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Writing a review can be very time consuming when you want to talk about a lot of things and go into a lot of detail about each, the reiteration happened in order to save time when needing to do other things as well and had nothing to do with accumulation as one prolific reviewer attacked me for. Also because when talking about individual episodes for shows many have similar strengths and flaws. If this is what is bothering you, I am genuinely sorry and I am really trying to address it, though I do think that that is a ridiculous and petty reason to hate on someone and their reviews and it is really none of your business how I choose to word what I'm writing.
I am feeling targeted and with me physically and mentally ill at the moment, including a major seizure a few days ago, I cannot deal with feeling that way. So if you have any regard of feelings towards people's health respect those wishes, which is clearly not happening now. Seeing as this has been happening a number of times suspiciously since November with knowledge of how I'm feeling at the moment and about this that this is still happening is worrying. If this is coming over as extreme, it is because of my anxiety and autism and I am at the stage where feeling targeted when doing something I love is something I can do without at the moment. I have really tried to grin and bear it since reporting this terms-and-conditions violating issue, but I have now had enough. Get all of that through your skulls and leave me alone. If you have any issues with my reviews, just take note of my user name and ignore me as this has become beyond a joke and immature.
Had a major operation on my back in March 2011 to improve my scoliosis. I also have Aspergers Syndrome (hence why I get very overly passionate and hot-headed when something, especially reviewers resorting to condescension and with the inability to tell the difference between fact and opinion, annoys me) and primary epilepsy, both of which I'm coping with but there are also days that are a struggle with the epilepsy getting worse overtime. Also a problem in recent years has been an on and off weight problem, with a lot of losing weight in a short space of time because my insecurities and anxiety have been issues for a while.
Am a massive film, of all genres and decades, animation and classical music/opera lover. All of which helped me relax and kept me going when I was going through rough patches (namely health problems, stress and bullying) and had moments where I felt like giving up.
It is for those reasons as to why I have watched as much as I have and why I have contributed so heavily here. Furthermore, I enjoy it, doing the reviews has broadened my film knowledge significantly and has improved my writing skills and how I express myself.
A lot of my reviews (especially those for concert/opera ballet productions), during particularly prolific years, have been through watching things related to my course and during some lengthy breaks from studying. Just to clarify for those wondering, or even suspicious of (having been accused of being a liar a sometimes, a few of which got personal), how I have contributed as much as I have and why.
Being part of IMDb has not been without its downsides and annoyances, but the friends and admirers I've garnered through being a user has given me a lot of confidence. I also wish to thank everybody who have contacted me, with praise for my reviews and wishing me well, it means a lot. Apologies too for any slow or non responses, I can be very busy to reply or shy, it's not because I'm rude.
Ratings for films:
8. Very good
7. Worth watching
3. Pretty lame
2. Very poor
Mrs White: Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage. (Clue)
The Sultan's Birthday (1944)
A colourful birthday
Terrytoons Studios' output is interesting to watch but most it ranges between lacklustre and decent, seldom great but major misfires tended to be in their very early years or in their later output. An output that was uneven but intriguing. One of their most prolific characters, their most prolific character really, is the likeable but pretty limited Mighty Mouse, his cartoons mostly watchable but very formulaic.
1944 was another variable year for Terrytoons, though a little more consistent than previous years with a much lower number of less than average cartoons. It was also a pretty big year for Mighty Mouse, with a lot of the Terrytoons cartoons that year being his. 'The Sultan's Birthday' is not a great cartoon, but it is a vast improvement over the weak previous Mighty Mouse cartoon 'The Two Barbers' and around the high middle if ranking the 1944 batch of Terrytoons cartoons.
Best asset as ever is the music, which is its usual lush and characterful self. Also excelling in enhancing everything going on between the cats and mice. The animation is equally great in quality, especially the backgrounds and landscapes, though the colours are also very attractive and never drab or garish.
While nothing is completely hilarious, there is hardly a shortage of gags and they amuse if more in the second half. There is also a genuine sense of threat, without being too dark or too sinister. The story may be slight and predictable, but it engages and charms at least. While the mice are hardly devoid of personality and the cat villains are very entertaining and pose enough of a threat, it is the adorable belly dancer mouse and her surprisingly risque dancing that steal the show.
However, there are few surprises here and the events are very formulaic and easy to figure out, the second half being typical Mighty Mouse. If you have seen many cats versus mice cartoons you will have seen it all before here, likewise with Mighty Mouse's role here.
Mighty Mouse himself hasn't lost his likeability but for a titular character he could have been featured more and appeared earlier, am in two minds too as to whether his presence was particularly necessary considering that the cat versus mice battle was already engaging enough without him. Other cartoons however do worse though at this, and at feeling too much like two cartoons in one.
Concluding, nice enough though not great. 7/10
The Magic Heart
Brothers Grimm's stories give me a lot of pleasure, when it comes to fairytales they and Hans Christian Andersen are hard to top. Whether it's the famous stories or ones not as well known, their work can be dark and at times gruesome but it is also truly enchanting and provokes thought. It has been great over-time re-visiting old favourites and getting to know the stories relatively unfamiliar to me when younger.
'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' was rather great at achieving this balance of adapting famous stories and not as popular stories, despite the title the series doesn't restrict itself only to Brothers Grimm stories. Although the quality of the music and voice acting varied throughout 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater', the series was still very interesting and charming, also surprisingly dark. 'The Magic Heart', adapted from 'Donkey Cabbages' (a lesser known story of theirs to me), is very nicely done and if one is not familiar with the story beforehand 'The Magic Heart' may make them intrigued into reading it. It is a long way from being one of my favourite Grimm stories but it's a pleasant read.
Did feel that Lisabeth could have been voiced better. It was good that she didn't sound too young or high school teen-ish, but really would have liked more emotion because even in the emotional moments like at the end it was rather flat. Also felt that it sounded like she was voiced by a very mature voice actress trying to sound younger and it managed to fit the character design less than other female lead characters in the series that sounded too young.
A good deal of the lines are spoken a little too fast, so the mouth movements and voices tend not to match.
Most of the voice work was fine, especially the narrator and the protagonist. Loved the thoughtful soothing delivery of the former (the narration also moves the story forward and doesn't feel too much or over-explanatory) and the earnest heroic charm of the latter. The witch also didn't sound too over the top or creepy. The music may not enhance the action, but it didn't detract from it, sound too at odds or sound cheap.
The animation is colourful and atmospheric and with well designed backgrounds. The theme songs still charm, as does the intro. Am really not a fan of cabbage, but 'The Magic Heart' proved to be a rare case of a film, show etc. making cabbage look good and like one wants to eat it. The writing is neither simplistic or convoluted, managing to be just about accessible for all ages while providing enough for older audiences. Some nice breaking the fourth wall here, especially at the end. From the start, the story has much going on to stop it from having a dull spot while not feeling rushed, a danger with the short length. The protagonist is an appealing one.
Summarising, very nicely done. 8/10
DuckTales: Allowance Day (1989)
Global time bandits
'Ducktales' was always a personal favourite as a child and am still immensely fond of it now, even more so now actually with more gotten out of the humour and getting more out of the characterisation, how they interact and storytelling. Strengths and flaws, much more is noticeable now and appreciate more aspects/components as a young adult. Not every episode worked for me but when 'Ducktales' was at its best it was brilliant.
