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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)
The Electronic Mouse Trap (1946)
Mighty Mouse's theatrical series consisted of 80 cartoons running from 1942 and 1961. They vary in quality. Some, as far as the previous cartoons in the series go, are quite good, such as 'The Mouse of Tomorrow', 'Mighty Mouse and the Wolf', 'Bad Bill Bunion' and 'The Wicked Wolf'. Others were quite weak, such as 'Eliza on the Ice', 'The Two Barbers', 'At the Circus' and 'My Old Kentucky Home'. The others are in between mediocre and slightly above average.
1946's 'The Electronic Mouse Trap' is not one of the best Mighty Mouse cartoons. It is also not one of the worst. It is not even one of the best or worst from that year. 'The Electronic Mouse Trap' is instead to me one of the somewhere in the middle ones on both of those counts, and belongs in the category of watchable, inoffensive and worth one viewing but little exceptional, pretty average and not having enough to it to be worthy of repeat viewings.
'The Electronic Mouse Trap' certainly has some great things in its favour. The best assets, as is the case for a vast majority of the series, being the animation and the music. The animation is colourful and neat and it is great that the backgrounds increasingly became more ambitious and more detailed. Even better is the music. Lush, full of energy and so infectious and cleverly constructed.
Of the characters, the best by far is the cat professor. Have noticed a pattern, or a commodity, in that the most interesting or best character always tends to be the villain. He poses an antagonistic threat, and is formidable without being too scary and amusing without being a buffoon. There are some amusing moments here and there and that mouse trap is really quite cool.
However, the story is very formulaic and it is something that has been seen so many times and with much more imagination and variation. Indicating a running out of ideas and recycling them feel, that was not an uncommon problem for the studio actually. To the extent that even those seeing it with an open mind will be guessing correctly what is going to happen next the entire time. The final third does feel repetitive. 'The Electronic Mouse Trap' is another case of being less good when Mighty Mouse appears, it becomes a different cartoon and an inferior one. Didn't even see the need for Mighty Mouse, merely a plot device here that could have been filled by any character really, who doesn't even feel like a lead character and as he is meant to be the star that is a bit of a problem.
Very little here generates many laughs and even when Mighty Mouse appears, when one thinks that ideally things should liven up as he's the hero, the pace remains quite limp. The mice are completely bland to the extent that one wonders what there is to them that is worth saving.
Altogether, definitely worth a try but not one to expect too much from. 5/10
Not a faceless episode
Part of me is quite fond still of "The No Faced Zombie Chase". It was one of my first 'The Scooby Doo Show' episodes, perhaps even my first along with "Watt a Shocking Ghost", and in primary school it was one of my favourite episodes of the show. Despite it being an episode that did frighten me when first getting into Scooby Doo because of the villain. If one sees him move and hear him, one may understand why he is the stuff of nightmares.
"The No Faced Zombie Chase" is not quite a favourite nowadays and has gone slightly down in my estimations. Don't get me wrong, it is a very well done episode and the titular villain still holds up and the impact he had as a child hasn't tired. Actually think that two thirds of "The No Faced Zombie Face Chase" is brilliant, and it was this close to being a show high point. The other third is not quite so much, it didn't bother me at all as a child/early teen but in my view nowadays it brings down the episode a bit.
So many good, great even, things here. The pluses far outweigh the minuses and even the minuses are not that disastrous. The animation is colourful and atmospheric, the highlight being the animation on the zombie. Doing such a great job at making the movements and the way of walking so freaky. The music fits stylistically and doesn't jar with the atmosphere. The theme song is one of the franchise's catchiest. Did like the writing here, especially the humour courtesy of Shaggy and Scooby. The story is great fun and agreed endearing, with a generally solid mystery and great use of the toy factory setting.
As said, the no faced zombie is terrifying, especially the dragging of the leg and the moan and one's heart skips a beat when Scooby encounters him for the first time. One of the show's villains that one doesn't forget for a long time after watching the episode. There are some great moments when in the toy factory, especially the duplicate Scoobies and when the gang pretend to be talking dolls escaping the zombie. Love Shaggy and Scooby as always and the voice acting is strong.
It is a shame though that the final third isn't as strong as what comes before. Actually didn't think that the gorilla was necessary and has nowhere near the same amount of creepiness that the zombie has. The mystery doesn't have the same amount of excitement and the action for my tastes got repetitive.
One never watches Scooby Doo for shocking reveals, there are few of them in this incarnation (though they do exist) and a lot of them are predictable. The perpetrator in "The No Faced Zombie Chase" is a little too on the obvious side, in a case with few suspects the person responsible was the only one pretty much to have the right height and physique to fit the costume convincingly. That is my view of course.
Concluding, very good and brilliant for most of the duration. 8/10
Renaissance fairs and robot duplicates
When 'Phineas and Ferb' first started to air, Disney Channel was nowhere near as good as it used to be and still isn't. Instead of the likes of the animated Disney shows of the 80s and 90s, most of it was and still is animated shows with childish humour and Disney Channel sitcoms and unfortunately it tended to not be the good ones. This continued throughout the whole of 'Phineas and Ferb's' run to the extent that this became one of the few shows airing on the Channel worth watching.
"A Hard Day's Knight" and "I, Brobot" are good examples of why. Neither are among the best, or at least among my favourite, 'Phineas and Ferb' episodes, but both are very good with lots of great things. "A Hard Day's Knight" really did remind me of the imaginary medieval games my brother used to like doing and "I, Brobot" made the most out of the show's most creative concepts that one can likely relate to.
Both episodes were a touch manic in the pace at times, which was not unusual actually for 'Phineas and Ferb'.
Other episodes also have stronger Perry and Doofenschmirtz subplots, ones that are more imaginative, more wonderfully nuts and more of a storyline rather than more a series of jokes like they were in particularly "I, Brobot".
Not that that is a massively bad thing, as they are still very entertaining and there are some lovely little touches with Perry and Doofenschmirtz's lines always bring a smile to the face. The animation is still wonderfully vibrant with very rich attention to detail. The music is dynamic with the action and the theme song is insanely catchy with very clever and quotable lyrics that anybody still in school fishing for how to spend their vacation will relate to.
The writing is sharp, intelligent, very funny and clever, some of the best lines in particularly "I, Brobot" going to Doofenschmirtz. Did like though too the poking fun of Phineas and Ferb themselves in the writing there in "I, Brobot". Once again, the right balance of being easy to understand for children while not being too juvenile for adults is successful. The stories for both episodes are great, that for "A Hard Day's Knight" is very nostalgic and "I, Brobot" as said takes a creative premise and manages to not make it too ordinary. The characters and voice acting are all on point.
