Tuesday, June 30, 2015

June 2015 End Of The Month Report!

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June was a very light month for the blog as work progressed on my new novel and I did some traveling for my business! In June, we enjoyed quite a bit of new programming from Netflix and watched some of the alternate programming from Summer Blockbuster Season.

This month, we picked up a couple new followers on Twitter and a brand new subscriber! 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 June, the index pages were updated fairly infrequently, though they remain a great for our readers to be able to find the new reviews! 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 have been buying things through the blog links.

At the end of June 2015, I have reviewed the following:
533 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
902 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2801 - 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!)!
219 - 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
800 - 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
887 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
232 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
113 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
182 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
191 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
98 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
48 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of June is the review of The Way It Feels by Heather Nova!
Check it out!

The month of June had a lot of movement within the month and was dominated by older reviews and new Netflix shows! For June, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. She's Funny That Way
9. Dr. Scholl's Smooth My Sole
8. The Walking Dead - Season 3
7. Orange Is The New Black - Season 3
6. Pernigotti Hot Cocoa
5. Parallels
4. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
3. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
2. Expelled
1. Sense8 - Season 1

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 - 314 reviews
9s - 455 reviews
8s - 887 reviews
7s - 983 reviews
6s - 905 reviews
5s - 1157 reviews
4s - 861 reviews
3s - 677 reviews
2s - 315 reviews
1s - 215 reviews
0s - 99 reviews
No rating - 91 articles/postings

While there was a decent amount of movement this month, the all time Top Ten remains unchanged. At the end of June 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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Monday, June 29, 2015

This Is Where They Lose Me On The Daleks: “Daleks In Manhattan!”

The Good: Decent acting, Moments of character
The Bad: Packed with irrelevant and distracting guest characters, Ridiculous plot, Mediocre special effects.
The Basics: The Daleks surface in 1930 New York City where they are experimenting with humans and building the Empire State Building.

At this point, I will watch pretty much anything with Andrew Garfield in it. Garfield is, easily, one of the best actors of the day and while Benedict Cumberbatch gets a lot of attention and is taking a slew of roles, Garfield could go toe to toe with him dramatically in virtually anything. As it turns out, Andrew Garfield was in a two-part episode of Doctor Who before he started getting big movie roles. Unfortunately for me as a fan of Doctor Who and Andrew Garfield, the episodes Garfield was in were some of the most problematic.

The essence of my problem with “Daleks In Manhattan” is that the formidable adversary that has been the Daleks are further weakened by the way they are presented in the episode. The Daleks seem to escape through time and space as much as The Doctor does and while Russell T. Davies made some intriguing arcs with them, when Helen Raynor took the reins for writing “Daleks In Manhattan,” she created a preposterous story and one of the weirdest allies to the Daleks ever. Amid the story of Daleks living in Earth’s past are a new race of human/pig hybrids and the idea that humans at the technological level they were at in the 1930s could adequately combat the Daleks is a pretty ridiculous notion.

After Laszlo, a pretty regular guy in 1930, who is involved with the dancer, Tallulah, disappears, The Doctor and Martha Jones arrive in New York City on November 1, 1930. Martha is excited because she has always wanted to go to New York City and she sees that they have arrived at an intriguing time; the Empire State Building is not yet complete. The Doctor sees on a newspaper headline that people are disappearing from Hooverville and the pair begins to investigate. Checking out Hooverville, The Doctor meets Solomon, a community organizer among the impoverished living in Central Park. When Mr. Diagoras visits Hooverville after the Daleks insist he finish the Empire State Building that very night, The Doctor, Martha, Frank, and Solomon take some work going into the sewer. While they are running into weird biological matter in the sewers, Diagoras is enforcing the will of the Daleks with completing the spire on the Empire State Building.

Diagoras is brought before Dalek Sec, the leader of the Cult Of Skarro, the surviving Dalek from the future. Sec is experimenting upon humans, creating human/pig hybrids with the citizens of Hooverville. In the sewers, The Doctor and his team encounter one of the people abducted, who has been altered by the Daleks. In escaping, Frank is abducted by the pig men and the group meets up with Tallulah. Solomon suspects The Doctor is not what he seems when The Doctor tries to analyze a jellyfish-like creature they found in the sewers. While Dalek Sec makes a move on Diagoras, The Doctor realizes just who he is fighting!

In “Doomsday” (reviewed here!), the survival of the Daleks was virtually assured when one made a temporal leap to escape the trap The Doctor and Rose set. So, the idea that Dalek Sec survived is not actually surprising. Near the climax of the episode, Sec gives a decent monologue which explains his concept of evolving the Daleks. The idea of Daleks willing to use human DNA undermines the whole idea of what the Daleks are. After all, if the Daleks are the last remaining creatures from the planet Skarro, the idea of going to Earth to try to resurrect the race is a ridiculous one. Moreover, the writers do not seem to actually understand what DNA is; if DNA is a blueprint, a chain of amino acids in a specific order, one can pretty easily replicate alien DNA from any building blocks once they have the full blueprint. In other words, Daleks that had the full record of Skarran DNA in their database could simply reconstruct pure Skarran DNA from any genetic material, i.e. frogs, with vastly less risk than they take on in “Daleks In Manhattan.”

So, the idea of Daleks experimenting on humans and creating a race of human/pig hybrids is absurd and the episode “Daleks In Manhattan” does not justify its concept well-enough to be convincing.

Similarly unfortunately, “Daleks In Manhattan” is crowded with guest characters who fail to resonate. Laszlo and Tallulah are hardly compelling and their arc and reuniting feels like filler. Laszlo serves mostly to provide exposition late in the episode and Frank is not developed enough to truly be vital. Similarly, Solomon is a good idea, but more of an archetype than an actual character.

Martha Jones stands out in the episode. Jones is defined as having superior intelligence in “Daleks In Manhattan” by the Daleks and the episode marks the first time that Martha explicitly declares that she has romantic feelings for The Doctor. Jones is smart and resourceful as ever in “Daleks In Manhattan” and Freema Agyeman plays her well, as always. David Tennant is given shockingly little to do in “Daleks In Manhattan,” especially with the cluttered guest cast.

Perhaps that is why “Daleks In Manhattan” fails; it’s so much set-up and the set-up is more silly than compelling to the characters viewers love and respect.

