Monday, August 21, 2017

A Marginally Creative Idea: Edy's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream Underwhelms.


The Good: Good ingredients, Affordable, Does not taste bad
The Bad: The cinnamon ice cream is very dry and overwhelms the flavor of the cookie dough, Not overly nutritious
The Basics: Edy’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is momentarily intriguing, but is not exceptional enough to justify making it a permanent addition to the Edy's line.


As Edy's continues to expand its ice cream line, it is putting a lot of effort into reinventing its successful frozen dairy desserts. As such, rather than coming up with a lot of new and different flavors, one of their new initiatives is taking successful flavors and tweaking them slightly. So, the ever-popular Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is being switched up with alterations to the ice cream and the cookie doughs in the ice cream. One of their more radical reinventions is the Edy's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.

Edy's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is a cinnamon ice cream base with oatmeal cookie dough pieces in it . . . and it was a mediocre execution of the ideas.

Basics

Edy’s ice cream comes in a one and a half quart cylindrical container. The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is a smooth ice cream broken up by quite a few random sized oatmeal 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 and is unlikely to ever be made into a part of the regular line after its limited edition run ends.

Ease Of Preparation

Edy’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is a rich ice cream with one clear additive. 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 Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.

Taste

The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream has a minimal scent to it. The aroma to this almost entirely absent even as the ice cream nears its melting point.

In the mouth, the Edy's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is dominated by the vanilla and, especially, cinnamon flavors. The cinnamon flavor is dry and contrasts nicely the sweetness of the vanilla flavoring in the ice cream base. The chunks of oatmeal cookie dough are appropriately flavored like oatmeal. The chocolate chips in the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough manifest far more as a hard texture than a flavor. More than any consistent oatmeal flavor, the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream is dominated by a dry, cinnamon flavor.

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

Nutrition

The Edy’s Oatmeal 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 120 calories, 30 of which are from fat. The three grams of fat represent 5% of the RDA of fat, with 10% of one’s RDA of saturated fat coming in the 2 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 6% of the RDA of Calcium and 4% of the RDA Vitamin A and Iron in the Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream.

Edy’s has decent ingredients, which is nice. Made primarily of Non-Fat Milk, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie dough and sugar, Oatmeal 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.

Storage/Clean-Up

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 November 14, 2017.

The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is very light, but 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.

Overall

Edy’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream is all right, but far more dry than I'd like and hardly as extraordinary as one might hope.

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

4/10

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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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Dense, "The Return Part 15" Takes Twin Peaks From Delight To Misery


The Good: Performances are fine, Direction, Moments of character
The Bad: Plot meanders entirely, Nothing remotely close to a coherent story
The Basics: "The Return Part 15" starts out as a weird, but coherent Twin Peaks episode and degenerates into visual and storytelling nonsense.


After a week with virtually no Cooper or Dougie, the instant pressure on "The Return Part 15" is to remind the viewer of where the primary protagonist and antagonists are in Twin Peaks. While "The Return Part 15" does not begin with either of Kyle MacLachlan's characters, it does not take long to return to them . . . after taking care of some entirely tangential Twin Peaks business first.

"The Return Part 15" continues on the momentum of "The Return Part 14" (reviewed here!), which put a number of supernatural elements in play - around supporting characters in Twin Peaks who had not previously experienced exceptional and unreal elements. The supernatural elements of the third season of Twin Peaks are confronted with more of a straightforward quality than ever before as Cooper finds himself at the convenience store/gas station seen in the flashbacks and in the alternate dimensions.

Nadine walks all the way out to Big Ed's gas station, with her golden shovel. Once there, Nadine tells Ed that he should go be with Norma, knowing that Ed truly loves her. Ed rushes over to the Double R where Norma is involved with her new business manager. Norma tells her business manager to buy her out of the franchises and she turns back to Ed to begin a relationship with him in earnest. Cooper arrives at a convenience store where he and his ethereal guides enter another place (like the Black Lodge) and he asks for Philip Jeffries. Jeffries, in the form of a boiler, tells Cooper about Judy, whom Cooper does not believe he knows, but Jeffries says he has met.

Richard Horne pulls a gun on Cooper when Cooper leaves the surreal place, but Cooper easily incapacitates him. As soon as Cooper and Horne leave, the gas station disappears from our plane of existence. Out in the woods near the trailer park, a young man kills himself and that night, James goes to the bar where he sees Rene. His coworker ends the ensuing fight with his magic, gloved, hand. In Las Vegas, Doug and Jane Jones arrive at the F.B.I. for interrogation, but they are the wrong Jones's. James and Freddie are locked up at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department, amid the growing menagerie of weirdos there. Dougie, meanwhile, stops eating cake to turn on the television and when he becomes upset by what he sees, he puts a fork in an electric socket. Hawk receives a final call from the Log Lady.

"The Return Part 15" is a treat to fans of the original Twin Peaks in addition to a necessary component of the third season. Norma and Big Ed and Nadine have had virtually no presence in the main storyline of the third season of Twin Peaks, but Norma and Ed's relationship was one of the last big "fuck you's!" of the second season of Twin Peaks. Just as they were about to find happiness, Nadine got her memory back and the relationship was crushed. "The Return Part 15" allows that whole relationship to get a happy ending and it allows that door to be closed if Lynch decides not to include them in further episodes.

The "appearance" of Philip Jeffries in "The Return Part 15" is a bit of a letdown compared to the appearance of David Bowie as Jeffries in the prior episode. Having to use a surreal image in the place of David Bowie reprising his role acts as a cautionary tale for those who want to revisit their universes. Bowie is one of four major performers who died before or early in the filming of the third season of Twin Peaks and it is a shame that his only participation could be through archival footage (his voice was not used for the portrayal of the symbol of Jeffries in "The Return Part 15").

"The Return Part 15" is another episode of Twin Peaks that feels like exactly what it is - a small component of a much larger story. The episode does not stand particularly well on its own, but it resonates in big ways for fans of Twin Peaks (especially the past version of it). Actress Catherine E. Coulson died almost two years ago, but David Lynch managed to film all of her parts before the rest of the season shot. So, including the death of the Log Lady in "The Return Part 15" manages to be both sad within the story and to those who know the reality of the filming of the third season of Twin Peaks.

