Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Other Side Of The Island: "One Door Closes" Explores "The Real S.H.I.E.L.D.!"

The Good: Decent performances, Engaging plot, Special effects, Moments of character development
The Bad: More plot-heavy than character motivated
The Basics: "One Door Closes" answers a number of questions that have lingered in the second season of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and it does so in a satisfying-enough way to please most fans.

One of the cool ways that Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has managed to keep the Marvel Cinematic Universe alive and well in the collective unconscious of viewers is to make allusions to the Marvel films. Chief among the Marvel films to get referenced in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is Captain America: The Winter Soldier (reviewed here!). "One Door Closes" is yet another Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode that heavily relies upon that film.

Picking up after "Love In The Time Of H.Y.D.R.A." (reviewed here!), "One Door Closes" is analogous to the Lost episode "The Other 48 Days," which retold Lost from the perspective of those in the tail section of the plane. "One Door Closes" explores the post-Winter Soldier events from the perspective of Mack, Bobbi Morse and the S.H.I.E.L.D. survivors/loyalists in the immediate wake of H.Y.D.R.A. taking over S.H.I.E.L.D.

Opening during the H.Y.D.R.A. takeover of S.H.I.E.L.D., Mack is cornered by a H.Y.D.R.A. agent when he is rescued by Bobbi Morse and Agent Hartley. In the present day, Morse returns to Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. base, where she and Mack are preparing to move on Coulson's team. Simmons contacts Skye about using the new gauntlets that she designed, but discovers that Skye has not yet tried them. Coulson confronts Mack about the Chief Engineer's true loyalties and when he claims to work for S.H.I.E.L.D., Coulson turns his security forces on him. At the same time, May and Bobbi square off before Morse sets off an EMP to evade May. Fitz realizes that Mack and Morse were after Vibranium that Coulson was keeping in his desk and that Morse managed to get Fury's toolbox.

As Coulson's team works to contain the two saboteurs, Skye lets the eyeless man (Gordon) into her safe house. He begins to mentor Skye about her post-mist abilities. While Simmons manages to incapacitate Morse, May discovers that Mack and Morse are not trying to escape the facility, they are helping others break in. Gonzales, Weaver and the rest of the other S.H.I.E.L.D. break into Coulson's base. They successfully take the base and that leads Coulson and Gonzales to face off for an important conversation. While they have their discussion, Morse leads the team to recover Skye.

"One Door Closes" is plot-intensive, but it finally makes decent use of Lucy Lawless. Lawless appeared early in the season and the only real disadvantage of her appearing so efficiently as Hartley in the flashback scenes is that it makes how easily she was dispatched in this season seem ridiculous. And while Hartley's character is strengthened here (and retroactively weakened), Agent Melinda May once again is illustrated to be the uber-efficient badass of Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. team. When she and Morse square off, May does what viewers of Fringe find themselves screaming for Olivia Dunham to do every time she squares off with any guy who can outrun her; she shoots at Morse to try to incapacitate her. That's efficiency and it's refreshing to see among people who are supposed to be smart, efficient, super-spies.

Coulson and Gonzales are given an interesting dynamic in "One Door Closes." Both men believe they are the head of the legitimate S.H.I.E.L.D. and much of the episode hinges on the two actors having roughly the same level of screen presence. Clark Gregg is seldom considered as being the same (or similar) caliber as Edward James Olmos, but in "One Door Closes," he illustrates that that is a conversation worth having. Gregg has a subtlety and force to him that he is able to deliver even questionable lines perfectly. To his credit, Gregg is asked to sell one of the toughest lines of the episode and he pulls it off. In fact, when Coulson says that he went looking for Gonzales after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., Colson delivers the line with such intensity that only the nitpickers will sit, screaming at the screen, "Bullshit! You were chasing Garrett and never had the time!"

"One Door Closes" also enhances Morse's character by having her take an ethical stand in the takeover of the S.H.I.E.L.D. carrier and while it's refreshing to see her given some depth, it makes one question how Gonzales could actually trust her as part of her inner circle. In re-creating S.H.I.E.L.D., Gonzales would need loyal agents. Morse's first act is to take a stand that shows she cannot just take orders.

The acting in "One Door Closes" is homogeneously good, even when there is not a ton of character development in the episode. "One Door Closes" has pretty awesome special effects, though, and it has enough moments of exploring character relationships to make it one of the better episodes of the season!

For other works with Christine Adams, please check out my reviews of:
"Turn, Turn, Turn" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Seeds" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Tron: Legacy
Batman Begins
"The Long Game" - Doctor Who

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


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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March 2015 End Of The Month Report

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March was a mediocre month, which was partially surprising, part the result of my taking some time off from writing. This was a month with new Nightwish, new episodes of The Flash and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. reviews and those turned out to be the dominant reviews of the month!

This month, we picked up a new follower 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 hoping to continue to grow our readership this year, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

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

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. Thank you so much! Thanks so much to all of the shoppers who have been buying things through the blog links.

At the end of March 2015, I have reviewed the following:
529 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Star Trek Books
Graphic Novels
897 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
2756 - 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!)!
216 - 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
797 - 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
866 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
229 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
112 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
179 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
187 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
96 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
44 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Reviews For The Month of March are the article: An Open Letter To Bill Gates And Microsoft and the review of The Sideshow Collectibles Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure!
Check them out!

The month of March had a lot of movement within the month and was dominated by older reviews and new reviews of The Flash and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes! For March, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. Arrested Development - Season 4
9. The Walking Dead - Season 3
8. ”Love In The Time Of H.Y.D.R.A.” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
7. ”One Of Us” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
6. The Top Ten Episodes Of Star Trek: Voyager
5. The Top Ten Episodes Of Frasier
4. ”Who You Really Are” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
3. ”Aftershocks” - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. Expelled
1. ”Out Of Time” - The Flash

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 - 311 reviews
9s - 448 reviews
8s - 871 reviews
7s - 966 reviews
6s - 894 reviews
5s - 1145 reviews
4s - 848 reviews
3s - 674 reviews
2s - 312 reviews
1s - 210 reviews
0s - 96 reviews
No rating - 86 articles/postings

While there was a decent amount of movement this month, the all time Top Ten remains unchanged. At the end of March 2015, the most popular reviews/articles continue to be:
10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
9. Safe Haven
8. Oz The Great And Powerful
7. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
6. Warm Bodies
5. Iron Man 3
4. Now You See Me
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation
2. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
1. Man Of Steel

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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Hair Band Generica: Endless Forms Most Beautiful Is Still Orchestrally Interesting!

