Sunday, March 11, 2018

Indefinite Hiatus

Hello All!

On February 22, someone incredibly important to me died. While the timing of the death was not at all a surprise, it has left me listless and depressed. In the days immediately following the death, I did what I could to maintain the blog, but the truth is, my head and heart are not in it right now.

I am metaconscious enough to recognize that this is a classic symptom of depression (giving up a long-held blog being a classic form of grieving, no . . . depression frequently manifests in the inability to take joy in things that once made one happy), but the results of fighting the symptoms have not been my best work. While I enjoy engaging my critical thinking centers, it is hard for me to enjoy things right now. For sure, I could continue writing reviews where the theme is "everything sucks" - to be fair, the first season review of Star Trek: Discovery I have just not gotten around to finishing is a legitimate analysis of something that was just terrible! - but spending my time that way is just not doing it for me right now. I looked forward to the second season of Jessica Jones for so long and I binged it, but can't bring myself to review the show that just didn't live up to the potential left at the end of the first and going back through the season for my usual episode by episode reviews was probably just the straw that broke this camel's back. I can't get excited about it and I can't keep psyching myself up to just maintain the shows I usually review.

W.L. Swarts Reviews The Universe might well continue - I have a backlog of Doctor Who reviews that are done and await posting and I still enjoy critiquing everything. But, I have a new novel that is itching to get written and it seems pointless to deny the excitement I have to spend time with my wife and furbabies and write that in exchange for churning out more reviews that are sliding toward mediocre.

I appreciate all the readers who have found the blog useful, informative or fun; should I return to it, it will be because I have more to say that meets those criteria. But, for now and the foreseeable future, that's not where my head and heart are at.

Thanks,
W.L. Swarts

Friday, March 9, 2018

Coulson's Death Sentence Is "The Real Deal"


The Good: Good acting, Moments of character, Engaging plot progression
The Bad: Suspension of disbelief issues, Light on thematic statements, Blase revelation of Deke's lineage.
The Basics: "The Real Deal" delivers episode one hundred of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. with generally positive results!


Every now and then in a long-running television show, there comes a loose end that - when it is addressed - is so unmemorable that the viewer is more surprised by the resolution than anticipating it. On Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., the fact that Agent Coulson made a deal with Ghost Rider at the climax of the fourth season is one such loose end. That deal is addressed in "The Real Deal" and when it comes up to explain Coulson's ticking clock for him impending death, it is something of an "oh yeah . . . I vaguely remember that" type moment.

"The Real Deal" picks up right after "All The Comforts Of Home" (reviewed here!) and it is virtually impossible to discuss the new episode without some references to that one. After all, "All The Comforts Of Home" saw the introduction of the powerful new villain, Ruby, who was working for General Hale. Ruby mutilated Yo-Yo Rodriguez and given that the special effects budget for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. could not accommodate Coulson missing a hand, one has to figure that Rodriguez is about to get a set of bionic arms or time will be reset to a point before the attack in the season's resolution. And Deke ended up in the past with the Agents as well.

A drone explores the area in which the Kree beacon exploded and finds a dimensional rip there. Fitz theorizes that the end of the world may have already begun in the basement of the Lighthouse. In the medical bay, Simmons treats Rodriguez - who is experiencing phantom pain in her severed limbs - when Mack visits. Rodriguez encourages Mack to stay and fight with her. Daisy Johnson and Deke explore the stockpile in the basement of the Lighthouse, when a Kree warrior attacks them. When Johnson shoots the Kree, he disappears. Fitz theorizes that the destruction of the three monoliths (by the beacon exploding) has created an opening to a fear dimension and that everyone's fears are manifesting in the basement of the Lighthouse.

Fitz believes that the tear can be fixed with gravitonium from Deke's belt buckle, but he believes that the person who carries the device into the basement might get lost within another dimension. Amid protestations, Coulson volunteers, but then collapses. Coulson's collapse provides an opportunity for Simmons to scan him and she finds that his injuries from being killed by Loki are now entirely necrotic and the dead tissue is spreading. After making peace with Johnson, May and Fitz, Coulson takes the device Fitz created and heads toward the rift to attempt to seal it. On the way down, Coulson encounters his nagging fear of his own existence.

"The Real Deal" sets up an interesting potential future for Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.. The series was easily-accepted by fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe because of the leadership of Agent Phil Coulson, resurrected for the show with surprisingly little initial fanfare. Phil Colson has been the character who has spent the most time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The idea that Phil Coulson might actually die in a permanent way and have to turn leadership of his fledgling S.H.I.E.L.D. cell over to someone else is an intriguing possibility. "The Real Deal" sets the S.H.I.E.L.D. cell up to follow Johnson, instead of May, which is an odd choice given how erratic Johnson's tenure with S.H.I.E.L.D. has been and how May has been more consistently loyal to Coulson and S.H.I.E.L.D.

