Random Thoughts on Pixar’s Inside Out

Pixar’s latest summer spectacular, Inside Out, is a very good movie, but not among the company’s best. Like previous Pete Docter Pixar films, Inside Out is quite clever and full of heart. It’s a simultaneously cute and heady story of what goes on inside a young girl’s head as she deals with stress of moving from suburban Minnesota to San Francisco. Moviegoers get to watch anthropomorphic versions of the girl’s emotions — Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear — working together in her head. Naturally, things get fouled up, the emotions go through struggles, and everyone reaches a new understanding during the denouement.

First off, I’m going to admit that I probably enjoyed the movie more than many people will, simply because I’m a huge Pete Docter fan. I loved his work in Monsters Inc. and Up. Docter co-wrote and co-directed Inside Out. Secondly, I’m rooting for the movie to do well because Ronaldo Del Carmen is the other co-director; I have to support the work of my fellow Filipino-Americans. Thirdly, since the movie takes place in San Francisco, some of the scenes touched a place in my heart, bringing up fond memories of a city I lived in for many years. With all of that in mind, Inside Out is at the top of Pixar’s second echelon of movies for me. However, I completely understand anyone that rates it as middle of the pack.

Like most good Pixar movies, Inside Out is enjoyable for children and adults. It has plenty of visual gags and slapstick humor for youngsters, but also has several smartly written scenes. After the screening, my friend Paul said that this is one of the smartest Pixar movies to date and I totally agree. Emotions can be complex and intricate, and Inside Out had lots of fun playing with how human brains function. From cherished childhood memories to jingles that get stuck in your head, Inside Out handles the brain in a very clever way.

In a recent Google Hangout, a few of you RPadholics said that Inside Out was Pixar’s version of Herman’s Head. While several of the concepts are similar, the Pixar movie is much smarter and emotionally deeper than the Fox sitcom. Frankly, comparing Inside Out to Herman’s Head is more than a little bit insulting to Pixar. I mean…it’s Fox.

Anyway, the main conflict of the movie has Joy and Sadness getting separated from the other emotions. The pair go on a journey through other parts of the girl’s head, desperately trying to get back to headquarters so that they can restore emotional balance. The main problem I had with Inside Out is that the journey seems too long. There isn’t a single part of the quest that I disliked or would have cut entirely, but the whole thing could have felt tighter.

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The actors and actresses that play the emotions are the best parts of Inside Out. Amy Poehler and Phyllis Smith are perfect as Joy and Sadness, respectively. Mindy Kaling is great as Disgust and Bill Hader is lots of fun as Fear. My favorite was Anger, played by Lewis Black; let’s face it, the guy lives to play angry. An honorable mention goes to Richard Kind as Bing Bong, the girl’s imaginary friend. A forgotten remnant of the girl’s childhood, Bing Bong has a scene that will leave many moviegoers in tears.

The way the various internal characters work with and against each other is a fun take on emotions. While neuroscientists will probably disagree with Pixar’s take on how the human brain functions, it makes for an entertaining plot device. Personally, I believe that emotions are complex chemical reactions that happen in your brain; I don’t believe that there’s anything spiritual or magical about them. However, I’m also a man with borderline ridiculous emotions, so anthropomorphic characters playing around in heads is a plausible (enough) explanation. For some people, the plot device of Inside Out will be a fun exercise in examining the sometimes inexplicable intricacies of emotions.

With a runtime of 94 minutes, Inside Out isn’t very long, but it feels like a loose 94 minutes. The movie is an entertaining and emotional ride, but there are several parts of the film that feel close to going off the rails. Better editing and tighter writing would have made the journey smoother. Nonetheless, Inside Out is a very good Pixar movie that’s shy of being among the greats. Keep in mind that my opinion is in the context of the high bar Pixar has set.

As an added bonus, Inside Out viewers also get to watch the delightfully charming and exquisitely animated “Lava” short movie. As a fan of ukulele-based music, I loved it. It’s a shame that Hawaiian legend Iz passed away. A singing island with a sweet voice was meant to be played by an island of a man with a sweet voice.

If you’ve seen Inside Out, let’s compare notes (please!). Kindly share your thoughts on Pixar’s latest movie in the comments section. For another take on the movie, be sure to check out this fine review on PaulSemel.com.

Random Thoughts on Avengers Age of Ultron

Avengers Age of Ultron is sure to delight most fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The movie has everything that made the first Avengers movie incredibly popular — fantastic special effects, awesome action sequences, and snappy Joss Whedon dialogue. As a lifelong comics nerd, my usual pet peeve with comic book movies is deviating greatly from the source material. To my surprise, I really liked the major changes made for the movie.

While I greatly enjoyed Avengers Age of Ultron and will definitely see it in theaters again, there were a few things about it that bugged me. Below is the customary RPadTV binary breakdown of the film. As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say about the movie, so after you’ve seen it, kindly share your thoughts in the comments section. Now turn on your spoiler shields and let’s get avenging!

Ultron Owns (Good): I’m a big fan of the comics version of Ultron. Since the movie version is very different, I was worried about this incarnation of the robotic bad-ass. The original was created by Hank Pym (Ant-Man, Goliath, Yellow Jacket, etc.) and based on his brain patterns. The movie version was created by Tony Stark and based on his personality. That made for a highly entertaining baddie. Whereas comics Ultron is a megalomaniac that’s hellbent on wiping out organic life, the movie version is like a warped version of Tony Stark with the “sardonic dick” dial turned to 11. Like the original, movie Ultron is powerful, ruthless, and brilliant. Unlike the original, movie Ultron is hilarious and witty. Despite the fact that movie Ultron wants to destroy humanity, you kind of want to have a drink with him (yes, I know he can’t actually enjoy liquor, but still….).

Some of the early reviews of Avengers Age of Ultron criticized the movie’s villain, saying that Ultron wasn’t nearly as good as Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. I could not disagree more. Even though he was very different from the comics version, I thoroughly enjoyed the Ultron character. James Spader had fun material to work with and he rocked it.

Incredible Action (Good): This aspect of Avengers Age of Ultron was completely expected, but enjoyable nonetheless. I loved the blend of CG special effects and melee choreography. The effects — there are just so many cool ones to choose from. As for combat, there were a few Captain America scenes that made me utter a Keanu Reeves, “Whoa.”