All in all, very well done and enjoyable if not 'Phineas and Ferb' at its best. 8/10
Rabbit Ears: Annie Oakley (1992)
As part of their series of children's literature adaptations, Rabbit Ears Productions did a series of adaptations based on American Heroes and Legends from 1992 to 1994. Not just Annie Oakley (also the subject with great success of the musical 'Annie Get Your Gun', though that is to be judged as a standalone), but also Rip Van Winkle, John Henry and Davy Crockett. And quite brilliantly, absolutely love many of the company's adaptations and even the not as brilliant ones are still well done in a number of areas.
While not one of my favourites quite of Rabbit Ears Productions' American Heroes and Legends adaptations, do prefer 'Rip Van Winkle' and 'John Henry', 'Annie Oakley' is still great and will be ideal for children and adults alike. It is a great and accessible way to get children introduced to the character and her story, both entertaining, and anybody that likes their adaptations of childrens/family literature recognisable and done with respect to the original source material while with enough to set it apart tastefully should find much to admire with 'Annie Oakley'. Speaking as one of those people.
Other Rabbit Ears Productions adaptations appeal to me more visually, with character designs being more consistently refined in other work of theirs, but the drawing is still striking and effective in its relative simplicity (while never looking too limited). A big star here in 'Annie Oakley' is the music of Los Lobos, did have a fear that their music would be out of place and jar too much stylistically. Actually though it gives the adaptation a real spirited energy which the tale needs.
Keith Carradine was an interesting choice for narrator, which required a Will Rogers-like vibe, and again was not sure initially as to whether he would fit and be too intense. He is actually immensely engaging and quite humorous, voicing with real enthusiasm and savouring the character-filled dialogue. Which crackles with fun and isn't ever too simple or too complicated.
Loved the exciting adventurous element of the storytelling and the tremendous energy that comes with it. Annie is both charismatic and endearing.
Concluding, great if not one of my favourites of the American Heroes and Legends adaptations from Rabbit Ears Productions or of their whole oeuvre. 9/10
"Life's but a walking shadow"
'Macbeth' is such a great play, one of Shakespeare's most famous, quoted and studied for good reason. That is one reason to see any film or production of it. My other main reason for seeing this 1961 'Macbeth' was for Sean Connery early on in his career (pre-stardom), such a charismatic actor with many memorable performances (including the definitive interpretation of James Bond). Wanted to see how he would fare in the difficult title role.
On the most part, he fares surprisingly well. Though it is a performance that generally is better than the production itself, which is still decent and is worth watching if one wants to be an older staging of 'Macbeth' but those that prefer to have their productions more visually appealing may want to find another production perhaps. To me, it was interesting if not a great one and Orson Welles, Roman Polanski, Akira Kurosawa as directors and also Ian McKellen with Judi Dench are a little more ideal.
Connery is one of the better things about this 'Macbeth', some occasional ill at ease moments early on aside. As has been said already, he is a more extroverted and almost more thunderous Macbeth to usual but his intense charisma even early on still shines through and brings enough nuance to the solliloquies. Zoe Caldwell matches him equally well as an imperious and at times chilling Lady Macbeth, and they are on fire in their chemistry together in especially their plotting. William Needles' Banquo is suitably noble and Ted Follows moves as Macduff.
While not being crazy on the production values overall, the use of light and shadow was highly effective. There are cuts here, which will not please those that like their adaptations/productions unabridged, but it didn't affect the story at all which was still easy to follow and flowed well. Very little disjoint here. The staging and character interaction are mostly very good, especially in the Macbeth and Lady Macbeth scenes and the scene between Macbeth, Banquo and Fleance.
The low budget does show sadly. Not the costumes but in the static video directing and the sets, which could have been effective in their minimalism but instead looked simplistic, too stark and under-budgeted. The witches' scenes all look cheap in particular. While the cuts don't affect the drama, there are simplified changes to the text that both take one out of the setting and disrupt the rhythm.
Although the lead roles are fine the more secondary roles come over as bland. Didn't like the interpretation of the witches at all, nowhere near creepy or foreboding enough and overacted which really undermines the tension and makes Macbeth's reactions to what they're saying not make much sense. Their scenes and the Banquo's ghost scene, the latter being not an easy scene to nail and have seen it done badly many times, are on the amateurish side.
Concluding, worth seeing but not one of the essential productions of 'Macbeth'. 6/10
Out of all of the topics that Season 4 of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit', and the whole show in general actually come to think of it, "Fallacy's" is one of the bravest, yet also controversial, ones and actually even more relevant today than it was back then (despite more knowledge the ignorance is still there unfortunately today). Never have had a problem for such increasingly misunderstood people and actually don't really understand why there are others that do, and they deserve every ounce of happiness and acceptance.
"Fallacy" does a great job with this very difficult subject. It must have been a real challenge addressing this topic, due to how well or not it would go down, but "Fallacy" handles it with a lot of honesty and delicacy. Cannot disagree more with anybody that says that it shoves political views down the throats and feel personally that it is not particularly sensitive to say that. Is this episode one of my favourites of Season 4? Not quite, but to me it has always been a truly admirable and exceptionally well done episode and deserves a big Grade A effort for even trying tackling an issue that so many have been and still are ignorant of.
Did find myself somewhat annoyed by Stabler's attitude towards Cheryl, it did strike me as rather unsympathetic (and fans do know from episodes before and since that he can be sympathetic) and somewhat ignorant. That was my only real issue actually about "Fallacy".
So much is done right. The 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 the direction gives the drama urgency and breathing space.
The script provokes a lot of thought, especially in the whole conflict with whether to see Cheryl through law as a man and a woman (which will, and most probably still does, be a cause for debate), and doesn't ramble. The story is very interesting throughout and moved me too quite a bit, there is one significant and shocking event part-way through that many, including myself, are likely to wish to have a not bad outcome. It isn't obvious either, can think of at least three parts that shocked me, and it is not confusing. The episode did not have an easy subject to cover and it covered it actually with honesty and tact, personally didn't see the shoving down people's throat vibe others got.
All the regulars are terrific, namely Mariska Hargitay as the most understanding and sympathetic of the team members here. The truly moving and courageous performance of Katherine Moennig as a complex character also stands out in a major way. The ending did shock and sadden me.
