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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 Magic Slipper (1948)
A slipper that lacks magic
Although the story of 'Cinderella' has been adapted and parodied in animation numerous times, it had not been done before in the Mighty Mouse theatrical series. One would understandably not think that to be the case, as the story in 'The Magic Slipper' is basically the relatively typical Mighty Mouse formula with some elements of 'Cinderella'. Most of the 1948 Mighty Mouse cartoons were either quite good if far from perfect or decent but unexceptional.
'The Magic Slipper' belongs in the latter category. Did like the basic premise, but it ended up feeling too much like typical Mighty Mouse with splashes of the 'Cinderella' story and not quite enough to make it a tale of its own. As far as the Mighty Mouse cartoons go, it is not one of the best or one of the worst. Personally would put 'The Magic Slipper' somewhere in the middle, and the same goes for when ranking it with Terrytoons' other 1948 cartoons.
Once again, the animation and music are the best things and are so good that they are worth more than a star each. 'The Magic Slipper' is beautifully animated, especially early on where there are some quite magical visuals. It is gorgeously detailed, lively and colourful without being garish and is really quite sumptuous. Again, the music is a big strength, being again quite incredible. It is beautifully and cleverly orchestrated and arranged, is terrific fun to listen to and the lively energy is present throughout, doing so well with adding to the action. Had no problem personally with the opening song and the jazzy musical number at the ball is very catchy.
Generally the character writing was less than great, but there is one character that makes a big impression and that's the wolf. Keep continuing to notice that it is always the villain that steals the show in the Mighty Mouse cartoons, here this wolf has great comic timing while also being quite sinister. The cartoon does pick up significantly when he is introduced and in his entertaining encounters with the prince and Cinderella (two of the cartoon's highlights when it comes to the material). Did like Cinderella too, she has a lot of allure and charm. There is some nice energy in the latter portions.
Actually didn't think that Mighty Mouse was necessary in 'The Magic Slipper', basically he is a supporting character despite meaning to be a lead (common in his cartoons) shoehorned in in the last two or so minutes for plot device reasons in a very hastily paced, too neat and quite repetitive climax. One that is so obvious from the very beginning, due to it being pretty much the same as how what feels like every Mighty Mouse cartoon ends.
The story is very flimsy and very predictable, nothing new being done with familiar ground. The gags are too few, the best all belonging to the wolf in the second half, and generally they are very uninspired, with too much of a reused feel, and not too funny. The rest of the characters are bland, with the prince also an idiot, and yes the caricatures are not the most tasteful in the world.
In summary, unexceptional but a decent one-time watch. 6/10.
Even when first getting into 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' one Scooby Summer on Boomerang pre-teenagehood, "Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye" did little for me. In fact, when younger it very nearly made me stop watching after liking the other four episodes seen before it (first saw the show out of order just to say). The previous four being "That's Monstertainment", "Scoobra Kadoobra", "Scooby in Kwackyland" and "Ship of Ghouls", all four still being better than this one.
Have re-watched "Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye" several more times since that time, due to seeing whether it gets better with each viewing (have done this with all the episodes, even the weakest ones) and when re-watching the whole of 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo'. It is a better episode now, with the Reflector Specter, a few amusing moments and the climax elevating it, but it is still one of my least favourite episodes of 'The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo' and a case of a great concept with very uneven execution.
"Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye" does have good things. A vast majority of the music is great, at its best in the truly atmospheric and eerie scoring for the mirror world scene (the highlight scene of the episode). The theme tune has an epic horror vibe and the opening credits sequence is one of the franchise's best. There is strong voice acting from all the regulars, Vincent Price was always a plus on the show and Casey Kasem and Don Messick were unrivalled as Shaggy and Scooby's voice actors in the franchise. The Reflector Specter's voice acting is suitably sinister, the laugh is pretty hair-raising.
The Reflector Specter is a triumph actually as a character and the only supporting character that makes a positive impression. The design is very creepy and there is no goofiness with him in sight. The very visually imaginative and mysterious mirror world is the animation standout easily, with the Reflector Spectre's character design close behind. There are funny moments, especially Flim Flam and Scrappy as detectives and the "Auld Lang Syne" scene.
Most of the supporting characters here however are annoying stereotypes, Sandy and Selma really get on the nerves. Didn't find the supporting characters on the whole well voiced, the exception being for the Reflector Specter. Selma sounds like she was suffering from a head cold and the concierge is voiced with one of the most overdone and stereotypical French accents in cartoondom. Bogol and Weerd have always been take or leave for me and the show always missed the opportunity to make them more cunning than the bumbling comic relief henchman act.
Always have felt too that the animation is very uneven. The look of the Reflector Specter and the mirror world are great, as well as some nice colours, less great are too many moments of sparse backgrounds and scrappy drawing. There are funny moments, but some of the humour fails, Scrappy irritates in his first scene and sees a return to the annoying character he was when he was first introduced in 'Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo', the camel adds nothing and Flim Flam's repetitive conning always makes him look overboard arrogant and over-zealous. The story has its moments, like the climax, but feels too thin and the middle act drags. The nadir of "Reflections in a Ghoulish Eye" is the "Give Em the Old Flim Flam" musical number, which felt like padding and sums up pretty much everything that is wrong with him as a character.
In conclusion, not a fan of this episode sad to say though it does have its fair share of strengths. 5/10.
'Phineas and Ferb' was so good in helping me through many tough periods during its run. Still do get a lot of pleasure out of watching re-runs of what was, when airing, one of the few shows on the Disney Channel regularly worth watching. Admittedly the later episodes are not quite on the same level as the more creative earlier seasons, but 'Phineas and Ferb' at its weakest still managed generally to be better than a lot of animated shows recently at their best.
Hawaii is a wonderful place to go for a vacation and it was great for 'Phineas and Ferb' to go to an exotic setting this time. While the idea of "Phineas and Ferb Hawaiian Vacation" was a charming and fun-sounding one, part of me was a little worried that it would feel too much like familiar ground with the show, which is quite formula-based, coming close to being halfway through its run by this point. That worry very quickly went, as "Phineas and Ferb Hawaiian Vacation" is a truly delightful episode that really makes one want to take a holiday to Hawaii, showcasing it in its beauty while having a strong enough story to avoid it being too much of a travelogue.
The animation is bright and colourful, with such vibrant colours that literally pop out at you and beautifully detailed backgrounds. The transitions are slick. The music is in the style that is not usually my style of choice when listening to music, but it is very catchy and pleasant to listen to. The theme song is irresistible with a melody that sticks in the head for days without being an earworm and with very quotable lyrics. Some nice visuals accompanying it too.
