Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 2016 End Of The Month Report!

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January was a ridiculously slow start to 2016 for the blog and me. I've been playing video games, working on my business and experiencing the joy ofa new kitten! That made me much less excited about partaking of things like the return of Agent Carter, so the blog was dominated by DC Television Universe reviews. As a result, the month was dominated by older reviews getting attention, as opposed to a whole bunch of stellar new reviews; next month will be bigger for the blog.

This month, we picked up five new followers on Twitter - which surprised me given our low productivity - 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 slowly growing our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In January, the index pages were only once. The primary Index Page, is usually updated daily and 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 and feel free to use that as it is a much more useful and organized index to the reviews I've written!

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. As the new year begins, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of January 2016, I have reviewed the following:
540 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
916 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2898 - Movie and Television Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Movies By Rating (Best Movie to Worst)
Movies In Alphabetical Order
Best Picture Oscar Winner Film Reviews
Television Reviews
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews In Order)!
The Star Trek Review Index Page (All Star Trek Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews In Order)!
The Doctor Who Review Index Page (All Doctor Who Reviews From The Best Of The Franchise To The Worst!)!
224 - Trading and Gaming Card Reviews
Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Trek Gaming Cards Reviews
Star Wars Gaming Cards Reviews
The Lord Of The Rings Trading Card Game Reviews
Other Gaming Cards Reviews
Trading Cards Reviews
841 - Toy and Christmas Ornament Reviews
with specialized pages for:
Ornament Reviews
Star Trek Toys
Star Wars Toys
Lord Of The Rings Toys
Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel Toys
Comic Book, Movie, Television Toys
Plush and Other Toys
911 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
239 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
114 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
190 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
192 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
100 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
50 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of January are my reviews of Blackstar by David Bowie and my article on Why Bernie Sanders Will Be The Next President And His Supporters Need To Adjust Their Tactics!
Check it out!

The month of January was dominated by prior months' reviews! For January, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Expelled
9. "The Reverse-Flash Returns" - The Flash
8. "Pilot, Part II" - DC's Legends Of Tomorrow
7. Bound
7. Blackstart - David Bowie
6. Quaker Brown Sugar Oatmeal Squares
5. "The Husbands Of River Song" - Doctor Who
4. Jessica Jones - Season 1
3. "Potential Energy" - The Flash
2. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
1. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier

I pride myself on being an exceptionally fair reviewer, but one who is very discriminating. I believe that most reviewers are far too biased toward both what is current and toward unduly praising things. I tend to believe most things actually are average and they ought to follows something around a Bell Curve. Mine is a little lopsided, but not as lopsided as most reviewers I know (who would probably have peak numbers between ten and seven)!

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 318 reviews
9s - 472 reviews
8s - 913 reviews
7s - 1013 reviews
6s - 937 reviews
5s - 1200 reviews
4s - 882 reviews
3s - 690 reviews
2s - 326 reviews
1s - 219 reviews
0s - 104 reviews
No rating - 104 articles/postings

While there was a decent amount of movement this month, the all time Top Ten remains unchanged. At the end of January 2016, 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!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, January 29, 2016

Professor Stein Dominates Legends Of Tomorrow "Pilot Part Two!"

The Good: Decent production values, Moments of character, Some wonderful performance moments
The Bad: Erratic acting, Plot is somewhat simplistic.
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow finishes its pilot with a focus on Dr. Martin Stein and the first major character death.

If you're going to pay for Victor Garber, you have to give him a decent role. Fans of Victor Garber's work were undoubtedly surprised when he appeared in The Flash as the (secondary) character Dr. Martin Stein. Obviously, executive producer Greg Berlanti had some ideas of things to come and that Stein would be an important player in the DC Television Universe (in the comic books, Dr. Martin Stein frequently appears as a supporting character in Firestorm, both physically and as a disembodied voice. So, when casting for Legends Of Tomorrow was first announced, it is unsurprising that Victor Garber was given top billing and that Dr. Martin Stein would be an integral component of the show (at the time, it was problematically spoiler-iffic as his Firestorm co-star Robbie Amell was not part of those cast lists!). In "Pilot, Part 2" of Legends Of Tomorrow, viewers are shown exactly why a genre series like this would shell out for an actor of Garber's caliber.

"Pilot Part II" completes the first major adventure of Rip Hunter's time traveling team that was begun in "Pilot Part I" (reviewed here!). While my original gripe with Legends Of Tomorrow was that the pilot was presented as two episodes, as opposed to one full movie. But "Pilot Part II" is more focused on Dr. Stein than Rip Hunter and it is completely devoid of the Chronos bounty hunter subplot. Instead, "Pilot, Part II" begins to explore some of the practical ramifications that might result from Rip Hunter's influence and intervention.

Recovering from the death of Dr. Boardman, Rip Hunter's crew follows his journal's lead to a black market arm's dealing in Norway, still in 1975. There, Snart, Rory, Stein and Lance infiltrate the arm's sale where they discover Vandal Savage is the seller of a nuclear weapon. In the process of escaping the sale after Savage recognizes the infiltrators as interlopers, the Atom loses a piece of his suit. Hunter consults Gideon and learns that Savage getting the tech results in 2016 Central City being utterly destroyed. While Stein, Jackson, and Lance head to United States to get the device that can track Palmer's tech in 1975, Snart, Rory and Palmer head to the mansion of a Russian who has bought the dagger that can be used to kill Vandal Savage. Encountering the 25 year-old Stein throws the older Stein and Jackson.

Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders attempt to discover the origin of the dagger and Saunders starts to recall some of her life as Chay-Ara and her time as the priestess in the Temple Of Horus four thousand years prior. Savage gives his minions twenty-four hours to figure out Palmer's technology, which is quickly complicated when "the Russian" turns out to be Vandal Savage and his security system quickly thwarts Snart's team. While Lance is able to recover Palmer's technology, the whole team is soon drawn into a rescue mission that requires them to directly confront Vandal Savage!

"Pilot Part II" is saddled immediately with a narrative issue that neglects its own concept. Vandal Savage begins the chain of events by escaping Hawkman and Hawkgirl by setting a two minute timer on the nuclear bomb. This idea is one that would work in a single-super hero show, but truly flops in Legends Of Tomorrow. As the episode shows, only Firestorm and Atom are needed to defuse the nuclear weapon. That leaves five heroes to attempt to capture Vandal Savage. Yet somehow, ridiculously, he gets away (the concept is predicated on the idea that the arm's buyers would stick around to fight the other five inside the potential blast radius of a nuclear devices, as opposed to having a self-preservation instinct!). But following that, "Pilot Part II" is built on the assumption that the Waverider can navigate through time and space but does not have sensors that can trace Alpha Particles. The episode's FOUR writers hope viewers won't catch either of these details!

