Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 2013 End Of The Month Report

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November was a predictably vigorous month for the blog. Bolstered by the review of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, it was an exciting month both in the blog and behind-the-scenes. It was something of a nailbiter for the Top Ten Of All Time and we wrote some exciting political/economics articles this month (please, check them out!). We were exceptionally excited that this month, we crossed the 1,000,000 hit mark! My reviews and articles have been hit over one million times and we couldn't be more thrilled by having readers who keep coming back! We’re looking to finish the year strong next month, so be sure to keep reading!

This month at W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe, there were no additions to the Top Ten Of All Time, though the Catching Fire review missed by literally a dozen hits! This month, we put special emphasis on Hallmark ornaments, graphic novels, the musical works of Billy Joel and Madonna and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes! Thanks for all the "likes" for those posts, as well as all of the new hits on older reviews!

This month, we picked up one more subscriber! Thanks for joining our regular readership! 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 really growing our readership this year, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

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

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. Thank you so much! By purchasing items through the links on the blog, you sponsor my ability to continue reviewing. Holiday shopping picks up the online selling, so as you consider holiday shopping, please do so through my blog’s links to support the blog!

At the end of November, I have reviewed the following:
476 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
833 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2409 - 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!)!
200 - 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
700 - 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
716 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
201 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
107 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
155 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
164 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
91 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
35 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month for November is: About Time!
Check it out!

The month of November had a lot of movement within the month and a couple of prior reviews that made the list. For November, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Frozen
9. The Starving Games
8. A Perfect Man
7. Ender’s Game
6. Gravity
5. Enemies Closer
4. Thor: The Dark World
3. The Snow Queen
2. Compulsion
1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

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 - 282 reviews
9s - 405 reviews
8s - 770 reviews
7s - 855 reviews
6s - 775 reviews
5s - 1017 reviews
4s - 734 reviews
3s - 601 reviews
2s - 264 reviews
1s - 184 reviews
0s - 85 reviews
No rating - 58 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but no new entries into the Top Ten. At the end of November, the most popular reviews/articles I have written are:
10. Beautiful Creatures
9. Star Trek Into Darkness
8. Safe Haven
7. Oz The Great And Powerful
6. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
5. Warm Bodies
4. Iron Man 3
3. Now You See Me
2. Tyler Perry's Temptation
1. Man Of Steel

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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Classic(al) Joel: Fantasies & Delusions Is Entirely Different For Billy Joel!

The Good: Enjoyable, easy-to-listen to, music, Well-played, Good duration
The Bad: Entirely derivative of Chopin.
The Basics: Billy Joel’s classical music album Fantasies & Delusions may as well be a lost Chopin album . . . which is both good and bad for the work!

I am always impressed when musical artists get to a point in their careers where they can do pretty much whatever they want. Once a real artist achieves a certain level of success, they gain a cache with the fans, critics and record companies and I like to see what they do with that. Many of the female musical artists I like have a tendency to burn the house down and do whatever they want, whatever they truly want, with their career after they are established. Annie Lennox fulfilled her contract and then started releasing the music she wanted to independently, Alanis Morissette’s musical style almost entirely changed after Jagged Little Pill (reviewed here!) gave her the financial freedom to create again. In the case of Billy Joel, after decades of writing and performing on albums that all went multi-platinum and selling out stadium tours (on his own or with Elton John), Joel released Fantasies & Delusions.

Fantasies & Delusions is a classical music album, entirely composed by Billy Joel and performed by pianist Richard Joo. Why does Joo perform the Piano Man’s works? Who the hell knows? It’s hard to imagine that Billy Joel couldn’t handle playing his own music (though, come to think of it, after decades at the piano does Billy Joel have Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?!), but that is how Joel went for his Classical album.

And it’s good. Fantasies & Delusions is a solid twelve-track, ten song (or Opus) musical journey that clocks out at over an hour and fourteen minutes. Played entirely by Richard Joo, Fantasies & Delusions holds together as an album that is contemplative and curious, never disturbing or soaring. Instead, the listener meanders along the cerebral tunes that Joel creates and Joo plays, taken more where the listener imagines than the composer directs.

With a sound that is very much one man and a piano, without any lyrics, Fantasies & Delusions sounds like a lost album of Chopin nocturnes and waltzes. Chopin, as my favorite composer, should be quite a compliment to Billy Joel and Fantasies & Delusions. Unfortunately, it is also the album’s greatest detraction. After listening to Fantasies & Delusions seven times, I am left with remarkably little to write about it. The ten tracks all sound like something Chopin would have created.

The journey of Fantasies & Delusions is not at all unpleasant, but it ends up as somewhat indistinct and nebulous. This is good background music for reading to or painting to, but not an inspiring or particularly evocative album. While enjoyable for those who love Classical music, it is easy to see why it is a sales anomaly in the Billy Joel library. Still, the sheer creativity of it is admirable and it is refreshing to hear Joel go in an entirely different direction with Fantasies & Delusions.

For other Billy Joel reviews, please check out:
Piano Man
52nd Street
Glass Houses
The Nylon Curtain
An Innocent Man
The Bridge
Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II
River Of Dreams
12 Gardens Live


For other musical works, please visit my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato Is Tasty, But Overpriced!

The Good: Tastes very flavorful, Nothing bad in it
The Bad: Expensive! Low nutritional benefit.
The Basics: Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato is tasty, but vastly overpriced for what it is.

For the past several months, my wife and I have seen the Starbucks Discoveries prepared beverages at our local grocery story. These drinks come in a cardboard carton (like a giant juice box) and, locally, have been over five dollars for a 50.7 fluid ounce container. For the six servings the carton contains, it is very expensive. However, we were fortunate enough to find some on clearance at the grocery store a few weeks back and our first experience with them was with the Caramel Macchiato.

The Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato is good, but not quite worth the expense. It is not as healthy as, for example, Bolthouse Farms Mocha Cappuccino (reviewed here!), but it is not bad and has better ingredients than most prepared coffee drinks.


Starbucks is a company that makes coffee and in expanding out from the coffee shops, it has been robustly selling its coffee in prepared beverages, beans, and ice creams. This is a dairy beverage that is milk and coffee-based, so it is one of the more perishable Starbucks products sold outside the cafes. Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato comes in a 50.7 fl. oz. cardboard carton that is too large to be portable. The carton is filled with the opaque fairly dark tan liquid, reminiscent of chocolate milk, with a lot of chocolate, that is the Discoveries Caramel Macchiato. Starbucks is one of the leading manufacturers of prepared coffee beverages.

The 50.7 fl. oz. bottle is intended to give consumers six servings, which makes this a good drink to share.

Ease Of Preparation

Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato is a liquid in the 50.7 fl. oz. carton and is a ready-to-drink beverage. So, preparation is as easy as opening the plastic cap. Unscrewing that, one has to pull off the plastic tab beneath to get access to the spout and the fluid inside. Starbucks has a plastic cap that easily twists off and can be put back on in order to reseal it. It is important to note that this is supposed to be refrigerated, so quality of the beverage may degrade if it is left out at room temperature before or after the bottle is open. Otherwise, this is very easy to dispense and there is no real preparation required outside shaking the carton while the cap is on.


From the aroma, the Caramel Macchiato actually smells like caramel. There is a warm, somewhat buttery to the cold beverage and it is finished with a more forthright, less sweet finishing scent. The finishing scent is beany, but not distinctly aromatic of coffee.

On the tongue, there is an instant sweetness that overcomes the tongues in the very first wave. It is a burnt caramel flavor and it does not linger on the palate. Instead, it is washed off with a potent coffee flavor indicative of a medium dark coffee blend. This is a milky coffee beverage that does not have any of the bitterness of regular coffee.

The Caramel Macchiato finishes sweet and dry and leaves the mouth with a very dry aftertaste. The aftertaste remains on the tongue for about five minutes.


As a dairy and coffee beverage, Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato is designed to wake up a consumer with a more flavorful option than straight-out coffee. Nutritionally, Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato is mediocre, but not bad. Discoveries Caramel Macchiato is primarily composed of reduced-fat milk, brewed Starbucks espresso coffee and sugar. It contains nothing bad, which is probably why it expires so fast. The Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato contains milk, so it is in no way Vegan compliant. On the plus side, though, there are no preservatives, artificial flavors or colors!

This drink is also good, but not overly healthy. One serving of Discoveries Caramel Macchiato has 2 g fat and 120 calories, 20 of which come from the fat. While there are 20 grams of carbohydrates, the beverage has only 10 mg of cholesterol and only 3 grams of protein! Unsurprisingly, there are 40 mg (2% RDA) of sodium in each serving. A single serving is a not a sufficient source of any nutrients, though it has 10% of the RDA of Calcium.


Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato comes in a cardboard carton and it keeps for only a few weeks. The bottle I bought the first week of November had an expiration date of November 12, 2013 (fear not, I consumed it and wrote the review well before it expired!). This beverage must be refrigerated!

This drink is a dairy product and fairly dark, because of the coffee in it. If this gets on clothes, it will certainly stain them. Consult a care guide for your clothes, though I suspect light clothes would need bleach to get this out. Still, the drink wipes off surfaces easily with a cloth, assuming they are impermeable.


Starbucks Discoveries Caramel Macchiato is flavorful, but not the best rendition of caramel one might absolutely want. It lacks any impressive health benefits, but it is still delightful.

For other coffee drinks, please visit my reviews of:
Starbucks Via Colombia coffee
Seattle's Best Level 5 Coffee
Nescafe Caramel Latte Memento


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Oh . . . So . . . Pretty Bad: Enemies Closer Keeps The Credibility At A Distance!

The Good: Decent production values, Generally good acting
The Bad: Ridiculous characterizations, Preposterous plot, Exceptionally lame exposition thinly disguised as erratically-delivered dialogue.
The Basics: Enemies Closer is a beautifully b-rate (or c-rate) contrived action movie that has more value for mockery than legitimate cinematic enjoyment.

As a reviewer, I have an interest in a wide array of films and I can honestly say in that regard that I try to watch a little bit of everything. Even so, I don’t believe that before today I had ever seen a Jean-Claude Van Damme film. So, with Van Damme’s latest film Enemies Closer, I broke that trend in my life . . . and I don’t think I was missing anything before. Enemies Closer is a Van Damme film featuring Van Damme after his prime. No longer just relying on his brawn, physique and martial arts skills, Van Damme plays Xander, a character who initially seems foreign and quirky, but is soon revealed to be an outright sociopath.

Enemies Closer is essentially Art House Theatre For Guys. Low budget (and feeling like it), Enemies Closer makes quite a bit of an attempt to create character conflicts and make the movie into a legitimate story that focuses on characters who have quite a bit of backstory and ideals backing them up. As a result, between intense fight scenes and multiple murders, Enemies Closer has dialogue from the four main characters that tries to flesh out each of the character’s beliefs and backstories. Unfortunately, writers Eric and James Bromberg present the bits of characterization with such clunky directness that it is astonishing Enemies Closer was ever made. Director Peter Hyams is not able to do much with the movie because the writing is so stilted.