Coulson has had a number of heroic moments in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. and "The Real Deal" is set up to make viewers believe that this is Coulson's blaze of glory. As Coulson descends toward the rift and encounters his fears - manifested in the form of Mike Peterson - he has to confront his own mortality. The Fear Peterson makes an argument about the lack of reality of Coulson's life is impossible to even consider given the sheer number of scenes in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that run entirely independently of Coulson. Moreover, for viewers to accept even for a second that Fear Peterson's argument is real, they have to deny entirely that the S.H.I.E.L.D. team participated in events tangential to the blockbusters that a dying Coulson could never have known.

That said, Clark Gregg gives a good performance in "The Real Deal." As Coulson accepts various aspects of his life and considers the fears he has, Gregg gives a wonderful performance with great facial expressions for some of the more subtle moments of the episode.

J. August Richards returns for a delightful pair of sequences as both the Fear-embodiment of Mike Peterson for Coulson and as Deathlok for that character's timely return. Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge have their usual wonderful on-screen chemistry for the episode's climactic scene.

Technical issues aside - seriously, suspension of disbelief for the Fear Peterson's dialog is stretched far too thin given the volume of pieces of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. that have nothing to do with Coulson - "The Real Deal" does a decent job of creating a compelling problem, tying up a loose end and making for a smart resolution to that problem. In the process, though, the episode dumbs down explaining exactly who Deke is. Deke makes a comment that subtly tells viewers exactly who he is, but then, like Mystique's eyes flashing in the Senator's eyes at the climax of X-Men, "The Real Deal" makes the insinuation stupidly literal with a scene featuring Hale and one of her staff.

That said, the one hundredth episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a solid series of cameos from the disparate eras of the show and climaxes with an event that could have come about a hundred episodes sooner and still thrilled fans!

7/10

For other elements of the MCU, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a comprehensive listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tcho Dark Chocolate Chocolate Squares Disappoint!


The Good: Good ingredients, Accurately captures the promised flavor
The Bad: Expensive, Bitter, with a dry aftertaste more akin to a baker's chocolate than a dessert chocolate.
The Basics: Tcho Dark Chocolate chocolates are disappointing in that they have a high cacao content with little flavor or enjoyment to be derived from consuming them.


When it comes to exceptionally dark chocolate, I find there to be a difficult balance to find in getting an accurate flavor for the dark chocolate and making a treat actually worth consuming. Far too often, I encounter dark chocolates that are far too milky and fail to live up to the promise of their dark chocolate flavor. Only once in a long while do I encounter a dark chocolate that is more like a baker's chocolate - bitter and unpleasant - than an actual consumable confection. The Tcho Dark Chocolate chocolate squares are one of the rare examples of the latter problem.

Basics

Tcho Dark Chocolate chocolate squares are one and 1/2” squares of chocolate that are 3/16” thick. Each of the squares comes individually wrapped in a dark brown and gold foil wrapper. It is worth noting that while I usually rail against the environmental impact of such things, it is hard to imagine Tcho chocolate squares not wrapped. This keeps each one clean, unmelted and intact.

Each chocolate square is a seamless square that is a milk chocolate patty with an artistic grid filigree stamped into the top.

Ease Of Preparation

These are candy, so preparing them is as simple as opening the bag and then opening one of the plastic wrappers around the actual chocolate square one wishes to eat. There is no grand secret to eating Tcho Dark Chocolate chocolate squares. That said, they do need to be kept comparatively cool or these squares will melt.

Taste

The Dark Chocolate Tcho squares smell exceptionally strongly of cacao. Anyone who loves dark chocolate will instantly recognize the aroma of strong, dark chocolate undiluted by the milk chocolate medium or additional sweeteners that most inexpensive chocolates are hampered by. The aroma is akin to baker's chocolate.

In the mouth, the Tcho Dark Chocolate squares are dry and surprisingly sweet compared to the aroma. The initial sweetness fades within seconds to an obvious bitterness that accompanies very dark chocolates with high cacao content. Unfortunately, the Tcho Dark Chocolate lack any real depth of flavor or subtlety; these are dry and bitter with little pizazz. These might as well be baker's chocolate for their flavor.

There is a heavily bitter aftertaste to the Dark Chocolate chocolate squares, which leaves the mouth dry and robs the delight from any part of the flavor experience.

Nutrition

The Dark Chocolate chocolate squares are candy, so it is tough to look at these for something nutritious and then blame them for not being healthy. Tcho chocolate squares have decent ingredients, though, which is probably why they are so expensive. The primary ingredients are cacao beans, cane sugar and cocoa butter. There is nothing unpronounceable, nor unrecognizable in these candies.

A serving of the Tcho Dark Chocolate chocolate squares is considered a single square and while there is nothing bad in them, they are not exactly loaded with nutrients.

Honestly, these are candy and anyone looking to them for actual nutrition needs to get a reality check. These are not Vegan-compliant, nor are they recommended for anyone with a nut allergy as they may contain trace amounts of tree nuts.

Storage/Clean-up

The bags of these Tcho Dark Chocolate chocolate squares remain fresh for quite some time. Ours did not have an expiration date that I could find. Given that it is chocolate, one assumes that if they are kept in a cool, dry environment they will not melt or go bad. It is hard to imagine just what it would take for these to go bad outside melting and refreezing.

As for cleanup, I applaud those who actually throw the wrappers away in socially appropriate places, as opposed to litter. Outside that, there is no real cleanup needed, unless one is eating them in a hot environment. In that case, it is likely one would need to wash their hands. If these chocolate squares melt into most fabrics, they will stain. Getting them to melt, though, is quite a task.

Overall

Tcho Dark Chocolate chocolate squares are a good example of a dark chocolate with a high percentage of cacao, but a low appeal based on their flavor and expense.

For other chocolate reviews, please check out:
Lindt Red Velvet Lindor Truffles
Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark chocolate squares
Green & Black's Pure Dark Chocolate 70% Cacao chocolate bars

4/10

For other candy reviews, please visit my Candy Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"Enter Flashtime:" An Objective Lesson On Valuing Your Spouse's Opinion


The Good: Decent performances, Good direction, Interesting science
The Bad: Not particularly character-driven
The Basics: The Flash creates an engaging problem for the Speedsters to try to solve in "Enter Flashtime."


Every now and then, less for quite some time now, there comes an hour of television that actually keeps me guessing in a way that I end up sufficiently entertained by it. The Flash has gone a long time without having that kind of episode. But with "Enter Flashtime," I actually found myself guessing for almost the entire episode. Indeed, as the protagonists run out of options for a solution to their scientific problem, I kept waiting for the episode - which is entirely incongruent with the rest of the fourth season's plots - to integrate and I bet, fairly early on, that the solution to the "exploding bomb" problem was to let the bomb explode and let a new metahuman solve the problem.

I was wrong, though. Instead, "Enter Flashtime" is all about the value of listening to your spouse.

"Enter Flashtime" follows "Subject 9" (reviewed here!), but does not actually relate to that episode in a significant way. Harry Wells's subplot in "Subject 9" becomes the point for the family drama between Jesse and Harrison Wells in "Enter Flashtime."

Opening with Barry Allen accelerating Iris to his speed to tell his wife that he cannot save everyone this time, the episode flashes back to just under nine minutes prior, where The Flash is training rigorously to run fast enough to enter a breach. Failing to get to a breach Ramon created, Harrison Wells summons Iris and Barry to a meeting where he shows the team that DeVoe had been planning the bus debacle for three years prior to its execution. Jesse Wells arrives from Earth-2, where she and Harry have it out about his inability to talk about her dead mother. The conversation ends abruptly when Detective West is in a shootout at Wade Airfield when he calls for help from the S.T.A.R. Labs team.

The Flash and Jesse Quick find themselves in accelerated time as a prototype nuclear device is detonated. While Jesse goes to Earth-3 to recover Jay Garrick, Barry brings Cisco Ramon and Harrison Wells into "Flashtime" where they recognize the properties of the weapon and how to stop it from destroying Central City. As the three speedsters make various attempts to stop the bomb, Barry debates with his peers creating a breach that will place the explosion in the Speed Force, risking the Speed Force for speedsters throughout the multiverse and all time!

"Enter Flashtime" is well-performed, but heavy on the jargon and it is a surprisingly engaging episode where people work to focus on solving a technical problem. As a result, the bulk of the episode is not character-driven and does not allow the performers to do any powerful acting. Sure, Grant Gustin does a great job of looking concerned, confused, and like he is frustrated, but that is pretty much Barry Allen solving any problem.

Until the episode's climax, where Tom Cavanaugh and Violett Beane rock out a heartfelt, character-driven scene between Harry and Jesse, "Enter Flashtime" is better-directed than it is notably performed or interesting on any character level. "Enter Flashtime" is an episode of The Flash that does not seem to add to the season's overall storyline through its plot, though it is a surprisingly engaging bottle episode.

If nothing else, "Enter Flashtime" reinforces that if you're married, it helps to consult your spouse first for important decisions and it is entertaining. But, it's a pretty basic super hero problem solving episode.

7.5/10

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

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark Is Fun!


The Good: Good flavor, Decent ingredients
The Bad: Not exactly nutritious.
The Basics: Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark is a flavorful limited edition chocolate square worth trying and makes the consumer wish it was around year round!


I am not, honestly, a huge fan of chocolate and fruit flavors. That said, every now and then I pick something up that is fruit-flavored and chocolate and it turns out to be wonderful and I love it. Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark chocolate squares are one of those products!

Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark is pretty delicious and is a limited edition flavor of Ghirardelli chocolate that Ghirardelli released for Valentine's Day.

Basics

Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark chocolate squares are one and a half inch squares of chocolate that are about three-eighths inches thick. Each of the squares comes individually wrapped in a white and pink foil wrapper with hearts on it. It is worth noting that while I usually rail against the environmental impact of such things, it is hard to imagine Ghirardelli chocolate squares not wrapped. This keeps each one clean, unmelted and intact.