Furthermore, the writers clearly had a lot of fun while not forgetting who the target audience is. Lots of smart and highly amusing lines, while also with a heart. The story has energy and also a lot of warm heart and witty brains. The main plot, especially with the living sea creatures, is very nostalgic and has a real sense of adventure and those that love Perry and Doofenschmirtz (count me in as one, Perry has always been one of my favourite characters on the show) will be very entertained by particularly the De-Evolution-inator part.
All the characters are beautifully written and the character interaction, especially between Perry and Doofenschmirtz, is a lot of fun. The voice acting is without issues too.
Overall, wonderful. 10/10.
The Big Flame Up (1949)
The almost big flame up
Have said more than once about being very mixed on this particular series of cartoons, from the interesting but uneven filmography of Famous Studios, and about not caring for a handful of the cartoons (like 'Spring Song' and 'The Stork Market'). There are others though that are above average and the best of them (such as 'Little Brown Jug' and 'Toys Will Be Toys'). 'The Big Flame Up' as a child on first watch was one of the ones that grabbed me most and charmed and entertained me.
On rewatch as a young adult, 'The Big Flame Up' still comes over as immensely charming and immensely entertaining and is definitely one of the best Screen Songs (top 5?). As well as one of the funniest and most energetic. One third of 'The Big Flame Up' is a bit of a disappointment, something that was the case with me as a child (even for somebody raised on the Disney Singalong videos and am still fond of them), but two thirds of it is brilliant.
'The Big Flame Up' has so many great things that vastly outweigh the not so good. As ever with the Screen Song series, the animation and the music are the best things. 'The Big Flame Up' is beautifully animated. The colours are vibrant and there is meticulous attention to detail in the backgrounds, there is some creative animation on the flames. If there was one aspect that was consistently good in Famous Studios' 1940s and 1950s output, it was the music scoring.
And it is outstanding here in 'The Big Flame Up'. The orchestration has a lot of energy and there are some truly luscious sounds throughout. The series has been very variable when it has come to its songs, but the one here is very infectious and characterful. 'The Big Flame Up' has one of the series' highest gag counts, the first two thirds are full of them, and it is one of the few Screen Songs cartoons where all of them range from very funny to hilarious, also wonderfully wild. The energy is as lively and wonderfully frenetic as they come and the tension increases to fever pitch in the middle. The characters are engaging. The story is nearly always very slight in the series, but the first two thirds sees more plot than usual and it's a very charming and fun one.
It is a shame though that the final third with the singalong is nowhere near as good. It is neither interesting or funny, with a lack of energy, too few gags and overload of sugar, and the action hasn't held up.
Similarly found the ending too abrupt.
Concluding, very good and great for two thirds. 8/10.
King Lear (1970)
Nothing can be made out of nothing
Despite a mixed reception, there was more than enough to persuade me to see this film version of 'King Lear'. That the play itself is one of Shakespeare's best, regardless of one's feelings of the titular character in the first act the play does contain a lot of emotional impact, iconic characters and scenes and some of the best dialogue he ever wrote. The cast are an immensely talented one, with Paul Scofield especially always an actor that had the ability to make anything he was in better. That it was directed by Peter Brook.
Although there will be people who disagree, to me there isn't a "bad" available version of 'King Lear' and the best versions (such as the 70s Russian film) are brilliant. Even the weaker versions, which left me conflicted if anything, have a good deal to recommend. This film is one of the lesser adaptations, with, like the version with Antony Hopkins, a lot to like but also some serious reservations. It is a laudable attempt at a mammoth play, with the cast (though more the men than the women) being one of the better aspects overall but that it's heavily cut is an undoing as well as that it tries to do too much.
Shall start with the good things. The best aspect is Scofield's insightful and intensely moving Lear, and other standouts are Jack McGowran's refreshingly sinister Fool (a character that can be annoying, but McGowran gives one of the best interpretations of the role of any available version of the play in my view), Patrick Magee's creepy Cornwall and Alan Webb's poignant Gloucester. Was not as keen on the ladies overall, but coming off best easily is Susan Engel's venomous and chillingly manipulative Regan.
Did like the suitably darkly foreboding costumes and sets a lot and the film is scored hauntingly. Shakespeare's dialogue wrenches the gut and is both beautiful and uncompromising, then again this aspect is consistently wonderful in every play of his regardless of the story (that quality overall is a lot more variable). Brook's direction does do very well at most of the character interactions, all the male roles are directed vividly and there are some gripping dramatic moments, such as one of the most moving interpretations of Gloucester's death scene seen in any version of 'King Lear'.
There are shortcomings sadly however. At too many points, Brook's direction comes over as too eccentric and has too much of a showing off feel visually. Despite loving the sets and costumes, the photography and editing generally are too stylised and the worst of it amateurish. The camerawork tends to be too frantic and the abruptness of the closeups and editing disorientated rather than fascinated.
Adaptation-wise, this 'King Lear' is heavily cut, so there is a jumpy feel to the dialogue and structure that can affect the coherence of the already complex drama and motivations. Doing so while also having some dull stretches. The female roles are not near as interesting as the male ones, only Engel registers. Irene Worth has her unsettling moments as Goneril but generally is too soft spoken. Faring worst is Annelise Gabold's very bland Cordelia, whose role felt somehow underwritten here.
Concluding, some great things but also some not so good. 6/10.
Touching and unsettling
Season 9 generally was a mixed bag of a season, with some great episodes ("Savant", "Undercover"), many that were in between decent and very good and some real misfires ("Avatar", "Harm"). A few of the highest rated episodes for me weren't that good either (was conflicted on "Paternity" personally) and a couple of episodes rated a good deal lower turned out a lot better than episodes that were panned by fans but rated higher ("Snitch" for example is a lot better than for example "Avatar" with it actually being a good episode).
"Inconceivable" is another one of the lower rated episodes to be a lot better than indicated. Actually think that it is a great episode and one of Season 9's better ones. The idea does sound old, on paper it's seen it before-like, but actually when it comes to the execution "Inconceivable" manages to do something new with it. For example adding a race against element which really amps up the tension without trying too hard to.
My only issue is that to me it was a little slow to begin with, not the first or last time with the show.
