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Writing a review can be very time consuming when you want to talk about a lot of things and go into a lot of detail about each, the reiteration happened in order to save time when needing to do other things as well and had nothing to do with accumulation as one prolific reviewer attacked me for. If this is what is bothering you, I am genuinely sorry and I am really trying to address it, though I do think that that is a ridiculous and petty reason to hate on someone and their reviews and it is really none of your business how I choose to word what I'm writing.
I am feeling targeted and with me physically and mentally ill at the moment I cannot deal with feeling that way. So if you have any regard of feelings towards people's health respect those wishes, which is clearly not happening now. Seeing as this has been happening a number of times suspiciously since November with knowledge of how I'm feeling at the moment and about this that this is still happening is worrying. If this is coming over as extreme, it is because of my anxiety and autism and I am at the stage where feeling targeted when doing something I love is something I can do without at the moment. I have really tried to grin and bear it since reporting this terms-and-conditions violating issue, but I have now had enough. Get all of that through your skulls and leave me alone. If you have any issues with my reviews, just take note of my user name and ignore me as this has become beyond a joke and immature.
My name is Bethany, and I'm 27 years old. I sing and play the cello. 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.
Have graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with a 2:1 in Vocal and Operatic Studies, and completed a Personal Study Programme there. Am a massive film, of all genres and decades, animation and classical music/opera lover. All of which helped me relax and kept me going when I was going through rough patches (namely health problems, stress and bullying) and had moments where I felt like giving up.
It is for those reasons as to why I have watched as much as I have and why I have contributed so heavily here. Furthermore, I enjoy it, doing the reviews has broadened my film knowledge significantly and has improved my writing skills and how I express myself.
A lot of my reviews (especially those for concert/opera ballet productions), during particularly prolific years, have been through watching things related to my course and during some lengthy breaks from studying. Just to clarify for those wondering, or even suspicious of (having been accused of being a liar a sometimes, a few of which got personal), how I have contributed as much as I have and why.
Being part of IMDb has not been without its downsides and annoyances, but the friends and admirers I've garnered through being a user has given me a lot of confidence. I also wish to thank everybody who have contacted me, with praise for my reviews and wishing me well, it means a lot. Apologies too for any slow or non responses, I can be very busy to reply or shy, it's not because I'm rude.
Ratings for films:
8. Very good
7. Worth watching
3. Pretty lame
2. Very poor
Mrs White: Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage. (Clue)
David Cronenberg was my main reason for seeing 'Spider'. While not one of my all time favourite directors, he is a very unique and truly admirable one and find a good deal to like about all his films. Even the ones that don't do a lot for me overall ('Stereo', 'Crimes of the Future', 'Cosmopolis'). Another main reason is the cast, with Ralph Fiennes and Miranda Richardson being fine actors, particularly Fiennes.
'Spider' also had a fascinating and ambitious concept (one of the most ambitious for a Cronenberg film), which is something that has always drawn me to Cronenberg. His tackling of difficult, challenging subjects and themes and mostly executing them in a way that unsettles. This is especially apparent in his 70s and 80s work. Some of his lesser work tends to be the ones that under-explore their subjects and come over as bland, though with two of his worst it was when he had not yet found his style. Anyway, the cast, Cronenberg and the concept are enough to draw anybody in. Was not sure whether it would be a good film or not, with the reviews here being so polarising although it was critically acclaimed and most Cronenberg enthusiasts at least appreciated it. To me, 'Spider' was a good film, no, a great film.
Can totally see why others won't like it as there are a couple of elements that will turn, and have turned, viewers off and test their patience. In my mind though, 'Spider' is one of Cronenberg's more underrated films and also among his better films (later efforts and overall), if not quite among his very best like 'The Fly', 'Dead Ringers' and 'Eastern Promises'. Perhaps his best since 'Dead Ringers', being the first film of his since that to be above the "respect rather than love" quality of the films between 'Naked Lunch' and up to this in a period where Cronenberg was moving away from the body horror that he pioneered.
It is a deliberate slow burner, and that is something that will, and has, put a fair share of people off. Although the opening sequence was captivating, with such a perfect marriage of beautifully and cleverly designed visuals and music, did think that the pace was too deliberate at first and momentum was really lacking with too much of it almost drawn out. Stuck with 'Spider' though because there was so much talent on board, with some Cronenberg regular collaborators among them, and so much going for it and thought that not giving it a chance by not finishing it was unfair.
That proved to be the right decision, as things did become significantly more interesting and investable. Being a film intended to unsettle and challenge the mind, 'Spider' certainly did both those things.
Visually, as almost always with Cronenberg (with a couple of exceptions, 'Shivers' and 'Rabid'), 'Spider' looks great. Full of audacious atmosphere and the cinematography and especially the editing are so clever, particularly in how they mirror Spider's thought process. Consider the collaboration of Cronenberg and Howard Shore to be one of the best and most consistent regular director-composer collaborations in film, don't think any differently here in 'Spider' judging from his truly haunting work. Cronenberg's direction is very accomplished and he really lets the film get under the skin, which it does do in a very disturbing way, while allowing one to sympathise with Spider.
A good script helps, and moving past the mumbling (an essential part of Spider's personality) having the author himself write the script proved a good move in by far one of the better source material to film Cronenberg films and there is a lesser feeling of over-ambitiousness here. An ambitious concept, executed uniquely and courageously and in a way that unsettled, challenged and moved as the harrowing unravelling and melancholic compulsion increased. What was original was the inner monologue device depicting Spider and past events, the story structure interwoven naturally and cohesively.
Fiennes is nothing short of amazing, chilling and moving so much with such telling body language and expressions that tell a huge amount. Richardson is in a tricky dual role, which she plays with adept ease and differentiates the two characters without overdoing or underplaying. Gabriel Byrne gives one of his better performances in a while up to this point, while Lynn Redgrave and John Neville do a lot with their roles.
Summarising, truly great but won't in any way hold anything against anybody who can't connect with it. 9/10
Grew up loving Michael Morpurgo's work, and 'War Horse' has always being a particular favourite from his work. Had to have a reading book every week to read to an assistant on a regular basis, and Morpurgo's books and stories were popular picks, because they are beautifully written and accessible. It is a very powerful story, one that wrenches the gut and heart every time and with a titular character that is identifiable every step of the way.
It was productions like this that got me into watching the National Theatre Live cinema screenings regularly in the first place, being someone who was already going to frequent opera and ballet productions. Can't believe it took me so long to review 2014's 'War Horse', but it is a production that stuck with me for a long time, is a real treasure and it absolutely does the book justice. Actually loved Spielberg's 2011 film, not a popular opinion online it seems, but consider this production more powerful, more poignant and more interesting visually even with not as big a budget.
Visually, 'War Horse' looks fabulous. The lighting really struck me on first glance, the bright glow for the Devon sequences and the bleakness of those depicting the war is beautifully contrasted, while there is from personal opinion some of the best use of projection screen for anything on stage. There have been instances elsewhere where this distracts and serves little purpose, the projection screen not only looked beautiful and a good alternative to large scale sets but also a good way of solving problems with scene changes. Scene changes has sometimes in other productions overlong and clumsy but the projections move swiftly and allows the story to flow naturally. The effect both elements together have is remarkably cinematic.
This seamlessness is also evident in the use of music. Really liked the idea to not have pre-recorded and potentially schmaltzy music and have instead have nostalgic folk songs performed live. Then there are the sound effects, which were even more effective, those in the No Man's Land scenes being frighteningly authentic. 'War Horse' keeps sentimentality at bay, while the nostalgic charm of the Devon scenes again like the lighting contrasts superbly with the uncomprisingly gut-wrenching No Man's Land scenes.
