Reviews written by registered user
TheLittleSongbird

Send an IMDb private message to this author or view their message board profile.

Page 1 of 859:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [Next]
8587 reviews in total 
Index | Alphabetical | Chronological | Useful

"Le Grand Macabre" Hoffmann, 1 July 2016
6/10

'Les Contes D'Hoffmann' may not quite be one of my favourite operas of all-time, but it has Offenbach's magnificent music-especially Dappertutto's "Scintille Diamant", Olympia's Doll Song and the Barcarolle- interesting characters especially Nicklausse and the four villains and a very intriguing story structure.

My favourite of Offenbach's operas that's for sure, as well as his most well-known. On DVD, 'Les Contes D'Hoffmann' is very much a mixed bag. With the Powell/Pressburger film and Placido Domingo and Neil Shicoff productions faring the best and the Giancarlo Del Monaco, Vincenzo Lo Scola and Opera De Lyon performances being the worst. This 2008 Olivier Py-directed Geneva production belongs with neither extreme, a lot of fine things but also a lot of problems.

A vast majority of the production is truly excellent on a musical level. Apart from the sad omission of "Scintille Diamant" the music is all intact and we're even treated to more (something that is definitely a point of interest with the production), with Nicklausse's role in particular being expanded. The orchestra play with quite ravishing tone and also with much energy and sensitivity. Pareick Davin's conducting is brisk, but lets the more intricate parts of the score like the Barcarolle breathe and showpieces like the Doll Song flourish. The chorus sing beautifully and seem engaged dramatically regardless of what has been thrown at them.

The performances on the most part are top notch, especially Stella Doufexis' elegant and richly sung Nicklausse and Nicolas Cavallier is superbly menacing in all the four villain roles, especially effective as Dr Miracle. Patricia Petibon is also a sheer delight as Olympia, singing with vocal beauty and technical brilliance as well as acting with a lot of character. Rachel Harnisch is an affecting Antonia, her big aria being very deeply felt. Secondary roles are well taken, with standout turns from Eric Huchet and Francisco Vas.

Not all the performances come off so well. While she undoubtedly sings beautifully, Maria Riccarda Wesseling is rather too voluptuous for Giulietta and lacks sexual allure. Worse is Marc Laho's Hoffmann, whose singing is dry and his acting practically anonymous.

Where the performance is most flawed is with the production values and staging. Even for its "le grand macabre" concept, the production just looks too dark, too grim and rather ugly. The concept is not inappropriate as such for 'Les Contes D'Hoffmann', but it just felt like too much of one mood dominating everything else that other elements don't come through. Having loved his 'Dialogues Des Carmelites' (one of the best productions of that opera on DVD) and being very impressed by his 'Lulu' (despite a few reservations), Py's stage direction really disappoints. It manages to be both too busy and sometimes disengaging, and it is never clear what he was trying to say or what the point of the opera is. Too much of the staging adds very little (especially the sometimes over-the-top and gratuitous nudity that doesn't really have any place in the opera regardless of the concept) and fails to bring clarity to the storytelling, actually confusing it. Olympia's act fares the best, having some entertaining moments, but Antonia's act is too darkly lit, the prologue drags badly and Giulietta's tale is often incomprehensible.

On the DVD, the production fares well. The video directing is natural and allows one to see the big-scale and small-scale of the action. The picture quality is clear and not unfocused, wobbly or blurred, and the sound allows one to enjoy the full impact of the music with good balance.

In conclusion, some fine things but while there are weaker Hoffmanns out there this didn't completely come together for me. 6/10 Bethany Cox

The weakest of the Freleng-directed Goofy Gophers cartoons, still very good, 30 June 2016
8/10

Of the nine Goofy Gophers cartoons, four of them were directed by Fritz Freleng. And while the best of the Goofy Gophers will always be the first one 'The Goofy Gophers', all of Freleng's efforts are very good to great.

'Lumber Jerks' for me is the weakest of the four, but not really for any major flaws. Just that the previous three had a little more imagination and tighter pacing, this is unusually slow-moving for the series and it may be a turn off for some, for me the restraint was admirable but a couple of parts were a little too staid for my liking. 'Lumber Jerks' however is still a very good cartoon.

The animation is just lovely as always with the early and middle period Looney Tunes cartoons, with some bright vibrant colours and richly detailed backgrounds and everything is very fluidly and smoothly drawn with no obvious jarring anywhere.