The Good: Music, Some decent lyrics
The Bad: Collaborative vocals are far less distinct than on earlier works
The Basics: The latest album by Nightwish, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is one of their stronger albums, but I found myself enjoying the music-only disc more than the statements they made on the primary disc!

It is a rare and pleasant thing for me when I choose an Artist Of The Month and during the month I am focused on them, they come out with a new album! March, however, is just one of those rare occurrences and this week sees the release of the eighth studio album by my Artist Of The Month, Nightwish. The album is Endless Forms Most Beautiful and it is instantly intriguing to me as one who has been studying the music of Nightwish for the month in that it is a significant vocal departure from where the band was for the bulk of their career. Instead of having a strong and distinctive overall sound, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is notable for being one of their best-composed albums with vocals that are hardly as distinct as on many of their past works.

Found on both a single-disc and deluxe two-disc presentation, I found the two-disc version was worth the investment for one simple reason: the music is better than the vocals. Floor Jansen, who leads the vocals on Endless Forms Most Beautiful might have a wonderful voice with a lot of range, but it is not evident on this album. The result is a symphonic rock album that is more notable as a modern "classical" album than a rock album with lyrics and vocals that are making an actual statement.

With eleven songs clocking out at 78:36 (twice that for the two-disc version, which duplicates the album with an instrumental-only disc), Endless Forms Most Beautiful is very much the work of Nightwish, even if the band has evolved from its original incarnation. All of the songs are written and composed by bandmembers Tuomas Holopainen and (when not writing on his own . . .) Marco Hietala. The band plays its own instruments and provides all of the lead vocals - though writer Richard Dawkins contributes some narration late on the album. The album is produced by Holopainen, so this is very much the creative vision of Nightwish as it is now.

Instrumentally, what that means is a lot of thrashing guitars, bass, and powerful percussion. Songs like "Shudder Before The Beautiful" are cacophanic and exactly as noisy as one might expect from the genre "symphonic metal." When the album is not being loud and chaotic, it is surprisingly melodic. The classic sound underlying Holopainen's compositions is evident when he actually gives the keyboards and strings something to do other than being pounded on. On "The Greatest Show On Earth - V. Sea-Worn Driftwood" there are hints of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" or Mussorgsky's "Great Gates Of Kiev." Perhaps that is why I enjoyed the second disc more than the first.

Vocally, Endless Forms Most Beautiful seems like much more of a collaborative work than other Nightwish albums. Backing vocals are more frequent and forceful on Endless Forms Most Beautiful; Floor Jansen seldom sounds like she is out singing on her own on much of the album. To Jansen's credit, though, her singing is very clear so when her (and the accompanying vocalists') vocals can be heard, they can be heard very clearly.

Much of Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a concept album by the lyrics. Much of the album is about evolution, genetics and the strength of eros (the drive for life). While some of that is disturbingly overt - like monologue that includes "We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of those stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?" ("The Greatest Show On Earth - IV. The Understanding") - much of the album is more subtle in its exploration of the wonders of life.

That is not to say Endless Forms Most Beautiful is entirely a departure from the fantasy music songs Nightwish built its fanbase on. With lines like "I will taste the manna in every tree / Liquid honey and wine from the distant hills / An early morning greenwood concerto / Greets my Walden with its eternal voice" ("My Walden") there is still a sense of magic and movement to a few of the songs. Floor Jansen's vocals do a decent job of reminding listeners of the potentially enchanting nature of Nightwish.

As well, Nightwish succeeds because of the band's use of imagery in its lyrics. It is easy to get a strong mental image when Jansen sings "The meadows of heaven await harvest / The cliffs unjumped, cold waters untouched / The elsewhere creatures yet unseen / Finally your number came up, free fall awaits the brave / Come / Taste the wine / Race the blind . . . Come / Surf the clouds / Race the dark . . ." ("Elan").

Ultimately, Endless Forms Most Beautiful does a decent job of keeping Nightwish relevant and interesting, but it is not as distinct or powerful an album as it could have been.

For more Nightwish albums, please check out my reviews of:
Angels Fall First
Century Child
Highest Hopes: The Best Of Nightwish


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, March 30, 2015

My First ESP Emporium Tea: Nougat Mousse Tea Disappoints! (My 300th Beverage Review!)

The Good: Good ingredients, Good aroma, Inexpensive
The Bad: Exceptionally bland flavor
The Basics: ESP Emporium Nougat Mousse is more watery than flavorful, which makes for a disappointing tea!

Locally, there is a pretty wonderful discount store and the other day, I was in there and discovered a whole big shipment of ESP Emporium loose-leaf teas. I had no prior experience with EXP Emporium, but the brand boasted a number of awesome flavors that instantly intrigued me. Between the fact that the 250 gram and 50 gram bags of tea were priced the same and flavors that were different from other brands, I was instantly interested in trying several of the ESP Emporium teas.

I opted to start with the ESP Emporium Nougat Mousse tea. Sadly, it was an entirely underwhelming tea.

After several pots of the Nougat Mousse, what is most unfortunate about the tea is that it does not get strong or flavorful enough to credibly live up to its promised flavor.


Nougat Mousse Tea is a rooibos-based tea from ESP Emporium. This is a tea blend that is an herbal tea without any traditional tea leaves in it. In considering Nougat Mousse, I was forced to consider that I don't have a firm conception of what "nougat" is. I've had plenty of candy bars that have a spongy chocolate filling, which I've seen called "nougat," but what it actually is remains something of a mystery to me. Despite that, there was a pretty fair assumptionmade that the Nougat Mousse tea should have a somewhat chocolate flavor to it. It did not.

Nougat Mousse comes in a 250 gram opaque resealable plastic bag that keeps the freshness of the tea in.

Ease Of Preparation

As a tea, Nougat Mousse is fairly easy to prepare. One and a half teaspoons of the loose leaf tea will make a full 8 oz. mug full of tea. I tend to make mine by the pot using the same ratio (or a more potent tea to water ratio) continued to make for an unfortunately weak tea.

To prepare Nougat Mousse tea, bring a pot of water to 203 - 212 degrees (Fahrenheit) and pour it over the tea blend. This tea takes eight to ten minutes to steep according to the directions. In my experience, it gets no stronger after ten minutes and that is somewhat disappointing given how watery its flavor it.