Dr. Stein, past and future, is the main focus of "Pilot Part II" on the character front. Stein is a character who encounters his own hubris at both the arm's market and in encountering his younger self. It is his slip of the tongue that clues Savage in to the fact that the group is out of time. Victor Garber completely nails the role, especially with tongue-in-cheek observations about how his comrades fail to guard the door. Stein is also amazingly played by Graeme McComb. McComb gets some of the cadences for Garber as Stein down perfect with his deliveries! Both McComb and Garber get through the technobabble like champs and Garber's big scene for Stein's introspection is well-delivered. It offsets Ciara Renee's less-developed performance as Saunders has her own revelations and memories of Kendra's past lives.

The rest of the ensemble cast is given an opportunity each to play their roles and have a moment each. Wentworth Miller continues to shine as Leonard Snart and Brandon Routh plays off him in an interesting way. Having not watched much of Arrow at all, Routh's portrayal of Dr. Palmer - both the writing and the performance - seems incongruent from the character in the books; he is much edgier and more impulsive in the DC Television Universe. The belaboring of the relationship between Carter and Kendra takes up more time than anything Rip Hunter is given in "Pilot Part II" and it becomes a necessary evil for where the episode goes.

Legends Of Tomorrow borrows from Back To The Future (reviewed here!) with the conceit of Dr. Stein's wedding ring. The future being in flux has physical tells and unlike in the classic science fiction comedy, in "Pilot, Part II" the conceit seems somewhat ridiculous.

The production values in "Pilot, Part II" continue high, though the show continues to have obvious questions that remain unanswered. For a time-travel adventure none of the team members have yet noted that there are photographs that include Vandal Savage in them, so they know several exact times and places he will be and is vulnerable. No one has belabored how Vandal Savage resurrected after the Arrow episode "Legends Of Yesterday" and proposed stopping Merlyn Malcolm from getting his remnants (which would have the least amount of temporal impact, one assumes). That said, young Professor Stein's initial question of "have we met" to his older self holds the potential for a future, earlier, adventure in which he appears.

"Pilot Part II" is not a time-travel adventure, it is an episode that explores cause and effect and consequences. It is also, very much, the beginning of a story that promises to be longer and more complicated. The introduction of Back To The Future conceits leads to the potential that the show might do a Back To The Future, Part II or "Trials And Tribble-ations" (reviewed here!) episode that puts the team in "Legends Of Yesterday" to solve the convoluted potential mess the show could become. It is an obvious solution to all of the problems raised by both parts of the pilot of Legends Of Tomorrow and where this episode ends gives all of the characters the motivation they need to make it entertaining. Whether or not it goes there is yet to be seen, but for a start, "Pilot Part II" solidifies the beginning of the show well.

For other works with Neal McDonough, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"Legends Of Today" - The Flash
"The Iron Ceiling" - Agent Carter
Captain America: The First Avenger
Tin Man
Minority Report
Star Trek: First Contact
"Facing The Fire" - V.R.-5

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Legends Of Tomorrow - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season of the time traveling hero team here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Impressive From The Scent Down, Mentha Body Mint Vitamin Body Wash Is Worth Picking Up!

The Good: Incredible aroma, Impressive lather, Cleans well, Invigorating!
The Bad: The price is prohibitive
The Basics: Bath & Body Works' C.O. Bigelow Mentha Body Mint Vitamin body wash makes us pine for the shampoo that is no longer available, which leads us to pay a steep price for it!

When I first started this blog, one of the first things I did was start removing my reviews from the site I worked at before (which, HA!, is no longer in business!) and began posting them - reformatted - on my site. My intellectual property is my own. One of the first reviews I was sure to bring over was for the C.O. Bigelow Mentha Body shampoo (reviewed here!). I brought it over because it was an excellent, if expensive, product and it was on its way out of the marketplace. Since then, I have been unable to get it again - C.O. Bigelow stopped making it - but I was pretty thrilled when I went to Bath & Body Works and discovered they now had C.O. Bigelow Mentha Body Vitamin Body Wash in the peppermint scent.

And the Mentha Body body wash is exactly what one might hope of the product, with the same detractions as the long-gone shampoo. It is minty and truly awakens the consumer, but it does so at a very steep sticker price, especially relative to other body washes.

The C.O. Bigelow Mentha Body body wash comes in a clear bottle with the 10 fl. oz. usually costing consumers an incredibly ridiculous $12.00! The bottle is boxy, like a flask, and has a black flip-top lid. Through the sides, one may easily see the bright green fluid inside. The Mentha Body body wash bottle does not drop easily from one's hands and thus remains light and easy to use, due to ribbing on the sides of the bottle.

I am a huge fan of all things mint, which my reviews bear out. And, of all the mint hygiene products I have reviewed, Mentha Body is one of the best, despite its expense. This body wash lives up to its promise to help cleanskin by cutting through dirt and oil on the skin. Application and use is very easy. After getting water on one's skin, open the bottle, deposit a dollop of the Mentha Mint body wash on your loufah and agritate on the skin. The fluid will rapidly become bubbly with a fresh, cold-feeling lather. The Mentha Body body wash comes out of the bottle as a translucent green fluid and it quickly lathers into a light white foam. I was incredibly surprised to find that the Mentha Body takes only a dime sized dollop to clean an entire adult. The lather quality to this body wash is exceptional and, to be fair, it makes the 10 ounce bottle last a lot longer.

Mentha Body body wash has 1.9% peppermint oil and smells perfectly of peppermint. This is not a subtle scent, it is a forceful, open your nostrils aroma. The thing is, like most mentholated products, this body wash opens the pores. In the process, the Mentha Body body wash actually cools off the skin, which might not be great in winter, but it has the net effect or truly awakening the consumer from the skin to the brain!

The Bigelow Mentha Body body wash comes from C.O. Bigelow Apothecaries which was established in 1836, so one assumes if there ever had been animal testing in perfecting their formula, it was so far back as to justify the "Not Tested On Animals" label the bottle bears. The body wash contains actual peppermint oil, though it is far below ingredients like water, sodium laureth sulfate and PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil. This body wash leaves the skin feeling fresh and clean for quite some time after one dries off and any body hair will retain the scent of peppermint for hours!

While this is an absolutely amazing body wash, I could not justify giving it a perfect score due to the outrageous cost for so small a bottle. Price does matter and while I have never had a body wash that has the tingle effect like the Mentha Body, I've had body washes that clean equally well and scent my skin well enough to recommend over this. Despite the nostalgia of the smell, this was tough to get nostalgic about paying $12 a bottle for.