While Carl Stalling for me has always been the slightly better composer, Milt Franklyn still does a fine job, it is always dynamic and beautiful to listen to with lots of energy, whimsy and lively character. More importantly, it fits beautifully, just that Stalling's music went one step further in enhancing the action more effectively.

The dialogue manages to be both sharp and restrained, clever in structure and filled with the usual fresh and zany Looney Tunes wit, never less than very funny. The gags, in laugh-a-minute mode, are imaginative and executed very well indeed, most of the humour coming from the endearingly over polite dialogue between Mac and Tosh.

The story is still entertaining, if not as lively in pace as the previous Goofy Gopher cartoons. One may miss the dark and sometimes brutal, but never over-the-top cartoonish or stomach-churningly sadistic slapstick and violence of their earlier outings with the intellectual and well-spoken dog, but the visual humour is still a lot of fun here.

Mac and Tosh work are a wonderfully entertaining duo, if a very acquired taste, being cute yet very funny in their over-politeness to one another. They are voiced adroitly by Stan Freberg and Mel Blanc.

All in all, very good though there's better in the Goofy Gophers series. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Fritz Freleng's third Goofy Gophers cartoon is one of his better ones, 30 June 2016
9/10

There is a preference for the earlier Mac and Tosh cartoons, especially 'The Goofy Gophers', however all of them are never less than good in their own way. 'Pests for Guests' is another great Fritz Freleng-directed Mac and Tosh cartoon.

In 'Pests for Guests', the animation is great, with some bright vibrant colours and richly detailed backgrounds and everything is very fluidly and smoothly drawn with no obvious jarring anywhere.

While Carl Stalling for me has always been the slightly better composer, Milt Franklyn still does a fine job, it is always dynamic and beautiful to listen to with lots of energy, whimsy and lively character. More importantly, it fits beautifully, just that Stalling's music went one step further in enhancing the action more effectively.

The dialogue is razor-sharp, clever and filled with the usual fresh and zany Looney Tunes wit, most of it is absolutely hilarious. The gags, in laugh-a-minute mode, are imaginative and executed very well indeed, most of the humour coming from the super polite dialogue between Mac and Tosh and their foiling of Elmer.

'Pests for Guests' fast pacing and fun story are further things to like. One may miss the dark and sometimes brutal, but never over-the-top cartoonish or stomach-churningly sadistic slapstick and violence of their earlier outings with the intellectual and well-spoken dog, but the slapstick and visual humour is still a lot of fun here.

Mac and Tosh work are a wonderfully entertaining duo, being cute yet very funny in their over-politeness to one another. Elmer is a great match for them and he never comes over as bland or less funny. All three characters are voiced brilliantly by Stan Freberg, Arthur Q. Bryan and Mel Blanc.

In summary, terrific cartoon and one of the better Freleng-directed ones. 9/10 Bethany Cox

The only episode from Season 1 to reduce me to tears, 30 June 2016
10/10

Season 1 was regarded a few years ago by a number of people as one of the weaker seasons of 'Criminal Minds', though a few years on with a fair few episodes of the later seasons not being that great that's likely not to be so much the case.

For me while there is a finding-its-feet and occasional lack of momentum, there are some strong episodes in the season. To this reviewer too, "Riding the Lightning" is one of them.

It is one of the more visually striking episodes of the show, there is a starkness but also a melancholic look to the photography and the way it is lit that suits the nature of the story perfectly. When used, the music is very fitting with the mood and is not intrusive, inappropriately jaunty or pedestrian. It doesn't enhance as such, but it never distracts either. The theme tune fits the tone of the entire show too.

"Riding the Lightning" is one of the episodes of 'Criminal Minds' that really made me think hard and also there is a stark and creepy ambiance, like the interrogation with Jacob Dawes which saw a chilling lecherousness to the character. It is notable too for being the only episode from Season 1 to reduce me to tears, as well as being one of the emotional episodes of the entire show. Sarah Jean's final speech is along with Hotch and Haley's final exchange in "100" and JJ's appeal speech over the radio in "The Longest Night" one of the show's genuinely poignant moments.

The story is not the most original, but is beautifully paced and told that it doesn't matter. The characters and direction are solidly done, the BAU team were stronger developed in later seasons and their team dynamic more settled, but both the characters and their rapport still more than convinces, the most interesting being Gideon and Reid. Sarah Jean is a quite fascinating and sympathetically written character, that one empathises with somewhat and you are convinced just as strongly as the team that she's innocent.