Overall, great. 9/10
Dominance at its most unnerving
Shall never forget my first viewing of "Dominance" some years ago and equally shall never forget being very disturbed by it, in a way that was in no way expected. The subject alone is enough to make the stomach churn and on my first watch the execution equally shocked (even more so actually), while in no way undermining the episode's brilliance. If anything, it is the subject and how "Dominance" executed it that made it stand out amongst the rest of Season 4's episodes.
On my couple of repeat viewings, "Dominance" still has its shock value and actually through older eyes it struck me as more disturbing than on first watch. It is one of the best episodes of Season 4 and of the early seasons, and as far as Season 4 goes (in a season full of episodes that hit hard atmospherically and emotionally for various reasons) it is a very strong contender for the most shocking and certainly the most twisted. It is one of those once seen, never forgotten episodes and is not for the faint hearted, but has enough rewatch value because everything is done so brilliantly.
"Dominance" does everything right. As always, it's a slickly made episode, the editing especially having come on quite a bit from when the show first started (never was it a problem but it got more fluid with each episode up to this stage). The episode is also interesting for having more locations than usual up to this point of the show's run. The music is sparingly used and never seemed melodramatic, the theme tune easy to remember as usual. The direction is sympathetic enough without being too low key on the whole.
The script is hard-boiled and tense while also thought-provoking and not sleazy. The story and its atmosphere are what make "Dominance" stand out. With it having one of the show's highest body counts, not many 'Special Victims Unit' episodes started with a quite horrific quadruple murder (at this point of the show's run, this was quite unique) and a truly twisted modus operandi (one of the show's most twisted), this is one shock to the system. One does expect to be disturbed from reading the synopsis but, with the responsible being one of the early seasons' most sadistic and one of the show's and franchise's most frightning relationships, being this shocked was not as expected.
In "Dominance", one may guess some of the truth later on, did actually have some inkling of the responsible's identity halfway through, but not this level of depravity that is really quite chilling at the end. All handled in an intelligent, creepy and suspenseful way. The team character writing, especially for Fin, and interaction are spot on and the episode contains one of the show's most dysfunctional ever families. The acting is great from all, the regulars are all dead on and Ian Somerhalder is particularly unnerving.
Concluding, brilliant episode. 10/10
Not what it appears
This was a brave subject to tackle. Of all the subjects of Season 4, "Appearances" has one of the braver and one of the most controversial subjects of a season full of them. 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' was no stranger to bold and difficult topics and continued to do tackle plenty long after this. This topic could have gone either way though in execution. It could have been harrowing, gripping and sympathetically done. Or it could have been heavy-handed, too strange and too heavy on the smut.
"Appearances" thankfully is an example of the former. It is not an easy watch, then again when reading the synopsis and if familiar with 'Special Victims Unit' beforehand one expects it to not be an easy watch. It made me very sad. It also made me very angry, not at the quality of the episode but the shocking events that would make anybody sickened. It also educated me, with saying a lot of illuminating things about a subject there was not much prior knowledge about. While not quite as great as the previous episode "Desperate", "Appearances" is nonetheless great with many noteworthy qualities.
Very little to criticise here. While it is very interesting and well done and will evoke much debate, the ending for me was a little on the rushed side.
However, everything else is done brilliantly. The production values, especially the intimate photography, are stylish and slick with a brighter and more refined look, while maintaining the show's grit. The music doesn't overbear and is not overused. The direction keeps things moving well while letting the drama breathe.
Despite the script having, as usual for 'Special Victims Unit' and for the 'Law and Order' franchise, a good deal of talk, it never felt rambling and it was talk that held the attention, made me think hard afterwards, educated me and induced a lot of emotions. The story never felt too simple or confused and handled the subject in a pull no punches, very shocking yet tasteful way, luckily it doesn't get too smutty which it easily could have done considering the sleaziness of the subject. A subject that may be controversial but there shouldn't be much here that would cause controversy. The episode is courtroom heavy, which is not a bad thing as the courtroom scenes in prime-'Special Victims Unit' were done wonderfully.
Characterisation is spot on lead and supporting, with character interaction that is always genuine and never static. Did appreciate that it didn't try to lean too heavily on one side and tried to see it from more than one perspective when talking of the case's moral dilemmas. The performances are very good all round.
Overall, great. 9/10
The last gasp
On my first watch of "Desperate" when first getting into 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' years back, it was an episode that really hit me hard emotionally. Not that that is a bad thing, far from it. Considering the subject, which is a hard-hitting one, that was appropriate and the show and the franchise showed how brilliant they were at pulling no punches. Found it a truly beautiful and powerful episode and a standout of a mostly solid Season 4.
Which with "Desperate" got back on track quality-wise, after two disappointing episodes in a row after "Mercy" and a very good but not great one in "Privilege". On many re-watches since, "Desperate" still holds up. Brilliantly. It was wonderful on first watch and got even better with each viewing, thanks to the emotional impact, the gripping storytelling and the pitch perfect performances. The best since "Mercy" and one of the best and most heart-wrenching of the whole season and of the early seasons.
"Desperate" is spot on in every way. The 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 lets the drama breathe while making sure that the tension and emotion never slipped.
The episode is a very tautly yet sympathetically scripted one. It particularly resonates in the dialogue between Olivia and Tommy, like when he opens up, the tenderness and poignancy of that part especially really packs an emotional wallop and a major one. The story still wrenches the gut, and a subject that takes a lot of guts to tackle anywhere is handled in a way that is uncompromising yet tender. The ending, one of the most powerful of Season 4, has never failed to make me cry, likewise with much of the episode (up there with "Angels", "Vulnerable" and "Mercy" on the high emotion level).
All the characters are interesting and sensitively written, Tommy is both adorable and incredibly easy to relate to. The character interaction is similarly gripping and sensitive, Tommy and Olivia being a prime example. The acting is excellent all round. Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay are equally without complaint and this is an example of an episode that shows how when well written good they are as characters. Rob Estes is suitably loathsome but acting wise the episode belongs to a heart-rending and never over sweet Max Weinstein, child acting performances on 'Special Victims Unit' were seldom equalled or bettered and when it comes to guest acting turns in Season 4 Weinstein for me is easily in the top 10.
Overall, wonderful episode. 10/10
Leap in the wrong direction
Have always found the Apple family very variable when it comes to how they are characterised, sometimes they're good fun and identifiable and in other episodes they are not too interesting and it is dependent on the premise. The premise here being a pretty good one, despite the presence of the annoying Flim Flam Brothers, which sounded easy to identify with if done right. Applejack has also been variably written and that is very obvious in Season 4.