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

For other works with resurrected villains, be sure to check out my reviews of:
“Dark Frontier, Part 1” - Star Trek: Voyager
“Tempus Fugit” - The X-Files
“The Only Light In The Darkness” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.


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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What A Difference A Year Makes: The 2015 James Bond Archives Trading Cards Are Less Spectacular Than Their Predecessor!

The Good: Not prohibitive to collect (yet), A couple of good autograph cards
The Bad: Misprints, Orientation issues, Vast pool of uninteresting autograph signers, Lack of impressive bonus cards
The Basics: The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards are an awkward idea that makes for a poor sequel that feels rushed and churned out.

As a trading card collector and reviewer, I try to judge each set I encounter on its own. Every now and then, I find one that makes it too hard to do that. The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards are one such set. While the 2015 James Bond Archives trading cards are only the second James Bond set I have reviewed, after the 2009 James Bond Archives set (reviewed here!), my lukewarm reaction to the 2015 James Bond Archives trading cards cooled even more when I compared them to the 2014 James Bond Archives trading cards. The 2014 James Bond Archives trading cards were chock full of autograph cards and relic cards and, other problems aside, the 2015 James Bond Archives trading card set looks anemic by comparison, having no relic cards, fewer chase cards, and less and lesser autograph trading cards.

As one might expect, the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards were produced in 2015 by Rittenhouse Archives, one of the biggest producers of non-sport trading cards in the industry, as their annual James Bond trading card release. For the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives cards, Rittenhouse went with a retro look and feel for a couple of the chase sets, following in the tradition and concept of the 2014 James Bond Archives trading cards.

Unfortunately, between misprints, autograph cards that were not returned in time and rejected cards, the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards had a rushed feel that made for a less remarkable or impressive trading card set than they could have been.

Basics/Set Composition

Fully assembled, the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set has 622 cards and is essentially four (or six) sets in one. As well, there is an oversized binder produced by Rittenhouse Archives that still does not quite hold the entire set. The set consists of 90 common cards and 532 bonus cards. The chase cards are mostly available in the packs of cards, though seven of them were incentive or promotional cards and could not be found in any of the packs. The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards were released in boxes of twenty-four packs of five cards each.

Common Cards

The common card set for the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading cards consisted of ninety modern-looking trading cards. The entire common set recaps the plot of Quantum Of Solace (reviewed here!). One of the immediately problematic aspects of the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card common card set is that the cards are inconsistently oriented. Some of the common cards are oriented with a portrait orientation, though most are oriented with the pictures in landscape format. That makes the set problematic to ty to arrange in any sensible way in a binder.

While the 2015 James Bond Archives cards have the traditional UV-resistant coating which is flawlessly applied, there is a rushed quality to the common set. There are some problematic misprints, most notably the repeated lines on both cards 43 and 44. While it is nice that Quantum Of Solace finally gets a full trading card set devoted to it, it is unfortunate that Rittenhouse Archives did not take the time to make sure it was done all right. Between the misprints and the lack of consistent orientation for the cards, the common set is executed problematically.

Chase Cards

The 525 chase cards that can be found in packs and boxes of 2015 James Bond 007 Archives essentially create three additional "common" sets and two bonus parallel sets, in addition to more traditional James Bond chase cards.

The 2015 James Bond Archives trading card set features three bonus sets that require multiple cases to complete. There are retro sets that retell the stories of You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me and Goldeneye with 78, 93, and 102 cards each. These sets, like the Quantum Of Solace set are inconsistently oriented and are more problematic to try to put into binder pages in any sensible way. The You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me throwback sets are made of a more retro cardboard stock to make the cards from the older films seem like they were from the period in which the films were released.

One per box there are gold parallel cards for the Quantum Of Solace and Goldeneye sets. Each of those sets were limited to only 125 of each of the cards - though I have yet to figure out how that works with one set being 90 cards, the other being 102 cards and only one of each of those cards being found per box (somewhere, it seems, there should be a stockpile of Goldeneye parallel cards). The gold parallel cards are a particularly boring parallel card; they are distinguished from the common versions of their cards by gold foil "007" on the front of each card and an individual foil-stamped number on the back, in the middle of the card. In addition to being especially annoying to find and collate from the packs to the sets (the card numbers are in the lower left corner, the foil stamped number on the back is in the middle right, which is covered up when one organically shuffles the cards to organize them from the packs!), the parallel cards lack any real flash quality to them.

Continuing the tradition of fleshing out prior common sets that featured the rest of the Bond films as chase cards in new sets, the 2015 James Bond Archives set features SkyFall expansion cards, one per box. The SkyFall expansion cards add cards to the James Bond Heroes & Villains set (6 cards) and Dangerous Liaisons (8 cards). While I'm seldom impressed by common cards as chase cards, the 2015 James Bond Archives SkyFall expansion cards are just a mess. Apparently, there were supposed to be 9 Dangerous Liaisons cards and one was rejected by the studio. Rather than resubmit to make the full nine-card set, Rittenhouse Archives cut the card and the result was three of the eight cards ended up with troubling misprints. DL19 features the last shot of SkyFall on the front, with text on the back about the beginning of the film. Similarly, the card that has the image of M dying does not have text that accompanies it and the film's train combat sequence that is supposed to open the set is on one of the latter cards in the SkyFall Dangerous Liaisons set. While Rittenhouse Archives is already looking into fixing the three error cards (and possibly releasing the ninth card with an image that gets approved), one has to wonder why the card company did not delay the set to get it right (especially when one considers that the set was not a sell-out from the manufacturer).

Then there are the autographs. This set of trading cards features forty-five autograph cards, which is another step down from the prior few James Bond sets. Autograph cards in the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set are split between the familiar format of the 40th Anniversary set – which had very small pictures of the character’s head and were oriented in a landscape format – and the vastly more popular full-bleed style which was portrait oriented with giant images of the characters and a minimal signing space at the bottom. The nineteen 40th Anniversary style autographs are split between big names - Roger Moore, Dolph Lundgren, and Sheena Easton - and actors with minimal influence or interest to collectors. Sure, Stanley Morgan and Shane Rimmer are new signers, but is the concierge from Dr. No actually a character collectors care about? Mathieu Amalric and Lundgren are wonderful first-time signers, but given that they appear in this set on the less-popular format than some of the other signers, it is hard to consider them big selling points for the set! They flesh out an autograph set that inexplicably has a Caroline Bliss (she was A70 in the Complete James Bond set with virtually the same image) and yet another Jesper Christensen autograph card.

In the full-bleed autographs, there are some impressive and hard-to-find autographs, including one James Bond (George Lazenby), Christopher Lee (Scaramanga), Halle Berry, Teri Hatcher and Maud Adams (not as Octopussy). Lee has the grail card from the full-bleed set, as he died just over a week before this trading card set was released. The full-bleed autograph cards are unnumbered, which might be in keeping with prior releases, which is really annoying for collectors trying to complete the set. Also irksome is how many of the signers are duplicates from prior releases . . . when there are several big names that could have been a part of the set. Barbara Bach (from The Spy Who Love Me) still has not been the subject of a full-bleed autograph card and this seems like the set that it would have been perfect for. While Jeffrey Wright was originally slated to sign for this set, his card was delayed. The three SkyFall full-bleed autographs are not the most significant potential signers - Ben Whitshaw, Ralph Fiennes, and Javier Bardem have not yet signed (neither did Adele or director Sam Mendes) - and between the signers who have signed for prior releases and somewhat unremarkable minor-character signers, along with the fact that there are fewer autograph cards than in the prior Bond sets, the 2015 James Bond Archives cards have an unremarkable feel to them.

That leads us to a commentary on the collectibility of the autographs. In general, the autograph cards have decent and fairly even distribution. The thing is, and I don't know why collectors haven't figured this out yet and dealers haven't highlighted it, there are five autograph cards that are ridiculously hard to find in the 2015 James Bond Archives set. Five of the autograph cards are classified as Extremely Limited, meaning that the signers signed less than 200 of each card. While some of these have inherent value - Roger Moore, Christopher Lee's final card release - the other three are more hit or miss - George Lazenby is hardly the most popular Bond and Nadja Regin and Yvonne Shima are both obscure characters and have signed for prior trading card releases. What people have not seemed to do yet (save dealers who opened a ton of cases of these cards!) is run the numbers. Assuming that those five cards were actually signed at 200 of each card and taking into account that all five of the autographs were found in the archive boxes (let's very conservatively assume there were 30 Archive boxes), that means that any one of those Extremely Limited autographs is found at a rate of 170 out of 8500 (the number of boxes of 2015 James Bond Archives cards). My experience of opening 18 cases netted only one Extremely Limited autograph in every other case. That means that the five Extremely Limited autographs should have some inherent value to the trading card collectors . . . but they are still consistently selling for less than $100 each, which is insanely low compared to their rarity. The full-bleed autograph cards of Regin and Shima are unlikely to reach a value on par with their rarity because the characters/performers are comparatively obscure.

Non-Box/Pack Cards

The 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set has seven cards not found in any of the boxes or packs. There are three promotional cards – the usual general release, an exclusive one to conventions that Rittenhouse Archives attended, and the binder-exclusive promotional card.

The casetopper for the 2015 James Bond 007 Archives trading card set is a fairly bland SPECTRE preview card, which continues the downward trend of casetopper cards (they used to be cool autograph, sketch or autographed costume cards!). The SPECTRE cards are not individually numbered, foil or even sealed into their toploaders!

Then there are the incentive cards and these follow the trend of recent Rittenhouse Archives releases! For purchasing six cases, dealers received a gold series autograph of Britt Ekland as Mary Goodnight from The Man With The Golden Gun. Ekland's autograph card is another example of a step down from the prior release (the 2014 Archives set had a Roger Moore gold series autograph for the six-case incentive), though the card looks good. For buying nine cases, dealers were given a Daniel Craig autographed costume card. They were limited and hand-numbered to 250 and are a tough sell after the Craig/Judi Dench dual autograph that was the comparable incentive card last year!

The final card in the 2015 James Bond Archives set is the Archive Box exclusive George Lazenby gold series autograph card. Found only in the archive boxes, which were randomly inserted into cases in addition to being an eighteen-case incentive for dealers, the Lazenby autograph is similarly undervalued as the rest of the set.


The 2015 James Bond Archives set is a set designed to keep interest in James Bond collecting through the release of SPECTRE this winter and foreshadow inevitable future releases that make full common sets for SkyFall and SPECTRE. Unfortunately, the annual release of a James Bond set was treated with less respect, enthusiasm and access than prior James Bond releases. The result is a placeholder set that feels like a placeholder . . . and an unfortunately sloppy one at that.

This set culls images from the James bond films Quantum Of Solace, You Only Live Twice (reviewed here!), The Spy Who Loved Me (reviewed here!) and Goldeneye (reviewed here!)!

These cards are available in my online store! Please check them out here: 2015 James Bond Archives Trading Card Current Inventory!

For other trading card reviews, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek Aliens
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 1 trading cards
Cryptozoic DC Comics Super-Villains


For other card reviews, please visit my Card Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Even The Diehard Fans Will Have Trouble Getting Enthused For Star Trek Volume 3!

The Good: Good instrument diversity, Some is truly evocative/memorable
The Bad: Short, Mostly forgettable, Lack of cohesion
The Basics: The soundtrack album Star Trek Volume 3 is hardly an exciting one worth picking up!

Once upon a time, there was not a lot of Star Trek merchandise. That time is pretty alien to me, as I discovered Star Trek right before its 25th Anniversary, during a time of explosive merchandise growth. I recall the merchandising getting so overwhelming to me that I started to cut back on the novels, then the action figures, and finally honed my collection to trading cards and Klingon Bird Of Prey pieces. But before the merchandising for Star Trek became absolutely insane, there was comparatively little of it, so what did get licensed tended to be more eclectic and, in retrospect, ridiculous. The Star Trek Volume 3 Soundtrack album is one such absurd piece of merchandise.

Star Trek Volume 3 is a compilation of music from the Star Trek episodes "Shore Leave" (reviewed here!) and "The Naked Time" (reviewed here!) and the result is a musical body of work shorter than either single episode.

Unlike prior Star Trek soundtracks, most notably Volume 2 (reviewed here!), Star Trek Volume 3 lacks any truly iconic musical cues - outside the opening and closing themes composed by Alexander Courage. The closest one gets is the upbeat, xylophone-driven riff from "Shore Leave" that playfully introduced the Alice In Wonderland rabbit or the contemplative (oft-reused) Star Trek ballad that was played when Captain Kirk saw his former love, Ruth. Neither has the bearing, mainstream recognition or even duration of something like the fight theme from "Amok Time."

As with many of the prior Star Trek Soundtracks, one of the unfortunate issues with Star Trek Volume 3 is that the musical works are based on short cuts in the television work they are from. As a result, there are reversals and crescendos that are far less musically intriguing and more unsettling when the soundtrack is listened to without its visual accompaniment. "The Naked Time" portion of Star Trek Volume 3 is much more murky, but consistent (interestingly enough considering it has no strong musical moments evocative of the episode, longer) collection than the "Shore Leave" half. The soundtrack to "Shore Leave" is unfortunately erratic as musical themes actually start to develop and then are abruptly crushed or changed. While this might work well in the context of the story of "Shore Leave," it is hard to enjoy as a musical piece.

Ultimately, Star Trek Volume 3 is an inconsistent and short instrumental work that fails to hold its own outside the context of the episodes the musical snippets are from. That makes it easy to avoid now.

For other Star Trek soundtracks, please visit my reviews of:
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier Soundtrack
Star Trek: The Next Generation Volume 2
Star Trek Volume 1


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wishing It Would Last: Haagen-Dazs Limited Edition Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Is Worth Hunting Down!

The Good: Great flavor, Quality ingredients
The Bad: More expensive than other ice creams, Not very healthy, Limited edition nature
The Basics: Haagen-Dazs Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice cream is a limited edition flavor that should be the essential chocolate flavor added to Haagen-Dazs's regular line.

I used to love limited edition flavors of ice cream. Limited Edition ice creams afford ice cream manufacturers the chance to play with flavors that may or may not last without committing to trying to keep it on the shelves. In other words, they frequently create a false sense of demand for their flavors because consumers know that the limited edition flavors will not last. I used to love limited edition flavors of ice cream . . . until I kept running into amazing ice cream flavors that were limited edition and I'd like to be able to try more than once! The Haagen-Dazs Limited Edition Midnight Cookies & Cream ice cream is one such flavor.

For anyone who loves chocolate flavor, Midnight Cookies & Cream - which is a chocolate ice cream with chocolate cookie pieces - might be one of the best flavors of ice cream. Unfortunately, it is not permanently available and it is comparatively expensive.


Haagen-Dazs Ice cream comes in a 14 oz. (almost) pint container. The Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice cream is a smooth ice cream packed with chunks of Midnight Cookies & Cream in it. Midnight Cookies & Cream has chunks of cookie pieces in every single bite.

At (locally) $5.99 a pint, the Haagen-Dazs Ice cream is an expensive frozen dairy dessert, though it is on par with other premium ice creams.

Ease Of Preparation

The Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice Cream is a simple ice cream with one major additive. As an ice cream, preparation is ridiculously simple: one need only open the top of the container, remove the safety seal from the top, scoop out a half cup and consume! There is no trick to preparing or eating the Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice Cream!


Haagen-Dazs Midnight Cookies & Cream ice cream has a strong, chocolatey aroma to it. This ice cream becomes more aromatic as it nears its melting point and it is very inviting to anyone who loves dark chocolate.

In the mouth, the Midnight Cookies & Cream ice cream is dark and chocolatey. The chocolate flavor only takes on any sense of sweetness in the secondary flavor. The primary flavor is dry and powerfully cocoa-based. Almost every bite of this ice cream is dry and packed with chocolate cookie pieces that accent the less-sweet aspects of the chocolate ice cream in the Midnight Cookies & Cream ice cream. The chocolate flavor is powerful and real and distinct.

The dry chocolate flavor from the Midnight Cookies & Cream ice cream lingers on the tongue for about five minutes after one has finished consuming it.


The Haagen-Dazs Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice cream is a comparatively thick ice cream with a firm, obvious additive. The 14 oz. container represents three and a half half-cup servings. In the half-cup serving, there are 290 calories, 150 of which are from fat. The seventeen grams of fat represent 26% of the RDA of fat, with 55% of one’s RDA of saturated fat coming in the 11 grams of saturated fat in this ice cream. One serving has 75 mg of cholesterol (that’s 25% of the RDA!) and 110 mg of Sodium (5% RDA). The only other real nutrients are five grams of protein, 10% of the RDA of Calcium and Vitamin A and 8% RDA of Iron in the Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice cream.

Haagen-Dazs has decent ingredients. Made primarily of Cream, skim milk and sugar, Midnight Cookies & Cream ice cream is all natural! There is nothing unpronounceable in the ingredients list. The Midnight Cookies & Cream Haagen-Dazs is not marked as gluten free or Kosher. There are allergy warnings on the package for milk, wheat, soy and egg ingredients, so it is very much not Vegan compliant.


Haagen-Dazs Ice cream is both a frozen and a dairy product, so it is pretty obvious that it must be kept frozen in order to remain viable. Kept frozen it remains fresh for months.

The Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice cream is a very dark brown ice cream and it will stain if it melts on light clothing; consult a fabric guide to get chocolate ice creams like this out of your specific fabric. On nonporous surfaces, the ice cream wipes off exceptionally easily.


The Haagen-Dazs Midnight Cookies & Cream Ice cream is a good dessert, but for the price, I would have hoped both flavors would be equally vibrant.

For other Haagen-Dazs reviews, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Dark Chocolate Chip Gelato
Limoncello Gelato
Blueberry Crumble Gelato


For other food 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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Entirely Average Action Flick: Dragon Blade Underwhelms!

The Good: Decent-enough acting, Generally good directing
The Bad: Fairly flat characters, Dull plot
The Basics: In a world with 300 and Game Of Thrones, Dragon Blade seems entirely passe.

One of the dangers to any industry with pushing the envelope is what the works that push the envelope does to the rest of that industry. In filmmaking, as innovative directors and great storytellers push the envelope, it makes it harder for the average films to capture their audience. Dragon Blade is one of those films that might have been interesting a few years ago, but with movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (reviewed here!) and television shows like Game Of Thrones (season 1 is reviewed here!), Dragon Blade just seems dull.

A period historical drama (with enough fictitious elements to be entertaining), Dragon Blade is largely bloodless in its first half and the characterization of the protagonists and primary antagonist is done remarkably flatly. The result is a film that hits theaters with more of a splat than anything that will thrill audiences. While some aspects of the movie's mediocrity might have to do with cultural barriers (Dragon Blade is a Chinese film being imported to the U.S. based on the viability of its stars Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody), mostly it underwhelms because it is hard to empathize with the characters and lacks a genuine hook. Writer-director Daniel Lee created a movie that looks good-enough, but lacks spark.