After a small plane crashes in a lake on the U.S./Canadian border, park ranger Henry goes about his day – helping tourists, checking in on Mr. Sanderson, and stopping a young couple from bringing alcohol into the park – unwittingly under surveillance by a mysterious man. The U.S. Border Patrol near the lake starts a search for the downed plane, which they believe was carrying drugs, when the Canadian Mounties visit and offer their assistance. Arrogantly, the U.S. refuses their help until Xander shows up and beats the crap out of and kills all of the agents before heading to Kings Island to find the plane. On Kings Island, Henry rescues Kayla from a having her foot stuck (and sprained) and brings her back to the Visitor’s Center. Kayla shamelessly hits on Henry and invites him to dinner before canoeing off and insisting her join her that night.

At Seal Bay, the “Mounties” kill a drunk boater and go out in search of the plane with the drugs. Back at the Visitor’s Center, Henry opens the door for a stranger, Clay. Clay blames Henry for his brother being left behind on a mission that Henry was in command of, back when Henry was part of a military diving team. Captured by Clay, Henry is led out at gunpoint to be killed. He is unwittingly rescued when they encounter Xander’s team and Xander and his men try to kill Henry and Clay. Teaming up long enough to evade Xander and his assassins, Henry and Clay try to get to a working phone and survive the drug smuggler’s desperate attempt to recover the drugs.

Enemies Closer is a somewhat ridiculous film, largely because its adversaries are preposterous. Clay is motivated solely by revenge, revenge born of loss of his beloved brother. That motivation goes out the window when Enemies Closer transforms into an awkward buddy action flick as opposed to the revenge story that should result in Henry’s early death in the film. The transition is inorganic and weakly defined: Clay is willing to let Henry live because he needs Henry’s help to get off the island. That motivation is silly given that Clay could easily kill Henry and wait the drug smugglers out anywhere else on the island than by at Henry’s side.

But it is Xander who is the paragon of absurdity for Enemies Closer. Xander is a sociopath Vegan; a radical environmentalist who refuses to use guns because of their carbon footprints and spouts lines about environmental issues much the way Mr. Freeze delivers puns about the temperature in Batman And Robin (reviewed here!). Given that this is my first experience with a work featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, I cannot write with any authority as to whether his playing a villain is a departure for the actor, but I have the sense that many of his films have an absurd suspension of disbelief required to buy the premise. There is no amount of suspension of disbelief that makes his character of Xander – who is so concerned about polluting the environment, but not about the drugs people would put into their body – make rational sense.

That said, Van Damme plays Xander with an over-the-top absurd quality that works for the character. The overnight killing spree that depletes Xander’s men only makes the character more deranged and desperate and Van Damme is able to play that startlingly well – usually by just bugging out his eyes and throwing his head back as he speaks.

While Orlando Jones is saddled with the unfortunate task of playing Clay, a character who fundamentally makes no sense (after he puts the blame for his brother’s death on Henry, all that made sense for the character was Clay immediately killing Henry), he does an adequate job with the role. It is Tom Everett Scott who bears the brunt of selling Enemies Closer. As Henry, Scott embodies that character the audience is rooting for and while Scott was painfully unmemorable in last year’s Parental Guidance (reviewed here!), in Enemies Closer, he proves he has both acting ability and credibility playing a former military specialist. Sadly, director Peter Hyams includes – early in Enemies Closer - some bad takes that feature stiff line deliveries from Tom Everett Scott that make his character seem less than he rapidly becomes. To his credit, Scott holds his own with the film’s physical work, credibly delivering powerful fighting moves that seem within the range of his character.

Unlike most low-budget films I’ve watched lately, Enemies Closer does not look low budget. While the movie is not going to win any cinematography awards, it does not look like a delusional fan-film. Sadly, that’s about the best that can be said for Enemies Closer.

For other action movie reviews, please check out my reviews of:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
16 Blocks
You Only Live Twice


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Myah’s Accidents Are Easily Cleaned By Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator!

The Good: Eliminates odors quite well, Cleans stains well!
The Bad: Does not prevent resoiling.
The Basics: Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator works well . . . for the things it is designed to, but is not the ultimate pet odor cleaning product.

Lately, I’ve been working at nights on Friday nights when my wife works and no one has suffered more than my beautiful Siberian Husky, Myah. Myah is a five year-old Siberian Husky and she has spent so much time with me in the last two years that she truly does hate to be alone. As a result, the last few weeks when she has had a single night (only six hours) home alone, she has gotten upset and peed on our carpet. It tends to be in one spot and even though I always give her a bathrooming opportunity before I leave, she has had an “accident.” To clean up when I get home, my wife and I got a bottle of Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator.

Woolite's Pet Urine Eliminator comes in a 22 oz. bottle with a spray trigger top. The nozzle ends in a simple, pretty standard, rotating cap that offers two spraying options: Off and Spray. The "Off" function locks the trigger and prevents anything from being sprayed. This is handy for those who have children kicking around who might otherwise enjoy getting into a bottle like this. So long as the kid has a short attention span, this will thwart them from spraying the product around. The "Spray" setting creates a fine mist that dusts a decent area, about six inches square when held a foot away. The "Spray" function creates a wide dispersion of the Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator and that works fine for covering the soiled areas (which are very easy to see with a light carpet!).

The actual product is a clear, slightly yellow, liquid with a faint smell to it. The scent is inoffensive and almost unnoticeable and it is a very clean smell. This smells very much like a cleaner. Having had plenty of this stuff on my skin - including in an open wound on my hand - I can honestly say that it does not irritate the skin.

The directions for use are ridiculously simple. After blotting up the excess urine, spray the Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator on the spot where the fluid had been. Let the Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator set for about five minutes and then blot up the wet spot. I’ve found it helps to hide the spot by being sure to vacuum the previously-spoiled when it dries (usually the next morning).

The directions also recommend testing the product on a discreet area to make sure that it does not have an effect on color fastness of the fabric being sprayed. I've yet to find a fabric that bleeds when this is used on it, though I’ve only used it on the carpet in our apartment.

