Saturday, June 24, 2017

"World Enough And Time" Begins Capaldi's Final Arc Exceptionally Well!

The Good: Very well-plotted, Decent acting, Good effects and direction
The Bad: Light on theme
The Basics: "World Enough And Time" opens the final arc of Peter Capaldi as The Doctor by killing Bill . . . only to resurrect her in a new form of danger!

As Peter Capaldi's tenure on Doctor Who rushes towards its end, there is something ironic about the resurgence of Missy in the narrative. Missy is the latest incarnation of The Master and replaced the John Simm version of the character. Simm played The Master during the final arc of Russell T. Davies's run of Doctor Who before Steven Moffat took over as showrunner. So, with Moffat's run winding down, there is something ironic about both Missy and The Master, as portrayed by John Simm, returning to the narrative in "World Enough And Time."

"World Enough And Time" follows on the events of "The Eaters Of Light" (reviewed here!), which put Missy on the TARDIS in the role of Chief Engineer. While Nardole and Bill do not trust Missy, The Doctor has decided to take a chance on her and he is working actively on rehabilitating her. "World Enough And Time" is a proper Missy mission for Doctor Who.

Opening with The Doctor, with much longer hair, landing the TARDIS in an ice field, then coming out to collapse into regeneration, "World Enough And Time" flashes back. The TARDIS lands on a four mile long colony ship that is holding station near the mouth of a black hole. Bill and Nardole accompany Missy out of the TARDIS; The Doctor has Missy on a test run for being decent and not killing. Unfortunately, no sooner has the team stepped onto the colony ship's command center than they are addressed by someone elsewhere on the ship and a moment later, a blue man appears on the bridge. The alien holds Missy and her Companions at gunpoint and demands to know which of the group is a human. When Bill admits that it is her, The Doctor rushes out of the TARDIS to try to defuse the situation. Unfortunately, the alien shoots Bill and kills her.

Moments later, the lifts arrive on the bridge and mysteriously-wrapped humanoids come for Bill. They claim to be able to fix Bill and before they can be stopped, they take Bill's corpse away to the furthest reaches of the colony ship. There, Bill wakes up with a mechanical heart in her chest and she is told by the roguish Mr. Razor that she has been recovering there for weeks. While Bill explores the mysterious hospital and the polluted world of the bottom of the colony ship, horrified to discover humans are being altered in a hideous conversion to evolve them to survive the trip to higher levels. Meanwhile, The Doctor, Missy and Nardole figure out how the colony ship is experiencing time dilation and they prepare to make a journey to rescue Bill.

"World Enough And Time" is a set-up episode and it puts a big burden on the next episode, though it is astonishingly good in and of itself. In fact, the issues "World Enough And Time" has in the larger continuity of Doctor Who need not be addressed in this episode given that they work to place the important characters in the story, as opposed to trying to place the episode in the larger continuity. That said, "World Enough And Time" starts as a lively Missy episode and they quickly turns into a Bill episode whereby she is put into an increasingly dangerous situation and she comes to understand the nature of the setting that The Doctor and his team are walking into.

Missy reaches the logical point in her season-long character arc as The Doctor takes a chance on her redemption and the idea that Missy has spent more than a thousand years in isolation make her fuzzy memory in the episode work. "World Enough And Time" marks the return of the familiar and delightful Missy; she is crazy, witty and fun to watch for almost her entire time on screen.

Bill, sadly, is killed early in the episode and the mechanical method of her return is well-foreshadowed even for those who did not have the revelation spoiled by the episode preview last week. Bill waits and waits for The Doctor while she slowly comes to understand how the people on level 1056 are dying and just what Conversion is. It is a slow descent into horror for Bill's character and it is hard not to feel bad for the brief Companion when she is shot clear through her chest. The viewer easily feels worse for her by the episode's end, though in this way the larger continuity of Steven Moffat's tenure of Doctor Who becomes a little bit of an issue; Moffat created a virtually identical reveal for Bill's fate at the climax of his first real Missy episode.

"World Enough And Time" takes time to explain the gravitational physics of time - though the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Blink Of An Eye" (reviewed here!) did something very similar - near the black hole and that keeps The Doctor and his team out of much of the narrative. Instead, this is very much Bill's episode as she gets to know Mr. Razor, who seems quirky and like a weird lifeline for The Doctor's Companion.

"World Enough And Time" is well-directed and clever, even if it is light on any sort of themes. The episode is plot-heavy and works on multiple character revelations, but it is insular within Doctor Who; it is not making any form of larger statement, which is a hallmark of great science fiction. But for the first time in a long time, Doctor Who delivers a truly solid and truly great episode, even if it is somewhat limited to being essential only to fans of the series itself.

For other works with John Simm, please check out my reviews of:
"The Sound Of Drums"
"Last Of The Time Lords"
"The End Of Time, Part 1"
"The End Of Time, Part 2"


For other Doctor Who episode and season reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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How Did Real Chocolate Make Them Less-Than?! Peeps Delights Chocolate Mousse Candies!

The Good: Good taste, Great scent, The milk chocolate is flavorful
The Bad: Comparatively expensive, Marshmallow is virtually unflavored
The Basics: Peeps Chocolate Mousse Delights marshmallow candies are all right, but not exceptional.

My wife stocked me up recently on a wide variety of all sorts of flavors of Peeps candies, despite the fact that original Peeps (reviewed here!) have never truly been a staple around our house. Ironically, a long time ago, I reviewed Chocolate Mousse Peeps (reviewed here!), so when I sat down to review the Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps, I had a reasonable hope that the newer Peeps would be a step up, perhaps even achieving perfection for Just Born Peeps. Unfortunately, it seems like the recipe was changed in the years in between or the real chocolate of the Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps completely overwhelms the flavoring within the marshmallow to make it a far more average confection than an extraordinary one.


Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are a marshmallow candy that were introduced in 2017 during the Easter Season. Thus far, they are a pack of three Chocolate Mousse Peeps chicks with about 1/8" milk chocolate coating the underside of the chick. These are not coated in milk chocolate all the way around and they were produced exclusively by Just Born. The three pack of Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps tended to run $1.99 - $2.99, which is a bit more than the average price of a four-pack of the regular Peeps.

Each Chocolate Mousse Delights Peep is almost two inches long by 3/4" wide by 3/4" tall and they are sugar-coated marshmallow candies with a very thin milk chocolate shell on the underside.

Ease Of Preparation

Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are simple to prepare. Simply unwrap the plastic around the tray and pull each one out. Each of the Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps is contained within its own plastic tray. Unlike the regular Peeps, the Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps tend not to have their sugar fall off. As a result, they seem to be more clean and easy to eat; simply remove it from the package and consume!


Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps smell delightfully of chocolate and the chocolate aroma is strong and distinct. The bouquet is very accurate to the smell of milk chocolate mousse.