Nougat Mousse tea has an intriguing aroma to it. The scent is fairly strong and faintly cinnamon. The rooibos overwhelms the cocoa, though there is the slight hint of something vaguely chocolate in the steam from this tea.

Unfortunately, in the mouth, the Nougat Mousse tea tastes dry, sweet, and watery (in that order). What surprised me, given the strength of the aroma to this tea, was how bland the tea is. The rooibos flavor entirely overwhelms any other flavors in the tea and even that is not particularly strong. This is a shockingly watery tea.

Any additives in this brew overwhelms the vague tea flavor of it, which further diminishes it. This tea leaves a slight dry aftertaste, but even that is not particularly strong or flavorful.


The ingredients to this tea are somewhat more diverse than other teas, but the dominant ingredients ate: Rooibos tea, cocoa peel and almond pieces. There is nothing that cannot be pronounced in this tea.

In terms of nutrition, this tea is devoid of it. One 8 oz. mug of this tea provides nothing of nutritional value to the drinker. There are no calories (save what one adds from sugar, which I do not necessarily recommend, as this is a sweet tea on its own and sugar overwhelms it), no fat, sodium, or protein. There is no indication that his tea has caffeine and none of the ingredients seem to be naturally caffienated.


Nougat Mousse tea is very easy to clean up, provided the brewed tea does not get on fabric. The tea leaves themselves may be disposed of in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. The tea itself will stain a mug a faint reddish-brown if it is left there for days on end, but otherwise may be cleaned up easily by rinsing out the vessel.

Nougat Mousse is a fairly dark, reddish-brown, tea and as a result, it will stain any light fabrics it comes in contact with. As a result, it is highly recommended that one not let it linger on anything they wish to protect and not have stained. It may be cleaned off if the spill is caught quickly, but if it lingers, it is not at all easy to wash out of clothes, linens or other fabrics.


ESP Emporium Nougat Mousse is a great idea, with a poor execution. While it does not taste bad, it lacks the promised flavor, making it unworth trying.

For other tea reviews, please check out:
Teavana Samurai Chai Mate
Celestial Seasonings Jammin’ Lemon Ginger Tea
Tazo Cocoa Mint Mate


For other tea reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Index Page for a complete list!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Disappointment From A Previously-Reliable Franchise: Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie!

The Good: One or two jokes, General voice performances
The Bad: Animation style, Plot, Characters, Not funny, Repetitive
The Basics: Kevin Smith cashes in on the love of his two beloved characters Jay and Silent Bob with Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, a fairly short film that is bound to disappoint even the most die-hard fans of Kevin Smith's works!

Perhaps the first rule of making a film intended for fans of a certain person's works is to make sure that the fans do not already have access to the material. Kevin Smith may have written the script for Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie before handing it over to Steve Stark to direct, but it is hard for fans of Smith's works to call it an original work. Smith uses the opportunity of making a small animated film to take ideas, deleted scenes, outtakes, scrapped lines and commentary jokes from prior works and cobbles them into a script for a film so short it is not even feature-length.

Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie lifts most of its content from the Bluntman And Chronic graphic novel and Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (reviewed here!), when it is not making dick, fart, and gay jokes alongside the weakest of super hero comic book (and comic book movie) jokes/commentaries. Despite occurring in Red Bank, New Jersey and including the familiar characters of Jay, Silent Bob and Dante Hicks, Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie does not fit into the canon of the rest of the View Askewniverse. It's hard to say that Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie fits into the Askewniverse when it fails to reference that (in the View Askewniverse), Jay and Silent Bob were already the subject of a comic book and a comic book movie. In other words , if Bluntman and Chronic popped up in the "real world' of the View Askewniverse, the media and residents of Red Bank there would see them as mere copycats of the comic book characters that Banky based on Jay And Silent Bob.

Such analysis is far more high-minded than the content of Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie, a film that once again utilizes Kevin Smith's disdain for movie critics on the internet as an attempt to forestall criticism of this particular film. The truth is, after growing as a writer with some bigger (and better) themes over the course of his last few films, Smith reverts to the most immature, droll and un-funny jokes of his career. Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie is notable most for not being funny and for using Jay and Silent Bob in ways they have never expressed in any of their prior adventures. Despite referencing Wolvering in Mallrats (reviewed here!), Jay has never illustrated any interest in comic books or super heroes and from the few lines Silent Bob has spoken, his passion has been for movies of the 1980s, as opposed to comic books or superhero films.

This is germane because Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie is essentially a parody of a super hero film wherein Jay and Silent Bob become vigilante super heroes on Red Bank, NJ.

While handing around outside RST Video, Jay laments the plight of the small-time drug dealer as legalized weed becomes more and more prevalent. There, they encounter various staples of super hero origin stories - an alien with a power ring crashes in the parking lot, they squash a radioactive spider in a nearby lab, and they try for eligibility to become super soldiers (but refuse when they have to get injected drugs, as opposed to smoking the serum) - before returning to the Quick Stop with five dollars each. Silent Bob uses the cash to get some scratch-off lottery tickets and he manages to win a million dollars.

They use the money to buy gadgets, costumes, and a lair (the Bluntcave) and they assume the alter-egos of Bluntman and Chronic. When they aren't getting high or spying on local lesbians, they break into local warehouses to get free stuff (under Jay's theory it's what they are owed for being superheroes). In the process, they make a number of supervillains who are broken out of the local asylum by Lipstick Lesbian, a woman slighted by Jay's offhanded remark. This leaves the duo at the mercy of a number of adversaries who they have to legitimately stop to protect Red Bank.

Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie is based around a line from Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back that ended up as a deleted scene and while it is a hilarious joke, it is not enough to build a movie around.

The animation in Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie is similar to that of Aqua Teen Hunger Force - blending animation with a few live-action elements like explosions. The voice work is fine. Eliza Dushku is decent as Lipstick Lesbian and Tara Strong gives her usual, solid, voiceover performance as Cocknocker. Jason Mewes gives an unremarkable performance for Jay and he's forcing my wife and I to go back to prior View Askew films to see if Jay actually used the word "sir" in talking to Silent Bob as much as he does in this sixty-four minute piece of crap.

At least going back through the other View Askew works is a more enjoyable use of time than considering Jay And Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie for even a minute more!

For other works by Kevin Smith, please visit my reviews of:
Chasing Amy
Clerks The Animated Series
Jersey Girl
Clerks II
Zack And Miri Make A Porno
Cop Out
Red State


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

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Myah Says The Expense Of Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula Dog Food Is Justified By Its Taste!

