Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
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)
The Kitten Sitter (1949)
Looking after kitten
1949's 'The Kitten Sitter' is one of the 1949 Terrytoons cartoons to not feature or star a recurring character, or at least a major one. In a year dominated by the Heckle and Jeckle theatrical series, though this year's entries for that series weren't as consistent in quality as the previous years on a brief side note. Expectations weren't massive, as it is not a novel concept for animation and even for Terrytoons for that matter and it did sound too cute and on the dull side.
'The Kitten Sitter' is among the weaker cartoons of a fairly unexceptional year for Terrytoons, which is true of most of the non-recurring characters cartoons for that year. It is not a terrible cartoon and it is worth a one time watch, there's just nothing really special about it at the same time. For all the amount that 'The Kitten Sitter' does right, and it does do a good amount right, it also does quite a lot wrong and they are all crucial areas.
Am going to start with the good. Cannot fault the music, consistently the best thing about the Terrytoons cartoons. It is so beautifully and cleverly orchestrated and arranged, is great fun to listen to and full of lively energy, doing so well with enhancing the action. The animation has come on leaps and bounds over-time, one can see more ambitious, elaborate detail in the backgrounds, and the fluidity of drawing and movement continues to improve, transitions are smoother, and some synchronisation is neat. The colour is vibrant.
Some cute and mildly amusing moments here and there. Fido is worth rooting for and the kitten is adorable yet with personality. The chemistry between them is quite nice.
Unfortunately, the story, pacing and writing are really not up to their level. The story is paper thin and formulaic with not an awful lot to it (like the cartoon in general), doing little new with a not so original idea. Gags aren't enough, and there is not much especially memorable about them. They are also generally quite corny and not particularly funny.
Also thought that the cartoon is pretty predictable most of the time, parts also being rather too sentimental. The taking-too-long-to-get-going beginning being one of the biggest examples of both. The pacing is pretty dull.
Overall, watchable but nothing special. 5/10.
'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' started off so strong, with three of its best episodes being in this half ("That's Monstertainment" being my favourite episode) and only one episode disappointing. The show did become more hit and miss post-"A Spooky Little Ghoul Like You", with "It's a Wonderful Scoob" being the only great episode. "Scooby in Kwackyland" had excellent things too, but also one of the show's weaker villains.
"Horror Scope Scoob" is closer to being one of the lesser episodes of 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo'. It is better than "Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye", "Coast to Ghost" and "When You Witch Upon a Star", but it is no "To All the Ghouls I've Loved Before", "Scoobra Kadoobra", "That's Monstertainment" and "A Spooky Little Ghoul Like You". As a 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' episode on its own terms, "Horror Scope Scoob" is more than serviceable and does have a good deal that works. As a final episode however it's a failure, it was pretty obvious that it was not intended to be the season finale and it doesn't feel like one and more a mid-season episode. With it being in need of a bigger scale, a more eventful story and more excitement and suspense. Just to reiterate, it's not at all bad. Just not great either.
It absolutely has a number of good things. It looks pretty good, especially when in the cemetery. The music is energetic and atmospheric, have always loved the show's theme tune and the opening titles sequence. There are some very funny lines in the first half and "Horror Scope Scoob" contains Bogol and Weerd's funniest moment of the whole show (the "switch the switch" exchange). Love Vincent, Shaggy and Scooby as usual and the voice acting is great. Vincent Price, John Stephenson, Casey Kasem and Peter Cullen being particularly good.
Also some spooky moments, namely the whole cemetery sequence. The first 10 minutes are great and the television studio setting, its behind the scenes and its clever references are ingeniously done. Really liked the pop culture references, three of the most obvious ones being Kreepoff being a parody of horror legend Boris Karloff, the 'Wizard of Oz' reference and the reference to Davy Jones' locker. Scrappy has one of "Horror Scope Scoob's" best lines, his retort to Zimbulu. Which sounds like a play on one-liner but may more likely refer to the type of character Zimbulu is (something that completely went over my head for a long time).
Unfortunately, there are some big flaws in "Horror Scope Scoob". This is an episode that starts off great but peters out halfway through and becomes thin and predictable. Did like that there is more of a mystery element here, but sadly it is not interesting enough. There are two major revelations, neither of which are surprising. One of which was painfully obvious and one where one is kicking themselves for not suspecting sooner. Tallulah is very annoying, especially her speaking from a blocked nose voice, and one gets a bad feeling about her from the beginning. When you take into account the show's continuity her role also doesn't make sense. In fact, the show's continuity pretty much goes out of the window in the climax.
Which is also very rushed that also felt incomplete. Have always been very mixed on Zimbulu. He looks cool and Cullen voices him menacingly, otherwise he actually really is not that intimidating and doesn't really do much in his true form (a far cry from genuine threats like Maldor, Nicara, Time Slime and Phantasmo). The only thing he uses effectively overall personality-wise is his one power, the ability to lie.
Overall, above average episode on its own terms but disappointing as a finale. 6/10.
Despite being a huge Disney fan, 'Phineas and Ferb' was one of those shows before starting to watch where there was uncertainty as to whether it would be my cup of tea. Luckily, it turned out to be a major hit with me and my brother and sisters and very quickly we became addicted to it. Even if it is very formula-based, there are so many cool situations, quotes and songs and have always loved the characters and the theme song (which avoided it becoming repetition heavy).
While finding "The Great Indoors" to be the better, funnier and more consistent episode of the two, "Canderemy" surprised me in a good way. Was expecting it to be cheesy and soapy reading the synopsis of Candace and Jeremy plot that dominates the episode, but it turned out to be neither and was relatable. Both are very good indeed, "The Great Indoors" in my view even being excellent, and cheered me up a lot at a very difficult time. Even if there are better episodes of 'Phineas and Ferb'.
The weakest part of either episode is the Phineas and Ferb plot of "Canderemy", charming and amusing but not one of their most inspired or imaginative. Theirs in "The Great Indoors" is better and suits them better.
So much is great though. The animation is full of vibrant rich colour and the background detail is fluid and never rushed-looking. Where it is most striking is the comic character animation of Perry and especially Doofenschmirtz in both episodes, some of the latter's expressions are priceless. The music never felt at odds with the action and has a nice hip character, the theme song is so catchy and quotable still. Some theme songs/tunes in television can grate, others never get old. 'Phineas and Ferb' for me is in the latter category and the lyrics are funnier and easier to relate to than when first getting into the show when it first started to air.
