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I would also like to apologize just as much, and I really hope that the apology makes a difference in the future, for seemingly bothering anybody with the wording and content of some of my reviews. When I write a review, it always tries to be perceptive and honest with never any intent to be horrible or annoying. That there are people that seem to be upset and even offended by my writing does sadden me a good deal, I hate getting on the wrong side of people and hate upsetting them which is a symptom of my autism. It is never my intent to deliberately annoy anybody. I have made an enormous effort in addressing the repetition that has happened in a minority handful of my work for a short period of time (when I did get a bit lazy), which clearly annoyed somebody or some people at first, and that effort continues to be made. I really hope that people can see that as I know that that was the reason when the down-voting started, having been taken to task over it. As far as I'm concerned, there has been little to no repetition for a year and a half now certainly not in duplicate style. I do appreciate the support that I have garnered and although the vast number of useful votes in the seemingly increasing popularity of my writing is lovely and appreciated, it may make a difference (as it may be a reason for the abuse) if the up-voting didn't happen quite as frequently. This is not a case of self-up-voting, I wouldn't do that and I do think that that is what the person/people responsible is/are thinking. Again, I am very sorry about my behaviour and hope that people can forgive me.
I know that I lashed out too verbally to a user here (don't know who for certain but have a good idea) after being taken aback by the unnecessarily crass way they spoke to me on another website. This was when I was in an especially bad place and in a desperate attempt to sort the review problem out once and for all (at that time at its worst) acted in an extreme way that I know now was an over-reaction. I have regret over what I said and retaliated in a not much better way, though one would not blame me for acting the way I did if seeing the offensive abuse thrown at me using words demeaning to women and disabled people. I would like to apologize for this, it was not my intention to cause upset and am upset I have done. Even being indirectly accused of abusing limits by somebody I trusted and then lied about me.
Just to say that although it doesn't look it right now (to me it will have looked my work has increased, not the case) and probably won't do, I have decided to slow down and write less reviews. To concentrate on my semi-professional singing career and sort my life out. Something that I was actually starting to do last year, with writing less reviews a day and not writing at weekends or every week. Every three weeks or so I will have a week or two off and every three or four months I shall not be writing for between two weeks and a month, perhaps more. This is entirely my own decision, something I had planned for a while and has already happened two or three times. No forcing or influencing here, just that I need breaks and I have contributed heavily here and written a lot of reviews. I will cause suspicion, more so than has been the case for a while now, if I carry on at the rate I did do. Thank you everybody for what has been said to me overtime, supporting me and any kind words and stay healthy during this truly unpleasant time for the world.
Had a major operation on my back in March 2011 to improve my scoliosis. I also have Aspergers Syndrome (hence why I get very overly passionate and hot-headed when something, especially reviewers resorting to condescension and with the inability to tell the difference between fact and opinion, annoys me) and primary epilepsy, both of which I'm coping with but there are also days that are a struggle with the epilepsy getting worse overtime. Also a problem in recent years has been an on and off weight problem, with a lot of losing weight in a short space of time because my insecurities and anxiety have been issues for a while.
Am a massive film, of all genres and decades, animation and classical music/opera lover. All of which helped me relax and kept me going when I was going through rough patches (namely health problems, stress and bullying) and had moments where I felt like giving up.
It is for those reasons as to why I have watched as much as I have and why I have contributed so heavily here. Furthermore, I enjoy it, doing the reviews has broadened my film knowledge significantly and has improved my writing skills and how I express myself.
A lot of my reviews (especially those for concert/opera ballet productions), during particularly prolific years, have been through watching things related to my course and during some lengthy breaks from studying. Just to clarify for those wondering, or even suspicious of (having been accused of being a liar a sometimes, a few of which got personal), how I have contributed as much as I have and why. Most of my reviews too have been for individual episodes for shows seen in my spare time and as a child so there is nothing suspicious about wanting to review individual episodes and cartoons watched from a young age and over-time.
Being part of IMDb has not been without its downsides and annoyances, but the friends and admirers I've garnered through being a user has given me a lot of confidence. I also wish to thank everybody who have contacted me, with praise for my reviews and wishing me well, it means a lot. Apologies too for any slow or non responses, I can be very busy to reply or shy, it's not because I'm rude.
Ratings for films:
8. Very good
7. Worth watching
3. Pretty lame
2. Very poor
Mrs White: Life after death is as improbable as sex after marriage. (Clue)
"You're not stupid to have faith"
Even from reading the plot synopsis, one sort of knows that "View From Up Here" is going to be a somewhat strange episode. Strange is not always a bad thing, there are films and television episodes that are that but also manage to intrigue and entertain. But there are also those that go overboard and become silly and confused. So it depends on the execution. This is an episode that is going to divide viewers, and has divided come to think of it, methinks.
"View From Up Here" for me was something of an uneven episode and one of the lesser episodes of Season 4. It is better than "Eosphoros" and "In the Dark", but is no "Semi-Detached", "Want" or "Magnificat" comparing it briefly to the previous Season 4 episodes. It is something that starts off incredibly promisingly, but becomes too bizarre and not as probable later on. Which is a shame because the concept actually was one of the more oddly interesting ones of the first half of the season.
Will start with the many good things. The production values as ever are slick and with the right amount of muted grit, the photography doesn't try to do anything too fancy or gimmicky while not being claustrophobic and keeping things simple. The music doesn't overbear with the theme tune still memorable and the direction is accomodating yet tight enough. As said, "View From Up Here" started off with great promise, the case was very absorbing and wasn't obvious or over-serious. The method of murder is quite a unique one for up to this point of the show's run.
Much of the script is thought probing and flows well, the quoted line from Goren is a powerful one and Eames has a wonderfully sassy one-liner comparing buildings to wall. There are some nice character moments, such as seeing Goren in compassionate mode (he is amazing in this regard with younger characters) and when he plays with a circular saw at his desk. Did appreciate that the subject didn't get too heavy-handed, a big danger with this type of story. Vincent D'Onofrio is terrific as always and the guest performances from particularly Missy Doty and Kathleen Robertson are of strong quality too.
However, to me the second half wasn't as good as the first. It did intrigue but wasn't as focused and could have gone into more detail with what is revealed, which made things become muddled. It also became silly and uncomfortably bizarre, and took the off the wall factor to extremes.
Instead of being suspenseful or shocking, the story became increasingly unlikely. Which is most obvious in one of the show's most absurd and "stretching credibility to beyond breaking point" denouements.
Summing up, decent but uneven. 6.5/10
Resilience at its most dysfunctional
On my first viewing of "Resilience", it struck me as another very good episode of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit's' Season 4 and of the show. If not one of my favourites, then again there are many fine episodes in this season. On first watch (which was about five or six years ago now), it was cleverly plotted and emotional as well as creeped me out and with elements of strangeness. Even though part of me didn't understand everything that went on later on.
Five or so re-watches later (have seen a vast majority of 'Special Victims Unit's' episodes at least twice, apart from the ones that didn't quite do it for me), my assessment of "Resilience" is almost exactly the same though fares even better on re-watch. What stuck out at me as particularly good on first viewing still sticks out now in the same way and overall it is a very good and nearly great episode, if again not quite one of my favourites of Season 4. It's not quite "Chameleon" or "Dolls" level.
