up, Clara is menaced, A gimmick is thrown in, and serious fans roll their eyes because the consequences of "Listen" (reviewed here!) become more and more impossible to generate [and yes, I read the comments people send in. In "Listen" Orson Pink references "someone in the family" as a time traveler, but Danny Pink never time traveled, Clara was not, apparently, pregnant with his child, and Danny Pink was an orphan without any in-episode siblings, so "Listen" is one dangling loose end or just another by-product of shitty writing and poor overall narrative construction!]. And the longer the season goes on, the more viewers wonder "what the hell ever happened to The Doctor wanting to find exactly where Gallifrey ended up after the events of 'The Day Of The Doctor'?" And when that question is answered, it is just one of the many anticlimaxes in a season that is devoid of cleverness, substantive character development, and constructive continuity.

The ninth season of Doctor Who shows just how bad the show can be when it is built around a marketing gimmick; may the executive producers of the forthcoming Star Trek spin-off take heed!

For more information on the content of this season, please check out my reviews of the episodes contained in it at:
"The Magician's Apprentice"
"The Witch's Familiar"
"Under The Lake"
"Before The Flood"
"The Girl Who Died"
"The Woman Who Lived"
"The Zygon Invasion"
"The Zygon Inversion"
"Sleep No More"
"Face The Raven"
"Heaven Sent"
"Hell Bent"
"The Husbands Of River Song"


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sure, It's An Advertisement, But . . . The 2015 Holiday Shopping Barbie Ornament Delivers!

The Good: Perfect balance, Good sculpt, Affordable
The Bad: Coloring - problematic color contrast
The Basics: The 2015 Hallmark Shopping Barbie Hallmark ornament is a neat tribute to Hallmark and Barbie's return to it!

2015 marks the return of the Barbie franchise to Hallmark Keepsake stores and many of the shops banked big on Barbie. My local Hallmark shop featured personnel who dressed up in outfits that mirrored the new Barbie ornaments for each of the three big ornament-centered Hallmark release events this year! Perhaps the most self-serving on the new Barbie ornaments is the Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament.

The Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament is, as the name suggests, an ornament of a Barbie doll - this time, a redhead! - dressed in a pink skirt and coat, holding a distinctive purple Hallmark shopping bag! This is a Barbie ornament intended to be Barbie after her day of shopping at Hallmark stores!


The 2015 Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament is an entirely unique ornament, featuring an incarnation of Barbie that is not indicative of any of the Barbie dolls sold as full-sized dolls. Instead, this is a not-so-subtle advertisement of Hallmark and Hallmark ornaments. The ornament was released with an original issue price of $17.95, which is on par with other ornaments in the Barbie line. The 2015 Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament is 4 1/2" tall by 1 1/2" wide by 1" deep and she is made entirely of hard plastic.

The 2015 Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament has pink tweed-like coat, pink skirt and pink high heels. The heels are notable for the realism of their sculpt. Similarly, the Hallmark bag in her hand is distinctive and iconic. This Barbie's hair is short and she had very large eyes. The sculpt is fairly simple; she does not have sculpted-on fingernails and the finest detail (outside the heels) might well be the buttons on Barbie's jacket.

The coloring of the Hallmark Shopping Barbie might well be its only serious detraction. While the purple bag is great contrast, the rest of the ornament has unfortunately muted and similar colors. The skin, hair and peach colored dress do not offer a distinctive enough contrast on the actual ornament to make it truly pop. Instead, the ornament bleeds into the background on a tree and the bag stands out. This has the unfortunate effect of not so much celebrating Barbie's return to Hallmark as making one's Christmas tree into a Hallmark advertisement.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament could have a function like a sound chip or light effect, but it does not. This is just the ornament, simple and direct. The bag may not be removed and the doll ornament does not feature articulation.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake 2015 Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament is that the ornaments will be hung on a Christmas Tree. For those creating the ultimate Barbie Christmas Tree, the Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornaments is a cute addition and one that Hallmark fans are likely to truly geek out for more than just Barbie fans. The Hallmark Shopping Barbie has a brass hook loop at the top, center, of her head and from there she hangs with perfect balance.


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 The Hunger Games. The Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament was released at the November Ornament Celebration Weekend and it has sold out at about half of the Hallmark stores I've been to. Given the enthusiasm I've witnessed at this year's ornament events for the new Barbie ornaments, it would not surprise me that it would sell out this year and appreciate in value in the future!