Opening in 2015, where a company discovers Roman ruins in China, satellites confirm the existence of a rumored city. Flashing back to 48 B.C., the Silk Road in Western China is in turmoil. There, thirty-six warring nations vie for control and Huo An works for the Emperor to maintain the peace. After intervening in a conflict between Lady Cold Moon and the White Indians, Huo An returns home to his wife and the school she runs. His reunion with her is cut short when Huo An and his friends are taken into custody on unsubstantiated gold smuggling charges. Condemned to the Wild Geese Gate, Huo An discovers that none of the various ethnic groups working to restore the Gate are working together. Shortly after Hou An arrives at the Wild Geese Gate, the Roman general Lucius flees with the heir to the throne to the gate.

Lucius and Hou An initially fight, but with Lucius being pursued by Tiberius - who wants to be Consul himself - Hou An offers the Roman refugees sanctuary. Together, the Romans and Chinese work together to restore the Wild Geese Gate in advance of the Tiberius arriving. Unfortunately, Lucius is attacked and imprisoned and Publius is executed. Uniting the groups, Huo An and the Chinese take a stand against Tiberius and the Roman forces.

Dragon Blade looks good and the performers do a fairly good job at portraying the characters. Unlike a b-film, the armor looks wonderful and the sets are impressive. John Cusack credibly plays Lucius and he plays off Jozef Waite impressively. Waite plays the child heir, Publius, and Cusack sets his eyes with a serious gaze in scenes they share, which instantly gives Publius appropriate credibility. Cusack sells the reality of the setting very well.

The surprising performance in Dragon Blade comes from Jackie Chan. Despite the film's early comical moment wherein Huo An sees Cold Moon naked, Chan gives a serious and grounded performance that is not based in his ability to do martial arts. Chan plays Huo An in a laid-back fashion and he and Cusack act off one another to credibly form a friendship between Lucius and Huo An.

Beyond that, though, Dragon Blade is fairly unimpressive. The plot is formulaic and not particularly original or surprising. The characters feel flat, despite a few flashback scenes wherein key backstory elements are relayed. Tiberius is a monolithic villain and the "all the disparate cultures unite together against the oppressive forces" theme is presented in Dragon Blade with simplicity and slogans reminiscent of Party propaganda.

The result is a movie unlikely to bowl over the audiences that made films like 300 (reviewed here!) and its sequel into box office hits.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
Jenny's Wedding
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Lila & Eve
No Way Jose
Inside Out
Jurassic World


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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Heavy Is The Hair That Suave Professionals Black Raspberry + White Tea Conditioner Is Used Upon!

The Good: Generally excellent ingredients, It works to condition hair all right, Good scent!
The Bad: Not cone-free, Very heavy
The Basics: A mediocre conditioner, Black Raspberry + White Tea from Suave Professionals has a great scent, but it makes hair heavy and greasy-looking!

Sometimes, it is tough for me to review a conditioner. When a conditioner is paired with a shampoo that is heavier and leaves a bit of a residue, it is tough to figure out if the conditioner is equally problematic. Not long ago, I reviewed the somewhat problematic Suave Professionals Black Raspberry + White Tea shampoo (reviewed here!) and now I take on the Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner. Unfortunately, the conditioner does a decent job of sealing in the heavy residue left by the Black Raspberry + White Tea shampoo.

Other than that the only real problems with Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner is the fact that it is not cone free. The third ingredient in this conditioner ends in "-cone," so this product cannot be considered cone free. However, I tend not to listen to the naysayers and current trends in diet or fashion. The "Cone Threat" is a rather new fear in the haircare product market and I've yet to see any real effect from it. In fact, when a conditioner works as well as this one has for me, it is hard to take the rumors about coned products being terrible for hair seriously. My hair has not been more brittle, breakable or anything negative (save heavy from build-up) since I started using the Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner. With this conditioner, I have had fewer split ends.

The Suave Professionals Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner is intended to be paired with the same brand's Black Raspberry + White Tea shampoo and I have since discovered that the combination does not do justice to the conditioner. The shampoo is very heavy; the conditioner seals in the residue it leaves. When I used this conditioner with shampoos from another brand, the conditioner did a good job of keeping hair manageable and not heavy. The heavy residue does not seem to come from the conditioner itself, but it seals in any heavy residue left by a shampoo!

Suave has been expanding its line of inexpensive shampoos and conditioners into the professional haircare market where they are trying to compete with shampoos and conditioners from the likes of Aveda. With Black Raspberry + White Tea Conditioner, the brand gets on shaky footing. In virtually every market in the United States, Suave Professionals shampoos and conditioners may be found on sale for $3.49 for a 25 fl. oz. bottle. The Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner has a strong scent which is nice. The 25 fl. oz. bottle is a flat tube bottle with a pump that is easy enough to use to dispense the conditioner from with one hand. While the bottle gets slippery when wet, it is easy enough use without actually holding the bottle.

Inside the bottles is Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner and it is a buttery white colored cream, which resembles hand cream or body butter in its consistency. This conditioner is one of the thicker ones I have encountered and I have managed to make it stretch as a result. The scent of raspberries from this conditioner is decently strong and keeps the scent on the hair for hours after use.

When it comes to use, this is a simple conditioner and one need only pump out a few dollops to dispense a reasonable amount into the palm of the hand before applying it to the hair. The Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner requires a decent-sized dollop to condition a full head of hair. After one has cleaned their hair with a shampoo and rinsed it out, this may be applied to the hair. I have better than shoulder-length hair and it takes approximately a heaping half-dollar-sized blob of conditioner to make it stretch through my mane. Like most conditioners, this does not lather and instead it is applied to the hair and scalp almost like a butter.

In the case of the Black Raspberry + White Tea, as I've noticed often with conditioners lately, there is about a three-to-one ratio to the shampoo because conditioners do not dilute out from lathering. As a result, the 25 oz. bottle may last almost two months with daily hair conditionings. That said, this does seem to be a thicker conditioner that takes a lot to spread through the hair and with that type coating, I've been able to get away with using it only every-other hairwashing and still had manageable hair as a result.