Otherwise, "Inconceivable" is great. The production values are fine, have always liked the photography's intimacy and grit and the look of the show has come on a good deal over-time (and it was good to begin with). The music doesn't intrude and has a haunting quality, have not always remembered to say that the theme tune is easy to remember and holds up. The direction is impeccable.
The writing is tight yet also sensitive, more than appropriate with this subject. A subject that could have been approached in too heavy-handed and one-sided a way, and where the writers would make too much of a judgement. Actually thought it was handled with tact, and while the cases intrigues hugely and gives the creeps it is Olivia's heart-breaking personal story that makes even more of an impression. Doing so without dominating too much, which is remarkable seeing as it was around this middle period where the personal life subplots started dominating and became increasingly soapy.
Love Stabler and Olivia's sweet chemistry here, with some of their best interactions of the season. Especially when Olivia opens up. The acting is excellent all round.
Great episode all in all. 9/10.
Against the usual
Calling "Unorthodox" unorthodox is an understatement. Calling Novak's behaviour and how she conducts herself in prosecuting the case is an even bigger understatement. This is definitely an episode that will polarise fans, and has already done. Thought provoking and powerful for some, too try too hard and frustrating for others. Especially anybody that usually likes the character that behaves in a way that nearly makes anybody go off them.
My opinion on "Unorthodox" contains a bit of both extremes. There is a lot to be impressed by and how it handles some tough issues here is admirable, truly admirable. It doesn't completely come off though, and it definitely could have done with more focus and a less is more approach in the storytelling, as well as more tact in one area. "Unorthodox" is a good episode from Season 9 and of 'Special Victims Unit', but is not a great one.
"Unorthodox" is truly impressive in many ways. The production values are slick and professional, not ever resorting to cheap or untested gimmicks or anything, and liked that the photography was intimate without it being claustrophobic. The music is haunting in the right places and isn't constant or too loud. The direction is strong. The acting is very good from all the regulars, while Novak has been better written in other episodes before and since Diane Neal always plays her with a lot of zeal and determination. The character of Jack is very interesting and part of the intrigue of the episode is not being sure about him and what he does.
The writing is thought provoking and intelligent, not feeling too talky. As well as Jack, what was also interesting about "Unorthodox" was the dilemma as to whether the perpetrator should be tried in family court or as an adult (a familiar argument with 'Special Victims Unit' but always fascinates). Both sides are understandable here, which is what is great about the franchise at its best as while there are too many episodes that see an issue from too much of one point of view many others are great at presenting more than one side and where all are plausible. The story is mostly compelling and it was an absolute delight seeing more of Munch, and in the spotlight this time after being too underused for too long.
For all those good things, there are shortcomings too. "Unorthodox" does suffer from trying to do too much in the story and consequently gets on the over-complicated and over-crowded side, especially later on. Another episode that could have done with a less is more approach. The cultural aspects are not authentic and also not always sensitive, especially the truly sloppy dialects.
On paper, the defense did sound interesting, but the episode missed an opportunity to have Huang showing his perspective on the perpetrator. With him the argument would have rung true more and would have made a difference to the case's outcome. The ending feels unsatisfying, both in the anger-inducing verdict and how rushed it felt. Was very mixed on Novak here, she is a very strong presence and knows her stuff. Yet her attitude towards the case and what to indict him on contradicted that in "Impulsive", where she went out of her way in getting that episode's perpetrator a lighter sentence despite his crime and his attitude being a lot worse.
In summary, well executed in many areas but room for improvement. 7/10.
Close to a killer episode
One of my most vivid memories of when starting to watch 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' over a decade ago was watching "Signature", and how it haunted me and left me in complete horror for a while afterwards. Of all the Season 9 episodes on first watch of the season, it was one of the episodes that stood out when it came to the atmosphere and the emotional impact. At least to me it did, and do know a lot of fellow fans that feel the same.
"Signature" still has staying power atmosphere-wise and emotionally. Other episodes are more consistent in overall quality and have held up better and this is one of the "not as good now" episodes of 'Special Victims Unit'. Due to a couple of things that hurt it that weren't massive problems on first watch, the biggest being a very uneven performance that was distractingly bad in its worst parts. "Signature" is still a very, very good episode and its best aspects (Mariska Hargitay, the emotions felt watching it and the case) are so great.
Erika Christensen's performance has wildly divided the fandom. To me, her performance was uneven and a case of her being much better in the second half than in the first. In the first half, she came over as very stilted and wooden and, even for the case that clearly unnerved all the characters, there was a real feeling that the case was a lot more personal for Cooper than most of the others.
The identity of who was responsible for the initial crime was not a shock, there was just something about them early on that made me think they are involved in some way or know more than they're letting on.
However, there is a lot to recommend here. The production values are solid and the intimacy of the photography doesn't get static or too filmed play-like. The music when used is not too over-emphatic and has a melancholic edge that is quite haunting. The direction is sympathetic enough without being leaden. What still lives in the memory is the amazing performance of Mariska Hargitay, steely and moving in particularly the second half. Christensen's acting improves vastly later on, she is very moving at the end which shocked and moved me. The chemistry between the two of them is great and one of "Signature's" driving forces.
For most of his stint, Lake didn't do much for me but this is one of his better appearances. Due to that he actually seemed to genuinely feel something about the case and because Adam Beach seems more relaxed than before. Season 9 varied when it came to its stories and not every case was executed very well. That for "Signature" is one of the season's best, it is still truly disturbing with what the victims endure and the torture chamber being the stuff of nightmares. Plus the serial killer is one of the most sadistic and despicable in 'Special Victims Unit' history, the nature of his crimes and what he did will shock even those not easily unsettled. The case is also very sad, especially in the closing moments.
Concluding, very good and nearly great. 8/10.
On the streets
On first watch, "Streetwise" was a very good episode. If not a great one. Always did like the story concept, which indeed was like a story with hints of 'Oliver Twist' with a slight twist on it. Season 9 had always left me mixed up to this point, even when first getting into 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' (which actually was around the Seasons 7-10 period, saw the far superior earlier seasons a little later), and that feeling continued with the rest of the season.
"Streetwise" has held up very well on rewatches, in a season that was a mix of episodes that were always great, episodes that got better on rewatch, episodes that went down in my estimations and episodes that never did much for me. There were also episodes where the guest performance was a lot better than the episode itself. "Streetwise" has always been very good, but is an example of an episode that fits in the category of "got better on rewatch".
My feelings on Lake were pretty much indifferent most of the time, apart from some nice interactions with Fin. He is still a bland character and Adam Beach is rather stiff.