It was a shame that Season 4 went from one of its best episodes ("For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils") to one of its worst with "Leap of Faith". It is a long way from being a terrible episode, despite some of the season's episodes being very flawed none of them fit in the category of terrible to me. It's just not particularly good either and a good example of a great concept that never fires on all cylinders in execution, which is really frustrating.
"Leap of Faith" definitely has good things. What immediately stood out to me was the writing for Applejack. After disliking her so much in "Somepony to Watch Over Me", she is fully redeemed here. Her conflict and inner turmoil did connect with me emotionally and were identifiable, sadly deserving of a much better episode. Granny Smith also comes over well and it is hard to not root for her here when in similar situations. Loved her interaction with Applebloom, which was very endearing. The moral is great and one of the season's most relevant and rootable ones, as well as sincerely delivered.
The animation is fine as usual, a visual feast when it comes to the beautifully varied colours. The music is quirky and dynamic and there is some nice character interaction (especially Granny Smith and Applebloom). The voice acting is also very good, especially Ashleigh Ball who brings a lot of nuance to Applejack.
Sadly, much more could have been done with the concept. Which is executed very predictably and too ordinarily. The pacing never fully involves with too much padding that doesn't go very far. The Flim Flam Brothers have been worse in other episodes, but they still irritate. It would have been better if Silver Shill wasn't in it at all as absolutely nothing is done with him, he has no development or personality and his motivations are woefully under-explored.
Did think in this regard that Applejack's decision making at times could have been clearer, especially why she couldn't tell the truth. The writing is not awful as at least it didn't make me cringe, it just feels bland and sporadic mildly amusing moments aside it is very subdued in comedy in quality and quantity. With motivations being so lacking in clarity there was an incomplete feel at times. The story is a great idea that never comes to life pace-wise or emotionally and has no imagination.
In short, very average but watchable. 5/10
Life or death
When one hears nothing but great things about an episode and sees many fans deem it a season and show high-point/favourite, it is very hard to not have high expectations. Especially when the concept also is so great. The case on both counts with "Shibboleth". Season 4 had a lot of great ideas and themes, some intriguingly strange, on paper, as did 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' in general, though not all of them completely lived up to their potential.
"Shibboleth" is one of those 'Criminal Intent' episodes with particularly interesting ideas that not only did live up to its potential but it also exceeded it. Am in complete agreement with those that consider it one of the best episodes of the fourth season and when it comes to the show in general it is right up there as a standout. "Shibboleth" is a very disturbing, sometimes strange and at times surprisingly moving episode, with great performances and interesting characters. Nothing conventional about how the story is told.
There is a huge amount to love about "Shibboleth". It starts off brilliantly, one of my favourite openings of the show in fact thanks to its nail-biting creepiness. The intrigue never dampens, neither does the suspense there from the start or the emotional impact. There is a strangeness at times, such as the murderer's unique (for the show) modus operandi, but the strangeness doesn't get over the top or senseless thankfully.
It is a brilliantly written episode as well. Goren's perceptions, Eames' sass, the very nuanced character development of Durbin and how the perpetrator makes one sick to the stomach are very note-worthy and there are some both tense and entertaining exchanges throughout. The case is one of the season's best, it is intricate without being over-plotted or convoluted, it is very tightly paced without being rushed and it is laden with atmosphere from the very beginning that really haunts.
Goren and Eames work so well together and are still great characters. Am another person too that absolutely loved seeing more of Carver, always liked him and have always felt he was underused so it was great to see him at his most interesting in some time. Durbin is fascinating as a character, his vulnerability beautifully written and acted while the perpetrator is one of the season's and show's most sadistic. Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe are terrific as always. Paul Sparks does tormented so movingly, fear and compassion poignantly delivered. Kevin Conway is here absolutely chilling.
Concluding, incredible. 10/10
Now this is the sort of premise that appeals to me much more, after being underwhelmed, the second 'Law and Order: Special Vctims Unit' episode to underwhelm in a row, somewhat by the previous episode "Tortured" (an episode that didn't have the most interesting of concepts and had very uneven execution of it). The premise here sounded very intriguing and unpredictable, even if there was a danger of it being sleazy if executed the wrong way.
Which it thankfully wasn't. Although it is not one of the best episodes of Season 4, or on the same level of most of the episodes in the first half of the season (for examples "Chameleon", "Dolls", "Damaged" and "Risk", another high point being "Mercy" at the season's halfway mark), "Privilege" is a marked improvement over "Pandora" and "Tortured". To me too, with the exception of one glaring problem "Privilege" is very good on the whole.
My only real complaint is the implausible part where crucial evidence is deemed inadmissable on no grounds whatsoever, something that always did infuriate me on all viewings of "Privilege" and really sticks out like a sore thumb here, in the season and of the early seasons of 'Special Victims Unit'.
The 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 script is taut, not too talky or flowery and makes one think. It has grit too and it doesn't feel trivialised or too heavy. The direction has breathing space but is never too deliberate.
Really liked the story overall, apart from that part. It intrigues from the get go, and while the truth is never obvious and suitably perplexing from the get go it gets more unpredictable and twisty as the it progresses without being convoluted or strange. Always do admire it when episodes follow the theme of the wealthy and powerful thinking that they're invinsible and what lengths they'd go through to maintain what they stand for, which the franchise often did very well and "Privilege" is no exception. The truth is a surprise and done believably.
All the regulars are very good as is Erik von Detten, who does arrogance and brattiness so unsettlingly.
Overall, very good. 8/10
Law & Order: Doubles (1994)
You know something is not right when from the outset before watching you are not particularly sold on the premise. While appreciating tennis and noting its resemblance (as has been said already) to the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan story, the story never sounded that interesting. Saw it anyway as a fan of 'Law and Order' and of the franchise in its prime, and it was an episode that left me rather cold on first viewing and not an awful lot better than the premise.
Of the various 'Law and Order' episodes rewatched recently, "Doubles" still doesn't do much for me and my feelings are similar to before. On re-watches, some episodes were just as good/great as the first time, even better or a little less good, but there were very few episodes that fitted in the never cared for it that much category and "Doubles" is sadly one of them in my view. Season 4 on the whole was a good, if not consistent, season and "Doubles" is easily my least favourite of the twenty two episodes that make up the season.
"Doubles" does have good things. It looks typically slick especially in the typically intimate photography and the editing has come on a good deal. The music is used appropriately and didn't come over as overbearing. The episode does get a little better and more intriguing when things become not so obvious in the latter stages.