The weakness of breaking up the long story into individual episodes is revealed well in "The Return Part 15" is that some hours are going to pack in a lot of little things without any truly big and well-developed moments. So, while Cooper and Horne are now together and Dougie electrocuted himself, not much else happens that is instantly recognizable as important in the larger arcs in "The Return Part 15."

For other works with Wendy Robie, please visit my reviews of:
"Destiny" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Twin Peaks

5/10

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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Close, But Disappointing, The Quality Suites Hunt Valley Lets Me Down!


The Good: Spacious rooms, Good location, Comparatively inexpensive
The Bad: Unclean, Insecure, Poor breakfast, Light on amenities
The Basics: While I was initially excited by an inexpensive hotel near my annual convention's location, the Quality Suites Hunt Valley left me disappointed.


For many years, I was a dealer at a Star Trek convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. I always had a difficult time trying to find a good hotel in that area, one that lasted year after year. So, this year, I was thrilled as I returned to that convention to find that there was a hotel in the Choice Hotels chain that was closer than ever before to the convention hotel. Unfortunately, the Quality Suites where I stayed this year was a less-than-stellar option for our weekend stay.

Location

The Quality Suites (MD267 in the Choice Hotel numbering system) is a weird hotel that is instantly reminiscent of college housing as it is several small buildings in a little cluster. The cluster is located at 10710 Beaver Dam Road in Hunt Valley, Maryland, which is right off of Interstate I-83 and very easy to find. It is located just off the main divided highway and near a pretty cool shopping area. There are places to eat nearby that are very easy to get to and to return from.

The property is not exceptional; there are no grounds to speak of, though the hotel buildings are located around a centralized swimming pool. The buildings have sidewalks between them, so there are no real grassy areas or places to hang out on the grounds.

The Quality Suites Hunt Valley seems to have a semi-permanent population as well as people just staying for a limited time. The result - while I was there - was being woken up one night by fairly extensive and loud drama going on in the parking lot. That made the stay rather uncomfortable as I had reasonable concerns that my car might suffer collateral damage from people fighting in the narrow parking lot. Fortunately, there ended up being no issues in that regard, though not being able to sleep because of noise issues seemed like an unlikely problem in a hotel as sprawling as this one.

Room Size

The rooms at the Quality Suites Hunt Valley are quite large, which is the redeeming aspect of an otherwise sub-par hotel. The suite I stayed in was about twenty-seven feet deep by approximately twenty-three feet wide. The room was a proper suite with a single king-sized bed, nonsmoking, and included a kitchenette and bathroom. Even with the fold-out couch, chair, and dining area, the room felt quite spacious. And for only $75/night, the Quality Suites Hunt Valley feels very affordable for the size and location.

Cleanliness

The Quality Suites Hunt Valley is not a very clean hotel, nor is it particularly well-maintained. The paint job is poor - we noticed quite a bit of chipped and peeling paint both on the outside of buildings and on the walls inside our suite. As much as the paintjob could use a refurbishing, the Quality Suites Hunt Valley was surprisingly dirty. In addition to grime being on many surfaces - the walls look like they were never once washed - the maintenance of the grounds at the Quality Suites Hunt Valley was poor. For sure, animal owners who stay at the hotel should be responsible for cleaning up after their own pets. But, barring that, it would be nice to be able to walk along the walkways without ever stepping in dog crap.

The door to the lobby and the breakfast area had a loose handle when I visited and in addition to the hotel grounds being a bit dirty, the room I had was fairly dark compared to its size. The lamps in the room did a poor job of illuminating the entire suite.

Amenities

The hotel staff at the Quality Suites Hunt Valley was not overly friendly. The desk staff was cold and acted like checking me in (and out) was a huge inconvenience.

Breakfast at the hotel was somewhat disappointing. Despite having a giant sign with a beautiful picture of fresh waffles, there was no make-your-own waffle station when I stayed there. There were, however, two types of juice, milk, and coffee. There were very plain donuts, prepackaged muffins, danishes, bagels and bread for toasting. As well, there were two cereal options. For hot food options, there were eggs, sausage and biscuits.

The room had wi-fi, though it seemed to be very taxed by two of us in a room attempting to use it at the same time.

The room had a stovetop, microwave and refrigerator, which was nice considering that there was a grocery store there that had Ben & Jerry's ice cream on sale - it was nice to be able to get some and have a freezer for it! All of the rooms have a television, with over a hundred channels. There is the usual shampoo and lotion in the bathroom and I've had no problems getting more of either when I need them.

This is not a hotel big on amenities and given how loud the surrounding area was, in addition to the usual amenities, the hotel could really use decent soundproofing.

Overall

The Quality Suites Hunt Valley is an okay hotel to stay at in the Hunt Valley/Baltimore area, but it is definitely more cheap than it is inexpensive.

For other hotels in the Choice Hotels chain, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
Quality Inn & Suites Airport - Indianapolis, IN
Quality Inn Lakefront - Saint Ignace, MI
Comfort Suites - Stratford, CT

4/10

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

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Come Separately, Leave Together: The Defenders Are On Their "Worst Behavior"


The Good: Good performances, Plot finally moves forward
The Bad: Light on character
The Basics: The Defenders converge upon Midland Circle for their first (inadvertent) fight together in "Worst Behavior."


The Defenders came in with an instant narrative issue; bringing together the "street level heroes" of Netflix's Marvel Television Universe works had to occur with an organic quality and that was very much "easier said than done." Leading up to the third episode, "Worst Behavior," the four protagonists of The Defenders have slowly begun to come together, as three of the four have been investigating small pieces of a much larger case.

"Mean Right Hook" (reviewed here!) leads directly into "Worst Behavior" as Luke Cage and Danny Rand ended the prior episode by running into one another and Jessica Jones was rescued from Misty Knight's interrogation by Matt Murdock. "Worst Behavior" is very much dependent upon the prior episode as the heroes, the imprisoned Stick and Alexandra were all in play - as was the new villain White Hat.

Opening months in the past (during the last few scenes of the Daredevil season finale "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen," reviewed here!), Alexandra is informed that the Black Sky has been recovered. Alexandra and White Hat preside over the resurrection of Elektra, but she is devoid of her past identity - she is only the Black Sky now. Alexandra interrogates Stick about the location of Danny Rand and Stick vows to die rather than let the Iron Fist fall into Alexandra's hand. Stick cuts off his own hand in order to escape Alexandra and Elektra. Matt Murdock helps spring Jessica Jones, though his attempt to reach out to her about the Raymond case is rebuffed.