While all the regulars have done better in the show with meatier material, the acting is still very good with a particularly commanding turn from Mandy Patinkin. Michael Massee is chillingly creepy as Jacob, though his guilt is obvious from the get go which is not a problem as it was the intent all along and there was never a doubt. The episode belongs however to the movingly compassionate and quietly dignified Jeanetta Arnette, her delivery of the speech bringing a real lump to the throat.

In conclusion, a standout Season 1 and 'Criminal Minds' (in general) episode. 10/10 Bethany Cox

Season 5 gets off to a promising start, 30 June 2016
8/10

For me, Season 5 is one of the better overall seasons of 'Criminal Minds', and while it's one of the very best episodes of the season "Faceless, Nameless" gets the season off to a very promising start.

As ever, "Faceless, Nameless" looks great, everything looks slick and stylish in the way it's shot and edited, the locations are striking and well chosen and the way it's lit is in a way that's not inappropriately bright or too dark that you can't see what's going on. The music is sparingly used, but utilised when used in a way that's fitting with the mood and not being intrusive, jaunty or pedestrian. It doesn't enhance as such, but it never distracts either. The theme tune still haunts and hypnotises.

The writing is very strong on the whole, though the somewhat too close banter between Garcia and Morgan is overdone and can be annoying in general on the show (it also seems unrealistic considering the job) and it's true in "Faceless, Nameless". The main case is very compelling, tightly but never too hurriedly paced and it doesn't feel convoluted or underdeveloped. The flashbacks between Hotch and Foyet are absolutely chilling.

Charles S. Carroll directs solidly, and the characters are written well with a nice dynamic in the team. The unsub is well played and solidly written if somewhat forgettable compared to other unsubs on the show. To be honest, Foyet's return here and his torture and taunting of Hotch is much more memorable. The performances are very good, with Paget Brewster and Matthew Gray Gubler coming off strongest of the regulars and C. Thomas Howell being unforgettably creepy.

Overall, a promising start for Season 5. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Lulu (2011) (V)
Occasionally over-stuffed but always riveting, 30 June 2016
8/10

Left incomplete after composer Berg's ultimely death from sepsis in 1935, even with the incompleteness being evident on occasions in the third act (as well as the mammoth length and whether you like Expressionist music or not, for me it's more high appreciation than love), 'Lulu' is still one of Berg's best works (marginally prefer 'Wozzeck' though) and a 20th century landmark in opera.

It's especially notable for its dark text, black humour (often nightmarishly so), quite fascinating titular character (who you do feel some sympathy for at times despite her being so amoral), Berg's intense but strangely beautiful - once you get used to it - music and the terrifying final scene.

While not a first-choice 'Lulu', my favourite productions have been the ones with Teresa Stratas, Marlis Petersen (in the splendid Met production from last year) and Julia Migenes-Johnson, all the productions of 'Lulu' on DVD have many fine merits, and this Olivier Py-directed performance is not an exception. Of the two Berg opera productions seen in the past week, the other being the Calixto Bieito-directed 'Wozzeck', this is by far the superior of the two, didn't care for the 'Wozzeck' but was very impressed with this.

The production is very arresting visually, with imaginatively coloured and detailed sets that give off a great seedy yet sometimes dark atmosphere so ideal for 'Lulu', splendidly lurid lighting, eye catching costumes (especially Lulu's) and video directing that's very natural, high in invention and zooms in on the very eventful action to quite dazzling effect.

Py's stage directing is not perfect, but often very impressive. The weaknesses of the directing come from some instances of the production and action feeling over-stuffed, with details and stage business that is a little distracting and doesn't add as much as it would have liked, particularly the omni-present neon signs and the use of tableaux action at the rear of the stage, and it is not always completely clear what Py was trying to say. The storytelling is at least coherent with emotional impact aplenty (especially at the terrifying, fever-pitch suspenseful and poignant end) and Py adheres to not just the spirit of the opera but also the complexities of it, which are things that Bieito's one-sided, simplistic and confused directing of 'Wozzeck' did not achieve.

Musically, it's blameless. The orchestra bring out every ounce of the dark harshness and the tender lyricism out of a score that is very demanding to play and interpret, as this reviewer said for last year's Met production the orchestra successfully make Berg's incredibly complex score beautiful and affecting as well as frightening and twisted. This is more than just dissonant noise as I have heard Expressionist music described a fair bit, it seems like that on first listen but when one gets used to the style it appeals more. Michael Boder's conducting is tightly paced but also remarkably sensitive.