On the flavor front, the Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are entirely dominated by the milk chocolate on the bottom of the Peeps. The Chocolate Mousse flavor taste is incredibly mild. In fact, the marshmallow portion of the Peeps tastes almost entirely of generic marshmallow. The mousse flavor does not carry through the marshmallow flavoring, but the chocolate on the bottom makes it a fairly well-flavored Peeps Delight candy.

The Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps have a strong chocolate aftertaste that dissipates a few moments after the last Peep is eaten.


Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are a candy, not a health food packed with nutritional benefits. The three Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps in a package are a single serving. A serving has 160 calories, thirty of which are from fat. Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps have two grams of saturated fat, which is 11% of one's RDA of saturated fat. There are 15 mg of sodium and 1 gram of protein in each three Peep serving. There are no vitamins or other nutritional benefits to Peeps, outside 2% of one's RDA of Iron and Calcium.

The main ingredients in Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are sugar, milk chocolate and corn syrup. Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are gluten free, but are not Vegan compliant considering there is gelatin, milk fat and carnauba wax. There is nothing overly unfamiliar in the ingredient list, so these are not the worst candies ever on the nutrition front.


Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are easy enough to store. The Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps my wife picked up last month had an expiration date of November 2017, so keeping them at room temperature or below seems to keep them fresh for a long period of time.

Clean-up is as easy, unless the milk chocolate melts onto something. Because the sugar does not seem inclined to fall off, truly the melting milk chocolate - or the melting Peep - is the only real worry. Like the preparation, there is nothing hard about storing or cleaning up after this candy. The milk chocolate, though, does seem susceptible to melting.


Chocolate Mousse Delights Peeps are all right, but they do not pop the way I would have hoped coming in.

For other Peeps candy reviews, please check out:
Blueberry Delights Peeps
Chocolate Creme Peeps
Candy Cane Dipped In Chocolate Peeps


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Mainstream Fetish: The Misogyny Of Sucker Punch [Review This Again]

The Good: Moments of direction, One or two performances
The Bad: Problematic plot, Constantly unsettling tone, Lack of distinct or intriguing characters, Most of the acting, Poor editing, Unrelenting misogyny in the writing
The Basics: Sucker Punch twists a disturbing creepy setting and a horrible personal tragedy into a masturbatory visual fantasy that falls utterly flat.

[There is a big meme in the art community going around now called "Draw This Again." In the meme, artists illustrate how they have grown in their chosen medium by putting side-by-side pictures of art they created in the past and now. My wife had the great idea that I should do something similar with my reviewing. So, for 2017, I will be posting occasional "Review This Again" reviews, where I revisit subjects I had previously reviewed and review them again, through a lens of increased age, more experience, and - for some - greater familiarity with the subject. This review is one such review, where I am re-experiencing Sucker Punch after many years, devoid of the hype that surrounded the movie and with more experience as both a reviewer and one who has seen more works by co-writer and director Zack Snyder. The film was originally reviewed here!]

My wife and I recently began watching the television series American Gods and it did not take long into the series before I found myself looking at actress Emily Browning, who plays Laura Moon in American Gods, and thinking that she looked somewhat familiar. The "somewhat" became clear the moment I realized that she was the same actress who played the lead in Sucker Punch; with only six or seven years between the first season of American Gods and Sucker Punch, Emily Browning's appearance did not significantly change. Instead, the reason it took me so long to identify the actress on American Gods was that she had more than three expressions on the television show. In Sucker Punch, Emily Browning's performance is unfortunately limited to staring blankly, expressing anguish, and screaming defiantly.

Sucker Punch is one of those films I recall being very excited about, swept up at the time in the promotions for it, and then incredibly disappointed by it when I rushed out to see it in the theater. My enthusiasm for the film was originally sparked by how much I enjoyed Zack Snyder's cinematic rendition of Watchmen (reviewed here!), but when I watched Sucker Punch, I recalled only feeling like it was a half-assed rewrite of Brazil (reviewed here!). But, seeing Emily Browning episode after episode on American Gods, I felt like perhaps I had misjudged Sucker Punch and I decided to watch Sucker Punch again.

I was wrong about Sucker Punch in my initial assessment.

Sucker Punch is worse than it initially appeared; on many levels. I have often been called a tough reviewer, one who is much harsher in evaluating films than many other reviewers. When it came to Sucker Punch, though, I quickly discovered in watching the movie again that I was not nearly stringent enough in my standards.

Watching Sucker Punch again, this time on a smaller screen, the film's flaws are far more glaring. While the movie initially appeared to be visually-spectacular, one of the things that caught me in watching Sucker Punch again was how unfortunately choppy much of the editing was. Given that I alternated between utterly bored by and appropriately horrified by the story, the fact that Sucker Punch cannot be relied upon to be considered even a visual masterpiece made the film an utter disappointment.

Sucker Punch is a film that attempts to be clever, but quickly degenerates into visual garbage. The movie focuses on a young woman who is not even given a proper name in the film. "Babydoll" is only given that name when she is committed to an insane asylum, as part of her fantasy sequence where she tries to escape the horrors of her new reality. Sucker Punch opens with Babydoll's mother dying, her step father getting custody of her and her sister and her mother's will granting everything to Babydoll and her sister. When their step father advances upon Babydoll to rape her, she resists, but in barricading herself away from him, she leaves her sister vulnerable to his attack. While the stepfather assaults her sister, Babydoll recovers his gun and breaks into her sister's room. There, she tries to kill her stepfather, but accidentally kills her sister. Babydoll is in shock when her stepfather has her committed to an insane asylum in Vermont where he bribes the orderly, Blue Jones, to have Babydoll lobotomized.

Five days into her stay in the asylum, Babydoll is set to be lobotomized against her will. And attentive viewers will notice that the film is pretty much over at that point. What follows this opening set-up is Babydoll having fantasies of the asylum being a very different place and within that dream, she imagines escape fantasies involving herself and four other inmates of the asylum.

Sucker Punch is a dark set up for absolute narrative garbage. The entire film is established as a cheap reversal flick where only the least-observant audience will notice that the narrator completely shifts as Babydoll transitions from the lobotomy chair to the stage within a brothel nightclub. The thing is, as unsophisticated as that is, Sucker Punch becomes even more clumsy as it nears its climax. One of the other patients at the asylum, Sweet Pea, becomes the film's protagonist in the film's final moments and that makes Sucker Punch one giant narrative tense slip, where its characters and dreams within a dream make no rational sense.

Co-writer Zack Snyder hopes viewers will not notice that the film does not make rational sense as Babydoll is given the role of apparent protagonist when she is constantly a victim and damsel in distress . . . always bailed out by men. For sure, Babydoll and her comrades have grand fantasy sequences where they slaughter steampunk zombies, orcs, dragons, samurai warriors, and twisted men, but it is hard to ignore two things: 1. those sequences are supposed to be analogies for training as the young women learn to work together and fight alongside each other (which makes no sense because in the fantasies, they are entirely proficient in every way) and 2. the sequences are fantasies for Babydoll escaping her reality . . . which is supposed to be her dancing in such a sexy and seductive way and objectifying herself that it distracts all of the men around her.

