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I would also like to apologize just as much, and I really hope that the apology makes a difference in the future, for seemingly bothering anybody with the wording and content of some of my reviews. When I write a review, it always tries to be perceptive and honest with never any intent to be horrible or annoying. That there are people that seem to be upset and even offended by my writing does sadden me a good deal, I hate getting on the wrong side of people and hate upsetting them which is a symptom of my autism. It is never my intent to deliberately annoy anybody. I have made an enormous effort in addressing the repetition that has happened in a minority handful of my work for a short period of time (when I did get a bit lazy), which clearly annoyed somebody or some people at first, and that effort continues to be made. I really hope that people can see that as I know that that was the reason when the down-voting started, having been taken to task over it. As far as I'm concerned, there has been little to no repetition for a year and a half now certainly not in duplicate style. I do appreciate the support that I have garnered and although the vast number of useful votes in the seemingly increasing popularity of my writing is lovely and appreciated, it may make a difference (as it may be a reason for the abuse) if the up-voting didn't happen quite as frequently. This is not a case of self-up-voting, I wouldn't do that and I do think that that is what the person/people responsible is/are thinking. Again, I am very sorry about my behaviour and hope that people can forgive me.
I know that I lashed out too verbally to a user here (don't know who for certain but have a good idea) after being taken aback by the unnecessarily crass way they spoke to me on another website. This was when I was in an especially bad place and in a desperate attempt to sort the review problem out once and for all (at that time at its worst) acted in an extreme way that I know now was an over-reaction. I have regret over what I said and retaliated in a not much better way, though one would not blame me for acting the way I did if seeing the offensive abuse thrown at me using words demeaning to women and disabled people. I would like to apologize for this, it was not my intention to cause upset and am upset I have done. Even being indirectly accused of abusing limits by somebody I trusted and then lied about me.
Just to say that although it doesn't look it right now (to me it will have looked my work has increased, not the case) and probably won't do, I have decided to slow down and write less reviews. To concentrate on my semi-professional singing career and sort my life out. Something that I was actually starting to do last year, with writing less reviews a day and not writing at weekends or every week. Every three weeks or so I will have a week or two off and every three or four months I shall not be writing for between two weeks and a month, perhaps more. This is entirely my own decision, something I had planned for a while and has already happened two or three times. No forcing or influencing here, just that I need breaks and I have contributed heavily here and written a lot of reviews. I will cause suspicion, more so than has been the case for a while now, if I carry on at the rate I did do. Thank you everybody for what has been said to me overtime, supporting me and any kind words and stay healthy during this truly unpleasant time for the world.
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. Most of my reviews too have been for individual episodes for shows seen in my spare time and as a child so there is nothing suspicious about wanting to review individual episodes and cartoons watched from a young age and over-time.
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 Hep Cat (1946)
The pied pipers of doom
Mighty Mouse was perhaps Terrytoons' most prolific character and his series the longest running one of the various theatrical series. For me though, although his series is generally watchable he is one of those pleasant enough characters but also quite limited and one-dimensional. And his 80 cartoons spanning from 1942 to 1961, were a very mixed bag, none awful as such but none great as well. Do prefer Gandy and Sourpuss (though their series was very hit and miss too) and Heckle and Jeckle personally.
1946's 'The Hep Cat' left me a little mixed. It is a long way from being one of the worst Mighty Mouse cartoons, there were worse since and also before (it is better than a few of the later 1944 cartoons in the series), but it is also not quite one of the best too. It isn't even one of the best or worst Mighty Mouse cartoons from 1946, one of the in between ones if anything. As far as Terrytoons' oddly intriguing but uneven output goes, 'The Hep Cat' is somewhere in the middle and one of their cartoons that falls in the "worth a one time watch but very average" category as namely a completest.
'The Hep Cat' is very predictable story-wise, primarily in the second half. The Mighty Mouse series was always a very formulaic one so predictability was always high, but even with a different setting this is very standard Mighty Mouse, one of those cartoons where if you have seen one cartoon with the same character you've seen them all when you see more of them.
More variety in the gags would have been more welcome, at least there are gags and they amuse. At the same time, they generally needed more freshness as it did have a repeated material feel. The mice characters are cute but bland, while Mighty Mouse is again not enough of a lead character, when he does appear there is a very deja vu feel. Also felt that he wasn't really needed, and when he does appear with a not particularly easy gear change it's like watching something else that doesn't live to the promise that the first half showed
However, the music continues to be the best asset, like it consistently was in all the Terrytoons cartoons at this point of their filmography. It is beautifully and cleverly orchestrated and arranged, is terrific fun to listen to and the lively energy is present throughout, doing so well with adding to the action. The animation, having come on such a long way from being a weak point to the most improved component, impresses too and shows how much the studio had advanced on a visual level. It is nicely detailed, lively and colourful without being garish.
Although the gags aren't exceptional, they are timed energetically and they do raise a chuckle. The conflict has fun and tension and it helps that the villains have menace and great comic timing. 'The Hep Cat' also starts off very well, with a real sense of doom and desperation (it doesn't get much darker than luring people to their deaths, shudder!) not always there in a Mighty Mouse cartoon.
In conclusion, little outstanding but not at all bad. 5/10
Night and fog
"There's a Demon Shark in the Foggy Dark" was an episode that was actually better to me as a child. With a lot of 'The Scooby Doo' episodes, the categories most common are the "better through adult eyes" and "feelings very much the same". As a younger fan, what made me like the episode was the setting and its atmosphere and the final solution surprised me on first viewing. The mystery was actually more interesting when younger though and the villain creepier.
Some episodes of 'The Scooby Doo Show' don't fare as well through the eyes of a young adult. While it is a long way from a terrible episode, "There's a Demon Shark in the Foggy Dark" is one of those episodes. Still love the setting, there are some classic Shaggy and Scooby moments and a nice final trap, but what stood out to me as a child actually today are drawbacks judging the episode now. At least though it is not one of those "never cared for it much" episodes, there are a few of those in the show too.
Of course there are good things. The animation is generally well done, especially the use of fog in Aqualand that was very mysterious and creepy. The music has a nostalgic charm to it and it's not too in your face. Still love the theme song. Aqualand is a great location, colourful but also somewhere you don't want to go at night. The writing holds the attention with enough to keep one guessing and the vintage endearingly silly humour still charms.
While the story to me now is a bit lacking, there are great moments still. The opening is promising, it intrigues, the theft itself is actually creepier than most of the action in Aqualand and sets up what was to come really well. The gang's first scene was charming. Fred, Daphne and Velma's investigating is also intriguing. The restaurant scene was a lot of fun, even if it went on for too long. The final trap was nice and inventive. The coda had the same amusement and charm of the gang's first scene. All the gang are on point and Beaker is the most interesting and actually shiftiest of the suspects.
Unfortunately, it is not easy getting stories about defrosted animals/monsters to work. The Scooby Doo franchise proved that with 'Scooby Doo Where Are You's' weakest episode "Scooby's Night with a Frozen Fright". It's sadly proven again here. There are some great scenes here and it starts off really well, but once the shark appears the episode doesn't become as interesting. The mystery just felt too slight and can drag, and despite liking the solution as a child to me now while the how aspect of it is clever the who, even with more than one suspect and attempts at misdirection, no longer comes as a surprise. Actually was surprised that it took the gang so long to get to the truth about how the crime was done when it should have been considered a possibility from the beginning in my view.