For other body wash reviews, please check out my reviews of:
Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash
St. Ives Moisturizing Cucumber Melon Body Wash
Old Spice Timber With Mint Body Wash


For other health and beauty product reviews, please check out my Health And Beauty Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Cramming More In Makes For Unsatisfying The Flash When "The Reverse-Flash Returns!"

The Good: Decent performances, Moments of character
The Bad: Scientifically bogus, Slow plot, Crams a lot of characters in (poorly).
The Basics: While viewers might be exccited about "The Reverse-Flash Returns," the result is less-than-stellar.

This year, I've had a lower tolerance for devoting my time to things that do not grab me. For example, my devotion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (and reviewing all of its contents) ended abruptly when I realized I missed the first two episodes of the new season of Agent Carter. Faced with the decision of whether or not to play catch-up or let it go, I decided not to waste my time on the program I was already biased against. Fortunately, The Flash still grabs me and it is not about to lose me even for a less-impressive episode. "The Reverse-Flash Returns" is an unimpressive episode, though it works to resolve several lingering plot threads.

"The Reverse-Flash Returns" picks up right after "Potential Energy" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some references to the prior one and first season episodes. The episode follows up on the capture of the Turtle and his murder and works to progress Jay Garrick's story while wrapping up loose ends with Francine West and Patty Spivot. The episode has a lot of work to do and it neglects any sort of direct conflict with Zoom with a divergent story involving Cisco's vibing and the return of the first-season nemesis, Eobard Thawne.

Opening with Barry Allen running away from his problems with Patty (literally) by running around as The Flash to solve crimes around Central City, Barry suddenly finds himself trying to rescue the city from a truck filled with explosive chemicals. The runaway truck is a trap from Thawne who has arrived in 2016 and is now nailing down an origin time for The Flash. When the Turtle is found dead and Cisco hits a wall with trying to seal the ruptures in time and space around Central City, Wells dresses up as the Reverse-Flash to scare Cisco into using his vibe powers. When that happens, Cisco realizes that the Reverse-Flash is alive and the team's priorities change.

When Eobard Thawne abducts Dr. McGee, Cisco and Wells work together to find him. While Iris visits her dying mother, which leads her to contact Wally and get him to visit her, Wells develops Cisco's dream vision glasses to make it possible for him to vibe more reliably. Using them, Team Flash discovers that Thawne will kill McGee in his attempt to return home. But thwarting his plan has an unintended consequence; Cisco's body becomes unstable and he begins phasing in and out of reality. Barry must learn to let go of Thawne to save Cisco.

"The Reverse-Flash Returns" is a mess of loose-ends being tied up and established and it plays much more like a soap opera than prior episodes of The Flash. Because there is so much going on on the plot front - there are at least four distinct plotlines, not all of which converge - none of the plotlines allow the characters to breathe and truly develop. Instead, "The Reverse-Flash Returns" feels like the story was put together by a shotgun approach, attempting to service so many disparate parts.

The relationships in "The Reverse-Flash Returns" are all pulled at with the idea of letting go, save the relationship between Wells and Ramon and Iris and Wally West. But Barry belabors letting go of Thawne and Spivot, Iris must let go of her mother and even Dr. Snow is compelled to surrender her hope for saving Jay Garrick's life. There is an agonizing quality to watching Barry lie to Spivot, especially as she is proven to be exactly as smart as viewers hoped. Given the new information that Barry works with S.T.A.R. Labs from time to time, Spivot is able to quickly piece together that Barry is The Flash and when she confronts him directly, it is a frustratingly-bad scene.

Moreover, while the introduction of Wally West is being handled with a surprising amount of realism, it is making for incredibly dull television. For an entire season, viewers lived with the idea that Iris's mother was dead and that was fine; belaboring the death of Francine West plays as melodrama, as opposed to anything compelling.

Also frustrating is the actual execution of the return of the Reverse-Flash. The death of Eddie Thawne made perfect sense; killing himself erased Thawne from the timeline because there was no lineage to create Eobard Thawne. The Eobard Thawne who appeared in Barry Allen's past and killed his mother WAS the temporal remnant, an anomaly. "The Reverse-Flash Returns" includes an incredibly dimwitted attempt to retcon Thawne in order to make his return seem even partially plausible. The ridiculous aspect of the attempt to explain the Reverse-Flash continuing to exist is that the show has a built-in opportunity to explain him; the portals to other Earths provide a simple explanation that makes sense. On some other Earth, Eddie Thawne did not kill himself and Eobard Thawne in that universe comes into existence, becomes the Reverse-Flash and goes back in time to try to find The Flash's origin, in the process traveling between universes as well as time. Instead, the lame attempt to re-generate Thawne is poorly explained and the idea of him is retconned to include all of the smart characters at S.T.A.R. Labs feeding him the ideas that would make him go back and kill Barry's mother!

Perhaps the best acting in "The Reverse-Flash Returns" comes from Tom Cavanagh. His portrayal of Wells explaining the technobabble surrounding Thawne sounds credible, even though it is ridiculous. But it is Cavanagh's deliveries at the episode's climax that come across as engaging and informed. For sure, the episode still makes no genuine sense - Thawne's return to the 24th Century would still not genetically create Thawne or stabilize Cisco. The power of the Eobard Thawne anomaly created the Central City singularity and the breaches; the collapse of the singularity would not have allowed Reverse-Flash to return or re-exist.

The result is a lackluster episode that is packed with "stuff," but not containing enough substance to keep the engaged viewers impressed with The Flash.


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Why Bernie Sanders Will Be The Next President Of The United States And You (YOU, READING THIS!) Should Run For Congress!

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The Basics: I flat-out endorse Bernie Sanders for President, but say something no one else seems to be: Sanders supporters MUST run successful Congressional campaigns in order for his presidency to matter.

As Presidential Primary Season looms, sides are once more being defined in the United States and in an uncharacteristic move, I have decided to use my little blog - which occasionally is devoted to political posts - to write about the current Presidential race and what it means for the United States. For the current generation, the two most important Presidential races have already been run and resolved; 2000 and 2004. The current election cycle is more about redirecting the United States from those disastrous contests or continuing the United States in a direction the increases the disparities between the government as a force that empowers business institutions and diminishes the powers of its citizens and the citizens and organizations who want to counter that trend.