"Resilience" for my liking does get a bit muddled in the latter portions. Perhaps because of trying to cram in too many revelations in, there are quite a lot that come at a fairly dizzying rate, and not having enough time to properly explore them. For instance there wasn't much of a reason provided for the need for more kids or for why the victim was being followed on the subway.
A shame because up to then "Resilience" was absolutely great. It's well made, intimately photographed and slick with no signs of under-budget or anything. The music didn't sound melodramatic or too constant and the direction is accomodating while still having pulse. The writing doesn't ramble, although as usual there is a lot of dialogue to digest, and really provokes thought, disturbs and brings a lump to the throat.
The story for most of the episode is hugely intriguing, it was strange at times but it was also disturbing with one of the most chillingly dysfunctional families in 'Special Victims Unit' history (the truly warped father especially). As well as emotional in the chemistry between Stabler and Jackie, where Stabler's paternal side comes out and it is great to see a sympathetic side to him balanced with the tough cop side when with suspects. Munch and Fin are a great duo and have some great lines in their interplay with Randall.
Love the team and how they work, not letting the case get too over-personal and they work cohesively. The regulars are all on fine form, especially Christopher Meloni who is both intense and sympathetic. Rachael Bella is affecting as Jackie and Titus Welliver's Landricks chills.
Summing up, very good and actually great until it got a little muddled. 8/10
Law & Order: Censure (1994)
"Censure" is most interesting for seeing some development to Claire Kincaid, newly introduced in Season 4 and who had by this point settled very well. It was a shame that she didn't last longer and she had good chemistry with Stone, which is very evident here especially in how Stone reacts to what she reveals. The case sounded very interesting, as did the defendant, and seemed less obvious than the cases of a few previous episodes of the season.
After a slight quality slump, not by much though, post-"American Dream", Season 4 is back on track with one of the better episodes of its second half "Censure". The case is suitably twisted, just as much as the previous episode "Breeder", and is a good deal more intricate than "The Pursuit of Happiness" especially and not as predictable. You do feel uneasy about the defendant, but that doesn't feel overly obvious here in "Censure". Kincaid's character writing is done very well here.
Only the agreed slightly abrupt ending disappoints. Other than that, "Censure" is near-classic 'Law and Order'.
Throughout all the performances are excellent. Michael Moriarty really shines in his chemistry with the equally excellent Jill Hennessy (here giving one of her best performances of her run on the show in my opinion), his shock and upset very believable, and when trying to get the truth out of Thayer (a very suspenseful moment that). Dave Groh is creepiness personified and George Grizzard brings a lot of energy to his recurring role. Jane Kaczmarek is affecting and John Ramsay also shines in that aforementioned moment with Stone.
Moreover, although the investigative/procedural elements are intriguing and entertain, but the legal scenes are even better and very honestly and thoughtfully written. The tension between Stone and Kincaid is beautifully played and written with real tension boiling between the two. The case doesn't get obvious or convoluted and is one of the most twisted of Season 4 along with "Breeder" where one is truly rooting for a conviction. That scene between Stone, Thayer and Schreiber is one powerful piece of writing and storytelling.
Production values are typically slick, as are the direction and pacing. The music is haunting without being over-emphatic.
All in all, wonderful and a near-classic. 9/10
Say Cheese, Please (1970)
Roland and Rattfink at the movies
While not a fan of the Roland and Rattfink series running from 1968 to 1971 strictly speaking, a middling theatrical series from DePatie-Freleng Enterprises (not one of their best or worst), their seventeen cartoons are a long way from being unwatchable. The general standard being interesting enough and decent if uneven and never particularly reaching greatness, most having similar strengths but the same faults are present too.
'Say Cheese Please' is neither among the best or worst Roland and Rattfink cartoons. Would personally put it somewhere around high middle, where enough of the series' general good points are evident but that is also the case with the series' serial flaws. 'Say Cheese Please' had one of the Roland and Rattfink series' best concepts and there was a lot of potential to have a lot of fun with it. Watching it, it does do that but it had room to have even more so if some of the material was fresher.
Am going to start with 'Say Cheese Please's' good points this time. The music never feels like it has too much of a heavy hand, it never felt repetitive and its light-hearted tone suited the lively energy of the cartoon more than ideally. This component is a very important one to talk about for me when reviewing, being a musician (semi-professional classical/opera singer), so that's why it's brought up constantly in my reviews. The gags are seldom hilarious, but although it is very low on the creativity factor they are amusing as are the reactions. It is always fun when any cartoon portrays the film industry and film in general in a way that is either nostalgic or satirical etc, it's portrayed with some nostalgia and wit here.
It is clear that the writers had fun with Rattfink too, it is a different side to him (the previous cartoons didn't see him this demanding) but not in a way that's inconsistent. 'Say Cheese Please' still has him being the brunt of the violence, the source of the comic relief and still being unscrupulous and snide. The producer, who looks a little like Rattfink but in a suit, was an amusing character. Lennie Weinrib relishes Rattfink and his dialogue.
He isn't as strong as Roland, who even for a matinee idol character (a sort of character he sounded perfect for) was rather bland. The animation is uneven with limitations showing, nice vibrant colours but quite sketchy in the drawing and the backgrounds are elaborate sometimes but quite sparse in others.
Didn't care for the ending, which is cheesy and may not go down well with some. Other Roland and Rattfink cartoons have much funnier endings that stick in the memory more.
Overall, could have been better but decent. 6/10
'Brideshead Revisited' from the very start was a classic book, given perfect justice by one of the finest book to television adaptations ever made (didn't care for the 2008 film much at all). The characters, the emotional depth, the storytelling, it all comes together, book and adaptation, like a beautifully wrapped package. Things took a darker, more sombre and even meatier tone around the sixth episode (named "Julia") and that continued up to the powerful end.
"Orphans of the Storm" is one of the series' parts where the darker and more sombre turn is evident. Will admit to not finding it quite as engrossing as for instance "The Unseen Hook" of the previous episodes and the very last episode "Brideshead Revisited" of the following two episodes. That doesn't mean that "Orphans of the Storm" is not compelling, it absolutely is in particularly the character relationships and it is still more than excellent in every regard as to be expected. Just found the series more emotionally powerful in other episodes respectfully.
The storytelling still engages, leisurely and deliberate but never dull because it is eventful. "Orphans of the Storm" is at its most dramatically compelling with the relationship between Charles and Celia and with Anthony Blanche. He is an absolute snake here with Nickolas Grace sinking his teeth into the material, one really hates him more than they already do. Celia, as calm and aristocratic as ought, also plays a prominent role and Waugh's brilliant characterisation of the relationship between her and Charles aboard the ship is translated equally brilliantly in the series. Julia, the complete opposite of Celia, has really grown as a character and her development gets richer all the time.
All the acting is great. Grace is a scene stealer and Jane Asher is the embodiment of Celia. Diana Quick is both affecting and formidable. Nearly 40 years on and Charles Ryder is still one of Jeremy Irons' best roles for reasons that have been given in a couple of the reviews for the previous episodes, there is a reason as to why it was his big break.
Likewise with the dialogue, always eloquent and never too heavy on the talk, the retrospective moments are so poetic and as said it is very striking with Charles and Celia. "Orphans of the Storm" looks beautiful, the handsome and authentic period detail complemented in a never overblown or static way by the photography. The direction is accomodating yet assured and the music from the classic main theme to the end is an ideal fit throughout.
