Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 End Of The Month Report!

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February was a surprisingly good month for what is traditionally a low point for the year! Between reviewing Best Picture nominees, some new music from Heather Nova and new episodes of The Flash and Agent Carter, February turned out pretty well for the blog!

This month, we picked up several new followers through Twitter, and one new subscribers. 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 February, 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 early in this New Year and went through the blog to do so! With February being the shortest month, we took quite the hit this month; please consider shopping through the blog in March to support our writing.

At the end of February 2015, I have reviewed the following:
525 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
893 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2739 - 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!)!
215 - 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
794 - 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
860 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
226 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
112 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
178 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
187 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
96 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
41 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of February is an article: The 10 Best Movies Of 2014!
Check it out!

The month of February had a lot of movement within the month and was dominated by older reviews and new reviews of Agent Carter episodes! For February, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. ”Valediction” - Agent Carter
9. ”The Iron Ceiling” - Agent Carter
8. ”A Sin To Err” - Agent Carter
7. House Of Cards - Season 3
6. ”SNAFU” - Agent Carter
5. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
4. The Seventh Son
3. Bound
2. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
1. Expelled

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 - 309 reviews
9s - 443 reviews
8s - 866 reviews
7s - 963 reviews
6s - 887 reviews
5s - 1137 reviews
4s - 846 reviews
3s - 670 reviews
2s - 309 reviews
1s - 206 reviews
0s - 96 reviews
No rating - 84 articles/postings

While there was a decent amount of movement this month, the all time Top Ten remains unchanged. At the end of February 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

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.
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R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Holds Up Surprisingly Well!

The Good: Engaging plot, Decent direction, Interesting characters
The Bad: Obviously dated and derivative, Somewhat overbearing soundtrack elements
The Basics: Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is appropriately creepy and holds up surprisingly well, despite being a fairly formulaic science fiction horror film!

Like so much of the world, yesterday, I was saddened to learn of the death of Leonard Nimoy. I was saddened, but not surprised that Nimoy died given his health problems. Leonard Nimoy was a childhood hero of mine for his portrayal of Spock in Star Trek (reviewed here!) and the first (of several) times that I met him, it was such a big deal for me that I wrote a short story about it. Given my appreciation of the works of Leonard Nimoy (and liking how very cool he was in real life!), there were remarkably few works of his for me to watch and review in order to pay tribute to him. But, today I discovered that he was in the 1978 remake of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

I remember seeing the original 1950s version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers back when I was a kid (my father started getting out all manner of classic science fiction films from the local library when the family got a VCR and the 1956 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers was one of them!). The 1978 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers has a virtually identical plot, but is updated with characters and a sense of style, location, and period that is VERY 1970s. This version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers might not be the most original conceptual work, but it still has a high creep-out factor and has a cast that is suitably impressive. In addition to one of the most unsettling and obscure cameos by Robert Duvall, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers features Leonard Nimoy, Donald Sutherland, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and a time-travelling Sir Ian McKellen (at the party scene where Kibner is introduced, a post-X-Men Sir Ian McKellen can be clearly seen wearing at hat similar to the one he wore in X-Men).

San Francisco has experienced an influx of extraterrestrial pollen, which has begun developing on plants throughout the city into colorful red flowers. The Department of Health inspector, Matthew Bennell, is methodical and precise (and fairly dispassionate) and is going around the city doing his usual work inspecting local restaurants when his friend and co-worker, Elizabeth Driscoll, comes to him very concerned about her husband. Elizabeth insists that Geoffrey is not actually her husband and Bennell fears that she is simply paranoid. Driscoll follows her husband around town one day and sees him meeting with a wide variety of people who have no apparent connection to him, passing packages between them. The two, along with Jack Bellicec, meet with Bennell’s friend, prominent psychologist Dr. Kibner, who insists Driscoll is overreacting.

But soon, it becomes apparent to the logical Bennell that there is, in fact, something going on. Bellicec and his wife, Nancy, find a strange body at the baths at which she works. Bennell witnesses a similar mysterious, under-developed body at Driscoll’s home and realizes that these things are growing into people. Believing that people are being duplicated and replaced, Bennell and his friends try to alert the proper authorities, but those around them seem to be universally affected by the strange plants. With the bulk of the city succumbing to alien vegetable replication, Bennell and his friends race to escape the city and the parasites!

In addition to seeing Leonard Nimoy as the creepy, 1970’s self-help dialogue-spewing Dr. Kebner, there was a high degree of excitement for me in seeing Donald Sutherland in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Sutherland has virtually the same role in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers as he had in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters (reviewed here!), which I grew up on! Despite the dated qualities, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is very successful at what it sets out to do.

First, the characters tend to react like very real people. Bennell wants to help Driscoll, so he takes her to a psychiatrist friend of his. Dr. Kebner is instantly skeptical of Driscoll’s claims that people aren’t who they say they are. The scientists in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers do not instantly have all the answers, but people like Driscoll and Bennell approach the problem with a scientific and methodical methodology. That makes all the characters, despite the fantastic circumstances, pop with a sense of realism that most contemporary films lack.

On the acting front, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is good. Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy and Art Hindle are all wonderful. Veronica Cartwright does a decent job of playing Nancy, though there is little differentiation between her character in this and in Alien (reviewed here!). Jeff Goldblum, who appears in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers as Jack, clearly grew into looking good (he’s scrawny in this).

Even the pod people in Invasion Of The Body Snatchers have some development and philosophy, which makes them better-than-average invader adversaries. It is worth noting that this version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers is a pre-PG-13 PG. In other words, it has some more graphic elements that parents might not want their children exposed to (most notably a skull being beaten in like a pumpkin).

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers might be a remake, but it is creepy and well-executed and it is easy to see why someone like Leonard Nimoy would take a role in it!

For other tributes, please check out my reviews of:
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Bob Hoskins)
The Fisher King (Robin Williams)
A Late Quartet (Philip Seymour Hoffman)


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.
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Wonderlust Redux: Live In Eindhoven 2011 Is An Energetic Live Heather Nova Recording!