As a conditioner, it works well for all one could want from a conditioner. Hair is protected, even in harsh environments. Hair that is conditioned with Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner daily is less brittle and less susceptible to split ends. As long as I did not use it with the shampoo of the same name, the Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner worked well as a revitalizing and nourishing conditioner. In fact, it does everything one would hope from a conditioner, except leave hair light and more manageable when paired with its corresponding shampoo.

Suave Professionals’ Black Raspberry + White Tea conditioner does not bother me for not being cone-free. Unfortunately, the fact that I can only use it with shampoos other than the one it is supposed to go to makes it much more problematic and is the reason I am unable to recommend it.

For other Suave conditioners, please check out my reviews of:
Refreshing Waterfall Mist
Ocean Breeze
Suave Professionals Rosemary Mint Conditioner


For more haircare reviews, please check out my Hair Care & Beauty Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, June 22, 2015

Communities, Characters, And Businesses Rule Orange Is The New Black Season Three!

The Good: Decent character development, Good performances, Moments of message
The Bad: Light on plot
The Basics: In its third season, Orange Is The New Black develops the characters without doing much more around Litchfield's minimum security women's prison.

Third seasons are an interesting turning point for most long-running television series'. Outside the random show that gets cancelled after having a rockin' third season - Happy Endings (third season reviewed here!) I'm looking at you! - third seasons seem to be where most television shows actually hit their stride, even if they involve a little bit of retuning. In the third season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!), the space station-based science fiction show got a starship and a more tightly serialized plot; in the third season of Lost (reviewed here!), the other occupants of the island were explored and two random new passengers from Oceanic 815 were thrown into the cast; Orange Is The New Black has a similarly transformative third season.

The third season of Orange Is The New Black picks up a short time after the second season (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the third season without some (generally minor) spoilers from the prior season. The second season of Orange Is The New Black is essentially a war story; the third season redirects from the tightly serialized plot and belabors the characters who are residents in Litchfield Women's Prison. After a season with a well-developed plot and characters who had shifting allegiances, the third season of Orange Is The New Black minimizes the plot and focuses on character backstories and building the relationships between the characters.

It is, arguably, the best season of the show so far.

Orange Is The New Black is essential on the plot-front for key elements like a new company taking over the management of Litchfield, the return of Alex Vause, and Dayanara having her baby. Beyond that, all of the essential elements of the third season are character-based, character-focused moments and movements. The show, in its third season, focuses on relationships and the effects of business. Instead of having dramatic plot turns, people in the third season form and react to communities and enterprises and the change in pace has the effect of making viewers care more about the characters they have known for the two prior years. Just as with the second season, the third season of Orange Is The New Black plugs ahead without maintaining a focus on characters who have been previously established (Alex Vause gets an episode flush with flashbacks, whereas Piper Chapman does not) and there are two episodes that actually feature flashbacks for multiple characters (on my second viewing of the season, I watched like a hawk, but there are still no "easter eggs" wherein one inmate's backstory has other Litchfield characters peppered in!) instead of maintaining a tight focus on a single character.

On the plot front, the season opens with Doggett driving the new prison van as Mother's Day approaches. With most of the inmates preparing to be visited by their children for the day, Piper and Alex reconnect as Red, too, returns to general population. In the wake of Figueroa's embezzlement and dismissal, Caputo finds it difficult to keep the prison financially viable. While his solution is to get rid of prisoners through early release, the savings he generates are soon eaten up when he has to replace all the mattresses, thanks to one of the children bringing bedbugs into the prison. The financial crisis escalates until Caputo has to turn to a private company, Management And Correction Corporation, to take over the management of Litchfield.

The reign of MCC is fraught with problems: the guards are off-put by being cut down to part-time and losing their benefits, Caputo finds himself working for the son of MCC's director and trying to re-find his footing in the new corporate structure, and the inmates are turned on one another for a job at the prison that pays $1/hour. While a cult forms around the usually-mute Norma, Piper exploits the new business (the prisoners are tasked with making underwear for a company analogous to Victoria's Secret) to start an enterprise of her own. Piper and Alex manipulate one of the new MCC guards into exporting panties from the prisoners for Piper's brother to sell online. With the prison panty business growing, tensions begin to rise between Piper and her workers (the other prisoners), while Piper and Alex's relationship hits a rough spot. While Piper is tempted by Stella, Alex believes she is being hunted by Kubra within the prison, which leads to Piper not being there for Alex when her girlfriend needs her most!

The longer the third season of Orange Is The New Black went on, the more I began to think about Vicky Jeudy. Jeudy plays Watson and my mind drifting continually to her probably because I was watching most of the third season while stationed at a table next to Denise Crosby at a Star Trek convention the weekend it made its debut. Crosby is famous for leaving Star Trek: The Next Generation in its first season (reviewed here!), ostensibly for having so many episodes in the early first season that were focused on her character Tasha Yar. As the season progressed, the writers had to focus on other characters and Crosby felt a bit of bait and switch (many of her mid-season episodes had Tasha Yar simply saying "hailing frequencies open"). In the first season of Orange Is The New Black (reviewed here!), Watson was one of the most significant characters. Jeudy had a very minor part in the second season's war within the prison (one has to wonder if Jeudy was disappointed that her character, Watson, who had real integrity bought into Vee's cult from the moment Vee had cake brought to her!) and in the third season, Watson is a virtual non-entity. Watson has one snarky utterance and a single flashback that does virtually nothing to enhance her character. Such is the nature, it seems, of Orange Is The New Black; characters important in one season are usurped by characters that were virtual non-entities in the prior seasons. The third season of Orange Is The New Black is very much Jeudy's "hailing frequencies open" season; viewers will have to wait a year to see if that is enough to make Jeudy jump ship.

As Waston continues her descent into utter anonymity and Sister Ingalls joins her on the road to being a forgotten member of the ensemble, Norma, Marisol ("Flaca"), Doggett, Cindy, and Boo continue their ascent to the forefront of the narrative. While Stella leaps into the narrative for the latter half of the season, Susan, Tasha ("Taystee"), Poussey, Gloria, and Sophia vie to maintain the airtime and storyline attention they built in the prior season. Arguably, only Red and Healy have the same level of attention in the third season as they did in the prior two.