"Allowance Day" is not one of the show's best episodes. It is a good well done episode with a lot of fine things. It just falls slightly shy of being great, and considering that the premise was really interesting there was real potential for it to be of better quality than it turned out. And don't worry, "Allowance Day" is a far more entertaining and emotionally investable episode than one might think reading a one or two line basic summary that, depending on how one interprets it, makes it more mean-spirited than it really is.
The animation is bright and colourful, with lively fluid movement, smooth drawing and meticulous attention to detail in the backgrounds. The music again is dynamic and beautifully orchestrated, never jarring with the action and full of energy. Disney had many theme songs that were irresistibly catchy to the extent one doesn't forget them, and that for 'Ducktales' to me was one of the best. The writing entertains and is smart, Louie saying eclair instead of eclipse did make me laugh. Did like the story on the whole, it starts off promisingly and in hugely entertaining fashion.
Fenton has proven to be a worthy addition since he was introduced generally and the episode doesn't overuse him or overplay his character flaws. There is also though an emotional core, where it is easy to feel sympathy for Scrooge and one can see how powerful an influence he is. The cannon squad sequence was handled quite tastefully considering where it could easily have done, it sounded like it would leave a bad taste in the mouth but Fenton's presence didn't jar and stopped the episode from getting too dark. The voice acting is excellent, especially from Alan Young and Russi Taylor.
Gizmoduck again felt shoe-horned in with not much obvious reason for his inclusion and his role in the episode is almost too convenient. Again too it was difficult to believe that such clever characters, that uncover the truth behind things more complicated and less obvious, did not piece together the blatantly obvious connection between Fenton and Gizmoduck.
Did think that the outcome was never really in doubt and it felt rushed.
Concluding, good but not great. 7/10
Really like to love a lot of Fleischer Studios' early/earlier cartoons. Just wanted to make that clear before anybody thinks there is any bias. The best of Popeye, Koko and Betty Boop are especially worth watching, but their cartoons from around 1940 onwards did not represent them anywhere as well. The Stone Age series and the worst of the Gabby cartoons don't do Fleischer justice, neither do most of the Animated Antics cartoons.
'Way Back When a Nightclub Was a Stick' is better than the previous Stone Age cartoon 'Way Back When a Nag Was Only a Horse' and towards the better end perhaps of the series. Despite a couple of things done better, it does still have most of the flaws from that though and does show how drastically Fleischer declined in a fairly short period of time. Liked the idea for the Stone Age series, but the execution on the most part was really wanting.
The best thing about 'Way Back When a Nightclub Was a Stick' is the music score. Not one that will stick in the head for days, but it is suitably merry and lush and dynamic with what's going on. The animation is a little better, not great still but it's not as crude.
Although there is really not much to work with, the voices don't fare too badly. If it was Fleischer regular Jack Mercer responsible, he does sound as if he was giving his all. There are a few nice visual gags and although very thin and predictable there is much more of a story here, with there being more of a purpose and not being quite as much a stringing along of gags.
It is still not a great cartoon though, in my mind it was still pretty mediocre. There is a lack of energy and takes too long to get going. More could have been done with the nightclub setting, which is more vibrant and risky than shown here, a few nice visual gags aside this was a pretty bland depiction. 'Way Back When a Nightclub Was a Stick' is mostly unfunny too, there could have been far more and more imagination and freshness was needed, this was tired predictable stuff.
Story-wise, it is not as non-existent but it is not a particularly engaging one still and one has seen it all before (and better). Didn't care for the characters, all unappealing and with not much personality, really couldn't stand the overbearing wife character that the cartoon went pretty over the top with. The animation is a little better here but a lower budget does show, still looking basic.
Overall, better than the previous cartoon but mediocre. 4/10
The Hollow Crown (2012)
Far from hollow
'The Hollow Crown' consisted of seven adaptations and two seasons. Season 1 (the Henriad tetralogy) featuring 'Richard II', both parts of 'Henry IV' and 'Henry V', and Season 2 (War of the Roses) 'Henry VI' parts 1 and 2 and 'Richard III'. Both seasons are well worth seeing, the former actually being a must-watch, and the series is fascinating for seeing filmed productions of Shakespeare's historical plays and on the most part very high quality ones too.
It really is a great way to get acquainted with the plays, to see how Shakespeare can be performed well and seeing the lesser known ones (ie. 'Henry VI'). In case anybody's interested too, the late 70s-early 80s BBC Television Shakespeare series, that also features all the historical plays, is worth a view. The visual quality and production values are lower but they are faithfully done, interesting, tasteful and on the most part well acted, though do prefer all 'The Hollow Crown's' versions of the plays over those in that series. Of the two seasons, Season 1 for me comes off better but there is a huge amount to admire about both seasons and all the productions.
Not everything in 'The Hollow Crown' to me worked. The St Crispins Day speech in 'Henry V' (my least favourite of the first season but still very good, 'Richard II' and both parts of 'Henry IV', especially Part 2, were outstanding though), one of Shakespeare's most powerful moments, was too anaemic and restrained when it should rouse. Some of the battles came over as under-populated and needed more intensity.
'Henry VI', both parts, is not going to appeal to all. Especially those that prefer their performances complete, as both parts are very truncated and it does at times affect the pacing and story (a bit rushed and jumpy in spots), and are not too fond of the uncompromising approach in Shakespeare. Actually liked that both parts pulled no punches and had a dark bold approach that mostly did not jar, with some powerfully brutal moments like Joan's exit but this approach was taken too far at times especially with Margaret. Just in case anybody is wondering, did like both parts on the most part very much especially Part 2 ('Richard III' though is for me by far the standout production of Season 2 and the best since 'Henry IV Part 2').
All seven productions are very well made. A lot of effort put into making the costumes and settings as evocative and detailed as possible, neither being too stark or too elaborate. The photography is often cinematic-like, expansive in places without being overblown and intimate in other places without being restricted. The music also achieves that balance, didn't find it over-scored.
Shakespeare's text, regardless of whether it's complete or truncated (the latter being the case with 'Henry VI'), has a lot of impact, most of the speeches sear with the one big exception being the St Crispins Day speech. Any comedy being genuinely funny with great comic timing (like with Falstaff, and it is not overdone or annoying) and the dramatic/tragic moments are powerful and moving. The series is directed in a way that doesn't come over as over-theatrical or static, much of it is tasteful and it doesn't feel too much of a filmed play. There is some great character interaction, like between Falstaff and Hal, Henry and Richard in 'Richard II' and Henry's dressing down of Hal (some tense stuff that).
Cannot say anything wrong with the performances. Standouts being Ben Whishaw's complex Richard II, Patrick Stewart's sincere Gaunt, Rory Kinnear's understated Henry, Jeremy Irons' anguished Henry IV (in a recent years role that shows how great an actor he is), Simon Russell Beale who was born for Falstaff, Tom Hiddleston's charismatic Hal/Henry V (prefer him as Hal), Melanie Thierry's touching Katherine, Sophie Okonedo's ruthless Margaret (am aware not everybody liked her casting though), Hugh Bonneville's nuanced Gloucester and Benedict Cumberbatch's machiavellian Richard III.