Also have always felt that more could have been done with the ending. It is a complete surprise that one does not see coming, but for such a shocking truth the ending dramatically was on the lightweight side. Needed more intensity and emotional punch.
However, there are a lot of truly fine things about "Streetwise". 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. The performances are all very strong from the regulars and Thom Bishops creepily portrays a character that one roots for a conviction against them. Mae Whitman is affecting but also unsettling.
Furthermore, "Streetwise" is tautly and intelligently scripted with a difficult subject being handled in a pull no punches but not too heavy manner. The food scene was also welcome levity and wasn't out of place at all, it actually avoided the episode becoming over-serious. After a lot of familiar territory stories during this period of 'Special Victims Unit', it was great to see something different and to see one of the earlier seasons' most unnerving family dynamics. The story is absorbing, twisty without being convoluted and has some nice tension.
On the whole, very good. 8/10.
Starlight Glimmer does not have the greatest of reputations from fans, to begin with when she reformed she was a very controversial character and understandably so. Overtime though, she has grown on me. Am less keen on Sunburst and found him very hard to take in the previous season's "Uncommon Bond". Season 8's "The Parent Map" is not the first time to deal with embarrassing parents, "Parental Glideance" also from the previous season did it as well.
That episode also did it better, being very good while not being a high point of 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' or of that season. "The Parent Map" however, despite flashes of greatness, was rather average and bland in my humble opinion (am taking no pleasure in being the dissenting point of view here) and is a let down after the excellent previous episode "Horse Play". Also consider it one of the weaker episodes of the first half of Season 8.
Good things are quite a few. The best thing about "The Parent Map" is the lesson, which is a very sincere and poignant one that is easy to relate to. The animation is vibrant and rich in detail as ever, with very polished character designs. The facial expressions are especially well done and quite inventive. The music is dynamic with the action and beautifully orchestrated.
Did think that there were a few humorous moments with the townsfolk. Starlight fares the best of the focused upon characters, personally did feel empathy for her in a situation that would be embarrassing for more people than one would think. Despite not caring for most of the characters here, credit is due for seeing them being taught the lesson and showing that the want to help the younger characters was genuine. The voice acting is strong from all, especially Kelly Sheridan.
Sunburst however is a lot less empathetic, "The Parent Map" doesn't take his selfishness and insensitivity to the extremes that the show did in "Uncommon Bond" but it does make him rather annoying and unsympathetic still. Worse are Firelight and Stellar Flare, both truly are obnoxious which the episode badly overdoes (sorry, do have a thing for character flaws being over-emphasised which this episode does do). The worst of their material is truly cringe-worthy, and Firelight especially is unbearable.
Furthermore, the story is too slight and never excites with some dull pacing. That most of the characters are not worth caring about doesn't help. The writing is usually a good deal more mature than this and the attempts at humour go well overboard on the cringe factor and come over as childish and derivative. While only the writing at the end made me feel anything emotionally. Hence what was meant when calling the episode bland.
On the whole, watchable if bland. 5/10.
The character of Zach Nichols didn't do much for me in his first two episodes, neither of which doing much for me as episodes. My problem does not lie with Jeff Goldblum but the writing. In the next two though, my opinion on him completely changed and the episodes in question were also much better. Serena Stevens was a bit mixed for me as a character and it did depend on the material, the chemistry between her and Nichols was never non-existent but it didn't ignite in the same way Goren and Eames' did.
As far as the rather hit and miss Season 9 goes, "Disciple" is one of the better episodes. As well as one of the darkest in terms of the subject matter. It was great also to see some meat and development to Stevens and for her to shine properly for the first time. It is not one of the very best episodes of 'Criminal Intent', but it is one of the best of the season and in the better half of the episodes from the Nichols (Seasons 8 and 9) period.
"Disciple" did get a little too over-complicated towards the end from trying to cram in too much.
Still not sold on Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio either and Callas was never the most compelling character.
However, so much about "Disciple" is great. It is a visually slick episode, typical for 'Criminal Intent' and the 'Law and Order' franchise, and one with the right amount of muted grit, the photography doesn't try to do anything too fancy or gimmicky while not being claustrophobic and keeping things simple. The music doesn't overbear past the early stages with the theme tune still memorable and the direction is accommodating yet tight enough.
Moreover, the script is thoughtful and intriguing, never feeling too talky or like it was trying to be too clever. The story is very engaging and has a dark tension and plenty to keep one guessing. The cast perform to a very good standard and Saffron Burrows gives perhaps her best performance here of her stint on the show.
On the whole, very good. 8/10.
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. That for "Snitch" is another tough and courageous one.
"Snitch" on the whole does a very good job with it. It easily could have been too much of a strange episode, or a confused or preachy one. On the most part though, it isn't. It is not one of the very best episodes of this mixed bag of a season, of the Season 9s between this, 'Law and Order' and 'Criminal Intent' this one was the most inconsistent. It is also not one of the worst, despite being inexplicably the lowest rated. "Snitch" though is closer to being in the better half when ranking Season 9 though.
It's not flawless. The story is at times jumpy and sprawls about, and it would have been better if it didn't try to cover so much and it would have made the plotting consistently clearer. Sometimes less is more.
There is though a huge amount to like about "Snitch". 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.
Moreover, the script is tightly structured, made me think and as usual had an uncompromising edge. It also flows very naturally and doesn't feel rambling, sleazy or over-serious. It is also insightful in what it has to say about polygamy. The story is over-stuffed and more complicated at times than it needed to be, but it is also very absorbing, very harrowing and did scare me. There are a few difficult subjects tackled here and they are far from sugar-coated while also not done too heavily. The twists and turns are far from few and they are not unexpected, actually thought that the truth was one of the more shocking ones of the season.
All the regular performances are great and Hakeem Kae-Kazim unsettles in his supporting turn as a very well fleshed out character. Hateable to begin with but later fear is felt for him.
Summing up, very good. 8/10.
Law & Order: Sideshow (1999)
There were two previous two part crossovers with 'Law and Order' and 'Homicide: Life on the Streets'. The first being Season 6's "Charm City", which was decent if not great. The second being Season 8's "Baby It's You", which was very good with a couple of reservations. On top of that factor, it is hard to not expect a lot from "Sideshow", with it coming from a mostly very solid Season 9 (the best easily of the Season 9s between this show, 'Special Victims Unit' and 'Criminal Intent'.
