Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May 2016 End Of The Month Report!

| | |
May is the beginning of Summer Blockbuster Season, but we got our most consistent hits from reviewing the ends of the current seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Legends Of Tomorrow, and The Flash! For another month, readership picked up!

This month, we picked up three new followers on Twitter, but no 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 May, the index pages were frequently updates. 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 summer spending picks up, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of May 2016, I have reviewed the following:
543 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
921 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2966 - 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!)!
225 - 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
846 - 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
926 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
245 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
114 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
193 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
197 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
102 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
55 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of May are my reviews of the first two big summer blockbusters: Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse!
Check them out!

The month of May was, predictably, dominated by prior new reviews of new television episodes, with a couple of surprise blasts from the past. For May, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Folgers Fresh Breaks 100% Colombian Roasted Concentrated Coffee
9. "Legendary" - Legends Of Tomorrow
8. "Destiny" - Legends Of Tomorrow
7. Haagen-Dazs Blueberry Crumble Ice Cream
6. "The Runaway Dinosaur" - The Flash
5. "Failed Experiments" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
4. "The Race Of His Life" - The Flash
3. "Emancipation" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. "Absolution" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4
1. "Ascension" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 319 reviews
9s - 480 reviews
8s - 927 reviews
7s - 1033 reviews
6s - 957 reviews
5s - 1220 reviews
4s - 899 reviews
3s - 700 reviews
2s - 329 reviews
1s - 220 reviews
0s - 108 reviews
No rating - 117 articles/postings

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Can Open, Worms Everywhere: "The Race Of His Life" Ends The Second Season Of The Flash!

The Good: Most of the acting, Special effects, Moments of character
The Bad: Terrible plot
The Basics: The Flash reaches its second season finale with "The Race Of His Life," an episode that once again puts a ridiculous spin on a simple problem.

Season finale time is upon us and this season one of the hardest finales to execute is coming from The Flash. The episode is entitled "The Race Of His Life" and the burden upon it is one that will reverberate into the future seasons of The Flash. The fundamental problem facing the executive producers of The Flash is that the franchise has three truly great villains: the Reverse Flash, Zoom, and Captain Cold. In the books, Captain Cold gets reformed post-Forever Evil and that has essentially already happened thanks to his role in Legends Of Tomorrow. Eobard Thawne - the Reverse Flash - was dispatched in the first season finale of The Flash and while there are implications he will continue to return as an out-of-time temporal fragment that makes no rational sense, leaving just Zoom as a constant, menacing adversary for The Flash. Don't get me wrong; in the books, The Flash has a ton of adversaries and when Mirror Master pops up, I'll be thrilled if they do it right and I'm already dreading the dumbed-down PG version The Flash will be forced to present with Murmur should Geoff Johns ambitiously try to bring that serial killer to the small screen. But villains from The Flash make for tough season-long or series-long arcs for network television (if The Flash was on AMC, I'd have different thoughts on the matter) and the Metahuman Of The Week style has already proven to be a very unsatisfying concept for The Flash, which has an audience that can easily handle serialization. So, going into "The Race Of His Life," the burden on The Flash is to satisfactorily thwart Zoom and set up the third season in a way that makes viewers want to return.

It failed.

"The Race Of His Life" picks up in the last second of "Invincible" (reviewed here!) and given the climactic nature of that episode and the way it reverberates into "The Race Of His Life," it is impossible to discuss without some conversation of where that episode ended. After all, "The Race Of His Life" opens in the wake of Barry Allen losing his father and the shock of that leaves him appropriately shaken at the outset of the season finale.

With Henry Allen killed in front of him, Barry Allen is furious. The Flash and Zoom begin to race through Central City when Zoom abruptly appears to kill the version who is fighting Barry. Zoom taunts Barry with the idea that The Flash is almost ready to completely become him. Following Henry's funeral, The Flash and Zoom square off and Zoom challenges Barry to a race. The S.T.A.R. Labs team, however, knows exactly what Zoom's trap is; a device was stolen from Mercury Labs that could be used to destroy Earths throughout the multiverse - which is the vision Vibe saw previously. The speed from Zoom and Barry running will power the device and allow Zoom to destroy Earth-2.

To protect Earth and the Flash, the S.T.A.R. Labs team knocks The Flash out and sticks him in a prison cell in order to keep him from racing Zoom. The rest of the team attempts to entrap Zoom and when they throw him back to Earth-2, Joe West is pushed through the breach with him. When Wally West finds out, he rescues Barry and The Flash demands the right to race Zoom to save Joe's life.

"The Race Of His Life" has moments of true greatness, but it falls down ridiculously fast. Opening with the sudden macguffin of the Mercury Labs device that can destroy Earths across the multiverse and Zoom informing Barry just how he can defeat him, there are elements to the episode that are tragically bad. Zoom telling Barry how to defeat him opens an instant plot problem with the episode. The Flash is told by Zoom that Barry has to be willing to kill his own temporal remnant and that being the case, all Barry has to do to stop Zoom from executing his plan to power the world destroyer (why the hell does Mercury Labs have this thing anyway?!) is make Zoom believe he is dead already. In other words, create a temporal remnant of The Flash, then have him killed in front of Zoom so Zoom doesn't have The Flash to rely upon. Similarly, Barry has had numerous experiences now with time travel; there is virtually no temporal consequence to Barry going back in time a day to save his father's life from Zoom. Or going back in time, creating a temporal remnant of Henry Allen and letting Zoom kill the temporal remnant while the proper Henry Allen remains alive somewhere safe.

So, up until the last act, "The Race Of His Life" is wonky at best; before the episode turns away from its potential to completely trash the series. The Flash takes a dive, as if the executive producers realized that they had shot their wad on the potential of the series far too early. The best analogy I have for what is happening with The Flash now is Glee. Glee reached its peak success early with a cast that was solidly constructed; the moment its first season succeeded, the subsequent seasons should have been re-constructed to make each season a semester of the school year to keep the cast solid. It would have given the show four more years before the producers had to deal with reinventing the show. In a similar way, the second season of The Flash banked heavily on keeping Zoom around and thwarting him in "The Race Of His Life" . . . without having a strong idea of how to get there.