Also, the shark himself is a disappointment. It is not creepy or intimidating in the slightest to me. If anything its design comes over as rather silly which made it difficult to take it seriously.
Summing up, not bad at all but other episodes of the show have held up a lot better. 6/10
At reform school
"Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" definitely stands out when it comes to the episodes of 'Phineas and Ferb', with it being something of a change of pace. Different setting, an episode that doesn't follow the usual basic formula, different atmosphere, a different kind of ending. As well as seeing the characters and relationships at a different angle. On first watch it struck me as a strange episode, but also a great one that is quite unique for the show.
My positive feelings are still the same over a decade on and "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" is actually an example of an episode that has gotten better overtime, due to finding more to appreciate not noticed as much on first watch. "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" is a strange episode but this is a case of that not being a bad thing, this approach was handled very well and imaginatively and doesn't feel out of place tonally for the show. Not quite one of my very favourite episodes of 'Phineas and Ferb' but very close to that.
There are better songs in 'Phineas and Ferb', before and since, than "Little Brothers" in my view, but it was still an incredibly heartfelt song that left a big impression on me emotionally, and will do for anybody with siblings.
Visually, "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" looks great. It has a darker and more austere look when at the reform school, which was wholly appropriate for the mood and the setting, while maintaining at other points the usual vibrancy. The attention to detail in the backgrounds is striking. The music is dynamic with the action and the theme song is insanely catchy with very clever and quotable lyrics that anybody still in school fishing for how to spend their vacation will relate to.
Writing is without problem, it is very intelligent and mature while also having more than enough for younger audiences. Having a good mix of humour and sentiment, with some inspired cultural references to 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Dallas' (adults are definitely more likely to get those). The story is a long way from formulaic, as far as 'Phineas and Ferb' episodes go this is one of the biggest examples of the change of pace ones. Usually hate the type of endings "Phineas and Ferb Get Busted" has as it is too often executed as too much of a cheat, but it is done very cleverly here and just when you thought things had been resolved it brings in another surprise. The reform school setting is unsettlingly austere.
All the characters are handled beautifully, with Candace getting some of her meatiest development of the whole show here and luckily it is very interesting character development that sees her in a new light. The relationship between her, Phineas and Ferb is a lot deeper here too. The Sergeant is a memorable character and it was hard to not feel for Perry at the end. The voice acting is on point, especially Ashley Tisdale and creepiness-personified Clancy Brown.
In summary, wonderful. 10/10
A whale of a tale
'Jonah and the Whale' is one of Rabbit Ears Productions' nine The Great Stories Ever Told adaptations, based on stories from the bible. 'Jonah and the Whale' was one of the stories from the Bible that always stuck in my mind the most for some reason, one of the reasons perhaps being the messaging is very valuable and is still relevant today. Absolutely love Rabbit Ears Productions' series of childrens literature adaptations so had no doubt that they would have done a good job with this story.
Rabbit Ears Productions did not disappoint in this regard, actually consider 'Jonah and the Whale' among the best of their The Greatest Stories Ever Told adaptations. If not quite one of their best overall (they also had their Storybook Classics, American Heroes and Legends, Tales from Around the World and Holiday Classics series, and there were several gems in all of those as well). If anybody wants a story from the Bible told accessibly but with full impact, 'Jonah and the Whale' is a good place to look.
One thing that really stood out here in 'Jonah and the Whale' was the visual style. Which is incredibly striking and like looking at meticulously crafted oil paintings or book illustrations with an oil painted look. The character design for Jonah is commanding and noble-looking while suitably haunted in the early parts. Rabbit Ears Productions often scored well when it came to their choice of music, and George Mgrdichian's music is both haunting and oddly hypnotic.
While not one of my favourite narrators for any of the company's series (another aspect Rabbit Ears Productions consistently excelled in), Jason Robards does provide a reading of the story that invites children to stop what they're doing and come and listen further. It helps too that the writing is of the intelligent and sincere kind, the very valuable messaging making its point but not heavy-handedly so.
The storytelling was simple and approachable, while not being too simple. It was mature but never too scary, even the still formidable whale. Appreciated its faithfulness too without it being over-stuffed or too wordy. Jonah is a compelling character not hard to root for.
Concluding, another winner from Rabbit Ears Productions. 10/10
A Midsummer Night's Dream (2014)
The magical midsummer
My first exposure to Julie Taymor was the Metropolitan Opera production of 'The Magic Flute', which in spectacle is unlike any other production of Mozart's opera ever seen before or since. She is also no stranger to adapting Shakespeare to screen, having also directed 1999's 'Titus' (love it) and 2010's 'The Tempest' (liked it better than most but it's far from perfect). Also watched this because of my love of Shakespeare and of one of his best plays 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.
Taymor's adaptation of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' from 2014 to me was an absolute magical triumph. It is not just in my view the best of Taymor's Shakespeare adaptations, even beating 'Titus', it also contains some of the best work she ever did in visuals and direction and is among the best productions of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' available. The most visually stunning, most uniquely staged and most magical there is, cannot recommend it highly enough.
Was not surprised that the production looked fantastic, regardless of the state of everything else Taymor's productions always looked striking and she always delivered on the spectacle. Don't think that there has been any other production of hers that has been this successful at having a world/setting this vividly immersive. Especially in the lighting, blue has not looked this beautiful in a long time, and Titania's "casting a spell on the viewer" costume. The sets are not too complex yet because of the lavish and cinematic-worthy projections and lighting they enchant hugely. Props are creatively used, scene changes and character entrances are seamless (the best ones also very atmospheric) and the photography avoids being overblown excess while never feeling stage-bound.
Really loved Taymor's stage direction. 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is centuries old and has been done so many times, one would not think so watching this production. The witty and enchanting spirit that the play has is not just present here but embodied, in some very creative touches and unique visual physical spectacle that was like watching a top form Cirque De Soleil production. 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' has never been this physical or jaw-droppingly acrobatic, especially in the transitions and the stage direction for Puck, all without being distracting, overblown or gimmicky.
It, the production that is, treats the play and Shakespeare's writing with intelligence and respect, staying true in spirit to it, while bringing a lot of freshness to the material without being distasteful. The dialogue is still hilarious and touching and while the storytelling is complicated it never falls into incoherence.
Nothing bad can be said about the performances. Kathryn Hunter is a very unique Puck (and not just because it is another highly effective case of a female playing a role usually performed by a male), very enviously physical and not many other Pucks were this riotous. Also a scene stealer is Max Cassella hilariously having a ball as Bottom, he and Jacob Ming-Trent having some of the production's funniest moments. David Harewood is one of the more restrained Oberons while still managing to be a lot of fun, while Tina Benko is alluring and shrewd. The four lovers are also very well cast and mix comic timing and pathos beautifully.
Overall, truly magical. 10/10
Law & Order: Rage (1995)
Anything race related is covered and depicted a lot, but that is in no way a bad thing. Racism, a major issue for decades, is a very brave and difficult topic, it also is a very important thing to address and explore and today it maybe should be addressed more with it being just as bad. As was what was said about "Progeny" for abortion, a lot of admiration would have been had for even tackling the subject regardless of the execution, it being a subject that has been tackled variably on both film and television.