In a nutshell, an extremely good series and often fabulous with a few disappointments. 8/10
Zolotaya antilopa (1954)
The Golden Antelope
Consider Soyuzmultfilm the quintessential studio when it comes to Russian/Soviet animation, and one of the best when it comes to animation in general when getting into their work while my tastes in animation was continuing to broaden. And for Russian films and shorts. Have seen most of their output and have really liked to loved all seen, have recently re-started my completest quest in seeing their output and have yet to see anything bad from them.
'The Golden Antelope' is one of Lev Atamannov's best known animations, the most familiar to me being 'The Snow Queen' (followed closely by 'The Scarlet Flower') and again to me that film is his masterpiece and had a big influence on the likes of Hayau Miyazaki. And it is not hard to see why 'The Golden Antelope' is one of his best know. Also think that 'The Golden Antelope' is one of his best as well, a near-masterpiece and almost one of the best examples of Russian/Soviet animation.
It is a little bit of a slow starter to begin with, with it taking a touch too long to set up, but it does very quickly get better and everything else is superb.
Particularly striking is the animation. Especially the landscapes and the backgrounds, which are nothing short of incredible. The fluid, expressive movements for the characters also impress, as do the quite stunning but suitably subtle use of colour. The music never comes over as bombastic or too constant, instead it is used with restraint and elegance with lush orchestration in a way that's distinctively Russian and this is meant in a good way. Being a huge fan of Russian music.
From start to finish, 'The Golden Antelope' is written with much sincerity and charm, with some nice amusing gentle humour that never feels too much. The story is engaging throughout, slow start aside, and very charming in its quietness and simplicity. It never feels too slight and the moral doesn't preach, while the central relationship is touchingly and sensitively handled with two characters well worth rooting for. The voice work never sounded too theatrical.
Overall, a near-masterpiece. 9/10
Gadkiy utyonok (1957)
The Ugly Duckling
One of Hans Christian Andersen's best known stories, 'The Ugly Duckling' is a beautiful story that touches me every time, plus it is one that is relateable to me. It lends itself well to animation, actually think it works much better as animation than non-animated. It also works beautifully as a seven minute cartoon, when a few details are left out but the spirit still remains, and as a just under twenty minute short film with enough material to sustain it. As great as the story is, it is too slight for feature length.
This is all evident in Soyuzmultfilm's version. As far as adaptations of the story go, the 1939 Disney cartoon, an extremely poignant one but never came over as too cloying, will always be the closest to my heart. But Soyuzmultfilm's version is very close behind, yet another Soyuzmultfilm animation that should be better known worldwide and not restricted to near-obscurity. It really is a work of art, which is as affecting and enchanting as one can forget, it is much more than an animated television short film.
It is beautifully animated for one. It is never too elaborate, where there would have been a danger of swamping the story and its emotion, and neither is it simplistic to the extent that it looks cheap. A lot of time and effort went into 'The Ugly Duckling', especially in the attention to detail in the backgrounds and the use of colour, vibrant but never garish and in the more emotional moments more muted and darker. The music fits beautifully as well, nothing as catchy as the whimsical main theme of the Disney animation but the haunting and melancholic quality of it fitted perfectly with the story's emotion.
Of which it is filled to the brim with. It did bring tears to my eyes because it resonated with me and one hates seeing somebody alone in an unfamiliar place, have been there and it is not a nice feeling. The story and titular character are so easy to relate to, being someone myself who was, and occasionally still am, ostracised and bullied for being different. It was very upsetting for me but felt embarrassment in saying so out loud.
Altogether, beautiful and very touching. 10/10
The Frog Princess
When it comes to Russian/Soviet animation, it doesn't get much better than Soyuzmultfilm, a studio that quickly became a personal favourite for nearly a decade. Their best work is visually stunning and have stories that are charming, imaginative and full of atmosphere with some memorable characters and when adapted enhanced by the visuals and often the music as well. 'The Frog Princess' is one such story, with multiple versions and different variations in titles and origins.
Their version of the story, named 'The Frog Princess', took two years to produce/make and one can really see the effort and time that went into it. It is not among their best known work, but to me 'The Frog Princess' is very close to being among their best and should be seen much more. And not just by Russians or those that speak Russian (studied it myself on my vocal and operatic studies course, and while it is a difficult language to get your head around it is a lovely language), but to a much wider audience worldwide and anybody that loves animation (like me) should seriously consider seeing it.
One thing that is particularly striking in 'The Frog Princess' is the animation. It is rich in colour and is filled with atmosphere, whether dream-like in the more intimate moments with the Princess or nightmarish in the climax. The drawing and designs are expressive, despite occasionally a little more variety in movement for the princess, the animators seemed to have had a lot of fun with Koscchei, the climax and especially the freaky three headed dragon creature. It is the stunning landscapes that are the star though, the colour and attention to detail rich and meticulous throughout.
Also found the music beautifully done. The music for the princess is like listening to Russian folk song, which is a big compliment as there are a lot of lovely Russian folk songs and Russian songs in general. The lushness of the orchestration and atmosphere created is so unmistakably Russian in the best of ways, with some of the music in the climax reminiscent of slightly less wonderfully weird Mussorgsky.
In terms of the story, it never feels too thin or padded, even in the more intimate moments, and is very charming with a touch of strangeness. The climax is thrilling and sometimes even downright scary, reminding me a little of the Disney climaxes that scarred me as a child (namely the one for 'Sleeping Beauty'). The characters do stick in the mind, especially Koschei, who is a villain that has stayed with me forever. As appealing as the two leads are, this is a case of the villain stealing the show. The three headed dragon is also very scary. Another character that's memorable is Baba Yaga, suitably enigmatic while not being the stuff of nightmares that she is often portrayed as.
Voice acting fits the characters well, some may find it strange that Baba Yaga is voiced by a man and that was the case with me initially but pondering upon it it added to the character's enigma and gave her a not too hammy sinister vibe. Aleksandr Rumnyov clearly had a ball as Koschei.
Overall, wonderful. Anybody who loves the story or any of its variants should love it. 10/10
The Fugitive Kind (1960)
Fire, fever and desire
There were quite a few reasons for wanting to see 'The Fugitive Kind'. Have much appreciation and even love for Tennessee Williams, one of the great playwrights of the twentieth century, and there are some good and more film adaptations of his work (do think it lends itself better to stage or made for television). The cast is full of talented performers, especially love Marlon Brando. And it was directed by Sidney Lumet, a great director.
Found 'The Fugitive Kind' to be an interesting film. Not great but was actually led to believe that it wasn't even good, but it was better than expected and has a good deal to admire, especially the performances. There are far better film adaptations of Williams' work, have said more than once about considering 'A Streetcar Named Desire' being the definitive version and like the Paul Newman version of 'The Glass Menagerie' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' very much (although the latter is toned down from the play content-wise and thematically, the performances especially more than compensate for that). Consider it one of the lesser ones, 'Summer and Smoke' being a lesser one too, but a large part of the problem is the play, 'Orpheus Descending', itself which is very much lesser Williams.
