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A Wolf's Tale (1944)
7/10
Red Riding Hood when she (nearly) sizzles
22 September 2019
Despite finding Terrytoons' output very variable, a vast majority ranging between lacklustre and pretty good along with a handful of both very good and very weak, the cartoons are always interesting for completest sake. It was also of much interest seeing how the studio would fare with putting its spin on a classic story, with it being adapted and parodied a lot in animation and often very well (like Looney Tunes and Tex Avery).

1944 was a slightly more consistent year quality-wise compared to previous years for Terrytoons, though still uneven. For me, 'A Wolf's Tale' is one of the more interesting 1944 Terrytoons cartoons and towards the better end of that year's output. It does pretty well in its take on the story, with a valiant attempt at being racier than usual for Terrytoons and not being too cutesy, but also do think that more could have been done with this very promising idea.

Like a vast majority of Terrytoons' output, well all of them actually at this point, the best thing about 'A Wolf's Tale' is the music. 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. Close behind was the animation, as said more than once this component has come on considerably since the Terrytoons Studio first started. Overall, it is nicely detailed, lively and colourful, with a vividly rendered and not too cutesy setting and vibrant colours.

There are some very humorous moments here, it is never dull and the dialogue avoids being too cute as well as being too overtly creepy. It features one of the more interesting depictions of Little Red Riding Hood in animation, only Avery's take on the character perhaps was more "risque". The grandmother is also intriguingly depicted, being very Mae West-like here which is a completely new thing to see for me. The wolf is perhaps the character with the standout personality, being amusing but not one one wants to mess with. The voice acting fits the characters well.

More could have been done with the concept though. 'A Wolf's Tale' started off very promisingly and the more mature, bolder tone was a remarkably welcome change of pace for Terrytoons. It is a shame though that this was not carried all the way through, when the crew seemed to worry about going too adult and played it safe again. While the cartoon never gets too cute or anything, this did feel like a missed opportunity.

When 'A Wolf's Tale' gets tamer, the momentum dipped too so when ideally the energy should get snappier with this kind of premise it sort of peters out.

Overall, despite how this sounds this is not a bad cartoon at all. Did find a lot to like about it but fulll potential wasn't fully realised. 6.5/10
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Grimm Masterpiece Theatre: Rapuntseru (1988)
Season 2, Episode 5
6/10
Rapunzel
22 September 2019
Have always loved the Brothers Grimm stories and fairytales in general, and dislike very few if any. They can be dark, but they also enchant with memorable characters and one thinks hard about what the story is trying to say. 'Rapunzel', one of their most famous, is one of the most best-known stories in the world and one can see why. Some may be put off by the deal the parents make in exchange for the lettuce, but 'Rapunzel' is a charming story really and has an ending that has always been very moving to me.

'Grimm Masterpiece Theater's', an uneven but very interesting late 80s anime series with a nice mix of the famous stories and the stories that are not as exposed, version of 'Rapunzel' is not one of the series' best episodes. Up to this point of the series' second season, it's my least favourite. Although it is faithful in detail to the original story (mostly, with exceptions like Rapunzel's number of children), there were a few things that could have been done better and were a turn off.

Especially true to this is the portrayal of Rapunzel's parents. While the circumstances at the beginning of the original story are kept intact, this version has got to have the coldest portrayal of the parents for any adaptation of 'Rapunzel'. More the mother than the father though, with the father being practically manipulated and acting under demand (he gives in too easily though, even for the story, and almost too willing), whereas the spoiled, manipulative, rude and quite annoying mother was intolerable (do not remember her being this cold).

A lot of the dialogue can veer on cheesy, especially the Prince's whose lines sometimes sound like what can be said in an awkward "would you like to go out on a date" scenario. The voice acting is uneven. Have never had any problem with the narrator, while Rapunzel actually sounds like a late teen without being mature enough rather than sounding like someone trying to sound younger. The witch is suitably sinister without sounding over-compensated. The father comes over as too agressive and the mother sounds bored. The drawing tends to lack finesse.

Most of the animation isn't an issue to me though. There are some lovely fluid colours and a lot of care and love went into the backgrounds. The story is compelling and doesn't feel rushed or over-stretched, Rapunzel and the Prince's chemistry is sweet. The highlights though are the witch's first appearance, which was genuinely quite frightening and quite inventive actually, and the poignant ending. Some of the writing is serviceable enough, the narration is fine, Rapunzel and the witch's big confrontation has tension and the emotion is there without being cloying.

Rapunzel is a likeable titular character and it is amazing how she turned out so well considering her parents. This is probably the first adaptation of 'Rapunzel' where the witch's point of view, usually she's portrayed as a villain through and through, can be understood. Liked the music too, especially the lovely harp theme.

Concluding, decent but could have been better. The beginning was a turn off but it got better. 6/10
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DuckTales: Bubbeo & Juliet (1989)
Season 3, Episode 3
5/10
Shakespearean Bubba
22 September 2019
When younger, 'Ducktales' was one of my favourite animated shows, ever as well actually. Luckily, it still is and has held up very well. For me it is even better through adult eyes, the quality is higher, the humour cleverer and funnier and understand the content more. Always needed, and still do need, antidotes and distractions through numerous hard times that still happen on a relatively regular basis now, 'Ducktales' is perfect in this regard.

Among my least favourite 'Ducktales' episodes is the Bubba-centric "Bubbeo and Juliet". A watchable episode sure, don't consider any 'Ducktales' episode unwatchable or irredeemable. It also however was quite strange and didn't really get much from it in terms of emotion or entertainment value. Anybody that isn't particularly fond of Bubba (or is it better to say anybody that is a non-fan), first introduced in the "Time is Money" five parter, are not going to find themselves converted.

There are good things here in "Bubbeo and Juliet". It is well animated. That was never an issue with me at this point of the show. It is very vibrant, fluidly drawn and the attention to detail in the backgrounds is also note-worthy. Can say nothing wrong about the music, the score is dynamic, beautifully orchestrated, never jarring with the action and full of energy. Just as animated shows of this kind should be. It is impossible to resist or forget the theme song, one of the catchiest in animation and ever.

Scrooge is as ever delightful, an example of a miserly character that is also likeable and worth rooting for whose annoyance at the loud party being completely identifiable, and he and (some of) his conflict with the Blurfs have far more interest and entertainment value than anything to do with Bubba. Even if there is a bit of a different episode feel to it and perhaps could have featured a little less. Some of the writing brings a smile to the face and the free spending sequence between Scrooge and Blurf was amusing. The voice acting is very good, no matter what my opinion is on any of the characters the voice acting is not at fault.

"Bubbeo and Juliet" suffers primarily from Bubba not being a particularly compelling character. He is one of those taken in small doses characters that only just about gets by as supporting but there just isn't enough to him to be convincing as a lead. His personality is not amusing or endearing enough and veers on being too cute, his actions repetitive and idiotic. The central relationship is not developed enough and is somewhat cute but not much else, Juliet has a little more charm and presence but the character is still pretty sketchy.