While all the performances are strong, it was the puppetry for the horses that stole the show. So expertly done and blended so well with the projection screen and lighting that one cannot believe how they were really done.
Overall, magical. 10/10
George Bernard Shaw's play 'Man and Superman' is fascinating, it is a massive work with a dauntingly enormous amount of text (that could be deemed as "long-winded") mostly spoken by the lead character. A role that would be a contender for the biggest challenge of the best of actors (James Tyrone is another). Plus because of the amount of dialogue it is often deemed unstageable. Along with some of the generalisations that the play has that goes either way, it is those three things that make the play seldom performed.
Had no doubt that this production of 'Man and Superman' would work, regardless of the difficulties of the play. The National Theatre Live series does not have many misfires and the cast is a talented one. But my main reason for not having any doubts is because Ralph Fiennes is such a fine actor, who can play villains, tortured (personality, not the action) characters and conflicted anti-heroes adeptly and he has had his fair share of characters not easy to pull off. And work it did, pretty phenomenally acually. It is a complete and faithful production, even having the often cut third act, very long and the hardest to stage and has been deemed extraneous by some, in hell.
'Man and Superman' looks great, with the different settings for the acts (the town-house, the wild, hell and the villa), being well designed and well contrasted with each other. The villa setting's my favourite though, the most visually beautiful of them, the third act is visually suitably dream-like and nightmarish, which is in my mind exactly the right approach, justifying its inclusion. It's not traditional, but didn't ever question or even notice that and was happy that it looked as appealing as it did and done so tastefully. That's not always the case with updated settings.
Such a great job is done with the staging. What has been deemed unstageable is brought to vibrant life. With so much text, there was the worry of it badly dragging and become very tedious from being too talky, Act 3 particularly with all the philosophical debating. Luckily a lot of energetic zest is infused and the wit is really brought out in the way the actors deliver their lines. The chemistry between Fiennes and Indira Varma absolutely scorches and brings so much life to everything. A lot of intelligent touches and most of all everything makes sense and is done in good taste.
Varma is suitably poised and witty as Ann and the supporting cast play their roles expertly. Fiennes' performance dominates and it is a triumph, the character is not a bore (and he can be) but very charismatic with great comic timing and a twinkle in his eye.
In conclusion, brilliant. 10/10
Dangerous battle of the sexes
An adaptation of the 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos, a novel that both intensely grips and scandalises, 'Les Liasons Dangereuses' as a play when done well is absolutely riveting and both beautiful and shocking. Was not sure how it would work out adapting 'Les Liasons Dangereuses' as a play, as it is hard enough to adapt it, or anything similar, for film and television and with its content it would be even more difficult to stage as a play with in my mind less freedom.
'Les Liasons Dangereuses' works very well indeed as a play, the drama is still gripping and allures and shocks, and the characterisation has lost none of its complexity. Coping very well with overcoming the difficulties in adapting the novel for any medium, the biggest difficulties being not trivialising what is so shocking about the story's content, not being too heavy that it overly-darkens and being sensual enough without being overly erotic. Valmont is also not easy to nail, one should see what people see in him so that he is not a stock character but they should also see what is so loathsome about him and that is a trait that could be overdone.
This is a wonderful production and doesn't fall into the potential traps that makes 'Les Liasons Dangereuses' a big undertaking to take on. Just to say before properly reviewing the production, the National Theatre Live productions are well worth going to see and there have been many treasures. The cinema ticket is more expensive than seeing a standard film (in case it's the price that is putting one off), but it is still much cheaper than seeing it in the theatre and in a more accessible location while still feeling very authentic.
Visually, this 'Les Liasons Dangereuses' looks beautiful. Really loved the opulent furniture and elegant interiors, without becoming overblown spectacle and it doesn't jar with the darker parts of the story. The costumes are to die for, and thought it very tasteful and a good idea to keep the setting period traditional, in any other setting one would question the change and in modern day it'd just look tacky in my mind. The dialogue has intensity and emotional engagement.
Dramatically, 'Les Liasons Dangereuses' never had issues with momentum for me with the conflict of the battle of the sexes having the tension that it did, while also allowing some sensitive intimacy for the emotion to speak. Nothing felt watered down here, while always being tasteful with no gratuitous touches that makes one feel uncomfortable. The nocturnal Valmont-Cecile seduction has full impact. Have felt much more uncomfortable watching some opera (love opera just to say) concept productions that put in irrelevant touches for no reason of operas that shouldn't have that impression. Everything makes psychological sense here, which is what the production was trying to do and it's one of its biggest strengths.
Janet McTeer embodies Marquise De Meurteuil, in that there is an elegance and amusing quality while relishing but not overdoing the merciless side of the character. Dominic West also nails Valmont, predatory yet deceptively charming. Alluring Elaine Cassidy does very well having just replaced Michelle Dockery, and it is not easy mentally filling in at short notice when you feel like a lot of pressure is on you (have been there myself so know what it's like).
Concluding, wonderful production. 10/10
This production of 'The Hard Problem' is interesting for two primary things. One being that it was Tom Stoppard's first full play in nine years. The other being that the production was touted as Nicholas Hytner's, also know him very well from his opera productions as well as his work with the National, last production for National Theatre as artistic director. The concept similarly sounded very interesting, and hopefully would not come over as over-complicated or bloated.
Couldn't help feeling disappointed. Don't get me wrong, it is a more than watchable production and don't regret seeing it in any way. It's just that to me 'The Hard Problem' is nowhere near among Stoppard's best work. Saw a fairly recent production of 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead' for instance, through the National Theatre Live treatment a couple of years after this, much prefer that play and was bowled over by the production. National Theatre Live's production of 'The Hard Problem' itself didn't blow me away either and Hytner should have gone out on a better high than this.
Part of the problem is the play. That is not to say the play is awful, far from it. The concept is an interesting one, it does provoke a lot of thought and it is insightful, the language unmistakably Stoppard in the intelligence department that is. That said, while it is great that there are a lot of ideas presented it can feel like overload at times and too many ideas to digest in one go with a subject as fairly complex as this. By Stoppard standards, 'The Hard Problem' as a play is on the conventional and contrived side as well, other work of his has far more depth and wit as well as more energy and emotional connection.
Flaws that translates as well in the production, which struggles to rise above those problems. Was not expecting wit, it is not that kind of play, and did find myself deep in thought which was great as that was the intent. Part of me felt though that it was a bit bland, warmth and feeling missing, and there could have been much more consistent momentum. Regarding the characters, although very well played, only Hilary properly interested and emotionally connected with me.
Despite the above, there are great things here. The production values are simple in colour and design but still elegant rather than being potentially ugly. The lighting is neither drab or garish and has atmosphere. The photography is not too stage bound while being intimate enough. It is thought provoking and there are signs of energy with Hilary lighting up the stage. Hytner does direct intelligently and at times delicately and sharply when appropriate and it is coherent at least, it just needed more momentum and emotion.
Also thought the entire cast did do a great job considering, lots of passion in the delivery and while the wit is not there in the dialogue there are moments in the interaction. Olivia Vinall, the production is worth watching for her alone as she's that good, being a revelation and it was very easy to warm to and root for her very early on, a great thing as part of what makes the play successful or not is Hilary and whether we care for her, which we do. Anthony Calf's sympathetic performance is the other cast standout.