Concluding, cannot find anything wrong here. 10/10
Criminal Minds: Starter Home (2018)
After such a great season opener in 'Criminal Minds' third milestone episode "300" (after Season 5's brilliant "100" and Season 9's weak "200"), and with the show being for a while one of my most re-watched since it first began before moving on to other shows a lot was expected from "Starter Home". Plus the concept sounded pretty cool and a healthy dose of Rossi and Reid (my two main reasons for sticking with the show when it declined) is always welcome.
"Starter Home" was quite a big disappointment, especially after following on from greatness. Not a terrible episode as such, and there are far worse 'Criminal Minds' episodes which were namely the worst of Seasons 9 and 11, but rather middle of the road and a long way from 'Criminal Minds' at its best. As far as Season 14 goes, it is neither one of the best or worst. Compensated by Rossi and Reid's presence but the case underwhelms and the writers seemed to forget what made prime-'Criminal Minds' so great.
Like all 'Criminal Minds' episodes, none of the episodes even the weak ones are irredeemable, there are good things about "Starter Home". Again, it is slickly and atmospherically shot. The music didn't sound too constant or too loud, and had an ominous without being too obvious vibe when used.
Rossi and Reid, my favourite BAU members, are delightful. Rossi has some nice sass and Reid's intelligence is amusing and thought-provoking, the Sheriff's confusion when told all this information Reid is put forth is understandable as one would feel the same trying to take in what Reid rightly says. Joe Mantegna and Matthew Gray Gubler carry the episode beautifully. The episode starts off promisingly with some creepiness.
Unfortunately, this wasn't maintained all the way through when "Starter Home" too early becomes not as interesting as it ought to have been. There is not enough urgency or suspense to the case, which sounds intriguing on paper but was pretty routine in execution. Tension and suspense is lacking too throughout and it would have helped if the unsub made a stronger impression. Which wasn't to be sadly, this unsub completely lacked menace or anything to make one feel anything for. The motivation was rather extreme and weak for such elaborate crimes, and the modus operandi and the significance could have gone into more detail.
While Rossi and Reid fare very well, the rest of the team felt relatively underused this time and there isn't as much of a sense of closeness, the procedural work this time is little more than conventional and could have been more. Rossi's subplot is rather soapy and doesn't add anything, actually found it out of place within the episode. Some of the writing is thought-provoking but mostly it could have been tauter and been a lot more than just functional.
All in all, middle of the road and disappointing. 5/10
The Crown: Windsor (2016)
Bearing the name of Windsor
The first episode of 'The Crown' "Wolferton Splash" was a great and extremely promising start to a (mostly) gem of a series, and quickly became a year highlight when premiered. The next episode "Hyde Park Corner" was even better, with everything being richer from the tension, storytelling and characterisation. Everything that is so great about 'The Crown', though wasn't generally as impressed with the most recent season, is present in those two episodes.
It is the same with the third episode "Windsor", which ratings-wise here is about equal with "Hyde Park Corner" but if there was a preference to me this was slightly superior. Showing that 'The Crown' at this very early stage was still going from strength to strength. It has all of the things that made "Hyde Park Corner" such a wonderful episode, but does all of that episode's great things even better with a good deal going on and a good deal of conflict.
"Windsor's" production values are wonderful. The production and costume design are both classy and sumptuous, but it's the photography that stands out in this regard. Much of it is quite stunning and some of the best of the whole of Season 1, the shots of the boat agreed are memorable and to me cinematic-worthy. The music is neither too intrusive or too low key, with beautiful use of Wagner's "Liebestod" in the affecting montage.
Once again the writing always intrigues and provokes a lot of thought, the meeting between David/Edward VIII and Churchill is brilliantly written, while the story shows further progression and has even more tension than "Hyde Park Corner". In namely the Churchill subplot and the characterisation of David (one that avoids being too one-dimensional yet one can see why he was hated). Really liked Elizabeth's character development here, she really grows and one can completely relate to her fish out of water scenario. The politics is emphasised a lot here with a lot of tension but it doesn't get too heavy or complicated.
All the acting is on point, Claire Foy is so expressive and dignified as Elizabeth and John Lithgow's Churchill is lively and crusty. Alex Jennings manages to be smarmy while not making David overly detestable.
In conclusion, outstanding. 10/10
Northern Lights of Christmas (2018)
Not enough light for this Christmas
'Northern Lights of Christmas' is a long way from being one of the worst Hallmark Christmas films, of the 2018 batch and overall. It is also a long way from being one of the best. 2018 was a very mixed year for Hallmark when it came to their Christmas output, most ranging between lacklustre and just above average with some very bad and surprisingly good ones as well. So very variable which was not surprising for such a big batch of festive films from that year.
As far as Hallmark's Christmas output goes for 2018, 'Northern Lights of Christmas' is somewhere around average middle. That is very much applicable for their Christmas output overall, the film is around average middle in this regard too. 'Northern Lights of Christmas' is a film with good things and moments, but for me it also had a lot of shortcomings (a few of them being the usual Hallmark gremlins). So feelings are somewhat mixed here.
Shall start with the good things. The production values are quite nice, the scenery being beautiful even. Regardless of questions about authenticity the film for me was easy on the eyes. Some of the soundtrack is nostalgic and appropriately festive. There is evidence of charm and heart and the joy of Christmas is captured well.
Corey Sevier does have a stereotypical role done to death in other Hallmark films, but actually is very charming in it and doesn't come over as too uptight and certainly far from dull. The supporting cast are better than average.
That cannot be said unfortunately for Ashley Williams, really did want to be another reviewer that liked her in 'Northern Lights of Christmas' but sadly that's not the case. Am another person that felt that she tried too hard to the point that she got annoying and rather shrill, she has a lovely smile but overuses it. Her chemistry with Sevier has sweet moments but on the most part it doesn't sparkle enough and when it comes to the development it's both rushed in how too quickly the relationship evolves and also under-baked. The characters are too much like recycled cliches.
Which is pretty much the case with most of the story too, especially in the final third capped off by the as ever too neat and hastily resolved ending. Everything is obvious and there are too many things that happen too conveniently or come over as contrived. The dialogue has too much awkwardness and over-sentimentality with a lot of cheese thrown in too. The music tends to be too loud and doesn't always gel tonally.
On the whole, rather mixed feelings here. 5/10
Holiday Miracle (2014)
Small in charm and effort
Part of me really wanted to like 'Small Town Santa'. Despite the low rating and that it did not look great, because Christmas is my favourite holiday and Dean Cain is a very watchable actor deserving of far better projects to star/feature in it was still seen anyway. Part of me really wanted to join the more positive reviews here, and have been known to have contrarian opinions in the past so watched it with an open mind aiming to know what to expect.
Even when really trying to not take things seriously and trying to take it for what it is, 'Small Town Santa' has a few redeeming qualities but overall it didn't work for me. Do have to agree with those that are more critical of the film. 'Small Town Santa' is not one of the worst Christmas films in existence, many others are far worse. Many other Christmas films though are far better and if looking for a festive classic to me this is not one of them.
'Small Town Santa' isn't a complete loss. Cain, despite bad dialogue and a stock character, brings a good deal of amiable charm and doesn't overdo or mail in (unlike the rest of the cast). Some of the scenery is attractive enough.
There are some nice nostalgic moments on the soundtrack.