The special effects in "The Race Of His Life" are great, as is the performance between Grant Gustin and Candice Patton. Danielle Panabaker is unfortunately stiff as Dr. Snow and Zoom is ridiculously monolithic in the episode. Ultimately, "The Race Of His Life" is a flawed premise with a series of leaps that make it fit poorly with what immediately came before it. The third season premiere will bear the weight of the final moments of "The Race Of His Life," but viewers will be returning to something that is already struggling to make sense of itself.

For other big season finales, please visit my reviews of:
"Legendary" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Fast Enough" - The Flash
"Doomsday" - Doctor Who


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.
| | |

Dark Masquerading As Medium, Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Is Powerfully Coffee Flavored!

The Good: Caffeinated, Aromatic, Strong without being overly bitter
The Bad: Expensive when not bought in bulk by the whole bean
The Basics: Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Coffee surprised me for not carrying any flavors other than coffee . . . but doing that exceptionally well!

When it comes to coffee, I tend to have a pretty hard line: call it "coffee" or it damn well better taste like the flavor you claim it does in addition to coffee! It's rare that I find a coffee that allows me to feel ethically justified in blurring that line. But, Lavazza Coffee managed to do that with its Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso coffee and I suspect I'm okay with it because "Gran Crema" only implies any sort of creamy flavor and for a medium blend, this coffee nailed a powerful dark blend flavoring. Given that I prefer dark coffee blends, the lack of a creamy element to the flavor palate for this coffee was, ultimately, not disappointing.

Gran Crema Espresso is a Lavazza coffee that is available in bulk and well worth picking up that way; otherwise, it seems to be quite expensive. Fortunately for me, the local discount store prices an 8 oz. bag of ground Lavazza coffee only $1 cheaper than they price a 2.2 pound bag of unground Lavazza coffee beans, so choosing the Gran Crema Espresso was both a smart economic and flavor choice for me!


Lavazza is a premium coffee company that recreates (supposedly, I've never been, so I can's speak to its authenticity!) an Italian coffee experience. We found the Gran Crema Espresso in a 2.2 lb. bag of unground coffee beans.

The Gran Crema Espresso Blend is an aromatic blend that smells, appropriately, of coffee. We blended it for use in both our percolator and espresso machines and found virtually no difference in the flavor quality between the two, making it a great, versatile coffee for consumers who like a lot of gadgets!

Ease Of Preparation

Gran Crema Espresso Coffee is easy to prepare, but because it comes in whole bean form, it is not as easy as some coffees. After opening the bag, pour an appropriate amount of Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Coffee into your coffee grinder - I still highly recommend the Cuisinart Supreme Grind coffee grinder (reviewed here!) that I have been grinding with for over a decade since I first found it! After grinding your beans, measure out one heaping tablespoon for every two cups of water in your coffee maker. Gran Crema Espresso Coffee is intended for automatic (drip or percolating) coffee makers. This is NOT an instant coffee. As a result, it needs to be brewed and I use a Hamilton Beach machine (reviewed here!) with a Crucial Coffee #4 Permanent coffee filter (reviewed here!). Despite living in fear of it, I have also used the Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso in my Mr. Coffee Cafe Espresso Maker (reviewed here!), with good results.

Consult your coffee maker's instructions for how to brew the coffee. However, as far as the basics go, you'll need a coffee filter, which you put the Gran Crema Espresso Coffee in and then brew through your coffee maker. The directions recommend making a pot at a time and serving it within twenty minutes and brewing complete pots does seem to net a more unified taste to the coffee (nothing too weak or too strong, no surprise sips that are uncommonly bitter - which has not happened at all with this coffee!).


Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Coffee smells strong, though there is a hint of something nutty in the bouquet. The hints of nut are almost completely overwhelmed by the scent of coffee and this has an inviting, but strong coffee scent to it.

In the mouth, the Gran Crema Espresso Coffee is the embodiment of coffee flavor. It is strong, rich and tastes more like a dark blend than a medium blend. There is not even a hint of watery flavor that comes from most medium blends in the flavor of the Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso. Instead, the flavor is straightforward and potent, like having two or three cups of regular coffee distilled into one serving. The amazing aspect of this otherwise powerful coffee flavor is that it does not have any hint of bitterness to it, which is nice.

With creamer, the Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso takes on an incredibly sweet flavor, without losing the essential coffee taste - which is a balance not too commonly found in coffees! That said, one of the coffee creamers I tried with the Gran Crema Espresso (a coconut cream one) did overwhelm the coffee flavor of the Espresso and surprisingly dominated the otherwise robust blend.

The Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso has a dry, but not overly bitter aftertaste to it. The aftertaste takes about five minutes to wear off.


This is coffee, not something that appears on the nutrition pyramid! Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Coffee does not contribute anything to one's daily recommended allowance of anything. In fact, the bag does not have any ingredients, save a mention of a 60%/40% split in the types of coffee beans that make up the blend.

This is a caffeinated blend and it feels like it! This has enough caffeine to pop one's eyes open between the taste, aroma and caffeine. Because it is a caffeinated coffee, it appears to not have undergone any of the chemical processes that sometimes cause complications in decaffeinated coffees.


Gran Crema Espresso Coffee ought to be stored sealed in its container with the top firmly closed. Coffee is known to absorb flavors of food nearby it, so keeping the bag tightly closed is highly recommended. There are different schools of thought on refrigerating open coffee and I have a very clean refrigerator with a lot of ways to segregate coffee, so I tend to come down on the side of refrigerate it. The container makes no recommendations on that count, though the bag of Gran Crema Espresso Coffee I bought last week would not expire until August 2017, so I doubt it would go bad - especially in its unground form - long before then!

After brewing, coffee grounds ought to be disposed of. These grounds may be thrown in the trash when used or put in a compost pile, if available. Coffee grounds make great compost.


Lavazza Gran Crema Espresso Coffee is a great coffee blend that is likely to thrill dark coffee drinkers over those expecting a more moderate medium blend!