Black Widow and Hulk (Bad): While the first Avengers movie was very Iron Man heavy, Avengers Age of Ultron was far more of an ensemble effort. The movie gave more characters time to shine than the original did. Unfortunately, it also gave us plot lines like the romance between Black Widow and Hulk. This bit did absolutely nothing for me. It felt forced and unnatural; going into the movie, I couldn’t imagine these characters having a romantic relationship and the actors/script did nothing to change that. This plot was a waste of time — a poor excuse to give Scarlett Johansson more screen time.

Hawkeye Surprises (Good): To my surprise, Hawkeye had a lot of screen time and great material to work with. As one of the “normal” humans on the team, Hawkeye’s mortality and fragility help make him more interesting and easier to identify with. I enjoyed how Avengers Age of Ultron played on the fact that he’s just a guy with a bow that’s hanging out with Norse gods, gamma irradiated powerhouses, and dude’s with billion-dollar self-defense suits. Showing that Hawkeye has a normal family life in addition to his insane Avengers life, was a fun touch.

Captain America’s Mighty Magnets (Bad): I hated Cap’s magnetized gauntlets, even though they make his unbelievable shield-throwing somewhat more believable. This is a total fanboy complain and I’m well aware of this, but I love Cap’s ability to ricochet his shield at impossible angles, hitting multiple targets, always having it return to his arm. While magnetized gauntlets that help the shield return to his arm makes sense, I preferred Cap’s shield-throwing being one of his inexplicable abilities.

Whedon Witticisms (Good and Bad): Some of the early reviews of Avengers Age of Ultron said that Whedon’s dialogue seems tired and dated. I respect that opinion, but disagree with it. As a fan of dense and witty dialogue, I very much enjoyed the movie’s script. While some called the snappy dialogue tired, I found it familiar and entertaining.

Quicksilver (Bad): Seconds after Quicksilver was introduced I thought, “Wow. Kick-Ass got a crappy costume and an even crappier accent.” Although I enjoyed how Quicksilver’s storyline ended in Avengers Age of Ultron, I thought he was mostly lame until his resolution.

Elizabeth Olsen big

Scarlett Witch (Good): Sure, the movie version of Scarlett Witch basically had Phoenix’s powers — a combination of telepathic and telekinetic abilities. Given how vague and ridiculous her “hex” powers in the comics are, I understand the change, even though her powers were awfully convenient in several scenes. All that said, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Chase Olsen is beautiful and I’ve been ready for ascent for nearly two years. She made the Scarlett Witch how in Avengers Age of Ultron.

Vision (Good): I enjoyed the movie version of Vision. He was cool, calm, and collected character. His power’s special effects were fun to see. Vision had one of the most enjoyable “Wow!” moments of the movie when he handed Thor his hammer. A more subtle moment (that totally got me) was when he checked out Thor’s cape, admired it, and grew himself a cape. Out of all the new heroes introduced in Avengers Age of Ultron, Vision was my favorite. I’ve enjoyed Paul Bettany’s acting and the character’s special effects were slick.

Bottom Line: Aside from the banal and insipid romance between Black Widow and Hulk, I only had minor complaints about Avengers Age of Ultron. I very much enjoyed the movie, will see it again in theaters, and watch it dozens of times after it’s available digitally. It has everything I want from a summer movie — great action, snappy dialogue, and fantastic special effects. While I understand why some people won’t enjoy Avengers Age of Ultron, I think those people enjoy killing fun. If you’re any kind of comics nerd, go see this movie now!

For another take on Avengers Age of Ultron, check out the PaulSemel.com review.

Random Thoughts on The Newsroom Season 3, Episode 3

The third episode of The Newsroom season three (“Main Justice”) was clearly the worst one this year and one of the worst in the show’s history. It had several unbelievably ridiculous situations and an unpalatable dose of Aaron Sorkin’s disdain for newness. That said, it was also the sexiest episode in the show’s history, with a beautiful new addition to the cast and a scorching steam room scene. Here are some random thoughts on The Newsroom s3e3.

Anything Goes — The episode starts off with Atlantis Cable News producer Gary Cooper singing “Anything Goes” as he strolls into the office on a Saturday. After Gary turns the corner and sees the FBI raiding the office, “Anything Goes” quickly becomes, “What the f@ck is going on?!?”

I’ve always liked the Gary Cooper character and always been disappointed that he’s a background player. That’s true for this episode too, but the audience learns more about Gary this episode. He has a nice voice, he knows show tunes, and — thanks to a wonderfully awkward meeting with the new human resources VP — he’s the office lothario. Gary Cooper is cool.

News Night vs. the FBI — One of the most unbelievable scenes in The Newsroom’s entire run, the News Night gang engages the FBI in a game of chicken. Unhappy with the FBI’s search, ACN president Charlie Skinner pretends to call the Los Angeles studio with the intention of breaking in with a live report on the search of the New York office. The rest of the team follows his lead in an absurdly perfect way and the FBI falls for the ruse. I don’t believe for a second that a newsroom team could outsmart FBI agents through impressive improv skills. Come on now.

ACN For Sale — On the Atlantis World Media level, CEO Leona Lansing and president Reese Lansing go to Charlie’s office with the unfortunate news that they have to sell off ACN in order to retain control of AWM. Leona looks genuinely disappointed and touches Charlie’s hand in a subtle, but meaningful way. The guy the Lansings intend to sell to, Silicon Valley millionaire Lucas Pruitt, has all sorts of ridiculous “new media” ideas for the network. He’s also an unlikable prick. It’s another example of Aaron Sorkin’s disdain for the modern world. While I agree that a lot of modern reporting is wretched, the writing here is way too preachy. It’s the “good and pure” old-fashioned way of reporting the news vs. the “crap and tainted” way that new media does it. Like I mentioned in my last recap, modern media has introduced many excellent things along with a lot of trash. Writing about a “people stalking Danny Glover channel” is preposterous and I can’t believe that a Silicon Valley millionaire would propose such a preposterous idea.

Slumdog Millionaire’s Venezuelan Vacation — The audience learns that Neal Sampat is hiding out in Venezuela (no extradition!) by way of Cuba by way of Calgary. His situation has gone from bad to worse. The News Night superpowers and their awesome lawyer have been summoned to Washington for a source shakedown. News Night anchor Will McAvoy believes that his star status will protect him from the worst. Unfortunately, he’s served a subpoena at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The law is coming down hard on Neal and the News Night staff. Apparently the government doesn’t like journalists assisting in espionage and (accidentally) coercing sources to uncover classified government documents.