Summarising, interesting but a disappointment as well. Wasn't sure whether to give it a 5 or 6, as both the play and production conflicted me but am feeling generous today and Vinall's performance was so great she's worth more than one star. If anybody gets more out of the play and production, that's fine, they just didn't completely do it for me. 6/10
Rises high at first, then quickly falls down and crashes with a thud
'High Rise' had a lot of promise. An amazing and unique concept, same goes for the source material which is a gripping read and stands out conceptually. Ben Wheatley seemed the right director, as he does have a great style. It had a cast that one really should not go wrong by, the actors all immensely talented. The trailer looked great visually and indicated an intriguing film. Will admit that there were doubts though, as the book is yet another book that is difficult to adapt.
Doubts that sadly proved to be correct on the most part, the reasons have been said frequently here and there is not an awful lot more to add. There are books around that should really have been left alone due to being unadaptable. 'High Rise' is one of them. Other book to film adaptations seen recently that fit under this distinction are 'House of the Spirits' (which would have been much better as a mini-series), 'Naked Lunch', 'Cosmopolis' and 'Crash', just to say that despite singling out three David Cronenberg films he is a director generally held in high regard by me. Coming back to talking about 'High Rise' as a film, it is a case of style over substance and is a difficult to rate film and a case of the trailer being much better than the film. Didn't love it, didn't hate it, am very conflicted really.
It starts off so promisingly. The first half hour, or first act, is very intriguing and easy to follow, drawing one right in. Throughout, 'High Rise' looks fantastic. Actually thought it was one of the best-looking films of the year, the production design alone left me in awe and the cinematography perfectly captures the dystopian nightmarish nature of the story. Clint Mansell's score is both haunting and rousing, adding a lot to what is going on and even enhancing it without over-bearing. Wheatley's direction is very uneven, but he does excel in the visual style which is very imaginative.
The cast are also remarkably great, it is amazing that they did so much with material that they are well above of. Luke Evans especially brings a lot of intensity, charisma and poignancy to the one character the film tries to develop and the one character the viewer feels anything for. Tom Hiddleston carries 'High Rise' with a lot of charm and commands the screen with ease. Jeremy Irons has fun with his role, while also being menacing and providing his distinctive gravitas. Elizabeth Moss is also a standout. The rest of the cast are underused but still make the most of what they have, nobody's bad here.
Such a shame though that 'High Rise' goes downhill rapidly too early in a rather sudden and very violent change of tone and the rest of the film becomes very disjointed. It became increasingly dull with no real momentum, and the middle act especially felt over-stretched and padded. Giving the sense of the film being far too long (by about an hour, the middle half hour could easily have been cut out) and the lack of momentum showing an indication of the story overall being too thin structurally. It is not just dull, it becomes confusing and over-complicated to the point of incoherence. While Wheatley excels on the style aspect of 'High Rise', the substance is messy and too detached, that is what was meant by his direction being uneven. Sad because on paper he seemed the right director.
Felt nothing for the characters, other than Evans' Wilder they are sketchy caricatures kept too much at a distance emotionally. Emotionally, 'High Rise' left me cold, felt very little tension or emotion because there was so much frustration at the lack of momentum in the middle act and the chaotic over-complicated confusion that reached breaking point by the rather abrupt and head-scratching ending. Other frustrations are the vapid and self-indulgent script and a quite interesting moral on paper being executed heavy-handedly.
Overall, very hard to rate and the polarisation in the reviews is understandable. Started off so well and with a lot of great things (especially the visuals and cast) but the rest of the film badly underwhelmed. 5/10
Toulouse La Trick (1966)
The Inspector's handcuff problem
Although the Inspector series is not a consistent one, it has been generally very worthwhile re-watching them after many years. Had fond memories watching them as a child, and as someone who likes a lot of the Pink Panther cartoons a friend told me to re-watch the similar in style Inspector cartoons to help decrease my stress levels. They are even better as a young adult, due to understanding the humour more.
'Toulouse La Trick' is somewhere in the high middle ranking the Inspector series, another cartoon that is neither among the best or worst. It is the first The Inspector cartoon to not feature the scene-stealing Sergeant Deux-Deux, he, his beautifully contrasted personalities and chemistry with the Inspector are very much missed. That doesn't spoil 'Toulouse La Trick' though, because the titular character (Toulouse Le Moose) is one of the series' strangest and most entertaining adversaries and the chemistry between him and the Inspector plays a major part in why the cartoon works as well as it does. It was important for it to work, if it didn't it would have ruined the cartoon single-handedly, the chemistry here has enough energy and tension.
Did think that the countryside sequence went on for too long, which seemed to pad out a cartoon with a pretty thin and formulaic story.
On the other hand, there is a lot to like. Have no qualms with the animation. Actually think that it is one of the more visually interesting The Inspector cartoons. The sceneries are beautifully rendered, Fairly simple in terms of drawing but never ugly, while the somewhat abstract backgrounds have nice attention to detail, more so than the Pink Panther cartoons (not a knock at all on the animation of that series), and don't look sparse. But it is the deep and rich colours that stand out in this regard. Like the jazzy slinkiness of the music, it fits and it doesn't sound cheap.
Furthermore, the physical comedy is nicely timed and never comes over as vulgar or tired, through adult eyes all the humour is fresher and understood it more. The verbal humour is suitably ironic with some amusing mumblings and subtle word-play. Classic The Inspector. Pat Harrington Jr does wonderfully in providing the necessary energy in his voice work and do have to agree that a big highlight is the hilarious ending.
Altogether, very enjoyable. 8/10
"Be careful, be very careful, or you might find yourself wearing peasant shoes"
It's three episodes in and Season 2 already proves to be much better and more settled at this point than the mostly well done but uneven first season. With all three episodes consistently great, thought that when first seeing them and the show, feel the same on re-watch and think them even better than remembered. What was inconsistent before, the writing and pacing, has improved significantly in all three of the previous three episodes.
"The Beautiful Deception" is one of the biggest examples of this, meaning one does feel that the show has settled, that things are moving forward, the writing has more tautness and less soap and the pace has tightened with more going on. Up to this point of 'The Borgias', "The Beautiful Deception" gets my vote as the best episode of the twelve, in a show where even the weaker episodes were solid, and as far as Season 2 goes it's one of the best too.
Some great exchanges can be seen here, there is a lot of intrigue between Caterina and Charles and Caterina and Cesare, while the sympathetic and forceful chemistry between Rodrigo and Lucrezia and their dialogue together is telling. Rodrigo's warning to Juan is one of his best lines of the entire show, and although it could have been funny if said by someone else Jeremy Irons says it with a lot of venom and you can tell that Rodrigo means it.
Lucrezia's character and development has come on enormously as has Holliday Grainger, really felt her anguish in her grief and although the traits that made her such a fascinating historical character in reality were present from halfway through the first season, Giovanni's treatment of her being the catalyst, the vengeance and scheming is brought to the forefront here in one of the show's most sinister scenes. Loved Cesare's, the most interesting character here, steel in his scene with Charles (brought out with great confidence by Francois Arnaud), his tenderness towards Lucrezia and have always loved his scenes with Rodrigo.
Juan by now has become truly detestable with few redeeming qualities. David Oakes embodies this. Jeremy Irons brings his usual gravitas and distinctively melifluous voice to Rodrigo, especially good in his chemistry with Grainger and his reaction to Juan's confession, that was shocking and exciting to watch. Gina McKee is both sensual and cunning, living up to Caterina's nickname.
Visually, 'The Borgias' continues to have very high production values with "The Beautiful Deception", that was never a problem and continually one of the best of the good things about the show. The exquisitely designed and richly coloured costumes and scenery and interiors are wow-worthy, and the beautiful photography rivals period dramas on film. The music still has the beauty and intensity that were present in the previous episodes. Meanwhile the opening titles sequences and main theme still give me the chills. one of my favourite opening titles sequences of all time (film and television). The main theme is incredible, the sheer intensity, grandeur and drama (already sending chills down the spine and induces goosebumps before the episode's even begun) makes it one of my favourite main themes for any show. Matched by splendidly and cleverly designed visuals.