The Good: Wonderful primary and backing vocals! Great lyrics, Duration
The Bad: Live conceits (crowd noises), Mix is getting a bit old . . .
The Basics: An album given by Heather Nova to her PledgeMusic supporters, Live In Eindhoven 2011 is a worthy addition to her musical library! is rapidly becoming one of my favorite sites (this morning, for example, I discovered that Dar Williams is on there now crowdsourcing her new album!) and the artist who introduced me to the site was Heather Nova. As a supporter of her forthcoming album, The Way It Feels, I was alternately dismayed and elated when she announced that the new album was delayed and then gave her donors a “new” album. The “new” album is Live In Eindhoven 2011 and while Nova claims it would be available on her website, but if it was, I could not find it there!

Live In Eindhoven 2011 most directly follows in the tradition of Nova’s live album Wonderlust (reviewed here!) as an energetic concert experience. The twenty-track album has recordings from, as the name suggests, Nova’s concert in Eidenhoven (The Netherlands) in 2011. Nova was backed by several musicians, so the album has a more full sound than her Live In Cologne 2/26/2014 (reviewed here!), which was available for her fans by buying direct on PledgeMusic.

With almost two hours of music over twenty tracks, Heather Nova presents a decent concert experience for listeners who could not be present for the event. Live In Eindhoven 2011 is a mix of songs from most of her albums and it is not an acoustic set. Instead, Nova plays with rich bass and electric guitars on Live In Eindhoven 2011. Were it not for the difference in sound for the musical and vocal accompaniment, Live In Eindhoven 2011 could have been a dud; half the tracks are the same songs as on Live In Cologne 2/26/2014 and that is troubling for an artist with such an immense body of work!

Live In Eindhoven 2011 makes a good companion piece to Wonderlust, as only five of the tracks are duplicated. “London Rain” is delightfully different on Live In Eindhoven 2011 than on any other recording of hers! Unfortunately, there is only so much she can and does do with “Island” and (as much as I love it . . .) “Heart And Shoulder.” Still, the inclusion of so much music that is from well after Siren makes Live In Eindhoven 2011 a good mix of songs that are different from Wonderlust.

The power of Live In Eindhoven 2011 comes from Heather Nova’s lyrics and voice. On Live In Eindhoven 2011, Nova is backed by Sara Johnson and she is an amazing accompaniment for Nova. Songs like “Until The Race Is Run” and “Fool For You” pop in new and delightful ways with Johnson backing Nova. In fact, the real power of any live album is managing to present a familiar song in a new and compelling way. While hearing “Ride” on Live In Eindhoven 2011 reminded me of the first time I heard that song (and cried!), the most amazing thing came while hearing the new version of “Fool For You.”

“Fool For You” is one of Nova’s more simple songs and the original version of it was not exactly the most electric song in the world. In fact, the version that is on Live In Cologne 2/26/2014 was so unmemorable that until my wife challenged me to count off how many tracks were shared between the live albums, I did not remember that it was even on it! But on Live In Eindhoven 2011, Nova takes her haunting, quiet song and indescribably reimagines it. She did not change the lyrics or the basic tune, but listening to “Fool For You” on Live In Eindhoven 2011, I became overwhelmed with potent memories of every bad decision I made in past relationships in a way the song has never triggered me before! The result (in addition to tears) was a feeling like I was hearing the song for the first time in the best possible way; Nova, backed by Johnson, somehow manage to make the old sound fresh, new and potent in a way the song did not quite pop before!

The result is a live album that seems like it will hold up well and is a decent gift to Heather Nova’s fans. It is certainly enough to hold us over until The Way It Feels hits stores in May!

The best track on the album is “Fool For You,” and by this point, I’ve heard enough “different” versions of “Island” and “Heart And Shoulder” to last a lifetime.

For other Heather Nova album reviews, please be sure to check out:
These Walls
Live From The Milky Way
The Jasmine Flower
300 Days At Sea


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, February 27, 2015

More Generic Than Exceptional: The Klondike The Candy! Mint Chocolate Chip Candy Bars Do Not Live Up To Their Namesake!

The Good: Fairly good flavor, Generally inexpensive
The Bad: Not terrible distinct flavor, Waxy chocolate, Low nutritional value
The Basics: Klondike The Candy! Mint Chocolate Chip candy bars entirely underwhelm those who love the ice cream treats upon which they are named.

As a fan of all things chocolate mint and of Klondike ice cream bars, I was pleasantly surprised when Klondike branched out into the consumer chocolate market. I instantly gravitated to the Klondike The Candy! Mint Chocolate Chip candies. Sadly, though, I was disappointed when the Klondike The Candy! did not live up to the quality standards of the Klondike ice cream bars.


Klondike The Candy! are little chocolate squares that are designed to mimic the ice cream treats that their name came from. The 1.4 oz. package contains four bite-sized – 1 3/16” long and wide by 3/8” thick at its thickest point. It is a smooth chocolate, seamless, with a slightly curved top to it.

The Mint Chocolate Chip come in a 1.4 oz. chocolate bar that is foil-wrapped. Each package with four pieces represents a single serving. This makes the Mint Chocolate Chip very easy to portion out to have less than a full serving, which is nice for those who might be watching their waistline!

Ease Of Preparation

Eating Klondike The Candy! Mint Chocolate Chip is not a real challenge. After removing the wrapper, simply pull out the individual bites and stick them in your mouth. There is no particularly complicated equation to eating these chocolates. This is an entirely ready-to-eat food!


Unwrapping the Klondike bar, the smell of chocolate and mint wafts up in a fairly inviting fashion. The chocolate smell is a bit dry, like cocoa, without much in the way of sweetness to its bouquet. On the other hand, the mint portion of the aroma is instantly recognizable and intriguing. The scents blend together decently to embody the promised flavors, without being so aromatic as to escape the package.

The Mint Chocolate Chip Klondike The Candy! bars have a surprisingly bland chocolate to them. The generically sweet, somewhat waxy chocolate is utterly unremarkable. By contrast, inside the waxy chocolate is a more vibrant mint. The coolness of the mint flavoring is cut by the overwhelmingly sugary flavor that follows it. It goes from being well-flavored to just generically sweet.

The Mint Chocolate Chip Klondike The Candy! has a ridiculously sweet aftertaste to it.