The Source is…Hot — At the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the source of the leaked documents revealed herself. She’s played by the lovely Clea DuVall. I’ve always been a fan of her and I was thrilled to see her on the show. She stole my heart in But I’m a Cheerleader and now she steals classified government documents in The Newsroom. Clea has come full circle (not really). While seeing sexy Clea DuVall was fantastic, she wasn’t the sexiest part of this episode. That distinction goes to the…

Sexy Cougar Steam RoomNews Night executive producer McKenzie MacHale had a clandestine meeting with her longtime friend, FBI special agent Molly Levy. The scene was…hot. Watching two beautiful cougars discussing serious matters in a steam room while wearing nothing but towels leaves a lot to the imagination. I can see the fan fiction now. “Special agent Levy searched Mac, caressing her in a commanding and sensual way that made sure that Mac knew that she must have her now.” Hold on. I’m going to go watch that scene again.

Jim Harper, Doormat — Senior producer Jim Harper had a lot more screen time this episode, but spent most of it getting his ass kicked by the women in his life. Associate producer Maggie Jordan treated him like dirt (more on that later) at the office, while his girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter) treated him like dirt at home.

The argument between Jim and Hallie touched a nerve with me. Hallie received a job offer from a website that awards its writers bonuses for traffic. That’s a common thing these days, but Jim was shocked by the practice. On one hand, it fits into Sorkin’s “I hate the Internet!” ramblings. On the other hand, traffic bonuses are responsible for millions of crappy articles. I hate the practice for lowering the standards for Internet writing and introducing the clickbait phenomenon, but I’ve also accepted that that’s how the Internet works these days.

New Competent Maggie — Oh Maggie…what have you become? Once the awkwardly charming girl in the office, Maggie has become a confident and successful woman. She has also become completely unlikable (at work, anyway). She’s belligerent, insubordinate, and violent in the office. I hate the message that sends. It’s as if you have to be an a-hole in order to be successful. While that’s true in many cases, there are plenty of nice people that have accomplished great things. Hopefully it doesn’t get to the point where the audience is thinking, “I wish you died in Uganda, Maggie!!!” With two episodes left, there might not be enough time to redeem her.

Human Resources Hates Love — The aforementioned new VP of human resources has it out for interoffice romance. While Will is too big of a star to go after, the HR guy takes aim at 10PM executive producer Don Keefer and his sometime replacement anchor Sloan Sabbith (played by the dreadful Olivia Munn, but you already knew that). This storyline seems like filler. It feels so unimportant with the FBI raiding the office and the team reporting on the end of the world. Speaking of which…

This is the End — The Environmental Protection Agency admin that Maggie met last episode was a guest on the Friday edition of News Night. On the show, he looked and sounded like an utterly defeated man that had given up all hope. He “shared” his hopelessness with News Night’s viewers, saying that the environment has been damaged beyond hope and that there are people alive today that will die because of what humans have done to the planet. While Don and Sloan dating is unimportant compared to the FBI vs. News Night, perhaps none of it matters if the world is coming to an end.

That would be funny if he was an intentionally crappy guest just to get back at Maggie. Then again, maybe it wouldn’t be. It would annoy the hell out of me if Maggie gets depressed over the dramatically dire story she produced and jumps lovingly into Jim’s waiting arms. Ugh.

Random Thoughts on The Newsroom Season 3, Episode 2

The second episode of The Newsroom season three had more of what fans love and what critics hate about Aaron Sorkin’s show. It also had an ending that felt incongruous with the rest of the episode. The show had a pair of triumphant returns (Leona! Rebecca!), a pair of lovely new additions, and an ending that felt like The Fugitive. Here are some random thoughts on The Newsroom s3e2.

Return of the Awesome Old Ladies — Leona Lansing (Jane Fonda) and Rebecca Halladay (Marcia Gay Harden) are two of the best characters in The Newsroom. As the CEO of Atlantis World Media (AWM) and the company’s legal counsel, respectively, they’re a pair of powerful women that are proud of their power. Fonda and Harden deliver their lines sharply, but in different ways. Fonda’s Lansing is an in-your-face tigress, while Harden delivers Halladay’s lines softly, but the impact is just as hard. They’re immensely entertaining characters and it’s wonderful to have them in the mix again.

A Douche on the Side of the Angels — For me, the show’s MVP continues to be Reese Lansing. Aaron Sorkin writes a lot of great lines for a lot of characters in every episode, but so far Chris Messina has been doing the best job of owning scenes. As the president of AWM, Reese is dealing with a hostile takeover from his half-siblings, Randy and Blair. The incredibly sexy Kat Dennings is a fantastic antagonist as Blair, while Christopher Nicholas Smith plays a delightfully vapid Randy Lansing. While Dennings is easier to pay attention to due to her gorgeous looks and harsh lines, I was impressed with Smith’s portrayal of a slow trust-fund kid. He reminded me of several people I’ve met in Los Angeles.

Getting back to Reese Lansing, Messina has crushed the first two episodes of The Newsroom. Other actors on the show have had lines written for them that are on par with Messina’s, but nobody has been as consistent with their delivery.

Don and Sloan Get Testy — On the romantic front, an unfortunate situation with insider trading has gotten Don and Sloan to label their relationship. There’s some great banter between the two, starting with buffet trickery and ending with an awesome “I love you” test. The chemistry between these two characters is great and I have to give it up to Olivia Munn. She might be a wretched human being, but she’s highly entertaining in The Newsroom. Between the seriousness of the AWM hostile takeover and Neal’s accidental espionage, Don and Sloan provide a fun and frivolous distraction from the weighty issues.

Scenes From a Train — Heading back from her television debut in Boston, producer Maggie Jordan in on a train heading back to New York. I’m not sure why 10PM anchor Elliot Hirsch isn’t with her, but I’m guessing he stayed behind with his family in Boston or talent was entitled to a more advanced form of transportation. Whatever the case, Maggie makes the most out of her AmTrak ride. She overhears a rep from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) expressing his (off-the-record) disgust with the Obama administration, confronts the EPA agent over his comments, feels guilty about slouching in a chair to spy on the EPA guy’s conversation, decides not to do anything with the info she overheard, and is rewarded by the EPA guy with an exclusive story. Oh yeah, she also catches the eye of a strapping young Fordham Law professor.

On paper, Maggie’s AmTrak adventure is way to preachy and unrealistic. She got the information fair and square, and I can’t imagine a producer just dropping it. The Newsroom’s pundits will point to this situation as another naive and dreamy Sorkin parable that shows that people will be rewarded for doing the right thing. She snagged an exclusive and a handsome man by being a just person! While I understand people hating this storyline, Alison Pill was really cute in it.

[Side Note: The handsome Fordham Law professor was played by Jimmi Simpson. He and Thomas Sadoski acted together in the Jason Biggs’ classic Loser.]