Luke Cage returns to Claire's where his guilt leads him to confess to Claire that he was hurt. Claire puts together that Cage fought the Iron Fist and Claire puts the two in a room together where they begin a conversation. Cage is bothered by Rand's sense of privilege and is overcome with disbelief over Rand's supernatural abilities. Elsewhere, Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock tail one another before Jones learns that John Raymond was an architect working on the building at Midland Circle. Jones uses her investigative abilities to track down Raymond's work and that leads her and the others to converge upon Midland Circle, where they find themselves in a very direct conflict with Alexandra and The Hand.

"Worst Behavior" illustrates the process of resurrecting Elektra in a way that satisfactorily explains why she has no popped back up into the Marvel Cinematic Universe until now. During the events of Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Elektra was being reprogrammed and trained by Alexandra . . . which also explains how and why Alexandra was absent from the little war between The Hand leaders that preoccupied Iron Fist.

Elodie Yung is given the chance to shine in "Worst Behavior" as Elektra transitions from feral to the ninja warrior she previously was. The delightful aspect of Yung's performance in "Worst Behavior" is that she begins the episode performing with virtually no language and not being relegated to simple fight scenes before she is put in the familiar, choreographed, dance-like fight sequences viewers expect of her. Yung nails the confusion and untamed aggression of the Black Sky in her early scenes in the episode and they work quite well to show the difference between the refined (if brutal) Elektra and the Black Sky.

"Worst Behavior" allows Luke Cage to get caught up on The Hand, K'un-Lun and the power of the Iron Fist. Cage is introduced fairly directly into the supernatural aspects of The Hand, while Jessica Jones continues to explore the pragmatic, detective, approach as she meets with John Raymond's widow and daughter. Jones is an excellent character to find out the truth about the ultimate issue that is preoccupying The Hand - in the first episode of The Defenders, Madame Gao mentions that they have encountered a door and the natural question viewers might have is "what door, where?" Jones witnesses Matt Murdock moving in an exceptional way and investigates the architecture angle that leads to Midland Circle.

Finn Jones continues to play Danny Rand as both inexperienced and somewhat dim (or, at the very least, uncreative) in "Worst Behavior." Rand has to be prompted by Luke Cage to use his corporate connections to track down how Rand Enterprises might be connected to The Hand. It is only through Cage's idea and Colleen Wing's pressing that Danny Rand manages to find Midland Circle.

Krysten Ritter dominates "Worst Behavior" on the acting front, though it is largely a function of Ritter being given the episode's best lines. Ritter has a wonderful sense of comic timing and in "Worst Behavior," she is allowed to illustrate that while still portraying Jessica Jones.

"Worst Behavior" finally shows a concrete direction for The Defenders; Alexandra is after the Iron Fist and all of the disparate cases converge on her and The Hand. The joy of "Worst Behavior" is that The Defenders starts to illustrate that it can actually accomplish something wonderful and complicated - that the pieces in play might be used well. It is the first episode of the season that shows that potential and the first one truly worth watching.

For other works with Krysten Ritter, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Jessica Jones - Season 1
Veronica Mars
Listen Up Philip
She’s Out Of My League
Confessions Of A Shopaholic
27 Dresses
Gilmore Girls - Season 7
Veronica Mars - Season 2
Someone Like You

7/10

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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Outside The Aftertaste, Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel Chocolate Bars Delight!


The Good: Good general flavor, Decent ingredients, Good corporate ethics
The Bad: Expensive, Sour aftertaste
The Basics: Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars are enjoyable, crispy, salty chocolate treats reminiscent of chocolate toffee bars, more than being an amazing candy on their own.


I review a lot of chocolate. As such, it is natural for me to make comparisons when they are warranted. With Green & Black's chocolate bars, I've found some great flavors and some that are more like higher-quality versions of more common chocolates. The Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars absolutely fall into the latter category. Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars are like more expensive and higher-quality versions of Heath bars . . . which is not bad, but they are much more like toffee than what one expects from a chocolate and caramel bar.

Basics

Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars are one and three-eights inch by one and five-eighths inch rectangles of chocolate that are about three-sixteenths of an inch thick and connected side by side and in rows, to form a bar of ten segments. Each bar comes unified in a foil wrapper. The foil-wrapped chocolate bar is sealed in a cardboard package.

Each chocolate bar is sold in a way that it is easy to segment and control portions. In this form, the 3.17 oz. bar, the chocolate bar represents two and a half servings. Each bar appears solid (the Caramel flakes and sea salt are embedded, as opposed to acting like a filling) and is stamped with the Green & Black's logo.

Ease Of Preparation

These are candy, so preparing them is as simple as opening the cardboard and then opening the foil wrapper from around the actual chocolate. There is no trick to eating Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars.

Taste

The Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel bars have a strong aroma that is salty and buttery, having a scent reminiscent of toffee. The blending of chocolate and toffee aromas is very inviting for anyone who loves either of those things.

On the flavor front, the Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel bars are sweet and buttery, possessing a flavor like toffee and an oddly sour hint in the chocolate. The blending of milk chocolate and caramel - which is appropriately salty and slightly crispy, much like toffee - ends up having a flavor that is both sweet and bitter, buttery and chocolatey, making one think they are consuming something analogous to a high-end Heath bar. The overall flavor is pleasant, but less distinctive than one might hope for.

The Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bar have an oddly sour aftertaste that lasts in the mouth for several minutes after the last of the bar is consumed.

Nutrition

These are candy, so they are not overly nutritious. That said, the Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars are made of generally good ingredients, justifying their expense. The primary ingredients are milk chocolate, organic raw cane sugar and organic glucose syrup. There is nothing unpronounceable in these candies.

A serving from the Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars is considered four rectangles from the overall bar, which is a somewhat silly serving size for a bar that is segmented into ten pieces (as that means one whole bar is two and a half servings). From four squares, one takes in 200 calories, including 110 calories of fat. There are 100 mg sodium and 3 grams protein in each serving. There is a smattering of Iron (4% RDA) and Calcium (8% RDA) in each bar, but no significant quantities of any other major nutrients. The biggest nutritional detraction in the Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel are the 12 grams of fat per serving and the 35% RDA of saturated fat that comes from the 7 grams of saturated fat!