Because of its lack of a strong story for its third season, Orange Is The New Black is obsessed with characters in its third season. The essential characters for the third season of Orange Is The New Black are:

Piper Chapman – Passing the midpoint of her imprisonment at Litchfield, she reconnects with Alex. Alex's return to Litchfield is accompanied soon after by Piper confessing her involvement in her return. Soon, she declares Alex her girlfriend and the two begin an honest, loving portion of their relationship. When Piper goes to work for the lingerie company brought in by MCC, she discovers how much material they waste and repurposes it to making extra panties of her own. But as her business begins to take off, she starts to trust Stella and distance herself from Alex,

Alex Vause - Back in prison after betraying Piper in Chicago and flipping on Kubra, she becomes convinced that Kubra will send someone to kill her. She becomes instantly suspicious of Lolly, who arrives shortly after MCC takes over and seems to be performing surveillance on her. She becomes increasingly paranoid,

Red – Returning to the prison wounded and soon learning her husband has destroyed her business on the outside, she befriends Healy (though Gloria is convinced she is just playing an angle). With MCC's takeover, she manages to get back in the kitchen, where she finds herself unable to bully Norma. She starts at the bottom, but when Gloria freaks out, she is a positive alternative for Caputo to choose. She spends most of the rest of the season telling inmates that the crap MCC is serving is not representative of her cooking . . . though she does manage to execute one awesome meal, thanks to the garden the seniors have,

Nicky Nichols – After working with Boo to try to get rid of the heroin Vee left behind, she finds herself tempted by it. She tries to enlist Luschek to export the drugs . . . with disastrous consequences for her,

Daya – Her pregnancy progressing, she is alarmed when Bennett flees his post. When Pornstache's mother pops up and she learns her own mother is extorting her, Dayanara begins to debate whether to keep the baby or give it over to Mendez's mother. She finds herself in conflict her mother and her own conscience,

Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” – Mourning the disappearance of Vee (and believing she is still alive), she becomes a handful for Tasha. When a new prison counselor comes into Litchfield, she begins to express herself creatively. That leads to her writing a serialized sex-filled book that has a number of the inmates obsessed,

Leanne – Her past is revealed as she begins to organize a religion around Norma. She finds herself bullying Brook Soso and basically filling the niche Pennsatucky once had,

Poussey – Still wrestling with feelings for Tasha, she finds herself listing . . . especially after the bedbugs lead to the destruction of the prison library. She keeps getting drunk to avoid the pain of facing a life without a romantic partner. Initially interested in the cult forming around Norma, she rejects the hive mind when Leanne organizes the group and start treating Brook poorly,

Tasha – "Taystee" is convinced Vee is dead (how no one traced the course from Litchfield to the quarry where Rosa crashed the truck and found Vee's body along the way is a pretty major plothole in the season) and struggles to move on. She slowly grows into the role of new denmother for the black women at Litchfield, especially working to keep Suzanne in line and out of psych,

Lorna Morello – More and more unhinged, especially after Nicky is taken away, she starts corresponding with various men to get money for her commissary account. But her scam quickly turns into genuine affection for one of the men who visits her (arguably because he goes and beats up Christopher for her),

Gloria Mendoza – Running the kitchen leaves her too busy to pay attention to her son on his occasional visits. After worrying that he will become a thug, she works out an arrangement with Sophia so Sophia's wife will bring him to Litchfield on visits. That soon leads to conflict when Michael is a bad influence on her son and she loses her position running the kitchen trying to spend time with her son. Complaining to Daya's mother leads to a hate crime against Sophia for which Gloria feels guilt, but fails to do anything about,

Doggett – Her backstory is more thoroughly revealed and the tragedy of her white trash upbringing is mirrored in the way a new guard begins to use her. She and Boo continue their unlikely friendship and when the new guard assaults her, they work together to get revenge,

Big Boo - After working with Nicky to make money off the prison's drug stockpile, she and Doggett hang out more and more. She tries to use Doggett's religious extremist community to make money for her own commissary account before returning to her roots. She supports Doggett during her flirtations with a new guard - especially because it gets her doughnuts, but quickly recognizes when things turn in that relationship. She orchestrates a revenge plan with Doggett and is incredibly compassionate to her unlikely friend,

Norma - Still silent in the prison, her backstory is revealed as that of a cult member for a charismatic hippie. She tries to do nice things for people and, in the wake of the Spanish magic that she and Gloria believe led to Vee's disappearance, comes to believe she has special powers. Attempting to bring miracles to the prison leads to others to try to build a religion around her, which she seems mostly okay with,

Sophia - Worried that Gloria's son is a bad influence on Michael soon turns problematic when Michael acts out and acts violently against other children. She sits out most of the season until the situation with Gloria escalates and she tries to break up Michael and Gloria's son, much to Gloria's anger. Attacked by Gloria's allies, she turns to the only person she still considers a friend,

Marisol - "Flaca" is given a backstory wherein she avoids her mother's sewing business and cranks out fake drugs until she is caught. She ends up working alongside Piper in the new sewing job. Frustrated by that, when she realizes how much money Piper is making on the outside, she organizes the labor for better terms,

Cindy - Taking a cue from Lolly, she begins getting the Kosher meals when the food at Litchfield gets terrible. Her scam is soon caught, but she decides that Judaism is actually for her and she moves to convert,

Stella - An inmate who is suddenly noticed by Piper, she expresses interest in Piper, though her intent is not immediately clear,

Joe Caputo – Trying to be a good guy, he sells out the prison to try to save the jobs of the guards who are complaining when it becomes apparent the prison will close. He hatefucks Figueroa and helps to organize the guards when MCC breaks up their union. Tired of being constantly beaten down while trying to do the right thing, he takes advice from an unlikely source after Sophia is put in protective custody,

and Sam Healy – Still struggling with his mail-order bride, he begins to bond with Red. As his marriage falls apart, he starts to do nice things for Red. He is frustrated when a new counselor moves in on his turf and other inmates, like Soso, tell him how bad he is at his job.

Orange Is The New Black continues to have excellent performances in its third season, especially from new players (in this work) Mary Steenburgen (Delia Powell, Pornstache's mother) and Ruby Rose (Stella). The real winners on the acting front in the third season of Orange Is The New Black are Taryn Manning (Doggett) and Lea DeLaria. Manning's Doggett is given an expanded role which makes her incredibly sympathetic. But the writing that does that would be nothing without Manning's performance. Manning makes Doggett's powerful scenes entirely heartbreaking, from tears to dead-eyed expressions at horrible moments, Manning illustrates wonderful range in the third season.