Klondike The Candy! chocolates are intended as a dessert product, so anyone attempting to live off them is proceeding under a ridiculous premise! These 1.4 oz. packages represent a single serving and those looking for real nutrition will have to look elsewhere. Made primarily of sugar, whole milk and palm kernel oil, there are still many unpronounceable ingredients in this chocolate bar. This is not an all-natural food product and these Truffle Bars were produced on equipment that forces them to add a disclaimer about peanuts, tree nuts, milk, wheat, soybeans and eggs.

In addition to ingredients I cannot readily pronounce, Klondike The Candy!'s Mint Chocolate Chip have 180 calories, 60 of which are from fat. A full serving represents 25% of one's RDA of saturated fat and 2% of the RDA of cholesterol. Surprisingly, they are fairly low in sodium with only 40 mg per serving and a single gram of protein to be had by eating a full serving. These are not a significant source of vitamins or minerals, though they do have 2% of one’s daily calcium and Iron.


As a chocolate, Klondike The Candy! Mint Chocolate Chip are fine as long as they are stored below 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The ones I found at the local discount store last month have an expiration date that is a few months away and these tasted fresh.

If, however, they melt, they will stain. Consult your fabric guide if that happens as chocolate can be a real pain to clean up when melted into light fabrics. Otherwise, cleanup is simply throwing the foil wrapper away when you are done with the chocolate bar.


Klondike The Candy! Mint Chocolate Chip are all right, but not extraordinary and do not seem to live up to the quality standards of the ice cream treat they are based upon.

For other reviews of chocolates, please check out:
Ghirardelli Dark And Caramel
Cadbury Crème Eggs
Godiva White Chocolate Vanilla Bean bar


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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The Inherently Precarious Season Of House Of Cards Does Not Crash The Series Down!

The Good: Good acting, Engaging plot development
The Bad: Little character development
The Basics: House Of Cards Season Three progresses the story of Frank Underwood as President Of The United States as he squares off against Republicans, Democrats and Russia!

One of the real challenges of stories that are centered around characters who desire power is how the story changes when those characters get the power they have always craved. The quest for power versus the struggle to maintain power can be a very difficult transition for a television audience to accept. House Of Cards got to the point where the second season (reviewed here!) ended and the third season was saddled with the burden of reinventing the political drama.

House Of Cards Season 3 opens with Francis Underwood as President Of The United States, having connived his way from the Vice Presidency to the Presidency from being Majority Whip in Congress and, originally, desiring nothing more than to be Secretary Of State under the newly-elected President Walker. The third season opens with a good sense of mood, but a very low “wow” factor and it builds to being what one hopes and expects from House Of Cards: a taut political thriller filled with interesting characters, intense reversals and political machinations that take a second viewing to truly appreciate!

Six months into the Underwood Administration, Frank Underwood’s presidency has stagnated: unemployment is on the rise, trouble is brewing in the Middle East and Republicans are already lining up a strong challenger for the 2016 election cycle. Doug Stamper slowly recovers and tries to get back to work, while Claire pushes to have Frank nominate her for U.N. Ambassador. After Claire is defeated in a Senate vote for the Ambassadorship, Frank gives her a recess appointment. Her mettle is soon tested as Russia becomes a stumbling block to Mid East peace. After a somewhat troubling visit from the Russian President, Claire and Secretary Of State Durant find themselves trying to work around Russia on the international theater.

Domestically, Frank struggles to sell his jobs program: America Works. As a tactical move, when Womack betrays him to the rest of the Democratic Leadership, Frank announces he will not seek re-election and wants to govern instead. His gamble takes a turn for the worse when he learns that Heather Dunbar is being groomed to run in 2016. When his attempt to redirect her to the Supreme Court fails, Frank is put on the ropes. When Claire speaks out in Russia against the laws that led an imprisoned U.S. citizen to suicide there, Frank once again feels attacked at home.

To get America Works actualized, Underwood uses FEMA and the District Of Columbia to have joblessness declared a disaster. The plan works with surprising success . . . until a hurricane bears down on the Eastern seaboard and FEMA needs the money. Frank has to make the difficult choice to be prepared for the hurricane and defund his most successful program or risk real lives if a disaster strikes. The situation with Russia reaches a breaking point when violence in the Mideast erupts in the Jordan Valley and Petrov leverages Frank’s love for Claire against potential peace with Russia!

Part of the excitement of House Of Cards Season Three that was most exciting going into the season was that I had no idea where it would end. I always said it would be neat to see Frank Underwood try to campaign and the third season of House Of Cards has a handful of scenes that illustrates just how charismatic he could be on the campaign trail. But, from almost the end of the first episode of the first season (reviewed here!), I knew where the season would end. Similarly, the second season had an obvious trajectory. The third season was the closest to a blank slate it could be and it manages to go in interesting ways because the characters move them, even if they do not grow and develop significantly for the most part.

In the third season, the essential characters in House Of Cards are:

Francis Underwood – Now President Of The United States, he finds himself struggling to maintain relevance opposite a hostile Congress and low approval ratings. His solution is a jobs program, America Works, which looks to cut entitlements and reinvest in jobs. His main adversaries become Heather Dunbar and Russian President Petrov who attempt to outflank him domestically and thwart his ambitions internationally. To fight the public relations battle, he hires a novelist to write about his life. He renews his vows with Claire and has to get involved with running for re-election much earlier than he thought after the hurricane,

Claire Underwood – An activist First Lady, she wants Frank to nominate her to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, so she can start running for office regardless of what happens with Frank’s political career. Given a recess appointment, she works to become Katherine Durant’s friend and ally to further her own political goals. She finds herself negotiating for the release of an American political prisoner against Petrov. She and Francis sleep in separate beds now. After spending time in the jail cell with gay rights activist Michael Corrigan working in Moscow, she is shocked when he kills himself with her scarf. She takes a stand against Petrov and that destroys the peace treaty Frank negotiated with the Russian President. After she and Frank renew their vows, she realizes that someone who knows her is aiding Dunbar. Her effectiveness as ambassador is challenged when Russian troops are killed in the Jordan Valley and the Russian ambassador tells her it was an inside job,