One of the fundamental issues with Sucker Punch is that it acknowledges its own sickness early on, but does nothing to fix it. Sweet Pea's proper introduction to Sucker Punch is the young woman, playing Babydoll in a play, rejecting the premise of sexualizing a lobotomy victim. Sweet Pea wants better material than a rape fantasy to portray and that is, sadly, the last moment where a woman is given an opportunity in Sucker Punch to stand up for herself and stand up against the patriarchy in a coherent way.

So, what follows are five chicks running around in short skirts, dancewear, tight tops, underwear, stockings, Hot Topic fetishwear, etc. shooting guns, running, and swinging swords when they are not in a more mundane fantasy where they are being constantly assaulted, exploited or menaced by men within the asylum/club.

The real peak of suckitude (it's hard to take Sucker Punch seriously, much less evaluating it like it deserves a high level of diction to deconstruct) is that with the writing being so terrible, only two performers are truly allowed to break out and show genuine range . . . and they are both men. Sucker Punch might have ass-kicking women on screen, but the female characters are monolithic and hard to empathize with. To be clear, it is easy to be horrified by Babydoll's abuse and her accidental killing of her sister. But that's over in the first ten minutes and the rest of the movie has Emily Browning running around wearing very little, performing with a blank expression for Zack Snyder's elaborate rape fantasy. Browning, Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung are given surprisingly little to do as the female characters other than cosplay and run around.

So, it is somewhat surprising when Oscar Isaac and Scott Glenn steal Sucker Punch. Glenn plays the sensei character who actually has a chance to smile in his final scene and play (no matter how nonsensical the leap is) a character who is genuinely good in a dark mess of a film. At the other end of the spectrum is Oscar Isaac. Isaac portrays Blue Jones with constant menace and a skeevie quality that is unsettling to watch. There is not a hint of the jubilation he portrayed as Poe Dameron in The Force Awakens (reviewed here!) or his innate charisma. Instead, Isaac is a thoroughly despicable villain in Sucker Punch and he rides the tone of constant menace and misogynistic malice from beginning to end.

Ultimately, Sucker Punch is a mess and on the small screen, it becomes even more obvious how bad the film's content actually is. The sound for Sucker Punch cranks up the music and plummets for the dialogue. Sadly, even if one watches Sucker Punch with the volume muted, it is no better a film. Sucker Punch could be called "empowering to women" only as tongue in cheek; Sweet Pea nails it early on - Sucker Punch is a sick fantasy wherein young women at their most vulnerable are subjugated, robbed of their identity and ultimately given an entirely irrational narrative in place of an authentic story.

For other works with Jamie Chung, please check out my reviews of:
Flock Of Dudes
Big Hero 6
The Hangover Part III
The Hangover Part II
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, June 23, 2017

Weak And Less-Distinct, Trading Phrases Chocolate Toffee Tea Is Not Bad!

The Good: Good ingredients, Nicely caffeinated
The Bad: Weak, Generic tea flavor, Comparatively expensive
The Basics: Trading Phrases Chocolate Toffee tea is momentarily intriguing, but the execution of the idea is not borne out by the flavor.

When my wife picked up some Trading Phrases Chocolate Toffee Tea, we both thought that it would be a slam-dunk for me. I love chocolate and I've had some good chocolate flavored teas. So, when I brewed up some of the new Chocolate Toffee Tea, I was pretty psyched. Unfortunately, the Trading Phrases attempt at the flavors does not live up in a satisfying way to its promise.


Chocolate Toffee Tea is a black tea from Trading Phrases. This is a tea blend that is a black tea with a bunch of additives to it, though it is mostly natural. The Trading Phrases Chocolate Toffee is a loose-leaf tea.

Ease Of Preparation

As a tea, Chocolate Toffee 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 my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, though the tea leaves cannot be reused for a second brewing.

To prepare Chocolate Toffee tea, bring a pot of water to 212 degrees (Fahrenheit) and pour it over the tea leaves (once they are in the steeping chamber). This tea takes three minutes to steep according to the directions. In my experience, it gets no stronger after three minutes, which is a little disappointing because this was a fairly weak-flavored tea.


The Trading Phrases Chocolate Toffee tea has a fairly mild and sweet aroma to it. The smell of sweet, buttery toffee blends nicely with the aroma of black tea. There is nothing in the scent that even hints at chocolate.

On the tongue, the Chocolate Toffee tea tastes dry and slightly sweet. The flavor is mostly black tea, though it has a dry sweetness to it, reminiscent of sweetened chocolate. The flavor has no real taste of toffee to it - there is nothing buttery in its flavor - the chocolate barely holds its own against the black tea. As a result, this is a mostly tea-flavored tea with hints of dry cocoa to it.

The Trading Phrases Chocolate Toffee tea has a temporarily dry aftertaste to it.


The ingredients to this tea are more diverse than many other teas, but the dominant ingredients are: black tea, cocoa beans, and toffee bits. 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, if one adds it), no fat, sodium, or protein. This is, however, a caffeinated tea and it packs a bit of a caffeine kick to it!


Chocolate Toffee 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 brown if it is left there for days on end, but otherwise may be cleaned up easily by rinsing out whatever it is brewed in.

Chocolate Toffee is a fairly dark 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.


Trading Phrases Chocolate Toffee is a mediocre tea that is not rich in a true, promised, flavor, but it is not a bad flavored tea, making it a tougher sell than it ought to have been.

For other tea reviews, please check out:
Celestial Seasonings Jammin’ Lemon Ginger Tea
Stash Christmas Eve tea
Oregon Chai Dreamscape Herbal Chai Tea


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Women Can Be Just As Stupid At Men: The Gospel Of Rough Night.

The Good: Good initial characterizations, Decent performances
The Bad: Not at all funny, Mediocre direction, No big performance moments, Lousy characters
The Basics: Rough Night very quickly illustrates that women can make a movie as terrible as an comedy focused on idiotic men.

When it comes to summer comedies, it is a rare thing for major studios to bother with chasing the female demographic. Come to think of it, Summer Blockbuster Season seldom bothers with women, so when Rough Night was announced, I was actually intrigued. Scarlett Johansson has a tendency to pick good projects, so despite the initial plot of Rough Night sounding like something I would not be inherently drawn toward, I had some faith in it based upon Johansson participating in it. Sadly, Rough Night is one of Scarlett Johansson's big misses on the big screen and it is such a bad film that it is almost enough to make viewers believe that there is an organized conspiracy in the entertainment industry against women. The business of making movies is a business and if movies focused on women, featuring women fail at the box office, it makes a business argument against making films with women for women. So, if there ever were a conspiracy designed to rig the filmmaking business against women, movies like Rough Night would be at the heart of such a plan.