Each chocolate square is a seamless square that is essentially a chocolate patty which has milk chocolate on the bottom and white chocolate with Strawberry flakes in it on the upper half of the confection. In this form, the 5.4 oz. bag, the individually-wrapped chocolate squares are packaged together in a thick foil paper bag. This size has thirteen squares and the thick foil paper bag does little to protect the squares. The bag is not resealable, though this matters very little considering that the chocolate squares do not go bad as they are individually wrapped.

One of these bags, even with only thirteen squares, tends to run in the $6.00 range, before the end-of-the-season sales.

Ease Of Preparation

These are candy, so preparing them is as simple as opening the bag and then opening one of the foil wrappers around the actual chocolate square one wishes to eat. There is no grand secret to eating Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark chocolate squares.

Taste

The Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark smells powerfully of strawberry. The scent is strong and inviting. There is no hint of chocolate in the bouquet of these chocolate squares.

The Strawberry Bark tastes sweet and chocolatey. The fruit flavor actually dominates the chocolate squares. The strawberry flavor is delicious and plays off the chocolate better than something like chocolate covered strawberries; there is no sourness to these chocolates, like can happen with real strawberries. The white chocolate portion of the Strawberry Bark is incredibly mild. The strawberry flavor holds its own with the milk chocolate in these chocolate squares and these taste delightful as a result.

The Strawberry Bark has a slight, very sweet, aftertaste to it that does not endure in the mouth very long after the last of these are consumed.

Nutrition

These are candy, so it is tough to look at these for something nutritious and then blame them for not being healthy. Ghirardelli chocolate squares are surprisingly good, though, which is probably why they are more expensive than many mass-produced chocolates. The primary ingredients are sugar, cocoa butter and whole milk powder. Still, there is nothing unpronounceable in these candies.

A serving of the Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark chocolate squares is one square. From a single square, one takes in 70 calories, with 4.5 grams of fat. There is no cholesterol and subtle amounts of sodium, Potassium and Iron. Honestly, these are candy and anyone looking to them for actual nutrition needs to get a reality check. These are not Vegan-compliant, nor are they recommended for anyone with a nut allergy as they are produced on the same equipment that peanuts pass over. They are, however, kosher.

Storage/Clean-up

The bags of these Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark chocolate squares remain fresh for quite some time. The package I bought on clearance after Valentine's Day would not have expired until Halloween, had I not eaten them first. Given that it is chocolate, one assumes that if they are kept in a cool, dry environment they will not melt or go bad. Given that they are individually wrapped in a very sealed package, it is hard to imagine just what it would take for these to go bad outside melting and refreezing.

As for cleanup, I applaud those who actually throw the wrappers away in socially appropriate places, as opposed to litter. Outside that, there is no real cleanup needed, unless one is eating them in a hot environment. In that case, it is likely one would need to wash their hands. If these chocolate squares melt into most fabrics, they will stain. Getting them to melt, though, is quite a task.

Overall

Ghirardelli Strawberry Bark is a pleasant combination of chocolate and strawberry flavoring that manages to land . . . even with someone like me, who is much more of a fan of dark chocolate and mint flavors.

For other Ghirardelli products, please check out my reviews of:
Ghirardelli White Chocolate Creme Brulee Chocolate Squares
Dark Chocolate With Sea Salt Caramel Chocolate Squares
Intense Dark Cabernet Matinee

7/10

For other food and drink reviews, please visit my Food Review Index Page!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Monday, March 5, 2018

"No Country For Old Dads" Slowly Restores Ray Palmer's Intelligence!


The Good: Good direction, Fine performances, Good special effects, Moments of character
The Bad: No truly big performance moments, Some irksome character moments
The Basics: "No Country For Old Dads" puts the focus on Damien and Nora Darhk and slowly makes the point of the third season of Legends Of Tomorrow clear.


Legends Of Tomorrow has become a mess in its third season. While the show frequently remains high on charm - the current plotline involving Captain Lance and Ava Sharpe is just adorable! - the characters have become muddied for the sake of humor, the plots have become repetitive and the show is currently struggling to find a truly compelling mix of characters who could endure beyond the current crisis to define the Waverider crew in the wake of the death of Dr. Martin Stein. The sense that the show has become somewhat listless is hard to deny at the climax of "The Curse Of The Earth Totem" and how the consequences of that end affect "No Country For Old Dads."

"No Country For Old Dads" follows on "The Curse Of The Earth Totem" (reviewed here!) and where that episode ends is impossible to address in discussing the new episode. Dr. Ray Palmer has been a lawful good character throughout his tenure in the DC Television Universe. He's a pretty white bread character, but the two defining characteristics of the character have been that he is lawful good and he is one of the leading geniuses in the DC Television Universe (indeed, one of the most interesting series of scenes in the show was when Palmer and Eobard Thawne were forced to team up to survive in outer space. So, "The Curse Of The Earth Totem" contains a truly compelling moment, when Dr. Palmer steps over the line; to save one of his teammates, he infects Nora Darhk with nanobots, essentially using lethal force on the young woman. His sense of guilt immediately compels him to do what he can to save Nora Darhk's life and that is cool and within character. Unfortunately, in doing that, the characterization of Dr. Palmer as a smart person is utterly sacrificed. In one of the most predictable betrayals of all-time, the healed Nora Darhk turns on Palmer and he is captured by the mortal enemies of the Legends. Palmer