For other coffee reviews, please visit my reviews of:
Taster's Choice Gourmet Roast Coffee
The Organic Coffee Co. Rainforest Blend Coffee
Peet's Coffee Major Dickason's Blend Coffee


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

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Something Of A Mess For The End Of The World: X-Men: Apocalypse

The Good: Special effects, Moments of character/philosophy
The Bad: Simplistic plot, Underdeveloped characters, Some of the performances.
The Basics: X-Men: Apocalypse is entertaining, but not as engaging as some of the earlier X-Men installments.

Summer Blockbuster Season is upon us and the final movie of the year that I am excited about is upon us! It's a rare thing that there is a Star Trek film on the horizon and I am not at all excited about it (sorry, but when the big selling point of the film is that it is directed by the director of The Fast And The Furious, it's hard to be an enthusiastic Trekker!). The film is X-Men: Apocalypse and it represents the best chance for a kick-ass super hero film experience this summer. For sure, Captain America: Civil War (reviewed here!) was not bad, but when one is expecting a high-minded philosophical debate and one gets yet another "here's how a half-rate villain outwits our heroes" story and "product placement" for future MCU films, it is hard not to be somewhat disappointed. As for X-Men: Apocalypse, there is a lot to enjoy within the film, but it does not take long into the film before it seems like director Bryan Singer and his co-writers bit off more than they could chew.

X-Men: Apocalypse is based upon a massive Marvel Comics crossover series from the mid-1990s and it is worth noting up-front that I have not read it. As a result, this is a pure review of the film X-Men: Apocalypse. And, in many ways, X-Men: Apocalypse is the sequel to X-Men: First Class (reviewed here!); it introduces most of the rest of the central X-Men characters to bridge First Class with Singer's first X-Men film (reviewed here!). Unfortunately for viewers and fans, between the casting and the abundance of characters leaving most of them under-developed, X-Men: Apocalypse is not all it could be.

Opening in ancient Egypt, the mutant En Sabah Nur is involved in a ritual to transfer his consciousness into a new mutant body when the humans aiding him in the process turn on him and his assistants, burying him by destroying his pyramid. In 1983, Raven rescues the mutant Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) from a mutant fight club that leaves Angel wounded. In Poland, Erik Lensherr is hiding out - living a mundane life - with his new wife and daughter when he saves a worker at his factory from death. But, when humans hunt down Lensherr and inadvertently kill his family, Magneto reverts to his rage. This happens at almost the same time as CIA Agent Moira Mactaggert uncovering En Sabah Nur's temple and (with the addition of sunlight) reactivating the mutant. The resurfacing of Apocalypse sends shockwaves through the mutant community, especially at Xavier's School Of Mutants (where most people assume the physical shaking is coming from the telekinetic Jean Grey).

Apocalypse quickly surrounds himself with powerful mutants - Ororo Munroe (Storm), Psyclocke (who has the ability to create energy-based weapons), and Angel. Recognizing that a worldwide manhunt for Lensherr has begun, Raven returns to Xavier's side to try to find him before the humans can. Unfortunately, Apocalypse reaches Magneto first and recruits him to help him lay waste to humanity. Just a Quicksilver is reaching out to Xavier to help him find Magneto, Apocalypse and his Horsemen abduct Xavier from the school. While Apocalypse utilizes his newfound allies and uses Xavier to deliver a message to the world (after disabling the world's nuclear arsenal), Raven and Hank McCoy marshal the forces of Xavier's students. In the ashes of Xavier's school, Stryker abducts Mactaggert, McCoy, Quicksilver, and Raven, leaving Jean Grey, Nightcrawler and Scott Summers (Cyclops) to rescue them and save Charles, while Apocalypse attempts to remake the world for the strongest mutants.

X-Men: Apocalypse once again reworks the cinematic X-Men universe to once again de-canonize X-Men Origins: Wolverine (reviewed here!), whatwith having a new first meeting between Scott Summers and Charles Xavier. More than that being a genuine problem, X-Men: Apocalypse packs so many characters into it that almost none of them are properly serviced. Logan's lone scene affords an opportunity to have a plot-necessary diversion for some of the main characters and remind viewers that they were missing Hugh Jackman. Ororo Munroe, especially, is introduced in her earliest incarnation in a most unsatisfactory way. Munroe is introduced as a thief on the streets of Cairo and she seems to have virtually entire control over her weather-controlling abilities . . . and she falls in with Apocalypse without any apparent ethical conflict.

In a similar way, Olivia Munn is added to X-Men: Apocalypse as Psylocke in a particularly unmemorable way. Psylocke's powers - like Bishop's in the prior film - are made clear only through context clues and she is presented, sadly, as a monolithic lackey for Apocalypse. Munn looks great in the outfit and Psylocke is an awesome fighter for the scenes she is in, but she had remarkably few lines and virtually no characterization.

Apocalypse is an unfortunately monolithic villain and he sucks the well-developed Eric Lensherr down into his trap of being troublingly one-sided. Apocalypse wants to basically use Magneto to erase human infrastructure from the world and (potentially) leave the planet for mutants. But Apocalypse is not presented as a well-rounded enough villain to even explain that; he feels like humans have overrun the Earth, but why he wants to rule over it is not clear. Why Apocalypse wants to rule over the ruins of Earth he is having Magneto create is never compellingly explained. Moreover, why Magneto even wants to have mutants around him is not explained. Here is a mutant who has lived for many thousands of years; there is no one he knows or who has ever known he has not already lost. Why would he want or need anyone around him?

The result of so many flaccid characters mutes the deeper characters presented or revisited in X-Men: Apocalypse. Charles Xavier is given very few scenes and is not able to truly reflect on Raven's return before he is torn away from his students. Magneto's rage is interesting, but X-Men: Apocalypse does not satisfactorily explain why he would willingly fall in with Apocalypse as opposed to just continue his own killing spree or go his own way. The cult of Apocalypse is not expressed on screen in a convincing or compelling way.

The character that comes out ahead for most of her time on screen in X-Men: Apocalypse is Raven. Mystique, and to a lesser extent Hank McCoy and even Quicksilver, has no bad scenes and she follows an arc that makes sense and is character-driven. Raven continues to embody a character conflict that has her trapped between two worlds; she is helping mutants, but not as part of Xavier's school. She is presented well in X-Men: Apocalypse and here she reaches a new heroic level that Jennifer Lawrence is easily able to portray.