Superflous Jim — Atlantis Cable News senior producer is still a background player after two episodes. This time around, he was featured in a superfluous storyline with his girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter!). For reasons that defy logic, Hallie sends out a tweet on the ACN account — the kind of tweet that would never be typed by an experienced reporter. Naturally, the tweet gets picked up by every Internet outlet imaginable and Hallie gets fired. Aside from Sorkin reinforcing his disdain for Twitter and the Internet in general, these scenes were useless filler.

Sexy Thick Mary McCormack — Early in the episode, ACN executive producer MacKenzie McHale goes shooting with her FBI agent friend Molly Levy. Mac isn’t really there to sharpen her skills as a marksman. Instead, she asks Agent Levy how much trouble Neal Sampat is really in and if he will get nailed for espionage. Levy says that Neal will probably get slapped with a contempt charge and likely spend 10 days in jail. Happenstance being what it is, Agent Levy just happens to be in charge of the FBI raid on ACN. That was way too convenient.

When I first saw Agent Levy, she looked familiar to me. Then I figured it out — she played Howard Stern’s wife in Private Parts! Actress Mary McCormack has gotten quite a bit thicker since Private Parts, but I found her to be very sexy. Her face is still beautiful, I like the idea of a hot FBI agent having her way with me, and chicks with guns are hot.

Slumdog Fugitive — Neal Sampat spent most of this episode in a conference room, reviewing his legal situation with Rebecca and, eventually, most of the ACN senior staff. He adamantly wants to report on the leaked documents he received and is prepared to deal with the consequences. The Newsroom hero and News Night anchor Will McAvoy doesn’t want to see one of his charges go to jail. After several rounds of intense debate, Will notices that Neal’s expression has changed. Neal appears content, which Will immediately picks up on and knows that the FBI will hit the office shortly. The two have a very cute big brother/little brother moment…

…and then the episode got weird. Instead of the comedic drama that usually fills The Newsroom, the episode jarringly shifts to a spy thriller. Will makes creative use of menus to send secret messages. Neal destroys his phone and goes on the run. While the drama definitely hit a new level, Neal becoming “The Fugitive” felt strange. Oh well, let’s see where it ends up next week.

Random Thoughts on The Newsroom Season 3, Episode 1

The boys and girls of Atlantis Cable News are back! Everyone’s (not everyone’s) favorite dramatization of not-quite current events, Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom, has returned and my world feels a whole lot better. While I understand why some people hate-watch the show, I’m a sucker for Sorkin’s witty, dense, and rapid-fire writing. Here are some random thoughts and reflections on “Boston,” the first episode of The Newsroom season three.

Still dealing with the fallout of the Operation Genoa story, the News Night gang is trying to gain back the trust of the public. The crew is understandably skittish and gun shy. Thankfully, that didn’t get in the way of two important questions being asked:

Why did Greek yogurt suddenly become a thing? — Will MacAvoy

When did walnuts start going into chicken salad?!? — Elliot Hirsch

Bridesmaids to Bombings — The episode starts in Will McAvoy’s office, where our hero and his bride-to-be (and executive producer) MacKenzie McHale are discussing the amount of bridesmaids for their upcoming nuptials. Mac has nine bridesmaids pegged, but Will doesn’t have nine male friends to match up with them. Suddenly, Mac catches an explosion on a monitor. It’s the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, which serves as the real-news backdrop of the episode.

Don Still Rules — Meanwhile, the coolest cat in the newsroom — Don Keefer — is stuck in jury duty. He gets a text about the bombing and awesomely talks his way out of his civic duties. Don is far from the antagonistic prick he was in the first few episodes of season one, but his wit is still (entertainingly) razor sharp. I really enjoyed Don playfully taking jabs at Sloan’s “investigation” (more on that later) and Neal’s crackpot Internet sources. While this was a good Don episode, he wasn’t my MVP this show. That award goes to…

A Kindler, Gentler Reese — Speaking of no longer being an antagonistic prick, Atlantis World Media president Reese Lansing has done a total 180. Formerly a corporate overlord that only cared about the bottom line, Reese now onboard with News Night’s mission to do the news “right.” He supports the newsies, while also challenging them with the realities of business. In addition to dealing with the ACN crew, Reese has to deal with running all of AWM, his party-happy siblings, potentially disastrous quarterly earnings, and a bomb dropped by Sloan (again, more on that later). Chris Messina is fantastic in this role. His character is juggling a bunch of plots and he deftly delivers memorable lines concerning each of them.

Aaron Sorkin Hates the Internet: While it permeated several episodes of the first two seasons, The Newsroom writer’s disdain for the Internet is the loudest it has ever been in this episode. He rails on all the Internet writers that spreaded bad information on the Boston Marathon bombing. Innocent people were incorrectly identified as suspects by Internet writers and the Internet being what it is, the misinformation spread like wildfire. While Sorkin has a point in this particular case and there’s certainly a ton of crap Internet reporting, his preachiness comes off as antiquated. There are a lot of great resources on the Internet and there’s also a lot of crap reporting in old media. In fact, I’d say that it’s easier to find credible reporting on the Internet than it is on television. Still…love the dude’s writing.

Mike Tyson Olivia Munn Mysteries — The most unbelievable part of this episode was our dear friend Olivia Munn’s storyline. As you know, her character Sloan Sabbith has two PhDs in economics. Olivia Munn playing a character with dual doctorates is difficult to believe, but since her character’s social awkwardness often overshadows her intellect, it’s easy to forget that she’s supposed to be a financial genius. In this episode, Sloan is using her $24,000 Bloomberg Terminal to uncover a mysterious media buy. Yeah…right. Watching Olivia look at a Bloomberg Terminal, pretending to extract essential information was hilarious. It reminded me of Denise Richards pretending to be a nuclear physicist that uses her vast scientific knowledge to bail out James Bond. Suspension of disbelief is impossible.

Tag Team Promos — My favorite scene in this episode was ACN president Charlie Skinner and Will chastising the staff for cheering about a CNN retraction. Sam Waterston was brilliant, as always, while Jeff Daniels hilariously played the stooge. It reminded me of this Vince McMahon and Steve Austin locker room sketch. Charlie lead the speech, while Will comedically reinforced everything Charlie said.