The Waverider is contacted by the Time Bureau, who inform them that Ray Palmer has been captured. Shortly thereafter, Rip Hunter and Kid Flash arrive on the Waverider. Damien and Nora want Palmer to fix the Fire Totem. After returning to 2018 to use the Upswipz lab, Palmer figures out that the way to fix the totem is to use cold fusion. Damien Darhk reveals that he killed the inventor of cold fusion in 1962. Nora and Ray Palmer return to 1962 to save Dr. Vogal from the younger version of Damien Darhk. Palmer and Darhk are barely able to convince Vogal to join them before Damien arrives to kill the scientist.

While Tomaz and Jiwe meditate to try to find the fire totem in history, Palmer and Darhk forge documents to cross the border from East to West Berlin. Their attempt to complete their mission is complicated by Damien Darhk returning to 1962. When the younger Darhk captures Nora, Damien and Palmer must work together to survive a prisoner exchange. In the ethereal plane, Tomaz and Jiwe find the setting altered and dark. There, they are met by a tribal elder who informs them about Mallus's plan and how the Darhks are corrupting the totems and influencing the destruction of time itself. With the help of Wally and his suit, Ray Palmer manages to engineer his escape.

"No Country For Old Dads" is all right, but the episode feels better while watching it than it ends up being under even the most casual of scrutiny. Ray Palmer's ability to use voice commands on his suit makes the viewer wonder why he didn't use that skill earlier in the episode when he was being tortured ad nauseum by the Darhks (for example). Similarly, as Damien Darhk fights himself, using magic to jerk Nora around is fun to watch, but not particularly clever. Damien has only to move Nora two feet forward at any point or allow her to fall and simply stop her inches from the ground, but he instead continues to put his daughter in mortal peril.

Ray Palmer is not tortured in any ways that are particularly graphic or seem to leave any real psychological effects, which makes his breaking so fast seem like unfortunately weak plot and character work.

"No Country For Old Dads" is well-directed, especially for the surreal sequences with Tomaz and Jiwe and the pivotal scene involving Wally West. But, the look and feel of the episode cannot balance out against the lack of big character or performance moments. The Legends meander through trying to find their best hope to solve most problems now that their other resident genius (Dr. Stein) is no longer around.

On the plus side, the plot of the third season of Legends Of Tomorrow becomes much clearer in "No Country For Old Dads." The villains' plots become explicit, but they do so through a strangely unremarkable series of scenes with Rip Hunter and a thoroughly gratuitous Grodd cameo.

4.5/10

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

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Imbalance In Deliciousness: Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix Nails One Flavor!


The Good: Fairly easy to prepare, Good flavor, Environmentally-responsible packaging.
The Bad: Comparatively expensive, Coffee flavoring is not present in any satisfying way
The Basics: Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix is all right as an alternative to hot cocoa, but not as much of a thrill for coffee lovers.


I have, generally, enjoyed the Maxwell House Indulge Max Coffee Drink Mix line. The instant coffee beverages are an interesting alternative to hot cocoa, which seems to be in a weirdly short supply in my area. Ironically, this becomes a problem for the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix; this drink nails the chocolate flavors needed to accurately embody mocha, but there is almost no real coffee flavoring to the beverage.

Basics

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix is part of Maxwell House Indulge Max's new premium Coffee Drink Mix line and one suspects that the company is trying to compete with the flavors from the International Delights Coffee Drink Mix line. This mix comes in a 12 oz. cardboard canister, found in the coffee or cocoa section of most grocery stores. The canister represents 12 or 13 full servings of the resulting beverage.

Ease Of Preparation

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix is fairly simple to make. The single serving is two Tablespoons of the mix and eight fluid oz. of water. One must measure out the drink mix in order to use it properly; these are not individually portioned servings, which makes the canister more environmentally friendly than most instant coffee beverages!

To make the drink, pop the plastic lid off the canister of Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix. Then, measure out two Tablespoons of the powder from inside the canister and place the powder in a mug that is able to hold at least 10 oz. of liquid. Once that is done, simply pour hot water - near boiling, but not actually boiling as boiling water cooks the ingredients as opposed to simply dissolving them - over the powder and stir. Stir the powder until there are no blobs of coffee granules visible in the water. This drink mix always seems to crackle when hot water is added to it and it was near-impossible to get all of the drink mix to dissolve when using the proper amount of water. Chunks of powder in the drink aside, this makes for a fairly potent beverage! The Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix, when mixed up, makes a dark brown liquid that is opaque, like coffee with creamer or hot cocoa.

Taste

The Mocha smells fairly potently of chocolate. There is almost no coffee scent in the bouquet of this coffee beverage. Indeed, this smells more like a cup of hot cocoa than a coffee drink.