The same cannot be said for Sophie Turner and some of the other young cast members introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse. Turner, alas, does not have the screen presence or range to play Jean Grey in a compelling way. Turner's performance lacks nuance or depth. To be fair, so does Alexandra Shipp's portrayal of Ororo. Tye Sheridan fails to portray Scott Summers as realistically shaken either in the sudden manifestation of his powers or in the death of his brother. Kodi Smit-McPhee does fine as Kurt Wagner in X-Men: Apocalypse, but most of his acting is covered up by the make-up for the character.

Despite the lack of compelling characters and plot development for the bulk of X-Men: Apocalypse, the special effects are suitably impressive. Between make-up, costumes, and CG-effects, X-Men: Apocalypse looks great. Hell, despite not having much of a part in the film, Olivia Munn draws the viewer's eye for ever scene she is on screen as Psylocke.

The X-Men film series has, largely, been successful because of the morals, message, and characters in the franchise. X-Men: Apocalypse lacks that depth or character development. The result is a fair popcorn movie, but not a film that stands up well compared to the rest of the series.

For other X-Men films, please visit my reviews of:
X2: X-Men United
X-Men III: The Last Stand
The Wolverine
X-Men: Days Of Future Past


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

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

Dead Hero Extraordinaire: The Black Lantern Wonder Woman Figure Is Awesome!

The Good: Great sculpt, Decent accessory, Excellent coloring, Decent balance, Good articulation!
The Bad: Somewhat ridiculous collectible value!
The Basics: The Blackest Night Black Lantern Wonder Woman figure is one of the impressive figures from the DC Collectibles toy line!

I have a pretty big Wonder Woman action figure collection and I am very determined to keep only the best pieces in my collection. One of the pieces that I am keeping more proudly than I ever expected to is the Blackest Night Black Lantern Wonder Woman action figure. Don't get me wrong; I love Blackest Night, but the figures from DC Collectibles have been erratic and this is such an obscure character that many casual fans will find it anything but essential.

For those unfamiliar with her, the Black Lantern Wonder Woman is a very secondary character from Blackest Night and it is another impermanent incarnation of Princess Diana as Wonder Woman. Near the end of Blackest Night (reviewed here!), Wonder Woman is transformed into a hideous Black Lantern, like most of the heroes who were once dead. The saga of Wonder Woman being taken over and turned into a Black Lantern is in Black Lantern Corps Volume 2 (reviewed here!).

It is Wonder Woman in her Black Lantern costume that is the subject of the DC Direct action figure of the character.


The Black Lantern Wonder Woman figure is a wonderful sculpt and is perfect on the sculpt front! This is an amazing-looking version of the dead, Nekron-controlled Wonder Woman. She stands 6 1/4" tall to the top of the figure's head. The Black Lantern Wonder Woman figure is available from DC Direct, though there is a lesser DC Universe version of the figure now on the market as well. That one features more joints which look incredibly sloppy, whereas the non-Mattel version is has some joints that are well-hidden and prioritizes fidelity to the subject over the appearance of articulation.

On the sculpt front, this version of Wonder Woman looks like Diana in the face, but is silver and back with a very gray skintone. This version of Diana has empty white eyes, flowing black hair and the tiara and bracelets one expects from Wonder Woman. But the tiara actually comes down her nose ridge and partially around her eyes to give her a more armored appearance. This is complimented by a rubbery skirt and boots that continue the warrior appearance. Wonder Woman's boots go almost up to her knees and the figure features a black lantern ring on her left middle finger! Her right hip has a hook - which juts out just a little too much - upon which rests her lasso. In this incarnation of the figure, the lasso is essentially a black thread.

The Black Lantern Wonder Woman's costume is colored silver-gray for her gauntlets, black and silver for the rest of the outfit. This leaves a lot of the character’s skin exposed. Because this incarnation of Wonder Woman is (more or less) dead, her skin tones are monolithically white/gray, like a corpse! This is an excellently colored and sculpted figure!


The Black Lantern Wonder Woman, transformed into a resurrected corpse, comes with only two accessories. She has her stand and her transformed lasso. The stand is a black and white disk with the Black Lantern logo. It is 3 3/4" in diameter and 1/4” tall and it has a single peg which plugs into the hole in Black Lantern Wonder Woman's right foot. She is completely stable, especially on her base.

Black Lantern Wonder Woman also comes with a Black Lantern version of her Lasso Of Truth. The 12 1/4" black cord is simple, but enough to do what it is intended to.


The DC Direct figures were designed more for display than play and this holds up on both fronts. The Black Lantern Wonder Woman has great balance, especially when she is flatfooted. Because she lacks a joints at the ankle, the Black Lantern Wonder Woman figure is somewhat limited in her posing, but on her stand, she can take on very dynamic stances. Off the stand, the Black Lantern Wonder Woman tips, but not as easily as most DC Direct figures. On her stand, she is stable and very poseable.

The Black Lantern Wonder Woman figure comes with only thirteen points of articulation, which is good even for a DC Direct figure. Black Lantern Wonder Woman has joints at the knees, groin socket, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists and head. The shoulders are proper ball and socket joints, while the elbows and knees are both hinge joints. The head is on a ball and socket joint, which would allow her to look in virtually any direction! The groin socket allows for an appropriate range of motion.


The Black Lantern Wonder Woman is part of the DC Direct Blackest Night Series 4 line which was fairly uncommon, as it was usually only distributed through comic book shops and specialty stores like FYE. Black Lantern Wonder Woman is one of the many heroes in the Blackest Night line and this is one of several Wonder Woman figures DC Direct produced. The Black Lantern Wonder Woman figure is unique to this series and has exploded in value, probably due to its rarity and quality.


The Black Lantern Wonder Woman is surprisingly incredible and well worth picking up, even at secondary market prices!

For other Blackest Night figures, please check out my reviews of:
Wave 3 Orange Lantern Larfleeze
Limited Edition Boxed Set
Wave 5 Nekron


For other toy reviews, please check out my index page!

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Come The Inevitable: Legends Of Tomorrow's Characters (Don't Really) Become "Legendary!"