These are not Vegan-compliant, nor are they recommended for anyone with a nut allergy as they are manufactured on machinery that processes tree nuts. They are not specifically marked as kosher (I'm not sure why), but Green & Black's uses sustainable cocoa farming for their cocoa, which is nice! They do have an allergy warning for wheat, soy and milk.

Storage/Clean-up

The bars of these Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars remain fresh for quite some time. The bars we picked up last month had an expiration date of September 22, 2017, though they will certainly not last that long as I will have consumed mine well before then! 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, just throw the packaging away when you're done! These chocolate bars are made such that there is no real cleanup needed, unless one is eating them in a hot environment. Under that circumstance, it is likely one would need to wash their hands, though these bars do not melt as easily as cheap milk chocolates. When this chocolate melts into most fabrics, it will stain.

Overall

Intriguing, but not distinct and unique, Green & Black's Pure Milk Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bars are worth trying for anyone who loves chocolate toffee bars.

For other Green & Black's chocolate reviews, please check out:
Pure Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel chocolate bar
Pure Dark Chocolate Raspberry & Hazelnut chocolate bar
Pure Dark Chocolate Sea Salt chocolate bars

7.5/10

For other chocolate 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 Defenders Begin To Assemble Over "Mean Right Hook"


The Good: Decent performances, Hints of character
The Bad: Meandering plot
The Basics: "Mean Right Hook" begins to bring The Defenders together, albeit slowly, as various cases the heroes are investigating begin to overlap.


Perhaps one of the most troubling aspects of The Defenders at the outset of the series is the fact that of the main cast, only Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have even met before, despite operating in a fairly narrow corner of New York City and the common character in the four protagonist's stories has been Claire Temple (the nurse, not only at night!). In fact, the only thing more problematic about the concept of The Defenders at outset is that now that the characters are all in the same time and place, how is it that Spider-Man is not a part of their burgeoning team?! Did the teenager just not notice the earthquake that rumbled through his city? Fortunately for the fairly compacted season of The Defenders, the characters are not kept artificially apart for too terribly long. In fact, by the second episode - "Mean Right Hook" - various heroes are beginning to meet.

"Mean Right Hook" picks up right after "The H Word" (reviewed here!) and it is impossible to discuss the second episode without some references as to where the first ended. After all, while Jessica Jones has been hunting an architect who has gone missing and has a ton of C-4, Luke Cage, Matt Murdock and Danny Rand have been on more nebulous missions. "The H Word" climaxed with an earthquake in New York City and it is the first overt act of destruction carried out by Alexandra. Alexandra has Elektra by her side and when the earthquake hits, Alexandra is clear with Elektra that Alexandra is the cause of the quake and there is more damage to follow.

In the wake of the earthquake, Matt Murdock (uncostumed) takes to the roof to assess the damage and he goes streetside to stop looters. The next morning, Trish Talk goes on with Trish Walker trying to restore calm in New York City. When she has a caller claiming that the earthquake was uncharacteristically shallow, Trish is taken off the air temporarily. Misty Knight arrives at John Raymond's hideout, where she catches Jessica Jones lifting one of her files. A Colleen Wing's dojo, Danny Rand and Wing regroup and begin a search in New York for those who might have been hurt by The Hand. While Luke Cage cleans up damage in Harlem and Claire Temple assists people wounded in the earthquake, Alexandra visits the Lincoln Center for the performing arts and gets a private concert by a quartet she has funded.

When Jessica Jones discovers that the company Raymond built a building for appears to be ancient and Hogarth tells her to drop the investigation, leading Jones to pursue her investigation knowing that all sorts of federal law enforcement officers are on the case. Luke Cage interrogates Turk and learns that the person recruiting young people for late night work that results in them getting killed is White Hat. Cage finds White Hat, which puts him in the same time and place as Danny Rand, who stumbled onto a crime scene that The Hand needs cleaned up.

As one might expect - given that he has had the most airtime in the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - the first couple episodes of The Defenders have given Matt Murdock a lot to do. While Jessica Jones and Danny Rand are basically trudging through doing what they were doing when last viewers saw them and Luke Cage is reclaiming his life post-prison, Matt Murdock is in a very different place. In "Mean Right Hook," there is no Daredevil; there is only Matt Murdock. While it was heavily insinuated in the confessional scene in the first episode, Murdock is conflicted about giving up his vigilante alter ego. From the very beginning of "Mean Right Hook," Murdock is having trouble keeping himself in check from rushing back to the costume and the vigilante lifestyle. Director S.J. Clarkson and the episode's writers manage to make Murdock's journey feel appropriately tortured and conflicted. Scenes like Murdock simply unlocking his footlocker with his costume in it characterize well the internal struggle Murdock is going through. The friendship between Murdock and Nelson is reinforced in an intriguing way when Nelson brings Murdocks folders worth of work to try to keep him busy fighting the good fight. That friendship leads Nelson to use Murdock to keep Jones out of trouble for the firm in the second of two heroes meeting, resulting in one of the best episode endings for the series.

Luke Cage's return to Harlem is met with an interesting level of realism. Temple, who remained local while Cage was in prison, is more "in the know" about current events in the community. As such, Cage relies upon her in "Mean Right Hook" to know where to go to hunt criminals.

Alexandra's characterization continues to gain depth as the primary villain of The Defenders is fleshed out with an intimate knowledge of classical music works and their creators. Just as Gao has been insinuated to be exceptionally old, Alexandra is clearly ancient - a fact reinforced by Jessica Jones's investigation into a company started in the early 1800s that Hogarth waves her off of.

Poor Jessica Jones's door! That door cannot catch a break, as witnessed by Elektra cutting through the lock in the episode's climax.

"Mean Right Hook" would be a complete loss for The Defenders if it weren't for the character elements peppered through the episode. The plot meanders and when Danny Rand finally encounters Luke Cage, it is hard not to continue to think that the young billionaire is just a dick. That - and the fact that Iron Fist's titular right hook were shown in the preview trailer - rob the episode of a lot of joy that should have come from two of The Defenders meeting for the first time.