This is a remarkably easy product to use. I twist the cap to the spray setting (yeah, I keep it "Off" otherwise, though I don't know why) and spray it exactly as it mentions on the bottle. This does not foam up when it hits dog urine, which surprised me. There is no apparent chemical reaction to the Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator and dog urine. However, it works perfectly well!

The Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator removes all pet urine smell. There is, by smell (and feel after it dries), not even a hint of dog urine on the rug.

Unfortunately, the product does nothing to truly discourage Myah from peeing on the rug in the exact position come the next Friday! Some of the better pet cleaners manage to discourage resoiling, but the Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator does not do that.

The Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator lasts a decent amount of time. The 22 oz. bottle has lasted me a month and a half, which is decent considering Myah is a larger breed than the cocker spaniel my wife brought to our marriage originally!

Woolite Pet Urine Eliminator is a good cleaner, but not a flawless or truly exceptional one that is absolutely indispensible. Still, it is useful and can help make owning a dog a lot less stressful than without it!

For other household cleaners or pet care products, please check out my reviews of:
Speedy White Hearth & Glass Cleaner
Flexi 10' Leash
Four Paws Wire Rake Pooper Scooper


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jedi Junkies Underwhelms Both Fans And Documentary Aficionados.

The Good: Some decent interviews
The Bad: Lacking a number of significant perspectives, Meanders
The Basics: A meandering documentary, Jedi Junkies glosses over Star Wars fandom.

Every now and then, there is a documentary that explores something truly uncommon and actually manages to explore an aspect of that previously unpresented topic. For a change, I find myself actually impressed by the Star Trek documentary Trekkies (reviewed here!). Even if that documentary portrayed a very negative aspect of Star Trek fandom, at least it made something of a statement. Jedi Junkies does not.

Jedi Junkies is a documentary on Star Wars fandom. Unfortunately, it is not a particularly good documentary. When a seventy-five minute documentary spends twenty seconds fixed on the director of a fan film listening to his cell phone, not reacting at all to what he is hearing, one has to wonder what the point is.

Jedi Junkies meanders through Star Wars culture – without clips from any of the Star Wars films – and with interviews only from four performers from the Sextet. The movie starts with a broad exploration of Star Wars fandom (pretty much introducing a dozen Star Wars fans) and shows a few different collections. The documentary then moves into light saber training, fan films, the debate between who shot first (Greedo or Han Solo), and then collectibles. After a debate over who would win between Darth Maul and Darth Vader, the documentary gives exposure to one filk band and then more fan films and prop replica manufacturers.

Jedi Junkies is notably lacking in interviews from George Lucas or any of the other directors from the Star Wars movies. Olivia Munn is a poor substitute to Lucas speaking about the phenomenon he created. That only supporting performers from the Star Wars movies are interviewed and their footage is minimized in comparison to, for example, a random collector (he is not listed as having a superlatively large collection) who should either put his gauges back in or cover his grossly sagging lobes.

Director Mark Edlitz smartly gets interviews from psychologists, but he does not manage to ask any truly probing questions or get any truly audacious footage. Instead, the premise of the movie is “hey, there are Star Wars fans . . . here are some.” That’s not particularly compelling moviemaking or documentary work and that is why Jedi Junkies largely fails.

For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Trek Nation
Great White Odyssey
After Porn Ends


For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Cheap Retread Of The X-Files, “Repairs” Introduces Another Invisible Adversary!

The Good: Ming-Na Wen’s performance, Character growth for Melinda May
The Bad: Ridiculous b-plot, Largely derivative plot, Predictable
The Basics: The legend of Melinda May grows in “Repairs,” an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode that is unfortunately weak.

There is something deeply ironic about the latest episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., “Repairs.” The irony comes from how the episode works so hard to be smart in a big picture kind of way – like “The Well” (reviewed here!) before it, “Repairs” follows on the heels of Thor: The Dark World (reviewed here!) and it works to play up the cataclysmic nature of the Greenwich occurrence in the film – but it misses the mark on the little things. The episode is painfully predictable and derivative of at least two episodes of The X-Files that featured invisible enemies and adversaries whose motives were entirely misunderstood. More than that, it includes a ridiculous b-plot whose sole point seems to be to set up a humorous reversal at the end that plays about as badly as the episodes of Star Trek that end with the bridge crew of the Enterprise laughing inordinately hard at some joke at Spock’s expense. Unfortunately for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., at this point, the big picture successes of the episode do not outweigh the particularly stale feeling of the bulk of “Repairs.”

“Repairs” is the second episode to truly focus on Melinda May, after the good part she had in “0-8-4” (reviewed here!) and she continues to be one of the most intriguing characters of the series (though, sadly, the one I would bet on being killed off in a Whedon-esque heroic moments – which doesn’t mean much in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. considering how Coulson was “resurrected”). While the series so far continues to belabor Skye as the “outsider working her way in,” it would do much better to focus on the interesting characters who have substantive potential and more than just obvious, market-tested, sex appeal going for them. Melinda May fits the bill and while most of the episode may be a painfully predictable dud, the focus on Melinda May and the adept acting on the part of actress Ming-Na Wen keeps it from being a total loss.

A shop keeper confronts a woman over the death of Jack Benson and when she gets agitated by the clerk, things at the gas station get knocked about and the pumps explode. Back at a hotel, Ward and May clean up after spending the night together (again). Coulson and Skye go over the plan to deal with the woman with the newfound abilities. When meeting with Hannah, she apparently manifests her telekinetic abilities when threatened and May shoots her to end the standoff with locals who menace Hannah. While Fitz and Simmons haze Skye over how May got the nickname “Cavalry,” May and Coulson interview Hannah while aboard the Bus. Hannah believes that she is being hunted by demons because god abandoned her after a laboratory accident at a superconducting supercollider.