The path the United States has been on for the last decade and a half is one that has benefited very few citizens. While there have been minimal gains in Civil Rights, the most significant conflict in the United States is one of economic disparity and over the last sixteen years, those disparities have only grown. Tax cuts to the highest-earning individuals and corporations have undermined social programs that used to benefit those at the bottom of the economic spectrum (or society at large in the case of underfunding public education). The Affordable Care Act has benefited big insurance companies more than private citizens (ask a poor person - heath insurance does not equal health care!) and while private citizens who were taken advantage of during the housing funding crisis during the Bush Administration now have foreclosures on their credit reports that make it prohibitive, if not absolutely impossible, to get a mortgage, the banking institutions that bamboozled and profited off them are still in business. The delineation between those who have and control the resources for survival and success have never been clearer and the populations who have resources and lack them have never been farther apart.

The 2016 Presidential election cycle represents the best hope the citizens of the United States have to stop the backslide and right the wrongs of the last twenty years. The candidate that would become President and make those changes is Bernie Sanders.

Why Bernie Sanders Is The Right Candidate For The United States

Bernie Sanders has a philosophy and values. At the core of all of Sanders's values is a sense of social responsibility and the idea that all people are entitled to equal rights and equal opportunities under the law. But more than that, Sanders pursues a public agenda that indicates that survival - the most basic functions of life - should not be dictated by those who control the means of production. In other words, in the richest country in the world, no one should go hungry, homeless or be without adequate health care. Bernie Sanders is the true pro-life candidate; he is fighting for the living to live their lives, regardless of what businesses choose to establish themselves in any given area.

And, it's a good philosophy. If you go to school, pay your taxes, and get a mortgage, why should your entire life be turned upside down when the local Wal-Mart decides to close the supercenter at which you work in order to protect their bottom line? Bernie Sanders stands by a philosophy that states that if you are socially responsible and try to be a constructive citizen, your government will protect your right to exist and prioritize it over the fiduciary duties a CEO has to their stockholders.

One need not be an aficionado of The West Wing (reviewed here!) to appreciate that government may be a force for good in people's lives. While the conservatives rail against "big government" - an irony given that Alabama and Mississippi would have long ago been abandoned by citizens and business alike were it not for Federal financial intervention whereby they benefited from California and New York dollars - Bernie Sanders has a sense of true social responsibility. It does not matter how big the government is, so long as it protects its citizens and uses its power and authority to benefit the majority of its people. That is the public agenda Sanders has pursued his entire political life and one that he would bring to the Presidency.

How The Tea Party Gave The 2016 Presidential Election To The Democrats

One need not be a Washington insider to look at the electoral map of the United States and think tactically. The Republicans have lost the 2016 Presidential Election.

Seriously. It's over for them.

Looking at the field of Republican Presidential candidates must give the supporters of the Republican Party a real sense of dismay. The reason for this is simple: not one of the candidates behaves in a Presidential fashion or is electable as President. The only hope the Republicans had going into the 2016 election cycle was that they would be running against a candidate that was disorganizes, under-funded, and stupid. Lacking that, the Republicans could not field an effective candidate for President.

Before any conservatives reading this "shoot the messenger," it is Republicans themselves who are to blame for their lack of a viable candidate for the 2016 Presidential election. Over the last forty years, the Reactionary elements within the Republican Party have come to power. After the defeat of the first President Bush, the party allied itself with groups that had the ability to raise money for its candidates. Those groups were made up of extremists who eliminated the centerists from their party. The Republican Party of 2016 would be unrecognizable to Republicans even of the Nixon Era.

The Tea Party, which has had a tendency to eviscerate centrist Republican candidates by running candidates in primary elections that toe their more extreme party line, has effectively hijacked the Republican Party by claiming to appeal to "values voters." "Values" in their mind are a narrow, Evangelical Christian, pro-business, anti-government agenda which allows fear and false promises to fool the poor into voting against their own interests under the banner of "wholesome American values."

Such fear-mongering and values pitches were ideal for winning Congressional elections, but the 2016 election is proving how flawed that strategy is on a national scale. Congressional districts in the United States are based on population: the average district has a population of 710,767, as opposed to a population of approximately 319 million in the United States. Congressional elections that have had greatest Tea Party advances have been in off-year (non-Presidential) election years. With enough money, low voter turnout and a highly mobilized network that gets out the vote on the Tea Party side on "values" issues, the Tea Party has made impressive advances in taking power within the United States House Of Representatives.

But those tactics do not work at the national level. Consider how the Tea Party has used its influence to buy media outlets and advertising time; opposition candidates could not compete. But, no Tea Party candidate or affiliated business could buy The New York Times or Time-Warner. So, while in a comparatively minor Congressional race, a candidate running against a Tea Party candidate could not expose the Koch Brothers and their ties to the Tea Party, at the national level such ties and funding have become commonly known. That level of hypocrisy cannot stand up in a Presidential election.

But beyond that, Tea Party candidates tended to win on surprisingly local issues for candidates for the House Of Representatives. Voters do not understand the relationship between their Representative in the House and their Federal government. So, candidates that promise things like a wall to keep immigrants out of the United States could win election to the House on such ridiculous promises; which they could not do when running for President. In short, fooling some 356,000 people into voting for a candidate whose deepest ideas can be put on a bumper sticker is an entirely different thing than convincing 160 million people of the same thing. Serious Presidential candidates need to be able to spout more than catchphrases; they need ideas and plans. The Tea Party has robbed the Republican Party of such minds in favor of candidates who smile, repeat sound bytes that were pre-approved by the extremists running the Tea Party and are voted into office by followers who overlook the institutional and personal flaws of the party and the candidates.

So long as the Republican Party continues to pay fealty to the Tea Party fringe of the party, they will be unable to win another Presidential election.

Hillary Clinton

The choice for President of the United States, then, comes down to the Democratic primary contest. In that contest, the two dominant candidates are Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton was the presumed Democratic nominee until Bernie Sanders entered the Presidential race and he began to build grassroots support to combat her entrenched institutional support and funding.

Hillary Clinton is a Democrat, but - like Barack Obama - is not a liberal. Clinton's support comes from big business and financial institutions that see a Clinton Presidency as a good way for them to continue making money and continue the disparities between those who run big business institutions and those who toil for them (or under their yoke). Hillary Clinton is exceptional at raising money and she has, in her past, had some good ideas. Perhaps the most impressive ability Hillary Clinton possesses, though, is the ability to redefine herself and continue to remain relevant. Hillary Clinton is the Madonna of U.S. politics; she illustrates a fluidity to change with the times and keep her name in the public consciousness.