Slumdog SnowdenThe Newsroom’s Internet nerd, Neal Sampat, gets a beefy plot this season, as he received more than 27,000 stolen government documents. Neal mentioned Wikileaks in a previous episode and is the only character equipped to handle an Edward Snowden-like situation. Unfortunately, he asked for a few more documents from his mysterious source. Will points out that this constitutes espionage. I’ve been a fan Dev Patel since Slumdog Millionaire and I’m happy that his character has more to work with this season. I also love that he’ll be heavily interacting with AWM’s hired legal gun Rebecca Halliday, awesomely portrayed by Marcia Gay Harden.

Where’s Waldo Jim?News Night’s senior producer is a background player in this episode, but I have a feeling that he’ll get more play on the romantic front in future shows. For reasons that don’t make sense to me, Jim’s girlfriend Hallie Shea (Meryl Streep’s daughter!) now works as Neal’s minion at News Night instead of running her own political website. You know, because the office needs another romantic coupling on top of the Will/Mac and Don/Sloan pairings. Jim recommends the former object of his affection, Maggie Jordan, to serve as Elliot Hirsch’s field producer in Boston. Will and Mac are skeptical, but Maggie comes through. After her triumphant moment, Jim gets a little twinkle in his eye. I’m hoping that Jim will have a Betty/Veronica situation, but don’t really expect one to get fleshed out since this season is only six episodes long.

Our Little Maggie is All Growns Up — Still traumatized by the tragedy she experienced in Africa, Maggie has exchanged bad haircuts for hellish stomach crunches. Working on the Boston story with 10PM anchor Elliot Hirsch, Maggie has to shift from field producer to on-air talent after she mistakenly gives Elliot some chicken salad with walnuts. Elliot is allergic to walnuts and his tongue starts swelling, rendering him incapable of coherent speech. After Maggie nails her television debut, Elliot gives her a tender, fatherly hug. I’m kind of meh on Maggie right now. She was adorably awkward in season one and annoyingly angry in season two. That said, I’ll always give her a chance. The character reminds me so much of my dear Zoe (Alison Pill’s awkward hand gestures are eerily similar to my Best Best’s).

McAvoy Rises — Will had a strange outing this episode. As expected, he was gruff and shouty throughout the show, but he started on a weak note. He absolutely failed at giving a pep talk, meant to invigorate the crew as they pursued the Boston Marathon story. Later, he served as Charlie’s John Oates during a dress-down speech. He closed out the show with a confidently angry soliloquy that we expect from him. While he’s the center of The Newsroom, I enjoyed that he wasn’t the center of this particular episode.

Coming Next — As a fan of The Newsroom since day one, I enjoyed this episode. It wasn’t the best, but I didn’t expect it to be. Since the final run is only six episodes long, there were a lot of plots to establish. This episode got them all running, while serving up the rapid-fire dialogue that Sorkin fans love. More importantly, it got me excited about the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to some Neal and Rebecca legal powwows. I can’t wait for Jane Fonda’s triumphant return as AWM CEO Leona Lansing. Most of all, I’m terribly excited to see Kat Dennings’ debut on the show. That woman is pretty close to perfection.

If you have a chance, let me know what you thought of the “Boston” episode of The Newsroom.

Vaping Diaries #226: Beyond Vape Neptune Review

Vapers looking for a relatively inexpensive all-in-one solution should take a look at the Beyond Vape Neptune. This hybrid dripper offers sharp looks and strong performance at a relatively low price (for an original product that’s not a clone). Available in a variety of colors, there’s bound to be a shade that’s right for you. While this hybrid dripper brings a lot to the table, there’s one aspect of the device that could make it a poor choice for certain types of vapers. Read on for more details on the Beyond Vape Neptune.

Design and Ergonomics: The Beyond Vape Neptune’s body features a modular design. Pieces of the main body can be mixed and matched, allowing the device to accept batteries as small as 18350 and as large as 18650.

Since it uses a hybrid setup, the device is relatively short no matter what type of battery you use. It’s made primarily from 6061 T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, which is lighter than the brass, copper, and stainless steel used in most mods. Fans of short and light vaping devices will definitely enjoy the way the Beyond Vape Neptune feels in hand.

The atomizer portion of the Beyond Vape Neptune is fairly basic. It features three posts, for easy dual-coil setup, and a decent juice well. Airflow is totally basic, with two fixed holes on the top cap. Vapers that prefer adjustable airflow for different builds or different juices will find the atomizer rather spartan.

Lastly, the button on the Beyond Vape Neptune uses a medium-to-stiff spring with a relatively short throw. While I enjoyed the device’s throw, I wish it had a lighter spring. My preference is for feather-light buttons with extremely short throws. While I wasn’t unhappy with the device’s button, it didn’t impress me either. Button feel is, of course, totally subjective and I’m sure that many vapers will be pleased with firing mechanism on this device.

Build Quality and Construction: For the most part, I was pleased with the Beyond Vape Neptune’s build quality, but there’s one major caveat, which I’ll get to at the end of this section. Out of the box, the threads on the device are heavily lubricated. After a thorough washing, I was happy to see that the threads are fairly smooth.

The atomizer portion of the device is also well made. I’ve heard second-hand that some Beyond Vape Neptune units have inconsistent post holes, but I didn’t encounter that issue. The post holes on the device I’ve been using were accurately placed.

One possible issue with the Beyond Vape Neptune is its use of aluminum. While it’s a strong and light metal, it’s also relatively soft. The device uses a thin cut of aluminum tubing. This makes it a poor choice for clumsy vapers or those that tend to beat up their gear. If you drop it on concrete then you’ll have a nasty dent on your mod. If you’re not mindful when screwing and unscrewing the mod then there’s a good chance that you’ll wear out the threads. While there certainly are some advantages to its light and thin aluminum body, the Beyond Vape Neptune requires a little more care than a brass, copper, or stainless steel mod.

Performance: Thanks to its hybrid design and aluminum construction, the Beyond Vape Neptune is a very strong performer. Going off of raw materials, aluminum is more conductive than brass and stainless steel, though not as conductive as copper. The device uses silver-plated brass contacts for additional performance gains (and easy care). Of course design and workmanship also factor into performance, and the device does well in those departments. Vapers looking for a high-performance setup at a relatively low price will be happy with what the Beyond Vape Neptune offers.

Beyond Vape Neptune Review

Verdict: The Beyond Vape Neptune brings a lot to the table for only $150. It’s an original product that offers quality construction and great performance. It comes in a variety of colors, making it a nice choice for vapers that want a device that stands out. While it’s possible to buy a clone mod and clone atomizer for less money, there aren’t many combinations out there that offer this level of performance and construction. One mistake I often see with the Beyond Vape Neptune is vapers dismissing the device because they forget that it’s a hybrid. For $150, you get a very good mod and a decent dripper. As long as you can adequately care for its thin aluminum body, the Beyond Vape Neptune is a great choice for a first mechanical device and for vapers that want to add a splash of color to their collection.