The Good: Special effects, Wraps up the central conflict of the show/leaves room for next season, Performances
The Bad: Wonky science moments, Very light on character development, Continuity.
The Basics: Legends Of Tomorrow ends its first season with "Legendary," an episode saddled with a bit more than it can handle.

It is hard to imagine a season finale that has more of a burden on it than the first season finale of Legends Of Tomorrow. The first season was an erratic mix of fights between the team Rip Hunter assembled and Vandal Savage and bottle episodes that only prolong and distract from the main plotline. "Legendary" has a long way to go and a lot of ground to cover if the show is going to thwart the time-traveling immortal Vandal Savage in its final first season episode. To its credit, "Legendary" appears to get there; to its detriment, "Legendary" makes a number of conceptual left-turns to get there.

"Legendary" picks up after "Destiny" (reviewed here!) and, given that it is a season finale for a heavily serialized show, it is impossible not to talk about elements of the penultimate episode in reviewing "Legendary." After all, "Destiny" saw Leonard Snart make the ultimate sacrifice and "Legendary" has to find a way to restore him to the timeline given that actor Wentworth Miller spilled the beans months ago that he would be in the second season of Legends Of Tomorrow. How that return will happen is not made clear in "Legendary," as the episode is very focused on the mechanics of thwarting Vandal Savage.

Opening with the Waverider returning to 2016 five months after it initially left, less Snart, Kendra and Carter, with Rip Hunter dropping his crew off and vowing to return the younger versions of his team to the timeline, Sara Lance returns to Star City where she learns of her sister's death. Mick returns to Central City and his life of crime, where he is shocked to be met by Ray Palmer as his getaway car driver! The team reassembles to try to complete its mission of finding and killing Vandal Savage. Rip Hunter returns with the Waverider and his crew insists on rejoining the mission. Meanwhile, in 1944 France, Kendra runs into an allied soldier and leaves a message in his helmet, knowing that it will end up on Hunter's desk.

The Waverider goes to Saint-Lo, 1944, based on Kendra's message, where Vandal Savage is preparing to return to ancient Egypt to dominate human development with Thanagarian technology. After a battle, Dr. Stein and Jax explore their newfound power to transmute objects at the molecular level. Dr. Stein figures out that Vandal Savage intends to create a paradox by destroying the Earth in three different time periods. The Waverider crew spreads out in time to kill savage in three time periods when he is at his most vulnerable from the Thanagarian meteors' radiation!

"Legendary" has some truly wonky science, in the way the helmet's message ends up in front of Rip Hunter, but the time travel aspect of the episode works fairly well. Sara Lance's desire to save her sister would mean undoing tons of material from Arrow and some from The Flash, so the idea that Rip Hunter chose Lance to avoid more death and destruction was surprisingly well-explained. Similarly, Vandal Savage's explanation of the Thanagarian technology and its influence over his, Kendra, and Carter's resurrections is well detailed. Far from being magic, the Thanagarian technology is the mechanism of human resurrection and immortality and it plays well in "Legendary," despite being a lot of exposition!

Unfortunately, the triple destruction paradox concept is a return to wonky science for the episode. The paradox makes sense, though the idea that the ritual would have to be performed at the same time in three time periods is ridiculous. In fact, despite the way Dr. Stein comes to the conclusion, the paradox would exist simply by Savage destroying the Earth once after he has already destroyed it in 2022. In fact, there is something inelegant about the lack of creativity for the solution in "Legendary." Vandal Savage is now a time-traveler and that is barely explored and the idea that only Carter or Kendra can kill Savage is completely ignored in the episode. The creative solution would have forced versions of Hall and Saunders native to each time period to be enlisted in order to kill Savage.

Fans of Firestorm have a lot to be thrilled with in "Legendary" as the combination of Dr. Stein and Jax finally pays off when Firestorm begins to transmute objects. The development has been a long time in coming and the payoff is worth it; it is well-executed and clever for how it occurs. Firestorm's newfound ability plays into the end by forcing a big Rip Hunter moment that would have been ridiculous if Firestorm were more seasoned and practiced in his skills.

Outside Firestorm's plot-necessary development, "Legendary" is light on character development outside Sara Lance. Lance is traumatized by the death of her sister and her temporal inability to change that event and it shakes her. Even Rip Hunter is not given much in the way of a character arc to sell his sense of trauma or shock with events of "Legendary" as Lance is. Hunter has a climactic moment and a heroic moment; they are interesting, but they are far less gut-wrenching and visceral as Sara Lance struggling to accept her inability to change the events that led to her sister's death.

The performances in "Legendary" are fine, but outside Caity Lotz, none of the main cast actually act in ways not already well within their established range from prior episodes of Legends Of Tomorrow. The special effects are appropriately special and the episode looks good.

Legends Of Tomorrow was a needlessly complicated show from its very beginning and, to its odd credit, "Legendary" maintains that needless complication by adding more ridiculous complexities. The entire first season had a starkly simple problem and solution and instead it went off on a long, twisted mission that is revisited in "Legendary" marginally well. "Legendary" had a virtually impossible task and instead of simply making the entire first season - essentially - not happen, it climaxes with a note of mystery that pushes for a starting point for the second season, as opposed to satisfactorily resolving the first season.

There are some episodes of television that are slow burns; they get better the longer one considers them. "Legendary" is the opposite; the more one considers it and the first season of Legends Of Tomorrow, the more they are likely to realize just how shoddily it was put together.

For other dramatic season finales, please visit my reviews of:
"AKA Smile" - Jessica Jones
"Tears Of The Prophets" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Ascension" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

[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 reprintwithout permission.
| | |

So Much More Than A Travel Mug: The Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser!

The Good: Durable, Keeps liquids hot for hours
The Bad: Pricy, Flow is over-regulated for big mouths.
The Basics: The Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser is great for those who want to brew tea on the go!

Two winter holidays ago, my wife and I got travel mugs for the holiday. I was gifted the Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser because of my love of tea and having used it now for a year and a half, I feel like I am in a good position to actually talk about it. The Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser is good for travel and it does great at keeping beverages hot for hours!

The Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser is a 12 fl. oz. travel mug that is clear plastic and double layered to effectively insulate the beverage in the inner cup portion. The mug is a simple plastic cylinder without a handle. The top of the mug has a plastic cap that screws on. To use the Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser, one need only fill the inner plastic mug, then screw on the plastic cap. To access the beverage inside, press the snap lever on the back and it opens a hole on the opposite side of the cap.

What makes the Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser different from most travel mugs is the lever on the side of the Infuser mug's top. The lever is connected to a metal basket on the underside of the top. The basket it small and holds enough loose-leaf tea to properly infuse the boiling water that is placed inside the mug. The mesh for the metal basket is very fine and within only five minutes, the boiling water one places inside is turned into well-brewed tea! Sealed and with the top closed, this travel mug has kept beverages at almost the same temperature as when it was poured for over three hours. What is truly extraordinary about the Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser is that when one snaps open the access hole and continues to drink from it, it keeps beverages piping hot for over two hours! In other words, partially-drunk beverages remain hot even after one has begun consuming it.

The plastic body of the Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser may be washed in the dishwasher, but the top must be hand washed. In order to keep this tall mug thin-enough so it may fit into the standard cupholder (in our futon and in our car), the mug is thin-enough that those of us with big hands have trouble cleaning it out using our hands, which makes it good that it is dishwasher safe - especially given that it does not come with any form of cleaning brush. The only other detraction for me is that the opening for getting the drink out of the cap limits the flow enough to force me to drink slower than I usually would.

The Aladdin Perfect Cup Tea Infuser is pretty wonderful and well worth investing in for anyone who loves tea on the go!

For other kitchen gadgets that are beverage-related, please check out my reviews of:
Contigo SnapSeal Vacuum-Insulated Stainless Steel Travel Mug
ThinkGeek Star Wars Battle Of Hoth Pint Glass Set
Star Trek Decloaking Klingon Bird Of Prey mug


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

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Flash Thinks He's "Invincible" And (Until The Last Two Minutes . . .) He Is!

The Good: Good character arcs, Good performances
The Bad: Moments of terrible CG, Overstated character moments, Very basic plot
The Basics: "Invincible" returns Katie Cassidy to The Flash, now in the form of the Black Siren, an Earth-2 metahuman used by Zoom!

The DC Television Universe has, so far, shown a surprising willingness to keep dead characters dead, despite Eobard Thawne returning to The Flash as a temporal remnant and Sarah Lance being resurrected on Arrow. The Flash has not overplayed the resurrection card and that helps keep the show grounded at some key times. In fact, the way it seems to enjoy playing with dead characters is by introducing their multiverse doppelgangers and on "Invincible," The Flash does just that. Laurel Lance, seen on The Flash only once as the Black Canary, returns to the narrative as her Earth-2 counterpart, Black Siren, in "Invincible."

"Invincible" picks up where "The Runaway Dinosaur" (reviewed here!) left off, which makes it hard to discuss without some references to the prior episode. After all, for those who do not watch Arrow and are not simply wowed by the return of Katie Cassidy in some form to The Flash, the novelty of the Black Siren is not inherently exciting. That said, as the first wave of metahumans under Zoom's influence begin attacking our world's Central City, Black Siren makes for an interesting adversary.

Opening with Central City being overrun by Zoom's metahumans, the Flash manages to take down many metahumans at once. Returning to S.T.A.R. Labs, Barry is pleased to find Dr. Snow returned to the team, as she escaped Zoom. Barry is much more confident than the rest of his team that he and the team can thwart Zoom. At Mercury Labs, a metahuman (Black Siren) attacks, which forces The Flash back onto the streets and puts Dr. McGee on his team. Wally West, in the meantime, begins patrolling the streets trying to take down metahumans on his own, which alarms Joe West.

After Henry Allen tries to rein in Barry's overconfidence, The Flash and Zoom square off for a conversation. Zoom tells Barry that Barry's moralizing is what will allow him to defeat Barry. As the scientists at S.T.A.R. Labs try to develop a dimensional frequency weapon to disable all of the Earth-2 metahumans, Barry confronts Black Siren and only manages to escape with Wally's help.

"Invincible" plays off an exaggerated sense of a relationship between Cisco and Laurel Lance and that works to the detriment of the episode. Cisco met the Earth-1 Laurel Lance once or twice and helped develop her Black Canary tech. The second time Ramon was around Lance, he was romantically involved with Kendra Saunders; Ramon never had time or contact to develop a real romantic relationship with Lance. So, the claim that Ramon loved Lance is a drastic and unfortunate overstatement for a guy who had a crush.

At the other end of the spectrum, Wally West is given a lot of characterization in "Invincible" and his guilt arc plays well alongside Dr. Snow's arc of overcoming her own sense of trauma following her experience with Zoom. Danielle Panabaker gives one of her best performances in "Invincible" playing the traumatized Dr. Snow and Snow pretending to be Killer Frost. Dr. Snow is shaken throughout "Invincible" and Wally West's desire to rise to heroic heights fits his character nicely - especially as it is motivated by a deep-seated sense of guilt.

The off-putting character aspect in "Invincible" comes in how everyone on Barry Allen's team doubts the new-found confidence of The Flash. The Flash opens the episode actually taking down metahumans effectively (though, oddly, he is not shown actually bringing them back to the pipeline at the beginning of the episode); his friends have demonstrable evidence that his confidence is warranted. After so many episodes of Barry shaken and moralizing, seeing a hero with a moral imperative actually kicking butt is so frustrating when it is muted by scenes where everyone tells him how wrong he is to feel confidence.

Outside the lackluster use of Laurel Lance (and the cheap excuse to have Ramon and Snow dress up as their evil doppelgangers), the most serious drawback with "Invincible" is an absolutely terrible computer generated effect sequence early in the episode. As The Flash rescues Dr. McGee, the effect looks troublingly animated and fake. The choker on Black Siren is a bit of a red herring as she is a metahuman and does not require the technological enhancement the choker represented from Cisco's costume enhancement for the Earth-1 Laurel Lance.

"Invincible" is well-constructed, despite having a lot of very basic aspects to the plot and a frustrating number of conversations about what Barry Allen cannot do. The issues of confidence play well with the reversal at the end and the mystery of Vibe's visions of dying birds adds a nice level of mystery to the episode. "Invincible" is structured in a way that its frustrating aspects are all resolved before the end of the episode, making it tie-in well to the season and stand alone on its own.