The performances are all fine, lead and supporting, and the character interaction likewise. John Heard and Allison Dunbar are both very good in their roles and yes it was great and quite refreshing to see Michael Moriarty smile.
Sadly, the case for "Doubles" fails to completely engage let alone excite. Far from unwatchable, but on first watch it struck me as rather dull and bland and that's still the case. There could have been more energy, all competently done but in a safe and workmanlike way, and there is a lack of tension or anything to be emotionally invested by. Much of it is too easy to figure out and quite predictable from doing little new with familiar ground and when things are not as obvious it is not easy to get one's head round at first.
Usually the dialogue is tight and thought probing, there are moments of the latter in "Doubles" but most of it is on the soapy and limp side. The early portions are too routine for my tastes. The direction is far from amateurish but never does it feel that inspired at the same time.
Concluding, disappointingly average. 5/10
Have heard mixed opinions regarding the Roland and Rattfink series. Know of some that have the opinion that it started unsure and became more confident in the latter cartoons. Also know of people that feel that it started off pleasantly enough while never reaching great levels but ran out of ideas later on. Am quite mixed on the series overall and never found myself completely bowled over by any of the seventeen cartoons, and can see both sides.
Did think that a few of the best Roland and Rattfink cartoons were in the latter half, but also that the series, which had little originality anyway, did run out of ideas and resort to recycling. There were laudable attempts at changes in formula, with different settings and experimenting with the characters to allow them to slip into each scenario, which varied on the whole. 'Bridgework' is somewhere in the middle ranking the Roland and Rattfink cartoons, it is better than the previous two cartoons that were lesser efforts while not being among either the best or worst of the series.
'Bridgework' does have a good deal to like. It actually feels like a Roland and Rattfink cartoon, unlike the previous two cartoons, which eliminated Roland (despite a brief cameo at the end of the latter) and featured an inconsistently characterised solo Rattfink, a lot of predictability, stories that felt a bit out of place within the series and unpleasant supporting characters. Rattfink is true to character here, again unlike before where it felt like the writers were not sure what to do with him (which was not a problem here). Roland is back, though not as funny or as interesting as Rattfink while still being appropriately well meaning and likeable, and their chemistry is well handled, their contrasting personalities working well.
While the animation left me relatively mixed, leaning actually towards decent, it is frequently vibrant and quite varied in colour and nicely detailed in the backgrounds. The music is suitably light-hearted and quite nostalgic, fitting quite well with 'Bridgework's' lively energy. Despite originality being barely existent, the cartoon does have amusing moments, namely the ending, and there is a good deal of energy. Lennie Weinrib shows that he has grown into both the characters and makes them more individual from each other.
Roland is not as interesting a character as Rattfink, pleasant enough if a bit bland whereas Rattfink provides most of the cartoon's energy. The boss character doesn't make much of an impression and is basically a weaker, more annoying and incompletely animated version of Rattfink. The fish make more of an impression than him. The animation leans mostly towards decent, but it does lack finesse and care in the drawing.
It is good that 'Bridgework' doesn't feel out of place within the Roland and Rattfink series and didn't feel like it belonged somewhere else, but other than the setting this was like the same plot in terms of formula that we have seen for most of the previous cartoons but with little variation. A formula that was quite familiar ground anyway and this premise is quite reminiscent of something you'd find in Looney Tunes and the Popeye and Bluto cartoons. Although 'Bridgework' is fun and is hardly short-changed when it comes to the gags, the gags are a long way from innovative and it is not hard to figure out how it's all going to turn out and how every gag maps out.
Concluding, not great but not bad at all. 6/10
Pain and remorse
All the previous nine episodes of the timeless classic that is 'Brideshead Revisited' are brilliant. Exquisite production values. Deliberate but always involving storytelling, with the character relationships faithfully and beautifully written and characterised (like with Charles and Sebastian, Charles and Lord Marchmain and Charles and Celia). Perfectly fitting music with that classic main theme. Eloquent writing. Perfect casting, Diana Quick being a little too old at first being the sole minor reservation.
There couldn't have been a better penultimate episode for anything than "A Twitch Upon the Thread" (that title being part of that very memorable and symbolic line in Cordelia's Father Brown story). It gets one prepared for the powerful emotion that the final episode "Brideshead Revisited" is filled with, with a lot of emotion of its own. All the previous episodes' strengths are here in "A Twitch Upon the Thread" and with none of the impact lost.
Julia's reaction to Bridey's living in sin comments and how it resonates with her with it applying to her is very striking, it was a masterful piece of character writing in the book and a real turning point for Julia and it translates powerfully here. As does Cordelia's role, her detailing of her experiences is truly harrowing and makes one truly sad about how bad things have become since the early parts. When it comes to Bridey, "A Twitch Upon the Thread" is his meatiest episode, being the episode where his dialogue in particular really strikes a chord as much with the viewer (not expecting what he says) as it does with Julia.
Phoebe Nicholls has lost none of her charm but is also very poignant and disarming too. Diana Quick's portrayal of pain and remorse comes over as very genuine and affecting. Simon Jones is firm yet understated, while his coldness and lack of remorse when offending Julia is quite chilling. Jeremy Irons is on the money as usual though his material this time is not quite as strong as the others, his chemistry with Quick is beautifully sympathetic.
Cordelia's writing/dialogue is especially well adapted and resonates the most when it comes to the dialogue for the characters. The retrospective moments are of eloquent poetry and Bridey's comments do sting. The directing is accomodating and assured. The production values are still exquisite and the music always fits without being over the top or bland.
Overall, brilliant. 10/10
Criminal Minds: The Tall Man (2018)
The spooky man
The premise sounded absolutely great, reading the synopsis immediately had me sold. Have for a long time gotten a lot out of 'Criminal Minds', though will admit that it has been hit and miss for a long time. The largely positive reactions from fans also furthered my interest. Have been mixed on JJ for a while personally, loved her Seasons 1-6 but the tougher personality felt like the writers were trying too hard to make her more interesting, which wasn't needed, so there was intrigue and worry as to how an episode heavily centered around her would fare.
Luckily "The Tall Man" has a huge amount to recommend. Also nearly forgot to mention that that it was directed by Matthew Gray Gubler grabbed me, being someone that loved the likes of "Mosley Lane" and "Mr Scratch" and someone that knows Gubler does creepy extremely well. "The Tall Man" is among the best JJ-centric episodes, certainly the best in a long time in my view, easily one of the best of Season 14 and the best episode since the Season 14 opener "300".