Vaping Diaries #225: Ahlusion Review X

For my tenth Ahlusion review, I’ve chosen a trio of coffee and tea e-liquids. These aren’t straight-up, run-of-the-mill coffee and tea juices. Two of them add complementary flavors to coffee, making for unique and complex vapes. The other is the most striking tea e-liquid I’ve ever tried. All three are high-quality juices that you should take a look at if you’re into coffee or tea flavors. Read on for more details on Ahlusion’s JG Blend, Masala Chai, and Boba Tea with Coffee.

JG Blend: Ahlusion makes some of the best tobacco e-liquids on the market. It also makes some great coffee e-liquids. With that in mind, I had high expectations for this coffee-tobacco blend…and my expectations were absolutely met. Like Ahlusion’s other non-aromatic juices, the tobacco in JG Blend is light, but flavorful. The coffee flavor is one of the best I’ve tried (keep in mind that I’m a huge coffee nerd). There are a lot of coffee-tobacco juices on the market and if you’re looking for one in the light to medium range, JG Blend is one of the best you can buy. Like many of my favorite Ahlusion e-liquids, it’s a flavorful mix that’s not overpowering and something I’ll definitely order again.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG

Masala Chai: “Adult” is a great word for this Ahlusion e-liquid. It doesn’t taste like an overly sweet chai latte that you’d order at Starbucks or Coffee Bean. This is an authentic and complex chai tea. I can’t stress that enough; the popularity of chai lattes at places like Starbucks has given people a “dessert” image of chai. Ahlusion’s Masala Chai is absolutely not a dessert vape.

Having said that, the flavor is remarkable, but divisive. I very much enjoyed its combination of earthiness, spiciness, and sweetness, but if you’re used to artificial or candied juices then Masala Chai might be too much for you. It’s definitely one of the most unique e-liquids I’ve tried, but it’s certainly not for everyone. It’s rich and complex, but doesn’t assault your tastebuds. Depending on your palette, you’ll either find this juice to be delicious or you’ll find it too foreign. At the very least, Masala Chai stands out from other tea e-liquids with a truly distinct flavor.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG

Boba Tea with Coffee: Raina and I reviewed Ahlusion’s plain Boba Tea early last year. Both of us enjoyed the e-liquid, but felt there was something missing. To my tastebuds, Boba Tea with Coffee is tastier than the plain version. The different flavors come together for a delicious dessert vape. You get the sweet and creamy milk tea complemented by a tasty and pleasantly bitter (slightly) coffee. I order milk tea with coffee at boba shops and this e-liquid does a good job of approximating that flavor, but is really delicious if you think of it as its own thing. While I enjoyed Ahlusion’s plain Boba Tea, adding coffee to the mix cuts down on the sweetness of boba (a bit much for what I enjoy) with some earthiness and bitterness. The complex combination of flavors totally worked for me and this is a juice that I will order again in the future.

Juice Specs: 6mg nicotine, 50/50 PG/VG\

Ahlusion JG Blend, Masala Chai, Boba Tea Coffee

Steeping and Review Notes (Updated December 29, 2013)
On the advice of Wlad from Ahlusion, I’ve been trying a new steeping method as of December 27, 2012. When the e-liquids arrive, I leave them uncapped for five minutes. Previously, I left them uncapped for about two days. After the liquids are given a few minutes to oxidize, the caps are put back on.

RPad.TV e-liquid reviews focus on the flavor of the e-liquids, since throat hit and vapor production can be altered by the PG/VG ratio and nicotine level selected. Each juice is vaped over a period of days in a bottom-coil silica atomizer (The Russian and Aqua), various rebuildable dripping atomizers, and a clearomizer.

Random Thoughts on Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

I’m a big fan of the Sin City comics and a huge fan of the first Sin City movie. With that in mind, I had fairly big expectations going into Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. That said, I wasn’t expecting it to outdo its predecessor — the first movie’s source material is just superior. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For uses two of Frank Miller’s existing stories (one of which is only okay) and two new ones. While it’s certainly not as good as the first film, it’s my favorite movie of 2014 thus far. Let’s take a look at Sin City: A Dame to Kill For using the tried and true RPadTV binary system. [Light spoiler shields, activated!]

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Marv

3D or Not 3D (Good): Sin City: A Dame to Kill For starts off with a fast-paced story called “Just Another Saturday Night” featuring the inimitable Marv. There’s not a lot going on as far a depth and character development, but the opening plot quickly pulls you back into the world of Sin City and shows off some phenomenal 3D special effects. Robert Rodriguez uses 3D similarly to how he uses color in the mostly black-and-white Sin City movies. 3D enhances the visuals and is part of the storytelling, not a tacked on afterthought like 3D used in most movies. That said, after “Just Another Saturday Night,” the 3D isn’t used as frequently or effectively, but for the first 10 minutes of the movie, it’s spectacular.

Not as Deadly Little Miho (Bad): While Jamie Chung did a decent job of replacing Devon Aoki as the wicked, katana-wielding Miho, she doesn’t quite measure up. Aoki was great in the role; her facial expressions were creepier and it helped that she looked so young. There’s something f#cked up about a baby-faced prostitute assassin that slices off heads as frequently and easily as most people open soda cans. Plus, I always got a kick out of Devon Aoki dispensing decapitations; in my head her inner voice says, “There’s your volcano, bitch!” (Aoki is the daughter of Rocky Aoki, founder of the Benihana chain of restaurants, home of the volcano onion.) Anyway, Chung did a passable job as Miho, but she wasn’t as nasty or as menacing as her predecessor.

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Eva Green

Eva Green Owns (Good): Eva Green was — by far — the MVP of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Her character, Ava, was incredibly captivating. Visually, she stood out with her bright green eyes and deep red lips. Green’s performance was even more extraordinary. She made Eva beautiful, manipulative, seductive, alluring, deadly, cunning, and unbalanced. Ava is the type of woman that you find immensely attractive and scary as hell. She’s like a dazzling light that attracts moths. Men can see that it will end poorly for them, but her presence is irresistible. While the movie had several good performances, Eva Green’s was the most outstanding.

Odd Pacing (Bad): Although the movie clocks in at a relatively short 102 minutes, it feels longer. My good buddy Paul said that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For felt like it had one too many plot lines and was surprised when I told him the movie’s runtime. While I didn’t feel that the movie was too long, I understand people that feel otherwise. Perhaps because there’s so much packed into the 102 minutes, some moviegoers got viewer fatigue. There aren’t many slow moments in the film, but maybe it could have used some to give the viewer a break.