Writing is smart, funny and has heart. Especially apparent in "The Great Indoors." No signs of corn or over-sentimentality here. Enjoyed Doofenschmirtz's subplot in "The Great Indoors" and the one in "Canderemy" ties with the main plot very nicely. A main plot that is charming and relatable and not as cheesy or as soapy as feared. Candace is well written and her writing in "Canderemy" shows more to her than somebody who constantly wants to bust her brothers. The voice acting is very good.
Overall, great. 9/10.
The Tiger and the Brahmin
1991's 'The Tiger and the Brahmin' is part of the fascinating and consistently high quality "We All Have Tales" series from Rabbit Ears Productions, a series of adaptations of fairy-tales and folk-tales from around the world. In this particular instance India. This is one of not many instances for the Rabbit Ears Productions adaptations where the original story was actually not known to me prior, after experiencing 'The Tiger and the Brahmin' it did get me interested in Indian folklore.
'The Tiger and the Brahmin' may not be one of the best of the "We All Have Tales" (the second longest running Rabbit Ears Productions series after "Storybook Classics") series, but that it still manages to be so great says a good deal about how good the best adaptations are. 'The Tiger and the Brahmin' is also not one of the best Rabbit Ears Productions adaptations as an overall whole, again though that says a lot about how brilliant the best of them are.
Very little to criticise here, apart from it slightly missing the extra something of the best adaptations of the "We All Have Tales" series (which to me are 'The Fool and the Flying Ship', 'Peachboy', 'Koi and the Kola Nuts' and 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon'). The character design of the Brahmin on first viewing took getting used to. Then again that is just personal preference.
On a visual level, 'The Tiger and the Brahmin' is simple, shall never call it limited though, but looks great. Especially the vibrant backgrounds and the transitions never look awkward, and the Brahmin's character design has grown on me overtime. Really liked that it was like looking at carefully crafted illustrations from a picture book.
It was a masterstroke having film composer Ravi Shankar, who was Indian himself, on board providing the music. Music that is at times ominously dramatic and hauntingly beautiful, particularly striking is the doom-laden use of drums.
Similarly, it was a masterstroke having Ben Kingsley as narrator. Kingsley has a perfect voice for narration, very authoritative, gravitas-filled and calm, all of which present in his delivery of the thoughtful narration. The sinister voice for the tiger was especially well done. The characters are engaging, with the tiger making the biggest impression, and the story absorbs throughout with the conflict between the titular characters carrying it beautifully.
All in all, truly great. 9/10.
'Othello', regardless of any criticisms of considered implausibility (such as for some how easily Iago is believed by Othello and how long it takes for Emilia to come forward) and political incorrectness, is nonetheless one of my most fondly regarded Shakespeare plays. Not just the masterful language, with some of Shakespeare's most famous lines that have true intensity and poetic meaning, but also the dramatic conflict, both darkly intense and poignant, and one of his most interesting characters in the evil incarnate Iago (Othello too is one of his more interesting titular characters).
Have been very impressed to enthralled by many of the filmed Stratford Shakespeare productions and was very impressed by this production of 'Othello'. There are many good things and the best elements are fantastic. Not everything completely comes off successfully (not in a way that's disastrous though), but when the production hits goodness doesn't it do so. Once again, there is plenty to enjoy for those that know the play already while being accessible for first time viewers.
So much is great here in this 'Othello'. It benefits hugely from the powerhouse performances of Michael Blake and Gordon S. Miller. Blake is intense and moving, his jealousy and anguish not being over the top or too sudden. Miller is the personification of manipulative evil as Iago, one of Shakespeare's most complex villains played with equal complexity. Their chemistry enthralls and chills. Most of the rest of the cast are very good.
Visually, the production is very striking with the atmospheric lighting being particularly good. Loved the intimacy of the video direction while doing well with opening the drama and ambience up. The use of sound is authentic and haunting. Cohesion is never a problem and the stage direction benefits from strong attention to character detail, especially Iago and for Othello's descent, and from being intelligent and understanding of Shakespeare. The final scene is very moving. Everything is tastefully done.
Not everything works, with the women cast being not in the same league as the men and part of it is down to the character direction for them is not as interesting. Amelia Sargisson for my tastes was rather too modern and passive as Desdemona.
In conclusion, very good and nearly great. 8/10.
Law & Order: Narcosis (2000)
'Law and Order' was a brilliant show in its prime and overall is actually my favourite of the 'Law and Order' franchise and out of it, 'Special Victims Unit' (the longest running) and 'Criminal Intent'. Despite not feeling the same post-Briscoe. The Briscoe and Green pairing was my personal favourite of the police teamings, it is not because of it being the period that introduced me to the show but more to do with that it was the teaming with the most spark and the one that gelled the quickest.
There is a lot to like here in "Narcosis", but it didn't blow me away. Its subject matter is admirable but it could have been explored more tactfully and subtly, it also could have tried doing a little less. It is not one of the best episodes of a solid Season 10, like "Killerz", "Justice", "Marathon" and "Blood Money", all outstanding. It is also not one of the worst, being better than "Merger", "Panic" and "Surrender Dorothy" which were still watchable.
"Narcosis" could have been better. It does try to cover too much in too short a space of time, with the story being as complex as it is at points the episode wasn't always easy to follow. The conclusion could have had more time to develop, another case of trying to cram too much in.
Also felt that the subject could have been handled with more tact, it did feel heavy handed and sleazy in particularly its portrayal of the victim (one of the season's nastiest with what they were up to enough to make the stomach churn, but a bit cheaply done) and then tries too hard getting one to feel pity for the responsible. Well they are certainly not as reprehensible but their actions are just too brutal to be completely pitied.
However, a lot is great here in "Narcosis". The production values are typically slick with the right amount of grit, nothing is too fancy or too gimmicky. Nor is anything too static, drab or garish. The music is not too constant or emotionally manipulative, meanig not over-emphasising the emotion to make one think that's how we should be feeling. The direction is accommodating but also has pulse. The performances are very good all round, with a deeply felt performance from V. Craig Heidenreich resonating most.
While not subtle, the writing is intelligent and taut, leaving one deep in thought. The case is an interesting one and really draws one in in the second half, it is also one that leaves one feel both angry and sad afterwards. The moral dilemmas that come with it are handled well, with the last lines resonating. Can totally understand why the detectives feel so strongly about the findings, they would send anybody over the edge. The supporting characters are interesting, especially Burt (the character that is the one people pity by the end).
Concluding, not great but worth watching. 7/10.