My only complaints are the dull and unnecessary Della Rovere subplot which doesn't really go anywhere in this episode and a pretty too over the top love scene.
Otherwise, an excellent episode and one of the best ones of 'The Borgias'. 9/10
House of Cards: Chapter 27 (2015)
"And you have to be a little human when you're the president"
Absolutely loved the first season, with the one slight disappointment being "Chapter 8". The other episodes ranged from very good to outstanding. The second season was very nearly as good, starting off promisingly and then suffering a slight quality slump between "Chapter 15" and "Chapter 19", the second half of the season seeing the show properly back on form and rivalling the best of Season 1.
Can see completely why Season 3's opener "Chapter 27" would polarise, with it getting much praise here but know of others that didn't care for it. Personally thought that there was a huge amount to like about "Chapter 27" and that it was a very well done episode on the whole. It just falls short of being great, with a starting afresh feel in places rather than advancing forward and it does not always feel very settled. So do agree with that Season 3 is a little bit of a slow starter, but that does not mean at all that it's a bad episode. Far from it, the good things are many and the best assets are absolutely brilliant.
The weak points about "Chapter 27" is that it doesn't always feel settled in story direction and it could have been tauter in places. The three leads are superb, but while everybody is more than competent nobody else stands out in the same way.
Some have criticised it for focusing too much on Doug and underusing other characters, can understand that criticism while not entirely agreeing with it. Definitely do think that there could have been much more of Claire who has had meatier material and much more screen time before and since this episode, but the interpretation of the character when she does appear is still spot on, the over-ambitiousness and icy demeanour coming through.
But actually really liked the way the episode focused on Doug, in the previous two seasons he was always one of the most interesting 'House of Cards' characters, his development became richer all the time and the intensity and vulnerability came through frighteningly and movingly. He continues to be fascinating and both gave me chills and made me feel sorry for him somewhat. The writing for Frank has yet to put a foot wrong, he is someone you don't want to mess with and is as ruthless as ever. Evident in a very eerie opening scene, where you are pretty shocked and repulsed by his behaviour on top of the eeriness of the atmosphere.
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright are typically brilliant as Frank and Claire, while Michael Kelly knocks it out of the park bringing out Doug's fierce intensity and vulnerability. The direction is sympathetic yet alert enough to still make the episode engaging. The dialogue is still dark, intelligent and sharp, the politics not too heavy handed, and the story is compelling enough if not perfectly done. It is very stylish and classy visually as to be expected and the music complements the tone well.
In summation, very impressive but could have been much better. 8/10
Bleak House: Episode #1.8 (1985)
Love conquering all
Have always loved and respected period dramas/adaptations and watch as many as possible without fail. Regardless of how they fare as adaptations or how faithful they are to the source material, there are many (too numerous to list) that are good or more as standalones.
There will always be inevitable comparisons to which is the preferred adaptation of 'Bleak House', this or 2005. From a personal point of view, there is no real preference as both adaptations are outstanding in their own way. And not just as adaptations, but also on their own merits as well, which is every bit as important, actually for me even more important being someone who judges films and adaptations (or aims to) on their own. The book is compelling, atmospheric and rich in characterisation. It is a mammoth book, and one of Dickens' least accessible (from first-time personal experience, the law stuff took its time to get completely). Both are exceptionally well-made, tell the story extremely well indeed and brilliantly written and acted. The 2005 adaptation's characterisation is a little richer, but this adaptation is a little more atmospheric.
Not everybody will find the 70s-80s Dickens serial adaptations their cup of tea. They may find them slow, long and with a lot of talk. That isn't the case with me. Of the ones seen, they respect their source material (even with omissions and changes here and there), are detailed, very evocative and Dickensian and are well-made, written and acted. And that is the case with this 'Bleak House' exactly (great and faithful as an adaptation, without being too faithful).
This 'Bleak House' is the sort of series that gets better with every episode and to me that should be the case. And it certainly is the case, with the storytelling and characterisation getting richer with each episode. Although a step down from a few of the previous episodes where there was a lot of meat, complexity and more drama but it is a great way to end a brilliant adaptation and achieves its main purpose well.
Visually, the costumes and sets look beautiful and very detailed, succeeding also in capturing the bleak nature of the book. They are also full of atmosphere and don't come across as too clean. The music is a pleasing mix of haunting overtones and delicate chamber-music-like, and fit with each scene excellently, even if some may prefer the more understated quality in the 2005 adaptation.
Scoring highly too is the writing. The dialogue is intelligently adapted, there is a lot of talk but they weren't that tedious to me. The heartfelt tragedy, poignancy, sharp observations and nobility of Dickens' writing comes through loud and clear, the writing distinctively Dickensian in style.
There's enough characterisation and plotting going on, though the previous episodes were much meatier and had more tension and emotion. This was the sort of episode where things are tied up, very effectively, and like the calm after the storm sort. Not that that is a problem though, it's like that in the book.
Acting is very fine from all, with any potential traps for characters not fallen into (for instance making Esther too meek).
In conclusion, great. 9/10
Auntie Edna (2018)
Love Pixar, feature films, really like to love most of their feature films, and short films, don't dislike any of them. Their best are masterpieces and even lesser efforts, my least favourite overall being 'Cars 3', are never below mediocre and have at least four good things. Best asset having always been the animation. Whether that is popular opinion is uncertain as most of the post-'Toy Story 3' films have had their fair share of hate.
Have always gotten a lot of enjoyment out of 'The Incredibles', one of those things that gets better with every viewing. It is not among my favourites from Pixar, but it is so exceptionally well made (as always with Pixar) and written (as most of the time with Pixar, the rare exceptions being the character designs in 'The Good Dinosaur', my opinion) apart from a slightly rushed final act. While the sequel was not as good and disappointed a bit in the story and villain departments, a large part of me enjoyed it with the animation, Jack-Jack and Holly Hunter's voice acting being the best assets.
It was great to have a short film centred around two of the best characters from 'The Incredibles', Edna and Jack-Jack. 'Auntie Edna' was colourful, cute and fun enough, but could have been better too considering how good these characters are.
'Auntie Edna' is one of the shortest Pixar shorts, and is one of the very few to feel too short. It is never dull and does engage, but with a longer length (even if it was just five minutes longer) the pace would have slowed down as it did feel manic at times.
Of the characters, Jack-Jack is by far the more interesting and funniest of the two main characters and a great job is done with him, he is also adorable. Edna's fun too and true to character, with a few cool lines, but would have liked her to have a little more to do.
However, the animation is typically terrific. Very colourful with meticulous attention to detail in both the backgrounds and character designs, especially the former. Jack-Jack's powers are particularly well done. The music more than serves its purpose well, with the right amount of energy and charming orchestration.
Regarding the humour, the physical and visual comedy really shine here, more so than the spoken dialogue. Do remember Jack-Jack's literally-laugh-a-second hilarious and very imaginatively animated powers more than anything spoken by Edna, who is still funny, don't get me wrong and that line she says to Bob does raise a big laugh. It is very cute and has a lot of charm, though can understand if anybody says that more emotion and heart was needed, a consequence of the too short length. Brad Bird's voice acting is a large part of why Edna is as memorable a character that she is.