Starting with what doesn't work, 'The Fugitive Kind' does have the same problems of the play, though it would in all fairness have been difficult to correct the problems. Although Williams is wordy, 'The Fugitive Kind' (and 'Orpheus Descending') is a case of it being particularly far too talky which bogs down the momentum quite a bit, so it does become a bit draining. Although there are moments thanks to the cast, the story doesn't always ignite, other Williams film adaptations and plays entertain, thought provoke and move much more and are bolder thematically.
Here, things do get over-heated and at times not always easy to follow, and the melodrama can get overdone. One example being the coda, that did have a tacked on feel to it as well. Joanne Woodward gives her absolute all and sears at her best, but her character is over-written and Woodward tries too hard in spots.
On the other hand, 'The Fugitive Kind' does look great, with one of the film's main attractions being that it is beautifully and atmospherically photographed without feeling like a filmed stage production. The bluesy score never intrudes in placement or mood and doesn't feel misplaced at all. Lumet is not at his best here, not like 'Network', '12 Angry Men' and 'Dog Day Afternoon' (nor is he at his worst, 'The Wiz' being among the biggest misfires for any great director), he does do nobly in opening up the play's drama and making the character interaction believable and he nails it on the visual front. There are some nice lines and some of the drama does have some fire while just about avoiding overdoing it.
Most of the above average rating goes to the cast, almost everybody giving immensely strong performances considering that the material is far from top Williams standard. Woodward is not always consistent but props have to go to her for making such a valiant effort in a problematic role. Anna Magnani is a big standout, with her touchingly vulnerable and also intensely fierce performance, while Victor Jory sends chills up the spine as Jabe. Brando is not at his best but he is always commanding and smolders in all the right places, and Maureen Stapleton brings a lot of heart to her character.
Summing up, not great but interesting. 6/10
All the previous episodes of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' are in my opinion very good to outstanding, such a promising standard for so early on which one doesn't always get with shows but it has certainly not been unheard of. Which range from great from the get go, solid but a little unsettled but gets better and doesn't ever take off. "The Faithful" and "Jones" to me were the standouts as far as the previous episodes go.
"Enemy Within" is one of the weaker episodes of the ten (including this) up to this point of the season, and show, but is still a very good one with a lot of fantastic things. While just missing the extra something of the best episodes, which have more tension, more of the shock factor and are a little more complex in the storytelling. There is not really much inherently wrong with "Enemy Within", other episodes just executed a few of their components better that's all.
It has plenty to keep one going, though despite there being no shortage of suspects there was little doubt in my mind about which side of properly innocent or guilty the prime suspect was, their actions though are questionable and it is not a surprise as to why they're suspected, and guessed the identity of the culprit correctly quite quickly. Though the overall final solution was a little more surprising.
Despite being surprising certainly, a few of the motives of the suspects and how they act are a touch extreme, like for the prime suspect.
There is very little wrong otherwise though. The production values are slick as always and the music (though there is a preference for the other 'Law and Order' themes) isn't overdone in orchestration or how it's used. The writing is never simplistic or convoluted and respects the viewer, and the story has a lot of twists and surprises without feeling too many or muddled.
Vincent D'Onofrio expertly brings out Goren's somewhat eccentric and hard-boiled edge, beautifully matched by a more subtle Kathryn Erbe. Their chemistry carries the episode very well. The investigative elements and methods the detectives use in solving the case are fascinating.
Concluding, very good. 8/10
Law & Order: Prisoner of Love (1990)
All the previous 'Law and Order' episodes ranged from pretty good ("Everybody's Favourite Bagman") to brilliant ("Indifference"), with most being very good. Which is a good position to be in for so early on, even with an understandable finding feet feel. It is very easy to overlook the very early seasons of the show, with the Briscoe and post-Briscoe episodes being aired much more, but they are well worth the watch and should be seen more.
"Prisoner of Love" is one of the pretty good episodes of the first season, though far from being amongst the season's best episodes. It has a lot of great things, which is true for all the early seasons episode and for a vast majority of 'Law and Order', but it feels a little on the bland side as well, with the previous covering more challenging subjects and with more depth. It is also a bit of a let down after the brilliant previous episode "Indifference", a season high-point. Again, this is not disparaging it, just in comparison to before.
Do prefer 'Law and Order' episodes where there is more of characters having conflicts and moral dilemmas. Also ones that tackle difficult themes, subjects and social issues and the "taking influence from a real life case" ones, those kinds of episodes provoked more thought and connected with me more emotionally.
The case here is interesting and twisty enough, with both the procedural and law aspects being well handled (even if other episodes balanced them a little more equally), but fairly standard. If you've seen the later 'Law and Order' before seeing, it may feel a little on the familiar side.
However, it has always been of great fascination seeing how the detectives work and solve their cases and what work goes into preparing defence and especially prosecution. The script entertains and provokes thought, with some nice hard-boiled dialogue for both Greevey and Logan. Stone's dryness has not lost its juice.
Production values are suitably slick and gritty and the music is a good fit tonally and in placement. The acting is good, though it did get much better later when everybody became more comfortable. George Dzundza and Chris Noth are solid leads, with their chemistry gelling enough, and Michael Moriaty again makes the most out of Stone.
Overall, pretty good but not great. 7/10
"There are two ways to deal with these changes, you either accept them or you fight them like hell all the way"
Excepting two disappointments in the still above average "Wanderlust" and "Stocks and Bondage", the previous episodes of Season 1 of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' were of a high standard. The standouts being "Payback" (rare for the very first episode to be one of the best epsiodes of the first season for shows), "Uncivilised" and "Stalked", all three of which were outstanding with the tension of "Stalked" really standing out.
"Closure" to me is one of the better episodes of the first half of the season, of the ten episodes up to this point of it it's in the top 5. It is a great example as to how 'Special Victims Unit' was so good early on. If you are more familiar with the more often aired mid-show/latter season episodes and have not yet seen the early seasons, am going to recommend doing so being someone who personally thinks the earlier seasons are better.
Did feel that the Olivia and Cassidy subplot didn't add very much to the story, other than being an attempt to give some development to the two of them. It did feel somewhat out of the blue as well, with it being the first time it was even mentioned in any shape or form.
Absolutely loved the case however. If that subplot was excised, "Closure" would have gotten a perfect score for the case alone, it was that good. If anybody thinks that the ending feels abrupt or the episode feels incomplete it's because it is actually the first part of a two parter, the second part being the third episode of Season 2. It is a harrowing and poignant case, as well as realistic, with the most revealing thing about the episode being how it shows everything that a rape victim has to go through in the aftermath and how detailed the process is.
Harper is a very well developed character that one feels a lot of sympathy for, both in the early parts and when she hardens (especially the latter actually). One roots for her closure and while some may find the outcome frustrating there is a painful realism to it too. The writing is taut and thought-provoking, with great emotional impact.
Visually, it is slick and gritty while the music is unobtrusive and not constant. The main theme is memorable. Mariska Hargitay shines in her sympathetic chemistry with Tracy Pollan, who is really quite excellent as Harper.