Did think that a few of the connections in regard to JJ's past were a little reliant on coincidence and more could have been done with everything with the necklace.
On the other hand, "The Tall Man" is a well made episode visually with a lot of atmosphere in the photography for the creepier scenes. The music didn't feel overused, neither did it come over as too loud even in build ups. It is one of the season's better written episodes, very thought-provoking and with tauter tension and emotion than most Season 14 episodes. The story is really fascinating, one of not many episodes of Season 14 to not have a run out of ideas feel. It is genuinely creepy, Gubler was always great at creepy atmosphere, but in a restrained yet unsettling way and not in a gratuitously gruesome way like "Rule 34". It is not a simple case, but it is not an over-complex one and doesn't have implausible plot twists or dullness.
Absolutely loved the character development for JJ, which is both illuminating and heart-wrenching. The episode doesn't try too hard with her, having both the sympathetic element of her character of the earlier seasons and the tough one of the latter seasons (except not heavy-handedly this time). It was difficult to not empathise with her or root for her closure, all done without being too soapy. Although some did/may find the identity of the unsub not the most surprising on the block (though it is not as prematurely obvious as in "Innocence"), that was easy to overlook for me as they are not just creepy they are also pretty sick to put it lightly. Did like their backstory without focusing on it too much.
Did think too that the team's closeness, JJ and Rossi have some lovely exchanges together, and ability to work coherently was more than obvious throughout. They are far from underused or useless and their teamwork, which is plentiful and interesting, doesn't come at the expense of JJ. The acting is very good, with immensely affecting AJ Cook being on the same level of tour de force as Gubler in "300".
Summing up, great episode and one of the best episodes of Season 14 easily. 9/10
The Crown: Act of God (2016)
'The Crown' started off great and went from strength to strength throughout the whole of the first season. From the very start of its inception 'The Crown' managed to be an exceptionally well made, written and acted series, with absorbing storytelling too, and became one of 2016's major hits when it first began (had no personal doubt that it would be as this is exactly my kind of thing). Anybody interested in the Royals should consider seeing at least one episode.
"Act of God" is a great fourth episode and sees the first season still going strong. "Hyde Park Corner" and "Windsor" to me had slightly more tension and Elizabeth had more character progression in those episodes too, but all the things that made them and the first episode "Wolferton Splash" as wonderful as they were are absolutely here in "Act of God" with equal effect. To me it didn't matter that liberties were taken with the truth, believing firmly in judging a film/show/episode on its own merits and "Act of God" fares wonderfully on its own in this regard.
Once again, "Act of God's" production values are superb. 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.
It's on point in the writing as well, it always intrigues and provokes a lot of thought. The story is deliberately paced but not dull, the situation does have some tense conflict, thanks to the chillingly claustrophobic atmosphere, and it worked very well as a separate story from the previous three episodes. All the characters are written well, especially Churchill.
Similarly, the acting can't be faulted. Love Claire Foy's nuanced Elizabeth (her expressive face and eyes) and John Lithgow is entertaining, formidable and at times vulnerable as Churchill (it didn't ever matter to me that Lithgow is too tall for Churchill because the interpretation was always spot on).
Concluding, wonderful fourth episode. 9/10
Christmas a la Mode (2019)
Christmas on time
'Christmas a La Mode' had one of those premises that actually didn't excite me all that much. It sounded very thin on the ground and like one of those films where everything was going to be obvious from the get go all the way through to the end. It is one of those premises that has been done quite a few times before and done quite conventionally each time. Saw it anyway, being such a big fan of Christmas and because of seeing a number of Lifetime/Hallmark etc. Christmas films overtime.
My somewhat indifferent feelings on the premise has sadly not changed all that much since watching 'Christmas a La Mode', with its execution of it being pretty much what it sounded like reading the basic synopsis. It isn't a terrible film, there are moments and good things, but there is not much really that is great either and some things are downright badly executed. There are certainly far worse Christmas films around, also far better.
There are good things here in 'Christmas a La Mode'. The best thing about it for me was Ryan Cooper, who came over as charming and sympathetic and his character was easily the easiest to warm to. Katie Leclerc also fared well and gives it her all, she didn't overdo the role and it didn't sound like she was just reading the lines. Did like them together and it was clear that they cared for each other.
Visually, 'Christmas a La Mode' looks attractive with some lovely scenery complemented without any signs of drabness or garishness by the photography. There are a few sweet moments here and there.
However, do agree with those that found the music too constant and too loud and it was neither interesting or appealing music. It balances poorly with the dialogue, which is also nothing to write home about due to the overload of cheese and over-sentiment. Also agree with those that found the character of Dorothy insufferably irritating and her last minute character change far too unrealistically abrupt. Jennifer Ellis overacted the character in my view too.
Found the story paper thin, with a pretty uneventful first half, and dully paced on the whole. While also hastily and too patly wrapping things up at the end. Generally it lacked charm and heart, with too little to it, and pretty much everything was obvious well before they happened. Only the two leads are good when it comes to the acting, everybody else overacts or is forgettable with none of their characters being interesting. The direction is workmanlike at best.
Overall, lacklustre but with moments. 4/10
Christmas 9 to 5 (2019)
Although the concept for the story didn't sound anything innovative, something that one should never expect from Lifetime as you are nearly always going to be disappointed, part of me was intrigued by it as it did sound like potentially there could be things done differently to usual. As some may know already, this reviewer is somebody who has a big thing for good concepts (as well as good casts) and a big bugbear of mine is when they are squandered.
'Christmas 9 to 5' doesn't completely waste it, as despite my interest expectations were still not massive. At the same time, it doesn't fully explore it let alone exceed. It does try to do a few things differently, but none of them are executed well enough. As far as 2019 Lifetime Christmas films go, 'Christmas 9 to 5' is neither one of the best or worst and more a watchable middling effort that at the same time doesn't deserve obscurity status.
Shall start with the good. The production values are quite nice, some of 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.
Tiya Sircar is an amiable lead who really fully engages with her roles without exaggerating. The other casting standout was George Wendt, who is suitably jovial and has a real twinkle in his eye.
Less good sadly was a rather flat Joe Dinicol. There are moments of charm in his chemistry with Sircar, but their chemistry tends to look too awkward and could have done with more initial tension. To me it was a mistake for the central chemistry to be introduced late, as a result it did feel too rushed and underdeveloped (it also appears pretty out of the blue). The script is not as cheesy or as schmaltzy as some Lifetime Christmas films can be, but it does feel a bit on the bland side and do agree that it would have easily have passed for a script from 10 plus years ago.