In conclusion, good but not great. 7/10
Toy Story That Time Forgot (2014)
Am a big fan of Pixar, films and shorts, and the three 'Toy Story' films (the first of which being ground-breaking) are among my favourites from them as far as their feature films go. For me, none of their work is below mediocre (even my least favourite 'Cars 3'), though that is probably not going to be a popular opinion with the post-'Toy Story 3' films getting a lot of hate. Meanwhile their best work is masterpiece level, all three 'Toy Story' films being on that level.
'Toy Story that Time Forgot' has a very cheesy, corny title but the actual special itself is the opposite of that and it is not as muddled as it sounds. It is instead very charming, quite cute and has enough amusing moments, a good position to be for a special released around Christmas but not really one. It is nowhere near Pixar at its A-game, but there is nothing really here that disgraces them or the 'Toy Story' franchise.
Part of me did feel though that 'Toy Story that Time Forgot' could have been longer than it was, which could have been used to give the original characters more screen time, and the pace can be uneven here, at times rushed.
Bonnie also sounds rather mature for her age and it doesn't quite gel with her character design.
On the other hand, there is an awful lot to like about 'Toy Story that Time Forgot'. The animation is very good for a television special made on a lower budget. Such beautiful attention to detail in the backgrounds and the character designs and the colours are so vibrant. The music more than serves its purpose well, with the right amount of energy and charming orchestration.
Loved the writing, which saw some wonderful wit in the dialogue and it was both very funny and emotive. The story is very sweet and charming, and really liked that it showcased Trixie who had enough of an interesting, not annoying or too sugary, personality to be a worthy lead. The moral/message was delivered well, making its point without over-emphasising, and it was one that is relevant and important. Would have liked more of the original characters but they are still fun and likeable without being out of character at any point. The conflict is handled entertainingly and sensitively with enough tension without going over the top on it. The voice acting is very good excepting Bonnie.
In summary, worth a look if not essential. 7/10
Toy Story of Terror (2013)
Am a big fan of Pixar, films and shorts, and the three 'Toy Story' films (the first of which being ground-breaking) are among my favourites from them as far as their feature films go. For me, none of their work is below mediocre (even my least favourite 'Cars 3'), though that is probably not going to be a popular opinion with the post-'Toy Story 3' films getting a lot of hate. Meanwhile their best work is masterpiece level, all three 'Toy Story' films being on that level.
Was on one hand quite excited for this television special 'Toy Story of Terror', with it being Pixar, that it has such great characters and some immense talent on board returning. At the same time, part of me was a little worried, with it being an under half an hour television special on a lower budget there was the worry of how it would fare quality-wise and it is hard to not question the point of it. The good news is that 'Toy Story of Terror' was great fun with some creepiness here and there. It is not in the same league as the films, though that was not unexpected, but in no way does it disgrace them or be what people would call a "cash grab".
'Toy Story of Terror' isn't flawless. Do agree with those who deemed it as too short in length. In terms of story, 'Toy Story of Terror' is pretty eventful and it would have leant itself well to feature film.
On top of being too short and having quite an eventful story, there is a crammed in feel at times and then it starts to feel rushed.
However, the animation is really quite great for an animated television special with the spookier visuals being imaginatively done. Such beautiful attention to detail in the backgrounds and the character designs and the colours are so vibrant. The music more than serves its purpose well, with the right amount of energy and charming orchestration.
Loved the writing, which saw some wonderful wit in the dialogue and it was both very funny and emotive. The story maintains all the fun and charm present in the films, and it was great to have more focus on Jessie who is written in a way that makes it easy to root for her. All while retaining a vast majority of the original characters, excepting Bo Peep and Slinky Dog, and staying true to their personalities, nobody is out of character. The new characters make just as big an impression, especially Combat Carl, didn't really mind an awful lot that the villain's motivations were on the derivative side. The voice acting is terrific, especially from Joan Cusack and Carl Weathers as the two most interesting characters here.
Summarising, very enjoyable. 8/10
The Walking Dead: JSS (2015)
Just survive somehow
'The Walking Dead' was brilliant in its prime. Consider its prime Seasons 1-5, even if Season 5 has not quite been as consistent. As has been said frequently, and it is worth reiterating because "feeling like a completely different show" declines leaves me feeling very annoyed and Seasons 7 and 8 (have yet to watch Season 9 until reviewing all the previous episodes) of 'The Walking Dead' is one of the biggest declines for any show.
Season 6 was inconsistent but boasted a lot of fantastic elements that made it more than watchable. Also thought it started off brilliantly, absolutely loved the previous episode "First Time Again" and love "JSS" just as much (perhaps even more), as one can gather those two are among the sixth season's best and among the latter seasons' best too. Like "First Time Again", "JSS" has a lot going on, is taut, is uncompromisingly tense, emotional and is exceptionally well made (actually stands out on that front), like the best of 'The Walking Dead'. Can totally see why it was critically acclaimed, even if it is more mixed here, and it deserves it in my opinion.
"JSS", as always with 'The Walking Dead' is superb in the production values. Not as unique as the previous episode's, The gritty and audacious production design still remains, photography worthy of a film, suitably frightening make-up and visuals that don't look amateurish in any way and like they were made with heart and effort. The music is haunting and affecting, without being intrusive. The direction is some of the best of the whole of 'The Walking Dead' up to this point, both visually and providing the right amount and kind of drama.
What really stands out here is some of the most tense and terrifying storytelling of Season 6, of the latter seasons and in the whole of 'The Walking Dead', in the assault on Alexandria. So unexpected and with plenty of intensity, the Wolves also genuinely frightening. Enid's backstory is intriguing too and the action is edge of your seat worthy in how thrilling it is.
Loved the contrasting views of particularly Carol and Morgan, and Melissa McBride and Lennie James' powerful performances help enormously. The writing is as taut as can be and the dialogue-driven scenes didn't come over as too talky to me. The story is always compelling, Denise's dilemma is not as strongly done as the rest of the story elements but showed a lot of promise. The character interaction is tense and emotional.
In conclusion, superb episode and indicative of a very promising start to Season 6. 10/10
How it all began
Have always found 'Tiny Toon Adventures' to be a very funny, well made and clever show, with very memorable characters. Anybody who loves Looney Tunes (have been a lifelong fan), 'Animaniacs' and 'Pinky and the Brain' should find a lot to at least like 'Tiny Toon Adventures'. Told myself that before watching it long ago that if it was anything like them that it would be a treat. It turned out to be just that, if not quite childhood favourites in the same way they were due to being introduced to it later.
"The Looney Beginning" is an example of how to start a show brilliantly. It depicts how it, meaning the characters, the concept et al, all came to be in a very cleverly structured origins story. One that is very true in spirit to the old Looney Tunes cartoons (it was Looney Tunes mainly that was what 'Tiny Toon Adventures' was taking inspiration from). The 'Duck Amuck'-like premise of "The Looney Beginning" is one of the cleverest and most creative of the show and lives up to its looney name. One that should appeal to children and adults alike.
From the very start, the animation s beautiful and crisp, with bright colourful backgrounds, beautiful colours and well drawn characters. Some of the visuals are among the most imaginative for any episode of the show, and one could tell that the animators were having great fun with the visual side of things. The music is as good as the old Looney Tunes cartoons (prime-Looney Tunes, not most of the 60s ones) in being characterful and adding to the action, if not quite enhancing it in the same way. It always helps to have a memorable theme tune, and the one for 'Tiny Toon Adventures' is suitably hip and very catchy. "The Gold Diggers Song" likewise.
A big benefit here in "The Looney Beginning" is the writing, some of the show's cleverest and funniest writing is here in this episode. Not just the inside jokes regarding the entertainment industry and behind the scenes, but even more so the intelligent references, some that are easier to spot and understand by older viewers due to being much more familiar with what is being referenced (i.e. 'Eraserhead'). Children should understand some other references, such as 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit'. Similarly, the razor sharp wit, evident in the dialogue for Babs, who has most of the best lines. And the delicious wackiness that emulates the spirit of the old Looney Tunes cartoons to a tee.