Unfortunately, there is so much that works against 'Small Town Santa'. When it comes to the acting, only Cain is tolerable. Everybody else overacts to an unintentionally campy degree, with the worst offender being Janet Caine. None of the characters feel like real people or are likeable (yes even Santa), instead they were one-dimensional caricatures and ones that had not much personality or were annoying. The character of Diane especially for me was insufferably irritating. There really was not that much of a script and all the dialogue sounds like bad corny improvisation.
Low budget is evident in the visuals as there was a very rushed look throughout, especially in the flat and quite haphazard photography. The story is also thin as near melted ice and has no real charm or heart, just non-stop cheesiness, excessive schmaltz, convenient contrivances and a dreary pace. There could have been a chance to slightly overlook the predictability but the other story problems are far less easy to forgive. The odd pleasant moment aside, the music generally is forgettable at best.
In summary, very weak. 3/10
The Christmas Contract (2018)
Worth signing this contract
Throughout my whole Lifetime (Hallmark too) Christmas film completest quest undertaken namely late last year, an interesting quest but very hit and miss, there was never the mentality of expecting a classic or the film in question to be flawless. Something that was never managed with Lifetime's output. There was always the expectation of seeing a film where one can see at least some effort rather than merely cash-in level. One could see that with enough of Lifetime's work.
Effort that could be seen with one of their better 2018 Christmas efforts. As far as their Christmas films go overall too 'The Christmas Contract' fares favourably, and is a contract worth signing if not quite a must sign. Anybody wanting originality and award winning dialogue will feel short-changed, but anybody wanting to see a film that doesn't take itself too seriously while seriously enough to stop it from being campy or something, a film that charms and warms the heart should find some worth in 'The Christmas Contract'.
As with much of Lifetime's output, it is pretty formulaic and predictable with the final quarter especially being very easy to figure out what happens next and in somewhat too neat a way.
Some of the dialogue, namely early on, is laughably corny and quite awkward. Count me in as another person that found the music too intrusive and over-bearing.
However, the production values still manage to be pleasing. It's not too drab or garish in photography, the editing didn't seem rushed or disorganised and the scenery has a real charm to it. Some of the soundtrack has a nostalgic feel to it. The dialogue does improve, the flow relaxes and it was sweet. Despite surprises being very few, the story still mostly engages and scores high on the charm and heart-warming factors.
Lifetime generally do better than Hallmark at having characters worth caring for, and 'The Christmas Contract' has characters that may not be three-dimensional but have likeability in their own way and don't have any negative character traits exaggerated. Hilarie Burton brings a lot of charm and energy to her role, as does Robert Buckley. They look very relaxed together and their chemistry came over to me as genuine. The supporting cast also do well, nobody overacts and nobody looks bored.
Overall, didn't blow me away but very pleasant. 7/10
The Walking Dead: The Well (2016)
Restraint after violence
The previous episode "The Day Will Come Before You Won't Be" was surprisingly not bad at all, despite going too overboard on the violent tone. Am saying surprisingly, because it followed on from such a disappointing finish to the previous season, an inconsistent one but with many fine things. And because it opened the season where 'The Walking Dead' went notoriously downhill and felt like a completely different show altogether.
Despite a much lower rating here as of now, for me Season 7's second episode "The Well" was a little better and it is not hard to see why it was one of the best received episodes of the season by quite a large margin. It is a very solid episode, interesting for introducing one to The Kingdom and another new character, albeit a very different one compared to the previous episode, its more restrained and calmer tone being a welcome departure from before. While it won't be for all tastes and it's a long way from being 'The Walking Dead' at its best, "The Well" is one of Season 7's better episodes in my view.
It is certainly not perfect. It is a little too slow in spots, the episode being somewhat of a slow-starter and it is with the Saviors when it gets going, and bogged down by being a little too exposition heavy. Some of it being rambling (if not as much as Negan's dialogue in "The Day Will Come Before You Won't Be").
Other episodes did a better job at progressing the characters, with the introduction of Ezekiel being the most striking thing in this regard, and at moving the story forward (the episode is not complete filler though), the closest "The Well" comes to being that is other than the introduction to the Kingdom the hostility between the Kingdom and the Saviors.
However, "The Well" is stylishly photographed without trying to do too much, no trying-to-be-too-clever editing to be seen here, or being too static. Shiva looks great. The music avoids being too bombastic or being too low-key, being suitably haunting. Personally do prefer it when the direction has more tension, especially of the uncompromising kind, but did appreciate the sensitivity of it here. While the dialogue is not perfect, it is quite thought-provoking and intrigues enough, especially between Ezekial and Carol. Melissa McBride, Lennie James and Khary Payton are excellent throughout.
Although, like the script, the storytelling is flawed, there are things done well. The big scene between Ezekiel and Carol is particularly well done, great chemistry between the two, not too heavy-handed and really probes thought. Close behind is with the Saviors, that had intensity and a further sign of how dangerous they are. Carol and Morgan's story here is on the most part more interesting than in "Last Day on Earth", which didn't fit with the rest of the episode. It was great to have "The Well" focusing on two of the show's better regular characters and focusing on less characters than tends to be the case, am aware that fans had issues with Carol's development in the latter episodes of Season 6 but she is very well handled here and Morgan has come on a lot. Ezekiel is a colourfully characterised character, very intriguing and enigmatic.
In summary, well done if not top-'The Walking Dead' standard. Better than a lot of what came after though, which was a completely different story. 7/10
Modern fairy tales
"Fairy Tales for the 90s" could easily have been great. Am a big fan of animation, something that is most likely very well known around here now, and have always loved fairy tales and children's literature. They have mixed very well many times in animation, with Looney Tunes and Tex Avery faring especially well, the best being brilliant. 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' has been pastiched many times in animation but have always been fond of the story so can't complain.
While by no means a bad episode, "Fairy Tales for the 90s", made up of Babs as Tinkerbunny making a hash out of introducing the segments, "Bunnochio" and "Bear Necessities", doesn't live up fully to its potential. It was very interesting seeing modern spins on familiar stories but the material needed to be a lot fresher than this. This was a case of an episode where the wraparound story fared better than the segments. As for the segment, one is quite fun but the other generally misses the mark in my view, have always felt that way.
The better of the two is "Bunnochio" by quite some way. There is not much original or hilarious in it, but there are a fair share of funny lines and gags, the setting is made good affectionate use of, Buster has such a strong personality that he has more than enough presence to carry the segment and the supporting characters are quite fun if not unforgettable. Babs' 'Rocky and Bullwinkle'-like wraparound story has the most inspired material and Babs' characterisation is classic Babs (a treat as she is to me one of my favourite 'Tiny Toon Adventures' characters), meaning razor sharp wit and a wonderfully looney atmosphere that the segments didn't have quite enough of.
Animation is vibrantly coloured and beautifully rich in detail, not just the backgrounds but also the expressions and reactions of the characters which are wonderfully loony. The music is dynamic and characterful as always and the theme song has always brought a smile to my face. Something that was the case when a child and still is now. The voice acting is very good, Tress MacNeille gives her material so much life and shows how incredibly talented and versatile she is as a voice actress.
"Bear Necessities" however could have been a lot better. The animation, music and voice acting are fine, but 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' is such a familiar and oft-revisited in animation story and very little new or fresh, even when updating it, is done with it here. The material feels stale and on the wackiness meter the segment is quite low down in comparison to the rest of the episode. Elmyra seemed like a good, if somewhat predictable, choice for the Goldilocks character but is neither amusing or endearing in it, actually found a bit annoying here.