The Good: Very nutritious, Myah loves it, Great ingredients
The Bad: Very expensive
The Basics: Myah endorses Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula adult dog food, despite what it might do to my wallet!

In keeping Myah engaged, we’ve been giving her some good, natural dog foods lately. We tend to look for dog foods with real meat as its first ingredient. The latest one to truly capture her attention and keep it (for two 40 pound bags!) is Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula. The Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food is a premium dog food for adult dogs and as an adult dog, Myah has been very excited for it.


A single serving of Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food for a dog Myah’s size – she’s between sixty and eighty pounts now - is three and a quarter to four cups, so a forty pound bag lasts about a month. Each piece of Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food is a brown disk that is like an oversized red blood cell. They are approximately 3/4" in diameter and 1/4” thick. They have a mealy appearance and are very hard. Myah often eats a couple of the discs at once.

Ease Of Preparation

As a dry dog food, preparation of Diamond Naturals is as easy as opening a bag and measuring out the pellets inside. There is not further prep needed.

Myah’s Reaction

Predictably, Myah was instantly taken with this food. This is one of the few dog foods that Myah has kept coming back to with enthusiasm equal to the first big bowl. Myah exhibited a strong preference for Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food. Given a choice between Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula and any of four other dog foods I had in the house at the time, Myah chose Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula each and every time!


Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food smells meaty right off the bat and it is very nutritious. Made primarily of Beef meal, peas and cracked pearled barled, the ingredients are about one half natural and recognizable before becoming a chemistry equation designed to boost the health of the dog. According to the guaranteed analysis, Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food has at least 25% crude protein, 15% crude fat, but no more than 4% crude fiber and 10% moisture. As a dry dog food, it is highly recommended that you have adequate water available for your dog when serving it Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food.


Diamond Naturals Beef Meal And Rice Formula dog food is a wonderful, if pricy, dog food that justifies its price by being nutritious and quickly becoming one of Myah’s most beloved foods!

For other dog food reviews, please be sure to check out:
Grandma Mae’s Country Naturals Adult Dog Food
Nature’s Variety Prairie Chicken Meal & Brown Rice Medley
NutriSource Large Breed Grain Free Chicken Formula Dog Food


For other pet product reviews, please check out my Pet Review Index Page by clicking here!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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A Parody Of Itself, Tomorrow Never Dies Is Fun James Bond!

The Good: Some great lines, Decent performances, Good pacing, Entertaining
The Bad: Some terrible, over-the-top lines, Very predictable plot progression, One of the least satisfying endings of any Bond film
The Basics: The final James Bond film I had to watch, Tomorrow Never Dies is remarkably average Bond . . . when it is not delivering laugh-out-loud funny one-liners.

With Tomorrow Never Dies, I am done with the James Bond franchise! As of now, I have seen all of the James Bond films in the franchise (at least until S.P.E.C.T.R.E. comes out later this year!) and I'm ending on an odd note. Tomorrow Never Dies is an emotionally-enjoyable film in many ways, though much of that comes from the writing and casting, as opposed to the film being an objectively good work. In fact, for the first half hour of Tomorrow Never Dies, the film is written in such a way that it seems almost like it is a parody of a James Bond film. A decent portion of the film has incredibly quotable one-liners that are funny and create a surprisingly light tone for the film. But the moment the Bond villain, Elliot Carver, gives his first, over-the-top presentation to his inner circle of slimeballs, the film takes a turn into utterly groanworthy territory.

Such is the "split personality" of Tomorrow Never Dies, a film smart enough to note that (even in 1997) a military incursion into Vietnamese waters by anyone with U.S. tech could be disastrous for U.S. foreign policy and dark enough to include a "long lost love" for James Bond who is horribly murdered, but features more tongue-in-cheek gags and ridiculousness (James Bond is beaten up by three characters who are, essentially, the Three Stooges, while at the Carver Media network launch!) than any other Bond film in memory. I was excited going into Tomorrow Never Dies because of my love of Jonathan Pryce from Brazil (reviewed here!) and my general enjoyment of Pierce Brosnan's portrayal of James Bond. But the positive elements are weighted pretty much equally with the film's detractions, making for an average (albeit enjoyable) movie.

Opening at a terrorist "supermarket" on the Russian border, where MI-6 is monitoring the potential sale of a small army's worth of hardware (including nuclear torpedoes on a Russian jet), James Bond has to outrace a British missile and terrorists when things go south. The H.M.S. Devonshire is in the South China Sea, where it is attacked by a stealth drill submarine operated by minions of a billionaire media mogul, who is launching a worldwide cable news network. The attack, triggered by the Devonshire's GPS system rerouting the boat out of international waters, is designed to bring about World War III and is used by Elliot Carver as the first big story for his news network. With the British Navy 48 hours away from being able to fully deploy in the South China Sea, M tasks James Bond with gathering the evidence needed to avert World War III.

That takes Bond to Hamburg, Germany, where he meets Carver. At the party, Bond meets Wai Lin, a spy posing as a Chinese journalist and he reunites with his lost love, Paris, who is now Carver's wife. Carver utilizes tech genius Henry Gupta to learn that Paris still has a soft spot for Bond and he easily discovers that she has betrayed him to Bond. After Elliot implicates Bond in the murder of Paris, Bond and Wai Lin find themselves exploring the sunken Devonshire together. The pair works together to try to avert a war between Britain and China and stop Carver from attaining world domination through media manipulation.

Tomorrow Never Dies is enjoyable in that it is one of the Bond films that has Bond balanced by a superspy that appears for all intents and purposes to be his equal. Wai Lin is anything but the typical Bond Girl, which balances the especially easy Paris in the film. Wai Lin comes with her own tech and, like the C.I.A. ally of Bond Jack Wade, Bond is forced to rely upon both her help and her assets to achieve his mission objectives.

Wai Lin is credibly played by Michelle Yeoh, who is a martial arts expert and is able to completely sell the film's action scenes. She and Pierce Brosnan have decent timing for the quips their characters deliver. While some might not like how Bond's reliance upon an ally weakens the superspy, after watching dozens of Bond films where Bond alone accomplishes impossible things, it is refreshing to see some level of realism where he cannot achieve everything on his own. Moreover, the realism of the team of super-spies balances the almost cartoonish nature of the film's villain.