Ultimately, "Mean Right Hook" does what it needs to - albeit slowly - in moving protagonists together and elevating the antagonists, but not in any extraordinary way.

For other works with Charlie Cox, please check out my reviews of:
Daredevil - Season 2
Daredevil - Season 1
The Theory Of Everything

4.5/10

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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Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash Cleans Well And Smells Great!


The Good: Decent lather, Easy to open bottle, Inexpensive, Good aroma, Adequately moisturizes
The Bad: No scrubbing grit, Not antibacterial
The Basics: Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash is a worthwhile cleaner, even if it doesn't do all that a great body wash can.


When my local grocery store puts new products on clearance, I sometimes find myself truly wondering why. I was fairly surprised when I found an Olay product on the clearance shelf. I realized that I have not truly tried any Olay products and that my associations with the brand were all with my grandmother's Oil Of Olay products back in the 1980s. Despite that, I decided to pick up a bottle of Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash! And the Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash was well worth the price of the bottle on clearance (about $2.75), even if it wasn't an antibacterial body wash and it did not have scrubbing grit.

The Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint body wash is a good body wash, with a fresh, clean and very specific scent. This is ideal for those who want to clean their bodies and leave their skin moisturized and with a fruity scent to it.

Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint body wash is very aromatic and cleans quite well. In the steamy environment of a shower or bath, the very fruity and creamy scent effervesces well. In fact, the mint seems to manifest more as opening the nasal canal up, as opposed to actually smelling minty as all. The 23.6 fl. oz. bottle usually sells for $5.50 and seems to be commonly available, at least in Michigan. The Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash is an effective, easy-to-use product that leaves skin feeling clean and slightly aromatic. When one is especially dirty, the Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash gets one clean and it deodorizes well when one scrubs.

Body washes generally seem disproportionately expensive to me, though the Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash was one of the least expensive body washes by price. Olay's Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash initial price is high, but it is a much thicker body wash than most I have encountered. The Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash lathers up incredibly well, so one uses a bit less than normal and it dilutes in the shower and stretches much farther than more initially watery body washes.

The Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash is an opaque pink fluid about the consistency of most hair conditioners. This is a smooth body wash, so it does nothing to exfoliate the skin. Using the Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash is simple. The bottle features a flip top that opens with the flick of the thumb. The bottle is easy enough to open and close one handed as to make it convenient in the tub or shower, especially if one is using a loofah or washcloth in the other hand. The bottle of Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash is fairly flat on the front and back and rounded on the sides. It is slippery when wet, so it is important to get a good grip on this body wash bottle!

Dispensing the Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash is very easy. Simply squeeze the bottle and apply the fairly thick body wash to your hand, loofah or cloth. In my experience, the body wash is more creamy than fluidic, but it still manages to come out of the bottle very easily. As a result, about a nickel-sized dollop is all that is necessary to clean my whole body when it mixes with the water from my shower or bath. I've found it most effective to dole out the body wash in one fell swoop as it lathers very easily and completely fills a loufah when one does.

Part of the reason the product washes off so well is that it lathers exceptionally well. Used sparingly, the Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash may be spread over an entire body the way it lathers up. Simply agitating it on the skin yields a foamy, clean lather that both moisturizes and cleans skin. Without a loofah or other rough applicator, it does not remove dirt or grime beyond what one expects from water running. As the water flows over it, it washes off easily leaving behind no film or residue, only generally clean skin.

The Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash has a very clear aroma to it. This body wash smells precisely like strawberries and cream. The fruit scent is a little muted, making for a creamy hint to the aroma. The scent does not seem to carry any hint of mint, though the aroma does open the nose right up, implying that there is mint somewhere in the scent palate.

Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint Body Wash is not antibacterial, but it seems to clean very well. So, while some body washes do more with grit and antibacterial power, the trueness of the scent and the way the body wash lathers well to make the bottle last make the Olay Cooling White Strawberry & Mint body wash well worth recommending!

For other body washes, please be sure to check out my reviews of:
White Rain Ocean Mist Body Wash
C.O. Bigelow Mentha Body vitamin body wash
Dove Mandarin & Tiare Flower Body Wash

7.5/10

For other health and beauty product reviews, please visit 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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Friday, August 18, 2017

The Defenders Opens From The Disadvanageous Place In "The H Word"


The Good: Good performances, Good introduction for Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra.
The Bad: Annoying direction (seriously, are there no working light bulbs in New York City?!), Unsatisfying/problematic character gaps, Very slow plot
The Basics: The Defenders puts all its main pieces on the board in "The H Word," which is a "necessary evil" start to the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe work.


Netflix has been building to The Defenders much the way the theatrical portion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe seeded movies in a common world before uniting heroes and adversaries from the disparate films in The Avengers (reviewed here!). Today is the day that The Defenders finally hit Netflix and the saga begins with "The H Word." "The H Word" is the culmination of the second season of Daredevil (reviewed here!) and the lone seasons of Jessica Jones (reviewed here!), Luke Cage (reviewed here!), and Iron Fist (reviewed here!). Perhaps because of my antipathy toward Iron Fist, when I sat down to "The H Word," I was nowhere near as excited about The Defenders as I was after the end of Luke Cage. Despite that, I sat down to "The H Word" eager to see how the four protagonists would come together and exactly what kind of adversary and situation the show would present for them to combat.

"The H Word" is burdened with re-introducing all of the main characters from the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the new villain . . . and making it appear as if The Defenders is not going to be a contrived super-hero team up show. Given that, so far, only Claire Temple has appeared in all of the Netflix Marvel television shows and Madame Gao has been the main crossover villain in only two of the four series', The Defenders had quite a task in this regard in "The H Word." "The H Word" avoids the "crossover feeling" by keeping the characters - primary and secondary - from the prior shows completely segregated from one another. At best, Luke Cage obliquely references Claire Temple avoiding talking about something that happened when she wrote him in prison, which is as close as the episode comes to referencing her participation in the first season of Iron Fist.

Opening in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Elektra Natchios is going in for the kill when the man she is attacking is rescued by Danny Rand. When the man is stabbed, Colleen Wing arrives for back-up, but in chasing Elektra, Rand loses her. Before the man dies, he tells Rand and Wing that New York City is where the real fight with the Hand is. In New York City, Jessica Jones wakes up in a bar and meets Trish. Foggy Nelson springs Luke Cage from Seagate Prison and Matt Murdock manages to get an eleven million dollar verdict for a client disabled by an experimental drug. On the way back to New York, Rand and Wing try to figure out what is going on with The Hand.