Katherine Durant – Secretary Of State, she has worked hard to arrange a Middle East summit. She has doubts about Claire as UN Ambassador and disagrees with Francis launching a military strike on a Palestinian terrorist so close to the summit. She helps to guide Claire to some early understandings of international diplomacy . . . through beer pong! After that, she pretty much disappears from the narrative,

Donald Blythe – Underwood’s Vice President, he accepted the post for an Alzheimer’s research center in memory of his late wife. He has no real power as Vice President,

Jackie Sharp – She is now estranged from Remy Denton, she wants to be on the ticket as Underwood’s Vice President come re-election. She is kept out of the loop by Womack. To bolster her chances of making her campaign seem viable, she agrees to marry a cardiologist, despite still having some actual affection for Remy. Running a campaign against Dunbar, she and Remy orchestrate the opportunity for her to join the Underwood ticket down the road. She, however, feels undervalued when her sacrifices are not met with any appreciation,

Doug Stamper – After being found in the woods, near death, he goes through months of intensive physical therapy. Determined to get back into the Underwood’s inner circle, he sets his own broken arm when he slips in the tub in order to make it to the White House for his first meeting with Francis there. When Frank keeps him out of the inner circle and Gavin is unable to find Rachel Posner, he decides to ally himself with Heather Dunbar. Stamper begins to feed Dunbar leads on jobs to offer and threats to make that help her get early support from donors. But, when Gavin finally gets him information on Rachel, his entire world falls apart,

Josh – Press Secretary, he pulls the credentials of his ally in the press when she oversteps in a press conference. He checks in on Stamper periodically, per the wishes of Francis. When Remy has a crisis of faith, he attempts to become Chief Of Staff,

Hector Mendoza – The Republican Senate leader is preparing for a 2016 Presidential run. But, when he fails to claim some speech money, he is unceremoniously dropped from the Leadership and replaced with a right winger,

Gavin Orsay – The hacker now works for the FBI, where Stamper is able to monitor the search for Rachel Posner. He wants out of the FBI and to do that, he cozies up to Rachel’s ex, Lisa. After playing on Lisa’s compassion, he gets a lead to search for Rachel. Unable to deal with the weight of all his deceptions, he comes clean to Lisa before fleeing the United States,

Heather Dunbar – Made Solicitor General under Frank, she has the financial backing from her family to be an instant contender. When Frank offers her a position on the Supreme Court, she decides to run for President. She is wary of Stamper approaching her for a job. Quietly hiring Stamper, she builds a solid bedrock of support in the Iowa Caucus for her presidential bid. But as the Iowa Caucus looms and her lead diminishes, she finds herself crossing all the lines she promised she wouldn’t,

and Remy Danton – Frank’s Chief Of Staff, he clearly misses Jackie. He tries to stand by Frank and support him, though it often puts him at odds with Jackie.

In the third season of House Of Cards, some of the characters are minimized or gone altogether: Edward Meechum is a virtual nonentity and Josh and Remy have no major character arcs in the season. Freddy is given a brief cameo which is delightful for fans of the series, but the new reporter character, Kate Baldwin, and the author Thomas Yates are given more substantive roles in the third season. So, regardless of any other issues, House Of Cards continues to evolve and develop in its third season.

Before watching the third season of House Of Cards, the two aspects of the show I was most excited about were seeing how the Underwoods might maintain their control and to learn the fate of Doug Stamper. The season premiere for the third season of House Of Cards spends an agonizing amount of time with Stamper and exploring his recovery. The other big change in the third season of House Of Cards is in the dynamic between Frank and Claire. This season finds them farther apart than ever. That makes the series feel more like others on television (as my wife noted, there are a ton of shows one could watch where a couple does not get along, but House Of Cards, especially in its second season, had the pair working as a real power couple).

The third season of House Of Cards is much harder to get into; the show is gridlocked at the outset and it struggles to find its footing. But when it does, it moves forward in an interesting and compelling way that at the very least encourages viewers to be excited about the possibility of Season Four!

For other television shows and movies that focus on politics, please visit my reviews of:
Game Change
Game Of Thrones - Season 1


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

More Expensive Than Worthwhile, Ultra-Pro 7MM Toploaders Are Good For Nuisance Cards!

The Good: Durable, Clear, Easy to use
The Bad: Big cards slide right out, Expensive
The Basics: Usually necessary only for those shipping extra-thick trading cards, the Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders are a tougher sell for collectors.

When it comes to trading cards, recent years have seen the advent of thicker trading cards, which do not fit into the traditional toploaders (reviewed here!). Instead, cards like badge and costume cards require larger – thicker - protectors. While most of the thicker cards do not fit into the traditional 9-card card pages, most collectors who keep their cards in binders tend to find more inventive ways to store and display their extra-thick cards than with thicker card protectors. The gold standard for thicker cards are Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders. Because there are so many things that can befall a trading card – given that they are generally fragile, usually cardboard, objects – having protection for extra thick trading cards is absolutely essential. Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders provide that protection.

Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders are solid polypropylene protectors that are clear and less firm than their thinner counterparts. Because the space inside the toploader is 7mm of space, the otherwise hard sides of the toploader have quite a bit of give to them. Sealed on three sides, the Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploader accepts a card by sliding it in through the wide opening at the top of the toploader. The Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders fit virtually any 2 1/2” by 3 1/2" trading card that would be easily evident in the unopened pack of cards – like overthick badge cards. When properly placed in the Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploader, the corners of trading cards are protected and the surface of a trading card is able to resist scratches and dents as well.

Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders are a far cry from perfect, though. Nothing short of a Lucite block will keep a trading card in absolutely mint condition and Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders do a fair job of protecting cards. However, Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders leave way too much room inside the toploader; in order for them to fit a thicker card, the opening is so wide and so flexible that oversized cards easily slip out.

I am a fan of one-stop solutions; a product that actually solves whatever problem it claims to on its own. Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploaders require one to tape the toploader closed in order to be effective, especially when using these toploaders to ship cards. To get your card out of the toploader, simply turn it over and gently tap the bottom; your card will slide out exceptionally easily.

Ultra-Pro 3” X 4” 7mm Toploader are easy to use and are pretty much the only option for those transporting or shipping extra-thick trading cards, but they are a far cry from an exceptional product!