Summarising, absolutely great. 9/10
The Fourth Angel (2001)
The Exterminating Angel
It was not a case of 'The Fourth Angel' being doomed from the start. It had a lot of interest points. Although it was hardly a new idea, the story sounded interesting and did really like the sound of the moral issues. The trailer did make me want to see it, and even more so when seeing that John Irvin (who directed a personal favourite the television adaptation of 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy') was director, had one of my favourites Jeremy Irons in the atypical lead role and had an interesting cast. Also do like action/revenge thrillers when done well.
'The Fourth Angel' could have been much better though. It is far from a bad film, it does have its good moments and good points and it does admirably with a difficult subject and moral issues which considering the timing as well is worthy of some credit. When it first started, to me it was actually a good film. Have however seen much better films that cover similar ground and at the end of the day 'The Fourth Angel' was rather uneven and somewhat strange as well.
As said, 'The Fourth Angel' did start off very well. There was tension and suspense in the opening and the outcome and aftermath of it are quite poignant. There are some interesting and thoughtfully put across, without being too ham-fisted, moral issues as well and some of the diaogue is thoughtful in the early parts of the film. It looks relatively slick and stylish with great use of locations, and as well as the opening there are some good individual scenes like between Irons and Forrest Whittaker.
Cast against type, being more closely associated with upper-class gentlemen with a dark or conflicted side (and one of the best at that), villains and complex real life characters often played with understated intensity, Irons surprisingly excels in the lead role. He is very moving in the early stages and when the character hardens he brings more intensity while not being hammy and never looking out of his depth. Whittaker doesn't have the best written of characters, a pretty stock role, but somehow Whittaker makes the most of the character and gives him much more thought and tension than one expects. He has some great chemistry with Irons. Jason Priestly, also against type, does smarmy quite well and Charlotte Rampling and Lois Maxwell make for interesting casting.
However, once it gets into more action thriller territory 'The Fourth Angel' becomes more routine and sometimes confused. The latter stages of the film stretch credibility to breaking point badly and it all becomes very far-fetched. Jack's grief is completely understandable, as is his want for justice, but can find that when characters go vigilante in films generally that their actions become on the extreme side and that's the case here. That's just my thoughts though. The music is a bit too intrusive and doesn't sound like it belongs in an action/revenge thriller from the early 2000s, more like from 10-15 years earlier.
Felt that the tension dissipates once the film gets increasingly implausible, and the very underdeveloped and non-threatening villains (the characters generally are sketchy, with the sole exception of Jack) and the standard and at times thrill-free action decreases it further. Apart from the climactic moments with Irons and Whittaker, the momentum dips, the direction loses subtlety and the dialogue loses its thoughtfulness and becomes unfocused. Actually felt like two different films.
Overall, watchable but strange and inconsistent. 5/10
London Derrière (1968)
An Inspector in London
DePatie-Freleng Enterprises did several theatrical cartoons series featuring the likes of Pink Panther, Ant and the Aardvark and The Inspector and others throughout the 60s and 70s. Of which The Inspector series is to me one of their better ones, perhaps second after Pink Panther, evident from that it is one of their better known and longer running ones. May not love all the Inspector cartoons, but do like most of the series more than most cartoons in some of the other theatrical series.
'London Derriere' is the twenty fourth The Inspector cartoon, of thirty four, and to me it is among the cartoons in the series somewhere in the middle which is not a bad position actually. It is well done in most areas, is amusing enough and The Inspector never stopped being a compelling character and is still very much one here. Albeit it doesn't make me go wow or bust a gut from laughing, much of 'London Derriere' is done very well but nothing as such is exceptional.
Although The Inspector cartoons are not really known or to be seen for their originality, even with a different setting the story is very formulaic and quite high on the predictability factor. It does take a little too long to get going and occasionally the timing could have been sharper.
More variety in the gags would have helped too, do agree that it is one-joke and although it didn't feel too stretched and wasn't unfunny it did get on the repetitive side at times. While the jewel thief character Louie Le Swipe is decent conflict and contrasts well with The Inspector, he is pretty forgettable and slightly derivative of other adversaries in the series.
The cartoon does manage to work though, and that The Inspector is a character that is both funny and compelling, as well as endearing despite all the bumbling (which thankfully isn't too overdone), plays a major part in this. 'London Derriere' does have a good deal of energy and both the endearingly clumsy and amusing physical comedy and ironic verbal humour come over well. Do agree that the ending is the best part. Did like the Scotland Yard character and the personalities for both characters contrast well, the chemistry gels too.
Voice acting is typically strong, still have no issues with Pat Harrington Jr. The animation is simple but colourful and charming in its simplicity. The music never felt too brash or worked against the action, matching the cartoon's tone well.
In conclusion, decent if unexceptional. 6/10
"Scandal may be the perrogative of kings, but we are the Pope of Rome"
All the previous episodes of Season 3 of 'The Borgias', which is not perfect but really love it and find it very addictive, were great, especially the opening episode "The Face of Death" which started it off so powerfully. The season generally was just as good as the consistently great Season 2 (to me the best season of the three, except one too dragged out subplot) and even better than the less even but mostly solid (especially the second half of it, where it started to settle) first season.
"The Wolf and the Lamb" is as good as the previous four episodes though not quite as great, with the only one of the four to be a little weaker being the still very good "The Purge". It just falls shy of being an overall great episode (it very nearly was though), with one subplot being weaker than the other two, the major two anyhow, and the writing for one of the characters could have been better. It's very good and typically superbly made though with many fantastic things, with lots of intrigue and its fair share of tension and emotion.
It is a great looking episode, wouldn't expect anything less though as the production values of 'The Borgias' are equal to those of some cinematic period/historical films made in recent years and even put some to shame. At its best actually, "The Wolf and the Lamb" looks stunning and very atmospheric in the latter scenes of the Rodrigo/Bianca subplot. In Cesare's there are some sumptuous, in detail and colour, costumes and there is a death scene that is very unsettlingly shot and edited. The music is as haunting and beautiful as ever, and really cannot get enough of the opening titles sequence (one of my favourites ever) and the hair-raising main theme.
Writing is thought provoking, Rodrigo having some of the best lines and that exchange between Georges and Cesare while brief did amuse me, and has come on a lot since 'The Borgias' first started, it's theatrical but wonderfully so and not excessive in it really. The storytelling is a vast majority of the time very compelling. There is lots of political intrigue in the Naples subplot (same in the not as prominent storytelling in Forli) where Ferdinand is truly contemptible, more so then before, and genuine tension. Lucrezia has truly grown as a character, she has been quite rootable at times while also having more of a voice and her scheming shocks. Underneath that creepiness, Micheletto really does have a heart too, and the portrayal of noblemen overtime on the show became much more real.
Elsewhere, the Rome subplot has its fair share of shocks in its revelations, while Bianca undergoes a character arc that is quite harrowing and makes her much more than just another Pope mistress. When it comes to memorable moments it is the emotional impact of the consequences of the Rome storyline and a truly gruesome climactic scene, you will not look at eels in the same way again. The acting is strong, excepting for me a bland Sebastian De Souza (do not find Alfonso the most interesting of characters), with Mindy Kreilig heart-wrenching as Bianca and Matias Verela quite chilling as Ferdinand. Jeremy Irons, with a new hairstyle, is wonderful as always, especially in the more tragic moments.