Unfortunately, having such a public history, Hillary Clinton has illustrated that the thing she believes in most is her own resiliency and electability. In short, Hillary Clinton does not stand for anything. Her changes of public positions do not come from receiving new information about an issue; they come from her evaluating the issue for a stance that would allow her to be elected and raise money to remain in a political race. Hillary Clinton is not at all the first politician to do this, but in a Presidential race between a candidate who is highly principled with a populist argument, a candidate who has no hard-and-fast ideals and candidates who are zealots whose strongest positions are local issues, the least-viable candidate is the one who has no clearly-defined stances.

But moving on to the big picture, Democrats who have to choose between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton need to consider how their candidate would govern. Bernie Sanders is a left-wing politician with clearly-defined ideas; Hillary Clinton is a pro-business Centerist whose positions change with the political wind. After winning the Democratic primary, most candidates swing toward the center to try to appeal to more Americans. While Bernie Sanders seems to be the type candidate who would patiently explain to the electorate why his ideas are worth coming to the left for, the only direction Clinton could go is further to the right than the center from which she started.

And then there is governing. A candidate who wins as a Centrist, still has to work with Congress to govern. At the moment, Congress is dominated by Tea Party Republicans. A Centrist being handed bills from the far-Right has very little room to move and the middle ground they might find would still be far to the political right of a legislator who starts to the left. A vote for Hillary Clinton for President is, essentially, a vote for a candidate who would likely govern as a moderate Republican.

Why Supporters Of Bernie Sanders Need To Run For Congress (And Win!)

Which leads me back to Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is the most electable and principled candidate in the field at the moment. He is the best choice for U.S. President of all the people running and of politicians working in the U.S. today. But, just as a Clinton Presidency would be detrimental to the Democratic ideals that might be invoked to elect her, with today's political landscape, a Bernie Sanders Presidency would take on one of two forms: political impotence or political obstruction. The best case scenario that Bernie Sanders faces as President would be vetoing every destructive bill the Tea Party Congress sends him to sign. Sanders could be the voice of the people, continuing his principled stand against the institutions that keep most citizens from ever being successful or happy, by vetoing every bill he is sent that he believes would be destructive to the United States. Under that scenario, Bernie Sanders as President would be a mere stopgap.

What is far more likely is that the Tea Party pressure and the inability to control the dialogue would make Sanders a completely impotent President. The Tea Party sends him bills, he vetoes and slowly the Democratic Party starts to side with the Republicans over the President to override vetoes and be seen as being productive and in power as opposed to mere obstructionists. That tactic has worked well for the Republicans in the past; post-9/11, Congress passed a number of laws that eroded the civil liberties and Constitutional rights of the citizens that they were unable to get passed before the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Tea Party framed the terms of the debate and the Democrats folded rather than retake the language of the conflicts.

But the 2016 election cycle offers the most real opportunity to make change on a grand scale. The key to this is Bernie Sanders and his supporters. The supporters of Bernie Sanders have been incredibly engaged, but they have failed to make a critical conceptual leap between their support for Bernie Sanders as a grassroots candidate and making Sanders an effective U.S. President: supporters of Bernie Sanders need to run for the United States House Of Representatives and win seats.

It's that simple.

And it is that simple: in under six months, Bernie Sanders went from being a fringe candidate to being neck and neck for frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination. That happened because a group of engaged, concerned individuals banded together and raised money, awareness and showed up to hear Sanders's ideas. Now, Sanders's supporters need to redirect some of their momentum to win Congressional seats. The same infrastructure, the same donor base concept, they could easily put Sanders supporters in the United States House Of Representatives where they could be the force that writes laws that President Sanders would sign. The only way Sanders's agenda moves is if the legislative branch is giving him laws to sign.

The benefit to the House, the United States and the Sanders campaign is incredible. While Sanders supporters might fear moving some momentum and resources to congressional candidates, forming grass-roots pro-Sanders election runs would benefit the Bernie Sanders campaign by getting the Presidential candidate to visit districts that might otherwise be overlooked by a Democratic Presidential candidate. The net result is that while the pro-Sanders candidates become inextricably tied to his agenda, they create an agenda that is solid and electable. More importantly, it is the only viable framework for a Presidency that can actually govern when Bernie Sanders and the freshman class of Representative elected on his platform win.


The United States is at a critical juncture and only one Presidential candidate is standing up with realistic, idealistic, proposals that would benefit the majority of U.S. citizens. That candidate is Bernie Sanders and while supporters of Bernie Sanders see his election as the way to save the U.S., their vision can only be realized by the same supporters getting involved and elected to the U.S. House Of Representatives to make for an effective Sanders Presidency.

For other political articles, be sure to check out:
Why Modern Libertarianism Is Terrible For The U.S.
An Open Letter To Senator Elizabeth Warren
The Corporate Powers Limitation Amendment (A Proposed Constitutional Amendment)

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, January 23, 2016

One Of The Best Pilot Episodes EVER! Legends Of Tomorrow Starts Incredibly!

The Good: Good acting, Amazing effects, Interesting characters, Engaging plot
The Bad: Starts with a lot of characters to do service to all of them, Minutia
The Basics: The first adventure of the Legends Of Tomorrow has Rip Hunter assembling a team to travel through time with him to stop Vandal Savage.

I am a fan of DC Comics. I like many of the interpretations of DC Comics works in other mediums - Catwoman (reviewed here!) notwithstanding - and I have been impressed over the last year by The Flash on The CW. I managed to go into the first episode of Legends Of Tomorrow with minimal expectations and no spoilers. The concept of Legends Of Tomorrow was one I liked; a team of second string heroes (and villains) are assembled to go save the world. I was just psyched to see more of Victor Garber and Wentworth Miller in their roles from The Flash.

I am a big fan of stories that focus on second-string (or third-tier) heroes, as evidenced by the Justice League: Generation Lost (Volume One is reviewed here!) on my bookshelf, so if anything, I was biased in favor of Legends Of Tomorrow. The weakness of any story that focuses on the second or third-string heroes is in creating a story that has genuine menace . . . without involving the first-run heroes. At some point, fans of Arrow have to ask: if this week's villain is so incredible, why doesn't Oliver Queen just call over to Barry, have him run over and solve the problem? If Supergirl was part of the same television universe (Gotham is deliberately different), the question would become more pressing the more sophisticated Supergirl became. Fortunately, Legends Of Tomorrow addresses this critical concept in the first part of its pilot episode.