Beautiful Women (Good): If you’re a guy or gal that’s into beautiful women then there’s a lot to enjoy in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. The movie is full of gorgeous, gorgeous ladies. Eva Green spends a good chunk of the movie naked. Jessica Alba spends a lot of time sexily dancing at Kadie’s Saloon. Rosario Dawson, Juno Temple, Jamie Chung, and Jaime King are just some of the other beautiful women in the film. It’s babetacular.

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Nancy Jessica Alba

Manute II (Bad): As a huge fan of Dennis Haysbert (Cerrano 4 Life!!!), I felt bad that he was pegged to replace Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute. The late giant had a physical presence and booming voice that are impossible to duplicate. It was a no-win situation for Haysbert, but he did well — certainly better than Jamie Chung did replacing Devon Aoki. That said, Michael Clarke Duncan was a perfect role for Manute and Haysbert’s performance was certainly a step down.

The New Stuff (Good): As I mentioned in the intro, two of Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’s storylines were written by Frank Miller just for the movie — “The Long Bad Night” and “Nancy’s Last Dance.” For the most part, they measure up well to Frank Miller’s other tales. I was pleasantly surprise by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “The Long Bad Night.” His performance was charming, though towards the end of the story it felt like he was channeling Bruce Willis’ character from the first Sin City film (too whiney). “Nancy’s Last Dance” was more enjoyable for me, though I fully admit that I’m completely smitten by Jessica Alba. I believe she’s the most beautiful MILF in the world and should be referred to as Milfimus Prime. What I enjoyed about both stories is that they both end with Pyrrhic victory. Both protagonists get what they want, but both pay a horrible price. These stories reminded me of why Dante from Clerks enjoyed Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, “It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is — a series of down endings.”

Sin City A Dame to Kill For Nancy 2

Bottom Line: While Sin City: A Dame to Kill For isn’t as good as the original, I very much enjoyed it. As expected, the visuals were striking and phenomenal, with the 3D being unexpectedly fantastic. There are several strong performances in the movie and most of the storytelling is strong. I got exactly what I wanted from Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and then some. To my surprise, I enjoyed it more than Godzilla and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Checking out some other reviews, the movie is getting panned by people that feel that Frank Miller has become a misogynistic fascist. Fairly or unfairly, his political transformation has netted some negative reviews. For my part, I was ignorant of Miller’s political rantings going into the film and only learned about them yesterday. I haven’t had enough time to process them yet, but what I can say for sure is that I enjoyed Sin City: A Dame to Kill For more than any other movie I’ve seen this year.

Random Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy

Following successful runs with Captain America, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, Marvel’s fourth comic-book movie of 2014 features the lesser-known Guardians of the Galaxy. While the film’s characters aren’t iconic like the other heroes featured this year, their relative (un)popularity and distinct setting (outer space!) were assets to the director and writers of the Guardians of the Galaxy film. They weren’t trapped by decades of history and millions of fanboys, weren’t limited by the quaint setting of Earth, and were free to create a movie that’s much more fun than its sister titles. While it’s certainly not the best Marvel movie of 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy is arguably the most entertaining.

To maximize your enjoyment of Guardians of the Galaxy, there are a few things you need to realize going into it. First and foremost, it’s much more of a sci-fi space-opera than a superhero flick. It has more in common with Star Wars and Star Trek than it does The Avengers and Iron Man. If you’re a fan of the source material (this iteration of the Guardians was made popular by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and currently penned by Brian Michael Bendis) then you’ll notice a lot of changes. Some of them are small (and seemingly unnecessary), while others are a huge departure from the comics. If you’re unfamiliar with the source material then you’ll like enjoy the movie on its own, but if you love the comics then some of the changes will bother you.

While there were many things I loved about Guardians of the Galaxy, there were a few things that bugged me. Here are some binary thoughts on Marvel’s summer space opera. [Turn your spoiler shields on, please!]

Guardians of the Galaxy movie review Gamora Quill

Fantastic Pacing (Good): Guardians of the Galaxy has a runtime of 122 minutes, but it doesn’t feel like a two hour movie. Director James Gunn did a superior job of mixing action, comedy, and characterization, while maintaining a zippy flow. The pace is brisk and unlike some fast-paced movies, doesn’t cause viewer fatigue.

Non-Threatening Gamora (Bad): In the comics, Gamora is often referred to as “the most dangerous woman in the universe.” While she’s certainly fierce in the movie, she doesn’t quite live up to that lofty title. The movie version of Gamora is too vulnerable and pigeonholed as a “damsel in distress” in a few scenes. Her sister, Nebula, comes off as more of a bad-ass.

Guardians of the Galaxy movie review Rocket

Incredible Special Effects (Good): While the spaceship and alien locations were expectedly dazzling, I was floored by the CG used for Groot and Rocket. They looked appropriately otherworldly, while still being believable in the context of the movie. Physically, the characters never felt forced. Oddly enough, some of Glenn Close’s scenes felt jarring because her character looked out of place.

(On a side note, I was half-expecting a cameo by Mike Myers. In my head, Austin Powers comes out, grabs Glenn Close’s hair, and exclaims, “It’s a man, baby!”)

Redneck Yondu (Bad): Man, I hated this version of Yondu. I’ve always been a fan of the character ever since I encountered the original Guardians of the Galaxy in “The Korvac Saga” storyline of The Avengers. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Yondu is kind of like an outer-space Native American. He’s spiritual and mystic (and yes, he wears a loin cloth and shoots arrows in deep space). Save for controlling a magical arrow, movie Yondu is nothing like comics Yondu. Movie Yondu is an outer-space redneck scavenger. I would totally hate the movie version of the character, but the awesome Michael Rooker plays him. You gotta give it up for anyone that was part of Mallrats.

Excellent Soundtrack (Good): Guardians of the Galaxy makes stellar use of ’70s pop songs. Blue Swede, David Bowie, The Runaways, The Five Stairsteps, and more are heard throughout the film. The songs add to the movie’s fun vibe. More than any other Marvel movie, the soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy will sell.

Guardians of the Galaxy movie review Groot

Rewritten Origin (Bad): I didn’t care for Peter Quill’s origin story in the movie. Having his mother die in a hospital (movie) isn’t nearly as powerful as having her slaughtered by aliens (comics). While the hospital death sets up a sappy scene towards the end of the film, it detracts from Quill’s tragedy. In the comics, his mother is killed by aliens that want revenge on Peter’s dad, J’Son of Spartax. It sets the tone for what a bastard J’Son is and gives the comics a recurring theme (Quill’s daddy-abandonment issues). While Quill’s dad is mentioned in passing, it looks like the sequels won’t have this important launching point to play off of (unless they write that J’Son infected Meredith Quill with space cancer or something stupid like that).