Didn't think "The Wolf and the Lamb" perfect however. The Avignon storyline doesn't have the same amount of intrigue or emotional impact, Francois Arnaud's performance and some nice lines aside for me some of it was on the dull side and none of the characters stood out.
Really didn't care too for how naiive Alfonso comes over in "The Wolf and the Lamb" either, seeming to be olivious to what his uncle was really like when it was so blatant to the rest of the characters involved in the subplot and to the viewer.
In conclusion, a very good episode and very close to great. 8/10
House of Cards: Chapter 39 (2015)
"No. It's you that's not enough"
Season 1 ("Chapters" 1-13) was fantastic, with the only slight disappointment being the still good "Chapter 8". The second season ("Chapters" 14-26) was almost as good, though the second half, from "Chapter 19" onwards, of it was better and more balanced than the first. Season 3 ("Chapters" 27-39) was a little less even and the Russian-themes episodes are understandably divisive, but it was never less than solid and like the second season it got better in the second half.
After the improvement to the season's quality from "Chapter 33" onwards and two outstanding previous episodes that saw 'House of Cards' (a brilliant show at its best that deserved an infinitely better final season instead of the disgrace of one we got) back on form, Season 3's finale "Chapter 39" was very solid with many great things. At the same time it disappointed a little as well, with it being the weakest episode since "Chapter 32". For a season finale one does sort of expect something a little bigger than this.
It does start off a touch on the odd side, with a visual and music style that jars in feel with the production values and music of the rest of the episode. Maybe there could have been more tension in places, the Frank and Claire subplot is the better executed one by quite some way especially the latter stages. Doug's was intriguing, with the final scene being the high point of it, but doesn't have the same amount of momentum.
The ending also felt abrupt, have always thought that it is a danger for season finales to end this way in case there was a sudden cancellation and there wouldn't be more seasons (that has happened with some shows, like for example 'The Borgias').
"Chapter 39" however looks stylish and has a lot of class, with a few symbolic (but not heavy-handed) shots like Claire closing the door on the campaign. On the most part the music complements well. The direction is sympathetic yet alert enough to still make the episode engaging. The dialogue is still dark, intelligent and sharp, especially in the latter stages of the episode, and the story is compelling enough if not perfectly done. The acting from all is excellent, with powerhouse turns from Robin Wright and particularly Kevin Spacey.
Frank and Claire's scenes, individually and especially together, are handled beautifully. Their scenes really deliver on the intensity, particularly when and from when Claire realises that she had really not gained anything from them trying to make each other stronger and no longer thinks they're equal and want the same thing. Their confrontation, showing anger and defiance, blisters. Their relationship has been very interesting this season, we saw a different side to it and we also saw a more sensitive side to Frank. The writing for Frank has yet to put a foot wrong, he is someone you don't want to mess with and is as ruthless as ever.
Concluding, very good episode but had potential to be much better considering it was a season finale. 8/10
Bleak House: Episode #1.6 (2005)
The evils of Tulkinghorn
The previous five episodes of one of to me the best Dickens television adaptations, which did a more than admirable (wonderful actually in my opinion) job at adapting one of Dickens' longer and more complicated to adapt books, were all outstanding. The standard getting better and better with each part when there was more revealed, the storytelling became richer and more complex, the sense of mystery built and the characters got more interesting all the time.
Episode 6 is in no way a let down, the complete opposite. As with the previous episodes, the plot progresses, with things introduced, things given more prominence and things building upon what was seen before. The characters also advance, where one sees even more how evil a character Tulkinghorn is, calling him a nasty piece of work here is a big understatement. There is not a sense of coming to a standstill or going backwards, like one worries when an adaptation is as long as this and when the storytelling in 'Bleak House' is so rich.
It didn't feel rushed to me, which is great for so much going on and with an episode length that is relatively short. The story doesn't lose its coherence, which is again great when some of it is complicated to get your head round at first.
Visually, this looks wonderful. It's beautifully shot and the Victorian era is nailed in both look and atmosphere, although the buildings and costumes are so handsome to look at one can feel and smell the full impact of the dangerous living conditions present in the era. The music fits nicely.
Dialogue is literate and thoughtful in an accessible way, without being too wordy which is a feat as Dickens is talk-heavy and it can be quite dense. There is exposition but it doesn't ramble and actually moves the story and character writing forward.
All the performances are strong, the acting honours going to Charles Dance, a very sinister Tulkinghorn and was born to portray him. Despite his name, Guppy is a character that one can take seriously and like, something that Burn Gorman conveys beautifully without going over the top on it. Gillian Anderson is a haunted and artistocratic Lady Dedlock, Hugo Speer is a noble Sergeant George and Phil Davis is a suitably repellent Smallweed who we see more of. Johnny Vegas is not as out of place as feared, really didn't think that a comic actor/comedian would work as Krook.
Overall, brilliant. 10/10
Soul to Keep (2018)
With a very interesting title, some creepy advertising and a concept that had a lot of potential, 'Soul to Keep' had enough to make me want to see it. Have a lot of appreciation for horror, although it is not one of my favourite genres overall (am more a thriller and mystery person myself), and really do try to not have any bias against ones that are low budget. Regardless of whether the production values are not great or at least okay, have seen low budget films that were surprisingly decent.
Do not think that 'Soul to Keep' is that awful but am going to have to join the camp of those that didn't care for it. Instead of jumping on the "anyone saying they enjoyed the film must be a shill" bandwagon, actually try to avoid saying or insinuating that in any of my reviews like the plague (unless it is so blatantly obvious and misleading, there have been and still are far worse cases of this on IMDb), am not going to hold it against anybody that found some above average value to it, lets just say different strokes for different folks.
'Soul to Keep' is not an irredeemable film. The opening credits both unnerves and intrigues. The score has some degree of atmosphere.
Kate Rose Reynolds and Sandra Mae Frank give well above average performances, Reynolds' creepiness in particular was striking. Thought it was a very brave move casting a real life deaf actress as a deaf character and the film handled it remarkably sensitively with Frank's equally sensitive performance, it was that aspect of the story that came off most successfully.
The rest of the cast is pretty dire. Craig Fogel and Derek Long in particular are irritating beyond belief and make amateur dramatics pantomime acting seem award-worthy in comparison. Didn't care for a vast majority of the characters, with the exception of Tara, we don't learn much about them and the frustrating behaviours make one endear to them less. Felt my toes curling at hearing a lot of the stilted and cheese-ridden dialogue.
Also felt that the rather thinly plotted story never really came to life for me, with the only interesting aspect being the sign language/deafness angle. The pace is leaden, with the less eventful parts (too many of them) being slower than a snail, and the film suffers from a complete lack of suspense. The scares are too few, there is actually more unintentional humour here than scares, and those that are there are predictably executed and bland, the too loud and obvious sound effects not helping. The conflict is never really scary and has a cheap look. Got exhausted too watching the chaotic photography and my head is still aching.