Of the three two part crossovers, "Sideshow" is the second best, being a good episode with many great things despite Season 9 showing more than once before and since that it was capable of brilliance. The best being "Baby It's You", the most tactful and most cohesive of the three, of which "Sideshow" has similar strengths to. In fact, my overall feelings here are similar to that episode except one aspect here is weaker. This is not one of the best episodes of the season, but there is enough to show what was so great about 'Law and Order' in its prime.
"Sideshow" isn't perfect. Even for the first part of a two parter (again the second part is an episode of 'Homicide: Life on the Street'), the ending felt too abrupt and incomplete and really could have done with a couple of minutes more perhaps. Again there were perhaps a few too many characters, some 'Life on the Street' characters were more crucial than others.
Other 'Law and Order' episodes explores their heavy subjects with more tact and balance. While suitably uncompromising and suspenseful, "Sideshow" isn't as good as other episodes at showing issues from more than one side. It's a bit too much like 'Special Victims Unit' from Season 7 onwards at times, in that it is made somewhat too clear at what the writers' point of view on a subject is. Subsequently the episode did feel heavy-handed in spots to me.
However, a lot is great in "Sideshow". The production values are well done, subtly stylish and intimate without being claustrophobic. The music isn't too melodramatic and the direction lets the drama breathe while not dragging the momentum out. The acting from all the regulars is great with no exception, while George Hearn was seldom more smarmy than he is here as a character that one would be wary of without being too much of a cartoon.
Furthermore, the writing is tight and thought-provoking, leaving one intrigued throughout. The story is not deliberate or too thin and doesn't feel predictable or convoluted, story-wise only the abruptness of the ending and some heavy handed-ness disappoint. It is on the whole very compelling and certainly succeeds as a first part that makes one want to see the other one. As a crossover of two shows, "Sideshow" is very successful with one show not overshadowing the other. While feeling enough like a 'Law and Order' episode, not like them guest-starring.
In summary, good but not great. 7/10.
Serape Happy (1971)
Didn't make me happy
Far from it. Being somebody who has always been pleasantly surprised though not wowed by the previous Tijuana Toads cartoon 'Croakus Pocus' in the few times it has been watched, it is hard to hope deep down that what was on the whole a not particularly good series of cartoons was starting to look up and that that cartoon was not a fluke. Luckily, it was not a fluke as 'Frog Jog' also surprised me but the other two succeeding cartoons were not good.
Particularly 'Serape Happy', for me the worst Tijuana Toads cartoon perhaps since 'Hop and Chop' (though marginally better as it doesn't have that wretched beetle character that wrecked that cartoon). As well as the dullest, in fact on the same dull level as the first two cartoons in the series which is not a good position to be in. 'Serape Happy' is not an unwatchable cartoon, but it is among the weakest cartoons in the series and just has very little to it.
'Serape Happy' has a few good things. Doug Goodwin again doesn't disappoint, with a suitably light-hearted score that has the energy that is sorely lacking elsewhere and there from the first note of the main theme up to the last note of the cartoon. There are a few nice colours here and there.
Mostly it is a rather unfunny and bland cartoon, but Pancho's handsome prince line did make me chuckle and one of the few lines of his that has stood out. The ending is well done and the best and funniest part easily, it is also when things finally come to life too.
Unfortunately, much of the animation is hasty-looking and takes simplicity to extremes. The washed out colour (on the whole) and simplistic backgrounds are particularly unappealing. Not to mention the recycling for when the toads give chase. El Toro and Pancho are both annoying, especially Pancho despite having the best line, and Don Diamond and Tom Holland are both too stereotypically caricaturish voicing them.
The grasshopper has no personality whatsoever, absolutely nothing about him stands out. He is just there and nothing else. The story is non-existent and very dull, complete with no tension or energy and a very bland atmosphere. Also feeling like a rehashed premise of an early Tijuana Toads cartoon that was already a retread. Only at the end does it halfway engage. The gags are hardly any there and those that are there are very stale and at best forgettable. Again only the ending stands out.
Overall, not particularly good. 4/10.
Arie prerie (1949)
Comedy, action and song
There were two main reasons for wanting to see 'The Song of the Prairie'. That it was directed by Jiri Trnka, a pioneering figure in the development of stop motion/puppet animation. Who also has a very good track record when it comes to his short films. And also that the genre was the Western (not one of my favourite genres but have always appreciated it), was very intrigued in seeing how well it would work in stop motion/puppet animation and to see it both parodied and paid homage to.
In my view, 'The Song of the Prairie' is one of Trnka's best overall works, a strong contender for his best short film and another one of his most accessible. Containing too some of his best and most inspired work as a director. Despite being an early effort of his, one would not think so with the technique looking as good as it is and it was like he had already found his niche. His style suits itself well to the Western genre, and when it comes to parodying and homaging 'The Song of the Prairie' is pretty much a triumph.
Here in 'The Song of the Prairie', the visuals are beautifully detailed and suitably quirky. Nothing sloppy about the way the characters move. The photography captures the quirkiness of the character designs and the colourful atmosphere of the backgrounds very vividly. The use of music is also quite charming, in a way that rouses the spirits and the characterful energy is difficult to resist.
Loved the tongue in cheek and visually imaginative humour and there is not a dull moment in the action. 'The Song of the Prairie' not only hilariously and cleverly parodies the Western genre, but it also very affectionately pays homage to and honours it. The story may be slight.
But it is also immensely entertaining and charming. A vast majority of the typical Western genre cliches are here, but they are embraced and not treated in a throaway or too derivative a fashion. Almost like a love letter to the genre. The characterisation is quirky and human while not trying to over-complicate.
Overall, wonderful. 10/10.
Reason and Emotion (1943)
Despite not being a fan of this type of cartoon/short film, having found many of them to be too preachy and dull regardless of often looking good, 'Reason and Emotion' was still seen anyway for three reasons. One because of being a huge lifelong fan of animation. Two because of loving Disney since the age of 2 (nearly 30 years). Three because of the actual idea, very interesting to see a more psychological propaganda cartoon which was different and refreshing.
'Reason and Emotion' is not an animated classic and Disney did do better cartoons during this time as well as before and since. Subject matter-wise, 'Reason and Emotion' is one of their most interesting cartoons made at this particularly turbulent time and in a couple of instances quite bold. It managed to be very good, doing almost everything right in fact, and as far as Disney's propaganda shorts made at this time, this is one of the better faring ones.
There is not an awful lot wrong with 'Reason and Emotion'. It does have a change of tone partway through, with darker second half, and the change was a bit too abrupt and also odd at first.