"Rage" is an example of a courageous, well balanced and brilliantly executed on all fronts episode that hits hard. 'Law and Order' was no stranger to racism and anything race related, it had been done a few times before and continued to be a frequently tackled topic in the whole 'Law and Order' franchise. One of the finest examples being Season 4's outstanding "Profile" from the original 'Law and Order'. "Rage" is as great as that episode, although not quite as powerful it is as smart, insighful and brave and it is one of the best episodes of Season 5.
The production values as ever have slickness and grit, with an intimacy without being claustrophobic. The music has presence when it's used but does so without being intrusive, some of it is quite haunting too. The direction is also understated but the tension never slips, the second half being full of it.
Loved the script here in "Rage", one of the best written scripts of the season. It is very intelligently crafted and has intensity and edge while handling the topic sensitively too, really admired it too for seeing the subject from all angles and sides which is not easy to do for such a divisive and harrowing topic. The story is lean and pulls no punches without getting preachy or overwrought, with edge of the seat tension and raw emotional power. The proposed motive for the crime isn't ridiculous and sparked some interesting and thought-probing debate between me and a family member at the dinner table when talking about equality.
Character writing is spot on with genuinely tense conflict in the chemistry for the legal scenes. As is the acting, with Courtney B Vance showing a different side to him and doing so truly chillingly.
In conclusion, outstanding. 10/10
Law & Order: Progeny (1995)
A life for a life
Abortion is a very sensitive subject and still is one of the most controversial ones out there, with extreme opinions on both sides (more so than a lot of other controversial topics). Will always admire anything film and television related that explores it, regardless of how the execution fares. There are times where it is explored tactfully, movingly, intensely and insightfully, there are other times where it is handled heavy-handedly and with too much on one side. Which has been true for any subject tackled on 'Law and Order'.
"Progeny" is in the former category, in a near-return to form for Season 5. The original 'Law and Order' was no stranger to the subject of abortion, Season 1's "Life Choice", will agree with that being an excellent episode and a better and slightly more insightful one, explored it too and it was explored more than once throughout the whole 'Law and Order' franchise since. "Progeny" handles the subject just as effectively for similar reasons and while not quite a show high point it's one of the best episodes of Season 5 and one of the more powerful ones. Complete with one of the early seasons' standout guest stars and legal scenes in a different league to those of the rest of Season 5's episodes.
Like "Life Choice", maybe it could have gone into slightly more depth and done more with more fanatical elements of the subject. The closest it gets to doing that is Thomas Schall's character.
However, also like "Life Choice", "Progeny" handles the subject of abortion with both force and tact, and brings a good deal of insight into the subject in particularly in its moral dilemmas. To me it wasn't heavy handed and it was not obvious really whose side the writers are on. Evident in the scenes between McCoy and Seeley, absolutely agree about the trial scenes, some of the best of the season and of the early seasons, being incredibly executed and cinematic-worthy (even doing it better than a good deal of films set in the courtroom). The tension and emotion is edge of the seat in quality.
Couldn't have asked for better performances. Sam Waterston fares best of the regulars and while James Rebhorn and Schall are excellent the performance of the episode for me belonged to Edward Hermann, especially in the chemistry between him and Waterston. He was seldom more despicable (chillingly so) as a character that is a far cry from loveable Richard from 'Gilmore Girls', doing it without being hammy or making the character too obvious. The script is tight and intelligent, coming to life thrillingly in the trial scenes.
The episode is slickly photographed throughout, a perfect match for the gritty tone, and New York looks both striking and atmosphere-filled. The music is only used when necessary and when it is used it does stick in the mind and not done so ham-handedly. Both the main theme and opening voice over are memorable. It is directed with a confident and sympathetic edge.
Overall, terrific. 9/10
Law & Order: Guardian (1995)
A large part of me had a very strong feeling that "Guardian" would be at least decent, and was really intrigued in seeing what the episode would do with such a harrowing and relevant topic that is hardly out of date now. It was not original territory for 'Law and Order', Season 3's "Mother Love" did it too and did it better, but it is a subject that is always worth addressing. Another reason for anybody expecting a lot is if they are long-term admirers of the franchise's guts in exploring hard-hitting themes and how it did it.
Part of me though was somewhat disappointed in "Guardian". In no way is it a bad episode, the opposite and it handles the subject quite well. It did strike me though as somewhat bland, especially when following on from an episode as great as "House Counsel" was and because there was more potential to do more with the theme if the plotting had more distinction. As said, as has been said above and in a previous review "Mother Love" handles this subject better.
"Guardian" does have a lot of good things. The photography and such as usual are fully professional, the slickness still remaining. The music is used sparingly and is haunting and non-overwrought when it is used, and it's mainly used when a crucial revelation or plot development is revealed. The direction has some nice tension while keeping things steady, without going too far the other way. The script is thought-provoking and doesn't ramble.
Enough of the story does intrigue and nothing comes over as ridiculous or confused. The moral dilemmas of the subject are handled very tactfully. Kammen is a very interesting character. The acting from all is very good, with the regulars being without complaint, Jon Cypher giving what could have been a standard character some complexity and Gerry Bamman plays an attorney that refreshingly doesn't make one irritated.
However, "Guardian" did feel rather derivative and there is not much that surprises, the guilty party is too obvious too early for instance. As a result, and because it could have afforded to be more pull no punches, it feels on the bland side at times.
Do agree that Jose Serrano looks ill at ease and goes through the motions. Also that Kammen's indignant attitude at one critical point comes too out of nowhere.
In conclusion, not bad at all but could have been more. 7/10
Law & Order: House Counsel (1995)
Part of the game
Almost all the previous episodes of 'Law and Order's' Season 5 are very good to fantastic, the best being "Virtue" and especially "White Rabbit". The previous episode "Scoundrels" to me was the only disappointment, mostly due to the truly improbable second half. Despite anything to do with the mob is quite familiar territory for mystery/procedural/legal shows, the concept actually didn't seem too old hat and it was great to see some development to McCoy and his motivations.
"House Counsel" did all of that wonderfully. It doesn't waste any of its potential and even exceeds it and proof that the early seasons should in no way be overlooked, as they are as good as the seasons often shown (as of now the late Briscoe seasons onwards). It's one of the best episodes of Season 5, nearly "White Rabbit" level, and leagues better than "Scoundrels". If not quite one of the best episodes of the whole of 'Law and Order', a brilliant show at its best with many great and more episodes throughout its run.
My only complaint of "House Counsel" is the character of Dosso being for my tastes underwritten and underused.
That didn't prove to be too much of a detriment as the rest of the supporting characters are very interesting. Especially Kopell, namely from a psychological standpoint where one sees how he came to be the way he is and how his mind works. It's fascinating to watch as is the tension between him and McCoy. Furini is also a character one doesn't want to mess with.
Loved the character writing for McCoy here, after really disliking his sackable offense-worthy conduct in "Scoundrels" it was great to see more development to him, see him more conflicted in his motivations and see how he came to be the person he is. The chemistry between him and Kincaid is great, the tension between him and the, in this episode, more by the book Kincaid scintillates. Schiff has a couple of great lines and the procedural parts while not as complex are intriguing and not too safe. The script is taut and smart and the story is thoroughly absorbing, especially the second half.