In the mouth, the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix tastes strongly of dark chocolate. The initial chocolate flavor of the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix continues with a dry flavor indicative of dark chocolate flavoring. The drink lacks both the bitterness and the flavoring of roasted coffee beans. Instead, this is flavored much like a hot cocoa than a mocha flavored coffee beverage.

The Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix leaves a surprisingly sweet and chocolatey aftertaste that endures in the mouth for several minutes after the last of the beverage is consumes.

Nutrition

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix is a coffee mix and therefore is entirely lacking in real nutritional value. There are 100 calories, 25 of which come from the 3 grams of fat in this drink. It seems like there is an undisclosed amount of caffeine in the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix, as one of the latter ingredients is "instant coffee," not instant decaffeinated coffee. In addition to nineteen grams of carbohydrates, there is a single gram of protein and 2% of the RDA of Iron.

Made primarily of sugar, nondairy creamer and cocoa, it is unsurprising that the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix is not very nutritious. Because it contains milk, this is not Vegan compliant and it is not marked as gluten free or kosher.

Storage/Cleanup

So long as one leaves the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix mix in its canister, it ought to stay usable. The canister I purchased on clearance today had an April 10, 2018 expiration dates, but it is hard to imagine what might make it go bad even after that. One assumes it will last quite a while and dissolve appropriately when one attempts to use it.

Cleanup for the Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix is very easy; if the product spills while dumping it into the mug, simply wipe it up or brush it up with a dry or damp cloth. If it has already been reconstituted with water into coffee, simply wipe it up. Light fabrics are likely to stain if this gets on them, in which case consult your fabric care guide to clean it up.

Overall

Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha Coffee Drink Mix is decent as a flavorful beverage, but mediocre as a beverage that that is supposed to have coffee flavoring to it.

For other Maxwell House coffees, please visit my reviews of:
Maxwell House Indulge Max Mocha + Salted Caramel Coffee Drink Mix
Intense Bold Coffee
South Pacific Blend

6/10

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

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, March 2, 2018

So Many Threads Put In Play Define "All The Comforts Of Home"


The Good: Decent performances, Good direction
The Bad: Storytelling/character issues, Obvious reversal, Packs a lot of disparate pieces in without a good sense of flow
The Basics: Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns with "All The Comforts Of Home," which has the team - and Deke - returned to their native time in an episode that sets up a lot of future plot events without being a particularly impressive episode on its own.


It is hard to sit down to the episode of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., "All The Comforts Of Home," without a sense of "how are the writers and producers going to screw this up now?" "All The Comforts Of Home" puts Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in a tremendously weird narrative position. The show is now at the start of the tangent timeline that was explored in the first ten episodes of the season and the season is progressing toward a point where it will, by necessity of being a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, undo itself. But the obvious time travel story is complicated by aspects that one has to wonder if the writers have actually considered, life for example there are now two Fitz's on Earth. Fitz has just returned from the future, but because he was left behind (took the long way around to get to the future) there is a version of Fitz native to the timeline who will be captured by the military. So, while one of the people who captured Fitz was set up to be the villain for the second half of the season, it seems like a stretch that she wouldn't be weirded out by the fact that Fitz is both captured and running around with the Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D..

"All The Comforts Of Home" follows "Past Life" (reviewed here!), which had the Agents in the room with the portal that was there to return them to the past. Yo-Yo also learned that Coulson is dying and hinted that the attempt to save him was, at least in part, what led to the destruction of the Earth.

Opening with Hale, the officer who has Fitz in custody, reprimanding her daughter, Ruby, Hale is given hard questions about her nature. The S.H.I.E.L.D. agents return to the past, where videos of General Stone detail exactly what The Lighthouse is. In the basement of The Lighthouse, the Agents discover three Monoliths and they are greeted by Noah, another Chronocom. When the light that foretold the destruction of Earth appears in Milwaukee, the team - less Daisy - go to investigate it. But, while they are out, Deke appears from the future. Deke visits a bar, where he experiences the joys of Zima and hamburgers, but is frustrated when he is asked to pay and is too drunk to run away from his problem.

Fitz determines that the light is actually being sent from Earth and it is the same frequency as the beacon Hive used to lure the Kree to Earth! After the team finds their cloaked Zephyr, Rodriguez is thrown by her experiences in the future. When Deke sets off an alert Johnson has set up, Johnson feels like she must rescue him. At the facility in Milwaukee, the Agents find Agent Piper trying to disarm the beacon. The beacon is deactivated, but when that happens, Piper turns on the team and a heavily-armed kill squad arrives. Their leader, a masked woman, uses a vicious thrown weapon to slice off Yo-Yo's arms. And, despite the paperwork, Daisy is able to liberate Deke and help get the Zephyr to a safe house.