Law & Order: Untitled (2000)
Portrait of death
Season 10 was actually a very solid season, with a vast majority of the episodes being good to outstanding. Albeit with one episode that was slightly above average, one that really went down in my estimations and also two that never clicked with me. It's not the consistently great quality that the too short Season 10 of 'Criminal Intent' was, but it is infinitely better than that for 'Special Victims Unit', which was a very slow starter, succeeded by moments of greatness in its mid period and then ended badly.
The slightly above average episode of Season 10 was this, "Untitled". It is not a bad episode, none of the season's episodes are, there are good things and it starts off well. It's just uneven and finishes a lot weaker than it started. Liked the idea, which was intriguing if quite strange, but the execution was inconsistent. Most episodes this season had one half being better than the other, and that is the case here but in a different way to the others.
Production values are still slick and suitably gritty (without being too heavy in it). The music is not too melodramatic and is not used too much, even not being too manipulative in revelations. The direction has enough momentum while not rushing. The writing in the first half entertains, intrigues and engages, with some snappy lines from Briscoe and Green. The artistic expression argument is handled very well.
Moreover, the story is very engaging in the first half, with enough twists to stop it from being too simple or too conventional without going overboard and confusing the drama. The character writing is on the most part very well done, if more the supporting characters this time than the leads. The regulars are all excellent and Bruce MacVittie unsettles in an interesting role where one is unsure what the outcome would be.
Personally didn't find the second half as strong. It does intrigue, but the pace loses its tautness, the script doesn't feel as focused or as tight and the case becomes thinner rather than more complex. Didn't really buy the defense argument, which was pretty bizarre (especially the excuse) and on the extreme side (to me the murder was too calculated and brutal for the argument that they were trying to make). There are definitely a lot more ridiculous and improbable defense arguments in the show's history (i.e. "Scoundrels", "Remand"), but this was an easily dismissable one and could have been explored more.
Also thought the ending was another rushed one and it was like the verdict had already been decided very early on without taking into account other possibilities.
Overall, above average if not great. 6/10.
Law & Order: Surrender Dorothy (2000)
Actually started watching 'Law and Order' from the later episodes of the Briscoe and Green period. Seeing the whole Briscoe and Green period overtime, it came to me that some of the earlier episodes were among the best from it. The previous episodes were mostly of an incredibly high standard and most of the season's episodes in general ranged between very good and fantastic, despite a few exceptions that were still not bad at all.
Sadly one of those exceptions is "Surrender Dorothy". Rewatched it very recently to see whether my initial reactions of it on first watch being a decent episode held up or got better or worse. "Surrender Dorothy" is one of the few Season 10 episodes where my view of it changed completely on rewatch and the only one actually to go down in my estimations. One of my least favourites from Season 10 along with "Merger" and "Panic", with the one slight difference being that those two never did it for me.
There are good things here. Production values are slick and professional, not ever resorting to cheap or untested gimmicks or anything. The music is haunting in the right places and isn't constant or too loud, and there are times where the direction does give the drama urgency and breathing space in the latter stages.
Can't fault the performances from the regulars, Jerry Orbach and Jesse L Martin work so well together (my personal favourite police partnership for the show), and Jon Cypher does creepy and enigmatic so well to the extent that one can see how people are drawn to him but strongly roots for his guilt. The episode starts off very intriguingly.
Really do wish however that that intrigue was more consistent. The case was nothing special really and felt dull, did have a strong feeling regarding Cypher's character guilt with the character being as obvious as he was but the story did feel underdeveloped and didn't do enough with the argument. It did lack tension, even in the second half, and surprises were few. If Cypher's character was more fleshed out and had more subtlety, if the different points of view were more balanced and gone into depth more and if feelings for what the outcome should have been weren't so strong, that would have made things less predictable.
Did feel that the final quarter did try to cram in too much and rush through the information, especially in the rushed and underdeveloped ending. The script lacks the usual tautness and there has been a lot more punch and intensity in the scripting in other episodes.
Overall, a bit indifferent here. 5/10.
Law & Order: Mega (2000)
Anybody who has read any of my other reviews for for example individual episodes of the 'Law and Order' shows, am slowly working my way through writing reviews for all the episodes of 'Law and Order, 'Special Victims Unit' and 'Criminal Intent' with a long way to go, will know already how much admiration there is from me for anything that tackles difficult and controversial themes and issues. Was also intrigued in seeing Michael McKean in a different role, playing a creepy character rather than the comedy he specialised in previously.
"Mega" is another very good episode indeed, and nearly a great one, with a wonderful guest performance. It is not one of the best episodes of the mostly very solid Season 10 and this and the previous few episodes have not quite lived up to the generally great first third of the season. It is also not one of the worst and even the season at its weakest was better than the weakest of 'Special Victims Unit's' Season 10. A lot of good things can be seen here.
It is another case of one half being better than the other, where the first is interesting and well done if nothing unique and not as ceaselessly compelling as the second. It is also a bizarre episode at times, and a little too much so.
Part of me did feel that the ending was rushed and run out of gas-like, was expecting a more tense one considering the subject than the one seen here.
So much is excellent however. The production values are still slick and suitably gritty (without being too heavy in it), the location work intimate but not overly so. The music is not too melodramatic and is not used too much, even not being too manipulative in revelations. The direction is accomodating yet with momentum. All the regulars are very good, especially in the second half, but this is a case of the main guest star stealing the show. McKean brilliantly makes the skin crawl in a way one has never seen before.
Writing pulls no punches in a suitably venomous way and sears at its best. It is also lean and always provokes thought, complete with one of the best summings up of any perpetrator from any regular character of the show's mid period (around Seasons 9-13 in my view). Carmichael says out loud what the viewer thinks about McKean's character very aptly and exactly. The story is not perfect, but the second half is very engrossing and mostly tense.
In summary, very good. 8/10.
Part 1 of the "School Raze" two parter that concluded Season 8 was something of a disappointment, considering that it was the first part of the season finale. And season finales for any show promises a lot of great things. It wasn't terrible and had a good deal of great things, it was just a case of fantastic potential that wasn't fullfilled enough from being too slight narratively, too exposition heavy and from having too many characters with most underwritten. Hence what was meant by it being bland in my review for it.
Following on from where the quite well executed if not particularly shocking reveal that ended the first part, "School Raze" builds upon what was set up before but executes it somewhat unevenly. It is definitely the better of the two parts, there is more going on plot wise (both a good thing and an undoing), one character really shines and it is not as reliant on exposition. A few of the same problems present in the first part still remain though.