In New York City, Alexandra meets with a doctor and after a series of tests is convinced that she is dying . . . at a much more accelerated rate than previously believed. When Jessica Jones returns to her office, she is met by a woman and her daughter who are looking for John Raymond (her husband, the daughter's father), a by-the-book architect who rather abruptly went missing a week ago. Jones is not about to take the case, but she immediately receives a phone call on her answering machine telling her not to look for John. Malcolm quickly figures out that the architect might be an amateur, while Misty Knight tells Luke Cage about a series of dead young men in Harlem who all appear to have come into money while working nights for no clear or obvious employer. Cage pays a visit to Candice's brother, the last child in that family, who appears to have come into money, much like his now-dead brother. Jones's search for John Raymond lead her to Raymond's massive cache of C-4.

"The H Word" begins at a weird place. For a New York City-based group of heroes, starting in Cambodia with (arguably) the least-popular member of the team is a weird starting point. Moreover, keeping Elektra hidden in the dark during the fight is a fairly forced conceit. Having a significant gap of time between the end of Jessica Jones and the last season of Daredevil means that the characters have a big gap of time to account for (Luke Cage gets a pass because the protagonist was in prison at the end of the finale and has been referenced as being incarcerated there in Iron Fist). The explanation of what Jessica Jones has been up to is fairly unsatisfying; Trish mentions more people want to do stories on Jones and her thwarting of Kilgrave . . . and she is referenced as not working. The thing is, the finale of Jessica Jones had Malcolm manning the phones and the assumption was that Alias Investigations was back in business. So, how Jones has kept her head above water for years without working and without repairing her office seems forced.

At the other end of the spectrum is Matt Murdock. "The H Word" does a decent job of illustrating - long before it is made explicit - that Murdock has hung up the mantle of Daredevil and he and Karen did not resume the romantic relationship that was percolating before Elektra showed up (and subsequently died). "The H Word" handles that transition surprisingly gracefully. In the books, Matt Murdock is able to do pro-bono law work pretty much only when Murdock and Nelson are working together (Nelson coming from a wealthy family); how Murdock is getting by financially while doing pro-bono work is not clear. Similarly, Danny Rand suffering nightmares about K'un-Lun disappearing and the monks there being slaughtered makes for a decent transition from where Iron Fist ended.

And, while Luke Cage's entrance into The Defenders makes perfect sense, Misty Knight appearing - fully restored and promoted at the police department - makes less sense. Knight was disillusioned and driven out of her detective work in Harlem at the climax of Luke Cage, so how she went from working freelance against Mariah and Shades to back on the force (albeit in a different division) is clumsily thrust upon the viewer.

The big introduction in "The H Word" is Sigourney Weaver's Alexandra. Alexandra is presented as dying and she calmly notes that all of her organs are failing. Alexandra is hinted at being exceptionally old in her first scene with Madame Gao. The magic of Alexandra's characterization comes in her interactions with Gao. Gao has been presented in the prior works as mysterious and bearing a strange amount of power. In "The H Word," Gao is deferential and she takes directions from Alexandra, which instantly elevates Alexandra.

"The H Word" meanders into its plot. Danny Rand and Colleen Wing are the most focused on where The Defenders is primed to go as they have been hunting The Hand for months. Rand explicitly asks the question that will preoccupy The Defenders: What does The Hand want with New York City? By the end of "The H Word" all viewers have is the idea that The Hand might be out for destruction or chaos without a clear vision.

On the acting front, "The H Word" is dominated by Krysten Ritter and Wai Ching Ho. Ritter may not give the most amazing performance of her career in the first episode of The Defenders, but she slips effortlessly back into the role of Jessica Jones and seeing new material with the character is a real delight - especially the way Ritter plays her. Wai Ching Ho manages to transition Madame Gao from recognizable, mysterious evil force to subordinate in a single scene without presenting even a hint that she is betraying her character. Wai Ching Ho does that through her body language and softer use of her voice in her line deliveries than in her prior appearances and that has the desired effect.

"The H Word" has a problematic task and it barely manages to accomplish that task - which is to re-introduce the main characters of the Netflix Marvel Comics shows and put them all back in New York City. The cases that Jessica Jones and Misty Knight (and then, by association, Luke Cage) are investigating have no apparent relation in "The H Word" and Matt Murdock appears out of the game, while Danny Rand is off with Wing investigating something else entirely. In other words, in "The H Word" there are no Defenders and the characters who are supposed to come together feel very far apart in this episode.

For other Marvel Cinematic Universe pilot episodes, please check out my reviews of:
"Now Is Not The End" - Agent Carter
"Pilot"- Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.
"Into The Ring" - Daredevil

4/10

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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Worthless After A Couple Weeks: The Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glasses Flop (2017 Review This Again!)


The Good: The glassware itself is durable and good.
The Bad: No durability outside the underlying glass, Expensive for pint glasses, "Function" does not work properly, Not dishwasher safe
The Basics: The Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glasses take about three weeks of washing before they are just plain glass pint glasses.


[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 ThinkGeek's image-changing Star Wars pint glasses. These glasses were originally reviewed here!]

Sometimes, in my enthusiasm to review something, I jump the gun on the product. That is pretty much what happened with the Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glass Set. My wife bought me the Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glass Set Of 2 and I was initially very happy with them despite the fact that the appearing Millennium Falcon feature did not actually work. But what ultimately made me re-review these pint glasses was simple: within three weeks of daily use and hand-washing (never in the dishwasher!) the sleeve-like image silk screened onto the clear glass pint glass was destroyed, having peeled off and leaving only a pretty much worthless pint glass.

The Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glass Set Of 2 are two identical pint glasses that feature artwork based on The Empire Strikes Back (reviewed here!). The pint glasses are predominantly blue and white and feature the Millennium Falcon flying toward the Cloud City station hovering in the clouds of Bespin.

The Star Wars Pint Glass Set Of 2 features artwork that looks like the original optical painting of Cloud City silkscreened on heavy, clear glass. Each set of two is identical and features the same glass in duplicate. As the name implies, each pint glass holds a little over two cups worth of liquid. A whole 16 fl. oz. fits into the glass. Wider at the top, the 5 3/4” tall clear glass drinking glasses are both identical, including the artwork silkscreened onto them.