The result is a good episode of The Flash, which prepares viewers for the final episode of the second season.

For other works with Katie Cassidy, please visit my reviews of:
"Pilot, Part 1" - Legends Of Tomorrow
"Who Is Harrison Wells?" - The Flash
A Nightmare On Elm Street


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.
| | |

Limited Window Of Pine: Renuzit Aroma Adjustables Evergreen Escape!

The Good: Good initial scent, Inexpensive enough, Easy to use
The Bad: Scent fades very quickly
The Basics: The Evergreen Escape Renuzit Aroma Adjustable might not be overly aromatic for long, but it does prevent one's house from smelling for almost a full month!

When it comes to air fresheners, there seem to be about three levels of quality: those that do not work, those that work and provide an aroma constantly and those that initially smell and then simply neutralize other scents in the air. The limited edition Renuzit Aroma Adjustables Evergreen Escape flavor seem to fall into that last category. Using the Renuzit Aroma Adjustables Evergreen Escape air freshener has an initial burst of vaguely pine scent that fades within a day . . . but then one's environment does not smell of anything (including pine) for the remaining month while the waxy Adjustable withers.

Renuzit Aroma Adjustables are best analogized as scented candles without the wick. These are waxy cones that come in a plastic cone package that are actually solidified essential oils that emit a scent. The principle behind them is simple; air passes through them, they slowly effervesce throughout a room and for a month, the living environment is supposed to smell like the scent the Adjustables claims to have, in this case, Evergreen Escape. The principle is a generally good one; Renuzit Aroma Adjustables eliminate the potential danger of burning down one's house by having an inflammable odor-releaser and offer long-lasting odor coverage.

Unfortunately, while the Evergreen Escape Adjustables has an initially good scent, it does not endure very long. Renuzit Aroma Adjustables have an instant scent which lasts for about a day in out house that contains a Siberian Husky and three cats. Unfortunately, while the scent initially permeated our apartment, it did not endure for more than a day. However, in the month the Evergreen Escape Renuzit Aroma Adjustables was around, our living space did not smell like animals or anything else; the Aroma Adjustables appeared to effectively neutralize other scents that had been around!

The Renuzit Aroma Adjustables are five-inch tall plastic cones that look like an overturned snowcone. The base is a white plastic dish that reveals the green of the Evergreen Escape air freshener inside. Use is ridiculously simple; twist the cap up and set in a place where one wants fresher air. Opening the Adjustables only half an inch gives access to the scent briefly.

The Evergreen Escape Renuzit Aroma Adjustables smells like pine for about a day within a fifteen foot radius of the Adjustables.

The Evergreen Escape Renuzit Aroma Adjustable is a good theory with a mediocre execution. Opening the air freshener half an inch gave us a reprieve for a day, but then it did not scent our living space; it just neutralized odors. There is the option to open the product more, which is a simple matter of raising the plastic cone on top higher. This does disperse more of the Adjustables's scent, but within a day, I could not smell anything from the Evergreen Escape Adjustables.

The Adjustables are easy enough to use; after about a month the green waxy portion that initially looked like a candle will be shriveled to look more like an apple core and even sticking one's nose into it will not reveal the smell it originally had. At that time, the plastic cone and dish may simply be thrown away. This is very easy to use and when placed in high places, it is very safe for use around children and animals.

The Evergreen Escape scent of Renuzit Aroma Adjustables is good for killing odors, but not providing an inviting scent for one's living space, which somewhat defeats its purpose.

For other Renuzit Adjustables reviews, check out my reviews of:
Renuzit Adjustables Limited Edition Creme Brulee
Renuzit Adjustables Limited Edition Mandarin Lemonade
Renuzit Adjustables Limited Edition Apple & Cinnamon


For other home and garden product reviews, please visit my Home And Garden Product Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Joss Whedon Reminds Viewers How Cool Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. Can Be With "Ascension!"

The Good: Moments of character, Special effects!, Good performances
The Bad: Very basic plot, Ending scenes
The Basics: The third season finale of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a literal "Ascension" that pits the Agents against Hive to once again redirect the series.

Entering the third season finale of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Ascension," it is hard for fans to not feel a bit jaded. Since the mid-season premiere, viewers have been teased with the idea that there will be a death on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and fans are naturally wary of the promise. After all, for all of the wonderful aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are remarkably few deaths that have endured. Indeed, outside Odin and Quicksilver, no dead heroes come instantly to mind. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has actually done the best at keeping dead characters dead - despite Coulson being resurrected to make the series work. Triplett, Jai-Ying, Gonzales and John Garrett were killed and have remained dead. But, for main cast members of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., it is hard to believe "Ascension" would actually see one killed and keep them dead. So, when early in the episode, there is a death that mimics the death in the Joss Whedon written and directed The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, it is hard not to feel just a little cheated.

Coming immediately off "Absolution," "Ascension" (reviewed here!) delivers the promised and prophesied death . . . and it is a tough sell to believe that the death will hold. "Ascension" does make it pretty obvious why The Inhumans film was taken off the Disney/Marvel release slate. After all, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has used the third season to introduce (and kill off!) some of the most significant Inhumans with Lash and Hive. With "Absolution" showing a serious way that Hive could be thwarted, it makes it hard to make a film that could credibly use it as a villain. "Ascension" transitions between the action comic book genre into what seems like a "trapped in a haunted house" type story as the episode moves toward its climax and the promised casualty.

Opening with Daisy fighting Hive at the S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, with twenty-eight S.H.I.E.L.D. agents compromised and transformed into Inhuman Primitives, Dr. Radcliffe struggles to figure out how to stop his own creations. Hive captures Daisy to prevent S.H.I.E.L.D. from shooting his ship out of the sky. With May and Fitz hiding out in the cargo hold of Hive's ship, most of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team struggles to save Yo-Yo's life after she is shot. Simmons figures out that the proto-Inhumans see based on infrared (heat) and she cranks up the heat to blind them. With Talbot coming to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s rescue, James begin to question Hive's plan to transform so many people into proto-Inhumans.