Cannot fault the performances. Sam Waterston shines most of the regulars in one of his best performances of the fifth season. Ron Leibman also excels, bringing a lot of complexity to Kopell and the less than amicable relationship between him and McCoy is brought out with tension and gusto. Vincent Pastore is suitably menacing as Furini. As usual for 'Law and Order' and its spin offs, the production values are solid and the intimacy of the photography doesn't get static or too filmed play-like. The music when used is not too over-emphatic and has a melancholic edge that is quite haunting. The direction is sympathetic enough while also taut.
Overall, great. 9/10
More disliked than wanted
The Cutie Mark Crusaders have often been great characters and not near as over-cute as their names indicate. They have come on a long way, with their personalities becoming more individual with each episode, and a good deal of episodes centered around them or focused on one with one of the Mane 6 are very good to wonderful. Once again, one would think that an episode centered around them would be too cute and bland but generally they've not, though whenever punished their treatment can veer on too cruel.
"Appleoosa's Most Wanted" was Season 5's first disappointment and one of its misfires. The premise was good but the execution on the most part wasn't. It's not a complete waste of time (few episodes of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' are), but it should have been much better and much more interesting than it was and as far as Cutie Mark Crusader-centric episodes go "Appleoosa's Most Wanted" to me is definitely down there with the worst and towards the bottom when ranking the show's episodes overall.
Does "Appleoosa's Most Wanted" have good things? Absolutely. The animation has vibrancy and atmosphere with the attention to detail in the backgrounds and expressions being quite rich and never cluttered or static. The music fits beautifully with the setting and the tone and has character and nice use of instruments as usual. The voice acting on the whole is fine.
Some of the comedy was mildly amusing, especially the harmonica gag early on. The moral is well intended, relatable and handled with sincerity.
For all those good things, "Appleoosa's Most Wanted" has a number of bad things. The worst thing about it is the story, which on top of having very little original about it struck me as rather silly and forced. As well as bland, the conflict is next to none (or at least it feels like there is hardly any) and any signs of it has no tension whatsoever. Namely because of the source of the conflict Troubleshoes having potential on paper but being practically wasted in the episode itself due to the lack of distinct personality (too derivative of Eeyore and his development felt on the rushed side), and the predictability. Once again, the Cutie Mark Crusaders' treatment here is far too cruel, and because the conflict is so bland it felt like here it was for no reason.
Have seen the Cutie Mark Crusaders a good deal more likeable and competent in other episodes before and since, their actions showed good intentions but came over as too rash and too random and they should have stuck up for Troubleshoes much earlier. The whole cutie mark thing could have been elaborated upon more as that didn't make enough sense. Found myself frustrated by Applejack here, her and Applebloom's sister relationship has often been done with a lot of heart and relatability, but here it was quite disheartening seeing Applejack being unsympathetic and not a good listener. Worse are the adult characters, not only are none of them interesting they are also very obnoxious and stupid (especially the truly inept sherriff). You know you're in trouble when Troubleshoes is the least bad of the lot and still managed to be a missed opportunity.
Generally the episode didn't have enough laughs and it was difficult to connect with it emotionally. The writing was forced (that's including the Troubleshoes slapstick), dull and lacking in wit and intelligence, with too many conveniences, and much of the pace is pedestrian from the story feeling too thin and sometimes even padded on top of its other problems.
Summing, not awful but a misfire. 4/10
Crazy but not too scary
Absolutely love Goren and Eames' pairing, and Goren especially is the most fascinating of all the 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' leads. Do prefer them over the pairing that they alternated with throughout Season 5 Logan and Barek, and prefer and am more used to them as characters. Their episodes on the whole in Season 5 are better than the Logan and Barek-centric ones, although to me not every episode of theirs in the season was great.
"Scared Crazy" was one of their weaker outings and one of the season's lesser episodes. Don't think it is anywhere near as bad as has been made out, and while the criticisms others have of "Scared Crazy" are actually agreed with by me the way they have been expressed in my view has been somewhat over the top. It is not a great episode, with plenty of good things but with a fair share of problems, but it's worth a look especially if you want to see every episode of 'Criminal Intent'.
The good things are going to be started off with. "Scared Crazy" is well made, intimately photographed and slick with no signs of under-budget or anything. The music didn't sound melodramatic or too constant and the direction is accomodating while still having pulse. Some of the writing is thoughtful and smart, with enough tautness to avoid it from rambling. The playing off between Goren and Eames is so entertaining and how the truth is gotten out is quite intensely done.
While the story is a long way from perfect, actually found it heavily flawed, it does have engaging and tense moments with plenty of surprising twists and turns. Vincent D'Onofrio is always a joy, and here he is wonderful in one of his most impassioned performances of the show in a way that frightens and moves. Kathryn Erbe is more subtle but just as involving and in character. Their chemistry is a pleasure. The supporting cast are good, with Jennifer Van Dyck being particularly impressive.
For all those good things, sadly "Scared Crazy" is let down significantly by two major things. Despite some moments, the writing is not its usual taut or smart self. Instead feeling very one-sided (the episode makes it very clear from the outset what its point of view is with lack of tact and offers no other side), pretty stilted (especially in most of the final 10 minutes) and patronising (namely Goren's dialogue towards the end). With the subtlety of an axe.
Despite some moments, like the script, the story is not always as involving as it could have been with some dull stretches early on and parts that could have done with more clarity. It is also very heavy-handed, with the politics agreed being too heavily emphasised and rammed further down the throat. And with an on the whole ending that makes one feel preached at. While well played, other than Pynchon the characters lack development.
Concluding, not a bad episode but a long way from great. 6/10
Have always had a thing for promising concepts, and "Control" epitomises that to a tee. The subject is a hard hitting and creepy one and not always easy to execute well, with potential dangers of being too sleazy. While the earlier seasons in my view are better, 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' has grown on me as there are some great mid-run/late episodes (as well as misfires). The show has varied though when it comes to mixing the case with personal life issues of a team member, with dangers of dominating too much or being overwrought.
That luckily was not the case with "Control". It is one of the best episodes of Season 5, the best since "Loss" perhaps, as well as one of the most shocking and poignant. It is interesting for being one of not many early season 'Special Victims Unit' where the killer is actually not the person one hates by the end of the episode, and a great job is done with Olivia's demons and how they tie in with the case (actually just about avoiding the potential traps that personal life subjects in 'Special Victims Unit' can fall into).
"Control" has so many great things, brilliant even, the best assets being so good that it didn't matter to me too much that it was relatively clear early on that there was more to the victim than what is initially seen. It is elevated enormously by the performances. Mariska Hargitay is very moving here, up there with one of her best performances of the season and Christopher Meloni has a lovely steely yet sympathetic chemistry with her. The supporting performances are every bit as excellent, Jacqueline Bissett and Samantha Mathis are powerful in their roles (especially Mathis with more to do and with the meatier role), Austin Pendleton always played a creep well and he is suitably loathsome here and David Thornton plays one of the smarmiest defense lawyers with relish.
Also thought that the script and story were top standard. The script is intelligent, tight and thought-provoking, Olivia's dilemma really hits hard and is poignant without being too sentimental and the opening and closing statements show how well balanced the writers are on this particular issues. Olivia is very well developed here, with more learnt about her, and it is always interesting when one sees a different side to her. She wasn't out of character in my view and her chemistry with Stabler is great, love them together.