"School Raze Part 2" has quite a number of good things. All the episodes in the season, including the misfires, were beautifully animated and it is no exception here, with the vibrant atmospheric colours and richly detailed backgrounds the animation is great and is at times some of the season's most ambitious. The music has groove and also a lot of atmosphere, fitting beautifully. Have no issues with the voice work, Sunni Westbrook absolutely knocking it out of the park as Cozy Glow.
It is an episode worth seeing for Cozy Glow alone, that's how good she is as a character here and she boosts "School Raze Part 2" significantly. Absolutely love her Darla Dimple-like personality, cute as a button and hilarious at times but also very malevolent. The Student Six also make a big impression, their personalities are well defined and very varied from each other while the chemistry is great. The writing is not as exposition heavy and is more thought-provoking and the pacing is tighter.
Unfortunately, the storytelling is far from perfect. There is more progression and more happening but there could have been a lot more drama, tension and emotion. Not enough of either, and the lack of surprises makes it feel predictable too. Sometimes that it is more eventful is an undoing, as it did feel at times like there was too much going on and that another part was needed.
There still is a sense of too many characters and while everybody has more screen time and in some cases more purpose, too few of them accomplish much and only Cozy Glow doesn't feel underwritten. Personally find the dumbing down of Tirek in both parts pretty unforgivable, especially considering how much of an impression he made when he was introduced in the superb "Twilight's Kingdom" (the best of the show's season finales by far for me).
Concluding, superior second part that could have been great but ended up being a semi-whimper for a very inconsistent season. 6/10.
'Law and Order', and actually frequently the whole 'Law and Order' franchise (especially 'Special Victims Unit'), often excelled when it came to having cases that made the viewer feel truly sad and angry. It also often excelled when it came to tackling difficult topics. Racism is one of the most difficult and most controversial subjects to tackle on film and/or television, 'Law and Order' tackled it many times and more often than not very well indeed.
It is tackled very well indeed too in "Black, White and Blue". Other 'Law and Order' episodes handled the subject better in my view, where it was done with more subtlety and had more satisfying denouements. "Black, White and Blue" appropriately doesn't hold anything back and is unyielding and it definitely has punch. There have been a lot of Season 10 episodes that had one half being better than the other, and this is no exception. It is still a very good episode.
"Black, White and Blue" is a bit ordinary to begin with, aside from the grisly opening, and isn't as riveting as the legal scenes.
Also have always found the ending unsatisfying in this episode, rather unrealistic and it felt on the rushed and abrupt side too.
This is all outweighed by the numerous good things. It looks good, with the usual slickness and subtle grit. Really liked too that the photography was simple and close up but doing so without being claustrophobic. The music has presence when used, and luckily it isn't constant, and when it is used it doesn't feel over-scored. The direction allows the drama to breathe while still giving it momentum as well.
Furthermore, the script is sharp, intelligent and gritty, again with a lot to take in without feeling too much. Especially in the latter stages of the second half, where the writing is particularly thought-provoking and uncompromising. While the first half is interesting if routine, the second is truly riveting and emotionally powerful. The subject is far from sugar-coated. The cast are all very good, Sam Waterston conveyed McCoy's authority and ruthlessness extremely well.
In conclusion, very good. 8/10.
Law & Order: Trade This (2000)
'Law and Order' was a brilliant show in its prime and overall is actually my favourite of the 'Law and Order' franchise and out of it, 'Special Victims Unit' (the longest running) and 'Criminal Intent'. Despite not feeling the same post-Briscoe. Season 10 was a solid season on the whole, with many great episodes and only about two or three disappointments. On first watch, "Trade This" struck me as a very good episode if not quite a great one.
"Trade This" still is very, very good in my view, with plenty of what makes 'Law and Order' so good when on form and its best aspects are so incredibly well executed. It falls a little short of greatness, with it being a case of starting off a bit on the ordinary side but became near-classic 'Law and Order' level by the end, but "Trade This" was so nearly there. Not one of the best episodes of Season 10 or of the show, but not too far off.
Not unlike a number of episodes of 'Law and Order', the first portion is on the ordinary side. The writing is taut and gritty and Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin and their chemistry are spot on, working beautifully together, but there is not much unique about the case until going into the middle act.
Did think too that the ending is slightly too hastily wrapped up, which is also applicable to many episodes from this period.
Having said that, these are pretty nit-picky and there is still a lot to recommend about "Trade This". The photography while very close up doesn't come over as too static or filmed play-like, while the production values are typically solid and have subtle atmosphere while not being drab and keeping things simple. When the music is used it is haunting and has a melancholic edge that is not overdone. The episode is sympathetically yet uncompromisingly directed.
Performances are very good from all the regulars, while Danny Mastrogiorgio is truly frightening as a truly amoral character that one roots for to be sent down for a long time. Nice to see Samuel E. Wright, know him best from voicing 'The Little Mermaid's' Sebastian. Vincent Curatola absolutely shines in his ruthlessness when on the stand in agreed the highlight scene of the episode. That cross examination was tense and the battle of wits element to it intrigued hugely.
Furthermore, the script is typically tight and intelligent with an uncompromising grit. There is a lot of talk, but it doesn't feel too much. Once the story gets going, it quickly grabs the attention and the legal scenes are riveting. Especially the cross examination scene.
Overall, very good. 8/10.
Law & Order: Fools for Love (2000)
Love at its most twisted
"Fools for Love" is a "ripped from the headlines" type of story. The 'Law and Order' franchise often did very well to brilliantly with these types of stories when they had cases based on real life cases and crimes. Especially in the earlier seasons of the original 'Law and Order'. This kind of story can either be very intriguing and a harrowing watch or be too derivative, lacking tautness and feel exploitative. Most in the franchise (or at least at this point) are thankfully in the former category.
Was a bit worried that "Fools for Love" would be a bit too ordinary, as it did sound formulaic structurally and other Season 10 episodes tackled far bolder and heavier themes. As said a few times in reviews for previous episodes, 'Law and Order' has actually shown more than once that it can do something interesting and at times special with ordinary-sounding premises. The "doing something special" category is not quite achieved in "Fools for Love", but the episode succeeds in "doing something interesting" with the subject.
The ending did feel a bit rushed and over-crowded, a lot is revealed in dialogue and information and more time to reveal it would have made it easier to get the head round.
Peter Ball agreed has a fairly limited range here and is quite bland.
Bland is not a word that could be used summing up Ellen Pompeo's performance, she has the most well fleshed out character and plays her with cunning and venom. Jerry Orbach and Jesse L Martin are indeed excellent, and their chemistry has gelled beautifully in humour and grit, but Pompeo for me gave the best performance.
