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TheLittleSongbird

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9414 reviews in total 
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Famous Studios' take on 'Who Killed Cock Robin', 22 January 2017
8/10

Not one of the best Little Audrey cartoons ('Butterscotch and Soda' and 'Song of the Birds' are up there), but a good example of how her cartoons work best when based around dreams (most do but not all), which allow for some great ideas and visual imagination.

While the story is simple and there are cleverer and slightly more atmospheric detective spoof-like cartoons around that have slightly smoother pacing, 'The Case of the Cockeyed Canary' starts on a highly atmospheric note with wonderfully dark visuals, haunting music and clever use of sound effects. Little Audrey's (as adorable and on the right side of sweet as ever) detective work is a lot of fun and evokes a lot of nostalgia for fans of the detective/mystery genre.

The animation is rich and colourful, with very meticulous and beautifully drawn backgrounds, a darker but no less luscious colour palette and well-rendered character designs that don't look too stiff. Winston Sharples provides yet another outstanding music score, even in mediocre or worse cartoons Sharples' music was never among the flaws (if anything always one of the strengths or the best asset).

Also love the lusciousness of the orchestration here and how characterful, haunting and whimsical the music was without going overboard in either, even better was how well it fitted in the cartoon and how it merged with the action. The main song is very infectious too.

Some humorous bits too, like spotting the fun caricatures of Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante and Harpo Marx (the most priceless being Harpo), some nice mystery suspense and an unexpectedly sweet ending. The voice acting is good.

Overall, not one of Little Audrey's cartoon and Disney's take on 'Who Killed Cock Robin' is the better one, but still very nicely done. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Not in a while has there been a cuter Betty Boop cartoon, 22 January 2017
7/10

Fleischer were responsible for some brilliant cartoons, some of them still among my favourites. Their visual style was often stunning and some of the most imaginative and ahead of its time in animation.

The character of Betty Boop, one of their most famous and prolific characters, may not be for all tastes and sadly not as popular now, but her sex appeal was quite daring for the time and to me there is an adorable sensual charm about her. Anybody who loves those characteristics to her won't be disappointed, admittedly they've come through stronger in earlier cartoons when the material took more risks but they are all here, plus she has great comic timing.

'Betty Boop's Little Pal' is not one of her best cartoons, but it is a lovely worthwhile watch. Just a little bland compared to before. It does a lot right and very little wrong, but at the same time something is missing in comparison to what made the best Betty Boop cartoons so good. Do have a preference for the more risqué, more surreal cartoons that are also slightly richer in imagination. The story is pretty thin, and takes a while to get going, with the urgency kicking in when the dog catcher appears.

However, as always with a Betty Boop cartoon the animation is very good, again as always rich in detail and beautifully drawn. The music is infectious and beautifully and cleverly orchestrated, putting one in a good mood and enhances the action wonderfully, Betty's song here is lovely.

On top of that, 'Betty Boop's Little Pal' is very cute and charming, though some may find a little on the too cutesy side, helped by the adorable chemistry between Betty and Pudgy, while the climax is tense and a lot of fun even if knowing what the outcome is is inevitable. The dog catcher is a menacing enough antagonist, and one cannot get over how cute Pudgy (the little pal of the title) is. The voice acting is fine.

In summary, very cute and charming but not a favourite. 7/10 Bethany Cox

Burning with disappointment, 22 January 2017
4/10

Quite easily the worst episode of Season 7 ("Sins of Commission" is also a seemingly controversial episode, personally thought it was very good until the contrived last 15 minutes with the killer's ridiculously lazy motive). Not only that, would even go far to say that it is to me the worst 'Midsomer Murders' episode since "The Electric Vendetta".

Starting with the good things, 'Midsomer Murders' has always been a great-looking show even in the worst episodes. "The Straw Woman" is no exception, as ever the production values are top notch, with to die for scenery, the idyllic look of it contrasting very well with the story's creepiness, and while there is a quaintness thematically "The Straw Woman" is one of the show's darkest and this is matched by a dark visual look when needed.

The music fits perfectly, whether quirky, lush or ominous, and the theme tune one of the most memorable and instantly recognisable of the genre. The acting is strong all round, with the actors really doing the best they can with material beneath them. John Nettles is magnetic to watch as always, and a relaxed John Hopkins works perfectly with him. Their spirited chemistry is also a plus. "The Straw Woman" gets some credit for giving a creepy horror-like vibe (with some neat homages to the likes of 'The Wicker Man', 'Lord of the Flies' and 'The Crucible') that did give some creepiness and suspense.