She still has her steel but she has a vulnerability in how she reacts to the situation, shows her guilt from her past mistake when it becomes personal, which was handled poignantly without it being too over-dominant. The story is an emotionally powerful one and one is left shocked and creeped out when the motive for the initial crime is revealed, that chamber of horrors and the modus operandi agreed are likely to stay in the mind a long while after. The production values are slick and have a subtle grit, with an intimacy to the photography without being too claustrophobic. The music isn't used too much and doesn't get too melodramatic. The direction is sympathetic but also alert.
In summary, wonderful. 10/10
Law & Order: Scoundrels (1994)
With the episodes from 'Law and Order's' middle period and from its later seasons airing so often, it is very easy perhaps to overlook the early seasons. Meaning in my view pre-Season 7. That is a shame, because 'Law and Order' in its early years was more often than not good to fantastic with some truly fine episodes in each of the seasons in question. Wasn't blown away by every episode but when the show was at its best it was brilliant, and there were obvious good things in lesser episodes too.
Not every episode from the early seasons was great, and "Scoundrels" is one of those not so great episodes unfortunately. It's definitely not a bad episode and half of the episode was actually very good. It's the legal scenes where it went off the boil drastically, meaning that "Scoundrels" went from a high middle tier episode to one of the lesser Season 5 episodes, which is a shame because the concept had a good deal of promise and the supporting performances are so terrific.
"Scoundrels" does have enough good things. The photography and such as usual are fully professional, the slickness still remaining. The music is used sparingly and is haunting and non-overwrought when it is used, and it's mainly used when a crucial revelation or plot development is revealed. The direction has some nice tension while keeping things steady, without going too far the other way. The writing in the first half entertains, intrigues and engages, with some snappy lines from Briscoe and Logan.
The story is very engaging in the first half, with enough twists to stop it from being too simple or too conventional without going overboard and confusing the drama. The character writing is on the most part very well done, if more the supporting characters this time than the leads. The sleaziness that Tappan is full of makes him an unforgettably chilling character. The acting is great from all, with Michael Zaslow making the skin crawl hugely effectively.
Which is why it is so sad that "Scoundrels" falls downhill drastically in the second half, this time the legal scenes and how the prosecution is conducted is so intelligence insultingly improbable and strains credibility beyond breaking point. While actually liking McCoy as a character overall, he did take time to get used to to start with and his professionalism could be called into question in some of his earlier episodes, but the unprofessionalism he has here takes the biscuit and if it was reality what happens here would have gotten him disbarred most likely.
It was just not realistic that a case so flimsy, so full of holes and so easily dismissable went further ahead than it should have done (not beyond thrown out of court). The dialogue also becomes less focused and is instead more over-heated and the pace loses tautness.
Overall, starts off great but the legal scenes brought the episode down significantly. 6/10
A Fink in the Rink (1971)
Trouble in the rink
The Roland and Rattfink series is inconsistent and never reached classic status with any of the cartoons, and none of the best cartoons were as good as the best of Pink Panther, The Inspector and the Ant and the Aardvark (the three best of the studio's numerous theatrical series). But it was always watchable and never reached terrible or mediocre at best depths which some of the other theatrical series from DePatie-Freleng Enterprises did. All the lesser efforts were ones that left me mixed.
'A Fink in the Rink', the series' penultimate cartoon, evoked a mixed reaction from me with both good and not so good. Not one of the best Roland and Rattfink cartoons like 'A Pair of Sneakers', 'Robin Goodhood' and 'War and Pieces' and closer to 'A Taste of Money', 'The Foul Kin' and 'The Great Continental Overland Cross-Country Race' level if anything, but definitely worth a one-time watch with the same general strengths of the series and also the same general cons.
Will start with what worked. The light-heartedness of the music is always endearing and the main theme is another memorable one (have neglected to mention that in other reviews for other Roland and Rattfink cartoons). There are some nice colours here and there. Rattfink's snideness amuses.
Likewise with Rattfink, who was always the funnier and more interesting character between him and Roland and that is obvious here in 'A Fink in the Rink'. The final third has energy and is the funniest the cartoon gets. Lennie Weinrib doesn't disappoint.
Did think that Roland was bland and it did feel, unlike Rattfink who is in a type of role perfect for his personality traits, like the studio/writers were experimenting with him in putting him in a more authoritative type of role. One that Roland is too generic and lightweight in and his rhetorical and no-nonsense approach doesn't quite gel. While picking up in the final third, the story doesn't properly come to life and is very typical formula-wise of the series that by now was pretty tired.
Final third aside, the gags are not particularly funny and are derivative of gags from other cartoons but without their freshness. The pace is again erratic and generally the animation isn't great and looks rushed.
All in all, very conflicted here. 5/10
Love for Lydia (1977)
Painful love in youth
Have always loved period dramas, film and television and of all different periods/settings, from a very early age. This is a love that keeps increasing getting older, now at an age where what wasn't noticed or appreciated by me when younger is very much now, and the more, old and new and whether adapted from a book or not, watched. A love that is highly unlikely to ever go and my appreciation for them is actually even more.
'Love for Lydia' is not quite one of the classics to me, but it is still a great series that deserves wider recognition. It is great that those who have seen it remember it very fondly, it is not hard at all to see why. It's sumptuous, very entertaining and very charming, and its look at love in youth and the pain it can cause is hardly superficial or empty. Quite the opposite. One may on occasions feel the slow pace, where parts are a little too deliberate and aimless early on. 'Love for Lydia' though has held up very well where the numerous good things are so good that any pace reservations can be overlookable.
It looks great, with the period lovingly and handsomely recreated complemented beautifully by the photography. The music, with a gorgeous main theme that sticks in the mind forever, never intrudes in mood or placement and doesn't over-emphasise what the characters are feeling.
The writing is layered and thought-provoking, not feeling too talk-heavy or wordy, flowing with ease and smoothly too. The direction is relaxed but not too relaxed, the intimacy is brought out effectively but it doesn't get static. The story entertains, charms and moves, the bigger scenes are not too overblown and the smaller scenes are very sympathetically written and played.
A great cast also helps. Mel Martin (in some of her best work), as a character that one can see where the attraction is but also has flaws that frustrate like immaturity and selfishness, and Christopher Blake are appealing in the lead roles. The supporting cast is full of talent, with standouts as two of the most interesting characters being a larger than life Michael Aldridge, in a role he was born to play, and a pre-'Brideshead Revisited' Jeremy Irons already showing incredible promise again in a tailor made role.
Summing up, great series. 9/10
Criminal Minds: Night Lights (2019)
'Criminal Minds' was one of my most watched and re-watched shows for quite some time and it is still a show that is come back to every now and then. Despite it being very hit and miss for a while now. Season 14 was not too bad a season, certainly a million times better than the mostly quite weak Seasons 11 (which only had like 5 good episodes) and 15 (which only had 2 good ones), but very inconsistent. Some very good episodes, especially "300" and "The Tall Man".