For trading card reviews, be sure to visit my reviews of:
2013 Star Trek Movies Star Trek Into Darkness Preview Set
2009 James Bond Archives trading cards
Star Wars Jedi Legacy trading cards


For other card product reviews, be sure to visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Casting Works Against Suspense In Goldeneye!

The Good: Decent performances, Moments of character, Entertaining
The Bad: Predictable plot, Opening credits spoil the film’s surprises
The Basics: Goldeneye gives Pierce Brosnan a decent-enough start to his tenure in the role of James Bond . . . a franchise which was pretty stale long before he arrived to it.

As I near the end of the James Bond franchise, I find myself wondering about the long-term appeal of the films. The James Bond franchise utilizes a number of conceits pretty consistently and that makes it tougher to watch them over and over again. Sometimes, it’s tough for me to even get into the new-to-me Bond films. Despite being excited about seeing Pierce Brosnan’s debut as James Bond in Goldeneye, by the end of the opening credits, I was already wary of the film. Goldeneye is a great example of how films can work against themselves and in a spy thriller that hinges on suspense and surprise, that is a severe drawback.

Goldeneye stars Sean Bean and his name is the first below-the-title acting credit in the film. Given that his character is killed in the teaser, it becomes impossible for viewers to believe they have seen the last of his character given the credits. Given how Famke Janssen’s Xenia Onatopp dominates the first third of Goldeneye, her lack of top-billing makes no sense . . . unless Bean’s Trevelyan is going to resurface in the film. So, from the outset, anyone who recognizes Sean Bean will be waiting for the film’s “surprise” to be revealed.

Opening at the Archangel Chemical Weapons Facility in the U.S.S.R., James Bond repels down the structure to break in. Inside, he meets Alec Trevelyan, who assists him in setting charges to blow up the facility. Trevelyan is shot, but Bond makes a daring escape. Nine years later, after the fall of the U.S.S.R., Bond finds himself in a car race with the former Soviet assassin, Xenia Onatopp. After killing an influential man, Xenia makes off with a prototype Tiger Helicopter, moments ahead of Bond reaching the conclusion that she was about to steal it. Bond returns to MI-6, where the intelligence agency has learned of an attack on a Russian weapon’s facility where Onatopp and a rogue General stole the access codes to Goldeneye, a satellite that has the ability (which is soon revealed) to launch an EMP strike. Bond and M, at the MI-6 headquarters, monitor the aftermath of the EMP attack. Bond notices a survivor of the attack on Severnaya and believes that she might know who the inside man at the facility was.

While the Russians downplay the EMP strike as an accident during a training exercise, General Ourumov delivers a false report on Goldeneye to the Russian Ministers. He is alarmed to learn that the hacker, Boris, was not the only survivor of Severnaya. While Bond tracks down Xenia, who leads him to the (very much alive) Trevelyan. Trevelyan puts Bond and Simonova (the other Severnaya survivor) in the Tiger helicopter to try to kill them, but they manage to survive. After a series of captures and escapes, Bond and Simonova make their way to Cuba to find and destroy the second station which controls another Goldeneye satellite. Intending to thwart Trevelyan and Onatopp once and for all, Bond and Simonova find themselves in danger every step of the way.

Goldeneyeuses some of the regular Bond conceits in addition to the un-surprise of Trevelyan, like the flirtation with Moneypenny and the trip to Q’s lab. Moneypenny is upgraded in Goldeneye as a specialist who cites sexual harassment policies as opposed to simply going with Bond’s charm. Q gets the usual quips out of Bond and supplies him with tech and the scene is amusing, but predictable. On the plus side, while Bond movies have multiple chase scenes, Goldeneye freshens the mix some by having Bond chase after Simonova and Ourumov in a tank! That is entertaining, at the very least.

Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as James Bong might be flawed on the storytelling front, but he proves himself an able actor for the part (which is unsurprising given his years on Remington Steele). Brosnan has the ability to present Bond with steely resolve and efficiency to credibly be a superspy. In fact, the only way Brosnan underwhelms as Bond is with the wisecracks. Brosnan plays Bond so seriously and with so little in the way of smiles and innate charm that when he delivers his one-liners, they do not seem to fit the character. Brosnan is by no means stiff in his delivery, but his Bond seems initially so much more serious that the humor does not fit his character.

Goldeneye is one of the few Bond films that bothers to delve into James Bond’s backstory. Revealed to be an orphan, Bond’s personal history is used as a foil for Trevelyan’s. As with Silva in Skyfall (reviewed here!), that gives the villain in Goldeneye a personal grudge against MI-6. Trevelyan would have worked better as an adversary for Bond if only the franchise were a bit more serialized. Trevelyan talks about himself as if he knew Bond for years and was a good friend; that would have worked much better had viewers seen him before he popped up in Goldeneye.

Sean Bean is good as Trevelyan, but the impressive performance in Goldeneye comes from Famke Janssen. Janssen plays Xenia Onatopp as an over-the-top sexual psychopath and the role is completely different from any other that she has played. Janssen is completely convincing as a woman who kills with her body, in addition to other weapons. Her ability to portray delight almost simultaneous to presenting a sense of concentration and ruthlessness is impressive.

Martin Campbell does an adequate job directing Goldeneye, but it is still a fairly typical Bond movie. Those who watch closely will notice a number of odd cuts – transitions between shots that are fairly poor – but otherwise, Campbell makes Goldeneye look good.

For other works with Famke Janssen, be sure to check out my reviews of:
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
The Wolverine
X-Men: The Last Stand
Hide And Seek
X-2: X-Men United
“The Perfect Mate” - Star Trek: The Next Generation


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.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sink Slowly: Supergirl – Volume 2: Girl In The World Does Not Progress The Heroine!

The Good: Most of the artwork, Moments of character
The Bad: Exceptionally simplistic plot, Story elements presented out-of-order/with gaps
The Basics: The New 52 story of Supergirl continues in Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World, which is plagued by fidelity to issues problems as well as gaps in the story itself!