Despite moments, the writing lacks its usual smartness and can get corny, while the story never really gelled, with the romance and the feud feeling like too much of a disjoint to each other. The logic becomes sloppy towards the end, capped off by a rather contrived climax that doesn't add an awful lot.

In a nutshell, watchable but strange. 5/10
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The Scarecrow (1920)
10/10
Farmhand fun
22 September 2019
Have a high appreciation for comedy and try to at least appreciate every kind of it. Some of my favourites actually, whether animated or not and film and television, are comedies. The witty and sophisticated types especially, also the physical sight gag driven ones. The broad types can work too, depending on how the execution is. With exceptions of course, am less of a fan of the crude type, which tend to veer on mean-spirited distaste.

Buster Keaton was and still is a big influence for the genre and cinema overall, and one of the greats. Anybody who has yet to see any of his work really should do so, one won't see anything quite like him or his work. Make sure though it's his silent films, shorts and feature, the transition to sound didn't/doesn't do him justice. His comic timing, his physical dexterity, his charm, how fearless he was in such ahead-of-the-time bold set pieces, his unique and unrivalled ability in making deadpan interesting and remarkably expressive all made for a genius of his craft.

Although not quite as physical comedy/bold stunt heavy as other Keaton outings, that still doesn't stop 'The Scarecrow' from being one of Keaton's best short films. As well being one of his funniest, wildest and most inventive before he went onto feature films. While liking a lot of Keaton short films very much, 'The Scarecrow' has always stood out for me.

While not what one calls technically ground-breaking, 'The Scarecrow' is still very nicely shot and easy on the eye, there is nothing cheap about it. The story is slight but full of breakneck energy and very charming, never letting up from the hilariously inventive beginning to the clever ending. Other than the beginning, with all those contraptions and the domestic duties, the other highlight is the escape from the mad dog played by Fatty Arbuckle's real life dog Luke, which is one of the funniest sequences of any of Keaton's short films. Humour is aplenty and all of it is beautifully timed and the energy and fun never stops.

Keaton is as amiable and athletic as ever with terrific comic timing. Deadpan has never been more expressive or nuanced than with Keaton, he was a true original in this regard and that can be seen here. The rest of the cast do well too, with Sybil Seeley a charming female lead and Joe Roberts a great match for Keaton in the beginning, though Luke is the one that stands out.

In conclusion, wonderful. 10/10
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8/10
"No legacy is so rich as honesty"
22 September 2019
Anybody who has not seen a National Theatre Live production should do so, it's well worth the time and money. Many fascinating, with few misfires in my mind, productions of a mix of classic plays/literatures and new discoveries and a mix of traditional and concept (mostly done tastefully regarding the latter). And accessible, it costs more in the cinema than a film but it's better than spending lots and possibly travelling a long way.

One of the National Theatre Live series' first productions, and the first production of the series of a Shakespeare play, was 'All's Well That Ends Well'. The series did go on to do even better and there are better Shakespeare performances in the series, but this is still a solid and well executed production of a lesser known but worthwhile Shakespeare play. 'All's Well That Ends Well' somewhat unorthodox for Shakespeare and was unorthodox at the time, with its depiction of gender role reversals and how surprisingly realistically cynical it is. It is also one of the most difficult Shakespeare plays to stage and interpret, with it being very psychological and having to bring it out compellingly and realistically, also with some difficult text. It is still very funny, thoughtful and moving by the end, with some memorable quotes and mastery of language.

There is not an awful lot wrong here. Bertram's conversion is to my tastes on the abrupt and rushed side, but this is not entirely the production's fault. That is something that the play suffers from as well, so it would have been something hard to overcome.

It is though a handsome and tasteful looking production, with a sumptuous mix of fairytale and Gothic that fits with the fairytale growing into realism concept beautifully without being blatant. It is photographed with intimacy but also not being too rigid, meaning that we can see details that can be missed when seeing it in a theatre. Shakespeare's mastery of language and complex text comes over very well, with the comedy timed sharply and funny, romance sweet without being cloying and drama poignant. All treated with respect and not like a joke or too seriously.

Marianne Elliott's stage direction keeps things from rambling, being chaotic or simplistic. Always done in good taste, without anything that adds nothing to the drama, works against it or leaves a bad taste in the mouth, a fine job done making the characters compelling, both in character traits and psychologically. Really liked how Helena grew as a character, realistically and that it took time to do, and the characterisation and interaction are done adeptly, not overdoing Parolles' vanity and Bertram's rejection of Helena not being as idiotic were appreciated.

Loved all the performances, with Michelle Terry conveying Helena's shrewish scheming and character growth with nuance and warmth. George Rainsford's boyish and not overly-egotistical Bertram, who also grows over the production (though not as effectively) stands out too. Clare Higgins is a dignified and sometimes stern Countess and Conleth Hill doesn't make Parolles annoying. Hasina Haque is fetching as Diane and Oliver Ford Davies brings restraint yet force to the king.

Summing up, very good though better Shakespeare productions were to follow in the National Theatre Live series. 8/10
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Levsha (1964)
9/10
Lefty
21 September 2019
Am immensely fond of Russian animation, films too but even more so animation, and have been for nearly a decade. A lot of the best of it came from Soyuzmultfilm, some of the best non-UK/US animations coming from them. One of the most notable and prolific artists and directors to come out of the studio being Ivan Ivanov-Vano, though there were other directors too responsible for some of the studio's best work.

'Lefty' (its Russian title being 'Levsha') is a relatively late effort of Ivanov-Vano's and mid-late effort for Soyuzmultfilm. It is based on Nikolai Leskov's, not a familiar writer to me until recently, folk tale-like 'The Tale of Cross-eyed Lefty from Tula and the Steel Flea' (or at least that's one of the story's titles) from 1881, and more a screen version of his narration. This story was unknown to me until recently when re-visiting my Soyuzmultfilm completest sake and it stands out among other Russian/Soviet folk-tales, namely down to the story's use of language.

It is not one of Ivanov-Vano's best, prefer 'The Snow Maiden', 'The Hunchbacked Horse' (the 1947 version), 'The Adventures of Buratino', 'Seasons' and 'The Battle of Kerzhenets'. It is though one of his most interesting, partly down to the animation style and the style of the writing.

Part of me felt that it was a little too short, otherwise than that it is great and deserves to be better known.

One of 'Lefty's' most interesting components is the animation, a style unlike anything seen before and creatively used, an example of cutout animation and one of the most interesting uses of it. With purpsefully flat but never stiff character designs against richly detailed backgrounds made from practical materials, particularly striking in the Tula episodes but the engravings also intrigued. The music adds hugely to 'Lefty's' impact, rousing, sumptuous and atmospheric, it is like a character of its own and brilliantly performed and conducted.

The writing is reminiscent of Leskov's prose, both uniquely entertaining and fascinating in showing the writer's innovative forms. The story always compels (Leskov's mostly made up sayings are common today) with much to say about Russian society at the time and with a titular character worth rooting for. The narration is sincerely delivered, coherent and moves the story forward without over-explaining it.