Elliot Carver is a great concept for a villain and it is hard to criticize Jonathan Pryce for how he delivers the worst, most over-the-top lines of the film (and the franchise). Carver is a brilliant idea who is written as a quip-spewing maniac who has all the weaknesses of a Bond villain. He details his plans as exposition, he trusts all the wrong people and he is handicapped by a desire for power that is utterly unrealistic. Pryce does the best he can, but the role is a pretty lousy character.

The result is a funny, action-filled film that is filled with ticking clocks, decent actors, ridiculous characters, good lines, chases and gadgets. Tomorrow Never Dies is fun, so long as one disengages much of their sense of reason and just goes with it.

For other works with Geoffrey Palmer, please check out my reviews of:
The Pink Panther 2
"Goodbyeee" - Blackadder Goes Forth


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

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

At Long Last . . . The Sideshow Collectibles Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure Arrives!

The Good: GREAT sculpt, Stable base, Collectible value
The Bad: Erratic paint job, Very fragile
The Basics: The Sideshow Collectibles Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure Statue is not the perfect Wonder Woman collectible one might hope for . . .

This has been turning into quite the Wonder Woman-centered month for me and, frankly, I am okay with that! After seven months of waiting, Sideshow Collectibles finally managed to get the Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure released from the customs yard in California and ship them out to collectors. I was fortunate to be one of the people who snagged one of the limited release versions of the Premium Format Figure (which is, for all intents and purposes, a statue) and, in some ways, the delay and the ultimate release of the statue so late in its form, only added insult to (albeit minor) injury.

Sideshow Collectibles allow fans and collectors the ability to order their amazing collectibles (I was wowed from my first experience with their products, in the form of the Star Wars 1:6 scale Boushh doll, reviewed here!) via preorder, with a non-refundable deposit. Last year, when the Wonder Woman Premium Format figure was announced by Sideshow Toys, I was exceptionally excited. I've been waiting for Sideshow to make a 1:4 scale Wonder Woman and for them to tackle Wonder Woman at all. I was in a surprisingly good place financially when the deposit was required and so, I decided to invest. The seven month delay, alas, gave me enough time for my financial fortunes to change and for me to have to make the tough choice between forfeiting the deposit and having to spend money I no longer had. I went with the latter.

Alas, the figure is not perfect and issues with assembly, paint, and fragility make it feel less like an awesome investment or the prized collectible it ought to be. Fans who shell out $450 or more for a collectible statue have a good reason to be picky about the quality of their collectibles and for my money, I was shocked that the 1:6 Buffy The Vampire Slayer Spike statue I bought my wife for the winter holiday had more sculpted and painted details right than the 1:4 scale Wonder Woman!


The Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure statue presents Wonder Woman generally well. This version of Wonder Woman has the iconic DC super hero in her bustier outfit with the knee-high red boots, silver bracers, and golden tiara she is known for. This version of Wonder Woman has a pretty good balance between having defined muscles and feminine curves. Wonder Woman's legs are more smooth than muscular, but she has collarbones molded into the sculpt. Wonder Woman's back is fairly well-sculpted with decent musculature, but Wonder Woman's knee - especially the one for the straight leg - lacks realistic bone definition. The result is a sculpt that seems to prioritize stereotypical "sexy" qualities over the warrior aspects of the character. This Wonder Woman statue has the heroine standing on a base, looking much like the ruins of Themyscira, with one leg up on a fallen column, her left arm down and her right arm raised to the side so she can hold her spear behind her shoulder.

The statue, released in a limited and second-wave series (both are called "Premium Format Figure" and both are strictly limited, but the only real difference seems to be the numbering, the base and the presence of an alternate arm in the first-run version) from Sideshow Collectibles, is a real mixed bag in terms of the amount of sculpted details and has surprisingly erratic coloring. Measuring twenty-five inches tall, twenty-one inches wide and ten inches deep at its most extreme points, the Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure statue is one of the few DC super hero-based statues released by Sideshow Collectibles in the 1:4 scale. The Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure Statue easily sold-out from Sideshow Collectibles, at least for the 3500-piece first run and is now only available in the secondary market.

The Sideshow Collectibles Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure statue is made of fairly durable polystone that has decent weight to it and painted plastic for the iconic Lasso Of Truth. The Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure's costume is colored in bright muted white, dark red and dark blue and metallic gold and silver (for her belt, bustier, and silver for the bracelets). This version of Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure has a subtle rendition of the eagle symbol on her bustline, instead of the more simply double-W symbol some of her costumes featured. The tiara is the gold color with the red star on the forehead underneath the long, bouncing black bangs. The sculpt of the hair, which makes it look like Wonder Woman's hair is blowing in the wind is well-sculpted. The detailing for the hair texture is extraordinary for a character that came from a two-dimensional reference.

Diana’s face is angular, without looking severe and in a similar fashion, the Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure Statue did not create her with an over-the-top pair of breasts. Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure’s proportions are reasonable, but what impressed me in this regard is that the costume Wonder Woman is wearing looks sculpted on (as opposed to just painted). So, as crude as it may sound to analyze so clinically, looking down upon the statue, one can basically look down her top at the space between her breasts. Her back, however, has the gap filled in where the gap between her bustier and spine should be. The eagle emblem and belt are raised and look impressive for their armored appearance. The Lasso Of Truth is molded to the belt in a loop, as one might expect. and the sculpting details for the muscles on her back represent an impressive attention to detail.

As for the rest of the sculpt, detail-oriented people are likely to be a bit frustrated by the Sideshow Collectibles Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure. First, the Wonder Woman statue does not stand evenly on her base. The statue is rooted by the right foot; the left should rest on the fallen column on the base. The right foot has a metal rod which fits in a hole in the base and then the heel of the statue rests in a footprint in the ground on the base. Unfortunately, the Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure falls a few millimeters shy of connecting with the left foot on the column! As a result, Wonder Woman is essentially balanced on her back foot and I can only hope that over the years, the weight of the statue will subtly bend the rod so the front foot comes to rest where it is supposed to. If it does that without cracking the statue's heel, I would be impressed.

Sideshow got a ton of the details right. The base is immaculate and looks like rocky ground and shattered columns. The helmet and sword attach to the base, thanks to small slots in the ground, include such incredible sculpted details like rivets on the helmet, what looks like a wrapped leather grip on the sword hilt, and stiff hair on the helmet's top. The shield has immaculate sculpted details, like the stars and the filigree border! Even the sculpted spear and the scraps of a banner hanging from it are incredibly molded and make the banner is blowing in the wind, the same direction as Wonder Woman's hair. Because Wonder Woman's hair comes detached from the statue, Sideshow was able to get the ears and nose molded absolutely perfectly. What the Premium Format Figure lacks are a number of the finer details. This version of Wonder Woman does not have detailed knuckles and the knees lack realism that the rest of the statue possesses.