Love the characters, Bugs was an inspired choice for narrator and perfect for it. The characters are basically hip and younger versions of the Looney Tunes characters, with distinct personalities that perfectly convey the time in which the show is set. All the voice acting is great, filled with some of the best voice talent in the business. They had enormous shoes to fill, Mel Blanc's mostly one man show standard would have been a Herculean task to take on, and they do so admirably. Tress MacNeille is especially good.
Altogether, brilliant start. 10/10
She-Sick Sailors (1944)
Really like to love a vast majority of Popeye's cartoons and the character himself. Fleischer's Popeye cartoons though tended to be funnier, more imaginative and better made, Famous Studios' on the most part entertained though their later Popeye, and overall filmography actually, cartoons had tighter deadlines and lower budgets evident which accounted for the animation not being as good, less surprises and the material not as imaginative.
'She-Sick Sailors' is not Popeye at his best, while not the greatest of representations of him it hardly disgraces him either. It is still enjoyable stuff and there are a lot of great things, just felt that something was missing. As far as the second world war-period Popeye cartoons go, 'She-Sick Sailors' is somewhere towards the top. Thankfully it does not make the mistake of being heavy-handed or have any stereotypes that are not for the easily offended. It is a creative premise and there are some imaginative moments, actually think there could have been more.
It is not much special in the story department, it is very thin (not uncommon with Popeye) and it is not hard to figure out the outcome as it does, despite some creative touches, follow the Popeye formula. That may not be a problem for some, but for others they wouldn't say no to more imagination and a change of pace. Am neutral on this myself.
Olive's material is not as strong as Popeye's or Bluto's and she doesn't have not near as much to do.
Anybody however who loves great animation and music, characters at the top of their game with more than convincing chemistry and comic timing that is at least good will, or at least should, get a kick out of 'She-Sick Sailors', regardless of the state of the story. All of that is here. Luckily there is enough variety to stop too much repetition creeping in and the energy is always there.
Expectedly, the backgrounds have lost none of the meticulous attention to detail, it's fluid, Popeye still looks good and is recognisable in design and the colours are wonderfully vibrant, which really does make the setting come alive. Love the music just as much, it is the highly characterful and lush music score, that fits seamlessly and enhances the action. Popeye is amusing and likeable still and Jack Mercer doesn't disappoint with the voice acting. Bluto is even funnier and the chemistry between the two sparkles and carries the cartoon brilliantly. The gags are plentiful enough, beautifully timed and make good use of the premise. While few are hilarious they are always amusing, the commuter train part is agreed ingenious (one of Bluto's funniest individual gags from personal view).
Popeye's asides and mumblings are something of a hilarious art-form of its own, and the energy never wavers. Mercer is not the only one to excel at the voice acting. Cannot imagine anybody else voicing Olive than Mae Questel, the voice actress to voice her the most (she was also voiced in some cartoons by Bonnie Poe and Margie Hines and it wasn't the same). Jackson Beck is very exuberant as Bluto.
To conclude, very enjoyable. 8/10
Wild Caribbean: Reefs and Wrecks (2007)
Reefs and wrecks
It is a shame that 'Wild Caribbean' doesn't have the amount of credit it's deserving of. Do think certainly that there are much better documentaries out there, but won't name them in order to be fair as comparing it to those that are better known and more ground-breaking is the equivalent of not giving it enough of a proper chance. If wanting to know more about the Caribbean, 'Wild Caribbean' is a more than worthy way of doing so, it's still well made and there is a mix of old and new.
Absolutely loved the first episode "Treasure Islands", a wonderful way to start and certainly did compel me to continue watching the rest of the series. "Reefs and Wrecks" is every bit its equal, not quite as illuminating perhaps, being hardly the first or last documentary to explore reefs or wrecks in any shape or form, or have as many varied habitats as "Treasure Islands". That doesn't matter, whether it's familiar territory or not never aims to be an issue when watching documentaries. It's how it's made, whether it makes me care for what is being shown on screen, whether there's enough that educates and whether it's delivered well. "Reefs and Wrecks" delivers on all.
"Reefs and Wrecks" is beautifully filmed throughout. Coral reefs always look wonderful and it is very hard to make them not be, they don't disappoint and the episode shows them show a purpose (extracting nutrients from algae and allowing whales to pass through) but also shows others with its threat to ships to be equally uncompromising. Have thrown this world around a lot recently, and merely because of trying to make a point that environments and habitats have much more to them than just being pretty scenery which has been a common criticism with recent documentaries (a prime example being with David Attenborough's brilliant 'Dynasties', and that was before the series was even aired).
Enough of that, the filming (a mix of expansive and intimate) captures the animals well too. Especially in the latter parts, which actually show more threat and suspense than "Treasure Islands" like with the snappers and the white sharks. The music here is a remarkably good fit, throughout it not only complements the visuals but enhances them and there is an authentic flavour to it.
Throughout, "Reefs and Wrecks" is thought-provoking and educational as well as engagingly narrated and written. Not quite as illuminating as "Treasure Islands", but very interesting to see rarities, or more unfamiliar to me content, like Antillean manatees, rusticles and tarpon. It was great to have a mix of the adorable and dangerous, one not out-shadowing the other. The narration is delivered mellifluously and sincerely, without any signs of preaching.
Overall, wonderful once again. 10/10
The ponies and the dragon
'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic', in my mind and something that others may dispute, is a perfect example of something that may on the surface and in concept be a cutesy, shallow show just for little girls (absolutely hate this generalisation by the way) but actually be a well made show of substance with winning humour, great relatable morals and characters that are actually interesting, much more so than their character designs suggest.
On the most part, up to this early point of the season and show, this only being the seventh episode of the twenty six in Season 1, the standard was very high. "Elements of Harmony" (the second part of the two part "pilot") and "Applebuck Season" being especially great of the previous episodes. The season and show did stumble in quality though with its first disappointment "Boast Busters", to me a lesser episode of the early seasons. By all means it was not terrible, a long way from it, but for a show that was starting to settle so well it should have been better. Things are back on form though with the best episode up to this point "Dragonshy".
Don't be put off by that "Dragonshy's" story is a simple one. This was actually an example of something where the story being simple working in its favour. It didn't bother me at all either that the outcome was not a surprising one, because it was so well done, did make me proud and moved and was a turning point in character for one pony in particular. A turning point that was not out of character in any way, not like Applejack or Rainbow Dash in "Boast Busters" and gave them some much needed development.
Something that "Dragonshy" excels brilliantly in. It never fails to amaze me at how rich the character development is in 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic', which more than makes up for any stories being potentially too predictable or simplistic ("Dragonshy" just about avoids both). This has some of the best and most relatable characterisation of the show up to this early stage, it was high time Fluttershy got some development and did relate to her situation even when she was unintentionally bothering everybody, in quite inventive and amusing ways actually, and then there is one pivotal and brilliantly written scene where she comes into her own in a way one doesn't expect from her and one admires and is touched by her. Thankfully it didn't feel rushed either, another danger with character development.
The other ponies have shining moments, especially with their ways of fooling the dragon and their consequences. But it's Fluttershy that sticks out here. Love the chemistry between the ponies and how powerful their friendship is, it is easy to tell that they care for each other even when something bad happens. The moral as ever is a sincere and educational one, a good one to teach youngsters early on.