While the story has some charming and engaging moments, it doesn't properly come to life consistently as a result of narratively the film being quite thin and doing little new with well worn tropes. The ending felt too rushed and too tidy.
Altogether, watchable but a bit mixed here. 5/10
Magical Christmas Shoes (2019)
Despite it not being one of the most inspired of titles, the premise did sound quite charming. Also saw 'Magical Christmas Shoes' for two other reasons. One was my love of Christmas. Two was that it was part of my Lifetime (and Hallmark) Christmas film completest quest, despite their 2019 output being such a mixed batch with some good, some mediocre at best and some somewhere between average and decent. A better standard than Hallmark's 2019 output.
'Magical Christmas Shoes' to me was one of the good ones. Was a bit unsure about it at the start, not uncommon with Lifetime Christmas films in the better faring category, but once the film started to warm up and find its footing it got a lot better. From personal view, 'Magical Christmas Shoes' when seeing it some months back was among the better 2019 Lifetime Christmas films quite easily, better than most of their films this year and certainly better than much of Hallmark's 2019 Christmas output.
The film does start off on the slow and formulaic side.
Some of the dialogue is also pretty bad early on too, sounding a little stilted and corny.
However, as said, once it got going (and it did so not too far in) 'Magical Christmas Shoes' got a lot better. Visually, it looks good in particularly the scenery which is nicely complemented by the photography. The music is pleasant and not intrusive, not always the case with Lifetime (even more Hallmark) films. The script is far from perfect, but is sweet and raised a number of smiles while not being too heavy on the sentiment. The story isn't perfect to begin with, but is mostly very charming and warm-hearted with an authentic atmosphere.
While the characters are familiar in type, my way of trying and failing to avoid the word cliched, they to me had personality and ones that didn't come over as stale or annoying. The central relationship didn't feel rushed, so less of a chance of out of the blue motivations, or take too long to unfold, and was amiable. Erin Karpluk and Damon Runyan are fine in the lead roles and well supported by everyone else.
Overall, well done and charming. 8/10
The Walking Dead: The Cell (2016)
Although Season 7 was a very disappointing season overall, and considered one of 'The Walking Dead's' worst for very good reason and considered the one that started the show's decline again justifiably, to me it didn't start off badly straightaway. Although the other six seasons started off at a much higher quality, the seventh started off promisingly though was still flawed, flaws that were the same throughout the season and to worse effect in succeeding episodes.
"The Cell" is the third episode, after two more than worthwhile but imperfect previous outings, and is again another worthwhile episode (one of the season's best) but not a great one and is nowhere near 'The Walking Dead' at its best. There are flaws here, and they are flaws present throughout the season, but there are also a good deal of good things and the show has far worse episodes, almost all of them after this but even Season 6 and before had disappointments.
Will start with what was done well. The acting was great, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan absolutely chilling as Negan and Norman Reedus' performance is intense and deeply felt (helped by some of his meatiest material in a while). Also shining is Austin Amelio, capturing Dwight's intensity, vulnerability and conflict perfectly to unnerving and sometimes affecting effect. For me, he was the most interesting character of the the characters focused upon. The chemistry/dynamic between Daryl and Dwight is edge of the seat stuff and the treatment of Daryl is harrowing without being overkill.
Also thought it did better at advancing characters, great to see a more complex Dwight, and progressing the story than the previous two episodes even though fewer characters are focused upon. It is a well made episode visually, very gritty and effectively claustrophobic without trying to be too clever for its own good. Mostly the music looms ominously while not hammering home too much. The directs has some nice tense and stylish moments.
However, the pace is still a bit too slow for my liking in an episode that had a story that required more tautness in my view, and actually think that there wasn't quite enough story to sustain the length. It would have helped immensely if there was less talk, its not tight enough and rambling nature tending to bog down the momentum.
Did Negan's dialogue again need to be so long-winded and need to explain everything too much? It did take away from the suspense and is starting already to get annoying, parts felt like padding. And even though it was meant to irritate, as a torture method, the song is so repetitive and over-bearing that it irritates the viewer too.
In a nutshell, worthwhile and with a lot to recommend but again something was missing. 7/10
Wonderful strangeness in the zone
'Tiny Toon Adventures' proved frequently that it could do episodes structured as (mostly three) segments very well. The quality in most may not have been consistent, with for example one segment being especially great and another only average, but all the show's segment-structured episodes have a huge amount to recommend. It is hard not to be excited by "Return to the Acme Acres Zone" if a fan of the show, because its premise sounds so promising.
Which fortunately "Return to the Acme Acres Zone" does not waste. As well as an eerily off the wall strangeness (without going overboard on it), the sharp wit and wackiness that one expects from 'Tiny Toon Adventures' and what can be seen too in classic Looney Tunes are present. The show's segment structured episodes are not always consistent in quality for reasons as said above, but "Return to the Acme Acres Zone" (also one of the show's better episodes in a while) is a case of all three segments working and equally brilliantly.
"Real Kids Don't Like Broccoli" is inspired in making the most of a suitably mysterious and entertainingly strange premise and quite inventive in how it renders its futuristic setting. It is admittedly quite weird in a good way and the weirdest segment of the three, Buster carries the segment incredibly well and Babs was a great choice for the femme fatale type role with a Kathleen Turner-like influence.
"Boo Ha Ha" when reading the synopsis on paper does sound quite predictable and mundane as the premise is quite old. Actually found it to be a suitably spooky and very funny take on haunted buildings in execution, and Plucky and Hamton's pairing fondly reminds me of Daffy Duck and Porky Pig. Characters wise they are very different, very like Daffy and Porky, but they gel and interact so well. It also has one of the episode's best lines in "I'm sorry, our phone is dead".
"Duck Dodgers Jr" perhaps is the best of the three. It is full of wit and energy and the closest in evoking the spirit of classic Looney Tunes with a hip vibe too. Duck Dodgers, a wonderfully manic character, and Marvin are a fun pairing and while it actually would have been as great a segment with just the two of them Plucky is suitably wacky and holds his own.
Moving onto talking about individual elements, the 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.
Characterisation is spot on as is the voice acting and there are plenty of sharp lines that made me laugh out loud.
Summing up, wonderful. 10/10
Car-azy Drivers (1955)
Crazy over driving
The mid/late-50s was an inconsistent and often rough period for Famous Studios. The quality of their output, for Popeye and overall, was significantly lower than in the 40s, particularly the early/mid-40s before it became more variable later. As well as for the Popeye series the quality is significantly lower than the cartoons made by Fleischer Studios, to quite a sad degree. Am certainly not saying that the cartoons were bad, it just wasn't the same.