On the coloring front, Wonder Woman is a mixed bag in this incarnation. Amazingly, the eyes and lips are perfectly rendered. Sideshow even made them appropriately glossy opposite the statue's matte skin and lack of shine to the costume. The colors are all right on the Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure, but the level of detailing is not. The raised left boot has a paint job that features flecks of dirt, so this has a decent level of realism to it. But the fingernails are the same color as the figure's skin (a detail I was shocked Sideshow got wrong, when they managed to get that detail right on the smaller Spike statue!) and a number of the lines are not cleanly painted. The fingers on the ax and on the spear are painted so sloppily that they bleed onto the accessories! Similarly, the lines around Wonder Woman's bikini bottom, are far less clean on my statue. I also don't know of any Wonder Woman costume that features this bustier and has stars on the front of the bikini, but none on the back (the statue does not).


As a Sideshow Collectibles statue, the Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure/Statue is only accented by the collector’s number on the bottom of the base and the alternate ax-wielding arm for the original version. The ax hand is beautifully-detailed and fits the statue perfectly. Swapping out the hands is easy neither arm looks worse when attached (I keep my statue with the shield arm because I feel that more embodies Wonder Woman than the ax).

As for the base, the bottom seems not quite a perfect fit for the statue, which is frustrating. Also frustrating in an inexplicable way is how the less-limited version is brightly colored on the bottom (albeit where no one will see it) than the more-limited version. The more limited version has better coloring depth than the less-limited version, so I suppose it is a wash.


As with all statues, the intent of the Sideshow Collectibles Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure statue is to be used as a decorative collectible and this is well-balanced at the base. But, because the statue itself does not connect at more than one point, the figure has a little bit of wobble to it when it is on my shelf. The display base is augmented with four rubber discs that keep is perfectly stable, so it does not slide, tip, lean or do anything other than stand perfectly positioned on one’s shelf or display case.


Sideshow Collectibles has been making bigger and better collectibles for decades. The Wonder Woman Premium Format Figure Statue was limited to 9,500 pieces (3500 in the first release, 6000 in the second). Each one is individually numbered on the bottom of the base (mine is 3080/3500!). These statues have already exploded in value and I suspect it will continue to appreciate, but not because of its quality.

In fact, I would predict that the value of the Wonder Woman Premium Format figure will only really appreciate as more people try moving it (or, in California, suffer the wrath of earthquakes!). My limited edition Wonder Woman arrived with a broken helm (the fine folks at Sideshow Collectibles have already sent a replacement!) and I was severely dismayed when unpacking the statue for a second time, I discovered the hair had broken in two places. The hair is made of the same, solid polystone as the rest of the statue (save the plastic Lasso Of Truth). I'm not sure why Sideshow used that as opposed to a silicon that was then solidly lacquered over to protect collectors from breakage, but they did not and the hair has a surprising number of finer points that can easily break off. It looks great, but the statue's fragility cannot be understated. Given how picky (I mean that in a good way; I am one of them!) collectors of such things are, one suspects as they (or those who attempt to clean them nicely and discover how fragile they are!) discover how the finer points of this statue are less flexible and more breakable than they initially appear, they will re-buy the statue and cause it to continue to appreciate in value. The danger, of course, is that sealed statues that might have broken parts that collectors do not discover until they open and assemble them (likely at a time when Sideshow no longer has the components to replace).


For more than $400, I find myself far less impressed than I wanted to be. That Wonder Woman does not actually stand on her base and I face likely breakage in the future, is very frustrating. Lack of detailing on key elements is equally frustrating. My wife posited an interesting theory to me; she suggested that Sideshow focused on getting the breasts, butt and legs (calves, boots and toning) right because that's where guys are going to be focused. Ironically, both she and I thought the miscolored and under-sculpted hands were a focal point as well (especially the one holding the spear). Anyway, her theory was that the broad strokes of the more feminine aspects will distract the wealthier male collectors who like Wonder Woman more for sexual fantasy than her heroic qualities. Her argument is that women who spend on collectibles are more demanding in their standards - hence Spike in the smaller scale being a higher-quality collectible than Wonder Woman in the larger scale - than men who will shell out for anything that turns them on.

It's hard for me to disagree with her on this point, though I find myself wondering if instead the problem is that Sideshow Collectibles is trying too hard to produce, as opposed to producing less and making them better. The Spike and Boushh were made years ago when Sideshow Collectibles had fewer licenses and exceptionally high standards. Did Sideshow rush Wonder Woman to release because it had been delayed so long in Customs that it wanted to get it out the moment it was released? Is that why Wonder Woman has the same colored fingernails as her skin (seriously, while I'm used to her having red nails, no one has the same color skin and fingernails, so that's a pretty obvious oversight!)? I'm not sure. All I know is that the statue is far more average than it is extraordinary and Wonder Woman and collectors of her merchandise deserved better.

For other Wonder Woman collectibles, please check out my reviews of:
DC Direct Wonder Woman Series 1 Wonder Woman action figure
DC Direct Cover Girls Of The DC Universe Wonder Woman statue
2009 Wonder Woman Hallmark Keepsake Ornament


For other comic based toys and collectibles, please visit my Comic Book Toy Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Replay The Day (Poorly): "Rogue Time" Has Barry Allen Take A Different Path!

The Good: Moments of character, Cool comparison to the prior episode, Performances are fine
The Bad: Entirely troubling science/engineering, Missing details to make the new plot make sense, Caitlin Snow . . .
The Basics: "Rogue Time" tries to save The Flash after its biggest moments . . . and it does the best it can.

It is impossible to discuss "Rogue Time," the latest episode of The Flash without mentioning important aspects of how the prior episode, “Out Of Time” (reviewed here!) ended. While it seems like "Rogue Time" would be a direct sequel to "Out Of Time," it actually picks up the dangling thread left by the end of “Revenge Of The Rogues” (reviewed here!). The burden on "Rogue Time" was to follow up an astonishingly good episode with one that did not simply leave viewers feeling cheated. That's a tough task, given the quality of "Out Of Time."

And "Rogue Time" succeeded about as much as it could have.