As the DC Cinematic (or Television, anyway) Universe prepares to welcome Supergirl into the fold, I have been boning up on my Supergirl knowledge. Honestly, I’ve never been a fan of Superman or Supergirl, so I had limited knowledge of the franchise (despite being able to list powers and adversaries for Superman, I had no idea who the main antagonists in Supergirl were!). So, having read Supergirl: Volume 1 – Last Daughter Of Krypton (reviewed here!), I had just enough interest to pick up and read Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World.

Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World is plagued by a number of problems, not the least of which is that its serialized elements hinge almost entirely upon other volumes. References to Volume 1 are fairly infrequent, so it is easy to get into reading Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World, but when allusions pop up, they frequently come without strong enough triggers (for example, the artwork of the young man in Volume 1 who helped Kara Zor-El escape Simon Tycho was not so distinct or memorable that when he appears for a frame or two in Volume 2 he is instantly recognizable). As well, Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World has fidelity to issues, as opposed to fidelity to story, which is a state I dislike. As a result, Supergirl #0 tells the origin backstory of Kara Zor-El on Krypton after issue 12 is reprinted in Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World. This is a two-fold slap in the face; it should have been at the beginning of Volume 1 for fidelity to story, but after Kara Zor-El commits to solving the mystery of her origin, Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World simply spoon feeds it to the reader. What joy is there in discovery for following Supergirl when we, the readers, have all the answers so long before the protagonist?

That said, Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World picks up immediately after Volume 1, with Supergirl in the ruined section of New York City, having just defeated the Worldkillers. The military forces that were deployed surround Kara Zor-El and they are preparing to (attempt) to stop her when she is rescued by a young woman. Siobhan Smythe runs through the crowd and begins speaking Kryptonian, which allows Kara to start to bond and communicate with a human for the first time. Escaping the military, Kara and Siobhan start to relax together.

Unfortunately, while out at a club where Siobhan is performing, the pair is waylaid by a powerful magic entity. The Black Banshee attacks and, in the process, Siobhan reverts to her own magical form: the Silver Banshee. The Black Banshee is the mystical, cursed, form of Siobhan’s father and his power is the ability to absorb souls. Kara Zor-El’s soul looks mighty tasty to him and he attacks her . . . with unintended consequences for Kara, Siobhan, and the Black Banshee!

Following the attack by the Black Banshee, there is a vignette involving Kara getting waylaid by nanoarmor-protected soldiers from Simon Tycho and a somewhat baffling exchange in which Kara Zor-El and Kal-El (who reunite sometime between chapters?!) argue about how Kara may best pursue her search for the secrets of how she was saved from Krypton’s destruction. The book caps off with Kara Zor-El’s complete origin story.

Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World is as much Siobhan’s story as it is Kara Zor-El’s. Almost an entire chapter is given to detailing Siobhan’s tragic backstory and why she is running from her father. In that sidestory, Siobhan’s lost brother Tom is introduced, which seeds the way for him to return, thanks to Kara’s heroics. But before the relationship can actually develop or grow, Kara flees the city and the book abruptly ends.

Such is the problem with Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World: the volume is so plot-based that Kara Zor-El hardly has a chance to develop or grow as a character. Instead, she dukes it out, loses control, and finds herself bewildered. For those looking for a strong female protagonist, Supergirl is very much a mixed bag – her record in Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World is almost equal parts being the rescued character as it is having her heroically rescue Siobhan and Tom!

The artwork in Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World is good enough. The characters are all recognizable and the coloring is vibrant and looks good. Some of the supporting characters are hardly distinct, but Kara Zor-El and Silver Banshee/Siobhan look good throughout. In fact, the most serious art issues comes in the prequel chapter, where there is a panel that makes it look like an adult Kal-El, wearing a red suit, comes in and menaces Kara’s mother. While fans of the Superman franchise might instantly get it, newbies are left baffled.

All this adds up to a quick read which is unfortunately unsatisfying volume. Supergirl: Volume 2 – Girl In The World might minorly progress the story of Kara Zor-El and introduce her essential ally to the narrative, but it is simplistic, plot-centered and unremarkable.

For other New 52 titles, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Batgirl: Knightfall Descends By Gail Simone
The Flash: Rogues Revolution By Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato
Green Lantern: Revenge Of The Black Hand By Geoff Johns
Wonder Woman: Guts By Brian Azzarello


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

End Low: “Valediction” Caps Off Agent Carter Poorly!

The Good: One good line near the end of the episode, The plot gets more or less resolved
The Bad: Stiff acting, Low character development, Predictable reversals, Continued thematic ridiculousness.
The Basics: “Valediction” is a disappointing season finale to finish off a disappointing season of Agent Carter!

If you’re going to rip off other works, it sure helps when you take elements from something old. The thing is, one has to steal things from something old enough that the audience will not realize it is stolen. It is hard, as fans of science fiction television, for those watching Agent Carter to not feel like the show is just ripping off The X-File (reviewed here!). The X-Files produced an episode called “The Pine Bluff Variant” which was one of the more memorable episodes of the fifth season. In it, a lethal pathogen is released in a movie theater as part of an experiment with biological weapons. Agent Carter did the same thing in “SNAFU” (reviewed here!) and the explore the effects of it in the season finale “Valediction.” The explanation of the engineered agent is, sadly, a rip-off of another impressive episode of The X-Files: “Sleepless” (reviewed here!).

“Valediction” marks the return of Howard Stark and Dr. Zola to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Valediction” closes the first chapter of Agent Carter and while there are certain fixed quantities in Agent Carter (Captain America cannot pop up, Agent Carter and Howard Stark cannot die and H.Y.D.R.A. cannot be destroyed; it has to effectively infiltrate whatever nascent version of S.H.I.E.L.D. Carter creates). In its finale, Agent Carter allows Howard Stark to once more steal focus from the title character. Unfortunately, the performances in “Valediction” are stiff and rob the episode of much of its potential bang.

Investigating the movie theater where patrons have torn one another apart, thanks to the weapon Dottie deployed, Sousa is briefly infected with the agent that makes him murderous. The symptoms pass fast enough with the SSR team returning to the office where Howard Stark pops up. Realizing that he represents the best chance to stop Dottie and Ivchenko (or, as he is was also known, Dr. Johann Fennhoff), Howard Stark announces a press conference to draw the Leviathan scientist and agent back to New York City. The plan works . . . until shots are fired and Stark is kidnapped by an agent that Fennhoff brainwashed.