But some disappointing ones, even they though are better than the worst of Seasons 9 and 11 and the whole of Season 15. "Night Lights" to me was one of the disappointing ones. Not terrible but pretty average when it had big potential to be great. Considering how fabulous the idea was and that it was one of the best and most interesting concepts of the season and in a while for the show. For the show too, the unsub sounded very unique. And they were in a way, but had conventional motives and storytelling surrounding them.
"Night Lights" has enough good things. It started off very well indeed, very intriguing and creepy. The unsub in how they're made up, their actions and their circumstances at first is a unique one which was great and is one of the season's creepiest easily. The victims are rootable though they could have been developed more. The acting throughout from all is very good, cannot fault the regulars and the unsub is unsettlingly played.
It is a well made episode too, not unexpected, especially the truly eerie lighting that makes one scared of the dark for a while after. The music is not constant or melodramatic and has a real sense of atmosphere. Some of the script is thought-provoking.
Sadly, there were some great if not novel ideas very under-explored. The motive didn't make much sense by the end and there were a couple considered possibilities that would have been more plausible. The connections are very thin and not touched upon enough, being introduced quite late with little time left to go. More tension and suspense wouldn't have gone amiss, the climax was easy to figure out, and the episode could have had less taunting of the victims which began in a creepy way but got repetitive and had more of a back-story for the unsub, again in this case good ideas that don't come together.
Despite it being so great to see Reid, "Night Lights" did something unforgivable in underusing him and giving him little time to show off what makes him such a great character. His most memorable moment is when finding one of the more crucial clues, the significance of that being figured out unrealistically fast with such little prior information to go on to come to the conclusions the way they did so that was a waste as well. The side story jarred too much tonally and while it is always nice to have development to at least one character in each episode it didn't gel. The team interaction and the way they work was better in other episodes of the season.
All in all, was underwhelmed by this episode despite loving the concept on paper. 5/10
The Crown: Gelignite (2016)
Doesn't quite explode enough
If anybody, like me, loved all the previous episodes of 'The Crown's' first season, it is totally understandable if expectations are very high for "Gelignite". My expectations certainly were high, especially after such a fantastic previous episode. That is a great title for an episode with a fascinating unexpected meaning, and it did interest me to see Princess Margaret playing a big role in the storytelling which she had not done so before in the previous episodes.
"Gelignite" was a bit of a disappointment from personal opinion though. There is a huge amount to love about it and most of the things that made the previous episodes of the season so brilliant are here. It just felt like something was missing, the plot doesn't grab the attention as much here and whether one enjoys "Gelignite" or not does depend on whether they like how Margaret is written here and in 'The Crown' overall.
Enough compels in the story but the Margaret and Peter subplot really isn't one of the best subplots of 'The Crown'. Personally found it rather bland and one-sided and that never really was addressed. If the episode was trying to make one not like Margaret, it did succeed in that and came close to going too far on that.
Vanessa Kirby was on the annoying side as Margaret and the pacing drags on occasions.
Once again however, "Gelignite" is exceptionally well made. The expense really does show in the classy, sumptuous period detail and the atmospheric and elegant way it's shot. The music for me wasn't too intrusive or low-key and was beautiful scoring on its own. The main theme is not easy to forget.
Writing probes a lot of thought and intrigue, it is much more than soap-opera and doesn't feel too modern. The story is far from perfect, but it does intrigue at least and is at its strongest in addressing the moral dilemma Elizabeth faces and the conflict that comes with the situation, done with subtlety yet tact. When it comes to the acting, Claire Foy comes off best in a dignified and very expressive turn that never resorted to histrionics or over-seriousness.
In conclusion, good but disappointing after such greatness before. 7/10
Christmas Next Door (2017)
Being neighbourly at Christmas
Hallmark's Christmas output is very variable and 2018 was a mixed year for them. Some though are above average level and there are some surprisingly very enjoyable ones amongst the average and less films that there is a good deal of in their output. Along with my love of Christmas and that it was one of the films in my Christmas Hallmark/Lifetime film completest quest, my main reasons for seeing 'Christmas Next Door' were because of liking the concept (despite it not being anything original) and having liked the cast in other things.
'Christmas Next Door' really isn't one of their best and in the lesser end of that year. While Hallmark have done far worse overall, of their 2017 output 'Christmas Next Year' was one of their most frustrating and biggest wastes of potential. Musicians, as is very much evident here, will despair watching the film. So will hairdressers. And those that love Christmas may likely not find very much to like about 'Christmas Next Door' either.
The best thing about 'Christmas Next Door' is the acting. Jesse Metcalfe has a lot of likeability and always engages here. Fiona Gubelmann is not as subtle, but she is also charming without being too sugary sweet. She and Metcalfe have a genuine chemistry that never looks ill at ease. The rest of the cast do well, despite having very cliched roles. Brittany Bristow manages to not be annoying, considering the type of role (with a character trait that is often overplayed) she has that is not easy.
Production values are also quite attractive, again like a vast majority of Hallmark Christmas films this is particularly true for the scenery. Some of the music is pleasing on the ears.
It is though better heard than seen, so that you try and not be too distracted by some of the worst instrumental playing on film. Count me in as another musician badly distracted by how fake the playing was, but there was a lot more bad things other than that. Other parts of the film sounded over-scored, a common problem for Hallmark. Do agree that hairdressers would have a field day criticising how bad and cheap looking the hairdos are. The direction is workmanlike at best.
Not much special to the script, story or pacing. The script is really quite painful, especially in the very stilted and cheesy first third and too much of it is over-sentimental. The story is not just excessively predictable from a done to death formula (the setting is different, the structure is not) being executed in over-familiar fashion, it is also paper thin and very dull from being over-stretched. Also found most of it quite bland from the general lack of charm and heart, there are moments but not enough, and with a lot of suspension of disbelief needed like trying and failing to accept an ending as pat as this one.
Concluding, quite lacklustre. 4/10
Two Turtle Doves (2019)
Nobody should watch Hallmark films with massively high expectations, their Christmas output particularly. If a Hallmark fan or wanting to see as many Christmas films as possible, expectations would understandably be higher. They are very formulaic with most of them being more of the same narratively and structurally, apart from sporadic attempts at changes of pace. There are a fair share of them though that are surprisingly above average and even good amidst the many average and less ones.
2019 was a very hit and miss and somewhat unimpressive year for Hallmark and their Christmas output. 'Two Turtle Doves' to me, and many others it seems, managed to be one of the best from that year and actually among their best Christmas films in general. It's not a masterpiece by any stretch, then again is that expected from Hallmark, or flawless. But 'Two Turtle Doves' does show that Hallmark do have a good film in them if given a chance.
Sure not all the dialogue is great, Hallmark tend to be over-scored and there are times, not constantly, where that is applicable to 'Two Turtle Doves'.
There are instances too where the pace drags when the film is less eventful.
However, 'Two Turtle Doves' is visually pleasing and has a professional look. The appropriately festive locations especially. Enough of the soundtrack is nostalgic and pleasant enough. he direction is accomodating while not going through the motions. Nikki DeLoach and Michael Rady don't overplay, any mannerisms not overdone, and neither do they hold back too much. Their likeability shines through and their chemistry is a warm and genuine one that develops more naturally and realistically than usual. Michaela Russell is appealing too.