"Out Of Time" was a knockout episode that took an unlikely villain - the second Weather Wizard pops up to wreak havoc in Central City - and used the formulaic a-plot as a chance to advance the characters and create a b-plot that had astonishing consequences and a real "wow" factor. Unfortunately, "Out Of Time" ended at a point where it was easy to undo all of the episode's biggest moments and that is what "Rogue Time" does . . . in record time. Barry Allen managed to run back in time at the climax of the prior episode and "Rogue Time" begins there, where he has the chance to save a lot of lives by stopping the Weather Wizard (Mark Mardon) before he becomes a genuine threat and unwittingly save the life of the one man who has uncovered the secret of the Reverse Flash. Going into "Rogue Time," the safe money from most fans was that that was going to happen and the big question was "Could you undo all of the best moments of the prior episode and create an episode that takes the series in a different direction without leaving the audience feeling completely cheated?"

The answer, from "Rogue Time" is "no, but we sure tried!"

Barry Allen breaks through the time barrier and, in the episode's first major issue, his native timeline version disappears. This is a problem because it makes no real sense. Barry Allen from tomorrow afternoon appears the day before, running beside himself. From that moment on, there should be two Barry Allens . . . at least until the initiating incident is averted and the tangent timeline collapses (at which time, either the Barry Allen from the altered day disappears or he remains as an anomaly from an alternate universe). What doesn't make sense is that the first time through the timeline, Barry Allen sees his alternate self, stops, and there is no second Barry Allen there. In short, because Barry Allen was not overwritten by the future Barry Allen the first time around, there is no reason for it to happen the second time around.

Harrison Wells is determined not to let the future be changed or to learn anything about the day that Barry exhibits foreknowledge of. But Barry cannot let Mark Mardon stand, so he goes to where he knows the Weather Wizard is, captures him, and locks him up in the pipeline. While Wells is infuriated, Barry is thrilled at all the wrongs he has righted - though Cisco is forced to go to his brother's birthday party now that he does not have an excuse. At the same time, Leonard Snart and Mick Rory arrive in Central City where they take down the local crime family. Lamenting how badly things went with his family, Cisco and Barry go out to a bar, where Cisco is hit on by a beautiful young woman. Lisa takes Cisco back to the house at which she is squatting and reveals herself to be Lisa Snart, Leonard's sister.

At this point in "Rogue Time," there's nothing actually wrong with the episode, though the devil is in the details and here the episode gets a little wobbly. Snart, Mick, and Lisa come into town and knock over the local crime boss. No problems there. In fact, with Mark Mardon on the loose, it makes sense that the police would be so busy and focused elsewhere that they would not realize that the trio was in town or that the Santini Family has been disrupted. But then, Dante Ramon is abducted. If that happened the first time through the timeline, it makes some sense that it might not have gotten priority and noticed by the wrecked Central City Police Department. In the revamped timeline, though, there would be far more police available and undistracted to notice when Dante Ramon was abducted.

So, Cisco is captured by the three Rogues and forced to rebuild their weapons . . . and make an entirely new one for Lisa Snart. While one might buy that Leonard Snart and Mick Rory might have all of the supplies they need to make their weapons -though, if that were the case, why would Snart need Cisco, when he knew his own weapon so well that he could take it apart and put it back together?! - the idea that Cisco could replicate from memory both weapons over the course of a single night and develop an alchemy gun is pretty ridiculous.

That ridiculous quality spreads into the next scene. The Snarts knock over the Santini mob casino and The Flash tries to stop them. Leonard extorts The Flash with the information that he has the two Ramons held hostage. Fine. But then Barry lets them go. At this point, Barry Allen has enough speed to be virtually invisible. There is no credible reason why Barry Allen doesn't run after the Snart's car, wait for it to stop at a house, then run in and get both captives out before Leonard and Lisa realize they were followed. Utterly ridiculous.

Fortunately, the episode gets better from that point on. In fact, as Cisco and his brother fight for their lives and Captain Cold extorts him for information on the identity of The Flash, the episode picks right up. The episode leads to a stalemate between The Flash and Captain Cold that is well-presented, while Cisco returns to S.T.A.R. Labs a credibly broken man, who is not about to look into the truth about Harrison Wells.

But, in reworking the day, the biggest problem comes from a lack of a scene in "Out Of Time." Near the climax of "Out Of Time," Dr. Snow calls Barry Allen and he brushes her off. As a result, Barry goes back in time without knowing that Cisco has been killed, that he and Snow came to suspect Harrison Wells and only knowing that Mason Bridge had an encrypted file on Wells about the disappearance of Simon Staggs. The problem, then, is that Barry does not have enough information to try to consciously save anyone or suspect Harrison Wells and in "Rogue Time," he does not make the important, inadverant, slip to Wells. I kept waiting for Barry to make some comment to Harrison Wells about Mason Bridge and his encrypted file. While "Rogue Time" has a delicious mirror image of the critical Wells/Cisco scene, what is entirely lacks is any reason Wells would even know of the existence of Mason Bridge! Barry Allen elminated the day that caused Harrison Wells to have any tracks to cover . . . so Wells had no reason to hunt Bridge in "Rogue Time." Moreover, because he didn't slip to Wells about Bridge's encrypted file, Barry had no reason to instantly suspect Wells at the peak of the episode!

The only other issue is a character one. Dr. Caitlin Snow has been portrayed as asocial and somewhat socially awkward throughout the first season of The Flash. But, by "Rogue Time," it's hard for viewers not to be screaming at the screen "pick a lane!" Snow is explicitly in love with her fiance, Ronnie Raymond. Unfortunately, as news of a spin-off that will feature Victor Garber (and possibly Firestorm?) keeps breaking, The Flash seems to be painfully setting up for Snow and Raymond to break up as a way to explain why Snow will remain on The Flash and not go over to the spinoff. In "Rogue Time," she shows partnerish affections for both Cisco and Barry Allen (and this is not the first time). The result is a character who is somewhat annoying in her inconsistencies.

Still, this is one of Danielle Panabaker's better episodes as she plays Snow's bluff beautifully at the climax of "Rogue Time." In fact, beyond the plot and detail problems, the performances in "Rogue Time" are homogenously good (though there are no huge emotional moments required of the actors, like "Out Of Time" demanded). Peyton List does a fine job playing off Grant Gustin (The Flash), Carlos Valdes (Cisco), Dominic Purcell (Heat Wave) and Wentworth Miller (Leonard Snart).

Continuity and detail issues aside, the writers and producers of The Flash had pretty much run themselves into a corner with the prior episode and with "Rogue Time," they do the best they possibly can to right the listing ship.