While shining in Babs' wraparound story, "Fairy Tales for the 90s" felt on the uninspired side. There is nothing offensive about the material, but it could have been a lot sharper and wittier on the whole and the episode could have had more energy.
Concluding, not bad but nothing exceptional. 6/10
Mister and Mistletoe (1955)
Really like to love a good deal of Popeye cartoons and like the character of Popeye very much. Love Bluto just as much and his chemistry with Popeye, whenever he was Popeye's nemesis (which was most of the time but there were exceptions), has always driven their cartoons. Will admit though to preferring the Popeye cartoons from the Dave Fleischer era, the cartoons tend to be funnier and there is more originality and more risk taking in some of them.
'Mister and Mistletoe' is a late Popeye cartoon and made in Famous Studios' roughest and most variable period where budgets were much smaller in particularly the animation and deadlines and time constraints were shorter and tighter. All things considered, while there are infinitely better Popeye cartoons (especially during the Fleischer era) and there are signs of what made this period an inferior one for Famous Studios, 'Mister and Mistletoe' is not a bad late Popeye cartoon at all, towards the better/high middle end, and one of the better cartoons in Famous Studios' late output.
As to be expected, the story is standard and formulaic, all it is basically is Popeye and Bluto battling for Olive Oyl's affections with not as much variety as many other Popeye cartoons. There could have been more gags too, the ones here are very amusing and timed well, but they are not always hilarious and it's not laugh-a-minute, occasionally also on the repetitive side.
Similarly the animation quality is uneven, never terrible but never fantastic. The colours are fine and there is smoothness and nice detail on the most part but there are some moments where the backgrounds are sparse and the drawing rough.
What is fantastic about 'Mister and Mistletoe' is the music score, the best thing for me. It's beautifully orchestrated, rhythmically it's full of energy and there is so much character and atmosphere, it's also brilliant at adding to the action and enhancing it. The gags are executed well and are amusing with the best ones belonging to Bluto, the interplay between the characters is lively and witty if in need of more variety and the pace is never dull. The festive atmosphere is put to great use.
The three main characters do a great job carrying the cartoon, Bluto being the funniest and most interesting. Olive Oyl is a good charming character where you can totally see what Popeye sees in her, but it's the entertaining interplay between Popeye and Bluto that really sparkles. Jack Mercer, Mae Questel and Jackson Beck give great vocal characterisations, there was no better voice actor for Popeye than Jack Mercer.
Concluding, decent if nothing mind-blowing. 7/10
Spy in the Wild: The North (2020)
After such a great first season, it was hard to not have high expectations for the second. And the second luckily does deliver in pretty much exactly the same way the first did, apart from the inferior quality of the spy camera animals in my humble opinion. So it was like the three year gap between the seasons didn't ever exist (meaning this in a good way), with the execution of Season 2 feeling so fresh. Something that one doesn't expect seeing as three years is a long gap.
Season 2 started off excellently with "The Tropics". The high quality, consistent throughout the whole of 'Spy in the Wild's' run, continues in its second episode "The North". While still having a problem with the look of the spy animals at times, all the brilliant qualities of all the previous episodes are here. It also boasts some truly unlike anything seen before sights and contains some of the best character interaction between the spy animals and the real ones of the series.
"The North", as said, does have a few of the spy animals looking a bit robotic and unintentionally creepy. Especially the macaque one.
Mostly though, the spy animals are very well used. Really liked their interaction with the real life counterparts, how they filmed such behaviour more intimately (without being claustrophobic) than any other documentary in existence and how they weren't too much of an overused gimmick.
Did find myself admiring the bravery of some of them too. Poor Spy Salmon! The scenery is quite enchanting, haven't seen mountains this majestic in a while. The photography as to be expected is wonderful and adds so much to the impact of many gems. Particularly the quite spell-binding ray Mexican wave, can't recall ever seeing that before anywhere or at least not in this way, and in the beaver character interaction. The latter being the standout of all the episode's different character interactions. Have also never seen monarch butterflies behave the way they do here and the way they are shot makes for some very memorable imagery.
Narration is fun and one learns a lot from it, it is never too simple while being very easy to follow and it never patronises. Everything with the beavers was great, would like to see more beavers featured in documentaries. David Tennant narrates to perfection for reasons summed up already in my reviews for the other episodes. The music is not too jaunty or intrusive.
Summing up, terrific. 9/10
Too simple an episode
Being somebody that absolutely loves Rarity and loved what Season 4 did with her, of the Mane 6 she was the most consistently characterised and most interesting, "Simple Ways" could have been so much more and could have handled her better. The previous Season 4 episodes ranged from decent to outstanding, with "Rarity Takes Manehattan" and "Pinkie Pride" being the best (the only disappointing previous Season 4 episode being "Rainbow Falls").
"Simple Ways" is by no means a bad episode and has its good moments and things. It takes a lot for me to call a 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' episode bad. It just isn't a great episode either, and felt too simple, too bland and the story doesn't interest enough. Rarity has been characterised much better and one character is a big missed opportunity. If anything, my feelings on "Simple Ways" were pretty mixed and conflicted and after such a fantastic previous episode in "Pinkie Pride" this was a big disappointment.
Will start with the goood. The animation is beautiful to look at, love the vibrant colours and how rich in detail the backgrounds are. The characters are well designed, and generally this aspect has come on a lot and became more polished overtime. The music has energetic quirkiness and is dynamic, adding a lot to the atmosphere of the episode. The voice acting is terrific, with some powerhouse voice work from Tabitha St Germain in some of her best voice acting of the season, Rarity really comes to life as a character thanks to her and far from a cutesy looking pony.
There are good moments here, especially Spike's look at the camera (a little thing but a very effective and funny little thing) and Pinkie Pie's inflated head. Some of the characters are written well, Applejack comes off best with great comic timing and good intentions but Spike was also a big surprise, have not related to him this much in a long time. Really liked Rarity and Applejack's character interaction and back and forth which blisters and can be priceless. The moral is great, an important and relevant moral that one will identify with and appreciate.
Rarity left me mixed though which disappointed me as she was such an interesting and well written character in Season 4. She is compelling sure but this is an example of an episode that puts too much emphasis on its main character's flaws and exaggerates them. Rarity is just not very likeable here, quite mean-spirited at times (actually felt sorry for instance for poor Spike). Too many of the regular characters are underused or serve little point other than one or two shining moment. Trenderhoof did not work for me as a character, the episode does very little with him (so basically a just there simplistic character with no development), we don't see many glimpses of his profession, and at times he is so full of himself that one really questions what anybody sees in him.
Didn't care for the chemistry between him and Rarity, that could have been relatable as a lot of people have been there but here it was just awkward and nothing is done really with it. Much of the dialogue in this element of the story was just cringe-worthy, am aware that crushes and such can induce a lot of awkwardness and cringes but this was overkill. The humour is too little, and funny moments only come in spurts. Most of it is too forced for my tastes. The story is weak, due to being dully paced and very bland with no tension and little emotion. The middle act especially is near-interminably dull due to overlong padding and that what happens goes absolutely nowhere. The episode eventually comes to life towards the end but it feels too little too late.
All in all, very conflicted on this too simple and uninspired episode. 5/10
Peace Time Football (1946)
Not much peace time here
Will admit to not being a fan of Gandy Goose as a solo character, or at least in his early solo outings, his personality didn't appeal to me and it wasn't really much of one. Luckily in the early 40s he did advance as a character and became more appealing when partnered with Sourpuss in one of Terrytoons' generally better-faring, though it was by no means consistent, theatrical series. That was a series that on paper shouldn't have worked, very like their pairing, but it on the whole did.