Rough Night is a d-rate rewrite of The Hangover (reviewed here!) with a predominately female cast. Sadly, Rough Night seems significant mostly for the idea that women can make movies that are just as horrible as anything a man can make. This is, sadly, not a milestone one would suspect women would be striving to achieve, but Rough Night reaches for that brass ring and never lets go of it. Unlike something like The Hangover, that managed to be a surprisingly funny and clever summer comedy, Rough Night burns its funniest moment out in the first five minutes and then falls flat for the remaining hour and thirty-six minutes.

In 2006, Jess, Alice, Blair and Frankie are dormmates, where Alice manages to be the first woman to win beer pong against one of the fraternities. Ten years later, Jess is running for the Senate and is planning to get married. Alice reunites the quartet in Miami for Jess's bachelorette party, which she has planned out as a rowdy weekend. Jess's biggest campaign donor loans her a beach house in Miami, made almost entirely of glass, and Alice is irked when Jess's Australian friend Pippa joins the bachelorette party. When Jess wants to poop out for the night, Frankie supplies the women with cocaine, which they do before going out for the night. Returning to the beach house, the women are thrilled when the stripper Frankie found on Craig's List arrives. Unfortunately, when Alice lustily leaps upon the stripper, she knocks him over, killing him.

Freaked out because they were high at the time and do not believe they can go to the authorities with the dead body in the house or dispose of it well (whatwith anyone being able to see in), the women fight over what to do next. When they decide to dump the body in the ocean, the swinging neighbors become an issue. While Blair takes on the neighbors, the others try to dispose of the corpse. But things get even more complicated when a stripper arrives and the nature of the man who was killed comes into question.

Rough Night is not particularly funny, the funniest joke actually comes up early and is related to Jess's political career, more than any of the issues that follow during the bachelorette weekend. At the core of the problems with Rough Night is that the characters are all monotonal and the plot motivates the decisions made in the film more than the characters. Jess is well-established as an aspiring politician, Frankie is a political activist, and Blair is nearing the end of a rough custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband. But Frankie has a pretty massive supply of cocaine and betrays her NSA-loathing values by owning a cell phone, Jess is incredibly willing to do cocaine and seems to trust that none of the weekend's activities might make it to social media and ruin her campaign, and none of Blair's friends know that she is getting divorced (which is one of only two elements of characterizations he is given). In other words, the characters are established, but then they act entirely against their initial characterization; they are not growing and developing in the course of Rough Night, their characterizations is simply betrayed.

With much of the humor in Rough Night falling flat and the characters not being particularly well-defined, the predictable nature of the plot arc robs the movie of any lingering entertainment value. Rough Night plods to a pretty obvious end with much of what one expects coming to pass, like the loathing Alice has for Pippa getting resolved and the failed relationship between Blair and Frankie getting rekindled. The acting talents of Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell and Ty Burrell are completely wasted in Rough Night given that none of the main performers are given anything that truly stretches their range to do.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Rough Night is that the film degenerates into a familiar level of misogyny and violence against women that is pretty common in films that try to blend comedy and violence. One would think that in a comedy intended for women, with female protagonists, perhaps it would avoid scenes with women getting the crap kicked out of them or taken advantage of sexually, but Rough Night treads into the unfortunately banal, familiar, and stupid range that one expects of Summer Blockbuster Season comedies.

It's unfortunate that co-writer and director Lucia Aniello went for the lowbrow instead of the audacious for her big screen, Summer Blockbuster Season debut.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
The Mummy
Wonder Woman
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Alien: Covenant
Guardians Of The Galaxy, Volume 2


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Rare Disappointment From Suave: Suave Professionals Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner

The Good: Fairly priced
The Bad: Less effective than other Suave Professionals conditioners, Medicinal scent, Not cone-free (is that even still a thing?)
The Basics: Suave Professionals Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner is not at all the highlight of a usually good line.

After a bit of damage from a styling product, my hair is pretty much, finally, back to normal. As such, I've been more willing to experiment with hair care products once again. So, when my wife picked me up a bottle of Suave Professionals Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner, I thought nothing of starting to use it. Unfortunately, I did notice some mediocre results and on my experimental days with the conditioner - wherein I used only the Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner and no leave-in conditioner - I noticed my hair was less manageable and voluminous than the other days. In other words, on its own, Suave Professionals Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner is not strong or effective enough to satisfy consumers.

The Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage conditioner is a little more expensive than the average Suave conditioner and it is not cone free. The third ingredient in this conditioner ends in "-cone," so this product cannot be considered cone free. Given how the Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage conditioner appeared to do nothing noticeable or significant to the benefit of my hair, this is the first conditioner that might actually illustrate to me that "cones" are bad for one's hair care!

Suave has been expanding its line of inexpensive shampoos and conditioners into the professional haircare market where they are trying to compete with shampoos and conditioners from the likes of Pureology. With Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner, the brand takes a bit of a hit. In virtually every market in the United States, Suave Professionals shampoos and conditioners may be found on sale for $6.99 for a 28 fl. oz. bottle. The Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage conditioner has a strongly medicinal aroma to it. The 28 fl. oz. bottle is a flat tube bottle with a flip-top lid that is easy enough to open with one hand. While it gets slippery when wet, it is easy enough to hold onto because of the flattened sides.

Inside the bottles is Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage conditioner and it is a white colored cream, which resembles hand cream or body butter in its consistency. This conditioner is one of the thicker ones I have encountered it truly requires one to work it into the hair. It does not leave a scent on the hair; at least, I could find no scent in my hair ten minutes after my hair was dry.

When it comes to use, this is a simple conditioner and one need only flip the lid and dispense a small amount into the palm of the hand before applying it to the hair. The Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage conditioner requires a decent-sized dollop to condition a full head of hair. After one has cleaned their hair with a shampoo and rinsed it out, this may be applied to the hair. I have better than shoulder-length hair and it takes approximately a heaping half-dollar-sized blob of conditioner to make it stretch through my mane. Like most conditioners, this does not lather and instead it is applied to the hair and scalp almost like a butter.

In the case of the Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage conditioner, as I've noticed often with conditioners lately, there is about a three-to-one ratio to the shampoo because conditioners do not dilute out from lathering. As a result, the 28 oz. bottle may last only a few weeks with daily hair conditionings.

The Suave Professionals Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner did surprisingly little for my hair. Used without any other conditioning products, my hair became more dry, less-manageable and breakage increased. This was not an ideal hair conditioner.

Added to that, the Suave Professionals Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage Conditioner had a pretty terrible scent. The scent might not last on the hair very long, but the strongly medicinal smell was a big detraction while in the shower. The acrid, medicinal smell made me flinch the first time I used the conditioner it was so unpleasant.

It is rare when a product line is made up, entirely, of winning products. For Suave Professionals conditioners, the Natural Infusion with Awapuhi Ginger & Honeysuckle Anti-Breakage conditioner is definitely the loser of the line!

For other Suave conditioners, please check out my reviews of:
Suave Professionals Keratin Infusion Smoothing Conditioner
Suave Professionals Almond + Shea Butter Conditioner
Orchid Petal


For more haircare reviews, please check out my Health And Beauty Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

"The Return Part 7" Finally Gives Diane A Proper Twin Peaks Scene!