Once again, the animation is great and is getting better all the time. The bright colours, meticulously detailed and often elegant backgrounds and adorable but never too cute character designs still appeals. The music has presence but never over-bears what is going on. Personally don't have a problem with the theme song, am aware some find it take it or leave it. Much more infectious and memorable though is Pinkie Pie's song. The voice acting continues to impress, the most emotive coming from Andrea Libman as Fluttershy.
In conclusion, wonderful and among the better episodes of Season 1. 10/10
The Wreck of the Hesperus (1944)
Far from a wreck
When it came to the Terrytoons cartoons, never had a problem with the music, the animation improved significantly with each year, when the studio first started and in the 30s it was a weak point but now it's one of the good points. The story never was a strong suit and the characters and content varied wildly, something that was the case way back from when the studio started until their last cartoon.
1944 unsurprisingly was hit and miss in quality. Never great but wouldn't call either dire at the same time, a vast majority of them ranging between mediocre and decent. The general overall standard of the studio. 'The Wreck of the Hesperus' is the eighth cartoon to feature Terrytoons' most prolific character Mighty Mouse, but actually the first cartoon where he was known by that name. The previous seven cartoons, all but two made in 1943, saw him known as Super Mouse. Mostly though 'The Wreck of the Hesperus' is not really a Mighty Mouse cartoon as such.
Instead, Mighty Mouse feels more of a featuring character in the latter part of the cartoon in a loose reworking of the Longfellow poem. Although his role is nice if very formulaic (though this is one of his least repetitive cartoons narratively), he doesn't have much to do.
Some of the visual touches, while interesting and at points clever (like with the mice), don't add an awful lot and are pretty irrelevant to the narration, especially agreed the octopus. Pacing could have tightened a bit at times.
However, the animation is very nicely done. Hardly surprising as the animation quality had come on enormously by this point with Terrytoons, as said this is the component that improved the most over the years. It is nicely detailed, lively and colourful without being garish. Again, the music, the thing that was the most, and actually only, consistently good thing from the very beginning with Terrytoons, is a big strength. 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.
While never what one calls hilarious, there are amusing and clever touches. As well as enough energy and an unforced charm throughout. The Longfellow characters are engaging as is the narration, again agreed the most interesting aspect and is a perfect fit.
Concluding, pretty good and among the better Mighty Mouse cartoons. 7/10
The Water of Life
'The Water of Life' is a beautiful story and does not deserve its relative obscurity. In fact, to me it should be up among their better known stories and should be adapted much more. Namely because it contains one of Brothers Grimms' most likeable and most sympathetic lead characters, and not in too typical a way (which is a great thing), and the emotional impact got from it rivals that of some of their most famous work.
By all means there are recognisable elements that are unmistakably Brothers Grimm/fairy-tale storytelling, but not as much. Not saying that as a knock to other tales of theirs, just saying in comparison. Other than reading the story, if wanting to get to know 'The Water of Life' this version is a good place to start and does it justice. While 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' (or 'Grimm Fairy Tale Classics' to some) is a mostly very enjoyable and intriguing series, regardless with flaws with the music and inconsistent voice acting, and a good way of getting familiar with lesser known tales, some episodes are better than others.
Of which this episode is one of the best ones. There is an awful lot to love about 'The Water of Life' and what can be problems in the series are not issues here. The music fits better here than other episodes of 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' and gives off more whimsy and charm and less of the very stuck in the 80s vibe present in most of the series. Can find the voice acting inconsistent in other episodes, 'The Water of Life' is one of the few where all the voices fit the characters and delivered just right.
Have no issues with the animation, one of the best-looking 'Grimm Masterpiece Theater' episodes from personal opinion. The colours are vibrant, the backgrounds detailed and more meticulous than some other episodes of the series and the character designs are some of the series' most expressive. The intro and outro songs are very charming.
Very rarely have many problems with the writing, don't here. has maturity and entertainment value with enough for both children, without dumbing down or being too juvenile, and adults, without being too complicated. The story has immense charm and one of the very few episodes to be paced exactly right. As said, the lead character stands out here, he is very likeable and love how caring and far from shallow he is, the love relationship also not feeling rushed.
My only complaint is that the ending didn't feel quite satisfying, the loose ends give off an incomplete feel that is not there in the original fairy-tale.
In conclusion, great. 9/10
Marriage of millionaires
Disney was dear to my heart as a child. It is still dear to my heart now. 'Ducktales' is a fine example as to why, when it comes to favourite animated shows it is definitely up there and always has been. There are numerous animated shows, films and series that were great shows through younger eyes but are even better now due to more being gotten out of them, 'Ducktales' is one of them and one of the stronger examples.
To me, 'Ducktales' didn't have my definition of a bad episode, even weaker ones were better than weaker ones of most shows, though the earlier episodes were better when there was less too heavy focus on weaker characters. "Till Nephews Do Us Part" is not my definition of a bad episode, actually still consider it a very good one while finding that the show had many much better. It has almost everything great, but moments of the story and characterisation could have been even better than it was.
Scrooge is uncharacteristically stupid here, well lets slightly backtrack on that as that trait hasn't been unknown of him actually but not to this extent. It was very obvious early on, too early one might argue, what Millionaira's plans and what she was really like to the viewer as well as the rest of the characters and didn't completely buy personally Scrooge taking so long to get there.
While Millionaira was great fun and one can see what Scrooge sees in her, if she was slightly less one-dimensional it would have been less obvious perhaps. The climax also could have been better, that could have been very exciting but it felt very rushed.
Conversely, the great things are many. The animation is very good. It is bright and colourful with lively fluid movement, smooth drawing and meticulous attention to detail in the backgrounds. Even better is the music, it is again dynamic and beautifully orchestrated, never jarring with the action and full of energy. The theme song is one of the best and most irresistibly catchy theme songs of any of Disney's shows and there are many out there.
In terms of the writing, much of "Till Nephews Do Us Part" is very funny and smart, with some witty wordplay and some innuendo material that one doesn't expect. The story is driven by the great character interaction and the nephews are very well written here. They genuinely care for Scrooge and their pranks are both hilarious and imaginative. The voice acting is very good throughout, with Tress MacNeille clearly having great fun as Millionaira.
On the whole, good episode with great things. 7/10
The Fly II (1989)
Doesn't fly enough but not worth swatting
The 1986 film 'The Fly', itself a remake of the very good 1958 film with Vincent Price, is one of David Cronenberg's best films and not just one of the best remakes out there it is also to me one of the rare cases of the remake being superior to the original. 'The Fly' though is a brilliant film though too on its own, to the extent that one cannot believe or tell that it is a remake and calling it one is almost insulting considering the generally fairly dubious reputation of remakes.
Had heard a lot of bad things about 'The Fly II', nothing but from close friends and family and a little more mixed with trusted IMDb members, and was really not looking forward to seeing it and prepared myself to dislike it intensely. Decided to anyway for curiosity's sake. Finally seeing it, am going to be one of those people who didn't think 'The Fly II' was that awful and that it had its moments, so did not dislike it as intensely as feared. Also do not consider it a good film at all and there was absolutely no real need for it, if there was a list for pointless sequels 'The Fly II' would be on it. It has very little of what made the 1986 film as brilliant as it was. Just to say when saying about it not being a good film at all that is both as a sequel and as an overall film.
Always try to see the good in the average or less films, and there are moments here. Eric Stoltz does a good job in carrying the film and allowing one to root for him. John Getz has a few amusing moments that come too far and between and gives the film's most energetic performance.
Did think that the mutated dog bit was touching and the special effects and overall look of 'The Fly II' are impressive.