1946's 'Peace-Time Football' was not just a step backwards for Gandy in my view, it also saw Terrytoons going backwards. Although there were misfires along the way, generally the studio had come on leaps and bound at this point while only reaching very good a few times (the last one being 1946's 'The Talking Magpies'). With 'Peace-Time Football', it was like the improvement of Gandy's character and how far Terrytoons had progressed since first starting had not really happened, or had only marginally improved, which is quite infuriating.
'Peace-Time Football' does have strengths, although the shortcomings outweigh them. hat the animation fares very well here was not a surprise as this aspect had come on enormously by this point with Terrytoons. It is nicely detailed, lively and colourful without being garish, particularly in some imaginative visuals in the dream sequence. Again, the music, the thing that was the most 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.
Those are the two main redeeming merits, but there are also sporadic mildly amusing moments and the cartoon does start off fairly promisingly.
Sadly that promise doesn't stay for long, with 'Peace-Time Football' basically running out of puff far too early and recovery never happens. The story is very little, if any, different to other sport-oriented Terrytoons cartoons, and actually even animation in general, done with a lot of predictability throughout and nothing feels imaginative or like much, again if any, original thought went into it. There is hardly any excitement or urgency, so it doesn't really capture the spirit of the game, the pace never really ignites fire after the promising start and it really did feel like Terrytoons had run out of ideas and were recycling old ones.
Hardly anything is amusing let alone funny, and that the gags are nowhere near enough in the first place doesn't really help. What there are have a real staleness to them and like they were lifted out of elsewhere. Gandy is neither interesting or appealing, this is closest to bland late-30s Gandy (and 'Peace-Time Football' in fact in general felt like it was another solo Gandy cartoon from the late-30s) than the much better characterised Gandy when paired with Sourpuss, so close in fact that one would be forgiven if they hadn't remembered that Gandy actually had advanced as a character or that they didn't realise that the cartoon wasn't from 1946. None of the other characters are particularly compelling either and because of not enough variation in the personalities nobody stands out either.
In conclusion, well made and scored but rather dull, lazy and with a feeling of being ten years out of date. 4/10
When younger, "The Headless Horseman of Halloween" was enjoyable but not one of my favourite 'The Scooby Doo Show' episodes. Really liked its creepiness, with a villain that is one of the freakiest of the series, but Scooby Dum didn't do much for me and did find him an annoying and unnecessary character when becoming a big fan of the show twenty plus years ago (will make a confession, still love the first three Scooby Doo incarnations and have never thought that 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' was that bad).
Twenty plus years on, "The Headless Horseman of Halloween" is one of those episodes that got better and better over-time and actually is now one of my favourite 'The Scooby Doo Show' episodes. One of the episodes that was liked when younger and now love. Also have found that Scooby Dum has grown on me generally while still not always finding that he adds much, his most interesting appearance is "The Gruesome Game of the Gator Ghoul" though "Vampire Bats and Scaredy Cats" is his best overall episode.
Here in "The Headless Horseman of Halloween", Scooby Dum didn't come over as irritating and has amusing moments despite his laugh and his repetitive found a clue theme. To me though, my feelings of finding him not adding much to the plot have still not changed.
So much about the episode is great though. Really loved the mix of Scooby Doo and the timeless 'Sleepy Hollow' legend, they mix really well together and fit the Halloween occasion and atmosphere to perfection. It is one of the show's creepiest episodes too, and have always felt that. And it is not just the villain, who terrified me when younger and he still gives the creeps, but also the atmosphere. When he reappears with another character's head, that has to be one of the show's most shocking moments and when younger it actually freaked me out.
It is not just non-stop creepiness. The episode started off really well with the costume party, just loved those outfits. There are some lovely comic moments with Shaggy and Scooby as usual, it's goofiness personified but the visual gags and verbal jokes are very amusing and endearing. There's even a reference to horror legend Boris Karloff thrown in. The mystery is an interesting one with some clever clues that are not obvious, the identity of the perpetrator may not be a surprise (very few reveals in the show shocked with a few exceptions) but that didn't matter to me.
Animation may lack finesse, but the colours have lovely atmosphere and the backgrounds are lovingly detailed. The Headless Horseman looks great. The music fits well and the theme song is one of the franchise's best and most infectious. The voice acting is strong, Casey Kasem and Don Messick are still unsurpassed (though Matthew Lillard has been doing a very good job as Shaggy) and hearing Frank Welker so young is great, he has yet to show signs of being long in the tooth.
Overall, great episode. 9/10
Big Foot and trees
'Phineas and Ferb' was so good in helping me through many tough periods during its run. Still do get a lot of pleasure out of watching re-runs of what was, when airing, one of the few shows on the Disney Channel regularly worth watching. Admittedly the later episodes are not quite on the same level as the more creative earlier seasons, but 'Phineas and Ferb' at its weakest still managed generally to be better than a lot of animated shows recently at their best.
After loving all the episodes up to this point, this was a disappointment. Not "Tree to Get Ready", which was terrific and had much of what makes the show so great in general. But for me "Get that Big Foot Outta My Face" was one of the few early 'Phineas and Ferb' to not do much for me, one subplot works very well but the other doesn't at all which was not like early 'Phineas and Ferb' (certainly not up to this point).
"Get that Big Foot Outta Here" did have good things. The animation is great with lots of rich colours. The music is dynamic and both the theme song and featured song (it's the brilliant lyrics that made the latter) are very catchy. There are some great lines, almost all of them coming from Doofenschmirtz such as the line concerning her not being his worst ever date, and that darkly absurdist line about not being inflatable. Doofenschmirtz's subplot is hugely entertaining and quite adorable actually in one of not many early season episodes where he was the most rootable character. Perry is still great as is the voice acting (especially Dan Povenmire).
Sadly, the Phineas and Ferb subplot, which is the more dominant one, doesn't work apart from the production values and a few funny lines. The story is far too predictable, as well as having too much of a sit-com quality, and does nothing new with a premise that is pretty old. Most of the writing falls flat, uncharacteristically juvenile (including quite cringe-worthy toilet humour) and lacking in wit and intelligence. Also found some of it and the characterisation on the mean-spirited side, that is including Phineas, and all of the characters involved in this subplot have been more interesting and likeable elsewhere.
"Tree to Get Ready" though is terrific and has everything that the show does so well in. The animation is vibrant and meticulous and the music has a lot of character and energy. The writing is witty, intelligent and never less than very funny, with some of the best lines coming from Candace and Doofenschmirtz.
Really liked the story for "Tree to Get Ready" which made the most of its setting. The Phineas and Ferb subplot this time is entertaining and very nostalgic for anybody who is an outdoors-y sort of person. Doofenschmirtz's subplot is hilariously bird-brained, even if the outcome is obvious the whole interaction between him and the ever adorable and tough Perry and his dialogue more than compensate. The characters are in character and well written and the voice work doesn't disappoint.
All in all, one episode is terrific and somewhere around a 9. The other is very uneven and only about a 5 or a low 6, which for early 'Phineas and Ferb' is low. 7/10 as an overall score though.