Moeover, the dialogue is tighter and less stilted than a lot of Hallmark Christmas films and the cheese and sentiment isn't as much. The story is very predictable admittedly, but it still engaged me and was charming and heart-warming while not taking itself too seriously. Did appreciate too that there was more to usual. The characters may be well worn cliches, but they came over to me as likeable enough and any negative character traits didn't come over as over the top like can be the case in Hallmark Christmas films. Actually cared for these characters, not the case with a lot of recently seen Christmas films.
In conclusion, very well done and one of the best Hallmark Christmas films from 2019. 8/10
A Very Merry Toy Store (2017)
Toys for Christmas
Throughout my whole Lifetime (am going to be another person to reiterate that this is not Hallmark) Christmas film completest quest undertaken namely late last year, an interesting quest but very hit and miss, there was never the mentality of expecting a classic or the film in question to be flawless. Something that was never managed with Lifetime's output. There was always the expectation of seeing a film where one can see at least some effort rather than merely cash-in level. One could see that with enough of Lifetime's work.
Lifetime did however do a lot better than 'A Very Merry Toy Store'. It has its moments and is not complete dross, but it is to me one of the worst of their festive output that year and overall and really does not show that they are capable of something that is above mediocrity. Despite such a cute and appetising title, there is not an awful lot of merriment in this toy store or much merry about the film. 'A Very Merry Toy Store' isn't awful, it's just rather mediocre.
'A Very Merry Toy Store' has good things. Melissa Joan Hart, best known to me as the titular character in 'Sabrina The Teenage Witch' (have always been very fond of that) appeals in the lead role. Beth Broderick, who also was in 'Sabrina The Teenage Witch', stands out of the cast. A cast that on the most part is not bad at all, and Brian Dennehy is reliably good value. Some of the scenery is nice and attractive.
Same can be said for some of the soundtrack too and there were some genuinely cute, charming moments.
It is unfortunate though that they are too few and between, to me on the most part 'A Very Merry Toy Store' was rather bland as well as falling into most of the traps present in a lot of Lifetime's Christmas output. There is an exception to the cast, Mario Lopez was on the dull and charmless side as the male lead character and his chemistry with Hart doesn't quite gel and is more lukewarm than on fire. While the cast give their all, the characters are very thinly sketched with no real variation on what has been seen before in other Lifetime work. The villain especially is too much of a cartoon. The relationships never develop and the conflict is too predictable and thin to resonate all that much.
Production values-wise, Lifetime films usually fare much better than this. Apart from the exterior scenery, 'A Very Merry Toy Store' is among their cheaper looking films and it was like it was made in even more of a rush than usual. While the music has its moments, it tended to feel over-scored and over-emphasised the mood at times. The script can be stilted and the cheese and sentimentality get too much. The story is rather formulaic and can be rather uneventful and dragged out from being too slightly plotted.
Concluding, not awful but pretty mediocre. 4/10
The Walking Dead: Go Getters (2016)
Fighting amidst grief
Liked but not loved the first three episodes, with a lot of fine things but also some big problems that were pretty much similar in all three, so actually Season 7 did start off with good potential but quite quickly lost it. "Service" was a big disappointment and was the episode where Season 7 began to stumble and kept stumbling, found it a dull and bland episode with too much talk and far too much of a weakly written Negan.
"Go Getters" is for me a better faring episode than "Service", there is actually signs of characters and story progressing (even if not a massive amount) and didn't have the problem of having Negan and his overuse unbalancing everything like that episode did. It is not near as good as the first three Season 7 episodes though and would call it one of the middling, meaning not one of the best or worst of the season, ones. Not awful, less than brilliant and more uneven.
There are certainly good things. It's well made visually, made with a lot of style and atmosphere without being gimmicky or trying too hard. Some of the music fits nicely, but uncharacteristically for this point of 'The Walking Dead' it left a mixed impression on me. There are moments of tension, everything with the walkers and how they're defeated (especially the tractor one) were immensely satisfying and much more so than what should really have been the source of the episode's tension.
Absolutely loved the female character writing, particularly great was Maggie being the most interesting she was in a while. Really liked the chemistry between her and Sasha , especially when at the graves. Lauren Cohan and Sonequa Martin-Green do a great job here.
Did feel that the male character writing was less good, with only Gregory and Jesus, both nicely acted, being interesting. Didn't see much point to Rick, as great a character he is, being here as he has little to do and what there is does such a compelling character no favours, while Carl didn't have much presence and was annoying. Steven Ogg does not fare badly as Simon, but didn't think still that he was menacing enough.
Regarding the story there were tense moments and there is progression, but it is mostly fairly dull and feels very padded from being narratively quite thin. The dialogue is not as long-winded as in the previous Season 7 episodes (yes, did think this aspect was a weak link in the first three too), but it does lack tautness and has moments of unintentional laughter. Did like that there were attempts at glimmers of hope, after such heavy-going previous episodes to the season, but the more uplifting moments feel very forced and that is including the more hopeful-sounding music too. "Go Getters" does lose momentum in the second half, which lacks the necessary tension. The Simon encounter suffers from being very derivative and it was just odd having the feeling that the way Simon is written was like Negan had possessed his body at that point or that they had had body swaps or something.
Summarising, not bad but uneven. 5/10
A long way from wooden as an adaptation
Carlo Collodi's source material is a timeless classic and one of my fondest experiences of reading any book was reading it from cover to cover on a long train journey one summer. There are a number of versions of the story, the quality varying. The most famous version is the 1940 Disney film, which is one of my favourites but it is best seeing it on its own terms. The Rabbit Ears Productions adaptation and Soyuzmultfilm's version are also worth tracking down and the Martin Landau film has its merits. Roberto Benigni's version is not worth mentioning.
This Italian animated version, though saw it online dubbed in English, does deserve to be better known and is one of the best adaptations of 'Pinocchio', along with Disney's (the closest one to my heart) and Soyuzmultfilm's with this being the one that will satisfy those that like their adaptations to be faithful. On standalone terms, Disney's (though again that is to be judged on its own terms) version gets the slight edge for its animation and music, both magnificent and some of the studio's all time best. When it comes to adaptations, so truest in detail and spirit, this one is the one to see. While also being a terrific film in its own right, and just as entertaining, charming and moving. There are omissions and changes, though none of them hurt the story at all, but few other adaptations of 'Pinocchio' were this faithful. It is also the darkest (yes darker than Disney's), with it including things that are often left out elsewhere, and with more of the moralistic elements of the story.
'Pinocchio' is very well animated, much of it actually left me amazed. Especially the truly frightning looking forest scene, which is drenched in ominous atmosphere visually, and some of the best use of rotoscoping for any animation seen recently or even anywhere perhaps. The music stands out too, the score isn't as magnificent as Disney's, but is beautiful and atmospheric. Standing out is the main theme with the use of the piccolo and again the creepy tones in the forest scene.
Voice acting in the English dub is very well done, though the synchronisation occasionally doesn't always fit. The narrator (like being read a bedtime story, playful and soothing), the cat (sinister), the fairy (benevolent yet quietly forceful) and Pinocchio (voiced with a lot of enthusiasm and determination) being the standouts.