In conclusion, not that awful but mediocre. 4/10
The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
The weeping woman
The story sounded really fascinating and do have an appreciation for horror. The cover looked creepy and the film did look pretty good. 'The Curse of La Llorona' has also been compared to 'The Conjuring' films/universe (with it having the same producers), and being somebody who really liked 'The Conjuring' and its sequel that immediately was enough to get me stoked in seeing it. So was expecting quite a bit in a way, and really did want to like it regardless of its polarising reception.
Sadly, am going to have to agree with those that didn't care for 'The Curse of La Llorona', emphasis on didn't care for, that doesn't mean outright hate. It is not as bad as has been said by others or a disgrace to film-making, it has its moments/good things. However, it should have been much better and really goes downhill after a promising start. Of 'The Conjuring' universe films, for me only 'The Nun' is worse but only consider this marginally better rather than infinitely so.
As said, there are good things. The photography is pleasing to look at and has an atmospheric look that one wishes was reflected in the rest of the film, 'The Curse of La Llorona' is not a cheap-looking film and the location is both beautiful and eerie. Also felt that Linda Cardellini and the children acquitted themselves very well here, Cardellini especially is very committed in a role that is far removed from Velma Dinkley and doesn't overact or underplay it (instead she is just right).
It started off very promisingly, with it being genuinely creepy and suspenseful with a set up that draws one in and intrigues. A few creepy scares early on, and sadly there is quite a big emphasis on moments.
Because 'The Curse of La Llorona' falls downhill quite badly too early and not only never recovers it also gets progressively worse. There are often complaints regarding horror films of not being enough jump scares or scares in general, there is also such thing as too much of them. The latter is the case here and too many of them are ruined by too obvious build ups to them thanks to very predictably placed, overused and too loud sound effects. There is very little new here either in the scares, there is a seen it all before and much better feel throughout. The dull pacing, especially in the middle, and the overuse of La Llorona herself (looking quite freaky but the characterisation had too much trying-too-hard) kill the suspense and any kind of atmosphere for that matter.
Morever, 'The Curse of La Llorona' can get very silly in the latter stages, with some truly baffling character behaviours that are facepalm-inducing and an ending that is not just ridiculous and rushed but can be seen from a long way off. The general predictability of most of the film is a big problem here. The rest of the acting is lacking, with Raymond Cruz giving a performance devoid of charisma or energy which gives the impression that he is not lead actor material. The pacing when it all goes downhill is all over the place and goes dead in the too many uneventful stretches in the middle. The dialogue is banal and can sound very awkward, while there is an inexperienced quality to the direction, not the visuals but in generating suspense and atmosphere and making the drama interesting.
Altogether, promising start but descends into well filmed mediocrity. 4/10
Red Island (2018)
Island of death
'Red Island's' main attractions into seeing it in the first place were the concept, which was sort of intriguing though hardly original, and that it appeared in my "more like this" section. If it had not appeared in that section, 'Red Island' would still be unknown to me. The cover was sort of creepy as well, do have a thing for good concepts, promising covers/posters/advertising and talented casts and hate it when any or all of them are wasted.
That is what happens with 'Red Island', well apart from the talented cast one due to being unfamiliar with the actors. Was really hoping that it would better than both the low rating and poor reviews, but in my annoyed mind both of them are more than well deserved. 'Red Island' really is that bad and listening to my curiosity is one of my biggest recent regrets. Am really not trying to be horrible and there is no malice intended, but this is my annoyance talking.
Its least bad aspect is the lead actress Alex Rossoe, the one thing where any kind of effort can be seen but her material and character are extremely weakly written.
Everybody else though are worse than mediocre, there is no real acting talent on display with them being completely disengaged and looking as if they wanted to be elsewhere. There is nothing interesting or likeable about any of the characters, all of them being sketchy at best and one does not root for them at all, more bored and annoyed by them. The script reeks of cheese, has such an awkward flow throughout and has no depth or intrigue whatsoever, seems the writers seemed to be going through the motions as well.
As for the story, this single-handedly wrecks the film. It is paper thin and often very uneventful and what little there is is very predictable (the ulterior motive aspect was easily foreseeable far too early) and no suspense or creepiness are in sight. The pacing is deadly dull throughout, this is looking at the clock every five minutes worthy. The music is often very over-bearing and tends to be inappropriate in placement and mood, it belonged in another film really and the obvious and poorly balanced sound quality doesn't help.
Visually it is not much better, instead it is very amateurish with a drab and chaotic look throughout.
Summing up, awful. 1/10
Season 6 started off so well. Absolutely loved the first three episodes "First Time Again", "JSS" and "Thank You", and loved every bit as much one of the show's best character-driven episodes "Here's Not Here". So the season started off with episodes on the same level as the best of Seasons 1 to 5, when 'The Walking Dead' was actually alive before it went really downhill post-Season 6. The previous episode "Now" was a major disappointment and my lowest rated episode of 'The Walking Dead' up to this point.
Lets talk about Season 6's sixth episode "Always Accountable". The good news is that it is a much better episode than "Now", it would have had to have done a lot bad to be the same as or worse than that episode, and there are a lot of good things. The not so good news is that it still isn't a return to form, with a few things that could have been executed much better, and is not near as good as the previous character-driven episode "Here's Not Here" that was also quite intimate and focused on fewer characters.
"Always Accountable's" strengths are a great many. It is so great to see more of Darryl, one of my favourite 'The Walking Dead' characters who had been criminally underused for so long, and luckily he is far from wasted and is a very compelling character interesting enough to carry the episode. "Always Accountable" also sees the first appearance of Dwight and Sherry, their chemistry with Darryl having tension and pathos.
Visually, the grit and audaciousness is still there with some beautifully and cleverly composed photography too. The direction does bring out enough uncertainty and tension. The music is suitably haunting and isn't over-bearing. "Always Accountable" starts off with a lot of promise with a tense beginning and Darryl's subplot is both unsettling and tragic. The ending is exciting and the most momentum filled the episode gets. The acting is very good, especially Norman Reedus, and there are moments of thought-provoking dialogue.
That is something that happens too far and between though. Most of the dialogue is forced and too talky, especially in the Sasha and Abraham subplot. One that had little to it and was dull, not really going very far or advancing anything else happening in the episode.
Pacing is uneven, with momentum at the beginning and end but the mid-section with Sasha and Abraham drags. While Darryl advances as a character neither Sasha or Abraham do very much and only really at the end does the story properly move forward.
In a nutshell, vastly improved over the previous episode but doesn't see the season or the show on form. 7/10
'Tiny Toon Adventures' had a lot of episodes not made up of just one story but instead made up of between two to four segments generally linked by a certain theme. Some episodes with this format did it more successfully than others, a lot of them execute this format very well but there are episodes where there is one segment that isn't as strong as the others (an inevitable and can be common problem with segment episodes, that being the matter of consistency).
"Furball Follies" is a not too bad watch, if more from personal view a one-time watch than repeat viewings and is on the whole on the unexceptional side of things. It has a good deal of strong things in all three segments ("K-9 Kitty", "Aroma Amore" and "Cross-Country Kitty"), with an interest point of being tied together chronologically. Other episodes of 'Tiny Toon Adventures' though do this type of episode much better, with them being funnier and more inventive.