For 'Lulu' to work, one needs good performances (especially of the title role), and this production has those with no obvious weak link. Patricia Petibon in particular is astonishing as Lulu, one of the most difficult roles in the whole operatic repertoire both vocally and interpretatively. She brings an allure and dignity to the character as well as a predatory viciousness, staying true to the idea of Lulu being amoral but bringing enough to allow one feel sympathy for her. She sounds wonderful in the role too, despite extensive use of the high Colouratura register Petibon doesn't sound taxed and manages to make Lulu sound thrilling, characterful and beautiful.

She is terrifically supported by the rest of the cast, especially the sinister Dr Schon of Ashley Holland and Julia Joun's disturbingly dignified and sometimes moving Countess. Will Hartmann and Franz Grundheber (no stranger to Berg himself) are also very impressive, and while Paul Groves' Alwa is a touch too restrained dramatically in places it's still a beautifully and robustly sung account.

Overall, riveting production with many fantastic things. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Vegetable retrieving with Mac and Tosh (aka the Goofy Gophers), 30 June 2016
9/10

While not as good as 'The Goofy Gophers' and 'A Ham in a Role' for example, 'I Gopher You' fares strongly in the Goofy Gophers series and proves that even when a little different to before it can still be a very good cartoon indeed.

Here in 'A Bone for a Bone', the animation is great, with some luscious colours and richly detailed backgrounds and everything is very fluidly and smoothly drawn with no obviously jarring movements or frames. Carl Stalling has been consistently wonderful with his music, it is always dynamic and beautiful to listen to while also enhancing the action and colour(which is what music in cartoons should do) and his energetically vibrant and whimsical scoring for 'A Bone for a Bone' is not a disappointment whatsoever.

The dialogue is razor-sharp and witty, most of it is absolutely hilarious. The gags, in laugh-a-minute mode, are imaginative and executed very well indeed, most of the humour coming from the super polite dialogue between Mac and Tosh and their imaginative hi-jinks with the machinery. The fast pacing and fun story are further things to like One may miss the dark and sometimes brutal, but never over-the-top cartoonish or stomach-churningly sadistic slapstick and violence of their earlier outings with the intellectual and well-spoken dog, but in all fairness Mac and Tosh don't have the characters.

Mac and Tosh work are a wonderfully entertaining duo, being cute yet very funny in their over-politeness to one another, and voiced with aplomb by the always entertaining Stan Freberg and Mel Blanc.

In conclusion, very good and often great. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Fritz Freleng takes on the Goofy Gophers, 30 June 2016
9/10

After being dormant for a couple of years, after 1949's 'A Ham in a Role', the Goofy Gophers return this time with Fritz Freleng at the helm.

While this reviewer prefers their earlier cartoons, especially 1947's 'The Goofy Gophers', 1951's 'A Bone for a Bone' is still excellent with not much wrong other than that it's not quite as funny, clever or as original as the earlier outings.

Here in 'A Bone for a Bone', the animation is great, with some luscious colours and richly detailed backgrounds and everything is very fluidly and smoothly drawn with no obviously jarring movements or frames. Carl Stalling has been consistently wonderful with his music, it is always dynamic and beautiful to listen to while also enhancing the action and colour(which is what music in cartoons should do) and his energetically vibrant and whimsical scoring for 'A Bone for a Bone' is not a disappointment whatsoever.

The dialogue is razor-sharp and witty, most of it is absolutely hilarious. The gags, in laugh-a-minute mode, are imaginative and executed very well indeed, if not quite as brilliantly as in 'The Goofy Gophers' for example. The fast pacing and fun story, detailing of the intellectual and well-spoken dog even when crafty not being a match for the overly-polite and also very dangerous gophers Mac and Tosh, further complement the humour. The slapstick and violence, while not as dark and brutal as the earlier outings while still being so, also add to the fun without being too over-the-top cartoonish or too sadistic that it's stomach churning.

Mac, Tosh and the dog work wonders together, and voiced with aplomb by the always entertaining Stan Freberg and particularly one of the gods of voice-acting Mel Blanc.

Overall, Fritz Freleng takes on the Goofy Gophers series to surprisingly great effect. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Introducing The Boston Reaper..., 30 June 2016
9/10

As with most shows 'Criminal Minds' has episodes and seasons that are better than others, and to me "Omnivore" is one of the standouts of the fourth season and one of the better episodes of the show as well.

Flaws are very few and they will seem like very small nit-picks. This reviewer does agree about the accents not being great and that there are a couple of suspension-of-disbelief-that-are-not-so-easy-to-swallow moments. However, it serves as a great introduction to the Boston Reaper, perhaps the most notorious serial killer on 'Criminal Minds' (Billy Flynn and Frank Breitkopf are up there though too) and one of the most chilling, and paved the way for one of the show's better on-going story arcs.