Writing is humorous, heartfelt, charming and unsettling in equal measures. There are also some memorable lines, including the line about the sea monster being on the surface with its mouth open because of having athsma. The storytelling is on the money, despite having a dark and at times strange tone (including boldly maintaining the scene, apparently intended to be the ending in the book that shocked readers at the time, with Pinocchio's hanging) also has a lot of charm with a couple of poignant scenes like with Pinocchio and Lampwick. This version is also one of the best adaptations with conveying the story's lessons in an inspiring and relevant way. Complete with colourful supporting characters and a titular character that doesn't seem likeable at times and is disobedient and easily led astray but also shown to have good intentions, a character that grows.
Concluding, brilliant and it is a mystery at how long it took me to see it. 10/10
Double-Cross-Country Race (1951)
Cross country Popeye
In the 1950s, the Popeye series was not near as good as it was in the 30s. While still liking the animation, music and voice acting and the cartoons were still funnier than most of those from the mid/late-50s (one of Famous Studios' generally roughest and most inconsistent periods overall), they didn't quite have the same energy and the stories were becoming increasingly formulaic with the lack of originality increasing over-time in the 50s.
This is epitomised in 1951's 'Double Cross Country Race'. It is not an awful cartoon, a long way from it. There is a little more good than there is bad. It is not also not a great one, there are far better Popeye cartoons (almost all in the Fleischer Studios output though) before, even think that there's been better since 'Double Cross Country Race' as well. Just in case anybody is wondering, this reviewer does not have any bias against Famous Studios, despite how it sounds. Actually like a good deal of their work, their best decade by far being the 40s, and their Popeye cartoons were their best regular character theatrical series, even when in they were much more variable in the series' roughest periods and in one of the studio's roughest periods.
'Double Cross Country Race' has a good deal of good things. The animation is bright and colourful, with expressive enough drawing and meticulous attention to detail in the backgrounds. The music, courtesy of the always never less than reliable Winston Sharples, is typically luscious, wholly dynamic to the action and very characterful. There are some occasionally amusing moments and there is not a shortage of gags.
Popeye proves himself to be a more than compelling lead character and he has a good nemesis in the Count. Some nice conflict between them and Jack Mercer's voice acting cannot be faulted.
Was not so keen on Jackson Beck (one of the studio's most prolific voice actors for a reason) as the Count though, some uncharacteristically odd voice acting and am not sure what accent he was trying to pull off. There were bigger problems besides him. Do agree that despite there being a lot of gags, most of them are nothing special and don't reach amusing level. The final third does not have the usual wild energy in most of the previous Popeye cartoons and it is just too predictable to be exciting or anything else.
Which can be said for the story in general, nothing surprising or suspenseful. If you have seen the cartoons adopting the formula for the Popeye vs Bluto cartoons, it is pretty much that plot with not an awful lot of variation apart from the Count in the Bluto (he and Olive do not appear here) role. Delivered in a routine at best fashion.
Concluding, not a bad cartoon but not great. Worth a look for completest Popeye sake. 5/10
African Cats (2011)
Circle of life
Love Disney and while some of their nature documentaries are better than others, their DisneyNature documentaries are worth a look at least. 'African Cats' intrigued me straightaway, being somebody that has always been fascinated by how lions and other big cats are depicted in documentaries and who loves documentaries. It was interesting to see a different approach to stories about lions after being very affected watching 2011's 'The Last Lions' a week ago.
'African Cats' is on the most part a winner for Disney and DisneyNature. As far as their documentaries go, it is towards being one of their better ones due to the visuals and how investable the storytelling was. For anybody that doesn't like animals humanised too much, more focus on family drama and likes subtle narration, they may want to look elsewhere. But for a documentary film that makes any story of any big cat accessible for the whole family, judging without any comparison and on what it is aiming to do and the target audience, 'African Cats' more than fits the bill.
Do agree that sometimes the narration does tend to over-explain, the film would have benefitted more from more show and less tell, and while Samuel L Jackson actually does fine on delivering it there is a try too hard feel to some of his delivery.
However, there is so much to recommend with 'African Cats'. When it comes to DisneyNature documentaries, 'African Cats' has to be up there with the best looking. At its very best, the photography is just jaw-dropping in its beauty. The scenery is both stunningly beautiful and suitably unforgiving. The music is both stirring and poignant-sounding, and it didn't come over as intrusive or trying to be too cinematic.
While the narration was not perfect in writing or delivery, it at least for me entertained and interested me (even if there are many documentaries that are a good deal more illuminating in information) and Jackson clearly puts a lot of passion in his delivery. There is more of a dramatic story of the situations the lions and cheetahs have to undergo than there is documentary, but that didn't matter to me because the storytelling was genuinely moving and heart-warming without being manipulative or over-dramatised. While the approach is not the pull no punches one that 'The Last Lions' had, it doesn't get too over-cute.
It helps too that the lions and cheetahs look wonderful and are so identifiable in very human situations. The interactions are immensely charming with some appropriate tension.
Concluding, very well done. 8/10
Have always liked Rainbow Dash as a character (she did become less consistent later on though), she has a very strong and at times brash personality and she is effective too when she shows a more sensitive side. Am a big admirer of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' as a show and really liked all the previous four episodes that started Season 5, uneven like the previous four seasons but a number of solid to brilliant episodes that outweigh the misfires make it again worth watching, off so promisingly.
Season 5's fifth episode "Tanks for the Memories" is another good and interesting episode, there are better episodes of the show and the previous four of the season are quite a bit better. While the characterisation of Rainbow Dash may leave, and has left fans divided (some fans liked her sympathetic side while others found her out of character and like her development had gone backwards, can see both sides here), there is a lot to "Tanks for the Memories" that works really well indeed.
One has seen characters being inconsistently characterised throughout the show and in the same season, like Pinkie Pie for instance being a joy in some episodes and then grating in others, but it's not a regular occurance for the characterisation for one character to be inconsistent in the same episode. That was the case with Rainbow Dash, for me seeing her softer side and her want to help was great and she was endearing in parts but there were other parts where she could have been a lot more accepting and less arrogant.
"Tanks for the Memories" did feel a little like a Season 2 episode somewhat at times, considering that Rainbow Dash and Tank (introduced in "May the Best Pet Win") was not an often explored dynamic between mid-Season 2 and early-Season 5 and then it is majorly focused upon quite suddenly without referring to much in between it was like no time had passed at all. It would have fitted beautifully within Season 2, in Season 5 while it was actually still well done in its own way on its own terms compared to the rest of the season it felt a little out of place. At times the episode, such as in the early portions, felt a bit padded.
Conversely, Rainbow Dash makes her most bittersweet appearance up to this point of the show which was handled sensitively, her softer side also touching. The chemistry between her and Tank, a relatable character here despite not being explored very much as a character in previous episodes, likewise. The humour is both cute and funny, and doesn't come over as corny or overdone. The weather terms conflict did amuse. There are moments that are poignant, especially in "I'll Fly".
In "Tanks for the Memories", the rest of the ponies have fleeting appearances but even then their personalities are still distinct and individual from each other, each of them too shine in their own way. The animation is great and often beautiful, especially in "I'll Fly" and the immersive world-building, which also stands out here for how much is learnt and in a way that intrigues. The music fits the action and emotions very well, with "I'll Fly" being very heartfelt. The voice acting is very good, Ashleigh Ball's being very nuanced and deeply felt.
All in all, didn't blow me away but well done. 7/10