Concluding, great. 9/10
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10/10
The Night Before Christmas
21 September 2019
Can't help comparing 1951's 'The Night Before Christmas' to 1945's 'The Lost Letter'. Both were directed by the Brumberg sisters Valentina and Zinaida. Both are from one of my personal favourite animation studios Soyuzmultfilm, Russian animation doesn't get much better than their output (have seen a vast majority of them and have liked to love all seen). Both are adapted from stories by Nikolai Gogol, a very interesting writer with a distinctive style.

'The Night Before Christmas', not to be confused with the famous poem, is adapted from the story of 'Christmas Eve' (but also known as 'The Night Before Christmas'), Gogol's first story in the second volume of his "Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka". Although not as historically significantly as 'The Lost Letter', the first cel-animated Soviet animated film, 'The Night Before Christmas' is interesting for the heavy use of rotoscoping that is also present in other Soyuzmultfilm works from the 1950s. The story was also adapted live action in 1961 by Aleksandr Rou, enjoyed that version too but liked this more.

As to be expected, the animation is great. As great as the rich colours and distinctive character designs are it's those pretty stunning backgrounds and wintry landscapes that are especially good here, the rotoscoping was effective (there is a heavy use of it but it is not abused) and has held up well with no signs of sticking out like a sore thumb. The music has at times a dream-like and mysterious sound to it and at other times there is a haunting surrealist quality, both in perfect keeping with the magic and wonderful strangeness of Gogol's original story. All in an unmistakably Russian way and it adds to the authenticity, same with the sung sections.

Furthermore, the writing never sounds dumbed down or too complex. On top of the magical atmosphere and suitably grotesque surrealism, there is also at times a romantic charm (the romanticism is also distinctive of Gogol, the movement very much active in his lifetime) and like the original story and the other stories making up "Evenings on a Farm Near Dinkanka" his Ukranian upbringing and its culture and folktale influence can be can be detected. It doesn't feel overstretched or cluttered, even with a lot happening, actually thought the film could have been a little longer but don't consider that a complaint really).

Characters are nationalist (yet another unique characteristic of Gogol's writing) and carry the story beautifully. The voice acting avoids being too theatrical but nobody sounds bored either.

In a nutshell, fabulous. 10/10
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10/10
The Lost Letter
21 September 2019
Am a fan of Russian/Soviet animation and of Russian/Soviet film in general, ever since watching Soyuzmultfilm's 'The Snow Queen' and getting into the work of Aleksandr Ptushko (a few available in dubbed versions, which do them no justice). Nikolai Gogol, who wrote the story 'The Lost Letter' is based upon, was a very interesting and influential writer with quite a unique writing style (important in the "Russian literary realism"), well at least for back then.

1945's 'The Lost Letter', directed by Lamis Bredis and the Brumberg sisters (considered pioneers in Russian animation, have seen them coined "the grandmothers of the Russian animation" Valentina and Zinaida) and with supprting-direction by Ptushko, is of interesting historical value. With it being the first Soviet cel-animated film and an early work, one their first animated films after many short films, of the quintessential, or at least in my view, Russian animation studio Soyuzmultfilm.

Was amazed at how good the animation was for so early on for Soyuzmultfilm, the attention to detail is extraordinary and some of the visuals are suitably grotesquely nightmarish (very appropriate for the story), enough to make one pine for the return of traditional/cel animation. As great as the rich colours and distinctive character designs are it's those pretty incredible-looking backgrounds and landscapes that are especially good here.

The music is lusciously orchestrated and very atmospheric, whether in the distinctively Cossack dance-like music early on or quite haunting in a wonderfully weird way in the more devillishly surreal moments. The dialogue, of which there's a lot, is neither too complicated or childish, there is as of now an English subtitled version available, though the film is still in Russian and it isn't hard to follow and just about flows.

Story-wise, it is magical and a classic case of strange being a good thing, with it being very true in spirit to the magical atmosphere and surrealism of the original story and Gogol's unmistakable style. It doesn't feel over-stretched, neither does it feel like too much is crammed in. The characters are nationalist (another distinctive characteristic of Gogol's writing) and carry the story beautifully. The voice acting avoids being too broad.

In summation, wonderful. 10/10
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A Streetcar Named Desire (1995 TV Movie)
7/10
Passion and desire
21 September 2019
'A Streetcar Named Desire' is for me one of the best works of one of the great playwrights of the 20th century Tennessee Williams, it's wordy (then again that's the case with all Williams, some so more than others though) but is full of passion and emotion. When it's performed well, it really does sizzle. Sizzle it did with the 1951 Elia Kazan classic with Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh, regardless of it not being entirely faithful to the play the direction, emotional power and incredible performances makes one forget that.

There may be those that question the point of this made for television version, and generally because the film is so good and it would be difficult to equal or better it. Personally don't think that should be the case, it's just another version of the play and plays, of all different types of qualities (even some of lesser Shakespeare has more than one version available), often have more than one adaptation/production. Williams' work is no exception, well his best anyhow, so the likes of 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof', 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and 'The Glass Menagerie'.

Do prefer the film version on its own terms, but on the most part 'A Streetcar Named Desire' is a worthy version. It is truer to the source material, with what was omitted in the film (now with censorship not getting in the way this time), intact, same with every location, every line, every one of the play's bold themes and the character writing deeper. It is faithful but not too faithful.

Where the film scores over this version though is that to me it had more of the smoldering passion that is a little lacking here and this didn't leave me as moved. The direction, while always thoughtful and never distasteful, isn't as pulling no punches as Kazan's and while the performances are very good, even great, here from personal opinion none reach the same iconic level. While details wise it is more faithful, which is to be lauded as the play is one of Williams' best, to me the film captured the spirit of the play more.

Judging it on its own, there isn't anything done disastrously. There are a few repetitive shots that make us aware of the camera and do agree that the attitudes of Blanche and Stella to Stanley's rape do not ring true, something that should have hurt and anger pouring out but treated with indifference.

For those short-comings though, there are also a good number of virtues. The production values are pleasing on the eyes, the locations having surprising authenticity and the camera work is mostly fluid, the odd bit of repetition aside. Williams' dialogue is intelligent and poignant, wordy but that is a hardly a fault with the production and have never considered it a short-coming with the play either (with lesser Williams plays like 'Orpheus Descending' it is more noticeable and less forgivable). The storytelling may not have the same amount of impact but the faithfulness is not something that works against the production, although the film smolders more there is hardly a shortage of tension and emotion. The climax is quite powerful.

None of the performances are on the same level as the iconic performances of the film, but they are very strong in their own way. Jessica Lange is a remarkably nuanced if perhaps not frail enough Blanche, while not overdoing too much the manipulation, and Diane Lane, at times telling a lot through her face, is heart-wrenching as Stella, one can really feel the character's conflict. John Goodman does an admirable job in trying to break away from the comedic work he was famous for at the time (which must have been very difficult to do), and does so sympathetically if perhaps a touch too soft at times. Which brings me to Alec Baldwin, was worried that he would be a disaster having read some of the reviews, but did appreciate that his interpretation was different from Brando's and not an imitation, he doesn't smolder as much and isn't as brutish but the more human approach that he brought to this difficult role was interesting and he did it well from personal view.