Unfortunately, the Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glass Set Of 2 was constructed with a color-changing gimmick. The Millennium Falcon is supposed to be invisible until a cold liquid is placed into the glass. Sadly, the Millennium Falcon is entirely visible, regardless of there being any liquid in the glass and it is about as faint as the Cloud City station; which is deliberately hazy to give it a sense of perspective, being further back. When a cold liquid is placed in the pint glass, the Millennium Falcon gets more distinct and darker, but it never truly fades to be anywhere near close to surprising for its appearance when a liquid is added.

The Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glass Set Of 2 is not at all durable. It took less than a week of using and cleaning the pint glasses before each of them showed noticeable wear, less than three weeks before the entirety of the silk screened images were gone, leaving only a clear glass pint glass behind. The Star Wars logo on the bottom remained perfectly intact, but the main image around the pint glass entirely disintegrated . . . and that was from hand-washing, as directed! The glasses are not dishwasher safe and having hand washed the pint glasses with softer cloths to try to avoid damage, it was especially frustrating that the glasses ended up without any of their imagery on them. By contrast, I've had a set of Buffy The Vampire Slayer pint glasses for over five years that have been washed by hand (and once a year in the dish washer) and not one of them has a scratch or chip in the artwork!

Fans of Star Wars are likely to fall in love with the concept of the Star Wars Cloud City Pint Glass Set, but be utterly disappointed by the results of how even cleaning destroys the unique aspect of the glasses.

For other kitchen supplies, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Star Trek Decloaking Klingon Bird Of Prey Mug
CocoStraw Stainless Steel Straw Set
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Pint Glass Set Of 4

.5/10

For other kitchen product reviews, please be sure to visit my Kitchen Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Minimal MacLachlan, But Bowie Returns! Twin Peaks "The Return Part 14"


The Good: Good performances, Wonderful special effects, Awesome blending of reality and surrealism
The Bad: Virtually plotless, Some of the character leaps require real suspension of disbelief
The Basics: "The Return Part 14" meanders, but it does it so well most viewers will just recall how they fell in love with Twin Peaks instead of being bothered by the ambling!


As Twin Peaks rushes towards its conclusion for the new season, the show has exhausted the pleasant shock factor of revealing the return of characters from the original Twin Peaks (reviewed here!) and now it is in something of a "put up or shut up" place. The new season has to deliver on the promise of the disconnected threads seeded throughout the earlier episodes and move toward some sense of closure in the storylines of Dale Cooper and Cooper (Bob). As "The Return Part 14" begins, that burden seems like it is being lifted as the episode starts making concrete connections between the two main investigative bodies of the show - the F.B.I. and the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department. Between that and the vintage footage in the episode, "The Return Part 14" puts more characters in touch with the fantastic elements of Twin Peaks than ever before.

"The Return Part 14" follows on "The Return Part 13" (reviewed here!), which managed to focus most of the plot's events on Twin Peaks and elevate the menace of the Bob-infested Cooper. "The Return Part 14" is cool in that is starts to link Doug Jones and Agent Cooper in new and interesting ways . . . through Diane. The sense that the episode is getting more concrete takes a weird turn when Director Cole discusses his Monica Bellucci-related dream.

FBI Director Cole calls Lucy Moran at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department. Truman informs Cole that they have found diary pages that might indicate there are two Coopers. Agent Rosenfield fills Agent Preston in on the Blue Rose investigations starting with the first case that Cole investigated with Philip Jeffries and involved a doppelganger. Diane arrives and claims that Cooper mentioned Briggs to her the last time they met. Diane reveals that her half-sister is Jane, married to Doug, living in Las Vegas. While describing his current dream, Cole and Rosenfeld recall a time Agent Cooper told them about one of his dreams. In Twin Peaks, Chad (the corrupt cop) is arrested and the Sheriffs make a trip out to Major Briggs' listening station, but they find the Jack Rabbit's Palace to be nothing more than a stump now.

Making the trek according to Garland's directions, the four encounter a woman from the surreal dimension and when a vortex opens above them, Andy is taken. There, he encounters The Giant and comes to understand that the woman on the ground is important. Andy comes out of the experience much stronger and articulate. Returning to the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department, the mysterious woman is put in protective custody and she is mocked by the other two residents of the jail. Working security at the Great Northern, James learns from his co-worker, Freddy, that the younger man's hand is now gloved because The Fireman (The Giant) told him to after an experience with a vortex of his own. And at a bar, Sarah Palmer's dark side comes out when she is accosted by a drunken asshole.

It's hard not to get excited for anything these days that includes a surprise cameo by David Bowie and "The Return Part 14" is no exception. The archive footage that Lynch used to return younger versions of himself, Kyle MacLachlan and David Bowie to the screen makes for a delightful interlude in the middle of a weird dream sequence analysis.

"The Return Part 14" once again raises the level of surrealism in Twin Peaks as more people in the town encounter the extraordinary. The woman from the other place speaks in static and has no eyes, which is freaky. Andy disappearing when the vortex opens and seeing generally random images that he does not understand is deliberately unsettling. Andy makes for an interesting character to be teleported into the other dimension because he is a character who has, historically, had difficulty articulating thoughts and being taken seriously.

On the literal front, "The Return Part 14" suffers some because it pushes the boundaries of suspension of disbelief. Viewers are expected to believe that the two young ruffians from the original Twin Peaks both grew up to be in law enforcement?! Seriously?! Both Bobby and James became law abiding citizens - Briggs as a deputy sheriff and James working in private security. While James has only been seen in the new season of Twin Peaks before as a lurker and a singer, his sudden appearance in private security seems strange. Similarly, Bobby Briggs was a pretty literal, pragmatic, kid - how he came to accept the surrealism of his father's work makes much less sense than James completely buying Freddy's story. James was always characterized in the original as a dreamer, so his character arc for the twenty-five year leap makes less sense for his occupation, more sense for his acceptance of the fantastic.

Part of the magic of "The Return Part 14" is that the episode is almost over before it occurs to the viewer that Kyle MacLachlan has only appeared momentarily as part of Andy's out-of-world experience (as a visual implication of the two Coopers) and very briefly in the vintage footage that Bowie completely upstaged him in. It is fairly impressive that the show manages to go that long and be that engaging without its protagonist or antagonist.