The Little Cut-Up (1949)
Have always loved animation and Famous Studios' earlier output, so the 40s, was well worth the look. Their Noveltoons series is interesting and worthwhile, though the cartoons vary in quality. Which is true of the studio itself overall, as by the mid-50s there was quite a sizeable decline when the animation quality was not as good and the stories and material became more than just formulaic (quite repetitive actually it got around late 50s), indicating a studio that had run out of ideas.
'The Little Cut-Up' is not one of the best Noveltoons cartoons. It is also not one of the worst. It's well animated, well scored and is charming, but it is also very slight story-wise and a little too cute in spots. Younger audiences are perhaps more likely going to get more value out of 'The Little Cut-Up' than older viewers, though as a young adult myself to me there was a lot positive about it. It is definitely worth a look once or twice, but if asked what cartoons are worth seeing over and over 'The Little Cut-Up' wouldn't quite be one of them.
As said, this is not disparaging 'The Little Cut-Up's' quality. Have no problems with the animation, which is vibrant and meticulously detailed throughout. The attention to detail in the backgrounds is so rich and looks so lovely. Winston Sharples' music score is a big high point, this aspect shone in all the cartoons Sharples scored for and was the best thing consistently of any cartoons that weren't particularly good overall) so that was no surprise. It is typically full of character and so dynamic with the action, not to mention sumptuously orchestrated.
Really liked the very charming and clever rhyming, that is also quite nostalgic and makes the subject accessible. There is a lot of charm here and its spin on the story of young George Washington and the cherry tree was interesting and makes one want to get to know more about him and this story. The characters have very engaging personalities and have more to them than just cutesy exteriors.
Having said all of that, the story is very slight and sometimes felt over-stretched.
Occasionally it is a touch too cute.
All in all though, nice cartoon. 7/10
"I am in blood, stepped in so far"
Was actually really looking forward to seeing this 2015 film version of 'Macbeth'. The play is one of Shakespeare's best, most famous and most quotable and has leant itself to film, with Roman Polanski, Orson Welles and Akira Kurosawa all giving it splendid treatment. The cast is a talented one, having often admired Michael Fassbender, Marion Cottilard and David Thewlis and ever since seeing him in 'The Borgias' Sean Harris struck me as one to watch.
Not to mention the great reviews. Was a little worried though too, seeing that it was directed by Justin Kurzel who directed the big misfire and huge waste of potential that was 'Assassins Creed'. Luckily, this 'Macbeth' lived up to expectations on the whole if not exceeding them. It is not the definitive version of the play, either on film or filmed production, and did have room for improvement, but for all its flaws the film on the whole surprisingly impressed me.
This 'Macbeth' isn't perfect. It is agreed not always easy to understand the dialogue, which didn't need to be as hushed or as muttered. While the film a vast majority of the time looked absolutely great, there is a gratuitous overuse of slow-motion.
Especially in the first 10 minutes or so, which were more sluggish than arresting. There are cuts and some of the omissions do affect the drama where the storytelling becomes less coherent.
For all those drawbacks, there are a lot of positives with this 'Macbeth'. Other than the slow motion, it is quite an amazing looking film, with hugely atmospheric and grandiose visuals (from the suitably myterious fog early on right up to the boldly bloodthirsty climax). The photography to me was some of the best of that year, especially in the act and those locations are hugely effective in their atmosphere, uncompromising but also oddly beautiful and dark without taking it to extremes. The music is still haunting and Kurzel's direction is bolder and less muddled than it was in 'Assassins Creed' from the following year.
Moreover, although it would have been nice if it was more consistently intelligible, Shakespeare's text is still powerful and hard to forget. The story takes time to get going but does get more compelling and remarkably ambitious, at its most emotionally investable from the point where Macduff learning of his family's murder (which has always been a very moving part of the plot) up to the end. The action is both exciting and ferociously harrowing, pulling no punches without being too unnecessarily over the top (seeing as 'Macbeth' is already a dramatically brutal play).
Some interesting changes here. Really did like that the witches weren't portrayed in a way that was too reliant on witch cliches, and were spooky underneath their deceptive exteriors. Lady Macbeth is still an effective and steely manipulator but it was interesting to see a more conflicted side to her (very different as it is not what the play indicates) rather than her being completely villainous. This is not going to work for some, but to me it was interesting. The performances were on the whole great from all, Fassbender is searingly fierce in the title role without being too brutish and Cotillard contrasts with him effectively as a steely and imperious Lady Macbeth. Paddy Considine's Banquo is suitably noble and Harris proved in 'The Borgias' that he could do creepy but also tortured, and he is very moving here as Macduff. It is somewhat sad that Duncan's role in the play is not bigger because Thewlis, while perhaps a touch young, commands the part extremely well.
In conclusion, intriguing and well done but there are better versions of 'Macbeth' around. 7/10
Law & Order: Breeder (1994)
With the episodes from 'Law and Order's' middle period and from its later seasons airing so often, it is very easy perhaps to overlook the early seasons. Meaning in my view pre-Season 7. That is a shame, because 'Law and Order' in its early years was more often than not good to fantastic with some truly fine episodes in each of the seasons in question. Wasn't blown away by every episode but when the show was at its best it was brilliant.
It is not in my view at its best with Season 4's thirteenth episode "Breeder". That is not disparaging the episode's quality though, because it is another very good offering from a generally strong season that does a lot right and excellently so. "Breeder" is just missing the extra something that more tense and more emotional episodes such as "Profile" and "American Dream" for examples had that made them season high-points.
"Breeder" is a little over-heated in places, especially in the scene when two character turn on each other.
However, "Breeder" is shot with the right amount of intimacy without being claustrophobic and that the editing has become increasingly tighter over-time has been great too. Nice use of locations too. The music doesn't get over-scored or overwrought, even in the more dramatic revelation moments. The direction doesn't try to do too much and is understated but never flat or unsure.
The writing is intelligent and although, like the show in general, there is a lot of talk it doesn't feel long-winded. Can never get enough of Briscoe's one liners, which Jerry Orbach always delivered so well, or Stone's character writing and that Kim Basinger line is priceless. Another tough topic is explored here, as is often the case with 'Law and Order', and it is dealt with in a pull no punches but still tactful way. The case is absorbing and suitably shocking, as well as truly twisted in tone later, and it isn't too obvious even if there is no revelation that left me absolutely floored.
All the regulars are great and Angie Phillips is chillingly depraved as one of the season's most detestable and twisted supporting characters.
Concluding, very good. 8/10
Law & Order: Snatched (1994)
"Lets just hope that justice is blind"
The type of story here might be old and one that one sees many times in shows of this genre, but it is the kind of story that has often been done incredibly well with a lot of intrigue and tension. Am a fan of 'Law and Order', especially the early seasons (on the most part too Season 4 was a very good representation of how great the show was), and Theodore Bikel was always watchable. Seeing more of a focus on Schiff was welcome.
"Snatched" may not be an exceptional episode or one of the best episodes of Season 4, not like "Profile" or "American Dream", or of 'Law and Order'. It is very good though, improving upon the previous two episodes "The Pursuit of Happiness" and "Golden Years", with one brilliantly written character relationship and one performance in particular that save the episode from being standard and making it a very good one instead.
Perhaps the case isn't anything extraordinary, was not that surprised by the truth with it being a fairly familiar trope.
It was also for me a little on the rushed side at the end.