On the whole, worth a watch. 7/10
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7/10
"Life is full of uncertainty. People need to have options"
21 September 2019
All the previous episodes of 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' are in my opinion very good to brilliant, such a promising standard for so early on which one doesn't always get with shows, which is a mix of being great from the get go, solid but a little unsettled at first but gets better and doesn't ever take off. There are numerous examples of all three, 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' fits more in the first category though also got better as it progressed.

While "The Third Horseman" is an interesting episode and it is not a bad one at all (far from it), by 'Law and Order: Criminal Intent' standards at this point it is a little disappointing and for me it was the weakest of the season in comparison to the previous ten episodes. The previous episodes generally had cases that grabbed me a little more, had more tension (especially "Jones", one of the season's best) and were more balanced.

"The Third Horseman" had a subject matter that is a difficult one to handle, with abortion being so controversial (personally don't know what my stance on it is as there are people for it, people against it and people who can see it from both sides). It is interestingly done enough and raises some interesting points worth pondering upon, but more subtlety wouldn't have gone amiss and there could have been a more balanced view perhaps of it, rather than making it obvious from the get go what side it's on. Am not sure what the episode's general critical reception is, but with such a controversial subject matter and viewers being on both extremes it wouldn't be surprising if it's a divisive one.

Regarding the case itself, it intrigues, it is always great to see how the characters work and their methods on solving a case and it isn't too obvious (apart from the identity of the killer, with suspects being too few, the motive though was less guessable), but it could have been tauter and had more tension. The character interaction and chemistry stuck in my mind more.

In that regard, most noteworthy are the increasing friction between Eames, with the case and subject hitting home with her, and Carver and agreed Goren's appeal to the anti-violence protester. The writing is not perfect but it does provoke though and there are perceptive moments, especially Goren's response when asked about what his feelings are and what he says is very true (it is him at his most honest and perceptive up to this point of the show).

Vincent D'Onofrio shows why he was a perfect choice for Goren and Robert Stanton is a strong presence as Griscom. For me though this is Kathryn Erbe's episode, she has some of her meatiest material yet and brings both edge and pathos to it.

Not a perfect episode or a great one, but interesting and worth a view. 7/10
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Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Bad Blood (2000)
Season 1, Episode 11
9/10
Dysfunctional murder
20 September 2019
Despite only being Season 1, which usually for most shows tends to be "finding its feet"/"taking time to settle" period, 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' has fared very well up to this point of it. Of the previous episodes, "Wanderlust" and "Stocks and Bondage" disappointed, the only episodes to do so while still not bad, but on the other side of the opinion scale "Payback", "Uncivilised", "Stalked" and "Closure" were outstanding. All the other episodes were very good.

Apart from one aspect, Season 1's and 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit's' eleventh episode "Bad Blood" is a great episode and among the season's better and more interesting at this still early point of it. It has a very interesting case and Olivia's subplot is quite powerful stuff, both equally strong rather than being a case of one being better done than the other and they don't feel unbalanced either rather than one being favoured and the other neglected.

"Bad Blood" looks suitably slick and doesn't look too drab, suiting the gritty tone more than convincingly. The taut and intelligent dialogue is allowed to do all the talking and is not drowned out by constant and over-obvious music, which is used sparingly and generally low-key apart from in major revelations. The main theme is not hard to forget. The dialogue has momentum and provokes thought (the genetics discussion is a great scene), approaching a difficult subject with tact, with some nice dry humour from Munch. Really enjoy the team interaction, the sympathetic one between Elliot and Olivia being beautifully handled and a reminder of how and why they work so well together.

The case is gripping with enough twists and turns to satisfy, nothing is obvious really here. Just as good is Olivia's subplot, really felt for Olivia here and found the subplot harrowing and poignantly done. The chemistry between her and Elliot and Mariska Hargitay's haunted performance help a lot. The acting is very good, Hargitay, Christopher Meloni and Richard Belzer being spot on and Jerry Lanning playing a nasty piece of work to suitably repellent effect.

My only complaint with "Bad Blood" is when all is revealed, which for my tastes came over as a bit convoluted and difficult to get the head round.

Overall though, a great episode. 9/10
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Law & Order: Out of the Half-Light (1990)
Season 1, Episode 11
9/10
"You made a decision based on something from within. You live with it, you examine it, that's all you got"
20 September 2019
Better quality was yet to come in later episodes of 'Law and Order', but its very early years were still solid and do deserve to be known and shown more. Even if at this point it had not yet settled completely, though a lot of what 'Law and Order' did so well in is evident. While for me of the previous Season 1 episodes only "Prescription for Death" and especially "Indifference" were above very good, "Indifference" was one of the season's best episodes.

"Out of the Half-Light" is also among the season's better episodes and perhaps the second best of the eleven episodes at this point of the season, and show. Almost as great as "Indifference". It is really quite powerful and really makes one think, raising some very interesting questions worth pondering upon. Something that 'Law and Order' more often than not great at. Anybody familiar with or remembers the Tawana Brawley case may very well find that "Out of the Half-Light" resonates with them, 'Law and Order' excelled at the ripped from the headlines kind of stories and those dealing with moral dilemmas, both can be seen here.

Everything to do with the sociological implications and the girl's motives could have gone into more depth and handled more directly, as has been said already. That would have made it even more thought-provoking and even more emotionally impactful or so in my opinion it would have been, it also would have set the episode apart a little more from the previous episodes.

The episode gets a lot of credit for raising the issue and its implications, raising some interesting points and doing it in a thoughtful and tactful manner. It is a difficult and sensitive subject but something well worth addressing and is hardly un-topical today, it could have been executed in a way that was ham-fisted but "Out of the Half-Light" doesn't do that luckily without making its points.

It was great though that "Out of the Half-Light" had an equal mix of the law and order sides of the case, showing both procedures in the show and its spin offs was a great idea and always makes me when done right think hard about the truth and making a judgment myself. The case, one of the most complex ones of the season up to this point, does grip as does the inestigative/procedural work and the prosecution element also intrigues, seeing how they work to get the result they do. Complete with the complications of a case and moral dilemmas of the case and of their own character.

Can't fault the gritty production values here or the sparingly used and unobtrusive music (also that memorable main theme). The script is thought-provoking and intelligently written, with no fat and no focus on soapy personal lives which could be a problem in the later seasons of 'Special Victims Unit'. Michael Moriarty, Chris Noth and Richard Brooks are very strong, as are an affecting Sandra Reeves-Phillip and even more so a chillingly egotistical J.A. Preston.

Summing up, one problem aside it is a great episode. 9/10
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Swann in Love (1984)
7/10
Admirable love
20 September 2019
'Swann in Love' did have plenty of things going for it. Really like Marcel Proust's writing, and 'Un Amour de Swann' of the massive 'Remembrance of Things Past' is a masterpiece. Sven Nykvist was, and is still near-universally considered as, one of the all-time greats when it came to cinematography, particularly notable in the films of Ingmar Bergman. Love period dramas and always have. And am a fan of Jeremy Irons, and have liked to loved most of his work even in projects that are beneath him.