When Ward and Skye discover a rival to Hannah at the supercollider, who was killed in the accident, they come to believe that the accident left him falling between worlds and hunting Hannah. As the S.H.I.E.L.D. team comes under attack by Tobias Ford – crashing the Bus – Skye and May independently realize what his true motivations are and May does what she needs to do to stop him.

Perhaps the most problematic aspect of “Repairs,” outside of the banal b-plot which suddenly makes the usually insular Fitz and Simmons into a pair of outgoing pranksters in a way that makes no sense given their previously-established characters, is the adversary. Tobias Ford is treated like an adversary – he made numerous safety complaints at the facility where Hannah was the safety inspector – but his underlying motivation is obvious from the teaser onward. In fact, seasoned fans of science fiction will be utterly unsurprised when he first pops up; Hannah does not seem to have any control over her apparent “power” and so the idea that she is telekinetic is weakly presented and easily dismissed.

With Hannah and then Ford being weak adversaries, it diminishes the heroism of Melinda May. In other words, she is not given a sufficiently strong or compelling adversary to defeat in the episode, minimizing the strength of her character. May is talked about as a great tactician, yet the most obvious solution to one of the big problems in the episode is not taken; May breaks Hannah out of the secure room that Ford does not seem to be able to penetrate. Rather than running away, why didn’t May trap Ford in the very same room?! Moreover, May’s cunning is diminished some by the fact that she seems to have reasoned the true motivation behind Ford’s violent acts only moments before Skye (who is not a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent) did.

None of the problems with “Repairs” truly fall on the cast. Led by Ming-Na Wen, “Repairs” is well-acted and director Bill Gierhart does as well as he can with the material written for him. But the story is simplistic and the b-plot feels like filler (a far more interesting potential b-plot would have been Skye thinking pranks were normal for S.H.I.E.L.D. training and being woefully wrong about that . . . with disastrous consequences). Given that Fitz worked so hard to be taken seriously as a valuable, solid, agent in “The Hub” (reviewed here!), the character regression seems particularly painful for his usually serious character.

Ultimately, “Repairs” is a step back for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.; the series is proving to be remarkably erratic in its first season and after the prior episode, it seems like the producers did not know how to build on their success and the trended toward the overly-familiar.

For other shows with a potentially supernatural bent, please visit my reviews of:
The X-Files
Twin Peaks

[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 First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season here!


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Concluding In Apocalypse: Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four Puts The Final Crisis In Motion!

The Good: Resolves the story, Moments of character
The Bad: Much of the artwork, Not all the tangents pay off as well as they ought to.
The Basics: Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four has all the major players in the storyline pushed to Apokolips for the multiverse’s great destructive event that the story has been building to.

The very title to Countdown To Final Crisis foreshadowed how the massive crossover event would end. Obviously, the entire saga was building to Final Crisis (reviewed here!) and with Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four, it finally gets there. The fundamental problem with Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four is how the storyline gets to where it is going. Building directly on the momentum from Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Three (reviewed here!), Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four finally explains what Darkseid’s endgame is and what the story has been building to.

Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four finally resolves the disparate plotlines of the Countdown event, but it does so with almost no real character development and without fully justifying the full range of the cast that was used in getting to the end. In other words, the resolution hardly seems worth the effort and it seems to include a pretty huge plot hole.

In Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four, the secondary characters in the DC Universe are focused on, with all of the main characters that have been a part of the Countdown books ending up on Apokolips – Darkseid’s home world – for the first part of a climactic showdown that comes through a use of force that hardly seems epic. Indeed, with so many characters who have the ability to think their way out of problems, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four comes down to a frustratingly brawn-related solution and the near-end “fake out” is both unsurprising and unsatisfying.

With the Challengers – Donna Troy, Jason Todd, Kyle Rayner, and Ray Palmer - teleported to Apokolips, Darkseid’s endgame begins. They discover Jimmy Olsen and when Holly Robinson, Mary Marvel, and Harley Quinn help liberate Themyscira from Granny Goodness, Darkseid recalls one of his most important pieces back to Apokolips. There, Darkseid tells the remaining Monitor, Solomon, that he is preparing to wipe out the multiverse and create the Fifth World. When the Karate Kid’s body is riddled with the Morticoccus and Brother Eye goes to war with Apokolips, it seems like Darkseid might get his wish to rewrite all of reality.

Mary Marvel is given the chance for unlimited power again, a trade that Darkseid is willing to give with only one favor as his price. The price is Jimmy Olsen’s life; a price that, if paid, will release all of the New Gods’ powers to Darkseid. When the multiverse travelers see firsthand just what Morticoccus can do, the remaining heroes realize they must stop Darkseid from getting unlimited power at any cost!

The big plot hole in Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four comes late in the book, but it is worth noting. Morticoccus is a tremendous virus that mutates so profoundly and fast that it actually becomes a giant creature briefly. It does so right near Jimmy Olsen after he finally learns that he is a receptacle of all the powers of the now-killed New Gods. So, why doesn’t Ray Palmer figure out that to destroy the Morticoccus, he just needs to infect Jimmy Olsen? The godly powers within him should have been enough to kill even the Morticoccus. Gods don’t get sick; Jimmy Olsen has all the powers of a number of gods, therefore the faux-apocalypse should have been averted pretty easily.

Beyond that, the story is more dull than audacious. The resolution to the story does not seem nearly as complicated as the set-up and some of the elements – most notably the Pied Piper’s part in the resolution – seem ridiculously and ambiguously presented. Piper plays his potentially final song which blows up a location . . . which is seen pages later intact with no explanation.

Also missing from Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four is genuine character development. Mary Marvel makes her choice for no particularly clear reason (undoing the development she made in the prior volume). Jason Todd seems like a jackass the nature of which does not seem to be a natural evolution from having been Robin. Ray Palmer hardly seems like the smartest man in the world.

Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four has mostly good artwork, but it finishes poorly. The later parts of the book actually have the most rushed artwork in the series. There is almost no sense of movement in the panels themselves and between the panels there is little action as well, so this book has a stiff visual quality to it. Some of the later chapters actually have much sketchier artwork and given how, in many of those chapters, there is a troubling mix of familiar and unrecognizable characters, that is problematic.

Here at the climax, Countdown To Final Crisis – Volume Four is not at all an engaging story, though it brings about an end. The end leads into the poor Crisis event in an indirect fashion and fans who are obsessed with the DC Comics Universe will find it an unnecessary crossover.

For other major DC Universe crossover events, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Crisis On Infinite Earths
Idenity Crisis
The OMAC Project
Infinite Crisis
52 – Volume 1
Blackest Night: Green Lantern
Brightest Day, Volume 1


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Return Of The Andorians: “Proving Ground” Is Good Despite The Conceit!

The Good: Good acting, Good pacing, Good plot
The Bad: Predictable character reversal that undermines the episode, Continuity issue reduces magnitude of the episode
The Basics: “Proving Ground” makes decent use of the Andorians, then manages to get the Xindi plotline back on track.

When a show tries to take a new direction, there is usually a sacrifice that is made. When that happens, the show risks its established audience. If the new direction takes, the show’s producers and writers are usually allowed to maintain their vision and see it through. If the new direction does not resonate with the audience, usually the showrunners run for what is safe to try to regain the audience. In the case of Star Trek: Enterprise, I have a respect for what the show’s producers tried to do with the third season, by creating a seasonlong arc. In fact, the argument could be made that the premise and the episodes that diverged from focusing on the main story of the season were what weakened the season. Episodes like “North Star” (reviewed here!) popped up in the third season and had absolutely nothing to do with the show’s serialized plot and that weakened the concept of the season. As the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise progressed without the ratings recovering from the prior two seasons’ backslide, the producers and writers trended more toward the safe and familiar in a desperate attempt to recover the audience before the network actually cut back the season order.

The result was that after episodes like “Carpenter Street” (reviewed here!), which tried to bring back the ever popular time travel element and “Similitude” (reviewed here!) which tried for raw sex appeal, fans were given “Proving Ground.” “Proving Ground” brought back reliable ratings favorite Jeffrey Combs and made a much stronger attempt to refocus the third season’s plot. However, fans of the Star Trek franchise could recognize the conceit for what it was: bringing the Andorians into the Xindi plotline, even for an episode, was an attempt to play to one of the aspects of Enterprise that fans had positively identified with, which had been abandoned when the Xindi plot began. For all the external factors weighing on the episode, “Proving Ground” manages to be solidly entertaining.

At the Xindi Council chamber, Degra announces to the impatient Dolim that he is ready to test the new planet-destroyer prototype in three days. The Enterprise homes in on the kemocite they marked and the ship hunts the Xindi ship carrying it to find the Xindi test location. En route, they encounter anomalies which nearly destroy the ship until they are rescued abruptly through the use of a tractor beam. After weeks of searching in the Expanse, Commander Shran and his Andorian crew find the Enterprise, rescuing the damaged starship. Shran reveals that his ship has come in response to the attack on Earth and he comes claiming to be Archer’s friend, sending his officers aboard to help repair the Enterprise.

After helping to repair the Enterprise, Shran’s warship and the Enterprise arrive at an uninhabited system where they find four Xindi ships and a planet that bears harsh evidence of Xindi weapons testing. While Reed and Andorian Lieutenant Talas work together to fix the weapons systems, Archer and T’Pol accompany Shran and the Andorian ship into the Xindi testing area. There, Shran bluffs his way into scanning the Xindi weapon under the guise of being the Andorian Mining Consortium on a mission to find Archerite. While the Andorians withdraw, the Xindi launch their prototype, which blows a local moon in half, while the prototype almost overheats and explodes. When Archer becomes determined to recover the prototype, Shran volunteers his ship to help recover the irradiated sphere, though Archer does not fully trust him.

Lately, my wife has been on a Doctor Who kick and after a day of watching it, she has a tendency to note that nothing ever goes right and it would be nice to see an episode where the Doctor and his Companions get to visit an alien planet for enjoyment, without some evil, twisted, conspiracy hunting them down. “Proving Ground” put me in the exact same mood the moment Shran and Talas begin making moves that foreshadow they will betray Archer and his crew. Instead of being a smart, serialized episode that makes a good play for the humans and Andorians actually working together in order to eventually build the Federation, “Proving Ground” illustrates no growth for Shran and a poor sense of plot progression for the larger Star Trek: Enterprise story. “Proving Ground” would have been just fine, better even, if Archer and Shran’s relationship actually had grown and the net result of the prior seasons’ interactions with Shran had led to a time when Shran would put his crew at risk to help Archer.

The only other real flaw with “Proving Ground” is in the test scale. In “Twilight” (reviewed here!), viewers saw the Earth get destroyed by the eventual Xindi weapon; seeing an unknown moon get barely split in half lacks resonance after seeing that.

On the flip side, Reed has some good scenes and actor Dominic Keating makes his very limited emotional journey in “Proving Ground” seem like more than just generic character exposition. Keating and guest star Molly Brink have decent on-screen chemistry to sell a potential Reed/Talas relationship. At the other end of the performances and character work, Scott Bakula and Jeffrey Combs actually seem like Archer and Shran are building a legitimate relationship. While Combs is forced to play a betrayal with Shran, his performance earlier in the episode establishes well the ultimate result. Even Jolene Blalock does a decent job as T’Pol, so the episode flows well.