For other works with Leonard Snart, check out my reviews of:
"Going Rogue" - The Flash
The Flash: Rogues By Geoff Johns
The Flash Vs. The Rogues By Carmine Infantino
Brightest Day The Flash: The Dastardly Death Of Rogues By Geoff Johns
The Flash: Rogues Revolution By Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into The Flash - 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 visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Enter At The (Apparent) End: Red She-Hulk: Route 616

The Good: Artwork is all right, Plot progresses
The Bad: Dialogue lacks flow, No real character development
The Basics: Red She-Hulk: Route 616 is the conclusion to the Marvel Now! Red She-Hulk story . . . and it feels like they gave up on her before the book ended!

In my study of various super heroes, there were none that I was surprised to find I enjoyed reading as much as She-Hulk. Far from living down to my fear that the book would just be a "Hulk, smash!" series with a female protagonist, I quickly found I enjoyed how some writers played with Jennifer Walters as a protagonist and gave her a quirky, interesting voice and story. So, I felt pretty safe in picking up a Red She-Hulk book, Red She-Hulk: Route 616. That, as it turned out, was a wrong move.

Red She-Hulk: Route 616 might well be my first Marvel Now! trade paperback anthology and it seems that I came in at the end of the story of Betty Ross. Betty Ross is the Marvel Now! (and maybe before, I'm not fluent in Red She-Hulk) Red She-Hulk and given where the story ends and the notes at the end of the volume, it seems like it was the end of the title. In fact, it reads like it is. I cannot recall ever having to read a graphic novel twice just because I was so confused that I was missing something. Obviously, I am missing something; the content of the sixty-two issues of Red She-Hulk that precede the story in Red She-Hulk: Route 616 (which anthologizes issues 63 - 67). But my issue was not with content, it was with flow. Jeff Parker's writing seems very fractured and the book reads like it was assembled from an awkward series of cuts (for example, in the second chapter, Red She-Hulk is looking at a pyramid from a bit of a distance in one panel and the next, she is tearing into it . . . with no sense of how she got from one location to the other, with no sense of discovery or reason in trying to find a way into the pyramid). In short, Red She-Hulk: Route 616 feels like a cancelled show where the writers were given an episode to wrap everything up and the staff didn't actually care to produce the last episode well.

On the story front, Route 616 picks up very much in the middle of a story, though the opening summary and the "panel discussion" from a television show are enough to instantly bring new readers (like me!) up to speed. Betty Ross is the Red She-Hulk, who seems to have three states - Betty Ross, Red She-Hulk (minor) and full hulked-out Red She-Hulk (who barely ever makes an appearance). Betty Ross spends most of her time as a fairly controlled Red She-Hulk and she is accompanied by an X-51 android named Aaron Stack. The story begins with the pair hunting Nikola Tesla (who is an Artificial Intelligence in this iteration), because he has abducted a girl who serves as the processor for a machine that is going to bring about the apocalypse. So, Red She-Hulk and Aaron Stack are on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Exposed to the general populace while at a diner, Betty Ross transforms into the Red She-Hulk, which alerts S.H.I.E.L.D. to her general presence. Aaron Stack steals a car for the pair and they once again flee. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team of Echelon-based supersoldiers does not take very long to track the pair down and while Red She-Hulk defeats the S.H.I.E.L.D. team, she and Stack are literally forced underground. There, they encounter the mole people and their search for Tesla takes them to an underground pyramid that is filled with futuristic technology. But Tesla outwits the pair and when they return to the surface, they discover reality is falling apart around them.

Trapped at Mt. Rushmore in an alternate or near-future, where Dr. Doom, Red Skull, Ultron, and Loki are carved into the side of the mountain, Red She-Hulk and Stack struggle to defeat the reconstructions of the Four Horsemen. They are only successful after all images merge into a superbeing and Stack unwittingly sets the new villain on the world at large! Still, the encounter leaves them with a clear destination: the Florida Everglades. There, they find Man-Thing, who takes them on a trippy journey through hundreds of realities for no clear reason until they manage to get back to their proper universe where everything wraps up surprisingly fast.

Red She-Hulk: Route 616 is not at all high literature and it is a remarkably unsatisfying read. Pursued by S.H.I.E.L.D., Jennifer Walters unwittingly aids the adversaries of Red She-Hulk by helping the supernatural law enforcement agency figure out her frequency. While Red She-Hulk is characterized by others as a master of hiding because she knows the military's playbook for pursuit, that is never actually shown in the book. Red She-Hulk does not evade S.H.I.E.L.D.; she is just hell-bent on her own mission and occasionally, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents burst in on her and Stack!

In a similar fashion, Red She-Hulk: Route 616 includes an entire subplot wherein S.H.I.E.L.D. employs the Thinker to try to track down Red She-Hulk, but he instead figures out how to make the Echelon soldiers work. The Thinker disappears fairly abruptly and the new, improved soldiers, seem only to serve the narrative for one of several jaunts into an alternate universe. The book spends more time developing the characteristics and backstory of the Mole People than it does satisfyingly developing the threat of the Echelon soldiers.

Red She-Hulk: Route 616 is very plot-focused, as opposed to character-centered. Betty Ross is given about equal page time as Aaron Stack and Stack figures out more ways to save the day than Ross does! That is hugely unsatisfying for a book titled Red She-Hulk. That Betty Ross takes up the position of wisecracking sidekick - Stack figures out how to out-logic Ultron, while Ross complains about what various battles are doing to her hair! - in her own book is tremendously disappointing and a horrible example to set for readers (of any gender).

The artwork in Red She-Hulk: Route 616 is fine, but very much like snapshots. There is exceptionally poor transition between panels, so this is a book that does not flow from panel to panel, page to page well. Instead, it's like flipping through photographs with captions; readers are left to infer much of the movement between panels. The coloring is homogeneously good throughout the book.

Ultimately, Red She-Hulk: Route 616 is an end for the Red She-Hulk as a solo work and while I might have come in at the end, I have no problem with declaring it a disappointment. The narration is fractured, the characters mediocre and the resolution forced. It's a poor story that is not enough to make a reader want to pick up any of the prior Red She-Hulk volumes.

For other She-Hulk books, please visit my reviews of:
The Sensational She-Hulk
Single Green Female
The Avengers: The Search For She-Hulk
Superhuman Law
Time Trials
Laws Of Attraction
She-Hulk: Planet Without A Hulk
Fall Of The Hulks: The Savage She-Hulks
Marvel Her-oes


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

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