After finding and watching it, 'Swann in Love' as has been said already is a brave endeavour in adapting source material that is very difficult to do so, close to unadaptable actually. Proust in general has a sophisticated and subtle style of writing too that is not easy to translate to film or any visual media. 'Swann in Love' doesn't completely succeed and is not the masterpiece level that the book is (that was inevitable though), but there are a lot of good things here, really do applaud it for its noble effort and can really see that a lot of work was put into it.

Will start with what 'Swann in Love' does well. It is a thing of beauty visually. The costumes and settings are as sumptuous as one can get, never looking too fussy, and a lot of homework was clearly done in making the recreation of the period as evocative as possible. Nykvist's cinematography is a wonder, then again with such an amazing and influential cinematographer like Nykvist one doesn't expect any less. To me, the music fitted very well, especially with Swann's travels that are far from settled, and was used in a way that wasn't constant or over-powering. It is also a pleasant score to listen to like the use of strings, even the more atonal (not a fan of this in general but appreciate its musical importance) parts don't jar that much but can understand if anybody doesn't find it to their taste.

There is sophistication and subtlety here (not in Proust's way but in a general one), if not any reminicent parts which wouldn't have worked because they would make the film screech to a halt, and the story absorbs on the whole. The unflinching and claustrophobic portrayal of society and artistocrats is particularly striking, while the aforementioned Swann on the rampage scene, while too long, is a masterly visual and dramatic achievement. The obsessive moments have the right amount of intensity. Irons doesn't give one of his best performances here in a very early film role, but there is authority and conflicted pathos in his Swann which reminds one of the type of characters Irons was best and one of the best at doing it at, upper class characters with a dark or conflicted side. Ornella Muti is quite ravishing and portrays the seductiveness and at times smuttiness of her character expertly. Alain Delon has a lot of fun as the flamboyant artistocrat.

Not without its caveats however, 'Swann in Love' that is. There could have been more depth, it tends to be quite surface-level here, and more passion. A tighter pace, the deliberate nature is taken to extremes here and it can drag, and less scenes that go on for too long would have helped.

It also has some quite distracting and unnecessary over-dubbing, Irons has an amazing and easily recognisable voice that is wasted here.

Overall, not entirely successful but with quite a lot of virtues and a valiant effort. 7/10
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7/10
Robot crisis
20 September 2019
Making up DePatie-Freleng Enterprises' The Inspector series, one of their most famous characters and one of their better known and better quality-wise theatrical series, are thirty four cartoons. The first being 1965's 'The Great De Gaulle Stone Operation' and the last being 1969's 'Carte Blanched'. A series mostly well worth watching with even some very good to great efforts, though would be lying if saying all of them are great, some being very, very average. Like The Inspector too as a character.

'Les Miserobots' for me is one of the high-middle The Inspector cartoons. Another one of those well done and enjoyable but nothing mind-blowing outings in the series, that is recommended as a well worth watching one but not an essential. 'Les Miserobots' may not be one of the Inspector's funniest or most imaginative, but it is above average, would actually consider it pretty decent with a lot to like.

The story is as flimsy as it comes and that one knows what's going to happen next in the story action the whole time takes away from the surprise somewhat.

Although The Inspector is an amusing and endearing character as always, this is a rare case of between him and his adversary of him being the weaker character with there being some uncharacteristic blandness occasionally, his humour being sharper and more ironic in other cartoons of his.

Still like him very much, but here the funnier and more interesting character here is the robot, a rare The Inspector foil that The Inspector is actually no match for. 'Les Miserobots' is far from short-changed when it comes to the humour, and although little of it is hilarious and they are standard the gags are still well timed and humorous. Have noticed that with a lot of The Inspector cartoons the ending is the best part, and actually that's the case here too. The bumbling does amuse and doesn't get tiresome and the verbal humour has enough wit to it, both have been stronger though elsewhere.

Once again, the animation is fine and unmistakably distinctive DePatie-Freleng in style. Simple but always attractive, with nice attention to detail and especially striking were the rich colours. The music never sounds cheap and doesn't get bombastic or manic, regardless of the energy. It is hard to think of a better voice for The Inspector than that of Pat Harrington Jr.

In summary, decent. 7/10
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The Borgias: Relics (2013)
Season 3, Episode 6
9/10
"Our church is driven by belief, and we choose to believe this is the Spear of Longinus"
20 September 2019
Despite it not settling straight away, with it taking half a season or so for the writing and pacing to become more consistent (have never properly faulted the production values, music and acting and love a lot of individual scenes, chemistries and little things), for me 'The Borgias' is an incredibly well made show regardless of any historical inaccuracies and addictive show. Also have always felt that there isn't a bad episode though have liked a few of the earlier episodes less on re-watches.

Am personally surprised that "Relics" isn't rated more highly here, though still a good score, and that it's rated lower than the still very good and nearly great previous episode "The Wolf and the Lamb". Sure it may not have the same amount of tension, emotional impact or as many scenes not for the faint hearted that that episode had. It also doesn't have any subplots noticeably weaker than the others, Cesare's for me had some dull moments, or any frustrating character behaviours, especially Alfonso's naiivety. Found "Relics" however to be a great episode.

Cannot find an awful lot to fault "Relics", though (sorry if this sounds like a nit-pick) there is a very noticeable camera setup shot in the emissaries exit from the meeting with Rodrigo. This may be a non-issue for some but it was very distracting to me and jarred with how amazing every aspect of the production values were throughout the show's whole run.

It is a shame because the rest of "Relics" looks wonderful. Love the sumptuousness of it all, how beautifully it's shot and how the more intimate moments especially are like one has stepped into a painting. Some of the best directing of 'The Borgias', personal opinion of course, is in "Relics", especially in the silent scenes with Rufio (like with the plague trap). Up there with Juan's burial in "The Confession" and the beginning of "The Face of Death". Other standouts being the through a chandelier view and with the spinning fireworks. The silent Rufio scenes are also the standouts on the music front, some of the show's most haunting. Cannot get enough of the spine-chilling opening titles sequence and the main theme either.

The writing has been one of the most improved aspects of 'The Borgias' over-time, along with the pacing and the character writing for Lucrezia. It provokes thought and there is a good deal of tension here, whether very obvious or quieter, and intrigue in the negotiations and with the spear. "Relics" does a great job with the theme of the appearance of power, summed up brilliantly in the above line in the review summary by Rodrigo (although some of the best lines go to Cesare). The story, despite being very political intrigue-heavy, is compelling and has some nice moments like Rodrigo in a beekeeper outfit, Micheletto having increased screen time and everything to do with the French army. It is not just all about negotiations.

Found the acting to be great across the board, Cesare has really come into his own since Season 2 and the dark intensity is still there in Francois Arnaud's performance with some levity too when returning to Rome. Jeremy Irons is wholly believable in his authority, commanding every scene he's in and how he shows how increasingly livid he is but subtly. Also loved how beautifully Peter Sullivan underplays Sforza, telling a lot with as little as a glance (something that Irons also has always been brilliant at), especially true in his disgust in the honey scene.