“Proving Ground” is not as strong on its own as it is for those who have seen “The Shipment” (reviewed here!), but as strong serialized television goes, the episode works.

The three biggest gaffes in “Proving Ground:”
3. T’Pol spends time on the Andorian warship. The only way the Andorian ship could have survived the anomalies in the Expanse long enough to find the Enterprise was to outfit itself with the element that preoccupied the earlier episodes of the third season . . . the element that, according to “Impulse” (reviewed here!) is toxic to Vulcans. T’Pol should not have been able to spend time on the Andorian ship,
2. The Andorians have superior weapons to the Enterprise; if they needed them to keep a stalemate with the Vulcans, the Vulcans are either portrayed as incompetent or shortsighted. Keeping StarFleet’s only available ship weaker than their enemies makes no tactical sense,
1. Shran makes an excellent point about how the Andorians are willing to help the humans more than the Vulcans. Unless the Andorians took the brunt of the impending Romulan War, they should have had vastly more influence and presence in subsequent Star Trek series’.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Enterprise - 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 penultimate season here!

For other Andorian-focused episodes of Enterprise, please check out my reviews of:
“The Andorian Incident”
“Shadows Of P’Jem”
“Cease Fire”


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please visit my Star Trek Review Index Page!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Disney’s Latest Animated Musical Is Almost Entirely Frozen.

The Good: Decent voice acting, Generally good animation
The Bad: Obvious plot progression, Pretty predictable character development
The Basics: Disney’s Frozen is a lackluster animated musical that unsurprisingly was stuck in development hell for years and is now released with little chance of being an enduring Disney classic.

Today is a big milestone for me: my blog just got its 1,000,000th hit and I couldn’t be more excited about it! To celebrate, I was eager to review one of the new films of the season. My thoughts on Disney’s new animated musical, Frozen, come on the heels of my getting momentarily excited about an indie film that bore the original name of Frozen, The Snow Queen (reviewed here!). Fortunately for Disney, their beleaguered production Frozen is better than the ridiculous independent film The Snow Queen. Unfortunately for Disney, Frozen is such a typical Disney animated film that offers so little in the way of surprises, thrills, or genuine enjoyment for adults that it is impossible for me to recommend it.

Frozen is, at best, uninspired, at worse, unambitious. The film lacks a real spark. While there are plenty of Disney films that make musicals out of fairy tales, like this year’s big Disney Blu-Ray release, The Little Mermaid (reviewed here!), the success of those movies hinged on great music and animation that had a realism for the world it created. As ridiculous as it might seem, Frozen suffers as much from not having an obvious hit as it does from having a more stylized sense of animation than the truly classic Disney hits. The cartoonish quality of the physics of Frozen might seem forgivable given that one of the main characters is the sidekick living snowman, but the look and feel of the film is often more ridiculous than fantastic, which undermines the longterm viability of the movie.

In the kingdom of Arendelle, the princesses Elsa and Anna grow up together. Elsa, rather incredibly, can manipulate the cold and she has the ability to freeze objects and water almost effortlessly. Anna appears to be a normal girl and they play together like normal sisters. While playing, though, Elsa hurts Anna by accident and to prevent her from ever hurting Anna (or anyone else) again, her memory of the incident is wiped and the two are separated. They grow up the rest of their childhood apart and following the death of their parents, years later when Elsa is to be installed as Queen of Arendelle, Elsa and Anna briefly reconnect. When that happens, Elsa’s powers are revealed again and when she flees, Arendelle is cast into eternal winter. Anna, having had something of a magical night with Prince Hans, leaves him in charge of Arendelle and strikes out to find where Elsa has fled to.

Anna must go on a quest to restore spring to Arendelle and melt the snow. To that end, Kristoff and Anna meet in the frozen wasteland on the way to the mountain refuge Elsa has taken. Accompanied by a musical, wisecracking snowman, Olaf, the pair journeys across the snowscape to try to find Elsa, while finding themselves drawn more and more together. When they encounter Elsa, the Queen puts ice in Anna's heart and Kristoff finds himself racing to get the Princess back to Hans so love's kiss might restore her heart. But everything is not as it seems and Anna's return to Arendelle does not solve all the kingdom's problems and an unexpected villain rises to attempt to take over.

Frozen tells a predictable story that uses all of the obvious Disney conceits without truly presenting anything fresh and incredible. The story focuses more on the familial love between Anna and Elsa, with the Anna and Hans and later Anna and Kristoff acting very much as a b-plot. Anna’s sense of determination to restore life and color to Arendelle is clearly motivated by a love she has for her sister. Given the years Anna and Elsa spend separated following the childhood incident, Anna’s love for Elsa seems much more abstract than realistic and that undermines her willpower. Sure, she’s a plucky Disney Princess, but the pluck appears on the page more than as an organic manifestation of her character: she loves her sister because she is her sister, not because of the intense years of bonding they shared growing up (whatwith spending their more recent years separated).

So, Anna bears some feelings of guilt across the snowy expanse as she and Kristoff try to find Elsa and bring her back. Kristoff is a generic Disney love interest and he is easily overshadowed by the charisma of Olaf. Olaf is goofy and gets many of the good lines to set up the big moments, which is largely what one expects from a Disney sidekick. The wisecracks from Olaf come pretty much when one expects to keep the pace tight and that acts against the film in some ways; if you’ve seen any three Disney films, you can pretty much call when Olaf will intervene to say the right thing to Anna or Kristoff to keep the quest going and the movie flowing.

Olaf, voiced by Josh Gad, is presented as an enthusiastic, goofy sidekick that fits into the usual pantheon of Disney sidekicks. Gad is vocally expressive and he was perfectly cast to play Olaf. But even Gad illustrates just how troubled Frozen was as a Disney production: sidekicks in Disney films have had a tendency to be runaway parts sought by well-established performers. While I like Gad, he doesn’t have the recognizable quality of, for example, Gilbert Gottfried when Aladdin was released or Eddie Murphy (from Mulan!). Any critique of Gad, though, is divorced from the on-screen content in Frozen. Gad might not have the star power, but he plays Olaf wonderfully.