Wrong About Quill (Good): One of my fears going into the movie was that Chris Pratt would be too goofy to play Peter Quill. In the trailers, he seems more comedic than anything else — kind of like Han Solo’s far less competent younger brother. I was relieved that Pratt didn’t go too far with the comedy in the movie. Yes, he has his funny moments, but he also kicks ass, gets the ladies, and is cool. He definitely fits into that “scoundrel” mold established by Harrison Ford.

Ronan the Dickhead (Bad): Sometimes a hero and sometimes a villain (depending on your point of view), Ronan the Accuser is a complex and layered character in the comics. He can be unrelentingly brutal, but he has a nobility about him and an undeniable love for the Kree people. Movie Ronan is just a dick. He’s a radical extremist that’s 100-percent villain. His characterization in the movie was lazy and shallow.

Batista Didn’t Suck! (Shockingly Good): As many of you know, I loathe WWE Batista. He’s mediocre in the ring and terrible on the mic. To my surprise, Dave Bautista the actor was entertaining in Guardians of the Galaxy. His portrayal of Drax the Destroyer was shockingly good. Obviously, he excelled in the physical scenes, but his deadpan humor was fantastic. While I didn’t like the rewritten origin of movie Drax, Dave Bautista’s performance was surprisingly strong — so much so that I’m going to have to think of him as two different people. I will always hate WWE Batista, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Dave Bautista in more roles that combine physicality and comedy.

Bottom Line: I was very much entertained by Guardians of the Galaxy. Objectively comparing it to the other Marvel 2014 movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a much better film. Subjectively, Guardians of the Galaxy was way more fun. Even though some of the changes from the source material bothered me, I know that I’ll watch this movie again and again in the future. When it comes down to the cable TV test, I can see myself watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier a handful of times over the next five years. In that same five-year period, I’m certain that I’ll watch Guardians of the Galaxy dozens of times.

Vaping Diaries #220: VLS Vulcan Rebuildable Atomizer Review

Here’s the short version of my VLS Vulcan review — the atomizer is one of best values in vaping today. I’ve been using a pair of pre-production VLS Vulcan atomizers for the last month and I was quite impressed by what this atomizer brings to the table. The VLS Vulcan is well made, looks great, has excellent features, and offers sweet performance. While there are some minor issues that prevent it from being perfect for everyone, I believe that the majority of vapers will be happy with what the VLS Vulcan offers — especially when they see the price. Let’s take a closer look.

Design: The VLS Vulcan is packed full of fantastic features. The two sets of heat fins are the most striking. Like the popular Tobh atomizer, the VLS Vulcan’s top cap has rows of deep fins that help dissipate heat. The bottom of the atomizer also has rows of heat fins, to help dissipate heat coming from your mod and atomizer. The usefulness of the bottom heat fins depends on how low you build your coils and what batteries you use; some vapers will find it useful, while it’s overkill for others. The bottom layer of heat fins makes the VLS Vulcan longer than most rebuildable dripping atomizers, which might be an issue for some vapers.

Similar to the Tobh, the base of the VLS Vulcan is made from one piece of stainless steel. The negative posts and base are cut from one piece of metal. What very cool and practical about the base is that the metal underneath the negative posts is also carved out, allowing the atomizer to hold more juice. This makes the VLS Vulcan an excellent choice for vapers that want the full flavor of dripping and minimal refilling.

The VLS Vulcan handles airflow in a unique manner. Instead of traditional air holes, this atomizer has stylized “Vulcan” text on each side of the main cap. The “V” in Vulcan is laser engraved, allowing air to enter the atomizer. It’s certainly unique, but it does present some potential issues. For my builds, I positioned the coils close to the side walls instead of centered; it wasn’t difficult, but it wasn’t as brainless as building coils for a standard atomizer. For certain types of vapers (I’m looking at you cloud chasers!), the “V” is somewhat liming, which I’ll talk about more in the performance section of this review.

All told, the VLS Vulcan uses a great three-piece design that’s an outstanding blend of handsome aesthetics and useful features.

Build Quality: According to Vapour Lifestyle, the VLS Vulcan is made by “a Japanese CNC perfectionist producer.” While the company isn’t mentioned by name, its work is exemplary. This is a very well-made atomizer. Out of the box, the machining is impressive and stands up to competing atomizers that cost $20 to $50 more. I was quite happy with both of the VLS Vulcan atomizers I’ve been using for the last month and I’m confident that most vapers will be pleased by how well the product is made.

Out of the box, the VLS Vulcan has brass thumb screws. Also included are stainless steel thumb screws and extra O-rings.

Performance: The VLS Vulcan uses a copper contact for high conductivity. As many of you know, copper is one of the most conductive metals used in vaping — more conductive than brass or stainless steel, but not as conductive as silver. If performance is priority for you then the VLS Vulcan should keep you happy. Naturally, there are many other factors that contribute to overall performance (mod, battery, coil, etc.), but this atomizer provides a strong link in the chain.

For many vapers, the VLS Vulcan’s airflow is more than adequate. One possible exception is extreme cloud chasers. Vapers that drill out their atomizer holes to bullet-sized proportions will want more airflow. A potential issue with the VLS Vulcan is that its air holes are laser-engraved and stylized. Drilling it out can be tricky and vapers that do will be left with an “ulcan” instead of a “Vulcan,” ruining the aesthetics of the atomizer.

VLS Vulcan Review

Verdict: On its own, the VLS Vulcan is a fantastic rebuildable dripping atomizer. The build quality is great, it performs nicely, and it has lots of versatility. The only issues with the VLS Vulcan are for people that prefer relatively short atomizers and those that like extreme airflow. If you don’t fall into either category then I’m certain that you’ll be happy with the VLS Vulcan.

When you consider that the VLS Vulcan has an MSRP of $60, this atomizer is a brilliant deal. It’s as good for better than most rebuildable atomizers in the $80-$100 range. After using the VLS Vulcan for roughly one month, it has become one of my favorite atomizers in my collection. I love the way it looks, the amount of juice it holds, and the way it performs. If you’re cool with the atomizer’s atypical height and the airflow that it offers, you’ll be thrilled by what the VLS Vulcan offers for a very fair price of $60.