Concluding, great. 9/10
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House of Cards: Chapter 40 (2016)
Season 4, Episode 1
8/10
"You know, when she got married, I was sure she would wake up in a year or two. I had no idea it was gonna take her 30"
19 September 2019
'House of Cards' was a brilliant show in its prime and one of the most addictive. A show that deserved an infinitely better final season, which was a disgrace and could easily have passed for a season for another show entirely that didn't take off. Season 1 was especially brilliant of the prime period, while Season 2 was almost as good if better in its second half than first and Season 3 was never less than decent though again better in the second half.

Am going to be another person that found the third season finale "Chapter 39" disappointing, while still finding it a solid, very well done episode. Part of me was expecting excellence and a finale that continued the near-back on form quality of the season's second part ("Chapter 33" onwards) and especially up to the level of its previous two episodes. Season 4's premiere "Chapter 40" though, while not a return to form for 'House of Cards', is a superior episode and is a promising start.

"Chapter 40" is a set-up episode essentially. Not building upon or advancing much from before, but introduces new things and setting them up for what is to come. It does this very well indeed. Do agree that there could have been more of the political intrigue and less of the personal lives, as the political intrigue is one of the show's main attractions and what sets it apart and all the previous seasons balanced the politics and personal lives better and more evenly.

There is so much that "Chapter 40" does well though. It has its usual slickness, class and stylishness visually, the early scenes are especially well shot and have a genuine unsettlement to them. The music matches the tone well. The writing has the right amount of bite and intensity, with some of the best lines coming from the newly introduced character of Claire's mother Elizabeth Hale. The story is absorbing and the character interaction, especially Claire and Elizabeth and Frank and Elizabeth, carries it. The newly introduced characters all make a positive impression, especially Elizabeth, and the return of Lucas is handled well. Will admit to not being the biggest of fans of Lucas in the first half of Season 2, but a lot of the problem was that all of the rest of the subplots in that season were much more interesting than his and some of his behaviour was frustrating.

Found all the acting to be very strong, Kevin Spacey shows how and why Frank is such a fascinating lead character and Robin Wright does wonderfully in showing Claire's icy demeanour. A quality also embodied in Ellen Burstyn's scene stealing turn as Elizabeth. Neve Campbell, again proving that she is more than a teen idol, is subtly menacing in her role.

Overall, very good and very promising start to Season 4. Makes one highly anticipating what is to come. 8/10
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Taggart: Blood Money (2002)
Season 19, Episode 3
7/10
Counting murder
19 September 2019
Will admit to not caring all that much for the previous five Burke-era episodes, "Fire Burn", "Watertight", "The Friday Event", "Hard Man" and "Fade to Black", while not hating them. Had no issue with the production values, Glasgow and the music, and Jackie is one of the main reasons as to why 'Taggart' remained watchable, but the stories felt tired, the team interaction lacked spark and Burke didn't do anything for me as a character.

"Blood Money" to me though was a marked improvement, despite a few of the above having higher ratings, though not in the same league as the best of the Taggart and Jardine periods (especially the former, when 'Taggart' really was in its prime). Not a great episode but a decent one where there are things that didn't work in the previous episodes but work here just about in "Blood Money", that was what was meant by me saying that the episode was better.

It isn't flawless. There is not an awful lot original here and there is a tried and tested feel at times. The identity of the killer was not a big surprise to me, the motive was (and it did make me feel sorry for them and it made me dislike one of the victims even more). But the killer was in my top 3 suspects list fairly early on and was almost certain it was them after the second murder.

The ending also felt on the slightly rushed side.

However, the photography is gritty and moody and have always loved how Glasgow has such a big presence in the show and like a character of its own. The moodiness is present in the music and the main theme as always is unforgettable. The team have more spark here and there is more of a sense of teamwork, the investigative elements and how they get the truth intrigue. Burke being so obnoxious and too much of a bully made it difficult to warm to him, but he gels better here.

Regarding the script, that's intriguing and there's more bite and dryness that were missing in the previous Burke-era episodes. The case is suitably gritty with enough twists and turns to satisfy without being convoluted. Really appreciated seeing Jackie and Burke getting on better than they did in especially "Fire Burn", and there was one bit where we learn more about Jackie regarding her knowledge of boxing. The acting is good, Alex Norton overdoes it less here and Mickey and Herron are the characters best acted.

Overall, decent. 7/10
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Play or Die (2019)
1/10
Nowhere near close to being worth the play
19 September 2019
What 'Play or Die' had going for it was its premise. It was hardly original, it is one that most would undoubtedly have seen before more than once beforehand, but it was certainly a decent one that makes one interested in watching. It interested me without a shadow of a doubt and with the right execution it could have been at least a decent watch that questions of it being derivative wouldn't have mattered so much.

'Play or Die' unfortunately is yet another one of those films, of which there have been too many recently of my recent viewings that it's becoming tiring, with a premise that draws one right in but the execution is completely unfulfilling and severely wanting. What it easily could have been, even with limitations, turned out to be the opposite, so it was yet another potential waste. Am not disliking 'Play or Die' with malice, actually sort of wanted to like it even if it didn't entirely work.

The setting was quite eerie but that is pretty much it for any minor redeeming merits. The drabness, erratic filming and effects that looked like they were made as an afterthought squander it though, that does annoy me because if the visuals overall were good my score may have been a solid 3 or a borderline 4.

All the cast give lousy performances, a lot of histrionics and just as much going through the motions. The characters are neither interesting or ones to endear to, there is very little development other than simplistic stereotypical character traits and almost all of them were annoying or without personality.

Dialogue is really quite painful to listen to, it reeks of cheese, has a complete lack of momentum, instead coming over as the dampest of squibs, and fails to flow. The direction is lethargic throughout but it's the story that sinks 'Play or Die', starting off worse than unpromisingly with a scene that will make even those who aren't easily squeamish squirm in their seats with embarrassed discomfort. It's sluggishly paced with everything telegraphed too obviously and too early and there is no tension, suspense or creepiness at all. It all feels bland and there is plenty to make one cringe in its far-fetched ridiculousness and lack of logic in events and character behaviours. There is nothing creative and it all feels too tame.

In conclusion, very poor. 1/10
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Polterheist (II) (2018)
2/10
Ghostly gangsters
19 September 2019
Despite the cheesy title, there was a little bit of potential in 'Polterheist'. Comedy, horror and crime sounded very intriguing together, although they don't always mix perfectly, and highly appreciate all three of those genres on their own (especially crime). The premise was suggestive of it being an unsettling and entertaining film, or at least have the potential to be. The cover/poster looked quite creepy and not too silly at all.

'Polterheist' however was a mess on the whole, another waste of decent potential and have said more than once that one of my pet hates is good potential wasted. There are things that don't always make me proud to be a Brit, and watching 'Polterheist' is one of them (can think of a heck of a lot worse though, like the terrible political state we're in at the moment). There is plenty however that does make me proud, like some of the greatest literature ever written, great classical music composers and some immensely talented singers and performers amongst others.