Maybe it could have been more subtle in its handling of the subject, for example there is a very daringly vicious caricature of Hitler and the messaging is a little over-simplified.
However, 'Reason and Emotion' boasts terrific animation. The colours are typically rich and warm and the backgrounds are very atmospheric and meticulous in its detail. The two titular characters are beautifully animated too, especially Emotion, and the animation on the Hitler caricature was a masterstroke. The Disney cartoons also delivered wonderfully on the music, which is its usual lush and characterful self with some liveliness but also darker when needed. Voice acting is very good.
Furthermore, 'Reason and Emotion' has a lot of unyielding yet human sincerity in the writing, the emotion ringing true. The story has some charm but it is also very powerful and insightful in its portrayals of reason and emotion. Particularly in the second half. The psychology fascinates, is not confused or juvenile and makes one think. The two titular characters are well defined and contrasted, Emotion is the more interesting and more appealing character of the two but they both carry the cartoon beautifully. The messaging is not handled flawlessly but its good intentions and what it has to say are laudable.
Overall, very good. 8/10.
Taggart: The Caring Game (2008)
New ideas dead in the water
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.
The show was definitely running out of ideas at this point, well with many of the episodes post "A Death Foretold" ("Law" and especially "Genesis" being strong examples of this). There is a feel of that in "The Caring Game". By all means it is not one of the worst episodes of 'Taggart', it is not near as bad as something like "Genesis". There are however far better episodes of the show too, it's not even one of the best episodes of the Burke period, not like "Compensation", "A Death Foretold" and "Judgement Day".
Good things are definitely here. It is typically slick-looking and it is good that the photography doesn't try to do too much stylistically, though will agree that atmosphere-wise it does look a little on the too clean side which takes away a little from the grit. The theme song is still memorable and has an appealing nostalgic vibe, as well as well suited to the tone of the show. The acting from almost all is good, especially from John Michie.
Did again like the chemistry within the team. The episode does start off well and Ross' subplot was nicely done and not too dominant.
Sadly, the episode did lose its way quite quickly and became nothing much to rave about. After a good start, it too early loses momentum and becomes a stringing along of old tried and tested ideas done with nothing fresh to them. Not much tension or surprises here, even the identity of the murderer didn't floor me that much. The writing doesn't have enough grit and is pretty run of the mill.
Am going to agree regarding Burke, he has always left me mixed. He shines when there is development to him, like in "Judgement Day", but it took some time to warm to him (only started to around "Compensation") and he was hit and miss since. Here he is one-dimensional constantly angry and it felt overdone in writing and acting. The music overall would have been perfect in the 80s and early 90s but by this point it was sounding ten plus years out of date, on top of that the music is not always very well placed.
Overall, while not hating it by any stretch it didn't do an awful lot for me. 5/10.
A Crafty Christmas Romance (2020)
Not an awful lot that is crafty here
Quite the opposite. 'A mediocre at best Christmas Romance' is a more appropriate title, but that is not corny enough for Lifetime. The 2020 Lifetime Christmas efforts did vary and often veered between mediocre and slightly above average and were indicative at times of rushed productions. But there were enough of them that were still watchable and more (was pleasantly surprised by some) and were not amateur efforts. Actually think on reflection that the standard was of better quality than 2019's batch.
'A Crafty Christmas Romance' though is one of the misfires and one of the worst 2020 Lifetime films. There were a few good things, not massive though, that are sadly outweighed by the flaws, with the worst flaws being absolutely terrible. Is it among the worst that they ever did? Not quite, but it is one of the closest the 2020 output got to being on the same level as the worst of Lifetime's 2019 Christmas output, which is really not a good sign.
Shall start with the good. The production values are quite decent, don't look rushed or look like no effort had been put into them. Actually saw some professionalism that was not present elsewhere. The music was also quite pleasant in a nostalgic way.
Did feel too that some of the dialogue was cute.
That is sadly pretty much it with the good. The acting ranges from bad to awful all round. Nobody looks at ease and clearly look embarrassed or confused by what they were given, not a surprise. That is particularly apparent in the wooden lead performances. The chemistry just isn't there, completely disconnected and development-wise it goes nowhere for most of the time until rushing it through in the contrived and too pat final quarter. Didn't care for any of the characters, which had no personality or/and annoyed.
Excepting moments of cuteness in the dialogue, the script a vast majority of the time is truly awkward and very stilted in a verbose way. Almost like a hastily written first draft not checked through. The story never grabbed me with a very dull first half, which felt slow, over-stretched and uneventful. When it picks up marginally too late, it's very contrived and the whole film has no warmth or charm, no nothing. The direction is routine at best and is often disorganised and hesitant.
Bottom line, not good at all. 3/10.
A Golden Christmas 3 (2012)
Third time's the charm
The first 'A Golden Christmas' was rather average, with enough good things but significantly unbalanced by a truly over-the-top obnoxious lead character and actress. The second was an improvement and improved on a lot of things. So while expectations were not massive for 'A Golden Christmas 3', as sequels do have a variable reputations (often the third films in trilogies), there were hopes, especially as there are people saying it's the best of the three.
After seeing 'A Golden Christmas 3', actually do personally disagree with it being the best of the series. For me the second is the best, but this is a quite a close second best. Didn't love it, but certainly didn't hate it. Feelings were instead mixed to positive, with a lot of the good things seen in the first two films seen and like the second film it doesn't have the disadvantage of an overly negative female lead unbalancing the film. Just wish it could have been better.
Certainly 'A Golden Christmas 3' has good things. It is pleasant looking, especially the scenery inside and particularly out. The music generally doesn't sound cheap or over-bearing, and was clearly done by someone that knew what they were writing music for. The two leads are very engaging, with Nikki DeLoach particularly giving it her all. Their characters are neither too perfect and the negative character traits are not over-exaggerated.
Supporting cast generally were above average, with the roles not feeling overacted or underplayed. Also didn't feel annoyed by most of the characters and the dogs are adorable. There are enough cute and charming moments here and the chemistry had a warmth.
However, there are things that could have been done a lot better. Some of the script is very cheesy, especially in the early stretches which are also too slight in momentum. Do agree that there are too many musical montages that were generally not necessary and randomly placed.
Likewise with that the ex-boyfriend character is an overused stereotype that is very annoying and the only character that has negative characteristics that are overwritten. The story is very predictable and not always focused and the central relationship while charming and natural was too rushed in development.
In conclusion, slightly above average but not much mind-blowing here. 5.5/10.