In order to enjoy "Furball Follies", it does depend on what your stance is on Furball himself. From personal opinion there are funnier and more interesting characters in the show, but he is pleasant and amusing enough and he comes off quite well in all three segments (especially "Aroma Amore"). The best of the segments is "Aroma Amore". Anybody who likes the Pepe Le Pew cartoons, which is what this segment is reminiscent of in writing, spirit and plot structure though but with Furball being the pursued and Fifi being in the Pepe role, will be as amused and charmed here as when watching his series.
Didn't find the other two segments as good, with a lack of tension and they are more too on the cute side and not having enough laughs. What there is is amusing but not in a riotous way. Especially "Cross-Country Kitty". All the segments are slightly plotted, could have at times done with tighter pacing and are pretty predictable.
Lots of vibrancy and attention to detail in the animation for all three segments, while the music is typically characterful and dynamic. The hip and infectious theme song still delights and never will cease to. There is some amusing writing and the supporting characters come over well too, the most interesting being Fifi. The voice acting is as accomplished as one expects.
On the whole, pleasant but not much special. 6/10
House Tricks? (1946)
Bringing down the house
The Famous Studios, more the earlier ones than the more variable later ones, Popeye cartoons were generally amusing enough and were well made. To me though Fleischer's Popeye cartoons were funnier and fresher (even when the stories were formulaic the material was often very inventive) and they looked better, or at least looked better than the later Famous Studios output where time and budget limitations showed.
'House Tricks?' is the first post-war Popeye cartoon and it's a good one. The story itself may not be fresh as such but the material is funny and far from tired with some clever moments. Although it is a remake of 1938's 'The House Builder Upper' (very good by the way if not one of my favourites from the Popeye series), it is not too derivative of that cartoon but at least treats it with respect. The material having enough of its own touches to not make it too faithful, which is a potential problem when remaking something.
Starting with what wasn't so good, have found frequently that the Popeye cartoons tend to underuse Olive Oyl and make her too much of a plot device, or at least she is seldom as funny or as interesting as Popeye and Bluto and her material tends to be weaker. Still feel that she has very little to do in 'House Tricks?'
It does also feel rather odd not having Popeye being voiced by Jack Mercer. Harry Welch does serviceably but he doesn't relish the mumblings or asides as much as Mercer does and doesn't fit the character as adeptly.
On the other hand, there is a lot of energy here and it is never less than amusing. One is hardly short-changed when it comes to the humour, where all of it works and nothing misfires. Much of 'House Tricks?' appeal is the acrimonious chemistry between Popeye and Bluto, and there are lots of creative sabotage attempts against each other. The bit where Popeye is tricked by Bluto into cutting the wood is pretty hilarious. While the story may be a somewhat formulaic one, it is elevated by the chemistry between Popeye and Bluto and by a very clever twist at the end.
Animation is beautifully drawn and with enough visual detail to not make it cluttered or static and lively and smooth movement. The music is also outstanding, lots of merry energy and lush orchestration, adding a lot to the action and making the impact even better without being too cartoonish. Voice acting is dynamic and of very good quality. Jackson Beck does nicely too and it is hard to imagine somebody else better than Mae Questel as Olive, the character was voiced by others in some cartoons but they were nothing compared to Questel.
Summarising, very enjoyable. 8/10
Namibia: The Sands of Time
"Okavango: Water in the Desert" was a great start to one of the best, most comprehensive and must watch documentaries on African wildlife (and other things) and one of the series' more illuminating episodes. Loved all aspects of one of the standouts of the 'Wildest' series 'Wildest Africa' regardless of there being concerns for some regarding whether it provides much new. That episode was a perfect example of why.
Likewise with this equally as excellent second episode "Namibia: Sands of Time", watching it it did throughout make me wish that 'Wildest Africa' was seen more and higher regarded. Like that episode, "Namibia: Sands of Time" is one of the series' best and with there being even less familiar content a lot was learnt from it without anything going over my head. So it was hugely successful in the educational aspect. Again, much is covered without cluttering or bloating the episode and it goes at an assured but never hurried pace.
What made "Namibia: Sands of Time" as illuminating as it was was not just because it was in a very unfamiliar environment to me, and a visually striking one at that vividly photographed. 'Wildest Africa' also dealt with the a wide range of cultural aspects and how the environments and problems faced affect humans, and that can be seen with "Namibia: Sands of Time", for me this is where the episode educated me the most. Had seen nothing quite like the portrayal of the Himba people and their time tested rituals, their way of connecting with the ancestors.
As expected, various wildlife can still be seen. With the most memorable being the baboons, there is a sense of a story here, a compelling and poignant one of life and death. Not just with the baboons though but the desert plants too.
This information is written and delivered in a way that entertains and teaches, without being speculative, generalised or too gushing. Colin Salmon's delivery is enthusiastic and sincere.
Visually again, the scenery is beautiful yet unforgiving vividly and intimately photographed in a way seldom seen on film before. How such a lot of it managed to be filmed so intimately with such full impact is anybody's guess, meant in the best possible way. The music rouses and also has edge.
Excellent episode again. 9/10
Rarity's dog trouble
After two disappointing episodes in a row with "Stare Master" and especially "The Show Stoppers", which followed on from one of Season 1's best episodes "Sonic Rainboom", there was both excitement and apprehension for the show's nineteenth episode "A Dog and Pony Show". After such a strong start, generally the second half of Season 1 has not been as good as the first, though there are enough great episodes to make it a quite solid if flawed season.
To my relief, actually did breathe a huge sigh of relief afterward, "A Dog and Pony Show" was a great episode. Not quite one of the season's best, or a show high point, but one of the season's second half's (when it became less consistent) better episodes without a doubt and a vast improvement over the previous two episodes. It is another Rarity-centric outing and does the character justice and continues to make her more interesting, with a different side to her that was both surprising and welcome.
Maybe there could have been a little more tension and sense of danger, did find it obvious too early Rarity's situation would not be as dire as initially thought.
Having said that, there were things that were surprising. It was interesting to see a different side to Rarity, her personality was stronger and she also did something that one doesn't see all the time, breaking the damsel in distress stereotype. The characters go through a fair share of abuse here, did worry that it would be mean-spirited and distasteful. It was a relief though that the slapstick centred around it is sharply timed and really quite funny actually. There are a couple of particularly great moments in "A Dog and Pony Show". Rarity's whining is very inventively handled without being irritating and makes the viewer feel a wide range of emotions, like being amused and feel sympathy for her (and the Diamond Dogs, their personalities well done, too surprisingly). Another highlight is Spike's fantasy, both very cute and entertaining.
What has always been good about 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' is its messaging/morals. Having relevant and relatable messages and morals and mostly not laying them on too thick or being confusing. That is the case with the moral in "A Dog and Pony Show" about being girly doesn't mean that one is weak, which is very true. It is another well written episode, with a perfect balance of humour and pathos, both done brilliantly individually. Hilariously in the former and poignant in the latter and the episode excels in not going over people's heads while not dumbing down at the same time. As ever, the animation is colourful and elegant and the music dynamic. Tabitha St Germain is impeccable voicing Rarity.
In summation, great. 9/10