The only real thing that stopped me from giving 'Polterheist' a lower score is there is some unintentional humour that did raise a smirk that did stop it from being a dreary experience.

Otherwise, apart from the odd moment of slick style the camera work tends to be erratic and the editing repetitive. The sound too often telegraphs what is going to happen prematurely, so nothing really surprises. Actually thought the dialogue to be quite clunky and forced, the supposed dark humour lacking wit and coming over as strained. The horror with the vengeful spirit is neither unsettling or entertaining, instead being very bland and more silly than scary (also thought it unnecessary), and plays third fiddle to the comedy and crime elements.

As for 'Polterheist's' crime element, there is no tension or suspense, not even surprises, everything is too easy to figure out and when there are any attempts to complicate the story it becomes unfocused. All three elements fail individually and make for a very muddled and unbalanced experience meshed together. Many other films and such do a far better job at the pulls no punches approach, which was pretty gratuitously done here. Didn't get anything from any of the characters, the direction struggles to balance the different elements together and the actors never really look comfortable.

In summary, a mess but not a beyond redemption one. 2/10
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Boo! (II) (2018)
1/10
A long way from being worth a peek
19 September 2019
Do appreciate horror and don't have any bias against low budget. Just want to make that clear, before anybody thinks that there is bias on my part against both, judging from me being negative about some recently, so there was no negative judgment passed before watching 'BOO'. The low rating, poor reviews and not particularly promising concept made me not expect too much but the creepy cover/poster did peek some interest and am on a low-budget horror completest quest.

'BOO' really is as bad, well lets change that to dire, as the rating and reviews say and am not saying that in a way that's ignorant or saying that my opinion is objective. It's my genuine opinion, meant with no disrespect or condescension (no fake reviews accusations here in this review, though can see where those that have panned the film and have mentioned that are coming from). There are not an awful lot of films seen recently or in general that have no redeeming merits whatsoever, 'BOO' is one of them.

It is a cheap-looking film for starters. Lets make that amateurish. Am aware that the budget is low but that is no excuse for the production values to look as if the crew were not even trying to do anything that would overcome that obstacle (plenty of modestly-or-less budgeted films have done that). Not even the location evokes any kind of eeriness, and even if it did it is completely wasted by chaotic photography, monotone lighting and afterthought-like effects. The sound is far too obvious and telegraphs any horror attempts far too early, not to mention poorly balanced, not balancing well with the dialogue, and intrusive.

Not that the writing was anything at all to write home about anyway. There is no flow at all, no personality and the cheese and cliches pile up. The story is even flimsier than the thin concept, what little there is of one (most of it is uneventful) is painfully dull, and further hurt by that there is nothing scary, suspenseful or creative in any shape or form. Everything is just so predictable and bland.

There is a lot of ridiculousness here too, and none of the characters are worth investing in or interesting. Have a lot of dislike for implausible and stupid character behaviours, and 'BOO' is full of it. The threat is as far away from creepy as you can get and is used poorly, too little and too obviously. The acting is reminiscent of random people being selected off the streets and putting them together with no rehearsal time.

Summarising, dire. 1/10
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Once Upon a Time: Wake Up Call (2017)
Season 7, Episode 6
8/10
Ivy turning poisonous
18 September 2019
Season 7 was up to this point of the season, and as an overall whole, disappointing. Unwatchable it isn't, but compared to Seasons 1-(most of) Season 5 (Season 6 was very hit and miss) the magic has been lost and one can't shake off the feeling that the Season 6 finale was a perfect place to end. The general problems tending to be that the episodes tried to do too much, could be muddled, with some underdeveloped or senseless subplots, writing that had lost its layers and uneven performances.

There were though episodes in the season that were exceptions to this. Of the previous Season 7 episodes, "Beauty" was the one exception. "Wake Up Call" is another exception to the general underwhelming quality of the season. It may not be a 'Once Upon a Time' high point, and not everything works. A lot though is done right and it is one of not many episodes of Season 7 to remind me of 'Once Upon a Time' the way it used to be.

"Wake Up Call's" weakest element is Jacinda. Still find her very annoying and without any charm or any kind of appeal, although it is not quite as badly done as in "Greenbacks" which is likely to intensify any initial dislike towards her (it did with me) Jacinda just irritates me and really did not like her coldness. Dania Ramirez's acting is near-uniformally panned for good reason.

Didn't really see the need for her and Henry's subplot which is pretty derivative and added very little to the episode, especially considering that there is no real chemistry (or at least natural chemistry) between the two.

However, the production values continue to impress, have never really had an issue with them though, the odd dodgy special effect aside. They are beautifully designed and atmospheric, nicely photographed. The music doesn't ever sound cheap or out-of-kilter, fitting well with the mood and never found myself questioning its placement. The main theme is still memorable. Most of the dialogue does not fall in the camp and cheesy camp, everything with Regina and Drizella is a fond reminder of the clever and layered writing of the earlier seasons. Especially with Regina, where one sees a complex tortured character that is never too perfect or too stock. Drizella up to this point of the season is a strong contender for the most interesting "newer" character, one with sinister actions that one doesn't agree with but can't help feeling sorry for her and understanding how she came to be that way.

Regina and Drizella's chemistry has intensity and pathos, and it's the fairytale realm story that is somewhat the heart of "Wake Up Call" and where the episode is at its most interesting and investable. Liked Roni's subplot a good deal too, mainly because Roni is equally compelling as a character. The symbol subplot is mainly setting up for what is to come and it does it well, without giving too much away or being vague too early, despite my disappointment with the season up to this point there was enough to that subplot to keep me intrigued in watching. Excepting Ramirez, the acting is fine. Lana Parrilla is an absolute knockout, and Adelaide Kane is intense and heartfelt.

In a nutshell, very well done and one of the season's better episodes easily. 8/10
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8/10
Tiny Toons meets 'The Twilight Zone'
18 September 2019
Love 'Animaniacs' and 'Pinky and the Brain'. Love 'Tiny Toon Adventures' (which pre-dated them but for a while was more familiar with the other two) every bit as much, while putting it a touch below the other two. It was a great show through childs eyes, while not being as familiar with what was being referenced the dialogue and characters were still enormously entertaining. Love it even more as a young adult, and the humour is funnier and cleverer.

Spoofing 'The Twilight Zone', "The Acme Acres Zone" is another segment-structured episode rather than one that has one individual story, that 'Tiny Toon Adventures' (and even more so 'Animaniacs' and 'Pinky and the Brain', both of which did them more consistently) mostly did very well in. It is made up of three segments, "A Walk on the Flip Side", "A Bacon Strip" and "Senserely Yours Babs", and the execution is mostly very solid making for a very enjoyable episode on the most part.

My least favourite of the segments is "A Bacon Strip". Not because of Hamton, although there are 'Tiny Toon Adventures' characters more interesting than him he is a nice character. Just found the other two segments funnier and with even more interesting stories that fitted the theme of the episode better. The skinny dipping idea, and one of the show's least likely characters to do it, is suitably strange.