The vocal cast of Frozen might not be trying to capitalize on a-list actors to present itself, but the performers do an excellent job. Kristen Bell plays Anna and she is so vocally expressive in Frozen that it is surprising how few voiceover jobs she has on her resume. Bell and Idina Menzel (Elsa) play off one another well and have similar vocal ranges, so they sound like they could easily be sisters. The cast is rounded out by Jonathan Groff (Kristoff), Ciaran Hinds, and Alan Tudyk who all managed to act wonderfully with only their voices.

Despite the performances, Frozen is way too predictable and obvious to be worthwhile. It is not horrible, but it feels so familiar that it manages to come across entirely as stale, making one wonder why Disney pushed forward with the project as opposed to just letting it go.

For other Disney animated films, please visit my reviews of:
Monsters University
Wreck-It Ralph
Toy Story 3
A Christmas Carol
The Princess And The Frog
The Incredibles
Lilo & Stitch
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
Monsters, Inc.
The Lion King
Beauty And The Beast
Lady And The Tramp
The Sword In The Stone
The Aristocats
Sleeping Beauty


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Intriguing Coloring And Collectible Value Do Not (Overly) Enhance The San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel Ornament!

The Good: Generally good sculpt, Basic coloring, Collectible value
The Bad: Obvious seam, Mediocre balance, Flesh coloring is incredibly simple
The Basics: The San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament is the same sculpt as the common ornament with a variant color scheme that proves Hallmark has little regard for DC Comics fans.

With its release on DVD and Blu-Ray, I find myself once again considering Man Of Steel. At this time of year, I also find myself considering any number of Hallmark ornaments that I simply had not gotten around to reviewing yet and one of the most obvious ones was the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel Hallmark ornament. Arguably, this one ended up late in the review queue because it is identical to the common release Man Of Steel ornament (reviewed here!), except in its coloring. Hallmark has an unfortunate track record in recent years for every fandom but Star Wars; only Star Wars fans are treated to unique sculpts for their exclusive ornaments. Star Trek fans this year were given a cheap recoloring of the U.S.S. Kelvin ornament (the “battle damaged” U.S.S. Kelvin ornament is reviewed here!) and the Battlestar Galactica ornament a few years back was a gold casting (reviewed here!) of the prior year’s silver Cylon! So, it is pretty unsurprising that the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament is just the common-release ornament in a different color, in this case the black outfit from the film.

Hallmark and DC created an ornament that is evocative of the film persona of Henry Cavill as Superman for the Man Of Steel ornament and reused it for the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive variant. Using finalized images from Man Of Steel (reviewed here!), Hallmark sculpted a very basic Superman ornament with only a general similarity to Henry Cavill. While the ornament features molded details and general coloring that helps indicate this is supposed to be the black costume seen in Man Of Steel, the facial sculpt does not look at all like Henry Cavill, any more than the common release version of the ornament did.


The San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament faithfully presents Superman in his black and gray Kryptonian underarmor costume. This is the Superman in his textured black suit, ornamented only with the gray “S” symbol on the chest and the iconic cape in black. The ornament, released at the San Diego Comic Con in 2013, is fair for an ornament based upon the costume used in Zack Snyder’s Superman film. With such a rich three-dimensional model, Hallmark was able to create an ornament that features decent surface details and coloring. Measuring four inches tall, three and a quarter inches wide and three and one-quarter inches deep, the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament is one of three Comic Con ornaments released by Hallmark in 2013, but it has a serious flaw. Like the common release ornament, the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament has a pretty deep seam at the leg and butt juncture.

The Hallmark San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament is made of durable plastic. Superman’s costume is colored in solid black. He is ripped with well-defined stomach and leg muscles underneath his costume. The San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament has the traditional Superman symbol on his chest and it is molded in to negate any potential paint issues.

The San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel features a Superman who looks more like the animated character than Henry Cavill. The skin tones are monotonal as opposed to having rich coloring, which is unfortunate and undermines the potential realism of this ornament.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament could have a sound chip or a light-up function. He has neither, but honestly it would have been a hard sell to make a gimmick for this ornament.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate superhero Christmas Tree, the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament is a pretty ridiculous luxury ornament. The ornament has the standard metal hook loop embedded into the top of Superman’s cape at a pretty obvious position. From there, the ornament, when affixed to a tree with a hook, swings very easily. This back-heavy ornament is not as well-engineered as fans would hope.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (reviewed here!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of almost all major franchises like DC comics, The Wizard Of Oz and Harry Potter. The San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament was limited to 1300 pieces and consumer demand for it has not been intense enough to make its value skyrocket. In fact, it remains easily obtainable in the secondary market, making it an unlikely to succeed investment piece, especially compared to the Star Wars and Star Trek options this year.


Fans of Superman, Zack Snyder’s vision of Superman, Henry Cavill, and DC comics characters are likely to find the San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Man Of Steel ornament not worth the effort of hunting down. One suspects most fans will go with the common release ornament (with its flaws and all) and not leap to shell out the extra dough on this one.

For other DC Universe superhero Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
2013 Descending Upon Gotham City Batman ornament
2012 The Bat The Dark Knight Rises Limited Edition Ornament
2012 Catwoman ornament
2012 "Beware My Power" Green Lantern ornament
2012 The Dark Knight Rises
2011 Batman Takes Flight
2011 Green Lantern
2010 Limited Edition Harley Quinn
2009 Wonder Woman ornament


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

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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