For those good things, however, it was clear that the writers for "The Straw Woman" tried very hard with the atmosphere and the homages but forget to make the story itself engaging or even worse make sense. Some of the episode is a slog while a lot of it is convoluted, the second most convoluted of the Tom Barnaby-era after "The Electric Vendetta", and at times illogical. The killer's motives made no sense whatsoever, and even for the concept the murders were far too grisly ('Midsomer Murders' have had some brutal deaths, but these deaths belong in an 18-certificate horror film).

Anybody expecting fun and colourful supporting characters, often a large part of the show's appeal, will be deeply disappointed. All the supporting characters are either dull or made to look like idiots, and religious nuts will take big issue with how the religious characters are written here. The script is missing the quirky humour and is just too silly and confused to provoke thought or maintain consistent interest. Scott's unprofessionalism here was also a turn-off, don't think there's any other episode with him that has him doing things that would realistically put his job on the line.

Overall, a burning disappointment, the worst of the seventh season and one of the worst of the Tom Barnaby-era. 4/10 Bethany Cox

Imperfect but fascinating, 22 January 2017
8/10

As said in my review for his masterpiece 'Memento', Christopher Nolan has always struck me as a very talented film-maker, and most of his films are ones that have impressed me a lot. Even weaker efforts, where his ambition can get in the way, have a good deal to admire. His films are all impeccably crafted technically, and often entertaining and thought-provoking, also knowing how to get good performances out of talented casts.

'The Prestige' is not quite perfect, but is still very good and one of Nolan's better films. To me actually it was close to outstanding, which makes my issues with the denouement even more frustrating. And it is the denouement that's 'The Prestige's' biggest problem, being over-baked and with one twist too many, the second of which being a convoluted cop-out and like the other twists before the denouement didn't happen.

Was also, to a lesser extent, expecting more from David Julyan's music score, having done such a great job with the score for 'Memento'. His score for 'The Prestige' works within the film and has a mystical and dread quality, but it is not one of those scores that is listenable or even re-listenable as music on its own, lacking the cleverness and mood and thematic complexities of his work for 'Memento' and being somewhat too simplistic to be entirely memorable.

However, 'The Prestige' looks wonderful. The cinematography is slick and the production values in general are suitably gritty and audacious, complete with gorgeously evocative Victorian period production and costume design. Once again, Nolan directs impeccably, not letting his ambition get in the way of the storytelling, while the script is smart, thought-provoking and intricate without trying too hard and treating the audience with respect. The pacing is taut while deliberate, and while the film is long there is enough to keep one riveted.

The story for 'The Prestige' is quite the fascinating tale, with an incredible period and darkly magical atmosphere and twists and turns peppered throughout but done in a way that the storytelling is coherent and taken with sincere seriousness while not coming across as emotionally cold.

Fine acting all round, with a charmingly flamboyant Hugh Jackman and intensely charismatic Christian Bale perfectly cast and playing off against other wonderfully. Michael Caine brings class and dignity to his role, and seeing how he altered his voice and posture for it it was clear he was right in the zone. Rebecca Hall, Piper Perabo and Scarlett Johansson also do well, as does surprisingly David Bowie in an unlikely role. Andy Serkis is similarly memorable.

Overall, imperfect film but also a fascinating one, flaws and all it is for me one of Nolan's better films. 8/10 Bethany Cox

The first very good episode of Season 5, 22 January 2017
8/10

Season 5 actually got off to a good start with "Nameless, Faceless", though the Reaper scenes were more memorable than the main case and unsub themselves. "Haunted" and "Reckoner" were decent and fared better on re-watch, but "Hopeless" to me is the second worst episode of the season after "The Fight", being gratuitously violent and being too much of the unsub show.

"Cradle to Grave" was the season's first very good episode, if not quite top 5 of it. There is not much to fault here. For my liking though, the main unsub could have been a little more developed than the character that one naturally hates and the motives slightly clearer. Garcia's having Morgan's child/my Prince joke was inappropriate and felt very misplaced compared to everything else.

However, "Cradle to Grave" is stylishly, classily and atmospherically made as ever, and the music has the right amount of haunting mood and melancholy. The direction is solid, while the script is well balanced and thoughtful, with the ability to shock and move.

The story is one of the season's creepiest (often being genuinely scary but not gratuitously so) and most tragic, with a twist at the end that shocks the viewer and is likely to induce tears. It's also told with tension, suspense and a number of twists and turns that give the episode an increasing darkness. The team is well-balanced and the dynamic adorably close knit and tight. Loved seeing more of Reid (having been injured in the season premiere) and JJ (the compassionate and sympathetic JJ rather than what she became after returning), the conflicting emotions of Morgan and the chemistry between him and Hotch. The acting is very good from all.