Moreover, the production values are still fully professional, the slickness and subtly gritty style still remaining. The music is sparingly used and is haunting and thankfully non-overwrought. The direction shows some nice tension in the legal scenes. The script is thought provoking and smart, thankfully not rambling or too complicated that it makes things confused. A lot of the legal scenes' dialogue really probes thought and pulls no punches, which prime-'Law and Order' often excelled at brilliantly. It's not just non stop seriousness though, there are also humorous moments here and there such as Briscoe's one-liners. The story is an interesting and well paced one that is a lot less ordinary than it sounds, parts are suitably creepy too.
Overall, very good. 8/10.
Love and Hisses (1972)
More hissable than loveable
None of the previous four Blue Racer cartoons were particularly good, with the best ones being merely average and it literally only just scraped that. Actually found all of them disappointing, having seen what DePatie-Freleng Enterprises were capable of when good. Really liked much of their 60s output, but the early 70s and onwards output were hit and miss at best and when it missed it was really not good. And that was the case with the Blue Racer cartoons.
'Love and Hisses' is another one of the misses. It is not quite one of the worst of the series and like the previous cartoon 'Punch and Judo' it started off pretty decently. It also has a supporting character that steals the show from under the two leads, despite the premise not being particularly easy to buy. 'Love and Hisses' however has a lot that is wrong, pretty much all of them the same as with the previous four cartoons, and its worst aspects are worse than weak. If this review is sounding samey, that's not intentional but most of the series does feel like the same cartoon repeated multiple times so the repetition is inevitable in this case.
There are good things. Once again, the best aspect is the music score, which the series had in common in fact. Regular composer for the company Doug Goodwin provides a lot of much needed colour and vim to his score that sadly is not present in nearly everything else. Close behind is the fun opening credits sequence. There is some nice character animation for Blue Racer and some lovely colours, 'Love and Hisses' is one of the better faring Blue Racer cartoons visually if still not great.
Furthermore, Larry D. Mann is suitably crafty, his voice work in my view did improve with each cartoon. Did think that 'Love and Hisses' was pretty decent in the first quarter or so, thanks to some amusing if corny lines from the Blue Racer. The best character is the elephant, who also has a few amusing moments despite it not being an original one.
Unfortunately, this is another instance of a Blue Racer cartoon that goes downhill once the beetle appears. The story is only merely a slight variation of the formula set in the previous four cartoons, as a result it feels repetitive on top of being very thin and predictable. Also didn't really buy the premise, it is hard to believe that anybody would help a character as annoying as the beetle other than that it is a variation on the old story where a supporting character would protect a small character from a bigger character with no real idea of the context. The pacing could have had a lot more energy because there wasn't really very much, pretty routine actually.
Blue Racer himself is rather bland and one-note and always did get a sense that in his series he would have fared better in support. The beetle is supremely annoying and offensively stereotypical once again, Tom Holland's less than tasteful and too broad voice work being one of the biggest problems, and there is very little connection or spark between the two. The jokes are too few and most are neither original or funny. The dialogue is again at best perfunctory, with the beetle's inducing cringing.
Concluding, barely average. 5/10.
The Cricket on the Hearth (1909)
Griffith meets Dickens
There were quite a number of reasons for seeing 'The Cricket on the Hearth'. Charles Dickens' source material is great, if not one of my favourite works of his, that doesn't get enough attention today. While not one of my favourite directors, DW Griffith deserves his reputation as a pioneer of silent film. Have had high appreciation for silent film for a while now, there are some not so great ones out there but the best ones are masterpieces and film milestones.
Griffith did do so much better than 'The Cricket on the Hearth', which is a lesser effort of his and a contender for his weakest Biograph film. Not only does 'The Cricket on the Hearth' not feel like Dickens, with a lot left out and re-ordered and with a short length, it also doesn't feel like Griffith other than the filming techniques. He did many fine films and short films, but when he was not on form like here and the Abraham Lincoln biopic he was really off.
It's not a complete disaster by all means. It looks absolutely great visually, with some inspired filming techniques that still hold up tremendously well. The contrast of the squalor filled early scenes and the more idyllic imagery such as the wedding is striking. The opening sequence sets the film up very neatly and with great promise.
Did think that the performances were quite decent considering what was given to them.
However, Griffith directing-wise is rather uninspired dramatically and at times lazy, two words not usually used by me in regard to him. Also felt that he was not at ease with the material or knew what to do with it, and dramatically there's a finding his feet feel. The title words are rather rambling and over-explain somewhat.
What undoes 'The Cricket on the Hearth' are the story and pace. This was a story that needed a much longer length of at least 25 minutes, 11 minutes is far too short for this story and it shows in how the story is executed. Structurally, it jumps about a lot and has an incomplete and rushed feel to the extent that even those familiar with the source material will be confused by what goes on. Goodness knows what it will be like for those not, they'll be like how was the source material a hit if thinking the film is faithful to it (it's not). There is too much focus on the love story, which has moments of charm but is generally bland, and the titular character is given too short shrift.
Overall, disappointing. 3/10.
The Clay Pigeon (1949)
Pop goes the pigeon
Absolutely love classic film and have done for a long time. This is also one of my favourite genres and there has never been a bias against anything that's low budget. There are plenty of films actually that are low budget and are still good, same for films made quickly, have short lengths and not many well known names. But really it's my love for classic film and the genre that got me into watching 'The Clay Pigeon', not to mention that the plot sounded intriguing.
'The Clay Pigeon' turned out to be well executed in most areas. It is not one of the best films in the genre or of the decade (neither though expected, that would have been asking for too much in my view), and it is not perfect or completely lives up to the premise. It though is well made considering the budget and that it was made quickly, it also hardly wastes the potential it has. So if asked as to whether 'The Clay Pigeon' is recommended, my answer would be yes.
Good things are many. It is slickly and stylishly shot, with the noir-ish shadowy lighting adding to the mystery, in no way does it come over as cheap. The film is also directed at a crisp pace, even if not always in complete consistent control of the material. The music is haunting and doesn't come over as over-bearing or over-emphasised in mood.
On the most part, the script is leanly taut and smart. The story is mostly lively and suspenseful, as well as atmospheric. It has a great start as well as a nail-bitingly tense climax, while there is a moving scene with the mother's account of her son. Bill Williams and Barbara Hale are engaging leads and the supporting cast are more than able.
Do agree however that 'The Clay Pigeon' has too much going on in the story, especially in the latter stages that come over as over-stuffed and rushed. The film could have done with a longer length, 10-15 minutes longer so that parts could have gone into more depth, like the cops boarding of the train.