The 2015 Hallmark Shopping Barbie ornament might lack the contast in person that made the ornament pop in the promotional materials from Hallmark, but the ornament is still a worthy addition to the Hallmark line of Barbie ornaments. It is worth picking up.

For other Barbie ornament reviews, please check out:
2015 Holiday Celebration Barbie (Black)
2015 Holiday Celebration Barbie (Caucasian)
2015 Hallmark Shopping Barbie Set (2013/2014 Hallmark Shopping Barbie)
2012 Barbie Provencale
2012 Brava, Ballerina! Barbie
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
1995 Barbie Debut (Brunette) - Club Exclusive
1994 Barbie Debut ornament


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

Garlic, But Not So Much Cheese, Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread Potato Chips Slump Slightly!

The Good: Inexpensive, Some flavorful chips, Distinctive aroma
The Bad: Unfortunately inconsistent flavor, Not overly healthy
The Basics: Another unfortunately underwhelming potato chip, Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips are hit or miss by the chip!

I admire the creativity of Frito-Lay. The company continues to innovate and some of their new flavors that they have gone to consumers to vote upon have been great ideas. Unfortunately, some of the flavors that have been popular and have won their "Vote To Save" contests have ended up underwhelming when they get to the mass production stage. That seems to be what happened with the Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips.

Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s potato chips were exciting and I remember being thrilled by them when they were part of the 2013 contest. But, when I sat down today to review a new bag of the Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips, I found myself . . . underwhelmed. The flavor did not seem nearly as bold as they originally did and I found more chips that tasted simply oily, as opposed to flavorful.


Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s, are a potato chip made from one of the world’s dominant salty snack producers, Frito-Lay. The Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s chips feature an occasional dusting of moderately-flavored salt on most of the potato chips. This could have been a great flavor if the chips were more uniformly flavored.

Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s come in a 7.75 oz. bag and are only now part of the permanant chip line. At a regular price in the $3.29 range, they are pretty much the standard price for these types of snacks.

Ease Of Preparation

Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread are simple to consume; all you need do it open the bag and remove the potato chips from it! There is no trick to eating Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s; they are a snack that is ready to go from the bag to the mouth. However, this flavor seems to hinge on eating them by the handful, as opposed to chip by chip in order to get the most out of the flavor.


Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s potato chips smell strongly of garlic. The scent is powerfully of garlic, without any hint of cheese. The aroma hints at a spiced, garlicy chip.

On the tongue, the Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s potato chips are salty, buttery and dominated by the flavor of potato. Every once in a while, there is a chip that tastes salty, garlicy and possessing a hint of cheddar or mozarella. The cheese, garlic, and butter flavor tastes exactly like cheese-covered garlic bread, like they are supposed to. Unfortunately, the full flavor is only present on about one in every ten chips.

The Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s have a greasy aftertaste, without any hint of other, deeper flavors to it. Even the aftertaste does not last all that long.


Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s are a fairly natural snack, with, surprisingly, none of the ingredients being unrecognizable! The primary ingredients are potatoes, vegetable oil, and Cheesy Garlic Bread seasoning. This has a shelf life of only a few months, so it is not the ideal salty snack to stock up on.

Each 1 oz., 17 chip, serving of Lay’s Cheesy Garlic Bread has 160 calories, ninety of which come from fat. There is a single gram of dietary fiber. While there are only 10 grams of fat and 2 grams of protein, the Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s potato chips have only 135 mg of sodium, which represents 6% of one's RDA of sodium, which is less than many potato chips. There is a smattering of Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron and Vitamin C, but no other vitamins or minerals. This is not a health snack. There is a dietary note that the Cheesy Garlic Bread includes milk ingredients, which prevents them from being Vegan compliant, at the very least.


Kept in their bag, Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s will remain fresh for only a few months – the bag I bought just over a week ago had an expiration date of December 15 – so this is not an ideal flavor to stock up on. Once the bag is opened, it must be resealed, lest they get stale. I've not had to deal with issues of freshness for my Lay’s potato chips because usually once they are opened, I consume them fairly fast!

Cleanup is simple as well. Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s are a dry food, but because they are salty, greasy, and easily broken, they will require one to wash their hands afterward and should be wiped up to clean up.


Cheesy Garlic Bread Lay’s are occasionally amazing, but more often than not fail to live up to their promised flavor.

For other Frito-Lay snacks, check out my reviews of:
Lays Chicken & Waffle Potato Chips
Ruffles Max Loaded Bacon And Cheddar Potato Skins potato chips
Tostitos Hint Of Lime chips


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |