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TheLittleSongbird

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10668 reviews in total 
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'Phineas and Ferb' bigger than ever before, 19 August 2017
9/10

Even though some of the later season episodes weren't as funny and imaginative as the earlier ones, 'Phineas and Ferb' became a favourite when first introduced to it in 2009 or so. Eight years on, despite being finished, 'Phineas and Ferb' airs regularly on the Disney Channel and it's still a pleasure and one of their best shows in a long time.

Although starting with an original concept, the stories in terms of structure are based around the same formula mainly. The ideas and situations however have enough variety to avoid it becoming too repetitive, while it looks good, has one of the catchiest theme tunes of any show in recent years, has wonderful, clever and funny writing, interesting and entertaining character relationships and characters that are easy to like. As likable as the two protagonists are and Candace is more than the stereotypical, tell-tale older sister that she seems, the scene stealers are adorable and funny Perry the Platypus (another example of mastery of actions and expressions registering hugely without uttering a word) and hilariously loony and incompetent Doofenschmirtz.

It was inevitable that 'Phineas and Ferb' would get its own feature film, and it richly deserved it with characters and writing strong enough to warrant one. 'Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension' more than does the show justice and as far as films based on Disney Channel shows not released in theatres it's one of the best there is, proof too that 'Phineas and Ferb' had not lost its mojo at this point.

Maybe the pacing is a little too fast on occasions, especially in the second half, and the finale is rather overblown and descends too much into silliness (something that the rest of the film avoided, so it was a shame). Flaws aside, 'Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension' is absolutely perfect for existing fans of the show and does a very good job in its attempt to attract a wider audience which shows that the film works on its own too. Children will love it and there is plenty for adults to enjoy, if anything adults or older fans will appreciate the story and humour more most likely.

The animation is good and true to the animation style of the show but with a little more visual invention thanks to having a premise that allows for that to happen. It's simple but never simplistic, it's all vibrant in colour and the attention to detail is often marvellous. The music is catchy with some clever lyric writing, despite loving the infectious music in the show there was the fear that the music wouldn't be to my taste here, having heard polarising opinions on it, but coming from someone raised on classical music and opera it was right up my street.

'Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension' is particularly good in the writing, characters and character relationships. The writing is remarkably intelligent, witty, inventive and clever with cracking puns and one-liners and references that will delight older audiences. All in the spirit of the show. The characters are both interesting and likable, it has been said that Phineas is out of character, and he is (showing a side to him that has never happened in the show), but one can understand why if anybody knows what its like for someone you love and trust is not who they seem while also understanding Perry's point of view.

The characterisations of Perry and Doofenschmirtz are on point and stay true to their original personalities, and Candace's subplot actually to me was crucial in her development while not being as interesting as the rest of the story. The interactions are a joy all round, especially Phineas/Ferb, Phineas/Perry and Perry/Doofenschmirtz.

Really liked the story. The fast paced energy of the show's story-lines are intact as are the inventiveness, the characterisations and relationships. Even better was how well 'Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension' did in opening things up with all the ingredients that made the show work so well intact while having the alternate dimension concept that gave the film a darker, bigger and edgier approach. This concept was intriguing and gave a suitable amount of tension and fun. The alternative universe versions of the characters are creepy and entertaining. It even has a touching moment with the reconciliation scene that warmed the heart too.

Voice acting is typically terrific, particularly from Vincent Martella (Phineas), Ashley Tisdale (Candace) and Dan Povenmire (Doofenschmirtz).

Overall, a real pleasure and complements 'Phineas and Ferb' perfectly. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Woody Woodpecker goes to Niagara Falls, 19 August 2017
9/10

Was very fond of Woody Woodpecker and his cartoons as a child. Still get much enjoyment out of them now as a young adult, even if there are more interesting in personality cartoon characters and better overall cartoons.

That is in no way knocking Woody, because many of his cartoons are a lot of fun to watch and more and also still like him a lot as a character. He is a lot of fun here and is never obnoxious or a jerk. He is suitably manic and while a pest (as he originally conceived to be) he is an annoyance to his opponent but comic joy for the viewer. The Mountie is a funny foil and chemistry between the two is electric. 'Niagara Fools' to me is one of the best Woody Woodpecker cartoons of the late 50s (or even of that decade full stop) and one of Paul J. Smith's best overall.

'Niagara Fools' only real problem is the animation, which is pretty ugly and looks like it was made in haste on a low budget.

Otherwise, the story is one of the least predictable for any Woody Woodpecker cartoon and has some clever twists, really setting it apart from how most Woody Woodpecker cartoons from this period executed their stories.

Music is bouncy, energetic and very lushly orchestrated, not only synchronising and fitting with the action very well but enhancing it. The whole cartoon goes at a snappy pace, especially in the second half.

There are some inventive moments here and the humorous elements are timed beautifully and often hilarious. The voice acting is very good.

In conclusion, great cartoon and one of the best of the late 50s. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Chilly Willy and Maxie on the highway, 19 August 2017
7/10

Chilly Willy's best cartoons were perfect examples of how a potentially one-joke character and concept could end up actually being a perfect mix of the cute and the funny with a lot of colour and good comic timing to go with it.

Paul J. Smith's first Chilly Willy cartoon, the character's debut 'Chilly Willy', was great and among the best Chilly Willy cartoons, but generally his 60s-onward output (there are also cartoons from Alex Lovy, Jack Hannah, Sid Marcus and notably, in terms of being responsible for the two best of the series, Tex Avery) has been nowhere near as good. Some are decent, but generally they're average at best. Luckily for 'Highway Hecklers', it's one of Smith's decent 60s-onward Chilly Willy cartoons, and worth watching primarily because Chilly and Maxie are a good team (if not as much as Chilly and Smedley) and are always watchable.

The animation is scrappy and constantly looks like it was done in a rush, especially in the first part, with flat colours, simplicity taken too far and the characters (especially Maxie) being carelessly drawn. Chilly is drawn well and some of the backgrounds, especially at the start, are nice.

The story is thin to the point of bare existence, a lot of it is very predictable and on occasions was in need of more variety. At times the timing could have been sharper, and one does have to suspend disbelief at Maxie suddenly being able to drive and how Chilly and Maxie are out of their usual habitats.

However, as said Chilly was drawn well and the backgrounds were nice at times. Walter Greene's music is lively and rousingly, cleverly and beautifully orchestrated and fits very well. Love the opening title credits music.

Despite the predictability and lack of variety, the gags are amusing and well timed, with some very funny moments in the second half where the momentum in particular picks up. Maxie is an amusing and likable supporting character who doesn't make one miss Smedley too much and Colonel Pot Shot is a good foil.

Chilly is adorable and is also a lot of fun, with his actions speaking far louder than words. Prefer him when silent but he still makes an impression even when speaking sparingly. He may be a nuisance to his opponents but he wins the viewer over with his cuteness and timing. Daws Butler and Grace Stafford do good jobs as ever.

Overall, decent cartoon and one of Smith's better late 60s ones. 7/10 Bethany Cox

Murder in the convent, 19 August 2017
10/10

Have always been quite fond of 'Murder She Wrote'. It is a fun and relaxing watch that makes you think as you try to unwind in the evening. If one wants more complex, twisty mysteries with lots of tension and suspense 'Murder She Wrote' may not be for you, but if you want something light-hearted and entertaining but still provide good mysteries 'Murder She Wrote' fits the bill just fine.

"Old Habits Die Hard" is another one of the gems of Season 4 (to me one of the better and more consistent seasons of 'Murder She Wrote') and perhaps one of the best overall episodes too. One of those episodes that one cannot get enough of no matter how many times it's been seen, with something new to admire each time. The mystery itself is colourful and clever, without being convoluted or obvious with everything being tied up neatly but not in a too pat way at the end.

It's the cast that make "Old Habits Die Hard" the gem that it is. Angela Lansbury is dependably terrific, while it is impossible not to be charmed and entertained by the star power of one of the show's best guest star casts. Standing out are Eileen Brennan, who plays a busybody to classy and suitably annoying but fun perfection, Clu Gallagher who charms in her flirtatiousness, Robert Prosky who plays the most crusty in demeanour monsignor you'll ever see and Jane Powell bringing a lot of spirit.

Production values, however, are slick and stylish as ever with 'Murder She Wrote'. The music has energy and has presence but also not making the mistake of over-scoring, while it is hard to forget or resist the theme tune.

Writing is thought-provoking, light-hearted and amiable and the story has some well executed twists and turns and is never dull.

To conclude, one of my favourites of Season 4. 10/10 Bethany Cox

A post-war British classic, 19 August 2017
9/10

Classic film, mystery thrillers/crime dramas, the cast in general and seeing Dirk Bogarde pre-stardom was a recipe for greatness. 'The Blue Lamp' is more than great, more like an excellent film.

It is easy to see why 'The Blue Lamp' was considered a classic of the post-war Era, of British cinema and film in general at the time and by those who remember it fondly now. Just as much it was easy to see why it was the most popular British film of its year. Sadly, it is a film that is deserving of more credit nowadays. Despite being as great as it is, 'The Blue Lamp' isn't perfect (but comes close). It is undermined only by two performances that don't make the grade and stick out like a sore thumb compared to the sterling work from the rest of the cast.

One is Jimmy Hanley, who is rather lightweight in his role which is a somewhat dull one to begin with. The other, and more problematic, is Peggy Evans, who is far too histrionic in hers and it becomes irritating, some of it is amateur hour too.

However, nothing can be faulted with everything else. It looks great still, the use of locations are gritty and have a real sense of dread while also being beautifully designed. The lighting is suitably ominous and the cinematography is stylish and every bit as rich in atmosphere. The film is hauntingly scored too and Basil Deardon's direction is taut from the start and never lets go, letting the tension really speak and keeping things at a cracking pace.

'The Blue Lamp' has a tightly structured and thoughtful script, and is interesting for its realistic portrayal of the austere times that pushed people into crime. As well as portraying the police in a way that is of the time but never over-glamourized, trivialised or made to look like fools. The story is always compelling with a clever, if not the most surprising, mystery that delivers on the suspense and tension. The confrontation between Dixon and Riley being unforgettable in its shock value, one of British film history's most shocking.

Evans and Hanley aside, the rest of the cast do sterling work. As good as Jack Warner and Bernard Lee are the film is stolen by an outstanding Dirk Bogarde, it's hard to believe that Riley was a pre-stardom role that put him on the map and to this day it's one of his best, he's never been more chilling than here.

Overall, a post-war British classic, notable for its atmosphere, realism and Bogarde's performance. 9/10 Bethany Cox

Monk the private detective, 19 August 2017
8/10

'Monk' has always been one of my most watched shows when needing comfort, to relax after a hard day, a good laugh or a way to spend a lazy weekend.

"Mr Monk, Private Eye" is a step down from the previous four Season 5 episodes but is still a very entertaining episode, where the mystery and character development are just as important as the humour and quirks. On occasions, Natalie and Monk are out of character, he a little too on the bitter side and she too aggressive (though you can understand why). More of a problem though to me is that it is annoying that Disher (even for a character who was often comic relief and rarely the brightest bulb on the block) is becoming really stupid and childish.

There are some great character moments though, and there are parts that are genuinely hilarious. Absolutely loved the parts with the toilet seat, Monk trying to read the instructions on how to swim and Monk pretending to be a client on the phone (funny but also admittedly a little mean). Natalie mentioning her grandfather was a nice touch, as was Monk's reaction. Also appreciated what was done with Stottlemeyer as he comes to terms with his marriage ending. The mystery is not a surprising one but is engaging and fun to watch unfold and explained.

As said many times, one of the best things about 'Monk' has always been the acting of Tony Shalhoub in the title role. It was essential for him to work and be the glue of the show, and Shalhoub not only is that but also at his very best he IS the show. Have always loved the balance of the humour, which is often hilarious, and pathos, which is sincere and touching.

Natalie is down to earth, sympathetic and sassy, also being sensitive to Monk's needs and quirks which Traylor Howard does well bringing out. Jason Gray-Stanford and Ted Levine are good as usual as Disher and Stottlemeyer. The supporting cast are solid.

It's not just the cast or story though. Another star is the writing, which is also essential to whether the show would be successful or not and succeed it does here. The mix of wry humour, lovable quirkiness and tender easy-to-relate-to drama is delicately done, particularly the last one. The quirks are sympathetically done and never exploited or overdone.

Visually, the episode is shot in a slick and stylish way, and the music is both understated and quirky. While there is a preference for the theme music for Season 1, Randy Newman's "It's a Jungle Out There" has grown on me overtime, found it annoying at first but appreciate its meaning and what it's trying to say much more now. Oh and a good job is done with the different opening credits sequence to accommodate the changes made.

Altogether, very entertaining but not one of my favourites. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Back to Oz with Tom and Jerry, 19 August 2017
8/10

Have always been a huge fan of Tom and Jerry. Have vivid and fond memories of seeing all of their cartoons, with the classic ones (the Hanna Barbera years, the best of which among the best cartoons ever made, Chuck Jones' output was a mixed bag and most of Gene Deitch's were abominations and disgraces to cartoondom) being watched over and over, at my sister's late godfather's house at the age of six and have been a huge fan since.

'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is as said a sequel to 'Tom and Jerry: The Wizard of Oz'. Consider that film one of the best Tom and Jerry films (most of which range from decent to very good, 'Tom and Jerry: The Movie', 'Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' and particularly 'The Fast and the Furry' are the exceptions, was also mixed on 'Spy Quest'), so there were high hopes as well as worries as to whether it would make the same mistake as their version of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'.

Luckily, 'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is just as good as 'Tom and Jerry: The Wizard of Oz'. Occasionally the film is a little hastily paced and crammed and one does wish that, despite wisely focusing mainly on the Oz characters and Dorothy, that Tom and Jerry had more to do. Is it as good as the 1939 'The Wizard of Oz'? Of course not, that is a timeless classic and it is a tall order for this to be on the same level. Like Tom and Jerry: The Wizard of Oz', 'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is faithful to the 1939 film as well as including elements from the original Baum stories, but doesn't suffer from being too faithful or not having enough to set it apart that it removes what makes the original so timeless. This was one of the biggest mistakes that 'Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory' made.

Animation is bright and colourful, with imaginative backgrounds and very nicely done character designs with spot on expressions for particularly Tom and some of them reminiscent of Tex Avery, like a very Red-like Dorothy. The music here is one of the film's biggest strengths, it is nothing short of amazing with a mix of classic old and refreshing new. The highlight is the Jitterbug sequence, so good that it beggars belief that it was intended initially for the 1939 film and then cut, having it here was a treat and it was brilliantly done in terms of the marriage of exuberance, visuals and music. "There's No Place Like Home" is also wonderful.

When it comes to the writing, 'Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz' is done in a way that children will have no trouble following, without ever feeling dumbed down, and be continually captivated by and still have plenty for adults (especially those nostalgic for the 1939 film and Baum's original stories) to enjoy. The story is full of heart, fun and charm and was clearly made with a lot of affection instead of trying to cheapen the material where it took its inspiration from, also bursting with colour.

Despite being underused and more like supporting characters, Tom and Jerry do serve a purpose, are true to character, add enough to the plot to stop them from being pointless and their shenanigans are funny are playful and never sadistic. Love Spike and Droopy, can take or leave Tuffy who can be cute and can also be annoying (the character's okay here but doesn't stand out). The Oz characters are wisely focused more on and they have a lot of spark, with likable heroes, an endearing protagonist and a fun and sinister, if not quite iconic, villain.

Voice acting is another huge strength, with very experienced and hugely talented voice actors (such as Grey DeLisle, Jason Alexander, the late Joe Alaskey, Andrea Martin, Michael Gough, Rob Paulsen and Kath Soucie, many in more than one role) paying homage with huge respect to their characters and the original cast. Those with more than one role never sound over-parted and bring enough individuality to each. Alexander's Nome King is a standout, as is DeLisle as Dorothy Amy Pemberton providing beautifully Dorothy's singing voice.

In summary, really enjoyable. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Woody Woodpecker and the clock maker, 19 August 2017
8/10

Was very fond of Woody Woodpecker and his cartoons as a child. Still get much enjoyment out of them now as a young adult, even if there are more interesting in personality cartoon characters and better overall cartoons.

That is in no way knocking Woody, because many of his cartoons are a lot of fun to watch and more and also still like him a lot as a character. He is a lot of fun here and is never obnoxious or a jerk, and is closer to his manic pest personality than the toned down one that was often adopted around this point. The clock maker is a fun foil and their chemistry, essential for making 'Calling All Cuckoos' work, is sparkling. While not one of Woody Woodpecker's best, 'Calling All Cuckoos' fares favourably in correlation with Paul J. Smith's Woody Woodpecker cartoons, and one of the better ones of the late 50s.