While liking the script on the whole, it did lose focus later and stretches credibility where things happen too much by chance and where things turn around too abruptly with no real warning. More could have been done to make the lead character more rootable, Williams plays him very well but the character himself can be on the obnoxious side.
In conclusion, pretty good. 7/10.
Island of murder
Have loved 'Taggart' (another show gotten into during my teenage years) for a long time, although the more deliberate and even grittier Taggart and Jardine periods to me are superior to Burke's. Although it was actually through watching the late afternoon reruns of the Burke period episodes (starting from "Compensation" right up to when the episodes became shorter (too short in my mind) at one point that got me hooked, the Taggart and Jardine episodes were actually seen a lot later.
"Island", one of the 'Taggart' episodes seen later than most, is one of the Burke-period episodes that has grown on me since first watch. On first watch, it was a case of liking the first half but not being as keen on the second. Over-time, "Island" came over as a very good episode. Not quite on great level like "Compensation", "Judgement Day", "A Death Foretold" and "Pinnacle", but it still has enough of what is so appealing about 'Taggart' and certainly much better than something like "Genesis" and "Law".
Am going to start with the not so good things. The music never felt like it fitted, it could have been used less and while it sounds just fine in the 80s and early 90s episodes it sounds out of date here to my tastes.
While the climax is memorable, it also struck me as predictable and melodramatic. Did think too that the murderer was revealed too early.
On the other hand, a lot is great here in "Island". It is made with a lot of grit and atmosphere, as well as a slick style, that fits the gritty tone of the show very well. The scenery once again is both beautiful and uncompromising, some of the most beautiful and foreboding of the later episodes and just perfect for the grim story. The theme tune is very memorable still. The acting is very good, Blythe Duff and John Michie carry the episode beautifully and have such great chemistry here.
Furthermore, "Island" pulls no punches while having lots of intrigue and emotion. Not much humour here this time but that was not a problem. The story is intricate and involving, with a suitably intricate and increasingly unsettling story. Grim but not too much so that life is sucked out. The murder methods are quite gruesome and quite different for late 'Taggart'.
Concluding, very well done and one of the episodes that is better now. 8/10.
A Welcome Home Christmas (2020)
Worth coming home to
Lifetime are very variable when it comes to their output, especially their Christmas films, the best being very good and the worst being absolutely awful. While they tend to follow one formula and use it frequently with not much variation, there are times where they have a more mature story with more serious themes meaning that they are very capable with doing things differently to usual. That's the case here with 2020's 'A Welcome Home Christmas'.
On the whole, 'A Welcome Home Christmas' is one of the better Lifetime Christmas films from 2020. It's not great or perfect, but it has a lot done right and handles a mature theme with sincerity and poignancy. To me Hallmark did the mix of military and Christmas theme better, with films like 'Christmas Homecoming', 'Holiday for Heroes' and 'Operation for Heroes', all worth the look as well and are better to me as they have more chemistry and moved me more.
'A Welcome Home Christmas' could have been better. Would have liked more of the extra spark between the two leads, which got there later on but took a while to get to that stage as a result of being initially underwritten. Not all the support acting worked, with Charlene Tilton coming over as quite stiff.
Did not buy the major character change that happens later on, too rushed and too easy. The story is a bit on the slow side to begin with and not all the dialogue seemed very natural.
However, a lot is good here. First and foremost, Jana Kramer's lead performance is deeply felt and very easy to be won over by. Once his character grows, Brandon Quinn becomes more relaxed and charming and once the chemistry between him and Kramer grew they came over as quite genuine together. Tim Reid is always worth watching and LondonRose Sellars is immensely charming and funny. On the most part, the characters did feel like real people and not hard to warm to once their development deepened. Didn't come over as caricatures or one-dimensional, but instead came over as not too perfect or overly flawed real people.
Furthermore, 'A Welcome Home Christmas' is a pleasant looking film with the scenery standing out in particular, while the soundtrack matches the spirit of the holiday and the film's themes very well. The script is neither too corny or over-serious, and doesn't come over as muddled tonally. There are some funny lines and some touching ones, also really liked its sincerity and heart. The story is very heart-warming and moving, its good intentions too admirable, with a tear-jerking if slightly predictable ending.
Summarising, decent if not great. 6/10.
Christmas Unwrapped (2020)
Average gift wrapping
2020 was very variable though not too bad when it came to Lifetime's Christmas films, and there was definitely the sense that the films were made in a rush with not a lot of preparation time. Yet enough of them were far from amateur-hour efforts and were still watchable all things considered. Lifetime just have done a lot better in some previous years, although their festive output is very hit and miss it should not be dismissed outright as enough have left me pleasantly surprised.
'Christmas Unwrapped' was though more or less what was expected, which was a watchable enough film with good moments and better than expected acting. But also one that is nothing extraordinary and does nothing new with pretty familiar plot tropes. Lifetime did a lot better than 'Christmas Unwrapped', but also worse than what is a somewhat middling effort for them. Considering the difficult circumstances though, it did make do perhaps.
Am going to start with the good. Amber Stevens West does a good job as Charity, despite not always being crazy about how the character was written, and attacks the role with charm and enthusiasm. Marco Grazzini has enough moments where he is quite amiable. The supporting cast did very well, particularly Cherion Drakes.
The film also at least looks professional, with lovely scenery in particular. The music doesn't intrude and doesn't feel overused, also it has a festive sound to it. Too often not the case with Lifetime.
However, too much is not successful. Didn't detect much chemistry between West and Grazzini, which seemed disconnected and awkward. Especially later on. It also would have helped if Charity's naivety and cynicism wasn't too exaggerated in the writing, if the romance was developed more and if Grazzini didn't look so embarrassed and wooden in the very forced conflict when he learns the truth.
Generally, 'Christmas Unwrapped's' story never properly grabbed me, as well as being very predictable it is very thin on the ground and drags a lot from too much stretched padding and an uncertain feel most of the time. There isn't enough of an emotional core or charm which made the film come over as bland and lacking in substance too. The direction is competent in some parts but is disorganised and hesitant in others.
Did find the script bland and stilted. The characters could have done with more development and some of the character writing could have been toned down. The ending is too neat, especially considering what the conflict was over.
In conclusion, pretty average but not unwatchable. 5/10.