The Good: Good performances, Moments of character, Good special effects, Decent plot development
The Bad: Still a vast number of (so far) disconnected characters and events
The Basics: Twin Peaks develops well with "The Return Part 7" and finally rewards longtime fans with the proper appearance of Agent Cooper's boss, Diane, on screen!

As a fan of Twin Peaks (reviewed here!), I was very excited about the return of the series to television. The truth, however, has been that the show has developed as a very slow burn for the new season. On the plus side, Twin Peaks has evolved nicely to fit the current sensibilities of television, so despite having a long, divergent, beginning, the show is heavily-serialized and is being allowed to develop one long story over the course of the 18-episode season. As "The Return Part 7" begins, the show has finally begun to have some coherency and momentum as Agent Dale Cooper - within the body of Dougie Jones - slowly begins to acclimate to life on our mortal plane once again.

"The Return Part 7" follows on "The Return Part 6" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the new episode without some allusions to the prior episode. After all, the serialized plot includes a number of follow-ups, including the resurfacing of a very high Jerry Horne and the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department going through notes that Sheriff Hawk found in the Twin Peaks bathroom.

Jerry Horne is out in the woods, his car having been stolen, and he calls Benjamin Horne for help. Sheriff Hawk goes through the lost pages of Laura Palmer's diary that he found in the Sheriff Department's bathroom. Sheriff Frank Truman calls his brother, then contacts Dr. Heywood about the Palmer murder. Lieutenant Knox calls Colonel Davis after she sees the headless body in South Dakota . . . the one that appears to belong to Major Briggs. Knox is perplexed because the body is only forty years old, but Briggs was much older, even when he disappeared.

Gordon and Albert visit Diane, Agent Dale Cooper's former boss, after Albert strikes out with her. They reveal that Cooper is in a federal prison in South Dakota and extort her to go there with them. Tammy notes that the fingerprints take in South Dakota appear to be altered and that impresses Gordon. Diane interrogates Cooper, starting with asking him repeatedly about when they last saw one another. Diane recognizes that Cooper is not Agent Cooper and tells Gordon that. Locked up, Cooper tells the guard that he needs to speak to the Warden about a strawberry. Andy waits for a meeting he arranged, but returns to Twin Peaks where he finds that the man he was going to meet has been killed. And Warden Murphy meets with Cooper, privately in his office, where he extorts the Warden for a car, a friend, and a gun. The episode climaxes with Dougie being returned to the narrative at Lucky 7 Insurance, while Janey gets tired of waiting for him outside. The police visit Doug at work and share with him that his car has been destroyed and was part of an incident. Very early the next morning, Cooper makes it out of prison.

"The Return Part 7" does a good job of filling in some of the specific details of how Cooper acted right after the second season finale of Twin Peaks. The episode offers the first reference to Audrey Horne, who was in a coma after the bank explosion in the finale. Dr. Heywood's appearance on "The Return Part 7" is one of the more delightful bits of exposition in the new season and the Skype call between Truman and Heywood is actually surprisingly fun.

The journey of Agent Cooper is delightfully rendered when there is an assassination attempt on Doug Jones. The reactions of Jones are those of Agent Cooper and when he sees something from the Black Lodge during the attack, it plays well to connect him to Twin Peaks.

Fans of Twin Peaks are likely to be delighted by the proper on-screen introduction of Diane. Back in the original series, Cooper was always dictating to Diane, but she never appeared on-screen. Laura Dern's Diane is an excellent addition to the cast and she has a presence that makes her character's position seem entirely plausible.

"The Return Part 7" is refreshing in that Deputy Hawk seems to be entirely clued into the idea that Agent Cooper might not have been the one who left the Black Lodge twenty-five years prior. Hawk easily accepts the mystical aspects of the Black Lodge and Bob; he seems entirely willing to make the leap that Agent Cooper might not have been able to leave the Black Lodge. "The Return Part 7" is nice in that more characters seem to be willing to accept the extraordinary. Diane is used to confirm to Gordon that Cooper is not who he appears to be and Sheriff Truman seems open to accepting that Agent Cooper might have become possessed by Bob.

Benjamin Horne's part in "The Return Part 7" starts to make him vital to the new season, when he recognizes that the key shipped back to the Great Northern was from Agent Cooper's old room there. Horne is also part of a weird new mystery within the Great Northern that has him and his employee looking for a strange noise in the hotel. That is enough to remind viewers of the secret passages in the hotel.

"The Return Part 7" is a good point to mention one of the lingering issues with the way the new season of Twin Peaks is being handled. Twin Peaks had a pretty large cast that changed quite a bit over the two years it was on and was populated by a number of intriguing secondary characters. The new season has a plethora of new characters and the show is hampered some by simple volume: when Tom is introduced as Beverly's sickly husband, viewers are likely to sit trying to figure out if Tom was someone from the original Twin Peaks. In a similar vein, now that the Road House's bartender has been identified as a Renault, it is hard for fans not to do a double take - Jean was killed back in Twin Peaks and actor Michael Parks, like Miguel Ferrer, has since died. So, the return of the comparatively minor character of Jacques Renault, played still by Walter Olkewicz is worthy of a real double-take.

Ultimately, "The Return Part 7" does a good job of deepening the mystery surrounding Cooper in a way that starts to get a decent number of characters to the point most Twin Peaks fans have been for the past twenty-years. It is, however, very much, a small component in a much larger story.

For other works with Laura Dern, please visit my reviews of:
The Founder
The Master
Everything Must Go
I Am Sam
Jurassic Park


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Intriguing, But Without Either Flavor Breaking Out: Trader Joe's Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bars Are Good!

The Good: Wonderful flavor, Good size, Great ingredients
The Bad: Neither flavor pops, Packaging
The Basics: Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate bars are enjoyable, though for the price one tends to expect a more vibrant pairing of flavors.

For those who do not follow my reviews, I am a huge fan of chocolate mint, especially dark chocolate mint. So, when I visited Trader Joe's for the first time and stocked up on some new (to me) products, it was pretty obvious that I would go for the Trader Joe's Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar! The Trader Joe's Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar are an interesting blend of dark chocolate and minty white chocolate . . . though neither flavor truly explodes in the mouth, which was a bit of a surprise to me.


Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate bars are six inches long, two and a half inches wide and made up of eight squares. The entire bar comes wrapped in a simple white paper wrapper, with a plastic wrapper inside. The 2.82 oz. bar is a product of Ireland and was priced in-store at five dollars. This is competitively priced for similar quality products.

Ease Of Preparation

These are candy, so preparing them is as simple as opening the paper and plastic wrappers from around chocolate bar, breaking off a segment and consuming. The seams between the different segments make it exceptionally easy to break the bar apart and leave the rest of it intact. There is no grand secret to eating the Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate bar. I discovered, however, that the inner plastic wrap was not particularly well-sealed; so when I removed the bar from the outer cardboard wrapper, the bar fell out the back of the inner plastic wrap!


The Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate smells rich and chocolatey, with only a slight hint of mint in the aroma. The scent is strong, but does not deliver as much of the mint scent as one might anticipate; the chocolate scent is fairly potent and overwhelms the mint.

The Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar bars are sweet and chocolatey. The fairly dark flavor blends with the minty flavor so that both flavors are able to manifest surprisingly well. The chocolate is dark, but not overly dry; the mint flavor is not incredibly cooling or milky. As a result, the Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar is a good blend of both flavors, without either overwhelming the other.

Interestingly, the Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar does not have an overly strong or dry aftertaste. Instead, the sweetness of the balanced chocolate flavors result in no real aftertaste being left in the mouth.


These are candy, so they are not particularly healthy. Even so, the Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate bars are not nearly as bad on the nutrition front as they could be. The primary ingredients are white chocolate, dark chocolate and chocolate coated mint pieces. There is nothing unpronounable in these candies and that was very reassuring.

A serving of the Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate bar is considered half a bar. From one bar, one consumes in 210 calories, including 110 calories from the 12 grams of fat. There are only 10 mg cholesterol and 30 mg sodium (1% RDA) and each bar has 3 grams of protein. There is, surprisingly enough, 8% of one's daily Calcium in a bar, so that is nice.

These are not Vegan-compliant, nor are they recommended for anyone with a nut allergy as they have an allergy warning for milk, soy, wheat, egg and hazelnuts. They are not marked as kosher or gluten-free.


The bars of Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate remain fresh for quite some time. The ones I picked up last month had an expiration date of October 31, 2017. One assumes that if they are kept in a cool, dry environment they will not melt or go bad for quite some time. Given that they are plastic wrapped in a fairly sealed package, it is hard to imagine just what it would take for these to go bad outside melting and refreezing.

As for cleanup, simply throw away the paper and plastic from around the bar when you are done with the candy bar. 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 this chocolate bar melts into most fabrics, it will stain.


Trader Joe’s Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar chocolate bars are a muted flavor delight; not one that overwhelms with either flavor.

For other chocolate reviews, please check out:
Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Filled With Speculoos Cookie Spread
Ghirardelli Chocolate Squares Milk Chocolate Peppermint Brownie chocolate squares
Lindt Dark Pineapple chocolate bars


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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"The Eaters Of Light" Reminds Viewers How Doctor Who Can Be Fun!

The Good: Good development for Bill, Good ending, Decent performances
The Bad: Mediocre/Derivative CGI, Somewhat predictable plot development
The Basics: "The Eaters Of Light" is a fun episode of Doctor Who that does a generally good job of utilizing the characters currently in play.

There's something ballsy about the current season of Doctor Who. The show opened the new season with the announcements that the current season is the final one for Peter Capaldi as The Doctor and the disappointing aspect of that was that Capaldi's Doctor has been much maligned and much-misused. So, the idea that a new showrunner was taking over was a glimmer of hope for fans that perhaps Peter Capaldi's Doctor would be better-written and better-developed . . . but, as has become the habit, new executive producer, new Doctor. So, Peter Capaldi - great actor - is given the short straw on content for The Doctor and a severely limited challenge in that he has not had much material to rise to his talents. Similarly, Pearl Mackie's tenure as The Doctor's Companion Bill was quickly announced as a one-season character. These observations come at the outset of the review of "The Eaters Of Light" because the episode finally finds a pretty brilliant way to write The Doctor, Bill, Nardole and (even for her brief part) Missy. In other words, "The Eaters Of Light" is a bit of a "fuck you" to fans of Doctor Who; showing viewers the potential of Peter Capaldi's Doctor and the Companions unique to his tenure . . . a mere couple of episodes before they're all gone.

"The Eaters Of Light" follows upon and (eventually) references "Empress Of Mars" (reviewed here!) and is enough to remind fans of Doctor Who how excited they were about Peter Capaldi being announced as The Doctor. "The Eaters Of Light" is a pretty typical "invader from another dimension" episode of Doctor Who, but writer Rona Munro and director Charles Palmer manage to make it feel fairly fresh, even if it cops out in the first of the episode's two climaxes.

The Doctor, Nardole and Bill arrive in the 2nd Century, Scotland, where Bill is excited because there is a historical mystery in Cairn. The Ninth Legion of Roman soldiers abruptly disappeared and Bill believes something mysterious happened. The Doctor points out, when they arrive, that five thousand Roman soldiers retreating ought to be visible, from their landing point. When Bill goes in search of the Ninth Legion, The Doctor and Nardole head off in the opposite direction. Bill finds a Celt, who chases her and she falls down a hole, where she meets a Roman soldier. The soldier tells her that the Ninth Legion was wiped out by a monster and only the deserters survived.

The Doctor and Nardole, in the meantime, meet up with the local tribe, who informs them that the Romans have been wiped out by a creature and The Doctor visits the gate that the Celts are guarding. There, The Doctor identifies the invaders and recognizes that they will eat all of the Universe's light if they are able to break through. As the two communities meet again, The Doctor and Bill have to convince them to work to save the world.

Almost entirely disconnected from the rest of the episode is a final scene that involves Missy that works to set up the next episode of Doctor Who and it enhances the promise represented in "The Eaters Of Light." "The Eaters Of Light" develops Bill's character exceptionally well; Bill realizes that The Doctor or the TARDIS are responsible for how she can understand other languages when she encounters Romans and recognizes that she is understanding Latin as English and speaking English, while the Romans she speaks with hear Latin. Bill figures out what The Doctor usually explicitly has to tell his Companions, which is very cool.

In a similar fashion, The Doctor is written as witty, resourceful and a decent blend of crabby and clever in "The Eaters Of Light." Peter Capaldi rocks as The Doctor in a way that he has seldom been allowed to do. The plot might not be the most original idea for a Doctor Who episode, but Capaldi makes it feel fairly fresh. Similarly, Matt Lucas's Nardole continues to grow and be more intriguing, as opposed to simply used as comic relief.

The creature design and special effect for the interdimensional being seemed incredibly familiar as opposed to audacious and the effect was a little less refined than some of the other effects in Doctor Who. But for the most part, "The Eaters Of Light" is a solid episode that makes viewers wish The Doctor and Bill might stick around for quite a bit longer.

For other Doctor Who episodes directed by Charles Palmer, please check out my reviews of:
"Family Of Blood"
"Human Nature"
"The Shakespeare Code"
"Smith And Jones"


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

If Only It Could Hold Its Own: Edy's Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream!

The Good: Good ingredients, Affordable, Flavorful
The Bad: Cookie dough is virtually flavorless compared to the ice cream base.
The Basics: Edy’s Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is a great idea with a middle-of-the-road execution because the cookie dough cannot hold its own with the chocolate ice cream base.