Legends Of Tomorrow combines secondary characters from Arrow and The Flash for a time-travel story. The new team is assembled with eight established characters by Rip Hunter, who was previously referenced once by Eobard Thawne in The Flash episode "Fast Enough" (reviewed here!). Until now, Thawne is the only time traveler in the CW's DC Television Universe and "Pilot, Part 1" introduces a new time travel organization. Fans of the DC Television Universe need truly to only have seen The Flash episode "Legends Of Today" (reviewed here!) to know almost all of the essential characters in the pilot episode of Legends Of Tomorrow.

Opening in 2166 London, during The Second Blitz (being performed with laser weapons and armored thugs), Vandal Savage has taken over the world in a bloody reign. Captain Rip Hunter appears before the Council Of Time Masters to appeal to them to intervene by allowing him to rewrite time so Vandal Savage cannot begin his genocidal tyrany. Hunter goes to 2016 where he abducts people of interest to him - Ray Palmer, Sara Lance, Dr. Martin Stein, Jay Jackson (the other half of Firestorm), Kendra Saunders, Carter Hall, Leonard Snart, and Mick Rory. The eight people Rip Hunter collects are referred by him as heroes in his time and he wants them to assemble to stop the world from becoming a fiery wasteland under Savage.

When the eight decide to accompany Hunter (Jackson against his own will), they take his ship the Waverider back to 1975. Hunter takes his team there to find Professor Boardman, the world's leading expert on Vandal Savage. Hunter hopes to find Vandal Savage at a prior point in time, but Savage managed to keep his whereabouts hidden until his rise to power in the 22nd Century. Boardman, who is the son of a prior incarnation Shiera and Prince Khufu, gives Kendra and Carter a journal with information about Savage. But soon, the Waverider is attacked by a Chronos bounty hunter and Hunter is forced to admit the truth to his new team!

"Pilot, Part 1" manages to negate most of the issues one usually finds in pilot episodes. The bulk of the cast - Victor Garber (always a professional), Wentworth Miller, Caity Loitz, Brandon Routh, and Dominic Purcell - has already played their characters several times and they are comfortable with them. Balancing their experience with Arthur Darvill's ease at delivering lines of technobabble - his tenure on Doctor Who clearly left him with the ability to make utter nonsense sound perfectly credible. "Pilot, Part 1" lacks most of the initial pilot problems; the actors know their marks, the effects look great and the production team knows their beats to make the work feel like it has been on the air for years. In fact, during the battle between Chronos and Hunter's team, all I could think was "I would pay to see this on the big screen!"

Rip Hunter is characterized enough to make him a compelling leader of the time traveling hero team. The episode is constructed well to both explain its own premise and delight viewers of the CW's other DC Comics-based works. As well, "Pilot, Part 1" explains perfectly why the team is made up of heroes unlike Superman, Wonder Woman or The Flash; the eight individuals are either necessary to the mission (Hawkgirl and Hawkman might well be the only ones who have the ability to kill Vandal Savage and there is the implied threat that they might have to die in order to keep Savage dead!) or unremarkable to history (White Canary and Heatwave never become a part of mainstream history in Hunter's version of history).

Legends Of Tomorrow is only hampered by a few bits of minutia. Victor Garber is a great actor, but he is seen in an early scene in the pilot limping (which implies to me he was hurt in the battle with Chronos and that later scene was filmed prior to his first arrival on the Waverider!). No one asks where Hawkman and Hawkwoman are in the future Rip Hunter shows them (if his immortality is tied to their resurrections, as he has taken over the world they must be alive somewhere there!) or raises the question of whether or not they might have to die to kill Savage permanently. And why isn't Morena Baccarin the voice of Gideon?!

"Pilot, Part 1" does its best to create a ruthless villain and assembles a reasonable team of second string heroes that might be able to stop them. Regardless of how the DC Television Universe progresses, the writing team did its homework; by starting in 2166, after the Crisis that presumably ends The Flash and after Superman (should he enter the narrative) is dead, the use of the secondary characters is well-constructed. Vandal Savage is instantly deadly and the assembled heroes are engaging enough to keep watching, even if some are not as well-developed initially as one might hope (Carter Hall is a virtual non-entity still). Rip Hunter is a cool leader and Arthur Darvill steps up incredibly to run Legends Of Tomorrow from his first scene. The pilot is incredible and the show hits the ground running, making for an immediate must-watch for anyone who loves science fiction and/or comic book-based works!

For other DC Universe films and television projects, check out my reviews of:
The Flash - Season 1
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Wonder Woman
Man Of Steel

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Legends Of Tomorrow - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the premiere season of the time traveling hero team here!


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Best Lego Game? Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham Might Be It!

The Good: Fun, Good graphics, Challenging, Cool
The Bad: Some camera perspective issues, I'm not wild about the racing functions.
The Basics: Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is fun and cool, though it is not quite perfect given that some of the challenges require outside help and the races have real perspective issues.

This has been a pretty DC intensive week. With the return of The Flash - "Potential Energy" is reviewed here! and the debut of Legends Of Tomorrow, I've been overrun with DC Comics characters. It is probably not helped by the fact that in my off hours, I have been playing LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham on my new Playstation 4. My wife had bought me LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham for the PS3, but because I was committed to finishing Lego Marvel Superheroes (reviewed here!) first, I just did not get to the Batman game before the disc drive on the PS3 died and forced me to both upgrade my system and the software. After a week and a half of pretty intensive gameplay, I - not a gamer - have managed to complete Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham game!


Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is a video game that encompasses most of the essential DC Comics universe. As a sweeping DC Universe game, the players are able to play mainstream characters like Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman and second-string characters like The Question, Green Lantern John Stewart, and Dr. Fate. Fans of DC Comics properties might also be psyched about how villains like Lex Luthor, Solomon Grundy and The Joker are playable and at some key points those characters are essential. The entire DC Comics universe is recreated in LEGO form, with the game starting in Gotham City and moving out to the homeworld of each of the Lantern Corps's. Animated with the joint structure of Lego mini-figures, one or two players team up and run around Gotham City and then space and alien worlds that house the power batteries of the various Lantern Corps. Throughout, players are challenged to earn studs, red bricks, minikits, and exclusive characters.

Almost exclusively focused on the characters of DC Universe, players run around shooting, jumping, grappling, using sonar devices, freezing things, laser eyes and expanding to giant sizes to achieve goals and kill minions being manipulated by Brainiac. With the destruction of each minion, Lego pieces explode and change to coins. Players collect coins to purchase new characters as they are unlocked as the game progresses. By using the green triangle key, one may toggle between the characters they have available and as one becomes more adept in the game, it helps to assemble a team that allows the player to toggle between super heroes, characters with devices, super-strong characters, and diggers. The first time through each level, players are forced to use between one and three specific characters, without the ability to create a team of one's choice.