It's not perfect, the weak point being the simplistic, carelessly drawn and rushed-looking animation, despite some nice colours. Story-wise, it's fairly typical too.

Otherwise, there is enough sharp timing and variety to stop 'Calling All Cuckoos' from being too predictable.

Music is bouncy, energetic and very lushly orchestrated, not only synchronising and fitting with the action very well but enhancing it. The whole cartoon goes at a snappy pace, especially in the second half.

There are some inventive moments here and the humorous elements are timed beautifully and never less than amusing.

Grace Stafford is great as always as Woody.

In summation, very nicely done though not perfect. 8/10 Bethany Cox

Submarine Chilly, 19 August 2017
5/10

Chilly Willy's best cartoons were perfect examples of how a potentially one-joke character and concept could end up actually being a perfect mix of the cute and the funny with a lot of colour and good comic timing to go with it.

Paul J. Smith's first Chilly Willy cartoon, the character's debut 'Chilly Willy', was great and among the best Chilly Willy cartoons, but generally his 60s-onward output (there are also cartoons from Alex Lovy, Jack Hannah, Sid Marcus and notably, in terms of being responsible for the two best of the series, Tex Avery) has been nowhere near as good. Some are decent, but generally they're average at best. 'Under Sea Dogs' is an example of the latter. Not awful, not particularly good either.

The animation is scrappy and constantly looks like it was done in a rush, especially in the latter half of the cartoon, but even to start with it looks simplistic and careless with very flat colours and ugly character designs for the cartoon's antagonist (who is bland, less than threatening and lacks comic timing).

Story is thin to the point of bare existence, a lot of it is very predictable and the lack of variety and sharp timing are obvious and hurt it. 'Under Sea Dogs' timing feels routine and tired.

Walter Greene's music however is lively and rousingly, cleverly and beautifully orchestrated and fits very well. Love the opening title credits music. Occasionally the animation has some lovely colours and the submarine setting is fun if not exactly imaginatively used.

Maxie is an amusing and likable supporting character who doesn't make one miss Smedley too much. He and Chilly work very well together, sparkling just as much as Chilly does with Smedley. A few of the gags are amusing, but none are amusing.

Chilly is adorable and is also a lot of fun, with his actions speaking far louder than words. Prefer him when silent but he still makes an impression even when speaking sparingly. He may be a nuisance to his opponents but he wins the viewer over with his cuteness and timing. Voice acting is decent.

On the whole, average and nothing more than that. 5/10 Bethany Cox

Jessica Fletcher takes the stand, 19 August 2017
10/10

Have always been quite fond of 'Murder She Wrote'. It is a fun and relaxing watch that makes you think as you try to unwind in the evening. If one wants more complex, twisty mysteries with lots of tension and suspense 'Murder She Wrote' may not be for you, but if you want something light-hearted and entertaining but still provide good mysteries 'Murder She Wrote' fits the bill just fine.

"Witness for the Defense" is one of the jewels of one of 'Murder She Wrote's' best overall seasons. Not just that, it has always been one of my favourite episodes of the show. Suspension of disbelief is needed for the portrayal of Quebec in general, which is less than accurate to say the least, but to me this was insignificant and easily forgotten when there are so many pleasures elsewhere.

Production values, however, are slick and stylish as ever with 'Murder She Wrote'. The music has energy and has presence but also not making the mistake of over-scoring, while it is hard to forget or resist the theme tune.

Writing is thought-provoking, light-hearted and amiable and the story has some well executed twists and turns and is never dull.

Quayle's interrogation of Jessica on the witness stand sees some of the best lines in 'Murder She Wrote' history, showing the character's sharp observation and arrogance to the hilt as he dares to utter what's on viewers' lips. The courtroom scenes are very compelling, just as much as those in "Trial By Error" but for different reasons.

The always dependable Angela Lansbury is terrific, Jessica Fletcher is one of her most remembered roles for very good reason. Claire Trevor classes it up hugely, while Juliet Mills is suitably sharp and Charlie Brill has a ball as a total sleazebag. Marilyn Hassett and Dianne Kay are fine. Stealing the show is the brilliant turn of Patrick McGoohan, one of my favourite guest star performances on 'Murder She Wrote' without a shadow of a doubt.

In summation, a gem and one of the best episodes. 10/10 Bethany Cox


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