Sometimes, the problem is not getting what we want; the more rare problem is getting what we do want. For virtually every ice cream I have ever loved that has a vanilla ice cream base, I have wished for the same with a chocolate ice cream base. So, when I saw the new limited edition Edy's Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, I rushed right out and bought it! But, after enjoying quite a bit of the Edy's Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream, I recognized the folly of my wish. The chocolate ice cream base completely overwhelmed the flavor of the chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough in the ice cream. As a result, the cookie dough is virtually flavorless by comparison.


Edy’s ice cream comes in a one and a half quart cylindrical container. The Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is a smooth ice cream broken up by quite a few random sized chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough pieces. At (locally) $5.99 a half gallon, this Edy’s ice cream is an affordable, mid-range ice cream. This is a new, limited edition of Edy’s ice cream, so it has not hit every market yet, though it is fun!

Ease Of Preparation

Edy’s Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is a rich ice cream with a lot of additives. As an ice cream, preparation is ridiculously simple: one need only open the top of the container, scoop out a half cup and consume! There is no trick to preparing or eating the Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.


I was shocked that the Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream has almost no aroma to it. For such a robust flavored ice cream, I was surprised that it was one of the least aromatic frozen desserts that I've ever reviewed.

On the flavor front, the Edy's Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is overwhelmingly chocolate flavored. The ice cream is rich and chocolatey and the chocolate flavor is distinct and strong. In fact, the chocolate ice cream flavor is so potent that it overwhelms entirely the flavor of the cookie dough. The chocolate chocolate chip cookie dough manifests more as a texture than a flavor, the ice cream base is so strong.

This ice cream has a dry, slightly sweet aftertaste to it, but it does not endure very long after the last of it is consumed.


The Edy’s Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is a generally smooth ice cream with a substantial cookie dough additive. The one and a half quart container represents twelve half-cup servings. In the half-cup serving, there are 130 calories, 30 of which are from fat. The three and a half grams of fat represent 5% of the RDA of fat, with 13% of one’s RDA of saturated fat coming in the 2.5 grams of saturated fat in this ice cream. One serving has 10 mg of cholesterol (that’s 3% of the RDA!) and 40 mg of Sodium (2% RDA). The only other real nutrient is three grams of protein, though there is also 8% of the RDA of Calcium and 4% of the RDA Vitamin A and Iron in the Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.

Edy’s has decent ingredients, which is nice. Made primarily of Non-Fat Milk, sugar, and chocolate chip cookie dough, Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough is a decent ice cream! There is nothing unpronounceable in the ingredients list, though the last few ingredients are more preservatives and coloring agents than anything one might find in a grocery store. There are allergy warnings for milk, wheat, egg, and soy, so this is not a gluten-free food and, obviously, it is not Vegan-compliant. It is not marked as Kosher.


Edy’s ice cream is both a frozen and a dairy product, so it is pretty obvious that it must be kept frozen in order to remain viable. Kept frozen it remains fresh for months; the container we bought last week had an expiration date of January 6, 2018.

The Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is very dark brown and will certainly stain light clothing and some darker clothing. When the ice cream melts and gets onto fabrics, it will require one to wash it right out. On nonporous surfaces, the ice cream wipes off exceptionally easily.


Edy’s Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is a good idea, though it is an execution that is less incredible than it sounded.

For other Edy’s ice creams, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Limited Edition Twinkie Ice Cream
Mint Brownie Ice Cream
Mint Cookie Crunch


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Friday, June 16, 2017

Rushing The Ambitious, Settling Into Mundane: Why The Flash Season 3 Failed!

The Good: Moments of performance, Most of the special effects, Moments of character and plot . . . once the season commits to it
The Bad: Incredibly repetitive season arc, Characters largely become idiotic for the main plot, Rushed opening plot, Incredibly rushed character arcs, Fundamental lack of creative problem solving for the main plot
The Basics: The Flash Season Three is where the writers and executive producers just gave up.

At the climax of the second season of The Flash (reviewed here!), Barry Allen was at his lowest point for his heroic arc. He had achieved a great victory, but at a great personal cost (which was cheated by introducing yet another version of his father to the narrative). So, the last moments of the second season finale were enough to get viewers excited because it set up the third season of The Flash to adapt the very popular DC Comics Flash-based crossover event Flashpoint for the television series.

Flashpoint (reviewed here!) was an obvious idea for a major event for The Flash . . . but those who were fans of the source material from the DC Comics books knew it was an impossible task to adapt the crossover on the television show. Flashpoint was a chance for the DC Comics universe to do a major crossover event that would reset the entire DC Comics Universe (The New 52 reboot followed the Flashpoint-crossover) and while Barry Allen was the prime focus of the sprawling story and the cause of the universe-splitting cataclysm, the story occurred very late in the story of The Flash. Because the main storyline focuses on Barry Allen and Thomas Wayne Flashpoint was always going to be inherently difficult to adapt to The Flash. After all, the shared universe of The Flash, Arrow, and Legends Of Tomorrow does not have Bruce Wayne or any characters truly analogous to him (though, a clever adaptation of the idea might have used Oliver Queen's father in place of Thomas Wayne, now that I think of it . . .). Despite that, it was hard for fans of The Flash not to be excited about the potential that was unleashed by the opening of the third season of the show.

Sadly, The Flash Season 3 is a tragically rushed enterprise and when it is not speeding through the new, potentially great material, it is rushing through repeating exactly where the show has been before. In fact, when looking at the season, major events - the crossover with the other DC Television properties, a major two-parter, and the revelation of the season's villain occur at all the same points as those events in Season 2! The third season of The Flash rushes Flashpoint, quickly undermines all of the major complications from that event, provides a lame antagonist for Barry Allen . . . before focusing on yet another Speedster villain for The Flash. The show plunges into the ridiculous when it is not preoccupied with the absurd and it is easy to see how the fanbase for the show atrophied over the course of the season.

Three months after Barry Allen prevented his mother from being killed by Eobard Thawne and returned to the present, Allen's life begins to fall apart. Living with his mother and father with Wally West having become The Flash, Barry begins to forget his life before he created the tangent timeline, Flashpoint. As his memory begins to get rewritten, he turns to Eobard Thawne to set things right and Thawne re-kills Nora Allen in the past. Unfortunately for Barry, the new present he returns to has subtle differences from his original timeline - Iris and Joe are at odds, Cisco's brother Dante has died, Caitlin Snow has begun to manifest metahuman DNA, and S.T.A.R. Labs has a speed lab that it did not have before. As Barry tries to sort out the differences between his past and the new post-Flashpoint timeline, a new villain pops up in Central City, Dr. Alchemy, who is granting metahuman powers to people who had abilities in the Flashpoint tangent.

Alchemy, however, is a pawn for another adversary, Savitar, a Speedster who only can be perceived by other Speedsters. When trying to destroy Savitar's power base by throwing it into the Speed Force, Barry Allen is thrown into his near-future and there he witnesses Savitar killing Iris. Determined to prevent Iris's death, Barry becomes obsessed with changing the future.