When Coulson docks the quinjet with the Zephyr, the Agents are united in their fight against Hive. And, of course, the vision Daisy saw comes to pass . . . but not as she thought it would.

"Ascension" has a pretty awesome fight reminiscent of The Matrix to open the episode. The fight between Hive and Daisy is stylish, violent and, in pure Joss Whedon fashion, includes some snappy dialogue and reversals. The fight is offset by scenes that have the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team splitting up and getting trapped in different parts of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, being hunted by the proto-Inhumans. This makes a mood that is reminiscent of a horror film when "Ascension" is not acting like a James Bond film (or the villain's scenes from it!). As the episode focuses on Hive and his team, there is a very obvious sense of old-school villainy to the exposition.

Very early on in "Ascension," viewers are teased with the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. casualty. After all, the key elements in Daisy's vision were the quinjet's cockpit, Yo-Yo's cross and the black jacket with the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo. Fitz is wearing that jacket with the cross in his pocket when he, May and Daisy end up on the Zephyr with Hive, James, Giyera and the proto-Inhumans. So, much of "Ascension" is a waiting game for fans to see if Fitz, Daisy or May get killed or if someone else is added to the mix. The calculus for fans of Joss Whedon's works (he wrote the episode!) is a surprisingly delightful blend of looking for aspects of Whedon's established formula and ways he might try to defy it.

"Ascension" has a genuine "fuckin' awesome!" moment and it comes long before the episode's end. Fitz is seldom the one to deliver the episode's coolest moment, but he gets it fairly early in "Ascension" and it is tough not to get pumped by the moment.

That is not to say all of Joss Whedon's reversal tricks work. When Coulson faces down with Hive, the resulting scene is fun, but entirely predictable. Sure, it's awesome to see Hive for several full face-shots, but Coulson's plan is painfully obvious. As "Ascension" reaches its peak, it transitions into something that makes it seem like it will not hold to the death that it is delivering to the viewers. After all, there are so many derivative elements in "Ascension" that are replaying what Whedon did in The Avengers: Age Of Ultron. The Hulk stealing a quinjet and then being teased with crashing down somewhere on Earth was already done, so the idea that the occupant of the quinjet at the climax of "Ascension" is irrevocably dead seems like as much of a tease as giving near-mortal wounds to two other characters long before the end. The safe money, sadly, is on the main protagonist sticking while the secondary character in the scene finds a way to return for the rest of the series.

"Ascension" is a kick-ass build-up to an anti-climax that has a potential continuation in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that hinges on what every other Marvel Cinematic Universe component has already done. The off-camera deaths set up returns (so far, only Red Skeleton has yet to resurface so!) and the final scene of "Ascension" seems designed to prevent viewers from ruminating on just how unimpressive the promised death actually was.

Ultimately, "Ascension" is saddled with an unfortunate burden that is far too common in network television shows. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a network television show and, as a result, it is subject to ratings and renewals. As a result, the executive producers squeezed in a massive arc focused on The Inhumans for the third season . . . instead of extending it out over multiple seasons. The burden of such a season finale is to resolve the action of the current season and lay a framework for the next season. In the latter aspect, "Ascension" utterly crashes. The foreshadowing for season four hinges on a massive character shift that makes remarkably little sense and may feature a known character going into villainous territory in a fairly uncompelling way. Until the final act and the pre-credit scene, "Ascension" succeeds at keeping the viewer engaged!

For other dramatic season finales, please visit my reviews of:
"Becoming, Part 2" - Buffy The Vampire Slayer
"Tears Of The Prophets" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" - Daredevil

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - 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 third season here!


For other Marvel movie, television season and episode reviews, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a listing of those reviews!

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

All Three Cats Get In On The Iams Premium Protection Mature Cat Food!

The Good: Good ingredients, Good nutrition for cats
The Bad: Very expensive.
The Basics: Evie, Elim, and Timber all consume Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food with gusto . . . and in defiance of my family's budget!

One of the negative consequences of my having an awesome discount store locally is that sometimes I get such incredible deals that I forget to calculate real price into the review. Fortunately, I know exactly how much of a deal I got with getting the twenty bags of Iams Premium Protection Mature Cat Food on deep discount . . . despite how much my cats love it, I know it would be exceptionally expensive to keep feeding it to the cats. That said, all three of my cats love the Iams Premium Protection Mature Cat formula cat food; despite two of the cats who consume it with vigor being under the 7 years old that the cat food recommends.

Evie, Timber and Elim devour the Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food whenever I fill their bowls. I have taken to actually measuring out the portions and feeding them twice a day in order to keep the cats from gorging on it.

Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food is a winner because all three cats love it. The one point six pound bag costs a bit more than other cat foods we usually get, so we were psyched to find it at the discount store on deep discount. Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food smells somewhat grainy, but the cats come running just from the sound of the food hitting the bowl.

A daily serving of Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food is between 1/3 and 3/4 cupx, depending on the cat's weight and as a result, the 1.6 pound bag does not last as long as I would want for the expense, especially with three cats eating from it! The tiny discs are just under 1/4" in diameter, making them exceptionally easy for cats of all ages to eat. As well, they are hard, so Evie is getting good practice chewing and when Timber bothers to chew the cat food, it helps clean his teeth.

Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food smells mealy, like grain. It is incredibly nutritious for cats. Made primarily of chicken, chicken by-product meal and corn meal, the ingredients are about one-fifth natural and recognizable before becoming a chemistry equation I can only assume has to do with preserving the food and keeping it formed. According to the guaranteed analysis, Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food has at least 35% crude protein, 18% crude fat, but no more than 3% crude fiber and 10% moisture. As a dry cat food, it is highly recommended that you have adequate water available for your cat when serving it Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food.

Iams Premium Protection Mature cat food is one of my cats' new favorite foods and all three cats enjoy it, making it a general winner for my family!

For other cat food reviews, please be sure to check out:
Iams Proactive Health Weight Control Cat Food
Fancy Feast Medleys White Meat Chicken Primavera With Garden Veggies & Greens Pate Cat Food
Rachael Ray Nutrish Real Salmon & Brown Rice Recipe Cat Food


For other pet product reviews, please check out my Pet Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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