A Christmas Break (2020)
A break worth taking
Expectations were a bit mixed to not being overly excited. Love Christmas and many Christmas films and Lifetime have done their fair share of above average and more Christmas efforts. They also had some big duds, and the premise was another one that could have been executed very charming or disastrously. The previous film seen starring Cindy Sampson, which was seen close to this, was 'A Christmas Crush', which was a major misfire as was Sampson's performance.
'A Christmas Break' was a pleasant surprise and better than expected. 2020 was another mixed year for Lifetime, but a lot better than the previous year's Christmas output, and 'A Christmas Break' is in the better category. It is a significantly better film than 'A Christmas Crush' in every single way and Sampson's performance is leagues better here. Is it a great film? No. Is it worth watching? Absolutely yes, and one of the recently seen Christmas films that surprised me a lot.
Sure, the plot is nothing special formula-wise and in terms of how it maps out. It's another film that is a bit of a slow starter, where it takes time to set up and the dialogue is on the awkward side.
Did think that some of the conflict was a bit forced and that the ending was too neatly resolved.
Having said all of this, 'A Christmas Break' succeeds in many areas. Visually, the film is professional looking rather than looking on the cheap, the scenery is lovely. The music is not used too much and has an appropriate sound. The direction shows somebody at ease with the genre and while there is nothing innovative it's not routine or dull either. Sampson is, as said, leagues better than in 'A Christmas Crush', much more comfortable and has a lot more charm and personality. Steve Byers is a likeable partner to her and while their chemistry is warm and genuine he's a real charmer in his chemistry with Adrian Vissers.
The characters were ones worth rooting for, they may not be complex but they at least have personality and the personalities are interesting and appealing. No overblown character flaws. Furthermore, a great job is done with the Christmas atmosphere, where it does feel like Christmas and in an affectionate way. Some lovely Christmas touches and there are some very sweet, but not sickly, scenes. Was not crazy about the script early on, but it did have a nice mix of funny and poignant lines. The story may be thin but has a warm heart and charm and doesn't take itself too seriously.
In conclusion, a pleasant surprise. 7/10.
Flower Pot Men (1952)
Strangeness that blossoms beautifully
'Flower Pot Men' is another one of those shows watched in my childhood on videotapes of very old shows (long after the show first aired), some of them with puppetry, that left a big impression on me at the time for its unique characters and ahead of the time atmosphere. Also one of those shows that was forgotten about for a while after it started to fade into relative obscurity. Then saw pictures of the characters somehow by chance when researching old puppet shows and decided to relive those fond memories.
Just like what was done with 'Andy Pandy'. 'Flower Pot Men' is every bit as fun and charming as it was when younger and actually holds up very well. It did attract criticism at the same for apparently promoting immaturity, especially concerning Bill and Ben's dialogue. Have never understood that criticism and it is as of now in my view out of date, compared to what can be seen regularly today 'Flower Pot Men' is actually very sophisticated and daring and unlike anything seen before at the time.
Don't know where to begin with the praise. 'Flower Pot Men' holds up very well visually, have always found old puppet animation incredibly charming to watch and affectionate. Old-fashioned yes but beautifully crafted, the backgrounds throughout the show are meticulously detailed and there is nothing stiff or primitive about the puppet designs or movements that are also quite cleverly used.
The music is easy on the ear and is never overused or bombastic. The theme tune is another catchy and charmingly written one. All the characters are hard to forget, not just the titular characters Bill and Ben but also the deliciously unusual and amusing supporting characters such as Little Weed.
Writing is funny and smart, as well as surprisingly subversive which was not expected in 50s puppet animation. It is writing that was quite unique back then and unlike some at the time Bill and Ben's language was creative and didn't strike me as immature at all, neither did it come over as too complex. The stories are simple and charming, while also remarkably imaginatively surreal. Something that was also not expected.
All in all, wonderful and another criminally underrated show by today's standards. 10/10.
Not near as icky as feared
The premise in "The Icky Mouse Club" was actually pretty decent and one of 'Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain's' better ones. Am not a fan of the show at all and it is a massive step down from the show it spins off from, but on rewatch it actually had its moments. There are a lot of episodes where you get the feeling from the get go from the concept that it is not going to be good, but then there are ones like the one here that actually show some promise, providing that the promise is lived up.
Didn't think that the premise was completely lived up to and my feelings were a bit conflicting still, but flaws and all "The Icky Mouse Club" turned out to be one of the better and more watchable 'Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain' episodes. Parodying the popular 'The Mickey Mouse Club', there are problems to be found, namely that the referencing execution is rather all over the place, but "The Icky Mouse Club" contains some of the show's better parodying (something that the show did not have the best of track records in).
Quite a number of things are done well. On the most part, Brain's character writing is very well done. As has been said in reviews for the previous episodes, the character writing on the most part was really off but Brain was the exception, always amusingly deadpan and intelligent. Maurice LaMarche's voice acting is pitch perfect and Rob Paulsen (in one of the few episodes where Pinky actually is not wasted) gives one of his better vocal performances of the show too.
Other than Brain, the other best thing about "The Icky Mouse Club" is the song. A song accompanied by an inventive and amusing extended montage that is very catchy and gleeful in its campiness, yet also has some heart. It really is one of the better uses of song for the show, in a show where parody songs tended to be groan worthy. The animation has some colour and nice background detail and there are amusing moments with Brain.
Did think however that while the concept is perfect for Brain's character and a lot less childish than most concepts for the show, that the story itself could have had more verve and not been as too simple and predictable. The writing is less childish and cutesy than a lot of episodes of 'Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain', but it also could have been sharper, wittier and wilder and also been more mindful of what the target audience is meant to be.
While some of the referencing is fun, well the ones that are easy to spot from a young adult perspective, too many of the references are too stuck in the 90s and will go over the heads of younger audiences due to not being familiar with what is being referenced, some of them quite oddly adult. Occasionally the writers try to make Brain too hip and that is not what he is and goes against what makes him such a unique character. The villain is a bit too underwritten and bland and the chemistry doesn't always have enough spark.
Concluding, one of the better episodes but still with major reservations. 5/10.
Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle (1941)
Popeye goes surreal
'Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle' is something of a change of pace for the Popeye theatrical series, certainly at this point. And it is not just because it is one of the ones concerning Popeye's endeavours with real life/literary characters (others in the series including Sinbad and William Tell). It is even more so interesting for being one of the few Popeye cartoons to not feature any other, besides Popeye, single regular/recurring character and being more surreal than the others.
Count me in as somebody who was disappointed in 'Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle'. It did sound very interesting and also quite curious on paper, but the execution doesn't quite come together. Of Popeye's outings with real life/literary characters, it gets my vote as the weakest and the only one to not work for me. There are far funnier and more visually pleasing Popeye cartoons, 'Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle' agreed didn't really feel like Popeye and was both too strange and subdued.