Lea DeLaria plays Boo and in the third season she has the chance to explore her character's character more. What DeLaria does very well in the third season is take a character who was reliable for edgy lines in prior seasons and makes her into a viable person. Boo is furious when Doggett is taken advantage of (my muted terminology is only for minimizing spoilers!) and DeLaria plays the role of "big sister" to Doggett with the right balance of aggression and compassion. It's a fine line and DeLaria walks it with impressive ability.

Ultimately, the third season of Orange Is The New Black leads to a surprising place that puts all the actors (not characters) in jeopardy, but makes for an astonishingly solid season that deepens the characters trapped in Litchfield prison . . . even if very little occurs within the season.

For other works from the 2014 – 2015 television season, please check out my reviews of:
Sense8 - Season 1
Grace And Frankie - Season 1
Agent Carter - Season 1
Daredevil - Season 1
The Newsroom - Season 3
House Of Cards - Season 3
Doctor Who - Season 8
True Blood - Season 7
”Shadows” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
”City Of Heroes” - The Flash


For other television reviews, please 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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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Exposed Nails, Dank Rooms, The Quality Inn O'Hare Airport Is One Of The Worst Of The Line!

The Good: Friendly staff
The Bad: Overpriced, Cleanliness, Lack of amenities, Lack of value, Lack of lighting, Breakfast issues, Dangerous rooms!
The Basics: A new low for the Quality Inn line, the Quality Inn O'Hare Airport near Chicago ought to be shut down.

This weekend, I am fulfilling a dream I have had for over half my life. I'm at a convention and I'm going to finally meet the last member of the cast to my favorite television show of all time: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (reviewed here!). My dream weekend, though, is far from dreamlike, mostly because the hotel at which I am staying is a complete dive. The Quality Inn O'Hare Airport is an utter disappointment from the Choice Hotels line.


The Quality Inn O'Hare Airport (IL228 in the Choice Hotel numbering system, which may be helpful if you decide to ignore my advice and book a room here) is located at 3801 North Mannheim Road, Schiller Park, Illinois. This is found down a little way from the mess of construction that seems to be invading most of this area of Chicago. Missing a single turnoff to the hotel leaves one stranded in O'Hare Airport, which is pretty terrible.

Once one finds North Mannheim Road - Routes 14 & 45 - this is a very easy hotel to get to. The hotel has a very narrow driveway and from one direction, it's a simple right turn. Turning left into the driveway/parking lot is a real crapshoot depending on how much traffic there is in the area (it's a pretty high traffic area).

Otherwise, this property is pretty terrible. Stuck in an industrial area between one little suburb and the airport, the Quality Inn O'Hare Airport has no grounds to speak of, merely a parking lot that wraps around the entire building. In fact, the rooms out back face a very narrow parking strip and, as I discovered today, that floods incredibly easily! As someone who is fairly loyal to the Choice Hotel chains for their value, I prepaid for my stay at the Quality Inn O'Hare Airport, so I had no recourse but to finish my stay here: the moment I first walked into the hallway off the main lobby and smelled the marshy, dank smell to it, I knew I had made a terrible decision.

Room Size

The Quality Inn O'Hare Airport has a smell to it, like the afterscent of cigarette smoke or something moldy. While I was there, the hotel had construction going on in the hallway and on one of the stairwells and that contributed to the odor that pervaded the hotel.

The rooms are approximately thirteen and a half feet wide by twenty-six feet deep. With the king-sized bed, two nightstands, television stand, chair, desk and small bathroom, the rooms have a somewhat cramped feeling to them.


The Quality Inn O'Hare Airport is flat-out dirty. The exterior windows seem to always be covered with grit from the city and passing trucks or whatever. The interior is dark, but that's not enough to hide that this hotel is unclean. All of the carpet in this hotel is stained, dirty and contributes to the overall dank feeling of the hotel.

Whenever I first arrive in a hotel, the first thing I do is go in and flush the toilet. There's nothing worse than a hotel room where the plumbing is backed up. To the credit of the Quality Inn O'Hare Airport, it passed the first flush test!

Sadly, though, for as helpful as the cleaning staff is, the rooms are not clean. The nonsmoking rooms seem like they are not terribly well enforced as the room bears an odor that could be from rooms formerly smoked in.

The peak of the problems in my room comes from the headboard. I like to sit up in bed; I can't do that on the king sized bed at the Quality Inn O'Hare Airport because it has a damaged headboard. In the center of the headboard is a piece that looks like it was re-attached with wood glue and spackle . . . backwards. That means, there are four exposed screws poking out more than a half inch from the headboard right where my head would rest if I sat up! How such a blatantly unsafe problem exists in one of their rooms is baffling to me.


Room rates at this hotel are fairly expensive (at least by my standards) with all rooms being more than fifty dollars a night and they are nowhere near worth it. The rooms feel dank and there is nothing distinctive about the hotel for what it offers.

The room has the king-sized bed, a television (limited channel selection), two nightstands and shampoo, conditioner and lotion. They also have a chair and a coffee maker; despite three lamps and one overhead light, the rooms never actually get bright. There is not a lot to recommend in the rooms.

The hotel features a continental breakfast in the sports bar on the main floor. This is regulated fanatically by two staff members for breakfast, so there's no picking up breakfast and taking it back to your room for a friend. It's insane that one cannot bring food back to their room for a sleeping spouse or any sort of asocial partner. For a breakfast so close to Chicago, this seems especially bland. There are four cereal options, four juices, coffee, cocoa, oatmeal packets, hard boiled eggs, yogurt, bananas and bagels. There are also make-your-own waffles . . . but it's hard to eat with the two guards staring one down and pointing to the signs that inform people staying here that food cannot be taken from the restaurant!

The hotel has an outdoor pool which is fairly nice. It is not overly chlorinated and is cleaner than any part of the inside of the hotel.


Between the dangers of the headboard and the dirty carpets to the breakfast-monitoring staff that would make the ghestapo envious, the Quality Inn O'Hare Airport is an utterly unpleasant hotel to stay at.

For other hotels in the Choice Hotels chain, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Quality Inn West - Baltimore, MD
Quality Inn & Suites Airport - El Paso, TX
Comfort Suites Downtown - Buffalo, NY


For other travel reviews, please be sure to visit my Travel Review Index Page!

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