Stark is brought to his other hanger where he had taken Dottie months prior. There, Fennhoff begins to work Stark over. His plan has Stark believing he is about to recover Captain America, but will have him deploy the lethal agent over New York City. As Stark flies on his murderous mission, Jarvis flies to potentially shoot him down while Carter, Thompson and Sousa race to stop Fennhoff and Dottie.

“Valediction” is unfortunately plagued by bad acting. Hayley Atwell delivers most of her lines as melodramatic and hammy, Cooper’s Stark stumbles on the jargon, and Ralph Brown can’t seem to make his character’s lines sound credible (they come out as stiff). Even Chad Michael Murray manages to come across without any of his innate charisma. The result is an episode where the deliveries undermine the characters in almost every scene.

On the character front, “Valediction” continues the problematic trend of Agent Peggy Carter being several steps behind her adversaries. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe know that Carter cannot be entirely successful in her endeavors, based upon Captain America: The Winter Soldier (reviewed here!), but it is still frustrating to watch an episode where Jarvis (who is only an occasional sidekick for Carter) is far more useful for most of the episode, compared to the show’s protagonist.

“Valediction” reveals the fundamental problem with Agent Carter; in trying to tell the story of Peggy Carter’s post-World War II exploits as a super-spy and connect the series to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, the plot involves far more interesting characters than Carter herself. Howard Stark continues to upstage Peggy Carter and he is essentially the focus of “Valediction.” Sadly, the man who is supposed to be a genius who created all of the devices that Carter has spent the mini-series trying to recover does not speak like a genius. We get that he has a huge ego and a massive libido, but in “Valediction,” that’s all he has. He is not particularly clever or articulate, which makes it seem like his creativity could not possibly be realized.

Moreover, for a woman who has spent the entire season being underestimated, Peggy Carter rather stupidly understimates Dottie. Dottie and Ivchenko are guilty of espionage and orchestrating a terrorist attack; Carter knows this and has her at gunpoint. But, rather than disable Dottie (Carter could easily have shot Dottie in the legs to prevent her from whipping around and kicking her ass), Carter is easily incapacitated. Fortunately, after the idiocy of Carter letting Dottie beat her up and Sousa and Thompson splitting up near a guy who is known to use mind-control techniques, Sousa shuts Fennhoff up by pistol-whipping him before he can exert control over him. Sousa, as it turns out, is the smartest, most prepared agent of the SSR.

The result is a lackluster season finale that is incredibly unsatisfying to watch. It is unclear whether or not Agent Carter will return for a second season or second mini-series, but “Valediction” makes the argument that the writers and producers do not have enough original to say and directors like Christopher Misiano could not get performances out of the principles to sell those concepts. “Valediction” cements Agent Carter as the weak link in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

For other works with Toby Jones, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Snow White And The Huntsman
The Hunger Games
Red Lights
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
My Week With Marilyn
Captain America: The First Avenger
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Part I
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
Ever After

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agent Carter - The Complete First Season, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Agent Carter here!


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Orange Peel And Chocolate That Is Decent: Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate Squares Live Up!

The Good: Decent quantity, Generally natural ingredients, Good flavor
The Bad: Very dry aftertaste, Leaves orange peels in one’s teeth!
The Basics: Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares are an impressive blend of chocolate and orange peel that delivers its promised punch!

There are a number of intriguing ingredients that synergize with dark chocolate well. Lindt is actually one of the more impressive mass-produced gourmet chocolate producers when it comes to experimental flavors. One of the core dark chocolate flavors that Lindt has had great success with, which is not exactly a mainstream blend, is the Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate. The Intense Orange is a mix of dark chocolate and orange peels that have been candied and the mix works!


Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares are one and 1/8” squares of chocolate that are about one-quarter of an inch thick. Each of the squares comes individually wrapped in a white and dark brown wrapper. It is worth noting that while I usually rail against the environmental impact of such things, it is hard to imagine Lindt Excellence chocolate squares not wrapped. This keeps each one clean, unmelted and intact.

Each chocolate square is a seamless square that is solid, with lines etched into the top and the Lindt name also punched into the top. The Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares come in a standard 4.9 oz. bag, the individually-wrapped chocolate squares are packaged together in a thick foil paper bag. The thick foil paper bag does little to protect the squares, though I’ve never had any breakage. The bag is not resealable, though this matters very little considering that the chocolate squares do not go bad given that they are individually wrapped.

Ease Of Preparation

These are candy, so preparing them is as simple as opening the bag and then opening one of the foil wrappers around the actual chocolate square one wishes to eat. There is no grand secret to eating Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares. This is a flavor that is good at room temperature or frozen; it has a delicious solid flavor to it that carries the taste in all temperatures.


The Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares smell strongly of candied oranges. The dark chocolate does not have a powerful aroma to smother the sweet, citrus flavor that is a perfect embodiment of orange. From the aroma that precedes consumption, one can expect the Intense Orange to live up to its name!

In the mouth, the Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares are dry and sweet. The chocolate is enhanced by the texture of the orange peels embedded into it and as the flavor of the orange peel blends with the dark chocolate, it quickly overwhelms the flavor of the chocolate. The Intense Orange truly does dominate the dark chocolate medium the orange peel is in. In fact, this is a surprisingly unsweet candy, outside the momentary flavor of the chocolate before the orange peel takes over.

The Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares leave a rather dry flavor on the tongue. This is a Lindt chocolate that is not exceedingly bitter from the chocolate, but the orange peel really seems to leech the moisture out of one’s mouth. Even so, it is not unpleasant in the way it dries out the mouth.


These are candy, so they are not exceptionally healthy, but the Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares are not nearly as bad as they could be. The primary ingredients are sugar, chocolate and almonds. There is nothing unpronounable in these candies and everything in these could be readily identified by me.

A serving of the Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares is considered four squares. From four squares, one takes in 230 calories, including 15 grams of fat. There are 25mg sodium and 3 g protein, but no vitamins (save 2% of the RDA of Vitamin A) in these chocolate squares. There is 6% of one's daily iron and 2% the RDA of Calcium in four squares, so that is a plus.