"All The Comforts Of Home" introduces a new Chronocom, which is cool, but when Deke arrives and Johnson finds out, it is a mystery as to how. Given that Johnson has no reasonable belief that Deke could show up from the future, how the alert would include him seems impossible. That sense of impossibility is increased by the fact that Johnson has a picture of Deke that is brought up as part of her alert - she did not have any pictures that could have been matched by the terms of her alert. But the solution to her problem, Deke being in play in the past and getting arrested, shows a troublesome resolution. Rather than Johnson going into the field, she could have sent the Enoch who would be native to this time. In other words, there is no reason for Johnson to go somewhere she might be recognized when there is someone who is not affiliated with S.H.I.E.L.D. who could run the errand for her.

The acting and direction in "All The Comforts Of Home" are fine, but the episode is pretty mediocre. Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. does not belabor the mystery of the masked woman, which is refreshing, but given how there were only two new characters (essentially) introduced in "All The Comforts Of Home," her identity is hardly a surprise. As predicted, General Hale is the season's new Big Bad, but "All The Comforts Of Home" has her motivations muddied by as plotline that includes her assembling a team of super-villains.

"All The Comforts Of Home" continues to hint at Coulson's medical issues without revealing it to the team, which is made frustrating given that Simmons makes a reasonable request when she asks to give all of the members of a team physicals. Beyond that, "All The Comforts Of Home" seems only to serve to give an ironic payoff to the future Rodriguez's line about holding onto Mack while she can. That payoff is momentarily amusing, but it increases the suspension of disbelief that Yo-Yo would not reveal what she knows about Coulson now to ridiculously high levels and the resolution to her current ailment can pretty easily be reasoned out given the scenes that showed her future self during the fall of Earth.

While Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. has had a way of pulling out its seasons and the extraordinary plots in interesting ways, if "All The Comforts Of Home" is any indication, it might be harder this season to do!

3.5/10

For other elements of the MCU, please check out my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for a comprehensive listing!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

February 2018 End Of The Month Report

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February was a big month for the blog with the return of a lot of popular television shows and the end of the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. The DC Television Universe was a mainstay of our reviews, but it was no surprise tha the big review of the month was from a new Netflix show!

We are adapting the Amazon product links as we reference old reviews now. Most of the links have been properly converted and the reviews now have the right products associated with them. We appreciate our readers sticking with us through Amazon reconfiguring, which is likely to continue to be ongoing for a bit longer!

This month, we picked up two new followers on Twitter, but no new subscribers! We are always trying to get people to become regular readers and subscribe, so if you enjoy what you're reading on the blog, please subscribe by clicking on the right side of the blog to get updates with each posting. As well, if you read a review that really affects you, be sure to "share" it! PLEASE share a link to the blog, not the content of the article; this keeps people coming to the site and, hopefully, liking what they find once they are here! We're slowly growing our readership, so sharing and subscribing to the blog is an important way you can help! If you’re subscribing, please tell your friends about the blog!

In February, we updated the index pages every few days and remembered to upload the changes, so the index pages continue to be a useful tool to our readers! The primary Index Page, is usually updated daily and lets you know what the featured review is and has an up-to-the-day tally of how many reviews have been reviewed in each category! Check it out and feel free to use that as it is a much more useful and organized index to the reviews I've written!

If you enjoy the reviews, please consider clicking on the links in the reviews and purchasing items. We really appreciate all the purchases made through the blog as that keeps us going. As tax returns begin, if you're going shopping online, please come through the blog to to it. Thank you so much!

At the end of February 2018, I have reviewed the following:
591 - Book Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Fiction
Star Trek Books
Nonfiction
Graphic Novels
Magazines
960 - Music (Album and Singles) Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Music Reviews By Rating (Best To Worst)
Music Reviews In Alphabetical Order
3431- - 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!)!
241 - 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
951 - 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
1112 - Food, Drink, And Restaurant Reviews
with specialized index pages for:
Drinks
Candy
Cereal
Cheese and Meats
Ice Cream
Other Food
293 - Pet Product Reviews
Cat Product Reviews
Dog Product Reviews
Rabbit Product Reviews
116 - Travel Reviews
Destinations Reviews
Hotels Reviews
235 - Health And Beauty Product Reviews
218 - Home, Garden, Appliance and Tool Reviews
110 - Electronics, Computers, Computer Games and Software Reviews
62 - Other Product Reviews

The Featured Review For The Month of February is my review of: The Good Place Season 2!
Check it out!


The month of February was packed with new, highly-read reviews, especially for new television works, with some interesting hits from legacy reviews! For February, the Top Ten Reviews of the month were:
10. "Will You Take My Hand?" - Star Trek: Discovery
9. Cello Whisps Cheddar Cheese Crisps
8. "True Colors" - The Flash
7. Loacker White Wafer Cookies
6. "The War Without, The War Within" - Star Trek: Discovery
5. Travellers - Season 1
4. ChocoMe Dark Chocolate With Ground Cocoa Beans, Freeze-Dried Sour Cherry Pieces, and Freeze-Fried Strawberry Pieces chocolate bars
3. "Past Life" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
2. The End Of The F***ing World - Season 1
1. Altered Carbon - Season 1

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

For my reviews, the current count is:
10s - 344 reviews
9s - 648 reviews
8s - 1049 reviews
7s - 1155 reviews
6s - 1079 reviews
5s - 1376 reviews
4s - 1029 reviews
3s - 805 reviews
2s - 399 reviews
1s - 262 reviews
0s - 134 reviews
No rating - 147 articles/postings

There was a decent amount of movement this month, but no new additions to the all time Top Ten Reviews! At the end of January 2018, the most popular reviews/articles are:
10. Oz The Great And Powerful
9. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bone
8. Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
7. Warm Bodies
6. Iron Man 3
5. Now You See Me
4. Tyler Perry's Temptation
3. The Burden Of Being Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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!