After the successful completion of a level, the player may replay levels to find minikit pieces and rescue Adam West (who is on each level needing rescue, but is often behind an obstacle for which a different character is required). In the free play mode, the player may wander more and find things at their own pace, as well as enjoy levels outside of the imminent threats which usually keep the focus of the player the first time through.


Set in the DC Comics universe, the essential plot of LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham focuses on the heroes trying to stop Brainiac from invading, after Batman cleans up some street-level crime in Gotham that results in Lex Luthor, Joker and several other villains from teaming up. When Brainiac captures the leaders of the Green, Orange, Sinestro, Indigo (etc.) Corps and begins an assault on Earth, the Justice League teams up with some of the villains who have taken the Justice League Watchtower to stop him from miniaturizing various cities on Earth. Batman and Lex Luthor team up to rescue the Lanterns and stop Brainiac!

Game Progression

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is a pretty straightforward video game with a view that is usually slightly back from the character the player is playing. The net effect is that the view is like being followed around by a camera, as opposed to a first-person shooter style game. The perspective issue actually becomes problematic at times when the “camera” does not follow the view of the player. Sometimes, that means that players cannot actually take advantage of the bonuses that come up on screen because the line of sight is blocked by other characters.

Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham also have levels where the perspective is back away from the various characters. That causes problems when characters have to move into the background, but there are objects that block the view. On several levels, there are points where one has to try the bomb or throwing object highlights just to see what is on the level! In the free play after the game is complete, the perspective issues become even more troubling on planets like Ysmault and Zamaron where the gravity is slightly different and there are races around the planet.


The Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham game was designed for high definition systems, like the Playstation 3 (reviewed here!) and Playstation 4. We played it on the Playstation 4 connected to our Sony Bravia HD TV (reviewed here!) and it looked and sounded great. Directions from the annoying Batmite are somewhat helpful and otherwise, the game does not give directions. The game has a pretty linear story to it. The figures have an unsurprisingly blockish form to them, which makes sense because they are Lego renditions of the characters. The backgrounds and buildings, however, are more impressive in the way they are represented. Especially during the battles with Brainiac, the graphics are impressive.

The sound effects are accurate to the sound effects from the DC Television Universe's, including using Adam West and Stephen Amell. When things are destroyed, though they sound like Lego blocks rattling around. Oddly, both Kevin Smith and Conan O'Brien contribute voices and likenesses to the work for information and side missions for the game, despite neither having anything to do with the DC Universe (though they have relationships with Warner Brothers).


Because Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham has the linear narrative and the free play available for each level, one has to play each level at least twice and after one has Plastic Man and Brainiac as a character, everything can be unlocked within the game. Even so, there were at least three challenges - outside the races which I am terrible at - that I had to look up guides on in order to pass. On one mission, there is a tiny hole one has to find and go down as a mini-character, but there is no way to know the little black dot is actually a hole (i.e. no character icon comes up when a character is near that hole to indicate there is something to do there). Also, I'm terrible at races, but all of the Lantern planets have races and between the perspective issues and gravity, the game is somewhat frustrating to finish.


The Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham is fun and cool. The game allows one to play in a fun universe and while there are some weird idiosyncrasies - Wonder Woman is a surprisingly un-useful character - the game is worth playing for those who like puzzle games and the DC Universe.

For other DC Comics products, please be sure to visit my reviews of:
Blackest Night Larfleeze Action Figure
Super-Villains trading cards
2015 Lynda Carter As Wonder Woman Hallmark Ornament


For other video game reviews, please check out my Software Review Index Page!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I Return And So Does The Flash With "Potential Energy!"

The Good: Moments of character and performance, Decent special effects
The Bad: Generic plot/villain, Dubious science
The Basics: One of the less impressive Flash villains makes his debut in "Potential Energy" which treads close to a soap opera for The Flash.

It has been a slow year so far for my review blog, largely because I just got into video games and there have been a number of big celebrity deaths that have shocked my family. But, The Flash has broken away from a mid-season hiatus to start airing new episodes and that makes it worth returning to reviews! The new episode if "Potential Energy" and it is a, pun intended, slow return to The Flash.

"Potential Energy" picks up a short time after "Running To Stand Still" (reviewed here!) and it is an odd blend of consequences and character-building. Barry Allen and Patty Spivot's relationship has clearly progressed, while Joe and Wally are only just starting to truly get to know one another. Yet, Earth-2's Harrison Wells has not made any sort of move on Barry Allen to advance Zoom's agenda, so the show feels like it is working itself out of its own dead end. Fortunately, "Potential Energy" illustrates that the recent in-episode merchandising push was just part of the attempt by Warner Brothers to give its licensees a pre-Holiday advertising boost. The Flash returns to quality storytelling, as opposed to not-so-subtle product placement.

And that's a good thing, considering that the Villain Of The Week for "Potential Energy" is The Turtle. The Turtle is one of the obscure villains from The Flash comic books that was part of the early books, but most of the newer iterations of the character have not even tried to include. Writer Bryan Q. Miller gets real credit for trying with "Potential Energy."

Opening with Barry Allen having a nightmare about Zoom abducting Patty while he is on a date with her, Barry becomes preoccupied with the idea of telling Patty the truth about his alter ego. Joe tries to bond with Wally, who is not impressed by the detective father he never knew, when Patty arrives to talk to Iris. Patty is concerned that Barry is waking up from nightmares and being emotionally withholding. As Wells becomes more frustrated with scientific dead ends that lead him to be unable to stop Zoom, Cisco proposes using a metahuman he has been hunting for quite some time: The Turtle. When The Flash encounters The Turtle, a metahuman who has the ability to slow down everything in his environment by converting mechanical (kinetic) energy into potential energy, he is unable to stop the thief from stealing a recovered ring from the Central City Police Department.

Regrouping at S.T.A.R. Labs, Cisco believes he has found the Turtle's next target and the team heads to an art event at the Central City Art Museum. There, The Turtle interrupts Barry's date with Patty and steals a painting, while attempting to kill Patty. This informs The Turtle of Patty's importance to Barry and he lays a trap to get Patty out of the way. Joe confronts Wally, who is drag racing in Central City in order to win cars to pay for his mother's medical bills. When Patty is abducted by The Turtle, The Flash must rescue her and Barry risks exposing his identity to her.

"Potential Energy" finds a surprisingly compelling blend of character development and emotional realism in an otherwise potentially absurd and basic plot. Barry Allen's dream is a perfect embodiment of his character's realistic insecurity both in his relationship and in his conflict with Zoom. Similarly, Patty and Iris bonding over Barry is realistic, even if it is not particularly compelling television. The more "Potential Energy" progresses, the more there is the feeling that the episode is a "necessary evil" episode; it has a clear end goal, but it's trying to flesh out a mediocre idea and/or lackluster conflicts.