On the acting front, Harry Goaz and Grace Zabriskie steal the show. "The Return Part 14" actually allows Goaz to play Andy as something more than a fool and that is refreshing to see. Zabriski manages to expertly transition with the most subtle of face movements. Zabriski plays Sarah Palmer and the moment Palmer is approached in a bar, all the viewer can think is "this is the woman who lived in the presence of the ultimate evil longer than anyone else" and Zabriski makes that idea pay off. The scene she is in includes a pretty wild special effects sequence, but it is the acting whereby Zabriski turns on a dime from horrifying to horrified to threatening with a change of her expression, mobility and voice is the true special effect of the episode.

"The Return Part 14" is an episode that feels smartly dense, but it starts to open cracks in the Twin Peaks universe. The Black Lodge was a mysterious alternate dimension with near-impossible entrance and exit points before. Cooper's escape from the Black Lodge earlier in the season is minimized some by Andy's easy transition to and from an alternate dimension and Freddy's story that indicates the same. The burden as "The Return Part 14" concludes is on David Lynch to explain why the Black Lodge was so difficult to escape from when the vortexes appear to be much more common than anyone knew before.

"The Return Part 14" gives viewers hope that Lynch might be able to pull it off.

For other works with Monica Belucci, please visit my reviews of:
SPECTRE
The Sorcerer's Apprentice
The Brothers Grimm
The Passion Of The Christ
The Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix Reloaded

8/10

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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For A Limited Time, A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts Were Oddly Fun!


The Good: Good flavor, Affordable, Easy to prepare
The Bad: Packaging/environmental impact, Not terribly nutritious.
The Basics: The A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts are a lot of fun, even if they are best when heated . . . which can be unsettling for those who love root beer!


Every now and then when I see a new product hit the shelves of my local grocery store, I just say to myself "I'm going to wait this one out." I live in a comparatively small community and as a result, new products are often slow to catch on. The net result is, many new products hit the shelves and hit the clearance rack there disproportionately fast. The Kellogg's A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts were a product that, when I first saw them in our store, I said "I give it three months." Well, last week, it was three months and boom! . . . there they were on the clearance rack at 40% off. And I was still eager to try them!

The A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts are a Pop Tart that are somewhat undermined by their own concept. These are a Pop Tart that taste best warmed . . . which is pretty much the opposite of its intended flavor, root beer (which is generally better cold). Despite that weird contrast, the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts end up being pretty good.

Basics

Kellogg’s Pop Tarts are toaster pastries, which are basically semi-hard flat bread pouches filled with a flavored filling. The filling has the consistency of peanut butter and some, like the Limited Edition A&W Root Beer flavor, come with frosting on them. The frosting is hard and on the A&W Root Beer flavored Pop Tarts has a lighter frosting swirl that is akin to the foam atop one's mug of root beer.

A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts come in a box of eight with the Pop Tarts paired up in thin foil pouches. The foil pouch helps to protect the Pop Tart and keep it fresh.

Ease Of Preparation

Pop Tarts are one of the easiest foods in the world to prepare. Simply tear open the foil pouch and pull a Pop Tart out to eat it. It is truly that simple. Of course, you should dispose of the foil wrapper in an environmentally appropriate manner. Outside that, preparation is unnecessary as Pop Tarts taste great at room temperature, though these Pop Tarts definitely have more flavor when heated.

But, for those who like them hot – which makes the filling more like a warm pie – A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts may be heated in a toaster, toaster oven or microwave. I actually like heating the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts in the microwave for thirty seconds because it makes the corners softer and makes the pastry a little less dry.

Taste

A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts smell surprisingly neutral. Their coating has a more generic chocolate scent to it than the scent of root beer, which surprised me. Regardless, these are a Pop Tarts flavor that is only truly aromatic when it is warmed.

At room temperature, the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts taste like a sweet pie crust. The bready portion of the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts is sweet, only slightly dry in its flavor, but not distinct or clearly root beer flavor. The root beer flavor comes out only through the filling. The filling is a very true root beer flavor - dry, earthy, sweet and with an odd element to its flavor that actually insinuates fizz! Plain and unheated, the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts taste like a bready version of what they are supposed to; root beer.

Served warm, the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts are aromatic and inviting with a weird root beer scented steam. In the mouth, they burst with dry, sweet, root beer flavor, managing to overcome the simple dry cake flavor of the pastry shell. The center seems to flavor the entire pastry when served warm, so the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts taste like a lot of hot root beer!

Regardless of temperature, the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts have a slightly dry aftertaste to them, though it does not last long after one has consumed the last of them.

Nutrition

A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts are not the worst option as a component of a breakfast. A single pastry is considered a serving, which is weird given that they come sealed as two-packs. One A&W Root Beer Pop Tart has 200 calories, 45 of which are from fat! With 5 grams fat, one A&W Root Beer Pop Tart gives you 8% of your RDA of fat and 7% of your RDA of sodium. The 36 grams of carbohydrates provide 12% of your daily recommended intake! On the plus side, this flavor Pop Tart does have 10% of your RDA of Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron and Vitamin B6, which makes it more nutritious than some juices!

While there is not a lot to laud in the nutrition department, the ingredients in the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts are not actually bad. Made primarily of Enriched Flour, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup, it is actually a surprise how the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts are not worse in the nutrition department than they are! The ingredient list quickly becomes a chemistry equation after gelatin.

There are notations that the A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts contain wheat and soy ingredients. They are not marked as Kosher, though I am not certain why that is.

Storage/Clean-Up

A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts are very easy to clean up. Simply throw away the foil wrapper in an appropriate place, brush up the crumbs and you are done! Kept in their foil wrappers, A&W Root Beer Pop Tarts will remain fresh for a while; the ones we bought last week have an expiration date of September 20, 2017.

Overall

A&W Root Beer Limited Edition Pop Tarts are good, if not especially good for you, but for a breakfast pastry, they hit on just the right side of weird and delicious, especially when heated, to be worth recommending.

For other Pop Tarts, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Vanilla Latte Pop Tarts
Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts
Frosted Chocolate Peanut Butter

6.5/10

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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