These are not Vegan-compliant (they have real milk), nor are they recommended for anyone with a nut allergy as they have almonds and are produced on the same equipment that peanuts and tree nuts pass over.


The bags of these Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares remain fresh for quite some time. One assumes that if they are kept in a cool, dry environment they will not melt or go bad. Given that they are individually wrapped in a very sealed package, it is hard to imagine just what it would take for these to go bad outside melting and refreezing.

As for cleanup, I applaud those who actually throw the wrappers away in socially appropriate places, as opposed to litter. Outside that, there is no real cleanup needed, unless one is eating them in a hot environment. In that case, it is likely one would need to wash their hands. If these chocolate squares melt into most fabrics, they will stain. Getting them to melt is surprisingly hard, though.


Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark Chocolate squares might not be delightful, but they are intense and delicious. They deliver upon their promise and are enjoyable to anyone who likes a strong blend of potent dark chocolate and fruit.

For other Lindt chocolates, please check out my reviews of:
Citrus Lindor Truffle
Coconut Lindor Truffle
70% Cocoa Almond Brittle chocolate bar


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Good Idea With Terrible Execution, “Love & Monsters” Underwhelms!

The Good: Decent concept
The Bad: Silly narrative technique, Somewhat ridiculous adversary, Unlikable characters
The Basics: “Love & Monsters” focuses on a group of people who have had encounters with The Doctor or some of his other adversaries.

Almost every television series has some good ideas that they fail to execute well or in a compelling manner. Doctor Who is no exception and one of the first real big duds in terms of execution was “Love & Monsters.” “Love & Monsters” is built on the sensible premise that the Doctor and his many attempts to save Earth, usually in the UK, have not gone unnoticed by common people. Unfortunately, “Love & Monsters” utilizes a narrative technique that is overdone (talking to camera, documentary-style) and is preoccupied with characters that are hard to empathize with.

“Love & Monsters” is the closest to a Jackie Tyler episode the series gets and given how unlikable Rose Tyler’s mother has been, it is hard to care about a guy who is getting close to her. While “Love & Monsters” progresses reasonably by integrating the episode’s protagonist, Elton Pope, into the periphery of “Rose” (reviewed here!), “Aliens Of London” (reviewed here!), and “The Christmas Invasion” (reviewed here!), it fails to create a compelling character arc for Pope. Instead, to keep Pope’s search for The Doctor from being less-than-earth-shaking in its consequences, “Love & Monsters” develops a villain who is one of the worst of the series.

Opening with a young man seeing the TARDIS and hearing noises coming from a nearby factory, the young man Elton Pope, follows the noises where he encounters a hostile extraterrestrial. Breaking the fourth wall to talk to camera, Elton discusses seeing the Doctor, Rose Tyler and the alien chancing one another around. Pope asserts that he had encountered The Doctor before, as a young boy, and when he discovers a picture of The Doctor on an obscure blog, he meets Ursula Blake (who helps him make a video blog). With Ursula, Elton meets others who have some knowledge of The Doctor – Bliss, Bridget and Mr. Skinner) and they form London Investigation ‘N Detective Agency (L.I.N.D.A.) to get together weekly to discuss the Doctor and what information they can assemble about him. But soon, their weekly get-togethers become about companionship, camaraderie, food and music that has nothing to do with their mutual interest in The Doctor.

But L.I.N.D.A. is soon infiltrated by Victor Kennedy, an eccentric who is obsessive about not being touched, who comes with some information on The Doctor and charges L.I.N.D.A. with actually finding The Doctor. Armed with a photograph of Rose, Elton manages to find Jackie Tyler almost instantly and he befriends her in an effort to find more information on Rose and The Doctor. But Victor is as insidious as he initially seems and soon members of L.I.N.D.A. are disappearing. As Jackie hits on Elton and they develop a relationship, Elton becomes attached to her. But then, Jackie rejects Elton when she reasons out that Elton is after the Doctor. But Elton and Ursula are in danger from Victor and they need rescue from the Doctor!

“Love & Monsters” moves toward humor more than genuine menace or real intrigue and that drives the episode down. Victor Kennedy’s actual form and absorbing abilities are rendered in a ridiculous way and the last minute “save” by The Doctor is formulaic and predictable. While I imagine it is possible to produce a Doctor Who episode where the protagonist is on the periphery, much like the main crew of the Enterprise is marginalized in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Lower Decks” (reviewed here!), “Love & Monsters” does not land it.

More than the ridiculous adversary, “Love & Monsters” is plagued by a problematic protagonist. Elton is not particularly likable or even well-defined. In literally the same scene where he is about to shag Jackie Tyler, Elton concludes that he is infatuated with Ursula. Despite claiming to have a romantic interest in Ursula, Elton is hurt when the truth is exposed to Jackie and he seems like he actually was ready for a full-on relationship with her. For sure, the UK might not have the Victorian sexual mores anymore that would prevent one from loving two people at the same time, but Elton Pope seems poorly defined as opposed to emotionally-complicated.

In a similar way, Elton gets some closure on the first encounter he had with The Doctor, but it is emotionally unsatisfying as well. The Doctor apparently saved Elton from a shadow monster in his childhood, but he was unable to save his mother. While Doctor Who has tenuously explained that one cannot cross their own time stream, no rational reason is given in “Love & Monsters” for why The Doctor couldn’t simply have discovered the murder and gone back just long enough to prevent it.

The performances in “Love & Monsters” are fairly unremarkable. Marc Warren is not able to truly carry the episode on his talent as Elton Pope and he barely has enough substantive scenes with Shirley Henderson to sell the Elton/Ursula relationship. When Camille Coduri has more airtime than David Tennant and Billie Piper, the episode is in serious trouble! Peter Kay’s Victor Kennedy is presented more flamboyantly than of forceful personality, making L.I.N.D.A.’s instant acceptance of him as their de facto leader more troubling than realistic.

The result is a stumble of an episode and until “Blink,” Doctor Who would not sell the concept sufficiently to entertain or make an episode wherein the Doctor was marginalized worth watching more than once!

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - 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 debut season of the Tenth Doctor here!

For other works with Shirley Henderson, please visit my reviews of:
Marie Antoinette
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets
Bridget Jones’s Diary


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.
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