In summary, very well done and superior to the previous four episodes. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Esther Williams radiates a million dollars here, 22 January 2017
8/10

Esther Williams and that the water ballet sequences were choreographed by Busby Berkeley were my two main reasons for seeing 'Million Dollar Mermaid'. As well as that Annette Kellerman's story is an interesting one.

While highly fictionalised as a real-life biography (not unexpected, this was true of a lot of film biopics made then and it's a trend that still hasn't gone away with a few exceptions), 'Million Dollar Mermaid' (aka 'The One Piece Bathing Suit') as a piece of entertainment or a film in its own right is a good film and one of Williams' better films by quite some distance.

As for Williams herself, she is captivating and really does radiate a million dollars. Not just in the water, where her aquatic skills are second to none, but she gives a heartfelt and committed out of the water too. She is well supported by handsome Victor Mature (who really does try to inject charm and energy into a character written in a way not worthy of those attributes), very amusing and sympathetic Jesse White and endearing Walter Pidgeon.

Berkeley is another star here, the aquatic sequences are wonderfully ornate, exquisitely shot and simply jaw dropping to watch, actually being better than the term "aqua spectacular". Anybody looking for a contender for the best aquatic sequences in an Esther Williams film, or even on film full-stop, 'Million Dollar Mermaid' is a definite contender.

'Million Dollar Mermaid' looks beautiful, with lavish cinematography (especially in the aquatic sequences), big, bold, rich colours and opulent costumes and sets, even if the studio's version of England has to be seen to be believed. The music is always pleasant to listen to, while the script avoids being too frothy, sentimental or cheesy and is actually tight, sometimes amusing and sometimes heartfelt. Even though fictionalised (with some glaring inaccuracies and omissions that one wishes were in the film), the story still has a high nostalgic value and emotional impact and is much more eventful and sincere than most of the usual stories in Esther Williams' films.

Not without faults. 'Million Dollar Mermaid' does go on slightly longer than necessary and drags ever so slightly in places where the drama sags a little. More of a problem was that the chemistry between Williams and Mature could have been more believable and not as ill at ease, not Williams' fault nor Mature's but more to do with the very unsympathetic and caddish way that the latter's character is written in.

Overall, a good film with Williams radiating a million dollars. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Little Audrey and the policeman, 22 January 2017
7/10

Generally the Little Audrey cartoons are fairly under-appreciated, and while some are better than others none come close to being bad. Like 'Hold the Lion Please', 'Law and Audrey' is cute and entertaining but also slightly bland.

Even for a Little Audrey cartoon, the story is very slight (not all that much of one), it's fairly routine and quite a lot of it is of the policeman being annoyed by Little Audrey. Also do have a preference for the cartoons where dreams form a basis of the stories, when there is a message or lesson conveyed or when slapstick is brought in, which made the cartoons more imaginative visually and conceptually and with more humour, hence is what is meant by 'Law and Audrey' being bland being a cartoon lacking those.

However, the animation is rich and colourful, with very meticulous and beautifully drawn backgrounds and well-rendered character designs that don't look too stiff. Winston Sharples provides yet another outstanding music score, even in mediocre or worse cartoons Sharples' music was never among the flaws (if anything always one of the strengths or the best asset).

Also love the lusciousness of the orchestration here and how characterful and whimsical the music was without going overboard in either, even better was how well it fitted in the cartoon and how it merged with the action. The main song is very infectious too.

There are a fair few humorous moments, and love the cute interaction between Little Audrey and Pal and the conflicting one between her and policeman. The ending is wonderfully heroic and the most inventive the cartoon gets in ideas and visuals.

Similarly, the story still has a good deal of charm and doesn't go overboard on the sugar that it makes one nauseous. Little Audrey is as ever adorable and stays on the right side of sweet, without being cloying or bratty. Pal likewise, and the policeman is a good support character.

Overall, nice if not one of my favourites. 7/10 Bethany Cox

Fleischer rarely got more nightmarish than here, 22 January 2017
9/10

Fleischer were responsible for some brilliant cartoons, some of them still among my favourites. Their visual style was often stunning and some of the most imaginative and ahead of its time in animation.

Despite the Betty Boop picture on this page, 'Bimbo's Initiation' is not a Betty Boop cartoon, or at least not one where she is a lead. She does feature here, towards the end in a very nice short appearance that shows her trademark charm, sensuality and adorable factor, and also a bravery and care for Bimbo.

'Bimbo's Initiation' is, as the cartoon's title indicates, very much a Bimbo cartoon, and Bimbo is on top form where one really cares what happens to him and often feels the same emotions as he.