"Omnivore" as always has strong production values, with slick and stylish photography, crisp editing, good locations and some of the most effective use of darkness in the show's history, giving an appropriately ominous feel. The music is sparingly used, but utilised when used in a way that's fitting with the mood and not being intrusive, jaunty or pedestrian. It doesn't enhance as such, but it never distracts either. The theme tune still haunts and hypnotises.

The writing is some of the most taut and thought-provoking of the show, this reviewer appreciated that the comedy relief was kept at minimum seeing as it is a dark story and any more would have spoilt it. The story is tightly paced and absorbing, and one of the darkest and grittiest of 'Criminal Minds' up to this point. While not on screen, the murders and are shocking and the build ups to them suspenseful. The ending also had me floored, having seen many episodes on the show where you know who it is quite early on to find out about three quarters of a way in and find out that it's not who you suspected initially was somewhat refreshing and it's executed really well. The beginning also sets things up excellently, with a sense of dread being evoked even when the Reaper is only being talked about.

All the BAU team are written well, with Hotch (who tended in the early series to be in the shadow of more compelling characters like Reid) being more interesting than usual, while the Reaper is every bit the terrifying criminal mastermind. Directing is always solid and never lets the tension, suspense or the group dynamic dip in impact, and the acting from all the regulars and C. Thomas Howell (whose later appearances were even better than this one) is top-drawer.

In conclusion, great episode and one season 4's standouts. Also does a great job introducing a serial killer and foe that's one of the most notorious and formidable. 9/10 Bethany Cox

One of the best episodes of 'Criminal Minds', 30 June 2016
10/10

Having been a fan for six or seven years now, this reviewer does admit that some episodes and seasons are better than others definitely like with most shows, but there are a number of great episodes and "100" is one of them.

Not only is "100" special, being an anniversary episode being the show's hundredth, but it has everything that this reviewer loves about 'Criminal Minds' in the first place.

As ever, it's well made visually, being made with a lot of classy style and atmosphere and the locations are nicely done. The music, like with the hypnotic and haunting theme tune, fits very well when used (being used relatively sparingly), doesn't intrude and matches the impact of the drama on screen while not necessarily enhancing it instead of distracting from it.

"100" is incredibly well written, while the mystery aspects, Strauss' debriefing (a great way of framing the story while telling the story through a flashback structure) and rapport between the BAU team continues to intrigue and delight with nothing being out of place or pointless, the highlights are Foyet's taunting, which very effectively chill the bone and bite the nails, and the tense and heart-rending final exchange between Haley and Hotch. The characters are well-written and serve a point to the storytelling, Hotch is more interesting than he usually is (in a show where Gideon, Rossi, Prentiss and Reid are admittedly more compelling characters) and this episode demonstrates why Foyet is one of the show's most notorious, perhaps even the most notorious, serial killers for good reason.

There is also a truly riveting story, with great tension and suspense. There are two highlights. One being the final exchange between Haley and Hotch (the scenes with Hotch and Jack also bring a tear to the eye), which is definitely the single most poignant scene on 'Criminal Minds' where my reaction to the scene was the same as Garcia's (yes more so than JJ's appeal speech on radio in "The Longest Night"). And the other being the climactic fight between Hotch and Foyet, which is a nail-biting bloodbath where the suspense levels are almost overwhelming and one really does find themselves rooting for Hotch entirely. The brutal torture of Kassmeyer is also effective in showing how irredeemably evil Foyet was.

'Criminal Minds' regulars all do strong work, with Thomas Gibson giving some of his best acting of the series showing off greater emotional range than his material usually allows. Matthew Gray Gubler is also excellent. Meredith Monroe really gets to the heart of the final exchange and looks as though she was in tears herself, but it's C. Thomas Howell who comes off best.

Foyet is one of the most notorious, creepiest and most interesting serial killers on 'Criminal Minds' and Howell really is a revelation, whether through Foyet's brutal torture, where he is demonic and merciless, or through the malicious taunting of Hotch, which Howell relishes with glee. This is proof that, despite many bad performances in rubbish low-budget films (some mock-busters) indicating a bad actor, that when his material is worthwhile and very meaty that Howell can really shine, his work as George Foyet on 'Criminal Minds' is some of the best of his whole career and it's the best and meatiest work he's had in a long time.

Overall, brilliant and special episode and one of the best of 'Criminal Minds'. 10/10 Bethany Cox


Page 1 of 859:[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [Next]