Shall start with what just about works. Some of the animation is nice, especially the attention to detail in the backgrounds and the black and white is crisp. Popeye has expressive moments. Popeye is amusing and likeable, while Jack Mercer does a typically great job with the voice work.
There are amusing moments too, namely when Popeye is smaller. The second half does pick up in the energy. The best aspect is the music, the only outstanding thing about 'Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle'. Very characterful and lushly orchestrated.
However, the cartoon didn't gel. Apart from Popeye's dialogue and some of the action when Popeye is smaller, there is not much that is funny here in 'Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle' and the gags are not enough. All the best parts are in the second half, whereas the first half is bland and humourless pretty much. The story is very slight and there actually is not much of one at all, the first half doesn't go anywhere and takes too long to get going. The energetic pace is there in the final quarter but is too sedate in the first half.
On the whole, this felt very subdued. Not just in the underused and unevenly executed humour but it didn't feel like Popeye. It needed to be wackier, wilder and more absurd, instead there is a more surreal approach and that felt too tame and under-explored. The supporting characters are bland and Rip Van Winkle felt out of place. He and Popeye were too much of a personality clash due to Popeye's being much stronger and Rip Van Winkle's not fitting within the cartoon. Sinbad and William Tell worked because the Popeye series put their own wackier spins on them, but Rip Van Winkle is not done very much with. The character animation generally isn't always up to par, tending to look rushed.
In summary, underwhelming. 5/10.
A squirrel for all seasons
Squirrels are lovely looking and cute animals, if also pests at times (like scurrying loudly across a not so sound proof house roof at night for instance). They are not focused upon enough in documentaries and there are not an awful lot of documentaries centered solely around squirrels around. Granted, in terms of factual information and detailing strengths and challenges there are more interesting animals, but the True Life Adventures series did manage to make insects interesting in 'Secrets of Life'.
Part of me as a result thought that there was a very strong chance of 'Perri' doing for squirrels, in terms of making animals/species that aren't focused upon a lot compelling, what 'Secrets of Life' did for insects. 'Perri' did just that, it did make squirrels interesting and relatable with one of the True Life Adventures series' most easily investable lead characters. And it did make me feel that it is a shame that they are under-estimated and that documentaries don't focus on them enough. For the most comprehensive and most accessible documentary on squirrels, it doesn't get a lot better than this.
Is 'Perri' perfect? No. Like with the other True Life Adentures feature films (actually didn't feel the same way oddly enough with the short subjects in the series), there is some occasional awkward over-jokiness though it was done worse in some of the other feature films in the series, including the best known ones.
Would have liked for it to have been longer too perhaps.
However, so much is good about 'Perri'. It looks absolutely beautiful, with very vivid photography capturing the majestic beauty yet at times uncompromising cruelty of the scenery. Especially the unforgettable hibernation dream sequence, which is a visual and emotional masterpiece and one of my favourite scenes of the series. The music has energy and atmosphere, not spilling out the emotions too much.
Much is informative here, 'Perri' is one of the ones where a lot of information was pretty new to me and any familiar material felt fresh. Most of it unfamiliar, meaning that as far as the True Life Adventures series and its feature films go 'Perri' for me was one of the more educational ones. It was interesting having a subject very different to what is usually seen in nature documentaries, to focus on a type of animal that is not covered a lot was refreshing. And in a way that made me sad why squirrels aren't discussed enough in documentaries and they are much more interesting than they seem.
Did find it very cute, without it being overly so, and charming and the titular character is loveable and easy to engage with. Winston Hibler is a good natured narrator and have never felt him dull sounding. The narration entertains and teaches, as well as easy to invest in emotionally.
Concluding, very good and well worth watching. Especially if you want to learn more about a very under-explored animal. 8/10.
The "School Raze" two parter is yet another Season 8 episode that could have been a lot more. 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic's' season finales were a bit up and down (with Season 1's "The Best Night Ever" and Season 4's "Twilight's Kingdom" being by far the best ones), with none of them massively misfiring but those two were in a different league to the rest in a good way. Although Season 8 was one of the show's most inconsistent seasons, it did have great moments.
Sadly, "School Raze Part 1" isn't one of them. Same goes with the second part. It isn't a misfire, in the way that especially "Non-Compete Clause", "Yakity-Sax", "A Matter of Principals" and "The End in Friend" were. But it is nowhere close to the great level of "Horse Play", "The Hearth's Warming Club", "What Lies Beneath" and especially "Sounds of Silence". Instead it is somewhat like "The Mean 6", in that it had fantastic potential and had all the makings of a great episode but did too little with it. Of the two parts, Part 1 came off a little weaker and was not hugely memorable apart from one scene. Part 2 was very flawed but was more eventful and did more with enough of the characters, too much of Part 1 is bland.
Part 1 does have good things. All the episodes in the season, including the misfires, were beautifully animated and it is no exception here, with the vibrant atmospheric colours and richly detailed backgrounds the animation is great and is at times some of the season's most ambitious. The music has groove and also a lot of atmosphere, fitting beautifully. Have no issues with the voice work, all the regulars and Student Six are nigh on perfect and Sunni Westbrook sears at the end. While not caring for Neighsay here, it is always a plus hearing Maurice LaMarche and even more so when he is using the voice he used for voicing Brain from 'Pinky and the Brain'.
When it comes to the storytelling in "School Raze Part 1" the best part is the ending, as it is the most dramatic the episode gets and did give off intensity. The reveal doesn't feel like it came out of nowhere, as there was foreshadowing or strong suspection earlier in the season. Sadly though on a side note it was not much of a surprise, as it and the character it mainly centres around were heavily spoiled at the time before airing. The Student Six are very well characterised and love their distinct personalities and how they interact.
However, the episode felt on the bland side. It is quite thin when it comes to the drama and spends too much time setting things up, it's only at the reveal when there is a proper glimpse of a story. The writing did intrigue at times but generally it was too heavy on exposition, and other parts were aimless. It does suffer in my view from having too many characters, and unfortunately too many of them were underused or pointless (the Cutie Mark Crusaders could have been left out completely, the episode does nothing really with them).
Tirek is particularly wronged, one of the show's best ever villains reduced to an underwritten clueless buffoon and it was something of an insult really. The pacing does drag from the story being too slight and the writing not being tight enough.
All in all, watchable but a bit of a potential waste sad to say. Humble opinion of course. 5/10.