As always, the animation is outstanding (though Betty's different-to-usual character design, like with the ears, is a touch odd), everything is beautifully and meticulously drawn and the whole cartoon is rich in visual detail and imagination. Every bit as good is the music score, which delivers on the energy, lusciousness and infectiousness but also an ominous spookiness and eerie quality that sets the tone of the cartoon brilliantly.

The cartoon also is hugely atmospheric and while terrifying to a child (Fleischer rarely got nightmarish, and this is coming from someone who saw the likes of 'The Cobweb Hotel') it's pretty creepy still through adult eyes as it should be. There are some great ideas, very imaginatively drawn and done with great visual creativity and fluid timing.

Overall, a great nightmarish cartoon. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Solid if a little lacking, 22 January 2017
7/10

Of the seventh season up to this point, the best episode from personal opinion is "The Green Man", while "Bad Tidings" was very good, "The Fisher King" was decent if cluttered and over-complicated at times and "Sins of Commission" was mostly fine apart from the contrived last 15 minutes with a rather lazy motive for the murders.

"The Maid in Splendour" was a little lacking, but still very much a solid episode with a lot to like. Was a little underwhelmed by the motive for the killings (though nowhere near as much as "Sins of Commission"), while 'Midsomer Murders' going down the twisted and elaborate route with their motives are often entertaining those here go a little too far and border on the perversely creepy.

Especially in the climax, which is one of the Tom Barnaby-era's most bizarre and over-the-top (if also slightly moving with the outcome). The pacing also could have been tighter in places, some of the middle is sluggish, and the motive for the first murder seemed too guess-able too early (the actual identity of the murderer however to me was a surprise).

However, as can be expected John Nettles is superb and John Hopkins is very much at ease as Scott. Their chemistry is very spirited and brings a lot of joy and witty interplay between them. The supporting cast are strong, especially Freddie Jones, William Gaunt and Frances Tomelty.

Production values are top notch, with to die for scenery, the idyllic look of it contrasting very well with the story's occasional grimness, and quaint and atmospheric photography. The music fits perfectly, and the theme tune one of the most memorable and instantly recognisable of the genre.

Meanwhile, the script is smart and thought-provoking. The story is a vast majority of the time compelling, with many twists, turns and red herrings, a real ominous feel and the odd colourful eccentricity, never feeling simplistic or convoluted. The characters are fun.

All in all, solid episode if a little lacking to be a great one or more. 7/10 Bethany Cox

Memento (2000)
A very strong contender for Christopher Nolan's best film, 22 January 2017
10/10

Christopher Nolan has always struck me as a very talented film-maker, and most of his films are ones that have impressed me a lot. Even weaker efforts, where his ambition can get in the way, have a good deal to admire. His films are all impeccably crafted technically, and often entertaining and thought-provoking, also knowing how to get good performances out of talented casts.

'Memento' was not his first film, having directed 1998's 'Following', but has been considered by many the film that rose him to fame and brought the world's attention to him. Cannot disagree with this, and also that not only is 'Memento' his first great success but seventeen years later it gets my vote as his best film. It really makes one think hard about what is happening, crucial in a film where a lot of concentration is needed, without being treated like you are an idiot or dumber than you are. It is also one of the few Nolan films where it was difficult to find anything to fault.

As always with Nolan, 'Memento' is a wonderfully made film. The cinematography is slick and the production values in general are suitably gritty and audacious , with some scenes strongly reminiscent of film noir (as a fan of film noir that was great to see). David Julyan's synthesised (something that could have sounded tacky but actually adds a lot to the atmosphere) score makes very clever and dynamic use of distinct sounds, oppression, yearning, loneliness and loss having a haunting but also affecting vibe, the feeling of being lost adrift being perfectly captured.

Nolan directs impeccably, not letting his ambition get in the way of the storytelling, while the script is smart, thought-provoking and intricate without trying too hard and treating the audience with respect. The pacing is taut while deliberate, and the length, after seeing some later efforts that have suffered from over-length and over-ambition ('Interstellar'), was ideal.

It is the story that makes 'Memento' Nolan's most fascinating film, with a unique non-linear, time-reversed structure with two converged time-lines. That sounds on paper confusing but with Nolan telling the story in an intricate, tense and atmospheric way (meaning that he takes his time telling the story) it makes perfect sense, with beautifully interwoven use of thematic motifs of memory, guilt, perception, self-deception and grief and a stunningly moving ending that one does not expect.

Guy Pearce is astonishing and give one of his career's best performances, don't think from personal view that he's been as good as this since. He gets excellent support from particularly Joe Pantoliano and even Carrie-Ann Moss.

Overall, a brilliant film and a contender (my personal vote certainly) for Nolan's best film. 10/10 Bethany Cox


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