While a long way from being one of the classic Popeye cartoons, none of the mid/late-50s cartoons in the series fitted that distinction, 'Car-Razy Drivers' was not too bad at all and close to being one of the better entries from this period (more high middle). While not great by any stretch, 'Car-Razy Drivers' is nice and amusing enough and good if one likes Popeye and Olive together without having rivalry to deal with which is something not seen an awful lot in the series.
Story-wise 'Car-Razy Drivers' is quite thin and although not as formulaic as most of the Popeye cartoons there is not an awful lot new either, the outcome not in doubt.
'Car-Razy Drivers' animation quality is uneven, not uncommon with the Popeye cartoons during this period. It is never terrible but never fantastic. The colours are fine and there is smoothness and nice detail but there are many moments where the backgrounds are sparse and the drawing rough.
Despite being less than perfect, there are a good deal of good things. My favourite asset of 'Car-Razy Drivers' is the music score, which is fantastic as usual. 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 humour is never exactly hilarious or original and doesn't shine as much as Popeye and Olive's chemistry and the tension of the scenario, but the gags do amuse and the dialogue has amusement and charm.
Popeye and Olive's chemistry is charming and one can see what he sees in her. Loved how Popeye is so caring and so willing to help, evident in the more dangerous moments. The locomotive showdown is both tense and wild. Olive is not bland or annoying, and one can relate to her when in a stressful situation like car-driving. Jack Mercer hasn't lost it and Mae Questel shows why she was the only voice actress for Olive who did anything for me.
Overall, nice. 7/10
Earth's Tropical Islands (2020)
My love for documentaries, especially nature ones, is probably quite well known now. When it comes to nature documentaries to me David Attenborough will always reign king when it comes to output and presenting, but there have been numerous documentaries without his involvement that are just as great in their own way while not quite being milestones. There have been quite a number of narrators/presenters that do a more than worthy job on their own merits.
'Earth's Tropical Islands' didn't turn out disappointing and was refreshing after not being too impressed by 2019's 'Serengeti' seen a few months back. Was very intrigued in seeing more of the islands of Madagascar, Borneo and Hawaii, as well as their inhabitants, and had high expectations that were met luckily. Is 'Earth's Tropical Islands' one of the best documentary series ever made? No. Is it well worth watching? Absolutely, a near must see actually.
Other documentaries have more of a mix of the familiar and unfamiliar perhaps and perhaps have more information and footage that has more of the surprise factor.
But really there is so little to fault 'Earth's Tropical Islands'. It looks beautiful, with lots of vivid colour (especially in "Borneo"), scenery that is a mix of stunning and suitably cruel (in all three episodes equally, have yet for instance to see coral reefs captured on film badly) and much of the photography was near-cinematic (especially in "Hawaii", like with the tectonic plate). The music didn't strike me as melodramatic, too jaunty or intrusive.
While the writing for the narration didn't quite have the surprise factor of other documentaries, it was still educational and was engagingly and accessibly written. Nothing was heavy-handed, corny or patronising. Personally had no problem with David Harewood's delivery of it, which to me engaged and was sincere. While there are some familiar animals, such as humpback whales, lemurs and the obligatory orangutan, there are also ones not so familiar to me, such as the tenrecs and the rare sun bears.
It was great to see too a brief look at the people of Ampotaka in "Madagascar", and standout sequences and behaviours included the tenrecs' unique calling to the young in "Madagascar", that between the humpback whales in "Hawaii" and the sporting contest. Some unique behaviours too, including the ingenious way of the frog calling to their mate in "Borneo", the tenrecs' call to the young, the somersaulting Manta rays ("Hawaii") and the woolly bat and the pitcher plant relationship ("Borneo").
Overall, excellent series that deserves a wider audience. 9/10
Absolutely love Rarity as a character, for me Season 4 did such a great job with her and her character writing and she gets my vote as the most consistently written and my personal favourite Mane 6 pony of Season 4. Have always liked the Cutie Mark Crusaders and there is a lot more to them than one would think, this episode shows how far Sweetie Belle has come on as a character. It is/was always welcome to see Princess Luna in any episode of the show.
"For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" does nothing to ruin either Rarity, Sweetie Belle and Princess Luna. All three are done perfect justice here, it is a perfect example of how to portray sister relationships and conflicts in animation and anywhere and one can see what makes them click so well as characters. It is not quite as amazing as the previous episode "Maud Pie" or quite one of my favourite episodes of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' overall, but it is to me still among the better episodes of a mostly solid Season 4.
There is not really much wrong with "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" actually. If to nit-pick the episode could have explained how Princess Luna could show the memories from a third person perspective, that wasn't made clear to me (but that may be just me).
Otherwise "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils" is terrific. The characterisation is brilliant, some of the best, most interesting and deepest of the season and also up to this point of the show. Sweetie Belle was not this interesting in the previous episodes, her personality is different here and it may take some getting used to for some but she actually develops and learns a lesson and from her misgivings. She could have been completely unlikeable in this scenario, but not here, actually related to her. Absolutely loved the sister dynamic between her and Rarity, who genuinely loves Sweetie Belle without being over-protective (something that "Somepony to Watch Over Me" did badly with Applejack's character writing).
Rarity is as funny and caring as ever, and seeing her interact with Sweetie Belle was like remembering how much my sisters look out for me (although the eldest my physical and mental disabilities make me vulnerable). Princess Luna makes one of her most interesting appearances ever, her role in Sweetie Belle's dreams has real power and honesty. She is very firm and strong minded, but is well meaning and is effective in teaching Sweetie Belle the lesson. The dreams are incredibly imaginative and have real intensity and emotional power. The voice acting is truly excellent all round with Tabitha St Germain being at the top of her game and Claire Corlett being even better.
Animation is vibrant and richly detail, with some quite jaw dropping visuals in the dreams. The music fits beautifully, never at odds with the action and has a wide range of emotions. The writing is mature without being too complex, it is light on humour this time round (what there is is nice) but the emotional power is pretty huge in "For Whom the Sweetie Belle Toils". Due to it being such a relatable conflict, that it centered around characters that are easy to invest in and that it had such depth of characterisation. The story is tense and poignant without being too heavy. The moral is well delivered, making its point but without ramming it down the throat. It's an important one too and always worth of addressing.
Overall, terrific. 9/10