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

"Subject 9" Hits Highs Before Settling For "Ho-Hum."


The Good: Moments of continuity, Most of the special effects and humor work.
The Bad: Obvious plot progression, Mediocre performances
The Basics: "Subject 9" starts The Flash out with an intriguing new metahuman before settling into the familiar.


The fourth season of The Flash has finally come into focus. While DeVoe was instantly the season's adversary, the show has meandered into the S.T.A.R. Labs team figuring out what DeVoe is up to. But, as "Subject 9" begins, DeVoe's general plan - to absorb the metahuman abilities from the metahumans he created - has become apparent to both the viewers and the characters within The Flash. "Subject 9" also opens with Ralph Dibny at an intriguing narrative juncture; recognizing that DeVoe is coming after the others like him, he starts the episode knowing he has a target painted on his back.

"Subject 9" was preceded by"True Colors" (reviewed here!) and found Barry Allen being exonerated for the murder of DeVoe - thanks to Dibny discovering a newfound ability; using his stretching skin to shape-change. Allen's successful appeal came following DeVoe making a rather bold move with the metahumans he had created and the murder of Warden Wolf at the hands of DeVoe. The seeds have been well-planted for Marlize DeVoe to switch sides; it remains to be seen how long she will hold out before betraying her husband.

Barry Allen returns to work where he gets a surprisingly cold reception. Captain Singh asks that Barry take a leave of absence to help restore faith in the Central City Police Department. The new Mayor wants to prove that DeVoe is still alive, but while relieved of duty, the S.T.A.R. Labs team closes rank on Ralph Dibny and they renew their search for the other bus metas. Dibny visits the bus depot's lost and found and discover that Izzy Bowin was one of the people turned into a metahuman through the bus accident. While visiting Bowin at a gig, Dibny and Allen are surveilled by the DeVoes. When Bowin resists their help, she reveals her power: the ability to manipulate sound waves.

After DeVoe reveals herself to Bowin while the Flash team is trying to convince her of the threat to her life, the S.T.A.R. Labs team decides to try to train her to be a part of the team. Bowin wants nothing to do with them, but Dibny actually changes her mind. Horton rails against Wells's new device while Bowin is trained at S.T.A.R. Labs. When The Flash steps in with the training, Bowin gets hurt. After bringing the new dampener to Horton, Wells and Horton try to strike up a friendship when Wells has an important epiphany about the nature of the device he built for her. Believing she can take DeVoe on herself, Bowin leaves S.T.A.R. Labs.

"Subject 9" makes Ralph Dibny surprisingly important. Dibny helps find Bowin and he is integral to convincing her to stay with the S.T.A.R. Labs team. Dibny is willing to be tested upon so that Bowin can develop her abilities and that is a nice twist for him; being suddenly useful.

Attentive viewers will recognize the moment it is brought up that "Subject 9" has the season's resolution within it. In the third season, when DeVoe was being teased as the fourth season's adversary, Savitar mentions the weapon used to defeat DeVoe. In "Subject 9," Horton turns to Wells for help with dampening Joe West's thoughts . . . which seems like exactly what the crew needs to adapt in order to stop DeVoe. So when the silent epiphany comes, attentive viewers are well-prepared for it. In fact, it is hard to believe that it takes so long for the S.T.A.R. Labs team to develop the cerebral inhibitor . . . considering they had a similar device already in play to protect Barry from the psychic attacks of Gorilla Grodd.

The climax of "Subject 9" is incredibly frustrating. The physics of the final scene make no reasonable sense; there is a force field (apparently) and The Flash doesn't even try to vibrate through it. Or go around it. As a result, the move by DeVoe feels ultimately forced for the plot, as opposed to a sensible development based on characters' actions.

Harrison Wells returns to the narrative in a way that continues to illustrate that the writers have not figured out how to write for him now. Tom Cavanaugh is good - though he does smirk through one moment where he is supposed to be performing exasperation - but the character has been a bit aimless this season. Fortunately, Cavanaugh's final scene in the episode is well-executed and bucks the trend of adult characters being almost exclusively under thirty. Cavanaugh and Danielle Nicolet have good on-screen chemistry for their scenes.

In the end, "Subject 9" leaves the viewer with something of a ho-hum feeling. The plot moves into the inevitable territory fans knew it would, but it still feels more formulaic than it is fresh. The cast - save Hartley Sawyer - seem to be simply going through the motions and "Subject 9" feels more like a filler than a thriller episode.

4/10

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

© 2018 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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