For those reasons, it is easy for the almost melodramatic conflict between Joe and Wally West to overshadow much of the episode and for an almost entirely inconguent scene between Cisco and Harrison Wells to steal the episode. Wells telling the story of how Zoom got his name is cinematically dull, but it is the most captivating scene in "Potential Energy." The character element and the performances by Tom Cavanagh and Carlos Valdes make the short scene feel so much more important than the charming, whispered scenes between Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Patty Spivot (Shantel VanSanten).

The deepness of the character conflicts between the established cast of characters is offset by the utterly generic character of The Turtle. The Turtle has had more than a year of stealing things from Central City with greater effectiveness than Leonard Snart and after his first encounter with The Flash, where he bests the super hero (!), he becomes obsessed with ridding Central City of The Flash. Between that and Cisco declaring The Turtle his White Whale and then immediately finding him, there is a prominent sense of narrative convenience in "Potential Energy."

And, seriously, why does anyone who has a peephole on their door ever open the door without checking it first?! Especially law enforcement officers . . .

"Potential Energy" is an odd blend of decent performances and character moments in an otherwise mundane episode of The Flash, which makes for an ultimately average hour of television.

For other works with Aaron Douglas, check out my reviews of:
The Chronicles Of Riddick
X-2: X-Men United


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Another Winner From Sartori! Their Citrus Ginger BellaVitano Cheese Is Incredible!

The Good: Melts well, Wonderful flavor, Tastes delicious as a component in recipes!
The Bad: Difficult to work with, Expensive
The Basics: Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano is a delightful cheese that has a delightful flavor palate that makes for an intriguing tasting cheese!

My reviewing this year has been a bit slower than usual, largely because I have been working on my memory and playing games, at my wife's request. Sadly, I have to write some reviews suddenly to break up my tributes to recently-deceased celebrities. I didn't want to have my tributes to David Bowie (his final album, Blackstar is reviewed here!) and Alan Rickman adjacent to one another. So, I figured it was time to finally review a magnificent cheese I recently tried. It is the Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese and it is part of my new year's reconnect with my wife; we like to share new cheese experiences and that is something we are doing again!

We have now consumed a whole block of Citrus Ginger BellaVitano and it is flavorful and delightful. I love flavorful cheese and the Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese is an intriguing and wonderful cheese that is an incredible replacement for extra sharp cheddars in dishes or as a snacking cheese!


Sartori is a manufacturer of premium cheeses in Wisconsin. The intent of most Sartori cheeses is that they will be cheeses that hold their own as snacks that may be served on their own. Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano certainly is a premium cheese and it lives up to having an intriguing flavor. Sartori cheeses come in blocks that are premeasured, at least for the Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese, in this case 5.3 oz.

The Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese is as its name implies. This is a solid white cheese with herbs embedded into the outer surface of the cheese. There are no herbs mixed throughout the cheese block, but the cheese seems to carry more flavor than just on the outer edges. Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese in packaged in a simple plastic wrap and is hard enough to maintain its shape when cut open.

Ease Of Preparation

Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese is a cheese, so more often than not, it is used on its own or as an ingredient in a recipe. Preparation of the cheese is pretty simple; cut the plastic away and slice the cheese! Unfortunately, this is a cheese that is very difficult to work with. Even the first time I opened the cheese and sliced the Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese, it fractured and fall apart with almost every pass of the cheese plane. It was not easy to work with on its own. The cheese is not only hard to work with at the outer edge; it fractures all along the cheese plane and is tough to lift off whatever surface one cuts the cheese on without it cracking apart. This is a fairly hard cheese to get to conform to one's wishes.

That said, after the cheese is sliced, it melts well with evenness and liquidity, making it a good ingredient to make flavorful omelets or to replace cheddar cheese in a grilled ham and cheese sandwich.


The Citrus Ginger BellaVitano is a very robustly scented cheese. The garlic and spices make the cheese smell like a cheesy garlic bread. The dominant scents of garlic and oregano give this cheese a familiar Italian seasoning scent.

On the tongue, the Citrus Ginger BellaVitano is very sharp. The cheese is sour from the lemony flavor that blends with a cheese that is very tangy. The cheese itself tastes like an extra sharp cheddar and the sour and citrus blend accents the sharpness of the dry cheese. The sweet, salty flavors are quickly overcome on the tongue by the sharp, sour flavor of the citrus and cheese.

Melted into or onto something like an omelet, the Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano becomes more sour and the ginger flavor comes out. More specifically the bitter aftertaste that ginger sometimes possesses is accented and accents the cheese flavor.

On its own, the Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese leaves a sour flavor in the mouth for about two minutes after it is consumed.


Sartori Cheeses are not intended to be all that one lives on. But for those who try, the Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese is not incredibly healthy, though their cheeses have decent ingredients. The Citrus Ginger does not seem to add anything of note to the cheese of nutritional value. A serving size is considered a one inch block (1 oz.). In that, there are 120 calories, 90 of which are from fat. This cheese has 25% of one's daily recommended saturated fat intake and 7% of the RDA of sodium. On the plus side, it does have 18% of the RDA of calcium and has seven grams of protein.

Obviously, Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese is a dairy product, so those who are lactose intolerant will have problems with it. This cheese is made primarily of BellaVitano cheese, a seasoning blend, and dehydrated onion and garlic. That makes it all-natural.


As a cheese, Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese should be kept refrigerated. So long as that happens, it ought to stay fresh for several weeks. I am utterly unable to write about shelf-life as our 5.3 oz block was gone within a week of being opened! Our package bought for New Year's had an expiration date of May 2016.

Citrus Ginger BellaVitano is a cheese, so it is not going to stain or ruin anything unless it is ground into a fabric. Baring that, cleanup of nonporous surfaces is as easy as wiping them with a damp cloth. Even the crumbs of cheese and Citrus Ginger are aromatic and get on other things, so this is easy to clean up after!


Sartori Citrus Ginger BellaVitano cheese is tangy and easy to enjoy! It has a diverse level of flavors that makes it a cheese worth trying over and over on its own and in dishes. It is one of Sartori's best cheeses!

For other Sartori cheese reviews, please check out my reviews of:
Extra-Aged Fontina
Limited Edition Peppermint BellaVitano
Merlot BellaVitano
Espresso BellaVitano


For other cheese and meat reviews, please visit my Meat And Cheese Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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