What elevated "Snatched" to a better level were a few things. Bikel gives a very strong performance and dominates the screen whenever he's present, could understand his character's dilemma as a father. Absolutely loved his chemistry with Steven Hill, here giving for me one of his best performances of the show with his conflict in one of his most personal cases being acted in a very subtle yet authoritative way. The relationship between the two characters was what gave the episode its heart and seeing them together was both tense and moving.
Michael Moriarty is typically strong as Stone and Jerry Orbach (showing why Briscoe deserves his high critical reputation) and Chris Noth's rapport has both entertainment value and edge. The writing is taut and thought-provoking, shining particularly with Stone and the dialogue between Sol and Schiff. The story absorbs on the whole regardless of it not being mind-blowing case-wise.
As ever, the photography and such are fully professional, the slickness still remaining. The music is used sparingly and is haunting and non-overwrought when it is used, and it's mainly used when a crucial revelation or plot development is revealed. The direction has some nice tension while keeping things steady, without going too far the other way.
On the whole, very well done with Bikel, Hill and their character relationship raising the episode from being potentially standard to something better. 8/10
Law & Order: Golden Years (1994)
Not quite a golden episode
Season 4 was on the whole another very solid season for 'Law and Order', and the first half of it had all the episodes ranging from very well done to outstanding. A higher and more consistent quality than the first halves of the previous three seasons and the substantial changes settled a lot quicker than those in Seasons 2 and 3. The story sounded interesting for "Golden Years" and is not an outdated one, one that does sound obvious on paper but actually the execution was surprisingly complex.
Perhaps a bit too much so at times. "Golden Years" is not one of the best episodes of Season 4, in comparison to the previous episodes it is nowhere near the level of "Profile" and "American Dream" (two of the season's high points). It is though a marginal improvement over the well done if unexceptional previous episode "The Pursuit of Happiness" and is another solidly if not flawlessly executed episode for Season 4 and of 'Law and Order'.
"Golden Years" does for my tastes have too much going on in the story and needed more time for developments to breathe properly. Loved that not everything was as it seemed on first glance and that it was twisty, but with the number of truths revealed and with so much doubt cast so many times it was not always easy to follow or take in immediately what was being said.
If it tried to do a little less and had more time to breathe, it would have been better.
With all that being said, "Golden Years" has a lot that is commendable. It looks good, slickly shot, cohesively edited and with nice use of locations. The music is haunting and has presence while staying understated. The direction has intimacy without being static. The writing is intelligent and taut and the story is always compelling, going at a controlled pace but tight enough.
The story is not perfect in its execution, but it is never dull at least, always intrigues and is never predictable. The ending was not expected. The acting is very good, all the regulars are on fine form (especially Michael Moriarty) and excellent Jan Miner and Julie Dretzin are more than up to their level.
Overall, good but not great. 7/10
The premise of "The Pursuit of Happiness" could have gone either way in execution. It could have been unsettling and probed a lot of thought. Or it could have been too sleazy and too predictable. It still sounds very intriguing, even if it is very familiar and straightforward. If one is a fan of 'Law and Order' and of the franchise, for a long time have liked it very much, it is hard to not expect a lot from "The Pursuit of Happiness", which does have an appetising title.
While there is a good deal to like about "The Pursuit of Happiness", it is still one of my least favourite episodes of 'Law and Order's' Season 4 and is a long way off from being a standout of the early seasons. It does unsettle. It does provoke thought and grab the attention mostly. It is not too sleazy. It is though very predictable with few surprises. It was also in a way hard to care for the case to be solved and tried because of the victim being one of the season's most hateable.
Shall start with what is good and there is a lot. Have no issue with the intimate but not claustrophobic photography and the subtly gritty look. The music is only used when necessary and is hauntingly understated when it is used, not over-emphasising too much the mood when things are revealed. The script is lean and tight enough which stops the talk from being long-winded, while not jumping around, and is intelligently written.
Direction is accomodating while not letting things get too dull. The story does have some intrigue with the procedural work being quite clever and the legal scenes do as ever impose some interesting questions. The performances are all round are very good, Michael Moriarty being the regular standout and sympathetic Jesse Conti and deliciously smarmy Bruce Altman standing out in support.
Other cases of the season and of the show are a lot more intricate and consistently attention grabbing. The plotting is quite slight and it is one of Season 4's most predictable cases with almost everything being obvious too early, which did dilute any tension quite drastically.
As intriguing as it was, that defense tactic was beyond unrealistically unprofessional and some may find it distasteful (one is on the judge's side on this one). Other episodes did a little better at allowing us to care about the case being solved and tried as said, it was hard to do so completely for this episode when the victim was this over the top detestable and so obviously so early on (there are other episodes in the franchise with detestable victims but in those cases it took quite a bit longer for it to be revealed).
To conclude, well done on the whole but not exceptional. 7/10
Birth-aversary of pride
"Pinkie Pride" is a perfect example of Pinkie Pie being a great character when she's funny and likeable, with writing that plays to her strengths and doesn't exaggerate her flaws. Personally do like her generally, though she actually is not my favourite of the Mane 6, and she does have great episodes centered around her. But there are some episodes before and since where she didn't do much for me and where the writing for her was problematic.
Season 4's "Pinkie Pride" is not one of the episodes where she doesn't work and her writing is problematic. This is one of the show's finest examples of Pinkie Pie being fun, likeable and easy to relate to. If there has to be a prize for the best Pinkie Pie-centric episode, "Pinkie Pride" gets my personal vote. It is also one of the best episodes of Season 4, other high points being "Rarity Takes Manehattan" and the season finale two parter. Despite liking the season very much on the whole, few episodes fit my definition of "not being able to find anything wrong with it". "Pinkie Pride" is one of those episodes.
The animation is terrific. Not just typically rich in background detail, very vibrant and atmospheric in colour and with character designs that never look awkward or ugly, but it is also very inventive. A lot goes on visually but it doesn't feel cluttered and is done imaginatively. Also absolutely loved the songs, there are many and all of them work and never does it feel like there are too many. They are very catchy and full of a wide range of emotions, as well as not stopping the flow of the narrative and being necessary to and moving forward what goes on.
Loved the writing as well, a seamless mix of humour and drama in a way that's very clever, lots of fun and has heart and soul. The dialogue is very intelligently written and has a natural rhythm, didn't find it chaotic at all. The story is always absorbing and is full of energy, a lot happens but it doesn't make the mistake of other "very eventful" 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" episodes of feeling too rushed or trying to cram in too much in a short space of time that brought the still in many ways impressive "Magical Mystery Cure" down.
Cheese Sandwich is a revelation of a character, very cool, nice comic timing and the character has development and goes on a journey rather than being a one-dimensional missed opportunity, one that has flaws but is also easy to like regardless. One of my favourite secondary characters of Season 4 and of the early seasons easily. "Pinkie Pride" contains some of Pinkie Pie's best and most interesting character writing, this is an episode that doesn't overdo her silliness or make her annoying. She is amusing but the decision to tone her down and bring a more emotional and empathetic side was appreciated and worked wonders, it made her endearing and impossible to dislike.
Voice acting is great, Andrea Libman cannot be faulted as Pinkie Pie and Shannon Chan-Kent sings beautifully (even if the differences between Pinkie Pie's speaking and singing voices are too obvious, the only thing that may distract some but not me that much). Weird Al Yankovic sounded as though he was having fun.
Overall, brilliant and gets my vote as Pinkie Pie's best episodes, one of the standouts of Season 4 and come to think of it also one of the show's best. 10/10