Sadly also thought that there was an over-reliance on the effects and especially on the gore and it made the mistake of over-shadowing most of everything else. Meaning that the spirit is lost. The subtlety is completely missing as one is bombarded with the gore and horror. The horror fails in being particularly scary or suspenseful, and became increasingly predictable and schlocky. Apart from one moment, there is very little of an emotional connection and it was that that set the first 'The Fly' apart from most horrors. There is nothing memorable or special about the music, with the part that is most remembered being the country song and that is because it is so toe-curlingly bad.
From start to finish, with the last twenty minutes being where 'The Fly II' finally too late shows a little spark, the story is a big problem. Structurally it's more incomplete sketches than a coherent narrative when there actually is signs of a story, which is scant. Even more off is the pacing, with 'The Fly II' being severely lacking in momentum. For instance taking forever to get going and with a severely underveloped romantic subplot that badly slows the film down and is easily fast-forwardable. The characters are similarly flimsy, especially Veronica, the script is as soggy as out of date lettuce and Chris Walas should have stuck to effects because tonally his direction is all over the map, at some points too restrained at other points heavy-handed.
Altogether, below average but not that awful. Was expecting far worse considering the reputation. 4/10
The Tragedy of Coriolanus (1984)
Vengeance with enough blood
Although the BBC Television Shakespeare series is an uneven one, as has been said more than once, it is also a truly fascinating one and a must for anybody who wants to see all of Shakespeare's plays done as part of one whole big project. A big brave undertaking that should be applauded regardless of the execution, whether continually good, continually bad or inconsistent.
'Coriolanus' is no exception. It is not an easy play to perform or stage and dramatically is not as concise or as consistently gripping as other Shakespeare plays. One of Shakespeare's most compelling and more complex titular characters is one of the main interest points. While it is not a perfect production, flawlessness was not seen a lot in this series even in the best productions, for me 'The Tragedy of Coriolanus' is among the higher middle ones of the series and is as above satisfactory a performance of 'Coriolanus' as one can get. It is not completely bloodthirsty and it could have seared more but it is a long way from bloodless or bland.
It's with some of the production values where 'The Tragedy of Coriolanus' could have been better. The abrupt transitions in the editing being especially the case, but some of the lighting is on the overripe, obvious side at times as well and this is one of the productions in the series where a more austere touch actually would have been a benefit and blended more. Most of the time actually though, it is one of the more interestingly lit productions and does look very striking.
Not all the more action-oriented scenes completely work either, veering on the clumsy side of things but smoother editing would have helped things much better, also along with the crowd scenes pretty under-populated.
However, the sets are beautifully designed, on the most part apart from the editing and at times the lighting 'The Tragedy of Coriolanus' struck me as one of the better looking productions of the BBC Television Shakespeare series. The staging is coherent and more often than not has enough dramatic intensity and emotional impact to make the drama interesting and investable.
Thought personally that Alan Howard very much excelled as Coriolanus, it is a very committed and often fiercely powerful portrayal. The other acting standout is Irene Worth, sincere and poignant Volumnia. The character interaction is done very well as is the rest of the acting.
Overall, very well done. 8/10
Turlis Abenteuer (1967)
The Adventures of Pinocchio
Carlo Collodi's book has always been a joy to read for me, although some of it is dark it has also always been an accessible read. Evidenced by me reading it from cover to cover one holiday in two days, not always the case with books even others that gripped me from the get go (namely because they were longer books and more complex). And the characters and story are timeless.
DEFA distributed a number of fairy tale adaptations from East Germany, some are better than others but they do intrigue. Mainly for seeing older versions of these stories and some have some very interesting differences to the original stories. All are worth a look, if some more for curiosity and completest sake. Their version of 'Pinocchio' from 1967 is one of their darkest (one might say "grotesque") and also one of their best and perhaps most successful. Also think it is one of the better versions of 'Pinocchio', the most famous of which deservedly is the Disney animated film (which to me is a masterpiece), which is second only to their 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame' in the darkness factor.
'Turlis Abenteuer' (not sure about the significance of the title), DEFA's version of 'Pinocchio' is more faithful to the book, with more of the book's details and more faithful characterisation, and perhaps darker. Though the more gorier aspects aren't intact, understandably, the biting of a cat's paw is not exactly the most comfortable of images when trying to attract younger audiences. There is an awful lot to like here in this 'Pinocchio' and very little to dislike.
Occasionally the acting is a touch too theatrical, like with Stromboli (difficult not to play broadly).
However, this 'Pinocchio' looks great. Very beautifully and atmospherically shot and a lot of care and effort clearly went into the sets, that were so meticulous in detail. Especially good in this regard though, and actually surprisingly so, was the puppetry, some may find it creepy but not me. Actually admired the attention to detail and was amazed at the sometimes complex movement, wide range of body gestures and especially the wide range of expressions for Pinocchio, all of which required enormous technical skill and done better than a lot of puppetry in later films. The editing also helps quite a bit.
It would have been a tall order having music on the same level as that for the Disney film. To keep the comparison brief for fairness, it's not as instantly hummable or stays in the mind as long, but it regardless always fits and adds a lot to the atmosphere. It appeals to the ears too. The script doesn't become too camp, is lively and it feels natural and the story doesn't come over as traumatising or sugary, moving along nicely without feeling padded (a good thing as although 'Pinocchio' is not a massive story it is not a slight one either).
Direction does a great job in the technical front and also in the varied character interaction. Mostly the acting is deserving of credit, reacting just to a puppet is not easy at all but they don't come over as taxed. It is especially difficult for Geopetto, the fox and the cat, the ones with the most interaction in a way, who give the three best performances after the titular character. The fairy is suitably sincere too and Pinocchio himself is remarkably well characterised on all counts.
Summarising, extremely well done. 9/10
The Man in the Brown Suit
'Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie' is a very interesting and generally enjoyable series, as long as one doesn't mind that almost all the episodes are very loose adaptations and use her work as basic frameworks while never disgracing Christie. Mostly a good one too, though wasn't a fan of some of the episodes, none are terrible really. For fans of foreign detective/mystery series and wanting to see less famous ones, this is well worth the time.
Did think that the Laurence/Avril era started shakily and that for Larrosiere/Lampion was more consistent and their chemistry settled much quicker. Their episodes were by now much better and their chemistry more harmonious, with Laurence more relaxed now. "L'Homme au Complet Marron" is the second (loose) adaptation of 'The Man in the Brown Suit', very much readable but nowhere near a Christie classic. The first adaptation being the made for television film from the late 80s, which was a very mild diversion but a long way from great really.
Pacing occasionally could have been tighter and had more suspense. It is an episode where there is not much wrong and of the two 'The Man in the Brown Suit' adaptations (or at least adaptations inspired by) it is the infinitely superior one.
As always with 'Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie', "L'Homme au Complet Marron" is a sumptuous looking episode. The colours are both vibrant and atmospheric and the photography is stylish. The music continues to match the light-hearted and at times very atmospheric tone without any jarring. The writing thought provokes and intrigues, also on the most part entertaining.
Was not a fan of Laurence at first and it took a while for me to warm to him. Just found him obnoxious and stiff and that his chemistry with Alice (always a far more interesting and likeable character, who is consistently one of the bright spots of the series) didn't gel. He is now much more relaxed and is actually surprisingly very funny. Really enjoy Marlene, warm, good natured and funny, and Elodie Frenck brings that out very well.
Even if the pace is not consistent and it is a touch conventional, the mystery does have enough compelling and twisty, which keeps one on their tones and guessing, parts and is respectful. The ending does shock. The humour is plentiful and is not overdone, the light-heartedness endearing and genuinely amusing. The supporting cast are solid with nobody overacting or underplaying, just doing what their roles ask of them to do.
Altogether, very enjoyable. 8/10