Mrs. Miracle (2009)
Not quite a miracle, but nonetheless a charmer
Saw 'Mrs Miracle' as a big fan of Christmas, one of the few times of the year always looked forward to and with some of my fondest memories being from this period. Christmas films have varied wildly over the years, but when they are good they are great. When they misfire, they are mediocre at best and at worst awful. Also saw it because Doris Roberts was always a very watchable actress and her comic timing was a joy in a lot of her work.
'Mrs Miracle' was pretty decent. It is not one of the best Christmas films ever made (am not going to name them as that would be unfair), then again that wasn't expected. It is also a long way from being one of the worst. It is somewhere in between overall, being a very pleasant effort with a lot that is good but also an unexceptional one where the criticisms are understandable. Having said that, as far as the recently seen Christmas films go, 'Mrs Miracle' is among the better faring ones.
Am going to begin with what doesn't come off so well. As to be expected the story is predictable, with a lot of easily telegraphed scenes and an outcome that is obvious from the outset. Some draggy pacing here and there too, especially a somewhat slow-going start.
Quite a fair bit of the dialogue does make one cringe and like some festive films it is not without its cheesy moments, some of it getting a bit much. Will agree too that while everything with the forgiveness is very sincere and well intended, considering the scenario that it centres around it didn't feel realistic. What happened is something that is pretty unforgivable in real life. Have seen a lot of too tidy and neatly resolved endings in Christmas films, Hallmark is pretty much a major serial offender of this, 'Mrs Miracle' is no exception.
However, Roberts radiates with charm and comic joy. James Van Der Beek is also charming and easy to like, in fact all the acting is well above average and they have characters that are worth caring for. The chemistry between them all is far from clinical and comes over as warm and genuine. The film looks decent, the locations are particularly striking. The music provides some affectionate nostalgia and is pleasant to listen to, while the direction avoids being too routine. The Christmas atmosphere is handled charmingly and affectionately and the romance is genuinely sweet and doesn't go overboard on the schmaltz.
Roberts' presence does lighten things up and avoids 'Mrs Miracle' from getting over-serious. Despite the predictability, it has its heart in the right place, a difficult to dislike atmosphere and while not all the messaging succeeds it is well intended and has an honesty about it, also found it relatable. There is definitely a festive spirit and there is plenty of warmth and charm here, with enough parts to warm and melt the heart. Never does it feel too juvenile or mean-spirited and the sentimentality generally doesn't become too much.
Concluding, while unexceptional it's a pleasant watch. 6/10.
"If you think I'm ever going to help you you're madder than the Hatter"
'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland' started off very unevenly, but did improve in its second half and its last three episodes ("Heart of the Matter", "To Catch a Thief" and "And Then They Lived") saw it showing signs of being great. Comparing the last three episodes to when the show first began with "Down the Rabbit Hole", in my mind it is safe to say that it did come on a lot, a lot of the initial flaws did eventually improve with one exception and it deserved a fairer chance as has been said a few times already.
"To Catch a Thief" is as great as the previous instalment "Heart of the Matter". That was the first great episode of 'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland', though "The Serpent" and "Bad Blood" came close. This episode is just as great for similar reasons, with one exception so much has improved from the beginning (which is what a show as it progresses should ideally do). There were three great episodes of the show, "To Catch a Thief" was one of them.
My only criticism is once again the special effects. Hate going on about them, but they are still sticking out like a sore thumb cheap. The show never improved on the Jabberwocky's design. Though they were worse in other episodes, Bandersnatch in "Forget Me Not" springs to mind.
However, the rest of the production values look good. 'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland' was always well shot with beautifully varied use of colour and "To Catch a Thief" is no exception, very true too to the style of its parent show 'Once Upon a Time'. The music suits the tone, which has a mix of the comedic and serious, of the story well. The writing has really come on, by post-"Home" it flowed a lot more naturally and a lot entertained and intrigued. Still love the Knave's sass and there is more tension with Jafar that was not there for a lot of the show.
Really enjoyed the storytelling, this aspect was the most uneven of the show being sometimes very well done and at other times full of obvious problems. Here in "To Catch a Thief" it is vastly entertaining, there is a lot more at stake in one of the show's darker episodes by quite some way and there are a few surprises along the way. "To Catch a Thief" is again an eventful episode, while being one of the few 'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland' episodes to not feel too over-plotted or muddled so it didn't feel too confused.
Story and character writing has advanced significantly, and this is including Jafar who tended to leave me cold for much of the show but is fine here. Loved the character interaction, Knave as always is a joy and Cyrus has definitely come on a lot since the period between "Forget Me Not" and "Dirty Little Secrets" and isn't as underwritten now. It was interesting to see a different side to Alice and Knave's relationship, it isn't as witty here and seeing it tested in the way it is had genuine tension. The performances are strong, especially from Sophie Lowe and Michael Socha.
In conclusion, great. 9/10.
It is hard to not expect a lot from watching "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special". While there are episodes that are a lot weaker than others, at its best 'Tiny Toon Adventures' as a show is absolutely fantastic and a personal favourite. My love for Christmas is also well known already by now and it is always worthwhile seeing one of my favourite films 'It's a Wonderful Life' parodied. The story does not sound original but the show often excelled when it came to parodies and some of the best episodes are parodies.
And "It's A Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special" definitely excels on this front. It is what 'Tiny Toon Adventures' and the holiday is all about and a wonderful example of why animation is one of my favourite mediums. Parodying 'It's a Wonderful Life' or having a story taking inspiration from it may not be an innovative premise, but the execution feels fresh and has all the fun and charm of the best 'Tiny Toon Adventures' episodes. What a way to end the show.
The animation is colourful and crisp, delivering beautifully in the typically wacky facial expressions and reactions. Music is always important for me to talk about when it comes to anything, being a musician, and the incidental music has a lot of lush character cleverly done. The theme tune is still infectiously catchy, one of my favourites of any animated show of the 90s.
Writing is pretty much spot on, some of the best, funniest and cleverest of the later episodes when the episodes quality varied more. The humour is insanely funny and very smart, with sharply timed gags (physical and verbal), that the episode is never in short supply of, and even wittier dialogue. There is enough for children to understand and laugh at, no this is not humour that is going to go completely over their heads. There is plenty for adults too, with the story being more familiar to older viewers as well as references.
But there is also a lot of heart here. Everything with Buster has the risk of being mean-spirited and it was close to going that way with the treatment of Max, but once you see how he is characterised throughout the story with the guardian angel (indeed reminiscent of James Stewart) it is easy to feel empathy for him. There is some feel good charm and the latter portions have poignancy.