Faring best was "Senserely Yours Babs". It is partly to do with that Babs is one of my favourite characters on the show, but it is the segment that has the most razor sharp wit and wackiness, both of which 'Tiny Toon Adventures' excelled in. Montana Max has grown on me.

Animation is full of vibrant colour and is throughout rich in detail. The music is as good as the old Looney Tunes cartoons (prime-Looney Tunes, not most of the 60s ones) in being characterful and adding to the action, if not quite enhancing it in the same way. The use of pre-existing music is clever and the pre-existing pieces are great on their own. It always helps to have a memorable theme tune, and the one for 'Tiny Toon Adventures' is suitably hip and very catchy. The writing is sharp, smart and witty, with some inspired references that don't come over randomly. The voice acting is great across the board, particularly Tress MacNeille.

In conclusion, very enjoyable. 8/10
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8/10
Popeye's service station
18 September 2019
From 1942 and 1957, taking over from Fleischer Studios (the studio that originated the Popeye series in 1933), Famous Studios made 122 Popeye cartoons to Fleischer's 109. Despite the Fleischer period being quite a bit shorter, will admit actually to generally preferring it over Famous Studios, although a lot of the latter's output for the Popeye series is entertaining. Especially the late-30s cartoons which saw a lot of the best Popeye cartoons.

'Service with a Guile' is one of the earliest post-war Popeye cartoons, the first actually being the previous cartoon 'House Tricks?', and already the 1946 output was off to a promising start. It may not be one of the best of the series, or at least one of my favourites, but as far as the Famous Studios output goes it fares very favourably. If asked as to whether 'Service with a Guile' is recommended, my answer would be a pretty easy yes while not quite classing it as a must see.

To me, Olive is underused, something that has been very common for this series, and her material and her character are not near as funny or as interesting as Popeye and Bluto.

It still feels odd not having Jack Mercer, on temporary military duty at the time, as the voice of Popeye. Am not saying that Harry Welch is bad, he does amuse and Popeye is as likeable as ever, but Mercer relished the asides and mumblings (which are hardly unfunny still) more and did more with them.

Popeye though is as amusing and likeable as said, while Bluto is even funnier and even more interesting. Their chemistry really carries 'Service with a Guile' and has considerable energy and sees a lot of funny out-smarting moment between them. When it comes to the gags, there is hardly a shortage of them, quite the opposite. All of it works, even if not all of it is the freshest, and nothing misfires. While the story may be a somewhat formulaic one, it is elevated by the chemistry between Popeye and Bluto and by a nice ending that is not exactly a twist but didn't come over as predictable either.

Moreover, there is enough visual detail in the animation to not make it cluttered or static, vibrant colours and lively and smooth movement. The music is also outstanding, lots of merry energy and lush orchestration, adding a lot to the action and making the impact even better without being too cartoonish.

Concluding, very entertaining. 8/10
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Wildest Africa: Ngorongoro: Born of Fire (2010)
Season 1, Episode 1
9/10
Ngorongoro: Born of Fire
18 September 2019
With the previous two episodes being two of 'Wildest Africa's', anybody who wants to see a great documentary focusing on African wildlife, environments and cultures this is very highly recommended, best and most educational episodes, "Ngorongoro: Born of Fire" had a tough act to follow and it is hard not to expect a lot. Even if it wasn't as good, there would still be some credit given for trying.

"Ngorongoro: Born of Fire" though is as good as the previous two episodes, not quite as illuminating (wildebeest, elephants, lions and hyenas, being more familiar territory and have been educated more elsewhere for all of them, was illuminated most by seeing the largest flock of flamingo) but equally as high in quality. Actually still consider the episode quite excellent, even if the content is not quite as fresh as that in "Okavango: Water in the Desert" and "Namibia: Sands of Time" that doesn't stop "Ngorongoro: Born of Fire" from having a lot of exceptional things.

It was great to see a wide variety of wildlife, and regardless of any reservations of familiarity that doesn't stop the animals from looking great and providing at least two memorable scenes. The lions and elephants in particular featuring in two of 'Wildest Africa's' standout moments.

Again, like in "Namibia: Sands of Time", we see more of the human impact and cultural aspects. Was educated more by the Himba people and their rituals from that episode, but it was great to see the Masai tribe and the way they interact and dress. The episode was to me at its most educational with the use of salt and the cattle.

The writing and delivery is entertaining as well as informative, even though there is familiar territory that didn't stop me from still learning a lot. Colin Salmon narrates with enthusiasm and sensitivity, his narration adding to any tension and emotion. Especially with the lions.

Loved the scenery, beautiful yet also cruel (much more than gorgeous imagery with cutesy animals, and a long way from either and the same goes for the whole of 'Wildest Africa'). The photography is vivid and it was amazing to see so much of such impact so close. The music is dynamic but never intrusive.

Overall, excellent. 9/10
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9/10
Model jealousy
18 September 2019
The first half of Season 1, from one of the best and most addictive animated shows in recent years (speaking as a big lifelong fan of animation of all kinds and of all decades regardless of country and studio), was very solid and actually mostly great. The second half of it was less consistent and some episodes disappointed, but there were also some very good and more ones (a few of which being Season 1, and early seasons, high points).

"Green Isn't Your Colour" is another episode from the second half of the first season, which despite having some disappointments was solid enough because there were a lot of great episodes. Along with the previous episode "A Dog and Pony Show" (which was a vast improvement over its underwhelming previous two episodes) "Green Isn't Your Colour" is in my opinion one of the better and great ones if not quite a season high point.

It was interesting to see a different side to Pinkie Pie, usually she is the cute comic relief character but there was a scary, almost psychotic, side to her here and it was interesting. Didn't really endear to her being rather manipulative at times however, which was not characteristic of her, her treatment of Twilight was enough to make some go right off her, she didn't quite do that with me but still didn't care seeing her like that.

Much is done right though and extremely well. That Rarity and Fluttershy, the focus points of "Green Isn't Your Colour", are such likeable characters here really helps make up for that Pinkie is the opposite of likeable here. Fluttershy is the one that one relates to and feels sorry for more though, but Rarity is in a scenario that is realistic and true of the modelling world then (and still is, you don't need to be a model yourself to know that, pictures and stories of those that are say it all) and she deals with it in a way that's different to what one expects, by Rarity standards she handles the situation quite maturely and in a way that's quite mature for Rarity at this point. Photo Finish was an interesting character.

At the heart too of "Green Isn't Your Colour" is the relationship between Rarity and Fluttershy, it was so lovely to see how their friendship is portrayed (with warmth and heart) and how they care for each other. That is what is striking in general about 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic', the character relationships and how they interact which have more complexity than one thinks. The story is entertaining and poignant, with the modelling world portrayed without being trivialised or too villified. The ending is heart-warming and the moral about lying being bad may sound simplistic on paper but it is always worth reiterating as it is still relevant today and avoids heavy-handedness.

Writing is handled in a way that's mature and relatable with some humour and pathos that is well balanced and done well individually. As ever, the animation is colourful and elegant and the music is suitably dynamic. Tabitha St Germain's voice acting as ever shines.

Overall, great again. 9/10
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