The big problem with the third season of The Flash - other than a pair of intrusive crossovers that kill the momentum and direction of the characters (the conflict between Barry and Cisco is not resolved on an episode of The Flash, for example) - is that the major character arcs are frequently rushed, much like the Flashpoint tangent was. Flashpoint is not dwelled on or overly-explored and the idea that Barry starts to lose his memories is very poorly rendered; he sees flashes of people, loses memories of them, but shows no real effects of lost time and memory (save falling down once).

Then there is the return to normalcy. Iris and Joe are estranged . . . for one episode, Cisco dislikes Barry because Dante died . . . for two episodes, then two episodes after he finds out that Dante was alive in the pre-Flashpoint universe, and Diggle (from Arrow) has a son instead of a daughter, but it is never satisfactorily explained why that actually matters. How it is that Dr. Stein's newly manifested daughter was explained has part of his meddling on Legends Of Tomorrow instead of a Flashpoint-based divergence is baffling. Wally West pines for speedster powers, so he gets them after a lone episode of being moody with Jessie Quick. The homeostasis is so desperately maintained that Tom Cavanaugh returns as a new incarnation of Harrison Wells to maintain the successful team dynamic established in the prior seasons of The Flash.

And there's a Speedster with a mysterious identity, but a relationship to the familiar S.T.A.R. Labs team, who Barry Allen has to defeat. We've seen it all before.

The biggest mystery in the third season of The Flash is how Iris West, a writer working for a small publication, manages to afford the massive wardrobe of amazing clothes she is seen in.

Beyond that, The Flash finishes well in the final portion of the season, but the process of getting there is excrutiating, repetitive and frequently boring. There are random Metahuman Of The Week episodes, a trip to Earth-2 that allows Grodd to return for a distraction, and crossovers that are entirely incongruent with the serialized elements in The Flash. But even the main plot - when the season finally gets around to developing it - includes a vast amount of information that has easy solutions for altering the night Barry Allen saw Savitar kill Iris. So, building into that foreseen event is contrived and artificially delayed (there's even a late-season amnesia episode that is enough to make those who stick with the season that long roll their eyes in disgust).

Unfortunately, most of the main character arcs are a mess of easy restoration to the norm as opposed to organic character arcs. The essential characters in the third season of The Flash are:

Barry Allen - The Flash. After living a charmed version of his past (which makes no sense because there should have been another version of Barry who grew up in the Flashpoint Tangent before the temporal remnant version appeared in the "present"), he attempts to restore time and returns to a life where there are some minor variations. He has to leave the Central City Police Force as part of a deal with Julian Albert and his love for Iris is tested when he watches her killed by Savitar and commits to altering that future,

Iris West - Daughter of Joe West and an intrepid reporter, she is finally able to explore her love for Barry without real complication . . . until Barry sees her killed and his solution is to propose to her. She never seems to do much reporting and she artificially pushes Barry away,

Joe West - One of the lead detectives at the Central City Police Department, he starts dating the D.A. and gets pissed off by H.R. training Wally after he becomes a Speedster. Otherwise, he shows up for the S.T.A.R. Labs team to explain things to, much like the audience might need scientific plot points explained,

Dr. Caitlin Snow - Now manifesting the freezing abilities of Killer Frost, she resists using her new powers until she is forced to. Facing a permanent transformation to Killer Frost, she uses technology to repress her abilities, until a disaster strikes and the choice is taken out of her hands,

H.R. Wells - Harrison Wells from Earth-19, he is a writer, not a scientist. He walks around with drum sticks and repeats what people say to try to inspire them with ideas. His substantive contributions are attempting to reopen S.T.A.R. Labs as a tourist attraction and enticing a scientist who has a future destiny to trap Savitar into helping the team,

Cisco Ramon - Initially in mourning for Dante, who died recently (as a function of restoring the timeline after Flashpoint), he is not excited about working with Barry any longer. He is now perfectly in control of his abilities to vibe and he works with Dr. Snow to keep Killer Frost at bay,

Dr. Julian Albert - The new Metahuman Forensics Specialist for the CCPD, he hates Barry and dislikes how metahumans use their abilities. He once searched for the fabled Philosopher's Stone and occasionally acts as a conduit for Savitar's voice. He develops a relationship with Dr. Snow that is challenged when her powers manifest,

Wally West - After coveting Speedster abilities, he is given powers by Alchemy. Faster than Barry Allen was at similar times in his development, he starts to covet the limelight as Kid Flash. Barry uses him as a tool to change the future he saw and disrupt the Speed Force jail,

and Savitar - A murderous Speedster, rumored to be the original Speedster, he was captured and trapped by Barry at some point in the future. He is heavily-armored, speaks through Dr. Alchemy, and kills Iris in front of Barry to psychologically torment him.

The acting in the third season of The Flash is subject to the writing; the actors rise to the occasion of what they are given for the most part, but outside Candice Patton and Grant Gustin, most of the performers are not given much in the way of long-term emotional arcs to play. Tom Cavanaugh embodies H.R. in a distinctly different way from the two other versions of Wells and Thawne that he has played, but the character is more frequently presented as an absurd fish-out-of-water instead of a useful member of the S.T.A.R. Labs team. Tom Felton joins the cast, but is often used in a familiar antagonistic, arrogant, role that he mastered as a child actor. Jesse L. Martin, Keiynan Lonsdale, and Carlos Valdes are given pathetically little to do outside their already-established ranges. Martin, especially, is neglected for most of the third season of The Flash.

In the end, The Flash Season Three is a study in wasted potential and playing to the strengths that built the show, as opposed to pushing the story, characters and actors in new and interesting directions.

For a more complete guide to the third season of The Flash, be sure to check out my reviews of each of the episodes of the third season at:
"The New Rogues"
"Killer Frost"
"The Present"
"Borrowing Problems From The Future"
"Dead Or Alive"
"Attack On Gorilla City"
"Attack On Central City"
"The Wrath Of Savitar"
"Into The Speed Force"
"Abra Kadabra"
"The Once And Future Flash"
"I Know Who You Are"
"Cause And Effect"
"Infantino Street"
"Finish Line"

For other works from the 2016 – 2017 television season, please check out my reviews of:
"Empress Of Mars" - Doctor Who
"The Return Part 6" - Twin Peaks
Orange Is The New Black - Season 5
House Of Cards - Season 5
Supergirl - Season 2
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - Season 3
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 4
Sense8 - Season 2
Dear White People - Season 1
Legends Of Tomorrow - Season 2
The Walking Dead - Season 7
Thirteen Reasons Why - Season 1
Grace And Frankie - Season 3
Iron Fist - Season 1
Love - Season 2
Santa Clarita Diet - Season 1
A Series Of Unfortunate Events - Season 1
One Day At A Time - Season 1
Travelers - Season 1
The OA - Season 1
Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life
"Invasion!" - Arrow
Luke Cage - Season 1
Stranger Things - Season 1


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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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