Every character featured shine in their own way. Montana Max is an absolute riot in a way that he hasn't been for goodness knows how long and Buster's writing has a lot of meat to it. The voice acting is never less than excellent, everybody is without complaint.
Concluding, wonderful. 10/10.
Problem Pappy (1941)
After making such a big impression in his previous appearances, it made sense to have Popeye's father Pappy return once again. It is always interesting when Popeye is partnered with characters other than Olive and Bluto and quite a lot of the cartoons that don't have them are still quite good. That is of course on how good the other character is as a character and their chemistry with Popeye, and to me Pappy was one of the best and funniest.
'Problem Pappy' to me was a great cartoon and on the same level as the great 'Poopdeck Pappy'. One of the best 1941 Popeye cartoons, and not just one of the best Popeye cartoons of the early 40s but also easily one of the best for the studio in what was not a good period for them Proof that there were still some glimmers of light in a generally murky, but quite dark, tunnel for Fleischer Studios in the early 40s. But at least the Popeye series was still watchable, even if the series had far better years overall.
Not really all that much to criticise really. It is quite slight and plot-wise it's nothing earth shattering.
However, these are minor quibbles, especially as everything else works and is done brilliantly. The animation is neatly and expressively drawn (especially with Pappy in the second half) and still very much like the work that goes into the backgrounds. The music, appropriately like its own character, is as beautifully orchestrated and characterful as ever.
There is a very high number of gags, and they are every bit as sharp, as funny (at best hilarious) and witty as the ones in 'Poopdeck Pappy'. Especially in the second half, where 'Problem Pappy' is brimful with energy and wit. 'Problem Pappy' is even wilder in the pacing than the previous Popeye and Pappy cartoons, and with less of the gentler tone, and is particularly lively in the climactic moments.
While Popeye is as ever amusing and likeable and his frustration is not hard to relate to, Pappy steals the show and is an absolute joy. They interact so beautifully together too, even more so than with most of the cartoons with Popeye and Olive and Popeye, Olive and Bluto from the early 40s. Jack Mercer is again in a one man show and is typically exuberant, not many people did asides and mumblings as well as he in his day.
Overall, great. 9/10.
Life in Colour (2021)
'Life in Colour' is the second David Attenborough series released and aired in 2021. The other being 'A Perfect Planet', which while not one of his best was a truly fine and often brilliant series (despite the final episode not being as good as the others). 'Life in Colour' did fascinate me from the get go, due to its subject matter. A large part of me was so interested in seeing how colour is used in the depicted animals' lives and how it would benefit them or cause problems.
It turned out to be another fine Attenborough effort. Did prefer 'A Perfect Planet' of the two series from 2021 and he has done better overall. Ones that are more ground-breaking, more varied and more emotional. 'Life in Colour' however does do a great job with the subject matter and anybody who watches Attenborough's work expecting high production values, wonderful animals and footage, to be educated and memorable scenes will not be disappointed.
My only real issue actually with 'Life in Colour' (have not seen the third episode yet) was the information regarding the polarised lights in "Seeing in Colour", which did go over my head a bit and didn't need to be as complicated in explanation as it turned out.
Otherwise the series is great. One always expects Attenborough's documentaries to be well made, and calling 'Life in Colour' well made is an understatement. The best of the footage is quite dazzling, such as the strawberry coloured frogs and the significance of tiger and zebra markings, and it is amazing at how vivid the colours are. Especially in "Seeing in Colour" with the red noses and green chests.
The music has a nice atmosphere and is nicely varied emotionally, such as the mating dance and how it depicts deception. The narration is educational throughout and mostly accessible, like how one can tell whether a fruit is ripe, misfiring only with the polarised lights. Also liked its entertainment value, without it ever being childish and honesty. It is typically brilliantly presented by Attenborough, who has one of those listen to for hours type of voices.
Also cannot fault the animals and the way they behave and what is said being fascinating, with the ways of deception in "Hiding in Colour" being particularly illuminating, The footage is informative and engaging, with enough freshness given to some of the familiar material (mating dances are not new territory for Attenborough documentaries but don't get old) and with "Seeing in Colour" being particularly good in presenting new material well backed up. Actually appreciated the behind the scenes scenes and it made me appreciate the crews' efforts more.
Concluding, fine series. 9/10.
Celestia's got talent
Celestia has come on a long way as a character, though actually do like her. In the earlier seasons she was too underused and too much like a just there plot device done little with, with some exceptions. Then there were later episodes such as "A Royal Problem" that made her a lot more interesting and a fully fleshed out character where the problems had with her by fans were addressed. Her chemistry with Twilight has always been great too.
"Horse Play" does a great job with her and it is one of her best episodes. Loved her more mature chemistry with Twilight here and it was great too to see another episode that sees Spike likeable. "Horse Play" is not a 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' classic, but it is one of the best episodes of Season 8 quite easily in my view. Not only does it replace "Surf and/or Turf" (not a popular opinion) as the best episode since the "School Daze" season opener, it surpasses it.
The animation is beautifully crafted. With a lot of rich attention to backgrounds and facial expressions and the colours are eye popping in their vibrancy. The music has a good deal of atmosphere and character and in terms of how instruments are used it is very easy on the ears. The voice acting is typically excellent, with both Tara Strong and Nicole Oliver pulling out all the stops in dignified, heartfelt performances. Especially in the confrontation.
Absolutely love Celestia's character writing here with her being as fleshed out as she was in "A Royal Problem", she has flaws but they are not exaggerated and it was easy to feel for her in a relatable situation. Twilight does cause a big problem, but in a with good intentions way rather than being cruel. She comes over as sympathetic and learns from her mistake. Her chemistry with Celestia really shines in their big confrontation. The rest of the Mane 6 shine in their own way and it was great to see Spike's character writing be close to how it was in Season 6, which was a big upgrade from the previous seasons. Insteaad of emphasising too much negative qualities, Season 6 and this episode saw him as the voice of reason, proving that Spike is a good character when written well.
Writing is some of the most mature of Season 8 and balances funny humour and poignant sentiment beautifully. The story is compelling, delivered with a lot of verve and emotion. Complete with a very relatable and interesting moral that isn't ham handed. Nice too to see the Equestria lore expanded upon.
Really there is very little wrong with "Horse Play". The very end is a touch weird but that is being nit-picky.
Otherwise, great. 9/10.